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Saturday, September 21

6:44 PM Today's key word is "audible." Every now and again we have to call an audible in life. That was the case today as I ran the Nasty Nine Trail Run at Brushy Hills.

The day started off like any other day of uphill goodness.

After about a mile of running I got into a relaxed groove behind a guy named Dave, who was going along at a pretty good clip.

I was looking forward to a competitive foot race when we came across a young lady who had just fallen. She had either sprained or broken her right ankle and was in incredible pain. Dave and I tried to carry her down the mountain but it was just too much for us. Eventually the paramedics were able to produce a stretcher and off she went to the hospital. (Charissa, I hope and pray you are doing much better!) Dave and I continued our pursuit of the finish line and crossed together. When we began our race today, neither of us had expected to encounter an injured runner. But that's the nature of a trail run -- roots, rocks, branches, streams, and any number of hazardous obstacles. Little wonder they called this race "nasty." But we did what anybody would have done in that situation. We called an "audible" and took care of the business at hand. Internet family, life is full of audibles. You may agonize (as I often do) over our uncertainties and insecurities. But God is always there to support those who trust in His certainty and security. He promises His children "a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11). The hardest part is usually just letting go and trusting God for such things as losing your job, coping with the death of a loved one, and dealing with the pressures of a stressed-out world.

After the race, everyone was hungry, but the race directors were prepared to assuage our ferocious appetites with sandwiches, chocolate milk, bananas, lemonade, and cookies.

A group I just had to congratulate was the contingent from VMI in nearby Lexington. Like me, this was their first Nasty Nine, and they crushed it.

Meanwhile, I can't believe my day yesterday. So great to see my former student Ben Laird and to be a guest in his Greek classes again.

We met on the ninth floor of the Divinity School's new tower building with crazy good views of the Peaks of Otter.

Last night's meeting was in the lecture hall in the Science Building. I hope the students weren't too bored!

I can't thank Jill Ross (Biblical Studies) and Jaeshill Kim (Linguistics) for doing such a great job of organizing my talk. It was a long day but a good one. I could not be more impressed with the students at LU.

Not much else to say on this fine fall day.

Love God.

Serve others.

And call an audible when you need to.

Friday, September 20

8:10 AM As promised, here's today's schedule at Liberty:

12:00-12:50: Ben Laird's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)

2:10-3:00: Ben Laird's Greek 3 class (Tower ninth floor)

3:15-4:05: Jill Ross's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)

6:30-8:00: Lecture (Science Hall)

The latter is sponsored by the university's linguistics club and is, I believe, open to the public. My topic is "Why Bible Students Ought to Be the Best Linguists Out There." After the lecture I'll head to Lexington, VA, which is about an hour drive from Lynchburg. I hope to do a mountain trail race there tomorrow. Here's the elevation map. Oh my goodness.

Which leads me to our Word of the Day: "Leisure." In our busy world, finding ways to relax can be challenging. Personally, I love both work and leisure and choose to maximize the two. Both sleep and leisure are recovery techniques that we Type A personalities have a hard time balancing with our busy work schedules. Leisure isn't idleness. It's not laziness. Laziness doesn't benefit anybody. Leisure is being present in the moment and leaving ourselves open to God's goodness all around us. Leisure, like work, can and should bring glory to God. Leisure is simply the right balance between work and play, between give and take, freeing us to be fully alive. The Psalmist wrote, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Tomorrow, when I'm up in the mountains, I hope to relax and "take it all in."

This is a new topic on this blog but I hope you've enjoyed it. Looking forward to what God has in store for me this weekend. Hope you have a great one too.

Love God.

Serve others.

Start each day with a grateful heart.

Thursday, September 19

12:52 PM Feels good to have a 5K tempo run under my belt as I prepare for Chicago.

Running by feel, I averaged 8 miles per hour on the faster sections of the track. A solid effort on an absolutely beautiful day.

Earlier I managed to get in an upper body workout at the Y.

I don't necessarily want to have large arms. But runners need good upper body strength especially toward the end of a race, when your legs are shot and you're relying on arm swing to get you to the finish line. Still earlier, I spent an hour or so at our local Amish bakery sipping coffee and putting the final touches on my lectures tomorrow at Liberty University.

I'll be speaking a total of 4 times so there's a lot of preparation work involved. I'll post my speaking schedule tomorrow before I leave. Stay tuned for more updates both about my training and my lecturing at LU.

Alright, signing off, time for a long nap.

6:55 AM Today's key word is "worship." A sub-theme might be "Bible translations." This morning I was reading 1 Cor. 14 in The Message and ran across these words:

When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all....

I think The Message often gets it right. Here, however, it gets it wrong, in my humble opinion. Paul never refers to the purpose of a church gathering as worship, though we often do. Although what we do when we gather can indeed be described as worship because we should be worshiping at all times, the New Testament teaches that Christians are to meet primarily for the purpose of mutual encouragement. That's exactly what Paul says here: "When you come together ... do all things for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). It's not so much a worship service as an edification service. Another key passage is Heb. 10:24-25.

Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good works. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The "Day" the author is talking about here is the return of Christ, when we will see Jesus face to face and all earthly sorrow will come to an end. Until then, says the author, life is full of trials. That's why we need to "spur one another on" and "encourage one another." As with running a marathon, there's a grave danger that I will give up in the Christian life before I reach the finish line. That's why we need each other. You need me and I need you. And our meetings should serve that end.

Edification is so central to the New Testament understanding of why we meet as Christians that it provides the test as to whether or not we should do something during the meeting. This is the argument Paul is making in 1 Cor. 14: "Does it edify? Does it build people up as believers?" If, for example, you have a tongue and there is no interpreter present, no one else receives any benefit. Hence Paul insists that uninterpreted tongues should have no place in church gatherings.

Churches today desperately need more pastors who will obey Paul's injunction to "do all things for edification." Pastor-teachers play a crucial role in God's work of building up churches, but not at the expense of the contributions of others. All God's people have the responsibility of ministry. This is how the Bible expects churches to be built up. And none of us can say we have nothing to contribute.

So, the question of the day is: How will I worship God today? We should pray that God would use us to bless others. We should think of ourselves not as laypeople but as priests who worship and serve God 24/7. And, when you go to church, remember that you are going not just to meet with God. You are also going to meet with (and serve) other Christians. We are a family, after all. And the more we spur one another on to love and good works, the better we will worship God.

Hope that makes sense!

P.S. Couldn't resist:

Maybe it will "spur you on" to get outside and take a short walk today!

Wednesday, September 18

6:24 PM The spirit of competition is so healthy for us humans. I really, really love races  because of the comradery and the opportunity to go head to head with some great runners. But I also love to run solo. So far this week I managed 3 runs. I did Monday's 10-mile run on the hard concrete of the Neuse River Greenway.

Although I ended up with a minor blister on my left foot, I felt great afterwards.

Yesterday and today I ran 4 miles each day at Joyner Park in Wake Forest, where the surface is a lot more runner-friendly (asphalt). This was my view this morning during my run.

I am beyond excited for the continued challenge of marathon running in the United States and (if the Lord allows) beyond. I think I'm just getting started in this sport, and I know the competition from my fellow racers will push me to new heights. At the end of the day it all comes down to the joy of running. I think the same applies to anything in life. Students who enjoy Greek tend to master it quickly and permanently. When I fell in love with Greek back in the 1970s, it was like finding myself for the first time. Likewise with running. When you're running, loneliness does not creep in. That's because you're having fun and doing what God created your body to do -- move.

By the way, "move" is the Word of the Day. My friend, you are capable of so much more than you think. Challenge yourself to live big. Turn off the TV. Get outdoors. Think about what you want to accomplish. Now go and DO IT!

Monday, September 16

5:45 AM Only 12 days to go until the Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg. This is one tough race, especially the final hill. It's remarkable to see runners who are clearly struggling (like me) but continue to push forward. What a parable of the Christian life. In a perfect world, we would live obediently, practice spiritual disciplines, claim our identity in Christ, and be problem-free. (There would also be a Butterfinger under my pillow every morning.) The truth is that life has a way of throwing us into such confusion and pain that we lose all sense of hope. Don't be ashamed of where you are in this process. Learn whatever lessons the Master Teacher is putting before you. One of the things I love about marathons is the adventure of never knowing how things are going to turn out. Good results aren't guaranteed. Your race can go badly or well, but know what? You'll never know until you muster the gumption to try. Any marathoner knows that making it to the end of the race in one piece is as much a cause for celebration as is going the distance. What I am saying is that the human body is amazing. It can do some really astonishing things. God knew what He was doing when He created us. He also knew how awesome the sense of accomplishment from running is.

Recently I heard of somebody who just lost their spouse after many years of marriage. I saw to it that they got a copy of my book Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and 40 Years of Teaching. When we struggle, we need someone to trust. Without someone we can trust in, we will inevitably either pretend things are better or else try and relieve the pain through craziness. I wrote my book in response to the cry of my own heart to know God better in the midst of my loss. As with marathon racing, recovering from loss is hard, a road less traveled, but the journey is definitely worth it.

As I continue to share with you my journey on this blog, I hope that a passion to know God in the midst of your problems will be stirred within you. The world is too uncertain a place to put our trust in man. But it's a perfect place to find God.

5:22 AM To my beginning Greek students: If you get tired of (or bored with!) my teaching, remember you can go here for videos of other teachers using our grammar.

5:15 AM Today's key word is "nudge." David Halpern once wrote a book called Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference. I like that title. If you're like me, the Holy Spirit doesn't always impel you forward in your Christian walk in one giant leap. Sometimes He'll pester and nudge you just to take another step. A nudge is a push but a gentle one. The transformation occurs from the inside out. A nudge is a seed of faith planted in the heart. Sure, there are risks. But faith is willing to go where it's being led -- er, nudged -- because faith follows the One who leads: Jesus Christ.

How do you measure spiritual growth? It think it's largely by asking ourselves if we are practicing what we're learning. The favorite times in my life have been those when I got involved in helping and serving others. But I'm ashamed to say that there were periods when my growth slowed to a halt. My soul atrophied. My spiritual muscles got flabby. The Spirit may have been nudging me, but I wasn't paying much attention. The Bible contains testaments of people who at times trusted and obeyed God completely and at others times completely disregarded Him. But being a "doer of the word" is not just an idle suggestion. "Don't just listen to God's word," writes James (1:22). "Do what it says." Balanced spiritual growth only happens when we're giving into those little Holy-Spirit nudges.

So how is He nudging you today? Remember: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Hence the Bible is God's primary way of making Himself known to us. It guides us out of darkness and it helps us to maneuver through those awfully tight places we often encounter in life. God cares about these matters and more. And His word tells exactly what He's like and what He expects from us. Our duty, then, is to avoid becoming dull and insensitive to what the Spirit is saying to us. One of the highest and noblest functions of our minds is to listen to God's word and thus to read His mind and think His thoughts after Him.

How I thank God this morning for His word and for His Spirit, who is constantly nudging me from where I am to where I ought to be. And what a joy it is to teach that word this week on campus.

Sunday, September 15

6:30 PM The time at Clearview was well spent I do believe. It concluded today with a fun panel discussion.

Here's wishing Peter and John well as they wing their way back to Phoenix tonight. Lots was discussed today. I'm afraid I may have raised a few eyebrows when I said I don't separate my devotional reading of the Bible from my academic reading of same. I just don't see a sacred/secular divide at all. That includes what we normally refer to as "worship." As I said, we don't come to church to worship. We come to church as worshippers. Which reminded me of this little book. (It's small but it sure packs a punch).

This is from p. 34:

Offering my body to God is not just something I do as I sing on a Sunday and then can forget about for the rest of the week. It must be worked out in practice, day by day, hour by hour.

And then there's this:

A friend of mine has put it like this: 'To say, "I'm going to church to worship", is about as silly as saying, "I'm off to bed to breathe for a while".'

My oh my oh that's good! Worship is all of life. It's the dishes I washed today, the beds I made, the grass I mowed, and, yes, the songs I sang during the services at Clearview. I want to worship God not just on Sundays but with the whole of my life.

Time to get my meals prepped for the week. Onward and, yes, upward!

6:45 AM The WOD is ressourcement. This is a French word describing the act of returning to the sources in order to glean from the past so that we might better live in the present. I'd argue, folks, that this is why we study ancient Greek and Hebrew. The engagement with the past is not merely a recollection of the past but an uncovering of meaning for the present. This explains the watch-cry of the Reformation: Ad fontes! Back to the sources! And what are those sources? The words of God written in Scripture. That's where we must always turn for normative wisdom.

Today during the panel discussion at Clearview, I hope to make this clear. "Dogmatics is science." So said Karl Barth in the opening of his Church Dogmatics. Theology and science are collaborative disciplines. Hence my lecture on New Testament Greek linguistics this coming Friday at Liberty University will be held in their new science building.

Though not identical in content and method, both linguistics and biblical exegesis are "sciences" in that they are both engaged in appeals to human rationality. What we're after is a better understanding of how the languages of the Bible work based on a scientific study of language itself. Exegesis is thus engaged with linguistics. It has to be. This is why I love teaching Greek from a linguistic perspective. Greek is both heuristic and utilitarian.

In Basel, where I studied from 1980-1983, theology was known as the "queen of the sciences." This expression is a holdover from the Middle Ages, a time when the Bible was seen as the ultimate source of truth. Hence theology became the standard by which other scientific disciplines had to abide. That standard no longer exists today, at least not in most European universities. The gold standard is no longer the Bible. Yet theology remains "queen" and the Bible remains the gold standard. Indeed, the Bible warns us against "the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20).

So let's get "back to the Bible." In the original languages if at all possible. Let all our research be "scientific" -- orderly and disciplined. Today it's no longer a question of faith versus reason. The choice is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason.

Saturday, September 14

7:52 PM The first annual apologetics conference at Clearview is now in the books. What a great day of thinking about the Old and New Testaments. Both Peter and John absolutely shattered their topics. I was also very impressed with the audience. Many great questions were asked during the Q & A. Overall I'd say there were about 90 in attendance. Kazaam! A few pix:

1) Pastor Abidan Shah kicks off the conference.

2) So great to see John Meade again. Last year he spent a semester with us on campus as a visiting professor and we were in the same quad. Boy was that fun. John knocked it out of the ballpark with his lectures.

3) Peter Gurry is an amazing speaker. I love how he simplified his topics without becoming simplistic.

4) Books, books, and more books.

5) A big thanks to the marvelous staff at Clearview for making this happen.

On the docket for tomorrow: Panel discussion in both morning services. The hay is almost in the barn!

7:05 AM Here we go, heading out the door for the Text and Canon Conference at Clearview. Excited to see old friends and make new ones. What a big topic to dive into. I remember growing up in Hawaii and how we had conferences like these several times a year. Would not trade those times for anything. I think it was in those conferences that I fell in love with Bible study. The experts spoke, but they did so in such a way as to connect with ordinary Christians. The key question I have is: What will people do with all of this new information they get today? It's so easy to acquire information without allowing truth to change our lives. For example, when running a marathon you have to carefully monitor your hydration. Too little water can cause huge problems. Too much water can cause huge problems. Hydration has to be exact and balanced. Likewise with Bible study. Only a mind schooled at the Master's feet and illuminated by the Spirit can guide us aright. Sometimes, like Martha, we should be communing instead of working. We can be so busy doing that we have no time for being something. If we're not careful, we can easily become "Marthafied." The Bible does us no good unless it is mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2).

So let the conference begin! And let us receive the word for what it is, letting God be true and every man a liar. Hearing the word imposes a solemn responsibility of heeding it. Enjoy the privilege, accept the responsibility, and avoid the penalty of knowledge without obedience! 

6:04 AM Today's key word is "Hamlet." Yes, indeed, the 2020 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy next May, that is the question. To run or not to run. I'm allowed one (or at the most two) marathons per year, and I always like to try out new races. But the Pig was my very first marathon 3 years ago and it has a special place in my heart. I need to decide soon.

Sometimes I'm a terrible decision-maker. (This includes restaurants.) Many of life's decisions are simple yes-no questions. Should I major in Bible? Should I marry Becky? Should I apply to Basel? Should I leave Biola for Southeastern? Should I have dessert? Yes or no?

When faced with a "Hamlet" moment, you've got to decide which way to go. Stay or go? Yes or no? Right or left? Race or don't race? God promises to help us make good decisions. But it's conditional -- if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. My friend, have you made the decision to love Him? Have you given your heart to Christ as your Lord and Savior? The decision is yours to make. And the consequences are yours alone to live with. But once you've made the decision to follow Him, He'll be by your side every step of the way.

And so, what decisions are you facing these days? What great crossroad looms in your path? Whatever it is -- and no matter what it is -- your answer is but a prayer away. Of course, sometimes it feels like you're playing verbal ping-pong with God. But eventually you settle on a simple yes or no. The main thing is that we listen to the Lord. His is the most important voice of all. Leon Morris once wrote, "God has no need of marionettes. He pays men the compliment of allowing them to live without him if they choose. But if they live without him in this life, they must also live without him in the next."

Wise words indeed.

Friday, September 13

5:34 PM Today WAS a busy day! The weather couldn't have been better for another cycling workout deposited into my account for the Chicago Marathon. One day closer, a little more sharpening. I worked mostly on flow and leg turnover, keeping my average heart rate at 114 BPM. The temp never got over 75 and there was a light rain falling during the entire ride. I managed to complete the mileage I set out to accomplish.

Somehow I even managed to knock two minutes off of my time since my last 26.2-mile bike.

Afterwards I treated my hard-working body to a delicious sandwich at Subway.

All in all, a solid week of preparation for Chicago. Right now I've got to put the finishing touches on my talks for tomorrow as well as finish cleaning the house.

September 13, a good day indeed. I'm in the mood to give away a book. Write me at dblack@sebts.edu for a free copy of New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. I'll draw straws if there's more than one request.

Keep running, folks, just keep running your race, whatever that is! 

6:45 AM Today's WOD is "correctness." Am I honestly doing my training for the Chicago Marathon correctly? Making it to the starting line is, of course, extremely important, but perhaps even more important are the stepping stones along the way. Ya gotta be as wise about your training as you are committed to the race itself. Hope that makes sense.

That said, today I'm going through my training goals for the next 4 weeks, looking myself in the mirror and asking, "Are you making the correct decisions?" We can get so excited about the race that we forget how vital it is to set up our training schedule properly. I've made that mistake before and don't want to repeat it now.

Signing off for now, and I will do my best to give you a report after I complete today's training block and a long list of farm chores. Whew, gonna be a busy day!

Thursday, September 12

5:40 PM Yesterday I got a report from a ministry in northern India that Becky and I have been intimately involved with for many years. There is strong opposition to Christianity all over the nation, the report said. Yet "There are hundreds of villages and people groups which remain unreached." This particular ministry is poised to reach some of the most needy of these people groups, situated as it is on the border of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bangladesh. Here's a photo they sent me.

It shows the men and women who are studying at the North East Theological Seminary. The seminary building is called the Becky Black Building. It was largely through Becky's vision (and hard work) that this building came into existence. Through all the joys and heartaches of cancer, Becky and I prayed that it would become a reality. I so wanted Becky to be the one to go and cut the ribbon when the building was dedicated. But it was not to be.

On this blog, I often talk about my life. My life? It's not mine. Never has been. I don't get to choose what it will look like. It's not about what I want. It's not even about what I need. As it turns out, the life I planned for myself is very different from the one God had in store. I've had to come to terms with the heart-rending fact that that incredible chapter of my life is over. Yet I take heart in the knowledge that Becky's good works live on -- in the lives of our children, in the lives of all who knew her, even in a faraway place like India. He is the God who knows the end and the beginning of everything, the one who works everything, even the hardest things, together for good. When God says He'll make everything good, He means it. This picture is proof.

12:55 PM O boy, o boy, my lunch today was sooooo tasty.

In fact, let's make that the second WOD -- "tasty." My fajita burrito sure hit the spot. And the nice thing about it is I was able to get two meals out of it, and all for the low price of $5.99. Not bad, folks, not bad.

So my lunch today was tasty, but that wasn't the only thing that was tasty this morning. My run was absolutely fantastic. My goal was a short 5 miles at a very easy pace in order to try out my new hydration vest.

Let's just say I much prefer having my hydration available throughout my runs/races and not just at the aid stations. Today I filled one 12-ounce bottle with a sports drink and the other with well water. I can safely say that I never got thirsty during my run today. I'm thrilled. With my new vest I'm also able to safely store my iPhone 7 in a pocket just over my left chest, which is a perfect place in terms of ease of availability. So all in all, a tasty morning. Of course, you never know who or what you'll encounter out there on the trails. Meet Nala, who's got to be the sweetest Pit Bull/Pointer mix I've ever met.

Her owner was kind enough to snap these pics.

He and I yakked about how much we love our dogs and find it regrettable but almost inevitable that we outlive them. I can't tell you how many of my beloved pets I've had to bury through the years. Yet who could live without them? They bring the human heart so much joy.

So what other "tasty" things are in store for me today? Mowing. Writing. Napping. House cleaning. And prepping for tomorrow's bike-a-thon in Richmond. That's right, Lord willing I plan to do a "bike marathon" of 26.2 miles at the Virginia Capital Trail. I've had this on my calendar for weeks and it's an important part of my training schedule for Chicago. The marathon is exactly one month away. Unbelievable. It will be here before you know it. Which means I have to stay on schedule as much as I can during the next 30 days. In 3 weeks I'll start my taper for Chicago, but until then I've got to stay laser focused on my current training block. I'm trying to play it smart and stay healthy and uninjured. Time will tell.

Hope you have a tasty day!

8:48 AM The key word for today is "Beginning." Every journey in life begins with that first step. This weekend I'll be speaking at a conference on textual criticism. Me, a textual critic? That's almost laughable. I am hardly an expert in the field. Neither am I a novice. I'm probably in about, say, the 12th grade, while others are in college or grad school. But -- and this is a huge but -- I wouldn't be where I am today if hadn't taken that first step.

Let's see, where did it all begin ...." (flashback machine starts here).

My first exposure to textual criticism (TC) was under Dr. Harry Sturz at Biola. I found the subject fascinating, not least because Sturz held a position that seemed to fly in the face of both the Alexandrian Priority position and the Byzantine Priority position. Taking his class on TC allowed me to read those hieroglyphics at the bottom of my Greek New Testament and eventually led me to write an M.Div. thesis at Talbot on the question of whether the words "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1 were original. I argued that they were -- and published my views in the Grace Theological Journal in 1981. This was a year after I had arrived in Basel to get my doctorate in New Testament. During this time I began publishing essays in journals like Novum Testamentum and New Testament Studies on textual variants that I had become interested in. Finally, in 1994 I published a brief lay introduction to TC called New Testament Criticism: A Concise Guide. Recalling my own interests as a beginning student of TC, I was careful to keep the book on the bottom shelf. I later produced other writings on TC: Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, and The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research.

This brings me to today. You can probably guess that I love to make things accessible to the average Christian. That's exactly what I'll try to do at this Saturday's conference. My goal, simply put, is to connect the scholarly guild with the church. Too often they are put into two different boxes. This impoverishes both, in my humble opinion. I'll try to set the right balance between academics and church life. Scholarship is not healthy without application. I dare to hope that my books have been a help in both categories. By the way, here's the schedule for Saturday's conference:

8:00 am -- Doors open

9:10 am -- Old Testament Text, John Meade

10:15 am -- New Testament Text, Peter Gurry

11:25 am -- Application of Textual Criticism to the Christian Life, Dave Black

12:25 pm -- Lunch

1:35 pm -- The Canon of Scripture, John Meade

2:40 pm -- Modern Translations, Peter Gurry

3:50 pm -- Greek Preaching: Practical Applications, Dave Black

5:00 pm -- Conference ends

Maybe this conference will help you make a new "beginning" in your study of the Bible!

P.S. This is what I read in my morning Bible reading on the front porch. It's from 1 Timothy 6.

"Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith." A great motto for conferences like the one on Saturday for sure!

Wednesday, September 11

7:42 PM Here we go again, just back on the old farm after 3 days of teaching. The WOD is "mental toughness." Ladies and gentlemen, I'm firmly in the camp that says if you don't develop mental toughness, you'll never succeed in the race of life. Ya gotta put in the work if you want to expect great results. We can aspire to learn Greek, for example, but the race is usually won or lost in the first 3 or 4 weeks of the semester. I want my students to arrive at week 5 tough and as confident as possible, which in turn will make them even tougher for the weeks ahead. How's your mental confidence? Are you getting tougher as you get older? I'm truly excited for my students. They are off to a great start. But they (and I) never outgrow the need to stay mentally alert and tough.

Well, as you know, today is my 43rd anniversary. One of my kids sent along this picture.

Oh my, what a happy memory. This was taken exactly 6 years ago today. Less than 2 months later, Becky would be in heaven. No more pain, no more struggle. Because she was too weak for us to go out and celebrate, one of my daughters set up a "restaurant" in our formal living room. Party of two! She even prepared Swiss fondue for us as a reminder of our days in Basel, and then waited on us hand and foot. An unforgettable evening to be sure. Becky Lynn, you still mean the world to me today. You were a blessing to everyone who knew you. I’ll see you in glory one day, sweetheart. Love you big!

Okay, so what are my plans going into the weekend? This morning I had a great workout at the Y in Wake Forest. Worked them biceps and triceps. Worked, worked, worked. This means no lifting for 2 days. Tomorrow I hope to get in a long run, and then do another long bike ride on Friday. Not sure how long, but at least 10 miles. Then, Saturday is the BIG DAY. Hope you can join us in Henderson for our apologetics conference. There'll be a book giveaway in case you need any further incentive to attend.

Finally, a quick shout out to Dr. Ant Greenham who gave a wonderful lecture today in our NT class. His topic was Muslim evangelism and the book of Acts.

It was a fascinating talk. I can't tell you how much I love and cherish the academic community to which I belong. It's got to be the greatest group of guys and gals in the world.

Well, time to wash the supper dishes. Stay tuned for how my training goes tomorrow!

Monday, September 9

6:15 AM Just a friendly reminder: The Clearview Apologetics Conference is this Saturday in Henderson, NC, from 9:00-4:00. To register, please go here. Come and hear my good friends John Meade (OT) and Peter Gurry (NT) from Phoenix Seminary!

5:20 AM Good morning, one and all! The WOD is "comfort." The human body was designed to move. To be tested. "Comfort" has largely replaced that. We go from our air-conditioned homes to our cars with heated seats. I remember attending the annual SNTS meeting in Montreal one August. To say it was hot would be a gross understatement. Becky and I got the surprise of our lives when the university put us up in housing without any air conditioning. We slept on the balcony at night to try and stay cool. I thought every developed nation had air conditioning. I was wrong.

How quickly we get used to the comforts of life. Yet none of these comforts really seem to make us happy. Maybe we were designed to find comfort through discomfort. When you lose the comforts of life, that's when you find out what you're truly made of. A year ago I did a 31-mile ultramarathon. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. It nearly broke me. But I can't describe to you the satisfaction I felt when I crossed the finish line. Why do runners punish themselves like that? Maybe because, like a pearl, God's way of working in our lives is by turning our biggest irritations into priceless gems.

What comforts are you willing to forego in order to test your mettle? While we sleep the Enemy does his work. Even sound Christians can be sound asleep. This is no day for weaklings. The Christian has never had more to face from more directions than now. An old saying puts it like this:

The modern Christian needs the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

I need more of all three!

Sunday, September 8

8:22 PM Enjoying some ice cream while watching the sun go down over Clarkesville, "my fair city." Been a great day. Hope yours was too.

