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Saturday, July 21   

8:26 PM In a world full of bad news, I hope you'll watch this documentary on the Thai cave rescue. You will be glued to your computer.

Flooded caves. Monsoon season. Even professional divers wouldn't have dived in those circumstances. And yet these rescuers pulled 13 people out of the cave. It's a beautiful thing when people work together to accomplish a goal. Everyone had to work together to come up with a solution. The rescue required thousands of volunteers from many nations working together. Apart from the military personnel, every single person involved in the rescue was a volunteer. Nobody forced them to help but yet they were there, working their tails off. Even the Thai diver who lost his life was a volunteer. Well done to everyone involved. My admiration for you is beyond words. I prayed for your success. God worked a miracle but not without your bravery and sacrifice.

P.S. Australian documentaries rock!

3:18 PM Just did a bike and a swim. (I'll take my walk later this evening.) Afterwards I sat poolside and read, stumbling upon this great quote (Stott, The Living Church, p. 74):

We do a great disservice to the church whenever we refer to the pastorate as "the" ministry. For if we use the definite article, we give the impression that we think the pastorate is the only ministry there is. I repented of this decades ago, and invite any readers to join me in penitence today.

God calls all people to ministry. Period. Anybody need some sackcloth and ashes? You can borrow some of mine (if I have any left).

P.S. I am refining my race list for the rest of the year. Not overly aggressive but it does contain some biggies. So far it looks like this:

  • August 4 -- Bull Moon 5K (Durham, NC)

  • September 2 -- Virginia Beach Half Marathon

  • September 29 -- Virginia Ten Miler

  • October 6 -- High Bridge Trail Half Marathon

  • October 13 -- High Bridge Trail Ultramarathon (NEW EVENT)

  • October 28 -- Marine Corps Marathon (NEW EVENT)

  • November 10 -- Richmond Marathon

  • December 9 -- Honolulu Marathon (NEW EVENT)

Nothing makes me more alive than running. What are you most excited about this year?

10:08 AM Quote of the day (from a sermon I heard this morning):

God is outrageous in His generosity.

Let that sink in!

9:10 AM Okay, you can stop wondering why I didn't post last night after I finished getting up hay. We stopped work at 11:30 pm. Yes, I said ELEVEN THIRTY!! That's over 6 hours of getting up hay, folks. Don't you ever say I don't work hard. But it wasn't all blood, sweat, and tears. It was actually fun getting up hay in the dark. Plus, the temperature was perfect. (Oh my, did I just type "temperature"? For 66 years I had no idea that temperature had an "a" in it.) All that is about to change. We're back to our daily afternoon thunderstorm weather pattern so common here in the South during the summer months. I'm pretty sure I'll survive the hiatus from haying. Besides, I've got oodles of book reviews to complete. I just finished reading Bradley Arnold's doctoral thesis (Exeter University) called Christ as the Telos of Life. You would not (please note the "not") know this from its title, but the book is really a study of Philippians and how Paul develops the image of the runner pursuing the goal (telos) of living for Christ. This becomes "Paul's overarching argumentative aim in the letter" (p. 2). At this stage, I'm not convinced that the author has proven his point, especially because he seems to make more of Phil. 3:13-14 than Paul does. Now, of course, there's nothing I would love more than to be able to argue that Philippians is all about running! Goal setting (telosity?) is what the sport of running is all about. I've got to admit, however, that my own study of the discourse structure of Philippians constrains me to see unity for the sake of the Gospel as what Paul is really reaching for in this letter. Oh well. That won't be anything new to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time. So this weekend I'll be writing up my thoughts about this book and getting started on my next book review. I'm not sure how involved I'll be in the blogosphere in the next few days as I'm sorely tempted to make a jaunt up to Gettysburg to bike the battlefield, which is something I've wanted to do for a long time. However, it looks like they're going to have the same weather pattern we're in, and if I can't ride in the afternoons because of thunderstorms that will sort of nix that idea. We'll see. I wouldn't be able to leave until next Wednesday anyway because I'll be sitting in on a Ph.D. dissertation defense on Tuesday.

As for today, I'm going to take a break from running and enjoy a nice long walk out in nature before the rain comes. How 'bout you? Trust me, something happens to us when we begin to move. Our bodies release chemicals that can almost produce a high -- and it's all free and legal. This morning I was reading about a doctor in Houston who was shot and killed while riding his bike to work. In fact, the man was George H. W. Bush's cardiologist. Whenever I read about such tragedies I ask myself, "What's really important in your life, Dave?" It's so easy to get so inwardly focused that we have little time for other people. I so want to be a better giver/investor, especially in the lives of my kids and their families, who love their dad and Papa B and whose love and support I value and cherish. I often think of my puppy Sheba and how connected she wants to be with me. Her happiness is based on human connection (and marking her territory). Becky and I would often just sit on the porch together, not saying a word to each other but still connecting, if you know what I mean. I know she is no longer suffering but I selfishly want her back with me. Friends, let's not become too busy to be involved in the lives of those who are most important to us. Don't pressure yourself to "feel better" when you are sorrowing or feeling loss. Let yourself feel the heaviness. Then get outdoors and spend some time "in the Word." Allow the Holy One to invade you daily. This is where God has placed you. Thrive in it. May we, the broken, be the ones who don't give up on radical obedience to our Lord's commands. You belong to the family of God. You are loved. Now may we in turn love Jesus and the Father and the Spirit to whom He introduced us with all of our hearts. Maybe then, His love will spill out of our lives into the lives of others.

So there you have it. The most disjointed blog post you've ever read. Of course, I'm never guilty of over-sharing. Thank you for reading my words and for allowing me this platform to express my thoughts and feelings.

Peace be to you,

Dave

Friday, July 20   

8:55 AM I was looking for a September race to add to the Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sept. 2 and I think I found what I was looking for. It's the Genworth Virginia Ten Miler on Sept. 29. I ran this race the past two years. Last year alone saw 3,394 finishers. The venue is the great city of Lynchburg, VA. There's also a 4-mile run, a 4-mile walk, and a children's run. Thankfully the race has same-day packet pickup, which means that I can get up early and drive to Lynchburg without having to stay overnight the night before. The race is an out-and-back course with a 1.5-mile long climb to the finish line (for good reason they call Lynchburg the City of Hills). I recall the race being very challenging but also a lot of fun. Join me if you can. It's the perfect way to get in a long run before your next marathon. It's definitely a win-win situation. :-)

7:46 AM Hey guys. This morning I've been "in the Word." Both of them. I think God worked overtime on this morning's sunrise, don't you?

And then there was this passage in Heb. 13:1-2:

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't forget to welcome strangers into your homes and show them Christian love, for some did this and welcomed angels without even knowing it.

Two quick observations if I may:

First, I noticed the verbal aspect in the first command: "Keep on loving one another." I find it interesting that the author didn't rely on the tense of the verb to express his desire for continuous action. He used a verb that literally means "let it continue." Perhaps our Greek textbooks should reflect this way of "mitigating" imperfective aspect?

Second, I noticed the morphological connection between "love of brothers" and "love of strangers." This play on the phil-prefix is often missed in our English translations -- "brotherly love" versus "hospitality." Why should this be?

Finally, this morning I was reviewing my syllabus for the New Testament course I'm teaching this fall. This course is designed to cover Acts through Revelation. Its official title is "New Testament Introduction and Interpretation 2," but I've entitled it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." One of the books we'll be using in class is this one.

