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:
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 to 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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
This is followed by what I think is a really profound conclusion. Please read it carefully and thoughtfully.
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):
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!
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 email@example.com 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):
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:
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):
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:
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.
This saith the Lord about the animal world. And then He says this about you and about me:
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?"
Apart from its evolutionary presuppositions, it makes several good points:
This is just my opinion, but if you really want to learn how to read, understand, and translate your Greek New Testament, one of the best things you can do is to acquire a speaking knowledge of a modern foreign language. German would be a good place to start if only because it is so widely used in the theological world. You can also use it should you want to get your doctorate in a German-speaking university. Its grammar, especially its noun system, is very similar to that of Greek. And you already know some basic German vocabulary: Auto, Mutter, Buch, Vater, Angst, Kaput, Festschrift, Zeitgeist, etc. But any language will do. You want to get a feel for how translation works. At least it's helped me!
6:30 AM Every field has its own jargon -- its own specialized vocabulary. Running is no exception. A "streaker" is not what you think it is. Streaking simply means you're on a running "streak." "Chicked" is used when you're a male and are passed by a female runner. To "bonk" means you've run out of energy in the middle of a race. A "DNF" means you didn't finished a race you started. My favorite is LSD, maybe because it's something I'm famous for (Long Slow Distance).
I've not only been chicked during a race but strollered and dogged.
What about biblical studies? Do we use any jargon? Oh my word! Here's a sampling of our in-house lingo:
Weltanschauung. After all, why say "world view" when you can impress people with your German?
Sitz im Leben. You Gospel students know what this one means. The life of Christ has 3 of these "settings in life": the setting of life of Jesus, the setting in life of the early church, and the setting in life of the author of the Gospel you're reading. (I personally prefer Das Sitz im Leben Jesu, das Sitz im Leben der Urgemeinde, and das Sitz im Leben des Verfassers. But that's only because I'm a pedant.)
Heilsgeschichte. This literally means "holy history" and refers to the fact that our Gospels are theological biographies. Of course, ask any person on the street in Berlin what this word means, and they'll look at you like you have 10 heads. That's because, unfortunately, they're not an insider like you are.
LTT. Got you on this one, didn't I? For several years now there's been an attempt to replace "Pastoral Epistles" with the acronym LTT -- Letters to Timothy and Titus. After all, neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors. The attempt has met with abject failure. We scholars love our traditions too much to give up on this one.
First Testament. This one hasn't caught on either, but it's an attempt to replace "Old Testament" or "Hebrew Bible."
B.C.E. I grew up using B.C. ("Before Christ"). Shame on me. The po-mo term is "Before Common Era."
Antilegomena. In Greek this means "spoken against." Some of our early church fathers used the term to describe certain NT books whose canonicity was not universally accepted at first (Hebrews, James, Revelation, etc.).
Iconoclasm. Use this term (1) if you believe that images, paintings, and statues in your church lead to idol worship and should be destroyed or (2) if you just want to impress your friends.
Jeremiad. I'm pretty much an expert at this. It means to grip a lot about life's hardships. The connection with the OT prophet Jeremiah should be obvious.
Pentateuch. The first 5 books of the Bible. But you probably knew that already.
Blessed. God-ordained luck. Best pronounced as two syllables: Bless-ed.
Septuagint. This is a word no one knows how to pronounce. I kid you not. It refers to the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT.
Bauer. The standard NT Greek lexicon. Also affectionately known as BDAG.
Eucharist. Why call it the "Lord's Supper" when you can use this fancy term?
Hypostatic Union. Don't ask.
Just. Required in every sentence during prayer, sometimes more than once in a sentence.
Tzitzit. This is my favorite. Some scholars think that Jesus wore the tzitzit -- fringed garments.
Blah blah blah. What you say when you run out of examples in your list of Christian jargon.
So there you have it: Christian-eze 101!
What jargon did I miss?
What's your favorite example?
Monday, July 15
5:20 PM Today could not have been any more perfect -- for anything but running. After an hour workout at the YMCA, I decided to hit my favorite running trail, determined to get in 5 miles. I stopped after 3. I smiled big. Good boy, Dave. You're finally learning how to listen to your body. I was mentally and physically cooked, so much so that I lazed in the cool water of the county pool for the next 2 hours. It helped. My periformis muscle still hurts. Oh well. There are worse things in life than aches and pains. Like not exercising at all. Friend, continue to live life fully -- however you define that. For me, that means stop playing the blame game, especially with God. Accept the good and the bad, the valleys as well as the peaks. Keep taking risks. Most of all, stop seeking joy other than in Jesus. Nothing external can give you the joy that only He can give. Jesus became what God hates most (sin) so that we could become what God loves most (His children). He's the Great Provider of all that we need. I'm celebrating that fact tonight.
8:42 AM Call me crazy, but I don't think Greek is all that hard. That said, it does take lots of work to master the language. If you're just starting to learn Greek this semester, here are some tips:
1) Understand (I mean, really understand) that discipline is the key. It's like running a marathon. (Interestingly, a marathon has 26 miles and my textbook has 26 chapters. Strange coincidence!) You run one mile at a time. "Run the mile you're in" is a mantra many of us use when we're trying to complete a marathon. Really, it's the only way to succeed.
2) Stay away from Google. Sure, there are zillions of bells and whistles you can use/consult/become addicted to as you study Greek. My advice, however, is to stick with your basic grammar book.
3) Reach out. This isn't a race you can necessarily win alone. I offer tutoring to any student who requests it. Sometimes we just need a little boost to get us over the next speed bump. Let the people you trust the most lend you a helping hand. An elder at your church, for example, will (or should!) know Greek or at least enough of the language to guide you through the deep waters.
4) Keep your eye on the prize. Say to yourself, "In 9 months I'll be reading 1 John in Greek," and believe it. Goal setting is a very powerful thing.
5) Don't obsess. There's more to life than Greek. Much more. Don't spend all your time studying your textbook. Get out and distract yourself. And please, don't be so doomsday about everything. If you do poorly on one quiz, promise yourself you'll do better the next time. (In my classes we drop the two lowest quizzes each semester. Everyone is going to blow it at least once.)
6) Finally, persist. Be glad you're able to take Greek. One day you'll thank me!
8:25 AM Want to win a copy of They Will Run and Not Grow Weary? Just send me an email telling me briefly what running has meant in your life. If I get several emails, I'll pick the winner tomorrow randomly. Be sure to include your snail mail address.
7:55 AM In one month our new semester will begin. I've got 3 classes this fall: NT 2, Greek 1, and Advanced Greek Grammar. I could say a lot about all three. I recall how God used my classes in seminary to form me. The Bible became milk and then strong meat. It became a lamp to guide me through dark places and honey to my lips. I could say much more about the Bible and the benefits of reading it. But it is by serving the Lord that we develop our Christian muscles. The important thing is to show our love for the Lord not only with our lips but in our lives by giving ourselves to others in acts of service in His name.
A sort of odd thing that I do in my NT 2 class is to require what I call "Towel and Basin Ministries." The syllabus states it this way:
All Christians are called by God to serve others in this way. Without service there is no possibility of being conformed into the image of His Son. Service is one of the great means by which Jesus invites us to honor Him. It is also the means by which He pours Himself into our lives. Of course, we'll also study a billion other things about the New Testament. We'll review the authorship and date, the structure and contents, of each New Testament epistle. But the important thing is to show our gratitude to the Lord by serving Him. In due course everything I've taught my students in NT 2 will pass away. But the principle of service will not. Close friendships often develop as the Scriptures are studied and applied in this way. I'm always fascinated to see what kinds of ministries my students come up with. They become, in short, "the church in the world." Such living out of the Gospel can be a great learning tool, and I trust and pray that such will be the case in the upcoming semester.
Sunday, July 14
5:50 PM I'm back from up north. First off, I want to thank the National Park Service. I left Antietam and Gettysburg impressed again with the work they do to preserve and make accessible the many battlefields I've visited in the course of my life. The cloudless July sky promised me days of relentless sun, but better clear and hot than rainy and cold. Fields of soy beans and corn greeted me wherever I went. Harley-Davidsons mingled with Japanese tourists by the hundreds. But nothing can detract from just "being there." I can almost imagine what it must have looked like in 1862 and 1863 when these battles took place. For obvious reasons, the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg caught my attention like no other venue.
Today it is a battlefield museum, dedicated to telling the story of what medicine was like in the 1860s. Second on my list would be the movie shown in the Gettysburg Visitors' Center, narrated by Morgan Freeman. It's a reminder that there are so many reasons to explore these battlefields, and so many ways to do it, including on horseback. On my drive home I went to church in Gordonsville, VA -- another historic town. History buffs like me are very good at providing people with Too Much Information (TMI), so I'll forego posting any more of the dozens or so photos I took. Except this one, of course, for obvious reasons (see my post from Thursday).
Well, that will have to do for now. I am in love with history, always have been, always will be. One of my favorite sayings is, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts" (Mark Twain).
Where's the best place you've ever traveled to?
Where would you go if you could?
Friday, July 12
6:20 AM Well, Wanderlust has gotten the better of me again, but before heading out let's have some fun. The Car Talk website has a really cool list of texting abbreviations used by seasoned citizens. A sampling:
Which got me to thinking. Maybe we Greek teachers need our own terms. Here are just a few I came up with this morning:
Okay, enough, right? So it's back on the road for me. To me, living means (among other things) expanding your mind and perspective by traveling. On any trip there are a million things that grab your attention. I've been to Sharpsburg and Gettysburg a gazillion times but there are still a gazillion things I haven't seen or done. I try to travel with an openness to people and experiences. That's one reason I like to stay at Airbnbs. It's amazing how we human beings are alike even though we live in different states or have different backgrounds. As you leave home, you leave the usual and enter the world of the new. It's subtle, but you know when you've left your normal life behind. Suffice it to say, we all need to get away from time to time. I've never visited Thailand but I'd like to. I've never eaten a fried bug but I'd find that interesting. I still want to climb to the top of Mount Elbert (the highest 14er in the Rockies). Etc., etc., etc. This weekend is all about the 1860s. My goal is to not overdo things, meet nice people, soak up all the history, and return home refreshed. I plan on spending a lot of time with the Lord. In the moments when I think I am most alone I don't feel lonely. I'm a fervent believer in the promise of the Great Commission: Jesus is with me daily, helping me to be and do everything God created me to be and do. "A student who is fully trained will become just like their teacher" (Luke 6:40). As we immerse ourselves in the life of Rabbi Jesus, we are taking an intentional step toward being transformed. Amen.
Thanks for following along with me on this journey. Next month: Hawaii, if the good Lord wills!!!
Thursday, July 11
5:10 PM I've booked my Airbnb rooms for the trip, one in Keedysville on the outskirts of Sharpsburg, MD and the other in a small town called Zora, PA about 20 minutes south of the Gettysburg battlefield -- Zora having a single restaurant but one that boasts "fall off the bone ribs." Hooker moved his I Corps through the little town of Keedysville on the morning of Sept. 15, 1862 and thence to the banks of Antietam Creek. Fighting would soon take place on a farm owned by John Miller. Today we know it as the Cornfield, a site that (tragically) earned the right of capitalization. I haven't done a great deal with my family tree, but I have been able to trace my ancestry on my father's side to a "J. Miller family who settled along the banks of the Antietam in western Maryland." The Miller family had emigrated from Germany and, no doubt, were German Pacifists. They may have even attended the nearby Dunker Church. Becky and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at the Piper Farm in Sharpsburg near the famous Sunken Road. My room in Zora is near Taneytown, MD, and from there I hope to be able to locate Meade's HQ on the night before the battle of Gettysburg. I'm told it's located just north of the town on Route 94. It was here that Meade received the report of John Reynolds' death and decided to push the army north to Gettysburg rather than fight it out on the Pipe Creek line. If all goes according to plan, I hope to do most of my sightseeing on bike.
11:55 AM Just took my Sheltie for a walk on the farm. Nobody enjoyed it (*sarcasm*). After all, the sky is blue, the grass is green, the temp is perfect, and there's a cool breeze blowing. Sorry, folks, but somebody has to enjoy farm life, and it might just as well be me.
11:28 AM Packing for a trip to the Antietam and Gettysburg Battlefield Parks. This time I hope to bike them. I am a huuuuge history buff. So I'm taking these along for the ride.
George Meade was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Union Army and deserves far more credit for the Federal victory at G-Burg than he's been given. Antietam was the war's single bloodiest battle. And Guelzo's book on Gettysburg has never been surpassed.
Looks like nice weather. I plan to use country roads there and back. So much history to enjoy and learn from!
7:30 AM Greek 1 is about to start again -- which means it's time to leap over those grammatical hurdles again! One of the tallest is called grammatical gender. Who needs it??!! Well, you do if you're going to read Greek. But you have to distinguish between natural gender and grammatical gender. Natural gender is, well, simply the gender of a person or object. Grammatical gender doesn't necessarily match with the natural gender of the person or object being described. English, I'm told, was once a gendered language, but all that disappeared in Middle English. Trying to learn a gendered language like Koine Greek can be tricky. The key is to memorize the article the with the noun. Of course, some endings are normally one gender or the other (in Spanish, nouns ending in -a are usually feminine in gender). But it's best not to guess. Most of the time you'll find gender not very intuitive, unfortunately. Classic example: The word for "manliness" is actually feminine in German, Latin, and Spanish. Some linguists believe that scrapping gendered articles is the wave of the future. When I was studying in German-speaking Basel, we students were usually addressed by the masculine Sehr geehrte Studenten. Then I noticed some profs using Sehr geehrte Studenten (masculine) und Studentinnin (feminine). Today I'm told the trend is to use the more-neutral sounding Studierende ("those who study"). I sometimes "cheated" when speaking German by using de instead of der, die, das. Few cared. After all, de is widely used in Low German.
If you've ever struggled with grammatical gender in German, you might find this video helpful. But don't be too hard on yourself. Even Germans get gender wrong occasionally!
6:36 AM I think I'll order this for my car.
Studies show that people who walk from their sofa to their refrigerator are 80 percent more likely to begin exercising than those who don't. (I just made that up. But it sounds good.)
Wednesday, July 10
8:04 PM I promise you: I will never take good health for granted again. I actually just had a long talk with a good "friend" of mine (me).
Well, I guess I sure told HIM!
You know I like to take risks. I was, however, thrown off a bit by my recent bout with prostatitis, as well as that silly old periformis muscle that's pressing down on my sciatic nerve in my right glute. The PT told me to get my glutes stronger, and I'm working on that. I realize I'm the type of person to take myself way too seriously at times. But I want you to know that I'm absolutely and fully committed to being a healthy and long-lasting runner. If this means less marathons per year (say 1 or 2 instead of 5), so be it. If this means I need to cut way back on my racing goals, I'm good. I just have to be willing to back off when I feel I need to. Most of my current problems are caused simply by having too many birthdays. But the best thing you can do as you age is keep moving. For me, I think the key is going to change my running form. The important thing is to become smarter the older I get. Right now I'm making it a goal to plan how many workouts of each type I want to get in during the week and then I do whatever feels good that day. Or something like that.
Okay. I'll stop. Even I'm falling asleep.
7:04 PM Travel note: Lord willing, I'll be speaking at Liberty University on Friday, Sept. 20. I'll be in Ben Laird's Greek class at noon and then Jill Ross's Greek class at 3:15. Finally, I'm slated to give a lecture in Science Hall from 6:30-8:00 pm, sponsored by the university's linguistics club. My topic is, "Why Bible Students Should Be the Best Linguists Out There." All fools and philosophers are welcome!
6:45 PM "After you've gone where I've sent you, do everything you can to participate in the work of training the people from every nation to follow me in obedience and love, immersing them in the name of the Triune God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And don't ever forget that I am with you each and every day, until the very end of the age." The people of God have a unique and beautiful ministry in this world. "To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God's love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love" (David Bosch). Then send us, Lord. Send every son and daughter of Yours. Cause us to join You in this great and glorious mission. As You sent the Son, we are now the Sent.
It's a lovely thing to watch men and women working together for something bigger than themselves, regardless of their location or their vocation.
Tuesday, July 9
9:22 AM Guess what you can get on sale at B & H Academic!
Chuck Quarles is one of the finest exegetes you will ever read.
8:42 AM Church websites seem to always have a button you can press for "Giving." When I clicked on this one this morning I had a delightful surprise. Rather than talking about financial offerings, it emphasized that every member of the church has a spiritual "gift" to give to the body. Friends, there is a specific way God chooses to use every believer. He knows just what He wants to accomplish through the gift He's given you. Quite frankly, that should scare a lot of us. Paul explains it like this: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7). Do I know what that ministry is? Am I doing it?
There's been a lot of online discussion lately about whether or not you should get a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. So few jobs. So few opportunities. Such a major commitment of time and money. Are you sure you want to do this?
Big shock: If God calls you do to something, He will take care of the place of service. I wouldn't accept doctoral students unless I believed that. If you're not sure, ask yourself: What does it seem that God has predisposed me toward? Do I love to teach? Do I really and truly enjoy research and writing? As in: Nerd Alert. Then, as God begins to move you in a certain direction, obey. Go with it. It's God's responsibility to gift you. It's yours to show yourself obedient. God has spoken clearly on this matter (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Since the Spirit has gifted you, the Lord will appoint you to a place where you can exercise that gift, and the Father will determine the results of your service. Certainly you're taking a big risk. But all of life is like that. Christianity is an adventure. If it wasn't, we wouldn't need faith.
Believer, God has equipped you to love, to serve, to minister to others. Spend time with the Spirit today. Ask Him to point you in the right direction. If you're already using His gift to serve others, thank Him for it. There is hardly anything more rewarding in this world.
Monday, July 8
8:34 PM In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Andrew Wilson offers an analogy to help us think biblically about what is involved in the "filling of the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). He suggests it's misguided for us to think of being "filled" in terms of a liquid like water filling a glass. Such an analogy raises all kinds of questions: "Can the Spirit be spilled?" "Are Christians capable of leaking?" Instead, he says we are to think of being filled with air or wind -- like a bagpipe or a trumpet. A good analogy is that of a sailboat, he writes. A sailboat "requires a power beyond itself (the wind) to go anywhere."
Sailors know that they must rely completely on an external force to get them anywhere. And so it is in the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is needed if God is to move us from where we are to where we ought to be. The same metaphor is found in Heb. 6:1. What is normally rendered as "Let us press on to maturity" is rendered "Let us continue to be carried along to maturity" in the ISV because the latter is what the Greek seems to be saying. The language is one of metaphor. We might paraphrase the verse as follows: "Let us raise our sails as it were and be moved along to maturity in the Christian life by the Holy Spirit of God." The same Greek verb (phero) is also found in the passive voice in 2 Pet. 1:21: "holy men of God spoke as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit." (See my discussion here.)
I needed this reminder today. There are moments in my life when I feel I am being led and guided by the Holy Spirit, but there are also a lot of times when I try to move the boat along in my own strength. There are moments of grace and beauty, but there are also moments of self-reliance and do-it-yourself living. I've sailed enough to know that a sailboat can't go anywhere without someone raising the sails. I like the idea of the Holy Spirit moving me along to maturity. I wish my life was like that all the time. Needless to say, it can be. Thank God for His Spirit. Thank God we aren't reliant on our own strength to make progress in holiness. The analogy of Eph. 5:18 stuns me, and reminds me once again that just when I think I'm making headway under my own power, I'm not. If I'm making any progress in this thing we call the Christian life, it's because I'm living the miraculous, bright, beautiful stuff of the Spirit/Wind/Breath of God.