6:42 PM Just finished my delicious supper and am now rolling out my tired legs on my new foam roller.

Love it, love it, love it!  Also, these were my notes during today's message from 2 Tim. 1:12 (sorry for the water stains).

Once again, ya gotta love the two perfect tense verbs. Badda Boom! Badda Bang! Again, though, it all comes down to how you would translate them. I'm not going to tell you how I did it!

Time now for a hot fudge sundae. "Sunday." Get it? :-) 

5:50 PM Today after church I hiked to MacAfee Knob.

It's said to be the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail and I believe it! This is my fourth time standing on its (in)famous ledge.

My legs weren't the freshest after 3 big weeks of training, but somehow I managed to pull it off.

This mountain hike is a thing of beauty from beginning to end. It was well worth the 3 hour drive to get there. What a journey hiking and mountaineering have been for me. Not easy, but very rewarding. I do hope to return to the Rockies and Alps some day, but in the meantime our local 3-4,000 footers will do just fine. Thank you, Lord, for giving all of us hikers such a beautiful day!

5:55 AM The WOD is "inspiration." Where do you draw your inspiration from? Can a movie inspire you? Last night on YouTube I watched a movie about running called Leadman: The Dave Mackey Story. It was so good. Everyone who finishes a 100 mile foot race is courageous, but to me there's something heroic about a man who does it on one leg. Even if you've never been a runner, this film will draw you in and inspire you. Oh my, the indomitable human spirit. Everyone has one, even non-believers. It's a pure gift from God.

But those who trust in God have something more. In Jer. 32:27, God asks, "Is anything too hard for me?" Nothing is too difficult for God. Your impossibility might be the loss of a limb or the loss of a loved one or feelings of inferiority or your job or a marriage that is falling apart. For me it's dealing with the memory of Becky. It's that feeling of loss that will come flooding over me this Wednesday on what would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary. Grief takes you to the top of the wave and then it breaks, and you struggle in the froth of emotion until the wave runs out of energy, which it eventually does. To try and resist the wave is an exercise in futility. You have to let it do its work in your life and mourn.

Will you ever forget the emotional pain of your loss? No. There will always be a small kernel that emerges at certain times for years. Will you ever be able to move on with your life? Yes. Never forget Jer. 32:27: "Is anything too hard for me?" For the word "anything," why not substitute the burden you are carrying at this moment? Go ahead and fill in the blank: "Is ___________ too hard for God?" Once it sinks in that God is at work in and through your "impossible" situation, everything will change. It may be as dramatic as watching new sprouts erupt from an old tree stump. I know, because I've been there. Friend, I can assure you, after the winter, comes the spring. Yes, you will continue to remember, but the pain will subside. The ache in your heart will go away. Hope will replace despair and a smile a frown.

Dave Mackey let his loss become a force for good in his life. What a wonderful story. I love these stories and appreciate the strength of these athletes. They are inspirational to us all. And as followers of Jesus, we have an even greater source of strength and inspiration. I don't want to slog through life. Neither do I want to rush through it. We need to take it one day at a time. And when we do, we'll be blown away by the goodness of our God.

Saturday, September 7

4:50 PM The Hopscotch 8K is now in the books and, phew!, what a wild race it was, one of the best of my life. I managed a very respectable pace without tiring during the race or collapsing afterwards. From the gun going off, we ran uphill and then downhill, and boy was it hilly.

I felt amazing the whole distance. I am beyond excited at how well my legs held up during the race. I never slowed down and I never once walked, not even through the aid stations. My race strategy today was a simple one. I would line up about two thirds of the way back and start out at a fairly easy pace and then ease up to an 11-minute mile pace. As you can see, not too many gray-haired folk out there today!

Per usual, at about mile one I fell in with a group of runners who were running at my pace and tried to keep up with them, letting them pace me through an unfamiliar course. My "pacers," as you can see here, were a guy in I'd say his late 20s and three young ladies who looked like they were in high school.

They paced me through mile 4 and a half, where I turned on the afterburners and made my way toward the finish line.

Praise the Lord, I finished well under my goal of 1 hour.

Overall I am happy with my marathon training. And I'm super excited to have tried something new in 2019. What a gift running is!

I hope y'all are pursuing your dreams, whatever they may be. Don't be afraid to try something new. You may learn something about yourself that you can apply to all areas of your life. Now I look forward to running the historic Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg on the 28th of this month.

Fellow runners, congratulations on your efforts out there today, and see you at our next race. Thanks especially to my unknown pacers. You pulled me toward the finish line. You inspired me to push through and finish. You all were winners today.

Time now to cook me some supper and chillax!

6:10 AM The WOD (word of the day) is "humility." The men and women of the Bible struggled with pride. They were real people with real weaknesses. I feel a certain kinship with them. How easy it is for us to wield "power," to take our "well-deserved" position at the top, to use our gifts to promote ourselves. Among Jesus' disciples, I suppose Peter was the one who could have done this most easily. After all, he's actually named "first" in the lists of the apostles. Yet as you read 1 Peter, you see how the Spirit of God had shaped in him a humility that lacked nothing in courage or imagination. Peter's whole life is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as "lowliness of mind." He writes, "God has had it with the proud. He takes delight in just plain people."

Peter's example is a breath of fresh air. He stayed out of the center. Jesus, our Chief Shepherd/Lead Pastor (1 Pet. 5:4), alone belongs there. Godly leaders are content to be foot washers.

Off to the city of Sir Walter Raleigh to do my first ever 8K. Onward and upward!

Friday, September 6

8:18 PM Up we go! Always climbing higher in our pursuit to summit those peaks God sets before us, be they athletic pursuits or intellectual ones. A big part of our "training," of course, involves reading, and here are two good resources for you to consider. The first is a book I'm having my NT class read for Wednesday. Throughout my teaching ministry I've tried to give some priority to evangelism, and it's worth remarking that some of the best books on the subject were written decades ago. This is one of them.

How shall we do missions? That's the question all of us wrestle with. Well, Roland Allen charted the way forward by, in essence, calling us back to the methods of the apostle Paul. I love books like this, and I think you will too.

Secondly, this essay just appeared in the journal New Testament Studies.

In my experience, defenses of the Paulinity of Hebrews are rare. Why? For years we've been told that Origen confessed ignorance about the author -- and so should we. Alas, this consensus is being challenged nowadays. Before I go and wash the dinner dishes, I'm a little embarrassed to do so, but I'd like to mention my book on the subject, which is available at Amazon.

Half of the book looks at the internal evidence in favor of Paul as the author of Hebrews, while the other half examines the external evidence. And what about Origen? I deal with that subject in my appendix, "Origen on the Authorship of Hebrews." I am curious to see what you think about this whole matter, so if you post something on your website let me know so I can link to it.

Remember: Let's welcome new approaches to old questions, and then hold our personal convictions in love!

6:20 PM Quote of the day (Conrad Grebel):

We were listeners to Zwingli's sermons and readers of his writings, but one day we took the Bible itself in hand and were taught better.

This was Grebel's response when he was asked where he found his new view of the Christian church. I love Zwingli and have studied his life. I have profited from his writings. But the Anabaptists were right: The clear teaching of the New Testament was more important than the teachings of their earthly teacher. Please, fellow students of the Word, let's never put the writings of our favorite Bible scholars above the Bible itself! 

5:44 PM Today was a day for "active recovery," meaning I went to the gym and focused on functional exercises (strength, core, etc.). Afterwards was Mexican food for lunch with a friend and then a nice long nap. Tonight I intend to go on a casual walk to get the old legs moving again, but nothing too far or too wild. I'm actually very good at doing nothing when I need to. The rest of the day I'll spend rolling my muscles and eating some good food, drinking tons of water, and stretching out my legs. Just trying to walk that balance between staying off my feet and doing nothing.

By the way, today my WOD (word of the day) was "trust." The Christian life is an act of trust maybe more than anything else. Trust removes all "no trespassing" signs from our relationship with the Lord. We surrender our worries and cares to Him and rest in an environment of trust, respect, and mutual love. We give God enough elbow room in our lives to do what He's best at doing -- turning our impossibilities into His possibilities. So, every chance I have today I'm going to go to the Lord and say like the man whose son had an evil spirit, "Lord, I do believe. Please, please help me overcome my unbelief."

Are you trying to move a mountain today on your own, my friend? I can tell ya, it ain't gonna budge an inch if you try and do the job alone. It just ain't. But there's every chance in the world if you entrust the task to God.

7:40 AM Time for a great debate ... not really ... unless you want to! Middle versus deponent -- a fairly contested and hot topic within the scholarly community. There are 16 verbals in 3 John (the letter we're studying this semester in Advanced Grammar) that are non-active or that come from non-active verbs. Cab you pick out some of them here?

You'll find many opinions on this topic. Are so-called deponent verbs true middles? And if so, how should we translate them?

Stay tuned!

6:10 AM Good morning, internets, on a very gusty day here in southern Virginia. The storm has now moved off the coast of the Old Dominion State. Virginia Beach, which last week was all bright and sunshiny, is now experiencing the brunt of the rain and wind. Prayers going up for sure. This morning I was up early getting caught up on family finances and then it's off to the Y and lunch with a buddy. If the weather forecasters are correct, Sunday should be nice and sunny in Roanoke, and if it is, I plan to hike MacAfee Knob, which means I'll go to tomorrow night's service. But first, I'm rereading chapters 3-4 in Robertson's Big Grammar. I've already found several quotable quotes. Whatcha think of these?

"It was really an epoch in the world's history when the babel of tongues was hushed in the wonderful language of Greece" (p. 55).

"Judea was not an oasis in the desert, but was merged into the Graeco-Roman world" (p. 77).

"There is no distinct biblical Greek, and the N.T. is not a variety of the LXX Greek" (p. 77).

"A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary" (p. 93).

"The only Bible known to most of the Jews in the world in the first century was the LXX" (p. 101).

"One cannot protest too strongly against the leveling process of an unsympathetic and unimaginative linguistic method that puts all the books of the N.T. through the same exegetical mill and tags this sense as 'regular' and that one as 'irregular'" (p. 117).

"Es überrascht uns nicht mehr, dass jeder paulinische Brief eine Reihe von Wörten enthält, die den übrigen unbekannt sind" (p. 130).

As you can see, there's tons of interesting stuff for us cover in class on Monday night. As well, two students will be making Power Point presentations over two chapters from my forthcoming book Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Thomas Hudgin's chapter on "Electronic Tools," and Rob Plummer's chapter on "The Ideal Beginning Grammar."

So, here I am, just a guy trying to stay abreast of everything that's going on in New Testament Greek studies and feeling like I'm wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. Ever feel that way? I just wonder when I'll ever feel caught up. Probably never. But it's the journey, folks, it's the journey that's counts.

Onward and upwards!

Thursday, September 5

5:52 PM Man, o man, o man, fall is almost here, ladies and gentlemen. I don't know about you, but I'm ready.

I don't think the temp got much over 75 today, and right now a light sprinkle is falling on the fields of rural Mecklenburg County, Virginia. O boy o boy. I've always loved the fall. Where I live, the summers can be hot, almost too hot I would say. The fall weather, however, is magnificent. Some days you walk outside and say to yourself, "Lord, the weather could not possibly be more perfect. Thank You." Can't wait to snuggle in front on my fireplace again with a good book. The best part about fall, however, is that everything around you is changing. You're about to experience yet another new normal, which I guess is another way of saying that fall is a good time for new beginnings, new plans, new goals.

Today I decided I would get in a run but only after I had gone over my calendar for the fall, winter, and spring 2019-2020. The local Amish bakery was the perfect place to sip some coffee and do this.

Right now I'm praying over my international travels, including a big trip to Asia planned for next March or April. As for this fall/winter, I'm considering two invitations, one to Nepal and another to Guyana. Then it was off to the Tobacco Heritage Trail, where I did a 5K run in order to put some miles on my brand new New Balance 880 running shoes.

They performed splendidly.

When I got home I saw that FedEx had delivered my new running vest and a new foam roller.

We all want to stay healthy and uninjured, right? It's a process, it's a process. For one thing, ya gotta stay hydrated on your runs, which is why I purchased my running vest. I can't wait to try it out during Saturday's 8K in Raleigh. For another thing, ya gotta roll out all those stiff muscles. I think we runners sometimes underestimate the importance of stretching and rolling, but you want to arrive at the starting line of your next race as fresh as possible and as fit as possible. My foam roller knows all the intricate parts of my body and does its best to take care of them. I'm not kidding you when I say that it feels like you're getting a massage but for only a fraction of the cost. You can get a roller for about $15 through Amazon. Here I am instructing Sheba on the correct use of the foam roller. I'm thinking it might help her with her stiff limbs.

Folks, I think my body is finally adjusting to marathon training. After long workouts I've started drinking chocolate milk. What a heaven-sent beverage. That, plus taking long hot showers. Right now it's time to have supper and then I think I'll spend time praying for those in the Bahamas who were hit so hard by Dorian. Hope you have a splendid weekend. Keep reminding yourself that fall is a good time to make those much-needed changes in our lives. We must know and remind ourselves that we all fail because we are all human. Yet with Christ's help, we can embrace the failures and in fact begin to carve out our true character.

Onward and upward!

8:48 AM It looks like rain might be on its way today, so I think I'll wait until later to climb MacAfee. So, what shall I do today? Today I'm thinking small. My body is a little tired (I had a really heavy workout at the Y in Wake Forest yesterday), so I'll probably do either a short bike, a short swim, or a short run. The key word for me today is "goal." If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. I think the key is to choose a manageable goal. We often pick off more than we can chew. I know someone who buys every gimmick out there to learn Greek. He's got all the books and CDs and has enrolled in all the latest online courses. Folks, I'm a huge believer in using the tools that are available to us, but when you're trying to learn Greek it's best to start off small. To use an analogy, a Greek student can't go from running (as it were) a 5K to running a marathon. I think I ran 8 half marathons before I attempted my first full. Especially if you're new to something, it's important that you don't sabotage your efforts by trying to do everything at once. Taking baby steps is vital in order to make progress. My greatest piece of advice for you -- I know you will be shocked to hear it -- is to purchase one good beginning (or intermediate) grammar and stick with it. Not to be shallow, but sometimes you've got to resist the urge to buy into the latest fad. I've said this 5 million times on this blog: the key to progress is persistence. You take one step at a time, one chapter in your textbook at a time, one goal at a time. The trick to motivation is not to overdo it. Let's face it, we've all started out to do something and then a few months or weeks or days later we've gone on to other pursuits. But if you're really committed to learning Greek (or learning how to run a marathon or whatever) you have to make a decision to follow through. Keep at it, because you never know what can happen. When I dropped Greek after 3 weeks, I thought the party was over. But God had other plans. The bottom line is, what matters to you is what is important. And remember: We're not alone and can learn from each other.

Putting in hours of training.

The result: A new PR at the St. George (Utah) Marathon!

6:45 AM Oh my, another rich time in the word this morning.

I've been reading Acts 13 in the NEB and The Message. In both, the word ekklēsia in verse 1 is rendered "congregation." I like that.

There were at Antioch, in the congregation there, certain prophets and teachers ...."

The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers ...."

The noun ekklēsia means something like "a group of people that have come together and have something in common." (This is opposed to an ochlos, which is a group of people that have come together and don't seem to have anything in common with each other except for the fact that they are, for example, shopping at Target.) Of course, ekklēsia can be glossed in several different ways. (A gloss is a summary of the meaning of the word that's suitable, say, for an interlinear.) Other English glosses for ekklēsia include "assembly," "meeting," and "church." We could also use "gathering" or "community." Here in Acts 13:1, I think the rendering "congregation" works, and works well. The New Testament understands the ekklēsia to be a community of people, living and meeting together in such a way that love, the supreme gift (1 Cor. 13:13), can be realized, as well as the other gifts of the Spirit. The church is a community loved and chosen by God, drawing its life from Him and manifesting this divine life in the basic Christian graces of faith, hope, and love. It is a community bought into being by the Gospel and one that is continuously shaped by the Gospel. Hence it can be justly called a "Gospel church."

Every now and then it's good to press the pause button and rethink how we translate certain Greek words into English. I'm excited to hear your thoughts about what a New Testament congregation looks like. If you publish your ideas on your blog, send me the post so I can link to it here. 

This morning I was thinking a lot about the churches where I live. Truth be told, cultural Christianity is alive and well in some parts of the good ol' U.S. of A. This is well documented in a book I just finished by Dean Inserra. It's called The Unsaved Christian. A recurrent theme in this book is how easy it is to let our local churches become incubators for cultural Christianity. The "remedy," according to the author, is "a gospel centrality that confronts Cultural Christians with the truth about Christ and themselves." Here are a few more quotes from this excellent book:

  • Thinking that I deserve heaven is a sure sign I have no understanding of the gospel.

  • ... the Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.

  • Not all "unsaved Christians" are Cultural Christians.

  • Being a self-identified Christian for cultural reasons, rather than the good news of the gospel, is commonplace in America.

  • ... Cultural Christianity isn't just an epidemic of the American South.

  • The hallmark of Cultural Christianity is typically familiarity (or even comfort) with biblical principles without a sense of personal need for salvation.

  • Cultural Christians are usually only a generation or two removed from gospel-believing Christians.

  • The cure for a country club church is not to care for members less but to care for them more.

  • For most churches, Easter and Christmas Eve are the local church versions of the Super Bowl.

  • Why raised hands and sinner's prayers don't necessarily indicate salvation.

  • In some Christian circles, God and country are entangled together into a Cultural Christianity not founded on the bloody cross and empty tomb of the Savior but rather the policies debated on talk radio and cable news.

  • The most common way to reject King Jesus is not with a defiant curse, but a disinterested shrug.

  • In the Bible Belt, identifying as a Christian is a way of life, but sadly, believing the gospel and following Jesus are often not.

  • Aside from human sin, if we could label one primary cause of Cultural Christianity, I'd say it's confusion over what the gospel is and what the gospel is not.

The result: Churchianity and religiosity have turned people away from the Lord. "The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you," wrote Paul (Rom. 2:24). The fact is, God has established his ekklēsia to be His representative in this world. And if our Christianity isn't contagious, it's very likely contaminated.

By the way, don't you enjoy reading books that are really well written? I find them inspiring and humbling. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, once reported that her writing was going splendidly until she read the manuscript of John Brown's Body, another book from the Civil War era. "John Brown's Body gave me such a terrible case of the humbles that it was months before I could find the necessary faith in myself." Yep. Good authors can be intimidating. Funny thing is, we remember Gone with the Wind and nobody's ever heard of John Brown's Body!

A final word to my Greek students. I know that class this week was like drinking from a fire hydrant. But that's the nature of the Greek verb system. Don't give up hope. Read the chapter over and over again until things click. Don't try and take the easy way out. If you find yourself Googling "How to learn Greek without studying," you just might be in trouble. Seek out help. We are here to tutor you over this first speed bump!

Wednesday, September 4

7:12 PM Well, well, the hay is almost in the barn, both literally and figuratively.

Nate's taking care of the latter.

Meanwhile, all I have to do is grade the papers from today's NT 2 class and then record the quiz scores from yesterday's Greek 1 class and I can officially say, "The hay IS in the barn for this week of school." So far my great students are smashing it, including this group of 37 stalwart pupils taking their first quiz in beginning Greek yesterday.

Tomorrow my goal will turn from teaching to preparing for the Chicago Marathon in October. It's only 39 days away.

For the next 5 weeks my aim will be to build the aerobic engine and arrive at the starting line both fit and fresh. I want to feel rested when I get to Chicago, and I want to feel prepared. So as part of my current training block, I've scheduled an 8K race this Saturday in Raleigh.

I've actually never done an 8K before, so I'm not too sure what to expect. Goodness, I don't even know how far 8 kilometers is. Hold on a minute. Okay. Dr. Google tells me that 8 kilometers equals 5 miles. I think that may be just the perfect distance when you're coming off of back-to-back half marathon weekends. Tomorrow it's back to cross training -- either a long bike or a climb in the mountains. If the latter, I'm thinking of getting back to what is perhaps my favorite spot on the Appalachian Trail -- MacAfee Knob. In the meantime, I'm keeping a close eye on my diet. This week I tried to cook all of my own meals, though for lunch today I couldn't resist a piping hot plate of Korean Teriyaki Chicken at the Seoul Garden in Raleigh.

I topped that off this evening with a huge serving of Chicken Tikka Masala which I prepared as soon as I arrived back on the farm.

While I was down in Raleigh I stopped by Fleet Feet to buy a new pair of running shoes (New Balance, of course) as well as a pair of lightweight running shorts.

Unbelievably, with all the running I've done over the past four and a half years, I've never owned a pair of running shorts. My swimming shorts have worked just fine. But now that I've tried on a pair of these running shorts (again, New Balance), I'll never go back to swim trunks. Patience and fortitude are frankly the most important attributes you can bring to the sport of running, but having the right gear (including proper clothing and shoes) is also essential. As I continue to dabble in this sport, I'm eager to test my limits, within reasonable boundaries of course. I promised my doctors as much and I will keep my word. Saturday's 8K will be just another little step toward the level of fitness I'd like to achieve some day. I fight on toward that end.

I'm sorry if you get tired of all my musings about life, teaching, and racing. I have to say, all three are consuming and monopolizing my brain nowadays, so that's normally what you get to read about on the blog. It isn't the shoes or new socks or comfy pants that make me a runner. It's running. I realize that, every time I pin on a race bib, I'm a runner. A real runner, not just someone who runs. It's through running (duh) that we become runners. It's through studying Greek -- and never giving up, even when we have setbacks -- that makes us Greek students. That most of us will never experience the thrill of coming in first place in either a foot race or a classroom competition is never any excuse to abandon the search for our personal victories. It's a game you don't have to play to win. But you do have to give it your best.

Okay, onward to the rest of the week. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 3

6:45 AM If you're a newbie to the Greek verb, my advice to you would be to learn how to divide a word into its morphemes -- or minimal units of meaning. For example, in English:

  • Friend has one morpheme.

  • Friendly has two.

  • Friendliness has three.

  • Unfriendliness has four.

  • Superunfriendliness has five.

  • Ubersuperunfriendliness has six.

You get the idea. So when you learn the present tense of the verb luō ("I loose"), you will always try and pick out the word's morphemes. For example:

  • luō has two morphemes (lu + ō). Here lu means "loose" and ō means "I" -- hence the translation "I loose."

  • luomen has three morphemes (lu + o + men). Here lu means "loose," o means nothing (it functions as a cushion between stem and ending), and the men running around at the end of the word means "we" -- hence the translation "we loose."

Got it?

As you start (or continue) Greek class this week, do not think about how you paid good money to engage in this kind of suffering. In other words, keep your head up and your mind positive. It takes guts and persistence to learn Greek, and I am 67 years old and still chugging along, learning new things every day. After all is said and done, it will have been worth your effort. Working hard is a big part of the Greek learning game. Luck? Nope, not in this field. It really comes down to language aptitude, sound training, and, most of all, an off-the-charts work ethic. I'm a big fan of putting your head down when it comes to chasing down your dreams, whether that's to learn Greek or to run a marathon. It's always "Onwards and upwards."

Now go get to work.

Monday, September 2

5:08 PM So here goes. How did you translate:

Chairete. Nenikēkamen.

Hmm. Did you try:

"Rejoice! We have overcome!"

That's good. Real good! But that's not how I did it. Et voila!

"Be joyful! We are victorious!"

Yep. I bet that's what good old Pheidippedes told the Athenian council. Do you see now why I think those 2 Greek words are so useful in helping us to think through our view of Greek verbal aspect -- and how to translate those nuances into English? "Be joyful" is imperfective aspect. "We are victorious" is perfective aspect. See?

Okay. Duh. Pretty obvious, I know. But hey, I'll grab any excuse to talk about marathoning!

4:10 PM We all have our post-running rituals -- things we do after a long training block or a major racing event. For me, recovery usually invokes 3 things: a short workout of some kind, a time to indulge my food cravings, and either a massage or an easy swim in a nice cold pool. Today my lifting at the Y consisted of a very basic upper body workout using dumbbells weighing no more than 15 pounds.

Then it was off to Mi Careta for a scrumptious helping of arros con pollo.

Finally, it was time for one last swim at the county pool, which closes this evening and will stay closed until next Memorial Day.

After I let my lunch digest, I got in a few wonderful laps in some very refreshing cold water, then I did what all self-respecting Greek profs do when they're lazing by the pool. I read a book. Not just any book, mind you, but this one.

I haven't done so much underlining and circling in a long time. This is one good read!

You've heard people say it a million times. Stress takes its toll on a body. That's why it's important to schedule recovery days into your training and not feel guilty for taking time off from running to let your muscles recover. Tonight my legs are feeling good and they'll feel even better after I roll them. It's hard perhaps to believe that inactivity is just as important to a runner as being active, but an active lifestyle requires periods of rest and relaxation. Some call this "strategic inactivity," and it's something we all do from time to time (or ought to do). I often quip with my Greek students when we're saying goodbye after class, "Study hard, but not too hard!" Not too long ago, during a moment of questionable sanity, I made the decision to run two marathons back to back (they were only 2 weeks apart). But let me tell you, life in the fast lane eventually catches up with you. Oh, does it ever. The early warning system of over-training is always there, but it can be very subtle. The vast majority of injuries are caused by over-training. We run when we know we should be resting. We run too many miles. We run too hard on easy days. Of course, resting doesn't necessarily mean inactivity. Today I was active. I just wasn't running or doing anything too stressful for my old bod -- except chowing down a huge plate of food. That kind of over-indulging, however, is A-OK on the day after a big race, in my humble opinion.

Yesterday I had one of the most successful runs I've ever had. The race yesterday was all about the simple joy of getting out there and running. What matters is that we enjoy the process, folks!

7:34 AM Today it's time to put the finishing touches on my lectures for the week, including Greek 1. Please, please, please, if you're going to learn the Greek present tense, learn the future tense at the same time.

Only makes sense. The only difference is one Greek letter. Imagine that! As you will often hear me say: Greek has mathematical precision. It just does. Especially when you take a few basic, basic concepts of linguistics (like morphology) and apply them on a level that even a language dummy like me can understand.

This year marks my 43rd of teaching. I don't say that to brag. I say that so that you know I love teaching people like you Greek. Yes, folks, I'm in it for long haul. What a journey it's been, sharing my love for Greek with all of you. I wish I had more time to type out all of my thoughts and feelings and share them with you. The journey has been exciting, joyful, and at times tiring, but my students have given me so much in return. So thank you for your interest in Greek and in this blog. Thank you for caring about what counts for eternity. Greek class this week is going to be amazing. I think you'll love our approach to the Greek verb. Just sayin'.

5:45 AM It's kinda strange. I remember the days when I couldn't wait to read the New Testament in its original Greek. Nowadays I often prefer reading multiple versions of the New Testament to see how they render the Greek. This morning I was in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul's "Fool's Speech." I had The Message and the NEB in front of me.

I love the NEB's rendering of these verses:

It's odd: I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Paul's concept of weakness, yet I still have to learn and relearn it over and over again. When we get something other than what we want, we tend to become moody and whinny. "Please take this away from me, Dad!" Sometimes we cry and stay down. At other times we cry and then move on, realizing that (as I said on Saturday) God's "No" is a sign that He has something far better in mind for us than we could ever have possibly imagined from our limited perspective. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (perhaps -- runners take note! -- some kind of a sharp physical pain) could have gotten him down. But the Bible is full of stories of people who found God's-strength-in-weakness to be absolutely true. It helps to know that God doesn't write us off as failures whenever we fall into the slough of despair. He draws us back with His love when we feel like running away and fleeing.