I wrote this short treatise because, despite the proliferation of books about the church in recent years, no one had (to the best of my knowledge) ever exegeted 11 brief verses in Acts 2 that seem to practically "list" the hallmarks of the nascent church in Jerusalem. The early church was an evangelistic church, reaching out to the world in witness. It was a committed church, pledging allegiance to Christ alone in the waters of baptism. It was a learning church, devoted to the teachings of the apostles. It was a caring church, eager to share life together with one another (koinonia). It was a Christ-centered church, elevating His supper to a place of continued prominence. It was a praying church, asking God to help keep it pure and to give it bigger challenges to expand its territory. And it was a sacrificing church, generously caring for their poor brothers and sisters.

Today we read a great deal about "unhooked Christians," Christians who've dropped out of the church. The reason they had done this was their disappointment and disillusionment with the local church. These churches seemed to lack a heart of witness, unquestioned loyalty to Jesus, devotion to biblical truth, genuine fellowship, Christ-centeredness, a keen sense of dependence upon God, and a sacrificial spirit, which is always a test of the sincerity of one's love for Christ. With apologies to MLK, I have a dream of a church that is a truly biblical church, whose people love the Word of God and adorn it with loyalty and obedience. Such is my dream for the church. May it be one that all of us can share in our NT class this semester!

Thursday, July 19   

7:22 PM I know you've been holding your breath wondering if I got in my 20 mile run today. Well, I'm happy to say that I didn't. I got in a 20.78 mile run instead.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm sore. And yes, I walked quite a bit toward the end. But finish I did, and this ambassador of slow runners is pretty pleased about it too. One of the great rewards of running is being "in the Word" while out on the course. You say, "What do mean, Dave? Were you listening to Scripture on your iPhone while running? Were you listening to sermons on your iPod while running? Were you meditating on Bible verses while running?" The answer is, "None of the above." You see, my friends, there are two ways of understanding the expression "in the Word." Let me explain.

For millennia, Christian theologians have spoken about two types of divine revelation -- two "Words" from God, if you will. The first is the Word of nature. And the second is the Word of Scripture. Nature reveals the glory of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above displays His handiwork" (Psa. 19:1). Scripture, on the other, reveals God's grace, in particular His offer of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. "As it is written, the just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17). Thus God has provided us with two books: the book of His works, which we call nature, and the book of His words, which we call Scripture. This means that science and theology are closely related. Science seeks to understand what God has revealed in nature. Theology seeks to understand what God has revealed in Scripture. In both of them, as Johann Kempler said, we are thinking God's thoughts after Him. This is why the Bible and nature should go together. We need both theology and science. In fact, when I studied in Basel, theology was (and still is) considered the "Queen of the Sciences." Theology is taught as a Wissenschaft, a science, because in both science and theology we are thinking God's thoughts after Him.

Through nature, God speaks to us, teaches us, and provides for us. Nature, of course, can't teach us everything about God. But something inside of us comes alive when we're surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of God's creation. Nature reflects God's glory, power, creativity, sovereignty, awe, wonder, and provision. If God takes care of birds and bugs and plants and flowers, surely He will take care of me. God has taught me so much about Himself through my walking and running and climbing and cycling through nature. I've always loved God's creation, but it seems that I am enjoying it more these days since Becky's home-going. There are so many spiritual analogies to be derived through the study of nature.

Do you ever read God's "Word" in nature? I dare say, there's a great need for more Christians to be involved in this Word. It can start with something as simple as a walk in the park or a visit to the local zoo or starting a garden. This was my view today as I listened to the sounds of nature and communed with my Creator for 5 plus hours.

I can say this: You don't need a church pew to experience God. Today I heard creation singing and saw the trees clapping their hands and I wanted to join in and accompany them. God surrounds us 24 hours a day with evidence of His love and glory. It's a shame that we are often too busy to notice. Open your eyes, my friend. He's right there.

Well, there you have it. My sermon for the day. My goal now is to stay healthy and continue my training for my 10th marathon and my first ultra in October. Believe me, I realize I have a long ways to go. An ultra is no joke. Neither is a hilly marathon. Suffice it to say, I'll keep on running as long God gives me strength. Somehow, He always does. One of the best things about running is you know there's always an adventure around the next corner. If you lack excitement in your life, dear reader, you ought to try running. The pain involved is a small price to pay to read this "Word."

Blessings,

Dave

7:55 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another training update as I prepare for my big races in October. But first, a look back. 2018 has already been a great year in terms of my races and overall health. As you know, I'm very slow and a bit on the older side for a runner, but God has given me a strong set of legs and an undaunted spirit, and these are blessings I try not to take for granted, ever. So far I've run 16 races in 2018:

Allen (TX) Marathon

Run for Young 5K (Raleigh)

Birmingham (AL) Half Marathon

Carolina Fever 5K (Chapel Hill)

DC 10 Miler

Tobacco Road Marathon (Raleigh)

Ella's Race 5K (Raleigh)

Durham Park Run 5K (Durham)

Garland (TX) 5K

Petersburg Half Marathon

Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati)

Marine Corps Half Marathon (Fredericksburg)

Race 13.1 Half Marathon (Raleigh)

Smile Train Triathlon (Wake Forest)

Liberty on the Lake 10K (The Colony, TX)

Rex Wellness Triathlon (Garner)

Today I hope to get in a long run (maybe 20 miles?). I can't wait. I'll share it with you if and when I get 'er done. What inspiring things have you accomplished in 2018? What setbacks have you had to overcome to reach your goals? I hope everyone has the best of days today pursuing God's will for your life. I've been spending a lot of time with the Lord lately. My heart feels renewed at this point in the year. Perhaps His greatest gift to me has been clarity -- clarity about my single status, clarity about my future goals (professional and personal), clarity about relationships. I'm learning to downsize: This matters, this doesn't. I'm thankful for all the contemplatives who've stirred me this year: John Stott, James Packer, Jacque Ellul, Craig Koester, James Boice (who attended Basel just before me), and many others. I have happy memories of yesterday and an anticipation of the next day. In only 4 weeks, classes begin. What a privilege to begin my 42nd year of teaching. So believe me, life is good even though I complain so often about this or that. I love, love, love the farm and every rustic outbuilding. I have no clue where I'd be emotionally had it not been for this country oasis. As the sun sets every evening and I prepare dinner, I love reflecting on the many times Becky and I would sit on the porch together competing for space to tell each other how good God is. I mean, really? This is my life? Oh Lord, use me to be a blessing to others today. Allow me to lean into Christlike simplicity and generosity. Help my kids and grandkids, especially, to see in their dad and Papa B a man fighting back against materialism and overindulgence, a man who's determined to address his failings and follow his Master in simple obedience, a man willing to align himself with the humble ministry of Jesus.

Do this for Your glory, Lord.

Wednesday, July 18   

6:44 PM Today I got in a workout, a bike, and a swim. Trifecta! Before that, the grandkids came over to pick blueberries.

They are soooo sweet!

One of them has begun piano lessons and treated me to a concert.

Here's some of today's loot.

Right now it's time for me to cook dinner. Tomorrow I want to get back into running. Hopefully my 66-year old body can handle a 20 mile run. If you're one of those people who can achieve their goals effortlessly, more power to you. Seems I have to work like the dickens to get anything done. That's why the sport of running is so amazing. Nothing worth accomplishing ever comes easily.

What's your next challenge?

