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Sunday, February 19 

8:48 AM Today is the "Day of Remembrance." On this day 75 years ago, an executive order was issued to place some 120,000 ethnic Japanese living on the West Coast in "relocation centers" situated in some of the most desolate regions of the country. For a list of national events happening today, go here. For a look at the executive order that cleared the way for internment, go here. And for an interesting look at why the Japanese in Hawaii were not relocated, go here. The author argues that the Nisei in Hawaii had become integrated into the fabric of Hawaiian society partly because of the patois everyone spoke, Hawaiian Creole (Pidgin). Even today my native tongue comes back to me on visits to the Islands. 

Saturday, February 18 

6:26 PM Hey friends! Although my main running goal for 2017 is the Cincy marathon in May, I still enjoy doing shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks. What makes a 10K so much fun is the fact that it's easier than a 5K and yet not as difficult as a half marathon. And when the course is a hilly one (like it was today), you face a really good test of your ability to combine speed with endurance. I left the house at around 7:00 and had a super-healthy breakfast on the way (two donuts at Sheetz -- tell it not in Gath). The day was exceptionally beautiful and the temps were perfect for a race.

This was an unusual event for me in that it was an "unsecured" race, meaning that the course had not been coned off. At first I was a bit concerned, but after a mile or so I could see that the race organizers had done an excellent job of providing traffic control at all major intersections (thanks sheriffs!).

The race started with a downhill section that enabled everyone to warm up.

Then the hills began. Eventually I reached the turnaround point (at about the 3-mile mark) and headed for the finish line.

The final mile was all uphill and did a number on my stats.

Finish time: 1:09:59.

That's a PR for me. My best time for a 10K prior to today was 1:14:51. After an hour and 10 minutes of solid running it was a relief to get back to the starting venue, where the organizers had refreshments waiting for us, including the most delicious cheese-broccoli soup I think my taste buds have ever experienced.

It was great fun to do a race like this, but the back story of today's event is, frankly, more important than the race itself. The race was sponsored by the Caring Hearts Free Clinic of Patrick County. Patrick County is a bit unique is that its patient-to-physicians quotient is double that of the rest of the state and even the nation. According to their website, the national benchmark is 631 patients per physician. Patrick County's is a whopping 2,080. In addition, 45 percent of Patrick County citizens lack health insurance of any kind, and there's also a 25 percent unemployment rate. So you can see why a free clinic is so desperately needed, one that not only provides basic health care (pharmacy, lab, dental, vision, etc.) but referral services. Here I am with Pam (left) who volunteers her services at the clinic as a nurse practitioner, and Christie (right) who directs the clinic and who did a fantastic job of organizing today's race.

So awesome! I plan to be back next year and hopefully I can convince others to join me. I met many people today who serve as volunteers at the clinic, people who believe in its cause with the strongest level of commitment. You know as well as I do that there is no greater joy in life than serving others. I felt extremely blessed to be part of an event that will help provide the clinic with the funding it needs to continue to provide health care to its local community. I also met people today who would normally be out there running with the rest of us but instead volunteered their time to make the race possible, from packet pickup to water-stops to post-race snacks. Truly, race volunteers make the world go 'round! I haven't done this yet but I think it would be great fun to be an orange-cutter-upper or a race-packet-stuffer or a course-monitor.

One last thing. Although I am a newbie runner, I'm quickly learning that there's only one way to train for hills, and that is by running up hills. Getting better at doing this is definitely one of my goals for 2017, but for today, I am really proud of my legs for doing so well and not having to stop to rest once. Maybe the age of miracles isn't over yet after all.

6:55 AM Race day. Course map ("Big Dipper").

Off and running.

Friday, February 17 

4:24 PM Two pics I forgot to post.

1) Nice shot of Nate and Jess, eh? Not to mention Pey.

2) Daffodils in February?

4:14 PM Wowsers. Only one month to go until my next half marathon in Cary. Obviously I'm expecting it to be a real test of my abilities. What am I looking for? To see how well I do with my run-walk technique. I'd also like to see if I can come in under 3 hours using that method. As of right now, my PR is 2:48. By the way, I just ran across the elevation map for the course.

Screeeeeeam!!!!

Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the 10K race tomorrow and will update you when I get back home. Today it's nice and warm but tomorrow it will only be about 55 degrees at race time. Well, that's better than running in heat and humidity. I don't really care what time I make. I'll stick with my "happy" pace and let the chips fall where they may. A perk of being a non-competitive runner is that you don't have to freak out over your times. One of the biggest motivating forces in life is just plain old fun. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, why bother? Thankfully, I've stumbled upon what I love doing. Running. And biking .... And surfing .... And climbing ....

Boredom is certainly not one of my problems.

Hope all is well with you!

10:46 AM Nate stopped by and we loaded some hay for a delivery to Wake Forest. Which means I got to see MY BOYZ!!!

9:48 AM I've often asked the question, "Why don't seminary grads use their Greek?" Of course, there will always be that graduate who's a Greek nut. In my experience, however, that person is a rare exception. Oh how I love meeting my former students and then opening my Greek New Testament and asking them to read it. (Of course, I would never do that.) (Yes I would.) "He's talking about me," you say. I'm starting to wonder, however, if what I'm doing is very helpful. I remember some of the things I learned in high school. But not much. Today I couldn't help anybody with algebra even though I took that course. And despite all the English classes I had, I didn't learn how my own language worked until I studied a foreign one (Greek). So you had three years of high school Spanish? Don't mean nothing if you don't use it. You probably don't even try to order in Spanish when you go out to eat at a Mexican place. For what it's worth, I think that's pretty normal. As I look back now on my high school/college experience, I realize that I've forgotten just about everything I didn't have an interest in or use frequently. I took logic and don't remember a single syllogism. (My apologies, Dr. Hanna.) Sheesh, I couldn't even tell you what I had for lunch on Tuesday. On the other hand, I took Greek and -- woohoo!!!!! I'm beginning to think that this is just how our brains work. It's NORMAL to forget about things we don't use or care about. So did I learn anything in college? Sure did. Even though I can't remember a whole lot from any single class I took, I came away (I hope!) very well educated in dealing with problems, people, situations, and even myself. In other words, retention of class material probably isn't the crux of education. Should I ever need to use my math, it will come back to me. Even then, we've all got computers and calculators to help us. Biblical-language-wise. ditto. Tons of facts available on-line for free. Just see our Greek Portal. This is the age of cybernetics, remember? On-demand information is there at our fingertips.

This author argues that review is the key to retention. And this one writes:

Your mind needs to regularly go over information previously learned or it places the information in a bin marked useless and locks it away from easy memory. The more ways something is gone over, the more it stays in memory.

There's a lot of truth to this, but it's not the whole story. I remember my German even though I never review it and rarely use it. I think the reason I've retained my German is because I enjoy it. I enjoy all the other languages I've studied as well. People who study subjects that don't interest them are usually miserable. But find a subject you love and, oh, what a difference that makes. So how do you know if you really love something? You put more effort into it than other subjects. You like using it. You're interested in what everyone else is saying about it. You look forward to increasing your proficiency in the subject. It always seems to come up in discussions with your friends. When I was growing up, I absolutely loved art. Hence my drawings and paintings. I loved music too. Hence my proficiency in trumpet (first trumpet, first chair in the Hawaiian all-state band in my senior year of high school).  On the other hand, I loved science but I was a complete dork at it.

Have you discovered it yet -- what really interests you? If so, persist undeterred. On the other hand, forcing yourself to master something you're not really interested in almost always ends in tears. And that, in my opinion, includes Greek.

8:24 AM The news came yesterday. My friend and co-LXX-class-teacher lost his wife to cancer yesterday. Hers was a long battle. The family needs our prayers today.

Before Becky finished her race, life was so very different for me, so "innocent" if you will. But Nov. 2, 2013 changed that, changed everything. You see, when it happens to you, it's like overhearing a conversation years ago only to find out that they were talking about you. Of course, three years later, it's all right. I'm okay. But today, for this day, it's not okay. On this day, looking out my window at the farm Becky and I planned for and dreamed about for years, I'm crying just a bit for what could have been. The day Becky went Home was sacred and beautiful and horrific and frightening, all at once. I entered through a door I would not wish on my worst enemy. That day didn't feel like a beginning. But it was. It was the first day of a life inching its way into existence, growing like a tiny sap into one day I hope will be a strong oak. Marriage for us was so naive. Now there is sobriety. All my life I could take control of my circumstances. And all of a sudden, that was taken away from me. I owe Becky an apology. I'm sorry for ever taking her for granted. I'm sorry that I didn't thank her more often for carrying my children and working so hard for the kingdom and investing herself deeply and unremittingly in my life. Now I'm counting my daily blessings like you wouldn't believe. Loss changes you. Each one of our lives is shot through with pain and sorrow as well as with grace and God's provision. I don't know what the future holds. For me or for my friend. But something inside of me keeps telling me it's going to be good. It's all up to Him. So come, Holy Spirit. Come into our hearts and lives and pockets of unbearable sorrow and invade us, change us, heal us, help us. We can't do this without You.

Thursday, February 16 

12:35 PM Hey! While doing a 5K walk today at the local high school track, I listened to NPR's new program called A1 featuring Joshua Johnson, who replaced Diane Rehm.

He's awesome. Polite but never chummy. You can tell he does an awful lot of preparation. The trickiest part of interviewing is probably listening, which he does superbly well. He seems to be genuinely interested in the people he's chatting with, including the evangelical Christian he spoke with today on the topic of climate change. (I had never heard of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action before, had you?) He's willing to go off course when necessary and always seems to ask appropriate and thought-provoking questions. I give him three thumbs up and I know nothing about interviewing!

P.S. Check out this fabulous color-coded analysis of Paul's letter to the Philippians. (Scroll down to page 39.) I like it!

8:38 AM Potpourri ...

1) I'm feeling so much better today, all praise and thanks to the Lord. I pushed through my classes this week but did so "in weakness, fear, and trembling." I thought everything went superbly well. Okay, so they went well. I wasn't in top form and I knew it. Of course my students knew it also. So I own my temporary insanity, blaming my teaching zeal on my love of the classroom (plus the fact that I am no longer contagious). Today my legs are ACHING for some exercise and I might indulge them in a long walk. We'll see. The sun is shining but it's colder than a bear's nose.

2) Speaking of insanity, I signed up this morning for the annual Healthy Soles 10K (6.2 miles) in Stuart, VA, on Feb. 18. That's like in two days. Reader, allow me to explain the seriousness of this. Stuart, VA, is in the mountains of Virginia. Not the foothills. And everyone knows how much I fantasize about running in the mountains. I love mountains like most guys love washing dishes. When I signed up I promised myself that I wouldn't push my body beyond its limits (like I did last Saturday). Yeah, right. La di da. I did notice that the entry fee gets me not only a "marked course through the town of Stuart" (so glad it's not an unmarked course), a ceramic bowl (with spoon, mind you), a notebook, and post-race soup or chili -- all for a grand total of 35 measly bucks. In other words, by the time I drive there and back I should just about break even.

3) My provost has written a fine piece called Three things every Christian owes President Trump. Number 3 is by far the most important. After all, ultimately we're in a spiritual battle. I'm so grateful to be part of a Christian community that not only believes in prayer but practices it.

4) Today I'm reading a gignormous manuscript on the Gospel According to Matthew whose author thinks I should write an endorsement for him before it goes to press. So far I like what I see. It's like plucking a perfectly gorgeous tomato. After that, I need to begin reading the first chapter of a doctoral dissertation. Wow! 40 years of this business, and I'm still loving it.

5) I love stupid humor. Yesterday in class I tried to make a joke about the way we do "worship" in our churches nowadays. "Do we really put Christ first in everything, as we're told to do in Col. 1:18?" Almost zero churches that I know do this. What if our "worship leaders" and "choirs" were placed off to the side, as they are in those big fancy cathedrals in the U.K.? Keep Jesus in the center (the altar -- well, I'd prefer a table). What if the piano and organ were placed in the entrances to our buildings (like I've seen in Basel)? "Sheesh, then nobody would be able to watch me!" That's the point. What if we put our pulpits off to the side like they do in some mainline churches? Maybe, just maybe, our meetings would be a little less anthropocentric. What if we actually lived a radical life? That's really hard. I'm exhausted this morning thinking about all the possible ways we as a church can think outside our little boxes. The opportunities are endless. Let's invite the Holy Spirit deeply into our gatherings. And remember: He likes to point us to Jesus.

Dave

Wednesday, February 15 

6:14 PM A few odds and ends before cooking my supper ...

1) My thanks to my colleague Josh Waggener (musicologist) for lecturing in my Jesus and the Gospels class on "The Gospels and Worship." His doctorate is from Durham University in the U.K. (It is really ridiculous how musically talented he is.)

2) Ditto to Steve Eccher (church historian) for sharing with us how the Anabaptists differed from the Swiss Magisterial Reformers in their understanding of the Gospels. Steve's Ph.D. is also from the U.K. (Saint Andrews). (Note: I'd like to thank Steve for reminding us that tennis shoes are perfectly acceptable in the classroom.)

 

3) Yesterday I subscribed to the New York Times opinion page. Maureen Dowd is one of my faves. Friedman is also stellar.

4) A Brief History of the Septuagint:

Like any translation the Septuagint has its limitations, but it was the first translation of any part of the Hebrew Bible into another language, so its place in world history is assured. Furthermore, its use as the version of the Old Testament most frequently used by the writers of the New Testament only serves to further enhance its significance.

5) "The good Lord gave you a body that stands most anything. It's your mind you have to convince" (Vince Lombardi). At the finish line of last week's 5K. Photo arrived today. I know nobody cares. But I do. :-)

Tuesday, February 14 

9:25 AM This was perhaps the most tweeted picture from the weekend:

It made every sizzle reel and became an instant meme. "What was Justin thinking?" Well, any yahoo could make up an answer, and it seems every yahoo did. But, as Andrew Katz rightly points out,

When a picture is ripped and shared—an unquantifiable occurrence today, and which is the case here—there is breathing room for the audience to read too little, or too much, into the reality of the moment. If not done carefully, doing so can ignite an alternative narrative that consumes the original meaning and spreads like wildfire.

Listen. We've all done it. We've all taken a picture (or a Bible verse) out of its context and read waaaaay toooo much into it. The reason? To push our narrative. As Katz notes:

We live in a new normal of misinformation sharing, one where falsities are pushed as truths by the highest levels of power. And so people are grasping for images that either back up their preexisting notions or turn the mainstream narrative on its head, and then sharing with their followers to further the reach.

Isn't that what we do when we take Bible verses out of their context? It's tempting (and even lucrative for greeting card publishers) to use Jer. 29:11 as a sort of guarantee of personal happiness. I myself have used Phil. 4:13 to gin up the courage to run a race. (*Sigh.*) We need to ask, "What does Paul mean by 'all things' in this verse?" A good place to begin would be verse 10. If you didn't grow up in a Christian subculture (with "Awana" and "Bible Memory Association" and "Bible drills") this will probably make zero sense. While I'm thankful for the 1551 invention of versification (for ease of reference) in our Bibles, this did create some new problems. Arguably, the most abused verse is 2 Chron. 7:14. Is it a blanket promise for "God's people" in any era? Probably not. I have a saying in my Greek classes: "Never read a Bible verse." Verses must be read in their contexts. To do this, we have to start where we must always start: reading an entire book of the Bible. This should not be an afterthought, after we've already pulled our favorite verse, kicking, screaming, and bleeding, out of context. That's like, well, taking a snapshot. The Bible is a book of books, not a talisman. That's why exegesis is such a noble, necessary work. Let's widen the lens a bit, shall we? Doesn't that sound like wonderful relief from writing memes?

Monday, February 13 

5:58 PM Well, I've spent the day sitting in bed with my iPad propped up against my knees fighting a head cold. Hope to nip it in the bud. I've cancelled all of my meetings scheduled for tomorrow but I am bound and determined to teach my 3:00 Greek class (keeping a safe distance from my students). One good thing about being a little on the sick side is that it allows you time to get caught up on all the day's news. Did you read about the UA captain whose bizarre pre-flight rant got her removed from an SFO-bound flight? It's a very sad story. I for one wish her a full and speedy recovery. I do hope she'll be supported by her employer and get the help she needs. We've all had times when we've had to sort out "life issues." Hopefully, she'll get over it and be flying again soon if that's what she wants. Apparently she was divorced in 2015 after 28 years of marriage. After losing my wife of 37 years to cancer, I can empathize. Divorce is horrible, and stress is the inevitable result. Sleep deprivation (common among pilots) only exacerbates the problem. It's been almost 3 and a half years since Becky passed away and I still miss her, especially on occasions like tomorrow (Valentine's Day). But self-pity is not appropriate for someone who's received so much mercy and grace. I giggle to imagine what B would think of all my running and climbing. I'm just beginning to embrace my singleness. I've learned so much during these past few years. It's okay to struggle. It's okay to admit that you struggle. It's okay to feel lonely. You don't have to be awesome. Marriage is not what makes us human beings. That's not a put-down of marriage. It's just reality. No one was more fully human than Jesus, and He was single. I wonder if that's the freedom Paul meant when he said, "I've learned to be content in every situation." I don't need to always "have it all together." It's okay to live a life that has some deep potholes. Jesus is the answer to the cry of every human heart. I hope the UA pilot finds Him, somehow, some way. The "rules of how to behave" are meaningless for people who are adrift in a sea of stress and grief. This is where my head is on this day before "Heart Day." I belong to a community that embraces people who are widowed or divorced or lonely or single even though they want to be married. My wedding ring reminds me that it's not about me. It was always about us. And that's a very happy memory to take with me into tomorrow.

Below: A blast from the past. If only I had saved those trousers.

10:22 AM You've all seen it:

Education must not simply teach work - it must teach life. - W.E.B. DeBois.

The DOE meant to write, of course, DuBois -- referring to the Civil Rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP.

Then came the sloppy apology:

Post updated - our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.  

I once saw this sign in an Ethiopian public schoolyard:

Get the point?

Of course, I've never had any misspellings in any of my blog posts or problems with "autocorrect."

Seriously, the more we write, the greater the danger of sloppiness. Nobody at the DOE is illiterate. They made honest mistakes. On Twitter of all things.

Maybe we could all lighten up a bit.

9:55 AM Good morning and good Monday. I love my work as a teacher. In fact, I've never been more encouraged about my career choice in my life. When I get to invite a colleague of mine to speak on ethnic diversity to my students (as I did last week), you realize just how much grace God has poured out on you. Here's what I want to say about this. As you know, I'm currently reading Thomas Friedman's latest book called Thank You for Being Late. It's an argument for "being late" -- for slowing down long enough to appreciate the amazing change our culture is going through and then reflecting on its possibilities and dangers. He argues that unless we build a "topsoil of trust" within our nation and our local communities, we will fail to deal in a healthy way with our increasingly diverse populations. According to the Pew Research Center, from 2000 to 2013, from California to North Carolina, 78 counties in 19 states turned majority-minority, and in 19 of the 25 largest U.S. counties by population, whites make up less than half of the population.

I'm a haole and I was born and raised in Hawaii. (I wen grad Kailua High School 1970.) I grew up as an ethnic minority and LOVED it. Speaking of demographics, as a baby boomer I belong to the only generation in history that can say we witnessed the population of the world double in our lifetime, and if I live long enough I could see it triple. Put rather unambiguously: the world is changing. I noticed this again at yesterday's 5K race in Raleigh. I had a long conversation with an Indian couple who work at RTP. We reminisced about their birthplace (Mumbai) but mostly we talked about their work here in their adopted country. The impact of immigration will affect every American generation going forward. It is our time to stand tall. To repeat what Barack Obama said at Hiroshima: "We can tell our children a different story." How to solve the immigration problem is beyond my skill set, but I know something about strong multi-ethnic communities, because I grew up in one. And so I hope you don't mind if I make an appeal that you get your hands on books like The Earth Is Flat and Thank You for Being Late. Something else you should read is Jesus is not colorblind: Celebrating racial and ethnic diversity in the local church, which reminds us that:

Issues related to ethnicity are not incidental to the unfolding gospel story in redemptive history—they are fundamental. For instance, sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark notes that the city of Antioch, during days of Roman rule, was divided into 18 different and intensely antagonistic ethnic groups with almost no social integration (The Rise of Christianity, 157-158). It was followers of Christ in the multi-ethnic church of Antioch (Jews, Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Asians) who were first called Christians (Acts 11:19-26) and who took the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world (Acts 13:1-3). The Greco-Roman world stood in awe of the people who formerly hated each other because of ethnic distinctions, who now loved each other as family and worshiped and served together in the name of Jesus. They knew the members of the church of Antioch were disciples of Christ because of the way they loved one another (John 13:35).

Touché.

As I said, I have never been so encouraged in my life. May the Spirit empower us to be Christ's witnesses not only to the ends of the earth but also cross-culturally. God can and will use a multiracial and multiethnic church to foreshadow what the future kingdom will look like (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

Peace.

Sunday, February 12 

5:58 PM Before driving to Raleigh today I told myself, "You can do this, Dave. You haven't crossed the magical 30-minute barrier in a while. In fact, in all the dozens of 5Ks you've run in, you've only done it 3 times. Today's the day, man. Work hard, buddy boy, and I'll buy you Ethiopian for dinner. Deal?" So off we went to Raleigh. Gun time: 2:00 pm. I warmed up by fast-walking and jogging for 20 minutes. I wanted to charge out of the starting block like Nyquist at last year's Kentucky Derby, lungs and legs on fire. My first mile was a winner. I had a 9-minute-mile pace. That went up to 10 in the second mile of the race. Then I made the final turn, saw that steep incline, and wanted to weep. I didn't know if I could make it. Suddenly I saw a crowd of people yelling, and the finish line soon after. My goal today was to beat my previous record on this course of 34:30. I finished in 31:00, good enough for little old moi. I averaged a 10-minute-mile pace (fast!!), which earned me a last place finish in my age group (slow!!). I was sore and stunned. That was not the outcome I wanted. I was so discouraged (and tired) I wanted to lie down right there and sleep. I knew this race was going to be a doozy -- considering THAT HILL. In one sense, it really wasn't a "hard" course. But it was too hard for me, on this day. Still, I had done it. I had DONE IT. I HAD FINISHED! I staggered, punch-drunk, for 10 minutes then sauntered over to the refreshment table to get my Gatorade and banana. It was O-V-E-R.

As always, I got exactly what I deserved out of today's race. I gave it my best, and that's all that matters in the end. I think of all those Greek students of mine through the years who started seminary in their 50s or 60s and were slammed to the ground by participles and principal parts, yet they never gave up. For me, running has gone from something I do to escape myself to something I do to reclaim myself. I loved being out there. I loved meeting the charities who'll benefit from all the hard work the runners and volunteers put in today. I'm allowing myself to be at peace with whatever my time is. So what if I didn't crack the big Three-Oh. There'll be another day. Yeah, you Greek duffers out there. You can master those participles! Take it from this sweaty old geezer who finishes in the middle of the pack with his head high and a smile on his face. Running makes you a phoenix. I am reborn every time I cross the finish line and tell myself, "I didn't die."

Pix:

1) These races have such a carnival spirit. Here some ladies are face-painting all the kiddos.