Okay, enough about my morning devotions. Here's a question for ya: What two Greek words do all marathoners know? I mean, every marathoner knows these two words! The reason I ask this is because this week we begin our discussion of the verb system in beginning Greek, and we'll talk not only about tense but also about aspect -- in other words, not only when something happens but how that action is portrayed by the author. So here are the two Greek words:

Chairete.

Nenikēkamen.

Got it? How would you translate them? Notice that the first verb is an imperative in the present tense, whereas the second verb is an indicative in the perfect tense. In other words, the first verb indicates imperfective aspect, while the second verb indicates perfective aspect. (For pedagogical reasons I still use the term "aoristic" aspect for the aorist tense and "perfective" aspect for the perfect tense. But you can call them whatever you like.)

By the way, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, the first marathon was run in approximately 490 B.C. The story goes that a messenger named Pheidippedes (or was it Philippedes -- no one knows for sure) ran from the coastal city of Marathon to Athens and excitedly announced to the council a great victory over the Persians: Chairete! Nenikēkamen! Then he collapsed and died. (That story has one bummer of an ending.) The first modern "marathon" was held in Athens in 1896. Nowadays marathons are run everywhere. But it all began with those two words.

Now, those two little Greek words are a good test to see what you believe about Greek verbal aspect. So here's your assignment for today. (I know it's a holiday today, but surely I can ask you to do a little work seeing that it's Labor Day.) How would you translate those two Greek words? Write down your answer on a 100 dollar bill and send it to me by snail mail. (Sorry, Car Talk.) I'll give you my answer to that question later today (if I remember).

Speaking of running, I was disappointed to finish 2,979th out of 5,299 runners in yesterday's half marathon.

But I was even more heartbroken to miss coming in first place by 1 hour and 39 seconds. The blink of an eye, really. I lost to some guy named Harrison Toney. All right, Harrison. I'll be coming for you next year. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, September 1

5:26 PM Oh me, oh my oh! What a crazy, crazy, CRAZY weekend it's been! I mean, CRAAAAZY! You know, don't you, that runners are a bunch of over-achievers. We sometimes push our bodies more than they are ready for. What happens when you succumb to this temptation? Injury. Today, I almost succumbed. The key word is "almost." Spurgeon once said, "The worst thing that can happen to a man who gambles is to win." Well, folks, I almost "won" today, but the key word, again, is almost.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday I drove to Virginia Beach and arrived at the expo at around noon. Since I had procrastinated, I had to register there instead of online, but the process went smoothly and I got my race bib. I grabbed my t-shirt and then skedaddled because I wanted to get to the beach. Folks, I'm telling you, the best time to visit Virginia Beach is definitely not on Labor Day weekend. The crowds smothered the strand. I was thinking that the north end of the beach would be less crowded, but the crowds there were just as bad. I miraculously found a parking spot at 31st street and unloaded my board. Obviously I couldn't take my camera with me in the water, but you can see from this photo that the surf conditions were definitely not flat.

There was hardly anybody in the water, whether surfers or swimmers. I heard that the undertow was pretty bad and the lifeguards were discouraging people from venturing too far out. I counted one other surfer during the hour or so that I was frolicking in the surf. Needless to say, I had a blast. Afterwards, I checked into my Airbnb. It was a condo located in one of the nicer parts of V Beach and had a large bed and a gigantic private bath. I rested and then carb loaded at the local Olive Garden. I guess I must have turned in at around 9:00 and was wide awake at exactly 4:15 as planned. I got dressed and drove to Dennys for my traditional pre-race breakfast consisting of two pancakes and two strong cups of coffee. Mmm mmm good! Then it was time to find my corral and my 2:45 pace group. Oh, I forgot to say that as soon as I walked outdoors this morning it felt unseemingly warm. Even worse was the humidity. Not exactly a runner's favorite race conditions for sure. Here's my corral at the start at 6:30.

Six corrals had already started running. The air horn goes off and, man, the humidity is already killing us. My goal today was to hang with the 2:45 pace group until mile 9 or 10 and then, if I had anything left in my legs, begin to push ahead and try and break last week's time of 2:38. Sure enough, something happened at mile 10, but it wasn't me sprinting off toward the finish line. Folks, it isn't always easy being a runner. One of the canons of running is to always be true to yourself. At mile 10, my goal went out the window.

In one sputtering moment, my dream was shattered. My legs, my lungs, my body gave out. I had to concede defeat. I wasn't going to break 2:38, not today. I probably wasn't even going to come in under 3 hours, which itself would be a great achievement in a race that has a time limit of 4 hours. I slowed down, and as I munched on popsicles and placed cold towels on my neck and walked through sprayers and sprinklers, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had done the right thing. I had acted like a true athlete. I had respected my body. Here you can see how my pace began to go belly up at around mile 10.

But I've always said that it's the process that matters most, not the end results. Sure, you feel disappointed when you don't achieve a race goal. Yet I knew how much I could push my body, and my body was just saying "No." When I first started running, the joy for me was running to the edge in every race. These days I run because I love the sport. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other never ceases to amaze me and make me grateful to the One who gave me legs to run on. I'm overjoyed that I can run even when my run isn't perfect. I finished the race and the course photographer snapped this picture.

If you say that I resemble something between a wet dishrag and a bedraggled poodle, I won't disagree in the least. Today's race challenged me both mentally and physically in ways I've scarcely been challenged before. The mental challenge was by far the harder one. All this to say: Racing proves to me again just how running can make you stronger and wiser.

Thanks for joining me on my journey, guys. 

P.S. I somehow came in under 3 hours. 2:48 to be exact. God's grace!

Saturday, August 31

7:56 AM Why does this song keep goin' through my head?

Well, the surfboard IS waxed down and I'm READY. I'm taking these books with me to the beach:

I am always in the middle of a few books at once. Usually at least one about running and one about spiritual growth. The temps for tomorrow's race will be in the mid-70s and sunny. So it should be a great weekend.

Here's a few miscellaneous things I've been thinking about:

1. The last 3 miles of a half suck.

2. Relationships can have an expiration date.

3. If you want to know more about God, open your Bible (in whatever language).

4. When you can't, God can.

5. Fireworks have nothing on the sparks of Christ's grandeur.

6. I am never content. Deep within is the God-given urge to know God better and to worship Him face to face.

7. If you take God seriously, you ought to take Satan seriously.

8. Loving actions do speak louder than words. 

9. Always try to see the best in other people.

10. Age does not define me.

11. No matter what happens to me, God is always there.

12. Good art isn't confined to a gallery any more than good drama is confined to a stage.

13. Friendships are serious business.

14. "No" is a sign God has something better for me.

15. Pursuing goals and ambitions that aren't eternal is a game nobody ever wins.

16. Get comfortable with you own very special, unique looks.

17. Avoid bad advice from well-meaning people.

18. Serve God with all your heart and mind.

19. God won't make your decisions for you.

20. Thankfully, wrong choices are forgivable.

21. "Come soon, Lord Jesus."

22. Get along, except when you can't.

23. If it's mediocrity you want, it can be easily had.

24. The cross. The closer we live to it, the more truly we are alive.

25. Stay curious.

Well, bored stiff yet? Sorry, but the nice thing about a blog is you get to say whatever you want.

Y'all have a great holiday weekend, and stay awesome !
 

Friday, August 30

8:08 PM Are you done improving?

That's a question I ask myself every day.

Are you done getting better?

I'm still getting better aged 67. Despite various setbacks, I refuse to stop moving. I'm planning on getting much better. As a man. As a Christian. As a dad and granddad. As a teacher. As an athlete. At 67 my window is closing. But it's still open. The older I get the more I realize how much better I want to be. I have learned so much about life just in the past year. I have so many goals. I want to keep pushing to see what I can achieve. Good days, bad days, and everything in between keep me moving forward. I've got a lot of room for small growth.

We can never be done getting better.

Thank you, Lord! 

4:44 PM My buddy and I got in a nice 15-mile bike today in South Hill.

Our pace was kinda slow but neither of us felt like pushing it today.

The scenery was inspiring and we both enjoyed a pleasant ride. He's off to the mountains tomorrow with his family, while I'm heading to the beach. On tap for tonight: Hosting my farm guests for dinner. Life is good.

8:24 AM The neat thing about the Virginia Beach Half is that it starts and ends on the boardwalk. Also, you get to run right through the middle of Camp Pendleton.

The problem there is that the Camp has absolutely zero shade. Thankfully, the course is flat, except for a bridge you have to run over twice.

The weather promises to be on the warm and sunny side, but with a race start of 6:30 am that shouldn't be too bad. Thankfully there are tons of water stops along the way. This will be my third VB Half. I love the course and all the free stuff afterwards. At each mile you're joined by a rock band. No shortage of bathrooms along the course either.

If you're looking for a fun end-of-the-summer run, this is the one!

7:50 AM Today I got out the old surfboard and need to scrape off the old wax before I take it to the beach.

The Virginia Beach Half Marathon is on Sunday so I thought I'd hit the waves there tomorrow before I check in at my Airbnb. Sure, the latest reports say the waves are tiny, but we surfers are the ultimate optimists -- "I just know there's a huge swell coming!"

Surf legend Phil Edwards once famously said, "The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun." I strongly agree. Like running, surfing is so much more than a sport. It's a lifestyle. Surfing depends mostly on your location. When you live on a beach in Hawai'i it's easy to surf daily. When you live 3 hours from the beach as I do now, it's something you rarely do. But hopefully this weekend I've got time for a splash and dash.

Cowabunga, dude!  

6:10 AM I dropped out of Greek after only 3 weeks. That's right. I thought to myself: What's wrong with me? I should be able to get this. It's not all that hard. I'm such a loser!

My second story: I took Greek from Moody Bible Institute by correspondence, passed it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here's the deal. In both cases I did my best. I gave it my all. I studied my heart out. Eventually I made it and lesson learned:

Holy Shoddy Is Still Shoddy.

Just because it's hard doesn't give me the right to give it anything less than my best. The richness of life is found in moving out of your comfort zone. While sipping my coffee this morning, I read these words from Paul to the Colossians in The Message:

The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work.

And this:

And, oh yes, tell Archippus, "Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best."

If you're in my beginning Greek class this semester and end up getting a C for the course, you can hold your head up high -- if you have done your very best and tried your very hardest. Sure, there are risks. But faith takes the risks, without knowing where it is being led. Think of it as taking a trip without Google Maps. Or as a tried and true adventure. You have to go full bore. You have to quit holding out.

Become a risk-taker for God today, my friend.

Thursday, August 29

6:10 PM There's a philosophy out there that says you need to run 26 miles in training before you run a marathon. For me, that's way too much distance. So here's what I've decided to do. I will run and cross train for the next 7 weeks but nothing as far as 26 miles. Tomorrow I plan a 10-mile bike. Then I'll swim on Monday (Labor Day). Then I'll run on Tuesday. As you can see, I like to trade off sports (cycling, swimming, running) to keep my interest up and my injuries down. I have the whole thing planned out, and this includes two more foot races before the big event in Chicago:

The Virginia Beach Half Marathon (this Sunday).

The Virginia 10-Miler (Sept. 28). 

I am going to try and resist the temptation to get bent out of shape if I miss a training day or two because of soreness or illness. That's all in God's hands anyway. No sense in becoming a slave to your training. Besides, it's not about the mileage. It's about the quality of your runs. Right now I feel pretty strong. I'm also watching my diet and my attitude. To be honest, we runners can become very competitive. We need to learn to cut ourselves some slack even as we push hard to accomplish our audacious goals. The main thing is to go into Chicago as prepared as I can be (that is, as prepared as "life" will allow me to be, and you never know what the future holds). If you have healthy eating habits, then you don't need to worry too much about your weight. Just exercise consistently. My most glaring weaknesses (and I have many) are: (1) running while fatigued, and (2) running paces that are too fast. No doubt that's a recipe for disaster. You can't get there if you're beating your body into submission. Bill Rodgers, who won Boston 4 times, now runs much slower and shorter distances. He's happy just to compete for age group awards. Impatience and unrealistic expectations are the twin curses of the runner. Your running shouldn't conform to anyone's expectations but your own. I'm on a journey to a fitter and more active lifestyle. No need to push myself too hard.

For me, the half marathon is the perfect distance. Don't get me wrong. A half is never easy. But they don't leave you wiped out for the rest of the day like marathons do. As for the 10-mile distance, I really love this race too. The best thing about the Virginia 10-Miler is that it feels more like a social gathering than a race. Sure, you have the elites. But you might also see your dentist or your grocer. Both the half and the 10-miler are more about consistency than about a sprint to the finish.

As I said, I truly do love the half marathon distance. The mileage is doable yet I still feel challenged. The half is definitely my "comfort" distance!

1:02 PM Today's training for Chicago involved a 45-minute workout at the Y.

My goal for Chicago, as I think I've mentioned here before, is just finishing the course. But I have the additional goal of running the distance in a specific amount of time. That is, if it's a good day and the weather is just right. Maybe even a PR-kind of day. But you have to anticipate that things aren't necessarily going to go your way. At some point in the race my goal might change to run only the miles that are left or even run to the next mile marker. You never know what your body will do at mile 20. What started out as a goal of, say, 5:00 becomes the goal of taking a single step. In the end, this uncertainty is what makes the sport such an adventure for me. That's why I think the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life. No other distance so closely parallels the ups and downs of life. Learning to set reasonable goals is one of the most difficult things I've had to learn how to do. I'm still not very good at it. But, interestingly enough, as I think about my Chicago goals, I also find myself thinking about my life goals for today and tomorrow. That's all for the good!

When I got back to the farm I started to play catch up with all of my farm chores. Right now I'm about halfway done but I decided to come indoors to grab some grub and check emails and texts. If I get an hour or two behind on emails and texts, I'm history. Here's one of the nicest things I received all day.

Can anything be sweeter than a grandson and his pet chickens?

I love these pics. I get them on a regular basis from my kids. Grandchildren seem to bring a special joy to your every day life. They're the "dots that connect the generations," as someone once said. Boy, do I love them.

Okay, you can go back to whatever you were doing.

7:48 AM The reason I asked my NT Intro class to read my books The Jesus Paradigm for this week's class and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church for next week's class is not because I think people should agree with everything I say. I've always distrusted books that make church transformation out to be a piece of cake. As we saw in Acts yesterday, it wasn't that way for the early church and it won't be that way for us. There are no quick fixes. I hope I never convey that there are. At best, I hope the reading we do in class this semester (especially our reading from the New Testament) will serve to get the juices flowing in our congregations. The secret, I believe, is in unlocking the revolutionary potential in our membership. When people begin to use their spiritual gifts for mutual upbuilding, good things happen. With church reformation, we strive to integrate what needs integrating, no more and no less, no sooner and no later. Workable decisions, even if imperfect, are better than "perfect" solutions. People need to serve from within, not from a feeling of obligation. We simply surrender to the divine calling in our lives. And when we do, we hold nothing back. When we discover our soul's calling, we commit unambiguously to it. We live and act from the certainty that God is fully present in the ordinary details of our lives. Even when we miss the mark, we fail bravely. We learn and grow from our mistakes. Life on this planet is one of constant growth. So let's never forget: Our calling is simply to be like Jesus, mimicking the life He lived 2,000 years ago.

In my books I call this the "downward path of Jesus." As Christ-followers, it's in our DNA to complete what Jesus began. It's not about instant change. It's about unfolding more and more truth and obedience into our reality than we had before.

6:50 AM I don't get it. Why does everybody act so serious when they're studying Greek? My classroom philosophy can be summed up in one word: Fun. We'll laugh. A lot. Mostly at ourselves.

Which got me to thinking. Are there unwritten rules about the classroom? Here are a few I can think of:

1. "Don't take yourself too seriously. No one else does." This is an actual quote from one of my profs at Biola. And it's true. Lighten up, folks.

2. Don't over-study. Work on this week's assignment, not next week's. As we said in Greek 1 class on Tuesday, Greek is a marathon. There are 26 chapters in our textbook. Which means we will take one "mile" (chapter) at a time. No need to rush.

3. Don't whine. We all know that language study is grueling. We all so want it to be done. So put your head down and trudge on. We'll be right there with you.

4. Don't go it alone. You are running this race with others. It was so encouraging to see after class a group of ladies talking about studying Greek together this semester. You know what? Each of them will be the better for it. Be sure to seek help if you begin to fall behind. I can tutor you. So can my assistant. So can others.

5. Don't fib about your abilities. Some of us (like me) struggle to learn foreign languages. But it can still be done.

6. Finally, remember to tell your prof how much you like his textbook -- and him. (The word "brilliant" works well.)

I know I'm bad at languages, yet I still love them. I love them as much as I love running. Every year, more than 40,000 people come to Chicago to travel 26.2 miles through its boroughs, on foot. For none of them is running easy. It's clear to me that I'll never have a runner's body, no matter how many miles I run. So instead I'm concentrating on enjoying the journey. I'm worrying more about the product and less about the packaging. Maybe if I act like a runner I'll become one some day.

Studying Greek is a series of tiny victories and defeats. And both are only as important as you make them out to be. 

Wednesday, August 28

8:04 PM We sent this off to the publisher today. Final draft. The hay is in the barn!

Oddly enough, this will be the third book I've published that has the word "linguistics" in its title. I can't thank my co-editor and each of the contributors enough. All this to say that I think the future of New Testament Greek studies is in good hands with these writers. Glory to God.

7:25 PM Hey virtual friends! You are welcome in advance for me not posting any pictures of my 3 days on campus. I was simply too caught up in the excitement of the beginning of a new semester to even think about snapping photos of my classes or the lunches I enjoyed with colleagues. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I'm not the only one who gets super excited to be back on campus after a long hiatus. I am so overwhelmed by the potential I see everywhere I look. You know where I'm going with this. I love teaching. I especially love teaching the Bible because Scripture is the scepter by which King Jesus rules His church. Let's never forget Christ's promise that His Spirit will lead us into "all truth." Liberals insist that truth is unknowable. But the authority of Christ and the authority of Scripture are intertwined. I am so thankful for colleagues who are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, which is another way of saying they are willing to submit to the authority of Scripture. When 650 evangelicals (I was among them) gathered at TEDS in 1989 for a consultation called "Evangelical Affirmations," we affirmed: "Evangelicals hold the Bible to be God's Word and therefore completely true and trustworthy." Of course, we were referring to Scripture as correctly interpreted. Simply put, a text cannot mean what its author never intended it to mean. And that's why I revel in teaching classes in New Testament Introduction or Elementary Greek or Advanced Greek Grammar. We evangelicals are Bible people, first and foremost, now and always. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and we can hope through prayer and study to grow more and more in our understanding of what God's will is for the church.

I can hardly fail to be stirred by the passion for truth I sense among our student body. And to think that I get to equip them with tools that will hopefully help them interpret and apply the Bible. Why, this is just beyond my imagination! My point in this is that a new semester is a good time to give thanks. Thanks for the power of God's grace. Thanks that God is growing my soul and filling it with Himself. Thanks that I have endured pain. Thanks that I've found meaning in loss. Thanks that I have changed and grown. Thanks that I wake up every morning joyful. Thanks that I have the honor of being a classroom teacher. Thanks that Becky is in heaven because she believed in Jesus. Thanks that heaven is my true home however good life on this farm seems to be. Thanks that I am never alone but am a member of a great community of people who love Jesus. Thanks that I am the Lord's and that He is mine. Thanks for the inspiration I draw from my colleagues and friends. Thanks for the gift of brokenness, because brokenness forces me to find a source of love outside of myself. Thanks for kids and grandkids who love me.

I'm a bit tired after ministering on campus for 3 days. That's okay. Tomorrow I will have my strength back again. It will be time to get back to the gym. It will be time to get caught up on my farm chores. It will be time to welcome a family to Maple Ridge for a retreat. It will be time to gear up for Sunday's half marathon in Virginia Beach. I can't wait to see how I do. I imagine it's like taking a Greek class for the very first time: You're excited and scared at the same time. And to think: You actually pay to engage in this type of suffering.

My motto these days is "Keep It Simple Stupid." (Sorry I called you stupid.) Friend, there's no time like the present to "be all there." Rise up and do what it takes. I know I will. However, be ready for anything. Life is always full of surprises!

Monday, August 26

6:58 AM So today begins my class called (officially) Advanced Greek Grammar, which is actually a course in Greek linguistics. I know I called my 1988 book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, but like the rest of the book, the title is questionable. There's no way to say everything that needs to be said about linguistics in a brief book like that. Moreover, the author wasn't, isn't, and never will be a linguist in the technical sense of the term. I know this creates a lot of confusion when someone like me is invited to speak to linguistics majors (like my speech next month at Liberty U.), but let the organizers figure that one out.

The one thing I most certainly am not is a purist. The purists in the academic world would suggest I have nothing to say. To be fair, they are right, in a sense. I haven't had a single class in linguistics. Ever. The elitist view of linguistics suggests that no one should ever do anything unless they can do it at the highest level. There are elitists in every field. Some elite marathoners think that slow runners like me are ruining their sport. I would simply ask them: What about that person who needed a challenge in their life? Who, like me, never thought they could run a marathon, and then did. That makes it a victory for all of us. Incidentally, the one thing you will never hear your fellow runners say to you after a race is, "What was your time?" That doesn't matter. At all. You showed up. You tried. You gave it your all. And somehow, you finished.

Greek students, that's what I'm asking of you this semester. Remember: A twelve-minute mile is just as far as a six-minute mile. So what if your "run" isn't much faster than a walk with a good tailwind. Run your race this semester. Be the best linguist you can possibly be. God's word demands it. We all have a lot to learn from professional linguists about how language works. And maybe even from rank amateurs like me.

By the way, the sunrise this morning was out of this world.

Spontaneous worship can break out at any time, any place. Spread before us from horizon to horizon are these little reminders of God's care over His creation, including us. "If you have never heard the mountains singing, or seen the trees of the fields clapping their hands," wrote McCandlish Phillips, "do not think because of that they don't." This morning I heard the skies singing and wanted to add my own accompaniment.

Yesterday I talked about Grimm's Law. To apply it, you need to know this little chart. I'm posting it here because I couldn't find one on Google Images. The key is to go one step counter-clockwise. Try it with the verb pherō.

Blessings,

Dave

Sunday, August 25

10:14 PM Tonight I saw a new release called Overcomer. It's a touching film that gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian: forgiveness. I know of no more staggering and humbling truth than that God has forgiven me of my sins through His Son. In turn, a Christian is characterized by a willingness to forgive.

The film powerfully illustrates the foolishness of saying no to our Father in heaven. We are given the choice, day by day, to trust Him, even for those things in our lives that seem so destructive. The acting in this movie is superb. And the Gospel comes through loud and clear. I encourage you all to see this poignant and powerful film.

1:58 PM Is linguistics descriptive or prescriptive? Before you say the former, it's actually both. With linguists, languages are generally approached descriptively. But the science of linguistics can also be employed prescriptively. Languages, indeed, have their own "rules." One of the most important of these is called Grimm's Law. Grimm's Law will figure very prominently in tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class when I ask my students to come up with an English cognate or derivative for every one of the Greek words found in Eph. 1:1-2.

Yes, this is actually possible! So let's not argue about whether there are "rules" in languages. Of course, attitudes toward "correctness" in language are not shaped solely by grammars. To a large degree, it is language usage that determines rightness or wrongness in language. For example, formal and ordinary language registers may lead to two different languages being formed. The colloquial form of the language is not a "corruption" of the language preferred by the elites. As you know, I grew up in a milieu of diglossia, where about half of us who lived in Hawai'i could speak both Standard English and Hawaiian Creole (Pidgin). The latter is sometimes thought to contain numerous "mistakes" or "infelicities" of English. In Pidgin, for instance, we say "shave ice" instead of "shaved ice." Actually, this is perfectly understandable as there has long been a tendency in English to drop the -ed suffix in words that belong to noun phrases. To wit:

Whip cream = whipped cream

Cream corn = Creamed corn

Roast beef = roasted beef

Wax paper = waxed paper

Skim milk = skimmed milk

Where I live in Southern Virginia, final "g-dropping" with verbs is the norm even among highly educated speakers of English.

And the list goes on and on. When it comes to the study of Koine Greek, the fact is that many of the "exceptions to the rule" have their own rules. And this is precisely where Greek phonology can help us -- hence our little exercise in the opening greeting of Ephesians. I want my students to see that linguistics is a cognitive science that provides a link between the humanities and the social sciences.

What fun!

6:18 AM Today I am definitely not working out. Of course, if I had to get up hay today (which I don't), I would. Life goes on whether or not you've just run a half. But wisdom tells me I need to take a day or two off from exercise. The whole idea is about listening to your body. Besides, I've got plenty of other stuff to do. By the way, this week a couple from the seminary will be staying at the farm for a bit of R & R. Years ago Becky and I dedicated Maple Ridge as a place of prayer, rest, and restoration. The goal is for retreatants to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Plus have lots of fun butting heads with the goats.

Originally build in 1810, Maple Ridge has been completely renovated and is equipped with such modern amenities as air conditioning and a complete kitchen. We designed it to accommodate larger families on retreat or those needing temporary housing. They can stay at Maple Ridge from a few days up to 6 months, free of charge. These families are sometimes in a period of transition or adjustment. Maple Ridge is a safe shelter in which to put body and soul back together and to seek guidance from the Lord for the next step.

So glad to see Becky's vision still bearing fruit!

5:34 AM This Wednesday in our NT 2 class we'll begin our discussion of Acts and will hone in on ecclesiology. To begin with, students will read my The Jesus Paradigm as well as Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. On Wednesday, one of our topics will be the concept of "primus inter pares" -- first among equals. Here are some slides I'll be sharing with the class. They are based on Alexander Strauch's definitive work Biblical Eldership.

The overriding principle I'm trying to bring to the table is: Pastoral ministry is a "fellowship of leadership." The expression is Michael Green's. I once heard Green speak about this in chapel, and he also served as a priest in a nearby Anglican church in Raleigh. Green argues that both democracy (which leads to shared incompetence) and monarchy (which leads to suppression of initiative) is bad for a congregation. "What is needed is a leadership team accountable to God and the congregation; a team which will lead and enable each member to achieve his or her full potential and use that in God's service" (Adventure of Faith, p. 86). Some argue that this leadership team itself needs a leader. "Every healthy organization has someone at the top." I fully agree. And every local church has such a Senior Pastor (see 1 Pet. 5:4). That's why I'm suggesting we might want to try avoiding the language of "senior" or "lead" pastor and instead consider using "co-pastor" or even what Peter uses in 1 Pet. 5:1: "fellow elder." The fact is, all of us need to be serving the Lord Christ. "You need a fellowship of leadership to model that sort of thing and to help it come about" (Green again).

So do I agree with the idea of primus inter pares? Absolutely. In Christ we have a Lead Pastor but sadly our nomenclature too often masks that reality. He is, however, ready to assume that honor if we will but allow Him.

P.S. Here's an example that just came to mind. You're the senior or lead pastor of a multi-staffed church and have been invited to speak at a convention. Each of your staff pastors are considered elders (co-equal and non-hierarchical) but your church masthead cites you as the senior or lead pastor. When asked how you would like to be identified in the convention program, list yourself as co-pastor. In the first place, this is true: you are one of several pastor-elders. In the second place, you will be willingly receding into the group -- which is precisely what Peter (the most prominent of Jesus' apostles) seems to be doing in 1 Pet. 5:1 when he refers to himself as a "fellow elder."

"Co-undershepherd" would also work but that's a little wordy!