1:10 PM Hello again, virtual friends. I'm so loving writing my book Godworld. I'm far from being finished, but the driving concern behind the book remains my desire to embrace the kingdom and to do so better than I have in the past. I think some Christian denominations get this profoundly wrong. To take but one example. In some denominations, missions is a most unfashionable concept. (See last Sunday's post.) C. S. Lewis reminded us in The Screwtape Letters that Satan blinds our minds by persuading us that the Gospel is false or too exclusive or unnecessary. The god of this world is utterly opposed to the personal Gospel and will hinder it at every turn. However, we can't forget that Paul was a traveling evangelist. For him, people are either saved or lost, redeemed or not redeemed, in Christ or not in Christ, on the broad way or on the narrow way. There is no excluded middle. Paul knew he was commanded by God "to open [people's] eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God." This can't be put any more clearly. Evangelism was foundational to all Paul did as an apostle.

Do we academics have anything like Paul's concern to reach lost people with the Good News? If not, there is something terribly amiss. I must not remain content with what I have gained in Christ. Others need Him too. The Lamb of God shed His precious blood to set captives free. Paul therefore sees the cross of Christ as foundational to Christianity. It is the centerpiece of the Gospel, and Paul for one is not going to neglect to proclaim it.

When I left the U.S. to study for my doctorate at the University of Basel in 1980, people warned me that I would lose my faith. A European university is a very intellectual place and values the mind very highly. If the Gospel is folly in the world's eyes, it is also folly to many academics. But the fact is: We cannot reach God through our minds alone. In other words, it takes Scripture to reveal God, and that is exactly what God has done. The unaided intellect finds it impossible to believe the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). Unfettered reason rejects revelation. "Why do I need a Savior? Why do I need grace?" The paradox for me, however, was that when I got to Basel, I found that not a few of the academics I met there were genuine believers. They weren't so bewitched by their own brilliance that they didn't need Jesus. In Basel, I discovered that it is not a choice between faith and reason. The choice we face is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason. The true place of the intellect in the life of the believer is not only to immerse itself in active scholarship but to concentrate on the revelation of God (1 Cor. 2:9-10) and to be transformed into the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

As a teacher of the New Testament, I have a responsibility to develop the mind of Christ in the students I serve. He is the goal of all knowledge. I was reminded of this when, in 1978, I arrived in Seeheim, Germany, as a summer missionary at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse. A sign mounted on the school's gate read, "In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is this truth that allows us to look at the whole of life with intellectual integrity.

If our churches are to be an effective and true manifestation of Christ's life, they will need to work and pray as never before for steadfast growth in love and truth. We who have pledged our lives to following Christ are to do one thing: love Him with everything we've got, including our minds. We're not called to sacrifice our intellects. But we're not called to elevate them above Scripture either.

Blessings on y'all!

Dave

8:34 AM Here's a question for all of you verbal aspect guys out there. How would you render the present tense (imperfective aspect) of the imperative in Heb. 13:18a?

Pray for us.

Or:

Keep on praying for us.

8:22 AM "Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God" (Heb. 13:16).

Tuesday, July 17   

8:52 PM Spending a lot of time driving, as I do, can lead to thinking some novel thoughts. Three of them came to mind today:

1) Why couldn't we do what apparently the earliest churches in Acts did and observe a weekly fellowship dinner (Acts 20:7)? I know of only a handful of churches that do this regularly. But think about this: For the single Christian, this may well be the only dinner in the week they don't eat alone. The early church was a family. Paul talked about his brothers and sisters. He could refer to himself as a nursing mother or an encouraging father. For Jesus, family life lived out on the spiritual level was just as important, if not more important, than family life lived out merely because of blood lines. Loneliness is one of the burdens an unmarried, divorced, or widowed person bears. It's part of the charisma of singleness we talked about earlier today. My oh my, how it could be alleviated when the body of Christ makes much of family meals! Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about this and he lavished praise on the widows in his congregation who help to prepare food for their church-wide dinners every Wednesday evening. Not only does this get them out of the house, it gives them an opportunity to serve others. What a gift.

2) Why couldn't we have our people pray before we preach to them? I don't mean simply bow their heads as we lead them in a brief prayer. Latin American churches, I am told, have something called orando la palabra. Before the speaker begins to exposit a passage of Scripture, the people are invited to turn to that text and meditate on it prayerfully for as long as 15-20 minutes in hushed silence. We can do no better than to ask, each of us, for God to speak truth into our lives as we first read then hear the word of God taught. Do we have anything like this in our churches in North America? I'm not aware of any such practice. I need others in the body of Christ, including those who teach formally on Sundays, just as they need me. But I also need to humbly approach the word of God myself to ask the Holy Spirit to give me discernment, knowledge, and wisdom (1 John 2:27).

3) Why don't we have a service of celebration for single followers of Jesus ("eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom") like we do for Christian couples who are getting married? Marriage, of course, is a wonderful picture of Christ and His bride, the church. Hence we solemnize it by taking vows and making promises and even asking the congregation to formally vow to love, support, and pray for the newlyweds. Is it too much to envision a church service in which persons who know themselves to be called by God (as was John Stott) to a life of singleness and celibacy affirm their calling publicly, vowing to gladly accept the yoke of loneliness and sexual non-fulfillment even as the congregation vows publicly to love, support, and pray for them? Such a service, I should think, would not only speak eloquently and clearly of the Gospel, it would be a goad in the service of that Gospel. (Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about elevating the unmarried state as if it were holier than the married state, as some of the monks did. I'm only talking about the people Jesus described in Matt. 19:12 as those who were willing to forego marriage for the kingdom's sake. See Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:23.)

You say, this simply cannot be done. But I know of no good Scriptural reasons why not. These are humbling reflections. I am far too prone to see "doing church" as something static and never-changing. Alas, it may be far more flexible than that. If you're thinking, "Dave's gone off the deep end (again)," I applaud you for your skepticism. In the end, what I say or think doesn't matter. I don't want to base my life on anything I think. The Bible is true. That's what matters. Read it. Meditate on it. Obey it. I promise I'll try and do the same.

6:46 PM Photo update:

1) Picked up these books from my office today.

I'll be reviewing them for Filologia Neotestamentaria.

2) Stopped by to see my friends at the Awazé in Cary today for lunch on my way to UNC.

Doro wat never tasted better.

3) At UNC, I met with Dr. Vickie Bae-Jump and her team to get an update on their research into the causes and potential cures for endometrial cancer -- the form of cancer that took the life of my then-60-year-old wife four and a half years ago.

Afterwards Dr. Bae-Jump was kind enough to send me this summary of how the Becky Black Memorial Fund to Fight Endometrial Cancer is being used:

Please, don't miss the connection between weight and endometrial cancer. This is yet another good reason to exercise, folks.

I'm going to bed tonight grateful for good health, a blessing so taken for granted it barely registers. May my good health continue to drive me to help others who are less fortunate. Greater yet, may God bless the work of researchers like Bae-Jump who devote their entire lives and careers to doing what they can to relieve the awful scourge of cancer. 

So it's been a good day for me, and I hope for you. Just simply communing with the Lord. Spending time together, Him and me. "Life together" is what Bonhoeffer once called it. Contributing to cancer research satisfies the deeper part of me that so desires a better, healthier, safer world. I know that the only ultimate solution to sin and death is the Savior. But, in small ways at least, maybe we can do something to help alleviate the temporal suffering of others. It was my own experience of loss and grief that gave me a different perspective on what it really means to live Christianly. Once we see ourselves as people who need God's mercy and grace, we will be more likely to extend that mercy and grace to others.