2) As you can see, it was so warm today that Hercules could show off his stuff.

3) Yours truly before the race. 

4) I always start out about mid-way in the pack.

5) Me and my server at the Abyssinia. No, I hadn't beaten the 30-minute mark, but I still deserved this meal. At least I had the good sense to get out of my smelly race shirt before entering the restaurant.

6) In honor of Becky, I always get kai wat. It's a reminder to me that, yes, by God's grace, I can do the really hard things of life.

Okay. It's not even 6:00 pm but I'm hitting the hay. Peace and love!

9:30 AM So much love to my kids, who are always sending me links to news stories, including this one: New York Man Who Completed 744 Marathons Dies at Age 96. My children are so wise. They know I'll be completely intimidated by this story and will now be even more freaked out by my marathon than ever. Seriously, blessings are the greatest affirmations we can offer others. My kids make sure I am covered in them!

P.S. I read elsewhere that Don ran 30 miles a week and did a monthly marathon. What an inspiration.

9:14 AM Yesterday I was ordering a couple of books from Amazon and ran across a book whose author's bio read simply, "_________  is part of a house church in Orange, California where no one takes a salary and all offerings are given to help the poor in the community." I live in a part of the country where many refer to the church as "the house of the Lord." As we will hopefully see in our Jesus and the Gospels class this week, much of our ecclesiology today is based not on the New Covenant inaugurated by the blood of Jesus but on the Old Covenant, where holy men did holy things in holy places. Over time the body of Christ began to develop church buildings and hire professionals to engage in "the ministry" while others were expected to attend, listen to messages, and give financial support. It's the perfect storm. I wouldn't call this kind of church a "New Testament" church, however. In other words, participation in fraternal ministry is one of the most fundamental distinctive marks of the church. When Jesus ascended on high, He gave gifts to men (and women). Just read 1 Cor. 12-14. I confess I am entirely sympathetic to the house church movement, partly because of their more participatory gatherings. But the one thing I hope we can all agree on is that Christlike love must be placed above everything else, including our correct doctrine or our primitive ecclesiology or our political agendas. Paul goes so far as to say that even if we have everything else correct, if we lack love, nothing we do has any kingdom value (1 Cor. 13). Think about the implications of this. Our congregations may meet in huge buildings or they may meet in less formal household settings; they may have outstanding pulpiteers or excellent informal teaching; they may be age-integrated or age-segregated. But if our gatherings don't result in people having a greater willingness to engage in Calvary acts of love on behalf of other people, regardless of their ethnicity, social standing, nationality, etc., then "church" has merely become a charade. I serve a Savior who prioritized the sinners on the fringes of society. All this is clear from reading the Gospels, but at some point the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it. This is why the body of Christ is so essential. I believe in a very deep way that this Jesus we're studying in the Gospels has the potential of dramatically changing the way we view everything. Either I'm a man who is passionate about seeing Christ incarnated in the world through my life, or I'm not. My family will surely know the difference. So will my students, though it might take them longer to figure it out. Teaching our students about the geography of first-century Galilee is essential. So is teaching them about not being first, resisting competition, shining brightly with their gifts, and a thousand other things that have nothing to do with geography.

Saturday, February 11 

6:08 PM Saturday night musings ...

So I worked out this morning and got in 30 solid minutes of heavy lifting. In addition, I'm well into my preparations for week 4 of school, which means making sure my NT students have their study questions, seeing to it that my take-home exam in Greek 2 is ready to be passed out on Tuesday, and working through Amos chapter 2 for the LXX class. This book has really gotten into my bloodstream because its message is oh so apropos to what's going on in our world today. The coming downfall of the northern kingdom is the book's main theme. The house of Israel will soon collapse. Amos was deeply troubled by the contrast between the Haves and the Have-Nots as well as by the way the religious/political leaders tried to justify this disparity. His book is a fantastic story of personal faith, aggravation, and a real look at why faith and wealth are so often diametrically opposed to each other. I suppose had Amos been living today, he might have noticed (as many of us have) the increasing presence of religious leaders in politics. Perhaps he would remind us that our ultimate hope is in God, and that there is a sad and dangerous tendency in mankind to use religion to further one's own personal/political gains while doing very little or nothing to help our fellow citizens. As I see it, our job as Christians isn't necessarily to police government. Instead, Christ calls us into the trenches ourselves, to be there with the dying and the sick and the prostitutes and the widows and the prisoners. I know of no greater force than the power of sacrificial love. It's no good trying to loop Christianity into American politics. That doesn't mean we withdraw from political engagement. You act as your conscience leads. Don't like the lying that goes on in DC? Call it out. Personally, I find the attacks on the judiciary both ridiculous and dangerous. And don't get me started on the name-calling, bullying tactics, and what clearly seem to me to be financial conflicts of interest. But we can't forget that our primary calling in life as Jesus-followers is not fixing government but rather incarnating ourselves into the world's problems. Pick a need or a country or an organization or a local cause and pour yourself into it both personally and financially. You could be the answer to a myriad of prayers. The Gospel will die if it's planted in the soil of self. Jesus' kingdom operates today the same way it operated 2,000 years ago -- through subversion, sacrifice, humility, love, and through calling empty religion back to God. Thanks, Amos of Tekoa, for the reminder!

Tomorrow it's church and then the 5K in Raleigh. Maybe it will be my day. Maybe I will run as I've never run before. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that at my age I still have the strength and stamina to run a 5K. I am excited and joyous.

And hungry.

Off to cook supper!

8:20 AM I really didn't want to see this.

It's the elevation chart for tomorrow's 5K course in Raleigh. It's not my favorite place to run. The picture doesn't do the course justice. So help me, are you crazy David? I'd rather run outdoors in a blizzard. Sometimes I marvel at the company I keep. Lifting freaks at the Y. Running fanatics. Biking enthusiasts. They are all good people. I am commissioned to be a light, but I can't shine while remaining in my evangelical bubble. I'm so grateful for chances to get out into the world where real people struggle with real problems. Who can argue that life isn't difficult when you're panting up a hill? Maybe I should just give ... SLAP! Right across the face. You ain't givin' up on nothin', Dave. You prayed for perspective on this fleeting life. Well, racing gives you that, in bucketsful. Which brings me to my favorite song from the 70s.

I sing it practically every time I run/walk/crawl/slither/whimper across the finish line.

Are you reelin' in the years,
Stowin' away the time?
Are you gatherin' up the tears,
Have you had enough of mine?

Whenever I think I'm going to live forever as healthy as I am now, I go for a run and I'm suddenly tossed back into reality. I'm reelin' in the years, stowin' away the time, for sure. So are you, my friend. We're running our races, you and me, to the best of our infirmity-laden selves. Tomorrow will be like every other race I've ever run in: glorious, marvelous, frustrating, challenging, liberating, happy clappy (at least at the end), and memorable. I'll blog about it and then proceed to forget about it -- until the next time I run. This is where my head is this morning. I want to run. But then again, I don't.

Dear Kailua Beach: I miss you so much.

7:40 AM Scattershooting ...

1) Retweeting Donald Trump:

What if, after Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to decry Trump’s cruel impersonation of a handicapped reporter, Trump — instead of ridiculously calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” — had tweeted: “Meryl Streep, greatest actress ever, ever, ever. Stuff happens in campaigns, Meryl. Even I have regrets. But watch, I’ll make you proud of my presidency!!!!”

2) The Past, a Rudder or an Anchor:

The past is a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to drag you down. We must learn from the past but not live in the past.

3) Is Kailua the Next Waikiki?

With the beaches’ white-powder sand, calm, sapphirine water, purple sunrises and cooling trade winds, it’s easy to understand why many people have started to covet the Kailua lifestyle.

4) How to Start Running.

Starting a new running habit doesn’t have to be hard — all it takes is a comfortable pair of shoes and a willingness to move a little or a lot, all at your own pace. The Well Guide makes it easy to get started, get inspired and stay on track. Are you ready? Let’s go!

5) New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered.

Archaeologists have found a cave that once housed Dead Sea scrolls in a cliff in the Judean desert - the first such discovery in over 60 years.

Friday, February 10 

6:08 PM I got in 9 miles today, 3 of them while sprinting on my bike, and 6 while running. Feeling good. Gonna be a great weekend. Can't wait to watch SNL. It'll probably be the greatest ratings of all time. Oh, for the good ol' days when politicians like Sarah Palin (aka Tina Fey) actually laughed at the jokes made about them, and then made a cameo appearance on SNL to fraternize with the crew. I once had a seminary professor tell me, "Dave, don't ever take yourself too seriously. No one else does." I'll never forget that. (*Dave gets down off soapbox.*) Meanwhile, I'm cooking me a steak with mashed potatoes for dinner, then cozying up in front of the fireplace with Friedman's Thank You for Being Late. No, I didn't get the title either until I began reading this crazy interesting book. Stephen King once said that good writing is like water, and the water is free. I'm drinking up this book by the gallon and still my thirst still grows insatiably. Ya gotta get it!

9:15 AM This week I just happened to read David Frum's How to Build an Autocracy. (Autocracy's a good Greek word, by the way.) It's a pretty creepy disquisition (don't ever expect dystopian essays to be happy reading), but I've been in enough foreign countries to understand how democracy can be -- and has been -- threatened by a modern bureaucratic state. It doesn't take all that much to destroy a vigorous democracy -- a little gaslighting here, a few lies there, stirring up a bit of chaos and confusion now and then, etc. Which reminds me ... the wonderful French Christian philosopher Jacque Ellul had quite a bit to say about the technocratic state that goes awry, and I have documented this in my little book called Christian Archy in case you're interested.

We think we're too smart to fall for the lies of the Party (think 1984), but history shows just how gullible people are. Even Paul could accuse his beloved Galatians of being abject fools ("You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses?" -- so Eugene Peterson). In 1984, Orwell wrote "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake."

We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites.

Goodness gracious. All this can be very unsettling. If The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate fantasy story, so 1984 is the last word in the dystopian story genre. Or is it? Time will tell. As much as I enjoy reading Frum and others, however, the ultimate priority for a Christian soldier is to seek the kingdom of God and not become entangled (too much) in the affairs of this world. I'm trying, folks, I'm trying! It's much more important to please our enlisting officer, King Jesus (2 Tim. 2:4). And I suspect His plan of action is a bit simpler than that of your typical Washington PAC. It involves imitating Him by witnessing to His alternative kingdom through loving service to other people. The kingdom He came to establish is "not of this world." And if He could include an ultra-right-winger (a tax collector) and an ultra-left-winger (a zealot) among His followers, we cannot and must not divide ourselves as Christians on the basis of political party or nationalistic agendas.

God is inviting us into the spiritual battle seven days a week. It's such warfare. What words do I write? What acts of goodness should I perform in His name today? What must I forgive, release, lay down, surrender, offer to Him? There is something supernatural to this battle we're in. I keep telling myself, "Dave, don't miss the forest for the trees, even if the trees and the tiny little saps come in rapid succession each and every day."

Done.

Alarm is set.

8:20 AM The weekend is off to a great start. I got my 4-mile run in yesterday but it was almost too windy to be outdoors. Cold too. But my body felt good and I gained some much needed miles. Then it was off to the Verizon store to replace my decrepit old iPhone 5s.

And just like that, I was the proud owner of an iPhone 7 and a new iPad mini. I even got an educator's discount (10 percent), which I didn't even know existed. I had a superb customer experience at the store, and that was due mostly to the outstanding care I received from Steven, pictured here. (Isn't he a very cool selfie-taker?)

The main reason I went to this store was the way I was treated when I initially bought my phone here a few years ago. You already know this, but businesses today have to work harder than ever to keep customers and build their trust. The Verizon store on Dabney Drive in Henderson, NC, has done just that. Check 'em out, dude.

I could sit and write a ton of stuff that's going through my mind right now, now that the 9th Court of Appeals has issued its ruling. While waiting for my data to transfer from the iCloud to my new phone last night, I actually read every single word of the court ruling, and one statement hit me like a ton of bricks:

In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President's policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.

So it was hardly the slam dunk case the administration thought it would be. The ban now goes to the Supreme Court or else it returns to the district court in Seattle, where a trial could take months or even years. Whatever. I'm just sooooo grateful this morning that we still have an independent judiciary. Hopefully the next EO that rolls out will be more measured -- and more carefully vetted.

On the teaching front, this coming week in our Jesus and the Gospels class my students will be reading (and answering study questions) from Mark Strauss's Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels and my The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Chapters to be read this week include "The Historical Setting of the Gospels," "The Religious Setting of the Gospels," "The Social and Cultural Setting of the Gospels," "The Political History of Palestine During the Intertestamental Period," "Life in the World of the New Testament," and "The Religious Background to the New Testament." Yes, I realize that some say that "background information" is not necessary to study the Gospels. But how do you know who a "Pharisee" is without historical context? Or what a denarius is? Or where the "Syro-Phonecian" woman lived? Background information is no threat to biblical exegesis. You see, it's not about learning facts. It's about framing our exegesis to include questions about historical background. Jesus ate and fellowship with tax collectors. He interacted with beggars. He treated women respectfully. He praised a centurion. He often sided with the poor. If we want to join Jesus' kingdom revolution today, we have to understand how Jesus lived and taught -- how He manifested the beauty of the kingdom -- in some pretty scandalous ways in His own day and age, and then we have to ask ourselves, "How well are we doing embodying Christ's scandalous love to people in our society whom the world deems as outcasts?" Even the fact that Jesus observed the Passover for (apparently) the first time at the age of 12 has potentially tremendous ramifications for the way we do parenting today and the way we view "youth ministry." Can you imagine how relevant Jesus' message would be in today's American culture if He were here personally? I marvel at how out of place humble, simple discipleship seems to be today. As for me and my house, we will study about the Herodians. I never know how relevant that little factlet might become when I study the Gospel According to Mark!

Thursday, February 9 

8:45 AM I had to smile this morning when I saw WRAL news announce that the temps were going to "plummet" in the next couple of days. I'll take February temps of 48 any day. Warmer weather returns this weekend, just in time for my 5K on Sunday afternoon. In fact, the race day temp should be around 76 degrees! Tuesday evening's run was really enjoyable. I ran 5 miles before the sun set. It was so warm I could run in a t-shirt. I am definitely a warm weather running type of guy, though I'll run in cold weather if I have to. Today is my "easy" day. I'm not sure what I'll do but a bike ride is not out of the question. I have to admit that after losing some weight and running with greater frequency my legs are beginning to feel like they are where they need to be. I have to say it's the little runs like the ones I do in Wake Forest that remind me why I like to run so much: It's all about getting outdoors and having fun. But I noticed something interested (to me). My mind is always jumping to the next race, as though I'm in it for the competition. Running is funny in that way. You do it for its own sake, and you do it because God has made us to be in community (even if that "community" is a competitive one). I guess the fact of the matter is that people run for different reasons because we all have different goals. Those goals can even shift from run to run. I'm going to do everything I can to succeed in my upcoming races -- "succeed" meaning finishing with my head held high regardless of my pace and time. My next "big" event is the half marathon on March 19, and I clearly recall the last half I did and how my legs just sort of froze up at about the 10-mile marker. I wasn't hurting. I just couldn't run. I fought with my legs to the finish line, doing some running but mostly fast-walking. This time around I'll be using the run-walk method and hope to maintain a more even pace on the course. At any rate, I'm fairly excited about the races I see written on my day planner, including Sunday's. The course is a hilly one so it should be a good test of my abilities.

Moving on ....

I've been trying to keep up with the various and sundry reports/essays/op-eds about the immigration debate, so I was glad to see on CNN that a group of evangelicals is going to publish a full-page ad in a major Washington newspaper affirming the call of Jesus for His followers to "love our neighbor as we love ourselves." You can read it here and also check out the signatures (one of which is my school president's). What I really like about the statement is that it clearly objects to prioritizing Christian refugees over Muslim refugees or refugees "of other faiths or no faith at all." Sounds pretty radical, but our God is no respecter of persons. On a similar note, in our Jesus and the Gospels class yesterday I asked my friend and colleague Walter Strickland to address the class on the subject of diversity in the kingdom of God. When God's kingdom is fully established on earth as it is in heaven, we will be free from all those things that stand against a kingdom lifestyle -- empowering men over women, whites over blacks, the wealthy over the poor, the educated over the uneducated, etc. We will become a kingdom community in which ethnic prejudices are abolished. In the meantime, argued Walter, we need to learn how to listen to others, because everyone one of us "sees through a glass darkly." If we aren't in dialogue, if we insist on remaining in our homogeneous contexts, the result will be ever-increasing polarization. Diversity is not merely a social justice issue but is rooted in the very oneness and diversity of the Triune God. The Gospel will become credible when the world sees us in the church building relationships regardless of color, ethnicity, nationality, and culture. Jesus' actions toward people who weren't Jewish was revolutionary. He was giving us a picture of what the kingdom looks by interacting with Roman centurions and despised Samaritans. Is that our attitude to "outsiders" today? It's just that serious!

Well, I still can't believe how incredibly blessed I am to be here in southern Virginia enjoying such incredibly sunny weather while schools are shutting down in other states due to snow. It will probably be short-lived, however. We usually get another whopping snow storm before spring arrives, but for now I'm basking in the sun. I may try for a 4ish mile run today after I work out at the Y. We'll see. My body will tell me!

Pix:

1) I love this course. It's only 2 miles from the seminary in a very peaceful subdivision. As you can see, I love running in circles. Each lap is about a mile. 

2) On Tuesday I enjoyed delicious Mexican food and great conversation with one of my Jesus and the Gospels students.

3) In our LXX class yesterday, the student-led discussion of Amos 1 went swimmingly well I thought. Afterwards I persecuted the saints by having them translate (without any helps) Exod. 20. They nailed it.

4) Walter Strickland speaking in class yesterday.

Walt is completing his doctorate at the University of Aberdeen, teaches theology, and advises the president in an effort to help SEBTS "equip students from every corner of the Kingdom to serve in every context of the Kingdom."

Tuesday, February 7 

8:30 AM I just looked outdoors. My goodness, is it really February? Right now it's a comfortable 51 degrees, going up to a warm 72, which means that unless the teacher in my Greek class today (moi) goes long, I'll get a chance to grab a run before dark. Perfect running weather! Overall, I have to say that I feel extremely blessed with the weather God has given us this "winter." If I can maintain my training schedule, I just might be able to add a 26.2 bumper sticker to my car this year!

7:58 AM Well, it's gonna be an interesting day, don't you think? May as well dust off that old scrap of paper called the U.S. Constitution and give it another gander. Together, the nation will hopefully figure this thing out and determine what is legal and constitutional. Ain't nothin' wrong with issuing an executive order. Ain't nothin' wrong with disagreeing with that EO on moral or legal grounds (or both). And ain't nothin' wrong with challenging that EO in court. Do we shield our children from the debate? Of course. But can we also use this as an opportunity to teach a civics lesson or two? Naturally. They need to learn, for example, that there are three branches of government, not one. They need to know that members of all three branches are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which is the "law of the land." They need to learn what the "foreign-emoluments clause" is. (It's found in Article 1, Section 9, clause number 8.) They need to learn as teenagers that when they're stopped for speeding, the man or woman in uniform is not a so-called police officer. He or she has been placed there as an authority to uphold the law, and they are to be treated with the utmost respect. Don't like the law? There are legitimate ways of changing it. But unless we learn what is objectively lawful (and unlawful) in young adulthood, we may end up learning it the hard way in our twenties and thirties, when we are making the most important decisions of our life. (Side note: You want your children to see government in action? Take them to a state or local legislature meeting. It's an eye-opener, believe me.) In the meantime, let's you and I buy up the opportunities we're given today for investing our talents for the glory of God and the good of others. Some of you believe (as do I) that Jesus may come at any time. But we don't know the day or the hour. This sense of emergency and immediacy should give us a holy urgency to use our time and strength well so that we won't be ashamed at His coming.

Monday, February 6 

4:48 PM They're saying it was mental toughness that won the game for the Patriots.

Blessed are those followers of Jesus who give it their best in view of the Day when every person's work will be manifested. The alternative is unthinkable: get by with shoddy workmanship. To all of my wonderful students: Except the Lord build the house, we labor in vain who build it. But the One who has begun a good work in us will complete it. Work hard. Draw upon His strength. Give it your best. I promise to do the same.

4:10 PM This and that ...

1) I've added another event to my race schedule: The Liberty Mountain 5K on Saturday, March 4, hosted by our good friends at Liberty University. It's another trail run. Appears I'm a glutton for punishment.

2) Every American needs to read this: Response to Emergency Motion Exhibit A.

3) I just polished off the best steak I've had in a long time. Yes, you wake up at 5:00 am, you get to eat supper at 4:00 pm.

4) We keep adding goodies to the Power Point page over at our Greek Portal. Feel feel to use anything you like.

5) My trip to Hawaii is booooooked!!!! The dates are Aug. 3-11. I'm already praying for some big waves.

9:08 AM QOTD:

The enemy in any democracy is not dissent, from either within or without. Dissent, in fact, is essential. The enemy is dishonesty, ignorance, indifference, intolerance.

Read Jefferson's Warning to the White House.

7:54 AM Update on our LXX class: In lieu of taking a final exam over Amos, students can opt to memorize a portion of the book in Greek. I've been pleased that so many students have chosen to do this in classes we've offered in the past. In previous years we also allowed memorization of the Hebrew. Here's a good example of a student who chose that option. Language study is crazy work but it's good work. You've got to fight for it, though. Some parts are easier than others.

5:55 AM Morning! Up and at-em bright and early today. Got lots on my plate as I know you do. I'm feeling very energetic, which is usually the case after a long workout. The key is to just stick with it. TRAINING is only 8 letters long but it's not quite that simple. All you have to do is schedule, lift, run, walk, climb, bike, condition, strengthen, stretch, rest, etc. Exercise trends come and go. But you have to be steady. According to the CDC, 80 percent of American adults don't get regular exercise. The fewest adults exercise in West Virginia and the most in Colorado. But every state has safe and convenient places to be active. I was shocked when I discovered that not 20 minutes from the farm is a section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The local Y is the same distance. Then there are the races you can enter. Lord willing, next weekend I'll be back in Raleigh for the annual Run for the Roses event at the Dorothea Dix Park. It's a 5K that also offers two runs for kids (100 meters for 6 years and under, and a half mile race for 6 years and over). Parents run with their kids. Couples run together. All children automatically receive a medal for competing. The money raised will go to Canines for Service, which selects and trains dogs for people with mobility disabilities. This is going to so much fun. Every race is different, but the "next" one is always the best!

Today my goal is to do 30 minutes of intense strength training at the Y, then work on the book review I owe JETS. Today is what I call my "vice" workout. If I do really well I reward myself with a Pepsi. My house? A mess. But I did clean the dishes from dinner last night. I'm eating clean nowadays, so that's good. I did make the mistake of stopping by Taco Bell on the way home from school last week. Bec and I used to get their burrito/taco combo with a soft drink, so what the hay, I stopped. I couldn't finish it. Maybe it's just me, but the food tasted so blech. And I used to LOVE that meal. I did stop by Kroger in Appomattox yesterday and bought me a couple of sirloins. Their meat is so much leaner (and tastier) than the stuff I can get at our local grocery store.