Saturday, August 24

5:28 PM Without a doubt, today's half in Ashland was one of the best races I've ever participated it.

The weather was overcast and cool -- perfect for a 13.1 mile run. Packet pickup this morning was a breeze. There were only about 1,000 runners so there were no corrals to line up in. I placed myself about 2/3rds of the way back and was able to start my run at just the right pace without being pushed forward by the crowd. I loved the course, especially when an Amtrak went by!

At almost every turn there were spectators, and they were loud and tons of fun. Once we got out into the country, there were a few rolling hills, but nothing stood out as being exceptionally challenging. I ran the entire race except for the aid stations, which were placed every 2-3 miles. They were well stocked with water and Gatorade. A slight downhill made for a strong push at the end. All the people cheering for you made the last 1/3 mile fly by. The medal was pretty nice.

You also got the standard race shirt. I spent the next half hour basking in the glory of my finish time.

This is about 11 minutes slower than my PR, but I didn't want to push myself too hard. It's not easy for me to describe how I felt during the race, but perhaps the best word is joy. Joy in the Lord. Joy in the health He's so undeservedly given me. Joy in feeling the wind and seeing the corn and bean fields. Joy in knowing that my body could still do this. Here are a few more pictures. I realize I have a billion more I could show you, but these are enough to bore you to tears.

1) Airbnb is so great. I got this room (with a private bath and balcony) for only $59.00. The house reminded me so much of Maple Ridge here on the farm.

2) I snapped this pic at around mile 9.

At this point in the race, nobody is passing anybody else and nobody is being passed. Everybody has settled into a rhythm. Everyone is relaxed. We were all running a 12-minute pace. This happens in just about every race you run. You see the same people for the last half of the race. I'd love to have been able to talk with them, but at this stage of the game you're too focused on finishing to converse.

3) This was an amazing race for me. I felt incredible cardio-wise and had absolutely no pain anywhere afterwards.

I think I got some confidence back after the health issues I faced between May and July. One of the hardest things to do after you're injured is to get your mojo back. Nothing is more rewarding than to be able to trust your body again. Sure, there were a couple of times when I was tempted to go faster than I should have in order to try and break my old half marathon PR. But I realized that if I did that I couldn't face myself in the mirror after the race. How encouraging it is to know that you can run "within yourself" and not have any regrets when the race is over. After the race I had that utterly fabulous feeling (endomorphs?) when you think you can go on forever!

Well, another race in the books. Half #19. If you're looking for a fast race with lots of scenery, this one's for you. I met my goal of finishing and having fun. Mile after mile I fell in step with some awesome people of all ages, shapes, and levels of ability. Running gives me community and a way to improve my health. Running a half marathon is a crash course in gratitude, perseverance, patience, and the rewarding feeling of knowing you've pushed through but not to the point where you've injured your body. I'm not a gifted athlete (the understatement of the year), but I am dogged. And in a long distance race, you can take that quality a very long way. I actually yearn for those moments in life when my mettle is tested or when I am asked to persevere despite overwhelming challenges. These are the times when I can feel Him beside me, and heaven comes down and touches earth.

Thanks so much to the race organizers for putting on a first-class event. And thank You, Jesus, for running every step of the way with me today.

Friday, August 23

12:48 PM Here's a recap of today's visit with the neurologist at Duke. The good news is that my motor functions and nervous system seem to be working just fine. He thinks there might be some minor nerve damage in my feet. Not sure. Story of my life. So he's ordered an MRI of the lumbar spine as well as a Nerve Conduction Test. I'm not sure either test will do any good but the more information you have the better you can deal with the issue, right? Now I just have to wait for the insurance company to approve these procedures. Keeping fingers and (partially numb) feet crossed. Hoping it's nothing too serious. A least the doc said I can continue running and being active.

How's that for an update?

The only other news around here is that my old GE refrigerator is on its way to the landfill or the metal resellers or wherever. It served me well for going on 15 years.

Tomorrow is the half in Ashland. No sense in freaking out now. You just have to trust your training to get you through. My primary race goal is to smile and have fun. I realize that at some points during the race that will be well nigh impossible. That's okay. Finishing is winning.

7:22 AM There's a touch of fall in the air this morning.

A pleasant day indeed to read Ephesians in The Message.

I like how Peterson renders 4:11-12: "He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work." Nicely done. I might have translated the purpose clause as "to prepare God's people for works of service." I'd love to camp out on this for a while but I've got to get to my neurology appointment in Durham. More later.

6:20 AM Can anything top reading A. T. Robertson's Big Grammar at 6:00 am?

I remember reading this book for the first time in seminary. Today, I'm intrigued that it's still in print. The modern revolution in Greek linguistics has not come about because we have all kinds of novel ideas but because we are building on a foundation laid in the past. There is real value in reading an old book like this one. At least, there would be if teachers required it. Robertson's greatest strength, of course, is also his greatest weakness. Linguistics is much more than historical-comparative philology. But he was a man of his time, and by all measures his book represented a real breakthrough. That he does not do this in simple, nontechnical language may be a stumbling block to some. Actually, I find Robertson eminently readable. I love his heavy, Teutonic prose. I love his Latin and German and French quotes. There is no sniff of stifling fundamentalism among his chapters. In so many ways, Robertson embodies what a good philologist should be but frequently is not.

You can see that I'm taking thorough notes (in green) of chapters 1-2. These notes will form the basis for a quiz over this material in my Advanced Greek Grammar class. A "fun" quiz, mind you -- meaning one that doesn't count for a grade, though the student with the highest quiz score will receive one of my books for free. Here's one of the questions:

Robertson held that Greek was "the most perfect organ of human speech." True or false? 

How would you answer that?

I've written a number of books on Greek, but I am a grammarian by mistake. It was by reading Robertson and Moulton and Zerwick and others that I felt led to enter the fray. I discovered that books like Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek evoked an enormous response. I had not yet cottoned on to the fact that linguistics was then sweeping all over the scholarly guild. Once I realized that, I found myself writing more and more about discourse analysis, morphology, semantics, etc. That said, I'm not a huge fan of my book on linguistics. It really wasn't all that good, but surprisingly it's stayed in print for over 30 years. I think the time has come for a replacement, don't you? Maybe you will be the one to write it.

5:56 AM "... whether I spend my days in India or America, I desire to spend them in the service of God, and be prepared to spend an eternity in his presence." A. J.

5:45 AM "I am a creature of God, and he has an undoubted right to do with me, as seemeth good in his sight.... He has my heart in his hands, and when I am called to face danger, to pass through scenes of terror and distress, he can inspire with me with fortitude, and enable me to trust in him." A. J.

5:20 AM "O how different were my views of myself and my God, from what they were, when I first began to inquire what I should do to be saved. I felt myself to be a poor lost sinner.... This view of myself humbled me in the dust, melted me into sorrow and contrition for my sins, induced me to lay my soul at the feet of Christ, and plead his merits alone, as the ground of my acceptance." Ann Judson.

Thursday, August 22

5:35 PM Seminary and college convocation was today. I belong to a community that seeks to inspire men and women to live and learn the example of Christ. Sometimes that example is best seen in the lives of real-life human beings like Ann Hasseltine Judson, the wife of Adoniram Judson. Danny Akin's message on this subject was, in short, powerfully humbling and convicting. Had there been an altar call after the message, I'm sure people would have flooded to the front. I know I would have. I still can't believe that for years I had missed something so central. It was Jesus' un-normal ideas that made Him so unique. Follow me? Be prepared to give up everything. If you're Ann Judson, be prepared to die at the age of 37 in Burma. Carrying out the ministry of Christ in this earth is somehow always mingled with the concept of death. Death to self, at the very least. Broken so you can feed someone else. Not what I envisioned when I became a Christian in 1960. But that is what Jesus is teaching me through His cherished servants like Ann and Adoniram Judson.

I assure you, if you listen to today's chapel message, you will be deeply touched. Our holy Savior said it well: "What you have is not yours. So give it up, give it all up. Because once you come to the end of yourself, once you hit bottom, it is surprisingly peaceful down here."

Jesus is our only hope and inheritance. His followers glory and boast in Him despite crushing instability and hardship. Ann Judson lived on the margins and paid for it. But by becoming broken and poured out for others, she redefined for the church the nature of greatness. Our only hope, people, is to follow the example of Jesus and get back out into the world from which He rescued us, winning people over with our scandalous love and a lifestyle that makes them sit up and listen.

Here's the link to today's message. Danny's text was Psalm 142:1-7. I jotted down the following outline:

1) God hears the cries of your heart.

2) God knows what you are going through.

3) God will deliver you as your Refuge.

Below: Welcoming our new students to the seminary and college. Looking forward to getting to know all of you! 

Wednesday, August 21

7:08 PM Only 7 weeks to go before I run in the world famous Chicago Marathon. It's hard for me to even describe what it's like to finish a marathon. You're exhausted but you love it. I have such a supportive family and I don't take that for granted. The Chicago Marathon is a world class event. The course is said to be fast, well attended by spectators, and fun. I go into this marathon knowing that it will be a while before I run another one. I'm down to one marathon a year, remember? I'm already nervous. Marathons are the hardest things I've ever done. But that's kind of the point, right? I'm not doing Chicago because it's easy. I know the miles will hurt. I know I'll have to push myself to finish. I know I'll have to be mentally tough. Most of all, the marathon will teach me humility. Everybody faces obstacles in life. When we're faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must quit listening to the mockers and naysayers and shout, "With God's strength, I can!" His help is always but a prayer away. If you're after mediocrity in life, it can be easily had. But if you're going after excellence, no matter what the field, you have to work at it with all your might. Nothing is too difficult for God. The very problems we fret most about are the very things we need to trust God with. If you think you've got it tough, read 2 Cor. 11:24-33. Paul endured beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings, and threats in his own race of life. Yet he endured and persevered through every bout of despair. Like marriage, our relationship with God will be marked by hardships and heartaches. And yet the rewards of faithful love are worth the perseverance it requires to develop them.

I learn from every marathon I run. The marathon tests my character each and every time. But if I do my best, I'll mature not only as a runner but as a human being and follower of Jesus.

The marathon -- what an inspiration! 

4:42 PM What a funny day it's been today. Not as in "funny ha ha" but as in funny weird.

1) Yesterday my refrigerator went out on me just like that. But "coincidentally," Lowe's was running a sale on new refrigerators. They were marking off 30 percent until 9:00 pm tonight. It will be delivered Friday. How kind of you, Lord!

2) My favorite slippers broke this morning. I mean, I had those things for maybe 25 years. I caught one of them on a floor board in the house today and, again, just like that, they were history. Sob. The good news is that I found a new pair at Wal-Mart that fit me perfectly. Snazzy, huh!

3) Yesterday I ordered a book on Amazon Prime and it came today. It usually takes two days for Amazon Prime to deliver. Wow. That's crazy! 

4) Finally, I went to bush hog the pastures today and the donks just wouldn't leave me alone. Weird! Maybe they think this machine has carrots or something. I had to shoo them away like they were flies. Poor babies.

So you see, it's been a really weird day. Almost as weird as Hawai'i having Interstate Highways!

5:58 AM Next month I'm giving two rather major talks, one at Liberty University and one at Clearview Church. Like you, I've got pet peeves about public speaking. For my whole Christian life I've listened to sermons and lectures. All too often the speakers were "pumping sunshine" (as we used to say in California). We the People are obviously not stupid. We can tell if you know your subject. We can see whether or not you're really passionate about what you're saying or just reading a lecture someone else wrote for you. When I was at Biola, my CE prof once told me, "Dave, there are no boring teachers. If they're boring, they're not teachers." If you're familiar with TED Talks, then you're probably familiar with their Ten Commandments:

Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.

Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.

Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.

Thou Shalt Tell a Story.

Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.

Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego.

Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.

Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.

Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.

Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.

Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

The ninth one (in red) may well be the most important. I'm about 100 percent positive that public speakers would make a 100 percent greater impact on their audiences if they simply got rid of their notes. Pay attention to the people you're trying to reach. Look them in the eye. "Read" their reactions. And do it authentically. You say, "How is that done?" Watch a TED Talk and you'll see how. They are the most popular lectures on the web. They've been called "spectacles for smart people." Their motto is "Ideas worth spreading."

Which means, when a TED-talker is done speaking, you have a strong urge to share what you just heard with others. Speakers are genuinely "speaking" -- not lecturing or scolding or shouting. Their content is great. And the information is not coming from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of knowledge and expertise.

TED Talks take the audience on a journey. I've enjoyed a good many excursions myself -- which is why I'm pretty much a hopeless TED Head.

5:20 AM Sitting here wide awake since 4:00 am, there's too much in my heart to keep it there. So I turn to my blog, as I always do, to let it overflow even though it's just cobwebs and echoes. Since Becky's death I've had to make an investment in a "new self" as it were. I've had to struggle with such questions as, "Why am I here?" "What parts of me died with Becky and what parts didn't?" "What's the meaning of my new-found bachelorhood?" Thankfully, in the midst of all these questions (and many more like them) there has also been an amazing level of consistency -- my work, my family, my farm, my writing and publishing. But at times it felt like I was only going through the motions. I needed to find new passages to a new self. I needed new dreams.

Life offers us many new and rich and varied opportunities if we will only look for them. Since that fateful day in November 2013, I've fought a battle against sameness. I needed to find new ways to make a difference in people's lives. I guess that's one reason I've enjoyed running so much. Or why I like going to the gym. My days are full of firsts again. It's like learning how to surf all over again, or learning Greek all over again, or riding horses all over again. I've also had more time for intimacy with the Lord, exploring new ideas with my publishers, and trying out new foods. I can speak from personal experience when I say that growing older doesn't mean you have to slow down and stagnate. Even a 67-year old widower can sprout new foliage and choose a new direction. In a sense, in moving forward I've turned to the past -- witness my trips to Hawaii since Becky died. Waking up morning after morning at Kailua Beach to squint at the endless horizon and the sun rising over the Mokulua Islands works wonders with a sagging spirit. Sitting for hours on a surfboard has given me time to decode the mindboggling changes I've experienced in my life. 

So as I'm aging, I'm also trying to outwit it. I'm writing a new map of my life, eager to travel the new passages the Lord has designed for me in His sovereignty and love, recognizing that each new change is a passport to renewal. For far too many men, their whole identity is tied up with the status they've achieved so far. That's not what I want. As far as I'm concerned, 67 is the new 47. I'm not ready to accept "old age." Where's the adventure in that? No, I've got too much tread left in this old carcass of mine to coast through my 60s. 60s did you say? In my mind's eye I'm still that 19-year old who left Hawaii for Biola or that 26-year old who married a gorgeous lady from Texas or that 31-year old who received his doctorate in Europe. The 20-somethings who leave me in the dust during my races ain't got nothin' on me. I've got more wisdom and I'm probably tons happier too. I can still manage to pump blood and oxygen around my circulatory system with the best of them. Sure, I've got my inner battles (as do you), but today I'm more comfortable with uncertainty and I feel far more diversified on the outside and far more unified on the inside.

The only thing I'm having difficulty understanding is why people like you would even be faintly interested in anything I write here on this blog. Maybe it's curiosity. Maybe you want to know what a major life-passage looks like. If so, that's normal and necessary. Glad I can be of service! But listen, folks, there are no rules for aging today. The answer to the manhood puzzle must come from within. If there is a key to successfully negotiating the aging process, it's to be geared toward goals that are larger than yourself. Go where your spirit (and the Spirit) leads you. Stand apart from the crowd. Like William Wallace, be willing to risk your life for what you believe in. At the same time, discover your nurturing side. You can't help everybody but you can help someone.

To speak of aging as being "over the hill" is as absurd as it is destructive. God has a purpose for our lives regardless of our age. The greatest joy in life comes from seeking His will and then obeying it to the very best of our God-given ability. "I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star," spoke Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "whose influence if I now court not, but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop." Friend, there is still time to redirect your life toward that Star, the Lord Jesus Christ. Health never lasts. But influence can outlast our mortality.

Tuesday, August 20

5:14 PM It happened to me again today. I had a bad run. I felt out of it. I felt lazy. I felt heavy. Am I overtraining? Sleep deprived? Just plain lazy? I can't seem to pinpoint any cause. I wanted to go 10 miles but ended up cutting my run short and finished only 7. I knew I just had to keep moving and I would finish. This little doe agreed. 

I finished the miles, but it was painfully slow. I'm happy that this happened during training and not during a race. When I got back home I decided to do some yard work to get my mind off of my run. The trees needed trimming, the water troughs needing cleaning out, the weeds needed some Round Up, etc. It was just what the doctor ordered. Worked like a charm. I feel great again, and the house and yard look pretty good as well.

Thankfully, one bad run doesn't define you. And thank God for all the clichés we runners are fond of, like "You don't have to run, Dave, you get to run!" There are people who'd give everything they have to be able to run or even walk. Suck it up, Dave. Be thankful for what you do have. Embrace the hard. Remember that tomorrow will be better. And if you need a little encouragement, read the Word. Like this snippet from 3 John.

John uses "love" language 3 times in the letter's opening verses to describe his friend Gaius. Three times!

... to Gaius my beloved

... whom I love

... beloved

Love is one of those words that's difficult to define. I saw a cartoon the other day of a guy chomping on a piece of fried chicken and a gal eating a vegan meal. The caption over both was, "I love animals." You can say you love your spouse and love going to basketball games. But what is love? It's not just a mark of a Christian but the mark. It's sort of like God's DNA in our lives. The elder John was eager to tell Gaius how loved he was. Have you told God you love Him today? He wants to know. But remember: a child's loving actions speak louder than words. 

Tomorrow I plan to cycle 10 miles while I'm having the oil changed in my van. Cycling perfectly complements running. It offers a non-impact activity that works opposing muscle groups. It also trains your cardiovascular system without adding more stress to your body. I like to cross train, but when I do I miss running. But it's the very fact that I'm not running that allows my body to rest. I also try to work in swimming.

What do you do for exercise?

Do you cross train?

Ever have a bad day? What do you do to relieve your stress?

7:45 AM In less than a week our Advanced Greek Grammar class will begin. We'll meet on Monday nights from 6:30-9:20. We'll be studying the little book of 3 John as well as going through a goodly number of advanced grammars. The first night of class should be interesting. What do I have planned? Plenty of sight reading. Oral recitation. English to Greek composition. Discussion of Robertson and Runge and a host of other authors. Two students will give presentations. Of course, we'll read through 3 John in one sitting. And students will begin to think about their paper topic. That topic has to be based on 3 John, which, as you know, talks a lot about Christian eldership/leadership. Historically, the church has oscillated between two extremes when it comes to leadership. These two extremes have been called clericalism and anti-clericalism. If you hold to clericalism, you tend to see pastors as monopolizing leadership and ministry. If you hold to anti-clericalism, you tend to see clergy as redundant. 3 John has a lot to say about local church leadership. In fact, if I could, I would require my students to read Alexander Strauch's magnificent book Biblical Eldership, if for no other reason than it avoids both extreme positions. We have to try and maintain a balance between every member ministry (think of Paul's body analogy) and Christ's delegation of leadership to qualified under-shepherds.

As I begin my 43rd year of teaching, I've asked myself, "What can I say about 21st century leadership that needs to be said?" The godly leader in 3 John, Gaius, is said to walk in the truth, love the brothers and sisters, and entertain strangers. On the other hand, a leader named Diotrephes is portrayed as loving himself more than others and refusing to welcome the traveling evangelists. In other words, doctrinal heresy does not seem to be in view. Rather, personal ambition had caused the problem. Students in our class can pick from any number of topics for their paper based on 3 John, but I sincerely hope one of them will do a detailed word study of the verb philoprōteuō, which is used in verse 9. For one thing, there's the question about the best way to translate this word. The versions differ somewhat:

NIV: "who loves to be first"

NLT: "who loves to be the leader"

ESV: "who likes to put himself first"

CSB: "who loves to have first place"

GNT: "who likes to be their leader"

ISV: "who loves to be in charge"

HWP: "like be da boss"

SCH2000: "der Erste sein möchte"

HOF: "die führende Rolle spielen möchte"

RVR1960: "tener el primer lugar"

SG21: "être le premier"

NTLH: "que deseja ser o líder"

VULGATE: "qui amat primatum gerere"

The difference between "liking to be leader" and "loves to be in charge" is considerable. The context seems to indicate that Diotrephes is singled out by name because he had not only sought to undermine the apostle John's person and position but had also wanted to have the preeminence. He apparently did not share Paul's desire that in all things Christ should have the supremacy (Col. 1:18). His refusal to welcome and assist the traveling evangelists had simply unmasked a deeper problem, that of self-love.

Many lessons can be drawn here. Perhaps one of them is this: I am convinced that leaders need a safe place where they can share their struggles with people who can guide them ever deeper into the Father's love. This doesn't mean that pastors must bring their faults and temptations before the congregation at every turn. It means, rather, that ministers (meaning all of us) are called to minister with their whole being, including their broken selves. The pedestals that we have erected in our churches have become nightmares. What if we freed ourselves and our church leaders to be ordinary men and women? Spiritual pride thrives where pastors are deemed untouchable. This might all sound very unrealistic, but all of us, Christian leaders included, are called to live in the body, not only our own physical bodies but also in the corporate community. The leadership that Jesus speaks of is radically different from the leadership practiced in the world. It is, as Alexander Strauch says, a servant leadership in which leaders are vulnerable servants who need the people as much as they need each other. 

What ever happened to Diotrephes? We don't know. But his spirit lives on. It lives on in my heart. It dawns on me as I begin another year of teaching that much of what I say in class will likely not be remembered. It's my example (or failure to set a good example) that will be remembered. I hope that Jesus will become real and present in my classes this semester. I'm a slow learner. Old patterns and habits are not easy to give up. I pray that what we learn in our Advanced Greek class will not only be good grammar and syntax but also something that helps all of us catch a glimpse of what a truly godly leader looks like.

P.S. A pastor friend of mine told me about this book yesterday. I just ordered it.

I think the table of contents is revealing:

Section One: Brokenness

Section Two: Uncommon Communion

Section Three: Servanthood as an Identity

Section Four: Radical Immediate Obedience

Under leaders like this, I believe the church can be the safe family that God intended for it to be. It really can.

P.P.S. As I sit here writing this post I am doing what all runners do, obsessing about the weather for Saturday's half marathon. Here's the latest forecast for Richmond and its environs.

Wow. Rainy and hot -- until Saturday, when things dry off and cool down considerably. I know things can change between now and then, but for now I'm excited and grateful. I just think running is that much harder when you're fighting not only your own body but also the elements, such as heat and humidity. I run all year round. This isn't a bragamony, just a fact. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that it takes tons of mental fortitude to run when the weather is less than optimum. So for now, things are looking good for Saturday, as in real good. Praise the Lord.

Monday, August 19

5:36 PM Top 10 signs you were born and raised in Hawai'i:

1) You can correctly pronounce words like papahānaumokuākea.

2) You say "slippahs," not flip flops.

3) You call it shave ice and not shaved ice.

4) The very mention of "Li Hing Mui" makes your mouth water.

5) You love lau laus and lomi lomi salmon.

6) You can play the ukulele.

7) Your favorite suit is your swim suit.

8) You love cultural diversity.

9) Your blog is full of sunrise photos.

10) You say "shoyu," not soy sauce.

There are tons more examples I could give but I think you get the idea. Yesterday I began reading a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a very long time.

Maybe my renewed interest in all things Hawaiian emerges from the sense of raw and joyful hospitality I received from friends and even from strangers during my recent visit to the Islands. It was there, in my mid-teens, that I became vaguely aware that God had a plan for my life. It was there that I began to grasp the truth that sin equals self. It was on O'ahu that I began to lead people to Christ and to experiment with the talents and gifts God had given me for the upbuilding of His church. It was at First Baptist Church Windward that I began to realize just how wonderful God's family is and that it is the complex pattern of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ that often governs our development into mature Christians. It's no exaggeration to say that it was in Kailua that I began to understand what God meant when He asserted that it was not good for man to be alone -- a reference that Calvin understood as having a much wider reference than to marriage. I saw that the Greek word koinonia bore witness both to what we share in as Christians (our common inheritance in Christ) and to what share with each other (our mutual responsibility to care for and nurture each other). It is our koinonia in God that unites us and it is our koinonia with one another that causes us to love one another, not bite and devour one another, but rather encourage and build each other up. As Jesus said:

I give you guys one ting you gotta do: Show love an aloha fo each odda. Jus like I get love an aloha fo you guys, dass how you guys gotta get love an aloha fo each odda. If all you guys get love an aloha fo each odda, den everybody goin know you my guys.

It was in Hawai'i that I first saw that true Christian koinonia involves the rich and all-encompassing sharing that I have tried to practice in my life and ministry. I keep asking myself, "Am I serving the Lord, the church, the world? Am I growing in love and care for others?" I was only 8 when I was baptized at Kailua Beach Park. Little did I imagine that 59 years later I would still have the privilege of leading students into the Scriptures and encouraging them to browse there for themselves. For when they read the word of God, they will discover in no uncertain terms that God calls all of us to ministry and on no account are we to allow professionals to do all the work of the church. They will also see that we come to Christ in worship and go for Christ in mission, that the gathering exists for the going, that a living church is a learning church, and that fidelity to the teaching of the apostles is the first mark of an authentic body of believers but not the only one. The church is God's new society, and we cannot proclaim the Gospel of God's love if we do not exhibit it in our love for others. Authentic mission is always incarnational mission. It must express itself in a way that is both faithful to Scripture and relevant to the contemporary world.

In Hawai'i, people have time for each other. "Island time" is real. Everyone seems to know everyone. You greet everyone with a hug and a kiss. You can't tell who are your real aunties and uncles because everyone is "Aunty" and "Uncle." Hawai'i is truly a melting pot. Diversity means we love and respect one another. You feel like one big family (ohana). You respect your elders (kapuna) and enjoy watching all the kids (keiki) you see. Everyone treats you with aloha, whether it's your restaurant server or the TSA personnel at the airport. People seem less grouchy and are willing to start a conversation with you in a heartbeat. Even guys wear flowers in their ears on May Day ("Lei Day").

All I can say is that the pre-history of growing up in Hawai'i has formed my current thinking about the church in ways that I'm probably not even aware of. I ask myself, "You think the church could ever be this way too?" I have a dream of a caring church, marked by genuine love and aloha, whose congregation is drawn from many races, nationalities, and social backgrounds and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God. A church where we feel like one big ohana, where we love and respect our kapuna, where the keiki are not marginalized but included, where the nāwaliwali are supported and the mehameha are befriended and the members bear each other's burdens and obey Christ's command to turn from self and give their lives tirelessly in the service of others. I believe in the power of the 'Uhane Hemolele to accomplish this. But there is no passivity in the attainment of Christlikeness. I venture to say that we have to do our part. If we love each other, pray for each other, and bear each other's burdens, this can be one of the most encouraging and attractive things the world can see.

Mahalo nui loa. Me ke aloha pumehana.

Dave (aka Kawika)

11:54 AM Now that the Daily Dose of Greek is available in Spanish, I thought this might be a good time to mention that our beginning grammar is available on Amazon for only .99 on Kindle.

11:30 AM The Y is a great place to do strength training. Lifting weights can help make your body a better tool and help you achieve your other goals such as biking, running, and swimming. I usually use free weights and I try to train 3 times a week, with at least 3 days of rest. I used to call this "weight lifting" but I now prefer "strength training" because the goal is not to lift weights but to become a stronger athlete. Next to the actual time I spend running, I've found strength training to be the most important method of cross-training for my races.