In a world where suffering and death seem to win out in the end, Easter reminds us that Jesus has conquered death and that one day, for all those who have placed their trust in Him, all of our tears and pain and sorrow will be swallowed up by inextinguishable joy. Until then, let us overcome evil by doing good.

7:58 AM Good morning, Blogworld! Do you have Amazon Prime? Don't you just love it? It allows you to use free shipping to justify buying all the books you want. Yesterday I ordered 7 books by John Stott. John WHO? John Stott was only one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the past three quarters of a century.

I love his books. For one, his prolific writing keeps me humble. For another, he always hid his considerable scholarship behind an amicable smile. Reading his books makes you feel like you're having coffee with your best friend. Finally, every time I finish one of his tomes I'm left with a renewed love for life, people, and especially Jesus. Let's face it. I'm very protective of my time. And let me tell you: John's writings float my boat. You get sucked in from the very first sentence. Here are some things that made the life of John Stott so worth emulating. (This isn't my list; you can find it here: Six Lessons from the Life of John Stott.)

1) Conviction.

2) Focus.

3) Holistic Gospel.

4) Dialogue.

5) Fulfilled Singleness.

6) Humility.

To flesh this out a bit: John Stott ordered his life by the Word of God. He didn't dabble in a million things. "This one thing I do" could have been written by him instead of by Paul. He somehow believed that the personal Gospel and a social conscience belonged together. He listened to others, even when he disagreed with them. He chose singleness because he felt he could better serve Jesus that way. He lived a simple, humble life.

Alright, Davey old boy. How do you measure up? Long exhale. It's horrifying to confront my own materialism, to take just one example. Here's another: When I think about how many times I've complained to the Lord about being single, my heart breaks. John Stott represents, in so many ways, the kind of kingdom man I want to be and the kind of kingdom students I want to raise up. Maybe it's time we reframed the way we think about these six areas. For instance, our culture stresses that a good marriage takes a lot of hard work. And it does. Well, guess what? A good single life also takes a lot of hard work. Paul was unmarried and wanted everyone to be just like him (1 Cor. 7:7). That is a lovely attitude. There was not a hint of unfulfillment in the lives of Paul or Jesus for that matter. I consider it a great honor and privilege to hear from so many of you who have recently become widowers. Our soul is sorrowful, yet every morning we wake up joyful and eager to see what the Lord has in store for us. We are broken and yet whole. We've come to realize, as did John Stott, that both marriage and singleness are a charisma, a special gracious gift from the Lord (1 Cor. 7:7).

I could go on and on but I think you get a taste of Stott's medicine. The works of John Stott are like breaths of fresh air. You won't agree with everything he says, of course. However, you will hardly be able to find another author who will challenge you to fight for scandalous love like he does. Read his books for yourself and see what speaks to you.

P.S. Over at the All Souls, Langham Place website there's a wonderful sermon called What do singles teach us about the gospel?  Apparently, "much in every way"!

Monday, July 16   

8:28 PM Tetelestai! It is finished! Haying, that is. As we were picking up bales, the Lord protected us from the storm clouds that seemed to hover all around us.

I can't tell you how often that's happened. What a blessing. Thank you, Creator Father!

Earlier today I worked out at the gym and then biked 5 miles. When I got home I was exhausted. Seems I had been pushing too hard and resting too little. Without rest, our bodies weaken due to lack of recovery time. So they require rest to adapt and grow stronger. Rob your body of rest, and eventually you'll burn out. So I took a long nap this afternoon.

Usually I find it hard to take a break. I always seem to run on all 8 cylinders. Not today. I slumped over into bed and kissed the world goodbye. When I woke up I was completely restored and eager to get back out into the hot and humid day to get my work done. Like salt, rest adds flavor to your workout program. I sure needed a good rest today. A little nap time never hurt anybody!

7:40 AM Hey guys. I thought I'd give you another brief training update. I remain super motivated about my big races coming up in October. By God's grace, I've been able to keep up a fairly consistent pace in my weekly/monthly training schedule.

And my new shoes will go a long way toward making my workouts even more effective. There's no way I can praise the New Balance 1080s enough. I get them in my usual Neanderthal size of 13 double wide.

They feel great just putting them on and even better when running in them. It's a really nice-performing and good-looking shoe, I think. The guy at the shoe store yesterday told me he's going to do his first sprint triathlon and was asking me all kinds of questions about the event. Imagine that. People asking me for advice. Nothing is so much fun as trying a new sport with a fresh attitude. I've found that participating in tris takes the definition of fitness to a whole new level, and running takes on a whole new character. I told him to be cool, not to freak out over the strangeness of it all, and to be happy with just finishing. Since our body is what's propelling us over these distances, it's important that we take care of it. Make sure your running shoes are of the highest quality. Change your diet if you need to in order to ensure that you're getting the appropriate nutrients for running. Pamper yourself by getting an occasional massage. And be sure to get plenty of rest. For example, today I plan a gym workout and a 5-mile bike -- nothing more -- because I have a few hundred bales to get up this afternoon. Sure, I'd like to put in a 10 mile run today, but there are times when even the most devoted warrior must sit out the battle. Know thyself. It's not a sign of courage to push yourself through injury or pain or fatigue. Like anything else, running can become a self-destructive addiction. Make no mistake -- I'm not immune!

Speaking of our bodies, last night and this morning me and the Lord were discussing Paul's teaching about the body, marriage, singleness, and worldly possessions in 1 Cor. 7:29-31. And guess what? I saw something I had never seen before. Here's the Greek:

I suppose we could translate this as follows:

What I'm talking about, my dear brothers and sisters, is this: the time has been shortened. Therefore people who are married should live as though they're not, those who weep as though they weren't sad, those who laugh as though weren't happy, those who buy as though they didn't own anything, and those who use the world's goods as though they didn't cling tenaciously to them. For this world, as we know it, will not last much longer.

Wow. Did you see it? The marvelous play on words? Paul says that those who use (crasthai) this world shouldn't cling tenaciously (katachrasthai) to it. In other words, as we go about our daily lives, we have to constantly be dealing with material things -- today I'm having the tire alignment checked on my Odyssey -- but we are not to be fully occupied with such "things." Take my singleness as an example. Paul says that if you're called by God to singleness and celibacy (as I am currently), be useful to the Lord! If you're married, be useful to the Lord! Do I have the right to remarry? Technically yes, but practically no -- unless I have first honestly dealt with the question of the impact marriage might have on my usefulness to the Lord. Either way, the appointed time for the Lord's return is near. "There's not much time left." Which means: even as I go about my daily business of working for a living and getting up hay and caring for my properties and possessions, I can't cling tenaciously to any of them. I am simply a pilgrim and stranger on this old earth. And whether or not I am single or married, I must make it my chief "business" to give my undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:35). For most American evangelicals, this will begin with a radical deconstruction of the American Dream. God doesn't pull any punches here. We gain our life by losing it. But there is something sooooo liberating when we unhook from consumerism and at least try to find a path through the me-first culture that surrounds us. Chrasthai, friends. But beware katachrasthai!

Make it a great day!

Dave

Sunday, July 15   

9:10 PM This morning I attended what some would consider to be the most visible (and perhaps largest) church of a certain mainline denomination in North Carolina. My goal was to get a perspective on how this particular denomination views the kingdom. It's all part of a book I'm writing called Godworld. I've attended this church about three times in the past and the sermons all sound pretty much the same. One hears a lot of about human rights, social justice, immigration reform, the evils of mass incarceration and centralized wealth, and the dehumanization of the poor. Today the word "cross" was mentioned, but it was defined as "the struggle to fix a broken world."