8:15 AM "For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."
Is this really talking about me? About damaged goods?
Being a kid in Hawaii, I just knew I wanted to be a musician when I grew up. I was certain that the only talent I had was playing the trumpet. I began to study music assiduously at the University of Hawaii after graduating from high school. Then I ended up at Biola. I had lost all vision of becoming a trumpet player. All I wanted to do was study the Bible. And Biola was the closest Christian university to my home in Kailua. I dragged my feet when it came to taking the two years of required Greek. Eventually I passed those courses and was hired to teach Classical and Koine Greek at Biola. I wondered out loud, Was I to become a professor? If so, I needed to find a good doctoral program. When I began working on my D. Theol. in Basel I could finally begin to see my future unfolding. I assumed I would be teaching at Biola for my entire career. But in 1998 God had other plans. Still today, it shocks me to recall the goodness of God in allowing us to move to North Carolina. My day to day work fits me just about perfectly. There seems to be the perfect balance between classroom teaching, academic writing, and personal mentoring. Steve Jobs once said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking backwards." Today I'm able to look back and see how God was working every detail in my life into something good. What I once considered devastating detours I now see as necessary steps God was taking to get me to where I need to be. What I had to learn is that what I saw as tragedies God sees as future triumphs. Even when cancer and death came knocking on our door, Becky and I opened it and said, "You, Jesus, are the resurrection and the life. Even though we die, we will live" (John 11:25).
I imagine that some of you reading my blog this morning are going through some gut-wrenching circumstance, wondering if you're tough enough to go on. I never, ever want to go through a journey as tough as our cancer journey again, but as we travelled through that dark valley, as we pressed into Jesus, our priorities began to change and our passion and love for people intensified. Now that Becky is gone, I have more time than ever to learn to pray and be with God. And the more time I spend with Papa, the more He renovates my life. It was in the pit that God prepared Joseph to take his place as a leader. Believer, you might right now be in that pit. Remember that God is using your messy circumstances to transform you into a masterpiece of His grace. If we're honest and tender with ourselves, our lives are a testimony to God's ability to turn our defeats into victories.
I went for a long walk recently. I needed to pour out before God my daddy hurts, the father wounds I've experienced all my life. By an act of faith, I started rehearsing in my mind the Gospel -- that Jesus loves me just the way I am, cares for me, was wounded for me, experienced the cross on my behalf, and now lives in my heart to live His life through me. I realized that wallowing in self-pity only makes things worse by magnifying the pain instead of magnifying what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Listen to what Paul writes in Eph. 1:5-6: "God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is exactly what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. And so we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son." God the Papa has adopted me, which means that everything Jesus has I now have because I belong to Jesus, the Father's Beloved Son.
Every once in a while, the bottom drops out in our lives. That's just the way life is. No one is exempt. Let me encourage you. No one else may see the behind-the-scenes work Jesus is doing through you, but your Father sees. He's cheering you on. The past doesn't have to define you. Papa is inviting you into a life of continual transformation. Because you are His child, you are nothing less than His masterpiece.
Final reminder: Take time today to be with people who make your heart smile. We never know what's around the corner, so live in the present. Soak it up. Enjoy every good gift Papa is giving you today.
Sunday, July 7
1:54 PM In 1978, Becky and I spent 3 months in West Germany with Greater Europe Mission. We were based at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse in Seeheim. I'll never forget arriving at the gates of the Bible school and seeing the institution's motto. In German, just above the iron gates, were these words from Col. 2:3:
I was reminded of that today while listening to an excellent message on Colossians.
Look at the verse again, believer. I hope you understand just how many opportunities Jesus has given you to hear from Him directly in His word. We never lack God's authentic voice. While He does use other modes of communication (such as blogs and books and sermons), nothing can ever replace the written word of God. In it God has made it nearly impossible not to see and hear Jesus. This side of heaven, nothing is sweeter than sipping from the Living Water that Jesus promises to anyone who is thirsty. He alone is the treasury of wisdom and knowledge. Yes, listen to your teachers and counselors. But ask the Spirit Himself to show you fresh truth directly out of God's word. God met me this morning in a church building through His spokesman. Amen for that. But the other 6 days of the week the word itself is His megaphone. (Even on Sunday that's true.)
Incidentally, one of the songs we sang today was "In Christ Alone."
I can't tell you how many times Becky and I stood, side by side, arm in arm, singing the words "Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I'll stand," knowing full well that Becky's days on earth were numbered. Believer, sometimes the blessings of life can only come through loss. Of course, you never choose the loss, but you wouldn't miss the comfort of God that only comes when we're in the dark. The breaking, the sorrow, is painful, but without it we'd never stand up straight and strong. Simply put, the Spirit ministers peace when we most need it, not a moment sooner. I think God knew how hard it would be for me to live without Becky, but He also knew the sweet communion we'd experience as a result of that loss.
Yesterday and today I've been on a personal retreat, studying what the Bible has to say about taming the tongue, focusing mostly on the book of James. Recently someone very close to me rebuked me for something I had said. Matthew Henry once noted, "See what a mercy it is to be under the restraints of an awakened conscience. Faithful are the wounds, and kind are the bonds, of that friend, for by them the soul is kept from perishing eternally." Believers, imagine life without friends like that. Humility is looking to God in heaven through tears and thanking Him for the liberty that's coming. I'd rather hear the Spirit's convicting voice than not to hear His voice at all. He speaks, and you know what to do. I'm such a talker. Literally. But I need to do more listening. The misuse of the tongue is a sin we can't ignore. Do you and I worship God with our lips? Ask Him to reveal any ways you might have distorted the truth. Pray for His incense to burn in your heart and on your tongue. With His help, I'll do the same.
8:45 AM I watched a wonderful movie last night on Amazon Prime. It wasn't a Christian film. In fact, it was secular, as secular as can be. Yet it oozed excellence. It's tempting sometimes to read the Bible as though it is against the arts. I doubt that this is the case. I am an artist. I am a musician. So are many of you. A work of art can be a doxology in itself. God is interested in beauty, is He not? Come with me to the beaches of Hawaii, or to the Alps above Zermatt, or to Lake Tana in Ethiopia, or to my farm. God made creation to be beautiful. What makes art "Christian" is not necessarily the fact that it deals with Christian truth. The works of art in the Louvre should be to the praise of Christ. Art is something to be enjoyed per se, like the movie I enjoyed last night. Its cinematography, its musical score, its acting -- all portrayed the kind of excellence that can only reflect the hand of a Creator God. Anything creative has value because God is the Creator. When I drew these pictures I didn't do so in order to make a theological point.
I just happen to enjoy drawing faces.
If an artist's technical excellence is high, he or she is to be acknowledged for this even though they might not even have a Christian worldview.
Even better is when we bring our art under the judgment of Christ. Have I done this to glorify God? Is it the best work I am capable of? And yes, is there a message, no matter how subtle, that my art is conveying? If so, am I conveying that truth accurately? My point is that Christian art is not always art that deals openly with Christian truth. I enjoy the sound of the wind rustling in the trees not because wind is a religious object but because of its intrinsic sonorous beauty. Yet doesn't the wind, and the sky, and the entire earth raise our eyes toward heaven, toward the One who created all this?
The Christian life is to be a thing of truth but also a thing of beauty. My goal, in the years I have left on this earth, is to allow God to use my broken life to be a thing of beauty, a work of art that He can use for His purposes.
Saturday, July 6
10:08 PM The most superb of Dupré's works. I am dissolving into tears as I listen to this lovely melody.
I was born in the wrong era and in the wrong place. Organ music definitely brings me to my knees. Thank you, Lord, from the bottom of my heart.
9:24 PM Francis Schaeffer: "If I have a conversation with a theological liberal, I hope he'll take from it two equally strong impressions. One, I really disagree with him. Two, I really care about him."
That is really good.
12:44 PM From my daughter's garden. Thank you!
8:48 AM Look for this!
8:42 AM Here's mom sharing her daughter's book with our Ethiopian server in Dallas. Lovely.
8:40 AM Why you should consider having communion every week.
8:34 AM Every good gift is from above! When the aspirin works, the Lord is the one who made it work. When the surgery is successful, the Lord is the one who saw to it. All healing is ultimately spiritual healing. When I approached my doctor last week with my symptoms, she put me on an antibiotic, but I did not approach her without also approaching God. I should never cease to give thanks to the one who gives me all things!
Friday, July 5
6:10 PM Had a wonderful time in Dallas with mom and dad. Also happy to tell you that my 10K yesterday went extremely well. It was worth all the sweat. Do not be deceived. Dallas is HOT in July.
I leave you with four words from my Bible study this morning from James 5.
SHA-ZAH-YUM! Man, I needed those words. Why is it that when I suffer I seem to do anything but pray? And why is it when I'm enjoying ease I seem to do anything but give God the glory? Prayer and praise are always appropriate. To pray is to acknowledge God's sovereignty over my suffering. To praise is to acknowledge that He is the ultimate source of my gladness. Either way, my whole life is to be lived in His presence, whether sorrowful or joyful. Jesus is teaching me not to fixate on tomorrow's fears or today's joys but on His grace and presence. He's the only one worthy of my entire life's surrender. Believe that today, my friend. The same door flung wide open for your petitions is flung wide open for your praises -- petitions in times of difficulty, praises in times of well-being. Practice it!
Tuesday, July 2
6:10 AM Happy Fourth of July week, everybody. Thank you to all who have faithfully and lovingly run alongside me in this journey and encouraged me to keep lifting my hands in praise to God. Thank you for helping me to see and know Jesus through your words, hearts, and hope-filled lives. You fuel me to keep writing. May God remain the fire in your soul and the wind in your sails!
Monday, July 1
4:54 PM I leave tomorrow to spend several days with mom and dad in Texas. How do I define a relationship?
Relationship = Time + Words
If we're not spending time with our loved ones, and if we're not regularly communicating with them, we may call it a relationship but it's anything but a relationship. Take the time to seek and pray about your relationships. Ask God to deepen them if they've become distant and stale. What I've learned over the years is that when it comes to practically anything in life, quality counts as much as quantity does. You don't need tons of relationships but you do need a few quality ones. And remember: with each other, we can be ourselves -- the good, the silly, the ugly, everything.
8:28 AM Here are two recent reviews of Dirk Jongkind's new intro to the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. I think you might need to read both of them to get a balanced perspective. One is by William Varner. The other is by James Snapp.
Varner's review is largely complimentary. Snapp's is somewhat the opposite. Varner's is brief. Snapp's is a bit more detailed (and nuanced). Having written not a few book reviews in my lifetime, I can say that trying to evaluate the work of a fellow scholar is a thankless task. So I want to start by saying thanks to both Will and James for their essays. I am no specialist in New Testament textual criticism, and I have no expertise whatsoever in the method behind the THGNT. Textual criticism is a field into which I have trespassed, though I am not the only one to have done so, of course. The topic has attracted an extensive literature, and I've only been able to read some of it. In some circles, the topic is even explosive. Yet I have persevered in publishing in the field, mainly because I'm interested in producing (I hope) a perhaps more balanced approach between Alexandrian Priorists on the one hand and Byzantine Priorists on the other. I've even offered to the reading public a brief primer on the topic -- a rather rough-hewn work of an ordinary New Testament teacher who is struggling to think Christianly and logically about the text of the New Testament. Like perhaps some of you, I feel myself caught in the painful tension between the two camps.
What, then, is my opinion of Dirk's book? Well, I wrote a positive endorsement of it, so that should tell you something. The THGNT fairly cried out for an explanation of its existence, and Dirk's book meets this need nicely. The book is a combination of practical suggestions and thoughtful meditations on issues such as evaluating variants and reading an apparatus. However, at the end of the day, I'm with Snapp: the THGNT leaves far too many questions to be very helpful as a basic guide to textual criticism. And, unlike Varner, I do not recommend that my students purchase it since they don't have the luxury of buying more than one edition of the Greek New Testament. (The textual apparatus in the THGNT is completely inadequate, in my opinion, for anyone intent on doing serious work in the text, as Snapp has noted. I much prefer UBS or NA.) The one good thing I hope ensues from the debate over the THGNT is a renewed distinction between textual criticism as a science and one's own reflections on the topic. Whereas the latter may have changed, the former has not. Thankfully, there are now many authoritative books and essays on this subject, many of them by evangelicals. One even hears more and more appreciative words spoken about this or that Byzantine reading. However, those who perceive a shift in the scholarly guild's stance on the Byzantine text would be wrong. With very few exceptions, we still live a world dominated by Alexandrian Priority.
Again, I would like to thank both essayists for their reviews. Each took time from I'm sure a very busy schedule to put their thoughts down in writing. I am also extremely grateful to Dirk Jongkind for the immense time and energy he invested in making his book available to the public. I do hope that it will stimulate a new generation of Christian students to think seriously about some of the big exegetical issues of our day.
6:56 AM My Bible reading this morning was in Galatians 6. Paul talks about his "scars." A scar is a reminder of the body's ability to heal itself. Scars are a testament to survival. Your scars each tell a story. Wear them with pride. It's hard to think of scars as a blessing. Paul says we are clay pots. We are called to display the glory of Another. We each hold a priceless treasure. Who is watching you today? Do they see Jesus in all the chips and cracks? Do they see the inside of the box? The more holes we have, the more the light can shine through. Believe that today. In this scar-filled world, you are loved by an amazing God. He will take of all those who call upon His name. Today, as I continue to struggle with my scars, I know that God hears my cries for help and will sustain me. He gives me grace to endure and hope to persevere. In the meantime, I will serve Him as best as I can and always give Him the glory. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but there is nothing better than starting your day by focusing on what you have and not on what you lack.
Sunday, June 30
6:06 PM Two things to share before Sheba and I go for a walk tonight:
1) Just got the results for yesterday's half marathon. I came in 87 out of 109 runners. At 67 I was by far the oldest man out on the course. I'm happy with my 87th place result. I averaged a 10:53 min./mile pace, which is about all I could handle in the heat. Still, I came in under 3 hours, which was my goal. Right now I'm a bit stiff and sore, mainly because I forgot to use my Vaseline. But it was worth every mile. Running gives me physical exercise but it does so much more than that. It does something good for one's mental well-being as well. In plain English, it reminds you that you can. That's important, because I have one more marathon this year, the BIG CHICAGO. I'm going to try really hard not to overdo it. I'll be sensible, work hard, and then do my best on race day. I am learning to listen to my body over everything else -- everything. I'm learning to pay attention to the little aches and pains and baby myself.
2) I have a 10K race planned for this coming Wednesday in Dallas. I've run this race 3 years in a row and I'm feeling nostalgic. Do you see a common theme? It's all about running the race of life with endurance. Elite runners share the same doubts and fears that plague amateur runners. We all want to make wise choices, and one of the most important choices we can make is to accept the inevitable movement from the best there is to the best we can be. Bill Rodgers won Boston 4 times and is content with shorter races today. Rather than trying to come in first place in a race he tries to place in the top three for the age awards. The deeper truth about running is that you can't change your fate, only accept it. When you can accept that fact into your daily life, you are well on your way to becoming the person you want to be, in every area of your life.
That's it. Simple, basic, and (I know) repetitive. But I enjoy sharing my thoughts with you. Thanks for listening.
4:48 PM The future of eimi ("I am") is in the middle voice. "I'll be personally" nails it!
11:50 AM I love taking exotic vacations overseas. But I also love staycations. I took one this weekend to the quaint little town of Farmville, VA. I stayed in a historic hotel and visited historic Longwood University and window-shopped and attended early church service today. I also ran in the Night Train 50K/Half Marathon last night. Since it was 101 degrees at race time, I opted for the shorter distance. I think I'm happiest when I'm outdoors in God's creation. This afternoon I'll return to our public pool to get in some laps. It's not a lap pool by the way. You're swimming surrounded by water revelers and screaming kids but you make it happen anyway. After teaching for 6 weeks I needed to cut myself a break. An MRI revealed arthritis in my neck, and a strained periformis muscle in my glutes has been causing foot numbness. Times like this require waiting on the Lord (and a good physical therapist). I'd like to be able to say to you that I always wait patiently but I don't. "Blessed is the one who waits" (Dan. 12:12). Waits in quiet confidence. Waits in silent hope. Throughout this period I've been realizing how God is weaving a tapestry through all the events of my life. There's an old German proverb that says, "Beginne zu weben, und Gott wird dir die Faden geben" ("Begin to weave, and God will give you the thread"). In my case, I believe God is dangling the thread in front of me and telling me to do something with it. He's telling me that while I'm waiting I can use my struggles and my experiences for good -- which usually means helping somebody else. Meanwhile, I try and wait with confident patience and faith, keeping my eyes fixed squarely on God.
So this weekend I went out of town though I didn't really go out of town very far. One of the best things about traveling is that you get to run in new places. Such was not the case this weekend. The High Bridge Trail and I are old friends. I know every square inch of the thing. Regardless, getting out of town (even if it's close by) helps me to reevaluate what I like and what I don't like and what I'd like to change in my life. Everything and nothing.
This coming week: Dallas. Woohoo!!! Real barbeque!!! Against such there is no law.
P.S. Why my room had two beds, I have no idea. One of them I did make good use of, that's for sure.
Saturday, June 29
10:35 AM Love riding surfboards ... and horses ... and tractors ... and ride mowers.
6:12 AM Congratulations to my New Testament colleague and friend Miguel Echavarría on the publication of his new book.
The Preface concludes with these words:
5:06 AM Beware the "affirmed event." As historians of the Bible, we can't deal directly with the events themselves. We deal with statements about those events. The "ephemeral event" is the event as it actually happened. The "affirmed event" is the affirmation about the event. Scholars can be wrong about the "affirmed event." They tell us that Paul could not have authored Hebrews because of 2:3-4. But if the letter began "Paul the apostle to the Hebrews" all of us would come up with a perfectly satisfying explanation for those verses in accordance with Pauline authorship, just as we do with the data in the Pastoral Epistles that seem to contradict Pauline authorship. Hebrews is formally anonymous. Anonymity means that the author's name was unwritten, not that it was unknown. Read chapter 13 and you will see that the readers knew exactly who the author was. Regrettably, once a consensus has been reached -- Paul could not have authored Hebrews -- it becomes the "affirmed event." It is the event as it is remembered but not necessarily as it happened. Regrettably, once an affirmed event is established, it becomes almost impossible to dismiss even when new, seemingly contradictory evidence is discovered. The old consensus must be preserved, even at the expense of logic. The "ephemeral event" has been lost and the "affirmed event" with all of its incongruities is now deeply embedded in the popular consciousness. The "affirmed event" is safe even though it might be falsely shackled to erroneous data. Markan Priority is another such "affirmed event." The secondary nature of the Byzantine text is yet another. The answers to these questions, as well as many others in biblical studies, cannot be satisfactorily found within the new consensus. The answers to each of these questions will remain elusive until the central piece of the puzzle is put in place -- the external evidence.