Here was my routine today:

  • Lat pull downs.

  • EZ bar curls.

  • Lateral raises.

  • EZ bar upright rows.

  • Hammer curls.

  • Dumbbell lateral raises.

  • Dumbbell flies.

  • Seated dumbbell press.

  • Bent over row.

There you have it. I hope I've convinced to get to the Y!

7:20 AM We're always adding new links to our Greek Portal. One of the best is a link to the Bryan College Library: Greek Resources Page. I was reading it this morning and was drawn to a page that features online Greek New Testaments, including the one produced by Tregelles. There is much uncertainty today about the role that Paul may have played in the production of the letter to the Hebrews. There is a constant tendency to neglect the external evidence of authorship. Even the ordering of the New Testament canon is sometimes overlooked. This occurred, in my opinion, in the Tyndale House Greek New Testament, which is said to be based largely on the work of Tregelles. So this morning I turned to Tregelles and here's what I saw:

Clearly, Tregelles himself placed Hebrews after 2 Thessalonians. This shouldn't surprise us. Our earliest majuscules have the same order, as this chart shows:

Yet the THGNT departs from this pattern by situating Hebrews after Philemon. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Hebrews always circulated among the Pauline Corpus in the early centuries of the church, whereas we speak of Hebrews today as a "General Epistle." I invite you, then, to read Tregelles for yourself -- something our friends at Bryan College are eager to help us to do.

On another note, I'm already beginning to freak out about this weekend's half marathon. There's really no set formula for running 13.1 miles. Bottom line? Mind over matter. You simply put your head down, place one foot in front of the other, and pretend that nothing hurts. Repeat until you cross the finish line. You're usually super excited at the very beginning. Bottle it. Go out too fast and you'll pay for it later. Keep a modest pace and you'll thank yourself at mile 10. Weather on race is supposed to be hot and muggy. Maybe that's why they're starting the race at 7:00 am. Last time I forget to lube my thighs and paid the price.

The reality is that you can't fake a half marathon. Even if you start out without any pain you'll be hurting bad before the race is over. I'm an optimistic guy, but it's been my experience that my brain and body mess with me before a big race. I just hope I'm taking the right steps to prepare for the event and that I'll have the right attitude on race day. If I don't get hauled off on a stretcher I'll feel pretty good about my efforts.

Friend, what are you doing today? Pick a goal, large or small, and go for it. Never talk yourself out of doing something you want to do.

Off to the gym.

P.S. My Airbnb this weekend. Loverly, eh?

Sunday, August 18

5:58 PM Okay, you can stop sending me emails asking me how my bike ride went today. Well, nobody actually did that, but here's a brief report anyway. Yes, I've gotten back into cycling since I developed a bad case of prostatitis back in June. Thankfully, that's mostly cleared up, so today was the day to see if all of my internal organs were working again. The ride went well. It was a gorgeous day along the Virginia Capital Trail.

Even the drive there (two and a half hours one way) was delightful.

And if you're going to drive that far, you might as well get in more than just a few miles. Yes, this was today's mileage.

I've got to admit, I'm a little saddle sore, but biking that distance in under two hours is right up there with tikka masala and malasadas. I know there are many of you who bike regularly and are super UN-impressed with my feat today, as well you ought to be. You all might remember that I rode 67K on my bike to celebrate my 67th birthday back in June. Thus began all my woes. I don't know why, but I thought today's ride would go well and, so far, so good. Praise the Lord. If you are looking for a really nice biking trail that's easy and safe, you can't do better than the Virginia Capital Trail. And if you want a real professional's description of the ride, go here.

Next cycling goal? The Virginia Creeper Trail! 

7:48 AM A few random reflections before heading off to church and a bike ride. Been spending a lot of time in prayer these days. God seems to be calling me to serious intercession. I have a burden to pray, if you will. A burden is different from those times when you hear someone asking for prayer and you say, "I'll pray for you." A burden is when you feel like you just got gut-punched upon hearing of someone else's distress. A burden makes you gasp for air. It's an unrelenting anguish for the soul of someone that we can meet only with uncompromising dedication. You and I can expect much from God when we pray like this. But it begins with the willingness to carry the burdens of others.

Moving on, yesterday I was reading the Evangelical Textual Criticism website (one of my favorites) and saw that the text of Matt. 1:7-8 ("Asaph" versus "Asa") was being discussed. The ETC post is a kind of prolegomenon to the forthcoming Textual Commentary on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT) by Dirk Jongkind and Elijah Hixson. The latter first lays out what he calls the "textual evidence" for both readings. What I find highly ironic is that in doing so he has to rely on evidence (the versional attestation) derived, not from his own Greek New Testament, but from the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament. As I begin teaching another year of introductory Greek, my students are asked to acquire a Greek New Testament that provides a sufficient amount of textual evidence upon which to base a sound judgment when a textual variant arises. By the way, I am assuming that all Greek students are committed to doing textual criticism. We are not only exegetes of the New Testament; we are students of its text. At least I hope so. For textual criticism lies at the very foundation of what we do as exegetes. Yes, I recognize that the art and science of textual criticism is often considered an unnecessary add-on to exegesis. Nevertheless, interest in this discipline is growing. My own students have to learn textual criticism in their second semester. That's because there are some 2,000 significant textual variants in the Greek New Testament. And in order to be able to resolve textual problems satisfactorily, you've got to have access to all of the evidence -- the Greek testimony PLUS the testimony of the ancient versions PLUS the testimony of the church fathers. For this reason, I personally recommend that my students acquire the UBS Greek New Testament despite the fact that think it has a tendency to over-value the early majuscules. At our 2000 Symposium on New Testament Studies, I recall my friend Keith Elliott talking about "the hypnotic effect of Aleph and B." One might say there's an almost over-fascination with the date of a manuscript instead of the date of its reading. However, you can have a later manuscript and it might still preserve an early reading. In fact, Westcott and Hort claimed they could recover the "New Testament in the Original Greek" based on the readings of two fourth-century Greek manuscripts (the papyri had yet to be discovered). So let's say you're deliberating whether or not the last 12 verses of Mark are original. You'll often hear someone say, "These verses are absent from the earliest and best manuscripts." This is quite vague, especially when you consider that these verses were apparently known to Justin (c. 160), Tatian (c. 170), and Irenaeus (c. 180), as James Snapp is always careful to point out. Their evidence would appear to push Mark 16:9-20 back into the second century, would it not? Why, then, isn't this fact emphasized, along with the fact that both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus have features that suggest their copyists were aware of the missing verses?

It has been very refreshing, while perusing the THGNT, to note how conducive it is to rapid reading and devotional study. But such an approach, admirable as it may look at first sight, has some considerable drawbacks in my opinion, not least being the lack of 2/3rds of the evidence that I believe is necessary to do textual criticism. I'll have more to say about recent editions of the Greek New Testament in the revision to my book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, which is a project I've added to my growing stack of revisions. Incidentally, our Greek Portal has a section devoted to textual criticism, including reviews of the THGNT. Click here if you're interested in reading them.

Finally, I just signed up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon to be held at Randolph-Macon College in beautiful Ashland, VA. The event is next Saturday. This will be half marathon #19 for me. What is my goal? Completion! If I can finish well under 3 hours, that would be awesome. I like half marathons because they don't leave me so exhausted after the race (as compared to a marathon). I'm excited to do this one, if only because it's a new course for me.

Off to the gathering. Have a great Lord's Day!

What's your favorite race distance?

Do use you use the Tyndale House Greek New Testament? What do you like most about it?

Paul says that each of us should carry our own burden of responsibility. But when that burden becomes too heavy to bear, God calls others to carry that load (Gal. 6:2, 5). How willing are you to carry the burdens of others in prayer?

Saturday, August 17

5:56 PM Oops. The race directors of this 50K race have pie on their face. They didn't expect a woman to win and one did. That left them one award short. Come on, guys. We can do better than this.

5:34 PM Pictures tell a story way better than words do, so here are 3 photos from today's race in the great city of Cary, NC. As you can see, the weather was über-perfect for a race.

Not only that, the motivation for running this race could not be better. I like races like this one -- "Run for Life" -- because you're not just running but you're raising money for a very good cause. Charities raise money in many different ways, including crowdfunding, raffles, bake sales, silent auctions, and walkathons. My favorite is the 5K race. Proceeds from today's event benefited BirthChoice, an organization that has provided free service to pregnant women in Raleigh since 1971 by offering pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and counseling services. Today's sponsors were mostly the Roman Catholic churches in the greater Raleigh-Durham area. Social change can take place through several different means, including prayer, evangelism, argument, example, and action. Our willingness to get involved in something as simple as running a 5K because we believe in the cause of the unborn is a test of our authenticity as Christians. Both evangelism and social action are costly activities. Both are unpopular because they challenge our built-in selfishness. So let's offer ourselves to God as agents of change. Every person at today's race (with, I imagine, a rare exception or two) was there because they believe that the Gospel has a transformative power, and that Christ has commissioned His church to be effective salt and light in the world.

The race itself was a blast. I had 6 goals going into today's race:

1) Finish.

2) Finish on the same day as the race. :-)

3) Finish in under 35 minutes.

4) Finish in first place in my age group.

5) Run (not walk) the entire race.

6) Have fun.

Here we are approaching the finish line.

These runners kept me on pace throughout the race. The dude in the white shirt ended up beating me by seconds to win first place in my age division. Got to hand it to him: I tried to net him in but he was just too fast for me today.

Here's what killed me today: 

This entire race it was so hard to know how to pace yourself because of the hills. Somehow I managed to maintain a (for me) respectable pace of 11:21. And I finished in well under 35 minutes. My key to a happy race is doing the best you can under the circumstances you find yourself in. If you want to move way out of your comfort zone, try the Cary Soccer Park course some time. It's pretty humbling. But the comradery and depth of friendships you develop make every moment of suffering worth it.

I seriously can't think of anything else to say about today's race. Well, maybe one more thing. Running teaches you a lot of things. One of these lessons is that there's no passivity in the attainment of Christlikeness. You don't just sit there and do nothing. In fact, when you do nothing in life, something always happens (just don't change the oil in your car or mow your yard and you'll see what I mean). The apostle Paul often spoke of the Christian life as a race. Quite simply, we are running for our lives. We don't let God do it all. We have to run from evil and run toward good. The apostle calls us all to be good runners. A healthy church is an athletic church. What we need to do is humble ourselves before God, seek the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, and then match our biblical teaching with our compassionate outreach. No task is to be too menial or degrading to undertake for each other and for the world.

Charity races like the one I ran today speak with clarity and power to a confused and demoralized world with a message that is pure gold. God loves everybody, from the preborn to those in hospice care. And we who follow Christ are to be like Him in His incarnation, His service, His love, and His mission.

5:10 AM I still believe today what I've always believed: Teaching is one of the greatest vocations God can call us into. Since Becky went to see Jesus, I've somehow made it through to a new, better place. Our hearts are more resilient than we think, and the work of healing and transformation can do things you can't even imagine from where you're sitting now. Now is your time, my friend. Own it. Believe it. Become it. Walk in the path God has placed you in. Don't get stuck in the past. And don't try to second guess the future. Give today everything you've got. Never lose the dream.

A few odds and ends before I leave for the race:

1) Beginning Greek is about to start. If students can't grasp the idea of how the Greek verb works (conjugation -- ugh!), then the party's over. Knowing a little Spanish will help. Mucho.

2) I highly recommend the Joshua Project for anyone wanting to know how to pray for the nations. 

3) In NT 2, we're studying the Pauline epistles in their chronological order. One reason I treat 1-2 Thessalonians before Galatians is the absence of apostolos in their opening greetings. If you'd like to see what I mean at a glance, here's a Power Point.

4) This morning I prayed Phil. 1:9-11 for my kids and grandkids. They will need love. They will need knowledge (love is never blind). They will need discernment (NLT: "I want you to understand what really matters"). And they will need a fruitful life ("By their fruit you will know them"). "Prayer is the very sword of the saints" (Francis Thompson). I need to unsheathe it more often.

5) For what it's worth, I enjoy listening to John Stott's sermons. His series on Ephesians is outstanding. His sermon titles are always catchy and, hence, memorable. I bet you can complete the following message titles:

  • Amazing ______.

  • When everything begins and _____.

  • History and _________.

  • New life -- new ________.

  • Unity and _________.

  • Be what you ___.

  • Spiritual weapons for spiritual ________.

6Daily Dose of Greek continues to amaze me. Greek student, bookmark it today.

7) Why your kids should study Latin, the "other" classical language. (You see: I'm not biased after all.)

Friday, August 16

7:02 PM Ok, all you kids out there. I see that tomorrow's 5K in Cary has only 7 people over the age of 65 competing. The oldest is an 80-year old female. That's nothing. Last year Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins set a world record for her age group for the 100-meter dash at the age of 102. I know I've told you many times that I plan on running till I drop. Hey, I'm just getting started. My philosophy is to embrace the older years but never give into the "I'm too old for that" mentality. Sure, I might have to work harder than other runners, and I may have to slow down more as I get older, and, sure, recovery time takes longer, and yes, you notice a few more creaks and aches, and you do, of course, become more injury prone, but I'm smarter and wiser than I was in my youth. At least I think I am. (You'd have to ask my kids to be sure.)

I hope I can run for many, many more years. Club 65+ ain't so bad!

6:15 PM Hey folks! Here's a saying I'd like you to consider. "Christians are self-feeders." That thought occurred to me today while meeting with a student. We were talking about the teaching ministry of the church. Many Christians try to live off a once-a-week feeding regiment. No wonder they're starving. On our farm we've raised just about everything -- goats, chickens, horses, beef cattle, and even sheep. How do shepherds feed their sheep? They don't! Shepherds do not feed their sheep (or goats or chickens or horses or cattle) -- they lead them to good pasture where the sheep feed themselves. Ever thought about that?

Of course, there are exceptions. Last year, when one of our mama goats died after giving birth, I bottle fed her baby. But that's the exception that proves the rule. "Christians are to be self-feeders." In order to mature and to grow, I have to feed myself. In other words, instead of expecting others to do what I'm supposed to do, I can take responsibility for my personal spiritual growth. Christianity is not Gnosticism, where only a few "insiders" can understand the Bible. Indeed, all good preaching on Sunday should lead people to the Scriptures and encourage them to read and study the Bible for themselves. If we are trying to live off the words of others, we are resisting God's best truth delivery system and His most gifted teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Pastor friend, if we only serve precooked meals, we condemn our churches to perpetual immaturity. I would like to see more local churches equipping their people with the tools they need to do personal Bible study. This is one reason I'm so excited about the apologetics conference coming up next month at Clearview Church in Henderson. Sometimes it's not easy to read the Bible on our own. But we must struggle to do so. I'm looking forward to learning a lot about Bible study from Drs. Meade and Gurry during the conference. It goes without saying that we must study the Scriptures until we have become really familiar with them. This conference, I hope and pray, will be an aid in helping us to do just that.

So there you have it. A (fairly) brief blog post for a Friday!

Thursday, August 15

7:55 PM Just ordered this book from Amazon. Can't wait to dig into it. You've likely never heard of it. Neither had I. But what a great title.

6:58 PM Takeaways from today's faculty workshop:

Best quote: "Our greatest mission field is not telling people to go 'over there' but to go back to work on Monday."

Best book mentioned: Henri Nouwen, Reflections on Christian Leadership.

Best neologism: "Sychar Moment" (how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman with love even as He told her the truth.

Best neologism (runner up): "Pracademician" (an academic who practices what he or she preaches).

Best stat: 61 percent of people in church are female.

Best recommendation: Have live preachers at your satellite churches (1) to emphasize the relational aspect of ministry and (2) to train up new pastors.

Looking forward to Day 2.

Wednesday, August 14

6:12 PM Nice day today. Had a 45-minute workout, then ran 4 miles on the track at a pretty good pace for an old man.

The whole time I listened to great sacred music -- Gabrielli, Lauridsen, Rutter. All in Latin of course. Learn Latin if for no other reason than to listen to the world's greatest worship music.

O magnum mysterium, 
et admirabile sacramentum, 
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, 
jacentem in praesepio! 
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera 
meruerunt portare 
Dominum Christum. 
Alleluia. 

Great mystery indeed! I weep every time I hear this. Unbelievably beautiful. Thank God for music. 

In the meantime, I've come up with this schedule of races to top off the running year. (This is a work in progress in case you're wondering.)

  • Saturday, Aug. 17: Run for Life 5K, Cary, NC.

  • Saturday, Aug. 24: Patrick Henry Half Marathon, Ashland, VA.

  • Saturday, Sept. 28: Virginia 10-Miler, Lynchburg, VA.

  • Sunday, Oct. 13: Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL. (WHOOP WHOOP ALERT)

  • Saturday, Dec. 7: Race 13.1, Raleigh, NC.

Not sure what else I might add this year. I would love to climb Elbert this year but I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe next summer. I mean, there's something about climbing the highest 14-er in the Rockies. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Great rest of the week to you all!

10:22 AM The Clearview Apologetics Conference is only one month away!

It will feature John Meade and Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary. Both are excellent speakers and experts in the field of text and canon. To register, go here. Overall, there'll be lots of good info.

9:56 AM This week begins year #43 of teaching for me. It kicks off with our annual faculty worship tomorrow and Friday. I'm eager to see my colleagues and friends again after the summer hiatus. This morning I'm reviewing my writing goals for the upcoming academic year. For me, writing is the ultimate act of self-awareness. Whenever I write, I end up knowing more about myself than I did 60 minutes earlier. Writing has become a huge part of my life. It opens my heart and mind to the things of God like little else. Failure to communicate with each other locks us out of genuine relationships. If I'm sitting here with my thoughts and feelings locked up inside me and you're sitting there doing the same thing, communication has been pushed aside.

Of course, not all of my writing will be of the academic kind this year. For one thing, I will continue to blog. "Is that genuine writing?" someone asks. It is for me. I've been blogging for almost 14 years now. I find that the very act of forming words out of my life helps me understand it. My life is richer and more meaningful because there are words in it. Writing is not just something I do. It is me. My blog enables me to see where I've been and where I'm going. In a sense, it shapes my destiny. It's a yardstick of my pilgrim's progress. It enables me to see how far I've come and how far I've yet to go. Six years ago, when loss walked in and crumbled my life, I realized more than ever that I needed the outlet of blogging. Without question, blogging strengthens my internal resolve. I become what I write.

Last week I had lunch with a friend in Hawai'i who reads my blog. He was bemoaning the fact that so few bloggers have carried on and seem to have changed over to Facebook or Twitter. I could resonate. I find very few blogs that I read with regularity compared to what I could find 5 or 10 years ago. Even if no one read my words, I think I would continue to blog. I feel like I'm writing not only to myself but to my friends. Blogging forces me to organize my thoughts. As I share with my blogging audience what I'm thinking about and doing, those thoughts and deeds become clearer to me. I don't care about my traffic or numbers. I never look at my stats. And I don't really have a strategy for my daily blogging. I fly by the seat of my pants usually. I love the spontaneity of blogging. My only rule for blogging is that I don't force anything or write a post that I think everybody is "expecting" me to write. I don't blog if I don't feel inspired. I'd infinitely rather read a blog that's honest than a Facebook entry any day. It's fun to read how people are coping with their lives. Some of us are doing better than others, but we can all learn from one another. Blogging is just sheer fun, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you all.

If you're one of the bloggers I read regularly, thank you for doling out perspective. You may not have known that's what you were doing, but your readers need to hear from you.

What are your favorite blogs?

If you could choose blogging over Facebook, which would you choose?

What would you tell ME if we were sitting down at Starbucks having a cuppa together?

9:05 AM This morning, as I stared at the elephant shapes in the clouds, I remembered that a week ago I was watching a beautiful sunrise in Hawai'i. On both occasions, the majesty of God was all around me, and I was grateful. God's artistry is not limited to a gorgeous morning in Paradise. It's evident everywhere if only we would have the eyes to notice it.

Gratefulness is not exactly the same thing as thankfulness. Thankfulness is the response to a favor done. It's the reply to a gift. It's the "Thank you!" after a blessing. Gratefulness is more an attitude, a joy and contentment before anything is even given to us. It's a disposition we carry with us into our day, whether or not life is going our way. It's the "Praise the Lord!" without any guarantee of blessings. It's our "Yes" to God before He answers our prayers. In 1 Thess. 5:18, Paul says we are to be thankful in all things. Perhaps we could also translate this as "Be grateful in all things." God wants us to accept whatever He brings into our lives. We can complain about what we don't have or be grateful for what we do have. Today I choose the latter. When people look at me today, I want them to see someone who is gushing with gratefulness. No other quality of life will be sufficient for the long haul.

Tuesday, August 13

5:10 PM I need to get these:

5:02 PM Some of the points we'll be discussing from this book in our NT 2 class this fall:

  • "When "Go" Replaces "Come to Us"

  • The Costly Nature of Grace

  • The Kingdom Transcends All Church Forms

  • Tearing Down the Sacred/Secular Divide

  • Incarnational Engagement with the Wider Culture

  • Evangelism as a Way of Life, Not Just an Event

  • A Family, Not an Institution

  • A People Rather than a Place

  • A Movement on a Mission

  • Moving the Eucharist from an Occasional Observance to a Central Practice

  • Welcoming Those Who Are Different

  • Moving from Perceived Arrogance to Transparent Humility

  • Moving from Speaking about Grace to Grace Speaking through Lives

  • Moving from Having an Agenda to Letting the Holy Spirit Carry the Agenda

  • From Social Programs to a Socially Engaged Way of Life

  • Moving from Merely Proclaiming a Message to Demonstrating Personal Concern

  • Moving from a Dualistic to a Holistic Gospel

  • Moving from Serving in the Church to Serving Christ in Vocations

  • Fostering Full Participation

  • Encouraging Interactivity and Dialogue

  • Including All Ages in Worship Gatherings

  • Bringing Openness and Vulnerability

  • Prioritizing Authenticity over Relevancy

  • From the Vision of the Leader to the Vision of All

  • From Leadership Based on Willingness to Leadership based on Gifting

  • From Exclusive Decision Making to Inclusive Consensus Building

  • Team Leadership

  • From Mediators of God to Facilitators of Ministry

  • From Equipping Members to Equipping Missionaries

  • Embracing Liturgy

  • Restoring the Centrality of the Eucharist

  • Fostering a Worshipful Way of Life

What do you think? Do you agree with any of these? Disagree?

9:08 AM Been translating the book of 1 John. Here's a sample of the first paragraph of the letter -- quite a doozy syntactically!

And get this. "Kailua" is now a brand name.

Can't believe it. My little home town a marketing slogan. Who woulda thunk it.  

Monday, August 12

5:54 PM So you think I can be content with just one blog post about my trip? Ha. Hawai'i did not disappoint. I got a great deal on airfare. Yesterday, when I was checking in at the airport, I was offered $1,500 if I'd give up my seat to let a dead-heading United pilot use it while I took a flight that connected in Chicago instead of Newark. That was a no-brainer. 1,500 bucks is a lot of moolah when you travel as much as I do.

Competitive airfares aside, the best thing about Hawai'i is that it's -- Hawai'i. A place with no ethnic minorities. A place where all nationalities and races mix. I think the fact that I can get along with everyone and I love all nationalities has something to do with growing up there. Music, language, cuisine -- they're all mixed together in Hawai'i.

And the flowers. Oh my. Plumeria, anthuriums, gardenias, pikake, hibiscus. But these are all mere adornments to the beaches. Growing up in Hawai'i you learn to love the beach -- its warm sand, its flowing palm trees, the sound of breaking waves. When you leave, you miss everything about the Islands. Today it's the food, tomorrow the surf, then your friends, the sunrises, the hospitality, the trade winds, the jagged mountain ranges  ... all in one place, next to each other. When Hawai'i takes your heart away, you never fully get it back -- unless, of course, you're in Hawai'i.

Above all, Hawai'i is the place where I first came to know a man named Jesus and to hear His call to be Christlike in His incarnation, His service, His love, His patience, and His mission. Growing up in the Hawaiian Jesus Movement, Jesus never ceased to attract me. It was in Hawai'i that I saw Him for the radical that He was -- impatient with the traditions of the elders and the conventions of institutions, a merciless critic of the establishment, a lover of sinners. When I was a teenager I read the Gospels over and over again. For us Jesus Freaks, the church was a family, with God its Father and Jesus its Leader and Lord. I still feel my grasp of the church is undergirded by the years I spent in the Islands. What was so liberating about this time in my life was that theology seemed to engage with real life. We shared a vision of the future that was a renewal of creation, not an escape from it. I started to read a lot of books. I began to see that Christianity was a way of life -- orthodox to be sure, but happy to give itself away for others. I got excited about the Bible and went off to Biola. I was especially interested in missions and, in fact, almost did my Ph.D. at Tübingen under the famous missiologist Peter Beyerhaus. My missions professors at Biola were filled with biblical wisdom, candor, honesty, and plans for practical action. I loved to sit and read, to dream and pray. I did a lot of this in Hawai'i this past week in fact!

Even as a teenager, I began to discover that joy is to be found, not in discarding the yoke of Christ, but in submitting to it. I was determined to believe and obey what I understood to be the clear teaching of the Word of God. I've had to learn to climb the Hill called Calvary and from that vantage point survey all of the tragedies I've faced in life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn't solve the problem of suffering. Instead, it provides the indispensable perspective from which to view it. Christians bounce back from lousy situations. It's in our DNA.

How have you dealt with suffering in your life? I know many of you have dealt with all kinds of hardships and disappointments. Throughout my life I've believed that one of the reasons we go through hardships is so that we can hold up someone else who may need it. Everyone suffers. But then we get perspective, rise above the situation, yield to God's view of the matter, and take away what we were supposed to learn. My life as a child and teenager in Hawai'i was not all fun and games. But I tried not to let the bad things consume me. When bad things come our way, we can acknowledge them but we don't have to let them control us. The one thing that's helped me to overcome the bad times is my trust in the Lord and His plan for my life. With the 6th anniversary of Becky's home-going just around the corner, I know I'll make it through. With love. His love. His aloha.

We are more resilient than we think. Everything can be endured, my friend. Just do the best you can in the strength and wisdom of the Lord.  

12:44 PM Just got back. I can't thank the Lord enough for His gift of Hawai'i. I must be the luckiest man on the planet. The pure air, the beauty of the seascape, the stillness and seclusion, together make a uniquely satisfying combination of undeserved blessings. It's hard for me to imagine a greater contrast between Rosewood Farm and the shore of Kailua Beach, yet each has its own fascination and I revel in them both. As soon as you leave this place you want to come back. Maybe next year!

Monday, August 5

3:06 AM One word says it all:

ALOHA!

Sunday, August 4

6:45 PM One of the books I'm taking with me to Hawai'i is Haddon Robinson's Biblical Preaching.

Man does he connect with his audience. Just check out this message he gave at a DTS graduation service.

I had many opportunities to listen to Prof. Robinson in person when I was visiting my wife's home church in Dallas. He has been called the modern-day prince of preachers. One of his "Haddonisms" was "A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew." Down to earth yet always biblical. Praise God.

6:15 PM After church today I decided to get in a 10-mile run at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. I took a lot of water with me because today's real feel was 98 degrees and there was a threat of thunderstorms. Thankfully the latter never materialized. My goal is to run/bike/swim at least 100 miles every month between now and marathon day. I averaged 100 miles/month when I trained for the St. George (Utah) Marathon and felt that all those miles were partly responsible for the marathon PR I got there. For the race on Oct. 13 in Chicago, I have three goals:

  • My A goal: Get a new PR.