Looking forward to this week, I need to get in 25 hours of training. I want to do 2 short runs and 1 long run, plus bike at least 15 miles. Let me know if you're interested in doing the 5K on Sunday. I'll meet you there. It starts at 2:00.

Later!

Dave

Sunday, February 5 

6:25 PM Hi friends. Usually I can't wait for Sunday to roll around because it's usually my day off from activity. But then Sunday (as in today) came around and all I could think of was, "Let's get outdoors and jam, Davie Boy!" After all, my legs weren't at all tired after yesterday's Everest climb. (Don't believe me? Check out this elevation graphic of yesterday's summit day.)

Anyhow, I told myself I could go ahead and exercise as long as I gave my "running" legs the day off, or something like that. So off we went (legs and all) to Farmville this afternoon to tackle for the umpteenth time the High River Bridge Trail, which is as flat as trails come (it's a former railroad bed, after all). As you can see, the traffic today was ferocious in sunny Southside ...

... as were the hiking trails.

Eventually I reached the bridge itself, which marked the 5-mile point.

All I had to do was go another 1.55 miles, turn around, and head back to my starting point if I wanted to get in a half marathon today (13.1 miles).

I was a good boy and walked pretty much the entire distance without running. Well, to be honest, I did break into a jog around three miles from the finish, but hey, sometimes my body refuses to listen to my head. I am not a moron, however. I do realize that I can't run every day, so I promised myself to take tomorrow off from any form of human activity except for lifting. You know, Davey Boy, you don't only have a marathon coming up. You've got three mountains you want to climb in July, and one of them is a monster. Folks, here's a YouTube of what it's like to climb the Allalinhorn.

Ugh. That's why I need to push myself now. These climbs are going to be a huge challenge. Everything in me is going to scream, "Stop this nonsense NOW and let's go back to town and have some sushi!" That's when you have to just ignore yourself. Can I tell you my goals for practically anything I do? Finish. Finish well if I can. But at least finish the silly thing. Believe it or not, I think God's created all of us to function this way. Listen. I'm an inexperienced runner and climber at best. All the more reason for me to work hard. Smart too, if I can. Thankfully, there's a totally awesome place called Amazon.com. Place your order, and in a couple of days you'll have all the knowledge you need at your fingertips. Then you can stop running and just read about how to be a runner or a climber or whatever. NOT. Ain't nobody got time for slacking off. It's time to train, and training involves not just thinking about doing something but actually doing it. Today was a great example of how my body and my mind worked in harmony to accomplish a goal. And, because I didn't overdo it, I'm feeling great right now. Well, mostly great. The question, I guess, is this: What shall I do tomorrow? Take my "Sunday" day off? Yessiree. How much shall I lift? Who knows? I'm not worried about that right now. Once my mind gets itself into gear, my body will know what to do.

Now where did I put that Advil?

P.S. After my half today I decided to drive west for about 30 minutes to grab some more shots of one of the most historic sites in all of the U.S.

Recognize the place?

9:22 AM Hey folks. So glad you decided to stop by. Here's the beautiful view that awaited me this morning.

Sure glad we didn't get this light dusting yesterday during the race. The crazy thing was hard enough as it was. This morning I'm feeling soooo good. My legs are purring like a happy kitten, while my upper body feels like I just worked out at the Y. Turns out that running up and down hills on a narrow trail while trying to keep your balance involves a lot more than fancy footwork. Studies have shown that runners are able to generate more energy with their legs when they also engage their opposite arms. And so my arms and pects are really feeling it today. I must be in "running appreciation mode" because all I have to say about the sport is I LOVE IT. I love the challenge, the people, the camaraderie, the boring blog posts they allow you to write, and so much more. Just think of how yawnish you'd be if all I talked about was Greek!

Well, it's been quite a week, eh???!!! Swastikas on New York trains, a smashed synagogue window in Houston, a swastika on an iconic statue at Rice University, bone-chilling tweets, the federal judiciary standing up to the executive branch. Yikes. Of all the things, of all the thousands of things that could have stood out to me in this week's news, I was drawn to a story about a mother's instinct to save the life of her child. (Cue sermonette.) The older I get, folks, the more I realize why millions of people are going to hell without ever hearing the Gospel. Nothing is more indicative that America is fast becoming a post-Christian nation than Christians who have lost their basic purpose for living in this world. In recent days I've looked back on three years of running/hiking/climbing/biking as one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Exercise involves commitment, self-discipline, and most of all keeping your eye on the goal. So what is the goal for the follower of Jesus? How silly of me to ask you that question! You know the answer as well as I do. The only question to be answered is: How will I, Dave Black, live TODAY as God's agent to redeem and transform the lives of people? That's what I find so disturbing about well-meaning efforts to "keep America safe." A ban on immigration may or may not be a good first step in this direction, politically. People can debate that until hell freezes over. But there's one thing I'm absolutely sure about:

The nations have already come to America!!!!!

And unless we followers of Jesus abandon the racism implied in our unwritten definition of "security," we will never see the world reached for Christ. Foreign governments (like Iran) may close the doors to U.S. Christians, but they can't close them to their own people. John 20:21 -- "As the Father sent Me, even so I am now sending you" -- reveals the reason God left us on this earth. Reaching those around us with the Gospel is the main activity of the church until Jesus Himself returns as King of kings. So then, the purpose of my life as a follower of Jesus must be to "Go everywhere and tell everyone" (Mark 16:15). (Yes, I just quoted from the last twelve verses of Mark. Deal with it.)

Listen. If my only concerns are about my own life -- my security from terrorism, a healthy body, a prestigious education, marriage, a good-paying job -- then how I am any different from the lost all around me? Regrettably, too few of us think of ourselves as fulltime missionaries to the world, including our own nation. That's why I wrote a little book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? The red-hot political issues of the day need to be kept in their proper perspective. It's human nature to be driven by our egos always to be right. The opposite is to have the mind of Christ -- that is, a spirit of servanthood and humility. It's the same attitude of other-centeredness that caused a young mother to place the safety of her baby's life above her own. She didn't care a whit about anything else. It was another life over her own. Friends, we can't follow Jesus very long without being confronted by our ego and greed. It's His way of demonstrating His presence in our lives. This week in our "Jesus and the Gospels" class we're looking at the Gospels and asking, "Why four -- no fewer and no more?" I believe we'll see that each Gospel points us to the church's primary task: to complete the task of world evangelization. My prayer? For students with the spiritual sensitivity to hear what the Lord Jesus is saying today to the North American church. We who are called by Christ are called to serve and not to be served. We are called not to gain our lives but the lose them. We have the keys, you guys! We have the word and the Spirit and a cheering section in heaven. But we're not promised a secure life!!!!!

Be kind.

Be you.

Love Jesus.

Love the lost.

Do these simple things, and the church will hit a home run.

Cheers!

Dave

Saturday, February 4 

6:38 PM Just ordered: Thomas Friedman's new book Thank You for Being Late. Friedman never fails to make me think.

6:25 PM Albert Einstein:

The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.

1:36 PM Just tried to donate to this fund in Victoria, Texas, and was told, in essence, "Fund Closed. No More Donations Accepted." They've exceeded their goal.

Marvelous. This is a welcome sign that Americans of all faiths really do care for each other. The church in America is moving from micro-ethics (dancing, drinking, gambling) to macro-ethics (issues of race, poverty, justice, and freedom). No matter who the victim of injustice is, we can stand beside them and say, "We are with you as our friend. We are better human beings when we stand beside each other." Light dispels darkness. Show up. Be seen. Play the music. Share the love of Jesus. Calvary love is well-noticed when it is willing to give itself away for the sake of others.

1:12 PM Hey fellow runners! After participating in last week's trail run at Harris Lake, I've come to the realization that 5K trail runs are tons harder than your run-of-the-mill 5K race. Today's race started at a quiet, beautiful lake just east of Lynchburg, VA.

The race went uphill and over a narrow mountain track, which had leaves covering the trail everywhere -- meaning that even when you were coming back down the trail you still couldn't go very fast or you could easily slip and fall. I don't want to whine, but the ascent today was brutal, and not just on the older folks like me. Even the younger racers were walking -- yes, I said walking -- for a good mile uphill until they reached the summit and could turn around and begin their descent to the bottom of Liberty Mountain. I did meet (and even surpass) my goal of coming in under 45 minutes, and while it was cold, the weather was otherwise perfect for an outdoor competition. Before the race began we all huddled inside the large cabin facility at the Hydaway Recreation Center. Then it was time to leave the warmth behind and risk the outdoors. I was standing close to the starting line when I took this.

Everyone was freezing and oh so ready to begin the race. When I finished the course I saw that I had clocked in at 42:42 with a 14-minute per mile pace. According to Map My Run, my first mile was 14:09, my second ("Heartbreak Hill") was a disappointing 16:23, and my final mile was 11:50. Being a stickler for "causes" I just had to introduce myself to the race staff and chat with them about where the proceeds to the race were going.

As the race was both organized by Liberty and drew mostly from the university community, they told me that the funds went to the local athletic club there. I must say, these people are fantastic and I'm looking forward to participating in one of their other trail runs in the near future. I am pleased to announce that I didn't slip or trip one time on the course, which is very unusual for a klutz like me, but I have to admit that I was being extra vigilant. I wasn't the only one, too. After the race I met a young guy who was sitting out this event because of a sprained ankle he got on his last trail run here. Anyway, for me it was a decent run considering the difficulties of the course. The crowd was decent-sized and everyone was in great spirits. I asked for a size "small" t-shirt to give away to one of grandkids. It's a new race tradition I'm starting ....

By far I was the oldest guy at the event today. I believe that age is one of the most arbitrary ways we measure people. At races I've met 70-year olds who continually teach me about vision-casting and possibility, and I know 20- and 30-somethings who are as set in their unhealthy ways as is Archie Bunker. Age is like a letter on a report card. It's an "evaluation" that actually tells you very little about who the person is. The same is true of numbers on a weight scale. You know that someone is taking good care of themselves just by looking at them.

Today there were plenty of people who very clearly were committed to taking good care of their bodies. The crowds aren't as large at one of these events, but I think that's because trail runs aren't for everyone. It's definitely an acquired skill to be able to run up and down hills over several miles of rocks and roots. I love these races because they mix things up for me. They're also definitely more laid back than your typical 5K race in Raleigh. You really have to watch your footing, though, or you'll find yourself skidding across the rocks. Having done two trail races back-to-back now, I realize just how blessed I am to have the stamina to finish a race that is genuinely difficult. All glory to God. 

Friday, February 3 

6:50 PM The cost of following Jesus is great:

This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

6:30 PM Wow. I see that Roger Federer just won the Australian Open. This was his first Grand Slam title in 5 years. What's really surprising is that he's 35 years old -- a dinosaur in tennis years. Gives me hope. When I'm running, I push it to the limit. I am a boy again -- a youth exulting in his physical prowess. But age has its benefits too. If my times get slower and slower, I'm developing wisdom and insights I didn't have before. So I don't mourn my lost youth. Well, not often. I'm rebuilding my life on something better: experience. Just think of baseball. It's the September of my life, but I'm certain that the best games are played in that month. There's no time any more for nonessentials. You just gotta get down and boogie.

 

5:46 PM It'll be 27 degrees at race time tomorrow morning in Lynchburg. Ick! I run to feel better, not worse. By nature I am stubborn and bull-headed so I will run the race even though my brain is screaming at me that it's too cold. I'll be wearing my ankle-length tights, for sure. I see that the Liberty Mountain Trail System has some pretty interesting names. We'll be competing on "Dirty Ridge." That's right next to "Deer Trail" and "Lake Trail." Then things get funny. How about the "Alternate Flight Pattern Trail"? Or "Idiot's Run"? My favorites have got to be "Trail Too Far" and "Psycho Path." I love these names! They are seriously funny.

If you're going outside tomorrow, be safe, my friends.

1:16 PM Living in the South, you'd think I'd love snow. I don't. It was snowing lightly when I left the house this morning to go on a bike ride. Thankfully it didn't stick so I was able to get in 5 miles before I met the Blacks in town for Chinese food. Biking, family, food -- this stuff seriously lights my fire. So now, just one day before my second trail race in a week, I've got to decide how to spend my afternoon. :-)

Run strong, my friends!  

9:45 AM Next week in our LXX class we're going to begin our study of Amos in both Greek and Hebrew. If you'd like to follow us, here's a helpful list of Greek vocabulary used in Amos. I got up early this morning to retranslate Amos 1 and I'm eager to get started next Wednesday. There are so many Greek idioms in the New Testament that got their start in the LXX: "into the age" meaning "forever"; "receive a face" meaning "show partiality"; "house" for "household"; "bloods" for "blood"; "heavens" for "heaven"; "Sabbaths" meaning "week"; "waters" meaning "water"; "by the hand of" meaning "by"; "And it came to pass" as a discourse marker; transliteration of proper names; loanwords; "foreskin" for "circumcision"; "give a tenth" meaning "tithe"; disuse of the dual; heis as article; nominative for vocative; autos as unemphatic pronoun; idios as a mere possessive pronoun; deka duo for dodeka; the terminal -san in the 3d person plural; the Attic future (elpio, not elpiso); rare use of men and de; parataxis over hypotaxis; generic use of the article; singular for plural ("the frog" meaning "frogs," Exod. 8:6); cognate accusatives ("sacrifice a sacrifice"); cognate datives ("hear with hearing," "die with death," "stone with stones," "rejoice with joy"); frequent use of pronouns; "man" for "each"; hostis for hos; increase in periphrastic constructions; jussive future (used for a command); paucity of participles when compared to Classical Greek; hanging nominative; singular verbs with plural subjects; reduplication of words ("greatly greatly," Gen. 30:43); the use of "day" as a vague expression of time (e.g., "after days" meaning "after a long time," 3 Kings 18:1); "in that hour" meaning "just then"; prominence of prepositions; ei with the subjunctive; ean with the indicative; ei with oaths; hina with the indicative; legon to introduce speeches; and many more.

This morning I also reread Jennifer Dine's excellent  doctoral dissertation, especially her discussion of Amos chapter 1. You can access that here. We all have a finite amount of time we can invest in our interests. I just hope and pray I don't spend my time haphazardly. That's a terrible waste. I'm easily seduced by the idea that I can just rely on translations when I know better. I like solving problems on my own. I'm proud to say that I'm getting better at saying no to people or activities that just waste my time. I try to think about and do only those things that matter. I've not always made the best choices, but I'm working on it.

I can't wait to discuss Amos 1 next week. There are so many idioms that we'll find useful in our study of the Greek New Testament, one of them being the author's use of compound verbs with intensifying prepositions: katesthio instead of esthio, and katakopto instead of kopto. Mark's Gospel has droves of these. I love trying to bring out the nuances of the Greek in my English translation of Mark. I think that makes a difference in the way we understand Mark's peculiar style and diction. Our LXX class involves rethinking our view of Greek. Reading Amos together means entering the same story, walking the same path, learning the same lessons. We've already laughed together and worked hard together. Expertise in a language doesn't happen overnight. But I've discovered that when you do what you love with other people who love the same thing, you become connected with each other very quickly. A bond develops that never goes away. There are a zillion things I don't do well. But I really, really want to do Greek well. Hebrew too. Of course, the world's population will survive without me mastering either language. But I have to live within my own skin.

So this is the work I'm doing now. It's the work I invite you into.

Thursday, February 2 

9:25 PM Scot McKnight has posted what might well be the best blog I've read in days. It's called The Scandal of the Evangelical Soul. It has been my joy to have known Scot for many years. He's contributed to books I've edited, and I once had the delight of debating him about the synoptic problem at an annual SBL meeting. There are probably very few things we would see completely eye to eye on. Still, I am very grateful for his blog post, and I hope it will cause us all to reconsider how we approach the post-election world we live in. Most of all, I want to thank all of the commenters who posted responses and interactions with Scot's post. Here's but one example of the kind of thoughtful discourse you will find:

I think a month (or more) off from Trump is a good, wise (and certainly enjoyable) practice, to be repeated regularly. You are absolutely right that we need to keep the main things the main things.

That said, I think Trump represents problems for evangelicals especially that won't go away and will require people who are evangelicals to speak out, one way or another.

The main reason, which strengthens the many others, is that much of the world knows that evangelicals overwhelmingly voted for him. Despite the vulgarity, despite the long history of misogyny, despite the love of money and praise of men, despite the lies, despite the praises of violence and torture and despots, etc.--evangelicals voted for him in overwhelming numbers. It was not remotely close for us, unlike the country at large. So we showed the world we are indeed a peculiar people, in that few if any other sub-group supported Trump so completely. I would argue that because of the global prominence of the US and the media this election received and continues to receive, this act--overwhelmingly supporting Trump--is now the most well known feature of the evangelical community in the US. Not evangelism, not charity, not preaching the gospel, certainly not love, but voting for Trump and all he stands for and does. His legacy is now ours, by virtue of the now infamous and out of the norm "over 80%." This is a staggering and unprecedented reality. I don't think the implications are fully known or appreciated.

For my part, I consider this to be a revelation, not really of a political problem, per se, but of a serious problem in the American evangelical church (AEC) of where and how it gets its formation and information. It is notable that, as you posted here recently, many leaders in the AEC opposed and oppose Trump's stand against immigrants and refugees. I would be curious to see how many Christian leaders, as opposed to rank and file congregants, supported and support Trump. From the bits and pieces I've gathered so far, the leadership was much more diverse and more likely to be opposed. In any event, the fact that the AEC was a, if not the, most thoroughly pro-Trump constituency, has very publicly linked this President, with all of his tendencies and tweets, with the AEC. Further, it has revealed a variety of the things about who we are as a people. So both in our dealings outside the AEC and within it, the support of Trump is a phenomenon that will have to be dealt with. With grace, of course--but I don't think ignoring it will be an option given our very public and thorough and exceptional support of his candidacy. To vote so overwhelmingly for him and then be silent about him as he acts so tumultuously would be, IMO, rude to the rest of the world that now must deal with his actions and insults. We evangelicals, perhaps more than any other group, have empowered and unleashed him on the world.

Years ago I remember reading a little book by John Stott called Balanced Christianity: A Call to Avoid Unnecessary Polarization. In it Stott pointed out how hard it is for evangelicals to retain a sense of balance. "We separate from one another on matters of lesser importance," he wrote. We are divided not only intellectually, he said, but also temperamentally. Thus "We push people over to one pole, while keeping the opposite pole as our preserve." A divided and polarized church cannot evangelize, he insisted. Scot, in his blog post, is convinced that we all need to take a hiatus from politics for a while. The times we all live in involve climactic change. It can be difficult to get our bearings. On the other hand, we can and should speak out against what we perceive to be acts of injustice.

I think it can be safely said that the evangelical church in America has not yet resolved these matters. I've sought to write honestly in my own blog as I see things. I may well be wrong. I can only record that while I may not have changed my opinion about the rightness and wrongness of certain actions taken in recent days, reading Scot's essay has most certainly caused me to rethink my understanding and compassion.

May the Lord guide us all.

8:24 PM I just ordered James Smith's You Are What You Love. His thesis is that people are fundamentally lovers and not thinkers. This sounds a little overdone, but I need to read the book before offering a critique. Yet I love the title. People do what they love to do. We learn Greek (and retain it) because we love it. We exercise (and stay with it) because we love it. People do not come to Christ because they are reluctant to surrender their independence to the great Lover. Today there is unquestionably a move from the search for truth to the search for purpose and significance, and the change is (partly) welcome. I am so thankful for the scholars in my university and seminary experience who not only thought well but loved well. Nobody likes a stuff-shirted pontificating bore. I found my own skills in leadership greatly increased after spending some time with these people. Of course, I still prize bold thinking. In the end, though, I am probably a lover more than a thinker. Intellectualism has no place in the evangelical's creed.

Then again, what do I know?

7:34 PM I like Eugene Peterson's rendering of Heb. 12:27. He said that God will shake the earth, "getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered." I am so glad that the world as we know it will not last forever. As the old hymn puts it, "Jesus Is Coming Again." Meanwhile, I want to commit myself deeply and unremittingly to the life that surrounds me instead of giving up and throwing in the towel to the powers of darkness all around us. I hope and pray you find this blog useful. I hope and pray that it will make you think, squirm, and laugh all at the same time. Blogging is demanding and often frustrating, but it offers rewards of great joy and fulfillment to those who throw themselves into it with love, prayer, and vision. I long to see the teachings of Jesus translated into our culture. I know you do too. That's why I blog, and that's why, as the Christian influence in the West diminishes, it's more necessary than ever to bring God into the affairs of daily life. Let's make a more serious effort than ever to think and act biblically about the pressing problems of our day in a sea of untruthfulness, materialism, hubris, relativism, and skepticism. We have a right to expect not only the gifts but the graces of the Holy Spirit as together we give until it hurts for the growth of the Gospel.

Don't exactly know why I felt the need to preach this sermonette!

7:16 PM So after a day of hunting around online I decided to sign up for a 5K this Saturday called, of all things, the Arctic 5K Trail Race. The sponsor is none other than Liberty University, and the venue is the Hydaway Recreation Center on Liberty Mountain. I've driven past this site a gazillion times so it will be interesting to see what it looks like up close and personal. Last weekend I found running on a trail to be actually quite awesome, but this course looks a lot hillier.

I may drive up tomorrow afternoon rather than on Saturday morning for the simple reason that it's always harder to run right after a long drive. Looking forward to burning more calories and working up a good sweat. My doctor looked at me today and said, "You've lost some weight, haven't you? You look great." Oh yeah -- I'm healthier and happier. Low cholesterol, good blood pressure, not-so-bad BMI, so there's a lot to be grateful for. Looking at the participant list for the race my impression is that it's mostly Liberty students. No one over 60 except for yours truly. What a great journey I'm on. I look forward to each and every challenge. If you persist and persevere, friend, you will eventually get to where you want to go. Runners have a saying: "First or last, it's the same finish line." I like that. Everyone who has found their sport knows that feeling. In the running community, learning counts for little, as do wealth and beauty and talent and station. All of us possess all we need to be heroes. The body in action is always impelled by some good we want to attain. And, for those few moments on the course, we become the equal of anyone on this earth.

12:28 PM As you know, I've chosen to do the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk method for my upcoming marathon, which means you run for so many minutes and then take a walk break, and so on. Today I enjoyed a workout at the Y with some of my buddies.

Afterwards my legs were feeling so good that I ended up running for a straight hour and 10 minutes.

I would have gone longer but I had to hurry to get to Clarkesville to see my doctor. I have a suspicious-looking mole near my left eye and my doctor wants me to see a dermatologist in the next week or so. I know that sounds a little melodramatic, but I'm a bit wary of anything that looks like it might become cancerous, so I'm being overly cautious you might say. At any rate, I had a blast running today and I feel absolutely no after-effects. I'm toying with the idea of doing a race on Saturday but there's nothing in Raleigh so I'm checking out Roanoke, Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Greensboro. I have simply decided that races are where it's at, even though I do enjoy my training runs. Don't my sunglasses make me look like a real runner?