I've become used to such language from the pulpits of both conservative and non-conservative churches. Today many Christians think there must be a "Christian" solution to political problems. They are often quick to make judgments based on their views -- whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat -- of how society "should" work. They cherish the hope that all can be resolved if only their approach to social justice is adopted. I think these people forget that there can be no accord between the world and the kingdom, between the values of society and those of divine revelation. As Christians, we are indeed invited to take part in a dialectic with the world, but in my opinion it is a very grave mistake to climb on the bandwagon of political parties or doctrines. The Gospel can't be reduced to social responsibility and political action. Such a reductionist approach invariably accelerates divisions within the church, and the reason is obvious: Christ had no political axe to grind. Never have there been so many Christian consults on world hunger, the problem of war, race, poverty, etc., but despite the significant increase in knowledge there is less and less active obedience. Jesus cares deeply about social injustice and poverty, about immigrants and their families, but His followers engage these issues in unique kingdom ways. What is uniquely Christian about supporting amnesty on the one hand or deportation on the other? Following Jesus doesn't necessarily give us any insights into the means of "fixing" society through political avenues. The far more difficult task of imitating Jesus remains. What have I, as a Jesus follower, personally done to alleviate poverty or human suffering? When the Yazidis fled to Sinjar Mountain while being pursued by ISIS, did I give anything to help in their relief? When I heard that Nina Pham was infected with Ebola and was asking for financial aid, did I assist her? When a tornado swept through my community three years ago, did I get out my chain saw? Each party has its mantra. Republicans "don't care about the poor." Democrats "don't care about the law." Each demonizes the other. Why should the church get involved in any of this mess? It's a grave mistake, in my view, to confuse Christianity with socialism or capitalism. Christian love is addressed to the "neighbor"; it is an inter-individual matter. Our protest against "injustice" rings hollow because we have failed on a personal level to love our neighbor. The Anabaptists of the sixteenth century knew all about the hypocrisy of church-state politics. They argued that the Christian's actions must be specifically Christian, that Christians must never identify themselves with this or that political or economic movement. Instead, Christians are to inject into social movements what Christ alone can provide. That view is worth considering again today.

Friends, let's apply the two great commandments absolutely. Let's act on them without weakening their power by acting like the world. As Christians, we are called to weave into the fabric of our daily lives the revolutionary teachings of Jesus. I don't mean "revolutionary" in the sense that Jesus was a Zealot or an advocate of state power. (Oscar Cullmann disposed of this nonsense in his book God and Caesar many years ago). My point is this: When Christians preach the saving power of the state, they only contribute to the evil of our time. Let's not forget that what people really need is not a few more political advantages, but something that Christ alone offers: forgiveness of sin and newness of life. Christians will be Christians to the degree that they suffer with those who suffer, and if they seek out, along with those sufferers, the one and only way of salvation.

When I got back home today, I wrote the following prayer in my journal.

Holy One, I come to You today with gratitude in my heart for the opportunity to wrestle anew with the Gospel, to pursue truth with academic rigor, with a relentless focus on intellectual engagement instead of of spiritual superficiality, with a zeal directed by knowledge, with a firm "No" to "Mindless Christianity." In an age of anti-intellectualism, I struggle, dear God, with Your call to stand for truth, for unity, for the Gospel Commission. I struggle with Your holy call to be a true "disciple" ("under discipline") of Jesus, to follow His teaching, to respond biblically to pluralism, racism, materialism, relativism, narcissism, and injustice. I struggle with how to imitate Christ, to be incarnational like He was, a servant, patient in endurance, like Him in mission. I struggle to demonstrate the distinctiveness of Jesus to the world, with how to display His nonconformity in a world with upside down values -- in short, how to become, every step of the way, a radical disciple. Yet despite my struggles, dear Savior, I know You are with me, possibly more so than ever before, and that You are good, and that You created an extraordinary world, and that Your salvation is both personal and social. Even the most bittersweet season of my life still sparkles with beauty because of Your mercy and grace. This is what I want to do: Tell Your story -- the sacred, transforming story of what You alone can do in the human heart. May I emerge from the pain of the past new and transformed, beautiful after the brokenness, so that I might live out Your Gospel Commission by giving generously, serving without recognition, putting others' needs above my own, and sharing with all the life-giving message of the Gospel.

In the name of Jesus the Christ I pray, Amen.

8:20 AM Some will perhaps recall that I'm writing a book called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. It's about the kingdom of the God in the New Testament. One chapter will deal with how God's kingdom finds expression through various Christian denominations. I sense there's a movement afoot in evangelicalism, a holy rumbling. I've seen a lot -- rural churches in Africa, underground churches in many parts of the world, churches held in living rooms, churches called cathedrals. I want to discover how these expressions of Godworld seek to set up outposts of the kingdom in the teeth of the enemy. I want to wrap up this chapter soon, but there are several churches I still need to visit. I'll visit one of them today in North Carolina. Afterwards, I'll "force myself" to have Ethiopian food in Durham. Then I need to stop by New Balance in Raleigh to pick up my new running shoes and visit The Bike Guy in Wake Forest to have a fit assessment. I've begun to develop tingly fingers in my left hand when I ride due to strain my ulnar nerve.

I suspect that my problem stems from my riding position and weight distribution on my bike. Hallelujah. I've got The Bike Guy to check it out for me.

Wherever you attend today, may God meet you there.

Saturday, July 14   

8:58 PM "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22).

"The earth has yielded its produce. God, our God, blesses us" (Psa. 67:6).

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Isa. 40:29).

2:06 PM Today I worked on the yards and am happy to announce that I am done! I finally finished pruning the orchards and completing various other landscaping projects around the farm.

I love the "new" look at Bradford Hall.

Now if I can only keep it looking so nice.

Earlier today my new mower arrived.

I introduced myself to the workers, who hail from Mexico. I gave them some Gatorade and we reminisced about their wonderful country (I've been blessed to have made 3 trips to Mexico). They even let me try out my super awful Spanish on them.

After that, it was off to South Boston to bike 5 miles, get some nail clippers and bug spray at Wal-Mart, and go to the post office and bank. Arriving back on the farm, I wormed the goats and donks, filled their waters, and then broke in my new mower. I remember the first time I climbed into the seat of a ride mower. That was 20 years ago when we moved from SoCal to the tobacco fields of Granville Country, NC. At the time I had a John Deere. On mowing day, I'd cut about 5 acres. Here I was, thinking about nothing and about everything, totally cut off from the world, the vinyl seat burning the back of my thighs -- and loving every second of it. Things haven't changed since then. Even if I have other work to so, my lawns will get mowed, and the place will look new again. Do you enjoy mowing the lawn, or has it become just another a chore? One of my grandsons has just starting mowing their yard. That's what I call coming of age. I think we can take it as a general principle of life that hard work is necessary for personal happiness. At my age, I've found three things to be necessary: discovering what are the things most desirable in life, dismissing other objects of desire as unattainable, and becoming less preoccupied with self.

And mowing?

I hope I can mow forever.

6:55 AM Will Varner has posted an excellent comment on James 3:17 at the Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page.

This is a good reminder that the New Testament in Greek was intended to be heard and not merely read. I strongly suspect that the Holy Spirit is responsible for more than just the words of Scripture. The rhetorical level of language can be chalked up to Him as well. James has a brilliant way of getting his message across. He must have been a fascinating person to listen to.