  • My B goal: Finish well under 6 hours.

  • My C goal: Finish before the course closes.

Today I managed a pretty good pace (hovering around 5.5 miles per hour) despite the heat. The key to running in hot weather (and not dying) is:

  • Always take hydration with you, even if you're only going 3-4 miles.

  • Drink a large glass of water one hour before you run.

  • Stay on the shady side of the path.

  • Take it slow and steady.

  • Run in the morning if you can.

  • It's okay to walk part of the way.

  • Wear loose, wicking clothing.

  • Don't forget sun block.

  • Dump water on your head every so often.

  • Wear a white hat.

Heat cannot be bargained with. If you try, it will win every time.

This is the absolute worst time of the year to train in Virginia. You are always too hot. The intensity of the summer sunshine makes you want to curl up into a ball in front of your home air conditioner. That said, if you're smart and careful, you should manage okay. Speaking of the weather, I see that a tropical storm is passing just to the north of O'ahu, bringing with it waves measuring up to 12 feet at Kailua Beach. Currently there's a high surf advisory in effect for all east-facing beaches. A surfer's paradise! 

8:45 AM It's just a small spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It's easy to miss on a map. Yet O'ahu packs an amazing amount into a relatively small island -- a fascinating history, a rich and diverse culture, and, of course, the world's best beaches, including the place where I was raised (Kailua Beach, just voted the # 1 beach in the U.S.). I took my first trip to O'ahu on June 9, 1952. I arrived, you might say, rather miraculously at Kapiolani Hospital, leaving my dark home in the wee hours of the morning. That's when my Hawaiian adventure began to unfold.

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to" (Unknown).

When I left Hawai'i for college in 1971, I shook off the past. My perspective was shifting from island boy to language student and eventually language teacher. The "Big Big Island" (mainland) held so many attractions for a keiki from Kailua. There's a moment, however, when everything in your life shifts back to your roots. For many years, Hawai'i was just my birthplace. It was used on legal documents to uniquely identify me as a person (birth certificate, passports, etc.). I "hailed from Hawaii" but it was no longer "home" for me. It's subtle, but when you leave your birthplace to relocate in another state, you realize you've joined a whole new reality. Today, my "world" is much bigger than a 597-square mile island. But can't the local boy go "local" again for a week or two each year? After all, you've fallen in love with O'ahu once more, and even though you will never live there again you catch yourself saying things like, "I was so very blessed to have grown up in Hawai'i."

"Where we love is home -- home that our feet may leave but not our hearts" (Oliver Wendell Holmes).

Hometowns are always special. Just think of all those happy childhood memories -- the drive-in where you got plate lunches, the skate board races at your high school, going North Shore fo surf. Home is a place where you don't need to put any effort into fitting in. The way of life, the local dialect, the regular pace of life (slooooow) put you at ease the moment you arrive at Honolulu Airport. You can't explain it, but even the food tastes better there. My guess is that my first meal in Kailua will be Crispy Gau-Gee Min with Vegetables at the New Mui Kwai Chop Suey restaurant on Oneawa St. My oh my. Broke da mout ono.

And you know the best thing of all? The people. Silly or crazy, kama'aina or haole, they're your people. Hawai'i is not just a place for me. It's 19 years of my life. It's my aunties and uncles and cousins and friends. It's my colony. It's my 'hood. It had a huge part in making me what I am today. And in that sense, I guess it will always be home sweet home.

Saturday, August 3

7:30 AM This morning I began a study of 1 John. Of course, one of the versions I'm using is Hawaiian Pidgin. A good test case of a translation is 1 John 3:9 -- a verse the CSB renders as:

Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.

Is this John's point in 1 John 3:9? His message, rather, seems to be twofold:

1) The Christian does not continue to sin.

2) The Christian cannot go on sinning.

Note carefully:

1) John is not denying the possibly of sin in the Christian. To deny sin is to be a liar (1 John 1:5-10).

2) If John is not arguing against the impossibility of sin in the Christian, then what is he arguing against? The incongruity of sin. Our new nature in Christ is a strong internal pressure toward holiness. In the words of John Stott, " ... the sin a Christian 'does not' and 'cannot' do is habitual and persistent sin." When a Christian sins, "he is overwhelmed by grief and repentance afterwards." Hence the GNB translation that true believers "do not continue to sin":

Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God's very nature is in them; and because God is their father, they cannot continue to sin.

This idea is reflected in several other versions. Here's a sampling:

  • Nueva Versión Internacional: no puede practicar pecado.

  • Nuova Riveduta 2006: e non può persistere nel peccare.

  • Neue Genfer Übersetzung: Gott ist sein Vater geworden -- wie köntte er da noch sündigen!

  • GOD'S WORD Translation: they can't live sinful lives.

  • The Message: It's not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin.

I don't think this point is made very clear in the CSB or in other translations such as the Luther Bible:

Wer aus Gott geboren ist, der tut nicht Sünde, denn dein Same bleibt bei ihm; und er kann nicht sündigen.

So, how did the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible render our text? I think it nails it:

Whoeva God's kids no stay do bad kine stuff, cuz jalike God stay live inside dem now. Dey no stay do bad kine stuff, cuz dey come from God.

You'll notice that Pidgin does not merely say "Dey no do bad kine stuff." Instead, it says "Dey no stay do bad kine stuff." That's a big difference. In other words, let's learn to tell God the truth about how we're doing. If we've messed up, let's say it. If we've sinned, let's say it. The holy practice of confession creates a healthy faith. This is enormously important theology. And no, it's not based merely on the Greek tenses used here. Friends, I think it's possible to over-exegete the Greek tenses. I also think it's possible to under-exegete them. And don't think for a minute that the debate over verbal aspect is going to go away soon. Here's a book I got recently.

And here's what it says about verbal aspect:

"Much confusion." I'll say.

Greek may be convoluted but the kingdom is not: Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Faithfulness is not easy but it's simple. Our supernatural birth (as God's "seed") keeps us from habitual sin. "If we would be loyal to his first coming and ready for his second, we must purify ourselves, as he is pure. By so doing we shall give evidence of our birth of God" (John Stott).

Meanwhile, today it's back to my training program. My goal is to stay healthy and balanced while doing it. (Easier said than done.) Up until the marathon, I plan to alternate hard and easy weeks, mixing in a few races (like tonight's) in between. I feel strong physically and mentally thank the Lord. There's only thing better than meeting my goals and that is watching people I love meet theirs. Folks, if we allow ourselves to be ourselves and God to be God, I believe we have a fighting chance!

Friday, August 2

2:24 PM Vacationing in Hawai'i? Here are some more characteristics of Hawaiian Creole (aka Pidgin):

  • Absence of th sounds. Think becomes tink and the becomes da.

  • Non-rhotic. (We no can say "r.") Letter is letta and poor is poa.

  • The letter -l at the end of a word often becomes -o. Mental is mento, people is peopo.

  • Verbs of being are often omitted or replaced by stay. Da house big. Da cup stay on top da table.

  • Wen is used to express past tense. Jesus wept is Jesus wen cry.

  • The future tense is expressed by goin'. I goin' town bumbai for I will go to town (Honolulu) later.

Pidgin is as common as Spam is in the Islands. Lord willing, I'll be there on Monday. I know I'll feel at home again when someone says to me, "Try wait" or "Pass me da kine."

 

1:10 PM Just signed up for tomorrow's 5K in Durham. It's called the Bull Moon Ride and Run. The race starts at 7:45 pm. All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity Durham. I've done this race twice. The post-race block party is fabulous.

12:58 PM New from Southern Utah University: 5 Benefits of Getting Outside. Great idea. Think I'll try it now.

Thursday, August 1

5:38 PM Today I had the joy and honor of being interviewed by Abidan Shah of Clearview Church for his podcast Carpe Mañana. His entire staff joined us for the interview.

We talked mostly about my books Running My Race and They Will Run and Not Grow Weary. Abidan wanted to know why I began running 5 years ago. I told the story of how 10 years ago Becky was diagnosed with stage 4 endometrial cancer, which had already spread to her lymph nodes. About how we fought this dreaded disease for 4 years. About how her treatments were as awful as her illness. About how it made me both angry and sad that cancer could attack my wife so viciously and there was nothing I could do to stop it. About how Becky sought comfort in her Bible and with her Lord. About how her last prayer request was that she would be able to finish her autobiography before God called her Home. About how on the morning of Nov 2, 2013, I heard an unearthly gasp as my 60-year old wife took her last breath. About how running provided mental relief and emotional release for me as I focused on something other than my grief. About how my loss pushed me to the edges of sorrow as well as hope and inspiration. Running was just what I needed at the time. It allowed me to get outdoors, clear my head, think about something else for a long time, empty out the accumulated emotions, and grieve the loss. Running became for me a way both to deal with and avoid the emotional pain of Becky's death.

Why am I telling you all this? I remember being up against the fear, the insecurity, the challenges of grief. Some days I still am. Maybe you are up against some of these same things today. That's why I was excited when Abidan ask me if I would be willing to talk about these books. I hope I've been a good role model for others, especially for my kids and grandkids. I have learned that life never gets easier, it just shifts. Through suffering I've returned to the absolute sovereignty of God. Am I so in love with my plans for my life that I am unwilling to bow to His? Or do I plot the course and expect Him to follow it? God takes no orders from us. He is Lord. Yet the One who is Lord invites us to His rest, and His Holy Spirit is still our Comforter. I can't imagine the widower who has no balm of heaven with which to meet the fiery darts of the Evil One. I don't need a religion that denies the existence of evil and sin and death. Our Lord refused to meet the ills of life with a Pollyanna philosophy. He met them with Himself. "In the world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." Trouble is a reality, but we can cheer up for He has overcome all the world can throw at us.

I have to tell you. I had prided myself on staying strong as long Becky was alive. Then to be suddenly filled with self-doubt was a tough pill to swallow. It took me years before I could finally surrender it all to Jesus. In all of these uncertainties, He was my crutch. Today He's my Rock, and I'm lost without Him. And He gave me the gift of running alongside every other blessing. I can't thank Him enough.

Well, there you go. That's my update/vent. The healing effect that getting outdoors and spending time alone with God is phenomenal. It's such a gift.  

P.S. These arrived today. The Hendricksen commentaries are simply the best. Scholarly yet practical and pastoral. I can't recommend them enough.

8:36 AM Here's why I run:

1) Praise. Running reminds me how shockingly gracious God is, and how free we are to love Him back with all our mind, soul, strength, and bodies. Yes, with our body, that physical thing wrapped around me that tells me I'm in my mid-60s when I'm really only 45. It's His, all His, but it matters what we do with it.

2) Appreciation. For the men and women and boys and girls I see out on the course every time I lace up. Who would have known how great the running community has turned out? I've met some really amazing people from all over the nation and even the world at racing events. Now if only fewer of them over 65 would run, I might have a shot at a medal.

3) Fitness. Live long enough and it becomes clear that health is a pure gift of the Lord. One of the best parts of being human is taking care of the "tent" He's given us. No, we don't live and breathe for health. We live for the love of Jesus and for the love of our families and for the love of a lost world. Honestly, that's why taking care of our bodies matters.

4) Challenge. Every day, every week, every month there are new goals to accomplish. What a chance to really test our limits. I deeply believe that God wants this for us, that He delights in seeing us challenge ourselves with bigger and greater goals. So few of us live up to our God-given potential. What a loss. What a tragedy. We can never get those years back again.

5) Happiness. Running is like a drug. I am a happier person because of activity. It helps me cope with all the "stuff" in my life.

Thank you, running!

Wednesday, July 31

8:58 AM As you know, I once took a semester off from Biola and went back to Hawai'i because I was burned out. The urgent had regularly crowded out the important, and I just needed to put body and soul back together again. Well, ever since Becky passed away I've been going back to Hawaii for much the same reason. Because the culture there is so laid back, and the weather so perfect, it's an opportunity to allow God to draw me up into His heart and to refocus on the important and (if need be) adjust my priorities accordingly. Pastor friend, be gentle with yourself. I don't mean to sound condescending, but bench yourself if necessary. Ministry is slow and often maddening. You move from one crisis to another. Don't imagine that you can serve and serve and serve and leave rest out of the equation. I'm starting my 43rd year of teaching. Honestly, the last thing I need right now is burnout. Discipleship is more than Bible study. It's spending time with Jesus.

Sometimes it's through subtraction and not addition that transformation takes place. We rest well to work better. It's a paradox. But those who've experienced it can testify to it.

8:34 AM C. S. Lewis (Narrative Poems):

My love's laughter is light falling/Through broad branches in brown woodland,/On a cold fountain, in a cave darkling,/A mild sparkling in mossy gloom.

Yes, I still miss her.

7:48 AM Was just watching a video of Dr. James Rosscup of the Masters Seminary (my former teacher at Talbot) lecturing on hermeneutics. He said something to this effect:

The Holy Spirit is to be resident in our lives. And that's exactly what happened when we received Christ. The Holy Spirit also wants to be president in our lives. He wants to guide our daily steps.

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in Galatians, you will notice that love tops the list. Love is always a mark of a Christian. When we see discord and backbiting maybe it's because we aren't keeping in step with the Spirit. Christ said, "If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?" Love is always patient and kind and forbearing and eager to turn a blind eye toward others' faults. It keeps no record of wrong doing. "All mankind loves a lover," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Christians (little Christs) should be the world's best.

6:45 AM Well, it's the last day of July so we might as well talk about the month of August.

August 1 (as in tomorrow): Dentist in South Boston for teeth cleaning. I go through this torture every 6 months. My hygienist hates my crooked teeth. Is threatening to use a chain saw to remove all the plaque she finds. Would help if I flossed more but I'm too lazy. Then I have an interview at 1:00 in Henderson, NC, about my new book They Will Run and Not Grow Weary. There's no reason I wrote this book other than the fact that I always wanted to write a book about running. Problem is, they won't let you write a book for runners unless you are one, and most of my life I wasn't.

August 2: Back to campus to put the final touches on the editing of our book on Greek linguistics for Baker. My daughter, who is visiting with her family from Alabama, has also been reading it and catching typos I never found. Sharp-eyed girl, she.

August 5: Fly home to Hawai'i. It's incredible that today I work as a Greek teacher and have even published a few books since I used to be the most undisciplined, laid back kanaka in the Islands. It still haunts me what I could have become in life had I actually studied in high school.

August 11: I'm registered for the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Garner. Only problem is, when I registered for the race I forget that I was going to be in Hawai'i on that day. Oh well. Hope my fees are going to a good cause because I won't be there.

August 15-16: Faculty workshop.

August 17: Run for Life 5K at the Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary. Tough course, great cause.

August 22: Convocation and first day of classes. This fall I'm teaching Advanced Greek Grammar, Greek 1, and NT 2. Imagine that. I, the classic dropout from beginning Greek, am teaching Greek. God sure does have a sense of humor. From the depths of ineptitude, I want my students to find inspiration. If you're a new Greek student this semester my advice for you -- and I know you will be shocked -- is to stop buying into all your excuses and begin believing you can actually do this. The moment you listen to your brain telling you why you can't learn Greek, you might actually start believing it.

I'm also reminded that there are only 10 weeks to go before I leave for Chicago. No, I'm not happy with my current training schedule. Preparation is everything in life. If all I had to do was train everyday, that would be one thing. So I'm not going to freak out just because I didn't prepare for the race as well as I should have or wanted to. I'm just grateful my body allows me to do the things I demand of it, within reason of course. Today it's back to the weights and then I'll get in a 45-miniute swim. Yes, I do want to train well for the marathon. But mostly I just want to stay fit and healthy.

Be honest: Are you pushing yourself too hard in life? Too easy? Or just right?

Tuesday, July 30

8:22 PM Next year I'm thinking about climbing the Mount Nimbus Via Ferrata in Canada. Highlights include being 3,000 feet up while crossing a 200 foot long sky bridge.

Via Ferrata is Italian for "Iron Way." The course consists of iron ladders, rungs, and bridges. I had such an amazing time a couple of years climbing the NRocks Via Ferrata in West Virginia.

My guide and I were the only climbers that day so we had the whole mountain to ourselves.

Via Ferrata are extremely popular in Europe; I climbed the one in Zermatt 3 years ago.

Today, however, was a day for the pool. Here are 9 -- count 'em, nine -- of my grandkids, aka, fish.

Grandfathering seems to be my badge of honor these days. I'm going to bed early, because being in the pool for 3 hours with your grandchildren is just not something calculated to make you feel well-rested.

7:34 AM Been enjoying some great nourishment these days. Mexican food with fam can't be beat.

Then this morning I enjoyed a bite out of a New Testament epistle.

I love how the NEB renders James 1:17:

All good giving, and every perfect gift, comes from above, from the Father of the lights of heaven.

How paltry the NIV!

Every good and perfect gift is from above ....

It's as if the Greek didn't have two different words for "gift"! The ISV puts it like this:

Every generous act of giving and every perfect gift is from above ....

God is never fooled. He sees through our counterfeit lives. He knows when we're just pretending to care. He wants to be a Giver in and through us. He wants giving -- both the generous feeling and the things we give -- to flow from a deep relationship with Him.

Think about that. Not a single thing we have ever given to someone is something we can take credit for. God gave us both the desire and the ability to give. Our works are always His works. There is nothing we can do, no matter how good or great, that God has not already worked in us. That said, the values we live by today are the values others will remember us by later. Do people see in Dave Black a generous man? As James puts it, faith is dead if it's not accompanied by action.

Put your faith to the test today, my friend. Don't just pray for others. Love them practically and actively. Help them when you can. Faith like that speaks louder than words.

Monday, July 29

7:46 AM As the book of Habakkuk was being read aloud in the assembly yesterday, I noticed something odd in 3:1. The reader said something like, "This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet according to Shigonioth." My English version lacked the words "according to Shigonioth" and had a footnote that read, "Hebrew has an additional phrase, the meaning of which is unclear." In fact, I noticed the words, "Hebrew unclear," several times in the notes to Habakkuk. I thought to myself, "This could never happen in the New Testament. Translators would never leave a word untranslated because they had no earthly idea what it meant!"

Then I remembered....

Years ago I was studying the Gospel According to Mark. When I got to 7:3, I was flabbergasted. Here the RSV reads:

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands.

There it was, in black and white -- a Greek word left completely untranslated in the RSV. The note at the bottom of the page said:

One Greek word is of uncertain meaning and is not translated.

How could this be? I'd never seen anything like it before or since. The word is pugmē. I would literally translate it as "with a fist." Here's what other versions do with it:

NIV = "ceremonial washing"

NLT = "over their cupped hands"

ESV = "wash their hands completely"

NASB = "carefully wash their hands"

NET = "a ritual washing"

ASV = "wash their hands diligently"

I immediately began to look into this but eventually lost interest. (My half-written journal article lies buried in a computer somewhere.) The approach I was taking was to see if the word pugmē could be understood as a gesture -- i.e., with a closed fist instead of an open hand. Maybe I'll revisit the issue one day.

When I was working on the ISV New Testament, I found the whole thing quite intimidating. The challenge was great. The odds of failure were huge. The walls between me and the biblical text often seemed impenetrable. And yet. Through the art and science of lexicography, New Testament readers are in a good position to reach a fair level of certainty as to the possible meanings of the Greek words they encounter. Frankly, I have no idea what Mark meant by the expression "with a fist." I notice that at the time I jotted down the words "a particularly vigorous scrubbing" in my Greek New Testament, but that was only a guess. I suppose the Greek could also mean "up to the wrist."

The NRSV, incidentally, has reversed the decision of its predecessors. It reads "unless they thoroughly wash their hands." A note, of course, is added:

Meaning of GK uncertain.

Such is life for a Bible translator! 

Sunday, July 28

8:45 PM I'm getting the guest house ready for my daughter and her family who are visiting from Alabama tomorrow. Meanwhile ...

The message this morning covered the entire book of Habakkuk. I mean, all 3 chapters. It was fabulous. I had never before seen how important Hab. 2:4 is to the central argument of the book. No wonder this verse is so frequently quoted in the New Testament.

You know me. I'm always looking for takeaways from the Sunday messages I hear. There were so many of them today. Where do I begin? My son-in-law emphasized, among other things, how necessary it is for us to be in the word more than on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. I kept nodding my head in agreement. The New Testament has a lot to say about the "daily." We take up our cross daily, we exhort one another daily, Jesus promises to be with us daily, etc. And this is our constant prayer: "Give us today our daily bread." The danger of the heights we reach on Sundays is that we may become complacent the rest of the week. Nowhere do we need God's word more than in the "daily."

I think we make a mistake when we limit this daily dose of God's word to what are normally called "devotions." Too many saints are content to read a chapter of the Bible and then let it go at that. The leftovers of time, of money, of devotion -- this is no fit gift for the Giver of all good things. What would Habakkuk say to Christians who go to God's word only when they can find nothing else to do? Recently I've been rereading this book.

I think it's possibly the best introduction to biblical preaching ever written. Stott has a chapter called "The Call to Study." Pastor-teachers, he insists, must give themselves to constant preparation. "There is no doubt that the best teachers in any field of knowledge are those who remain students all their lives" (p. 136). Stott then adds these quotes:

"None will ever be a good minister of the Word unless he is first of all a scholar" (Calvin).

"He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit" (Spurgeon). 

"If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing" (Donald Grey Barnhouse).

I'll add one more by Stott himself:

"If this book is the Word of God, then away with slovenly, slipshod exegesis!" (p. 138).

In the ISV, we translated the adjective didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 as "teachable" instead of "able to teach." We felt that this rendering better fit the context. The best pastor-teachers are lifelong learners. They are constantly expanding their minds and digging deeper and deeper into the things of God. A pastor/elder I highly esteem tweeted recently, "A pastor without a Bible is a pastor without authority." There is an abundance of cheap Christianity today, with just enough prayer and Bible reading and service to get by. Few of us give our very best to the Master. I know I don't. Often my work for the kingdom is routine and perfunctory. I keep having to ask myself, "When my task is finished, will it be merely 'done,' or will it be 'well done'?"

This morning, while fellowshipping with God's people in Roxboro, I was reminded that the kingdom is no place for persons with their face pointed one way and their feet the other. We are never more foolish than when we try to substitute human thinking for God's thoughts. Habakkuk knew that a lot of sound orthodoxy may coexist with outright disobedience to God. What we know intellectually must be obeyed volitionally.

"Those who are righteous will live because of their faithfulness to God" (Hab. 2:4). Righteousness. Life. Faithfulness. Get the combination right and the result is assured. Doctrine translated into duty brings delight.

Thank you, son, for the reminder!

7:48 AM Newer is not necessarily better. This is true of all areas of life, I think, but no truer than in biblical studies. This truth was brought home to me again this morning while reading this volume.

Though printed by Bloomsbury in 2015, it was first published by Sheffield Press way back when the ark landed on Ararat (1995). Most of my students weren't even alive then. Of course, I read this book many years ago. But I have a big reading problem. I can never read a good book only once. This disorder started back when I was in seminary reading books by F. F. Bruce and Bruce Manning Metzger. At any rate, I've long been a fan of books about linguistics, so when I ordered this one I knew I was in for some pleasant surprises. If I could give you one example. The irrepressible Moisés Silva, in his chapter on "Discourse Analysis and Philippians," writes the following. (Keep in mind that Silva is discussing the growing confusion on his part about the character of Greek discourse analysis).

Every researcher seems to be following his or her own agenda -- usually quite an expansive agenda. Certain that the problem was not the early onset of senility, I picked up the recent and fine collection of papers edited by David Black, with the hopes of clarifying matters once and for all. My anxiety, however, was only aggravated to realize in a fresh way that discourse analysis is about ... everything! It is grammar and syntax, pragmatics and lexicology, exegesis and literary criticism. In short, fertile ground for undisciplined minds.

Silva's was a tough chapter to get through because it is so blatantly honest and on target. As he puts it, "... the more I read the more lost I feel."

The offending tome.

There's no need to fool ourselves into thinking that our discipline (New Testament Greek) has gotten any less confusing since Silva wrote that chapter 24 years ago. Conferences on linguistics like the one we recently had on our campus are not the solution either. Here's what I think it's going to take. It's going to take someone (a multi-authored volume will not work) writing an understandable and simple (though not simplistic) introduction to New Testament Greek linguistics that puts the goods on the bottom shelf while not compromising scholarly integrity. It will probably have to be written by a non-specialist but rather by a dabbler and someone who has proven him- or herself to be an effective classroom teacher. I will not try to say who I think would do us a very great service by writing this book, though I have in fact spoken to that individual and let them know my thoughts. The goal would be, in the words of Silva, " ... to encourage these obviously competent scholars to work a little harder at helping us see the significance of their contribution." I used to try to write such books, but the time has come to pass that torch on to the next generation.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up to hear one son-in-law teach this morning in one church while another son-in-law teaches in another church. (Wish I was ubiquitous.) They are both excellent Bible teachers. Both of them, too, love Greek, and I'm sure both would benefit tremendously by the book I described above. Now if only that person I talked to would write it!

Saturday, July 27

9:35 PM Only 9 days to rubbah slippahs and:

  • You stay hungry?

  • Get choke grindz dea.

  • Cute da baby.

  • You like talk da kine?

  • No ack lidat.

  • Watchu stay doing?

  • Mo' bettah.

  • Bumbai.

  • Kapakahi.

  • I tink dat buggah crack block a'ready.

  • Like beef? (Tinking back to my high school dayz. Ugh. I no like catch cracks.)

  • I need go da babba shop.

  • Who wen cockroach da icebox?

  • Whateva.

  • To da max.

  • Bo da dem.

  • Kaukau.

  • Ono.

  • Not my kuleana.

  • Pilikia.

  • Boddah you?

  • K den.

  • Kawika (my name).

  • You pau?

  • Plate Lunch (da bestest!).

Yep. I grew up bi-lingual. Hawaiian Pidgin is not an accent, dialect, slang, or jargon. It's a language. Half the state's population of 1.4 million speaks it. Pidgin not only one language. Ees da way all kine peopo in Hawai'i tink. Even get one Bible in Pidgin called da Jesus Book. You know, da language been officially reckonoticed. Fo realz! Da U.S. Census Bureau say so. So garans I go talk da kine wen I stay Kailua. Caz in Hawai'i, we get time fo talk story an no need fo do erryting wikiwiki all da time.

Mahalo nui loa! 

5:02 PM These were waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home today. Woohoo!

Books and bananas have about the same value in my home.

4:32 PM Today I did a 5K in Morrisville/Raleigh. My goal was to run at a 10 minute/mile pace or faster. But the course threw me for a loop. It turned out to be a lot hillier than I expected. On a Hill Scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate this at about a 52.

Dude, is this Raleigh or the Himalayas?

Not sure what I was thinking when I signed up to do this race. The gun goes off and you think, "I need a Sherpa." (Actually, no gun went off. Someone shouted "Go.") As always, there is a plethora of really fit people around me who gradually disappear into the horizon. Finally, the finish. Even though I didn't have a 10 minute pace, I did manage to maintain an even 11 minute/mile pace.

At least my eyelashes didn't hurt.