My doctor was so excited to hear about the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure I've started to honor Becky's memory. Folks, please support this little fund raiser I'm doing if you can. I desperately need your help to make this a success. Contributing gets you a special bumper sticker for your car with my mug shot on it and the words "Doofus Does Dorky Dimwitted Dash." Kidding. But a reward you will get -- the satisfaction of knowing you're making a difference in the lives of endometrial cancer patients. Go here to make a contribution if the Lord leads you to do so. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who's already given. I hate asking for money. I really do. But anything you can do to help the "cause" is greatly appreciated.

Today my head is exploding with one of my patented sinus headaches. I get them whenever the weather changes. I know that some of you experience the same thing because you've told me. It's a small snag, though, when you think of any number of things far worse that could happen to you. I'm still so excited about the marathon in Cincy. Whenever I worry about not finishing I think of all the grandparents out there who will be running the race for their third or fourth time. This means maybe I can run one too.

Off to cook my lunch -- hamburger meat with cream of chicken sauce over rice!

7:58 AM Odds and ends ...

1) 7 reasons to study Hebrew and Greek.

2) This is utter hogwash.

English grammar is abstract and hidden because it is uninflected. It is unsystematic, unstructured, unreliable, and inconsistent. We are a loose and freedom loving people. We break the rules. The Romans were the most disciplined, structured, organized people in history and so was their language; their conjugations and declensions march in disciplined rows just like their legions.

Sorry. An uninflected language like English is neither unsystematic, unstructured, unreliable, or inconsistent. That said, I agree that you should study Latin.

3) "Fake Tears Chuck Schumer." Must we? For crying out loud (literally), he was hurting for these people. I thought we were beyond such childish slurs. Guess not.

4) 63.9. That's how many miles are on my Map My Run app for 2017. It's a lower number than I want but I'm happy with it. I need to get back up to 100 hours/month if I'm going to get back to the Alps this summer. 15 workouts per month is just not cutting it.

5) For some reason, this verse came to mind this week:

"You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them."

If you are in authority and are also a Christian, grace your leadership with kindness. There is nothing weak or effeminate about it. Only great souls can be truly kind.

Wednesday, February 1 

6:15 PM I love me a good interview. This one about studying Greek by Ray van Neste is bursting with passion and enthusiasm. If it doesn't fire you up, chances are you're probably not breathing and have bigger issues than just learning Greek. It's a chance for you to think about a very important issue and maybe even reflect on the bad and savor the good. His is a story of inspiration, and it is so much like my own. The big question is, "Why don't more of our Greek students use what they learned in seminary?" He made a statement I will never forget:

Whether it's exercise or whether it's the study of something else, you've got to get it into the regular rhythm of life.

There you have it. That's it. Greek pedagogy made simple. To use an analogy from running, I started my health journey 3 years ago and it's been a long road but one that really puts a lot of things into perspective for me about health and even Greek studies. Loving what I do -- absolutely loving what I do -- has made the world of difference for me. I've heard it said that less than 1 percent of the American public will ever run and compete in a full marathon. I want to be in that 1 percent club! But the thing is, any reasonably healthy person can do this. But everyone is not doing it. I am doing it because I want to do it and I can do it. I've come to realize that taking care of my temple is not optional for me as a follower of Jesus. Having big goals and races to train for are now a part of my life. Folks, you can choose to exercise or you can choose to be a couch potato. Or, applied to the study of Greek, if you love the Greek language, you will use it. And you will only get "better and stronger" for the effort. Loving what you do will make a world of difference. The feeling of mastery of Greek is like nothing else. So if you're taking me for Greek this semester, I want to congratulate you. You've made it through half of our textbook. The rest of the semester is going to rock! If you keep up your motivation, you'll be unstoppable. Guaranteed. Take a lesson from my philosophy of running:

1) I will take one day at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day. And training has to be regular and consistent. Ditto for language study.

2) I will remember: I am an athlete. Someday I love getting out there and running, and some days I have to force myself to run. Either way, I AM A RUNNER. I won't quit. I won't stop. I won't let up. Ditto for studying Greek.

3) I've never regretted a day of running. Not one. Exercise is something I'm going to do until I'm too old and decrepit to get out of bed. The demands are huge but so are the benefits. I love my new life and will never go back to the goal-less, unmotivated person I was 3 years ago. Ditto for Greek. Either you are a Greek student or you are not. If you are one, you know you will NEVER go back to your life before you learned Greek. Never.

The final thanks goes to God. Thank You for the beautiful creation I get to enjoy each and every day. Thank You for providing me with shoes that fit my feet. Thank You for race day excitement. Thank You for making me thinner and healthier. Thank You for inspiring me to be all I can be. Thank You for helping me achieve new dreams and reach new goals. Thank You. To Ray Van Neste I say: Keep doing what you're doing. You're an inspiration and a motivation. And to all my Greek students, past, present and future, I say: May your Greek "shoelaces" stay tied, may you make "exercise" (in your Greek studies) a regular part of your life, and may your heart always be your guide!

P.S. Here are some wonderful people who are running beside me in the race of life.

1) Willi and Esther Honegger, visiting from Switzerland. We had lunch together yesterday in their apartment. Vielen Dank!

2) My beginning Greek students taking their first quiz of the new semester yesterday. They are the greatest.

3) My good friend John May. We had Mexican food for dinner last night.

4) Chip Hardy leading a discussion in our LXX class this morning.

5) The class "amanuensis" doing his thing.

6) My esteemed colleague Keith Whitfield lecturing on "Jesus and the Christian Life" in our NT Intro class this afternoon.

7) He was followed by my new colleague in New Testament, Jake Pratt. He spoke on "Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew."

8) Finally, my colleagues in our Bible-Area meeting this afternoon. I'm so grateful for their love, their support, and even their ribbing whenever I mention the strange race I want to run next. 

Off to cook Chinese food for dinner!

Tuesday, January 31 

7:45 AM Vital information:

1) Full text of the executive order.

2) Current vetting procedures for refugees.

3) Contact numbers for your Senators.

Stay informed, my fellow Americans! Let your views be heard!

Let's not forget, too, that the New Testament sets forth a pattern of crisis and conduct:

1) Rom. 13:11-14

2) 1 Cor. 7:29-31

3) Tit. 2:11-14

4) 1 Pet. 4:7-19

5) 2 Pet. 3:10-12

There is no doubt about the crisis, but is our conduct rising to the occasion?

Monday, January 30 

5:58 PM Only 14 weeks to go until the mother of all marathons (slight exaggeration -- but it's a big deal for me), and only 7 to my half. I am truly motivated. I dropped a lot of weight through training and I plan to keep it off. Right now I'm cleaning the house. I might be messy but I'm a thankful messy. I am freaked out about the scale of everything I've got on my plate, but faith in God means obedience with no thought of consequences, right? Even a fish's stomach (think Jonah) can become a place of spiritual renewal (heehee). My emails need to be cleaned out. So do my room trashes. Meanwhile I'm still trying to raise money for my UNC fundraiser, so if you're a corporate type, watch out because I'm after you. In a way it's sad to have someone to dedicate your marathon to, but in another sense I try to remember that I'm running for a really good cause. I am terribly sorry for not posting essays on my website any more but, honestly, I simply haven't got the time. I'm disappointed I wasn't able to exercise this weekend (other than the race on Saturday) but I've been dragging (again) and don't have the strength. I'm feeling really good today, though, so watch out Wake Forest -- the crazy jogger is returning. Folks, I'm gonna keep on running the race Jesus has set before me. But whatever. You just take one day at a time.

Tomorrow's a big day -- gastrointestinally. I've got a lunch engagement PLUS a dinner appointment. Just call me "Mr. Sociable" if you like. Otherwise, my days are filled with classes, back-to-back meetings, student appointments, and chapel. Do you ever struggle mentally just to keep everything straight? It's great to be on this journey with you. However iffy life becomes, I am beyond thankful for my friends and family who stick with me rain or shine. I'm even thankful for all that's going in our nation, because I think it has the potential to purify us as a people and help all of us rethink our priorities. Despite all the shards of broken bottles that puncture and divide us, we're still one nation. I just wish we could all listen to each other better. I mean, I am obviously not a difficult person, but there are some people who are. I'll pray for you (heehee again). Can we all try and demonstrate the love of God without any strings attached? You soften hearts, you open minds. Or, as I once heard one of my professors at Biola say, in order for people to hear the words you have to play the music. (Or something like that.) I'm not saying that this will resolve the controversies of the day, but I think it will go some ways toward it.

Finally, for no particular reason, I'm gonna post this great old tune by Orleans. Bec and I loved it. Honestly, Becky is "still the one" for me. I know that sounds really lame, but hey -- I'm really lame! Anyhoo, see if you don't tap your feet when you listen to these dudes performing one of their hits from the 70s. Gives an old guy like me hope. The guitar duet in the middle of the song still gives me goose bumps.

11:44 AM When we accuse others of being fakes, it may because we know, deep down inside, that we are too. But projecting our low self-esteem on others is a psychological defense that creates more problems than it solves. The sense of self-empowerment that it offers is usually very short-lived. Say that someone has just attacked one of your business proposals. Instead of offering a rational response you find something to attack them for. You hurt them back. This response to act out of a compulsion to get even is blatantly childish behavior. I'm bringing this up because our topic in our Gospels class on Wednesday will be anger (Matt. 5:22), and anger is often motivated by a desire not to feel guilty but instead to pass our emotional pain on to others. Anger almost always masks emotional suffering. The solution is to see ourselves as God sees us -- as lost sinners -- and then, trusting Christ, seeing ourselves as not our own but as bought with a price and the personal property of the Lord whom we now willingly love and seek to honor. It is only then that we can be properly related to ourselves and not live an inner war in our souls. We acquire true self-respect. Friction and anger disappear when we are right with ourselves because we are first right with God. This, in fact, is the message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in a nutshell. Seek first His kingdom, and all the other things we need will be added unto us.

Should be an interesting discussion.

9:25 AM Here's a helpful spreadsheet telling you where your senators stand on the immigration ban. Below I cite one Republican's comments as an illustration of the issues involved.

Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation. It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. Such a hasty process risks harmful results. We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children. Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.

Agree with Senator Graham? Disagree? Why? Stay informed! In the meantime, who are we serving and caring for today in our communities? God has already brought the nations to us. Let's "work hard to show the results of our salvation" (Phil. 2:12). According to the Pew Research Center:

During the past 15 years, the U.S. has admitted 399,677 Christian refugees and 279,339 Muslim refugees, meaning that 46% of all refugees who have entered the U.S. during this time have been Christian while 32% have been Muslim.

Christian or Muslim, we need to be Jesus to these people. In the 33 years He lived on this earth, Jesus loved the unlovable, healed the sick, and pointed people toward the Father. Then He died for them and said, "It is finished." Christ had no unfinished business. Do we? Last year North Carolina alone took in approximately 4,000 refugees from places like the DRC, Sudan, Somalia, and Myanmar. World Relief Durham (NC) has a helpful list of ways we can build relationships with these refugees, including links on dealing with culture shock, language barriers, and friendship activities. Their mission is to help local churches serve the most vulnerable. If you know of other organizations that you feel are assisting refugees in a helpful way, please link to them on your blog or Facebook page. The future of the immigration ban is important, but we don't have to wait for the stranger to arrive on our shores.

Sunday, January 29 

6:36 PM I had to laugh out loud when I read this today in the book of Ecclesiastes: "The fastest runner doesn't always win the race" (Eccl. 9:11). Amen to that! Today was a time for this runner to just slow down a bit. My life (like yours) is so hectic that I've got a pressure-cooker list of things to do that I never seem to be able to finish. Well, this afternoon I settled in and took time to gather some perspective in my life. I wanted to be still and just meditate on God. When Jesus retreated to a place of quiet, I imagine He did so partly because He needed to release His heavy load of care to the Father. That's what I did today. Right now I have nothing else to say but a word of thanks to God. No matter what's happening in my life, He is always there, giving me chance after chance after chance to run my race no matter how slow I am. The game isn't over for me yet. Or for you. And that's why I keep on singing.

Looking forward to this week, we're covering textual criticism in Wednesday's "Jesus and the Gospels" class, and I'll be tackling for the umpteenth time with my students the textual variant in Matt. 5:22, where Jesus either condemns all anger or only anger "without a cause" (eike). Maybe you've struggled with anger in your life. It's a habit that nags at your heart. I am awestruck that Jesus would so honest about anger. And James too (James 1:19-20). There's something so very touching -- and, well, human -- about reading the Gospels. You get the idea that human emotions really meant something to Jesus.

In our LXX seminar this week, my colleague Chip Hardy will be leading the class in a discussion of biblical Hebrew, so for once I get to keep my mouth shut. In the meantime, I've been rereading two great books on the Septuagint, shown below.

The one on the right is, in fact, one of the required textbooks for our class. Exasperating as it is at times, language study can be oh, so rewarding. It helps us to ask really tough questions of Scripture. Pause a few minutes right now. Think back to that special day when you fell in love with the Bible (in whatever language) for the first time. Still have your ear cocked to hear His voice? Yep. So do I. That's the way it is with being a Christian. If we love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind, there's really no room to ignore what He's trying to say to us. If He is truly Lord, then His throne can't be shared -- not with any cause, and not with any philosophy or political party or human author. When it comes right down to it, we're all pretty biblically illiterate. There's always so much more to know, let alone obey. Perhaps that's mostly due to the fact that we just love ourselves too much. The solution isn't necessarily to love ourselves any less. It's to love God more. That's why I teach Greek, I reckon. Can't love someone you don't know.

Finally, like you, I've been watching the news. Honestly, I'm tired of the daily battles going on in our world. Of course, like you, I have opinions as to what course of action our nation should take as far as the pressing issues of the day are concerned. And like you, I still have lots of personal goals and ambitions and dreams. That said, I'm tired of Satan's messing with our planet. It feels like falling, trying to make sense of everything. Jesus urged us to live in anticipation of His second coming. So often I fail to do this. Since Becky's passing, however, I've had an intense desire to meet Christ face to face. It could happen tomorrow. Not that the date is important. What's important is that I should be ready. I believe we'd all be better off if we thought that way. Maranatha. Come soon, Lord Jesus. That said, this weekend the world, with its billions of people and problems, suddenly came into focus. Immigration is no longer too far away to think about. I don't have a solution to the problem. In fact, I wonder if there is a "Christian" solution to any of the world's problems other than the Gospel. But I do know this: Maybe if we'd all practice love of the stranger more at home, our world would improve. If our homes improved, so would our neighborhoods. If our neighborhoods improved, so would our cities. If our cities improved, so would our states. And if our states improved, so would our country, and better countries make for a better world. I love our nation. We all generally get along, except when we don't. It's just like a family. We'll always have our share of differences. Sometimes big differences. As for God's people, I think He has provided a peek into what He expects of us. "The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them. But we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions" (Deut. 29:29). Jesus, I believe, understood more than anyone the tendency of the human heart to marginalize people who are "different" from us. He also could have given us a point-by-point explanation of what governments should do in such circumstances. But He didn't. The answers are met by silence in the Bible. His follower Paul did, however, tell us what we can do, and that is to intercede for all those in authority. At times, perhaps, it will also be necessary to take a position like Peter and John did in Acts 5 by standing up for our biblical convictions (as we each understand them), even to the point of asserting that "We must obey God rather than man." God won't make your decisions for you. They are yours alone to make, and you alone must live with their consequences. But once you make the decision, God will be at your side every step of the way. Let's just be sure our only motive is love for God and love for others. May God grant all of us the grace, wisdom, and mercy we need to follow Christ in today's confusing world. 

P. S. For what it's worth, I think this declaration strikes a healthy balance between national security needs, the needs of refugees, and the responsibility of the body of Christ to be His loving hands and feet in the world. It reads, in part:

RESOLVED, That we call on the governing authorities to implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process, guarding against anyone intent on doing harm; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God's mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands.

Okay. My brain is fried. Time to read my novel!

9:15 AM Sean Spicer's failure to provide any evidence for voter fraud, emphasizing instead that the "belief" it happened was enough to make it so, made me think of the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s. It used colored beads to determine the historicity of Jesus' sayings. It believed that the Gospel of Thomas may have had more authentic sayings of Jesus than the canonical Gospels. In John's Gospel, for example, almost all of the sayings attributed to Jesus were judged inauthentic. The result was a portrayal of Jesus as a Jewish rabbi who never died for our sins but instead taught a social gospel of compassion and humility.

The Gospels, as I said in class last Wednesday, remain a battleground in New Testament studies. That's why it's important for us to study, among other topics, the synoptic problem. I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to affirm the priority of Matthew as to defend the historicity, apostolicity, and trustworthiness of these accounts of the life of Jesus. I also emphasized in class last week the need to reject any notion that the "Jesus of history" was transformed into the "Christ of Christianity" by the apostles John and Paul, as is sometimes asserted. We are told that "the word was God" (John 1:1) was John's personal "belief" and nothing more. Indeed, even if he believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, that doesn't mean that we have to believe that today. Christianity (it is asserted) is a matter of faith, not history.

With all this I disagree, obviously. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the best-attested facts of history. Just ask Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard skeptic who came to faith in Christ while trying to debunk Christianity. I've heard some students say, "I believe that Jesus is God, and that's good enough for me." That makes a good point, but there is also a subtle danger hidden within it. We need to know something of our intellectual adversaries because the Holy Spirit has given us plenty of information on the subject. Satan is never happier than when God's people resort to simple fideism. "I believe it, so it's true." Yes, I believe it too, but there are reasons why it's true. We've got to get over the idea that a leap of faith is required to become a Christian. Christianity is a historical faith -- as Francis Schaeffer insisted in his many apologetic works on the subject. Men and women have come out of schools with honors and straight A's and yet miss this point. Have you ever thought through your faith? Or will you succumb to a Jesus Seminar approach to reality: What we like is genuine; what we don't like is false.

Just because someone tells me I have the biggest biceps and the straightest teeth doesn't mean it's true. To see reality, all I have to do is look into a mirror. It's time to beware of people (politicians, theologians, or otherwise) who don't believe in objective reality.

8:54 AM Just back from feeding the animals. Loved this reflection.

Earlier I hit the local lakeside restaurant for a working breakfast.

Was able to finish refereeing an article for a journal.

Love my work.

7:14 AM Ronald Reagan: Liberty is of foreign birth. Inspiring. My maternal grandparents who came through Ellis Island from Romania would have agreed!

Saturday, January 28 

4:08 PM Hey folks. I'm still alive here, the last time I checked, that is. First order of business: Give you a brief overview of today's 5 miler at Harris Lake. When I arrived at the venue it was 32 degrees and coooold. Thankfully I remembered to wear my red hoodie that I use on my higher climbs as well as my ski cap. Gloves were definitely not optional on a day like today.

I got to the site an hour early so I had plenty of time to mill around and chat with some of my fellow runners. Most had run this course before, some several times. I was pretty jazzed to be doing a trail run since I had heard that they were so much fun.

Let's do a run-down of the race itself. The course used the park's "Peninsula Trail" that skirted the lake.

As you can see, it was very circuitous.

I have hiked a thousand trails just like this one but running it was a bit frightening. You went up and down and left and right and over muddy creek beds, all the while watching out for low-hanging tree branches. About a mile into the race everyone had pretty much gotten into their racing groove and there was very little passing, which would have been difficult because for the last 4 miles of the race the trail was reduced to a single track. I found myself running behind a guy who was going about my pace so I trailed him for about 10 minutes. When he asked me if wanted to pass I told him I liked his pace and asked him if I could just sorta tag along to the finish line. His name was Chuck and he'd competed in this race 3 times already, so he definitely knew where to go. We chatted as we ran -- talking is always a good sign that you're still aerobic! -- and I came to find that he had completed his first marathon last year. He's 46 and I'm 64 (I had to chuckle at the numerical inversion) and we're both avid runners. So finish we did!

I just checked the race results and I see that it took me exactly 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 56 seconds to run 5 miles on a really difficult course. Mine was about a 12.5 minute-mile pace. I tried not to take off too fast. The good thing is that I had remembered to warm up for 20 minutes straight before the gun sounded, so I was raring to go and didn't need to slow down or walk at any point along the course. I came in 4th in my age group -- dead last, as a matter of fact. A 60-year old beat me by a whopping 13 minutes. No fair! When I got home I took a hot shower and pooped out for an hour. As I said, I'm a bit tired, but I had a really great time and I'm pleased with my results. A thousand thanks to Chuck for allowing me to dog his heels. The Lord knew I needed a pace-setter and Chuck was the perfect racer to perform that function.

And that's it. Another race in the history books. My next race is February 12 (5K) and my next half marathon (13.1 miles) is March 19. I'm feeling great. A few minor aches and pains, but nothing serious. No feet pain -- which is always a huge relief. I'm very serious about running but I'm definitely not someone who can tell you what it's like to win a race. But what I can tell you is that I love the spirit of running. I love getting sweaty and conquering my weaknesses and working hard on achieving a goal that seems sooooo unattainable. The point is: Three years ago I wasn't running or doing any training at all. Now I can actually run 5 miles without dropping dead at the finish line. This is absolutely amazing and I owe it all to my Trainer and His awesome ability to take jars of clay and empower them to do "more than they could ever ask or imagine."

I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend. I'm thinking of chowing down some prime rib for dinner tonight. I think my body deserves it!

Friday, January 27 

6:10 PM Did you know that George Orwell's 1984 is now #1 at Amazon? It's been a while since I've read it but that is about to change. Sadly, a citizenry motivated by fear is easier to govern.

5:12 PM Here's the race roster for tomorrow's 5 mile trail run (just the over 60 crowd) at Harris Lake. I know who you'll be rooting for. My bib number is 158.

I still can't believe I'm running a race in January. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm dreading running in 35-degree weather. But the sun will be shining and the trail will be gorgeous. You work different muscles on dirt/gravel tracks than when you're running on asphalt. You also run on average 3 miles per hour slower than normal mainly because you are always concentrating on where you're going. It will be a nice break for body and mind.

4:45 PM This and that ....

1) Dined here today.

It's on 501 in Roxboro. The food is real Mexican. No fajitas served (which are a U.S. creation).

2) There I met my daughter Kim and her family for lunch.

3) Gabriel is now 8 months old.

I have the cutest grandkids, n'est-ce pas?

4) One of my grandsons built this today. (Thanks, Nate, for sending it along.)

How awesome is that. Looks like a Massie-Ferguson if you ask me.

5) I heard our baby donkey bray for the first time today.

Looks like he's becoming an extrovert like his mommy and daddy. Go Ishi!

6) Did you know that the Theological German website is back? Just wait for someone to ask you to pronounce:

Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft.

7) Thomas Hudgins announces a new book series in Spanish. I predict it will overtake Harry Potter in no time.

8) Eager to hear the North Carolina Symphony tomorrow night at the Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. The program celebrates Mozart's 260th birthday. It features his Symphony No. 39 in E Flat Major. Mozart was all of 32 when he composed it.

Who are your favorite classical composers? Mine are (in order of importance) Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, and Schubert.