4:40 AM My Scripture reading this morning was from 1 John 2. This chapter is all about Jesus. He pleads with the Father for us. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice that appeases the wrath of God on our behalf. He is "the one who has existed from the beginning." We are forgiven for His sake. We can defeat the Evil One because of His word. We have had the Holy Spirit poured out upon us by Christ. He is the Messiah -- and no one dare reject that truth! Finally, Christ Jesus Himself is the one who promised to give us eternal life. I love this Jesus. I love His word. Though I daily fail to follow Him as I should, my aim is to love Him and serve Him and to live in imitation of His life (2:6). I am His and He is mine, and though our days be fraught with suffering, we who call upon His name will one day see the King of Glory!
Friday, June 28
6:34 PM I am completely humbled to announce that my new book is now out.
It's a quick read, much quicker than my mile pace (*rim shot*). It's so basic it's boring. But if you want to read about how a Greek prof went from being a couch potato to a couch potato who can barely finish an ultramarathon, I suspect it might be just the encouragement you need. A slow, aging man will not even be a footnote in the annals of running history, but I have celebrated all the miles the Lord has allowed me to put on this old body of mine, and I'm happy to share the journey with you.
6:04 PM Just thinking that we are created in the image of a Giver. Also thinking that a check for a good cause is never a replacement for giving ourselves. The impoverished Macedonians first gave themselves to the Lord, then took an offering. Maybe we should place a note in the offering plate with the words "I give myself." Only those who have given themselves first to Christ are ready for the collection plate.
5:20 PM We studied 1 John this week in class. I need to say a few things. Reading 1 John 1:9 ("If we make it our habit to confess our sins") always reminds me that I need to have a regular habit of repentance.
Every believer always has something to repent of. I know I do. It tells Jesus: I'm all in. I went to my knees in tears. Jesus, may there be less of me and more of You. I must die to live. Let me push against the darkness of my soul and breathe into Thy Kingdom Come.
The Christian life is crazy hard work. But it is good work. And it begins on our knees.
5:02 PM Our 6 weeks of Greek are over. Students:
Let's reject the tin god of "I did this" and give God all the glory!
Let's grapple with the question: Now that I can read Greek, so what?
Let's remember that we are priests to one another and for one another in Christ's body, using our gifts for mutual upbuilding and not just for self-encouragement.
Let's take our pride and "dump it all in the trash" (Phil. 3) because of Christ.
Six weeks ago you were on the threshold of a life change. You set out on your journey, not knowing where you were going. Sometimes you sat by the trail and wept, it was so hard. But every single one of you finished the course, ran your race, and won the victory. I am SO PROUD of you. I pray that you may come to know God deeply and intimately through your reading of your Greek New Testament. I pray that you would be an explorer of God's word and never be content with pat answers. I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. May Greek change your life for the better, but be prepared to be wrong about a few things. You will never outgrow your need to know more, listen more attentively, and depend on the Spirit. This is not the time for apathy. The battle is yours, and it is already won, says Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him, never on any human teacher. Then everything in your life can be a testimony to the goodness of God.
Well done, good and faithful, well done!
Monday, June 24
5:10 AM "You never know much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you" (C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed). I've lived long enough to know that my aim in life is to please Jesus, not any man. Through many sorrows He's the one who's been there for me. The only thing to do with the past is to learn whatever lessons are to be gained and then forget it. Today, as I limp through life, I'm going to reach forward to the things that lie before me. I want to possess all that is mine in Christ -- all the service that remains for me to do. I've made up my mind on "this one thing," and nothing shall detract me from it.
Sunday, June 23
7:55 PM Not that anybody cares, but because I'm in a talkative mood, these are my upcoming races (subject, of course, to good health and to a green light from the Lord):
Saturday, June 29: Night Train 50K Ultramarathon, Farmville, VA.
Thursday, July 4, Liberty by the Lake 10K, The Colony, TX.
Sunday, July 7: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Garner, NC.
Saturday, July 20: Heat of the Night Fun Run, Durham, NC.
Sunday, August 11: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Wake Forest, NC.
Sunday, September 15: Rex Wellness Triathlon, Knightdale, NC.
Sunday, October 13: Chicago Marathon!
7:02 PM I'll admit I'm a pretty lousy cook. But I've got one meal down to perfection.
6:45 PM I love John "The Penguin" Bingham's writings. He advocates slow, easy running. He's perhaps most famous for the saying, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." Here I am at the start of today's triathlon.
The oldest competitor at the race?
You're looking at a couch potato 4 years ago. Today I run because I love to. I run to overcome my need to always please people. I run to find the best in myself and in others. I run because the running community is a huge, overlooked mission field. I run because I know that if I can get better in this sport, maybe someday I can become a better father and teacher and friend and writer. I run because my body is the only one I have. I can't trade it in for a new and improved model. I can only do the best with what God's given me.
Running means you may never achieve all of your goals. But that's never an excuse not to achieve some of them.
6:24 PM We begin translating 1 John this week in summer Greek. This is heart-stoppingly important. We'll see that:
1. Greek is not the Open Sesame or Abracadabra of biblical interpretation. But a knowledge of Greek can tell us what the interpretive options are.
2. Greek enables us to adjudicate the accuracy of the Bible translations and commentaries we use. A text simply cannot mean what the grammar of that text doesn't indicate.
3. Greek is needed to do structural analysis every bit as much as it is needed to do word studies.
4. Greek linguistics can help us think more logically about the way languages work, including the biblical languages.
5. The best homiletical outlines are those that are derived from the text itself.
6. What's emphatic or prominent in a biblical text? The Greek can often help us find our way here, especially when it comes to rhetorical devices such as chiasmus, assonance, and word, phrase, and clause order.
I am uptohere with books about New Testament Greek. But they do me no good unless I am willing to read and study the Greek text itself. That is why we study Greek. To listen to God's words and then to obey them.
5:50 PM Just woke up from a 3-hour nap. As soon as napping is recognized as a professional sport, I'm ready to cut some nice endorsement deals.
2:42 PM I need this.
2:22 PM Great news, web fam! Watch for this book:
It's a slightly revised dissertation written under my supervision. I'm really looking forward to this one.
2:14 PM After the race I went to a church in Wake Forest I'd heard so much about. It was my first visit. My personal assistant and his family attend there, as do several of my faculty colleagues. The message was stellar. Anyone who can teach from the book of Leviticus and keep his audience awake deserves a medal in my book.
2:05 PM All in all, today's was one of the funnest triathlons I've done. I had my best overall time in a tri to date, praise the Lord. A tip of the old kepi to the race directors for putting on one fine event. My final time was 1:38:19.
5:04 AM "What we call trouble, God calls growth. Ask Job. Ask Joseph. Ask David. Ask Paul. Ask James." -- David Allen.
Saturday, June 22
8:12 PM Nate and I were looking for this CD but couldn't find it. It just up and disappeared. So I ordered it on Amazon. It was recorded at Second Baptist Houston, which has one of the most sublime pipe organs in the world.
It contains the best rendition of Cortège et Litanie by Marcel Dupré I've ever heard. Nate once played this piece for me on one of his reed organs. This stunning piece of music always leaves me spellbound. Can listen to it over and over again. I never want it to end!
Organ music is so much underrated today. Tragic loss to the church.
7:30 PM Fun fact: In tomorrow's triathlon I'm seeded 208 out of 235 competitors, based on our swim times. I thought I was fast but I'm up against some killer swimmers. I've learned that, in athletics, you must acquiesce to the truth about your body but that you needn't concede to it.
You speedsters out there -- watch out for #208!
7:08 PM The loggers have reached an impasse because of the recent rain.
Like life, don't you think? In John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, the "Slough of Despair" is a deep bog, stagnant and murky. At the beginning of the book, Christian falls into the Slough of Despair but is rescued by another pilgrim. Later, he falls into a river and almost drowns. This time he must rescue himself. Last weekend I was, you might say, stuck in the muck. Father's Day was just plain hard. Friends, we're going to encounter some pretty nasty stuff in life. But there is always a stairway that leads out of the slough. Jesus lifts us out of the miry clay.
The feet of Jesus. That's where we find the grace to go onward and upward.
6:48 PM "The loyalty of Christian youth must be first and foremost to Christ himself. Nothing can take the place of the daily time of intimate companionship with the Lord. Make time for it somehow and secure that it is real." -- William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury. Beautifully biblical.
5:52 PM Family love is a marathon and not a sprint. In every marathon I've ever run, you feel like your legs weigh 500 pounds during the first 3 miles. But sooner or later you find your rhythm and hit your stride. Love between family members is found only as everyone keeps moving forward, dealing as one with the setbacks and rejoicing in the progress achieved.
5:40 PM "As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight ...." So the words of John Stott while writing the Postscript to his book The Radical Disciple.
The end of a prolific author's writing career brings tender thoughts to this Christian. I ask myself, "Is there any greater sin than taking for granted the grace of God?" I too have the sobering thought that time is fast running out. If there are classes to teach and books to write or family get-togethers to organize, now is the time. Still, when all is said and done, this puny life is but a prelude to the endless story that will take an eternity to unfold.
1:25 PM Jesus told us to pray for daily bread. He is not only our Savior but our Sustenance. No wonder I feel exuberant joy this day.
12:32 PM This weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest is for a really good cause: Smile Train. This charity provides cleft repair surgery to tens of thousands of children every year. I love running. But I love running for charities even more.
12:40 PM Just finished editing Rob Plummer's essay "An Ideal Beginning Greek Grammar?" for our book on Greek linguistics. Rob's essay provides real insights into Greek pedagogy. His third characteristic of an ideal grammar is that "it will be written clearly and simply":
That's a pretty high bar. But in my opinion, Rob fits the bill to a t. We who teach beginning Greek -- take heed:
1. Always use the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid).
2. Remember that basic Greek grammar is logical and therefore relatively simple.
3. Give a brief devotional or practical application of what you're teaching every time you meet.
7:52 AM Norskov Olsen did his doctorate under Bo Reicke in Basel a decade before I did. I'm super happy to have a personal copy of one of his books.
1. The ministry of the "good news of the kingdom" involves all the members of the body.
2. The church is a family, and all believing members are brothers and sisters.
3. None is called to passivity, to being spectators in the life, worship, ministry, and service of the church.
4. Ecclesiology can only be true to the New Testament when the proper place is given to the doctrine of the priesthood of believers.
5. The vocabulary of New Testament leadership permits no pyramidal forms; it is the language of horizontal relationships.
6. The reconciling mission of the church is a mission to the whole world by the whole people of God.
7. The nature and the essence of any church ministry is that of service in the spirit and pattern of Christ.
8. No ministerial office represents status or rank in a political or social sense; its influence is measured by its Christ-likeness and the extent to which it is a medium for the working of the Holy Spirit.
I'm indescribably grateful to God for this book. Relentless overemphasis on climbing the ladder until one becomes senior/lead pastor will inevitably, inadvertently cause us to pay more attention to promoting our platforms than carrying our crosses.
6:58 AM "I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose." -- C. S. Lewis. I needed that reminder this week.
6:49 AM "Demas has forsaken me." Cannot imagine the pain behind Paul's words. If we're going to be a friend, let's be a good friend, faithful to our promise to love in both good times and bad times. Loving God and one another is our highest calling.
6:42 AM My reading today was Rom. 12:9-21. It is a masterpiece. I often hear that 1 Cor. 13 is Paul's love chapter. These verses in Romans are a close second. Rom. 12:9-21 is a defiant "No" to the bent of the human heart to be served rather than to serve. "Do not be proud, but accept humble duties" (12:16). Many students are desperately trying to find their one and only spiritual gift. Just remember that it's not always possible to pigeon-hole your gifts. Kenneth Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today, said he never knew what his spiritual gift was. He just served the Lord wherever he saw a need. Our gifts were given for the common good.
Friday, June 21
7:48 PM I love reading encouraging blogs and tweets. Many of you have a wonderful gift of encouragement. Paul begins Romans 12 with the words, "Now, I encourage you ...." How is he encouraging his readers in Rome? By writing a letter. Apparently Paul considered writing an act of encouragement. I tell y'all the truth, some of you bless my socks off with your writing.
7:22 PM This was a good week to introduce my Greek students to the fascicles of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. A thousand thanks to our library archivist Charles (who is also in our class) for this special treat.
7:04 PM "It's important to remember that it's not how a relationship starts that matters, it's how it evolves." -- Bianca Bassani.
6:58 PM Celebrating with my Ph.D. student Huss, who passed his doctoral comps this week with flying colors. Now it's on to the prospectus and dissertation.
6:55 PM Saw these signs this morning in the Wake Forest YMCA weight room. Lots of timely truth here.
6:24 PM The huge storm that passed through the area yesterday left many without power. By the grace of God, Rosewood Farm was spared. Had to repair a pasture fence that was knocked down by the wind, however. The goats had gotten out, but thankfully they didn't go very far. Everybody is safe and sound again.
6:15 PM A belated Happy Father's Day to all you men who lost your father when you were a child either to death or divorce. I know exactly how you feel. The ache seems to last forever. But, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" May the Living Water satisfy your parched throat with the cool water of His love.
5:58 PM Ended my Bible time this morning in 1 Cor. 12-14. Don't offer to God only your "spiritual gifts." Serve outside the areas of your strengths as well. Imagine God asking you to do something you don't like to do. Effective ministry isn't always happy clappy.
Monday, June 17
5:58 AM Every once in a while I come down with a bad case of imposter syndrome. My name isn't Thomas, but I'm quite a doubter. You're not a real runner, Dave, so why are you even thinking about competing in this race? There's no possible way you'll survive! Then the angel on my right shoulder whispers in my ear: "You've worked hard for this, Dave, and you deserve it. You can reach your goals, buddy, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise."
You are a runner.
You are a runner because you ran.
You don't have to earn a degree to be a runner.
Or apply for a license.
Or pass a test.
Or give an oath.
You ran. That's good enough.
You’re now an official member of the running community.
Welcome to the 'hood.
Talk about camaraderie. This is the same spirit that Paul enjoins on his readers in his letter to the Philippians. We run the race of life together. Of all the things I'm thankful for at this stage in life, it's the connection I have with friends and colleagues who are right there for me when 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 (Phil. 2:1-4).
I am determined by God's grace to transform myself into the kind of man who would put the interests of my fellow runners 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 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 if we have to.
Sunday, June 16
6:56 PM "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity." --John Muir.
Today, in light of what I knew was going to be an extremely busy week, I went where I always go when I feel the need to put body and soul back together, to recharge my spiritual batteries, to regain balance in my life. I climbed a mountain. Oh, not just any mountain, but my second favorite local peak (after MacAfee Knob) in the famous Blue Ridge of Virginia. This was the fifth time I've climbed Sharp Top. Half the fun is seeing the mountain from a distance while driving, realizing you'll soon be on its summit.
The hike is not for the faint of heart. If you're not careful, you can easily sprain your ankle on the rock-strewn path.
And then there are the steps. As in hundreds of steps.
By the time you reach the summit, you're pretty knackered. I managed to top out in about 50 minutes, but for me that was slow. After all, I'm doing everything these days "in moderation." Still, I was winded. But the views were worth it. To get the best views you have to climb out on the rock cliffs.
The Blue Ridge in all her beauty!
"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD. Let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation!" (Psalm 95:1).
I sat there for about an hour, unmolested after most of the people had left, and reflected on what's important to me, mostly Jesus. I can't express what's in my heart. If anything good or decent has come into my life, it's been because of Him. I love my life. I love my summer Greek class. I love the classes I'll be teaching in the fall. I'll love visiting mom and dad in Dallas for the 4th of July. Before long another book of mine will roll off the press. Still, nothing compares to Him. Even now, I still have His name on my lips. That's good, because all day long I've felt out of sorts. I spent Father's Day without the mother of my children by my side. Max Lucado once described tears like this (No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, pp. 105-106):
Today I gave myself permission to weep again, remembering that one day there'll be no more need for tears. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 41:4).
Everything we do in life can be testimony to the goodness and grace of our God. Even our mourning. Anything good we did we got from Him. And everything we got wrong He bathed in His grace. God's answer to those who view aging as bad is to be Jesus-focused. Remain fresh. Continue to be creative. We can have a rebirth no matter what our age. When everyone is saying "You've earned this rest," allow God to fill you with divine discontentment. Go climb a mountain. Or hold the door open for someone. Or plant a garden. Or push back against the darkness of injustice. Become that person of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control you want to be. Watch the dry places bloom and the mountains bow down and the valleys rise up. Celebrate and champion who you are in Christ, for we are not a people of fear but a people of love (1 John 4:18).
You're an explorer and adventurer. Carry on.
Saturday, June 15
6:04 PM Well, as I hoped to, me and my best friend put in a 67-kilometer bike today to commemorate my 67th birthday.
For us 'Muricans, that's just under 42 miles.
Yep. It was just Jesus and me. Afterwards I had a nice swim in the county pool. While I was driving there a thought entered my subconscious mind. I let it rise to the surface and then I began to examine it. Here's what struck me: At 67, I've lived twice as long as Jesus did. You heard me right. Here's the math. Jesus lived for thirty-three and a half years. 33.5 x 2 = 67 exactly. Gag me with a straw. If anything will make you feel old, that will. No wonder Jesus lived with a great sense of urgency. "I'm going back to My Father." "Work for the night is coming, when no one can work any longer." "The Son of Man will return when you least expect it." Turning 67 is a good time to look back as well as forward. Just as you have to spend your money more wisely when you have less of it, so a 67-year old needs to invest wisely what remains of his days. Dangers do not necessarily grow fewer as we grow older. Beware, Dave, the tyranny of the trivial. The Pharisee in me fusses over the washing of pots and pans while the tax collectors and sinners enter the kingdom ahead of me. Many a marriage lasts only because of sheer loyalty to pledges made but the affection has long since departed. A similar sad state of affairs can prevail in our union with Christ. Loyalty must spring from love. Do I love Him? More than ...? When I said in yesterday's podcast interview that we need more Christians doing the work of God and not merely stuffing their heads with Bible information, I was preaching more to myself than to anyone else. A real Christian is sold out not merely to a church or to a cause but to Christ.
Having a birthday soon? With anything in life, you'll be better off if you look at the positives of the situation and not just the negatives. I mean, I could be back in the 70s watching The Love Boat on TV. Ugh.
6:20 AM My view at 5:30 this morning.
Wow. Makes me want to talk Greek! Here's the book that started it all off for me.
It was published in 1983. Sad thing, so few students today even know about it. Silva talks about everything that needed to be talked about in an introduction to Greek lexicography: synchrony and diachrony, etymology, semantic change, semantic borrowing, denotation (v. connotation), style, ambiguity, synonymy, etc. When, 5 years later, I wrote my little primer on Greek linguistics, I drew much of my inspiration from Silva. In his preface Silva notes that his "main intention has been to synthesize critically the results of scholars in the field of linguistic semantics" (p. 11). In this he succeeded brilliantly. No wonder the church needs this book so much today. Sound lexicography is one of the most urgent tasks of the seminary if it is to regain its significance in our generation.
I have an enormous admiration for Moisés Silva. He earned his Ph.D. under F. F. Bruce in Manchester. As a speaker he combines insight with clarity and an attractive (and often humorous) style of presentation. Such clarity and accessibility are rare among Greek scholars. In many ways he embodies what a scholar should be but frequently is not. This morning I also reread Stan Porter's outstanding essay in this book.