I was the oldest runner out there today. I finished 24th out of 38 runners. A 23 year-old female beat me by 3 seconds. A 24 year-old male beat me by 5 seconds. A 19 year-old male beat me by 6 seconds. Braggarts. Here's the thing about a 5K race. It almost always plants a seed that later blossoms into a desire to run a 10K, a half marathon, and then a marathon. Being a middle-of-the-packer can be incredibly demoralizing and discouraging if you let it. To top it off, in a small race there are no cheering crowds. But eventually, if you let it, a light bulb goes off in your brain that you are really doing something amazing. A race strips you of your defenses and lets you see a part of yourself you've never known before. The heart and soul of running is about beating back discouragement and obstacles and being determined to drive your body through the pain barrier. Someone has said that the degree of discomfort experienced when running a marathon is the worst that most men (and most women outside of childbirth) ever experience. Who cares? Eventually you fall head over heels for running. You begin to love the entire environment of a race. Even when you're suffering like crazy, one thought keeps going through your mind: "I get to do this."

While driving to Raleigh this morning, I kept thinking about a phrase in Romans 12. "The mercies of God." I prayed, "Lord, thank you so so so much for the ability to get out of bed this morning and do this race today. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for healing my prostatitis. Thank you, dear God, for causing my piriformis muscle to feel so much better. Thank you for allowing me to live life to the fullest each and every day." Runners can have an absolutely miserable race and still feel themselves to be the most blessed people on earth. Look at the runners today. Despite the adversity and exhaustion, everybody stayed amazingly positive. And why not? We get to do this. People generally try to avoid suffering. But in running, suffering is the norm. And it teaches you a valuable lesson: It's possible to suffer and not give up. Just showing up for a race proves that you "dared greatly."

To wrap things up, allow me to wax a little philosophical here and say that I realize that most of the people in my life don't really care that I'm a runner or even care that I ran today's race. I'm totally at peace with that. Sure, I love the challenge of racing, but it's not my life. It's totally an optional activity and I'm blessed to be able to do it, plain and simple. Realizing this helps keep racing fun.

So there you have it. Thank you for reading. You rock! (Unless you beat me in today's race.)

Friday, July 26

8:44 AM This morning I was reading the blog of someone trying to raise support for the new ministry to which God had called him. No one had prepared him, he said, for how difficult support raising would be. But the good news, he went on to say, is that the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will always supply the needs of those who follow Him. However, that's not the point of Psalm 50:10 (as this essay shows). The Psalmist mentions the cattle not to remind us that God is able and willing to supply our needs, but to remind us that He is not dependent on us for "food."

Thinking about the future can be frightening. Thankfully, God knows our uncertainties. We can relax in the knowledge that He has a definite plan for our lives. And He will provide for all of our needs, even when we fall into the trap of quoting verses out of their context. I guess that's the main point of this blog post. "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills" is a chorus I grew up singing. I didn't realize at the time that we can't necessarily allow our hymnody to be our theology. In the end, however, the truth remains: God has a plan for our lives, a plan more fulfilling and exciting than anything we could ever ask or imagine. Even when we don't know what it is, He does. All we have to do is allow God enough elbow room in our lives to do what He's best at doing. 

Which verses have you quoted out of context? (Come on, we've all done it.)

What's the impossible or unbelievable situation you're currently facing? Why not turn it over to Him (again)?

Angus on the farm. What wonderful creatures. God owns 'em!

7:24 AM When I was in seminary I took a course in Christian apologetics. The idea was to learn certain types of argumentation that might convince the interested non-believer in the truthfulness of the Christian faith. A verse that we used to justify this approach was 1 Pet. 3:15, which says we are to offer a defense (Greek apologia) to everyone who asks us for the hope among us. In that day, apologetics involved (at least) a defense against charges that Christianity was subversive to the empire. Peter is therefore keen to show that Christians, under ordinary circumstances, are willing to submit themselves to "every human institution" (2:13). Today, apologetics often centers on questions about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible. That will, in fact, be the focus of the apologetics conference on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Clearview Church in Henderson, NC. We live in a world where people often challenge the reliability of Scripture. Those challenges must be addressed. But we also live in a world where people are turned off by Christianity because of the way Christians behave. That's why Peter immediately adds that our defense of the Gospel must be matched by a Christ-like attitude. We are to do apologetics with gentleness and respect. That's how Christ responded to His enemies. Everywhere He went He was gentle with those who were hostile toward Him.

Francis Schaeffer, whom I had the joy of hearing personally when I lived in Switzerland, once wrote a book called The Church at the End of the 20th Century.

Many have never heard of it, but I dare say it may well be the most important book on apologetics Schaffer ever wrote. It in he argues that the greatest apologetic for Christianity is nothing other than love (John 13:34-35). I recall as a teenager in Hawai'i being turned off by Christianity, not so much because I believed it was illogical or indefensible, but because of the disconnect I saw between the apologist and his or her lifestyle. How can people respect us when we are not living consistently with what we believe? God is not only asking us to tell our unsaved neighbors what a friend they have in Jesus, but also to show them what a friend they have in us. Love them, Jesus says. Love them until they ask you why.

Evangelism is godliness lived out. God's plan for evangelism is for every believer to become a redemptive person by loving their neighbor sacrificially and even scandalously if necessary. We fit into God's purpose by loving Him and then by loving others until they ask us why. Can you loan out your lawn mower? Can you bake a key lime pie? Can you drive a friend to the doctor's office? Somebody's neighbor found Christ through just such a kind gesture. Paul says we are to be "living epistles, read by all" (2 Cor. 3:2-3). The imagery presupposes regular, close contact with not-yet-believers. Our goal is not to beat people into submission with our arguments. Yes, words are necessary. But we must also "play the music." It may take years for your friend to come to Christ. Don't give up! Pray for boldness and for open doors. Ask God to use the witness of your serving lifestyle. Let people see the heart of the One who died for their sins. Most of all, be a genuine friend who loves people in very specific and tangible ways.

May God help all of us to defend the faith -- not only with our lips but also with our lifestyle.

Thursday, July 25

4:56 PM If you're not sick of me yet talking about races, click here to visit the 25th Annual Run for Life 5K and 1 Mile Run website. I literally just found out about it not 20 minutes ago via email. I actually ran this race last year. If there's one thing the running community is, it's a community of mutual support. Most of us run for various causes, and what better cause can one possibly run for than to benefit Birth Choice of Raleigh, which has provided free service to pregnant women since 1971. You hear it all the time -- we need to do something about the problem of abortion in America. We'll, here's something you can do to make a difference. You get to donate to a worthy cause while doing something you love. "Well, I don't love to run," you say. Then do the 1 mile fun run/walk. You'll be glad you did. I'm so glad to see that my calendar is free that day. In my opinion, running for a reason other than your own health and well being is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. So I hope you will come out and support the cause. It's certainly a worthy one. Whether we're talking about abortion or euthanasia, people think they can control life and death by taking the matter into their own hands. This is pure hubris. How we humans think we can trespass into God's territory in this matter is beyond me.

Life is a gift of God. So is the ability to run. And when the two are wedded together, so much the better!

4:05 PM I'm sitting here having just eaten my supper. (Yes, supper. I'm up at 5:00, so 4:00 pm is supper time in this household.)

I actually cooked this. And yes, I like ground black pepper.

What are you doing? Here's more:

1) What I'm reading. Anne Groton's fabulous textbook on Classical Greek called From Alpha to Omega. (I see I'm not the only one who calls the three aspects: imperfective, perfective, and aoristic. Go Anne!)

2) What I'm working on. Mowing the yards. The weather has been purr-fect.

3) What I'm watching. The Volcom Pro Tournament from the Banzai Pipeline on YouTube. Sadly, the North Shore will be completely flat when I'm there in August. Boohoo.

4) What I'm planning. Things to do in Hawai'i.

5) What I'm drinking. Weird, but since I cut out all sodas I've been consuming lots of water.

6) What I'm dreading. The long flight from Denver to Honolulu.

7) What I'm trying. This intense dumbbell routine. It's a killer. You should try it too! 

By the way, today one of my grandsons turns two. Here's the birthday boy (left) with his brother Bradford. Happy Born Day, Chesley! Papa B loves you!

6:10 AM When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon in Cincinnati 4 years ago, I didn't know what was in store for me. These past 4 years of running have been a wild ride. If I'm able to run in Chicago in October, it will be my 16th marathon. Would I have been the same person had I never started running? I can't answer that question. What I can say is this: I am as excited today about the Chicago Marathon as I was when I ran Cincy 4 years ago. Like everything linked to the body, the desire to run and finish a race is linked with the urge God gives all of us to push through grueling and challenging times in our lives. What I've learned is that, unless we are truly motivated to keep on going, the temptation is very strong to stop running. Thankfully, I still find enjoyment in the sport, otherwise I'm not sure I could continue to run. I've learned to appreciate the little things along the way -- the importance of good shoes, the need for rest, the value of training. Ask any marathoner (and I only qualify for that title by the most generous of terms): all of us run for the same reason. What could be better than challenging your body to go 26.2 miles in every conceivable kind of weather conditions?

Of course, the most exciting thing is not the race but the comradery. If you don't know what I mean, just stand at the end of a marathon and watch people crossing the finish line. Not just the elite athletes, but those who finish 5, 6, 7, or even 8 hours after the race begins. I keep saying that nothing is impossible is you're willing to pay the price for your dream. That's true whether you're looking to start a doctoral program or are wanting to raise a family. Sometimes people look at you like you're crazy. But I'd rather be a crazy, happy man than someone who has stopped dreaming.

Racing is never easy. It shouldn't be. It just takes time and perseverance. Like life.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 24

8:15 PM Becky and I met in the cafeteria line at Biola. She had just experienced a rough spell dating Bible majors. She told me she found them, well, somewhat immature. But we began dating, even though I was a Bible major. We usually went to the local coffee shop and just talked. One semester I took a hiatus from Biola and spent 8 months in Hawai'i surfing all day and working in a Waikiki restaurant in the evenings. Becky and I would correspond through letters. She'd tell me about her life in California, and I'd relay glimpses to her about my life in Hawai'i. Before long, I began to miss Becky achingly. I recall that for a long time I would sign my letters, "Best, Dave." Then one day I wrote, "Love, Dave." Thus began a love story that would last for 40 years.

Like you, I love the Scriptures. I love studying them and I love teaching them. But my relationship with the Lord can't be all intellectual. My goal, on a daily basis, is to fall increasingly in love with God, to bring honor to Jesus Christ, and to become more like Him in both my attitudes and my actions. W. H. Griffith-Thomas, co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, once wrote:

It is, of course, essential to remember that theology is not merely a matter of intellect, but also of experience. Theology is concerned with spiritual realities, and must include personal experience as well as ideas .... The feeling equally with reason must share in the consideration of theology, because theology is of the heart, and the deepest truths are inextricably bound up with personal needs and experiences.

This isn't a particularly cosmic thought, I know. But today I experienced again what it feels like to be in fellowship with the Triune God. Of course, true love is more than an emotional rush. Love must be nurtured in an environment of mutual trust and respect. Without trust, love dies. Love means contributing my best to the relationship. After all, that's how God first loved us.

Truth and love. Intellect and emotion. It's a difficult balancing act. Jonathan Edwards once described his relationship with God as being full of Christ, loving Him with a holy and pure love, trusting in Him, serving and following Him, being totally wrapped up in the fullness of Christ. What a beautiful picture of how mind and heart can work together to produce a deep experience with God. I long for these times with the Father, just as I believe He longs for these times with me. That is the heart of a Father to His children, expressed to us through His Son, and mediated by His Spirit.

I Long to Worship Thee!

 

7:12 PM Our NT 2 class covers Acts through Revelation, so you can imagine my joy when these arrived today.

Craig Keener (New Testament prof at Asbury) has penned some of the best commentaries on the New Testament. His commentary on Acts (4 volumes!) runs to roughly 6,000 pages. Keener is also the author of the highly acclaimed 1,200-page study called Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Not shown here is his book on the Holy Spirit called Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. Most of you probably know that I spend no time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I simply don't have the time or energy to devote to this blog, my farm, my teaching and writing, and my family plus all of that social media stuff. Instead, I spend my free time in reading. Some books you want to read. Others you have to read. Keener's books fall into both categories. I want to be a person who's interested in many things and who's learning new things. I think reading books helps me to do just that.

What have you been reading lately?

What's the best book you've read this year?

7:46 AM I've signed up for a race this Saturday in Morrisville, NC. I love the name: Sole to Soul 5K: For Hope. All proceeds will benefit an NGO called Projects for Hope, which works mostly in Kenya. This will be a smallish race. Thus far only about 35 people have signed up. Have I told you how much I enjoy small races? They are very cool. No age group awards. No fancy eats afterwards. No fanfare. You are pretty much just a group of runners who are out to raise money for charity. Here's the thing about racing, though. Runners love to run. And runners love to run with other people. It doesn't matter whether that number is large or microscopic. Big events like the Chicago Marathon (October 13 -- Yay!) attract about 40,000 runners each year. The course is lined with spectators from start to finish. There's lots of hype and excitement. And why not? It's CHICAGO! At the other end of the spectrum are races like this Saturday's 5K in Morrisville. Small races are boss. For one thing, there will be no elbowing other runners as you make your way to the starting line. Don't get me wrong. I still love bigger events. I love the adrenaline kick you get, plus I love all the spectators. But small races are much more personal. In the end, there's no reason to do any of it unless it brings joy into your life. Runners are people who find satisfaction in moving their bodies. Even people like me, whose lack of genetic ability is obvious, can find joy in the activity itself rather in their level of proficiency. My best is good enough. And so is yours, my friend.

Movement proves that we're still alive. If you are a slow runner like me, it's okay. Don't try to keep up with the other runners. Don't worry about looking dumb. A race is a good place to find the best in yourself, the best in others, and the best in running. 

6:10 AM The other day I listened to a wonderful sermon by pastor Bryan of Summit Denver on A Different Kind of Leadership. His text was Acts 6 and how a need arose in the early church and how that need was met. The apostles ended up delegating the care of widows to 7 men "full of the Spirit and wisdom." I was reminded that, in the body of Christ, all ministries are needed. There is no hint whatsoever that the apostles considered the ministry of distributing food as in any way inferior to the ministry of teaching and prayer. Each follower of Jesus has a God-given task, and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted through concentrating on anything but own own calling. This truth should not only humble but inspire us and especially motivate us to work together as one team in all that we do as the body of Christ. We follow One who came not to be served but to serve, and it would be unthinkable that we would go through life spending our lives in any other way than serving others. I remember very clearly the time when the Lord seemed to grab a hold of Becky and me with His tender but firm hands, impelling us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto His mission. Since then, God has enriched my life with hundreds of likeminded people, ordinary believers doing the work of the kingdom and extending God's mercy further than they ever thought possible. I can't articulate my thrill and gratitude to be able to be teaching NT 2 again this fall. I can promise my students no expert's example, only the words of a man who has never been more aware of his own ignorance and arrogance. Together, I pray we will learn how to follow the downward path of Jesus into a life of obedience and sacrificial love. May He come in power and unleash the hands of His servants.

Tuesday, July 23

4:30 PM This morning I enjoyed breakfast with my assistant and his wife and their 6 children. It was a bittersweet time.

At the end of the month, Noah will be transitioning out of his role as my personal assistant as he begins to focus on the writing of his dissertation under my supervision. I am extremely grateful to Noah for the immense amount of time and energy he invested in my teaching and writing ministry. I cannot speak too highly of his conscientious work these past 4 years. He will be sorely missed.

Tonight one of my former Ph.D. students is traveling through the area and is visiting the farm for dinner. Gotta give him a lot of credit, risking, as he is, his digestion on my home cooking. We'll see if he survives.

Monday, July 22

7:05 PM Today I got in a 45 minute workout and then swam for about an hour. Who says you slow down with age? I like to break up my swim between the crawl stroke and the breast stroke. I am pathetic because I'm too uncoordinated to do the butterfly. I definitely need to take swimming lessons. Afterwards I got home and found these waiting for me.

Everyone knows I have a reading problem. I read everything I can get my non-nicotine-stained hands on. These tomes will keep me busy this week. As you can see, the classicists have been publishing some pretty hefty grammars of late. As for George Will. Well, George Will is George Will. You kinda know what you're going to get. (As if I'm not predictable.) One of my resolutions this summer was to read more -- hence all these books I've been showing you pictures of. I don't do historical fiction much, but if you think there's something in that genre I need to read, let me know.

I close with these words of Helen Keller:

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

7:48 AM There are a couple of things on my bucket list that I'd still like to accomplish in 2019 if the Lord wills. One of them is climbing the tallest 14,000-er in the Rockies. I want so badly to see if I'm up to the challenge of Mt. Elbert. Climbing has meant so much to me post-Becky. I can't even begin to tell you. It seems unreal that it was 3 years ago this summer that I left for Switzerland to climb the Alps. I came to Zermatt in search of a summit or two. Like Terry Fox, the Canadian who ran thousands of miles on one leg to raise money for cancer research, I also wanted to give a nod to the Becky Black Memorial Fund, which I had started just before I left. (To date, 650 million Canadian dollars have been raised in Terry's name. By God's grace, I was able to raise $25,000 for UNC Cancer Hospital.) I displayed a banner with Becky's name on it every time I summited one of Zermatt's peaks. You ask, "Weren't you even a little bit afraid?" Oh yeah. For the first hundred yards or so I always had butterflies in my stomach. But as Helen Keller once said, "It's okay to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation."

In climbing I've discovered something I love -- a thing that really turns me on and excites me. Passion is what enabled Aimee Mullins to set records for running even though she's missing two legs. I care passionately about what I do in life. I really want to do them. I don't know where these passions come from (other than from the Lord), but I've got them. I love teaching. I can't imagine doing anything else. I think being irrationally passionate about what you do is enormously healthy. I'm what psychologists refer to as a "striver." Strivers are people who know what they want and run straight toward it. There's something in me that pushes me to challenge myself as a climber, and I just have to go with it. Exploring your passions doesn't mean you have to go all the way. I have no interest in climbing anything over 15,000 feet. And yes, it's hard work, but that's part of the fun.

Here's my message for you today, my friend. In the strength of the Lord, be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your God-given goals. I believe that climbing not only brings me satisfaction but also a sense of confidence. We become confident when we meet a challenge head-on and overcome it. I'll never forget the day my guide Walter took me to Zermatt's famous Klettersteig -- a vertical rock wall on very exposed terrain. It took me 4 hours to climb 1,800 vertical feet. Focus was absolutely critical. Many people work hard but they're not focused. They're Dabblers and not Doers. I realized as soon as I began climbing the Klettersteig that I had to focus. The focus paid off and I completed the course.

When Bill Gates started Microsoft he focused on one thing and only one thing. "Microsoft is designed to write great software," he said. "We are not designed to be good at other things." Being able to focus will help you regardless of what you're doing. The truth is that we all find it easy to focus on what we love doing. When people are lazy, they're usually lazy about things that don't interest them. To climb you've got to love the sport -- and then you're got to push, push, push yourself, mentally and physically. Mostly I've had to push through self-doubt. In climbing there are plenty of opportunities for second-guessing yourself: Will my body adjust to the elevation, will my legs be strong enough to carry me, will I tire out before the climb is over? On my trip to the Alps there were many moments when I said, "Oh man, I can't believe I got this far!" The trick is to keep pushing yourself, even when you think you can't go on.

I find that being pushed for a climb (or a marathon) actually helps my teaching and writing. Pushing is absolutely necessary in a creative environment. As a youth I wasn't very self-disciplined, but now I'm very self-disciplined and I think it keeps me in top shape. Thankfully, I had my guide Walter to push me along.

I need people in my life who keep telling me, "You can do this, Dave." I really need that support system. Not that I will ever be in the same league as Walter, who has summited the Matterhorn 17 times. But watching him excel at his job helps me dig down deep and push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I love pushing myself to the limit. And it's a lot easier when you have a guy like Walter as your mentor (tor-mentor?).

In my day I've seen a lot of good teachers grow old and then sort of get to a certain point in their career where they just take it easy. And that's where they stay for the rest of their careers. My philosophy is simple: If I can say, on December 31, that I'm a better athlete or teacher or dad than I was on January 1 of the same year, then I've been successful. Not for the sake of being better than someone else, but just because it's so satisfying to be improving at something. I'm really never satisfied where I am in life. I'm always trying to push myself to the next level. But I'm not a person who's unhappy if he isn't perfect. I just want to keep improving.

Friend, whatever you are doing with your life, do it to the very best of your God-given ability. Forget about your weaknesses. Find something you're good at and go for it with gusto. From the moment I summited my first Alp I knew I could accomplish a big goal. So I'd say, do what you love to do and everything else will fall into place. And no matter what you do, the secret to accomplishing your goals is plain old tenacity. It takes a long time to become really good at something. I've learned that if I can put just put one foot in front of the other, things generally work out well. Sure, setbacks will come. The problem is when we give up on ourselves. Adopt a "Don't look back" attitude.

Climbing is the hardest thing I've ever done besides burying Becky. But in climbing I've discovered something I really love. What is it that gets you excited? Nothing is more important in life than being passionate about what God has created you to do, whatever that is. Someone has said: "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

As for age, who cares? Age is merely a state of mind. It's a label people use to pigeonhole others and place limits on what they can be. I choose not to be governed by labels. And doing what I love to do is one of the ways I stay young at heart. For years now I've left age at the door when I've walked into the different rooms of my life, being far more concerned about doing solid work, supporting my colleagues, and showing leadership without having some lofty title on my office door. Be an original, friend. There's only one of you in the whole world. And no one else can be as good a you as you.

Sunday, July 21

9:45 PM Lord willing, in 2 weeks I leave for the island of O'ahu in Hawai'i. I'm no Rick Steves, but I do have a few suggestions for you in case you ever end up in the Paradise of the Pacific.

1. Use Airbnb. This can be a much less expensive alternative to staying in a fancy hotel. And in some parts of O'ahu there's not even a single hotel room (like, for example, in my home town of Kailua on the Windward side). But plan to book early, as in at least 8 months before your trip, because Airbnbs go fast.

I snapped this picture of Kailua Beach during my trip there last year.

2. Growing up in Hawaii we used to joke that the state has four seasons: summer, summer, summer, and summer. Basically that's true. But we do have our rainy season, which is January through March, and these months can get pretty wet. Avoid them if you want to enjoy the constant sun you can expect pretty much the rest of the year.

3. If you're into hiking, you have to climb at least Diamond Head, the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, and Mount Olomana. The latter is in Kailua and boasts breathtaking views of Windward O'ahu. But be forewarned: The hike can be a bit on the dangerous side. If you have acrophobia and are easily frightened by knife-edged ridges, you might want to pass. Here's a YouTube I made of one of my recent Olomana hikes. (This is obviously not a professional video!)

 

4. Other must-see touristy destinations include:

  • The Dole Pineapple Plantation

  • The Arizona Memorial

  • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

  • Renting a kayak at Kailua Beach

  • Enjoying a sunset cruise at Waikiki Beach

  • Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center

  • Seeing the view of Honolulu from atop Punchbowl Crater

  • Stopping by the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore

  • Running the Honolulu Marathon (if you're there in December)

5. Avoid the rush hour traffic by staying off the freeway from 5:30 - 9:00 am and 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Honolulu has the absolute worst traffic in the nation so don't get stuck in it if you can avoid it.

6. As for cuisine, you must try these 5 foods: poke, plate lunch, shave ice, manapua, and (my favorite) malasadas.

7. Attend church on Sunday. There are a number of sound evangelical churches on O'ahu, from Southern Baptist to New Hope.

Pastor Kevin Akana of Windward Baptist Church. A dear bruddah.

8. Always be friendly toward the locals. Remember: How you treat people greatly influences how they behave toward you. Be yourself but your best self. Hawai'i is one of the most friendly places you will ever visit as long as you exercise basic respect. 

Well, I hope you enjoy your visit to O'ahu should you be able to go there some day. Sure, there are other islands you could also travel to, but O'ahu is probably the best island to visit if you're going to Hawai'i for the first time. It's not only easier to find accommodations and packages there due to increased competition, but O'ahu is the cultural heart of the Hawaiian Islands. Of course, the best thing about it is that I was born and raised there :-)

My view each morning. Every day is beautiful in Hawai'i.  

5:42 PM Ever heard of Neil Armstrong? Check. Buzz Aldrin? Check. Michael Collins? Who????

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, of course, were the astronauts who set foot on the moon 50 years ago yesterday. Michael Collins was the man who flew their spacecraft to the moon, kept it in the right place while Armstrong and Aldrin did their thing, and then brought them back home safely.

Collins had perhaps the most important job of all yet was barely recognized in the press. In fact, there were thousands of people who collaborated to make the Apollo 11 mission a success. They were all part of a single team formed to carry out one of mankind's greatest feats. These men and women were all heroes.

As for the church, let's remember:

1. God calls all of His people to ministry.

2. God calls different people to different ministries.

3. God expects us to fulfill our ministries, not someone else's.

In Acts 6, the work of the Twelve and the work of the Seven are both called a diakonia ("ministry"). The Twelve were called to the diakonia of the word, whereas the Seven were called to the diakonia of tables. Neither ministry is superior to the other, and neither ministry is inferior to the other. We do a great disservice when we refer to the pastorate as "the" ministry. In the New Testament, there is a wide diversity of callings, gifts, and ministries, and each and every one of them is vital to the cause of Christ.

Thank you, Michael Collins, for your service to our country. You're a reminder that there's no such thing as bit players. Everybody is important. The same thing is true in the church. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor, the meek, the nobodies, the people relegated to the background. In the end, all of them received star treatment from Christ.

11:15 AM This morning's message, brought by one of my former personal assistants, was fabulous. It was on the topic of hell from Matthew 13. I hadn't heard a message on hell in I don't know how many years. The exposition was both solid and practical. We're here on this planet as God's children to be salt and light. We've been given a serious and sacred task -- to help shine the light of the Gospel so that people will be delivered out of a living (and future) hell. C. S. Lewis once spoke of heaven and hell and then added: "All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations." Every person you know will one day arrive at either heaven or hell. Thankfully, by the light of Christ they can be guided toward heaven.

Of course, as always I'm looking at the textual variants in the passage, and today was no exception. In Matt 13:43 should we read "Let him who has ears to hear hear" or "Let him who has ears hear"? I'll go with the longer reading.

It's pretty obvious that we're dealing here with a case of parablepsis (an oversight of the eye). The scribe passed from one -akou- to the next -akou- and thus left out the infinitive akouein, "to hear." ("Ears to hear hear" became simply "ears hear.")

The external evidence corroborates this conclusion, at least to my way of thinking.

The reading akouein is as early as is its omission (the Old Latin alone pushes it into the second century) but akouein is more geographically widespread (in the omission we have basically an Alexandrian reading that is up against a Byzantine and Western reading). As for the text of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, I recall Keith Elliott once referring to the "hypnotic effect of Aleph and B." Could that be in play here?

It's too hot to be outdoors today (even by the pool) so I'm going to get caught up on my reading. Heat stroke is nothing to play around with. It's super important to pay attention to the weather. The line between feeling "Wow, I'm really hot" and losing your mental faculties can be crossed quickly. 

Be careful today, friends.

6:10 AM My assistant Noah Kelley has just updated our Greek Portal. Check it out at our What's New? page.

I like geeky Greek things, don't you? And I say that as someone who dropped out of his beginning Greek class at Biola after only 3 weeks. Yes, I had one of those classes. You think you're prepared and all of a sudden the unexpected happens. Your heart drops, your spirit droops. I came all the way to California for this? That said, there are two choices. You have two and only two possible attitudes.

I'm outta here. Greek is too much. If I was meant to learn Greek I would have. It's just not worth it. I won't try that again.

Or ...

Well, that wasn't exactly what I was expecting. But if at first you don't succeed, get back on your feet and try again. This failure will not define me. I'll master Greek yet. I'll create a new memory.

There's that word "new" again. You pick yourself up. You dust yourself off. And you get back on track.