Have you engaged the text in this way yet? If not, jump on in. The water's fine. I still haven't decided how I would translate this verse to bring out its use of alliteration, assonance, etc. I'll just make a few preliminary comments and leave things there:

1) Clearly, "pure" is set off as the first and foremost virtue in James' list.

2) Despite the alliteration that follows based on the Greek letter epsilon, only 3 of these 6 alliterated words belong together in any significant way: "peaceful," "gentle," and "friendly." (Will says there are 6 consecutive words beginning with epsilon in this verse, but there are really only 5. The last word is preceded by mestes.)

3) The next 3 alliterated words begin with the Greek letter alpha so in one sense they belong together. But notice that the last 2 words use the alpha-privative, meaning something like "not" in Greek. So I wouldn't press the alliteration here. "Good works" seems to be differentiated from "un-prejudiced" and "un-hypocritical."

This is awesome stuff. But how to bring this out in translation? Let's try this:

But the wisdom that is from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of good deeds and compassion; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Like it? If you do, I can't take credit for it. It's the way the translators of the Good News Bible rendered the verse. One possible improvement would be to alliterate in English the Greek behind "peaceful, gentle, and friendly." How about "composed, congenial, and considerate"? Okay, that's pretty lame. Maybe we should all just learn Greek instead!

Friday, July 13   

6:50 PM Hello, fellow bloggerites. I'd like to share with you two things I'm doing this evening.

1) I'm baking muffins. Since I had forgotten the recipe, I got out Becky's Betty Crocker Cookbook and found what I was looking for on p. 421 under the entry "Muffins."

2) I'm reading through Craig Koester's Hebrews commentary again and noticing how he is constantly referring back to the discourse structure of the entire book whenever he examines a particular verse.

You might be thinking, "What in the world do those two activities have to do with each other?" Much in every way, to quote one of my favorite authors.

We can read a book of the New Testament in one of two ways. We can read it like we read a cookbook, or we can read it like a novel. These are vastly different approaches. A cookbook is simply a repository of facts. It doesn't really matter where in the cookbook you find your recipe. The page number is irrelevant. You just need to know how to bake muffins. But when you read a novel, the opposite is true. As the story progresses, the entire plot shifts. Only as the story unfolds can we truly understand the significance of the novel's characters and plot line. It's important for us to realize that reading a book like Hebrews is a lot like reading a novel. As the argument develops, we learn more and more about the overarching theme of the novel. Nor can we simply go to the ending and read the last chapter. There is no "surprise" ending to a novel unless we've done our due diligence and read the entire book. Koester shows how Hebrews is a very carefully argued homily in which all the parts fit the whole in a way that supports the center. At the same time, this concentric structuring is balanced by a more linear argument that moves toward the goal expressed in the final chapters of how to "please" God by offering Him our service and sacrifice. This is a far cry from simply memorizing verses out of their context. In New Testament Philology, a book edited by Mel Winstead, my good friend Radu Gheorghita offers a chapter called "Scripture Memorization and Theological Education." He writes (p. 176): "The following considerations are intended as an apologia for reconsidering Scripture memorization as an indispensable part of the instrumentarium of the theologian, the biblicist and systematician alike, especially during the years of their theological formation." As the essay notes, Radu himself has memorized large portions of the New Testament in Greek, including the book of Hebrews. "The primary cognitive benefit of memorization," he writes (p. 179)

is a mastery and a profound grasp of the biblical text in its canonical form. Issues such as vocabulary and style of the author, themes dominating the overall message of the book, the atmosphere of the writing, theological nuances, the structure of the book and the intricacies of the argument, and many other aspects are depicted by book memorization with more ease and precision than by other explanatory tools.

What this means is that for us to truly understand a book like Hebrews, we have to read it from beginning to end and study it that way too.

Thank you, Radu, for this important reminder.

And thank you, Betty Crocker, for the muffin recipe.

4:12 PM Wow. Wow! WOW. WOW!!!! My 2-day mini-vacation was off the charts. Just the Lord and me -- walking together, biking together, hiking together, talking together (seems I did most of the talking), and just -- what word am I looking for here? -- communing together. Here's a teaser. They say it's the most beautiful waterfall along the Appalachian Trail. I can believe it.

 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yesterday I drove almost 5 hours to Damascus, VA to grab a shuttle to take my bike and me to the end of the Virginia Creeper Trail in White Top. The Appalachian and 6 other trails intersect this quaint town. Our van driver told us that Damascus was once a booming textile town but is staying above water today mostly because of the bicycle rental/shuttle businesses (I counted 8 of them).

It took us about 30 minutes to arrive at the trail head.

This building is actually a replica of the original station that stood atop the highest point of the railroad until it was abandoned in 1977.

Here's a pretty good view of what the Creeper looks like. Every half mile or so you cross one of these wooden trestle bridges.

Occasionally, however, you break out into the open, where a huge meadow awaits you.

About 11 miles into your ride, you're plenty hungry. Of course, the tourism industry doesn't miss a beat.

I enjoyed a foot-long hot dog, "all the way" as we say in North Carolina. Sure hit the spot. After completing my 17-mile ride, I drove to my Airbnb in Buchanan.

The guest room at the Mount Joy Manor has a queen size bed plus a jacuzzi tub and tiled shower. Awesome.

Phil and Lori were the perfect hosts, even volunteering to cook breakfast for me even though that wasn't included in our rental agreement. Thank you!

After eating, I made my way via the Peaks of Otter to the trail head for Apple Orchard Falls. Here's Sharp Top, which I've climbed 3 or 4 times (I can't recall exactly).

I enjoyed the views (and a cup of coffee) at the Peaks of Otter Lodge before heading back out on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You begin your hike at milepost 28. The Apple Orchard Trail is a down-and-back hike for a total of about 2.8 miles, according to my Garmin.

This sign says otherwise. But I think my watch is correct.

The trail moves in a northerly direction, where it crosses the Appalachian Trail at about 0.2 miles.

One mile into your hike you pass a gigantic overhanging rock. At this point, you begin a fairly steep descent to the falls. Stairs are added for safety.

All of a sudden you are treated to a view of the 200-foot high waterfall. Isn't this place gorgeous?

You're looking at one happy (and sweaty) hiker.

I had no idea the waterfall would be so breathtaking. Of course, what goes down must go up.

If you ever needed a good cardio workout, I think I've found the right place for you. I've discovered so much about my body through exercise. When you're climbing up a mountain, you call on all your reserves. You're operating at full throttle. The climb, therefore, becomes a good litmus test for your overall fitness. That's why hiking is an ever-changing learning experience. You learn something new about yourself every time you climb. And when you push to the limit, you become the phoenix, born all over again.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I hope my report today was an encouragement and maybe even an inspiration to put those hiking shoes on again. If someone my age who is as un-athletic as it gets can get out there and conquer a mountain, you must now believe you can too. My little mini-vacation was such a great, simple reminder to stop the pity party and get something done. It's when I'm actually pushing myself that I can look myself in the eye with respect.