It's called "Defining Discourse Analysis as an Important New Testament Interpretive Framework." Stan's peroration might surprise you:
As always, I find Stan's perspective refreshing. He is part of a much larger cadre of men and women who are offering themselves to our students as leaders and guides into the sometimes confusing world of Greek linguistics. In my Advanced Greek Grammar course this fall I'm using Stan's book Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Suffice it to say that anyone who knows anything about Greek will have no doubts about the importance of this book. We'll also be reading Robertson's "Weightlifting 302" textbook, lovingly referred to as his "Big Grammar."
And why not? The work is now a classic in the field. Years ago, when I was asked if I would consider revising it, I knew immediately what my answer would be: no. It simply cannot be revised without at the same time causing it to morph into a book Robertson never intended it to be. You'll remember that Robertson himself never set out to write a new grammar. His goal was simply to revise Winer. But the more he tried to write a revision, the more he realized that the end product would hardly resemble the original work -- hence he produced his own grammar. I cannot recall any occasion when a student did not thank me for having them read Robertson. It is a book that will drive you toward the Scriptures with a new zest.
I'm going to kick off Father's Day weekend with a bike ride. How far I go, nobody knows. Then I have to finish editing the chapters in our linguistics book. Then what? Discovering what God has in store for me today. In The Search, a man happens upon the tombstone of a woman who died in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. The epitaph read, "Ever she sought the best, ever found it." Perspective in life is EVERYTHING. You see rain ruining your fishing trip; I see God watering our fields. You see a traffic jam; I see an opportunity to learn some patience. You see someone slow getting in your way during a marathon; I see someone trying to find the best in themselves. You see gray hair; I see wisdom that only age can bring. The silver lining in life is perspective. At the very least it helps us see which problems are big and which are not. A proper attitude can help us stay calm in difficult situations, not freak out through worry, and continue to go forward despite setbacks and failures.
Life truly is all about perspective.
Friday, June 14
8:12 PM You know I love to cook. (Not really, but I'm trying to learn.) So while my Indian Curry is cooking I thought I'd try to fill you on my wild and wooly week. In the first place, school has been crazy busy. I taught every day. I finished writing the preface to Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Issues in the Current Debate. (Baker is publishing it.) I began writing another book review for Filologia Neotestamentaria. I finalized the syllabus for my NT 2 class this fall (Acts - Revelation). I began hammering out the schedule for Advanced Greek Grammar, also a fall class. So there you have it -- a hectic week at school; but since I love what I do I barely noticed it at all. In the second place, I've been training for the tri I have coming up this month as well as the ultra. Because I can read your mind, I know you're thinking, "There goes Dave again, talking about his workouts." True. I talk about my training because I love to exercise and besides, it wasn't until I began to "work my own shovel" as an athlete that exercise became a source of joy instead of a burden and a chronic source of frustration. This week I swam 45 minutes every day, either at the Knightdale Y or the Wake Forest Y. The pool in Knightdale is outdoors (which I love!) but the pool in Wake Forest has longer lanes and is therefore more efficient for swimming. What I don't like about the Y in Wake Forest is that the pool is heated and once you get warmed up in the water you begin to wilt because you're getting so over-heated. But I REALLY enjoy swimming and can't wait to see if my times improve as a result.
Speaking of exercise, on Monday I had my VO2Max test at Duke Sports Physiology. VO2Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume. They determine your VO2Max by forcing you to run on a treadmill until you feel like you're literally going to keel over. "When we're finished with you," said one of the techs before we started, "you'll feel like you've been body slammed." At any rate, the test was a success (i.e., I didn't die) and I should be hearing from my sports physiologist at Duke soon with the results.
In other news ....
On my way home from work today I stopped by Clearview Church in Henderson for an interview with Abidan Shah and his staff.
Their weekly podcast is called "Carpe Mañana" (gotta love that name!). Today's topic was "The Relevance of New Testament Textual Criticism for the Christian Life." Abidan is my former personal assistant and is currently finishing his Ph.D. at the seminary in textual criticism.
My head sort of ruins their motto, don't you think?
I'm not at all in Abidan's league when it comes to things text-critical, but it was a delight to at least supply a few anecdotes during today's interview. As soon as I get the link to the podcast I'll pass it on. Meanwhile, look who arrived on the farm while I was gone. Welcome to Rosewood Farm, "Fudge"!
I also see that the loggers are almost done.
Looks like they've got only about 10 acres left out of 81. Thank the Lord for such dry weather!
Finally, while I was on campus my kids left me some farm fresh eggs from their hens.
Around here we eat an awful lot of eggs for breakfast. Throw in an avocado = perfection.
What to do this weekend? I'm open and flexible. I still want to get in my 67K bike ride to celebrate turning into a 67-year old josser. For some reason, I'm also praying about getting back to Dallas in the next month or so. I've done a race there on the 4th of July the past 3 years, plus it's a good excuse to see mom and dad again.
So there you have it, another all-too-brief (or lengthy, depending on your perspective) report about my life. Tonight I'm rereading The Climb, which is the story of one of the survivors of the 1996 Everest disaster. I've actually read the book twice before but it's been one of my favorite books for a very long time. If you haven't read it yet, let me tell you: it sucks you in. That's all I'm going to say!
Monday, June 10
6:10 AM Interested in Hebrews? Plenty of Power Points here. These two show (1) that the vocabulary of Hebrews and that of the Paulines are sui generis, and (2) that Hebrews was placed after 2 Thessalonians in our earliest majuscule manuscripts. Just saying'.
This week in Greek my students will be reading my Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. Think of putting together a plastic model of a Tiger Tank. It may have dozens of pieces that seem unrelated, but keep your eye on the final product (pictured on the box) and you'll quickly see how everything fits together. I'm going to campus this morning grateful for Greek, a knowledge of which is so valuable it barely registers because we so often take it for granted. I cannot believe how God has captured me for the classroom. All of it: facts, jokes, quizzes, exams, discussions, devotions, awards, etc. My land, though, I have so far to go to become the teacher I want to be! My weaknesses are too numerous to count, but God has at least birthed in me the unmistakable conviction that Greek instruction doesn't have to be boring or irrelevant. I'm also done pretending that Greek has any value apart from its application. You can't separate exegesis from theology and ethics. Can't.
The next 3 weeks will be hard. But good. A good hard. As someone has said, "Goals that aren't frightening aren't worth having." We'll see this as we begin to translate 1 John. Finally, we'll recognize that digging deep in the Word is the real prize, not the 110 Awards I offer to those who smash their exams.
Sunday, June 9
7:40 PM Today I got a birthday greeting from, of all people, the organizers of the Chicago Marathon. Nice. "Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town." (Go, Frank!) I'm told the race is electric. My will is strong and I'm right on track to finish the racing year on October 13 in the Windy City. I've always wanted to run this race at least once. Music on every block! Tons of spectators! Great expo! As you all know, I'm an adult-onset athlete. I believe that having an active lifestyle is the only responsible course of action for a 67-year old who takes Rom. 12:1 seriously. I owe it to my family to stay in shape for as long as possible. Moreover, I've found the running community to be one of the most compassionate, supportive, giving, and understanding communities I've ever been involved with. Had I known how rich my life would have been as a runner, I would have put my running shoes on much earlier. Staying active is really a matter of faith. It's part of our stewardship responsibility before our Creator. The people you see running 5Ks on the weekend aren't any more talented or gifted than you are. They haven't suddenly discovered the secret to happiness. They're just normal, everyday people who've discovered that running is a whole-being activity. It nourishes your mind, your body, and your spirit.
When you stand at the starting line of a marathon, your goal that day is to complete 26.2 miles. The difference between success and failure is as simple as taking the next step. I imagine that's how all of life is. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt what you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Jim Elliott did just that and entered heaven "through gates of splendor." The truth is, every step in life is important. Every step takes us a little bit closer to who we want to become. Every step reveals some new God-given potential.
Chicago. Field size of about 44,000.
Can you imagine. The community invests so much in this race. I'm just happy I was able to make it into the race this year.
Happy week and run on, my friends!
5:34 PM Ouch. The message this morning from 2 Cor. 4 really hit home. My son-in-law gave it and it wasn't for the faint of heart for sure.
People need the Lord, he said. In fact, some of your people need the Lord, like the ones who live next door or work at the next desk. "But I'm not gifted as an evangelist!" That doesn't cut it, friend. You see, God doesn't so much want us to tell others what a friend we have in Jesus as show them what a friend they have in us. A friend that loves them until they ask us why. A friend that prays for their salvation on a regular basis. Through loving them they meet Jesus, even though at first they don't realize they've met Him. If fact, prayer is so important in evangelism that Joel stopped 3 times in his message to ask us to pray for those in our lives who need a flow toward the cross. I can't argue with that. Nor should you. Soulcraft is most effective when we know what we want to accomplish and then carry out God's plan to achieve it -- the clear Gospel message mixed with communicating the reality of Christ's presence in the brokenness of our lives. Afterwards I enjoyed lunch with family and friends.
We discussed how Jesus calls us to become members of the "second incarnation." We are commissioned to make visible the invisible God -- to do as Jesus did, love as He loved, live as He lived. Evangelism is the life of Christ fleshed out. His life was the light of the world. And now we are those lights when His life is revealed through us. Pretty amazing stuff. Wouldn't you be interested in unleashing your skills, your gifts, your hobbies as redemptive tools? Can you loan out your lawn mower? Bake a pie? Someone is waiting to find Christ through just such a kind gesture, followed up with the spoken Good News.
Oh, it's been raining all day and I've not been able to get in my bike today. I don't want exercise to become a modern yoke because that will only result in useless self-obsession (and that from a guy who self-obsessively wrote a book called Running My Race). I will confess to being a bit disappointed by the weather. I feel like I'm in cycling purgatory, on hold with the weather forecasters until they figure out what the futurecast looks like. Patience is a virtue, Dave. Remember that.
Tomorrow kicks off our Greek 2 class. It'll be more of the same, but a lot more of the same. I start thinking about the third declension and the participle and the subjunctive and my brain gets fried. Which is why I need to remember that Greek is nothing more than one chapter at a time and we don't need to be there until we get there. I would feel sorry for my students except that they signed up for the torture. Actually, I think we're all having tons of fun. Oh sure, there's lots of hard work ahead of us. But the rewards? Unimaginable. Yes, I've done the math. Twenty-six lessons and you can begin to read your Greek New Testament with the use of a lexicon. That is why we celebrate. But there I go, off on another tangent. This post was supposed to be about how my birthday went. Next thing you know I'm going to tell you that God is evident in every syllable of the Greek text or something crazy like that!
7:45 AM Today is my 67th birthday. (Please don't get all carried away.) Happy Birthday to moi. Basically, today's the day I get to celebrate all things Dave, including (but not limited to) running, parenting, missions, blogging, teaching, farming, eating, hot baths, and drinking coffee. (Fast food no longer makes the list, unfortunately.) I've got quite the day planned. At the risk of sounding pedantic, puerile, over-indulgent, and just plain stupid, allow me to share with you 67 things you may not know about me (in no particular order):
1. In 5th grade I played taps at my elementary school when JFK was assassinated.
2. I chipped my front tooth when diving into our pool at the age of 14.
3. I started going gray in my early 20s.
4. I nearly drowned while surfing at Pipeline. (My board was sliced in half by that wave.)
5. I experienced numerous earthquakes in California.
6. I dropped out of Greek when I first took it at Biola.
7. I have a bad case of emetophobia (fear of vomiting).
8. I lost 35 pounds when I had malaria.
9. I once met William Buckley.
10. My Hawaiian name is Kawika.
11. I used to play the trumpet semi-professionally.
12. My dog is 98 years old in human terms.
13. I had my 4 wisdom teeth removed when I was 15 and spent a week in the hospital after my throat got infected.
14. T. D. Jakes and I share the same birthday (hmmm).
15. I've been to all 50 states except Alaska.
16. My uncle once took me to the beach during a tsunami in Hawaii.
17. I am half Romanian.
18. I needed braces when I was young but we couldn't afford them.
19. I lived in La Mirada, California for 27 years.
20. I named my first horse Cody after the famous rodeo in Cody, Wyoming.
21. I've never read Tolkien.
22. I was a lifeguard in California.
23. I almost went to Tübingen instead of Basel for my doctorate.
24. When I speak German, the Swiss think I'm German and the Germans think I'm Swiss.
25. I was a youth pastor in Hawaii.
26. I once built my own surfboard.
27. I got my first ticket when I was 14 while pulling my surfboard behind me with my bicycle. (My homemade board-carrier didn't have a license plate.)
28. My favorite movie is The Great Escape.
29. I hate sweet tea.
30. I want to snow ski one day.
31. I almost failed Logic in college.
32. At Biola I took a course in geology under Henry Morris (of The Genesis Flood fame).
33. My college roommate was blind and from Brazil.
33. The first musical instrument I learned to play was the ukulele.
34. Becky and I once climbed to the top of the Sakkara Pyramid in Egypt.
35. I've sailed from Lahaina on Maui to O'ahu.
36. I have never snow skied. (I know. When you get old you repeat yourself.)
37. My favorite TV show in the 60s was Gilligan's Island.
38. My favorite bookstore is in Piccadilly Circus, London.
39. I paid my mountain guide $640 per day to guide me in the Alps.
40. My first marathon was the Flying Pig in Cincy exactly 3 years ago.
41. My favorite movie scene is the bus stop episode in North by Northwest.
42. I began blogging back in the Dark Ages (2003).
43. I still use Front Page for my blog.
44. Despite all the "unplanned dismounts" I had while riding, I never once broke a bone.
45. I once drove to Denmark just to say I ate a Danish pastry.
46. I hate to fly.
47. I once passed out from dehydration on the top of Masada in Israel.
48. I've never even thought about getting a tattoo.
49. I will probably never finish my book Godworld.
50. I once thought that Paul could not have authored Hebrews.
51. I never set out to write Greek grammar textbooks. They were all by invitation.
52. I am a procrastinator.
53. I would drive an hour to have 2 of those Dennys hotcakes.
54. I would drive 6 hours for Ethiopian food.
55. I love how marathoning is a metaphor for life.
56. I have finally learned to listen to rather than fight my body.
57. Amazon Prime is my best friend.
58. I recently dc-ed Netflix since I wasn't using it.
59. My kids and grandkids are my treasures on this earth.
60. I've never switched to Geico.
61. Though a Baptist I still appreciate high church liturgy and the architecture of a cathedral.
62. I am so done with evangelical superstardomism.
63. I've learned that, while life may be complicated, the kingdom is simple.
64. I love diving into my blog posts from years ago.
65. I don't mind getting older.
66. My greatest joy in life has been the God-given privilege of linking my life with brothers and sisters in the Majority World to see our generation come to know Christ.
67. My closest partner in the Gospel was Becky. I miss her dearly.
Life, dear reader, is never a solo project. Yes, I talk a lot about perseverance and self-reliance on this blog. But the reality is there is no such thing as self-reliance, whether in sports or in life. Your life is not just about you. Your goals are not just about you. Your health is not just about you. Your walk with the Lord is not just about you. Whatever we do in life is never just about us. We always need others, no matter who we are or what we do. To climb the Alps, you need an experienced guide. It's a team effort. You can't do it alone. When we face tough situations in life, we need the strength that can be drawn only from others -- and from a power that is greater than any one of us. Self-reliance? It doesn't exist. Hundreds of people have had an impact on my life and I want to thank all of them -- and all of you -- and thank the Lord for placing you in my path. Without the help and support of my family and friends, nothing I have accomplished during these 67 years would have been possible. Yes, I still believe that perseverance is a virtue. Heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey said it best: "A champion is someone who gets up when he can't." I've had to do that many times during my life. You have too. But every time, it was actually God who was lifting us back up. All glory goes to Him.
I serve an unruly Savior who's taken me on a wild ride. And apparently that ride isn't over yet. What really matters is that we do life together. I'm thankful you're in it with me.
I hope you have an awesome day.
Saturday, June 8
12:58 PM I'm back from the South Boston YMCA, where I lifted for 45 minutes, then ran 4 miles on the treadmill, and then did the breaststroke for 45 minutes in the pool. It was a fabulous workout. You may not know this, but in any given year, between 65 and 85 percent of runners get laid up with an injury of one kind or another. Which means we need to be super careful with our bodies and not work them too little or too hard. My workout today was just about right. It left me feeling energized -- and famished. I've already had a bite to eat and shortly I'll take a nice long nap to restore my body. I'm finding moderation to be a very healthy way of approaching all of life, including exercise and diet. Finding that ever-so-elusive balance between rest and activity is something I'll be striving after my whole life. Bottom line, balance takes extreme self-discipline. It also takes wisdom, not only personal wisdom but the wisdom and advice of others. That's why on Monday my Duke sports physiologist has ordered a VO2Max Test for me. The idea is to measure the amount of oxygen your body uses during exercise. VO2Max is the point at which your body can't increase its intake of oxygen despite an increase in intense activity. Sports physiologists consider this test a true measure of your heart's ability to keep you going while you exercise. You breathe only with your mouth through a soft rubbery mouthpiece. A padded nose pin is clipped over nostrils so that you can't breathe through your nose. This is a test where they want to push you real hard. I'm told you are one tired puppy after it's over.
These days, I'm taking my recovery periods very seriously. I'll take the rest of today and all day tomorrow off from any form of strenuous exercise, and, of course, I'll get a good 8 hours of sleep tonight (as I normally do). Believe me, I'm not saying I have all of this figured out. But I do want to learn how to be wiser as I grow older. I am a broken record, but exercise (in moderation) has been shown to reduce heart disease and improve overall health. I think we all need to find peace with our own bodies. This begins when we stop comparing ourselves with other people and acknowledge that the only thing that matters is that you're giving your health the best you have to offer. Let me also say that it's a good idea to have certain training goals in mind, like, for example, the 31-mile ultramarathon trail race I hope to run on June 29. I'm not too worried about this race because I've already completed one of them, but you do have to dig pretty deep to keep going. Thankfully there's a 9.5 hour time limit for the race, which makes me feel pretty good since I finished my only other 31-mile ultra in under 8 hours. So, the moral of the story is, go with your heart in whatever you want to accomplish in life, but do everything in moderation. Only you can do you. And only you know what's going on with you.
I'm hoping that, after Monday's test, I'll have a much better take on what this old body of mine is capable of doing during exercise. This is nothing you want to just guess about. You want to know if you're training properly and, most importantly, whether you are pushing your body beyond its limit when you're competing.
Off for my nap.
7:58 AM Seeing I'm in the birthday spirit, I'm giving away this book to someone out there who wants to study New Testament Greek. If more than one of you requests the book, I'll cast lots to decide the winner. The announcement will be made, of course, tomorrow on my birthday.
6:50 AM They had been predicting a steady rain to begin falling yesterday and, sure enough, that's exactly what we have. The Low Pressure System we're currently in will be around for about a week, which means much needed rain for the farmers where I live (including yours truly). This also means that I might not be able to get in my bike ride today, but if I don't I still plan on visiting the Y and working out and getting in some laps. My tri is in exactly 15 days and I feel like swimming is my weakest link right now.