9:05 AM Good Morning, America. From one day to the next the news just keeps getting stranger. Bouncing around the internet I found a story I somehow missed last weekend. In case you didn't know it, a week ago today you awoke on National Day of Patriotic Devotion. No one can blame you for not knowing about it since it happened before it was even declared. If you guessed that the Day was inauguration day, you guessed right. The declaration celebrates our nation's unity and patriotism. On another sunrise, in fact only one day later, America's streets were filled with people protesting the events of the day before. Unity? Hmm. Perhaps we've never been more divided as a nation. Patriotism? Yes indeed, if you define patriotism as I do: Allegiance to the law of the land (the Constitution) and not necessarily to any man or political party. The problem I have with the declaration is the word "devotion." I don't know, but that sounds a little irreverent to me. With apologies to Upton Sinclair, if and when fascism ever comes to America it will be cloaked in a Bible and and wrapped in patriotic "devotion." I recall Obama being excoriated at one time for his use of executive orders, bypassing the Congress and the democratic system. It was either his way or no way. Now congressional Republicans are giving the president everything he wants even as his staff provides "alternative facts" to the press. That's kinda weird. I think the point for us followers of King Jesus is this: Our Lord came to set the world on fire, not only by His example and teachings but through His death and resurrection. His "Way" (thus Christianity was first called in Acts) brought about a new order, a new life, a new way of thinking about the world system, a new conduit for the Spirit whose fire and flame would burn throughout the world. Anyone who wants to bypass Calvary and set the world on fire merely by the "influence" of Jesus is far from His program. There is a better path. Missionary Jim Elliot was martyred in the jungles of Ecuador because he "didn't count his life dear to himself" (Acts 20:24). His killers saw only a mangled body, but his wife saw a soul that had gone home through gates of splendor. Life is dear in God's sight. All life. The lives of unborn children. The lives of women. The lives of immigrants. The lives of religious and ethnic minorities. The lives of the disabled among us. Your own life is precious to Him. Life is His gift to you and to me. But we must give an account to Him for the way we live that life. We can spend it selfishly through acts of self-aggrandizement, or we can "lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose." Our Lord Himself taught us that in the last days many will cry "Peace" when there is no peace, talking security when sudden destruction looms. Yet all the while there is One who knows what the future holds. We are His, bought and paid for by His blood. "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe." He reigns here and now not because He is an earthly sovereign but because He is the eternal Son of God and the resurrected, ruling, and returning Lord of Glory. Thus my times are not really mine but His. I am merely the steward of my days on earth, and I had better number them so that I can apply my heart to wisdom. I want to use my time to witness to the Timeless One by doing what He has told His followers to do: go everywhere and tell everyone that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and then backing up that message with Calvary-style deeds of love --  caring for orphans and widows in their need, giving water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, nursing the sick back to health, clothing the naked, befriending the strangers in our midst, and visiting the imprisoned. To the extent that we do these things probably says more about us and our understanding of Christianity than anything else.

P.S. Speaking of patriotism, you have simply got to watch the ending of this YouTube called Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing. Start at 1:35:46. It tells the story of one survivor who returns to run the marathon on one leg and a prosthesis. Believe me, you will sit there in open-mouthed astonishment. Kleenex required.

 

P.P.S. This morning I'm feeling great. I feel like crying when I think that God just stepped into my little universe and brought healing to my tired and aching body. I want to tell the world, and I want to thank everyone who prayed for me.

Thursday, January 26 

6:02 PM I have one peak in the Rockies left on my bucket list and it just happens to be the tallest of the 14ers in Colorado, namely Mount Elbert. Isn't it a beaut?

It stands 14,440 feet above sea level. The route is 11.2 miles round trip, which makes for a very long day. I know, because this is the time it took me to climb Huron Peak last year. I know exactly what to anticipate: thin air, endless walking, and tons of rocks and boulders. An early start is essential if you want to avoid the electrical storms that seem to pop up every afternoon. But the experience is worth it. The pics from the summit of a 14er are priceless. Next year I want to try for Rainier or Grand Teton. Maybe. I dunno. I never have trouble with high altitude but climbs always leave me panting. I plan to do Elbert in late September so as to enjoy better weather conditions (fewer storms) before the winter snow begins falling. We'll see. It's all in the Lord's hands. But I would love to try.

5:32 PM I've signed up for the Run for the Roses 5K in Raleigh on February 12. (All lady finishers receive a rose. Aww.) The goal is to raise money for Canines for Service, which trains service dogs for people with limited mobility. The field of participants looks huge. The course is a challenging one that I've run maybe 5 times already. Very hilly. The race is held on the property of a former psychiatric clinic. (No jokes, please.) The race will be a lot of fun. The one thing I really miss, though, is climbing. I need to get in a climb in the near future or I will go bonkers. Of course, there are limits to what I can do. I've got to be picky and choosy with my time and energy. Speaking of being choosy, this week I need to replace my iPhone 5. It's been acting up and besides, I've had it for over two years. I spoke with the folks at Verizon in Wake Forest and I hope to get an update next week when I'm back on campus. The new iPhone 7 is considerably bigger than my 5s, but I'm told I can still manage it with one hand, plus a Mophie battery recharger is available for it. Now I'm asking myself if I should also buy a Garmin watch to help me clock my races, since even with the Mophie I don't think my phone can last a full 26.2 miles. I also need to consider getting some accessories such as a fuel belt and compression stockings. Oh, and a good anti-chafe product. Any insights or recommendations are greatly appreciated.

4:12 PM Yesterday I heard someone say, I think it was me, that Christian baptism is one of the 7 marks of a New Testament church. The topic came up in our Gospels class because we had been looking at the participles "baptizing" and "teaching" in Matt. 28:19. Clearly Jesus intended for water to come before wisdom. In the New Testament book of Acts, if you got saved, you got wet, in that order and often without much of a pause between the two events. Of course, my human logic tells me that Jesus has things backwards here. Shouldn't we instruct new coverts in the faith and test the genuineness of their conversion before we allow them to be baptized? Makes good sense to me. And indeed, in places like East Africa, baptism is postponed for months, sometimes even up to a year, before converts are allowed to enter the waters of baptism. The only problem with this is that Jesus' order is baptism then teaching, and we have no right to amend the Master's priorities. We can't simple ignore what our Lord taught and indeed what the early church practiced.

The reason I called my chapter on baptism "Christian Baptism" in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church is because the earliest believers were mostly Jews who were well acquainted with daily ablutions and ceremonial washings. But Christian baptism is unique in that (1) it is no longer self-administered and (2) it is unrepeatable. Converts don't baptize themselves and, when they are baptized, they don't ever have to repeat the act. I also suggest in my book that baptism in the book of Acts was a public act whenever possible. Here I am at the ripe old age of 8 being baptized at Kailua Beach the same week I was saved. (Hush up, now, about those silly white robes. It was a 60s thing.)

This was the same beach I surfed at and swam in almost every day -- a very public setting indeed. I recall once reading about a church in Africa that baptizes new converts in the ocean. The candidate is literally thrown into a wave "in the name of the Father," at which point he or she is washed back to shore. (Can't you just picture that?) But it gets even better. The church leaders quickly pick up the now drenched convert and throw him or her into another wave "in the name of the Son." This is repeated a third time, "in the name of the Spirit." (Interestingly, as a lifelong surfer I've noticed that waves often come in sets of three.) The point apparently is not simply to emphasize the name of the Triune God. In baptizing people this way, converts are given a tactile baptismal experience that initiates them into the struggle of the Christian faith. "Hey, follow Jesus if you want to, but man, it's going to cost you!" I'm reminded of Paul's famous "encouraging message" to the believers in Asia Minor. After urging them to stick with their new-found faith and not give up, he said, "Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through hard times" (Acts 14:22). A thousand apologies for doing it, but here I can't resist the temptation to draw yet another analogy to running in a race. In many ways, that first race was your easiest. After all, that's where you got your very first PR (Personal Record). Now that you are a "runner," however, the real struggle begins. Some days you just can't get out of bed to do it. You struggle with willpower, with sore feet, with aching quads, with lack of motivation. I'm not proud to admit it, but I have these struggles almost every day. As Unknown once said, "My sweat pants smell like give up." Life can be hard. Shoot, it IS hard. On race day my legs often feel like they weigh 200 pounds each. You have to learn to push the doubts aside and just keep on going. And I will. Because I'm hooked. Even with all my self-doubts and infirmities, I am a dedicated runner. My race times might not make salacious headlines, but for me they are symbols of victory. I'm overwhelmed by the joy of it all, despite all the "hard times." Forgive me if I ever flaunt an attitude of self-sufficiently here on my blog. Who am I fooling? Racing, like life, is just plain tough work. But the task is made easier when I consider that everything I have is a gift from God, freely bestowed, so I should freely give it back in return (Matt. 10:8). I never want to back off from doing something because it looks too hard or because I don't want to "fail." That is to say, Jesus helps us in our Christian walk, and He there's always there to pick us up should we fall.

Baptism means death. It means, "Hello! Ready for a fight? Ready to face temptations that blitz you daily? Ready to be a Christian in a non-Christian world? Ready to love your neighbor as you love yourself? Ready to exercise love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control -- the marks of a true Christian?" No one is ever ready to do that. But you gotta start somewhere. You get saved, you get wet. Baptism is your public pledge of total and complete allegiance to your Lord and Master and Savior and Redeemer and Best Friend. And as a Spirit-filled Christian, you should be able to keep on running your race to the glory of God.

1:24 PM Today I'm taking the day off from running. Just feeling a bit ragged. If I can get some good rest today and tomorrow I'm still hopeful I can wake up at a ridiculously early hour on Saturday morning for my race in Raleigh. I've never done a 5-miler before and my goals are very simple: 1) finish, and 2) finish before my Map My Run app runs out of batteries. 5 miles is still a loooong way to run in a competition. Admittedly a big hairy audacious goal. So I'm off from the track today and off from the Y tomorrow. I hate these sorts of decisions. You keep mulling over pros and cons but eventually you have to make a decision. Okay, enough whining already. But if you could say a prayer for me -- that I'd get over whatever I seem to be coming down with -- it would be greatly appreciated.

12:22 PM Hey folks. As I was driving back from South Hill today I happened upon Elizabeth Elliott on the radio talking about some of her favorite hymns. I had to smile at that word -- "hymn." My students, I dare say, might not even know what the word refers to. Many of them are growing up completely bereft of the music Elizabeth Elliott is referring to. Cut to my college years. I attended Biola, and while there I was a member of the College Church of La Mirada. It was a beautiful experience, and I learned much from Pastor and Mrs. Hakes about living the Christian life, about how to love genuinely, compassionately, and without patronization or pity. Like most of my generation that was raised in the church, my lifestyle was shaped not only by the frequent reading of the word of God but also by what used to be called "the great hymns of the faith." I began to look for kingdom opportunities, and I found plenty of them at the College Church. One of them was leading the hymn singing during our Sunday evening services, and so I got to know the "great hymns" quite intimately, including the two hymns Elizabeth talked about today: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and Loved with Everlasting Love. Today the church gets so caught up in national politics. But that's not what Jesus taught. Jesus never gave us the keys to the political system. He handed over the keys to His kingdom. How thankful I am for a man named Martin Luther, who penned the words of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Read them and see if they do not bring a renewed sense of divine peace in your life:

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Friends, if we are going to expect our voices to be heard in a post-Christian culture, we had better learn how to live the Gospel as a people who no longer occupy the center of society. His kingdom is forever -- regardless of the current political situation. We can't be kingdom people while injuring and offending the marginalized with our words. As I told my "Jesus and the Gospels" students yesterday, I am being lured back to the simple ways of Jesus. He is the Senior Pastor everyone is looking for. I'm on a journey like never before. God's word is "above all earthly powers." Period. Our God is a mighty fortress. He's the real deal. That's why it's so dangerous to study the Gospels. We are forced to wrestle with our addiction to celebrity and church size. We begin to painfully overhaul our priority system. It's embarrassing to admit that I have to do this as much as anyone else. I want to say out loud that no one is more aware of his pride than I am. I guess that's why I enjoy teaching the Gospels so much. The reality of the Jesus-way-of-life begins to sink in. "His kingdom is forever," and that's the only kingdom that matters. This is not a perspective I would have identified with in my earlier years when I was establishing my reputation as a "Greek scholar." It's a different kind of reality -- far removed from degrees and publications and head knowledge. The kingdom-Jesus punches you right in the guts. If somehow we could find our way back to the life of the kingdom and Jesus' community. This is by no means an anti-church perspective. It's as pro-church as you can get. A frustrating trait of God is His divine impartiality. He does not "receive faces" (to be overly literal with the Greek). He opens our eyes to the human suffering all around us. The least among us is now the greatest (Luke 9:48). We begin reading books like Piper's Don't Waste Your Life or Rohr's Simplicity or Nouwen's My Sister, My Brother. So let me make this as clear as I can as I begin a new semester with you, my dear students. I don't want to be known as a Greek scholar. I don't want to be admired for the books I've written. I don't want to be recognized for the mission trips I've made. I don't want to be applauded for my degrees. My version of great would look something like this: "Wow. Dave Black is really trying to follow Jesus." Jesus is our gold standard. And it's most clearly in the Gospels that we see His life, plain and simple. As we gaze into His image, guess what? We begin to be transformed from glory unto glory into that same image. All we have to do is obey the word we've heard in our heart. All we have to do is make Him our Lead Pastor. We almost have to become marginalized to become His true followers. "Let goods and kindred go," said Luther. "This mortal life also." You are so right, Martin. I believe that perhaps the single reason you were not reduced to a pile of Carbon 14 (like so many of your predecessors who were burned at the stake) is to remind us that "God's truth abideth still" for all who will take the time and make the effort to accept it. Of course, as a professor, all I can do is make a small ripple in the ocean of church reform. But together. Ahh, together we can make a difference. We can change the world.

Viva the revolution!

Dave

Wednesday, January 25 

6:38 PM Having been teaching for 40 years you'd think I'd be burned out by now. You'd be wrong. Yesterday and today it felt as exciting to enter the classroom as it did when I first taught Greek way back in 1976 at Biola. Someone has said that great teachers are passionate about learning and sharing their knowledge and passion with others. I had some great teachers when I was in college and seminary. What set them apart was their ability to find new and creative ways to make their point. They also loved their students and it showed. Someday I want to become that kind of a teacher. My students are the greatest and they deserve good teaching. They work so hard it is amazing. Here's my first year Greek class working in small groups on their translation exercises.

And here's my LXX class working on English to Greek composition this morning.

Finally, here's my NT 1 class as today as they took their first "fun" quiz.

Nothing better than to see people eager to learn something new. I want this year to be my best year of teaching ever. I want to leave behind methods and attitudes that are less than helpful or edifying. I want to get back in touch with the desires of my heart and not only my mind. If I can turn my attention to these things, I think it can be a year of great growth both for me and for my students. In the meantime, it's an absolute pleasure for me to share with you snippets of my classroom life. May the message of Christ dwell among all of us richly as we admonish and teach one another with all wisdom (Col. 3:16).

Next order of business: Finish my weekly training. I got a 5K run in last night after teaching Greek 2, and tomorrow I'd like to get in another long run before getting back to the Y on Friday for some much-needed weight training. Saturday, of course, is the big race. I've given up on any goal for what will be my first ever trail run. I do know that I need to get a whole lot stronger in my legs before I attempt 26.2 miles. The main thing is to maintain a steady diet of training. Which reminds me of the joke David Letterman once told. "I pulled a hamstring during the New York City marathon," he said. "An hour into the race, I jumped off the couch." It's ridiculous sometimes when I think of all the lame excuses I give myself not to run. AARGH. Stephen Covey once said that "the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions." I need to remember that. I'm pretty pumped to see where the journey this year is going to take me. 

Oh, had this for dinner last night. Too hungry to cook anything.

And this came in today's mail.

Watching Patriot's Day inspired me to get it. As you know, I'm a sucker for books about heroism.

Well, that's all I got for now. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24 

9:10 AM I am a runner. It doesn't matter how untalented I am. I am a runner. It doesn't matter how un-divine my running skills are. I am a runner. It doesn't matter that I'm old and gray. I am a runner. The fact is, many people today are experiencing the joy of running miles they once thought they could never run. I'm one of them. I wasn't always. Running was always for other people. Now, for me, nothing matches the feeling of standing at the starting line with a few hundred or even a few thousand other runners with nothing better to do that day except to make our way to the finish line. The best thing of all is knowing that I'm running with people who share my goals and values and who are all going in the same direction. You don't have to be a professional to run. You don't have to be a 10-minute miler. Old or young, fast or slow, professional or amateur, heavy or slim, "abled" or disabled, you, like me, can bask in the glory of race day success.

What about you?

8:56 AM Like many of you perhaps, I've been trying to figure out what God is up to these days in our nation. His plan is inscrutable. He raises up. He puts down. He starts. He stops. He says yes and He says no to our desires. He gives and He takes away. He delights and He disappoints. "The meanest soul in heaven knows more of God than the greatest saint on earth," wrote Spurgeon. It's all beyond me. I'm having to practice saying, "I will trust," "I release it all," "It's for the better." I'm trying to let the "all things" of Rom. 8:28 mean "all things." If it's for our good, and the glory of God, we don't have to explain it. As John Piper reminded us this weekend in his essay How to Live Under an Unqualified President:

Do not think of the molehill of moral and social disadvantages of a Trump presidency. Think of the Himalayan mountain of blessings we have in Christ. Let this put fire in our bones for what matters most: the salvation of the world.

"When I played tennis, I never prayed for victory in a match," wrote tennis superstar Arthur Ashe. "God's will alone matters, not my personal wants or needs." Thus, despite a feeling of 1984, every American has his or her everyday work in which they can feel they have a niche and even at times indispensability. Life, for most of us, provides the same frenetic outlets, fatuous and vulnerable, for human energy. Something primeval in us watches in horror and fascination as the restless force of human ingenuity, responsible alike for comedy and tragedy, beauty and ugliness, finds its own level in society. It's easy to feel disillusioned and discouraged if you feel the "wrong side" won. That said, the longer I live and the closer I walk with the Lord, the more I trust Him. Republican? Democrat? Either is God's prerogative. Back away, Dave. Accept it. No. Go further. Rejoice in what God is doing, in what truly makes America great regardless of who is in the White House. America has always stood for the right to be wrong and stupid, and the right to be less wrong and less stupid if you want to; the right to complain whenever you feel like it; the right to vote and the right not to vote; the right to attend a presidential inauguration and the right to boycott it; the right to say that because of this election "the best days of the United States are ahead of us" and the right to say that our current president "is the least qualified person ever elected to the highest office in our land and to the concomitant position of being the most powerful man in the world."

America never was and never will be the cloud-nine utopia our politicians promise us. It can, however, be a better place in which to live. But only if each of us does our part. "When the oak tree is felled," wrote Thomas Carlyle, "the whole forest echoes it; but a hundred acorns are planted by some unnoticed breeze." If we are ultimately linked with the God of the universe, we won't need to worry about what the king -- or the crowd -- is doing. The same God who created the heavens and the earth is enacting a plan I'll never be able to explain but one in which I can still participate. The only real security we have is in Jesus Christ and in living His way by imitating God as He is revealed in Jesus (Eph. 5:2).

I guess I'm with Augustine on this one: "Entrust the past to God's mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence."

Monday, January 23 

7:28 PM Guess what? I've signed up for my first-ever trail run for this Saturday at Harris Lake Park just south of Raleigh. It's a 5-mile race that starts at 9:00 am, which hopefully will give me enough time to drive there. Maybe it's because I live on a farm, but I think I'll feel right at home running in the woods. I just hope the course isn't too taxing. I like hiking through root systems and along slippery slopes, but running? Sounds like a big-time ouch if you lose your footing. You can also race for 10 miles if you like, but I'm going to be content with the shorter distance. When I was in Birmingham this weekend I ran twice in the neighborhood where Jon and Matthea live. On Saturday I did a 5K, and on Sunday a 10K. Their neighborhood boasts a killer hill, let me tell you. "I'm a gazelle!" was definitely not going through my mind as I ran. Okay, that's a little dramatic, but I really did suffer running up that crazy hill all those times.

Here's the race website for this weekend in case you're interested. My long run this week is going to be 7 miles, which I plan to do either in Raleigh, Farmville, or locally.

5:40 PM Hey folks. It's a little after 5:30 and I just got back from my daughter's house in the great state of Alabama. Here's my latest grandbaby, the one and only Miss Karis Lynn Glass. Woohoo!!!

I had a blast with the Glasses even though our 5K on Saturday was rained out.

I return with my emotional batteries completely charged and raring to get back to school for WEEK ONE. I count myself blessed among men to have Jon and Matthea as part of my family. You have no idea idea what family means to me in the absence of my Becky. My heart is full of hope and light. Had a lot to write about the inauguration but I'm too tired to type out my thoughts and besides I've got to prepare my meals for the week. Hopefully, back tomorrow.

Friday, January 20 

7:40 AM Last night on Amazon Prime I watched a movie about extreme sports called The World's Highest Race. It takes place in Northern India. The idea is to run 222 km in under 60 hours at an average altitude of 14,000 feet. Everyone participating in the race -- runners, coaches, crew members, cameramen -- are required to acclimatize for 10 days prior to the race. Three people died of altitude sickness the day they arrived on site. It's incredible what the human body can do when pushed to its limits. When I was training for the Alps last year I was told by my guide that I needed to be in the best shape of my life if I was to summit a 4,000 meter peak. There's no doubt you have to push yourself to climb at high altitude. I averaged 100 hours of training each month before I left for Switzerland. The biggest issue you have to deal with is the altitude. Somehow, at high altitude, your heart and lungs need to get oxygen to your muscles. Mental toughness is also important. As with long distance running, mountain climbing involves reaching your goal (the summit) but only through hours of boredom and repetition. Step after step. Breath after breath. Occasionally you pause for a rest, as I did on my two 14,000 foot climbs in the Rockies. In the Alps, not only do you have the altitude to deal with but ice and snow. I was incredibly pleased and surprised at my performance at altitude. Obviously my training made a big difference. I was able to summit every mountain I attempted to climb save one. Thanks to the advice of my mountain guide, I learned that I needed to conserve my energy by taking frequent, small steps. This was critical in every climb I attempted. This was really hard for someone like me who likes to go all out all the time. I always push myself. Obviously, however, you can't push yourself too hard. Right now, in preparing for my marathon, I'm trying to slow my pace down and focus on a manageable stride so that I don't wear myself out before the finish line. At least I won't have altitude to worry about in Cincinnati. Although I won't be competing against other runners I will be competing against the clock -- a 7 hour time limit -- which is actually quite generous. There's no doubt in my mind that any reasonably healthy person should be able to finish a marathon if he or she trains for it. At least that's my hope. Anyway, check out this movie if you have the chance. It will positively inspire you to climb that peak near your home. But please -- never underestimate any mountain for the dangers involved.

Speaking of challenges, I'm super eager for our LXX class to get started next Wednesday. Chip Hardy and I are team teaching it. I get to talk about Greek next week while Chip talks about Hebrew the following week. Then we'll begin to wade through the book of Amos in both Hebrew and Greek. Chip and I rarely see eye to eye, and that's a good thing. Students will get to hear both of our perspectives. They'll see where we agree and where we disagree. (Think of us as the Click and Clack of the teaching world.) I think this in and of itself is a very useful pedagogical tool. Rarely if ever is there only one perspective on an issue. And in some cases. there are no clear answers. Students won't find any trite formulas in our class. We will, however, offer them time-tested tools and lots of hints that hopefully will help them find their own way in the text. One thing we will definitely not neglect is the reading of actual texts.