Climb on,

Dave

Wednesday, July 11   

10:16 PM This evening Sheba and I were sitting on the front porch watching the storms going through the area, casting a feeling of foreboding over the countryside. My mind went to a decision I recently made that I have since come to regret. It wasn't a life or death matter, or even a right versus wrong matter. It was simply a choice I made, made too hastily and without sufficient forethought. The regrets have since piled up in my brain and are sitting there festering. Ugh. I'm often paralyzed by decision making. I have been guilty of making by-the-seat-of-my-pants decisions. Then I say to myself, "Wie dumm von mir!" (Okay, so I don't really speak German to myself. Well, not often. But I love that line of Rommel's from the movie The Longest Day. "How dumb of me!" said the German commander when he realized that the Allied invasion of Europe was taking place in Normandy and not at the Pas de Calais as everyone, Rommel included, had assumed.) Do you know what happened next? I opened the book of Hebrews and my eyes just happened to fall on Heb. 4:14-16. That was a God thing, big time. This text began whispering to me, "You're ignoring your Great High Priest." And I was. Not only was I not turning to the throne of grace for help in time of need, I was turning everywhere else for relief from my self-inflicted guilt. Evidently, Jesus understands exactly what I'm going through. "Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses." And boy do I have weaknesses. Becky would have not made the mistake I made. But I'm not Becky. I'm me. We each had our own weaknesses, but a good many of them we shared, per Craig Koester's description of "weaknesses" in his Hebrews commentary (p. 283):

1) Physical weakness.

2) Social weakness.

3) Vulnerability to sin.

Jesus enables weak people like me to "approach the throne of grace" (v. 14). "[H]uman beings are subject to forces beyond their control, and they need help to cope with daily life" (Koester, p. 295). There is something so nourishing, so healing, when we remember that our High Priest understands exactly what we're going through. It's like falling into a soft cushion. When I'm feeling down, I want to call Pizza Hut. When I fail to look unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, I injure my own soul. A soul divided against itself will collapse, crushing everyone taking refuge under its shelter. Enter Jesus. Is there anything more we could ask for? Sure, we could spend our lives dragging our regrets behind us, but that's our choice. Jesus allows us to move beyond our guilt and regrets by commanding us to look unto Himself (Heb. 12:2). "You're not a failure." "Everyone else struggles like you." "I understand." Jesus may have suffered, but I bet you a thousand bucks He was not whiny. I am His friend, beloved and treasured. If I ask Him for strength and mercy and grace, He will give them to me.

Obviously, I'm still working on this wisdom thingy. When we make silly decisions, He's neither shocked nor horrified. Love still wins. Hope still triumphs. Faith still conquers. I may not be able to see my Great High Priest, but evidences of His presence are everywhere. All I have to do is pause and look for them. If any of you cared what I thought and asked for my opinion (right after Uncle Sam sends me a million dollar tax refund), I would say that we all need to give a lot more space in our lives for the concept of redemption. We need to incorporate a worldview that begins and ends with our Great High Priest, Jesus. I couldn't fathom living a single day without Him. Could you? This has everything to do with Christian discipleship. Not only is Jesus the compassionate High Priest we've always wanted, He creates peace in us that we can only find in Him.

I've had many setbacks in life. And there will be plenty more to come. But the fact is, failure after failure has brought me to the place where I am today. The point is that I tried. I wasn't afraid of failing. Mistakes are always learning opportunities.

Hey, Dave!

Try again.

Learn from your mistakes.

Never let fear paralyze you.

Fall down 10 times, get up 11.

Keep the faith even when you have no earthly reason to do so.

Never be the victim of your circumstances.

Stop beating yourself up.

Grab hold of your High Priest.

In celebration of Him, I'm gonna visit the throne of grace and tarry a while tonight. It's not about me. It's about Jesus -- not Jesus the tooth fairy, but Jesus the Redeemer and Lover of my soul. This is so cliché, I know, but it really is true.

Through all of my tough times, I will forever be grateful for Him.

3:20 PM Well, it was "one of those days." No, it wasn't as bad as being trapped inside a cave or being sucked out of an airplane window, but it was mighty close. My plan this morning was to take my car down to Oxford and have my new tires installed and aligned, then get in a workout, a bike, and a swim before picking up bales at 1:30. No problemo, right? Problemo! A real disaster. I was at the Goodyear dealer when they opened at 7:30. They couldn't check the alignment ("We don't have the right specs for a 2017 Odyssey."). They didn't reprogram the tire pressure sensors. ("Oops. We forgot."). I was finally liberated from the tire store at 1:00, just in time to get up hay. Speaking of which, whatcha think of this 6-decker?

We had to really work to get that done, too, especially in 101-degree temps. That's some nice-lookin' horsie hay if I do say so meself. Since it will probably rain tonight, I'm going to take a couple of days off from haying and do a couple of things I've wanted to do for a very long time in my home state of Virginia -- (1) bike the Virginia Creeper Trail (or at least 17 miles of it), and (2) hike to Apple Orchard Falls (a moderately-difficult 7.5-mile loop trail). I'll need to get an early start tomorrow morning if I'm going to be able to take the bike shuttle at noon from Damascus to White Top. Then it's a leisurely ride, all downhill, through what I am told is some of the purtiest countryside of all of Virginny. Tomorrow night I'm staying in an Airbnb in Buchanan, VA, close to the Falls trailhead. It's a restored mansion that was built in 1804 by a Revolutionary War veteran.

I'm told it's set on a majestic hill with views of the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains.

I can't wait to hike again. It's been a while. Hiking is welcoming to even the least athletically inclined. It's a mystery drug that  -- like a Starbuck's Caramel Macchiato -- will keep you coming back for more. And, unlike running, there are no gross side-effects like toenails falling off or snot rockets shooting out of your nose. Hiking is, in short, an incredible experience.

I might take my GoPro camera with me.

Yes, that's a threat.

Time to eat ....

Tuesday, July 10   

9:20 PM Just finished my work for the day. And what a lovely day it was. We got up yet another large field this evening and finished up just as the fireflies were making their nightly debut. Beautiful. I won't bore you with another baling report except to post this message chain that I had with one of my daughters. We were discussing farm work -- its joys and challenges (she froze 159 ears of corn today). It can get tiring for sure. I sent her a pic with this message:

We also talked about mom -- her work ethic, her seeming tirelessness, and how happy she would be to see us working so hard. Earlier today I got in a 5 mile bike then swam my laps. I notice there's a major triathlon this weekend at Jordan Lake down in North Carolina but I'm not ready for a half mile open-water swim. Sigh. Maybe one day.

Rice is cookin' and I'm starving, so ....

Later!

4:40 PM I used to publish a great deal more in the field of New Testament textual criticism than I do nowadays. What motivated me greatly was the way I sensed that some students were simply adopting whichever reading was printed above the line in their Greek New Testament rather than evaluating the textual evidence for themselves. Thus I'm always happy when I see a blog post having anything to do with a major New Testament textual variant, and this one at the Evangelical Textual Criticism website is no exception. I'm very glad that the author prefers the longer reading ("in Ephesus") in Eph. 1:1, since I came to the same conclusion both in my master's thesis at Talbot and the first essay I ever published in a journal, entitled "The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address" (accessible here by permission of the publishers). Not all of my ideas have been adopted, of course, but I do think the days of automatically following the so-called "earliest and best manuscripts" (in this case, p46, Aleph, and B) are waning. The idea is that an opening salutation in Paul that lacks a place designation is out of step with his normal pattern of writing. There are, of course, some who argue for a so-called "encyclical theory" in which Paul is said to have left a blank space that was to be filled in later by Tychicus. But if you carefully read p46, Aleph, and B you'll see that there is no such thing as a blank space in any of these manuscripts.