The rain this morning reminded me of that wonderful quote by the one, the only Malcolm Muggeridge, who once edited Punch Magazine, Britain's counterpart to the Mad Magazine I grew up with. He said:
As an incurable Muggerophile, I attempt to question traditional concepts at every turn, but not because I've become soured on life. Malcolm could be acid-tongued, but he was no kill-joy. He laughed a lot, and his love of the truth never turned him into a grumpy ascetic. But he cared deeply for the truth and trounced anyone who dared to corrupt it. That was the message I read this morning as I sipped my coffee.
1 John 2:20-28 is clear: We believers have had the Holy Spirit poured out on us by Christ, and so all of us know the truth. And as long as His Spirit remains in us, we don't need anyone to teach us because His Spirit teaches us about everything, and what He teaches is true. Hence John's final exhortation:
Good reader, this was exactly the message I needed to hear today. I grew up immersed in typical Christian culture: go to church, listen to sermons, give to missions, and attend prayer meeting when you could. I was rarely challenged to read the Bible (or think) for myself. We can't simply shrug this issue off, because biblical illiteracy is rife in our churches. Postmoderns share several key values, but one of them I respect the most is their insistence that church be relevant to all of life. They expect to be able to ask hard questions without being patronized or dismissed. Let's give them the goods. And let's begin by giving them God's Word. They want to grapple with theology and ecclesiology and a thousand other topics. Remember this: The best antidote to evangelical group-think is reading the Bible for ourselves. Yes, I enjoy a good sermon as much as the next person. But Muggeridge got it right: Even the greatest sermon pales when compared to one tiny sip of the living water Jesus Himself promises to anyone who is thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. The Bible is the best Christian resource out there, so let's lift it high. Do I read books about the Bible? Sure do. Have I written books about the Bible? Yep. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace drinking directly from the fountain of knowledge itself.
P.S. My ever-productive assistant has again updated the What's New? page at our Greek Portal. Included is a link to a journal article I published many years ago on the text of 1 John 2:20, where the apostle John either says to his readers "You all know" or "You know all things." I argue for the latter reading, in case anyone is interested.
Friday, June 7
6:24 PM Hey again friends! Right now I'm filling an order to send my Greek DVDs to a Bible school in -- of all places -- Australia. My DVDs have been shipped to such faraway places as Surrey (UK), Birmingham (UK), Johannesburg (SA), Abuja (Nigeria), Aberdeen (UK), Dunedin (NZ), Ontario (CAN), Croydon (AU), Victoria Point (AU), Auckland (NZ), and Belfast (NI). If you know me, which I think you do, you know I never tire of encouraging people to consider studying the Greek of the New Testament. Just this week I learned that one of my former students has begun teaching Greek every Monday night in his local church. You think you could never learn to read Greek? Of course YOU CAN. You control this moment in your life. So live boldly. Rather than cautiously testing the water, dive right in. You might just discover a whole new passion.
By the way, you never outgrow the joy of learning new things about Greek. I know I don't. Just today, in that issue of Filologia I mentioned earlier, I stumbled upon an essay by Jenny Heimerdinger and Stephen Levinsohn called "The Use of the Definite Article before Names of People in the Greek Text of Acts with Particular Reference to Codex Bezae." Believe me, these guys know their stuff. The question they raise is, "Why do some names in Greek have an article in front of them -- like the Peter and the Jesus?" They conclude that:
1) The first mention of a person by name in a narrative is practically always without the article. But subsequent references to the same person use the article (= that Peter or that Jesus).
2) The names of persons lack the article when attention is being drawn to their presence or to their actions at that particular point in the text.
Since I'm all about being practical with my students, I shared these facts with them after their quiz today. In reality, a whole smorgasbord of delight awaits them once they finish their year of study together. Can they get there? Of course they can! Progress in Greek is all about remembering and honoring the small stuff.
Speaking of "getting there," earlier I mentioned the tradition among runners of running the number of their years on their birthday. That would have me running 67 miles this weekend. If I did that, I'm pretty sure I'd run myself right into an early grave. Besides, I'm not a huge birthday person. They don't excite me that much and they don't bother me that much. It's just a number. I think each day that the good Lord gives us should be cherished. So I will not be running 67 miles tomorrow, though I do hope to get in a 67K bike ride. Otherwise, my goal is to relax and spend lots of time with my family. It is great to be alive and blessed with another year to walk with the Lord and hopefully make a positive impact on others.
Not too old to avoid rambling on his blog,
5:20 PM Okay -- this week I bit off totally more than I could chew. This was my desk at 5:30 this morning.
I was working on two projects at the same time -- editing the linguistics conference papers and grading a Ph.D. comp. We are all busy, I know, but this week was crazy. I did survive, however. I never said I don't have stamina. Thanks to all who made my week go so well:
My colleague Ben, who on Global Running Day this Wednesday ran 5 miles with me and then joined me for breakfast.
My students, shown here taking their final quiz of the semester while I was reading a copy of Filologia Neotestamentaria (shhh, don't tell them).
My friends at the Knightdale YMCA, who cleared the pool long enough for me to swim laps for 45 minutes yesterday.
Amazon Prime, who delivered two wonderful packages to me today.
My daughter and her kids, who helped me clean my house today and also made sure the donkeys stay spoiled with plenty of carrots.
The Creator of all things, who allowed my daughter to grow these in her garden, one of which I am enjoying for supper tonight.
My students, who gave me the nicest card for my birthday.
I am falling apart a bit after such a busy week, but I will persevere. My life is nutty compared to some people I know and boring compared to others. I plan to use the rest of this day to catch my breath and give thanks to the One who gave me such a productive week. Remember, no matter how full your life is, you can always make room for things (and people) that matter.
Monday, June 3
5:45 AM My birthday week has finally arrived and I'm going to Dennys this morning to celebrate with 2 of their scrumptious pancakes (for only 2 bucks). Then it's back to school, where my task will be to get my Greek 1 students to the finish line on Friday. On Saturday I'm planning on biking 67 kilometers in honor of my 67th birthday on Sunday. Some people actually run the number of miles that they turn on their birthday. I thought about doing that and then I realized -- that's 67 miles for crying out loud. Surely there's got to be an alternative, like eating 67 chocolate-covered macadamia nuts or drinking 67 Cokes. Instead, I'll just do a 67K bike. (That's 41.6 miles in case you were wondering.) I love my birthday regardless of what age I'm turning. The fact that I'm more comfortable in my own skin makes it all good. I'd rather get older than the alternative. I love my life and am having more fun than ever. It's great to be alive and enjoy all the great people around me. As I've careened into adulthood, somehow my firm foundation has endured. God's grace for sure. Good reader, embrace your age. It's the only one you've got. Now let's see ... what restaurants in town give you free stuff on your birthday?
Making corduroy fashionable in the 70s.
Sunday, June 2
4:44 PM By now everyone's read about the climbers who died on Everest this season due to the long lines on the Southeast Ridge, including the infamous Hillary Step. More people are climbing Everest than ever before. Not all of them successfully. There have been 11 deaths in the past 2 weeks alone. The majority of mountaineers died on the descent. No matter how physically fit you are, once you are in the Death Zone (over 26,000 feet) you struggle. Your body literally begins to die. Everything is working against you: fatigue, dehydration, energy depletion, and hypoxia. In addition, when you're going up you are facing into the mountain, looking at your feet and often at a rope. But when going down, most of the time you're staring out into space. The biomechanics of descending a mountain are also more difficult. When you are climbing up, you plant your front foot and then shift your weight onto it. But when you're coming down it's just the opposite. You have to shift your weight first before planting your front foot. Moreover, the surface is farther away, making for a much less stable condition. I can tell you from personal experience in the Alps that I'd much rather be going up than going down. Both thinking and motor coordination are impaired on the descent. It's like you're drunk. You feel physically and mentally wasted from high altitude exhaustion. According to one veteran Everest climber, the main problem this year was inexperience, both among the climbers and the tour operators supporting them. This lack of experience causes people to make wrong decisions. Paradoxically, forcing yourself to keep going when you should be turning around is not a display of too much strength but of weakness. What is more impressive in mountaineering than ambition is the power to control it. If you give everything you have to get to the top, you might just stay there.
I would not be surprised to see the Nepalese government pressured into limiting the number of climbing permits they issue each year. There's already talk about some sort of official vetting of all potential climbers before they can get a permit for Everest. If, for example, you haven't climbed above 20,000 feet already (e.g., Denali) you shouldn't be on Everest. It will be interesting to see what next year's climbing season brings. Climbers have serious responsibilities to others and to themselves. The dilemma you face is to be ambitious but not greedy, bold but not reckless, confident but not arrogant.
Now let's talk about marathoning for a minute. The marathon has often been called "Every Man's Everest." It's a sport that any reasonably healthy person can train himself or herself to run. As a result, many amateurs run in marathons these days, which drives some hardcore runners bananas. "How low is the bar?" they ask. Purists think that running a marathon involves just that: running the entire 26.2 miles at a healthy clip. Slow runners disrespect the distance, they say, and have ruined the mystique about the event. On the other hand, slow runners like myself feel that finishing the race, no matter what your pace, is the crowning achievement. That's not to say that we penguins are against time limits for races. At the Marine Corps Marathon, which I ran last year, runners had to maintain a pace of 14 minutes per mile or risk being pulled from the course at the 20-mile mark. Every one of us who has ever run a marathon has agreed in writing to abide by the cutoff times. That's exactly how it should be. Yes, I will always be a plodder at a marathon, but why should the front runners care? You run your race and I'll run mine. Everybody has a goal in mind on race day, not just the elite runners. Maybe it's just to finish. Whatever. I have seen running change my life. It takes a whole lot of preparation and tenacity to cross the finish line within the time limits. No, slower runners don't "ruin" marathons. One person's easy pace is another person's PR. So kudos to all you marathoners out there -- fast, slow, plodders, and everything in between. As long as everyone stays in their own starting corral, the more the merrier. I've never had anyone impact my race because they were walking. You just go around them and say "Good work, you got this!" As with everything in life, people just have to have the right attitude.
Both climbing Everest and running a marathon are getting more and more popular. You would definitely not want me climbing Everest. I'd slow everyone down and endanger their lives. But when I run a marathon you don't have to worry about me. I stick to the side of the road and start at the back of the pack so the quickies can do their thing. As I say in my new book, I've seen so many people in the past 4 years who've fallen in love with running and who dream of doing a marathon. I say "Go for it!" no matter what your speed and pace are. Lacing up and showing up is half the battle. And if I can do it, so can you. With all due apologies to Caesar, "I trained, I tried, I finished."
P.S. How many marathons do I have left in me? I have decided that I shouldn't do more than 2 or 3 per year. The only marathon I have left this year is Chicago in October, unless I do Honolulu in December. Truth be told, there is really only one other marathon I'd really love to do. It's the Athens Marathon, which actually starts in the city of Marathon and then follows the original route that Pheidippedes ran back in 490 B.C. More than 50,000 runners come out each year for this event. The finish line is in the magnificent Athens Olympic Stadium, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. It's possibly the most difficult of the major marathons in the world, what with its uphill climb from the 10K mark to the 31K mark. But the setting -- can you imagine???
I love Greece. Here's Becky and me in front of the Parthenon in 1982. Such happy memories!
6:20 AM Now this is interesting. An inscription has been found in Iran near the tomb of Darius written in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. There's a full-size relief carving of the unknown figure just beneath the inscription. What's perhaps of greatest interest is the fact the inscription adds new verbs to all 3 languages mentioned. What these verbs are hasn't been revealed yet. Persian is an Indo-European language (like English), so I'm really curious to find out what these words are. Here's just a partial list of English words that are derived from Persian (Farsi):
Here, by the way, is the tomb of Darius ...
... and the tomb of Cyrus.
Interested in learning more? You can do no better than to get a copy of Edwin Yamauchi's now classic Persia and the Bible.
Saturday, June 1
5:14 PM I had my eyes on today's race for several weeks. I thought it would be a good chance to test my commitment to doing all things in "moderation." Like they say, if you never race, you'll never really know. You will recall I'm making a concerted effort -- possibly for the first time in my life -- to train myself not only to run but to run wisely. What with 3 marathons in the bag within the last 5 months, I might have been "overdoing" things a bit, ya think? I've had a growing concern that I might have overplayed my hand. Anyway, enough prologue. I arrived in Durham in plenty of time to get my race bib and t-shirt. The best part of the pre-race activities was bumping into two of my students.
Lining up for the start, I went to the back of the pack like I normally do. After we started, I couldn't believe how good I felt for the entire 5 miles.
I ended up with a respectable time of 54:37 at a 10:53 pace. That means I averaged about 5.2 miles per hour.
I'd definitely say that I felt I had my mojo back even though I was trying to stay well below my maximum heart rate. For me, having a race like the one today is a huge confidence booster. Figuring out how to run a race when you're coming off an injury is a gradual process. Even though I've been running for 4 years now I'm still learning the nuances of race tactics and strategy. Today I felt like I had a good workout that helped me build fitness. And as always, it was great to see everyone enjoying the event. There were tons of veteran runners, newbies, and people of all abilities and paces. There was great energy on the course and the miles seemed to fly by. The weather was perfect with clear skies and cool temps. The route had some hills but nothing too steep. And it was really neat to finish in the Bull Durham Athletic Park.
It turns out an 8K race is a really nice distance -- not so long that you crash and burn aerobically but short enough that you can also have some fun with it. By the way, I failed to win last place in my 65+ age division (boo-hoo). But 3rd from the last ain't all that bad, now is it?
Today confirmed for me the value of being around people who see life as an opportunity for constant growth and improvement. If you ever want to be inspired, attend a race. Better yet, participate in one.
P.S. I took this picture during the race.
I have no idea what it's of. If I didn't make so much money from blogging, I'd be a professional photographer for sure.
4:20 AM Up early. It's race day! I've been training hard. Most of those hours are spent by myself on the trail. Being out there day after day, all by yourself, makes you a bit crazy. I like myself but not that much. Today I'll get to run with about 2,000 other competitors. My goal is to finish without any fatigue or soreness. If I have either I'll know I raced too hard and too fast -- which are two big No-No's. I do have goals in mind for today's race but I'm not telling anyone what they are. Okay, so maybe I will. In the end, I simply want to enjoy myself and the company of my fellow runners. My other goal is to come in dead last in my age division. Should be a cinch.
Speaking of running, I should be getting the final page proofs to my latest book any day now. Right now the publisher and I are going back on forth on the cover. Here's the latest iteration.
What do you think? I kinda like it. The publisher is under no obligation to share any of this with me (publishers always retain sole rights to design a book cover any way they please) but my publisher is a super nice guy and, I think, enjoys the give-and-take. What I've learned through the years (and after writing a bunch of books) is that a cover is a cover. The one thing that's absolutely necessary in a book cover is that it be readable. Nobody should have to put their nose 3 inches from the cover in order to read its subtitle.
I know, this book will seem boring to some. What's on your nightstand? Probably not too many books on running. But this one will be different. It will be by your *favorite* author. It offers simple words of wisdom on life and happiness. Running is a gateway to so many other wonderful things. I hope you'll discover that to be the case, as I have.
That's all I've got for now. Time to eat breakfast (PBJ) and hit the road, Jack.
Friday, May 31
5:04 PM I tried to have a consistent workout pattern in May and here's what happened.
Total: 149 miles. I'm not acting all cool like I'm the only person who's ever done this. I realize many of you are as disciplined if not more disciplined than I am. High fives to you! I'm pleased with both the quantity and the quality of my workouts this month and so grateful to God for the strength to do them, especially when you consider I've been teaching every morning. Gotta say, there were some days when I didn't want to work out and then there were other days when I couldn't stop (two of the days in May I did a full 26.2 miles). Plus, when you're invited to have lunch at a student's house and they serve you authentic food from the Dominican Republic, you realize you had better be exercising or else.
Like you, I've got certain monthly goals. My main goal was to get my class through weeks 1-2 of baby Greek. Then I wanted to try and develop a regular exercise schedule. So, now what? Get my Greek 1 class through one more week of studies. This includes two exams. Then follow through with my June training plan which incorporates cardio (swimming, running, cycling) with strength training. Truth: I'm pretty excited about my June races, including tomorrow's 8K in Durham, a 5K in Cary on the 15th, my triathlon in Wake Forest on the 23rd, and finally my 50K trail run in Farmville, VA, on the 29th. In addition, on the 10th I have my VO2Max treadmill stress test at Duke (the one where you have to wear a mask and they push your body to its absolute limits) and on the 17th I'm seeing the orthopedist (also at Duke) about my foot neuropathy. To top it all off, I'll get a hamburger (just kidding). This is all such valuable info for me. The resulting guidelines will be specific to me. I'm told that these tests will enable me to know my precise level of cardio-respiratory fitness and how efficient my muscles are at utilizing carbohydrates. The whole thing is quite individual, and without testing we can't have real scientific parameters. So it should be an interesting month. In the meantime, I need to get plenty of sleep at night, spend time recovering from my workouts, and continue to give special attention to my diet. Hopefully, I will get wiser with age. When I turn 67 on June 9, I'll join the ranks of such (in)famous people as Mark Hamill, George Strait, Steven Seagal, Mr. T, and Ben Carson. But who cares? Age is just a number.
Wednesday, May 29
6:15 AM I was reading a discussion online this morning about what to do when you go to church and hear the same sermon over and over again. Personally, I always take notes. Yes, I've probably heard much of the sermon before, but there is always a point the Holy Spirit seems to be driving home to me, and I want to be careful to pick up on it. So always have your notepad with you, and use it.
Christians love to debate the marks of a church. Classically, many of us have come to believe that the sermon is either the mark of a local church or one of the most important. Yet it would not be too sardonic to say that, in the earliest church, congregational participation held sway. Just as I'm sure there was formal teaching, I'm also quite sure there was plenty of one-anothering going on as well. Within our fallen human nature we tend to look to one person as our source authority in all things. Sometimes this has proven salutary, but at other times our services become so pulpit-centric that there's hardly a place for participation by the other members of the body. When you go to church, be sure to try and use your spiritual gift in some way for the edification of the body. Go to give and not just to get. And if you're a leader, beware of creating a consumer culture in which people's spiritual responsibility is transferred to the pastors.
The early church also seemed to make the table of the Lord central rather instead the sacred desk. Elsewhere I've called this "Christ-centered gatherings." A healthy church always exalts Christ first and last. And because the earliest believers apparently celebrated His death and resurrection on a weekly basis (e.g., Acts 20:7), they assembled not to hear one person speak but for renewal and togetherness and then to go out to live lives on mission, loving God and neighbor. The gathering existed for the going, as I like to say.
I think the question "What should I do when I hear the same sermon every Sunday?" is a challenge to the introversion of our churches. The church is not for us. It is for the whole world. We cannot keep the Gospel to ourselves. Evangelism and service in our communities are essential. The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost to equip each of us for service and mission, for mutual edification and evangelism. This Spirit is neither dead nor absent in our churches. It is He who can rekindle the people of God with His gracious gifts for acts of worship both when we gather and when we go back out into the world.
5:55 AM This is a beautiful video. I watched it again last night.