On the first day of class we'll go through several handouts I've prepared that involve reading and composition in Greek.

I have yet to find a Greek student who couldn't complete these exercises if they really trained hard beforehand.

Success depends a lot more on tenacity than on talent. But what good is it to read Jobes and Silva and not be able to actually read texts? Do you read Greek? Have you read your LXX lately? Why not get back into it?

Thursday, January 19 

5:58 PM I just registered for another 5K race, this time in Carrolton, TX, on April 1. It's a fundraiser, of all things, for the Creekview High School band to ensure that "no student is turned away from being a part of this award winning band." Bands are super big deals in Texas. And I've always been a super big fan of high school bands. In Hawaii I played trumpet from the 5th grade through high school. Lord willing, while I'm there I'll visit with mom and dad in Murphy and attend the ETS southwest regional meeting in Fort Worth.

In the meantime, here's to marathon day getting here on May 7. It can't get here quickly enough as far as I'm concerned. Only 108 days to go!

4:20 PM Yesterday I wanted sooooo bad to get in at least 8 miles, but before I knew it dusk had set in and I refuse to risk my life by running in the dark. So I settled for a 7-mile run which took me 1 hour and 23 minutes to complete at an 11:54 average pace.

Later today I plan to get my motion "fix" (without the orthopedic stress) on my bike. So yay, it was another great week of training, thanks be to God. I also got a new pair of running shoes in the mail today. My other shoes had already exceeded their 300 mile limit.

It's an indescribable feeling to be comfortable when running. And to be eating "clean."

I actually don't remember not being a runner. It's amazing how much a financial commitment can keep you going. Speaking of the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure, I got this note yesterday, along with 26 dollars in cash:

I was more than speechless. What can you say in the face of such undeserved kindness? I spent hours at Becky's bedside, my hands touching her hands, like so many husbands, thinking that somehow my holding her hand would make everything better. I prayed for a miracle, for a sudden rush of the healing Spirit to flow through her broken body. Did God hear me? I know He heard me. His heart was breaking along with mine and so many others'. Yesterday I cried and laughed and prayed and thanked the Lord for His goodness to me and for the goodness of people who take pity on lost wretches like me and say to themselves, "If Dave can run 26 miles, maybe I can give 26 dollars to hopefully spare some woman's husband and family what Dave went through." Sorry to bother you with all this talk of Becky and funds and cancer and prayer and fitness. Especially fitness. But I think you'd love it if you gave exercise a try. The hardest part early on is just getting used to doing some activity every day and building up that thing called momentum. Walk for 10 minutes. Run a mile. Bike around the block. It all counts. Find an activity you enjoy and stick with it. It took me two years to get into running shape and now I can't live without it. Set a goal for yourself. A 5K race is a good place to start. Don't let everyone else have all the fun. Jump in! The water's fine!

Anyhoo, I'm gearing up for a fantastic trip to Alabama this weekend to visit one of my daughters and her husband and their five beautiful children. I'm feeling super blessed – health, friends, family, work I love doing, hope, Jesus (and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface). On top of everything else, I had a great lunch yesterday with my assistant and his family.

I even got to dress up in my monkey suit for convocation today.

I feel like a kid at Christmas. It's like making it to the gas station on "E." My life is great and I really have no complaints. A big part of it is that you care enough to follow my rantings. Now that is amazing!

Wednesday, January 18

6:40 AM As all runners know, you tend to collect a lot of "stuff" the longer you're involved in the sport. My stuff is strewn around everywhere in the house. Medallions are here, race t-shirts are there, race hats/jackets/gloves are who knows where.

The story of my life. It's all adding up at a ferocious rate. So this week I've decided to try and organize my life. I love this medal display rack, don't you?

As for my race bibs, I'm just gonna throw them out. The t-shirts I'll save, though. Maybe one of my daughters will make a quilt for me out of them. Today is my long run, by the way, so wish me well. The weather is supposed to be fantastic.

Tuesday, January 17

4:48 PM As I noted yesterday, many people liken running a marathon to climbing Mount Everest. I guess it's like the ultimate feat.

Which got me thinking ….

Summiting Everest requires four basic stages: climbing to Camp 1, then to Camp 2, then to Camp 3, and finally to Camp 4 (the South Col) before beginning your summit push. From the South Col you have a view of the balcony, the South Summit, and the true summit. It's an incredible journey to the top of the world.

Yesterday I implemented my new running "strategy" (or is it "tragedy"?) for summiting my "Everest" – my marathon in Cincy. When you're running a marathon, there's one thing you simply must avoid doing. Everyone agrees about this. You must never think of all 26.2 miles all at once. That's way too intimidating. It's a prescription for defeat. Instead, the best way to approach the race is to break it down into more manageable segments. Some runners I've read about view every 3-mile segment as a "lap." I'm going to use 5-mile segments because much of my training is done at that distance. So here's the plan. See what you think. I'll divide the 26.2 miles into four separate "camps" before my "summit push."

Camp 1 = Miles 1-5.

Camp 2 = Miles 6-10.

Camp 3 = Miles 11-15.

Camp 4 = Miles 16-20.

If and when I reach the 20-mile mark, I'll worry about making it to the summit/finish line. Yesterday I practiced this strategy in a very quiet Wake Forest neighborhood.

The subdivision is hilly though there's nothing too steep. I used Jeff Galloway's Run-Walk method at a 3:1 ratio. This means that I ran 3 quarters of a mile and then I walked 1 quarter of a mile, and I repeated this until I had gone 5 miles. As you can see, my finishing time wasn't too bad:

It took me 1:04:52 to run-walk 5.02 miles. Which means that I could conceivably run 20 miles (to our imaginary "Camp 4") in 4 hours and 20 minutes. The best thing of all was that when I was done I wasn't feeling achy or tired at all. Taking regular breaks allowed my legs to rest. Folks, I think I'm finally beginning to build up a solid base for run-walking, and my half marathon on March 19 will be a good to test to see how I do on an actual chip-timed course. Crosstraining and rest days will complement my running days. I think I'll continue to use the 3:1 run-walk ratio, knowing that I can always adjust it the closer I get to marathon race day. Some first-time marathoners run for 1 or 2 miles and then walk for 5 or 6 minutes. To each his own I guess. But I believe Jeff when he says that continuous use of a muscle results in quicker fatigue. The longer the run, the greater the fatigue. I am CONVINCED (with God's help!) that I can finish a marathon IF I manage my resources in an economical manner. By taking frequent walk breaks, I'll not only have a better chance of completing the race, but I should enjoy a quicker recovery. After all, I do have to get on a plane the next day and fly home, right?

So watchya think? Like my plan? Personally, I'm pretty jazzed. I tell you folks, I'm beginning to love running. I mean, in what other sport do you get to spend 5 days a week training, endure chafing, blisters, blue toes, and sore parts of your upper torso, expose yourself to "overuse" injuries like shin splints and stress fractures, and wake up on race day having coughed up a few hundred bucks to put yourself through sheer torture?

By the way, despite all this talk about finishing, I'm trying to stay focused on the process and not the goal. And for now, I'm going to stick with what's working. I mean, climbing Everest seems so unbelievable. I hope I make it but there are no guarantees. So I'm filling my mind with grateful thoughts about being healthy and injury-free. Every day I get to run is pure joy. I grow daily in my understanding (and respect) for what the human body can do when it is cared for properly. "Stay in the moment, Dave, and you'll be fine."

Thanks for reading! 

4:10 PM Odds and ends ....

1) My indispensable assistant Noah Kelly has an excellent website called Earthen Vessel. Me-o my-o, there's some good stuff here, from the new perspective on Paul, to resources for learning German, to "Is God a Male?" Check 'im out, matey!

2) My Greek students getting ready to enter the Great Tribulation, aka Greek 2.

It starts next Tuesday. May The Force Be With You.

3) I don't have or want lots of doctoral students. Just the best ones. Here's one of them. Yesterday we enjoyed some Mexican food and translated from English into Greek together. What fun!

4) My stats from the past 30 days. 97.9 miles. Yes, I'm serious about training.

5) I practically puked with I read this piece about three young ladies whose restaurant receipt referred to them as "fat girls." For the love of all that is good and decent! At least the store owner was willing to personally apologize to his customers, as he should have. You make a mistake, own up to it, rather than rationalize it away. You mock a disabled reporter, you apologize. Publicly. It's as simple (and as right) as that. Until then, you will have no credibility with me. Zilch. As the great Jacque Ellul once put it (Violence, p. 160):

"[If] a statesman, the president of the republic, openly declares himself a Christian, then -- on the basis of his own faith -- the total demands of the Christian faith can be set before him. It ought to be possible to tell [him] that his faith forbids the machiavellianism, the cynicism, the contemptuousness, the political realism that inspires all his decisions.... The important thing is to make him see that he has to draw the consequences of his faith."

6) Just started reading this book.


7)
And this one.

8) Finally, pictures from last Saturday's race in Cary have now appeared on Facebook. Most were taken at or near the finish line. Here's yours truly. What a pathetic looking figure.

And here's someone who is -- let's just say -- a wee bit younger than the guy shown above.

Talk about a contrast. To be fair, I was actually doing a back flip at the finish line. In my mind.

Monday, January 16

7:12 AM Here's a crazy good list of marathon movies. I watched Spirit of the Marathon last night.

Loved these quotes:

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

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

"It's a scary distance."

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

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

"The marathon is every man's Everest."

26 miles and 285 yards. An inconceivable distance. No other competition is like it. Basically, it's up to you. How dedicated you are. How willing you are to work. If your body can take it. Plus the sheer grace of God. I am more than a little freaked out but I've decided I want to try it. Hoping to run 5 miles after work today, wooooop.

Sunday, January 15

5:20 PM My race this Saturday in Birmingham is called the Red Shoe Run. It's a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama. 41 families in Birmingham call the Ronald McDonald House home each and every night of the week. Running is all about accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly. But nothing beats the runner's high that you get when you're competing for a great charity. I'm such a huge fan of "causes." One of my favorite races is the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis. Running in charity races is the perfect way to combine your passion for running, fitness, and doing something good for others. Whenever I feel complacent about training, I remember why I'm running. Right now my main goal is to come up with a plan that will get me ready for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy and help me avoid injury during training. Lots of running. Lots of crosstraining. Lots of rest in between workouts. Gradually increasing my mileage. You've got to take a positive approach to this or you're a goner. I'm allowing myself to run up to three times a week and that's it. I'm doing tons of crosstraining too, mostly on my trusty mountain bike. I am so excited. I wish all of you could come to Ohio and run the race with me. I suppose people run for all kinds of reasons. The t-shirts. (Hehe.) Recovering from an emotional trauma like a divorce and the death of a spouse. I love the challenge of it all. I'm a sap when it comes to books and movies that offer inspiration to people who set out to accomplish a goal that requires tons of determination. Running long distances is both a mental and a physical struggle. You keep saying to yourself, "Wow, this is really hard." Still, more than a million people enter marathons each year. The goal is to win over adversity. That's what running is all about. And what life is all about too. I am nervous, scared, and filled with self-doubt. But I also have the Lord and I know He can get me through anything. Holy cow. I am a marathoner. For realsies. And for a great cause too. How crazy is that?

Oh, it's back-to-school week. Commencement kicks off Thursday. Until then we have three more days of J-term Greek. On Tuesday we'll cover the middle and passive voices in Greek for the first time. We'll also cover deponency -- which is no big deal, since I've always taught that these forms can be understood as true middles. (I first heard this from Neva Miller at a two-week conference on Greek at the Summer Institute of Linguistics campus in Dallas way back in the Dark Ages.) I've got 11 students in my LXX class (team-taught with one of my OT colleagues), 25 in my NT 1 class, and 38 in my Greek 2 class. I remember teaching my first class at Biola 40 years ago. Seems like 4 years ago. My passion for teaching hasn't changed a bit. A person can learn a lot, even from dogs. But all learning is self-learning. "I never teach my pupils," wrote Albert Einstein, "I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." Besides, teaching is much more than cognition. Coach John Wooden once said, "Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference." Finally, I love this quote: "The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence" (Amos Alcott). Indoctrination? A thousand times no. Inspiration? A million times yes. I am still cracking up that this boy from Kailua Beach is a professor of Greek -- or of anything for that matter.

God is good!

9:45 AM Miscellany ....

1) I'm beyond grateful that my legs aren't feeling any soreness at all today. Really looking forward to two short runs and one long run this week. I see the winner of yesterday's race is a 29-year old named Glen who finished in 17:33. Now that's impressive. Getting more and more excited about my half marathon coming up on March 19.

2) Really thankful for bloggers who've been so kind to link to my upcoming marathon in memory of Becky. Go here and here for examples. The race is on May 7, and Becky's birthday is on May 12. This year she would have been 64. I'm still trying to absorb all the life-changing lessons God wants me to learn through this experience. Thank you again for your prayers and emails. You validated my pain and gave me hope in the midst of confusion. I miss you, Becky!

3) Dogs are just the best. Sheba has finally adjusted to life without Dayda I think. If she could talk I do believe she would tell me she's doing fine. So grateful.

4) Today I'm cooking supper for 6. Also been washing clothes and vacuuming. No threat to my manhood!

5) Got caught up with the news. What a week it's been! The next 4 years are going to be a WILD ride.

Saturday, January 14

6:54 PM Today I completed my 30th 5K. I have to admit that this one was a very tough cookie. I believe this course is the hilliest you'll find in Raleigh. After all, it's the official cross country course for Wake County. The race itself started near the stadium. There was a good crowd on hand. I lined up and was feeling pretty good as the race got underway. The route was level and it went downhill for about a half mile. Then the real hills began, so I backed off a little. I felt great but my pace was inching slower and slower. We ran up and down hills, past the parking lot, alongside a road, and then up a steep incline. By this time my legs were feeling like rubber, though my feet felt great. There is no way I can praise New Balance shoes enough. I felt like I was walking on air the entire time. I finally crossed the finish line. By my Map My Run app, I finished in 32:50, which amounted to about a 10:17 pace. Since this course was such a struggle for me, I was really hoping I could keep my finish time under 33 minutes. So it was something of a shock that the official results showed that I had finished in 32:26. I had missed coming in first place in the 60-69 age division by 45 seconds. I didn't think I was racing that good. My thanks to all the cheerleaders for lining the field at the end to cheer the racers on to the finish line. One thing I left out of this recap is the weather. The race was a lot colder than I'd prefer and, because of the rain we had this morning, a lot muddier as well. I'm really looking forward to racing in warmer weather again. After the race, I stopped by the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh and ordered some kai wat. Hoo boy was that good. I asked them to make a take-out order for the Black family since they've been under the weather of late. Money well spent! From there I made a beeline to Nate and Jessie's farm, dropped off the food, hung out with the boys a little, then drove home and crashed. I looked like this before the race began.

Here's the starting line-up.

There's nothing like Ethiopian food to warm the cockles of the heart.

The boy's "hay fortress."

Finally, here's a brief video I made at the finish line after I ground out a really grueling race. To say I felt like I finished on a high note is an understatement.

 

7:34 AM Last night I saw Patriot's Day. It felt good to set aside politics and remember what makes our nation so great -- our people. If I sound like I'm being sappy and patriotic, I am. I've never said I'm not proud to be an American. At the same time, I don't feel like I'm being inconsistent with my Anabaptist convictions that delineate a strict separation between the two kingdoms. The great thing about this movie is that you can enjoy it regardless of what your politics are.

The movie tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombing through the eyes of the first responders. I thought it was much more compelling than other movies of the same genre -- World Trade Center, for example. Patriot's Day is more like United 83 -- a movie that refuses to wallow in needless sentimentality. What struck me most while watching the film was just what producers, directors, and actors can accomplish these days through the art of cinematography. I can't convey how deeply this movie touched me. I will caution you, however. There are some intense scenes in this movie, so if you're unable to deal with the events of that day you may not want to see the film. The acting was superb, and the music really added to the film's mysterious quality. There were some great shots of the Boston skyline as well as some breathtaking aerials. The movie was meant to tell the story of some brave individuals and their families during this terrible episode in our national history, and it accomplished it very well. It brought back a lot of memories of that day for me and makes my own attempt at a marathon all that more poignant. When the movie ended, the audience sat in awed silence. Nobody got up to leave. There was no applause. For myself, I sat there mulling over what is best about America and the fact that good can always come from tragedy. For those who died that day, we cannot -- we should not -- ever forget.

This is an incredibly realistic and powerful film. Expect it to win some major awards.

Friday, January 13

4:46 PM Hello everybody! Ann Lamott once said the three basic prayers are "Help," "Thanks," and "Wow." When I think of the United States of America today, I pray "Help!" Remember the classic book 1984? War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. How can anyone reason in a society in which everything is a fabrication? All information is now propaganda. The masses live in constant fear and confusion. Isaac Asimov's review of 1984 contained these prophetic words: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine stomping on a human face – forever." What a nightmare. At the same time, it's such an undeserved blessing to be part of a special community called the kingdom of heaven. I decided a long time ago to put no trust whatsoever in the power or wealth or politics of America. My prayer is that the church will be uncompromising on all matters that are central to this kingdom. Amen?

Then there was "Thanks!" The weather has turned warm again. On Wednesday I had a fabulous 6-mile run in Wake Forest. I left my hotel room at around 3:30 and got back just before dark. I had a couple of sub-12-minute miles but most of my pace was at the 13-minute mile mark. Not bad for an old geezer. Then yesterday I drove a few miles to the Neuse River Greenway and got in a 12-mile bike ride in 70 degree weather. This place is awesome! It is arguably the best biking trail in all of Greater Raleigh. The best part is that there is little or no stopping for cyclists, and the trail is very hilly, which is great on the quads. I really pushed myself – did 13 miles per hour for the entire distance. Today I'm taking the day off. Tomorrow is my 5K in Cary and I need to be refreshed for that.  It's obvious I’m loving my running life, and it's really good to be pain free. As long as I listen to my body I think I'll be okay. The BIG ONE will be here before you know it. Don't forget to pledge a little support if you can.

Finally, "Wow!" Week 2 of J-Term Greek ended today and the class is doing exceptionally well despite all of the rabbit trails their teacher insists on taking them down. I did a pronunciation quiz with them today. (I'm a big fan of reading Greek out loud.) Next week we'll have only 3 days to complete Greek 1 because our new semester starts on Thursday. I'm eager for my classes to begin. As always, I'll be my radically traditional self. It's a blessing to be able to do something you love. I owe a great deal of appreciation to the One who's made it all possible.

On another note, I see that SBTS is holding a conference on Greek this weekend. It sounds like it will be fantastic and I wish it well. I do hope videos will be published for those of us who couldn't attend. I see that one of the speakers is Steve Runge, whose topic is preaching from the book of Philippians. Now you've got my attention! As an avid reader of Paul's letter to the Philippians, I will be very interested to see what tack Runge takes. I can't help but be a bit disappointed with Runge's High Definition Commentary on this book. For starters, the Table of Contents took me by complete surprise:

Introduction

Philippians One

Philippians Two

Philippians Three

Philippians Four

Final Reflections

This reminded me of F. F. Bruce's classic commentary on Hebrews, which basically does the same thing -- examines the book of Hebrews according to the traditional chapter divisions. Discourse analysis, I would like to think, can offer us so much more. For what it's worth, my own Novum Testamentum study has revealed a structure more along these lines:

I. Letter opening(1:1-2).

II. Letter body (1:3-4:20).

III. Letter closing (4:21-23).

The body of the letter can be divided into four main parts:

I. Body opening (1:3-11).

II. Body head (1:12-2:30, an exhortation to unity in the cause of the Gospel).

III. Body subpart (3:1-4:9, a warning against pride in human achievement).

IV. Body closing (4:10-20).

I've argued that the "linguistic macrostructure" (i.e., theme) of the letter is "Ecclesial Unity in the Cause of the Gospel," and that this theme is most clearly stated by Paul in 1:27-30, where in essence he says: "The only thing in life that really matters is that you live as good citizens of heaven in a manner required of the Gospel, working together, as one team, to advance a kingdom agenda and not your own."

Dear reader, nothing would make me happier than if you did your own discourse analysis of every book of the New Testament, including Philippians. My suggestion is that, first of all, you ignore the traditional chapter divisions. Epistles can rarely be understood along those lines. I love Bruce, but I just don't see how anyone can truly understand Hebrews by a using a chapter-by-chapter analysis. This would apply to Philippians as well. I'm also surprised that Runge failed to say anything about what I consider to be one of the letter's major metaphors -- that of our heavenly citizenship. The verb Paul uses in 1:27 (normally rendered "live" or "conduct yourselves") is politeuesthe. If you don't see anything about citizenship in the word, fine. But at least that view deserves recognition. If you'd like to see why I think politeuesthe is vitally important to Paul's argument in Philippians, you can consult one of my PowerPoints and scroll down to the end, where I quote Bob Mulholland's essay on "Sociological Criticism" that I asked him to write for my book Interpreting the New Testament. I love what he says! Of course, my study of Philippians is no doubt an imperfect analysis. Thank goodness. This means that no one will rely too heavily on it. They will have to study the book for themselves, using what Runge or Black or others have written as a springboard (and nothing more) for their own personally-enriching research. You can run the risk analysis and decide if exegesis is worth relying too heavily on any one interpreter. I suggest it is not. 

To wrap up this ridiculously long post, I hope to see the movie Patriot's Day this weekend. I mean, what could be more nefarious and heinous than the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers? But the American people are, as they say, resilient. I'm told you'll go through the full gamut of emotions while watching the movie and that, yes, you will need Kleenex.

Before I go, a few pix. See ya!

1) Had lunch on Wednesday with my outstanding assistant Noah Kelly.

2) The temperature was 70 degrees when I snapped this photo in Raleigh yesterday. Amazing.

3) Following the gorgeous Neuse River.

4) Tomorrow's 5K course map in Cary. I think I'm already lost.

Wednesday, January 11

6:30 AM Last night I was lured into watching yet another movie about Everest, this one called Mount Everest: Into the Death Zone. It's the story of a 33-year old Canadian woman named Shriya Shah-Klorfine who died on descent in 2012.

My sincere condolences go out to her husband and family. The movie seems to pin the blame on her guide company, Utmost Adventure Trekking. She was assigned their most inexperienced guides for the climb. Others blame the climber herself. The most reputable guiding companies on the mountain require their clients to have summited at least one other 8,000 meter peak before attempting Everest. She had no experience whatsoever in climbing tall mountains. She was warned to turn around, strongly. Everest is no joke to even the most experienced climbers. It's 5 miles above the earth's surface, for crying out loud.

So what goes wrong when we push ourselves beyond our limits? The game of life requires physical energy. Lots of it. But it requires other energies as well. It means learning how to work with and not against the facts. It's the ability to set aside selfish interests and think of others -- your spouse, your family, your friends. There is a place for risk-taking in life. There's also a place for gratification denied. Life is an adventure into the limits of the self.