I'm sorry if things aren't going your way right now. Believe me, I know it hurts. Don't let that disappointment define you. You'll get another shot, and you'll rock it that much harder after that experience. I know. Been there, done that. I signed up for another Greek course at a different school and the rest, as they say, is history. And I plan to be teaching Greek when I'm 100.

Glory to God.

Saturday, July 20

9:02 PM So, what are you watching tonight to celebrate the moon landing 50 years ago? I'm going to watch First Man for the tenth time. I think I've seen every documentary about Neil Armstrong out there and I've appreciated each one for telling the story of a very humble American who did what he was asked to. First Man, while about the landing on the moon, is about something more, however. It was the characters' personal lives that really spoke to me, especially the reunion of Armstrong and his wife at the end of the film. The distance to the moon was matched only by the distance between husband and wife. Their marriage was far from perfect, but they seemed to accept that fact, as least in the movie. The one thing First Man will do is get you thinking about your own relationships and what's holding you back from making them work. Anyway, I need to take the dog out for one last walk tonight before cranking up the movie. I'm resisting the urge to talk to you about the Chicago Marathon even though it's been on my mind all day. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel once said, "Did you know it's illegal to run a marathon unless you tell eighty people about it all day every day for three months?" Let's face it, who really cares (other than my fellow runners) how much you suffer and persevere in a foot race? I don't expect you to love running the way I do. Thankfully, we don't all have to share the same interests to be supportive of each other. I try to strike a balance on this blog between personal stuff and biblical/theological stuff. Truth be told, if someone is passionate enough about something, you're gonna to hear about it -- a lot. I try not to blog too much about my races, but they keep me excited and, in the end, people understand. Right????

Now, let's see .... What's that you said about your dog learning how to roll over?

8:48 AM Good morning! Been up since 4:30 reviewing my lectures on Acts for my NT 2 class. One session will be devoted to a discussion of eldership in the New Testament. Here's one question we'll discuss: Is the concept of "first among equals" (primus inter pares) biblical? Can you have a plurality of co-equal elders in a local congregation and still have a "senior" or "lead" pastor, someone who is usually known among the public as the pastor of that church? The issue is debated. I personally don't use the expression "first among equals" because the New Testament doesn't use it. But even if you do employ it, would this justify a senior pastor model in which one of the elders is seen as somehow being "the pastor" or the "head/leader" of that local church?

Here I'd like to defer to Alexander Strauch and his magnificent book Biblical Eldership. Mind you, Strauch does believe in the concept of "first among equals." He uses the expression positively several times in his chapter on "Shared Leadership." But let's not overlook the fact that he is also very intentional about nuancing his notion of "first among equals." Here are two passages from that chapter that everyone should carefully consider. First, after showing how Peter was the chief speaker among the apostles and their natural leader, he observes:

In spite of his outstanding leadership and speaking ability, Peter possessed no legal or official rank or title above the other eleven. They were not his subordinates. They were not his staff or team of assistants. He wasn't the apostles' "senior pastor" (italics in the original).

For Strauch, nomenclature matters. The point seems to be that, while Peter may have been the most prominent among Jesus' apostles, he wasn't the "senior" apostle and the others "associate apostles." They were all equally apostles. In the second place, after discussing elders who work hard at teaching and preaching (1 Tim. 5:17-18), Strauch notes:

This doesn't mean, however, that elders who are first among their equals do all the thinking and decision-making for the group, or that they are the pastors while the others are merely elders. To call one elder "pastor" and the rest "elders" or one elder "the clergyman" and the rest "lay elders" is to act without biblical precedence. To do so will not result in biblical eldership. It will, at least in practice, create a separate, superior office over the eldership, just as was done in the early second century when the division between "the overseer" and "elders" occurred (italics in the original).

Again, Strauch seems to be questioning, not the concept of first among equals, but the nomenclature a church uses. There simply seems to be no biblical grounds for separating off a "senior" or "lead" pastor from the rest of the elders. Here I'd also like to mention something Strauch writes later in his book in a section called "The Church Is Under Christ's Headship." After noting Christ's promise to be with His disciples "where two or three have gathered together in My name" (Matt. 18:20), Strauch writes:

Because the apostles knew that Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, was uniquely present with them as Ruler, Head, Lord, Pastor, Master, Overseer, High Priest, and King, they chose a form of government that reflected this distinctive, fundamental, Christian truth.... The first Christians were truly Christ-centered, Christ-dependent churches.... Christ's person and work was so infinitely great, final, and complete, that nothing -- even in appearance -- was to diminish the centrality of His presence among and sufficiency for His people.

This is followed by what I think is a really profound conclusion. Please read it carefully and thoughtfully.

So in the first century, no Christian would dare take the position or title of sole ruler, overseer, or pastor of the church.... There is only one flock and one Pastor (John 10:16), one body and one Head (Col. 1:18), one holy priesthood and one great High Priest (Heb. 4:14ff.), one brotherhood and one Elder Brother (Rom. 8:29), one building and one Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:5ff.), one Mediator, one Lord. Jesus Christ is "Senior Pastor," and all others are His undershepherds (1 Peter 5:4).

As an aside, I think it's striking that one rarely hears today of the title "lead" or "senior" deacon in our churches. Deacons are deacons (though, of course, the deacon board might have a rotating chairmanship). When it comes to elders/pastors, however, there seems to be a tendency to move toward a "lead" pastor model. It is sometimes argued that "Every organization needs someone at the top, a head." If I understand Strauch (and the New Testament) correctly, however, every local church already has such a Head in Jesus Christ.

What then? Tentatively I would like to suggest that we would do well to avoid the use of titles like "senior pastor" or "lead pastor" in our churches, especially in churches that practice plural eldership (a "fellowship of leadership," to use Michael Green's unforgettable expression). This doesn't mean that a local church will not have one or two elders that are more well-known among the public or even do most of the formal teaching Sunday after Sunday. Interestingly, when we look into the pages of the New Testament, we look in vain for the name of the "senior/lead pastor" of any local church. Who was the lead pastor of the church at Thessalonica? We can't determine that. The church in Philippi? No one knows. The church at Corinth? Impossible to say. There is only one local church in the New Testament where we actually know the name of the leader who sought to "be first" -- the church described in 3 John -- and here Diotrephes is hardly being set forth as a positive example. To my knowledge there is not one instance in the New Testament where a lead pastor of a local church is singled out for mention. Instead, Paul appoints "elders" (no mention of a lead pastor) in every church. Paul meets with the Ephesian "elders" in Miletus (no mention of a lead pastor). When we are sick we are to call the "elders" (no mention of a lead pastor) to pray over us. In Philippians, Paul greets the church's "overseers" (no mention of a lead overseer) and deacons. Of course, titles are not the Gospel. I personally know a good many lead/senior pastors. Not one of them could be described as hubristic or authoritarian. Each is a godly, humble man. But again, nomenclature matters. Paul is very clear in Colossians: Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the body, which is the church -- so that in all things He might have the preeminence. To repeat what Alexander Strauch said above: "nothing -- even in appearance -- was to diminish the centrality of [Christ's] presence among and sufficiency for His people." 

Not being an expert in ecclesiology, I hesitate to suggest an alternative title for the elder/pastor who does in fact serve as "first among equals" in our churches (if, indeed, you accept primus inter pares as a biblical concept). I find it very interesting and perhaps instructive that the apostle Peter, whose name always appears first in the lists of apostles in the New Testament, describes himself in 1 Pet. 5:1, not as senior apostle or as lead pastor, but simply as "fellow-" or "co-" elder. It is Christ Himself, he asserts without any hesitation, who is literally the church's "Head/Chief/Lead Pastor" (1 Pet. 5:4). It seems to me that Peter might be intentionally trying to recede into the group by using the word sumpresbuteros ("co-elder") to describe himself. If we take that as a hint for church leadership today, I'm wondering whether we couldn't benefit from using a term like "Co-Pastor" or "Co-Elder" for the primus inter pares. Such an expression would make it crystal clear that we are not trying to abrogate to ourselves a title belonging primarily if not exclusively to Christ. Perhaps it would also help to emphasize the importance we attach to shared leadership in our congregations -- we are all pastors, we are all overseers, we are all elders, and equally so. Here is an example of a church in Denver that seems to intentionally stress that their six pastor-elders are co-equal; as far as I can tell, none of them holds the title "lead pastor." Instead, their different ministries/areas of pastoral oversight are described. Here's another example from Wilkesboro, NC. Of course, in cases where only one man is qualified biblically to serve as elder, then that church will have only one pastor, even as it seeks to raise up additional qualified leaders from their own number.

Much more could be said, of course, but this post is already too long. Much of this I'll be incorporating into my book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. In class, I'll also be referring a good deal to my esteemed colleagues Ben Merkle and John Hammett, whose books on biblical eldership and church polity are most helpful and instructive. In particular, Hammett's discussion of how to transition a church toward a smoothly functioning plural leadership without causing a church split is indispensable (Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, pp. 213-219).

Earlier I referred to Michael Green. A quote from his book Adventure of Faith might be a fitting conclusion to what we have said here (p. 86):

Monarchy is a bad principle for Christian leadership: it leads to the suppression of initiative. So is democracy: it leads to shared incompetence and ineffectiveness. What is needed is a leadership team accountable to God and to the congregation; a team which will give a lead and enable each member of the church to achieve his or her full potential and use that in God's service. You need a fellowship of leadership to model that sort of thing and to help it come about.

Friday, July 19

4:40 PM Odds and ends ....

1) Some are you might be thinking about studying Latin. The question you have to ask (and answer) right off the bat: Should I study Classical or Ecclesiastical Latin? The answer is yes. What I mean is that there aren't all that many differences between CL and EL in terms of grammar. But note: Pronunciation systems are quite different, as well as the vocabulary you'll be acquiring. My two cents: Learn to read Ecclesiastical Latin. Here are my two favorite books in this genre:

 

2) CNN is reporting that Mitch Petrus (former Super Bowl champion) has died at the age of 32 from heatstroke. Not enough electrolytes apparently while working outdoors. Again, if you're going to be outside today, be careful. If you're running, the earlier in the day you do so, the better. Our bodies are incredible pieces of machinery but they're not invincible. Stay focused on nutrition and hydration. And for the love of all things Greek, slow down. During my run this morning I plugged away at approximately the speed you move when standing in line at the DMV. It's frustrating to be going so slowly, but it's the only sensible thing to do.

3) I've just reviewed the sections on verbal aspect in Porter et al., Decker, Köstenberger et al., Mounce 4, and Voelz. I'm not content with any of them. I'm working on a comparison that maybe I'll publish here or in a journal sometime.

4) Hurray (again) for FedEx!

5) Read What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary.

12:58 PM All morning long I told myself to get my act together long enough to be able to go out and get a run in before it got too sweltering hot. The weather today is perfect -- for lounging around at the pool or running through sprinklers. Alas, all I had was the local high school track. Basically, I ended up a sweaty mess before I finally cranked out a respectable 4 miles at a 15 minute pace, which was all the heat allowed.

I was taking in 16 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of running. If you've had to go outdoors for any reason today, I feel your pain. Thank the Lord for air-conditioned cars and houses. Did you know that it's possible to over-hydrate? In fact, it's not uncommon to hear of runners getting sick or even dying from a condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium). If you drink only water, you deplete the sodium and calcium stores in your body. By drinking only water when you run (and not adding in some sodium-containing sports drinks) you dilute the sodium in your blood to the point of needing hospitalization. That's why on any given marathon course you'll find both water and a sports drink that contains sodium at every aid station.

Well, tomorrow I think I'll run at 3:00 am....

This is off-topic, but take a look at the following photos from some of our current introductory Greek grammars. The pages all have to do with vocabulary. Which do you like the best esthetically (i.e., is the easiest on the eye)? Which has information the others don't but should? Which has too much data? Feel free to send me an email at dblack@sebts.edu with your thoughts. The reason I'm asking is because I'm praying about revising my beginning textbook in the next year or two, and any input you'd like to offer (about vocabulary or anything else) would be most welcome.

7:44 AM Read this morning on Twitter that the Greek word behind "forgive" means to "send forth." This is just as wrong as saying that "forgive" means to "give for." This list could go on and on. These myths are useful in part because they preach so well. Lexicographical eisegesis is never helpful, however. Most words have a range of meaning (Liddell-Scott list the following glosses for aphesis/aphiēmi: letting go, dismissal, leave of absence, remission of a debt, forgiveness, relaxation, exhaustion, divorce, conduit, sluice, etc.) Context, as always, is king.

7:12 AM "All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death" (Phil. 3:10 NEB). The goal of every Christian is to know Christ. The Bible is our guidebook, showing us how to do this. Every morning I must offer to Him again my body as a living sacrifice, asking Him to accept it as an act of worship and to press on with His work of transforming my mind from within so that I may grow in conformity to Christ.

Thursday, July 18

6:14 PM I will tell you what makes me very happy. It's working out at the Y for 45 minutes and then swimming for 45 minutes and then -- and here's the icing on the cake -- having a hot dog "all the way." I'm usually way more self-disciplined about eating than I was today, but rules are there to be broken, right? Today's workout really knocked me dead. I needed a quick pick-me-up, and what better way to get energized than to eat a fatty unhealthy kuntry kookin' DAWG. Notice, by the way, I said "all the way." This ain't just any old dog. It's the way God made hot dogs. Plus, you know you must be doing something right when you can order a hot dog for a mere buck fifty.

Fun fact: Here in the great state of Virginia, a hot dog served all the way comes with mustard, onions, and chili. Not so 3 miles south of me. In Granville County, North Carolina, where I imagine the "all-the-way-dog" originated (eat your heart out, West Virginia), a hot dog comes automatically with slaw. You must be aware of this when you cross the state line. You may not notice it, but you are going from one major U.S. subculture to another major U.S. subculture. You are moving from Harris Teeter to Food Lion, from BMWs to pick up trucks, from highways with yellow lines down the middle to gravel roads. Hey, I didn't move to rural Virginia for nothin!

More information (in case you're ever in my neck of the woods and are trying to order a REAL hot dog):

  • Don't even try asking for ketchup. You will be laughed to scorn and chased out of town on a rail.

  • Only nuclear red hot dogs will do.

  • At Dairy Dell (my local haunt) don't expect chairs, tables, or fuss. Grab your paper bag and leave. This here is sacred ground for buying and selling, not for chowin' down.

  • You will get three or four napkins along with your order. You will need them.

  • Cash only, by the way. This ain't Raleigh, remember?

So there you have it, folks. Like almost everyone else, I love me some southern hot dogs. It's really my downfall. I would love to eat two of these every day.

Disclaimer: This is not a food blog. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing anything recommended here. The less I'm sued, the more money I'll have to spend at Dairy Dell.

8:30 AM FYI: I just placed an order for the New English Bible. I used to have a copy but somehow it just upped and disappeared.

I love this version! Here's an example from Heb 1:1:

When in former times God spoke to our forefathers, he spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets.

Did you notice the alliteration with the fricative sound "f"? Former, forefathers, fragmentary, fashion, prophets. This is absolutely brilliant. In Greek, of course, the alliterated letter is the "p" sound, but there can never be a one-to-one correspondence between Greek and English.

The "f" sound is good enough for me!

 

6:40 AM As usual, Sheba and I sat on the front porch this morning watching the sun come up. The dawn, they say, is clearer than any other time of the day.

So it is spiritually, I think. I'm never on the porch without my Bible at hand. This morning I was led to read one of my favorite Old Testament books. It contains the thoughts of "The Philosopher," a man who reflected deeply on how short and mysterious life is, filled with injustices and contradictions. He concluded that "life is useless." Yet he also advised people to make the best of their brief existence on earth and to enjoy each of God's gifts as long as they could.

This morning I was in Ecclesiastes 11. And here I read what seemed to me to be two contradictory statements. In verse 5 we read that "God made everything." But in verse 6 we read, "Do your planting in the morning and in the evening, too. You never know whether it will all grow well or whether one planting will do better than the other."

God makes everything grow. Remember that.

You must do the planting and harvesting. Remember that, too.

We see here the clear fact of God's sovereign will operating through people to whom He has granted freedom of will. Nehemiah might have put it this way (Neh. 5:16; 6:16):

I put all my energy into the work on this wall.

This work has been accomplished by the help of our God.

God could do everything Himself if He wanted to. But He so designed the world that we must plant and harvest if we are going to eat. There is perhaps no more staggering truth than the fact that a sovereign God has ordained our participation. Note: He doesn't force our participation. God's will is always gladly and willingly done. Greek student, it's of the utmost importance that you understand that God has ordained things in such a way that His own action is coupled with our action. When our will acts in accordance with God's, this is the Christian life. This is a beautiful thing to behold. I've noticed that the happiest people on campus are those who truly want to be there. They delight in their studies. Some are actually having fun. They are free to study, not forced to study. When I was a student in Basel, I took 20 hours of lectures my first semester and 15 my second. None of these hours was required. Students at the University of Basel didn't need extrinsic motivation to attend lectures. That's why there were no quizzes or exams, no term papers or even attendance rolls. I believe that's what's wrong with our American educational system. We never think. Not really. We simply lack the mental discipline to do so. We want someone else to do the thinking for us. We want God to make the plants grow, and He will, of course. But we forget that it is we who must plant and it is we who must harvest. "Do your planting in the morning and in the evening," wrote the Philosopher. "You never know whether it will all grow well or whether one planting will do better than the other."

As you look at your list of things to do today, my friend, don't underestimate the tremendous freedom of the will God has given you. Do not rebel at what He is telling you to do. You and I will be better off by obeying Him than by disobeying Him. Delight to do His will, and you might actually enjoy life despite its injustices and contradictions.

Wednesday, July 17

7:12 PM I'm a huge fan of documentaries. Last night I watched Spirit of the Marathon for the umpteenth time. It reminded me that I still had to make my plane reservations to run the Chicago Marathon on October 13. Just writing those words gives me the goosebumps. Are you kidding me? Me running Chicago? I'm nervous as all get out. But it's good to be a little scared and humbled by the distance. My goal? Finish under the 6 and a half hour time limit. We'll see.

Racing has become a classroom for me. I'm learning my limitations — and maybe even my potential. I am literally running for my life. If my kids bury me early, it won't because I was out of shape. I think there's something noble about people knocking themselves out for the sake of a cheap finisher's medallion. The rules of racing are simple: Get to the starting line and do your dead-level best to finish. Now that running is an integral part of my life, I draw more and more insights from the sport into my essential self. These insights are perhaps less dramatic than those I find in the Bible, but they are no less profound.

One example: Running has taught me that good health is a gift from God, pure and simple. Sure, we think we can engineer a carefully sculptured body. I declare this to be sheer nonsense. If we are in good shape, super. But all the praise goes to the Lord. One day I'll go off the rails health-wise. We all will. Through sickness. Cancer maybe. Who knows? If you and I are doing our best to maintain the temple, that's good enough. We don't live in a reality TV show; we're living real lives. For me, getting in shape was like completing a doctoral program. I absolutely understand why people find other things to do with their time. Yet I think that sometimes we very much underestimate the power of God. I bet we are tougher than we think. Like all human beings, we grow through struggle, failure, and perseverance. And if it turns out that we never really do lose all that unwanted weight or get in perfect shape? We can still love God and follow Him. Because when our physical health tanks (and it will), He will hold us fast.

For me, a marathon is the ultimate metaphor for any major undertaking in life. Does it hurt? Yes. Does it require time, effort, and commitment? Yes. But the payoff is out of this world. It doesn't matter what your goal is. You've got to push out of your self-imposed boundaries and never look back.

I love these quotes from Spirit of the Marathon:

  • Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us the most.

  • When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow or how fast, it will change your life forever.

  • It's a scary distance.

  • That's what the marathon teaches you. It teaches you to keep going.

  • People run the marathon to prove that there's still triumph, that there's still possibility, in their life.

  • The marathon is every man's Everest.

Of all the things I'm thankful for at this stage in my life, it's the connection I have with friends, family, and colleagues who are right there for me anytime I need them. And nothing has connected us and reconnected us more than honesty, than taking responsibility, than seeing our very souls as intertwined and seeing our lives as gifts we can give each other. I am determined by God's grace to transform myself into the kind of man who would put the interests of others over my own. Running taps into all the fears I have about myself. But it also holds the potential to tap into something vastly more important and beautiful. The amount of grace that life requires is unfathomable. Let's all allow the Lord to fill our containers to the brim this week — pushing through exhaustion like a marathoner and wrapping our arms around each other's necks when we have to.

5:50 PM FedEx has been busy at Rosewood Farm.

I'm embarrassed to say it, but I still haven't read my colleague John Hammett's Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches!

6:58 AM With only 5 weeks to go to the fall semester, I'm in full preparation mode. For sure, I've got the butterflies. There are all those imponderables: How will my students do? How will I do? Will the classroom computer screens work? Will everyone get their textbooks in time? Will Jesus come back before I have to teach the book of Revelation? (You can always hope, right?)

Here's what I do know: I've put in the time. I've prepared. I am strong and fit. I cannot control everything. I can, however, expect the best of myself and of my students. And I can remember the point of it all: I love what I do. I just hope I do it in the Lord's strength (and not my own) and for His glory alone.

Off to campus. Stop by the office if you need to see me (or just want to bring me some chocolate cookies).

5:10 AM Isn't the word of God rich? "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Eccl. 9:10). This verse jumped out at me in my Bible time this morning. I've held many jobs in my lifetime. I imagine you have too. When I turned 16, I began working at the local Marine base in Kaneohe as a plumber's assistant. At that time I also began to play the trumpet semi-professionally. We played in officers clubs on O'ahu almost every weekend. At Biola I worked in the school cafeteria as a dishwasher. In California I was also a lifeguard and swimming instructor. A year after I had begun my M.Div. at Talbot, I was asked to teach 11 units of Greek at Biola. That was in 1976. This fall, amazingly enough, marks my 43rd year of teaching. Of course, when Becky and I lived in Basel in the early 1980s, neither of us were allowed to work. So before we left for Switzerland, both of us worked several jobs in order to be financially independent when we arrived in that pleasant city along the Rhine. The Lord gave me 3 jobs: teaching Greek, delivering tax returns to downtown Los Angeles, and two 12-hour shifts every weekend at the local Amway vitamin factory. All the while I was scurrying to finish my master's thesis.

Every one of us has a duty designed for us by God. Some forms of work are labeled "fulltime Christian service." But our work for God in the office or in the kitchen is no less Christian work. I didn't necessarily enjoy working for Amway, but it was necessary to pay our bills while we lived in Europe. This is the very point we need to get hold of. Fulfillment is not to be found in any job in the world. We are sorely mistaken to look for such there. We must be willing to do whatever the Lord requires of us at that moment. Even the pleasantest job in the world (which for me is classroom teaching) is not fulfilling per se. It is a living but it is not living. Life is Christ, pure and simple. I am not happier today as a teacher than I was in the 1960s when I was unplugging stopped up toilets on the Marine base. I serve the same Master, and therefore all my work is Christian work, or can be.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" must be our motto. Each of our abilities is a gift from God. A Christian is therefore characterized by a simple willingness to do whatever God requires of him or her. Even if the work seems at times like drudgery (and, believe me, even teaching and writing can become like that), it is still His work.

"Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."

Tuesday, July 16

8:04 PM Two things to share tonight before I get back to my cookies and éclairs and have a sugar overdose and can't type anymore.

I love this quote from Elizabeth Elliot. Don't you? 

Next thing. Here's a translation I bet many of you have never heard of. It's called the New English Bible (NEB). It's a bit clunky but sometimes it nails it. I was reading Matthew 11 in my Bible time this morning and ran across this rendering.

"Bend your necks to my yoke." Brilliant. It's as simple as that. Faith is neither a mood or a feeling. It's obedience. We put the will of God squarely on our shoulders. To be a Christian in NT times was to be a disciple. There could be no two ways about it. Jesus Christ is Savior because He is Lord. Which means He's the commanding officer in my life. He invites us to come to Him (not to any human because only He can grant a person true rest). We are not on our own to "do our own thing." We must leave self behind, take up our cross, and go with Him. It is always thus. True life comes from being co-yoked with Jesus -- the most meek person who ever lived. Meekness is nothing but the wholehearted yes to the will of the Father. When I put myself gladly at His disposal, and do whatever He is calling me to, then I can know that I am a true disciple.

Do you see a common theme? It's all about Jesus and staying centered IN HIM.

5:18 PM Today I took a 2-hour nap. Happens to the best of us, I know. It was nice. Must have needed it. Did you know that mental fatigue can actually lead to perceived physical fatigue? It's a fact. I must be doing too much blogging :-)

Seeing as it is Amazon Prime Day, I ordered this online today at a very nice discount:

This little contraption is perfect for piriformis syndrome, or so I am told. Piriformis syndrome is caused by a microtrauma to the buttocks that leads to soft tissue inflammation and nerve compression. The PT tells me that it's usually the result of (1) overuse of the piriformis muscle, (2) long-distance running, or (3) direct compression of the muscle (like when you're riding your bike for 5 or 6 hours straight). I think I've been guilty of all three. Actually, I know I've been guilty of all three. I miss my long runs, but I do love to swim, and the weather has been perfect for looking at a little black line on the bottom of a pool while you do lap after lap after lap. There's always a lesson to be learned when you get injured. I suppose for me the lesson I've learned is that my hips and glutes are pathetically weak and need to be strengthened and stretched. I haven't yet given up hope of running pain-free again. But alas, a Type A runner tends to be a little impatient at times. I love being out in nature and can't wait to hear the soft sounds of the crushed gravel under my feet (or bike tires). When I do get back to regular running and biking again, I'll try not to go 10-15 miles at a time. Meantime, I'm self-medicating on chocolate cookies and éclairs. I wish. It's bananas and nuts for me. I'm also trying to stay off WebMD!

P.S. These arrived just now. I hear the new Mounce is excellent. Kudos to all my fellow textbook writers!

9:36 AM This morning, as I was washing my breakfast dishes (I need a motto above my kitchen sink: "Divine services performed here three times daily"), I witnessed a squirrel merrily eating berries off of one of my blueberry bushes in the back yard. I see this everywhere in God's creation: the animal world -- peaceful, worry-free, finding their food provided by the Lord.

All of them look to You expectantly to give them their food at the proper time. What You give them they gather up. When You take away their breath, they fail. But when You breathe into them, they recover.

This saith the Lord about the animal world. And then He says this about you and about me:

Cast all your cares upon Him, for it matters to Him about you.

I believe God sent that little squirrel into my back yard this morning so that He could feed it. I believe He guides the animal world, just as He guides us. But in a deeper sense, only humans can be aware that they are cared for by a Divine Being. And if I trust Him, He will lead me through the fog of life to the island of His peace.

Becky's death, a long and agonizing process, made me eternally grateful to God for plain, ordinary provisions, like having a vegetable garden or being able to bush-hog the pastures. I would find myself grateful for a pile of dishes to wash or a floor to sweep. These were tiny reminders that life goes on even in the midst of heartache and death. So today, when I do little things like wash the breakfast dishes, I'm reminded that there are many people on earth who have no dishes to wash because they didn't have breakfast this morning or any other meal for that matter. What do dishes mean to them? Daily chores are a blessing that we often take for granted. We forget the tremendous blessing that we have the hands and strength to do these humble tasks.

What makes a work for God great?  When we do it willingly and with a heart set on one thing: pleasing God. Without this motivation, nothing is acceptable to Him. With it, everything is.

8:28 AM This is a fascinating lecture from Basel on language acquisition. It's called "How Do We Learn to Speak?"