"This is the day that the Lord has made" is a scriptural theme throughout the Bible. We can enjoy nature without worshipping it. The Old Testament poets delighted in describing the natural world around them. This is partly because they lived much closer to nature than most of us do today. In going about their daily tasks they observed nature's glorious manifestations, much as I do here at the farm. Not a day goes by when I do not consciously praise the Lord Jesus for a puppy that loves me, donkeys that bray when they see me, goats that gleefully butt heads together. The Psalmists likewise observed the ways of bears and badgers, the turbulent waters, the glory of nature. In enjoying the natural world they had much in common with other poets in the ancient world – with two very important differences.
In the first place, their Middle Eastern neighbors not only waxed poetic about the trees and the birds; they worshipped them. The biblical poets, on the other hand, resisted the temptation to deify the environment. They enjoyed the natural world without worshipping it. The second difference between the Psalmists and their neighbors involved the language they used to describe "nature." For them, nature was specifically "creation." This term expressed the belief that the world owes its beauty and splendor, not to its own power or genius, but to God. Read any creation Psalm and you will see that the real significance of the universe is understood only by the eye of faith. And this faith was not in some man-made deity but in the eternal God Himself. All creation depends on the Creator for birth, life, and sustenance. "You open your hand, and they are filled with good." Even death is controlled by the Sovereign God. "You take away their breath and they die and return to their dust." The point is that God has established creation, and everything God created is a gift from Him.
The Psalms teach us that we can enjoy creation without worshipping it. And we enjoy it because we first love its Creator.
Tuesday, May 28
6:54 PM This and that ....
1) This is one of my favorite Indian concoctions. I cooked it tonight.
It's Chicken Vindaloo with carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms. Served it over Jasmine Rice. (Oh my goodness, I need counseling now.)
2) Now that I've eaten it's time to work. Here's a screen shot of the page proofs to the French edition of my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. I'm slowly making my way through the book.
I spent a lot of time teaching myself French before leaving for Basel in 1980. Not that I was expecting an exam over French when I got there. No way they'd do that at the uni there. The mentality in Basel was, Well, you're working on your doctorate, right? Obviously, then, you know French, right? On outings to neighboring Alsace, French sure came in handy. Of course, I'm sorely out of practice. Weiss Du, es fehlt mir im Sprechen an Übung. Oops. Wrong language!
3) Thanks, by the way, to my ever-able assistant Mr. Noah Kelley for teaching today's class for me. They covered chapter 7 -- imperfect and aorist active indicative. In which we get to say:
And if you haven't read Frank Stagg's classic essay The Abused Aorist, what in the world are you waiting for?
5:58 PM I just spent 8 hours in the van driving to and from Gastonia. What a gorgeous day it was for a drive too. I avoided the freeways as much as I could, preferring the byways to the highways. Dr. Owens' funeral was a blessing. He was eulogized by two of his daughters. One of them said, "The greatest joy of his life was giving to others." The pagan satirist Lucian (130-200 A.D.) mocked Christians for their kindness: "The earnestness with which the people help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end. Their first lawgiver put it into their heads that they were all brethren." What a true statement. What a legacy Dr. Owens leaves his descendants and all of us. The early church constantly practiced self-denial to meet each other's needs. We don't see the New Testament church hoarding its possessions. Oh may we all become as extravagantly giving as they were! This evening I'm praising God for the life of this wonderful saint. There were some hilarious stories at his funeral balanced by touching reminiscences of a life well lived. To God be the glory!
P.S. Quoted at the funeral: "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God's help, I aim to be that man" (Dwight L. Moody). Amen!
6:10 AM I have several traits that were stamped into my DNA. One of them is hardheadedness. For example, last year I did an 50K ultramarathon. All 31 miles of it. Moreover, it was a trail run, and the conditions were less than ideal. Somehow I finished under the 8-hour time limit. It wasn't pretty. But I loved every second of it. This is my one and only body. I want to get as much out of it as I can before it returns to the dust. Of course, it doesn't look like it did 30 years ago. Still, I'm thankful for it, and when I enter a race I'm not racing anyone but myself. The spirit that drove the ancient Athenian athletes is buried deep inside me. For many of us, it's not the last step of a marathon (or an ultra) that defines us but the first step. Getting to the starting line is not the beginning of something but its culmination. The rest, as they say, is celebration.
All that to say I'm seriously praying about doing another 50K race this year. On June 29, in fact. Not only is it another 31-mile trail run, it's at night. Now doesn't that sound like fun? This time there's a very generous 9.5 hour time limit. (They must have heard I'm slowing down.) The doc says I can do anything I want to as long as I do it in moderation. So when I see him again I'll ask him about this race. We all have our strengths. Mine is that I can walk/hike forever and not get tired. (I did a lot of hiking when I climbed the Alps and the Rockies.) Of course, I realize that sometimes enthusiasm is my biggest asset and at other times my greatest liability. I stand by the fact that we all need to have our personal goals of what it means to succeed in life. That said, I haven't signed up yet for the race. I'm watching to see how my training is coming along for the tri I'm going to do.
What are your thoughts on "pushing the limits"?
Where do you fall on the "hardheadedness" spectrum?
What do you think about ultramarathons?
Monday, May 27
6:20 PM This Saturday is the next Running of the Bulls 8K in Durham, UK. (Not really. The other Durham.) My shoes are lined up and I'm ready to roll. 8K races are kinda rare around here. That's about 5 miles -- longer than a 5K but not as long as a 10K. I know I have a fast 8K race in me. Just not right now. Remember, "moderation" is the word nowadays. So I'll just take my sweet old time as I mosey through the revitalized neighborhoods of downtown Durham, the American Tobacco Campus, and the old Durham neighborhoods. The race ends inside the Durham Athletic Park.
Gotta go. I must be boring you something awful.
6:02 PM Just added to our website: Mark's Theology of the Cross (Korean version).
8:35 AM I hate to blog about my personal weight loss journey because the issue is so sensitive. Yet it's an important one (there are over 600,000 deaths from heart disease every year in the U.S.). I am in no way saying it's right to judge people on the basis of their outward appearance. If you or I are overweight, we know it without anyone having to tell us. However, I do believe that health is largely a choice. Health. Not necessarily weight, though weight is one factor in terms of our health. Speaking only for myself, I've made the decision to change my eating habits, and I have. That said, my body type is such that I'll always look heavy. I think we all need to practice self-care no matter what our weight is. My goal is to stay healthy and find balance. I carry more weight on me than the average runner but I eat healthy and have an active lifestyle. But in the end, fitness definitely trumps BMI.
Many people will tell you to start exercising if you want to lose fat. That's all fine and good, but an exercise program is useless unless it's balanced by healthy eating habits. In the past 3 months I've made healthy eating my number #1 health goal. I also follow an exercise/training schedule that you read about all the time on this blog. I consider myself to eat pretty healthy today. I don't calorie count but I do watch everything I put into my mouth, and I mean everything. I have lost a lot of weight but I know I won't keep it off unless I maintain healthy eating habits. For me this means:
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I don't miss some of these foods. But my body is my temple and I want to treat it right. Truth be told, I'm enjoying eating clean. I think my relationship with food is a lot healthier than it's been in a long time. We type A's strive for perfection but it's not about perfection but rather about progress. So it seems clear to me: The most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to focus on diet -- not necessarily cutting calories but eating good ones. The fact is that we can never lose weight just by exercising. We can never out-exercise our bad eating habits. The challenge is coping with all those ads we see every hour of every day (Coke, MacDonald's, Starbucks, etc.) But I would say that even if you only removed soda from your diet you'd see a drastic improvement in your weight. But it's also important to remember that we each have a limit as to how much about our looks we can change. For me, it all comes down to seeing food as fuel. It's taken me a very long time to realize this. It's taken me a long time to realize that garbage in equals garbage out. So awareness is key. When you combine a sedentary lifestyle with lousy eating habits the result is predictable.
That's my two cents. Knowledge is power, folks. Let's make wise eating choices and let God take care of the rest.
What's your eating philosophy?
Do you think you have a healthy relationship with food?
Does exercise play a role in your life?
7:10 AM If you're taking me for Greek in the fall, Amazon is selling my beginning grammar for only $7.38.
6:48 AM This will be our second week of Greek 1-2. Think of it as miles 7-9 of a marathon. Also remember that when Christian and Hopeful were approaching the Celestial City, some shepherds offered them hospitality. Their names were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. They warned the travelers of the temptations that could impede their Pilgrim's Progress. One of them was Pride. Pride makes us believe that we can do everything in our strength. It draws us away from our utter dependence on God. Students, don't mistake faithfulness for success. Pass the baton to Jesus. The sooner we acknowledge the role He plays in our progress, the easier it will be to keep moving forward. Instead of saying, "Lord, how am I going to get through this?" say, "Lord, I'm eager to see how You will get me through this."
I'll be at a funeral tomorrow so my assistant will teach the class tomorrow. See you Wednesday!
Sunday, May 26
5:02 PM What a great day it's been. Got in a 10-mile bike before church. Then swam laps. Right now I'm cooking Indian food from scratch. That's quite an admission from someone who spent most of his life eating burgers at MacDonald's.
Do you find it hard sometimes to say no? I do. Recently I was asked to sit on a doctoral committee and not only read a dissertation but attend the oral defense. This would have required me to fly to another country. However, the student's field of study is one I'm familiar with but under no circumstances would I consider myself an expert in. I would have loved to have said yes. After all, who in their right mind would pass up a chance to travel (at their expense, not mine) to one of their favorite countries and help a doctoral student? When we allow pride to gain a foothold in our lives, one of the negative results is that we don't like to acknowledge personal limits. But we simply can't be all things to all people. I know I can't. Still, I find it difficult to say, "I'm limited. I'm not able to do it." But that's exactly what I said. This wasn't false humility. I really do not think I would have been the right examiner for that oral. This experience reminded me of two very important life principles:
In the past decade I've passed up offers to write several major commentaries, including one on Hebrews and another on Philippians. This is not to say I wasn't tempted. I was. Everyone knows how much I love those books. But in all honesty, I really don't think I could contribute much more to the field than has already been said.
Here's a tip for when you have to say no to an invitation. Try to combine empathy with objectivity. Begin by being empathetic: "Wow, that sounds like a great opportunity. I imagine finding just the right person to do that job is going to be tricky. Thank you so much for considering me." Then you can also express your objectivity: "However, I'm not the right person to help you with this. I'm simply not familiar enough with the subject, nor does my schedule allow it."
I was once asked to teach a Greek course overseas through a translator. Once again, I would normally have jumped on an opportunity like that. But think about it: Greek is difficult enough to teach in English let alone in, say, Russian or Mandarin. Then, too, by using a translator your teaching time is cut by at least 60 percent. I say "60 percent" instead of 50 percent because translating grammatical concepts takes longer than everyday prose. This is not to say that I haven't taught Greek internationally. I taught 6 weeks of beginning Greek in Ethiopia and several semesters of Greek in Asia. But these classes were all in English.
I used to be able to go into overdrive to please people who invited me to do this or that. Too often I ran with my feelings. But I'm learning to stick with the facts as much as possible and with what is truly needed as opposed to what I or they want. So if you ask me to write a reference for you, I might pass. The reason is usually obvious: I feel someone else could write a stronger reference than I can, and that would be to your benefit.
Friend, do not buckle under pressure. Do what is right, even (and maybe especially) when the pressure rises.
7:30 AM My assistant has just posted my Advanced Greek Grammar syllabus for the fall. You know what? It's not even going to be hard. I mean, except for all the reading the students will have to do. And did I mention doing a complete discourse analysis of the book we're studying? Or reading Robertson's "Big Grammar"? Of course, between all of these assignments we'll hardly make a dent in the subject. That just seems so unfair. But ya can't do everything in one Greek class.
The book I've decided to do is 3 John. I figured I could either go "long" (e.g., Mark) or "short." The reason I like 3 John is that its discourse structure is still debated today (despite there being at least 5 major articles that have been written on the topic) and that it's easily memorizable in Greek. Moreover, each student will lead a class discussion at least once over certain über-important themes in 3 John, such as:
By the way, I'm asking my students to read books and essays by Greek scholars with whom I disagree on certain matters. I tell my students that the seminary years are good years to test your beliefs. During my seminary years I was rarely invited into the wonderful world of critical self-examination. Much of my seminary education was characterized by facts to be memorized and then regurgitated on a test. I have no objection to learning critical facts about the New Testament, nor do I object to giving (and taking) exams that require intense memory work. What I do object to is not delegating to students as much responsibility as possible. Do you remember when God created Adam and then asked him to name the animals? Here's a verse we sometimes forget: "He [God] brought them to man to see what he would name them" (2:19). Now that's delegation. God gave the responsibility of naming the animals to Adam and He wasn't going to interfere in the process. No, student-involvement is not a panacea. But it just might help us not get swept away into evangelical rationalism -- a kind of proof-texting Christianity that's nothing more than an exercise in mental gymnastics. To be honest, when I was a student I really didn't mind the "You sit still while I instill" method of instruction all that much, because I had a good memory and good ace practically every exam I took. What I did mind was being asked to agree with the teacher without any solid reasons being given.
Praying for my students? You bet I am. The course will require a lot. It will tax both the head and the heart. But scholarship and piety go hand in hand. You might even say they're co-inherent.
P.S. I hope to get in another swim this afternoon in preparation for my next sprint triathlon in Wake Forest on June 23. This will be the third time I've done this event so I'm no stranger to the course. This is a great race for many reasons, not least because this is the first triathlon many people have done. (It was my first.) It's also great because the pool is outdoors and therefore you can breath (unlike the tri I'm doing in September which is indoors and leads to massive hyperventilation). Not sure what else to say here except I hope you're enjoying the long weekend. Try not to get a sunburn!
Saturday, May 25
4:50 PM It's happened again. Kailua Beach has been voted the #1 beach in the U.S. I lived at Kailua Beach from 1955-1971. In the years I lived there, I always knew it was a very special place. Whenever I go back there I feel right at home again. It feels so surreal to see my old schools and the beach where I surfed all those years. Someone has said, "Home is a place you want to leave when you're growing up and want to return to when you're growing old." So true. I'll be back there in August, Lord willing. Already booked my flights. There's something oh so special about going home. I guess you can take the little boy out of Hawai'i but you can never take Hawai'i out of the little boy.
I leave you with my view every morning during my stay in Kailua. The handiwork of our great Creator!
4:22 PM Just got back home. This morning I lifted for an hour, then ran for an hour, then swam laps at the county pool, and then went grocery shopping. You could argue that my life is never dull. I am really excited that swimming has entered the picture again. It's the only exercise I've done for practically my whole life. Of course, chlorine makes me cringe, and those goggles -- ugh. But I've decided to do another triathlon next month to celebrate my 67th birthday and I figure that if I can't run or bike like a bat out of Hades then I sure can swim to my arms' content. The one thing any swimmer will tell you is that it gets boring real quick. If only iPods worked in water.
Speaking of boring, in years past I've written a book (Learn to Read New Testament Greek) and have produced a video series about learning to read your Greek New Testament. As I've taught Greek through the years, my awareness of Greek pedagogy has come into sharper focus. That's why I was delighted when a young man approached me several years ago to write his doctoral dissertation on the topic of Greek pedagogy under my guidance. I genuinely believe that the time is ripe for an overhaul in the way we teach Greek to students. Perhaps this is obvious, but just because we have an earned doctorate in ancient Greek doesn't necessarily make us effective classroom teachers. Oh, the irony. No one can teach in our public high schools without being credentialed as a classroom teacher. But if the objective of education is learning, not teaching, then perhaps we need to follow the old Latin proverb "Docendo discimus" -- "We learn by teaching." I have always learned best when the classroom is interactive and the teacher makes the subject both fun and applicable to my life. At any rate, this young man's book is now finished and it will be published by Wipf & Stock in the near future. Which reminds me, I was asked to write the foreword to the book. No hay problema. I am a book junkie, so to write a foreword to a really good book is no sweat off my back. So although maybe only one or two of you may be interested, I'll post below what I wrote. My foreword is both a thinly veiled confession and a barely disguised call for change. Meanwhile, I'm happily typing out a book review, because on a hot day like today what else is there to do?
7:50 AM I was up early this morning trying to beat the heat and get my farm chores done before working out at the Y. All the bird droppings on the front porch have been ruffling my feathers. I consider myself blessed to have swallows on the farm but honestly, their poop is beginning to encroach on my personal space. Anyhoo, that mess has now been cleaned up. At least I'll have one day of blessed cleanliness. Speaking of successful damage control, later today I'll mow (again, before it gets too hot). Have you noticed how the weather has become bonkers of late? It hasn't rained in weeks and the ground is dry -- as in DRY dry -- which is a good thing because I'm currently harvesting 80 acres of timber.
I definitely would not want to have a logging truck get stuck in one of my driveways. Unbelievably, it hasn't rained a single day while the loggers have been on the property, and if the current weather holds up they should be done in about a month. Then I'll have to decide when to reseed the acreage. You knew that trees are a crop right? Well, for years I didn't. I thought trees were, well, trees. Then I found out that they need to be carefully cultivated just like any other crop. Live and learn.
Not long ago -- well, this morning actually -- I read about a brand new translation of the New Testament calling itself The Pure Word. It claims to reveal "the original Koine-Greek depths of meaning from the time of Christ using breakthroughs in monadic-based hermeneutics." It further claims that "English is an imprecise language that can easily cause misunderstanding. In contrast, one of the most complete languages that clarifies intent is Koine Greek ...." Well, I think we could use a little more information. Please tell us by name who your translators were. Please explain to us what "monadic-based hermeneutics" is. Please give us more than one verse as a sample. Please back up your assertion that "There are over 450 English New Testament translations; all riddled with inaccuracies that never referenced the original Greek scriptures" with proof. As someone who originally worked on the ISV New Testament, I think we owe as much to our readers. The field of Christian publishing is a pressure cooker. Nowhere is this truer than with Bible translations. Bible publishing is this bizarre world where we hyperventilate because another translation is trying to vie for our loyalty. This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it restricted to the world of Bible translations. (Beginning Greek grammars fall into this category.) For instance, does this rendering of John 3:16 in The Pure Bible really help us understand what the Greek is saying?
I think not. And then there's this notion that somehow Koine Greek is ambiguity-free. I can't tell you how many times I heard it stated in college that the New Testament had to be written in Greek because Greek is the most perfect language in the history of the world. In seminary I recall reading about the days when some New Testament scholars were even promoting the idea of a special "Holy Ghost Greek" that God invented in order to inscripturate His New Testament truth -- a notion that turned out to be, by the way, a demonstrable cul-de-sac. What would be so difficult about providing us with more information? More examples? A list of the translators along with their qualifications? It is hard to produce a new Bible translation. I know. But I think we do the church a tragic disservice to publish one in relative secrecy. By the way, scanning my bookshelves I see I have dozens of English Bible translations. They do me absolutely no good unless I read them. No, you don't need to spend exactly one hour in the Word every day. But God's beautiful Word -- well, it's essential, folks, and you'll need it before the day is through, believe me. Reading the Word is how we become centered and remember that God wants to be personally involved in our lives. That's why I was kicking myself this morning for forgetting my Greek New Testament at the office. (As you would expect from a Greek teacher, I read only my Greek New Testament. Except sometimes when I also read an English Bible translation. Okay, so many English translations that it has gotten a bit embarrassing.) What I'm trying to say is this: There's simply no excuse for not being in God's Word. At the same time, no Bible translation is perfect -- which is exactly why we need so many of them for comparison.