In facing life, no one knows when they will be tested to the utmost like Shriya Shah-Klorfine was that day. We never know where the holy grail will lead. The best and wisest thing we can do is to be prepared. Our lives depend on it. We runners have a saying: "Listen to your body." What this means is that your body will tell you things that sophisticated machines can't. Only a well-trained body can measure up to a grueling 26.2-mile race. For a marathoner, running is much more than a mystical experience. It's tough and tedious, tiring and painful. One has to have a "peak performance" to accomplish it. Otherwise, it might be best to stay at home. (Yes, I'm preaching to myself!)

Tuesday, January 10

5:22 PM You may not realize it, but I was once an artist. I say "was" because I have neither the time nor interest to continue to draw and paint. But I used to be an avid hobbyist. I also used to read the works of Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was, you could say, edgy. He pushed the limits of what was safe and acceptable. He was called crazy and fanatical by some. But so were a lot of other amazing people in church history. He didn't let other people's opinions define him. He was himself. I noticed he was very intentional. (I had to chance to hear him twice when I lived in Switzerland.) He wanted to impact the lives of others. He invested in the greatness of people. That's why I read everything I could get my hands on if the author was Francis Schaeffer. I wanted to a better version of myself. I wanted to strike a balance between humanitas and pietas. Even then, as a student in Basel, I knew I wanted to write books like Schaeffer wrote, books that connected with average people. When Becky and I purchased our Virginia farm, we had Francis and Edith Schaeffer's L'Abri in mind for our retreat ministry. People, we need to start stopping. We need to slow down and think.

Come near, then, and listen to what William Edgar has to say about Francis Schaeffer. His essay is a huge breath of fresh air, a call to action, an invitation to slow down and consider the world around us, including the arts. This essay will have you laughing and crying. It may even get you to draw portraits again.

4:30 PM Language is not a list of rules. And, of course, nothing in language is ever black and white. This is true of Greek as much as it's true of any other language. Moreover, we all interpret Scripture though our own lens of culture, history, education, context, etc. So it's inevitable that biblical scholars will disagree on matters of interpretation. A case in point is the authorship of Hebrews. In particular, I'd like to ask: What did Origen mean, in referring to Hebrews, by "Who wrote [Greek: ho grapsas] the epistle, only God knows"?

As you may know, I've argued in print that Origen believed Paul was the ultimate author of Hebrews even if he wasn't necessarily convinced that Paul was the writer/penman. This is most definitely not what I was taught in Bible college and seminary. And it remains a minority view today. But when I examined the evidence for myself, the cracks in the traditional consensus view that Paul could not have authored Hebrews began ricocheting around in my mind. For the first time in my life I read Origen for myself. And that changed everything. Clearly -- at least to me -- Origen was agnostic not about authorship but only about penmanship. That is, he pondered the question, "Who is responsible for the final form of this letter? Well, the answer is probably known only to God." Origen himself was aware of two conjectures as to who the penman could have been: Luke, and Clement (of Rome). But that really didn't matter much to him. The ultimate author was Paul, and so the question of who wrote the letter was of secondary importance.

Yesterday I was reading Tom Schreiner's excellent Hebrews commentary. In his brief section on authorship he writes (p. 2), "Black's interpretation of Origen should be rejected. It has been shown that when Origen speaks of who wrote the epistle he was referring to the author, not merely the secretary." Tom cites at this point David Allen's magisterial Hebrews commentary in the NAC, so my assistant was kind enough to copy that page for me and email it to me (since I'm stranded here on the farm). David argues that ho grapsas ("who wrote") has to refer to authorship and not to penmanship based on context and usage. He cites A. C. Mitchell's Hebrews commentary as follows (p. 32):

Mitchell noted the many places in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History where the Greek verb grapho ("to write") "refers both to authorship and to actual penning" and thus concluded "Black's distinction between author and amanuensis cannot be maintained in light of this evidence."

So how should one respond to Dr. Black's untenable views? My brain has some ideas. May I share them with you?

1) I will grant Tom and David that ho grapsas can refer to direct authorship. What I will not grant is that the expression must refer to direct authorship. If you want to argue that ho grapsas can't refer to the penman, what do you do with Rom. 16:22?

I, Tertius, who wrote [ho grapsas] the epistle, greet you in the Lord.

Clearly, Paul is the author of Romans, and just as clearly, Tertius is the writer/penman/amanuensis/stenographer. I mean, isn't this pretty clear? If so, can't we see a parallel between Rom. 16:22 and Origen's statement that only God knows the one "who wrote" the letter?

2) David argues (p. 32):

When Origen says "but who wrote it, only God knows," he meant to indicate uncertainty as to which of Paul's disciples it was who developed his ideas and was thus the actual author.

Likewise, Tom concludes:

Origen's words about the author still ring true today: "God only knows."

Suffice it say that, if you want to plead agnosticism on the authorship issue based on the writings of Origen, you will have to explain how Origen regularly introduces quotations from Hebrews with language like:

I think it sufficient to quote this one testimony of Paul from the Epistle to the Hebrews....

And the apostle Paul warns us....

... from what statements of Paul I have arrived at this understanding....

For the word is used by our Paul....

3) Finally, I'd like to see someone discuss this statement by Origen:

For the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in speaking of the prophets, and what they suffered, says [Heb 11:37], "they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword." … someone hard pressed by this argument may have recourse to the opinion of those who reject this Epistle as not being Paul's; against whom I must at some other time use other arguments to prove that it is Paul's.

That seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

I'm not going to go into detail here about what Origen did or did not mean when he wrote ho grapsas. In my little book on the subject I've listed my source material for these quotes (and many more like them). I'm not insisting that I'm right and my friends Tom and David are wrong. But I do hope to provide you with a lens through which to read Origen in context and set you off on a new journey through this issue on your own.

Let's dig in, shall we?

9:22 AM This morning I thought I'd go online to one of those, you know, calculator thingies to see how long it would take me to finish my 26.2 mile race in May. I plugged in my age, my half marathon time of 2:48, my sex, and the answer it spit out was 5 hours and 50 minutes, with a pace of 13:22 per mile. This is only an estimate so I'm taking it with a grain of salt. As I've already mentioned a thousand times on this blog, my goal is to finish the race, pure and simple. For what it's worth, the average time for men in U.S. marathons is 4:19 at a 9:54 pace. That is WAY beyond my ability. But still, it's fun to dream. I've decided that the best thing for me to do right now is take the 5:50 time and add one hour to it. That means there's a possibility -- depending on all kinds of factors including weather conditions, course difficulty, hydration and nutrition issues, and how I'm feeling that day -- that I could finish the race in under the 7 hour time limit. That's the plan at least!

P.S. I guess by now you're pretty tired of me talking about the fund raiser I'm doing in conjunction with my marathon. But hey -- that's a big reason I'm putting my body through all this. It would be fantastic if you would a take a minute and pledge $26.00 (one dollar per mile) to my Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund at UNC. Thank you so much!

8:40 AM Today a strange thought occurred to me while working on my JETS review of The Synoptic Problem: Four Views by Stan Porter and Bryan Dyer.

I don't ever recall reading "Four Views" books written by non-biblical scholars. I'm not aware of Four Views on Hinduism or Four Views on Atheism. But when it comes to questions about the Bible, my oh my. We've got four views on hell, the historical Adam, the millennium, the nature of the atonement, divine providence, the book of Revelation, women in ministry, eternal security, the Sabbath, the doctrine of God, the end times, baptism, the Lord's Supper, divine foreknowledge, tithing, free will, the warning passages in Hebrews, the church, the ending of Mark, and the pericope about the woman taken in adultery. I edited these last two books so I'm obviously not against the genre.

What's going on? I suspect nothing too nefarious. I think most of us who have strong convictions about this or that topic are motivated to defend our positions based on the notion that good scholarship is about convincing others to espouse our view instead of merely asking them to do so. Every successful product on the market today is concerned about one thing: convincing consumers that somehow their product advantages them. The makers of V8 had only a smattering of customers until they focused on how the drink provided the required daily servings of vegetables. V8 now competes nicely with soft drinks and Gatorade.

Some people I know rather dismissively call into question the place, say, of prophecy in the modern church. This won't do. Even if one disagrees with Grudem on the nature of New Testament prophecy, his views can't be ignored (The Gift of Prophecy: In the New Testament and Today). In discussing the synoptic problem with my students later this month I'll not only expose them to my own view of synoptic origins (Why Four Gospels?) but to the views held by Craig Evans, Mark Goodacre, David Peabody, and Rainer Riesner -- the very contributors to the book I'm currently reviewing. I'll also toss in the so-called "independence theory" held by scholars such as Eta Linnemann (Is There a Synoptic Problem?). It is noble and necessary work to try and be as objective as is humanly possible about an issue and let students make up their own minds. Of course, I am convinced that my personal view about the Gospels is the best one out there and that it deserves a hearing. But the truth is, good people disagree. Could the highest level of scholarship involve equipping rather than indoctrinating? As in any family, the family of God has matters to work out. We must teach each other, and it must be loving work between people who've earned the right to speak. If you've never worked through your view of women in leadership or eldership or baptism or the ending of Mark, then deal with these issues head on. That's why I agreed to review Porter and Dyer's book, even though my own view wasn't represented and even though I rather strongly disagree with each of the four views I'm going to be writing about. Trust me, no one wants to hear only what I think.

Don't fear thinking. Debate and discussion is good work.

7:45 AM I know posting yet another picture of the farm is the cheesiest of all cheese out there but I couldn't help it. Isn't our God great?

Monday, January 9

5:28 PM This and that ....

1) Held a worship service tonight. Here's my sanctuary. What a glorious Creator we serve.

2) I've been reviewing my travel schedule for 2017. Lord willing I'll be in Birmingham this month, Dallas in March, Cincinnati in May, Switzerland in July, Hawaii in August, Colorado in September, and Asia in October. I just did some rough calculations and figured out that I will travel 41,213 miles by air this year. Please pray for me that God would make my paths straight and that He would use me to be an encouragement to others wherever I go. 

3) The roads around here are a skating rink so my assistant will sub for me in Greek class tomorrow. He will do a great job as always.

4) Only 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 13 hours until my first marathon.

5) I am proud of myself because I've been striving to make good eating choices. Tonight I had home-made spaghetti, and tomorrow I plan to have lentil soup. I need to restock my kitchen with bananas, avocadoes, yogurt, and cheese. I'm drinking 5 glasses of water every day. I could drink more but I feel like I'm swishing all day long.

Later!

12:52 PM If you follow this blog you know I love taking pictures and posting them here. I also guess you must get awfully tired of seeing all of these photos. So these are the last pics of the snow I'm going to post for a while. Promise. (Psst. You know I'm fibbing. Right?).

As you can see, the day was gorgeous. I felt like I was back in Switzerland.

Of course, the donks were expecting a carrot or two. I didn't disappoint them.

My faithful friend. She's always by my side. When she's not off chasing rabbits, that is.

Finally, I just had to show you the view overhead. Ain't it beautiful?

O well. You could handle 4 pix, right?

12:04 PM I've purposely neglected showing you my big toes because they look so gross but I decided you can handle it.

When I started mountaineering my toe nails began turning purple. Climbing two 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado was the straw that broke the camel's back. Eventually the nails on my big toes just fell off so I'm left with this "recovering" photo. It's taken a long time for it to sink in and for me to appreciate it, but constant running, walking, and hiking takes a huge toll on your feet. My point is not to brag about how active I am. My point is that I'm on my feet all the time and I guess this is the price I'm going to have to pay. I make no bones about my love for New Balance shoes because they fit my 13-wide feet perfectly. Happily for me, my feet don't hurt at all and I never feel like my shoes are too tight or too loose. I have no intention of slowing down at all just because I have ugly toes. As long as my doctor says I'm okay (and as long as there's no infection or fungus), I'm good to go as far as I'm concerned. Here's the deal about running in races or climbing mountains. You try to find a balance between what you can do and what you'd like to do perfectly. You don't want the challenge to be too easy but you also don't want it to be too difficult. You want to push your body in a way that makes the effort itself the greatest reward for all you do. When I run I feel myself "in the moment." My sense of time and place melt away. Doing a 5K race is more than just a thing to cross off on my bucket list. Races are crazy fun. Plus you get a t-shirt (wink). On that note, it's time to cook lunch and then get outdoors and take a long WALK. Hope you're enjoying the snow!

9:50 AM Odds and ends ....

1) How can "dumpster fire" be the Word of the Year? Isn't it two words?

2) In praise of old-fashioned hospitality.

3) Books are to be loved.

4) Why you should study your Bible in English.

5) Interesting book about evangelicalism here.

8:22 AM Update: It's now MINUS 1 degrees. Hey. You're going in the wrong direction.

7:55 AM Wowza, wowza, wowza, it's cold. We almost hit zero degrees last night. It will take an entire calendar year for me to recover.

For the past few days I haven't run at all. No walking. No cycling. No workouts at the Y. I think I need therapy. What I would give to climb a mountain. But God knows best. I definitely needed the rest. And I enjoyed the chance to do other things. Right now I'm working on a book review for a journal. Then I'll prep some lectures for the spring semester. School is closed today, which gives my Greek students another day to work on their take-home exams. Like I said, there was no running, so I spent a lot of time getting caught up on the news. Like the latest Twitter war. Good night. Listen, I understand ego. I have to live with mine all the time. But in my opinion, someone needs to ratchet it down. Okay, Dave. Calm down. Take a breath. Sometimes you're too much of an underdog supporter. But sheesh, you wrote your dissertation on weakness. For Paul, his "disabilities" were badges of honor. God's strength was perfected in his imperfections. Remember that. You're not the best athlete out there. You never will be. Just stay focused on being you. The key is to just stick with it. I'm pretty sure you can't lose much fitness in five days.

I'll be back later. Gotta fold the clothes. Wash the dinner dishes from last night. Feed the animals. I'll take a long walk when it warms up to 32 degrees. And try to stay away from the "news."

Sunday, January 8

4:54 PM I want to keep this post short and happy, so here's what you can expect: a vote in favor of using inclusive language, including in our Bible translations. You see, earlier today our power went out and so I texted friends and family to tell them about the situation (freezing cold temps, danger of water pipes bursting, etc.). About 2 hours later the power came back on (which has NEVER happened before so quickly). In thanking one of my daughters for praying for the power to be restored, I quoted the beginning of James 5:16 ("The effectual fervent prayer ....") to which she responded, "Does the Greek include ladies too?" Oooh. Snarky snarky. (I love it!) She, like I, cut her eye teeth on "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man ...." Ain't nothin' wrong with that rendering, of course. As Mark Strauss points out, however, nowadays it's probably a good idea to avoid using masculine language when the original text of Scripture is referring to members of both sexes. I do this in all of my writings and have done so for years. One of the first topics I discuss with my doctoral students is: Will you use inclusive language in your dissertation? But get this: It is their decision, not mine. I once published a book with a major U.S. publishing house and was going to submit another manuscript to them when I discovered that they had instituted a policy requiring inclusive language of all their authors. For what it's worth, I think that was a mistake. I think that should be an author's prerogative. As for James 5:16, the Greek simply has dikaiou -- "a righteous ...." The masculine gender of the adjective permits two renderings: "righteous man" or "righteous person." The latter sense is obviously in view, as my daughter nicely "wink winked" at. Note the ESV: "The prayer of a righteous person ...." Ditto for the HCSB: "The urgent request of a righteous person ...."

Bible translation is mind-numbingly hard, but some things just seem obvious to me. 

4:12 PM Scattershooting ....

1) How to choose a beginning Greek grammar.

2) Bible reading plans for 2017.

3) What will become of evangelicalism in the age of Trump?

4) Why we need to bring our pets indoors during cold weather.

5) CT's 2017 book awards

10:20 AM Woke up to find the snow thawing a bit even though the temps aren't going above 25 today (real feel of 16) and will get down to zero tonight. I snapped a few pictures (see below). The animals seem to be coping quite well. They have a warm barn to stay in at night, and during the day they'll have plenty of sunshine and hay. Sheba thoroughly enjoyed being outdoors and tracked down every deer trail she could find. I see the snow plow has gone by, but my humble country road is nothing but a sheet of ice. Thus far the snow has had no effect on me getting my work done here. A little bit of writing. A ton of reading. Cooking my meals for the week. I even enjoy getting dressed in layers of clothing to go outdoors. What I hate is driving on icy roads. Well, here are the pics I promised. Welcome to the tundra.

9:10 AM Imagine the scenario: You're studying adjectives for the first time in Greek class, and your professor just announces to you that when John recorded Jesus' words "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11), he literally wrote "I am the shepherd, the good one," language that might imply that not all shepherds are "good." Then your beloved professor goes on to show you two words in your vocabulary that can be translated "good": agathos and kalos. You notice that agathos is rendered "good" in your textbook, while kalos is rendered both "good" and "beautiful." Your professor then proceeds to tell you that the latter adjective is the one used in John 10:11. "Jesus wasn't only a good shepherd but a good-looking one," he quips. At this point your mind begins conjuring up images of a man who is tall, dark, and handsome. Why, your prof even says that people claim to know exactly what Jesus looked like because of the "Shroud." Now you're really confused. Exasperated, you strike back (silently, of course): "How in the world can anybody know what Jesus looked like? Are you, like, serious?"

Suddenly your professor begins a discourse about something he calls "synonymy." One hour ago you were happily eating a Krispy Kreme donut, and now you're completely baffled. Your prof continues, "Just because kalos can denote external beauty, that doesn't mean the word has that significance here. Context is always the final arbiter of meaning." He then goes on to discuss the assignments for the day, but you're already Googling "I am the good shepherd." One article you find says that kalos refers to Jesus' "beauty." Another essay takes a different tack altogether: kalos, it argues, is normally set in opposition to "evil," not "ugliness." Hence kalos in John 10:1 points to Jesus' "essential goodness as nobly realized." You leave class totally bewildered. Why bother with Greek? Why I can't I just use my ESV?

The point of the story is obvious: Greek is not the Abracadabra or Open Sesame so many think it is. Still, Greek has its value. It will tell you what it possible. It will limit your options. It may even indicate emphasis. If you take God seriously, you also ought to take His word seriously. The Bible is God's word -- his final word on how to experience life in all its abundance. It's God's way of making Himself known to us. The Bible is like an owner's manual for a car. By studying it, we can learn how to live according to His specs. If the Bible is inspired by God, we should read it. We should study it. In the original languages if possible. But we're liable to get the wrong message if we treat Scripture like a good luck charm. It takes a bit more than a hit-or-miss approach. And even if you can read the New Testament in Greek, there's no guarantee you'll get it right. To crib a thought from Mark Cortez:

Left to ourselves, we will inevitably fashion the Gospel in our own image, after our own preferences, according to our own desires. Although Luther regularly ascribes value to studying translations of the Bible, he argues that this is not ultimately sufficient. Unless we dig deeply into the text, we will eventually lose our moorings and drift into the stream of contemporary (ir)relevance.

That's a tall order. But it's not one-sided. God pledges to help us. The same Spirit who inspired the word is able to reveal its truths to us. Every opportunity you get, friend, add another tool to your exegetical toolbox. For some, this may involve formal education. For others, self study is the best way to go. The apostle Paul was a genius who'd earned advanced theological degrees. The apostle Peter was a backwater hayseed who could gut a fish in 3 seconds. But Christ revealed Himself to both men. Jesus won't ignore or turn away anyone who truly seeks Him with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Saturday, January 7

5:48 PM For the past two weeks I've had intermittent pain in my hip, nothing too severe, just discomfort. The weird part is that the pain is always on my right side. This concerns me because the hip is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the human body. I'm pretty sure the cause is not ill-fitting shoes. Mine work great. The bottom line is that running is a high impact sport that puts lots of stress on your body. Add to this the fact that for most runners, running is an addiction. We need our daily fix of aerobic exercise, improved circulation, and capillary stimulation. For me, I think the issue might be getting all of my joints, tendons, and ligaments used to the work. My recent pain is probably due simply to increased mileage. I need to slow down and try not to increase my distance too quickly. I'm also aware that the problem may be more serious: osteoarthritis (worn cartilage), sciatica (inflammation of the sciatic nerve that passes through the pelvis into the leg), bursitis (inflammation of the bursae as a result of overtraining), or even a stress fracture in the hip. Another thing that might come into play: running on the left side of the road facing traffic, with the camber of the road placing my right side higher than my left. So I've started running in the middle of the road whenever it's safe to do so. I also want to get a DEEP massage soon. One exercise I'm trying begins with getting down on my elbows and knees. Keeping my back straight and the rest of my body upright, I lean my hips from side to side. This has already seemed to help. Thankfully the pain dissipates after a prolonged rest.

Actually, I think I'm way too competitive with myself for my own good. You just gotta have lots of patience when you're recovering from even a mild injury to your body. It really doesn't matter how slow I go. What matters is that I am safe and healthy. I am truly grateful to God for all the things my body can do and has done over the past three years. Health is a pure gift. Hardships are never fun, but they at least give you a healthy perspective on life. 

3:16 PM Life goes on even when it's snowing. The farm got 8 inches of the nicest, whitest powder I have ever seen. The power has stayed on thankfully. Shoveling the driveway awaits me (oh joy). It's a quarter of a mile to the road, and who knows what shape that road will be in when I get there. Our farm sits on a tertiary road and if I'm able to drive out on Monday morning I'll call that a win. Do be careful out there moving around and driving in the snow, peeps. 

11:15 AM Hallelujah for the snow! Well, sorta. Because of today's rather inclement weather, this weekend's Hot Chocolate Run and SPCA Doggie Dash in Cary, NC, has been postponed to NEXT Saturday, which means I have added it to my race schedule for 2017. No way is my form near perfect but I'm going to use this race to work on running more efficiently by staying light on my feet and not over-striding (which is my thorn in the flesh). The goal is a short, quick stride with a midfoot strike, as shown here:

The Cary course is very hilly (I've run it at least 4 times) so I'm definitely not looking for a PR this time around. My plan is to work on consistency and strength. I guess by now you could call me an accomplished 5K racer, but this doesn't stop me from quaking in my sneakers every time I walk up to the starting line. I'm going to hold steady at the beginning and then surge at the end. Or something like that. We'll see. The hills, I mean, are brutal. Be great for sledding today!

9:24 AM So I'm sitting here rethinking my 2017 goals (NOT resolutions!) and you know me -- I write everything down. My overall motto this year is "Embrace change." Pretty smart and insightful, eh? Beyond that, here are 20 life tips for 2017. Naturally, if they don't apply to you, ignore them.

1) This year, do something you've never done before. Like attend a Chicago concert. There's one coming up later this month in Raleigh. See you there?

2) Also, go somewhere you've never been before. And you don't even need a passport if you stay stateside. I've got my eyes on Mount Elbert in the Rockies. It's the highest of the 14ers.

3) Spend some time outdoors every day. Well, maybe not if it's snowing.

4) Do something quirky. Climb a tree. Take a bubble bath. Join the handbell choir (what?). And don't forget to feed your dog a cookie.

5) Walk away from toxic relationships. Boundaries are good. On the other hand, don't allow little disputes to destroy a great relationship.

6) Mix things up. If you're a Methodist pastor, try preaching without your robe. If you're a Baptist, try preaching with one. So what if people get confused. They might also begin to think.

7) Start your own blog. Trust me, people are looking for good content. Got some good thoughts? Try us out.

8) Be real. People are starving for real people who lead real lives and have real kids and who aren't afraid of their humanity.

9) Have fun with your spouse. Take him or her to a concert. Catch a dumb movie together. Wash someone's car together. Before going to sleep, take the Bible down off the shelf.

10) Stop making excuses when you hurt other people. Apologize. And yes, that's easier said than done.

11) Engage in time travel. Like reading Michael Shaara. Or Ivan Turgenev.

12) Practice compassion. Failure is something we all experience. Be kind.

13) Strive for excellence in all you do. Mediocrity is easy. But you must work with all your might to attain excellence. (You can't be allergic to sweat, by the way.)

14) Be a risk taker. You won't achieve your dreams by playing it safe. Run the rapids without fear. After all, Jesus has mastered the river.

15) Be patient with yourself. Yes, I know you're a terrific person and all that. I'm also well aware, even if you aren't, that you don't always represent humanity at its best. Tough break chump. Welcome to the wonderful world of reality.

16) Pray. Even when it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. (Note: You can pray without actually saying anything. I know. For months after Becky died practically all I could pray was, "Dear Jesus." It was enough.)

17) No more "What ifs." So you thought you were heading toward Disneyworld and then you found yourself experiencing something resembling a nightmare. Well, the past is past. God uses even our bad decisions in a positive way. Believe that. 

18) Be thankful. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to lose an arm or be confined to a wheel chair or be dirt poor or be unable to write. There's so much to be grateful for -- shoes that fit, a good cry, grandkids, long weekends, close friends, my iPhone, that morning cup of coffee, opening a present. What does your list look like?

19) Dream big. It's too easy to become content in our little ruts. If you want bigger challenges, God will give them to you. Just ask (James 4:2).

20) Accept the seasons of life. Winter is an annual reminder to me that I'm entering the home stretch. It's also a reminder that the miracle of rebirth awaits me, awaits Becky, awaits everyone who knows Jesus as Lord. One day suffering and disease will be no more. Our tears will dry up. It will be as dramatic as the first day of Spring.

7:52 AM Beautiful.

7:12 AM Well, I see that the Tenth Annual Run for Young in Raleigh has been cancelled due to the snow. The race honors the memory of a Wakefield High School senior who died as a passenger in an alcohol-related car accident. The race is no more, but the proceeds are still there and will be put to very good use. This is simply another reminder to me of just how "daily" life is. You wake up every morning wondering what will happen, what surprises are awaiting you. The New Testament has a lot to say about the "daily" aspect of life. The earliest believers continued "daily" in the temple. The Lord added "daily" to their number. Paul had to die to himself "daily." We pray, "Give us today our daily bread." We recite, "This is the day that the Lord has made." Jesus is with us "all the days."

You're probably not familiar with this last example, but it's one we discussed in Greek class this week when we learned the Greek word usually rendered "day" (hemera). I took the class to the Great Cause passage in Matt. 28:19-20. Everyone knows Jesus ends his commission with the words, "And lo, I am with you always." Here "always" actually translates three Greek words: pasas tas hemeras, "all the days." The NIV has "always" here, as do the NLT, ESV, NASB, HCSB, and the NET Bible. It's not incorrect to use "always" here, even though Greek has another word that is normally translated that way (pantote). In the ISV, we went in a slightly different direction: "And remember, I am with you each and every day." Eugene Peterson followed suit in a beautiful rendering: "I'll be with you ... day after day after day."

I like that. On days when I feel like I'm overwhelmed with the chaos of life all around me, when I'm convinced I'm going crazy, it helps me to remember that Jesus is with me "day after day after day." There is grace for the grind -- for the ordinary, run-of-the-mill experiences when I'm neither hot nor cold, up nor down, when I'm hitting neither top nor bottom. In the monotonous trudge of daily living, He's there for me. When I wake up in the morning wondering "How is my knee going to do today?" or just dealing with the itchiness of living in my own skin, I think, "He is with me each and every day." I've got His word on it.

Perhaps that's one reason I love teaching Greek so much. I would never have known Matthew wrote pasas tas hemeras by looking at the standard English translations. My days, yes even January 7, 2017, are numbered by Him. "You're kidding! I never really knew that!" a student said to me after class. Which is one reason I refuse to get involved in the Greek pedagogy debate. Slowly, I begin to notice that we're going in two different directions. I want my students to learn much more than Greek. I want them to know that God understands the desires of their heart and their uncertainties, and that He promises not to leave them stranded without hope -- ever. As Christians we can relax in the knowledge that God has a unique plan for each and every one of us, but that plan doesn't reveal itself all at once. We discover it as we draw closer to God each and every day. At some point, we need to discard today's "shopping cart" approach to the Christian life: I purchase this (book, course, seminar, Greek grammar) and God gives me happiness. To be perfectly honest, I'm more impressed on a day-to-day basis with a mountaintop or a crashing wave. These are the "true" creations of God. When I look in the mirror in the morning I don't think, "Wow, God, you really care about this old body of mine each and every day." Instead I think, "If only I could fix my crooked teeth." Everyone talks about how precious the human being is. But Jesus proves it. For 70-plus years, He is with us, offering a harbor for our storm-tossed vessels. God is indeed our refuge and strength, our only hope in time of trouble. God meets us on the heights and in the depths and every place in between. But I think He is especially present in the monotonous routine that tries even the most patient soul. His grace is sufficient for it all, and nowhere do we need Him more than in the "daily."

Friday, January 6

7:25 PM The snow is falling softly. The house is so quiet it is deafening. Winter. I begin to feel it growing inside of me as I go to the window and hold the lace aside. I feel the icy flow, the air seeping through old floorboards. A snow storm, a hard freeze, impassible roads. I see a swirl of motion, the flakes making their way to the tops of the trees, white and pure. I cross over to the warm fire, the promise of a good book. There is no use in trying not to think about her. She's been gone forever it seems. Theologians call it a theodicy. We humans wonder at our suffering, can never fully, rationally explain it to ourselves or anyone else for that matter. Yet there is hope. There is always hope. When bad things happen, something positive always comes of it. In Emerson's words, "Every evil has its good." Paul puts it like this: "We can be sure that God can make every detail in our lives turn into something beneficial." What does a lonely widower do to lessen the pain? There's no use in trying to offer a reasonable explanation of theodicy. I'm not smart enough to do that. What I do know is that evil cannot fully thwart the good or snuff out the candle of truth. I've already see the sparks in my grandchildren's curious eyes as they explore the valley field, or in the texts my kids send me about various and sundry topics (from the magnificent to the mundane), or in a student's expression of delightful discovery when he or she begins to understand what a declension is. Let the apologists for Christianity do what they do best, but I am more convinced than ever that the way God has called me to solve the problem of evil is with my hands and my feet and my resources. I owe that to Becky and to all the other women who have suffered or will suffer from the scourge of cancer. Although I am only one man, I stand in solidarity with cancer victims worldwide, celebrating courage, community, life, and victory. With joy in my heart and defiance in my soul, I know I will cross that finish line in May and I will have done my part, along with many others, perhaps you included, to accomplish our goal of taking one giant leap closer to a cure for endometrial cancer.

Until then, I'll enjoy my dog, a good book, and a warm fireplace.

12:50 PM Oh baby, it's cold outside and getting colder with every passing minute. The low tomorrow night will be 0 degrees. The snow begins this evening. I reckon the 5K in Raleigh on Sunday will be cancelled unless they rename it the Snot Icicle 5K. We'll see how the roads are. Five inches of snow in North Carolina and 5 inches in Ohio are two different things. (How do you spell "complete chaos"?) I have never run in the snow or the ice and don't plan to start now. Meanwhile I've updated my running goals for 2017 and there are three of them I'll mention here:

1) Smile and enjoy my runs. In other words, don't push yourself so hard you end up hating the sport. If I have to slow to a crawl in order to enjoy myself, I will. Fact is, I can't always run at the pace I'd like to. I want to become über-aware of what my body is telling me. Running 3 high quality "happy" miles is much better than running an 8-mile lousy run.

2) Be more like my dog. Sheba hasn't a worry in the world. She knows she is loved. She knows she'll be watered, fed, and protected. She's also a brave old girl. She's coping fine with her deafness. I want to live like that -- resting in the care of my Trainer.

3) Eat better, as in much better. When it comes to proper running nutrition, I suck. I have no idea why I simply can't get it into my head that I am what I eat. This year I'm going to try and eat more wisely and more nutritiously.

But, alas, no running this weekend, and boy will I miss it. Running makes me strong, energetic, and happy (thank you, endorphins). And a big THANK YOU to everyone who has emailed me their support. I'm on my way to 26.2! I believe I am living proof that if we live an active life we can do some amazing things even if we're "old." Please remember that I am living with the memory that endometrial cancer took the life of my wife of 37 years. My dream is that researchers can find a way to cure this dreaded disease. Please consider making a donation to the Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund today. We're lagging way behind our goal of $4,000, but I just know yall will come through for me. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I love watching the nightly talk shows. The topic du jour is one of Trump's recent tweets:

The "Intelligence" briefing on so-called "Russian hacking" was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!

Strange I'll say! The future commander-in-chief using quotation marks to mock the intelligence agencies he will have to rely on? Oh my, but the Trump presidency will be a linguist's paradise. Let me tell you, folks, we're going to be entertained bigly.  

Thursday, January 5

4:14 PM My time on campus has been nothing short of phenomenal. Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a former doctoral student of mine for lunch at one of Wake Forest's finest Mexican places.

Paul muses here. He edits a very interesting blog. He is now teaching both Hebrew and Greek at his Bible school in Wisconsin. I admire smart people like him. Yesterday I also discovered a great running course in one of Wake Forest's many subdivisions.

As you can see, the city has even made a running/biking/stroller lane, though there is so little traffic it sometimes seemed unnecessary. I got in a 10K practice run (6.2 miles) yesterday along the sloping roads of the gorgeous subdivision (houses here cost around a half mill).

The course was hilly and perfect for leg work. It felt great. The best news was what I didn't feel -- any pain in my right hip or in any part of my body for that matter. Huge relief! I was wondering if there was something structurally wrong with my hip, but everything went off without a hitch. I feel like I'm beginning to make big strides (no pun intended) in my running program. No groin pan. No knee pain. Definitely no soreness in my legs or feet for which I am sooooooooo grateful. Tomorrow it's another 10K practice run and then hopefully a timed 5K in Raleigh on Sunday, that is, if Saturday's snowfall permits travel on Sunday. What a great way to start the year -- a great Greek class, good friends, and lots of running! I've asked myself this question a thousand times in the past three days: Why do I feel so good after just pushing my body to compete in a grueling 10K over the weekend? Let's see...

1) I think my body is finally catching up to what my mind is telling it to do. After two years of running, my body is building up stamina, muscles, and the mental fortitude it takes to withstand all the miles.

2) I also believe that having shoes that fit exactly right for my feet instills strength and balance into my running routine. Just as importantly, I've learned correct form as to where to strike my feet, landing mid-foot on just about every stride. I've shortened my stride and increased my pace, which makes for a winning formula and reduces the load on my skeletal system.

3) By doing a variety of activities each week I'm able to add balance to my running through biking, climbing, surfing, and (cough cough) house work.

4) Finally, I think I'm learning to take recovery seriously. I try and always take one full day off each week and more than that after a race. Rest = Great Performance. No doubt about that.

Right now, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. In the past 30 days I exercised a distance of 93.6 miles -- running 21.2 of those miles, biking 19 of them, and walk/running the rest (53.3 miles). I'm definitely psyching myself up for my half marathon in March. Remember, I'm just an amateur with no real running expertise. In the half marathon I plan to go out easy and in control of my body. When I get to the race venue I will warm up for at least 15 minutes by walking and jogging. I always tell myself that when I get to mile ten I "only" have a 5K race to do from that point on. If and when I finish the race I'll reflect on what I could have done better, question my sanity, and then go straight into training for May's full marathon. I don't care about PRs or age group wins all that much right now. I'm just happy to be running. Every mile means something to me, just like I imagine every quiz means something to my Greek students. It marks another step forward, a goal accomplished, the payoff for hard work. Yay for my great Greek students, and for their prof too!

Here's hoping your shoes stay tied,

Dave

Wednesday, January 4

5:58 AM Can you believe it? It's supposed to be 58 degrees today. But this weekend they're calling for snow. I'm definitely missing my workouts at the Y. But because of today's nice weather I'm hoping to walk/run/cycle in Wake Forest for maybe 10 miles. The weather is definitely getting colder. If the roads are passable I'm still hoping to run in this Sunday's 5K in Raleigh at 2:00 pm. I dunno. The high that day is predicted to be only 28. Had a headache this morning like you wouldn't believe (boo). It's the usual sinus-barometric headache I get whenever the weather changes drastically. Oh well. Press on! In Greek class today we're introducing noun declensions. You know the old saying: Greek teachers never die; they just decline. Today is the so-called Second Declension -- which is simply a group of nouns that form their cases the same way. German, as you may know, also uses cases. If your article doesn't match your noun, you're in deep trouble, even if you get everything else right. This is also true of Greek. Gotta know your noun declensions, at least if you're planning on translating from English into Greek, which is how you get extra credit in this class. Cases will definitely give you a Charlie Horse between the ears if you're not careful, as even a Pope discovered.

Right now I'm training hard for my half marathon on March 19. Even though it's only half the distance of a full marathon, the last one I did knocked me out for two days. Hanging in there for 13.1 miles ain't easy. Finishing requires training and planning. This is a tough distance but I love the training, love the planning, and love the camaraderie. Sheesh, I love life!

Okay, back to school for this old teacher.

Tuesday, January 3

6:35 PM In Greek class today we discussed words and how they take on meaning. It's part of my effort to make class practical and motivational. At the same time, there's nothing easy about lexical analysis. Much of it is undoing damage. Take the well-known and much-discussed fallacy of etymologizing -- determining a word's meaning by its constituent parts (morphemes). For example, some insist that a New Testament church is "called out" from the world -- separate, if you will -- based on the etymology of the Greek word ekklesia, which is comprised of two parts -- ek, "out of," and kaleo, "I call." Hence the church is a "called out" organism. It is to be different from the world. And believers are to separate themselves from the world.

In New Testament usage, however, it seems that the word ekklesia never quite had this meaning of "called out ones." Normally it was used to describe a group of people that had something in common. At times this group met, and then it was an ekklesia. At other times it wasn't meeting per se, but even then it was an ekklesia. This term was used in contrast to ochlos -- a term that describes a group of people that have come together and yet have nothing really in common. Ochlos is often glossed as "crowd" in English, and that is indeed a very good rendering. How, then, should we translate ekklesia into English? When I posed this question to my class today, I got several excellent responses: "gathering," "assembly," "congregation," and the like. All of these are fine, but none of them in my opinion captures the essence of what a New Testament ekklesia is. I prefer the term "community." Church is not simply a group of just any people, and it is most certainly not a building. Instead, I like to think of a church as a space in which all of us are ministering, praying, preaching, teaching, singing, caring, loving -- a family if you will. Our motto might be: "We're all in this together. So let's do it together." This is the community to which we, as followers of Jesus, are giving ourselves with our whole hearts. This is our "church" -- a diverse, global, caring paean of praise to our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Lord, Master, and only true Senior Pastor.

Recently I became part of a similar community, a community known simply as the "runners' community." The similarities between this community and the "church" are legion. As soon as I began running competitively I knew I had joined the ranks of hundreds and thousands of other runners. From my very first race this sense of community became instilled deep within my psyche. Even as a novice runner, I knew I was not alone. Every experienced runner remembers when they were a beginner just like you, and so they are eager to reach out to the newbies among them. You soon have a group of running friends you look to for advice -- where to buy the best running shoes, how to train properly, how to avoid injuries, how to handle anxiety before a big race. Being part of this community helps each of us to become a better runner. As runners, we value what we can become and not simply what we look like. We are not defined by our age, our t-shirt size, our weight, or our medallions (or lack of them). We are all fiercely independent and pursue individual goals, and yet paradoxically we truly believe that we are all in this together, and it shows. Just show up to any race and observe the runners. We are a celebration of men and women, boys and girls, who are striving to be the best and healthiest versions of ourselves through running and fitness. We are forever occupied with growth, with exposing and developing what is latent with us. Each race is an enactment of a lifelong struggle for advancement and perfection.

I am not in the least surprised, therefore, to find similarities between a running community and a community that defines itself on the basis of the traditional creedal values of faith, hope, and love. Both runners and Christians have a lot in common. For one thing, we both ask silly questions. A Christian in a bookstore asks the salesperson: "I'm looking for a Bible for my mother but I'm not sure who the author is." A non-runner asks you, "How far is your next 5K race?" As you can see, both novice runners and novice Christians have a lot to learn! We are people who pursue excellence and who seek to be dedicated to something wholeheartedly and to give ourselves to some project without any reservations whatsoever. Our actions are always impelled by some good we want to attain. And to achieve our goals, we often have to endure suffering and pain. An athletic race is a place where we discover strength and faith and courage we never knew we possessed. We are runners. It doesn't matter how fast we run or or how far we run. It doesn't whether we are running in our very first race or have been running for fifty years. During a 5K race this past weekend I met an athletic-looking young man who was pushing his infant child in a stroller. We had finished the race at about the same time. I knew he could have run much faster had he not been pushing a baby carriage. He told me something I'll never forget. He said, "Sometimes having the best time at a race has nothing to do with how fast you ran." I will remember that until the day I die. I wish I could have given him "The World's Greatest Runner Award" that day.

Running metaphors occur all over the place in the New Testament. Think Heb. 12:1; Phil. 2:16; Gal. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:7; and 1 Cor. 9:24-26. Remember: this is a race we run together. It's no different in the running community. "Hey guys. I've got a hip labral tear. Anybody had any experience with this?" Or (in the church), "As a mom, I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to teach my children about truth and grace and God. Should I make my children read the Bible? What do you think?" The point is: We are there for each other.

At one time I was really struggling going uphill in 5K races. So I asked the winner of a race how I could improve. His simple answer caught me off guard. "You learn to run uphill by running uphill." Yet another reminder that "we're all in this together." Need more proof? Watch this.


So what will it be, church?

This?

Or this?

It's our choice.

Monday, January 2

5:44 AM I've got 15 signed up for my J-Term Greek course, plus a couple of audits. Kick off time is 8:00 am sharp. Of course, students could always use GTranslate instead. The main question is: What do we mean by "learn" Greek? The goal of this class is to read. Not speak. Not even think in the language. And not simply translate either. Our textbook even has the word "Read" in its title. All this to say the obvious: Education is always linked to outcomes. The main reason I studied Greek in college was that it was required. That it turned out to be fun -- plus the means of advancing a career -- was icing on the cake. (Thank you, Jesus.) Despite all the brouhaha-ing going on in Greek teachers' circles these days, there's no good reason NOT to study New Testament Greek, using whichever method you find most effective.

It's raining outside and that's a good thing because I've been running like a maniac these days and could use the time off.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 1

5:02 PM Hey there folks, and the bestest New Years to you ever. To be honest, this weekend's 10K wasn't all that different from the other races I've done. There's really not that much to distinguish it except that it was a twofer. On the first leg in Spotsylvania yesterday, there were a couple of hills but nothing dreadful. I was anxious about it being so cold, but it was far too late to worry about the weather. I felt I ran a good race and stayed within myself. After the event I decided to get something hardy to eat and hit up O'Charleys in Fredericksburg. I was smelly and a bit underdressed for such an upstanding restaurant but didn't care and the steak was great. Then I checked into my room at the Hampton Inn but didn't get to sleep until 3:30 because of all the partying going on in the rooms next door to mine. For the second go-around today, I was expecting it to be enjoyable and it was. My legs were tired and the course had a fair amount of elevation gain. With both races I was afraid I would poop out at the end, so both times I got off to very slow starts. It paid off nicely. There's a thing in racing called kills. That's when you pass someone who's going slower than you are. Every time you do that, you tally "one." Both yesterday and today I got several kills. On the other hand, a few guys passed me with ease at the finish line so I guess that evens things out. In short, though, this 10K rocked. It was well organized, nicely attended for it being New Years Day, and competitive (in a good sort of way). One thing I'm discovering about myself is that I'm not a runner. Yes, I enjoy running. But for me, it's merely a hobby. I don't rely on it to fuel my mood. Running is a big part of my life but so is cycling, climbing, walking, surfing, and working out. What I love about these activities is that they push me to be all that I can be as a person. They test my character, will-power, dedication, resilience, even my work ethic. In my humble opinion, life is far too short to live it vicariously. I love running because I'm energized, focused, driven, and motivated when I run. Plus there is almost always a good cause involved, which means that running is a good way to do something totally and utterly unselfish. I know we all lead very busy lives and that there are gobs of things making demands on our precious time, but those of us who are trying to care for our temples still choose to exercise despite the busyness of life. I've found myself sleeping better, less stressed out, and more positive. There's nothing quite like accomplishing something you thought you could never do. Really, you are never the same. Friend, I challenge you to do something hard this year. If you can, make it a team effort (husband with wife, parent with child, friend with friend). Get outdoors and exercise. It's going to be hard, but enjoy it. Just getting to the starting line is a huge accomplishment!

1) This was the start of yesterday's race. Check out the dude in the tank top. The man is pumped!

2) Today, as you can see, it was warmer and there was even some bright sunshine, which seemed to make all the difference in the way we raced.

3) Yesterday (brrrr).

4) Today (happy happy happy!).

5) The awards ceremony after today's race was phenomenal. This 14-year old beat my time by 14 minutes. As I said yesterday, life ain't fair. (I'll give you my race times below.)

6) To my shame I admit that before yesterday I had never visited this battlefield.

Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville -- a thousand times. But Spotsylvania wasn't even on my radar. Sure glad I stopped by.

7) Lots of history here, much of it tragic. Union General John Sedgwick died here during the Spotsylvania Campaign. When his troops began to duck in order to avoid being hit by Confederate sharpshooters, Sedgwick stood up and said, "Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Minutes later he was hit under the left eye and died.

8) It's impossible for me not to stop and get pictures of the architectural beauties you find while driving through Virginia. Here's one of them.

Okay, as promised, here are my stats from the races I did this weekend:

Race 1:

  • My chip time was 34:18.

  • My pace per mile was 11:01.

  • I placed 132 out of 220 male runners and 8 out of 11 in the men's 60-69 division.

Race 2:

  • My chip time was 32:47.

  • My pace per mile was 10:33.

  • I placed 52 out of 78 male runners and 5 out of 11 in the men's 60-69 division.

That's crazy. Today I beat my time from yesterday by a minute and a half and yet I was more tired today than I was yesterday and the course was hillier. I think the sunshine made a huge difference. Perhaps too, I'm reminded at the start of each New Year of the many reasons I try to do better than I think is possible. A New Year grants me (and you) a new start. There's no time for dilly-dallying. If we're going to improve, each day requires its own motivation. In the end, it matters little to me that I was 132rd and 52nd. Whether you are male or female., whether you are 14 or 41, whether you finish in the top 10 or the last 10, a race is a race is a race. New Years puts life and death in perspective. So does running a race or any other athletic activity. Some only think about life and ignore death. Others see life only as a preparation for death. In 2017, I'm going to try and steer a middle course.

Have a great New Year, running or otherwise!

Dave

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