Check out The Pure Bible for yourself. In the video clip, you'll hear how the different Greek words for "love" in John 21:15-17 are said to be crucial for our understanding of this passage. Not all would agree, of course. But like I said, check it out for yourself. Hopefully the publisher will provide us with more information shortly. I'm especially curious to know who the translators were.
Off to the Y.
Friday, May 24
4:04 PM Can you believe it? One third of Greek 1 is done. I sent the class home today with their first exam. They have until next Tuesday to take it since Monday is a holiday. Interestingly, they've lasted longer than I did when I took Greek many years ago. I was a goner after only 3 weeks into the semester. Thankfully, none of us is bound by the failures of the past. A dropped class doesn't dictate our future, and progress can still be had through Christ. My dropping Greek, although unbeknownst to me at the time, was a precursor for His grace in my life. It was a reminder that Jesus can turn any misery into ministry, any brokenness into beauty. It's not our job to figure everything out. That's His job. Our only job is the trust and obey. Today I laugh out loud when I think about how close I came to not becoming a Greek teacher. Friend, what setback are you facing today? You can get over it. By the grace of God, you can. Look no further than the life of the apostle Paul, whom Christ turned into His choice servant despite the fact that Paul had been the enemy of Christianity. Jesus has a total grasp on the timing in your life. Trust Him for it. He won't push you into something too soon or take something away from you without replacing it with something better.
While my students are busy reviewing for their Greek exam I've been spending my spare time reading. I love, love, love to read. And not just Runners World. I borrowed this book last night from the school library.
Yes, I read the whole book last night. It tells the story of how the American missionaries and the Hawaiian ali'i (chiefs) collaborated, among other things, to develop a written Hawaiian language and establish schools that resulted in widespread literacy in the Islands. Thankfully, the book avoids both missionary hagiography on the one hand and Hawaiian victimization on the other. "There was no way that the missionaries could have caused Hawai'i to become a literate, Christian nation without the agency of the ali'i'" (p. 17). The one caveat I have about this book is the way its title is translated into English: "To cooperate." This is a paraphrase. I like the literal meaning better: "Help over there, help over here" -- meaning "We help each other wherever we are." I cannot thank the people in my life enough for making my work possible, from my secretary to my personal assistant to the library staff to my colleagues (from whom I draw encouragement and a good laugh). These people are amazing, strong, and capable. Tonight I'm going to start writing an entry for a new encyclopedia of biblical Greek language and linguistics -- a book in which writers and editors will work together to produce a whole that is much greater than its parts. Perhaps the most important cooperation of all is with the Holy Spirit. As we grant Him full sway in our lives He changes us from the inside out and we are free to soar to new heights. Cooperation is a necessity of life. "We're better together" goes the saying. That said, sometimes being together can be disastrous. Just look at this picture taken during this year's climbing season on Everest.
This is not cooperation. It's chaos. One climber died as a result of being stranded at the top of the Hillary Step for 2 hours on his descent. I grew up surfing in Hawai'i. The surfing spots were never very crowded and rarely were they territorial. (Makaha Beach on the West Shore was an exception; we still surfed there, but we were careful to respect the locals.) Today, I despise the North Shore. Too crowded, too territorial, too much hassle. (Google it.) In my life, I try to avoid both too much dependence and too much independence. Interdependence is a far better goal. An interdependent relationship is one in which we can rely on each other without surrendering our autonomous identity. The healthiest way we can interact with our family members is by being interdependent -- involved with each other without sacrificing our identities or values. Now that's a tough balancing act! We're not meant to sequester ourselves or avoid culture. But we can't be gullible either. Jesus sends us out shrewdly innocent. I think the missionaries to Hawai'i and the ali'i of the Islands maintained, for the most part, a healthy balance in their relationship. I'm sure there are a myriad of things they could have done better. As with most things in life, balance is the key. Yes, I enjoy my own identity. Yes, I have my own path in life. But that's no reason to be avoidant or independent. The ideal is to create a hybrid in which each one of us takes responsibility for our own well-being. That's the main takeaway I had from reading this book. Embrace true mutuality. Do right by it. Then let it heal you of your irresponsible codependence.
Running Update: I've been getting in at least 4 miles daily but right now I'm mostly eagerly anticipating the local pools opening on Monday so that I can get back into swimming. Like a dork I overdid it a little this week by going 20 miles without a break but thankfully I've recovered from that outing. I did watch the Boston Marathon documentary last night and it was a tear-jerker. I love how Boston came back after the terrorist attacks of 2013. Meanwhile, get ready because I've signed up for my fifth triathlon next month. In a tri you have to swim, then bike, then run. I used to hate the biking part of the race until I got my super-nifty light-weight road bike. I really don't like the swim part of the race either because the pool is waaaay too crowded for anyone to be able to swim at what you'd consider a happy pace. In fact, you're lucky if you survive without getting too many facial scratches from the toenails in front of you. Still, there's nothing like a tri! I am on strict orders by my doctor to do everything in moderation, and they've ordered a VO2Max treadmill test for me so I know they are serious. Like a good patient, I'm being super compliant, but I do miss my "go for broke" days.
Off to get some yard work done now that it's cooled off a bit. It's been so HOT these days. What will you be doing tonight? Watch Boston: The Documentary if you can. You won't regret it. It's available on Amazon Prime.
Thursday, May 23
6:22 AM A couple of things before I head back to campus:
1) Dr. M. O. Owens Jr. has passed away. He was 105. I will be attending his funeral in Gastonia on Tuesday. As you may know, I am privileged to hold the Dr. M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies. I don't imagine any greater honor has come my way in my 43-year teaching career. It has not been unfairly pointed out that graduate theological education can get a bit stuffy at times. We can produce graduates who are educated beyond their intelligence if we're not careful. Dr. Owens' life and ministry was characterized by simple obedience and loving, humble leadership. It's an example every leader needs.
2) As crazy as it sounds, I've been asked by Jillian Ross and Jaeshill Kim of Liberty University -- both experts in linguistics -- to give a lecture on that topic on their campus in September. The date is Friday, Sept. 20. I've titled my lecture "Why Bible Students Should Be the Best Linguists Out There." Keep in mind that I'm not a linguist nor the son of a linguist and have never had a course in linguistics. So what right do I have to give a talk on this topic? None!
3) Tonight the Bull City Running Company is hosting a private showing of the new movie Boston: A Documentary.
There is nothing like being in a theater filled with hard core runners. This movie is more than the story of the Boston Marathon. It's a movie about a mindset -- a mindset that separates those who do from those who dream. You see, long distance running depends more on tenacity than talent. It doesn't matter how un-athletic you are. You can become a long-distance athlete. You can really and truly be one of them. I've seen people of every age, size, and shape cross the finish line of a marathon. Take whatever talent you have and then get out there and see what happens. I'm going to make every effort to be there for the movie tonight. I will watch any movie about running. But Boston? That's special.
Wednesday, May 22
5:14 PM Hello again, wonderful internet! I love being spontaneous. But I also love routine -- like blogging daily. My only "rule" for blogging is honesty. And honestly, I've hated not being able to blog for 11 days. (What? You didn't even know I was gone? Thanks a lot.) I love the connection that blogging allows. I haven't gone this long without blogging in years. But all's well that ends well -- my website was successfully migrated to my new server and everything went without a hitch (thank God). The problem is, when you haven't blogged for a while, things tend to pile up, if you know what I mean. Since we last spoke I:
Here are a few pix:
Mom with Brian Piper, who arranged Becky's piece.
At Saturday's 5K in Wake Forest we raised over $5,000 for Hope House.
Laying hands on brother Shane.
J'adore my life right now. It's busy as all get out, but I wouldn't change a thing. This is who I am, a crazy mixed up guy who's hungry for the straight-up gospel and is ready to learn what it means to live on mission. For maybe the first time in my life I'm not trying to create my own opportunities but instead trying to lean on the Holy Spirit's leading day by day and even hour by hour. The gospel is bigger than me or any one of us. Imagine what would happen if we all made it a priority in our lives? I recall being a member of the so-called Jesus Movement in the 1960s. Man were we hip. But it was too easy for us to become a club for cozy insiders who wore mariachi sandals and had long hair. This is not what God intended for His church. The Holy Spirit didn't come to make us complacent and comfortable. He came to make us missionaries to our own circles of influence and beyond. I, for one, thank God for the grass roots laity movement He's raising up in our day -- a people who are keen to share in acts of generosity and witness and worship, a church which is undeniably a sign of the in-breaking kingdom -- a tiny manifestation of the way God intended people to live and act and be.
I have a million more things to say and pictures to post. But this is too much already! Suffice it to say I'm glad I got my blogging voice back. I'm feeling inspired, so you'd better watch out for what might be coming your way in the next few days. Remember: Enjoy every minute God gives you on this earth. I value you desperately, my dear readers. We serve a Savior who is bent on taking us all on a wild ride. So hop aboard and let's do it!
P.S. Here's Brian Piper's magnificent arrangement of For All the Saints. Hope you enjoy it!
Saturday, May 11
6:38 AM There are so many good things happening in biblical studies nowadays it's hard to know where to start. Here are just two notices for you to be aware of:
1) The videos from our linguistics conference are now online.
2) IBR announces a new research group called Linguistics and the Biblical Text.
Greek grammar and syntax are the staple diet of the student, but that diet is enhanced in many ways, all of which contribute to one's development. Speaking of which, I'm taking the "books and the parchments" with me to Dallas this weekend. I've got a major term paper to grade and I've got to finalize my syllabus for Advanced Greek Grammar, plus prepare a message for next Sunday. Beyond that, I'm looking forward to warm Christian fellowship at the church Becky was raised in, Grace Bible Church. Friendships were born there that have survived to this day, and I know many of her old friends will be in attendance this Sunday morning at the 8:30 service to remember Becky's life and, more importantly, to honor her Lord. I love being with mom and dad, and I trust this weekend's events will bring them great joy and many happy memories of their eldest daughter. I hope we all come away with a fresh love for Jesus and a new openness to follow Him, wherever He should lead us. Danny Akin's card to the graduates said this: "As you graduate today, my prayer for each of you is simply this: the will of God: nothing less, nothing more and nothing else." That pretty much says it all. I have enormous appreciation for our graduates. They are determined to display their academic building blocks only when called upon to do so. There is no greater joy for them than helping someone come to faith in Christ.
I want to thank Baker Academic for allowing us to publish the conference videos. It's been a delight to work with their editors. This will be my 7th book with Baker and I've always appreciated their careful work and gracious spirit. Again, I want to thank my students (whose final semester grades are now available online) for their diligence this semester. I have found it all an exciting adventure of faith. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to God as I look back over 43 years of teaching. This journey has been both humbling and inspiring, and it was made possible because a man named Rudy Ulrich brought the Gospel to Kailua, Hawaii in 1960. The years since Jesus saved me have been a bit messy, sometimes very painful, but always exciting. For 59 years the Lord whom I've followed has kept His promise and has never failed me or forsaken me. Praise be to Him.
By the way, my website will be migrating to a different server while I'm gone. Not sure if DBO will go offline during any part of this process. If so, you'll know why.
I leave you with a pic from our wedding day at Grace waaaaay back in 1976. Bye!
Friday, May 10
6:40 PM Today's commencement services were such an encouragement to me. Danny Akin's messages from Heb. 12:1-3 were just what I needed. It can be jarring, this race that we run as Christians. I leave for Dallas tomorrow excited beyond belief that Becky's commemorative piece will be performed on Sunday. But that's not the entire picture. Fact is, right now I'm a complicated ball of emotions. Grief is always hard, but I find it's usually hardest on holidays and special occasions such as birthdays or Mother's Day. Sunday happens to be both. These are predictable times when my grief seems to hurt more than usual. They activate a flood of memories that make me feel especially empty because of her absence. Strange, don't you think, that this weekend augurs so much blessing and yet so much pain at the same time? Maybe it's not so strange. When I look into the Gospels, I see Jesus attending a wedding party and laughing it up and then I see Him weeping outside of the tomb of a man He was about to raise from the dead. As Danny reminded us in his message today, Jesus is fully present in our "race." We're not on this earth to live our lives all by our lonesomes, but in relationship with God and in community with others. That's how Jesus lived -- not locked away in some medieval monastery, immune to the pain of the world. He got dirty and He got hurt. Observe the race that He ran: all the way to the cross (Heb. 12:2). When I feel like falling, when I'm trying to make sense of life, when I can't find a place to stand, when I don't understand why my prayers don't seem to make any difference, I do know that Christ has finished His race, and that my victory is also assured, whether I can understand everything involved with it or not. All day people have been coming up to me and asking me how I've been doing. I have been so blessed by their love, by the grace they've extended to me even when I get choked up, my heart in splinters. Again, the Voice whispers in my soul:
I penned every line in Becky's story even before she was born. I knew the days she was numbered, I knew when she would laugh and when she would cry, I knew when her heart was breaking with Mine, I knew the miracles I would perform and those I would withhold, in My loving sovereignty.
"Fix your eyes on Jesus," writes the author of Hebrews. Give voice to your precious memories. Celebrate a life well lived. Commemorate who she was and give a testimony about her. The God of strength, comfort, hope, and love, the God who promises to wipe away all tears, will hold you closer than ever before and will fill your emptiness. His presence is enough. But His presence doesn't mean that you won't feel pain again, that you won't be reminded of her by sights and sounds, that you won't mourn her again, especially on holidays and birthdays. No, God doesn't want you to forget her, David. He does not ask you to forget the years you spent together. Forget? No. Never. Move on with your life? Yes. Definitely yes. His love will fill you each time you pour yourself out.
There's no way I could ever fathom how much my Savior loves me. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame. Tonight I'm asking this Savior, this Forerunner, this divine Pace Setter, to fill me back up again with His love and wisdom and strength, so that I can go back out tomorrow and pour myself out again.
My friend, when you lost that loved one of yours, a hole was created in your life. You might say, "I'm just not myself anymore." And that's true. You will never be the same. But as you live with the face of grief as your constant companion, remember these words (adapted from The Message):
5:45 AM It's commencement day, friends! What is graduation anyway? It's sort of a combination of a mother robin prodding her babies to leave the nest and the completion of Navy Seal training. In celebration of this auspicious occasion, I've published a couple of essays you might (or might not) enjoy. One is called The Purpose of a Seminary. The other is titled Greek Student: Quo Vadis? (Hey, why say it in English when you can impress people with your knowledge of Latin, right?) Graduate + Celebration = Commencement. (This is about as mathematical as I get.) I am an education addict. There, Dr. Phil, I said it. I hate to admit how lost I'd be without my teaching. Of course, like all good things, that too will come to an end one day. Which reminds me of the old German joke: Alles hat ein End. Nur eine Wurst hat zwei. Lustig, eh?? ("Lustig" means "funny," by the way. This is a family blog after all.)
Are you an educator? Between the time I blog, farm, and do a dozen other things, I spend a lot of time in the classroom. That's because I believe in the power of a good education. As Gandhi once said, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." That's my second favorite education quote. (My first is by Mark Twain: "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." How true that is. We all know people who are educated beyond their intelligence, right?) Since when hasn't the church needed educated people? Plenty are ordained who can't do simple exegesis. Some are utterly devoid of academic skills. Christianity transcends human reason, to be sure, but it is an eminently reasonable faith and leaders need to be able to articulate it intelligently. Looking back over 21 years of teaching at Southeastern, I'm grateful to God for raising up an institution that values high academic scholarship while not losing our evangelical stance or our evangelistic fervor. And it's a joy for me to honor our 300 graduates today. It was an extraordinarily satisfying year for me on campus, and I can't wait for summer Greek start in two weeks.
Thursday, May 9
8:15 PM Got up several loads of hay this evening.
We worked until dusk.
I love this life. "Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They do not die of hard work" (David Ogilvy).
12:50 PM Okay -- who out there is busier than I am? In addition to working on the farm this morning, I lifted at the Y.
Than ran 5 miles.
Then visited Becky's grave.
Then enjoyed Mexican with family.
Kids take the best selfies, don't they?
Right now it's break time before getting up hay bales. I am a bit overworked but I will persevere. At least I'm not disintegrating!
6:45 AM Good morning, internet friends! This morning found me ensconced in the book of Ephesians, writhing through my translation of 4:11-12 and consulting my commentaries -- the most important of which is my former Basel professor Markus Barth's two-volume work in the Anchor Bible Series.
His rendering of the fourfold gifts in 4:11 nails it:
I noted two things:
"Shepherds" is, of course, a much better translation than "pastors," as the Greek word for "pastor" is always rendered "shepherd" in its other occurrences in the New Testament. Here in Eph. 4:11 it is simply a metaphor for pastoral leadership and we would de well not to remove the metaphor in our translations.
Now, what is the purpose or goal of pastoral leadership and teaching? One of the hallmarks of Jesus' upside-down kingdom is the fact that all believers are servant-ministers under the New Covenant. Pastoral leaders beckon the sheep to follow Christ, not them, and they use their influence to mobilize the resources in the church to serve the needs of others. Just as Jesus never used power for self-gain or glory, so teaching shepherds serve at the bottom of the ladder, thus defying social custom and redefining rights and expectations in the new order of God's kingdom. Although it is our human inclination to build pyramids of power, Jesus doesn't bless our human structures, not even in the church. The Holy Spirit has endowed each of us with unique gifts and abilities and we should equally esteem each contribution, whether teaching or washing windows. This is the overriding principle that I try to bring to all my classes: equipping the Christians in the congregation for the work of serving Jesus by serving others, rather than trying to do most (or all) of ministry by myself. People, especially young people, thrive on being given some task and entrusted to do it. Even among those whom God has called to lead the congregation, there is to be a "fellowship of leadership" (Michael Green), a team that will not only lead but enable each member of the church to achieve his or her full potential. You need a fellowship of leadership that models team work if you are to have a congregation that grows in maturity when it is given responsibility.
Teaching shepherds, then, are to "prepare God's people for works of service." This is in fact the work of the ministry Paul is referring to here. Regardless of their vocation or position, disciples of Jesus ask this: How can we each use our gifts and resources to serve God's kingdom and honor its Lord? It is no good saying we believe in every-member ministry if we do not practice it. The talent is there if the teaching pastors take pains to develop it.
P.S. In your church bulletin and/or website, under "ministers," why not have:
This might startle some but it would be decidedly biblical.
Wednesday, May 8
10:58 AM While getting the oil changed I stumbled across a blog post that asks: Why Are You Hanging on to Mark 16:9-20?
The author concludes:
But there's this, right?
7:20 AM Two book notes:
1) Here's the opening to my review of Bradley Arnold, Christ as the Telos of Life (WUNT 2.371; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014). It will appear in the next issue of Filologia Neotestamentaria.
I conclude that "... although one appreciates the author's reminder of the important role and centrality of athletics in Paul's argument in Philippians, it seems unlikely to the present writer that such imagery functions in a way envisioned by the author of this monograph."
2) I read this book last night.
It documents the rise of the born-again dirt movement in America that ostensibly springs from a biblical worldview. It calls for the rebirth of manual farming culture and argues that "the small family farm represents the ideal working relationship between people and earth" (p. 8). It documents the "Christian agrarian crusade" that is committed to the viability of the family farm. Christian agrarians see "the ultimate purpose of their reform efforts as not just the material improvement of the lives of rural people, but as the construction of the kingdom of God on earth" (p. 11).
I might publish a fuller review of this book later, but for now I'll just state that this seems to me to be yet another unnecessary and unprofitable battle in our culture wars. If anything, the church needs to more aggressively and clearly distinguish between Christian beliefs and political-economic ideologies. Agrarianism and Christianity are certainly compatible, but in my opinion one does not automatically lead to the other -- and I say this as a small farmer. The bigger question has to do with the concept of the "common good" as expressed by (among others) Thomas Aquinas. But fundamentally, where you live and what you do for a living is, at least in my mind, a question of the stewardship that God has placed in your hands.
One final point. I live and work on a farm because I enjoy this lifestyle. In the past 15 years I have raised everything from sheep to cattle to goats to chickens. Farming is hard work but good work.
I like to say that it puts you to sleep at night with a good tired.
But if God called me to live in downtown Raleigh that's where I'd live. One subculture is not superior to the other. So if you enjoy the life of a rural farmer, that's great. Be the best farmer to the glory of God that you can possibly be. The one thing we don't want to do, in my opinion, is make this a Gospel/kingdom issue.
Tuesday, May 7
8:02 PM I just read a report about the recently held London Marathon. One of their pacers was assigned to bring her group in under 7.5 hours. They crossed the starting line a good hour after the elite runners did. By the time they were 5K into the race, however, they were reportedly being told to move to the pavement by race officials, despite being on pace. Then apparently the cleanup crews began spraying the blue lines right in front of the runners with a messy chemical. Remember, the London Marathon asked for a 7.5 pacer in a race that has an 8-hour time limit! By the time her pace group got to around mile 22, the timing mats had been taken up, meaning her people couldn't be tracked by their families who would start to get very worried.
I know there are two sides to every story. But if what this official race pacer is saying is true, then it disturbs me no end that back-of-the-packers should be made to feel like second-class citizens. I understand that London is a busy city, but if you're going to put on a race with an 8-hour time limit then you need to support your runners, all of them, throughout the entire race. Surely if you, as a back-of-the-packer, start a race an hour later than the official start time, then the race officials need to extend the sweepers by an hour. Honestly, I can't imagine that keeping the roads of London closed for an extra hour or two would make that big of a difference anyway. I can't thank the race organizers and marshals in Cincy enough for the way they conducted the Flying Pig Marathon on Sunday. I came in well after 6 hours and there was course support the ENTIRE way. I even got congratulations and a handshake by a smartly dressed (coat and tie) race official when I crossed the finish line. So did everyone else who finished after me. Remember: My corral didn't start until 35 minutes after the race had officially started. And yet I never felt any pressure to hurry up. Also, the spectators were amazing. They were probably standing there for hours when I went past them but they still managed to cheer us slower people and give us a huge boost. In my race, even the photographers were still furiously snapping my picture as I finished, and so efficient were they that I received my race photos in today's inbox.
Anyone who runs a marathon, fast or slow, knows that the mental battle is harder than the physical one. That's why runner support (official and unofficial) is so vital in a race. So from me, thank you, Flying Pig organizers, from the very bottom of my heart. You never let our slowness spoil our achievement. It's just such a shame that the 7.5 hour pacer in London didn't get the respect and support she deserved. It takes a huge amount of mental and physical strength to stay out there on the course for the amount of time some people do. So to all of my fellow runners who finished the London Marathon -- you are amazing for completing the 26.2 miles. I feel sad if you sense you were poorly treated during the race. This is very disappointing for an event that markets itself as "Everybody's Race." Y'all need to come over here and do the Pig next year. I mean it.
Once again, to the race organizers of the Flying Pig: on behalf of every slower runner out there on Sunday, a huge thank you for what you did to get so many to the Finish Swine.
2:22 PM This morning, when I was listing my current writing projects, I left one out. It's probably one of the most important writing assignments I've had in my life. As you know, the hymn arrangement I commissioned in memory of Becky will be performed for the first time this Sunday in Dallas by a full chorale with orchestral accompaniment. Afterwards, the sheet music -- arranged for SATB and orchestra -- will be published. The piece was written by renowned composer/arranger Brian Piper. Before it goes to press, I have to provide a two-line dedication -- a dedication that will be read wherever this music is performed. Now if that doesn't make you gulp, I don't know what will. How do you even begin to describe the life of your wife in two simple sentences? The oldest of 6, Becky was a one-of-a-kind for sure. She was always suitably independent. After her family returned from Ethiopia, she lived in a simple ranch-style house in the suburbs of Dallas. I had met Becky in the cafeteria line at Biola, where she was studying nursing and I was studying Bible. We had fallen in love quickly, proving the old adage that opposites really do attract. I was as shy as she was socially outgoing. She had beautiful eyes, an infectious smile, and a crackerjack mind. She always knew exactly what she wanted, enjoyed a good joke, and never suffered fools. After she graduated with her B.S. in nursing, she agreed to marry me. We tied the knot in the same church the ceremony will be held in this Sunday. Life seemed so full of promise. And it was. Then, as if in the twinkling of an eye, we got the devastating news that Becky had invasive endometrial cancer. Thus began the surgeries, the treatments, the hospitalizations. Life had become incomprehensively complex. We compartmentalized our life into home, work, and the medical merry-go-round we were riding. We took it one day at a time. Becky's treatments seemed to do the trick, for a while. But it eventually became clear that she would be going Home. One morning in November of 2013, I heard my 60-year-old wife take her last breath. In the days after, our family surrounded me. They gave me time to grieve, and in fact grieved with me. They reminded me how meaningful and wonderful life can be even and especially when we are suffering.
I feel honored to have been married to Becky for 37 years. My life is lonely despite my attempts to rebuild it. They say that spouses never really die; they live on in the brain forever. So how do I let go? How do I honor her memory and move on at the same time? "Why not commission an arrangement of For All the Saints?" I said to myself one day. After all, it was this hymn that, more than any other, captured both the sorrow and the hope I was feeling. It captures what Becky and I believed when we got married, what I believe now, and what I will go on believing until I go to the grave.
Music has soothed my soul during the past 5 and a half years like nothing else. Nothing touches your anguish quite like a great hymn of the faith. Blogging has also been cathartic. If you're walking a hard road, my friend, I trust that maybe something you've read in these pages has been helpful. Our God is a God of miracles who is somehow still God even when no miracles are to be found. One thing is for certain: Life is a breath. Let's not waste it.
Well, here are the two lines I wrote today and sent to the composer:
Nothing profound, I know. I wrote it more as a reminder to me than to you. A reminder that we can take all of our pain and put it into the hands of Someone who is strong enough for it. You are part of my journey, you who read and cheer and pray along with us, so it's only right that you celebrate with us.
Happy Mother's Day, Becky. And Happy Birthday. I love you.
8:28 AM This is exam week, which means it's a good week for writing. This week I will be getting the final page proofs to my devotional on running from the publisher: Project #1. I have another book review to write for Filologia Neotestamentaria: Project #2. And, of course, I'm still plugging away at Godworld: Project #3. That, plus farming. Plus recovering from Sunday's run. Plus getting ready for my trip to Dallas this weekend. Problem is, I'm struggling with motivation right now. Which is one reason I'm reading this book:
I've only gotten about a dozen or so pages into the book but it's already stimulated my thinking. What is motivation? How is it observed? Is there such a thing as improper motivation? How do you keep on pursuing your goals when your motivation fails? What happens when disappointment and frustration set in? Sound familiar? I have always struggled with motivation. I have good intentions, but then life gets in the way. Each one of us has barriers that keep us from pursuing our goals. What matters is how we deal with them. Life is all about seeing problems as obstacles instead of as barriers. Running, for example, needs to be about who you are. You don't have to beat yourself up to be a runner. If you do, you risk injury or overtraining. Enjoy it instead. I've had to learn (the hard way) that the measure of my running success has nothing to do with times, pace, PRs, or total mileage. It's about the scenery I enjoy and the friendships I make and the health benefits I gain and the freedom of fresh air. I'm so grateful that God can take our feelings of inadequacy and make us competent. As Paul wrote, "It's not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God" (2 Cor. 3:4-5). Jesus reminds us, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). It's God Holy Spirit, living in me, that motivates me to obey Him. He invests every act of service with eternal significance. It's a huge mistake to measure your worth by appearance or performance. It's also a huge mistake to compare yourself with others. Can our sense of inferiority actually be pride in disguise? Absolutely! When God gives us a task to do, He always gives us the ability to do it. None of us feels confident to live the Christian life. I know I don't. But we can choose faith over inferiority. Too many of us focus on outcome measures (performance, goals, time, pace, number of books published, etc.) when in fact there are hundreds of less tangible ways of measuring success in our lives. If you're anything like me, you face self-doubt on almost a daily basis. But if we are willing to trust God to make us competent to handle life's responsibility, then He will give us the victory. I'm "confident" of that.
Till next time,
Be at peace.
Monday, May 6
8:20 PM Becky's roses are in full bloom.
Oh, how she loved to garden. She would have been 66 this coming Sunday. This bouquet is a small birthday tribute to her.
It gives me great joy to see something she touched still flourishing after all these years.
4:18 PM Three weeks ago I was having an echocardiogram and a stress test. Thank God that He allowed me to fully recover and motivated me to train for and complete my 15th marathon yesterday.
I had the best race I could have imagined. It wasn't my fastest marathon, only my most enjoyable one. Today I feel great -- no soreness, no stiffness. Thank you to my wonderful kids for all their texts and emails before, during, and after the race. Thank you to my fellow runners and to the crowds with the signs and encouragement. Thank you especially to the course officials who patted me on the shoulder as I went by and helped me keep going. It was an experience I won't soon forget. Congratulations to all my fellow runners!
Next marathon: Chicago. Whoop whoop!!!!
Friday, May 3
5:45 AM I read somewhere recently that 98 percent of all marathon runners are college-educated. Not sure if that's true, but I've met a good number of highly educated people in this sport. Runners have to be experts at the workings of the human body. In the past 6 weeks I've been barraged with medical terminology: oxygen debt, VO2max, glycogen, runner's paraesthesia, etc. To be a good runner, you need a working knowledge of both exercise physiology and nutrition, at the bare minimum.
Even more importantly, however, you have to listen to your own body, because your body will tell you all kinds of things that your latest echo cardiogram or MRI can't tell you. The human brain is the best biofeedback machine. And to run efficiently, you have to acquire running wisdom.
For many of us, the ultimate athletic experience is the marathon. The training, the suffering during the race, even the tranquility that comes afterwards -- these are all part of what it means to run a marathon. And it is your body that permits this to happen -- or not happen. The will to be victorious is of no use to us if we don't know how to take care of ourselves -- mind, body, and spirit. As a runner, I used to fear the course, the competition, the distance of a marathon, but now I fear myself more than anything else. I am my own worst enemy. Thus I need to know who I am. I need to know what my limits are. To live at peace with myself, I have to know how far and how fast I can go. I have never won a race. Never even come close to winning one. Sometimes I'm so far back in the pack that the awards ceremony is over before I finish. But you know what? You don't have to win a race to be victorious. This weekend in Ohio, I will write my own history. Will this be my comeback race? Or will I go down in flames? Anything is possible during a marathon. If I do start (and finish) the Pig, I will be content with whatever time I have. The time on a clock doesn't define who I am. Victories in life are all about making peace with yourself, with how far you've come, with your setbacks and limitations, with how little progress you seem to be making. The day I lined up for my first marathon in Cincinnati 3 years ago I understood this. I understood that when I pinned on a race number and stood there with thousands of other marathoners, there was less difference between us than I had thought. Not all of us have a chance to win the race but we all have have a chance to be victorious.
Do have I my doubts about this weekend's race? Galore! Oh well. Here goes. My value is more than how far or how fast I run on Sunday. That said, as I play the aging game, I am conceding nothing. Through use, the body grows young. The choice is up to us. We don't have to be a Boston Marathon winner or an Olympian to get fit. It's simply by moving that we become champions. It's this truth that keeps me going. All the way to Cincy.
Keep running your race.
Thursday, May 2
7:32 PM Hay season has begun at Rosewood Farm. We took advantage of the warm weather to get a couple of trailers filled. So far all the equipment seems to be in good shape. Nate spent a lot of time fertilizing this spring so the fields are doing great. Right now I've got to wash clothes and get packed for my trip to Cincy tomorrow. Here are a few pix. Hope you enjoy Nolan's new pet turtle.
11:04 AM My doctor just gave me a clean bill of health and so I have her permission to run in this weekend's race. Can you tell how excited I am? I hope to run this race wiser than I have run in the past. Running doesn't have to beat your body up. The key is twofold: being sensible and doing everything in moderation. Running has changed my life, both physically and mentally. Running makes me feel good. Still, if the doctors had told me I couldn't run any more, I would have heeded their advice. I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. I have a ton of grandkids I want to see graduate from high school and get married. Running isn't bad for you. Sitting on your okole is. (Sorry for the Hawaiian. It's not a swear word. I promise.) The biggest risk with running is doing too much. Those days are behind me forever, hopefully.
If you've been praying for me, thanks. When I first started running, I was trying to cope with personal loss. But my running is different today. I'm neither running away from anything nor am I running toward anything. I run simply because I like it. When running is no longer enjoyable, I'll stop. Earlier today I worked out at the Y. My upper body strength is gradually improving. Then I stopped by Tractor Supply. I need to worm the donks and goats today. After that I'll rest up before picking up bales this evening. Meanwhile, my hope is that you'll find something in the pages of this blog that will help you find your own path to the joy of living.
5:58 AM When was the last time you devoured a book of the Bible whole? This morning I read the book of James in one sitting. It took me about 12 minutes. Very stimulating. Try it sometime with your favorite book of the Bible!
Wednesday, May 1
8:08 PM This Sunday is the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I love this race. It was my very first marathon exactly 3 years ago this weekend. If I'm able to participate in it this weekend, it will mean that I've done the Pig 3 years in a row. If you read my last 2 reports about this race, you know that the Pig is really a lot of fun. No matter how your race turns out, the goal is to have fun and enjoy yourself. Three years ago my goal was simply to complete the race. Crossing the "Finish Swine" brought me a huge sense of euphoria. This was a gigantic mental victory for me. I didn't quit. I didn't give up. I dug deep and did what I had to do. I even finished faster than I had anticipated. What a race!
And this weekend? I'll be going to Cincy whether or not I run. My flights and hotel are nonrefundable so there's no backing down now. If I don't run, I've asked to be able to volunteer along the course somewhere. (The race director tells me I'll be needed.) On the other hand, if I do run, I promise I'll listen to my body and stay within myself.
Folks, I've learned this lesson! There is no "right" strategy. There's only your strategy.
The Flying Pig is like no other event. The supporters, the crowds, the fun along the way is unrivaled. I want to take my time and enjoy each step, even the climb up Mount Adams to Eden Park. The Pig, after all, has its own Heartbreak Hill. In fact, it's more heartbreaking than the one in Boston:
So take that, Boston! Once you get to Eden Park at the top, of course, the view of the city is amazing. Aside from mild neuropathy in my feet, I'm feeling pretty strong again. I got in a 4 mile run today and a 7.22 mile run on Monday.
I kept a very slow pace while enjoying the nature all around me.
I figure that even if I crawl along at 3.7 miles per hour I can still finish the race within the 7-hour cutoff time. If I get tired and go even slower than that pace, it will be still be okay. They simply move you to the sidewalk, but the race support staff stays with you until you finish the event and collect your medal. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with my GP to get her opinion. If I'm green-lighted to run, I'll give the race my best shot on Sunday.
I'm a goal setter. You know that if you're a regular reader. I like goals because they are (a) measurable and (b) achievable. You do it, and it's done. All by God's grace. I can honestly say that I ran for the past three years 95 percent injury free. Now I'm dealing with an overuse injury but one that's manageable. I don't know how I could have prevented it. I'm a runner, after all. We are "invincible," even though we really aren't. I won't lie. I would love to run this Pig just like I did the 2 previous ones. I would love to crack 6 hours again. But not this time. It's just not in the cards. I'll decide on Saturday night whether to run or volunteer at an aid station. Either way, the weekend will be a win for me.
This will be a different kind of weekend for me. I've never before gone into a marathon not feeling 100 percent. Don't get me wrong. I couldn't be happier about being on the mend. Yet the situation is strangely paradoxical. It's completely overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. Isn't that a lot like life? Here's one of my 3 Greek classes taking their last quiz of the semester on Monday. 35 students giving it their all.
Nine months ago they were at the start of this great adventure called learning Greek. Now they're mere steps away from the finish line. How did they get there? ONE STEP AT A TIME. Ditto for running. If the Lord allows me to be out there on the course this Sunday, my mantra will be, "Run the Mile You're In." None of us will ever be more than we imagine ourselves to be. Your past is only a description of where you've been. It's not a prescription of where you're going. Your future is based on the decisions you make now. For me, that's the grand lesson to be learned from preparing for and participating in a marathon. Life comes down to taking one step at a time, one mile at a time. You play the hand you're dealt, and you do it with a smile on your face. Life is a long-distance event. You learn to acknowledge your strengths -- and your weaknesses -- without embarrassment. This is the body God has given you. So make the most of it!
By the way, I've finally gotten back into strength training. I even visited the seminary's weight room (which I hadn't seen in years).
They've revamped it nicely. I was the only one there. Only makes sense -- next week is exam week. I'm going to cycle this workout room into my regular weight training plan this summer since I'll be on campus teaching Greek 1-2 for 6 weeks.
P.S. Spicy squid for dinner last night at the Seoul Garden. I love Korean food!
7:10 PM The truth on which our linguistics conference (and its subsequent book) was based is a simple one: God's revelation is a rational revelation, and this includes both His general revelation in nature and science and His special revelation in Scripture and Christ. There is nothing mysterious about linguistics. We are able to comprehend language because we are linguistic beings. Hence Christians believe that there is a connection between rationality and Scripture. In Scripture, God has communicated to us through human language. Therefore, who should be more interested in studying how language works that the one who loves God's Word?
Christianity has always had a special place for teachers. Christianity divorced from reason is therefore impossible. I venture to say that when we fail to use our minds in the study of the Greek New Testament, we descend to the level of those who approach the Bible from a merely emotional perspective. One of the noblest aims my students can pursue is to read God's thoughts after Him both in natural revelation and special revelation. The fact that our minds are fallen is no excuse for sloppy thinking. Despite our fallennness, we are commanded to think, to reason, to use our brains. What's more, we have an inescapable duty both to think and act upon what we think and know. So if you're just completing your first year of Greek, you must realize that you have merely built the foundation for a lifetime of study. I'm not talking about arid hyper-intellectualism. I'm not pleading for an academic Christianity devoid of any passion and love for the lost. I am merely asking that we use our minds Christianly. Mindless Christianity has no place in our churches. If our devotion is not set on fire by the truth, then it is misplaced devotion. "Every thought is our prisoner, captured to be brought into obedience to Christ," is the way Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 10:5.
Beloved students, your mind matters. It matters to me. It matters to God. It matters to the church. It has been a delight to work with you this year. I am very grateful for your hard work. Most of all, I want to express gratitude to God for sustaining us through our year of Greek study together. Without Him, it would have been a very different story.