Let me try and summarize my views on the variant "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1. Both the external and the internal evidence, in my opinion, point to the originality of these words. If this is the case, then the letter we know as "Ephesians" was in fact written to, addressed to, sent to, delivered to, and first read by the Ephesian believers. (Upshot? When you as a pastor ask your parishioners to "Turn to the Book of Ephesians," you don't have to go "wink, wink.") Moreover, it's no accident that the place designation was excised in some of our early Greek manuscripts in an apparent attempt to transform the letter from an occasional document into a general/catholic/universal epistle. Nils Dahl was right: The problem of particularity existed in the earliest church, and apparently the easiest way to "solve" the problem was by removing place names. This practice stopped once the early church began to acknowledge that all of the Pauline letters were general/catholic/universal in one sense: They were ultimately intended by the Holy Spirit to be read by all Christians everywhere. Which is why I can read a very personal letter like the one Paul sent to his friend Philemon and not feel guilty for reading someone else's mail!

As an aside, I was a bit surprised to find a number of what seemed to be significant typos in a blog post dealing with "transcription errors." This might be the most glaring example of them all:

Here, of course, the Greek for "Ephesians" needs a "Phi" instead of a "Pi." I realize you're probably thinking, "As if Dave Black doesn't have any typos in his blog posts." Clearly I believe I can be a better typist. Evidently, typos matter. And maybe for good reason. On the other hand, typos like these are easily fixable -- as I've discovered on many an occasion after one of my kids has pointed them out to me. Typos notwithstanding, I've been enormously helped in my work as an amateur textual critic by websites such as Evangelical Textual Criticism, whose posts (including this one) are always stimulating and often provocative.

6:40 AM Have you done much sailing? I haven't, despite the fact that I grew up on an island surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. In Kailua, my friend and I would sometimes take his Hobie Cat (our surfboards in tow) out to the Mokulua Islands when the reef was breaking.

That saved us a good hour of paddling. The only long-distance sailing I did in Hawaii was when I was spending a week on Maui and a friend asked me if I'd like to sail back to O'ahu with him on his dad's 35-foot yacht. It would be him, another friend, and 16-year old me. I said sure. We left Lahaina Harbor at sunrise and before we knew it we were in the Molokai Channel, where the winds are treacherous. To say the experience was exhilarating would be an understatement. Eventually Koko Head appeared as a tiny speck on the horizon, and I knew we would make it home safely. I learned a lot about sailing that day. A sailboat never goes in a straight line. You have to point the bow slightly windward via the rudder, allowing it to be constantly pushed to the leeward side. The most important part of this whole process is to leave yourself enough leeway. That's not always easy to do, especially when the wind direction is constantly shifting. Here's a picture of what this looks like. (I can't post a real photo of me and my friends on the boat since we didn't have cameras in the Dark Ages.)

Life is a lot like sailing. You set your sail, and then watch yourself achieve your goal. Right? Hardly. The fact is, the winds in our lives are constantly changing. Which means that we're always altering our course accordingly. Like today. I was hoping to get in a 10 mile run this morning but my Achilles Tendon on my left foot is hurting, just a little bit, but enough to make me pause and readjust my sails. You see, I'm the kind of person who doesn't give himself enough leeway in life. I set my sail and rudder and expect everything to go as planned. Which means I've trained when I shouldn't have, run in races that I had no business running in, and pushed my body when I should have been resting it. Running is so "daily," if you get my drift. You are constantly having to pay attention to yourself and make adjustments along the way. The winds are outside of your control. But the one thing you can control is the sail and the rudder.

Sometimes I'm asked, "Who is your reader?" I'm going to guess that the person who reads this blog is probably a Jesus follower whose life is mostly blessed and whose world is pretty secure. But occasionally, I'll hear from someone who's teetering on the edge of faith. They've run into a strong headwind, and are having to make some pretty significant course adjustments, just as I have had to do in my own life recently. I value you desperately, dear reader, whoever you are and whatever you may be going through (or not going through). Hear me: I don't think God wants you to ever doubt His faithfulness. In fact, He sent Jesus to soothe those troubled waters in our lives. Something wonderful happens in our lives when we yield to the pain and the sorrow. The Spirit begins rushing in, sweeping us up in His wake. I've lived long enough to know that you can press extremely hard on the Lord and He will hold you. I've discovered that it's okay to be a widower, to age, to find all of life very challenging and yet equally beautiful. Your life is a story you've been given to live. Live it with beauty and light. Banish envy and doubt with truth. And always be sure to give yourself plenty of leeway. It's a matter of endless fiddling -- with your schedule, your priorities, and a dozen other major things that affect your life.

Sail on, friend!

Dave

Monday, July 9   

7:50 PM Farm update:

1) Baled this field again.

2) Our first load of the day.

3) And our second.

4) Yes, we were hot and sweaty. Satisfaction is often disguised as hard work.

Time for supper (did I say stir-fry?). 

3:02 PM Busy day:

  • Worked out at the Y.

  • Did a 5 mile bike.

  • Swam for 20 minutes.

  • Went to the bank.

  • Did grocery shopping.

  • Ordered my mower from Lowe's (Saturday delivery -- can the yard wait that long?)

  • Met with insurance guy (he needed pics of my secondary house -- Maple Ridge).

  • Answered emails.

  • Delivered a gift to a neighbor.

  • Made lunch (sloppy joes).

  • Chatted with Nate.

Tonight we're getting up hay. Such is the world I live in. I am ready for a nice long nap!

P.S. Here's my new Husqvarna ride mower. I seem to go through one of these every three years or so. What a weird life.

8:20 AM How do we find just that right balance between exercise and rest? For me, the porridge is usually a little too hot or too cold, when it needs to be "just right" (thank you, Goldilocks). Here's my Map My Run data for the past 30 days.

I put in 26 workouts for a total of 170 miles. So today I'm asking myself, "Self, are you working out too much?" In other words, regardless of the amount of miles or hours we put in monthly, the solution to the balance question is to listen to our bodies. They are usually quick to tell us when we're doing too much. When we push ourselves beyond what they are ready for, we experience fatigue and pain. It's really just that simple. That's why we have to listen to our bodies attentively. If we don't, we may find ourselves working too hard and thus working against ourselves.

My goal for October is to (1) complete my first 31-mile ultramarathon and (2) run a PR at the Marine Corps Marathon. I think both are do-able, but I won't get there unless I find the right balance between too hard and too easy. On weeks like this week, I already know I'll be getting up hay several evenings in a row, so I have to conserve enough energy for that. As for my training cycle this week, I'll just have to listen to my body. Today it's telling me to take the day off from running. However, I still hope to get in a good workout at the Y and then swim some laps at the public pool. Again, it's all a matter of balance. I'm trying to be a good Goldilocks.

Moreover, I'm beginning to see the relevance of training for my non-running life as well. Through running I'm hoping to find that balance in my everyday life that often eludes me. Facebook? There's only one site I read. Goodbye everyone else. TV? Haven't watched it in years (except every time I go out for dinner -- where a TV is in every nook and cranny of the restaurant, even in the men's room. Yikes). I've also pressed the reset button on getting news online. Let's be honest: I don't have time to stay engaged with all the news outlets that are demanding my attention 24/7. Without the noise and static of being online, I'm learning how to rest and simplify. I know that a media fast won't make the evening news, but I gotta tell you, it's so liberating. As for emails, I'm really good at answering them quickly, perhaps too good. I like people who respond to my texts and emails immediately. But later responses don't hurt anybody. All too often I hold myself at gunpoint by the expectations of others. Let's face it, that works for only so long.

So where do things stand as of today? Few care whether or not I fast from social media. You don't need to read my blog as much as I need to write it. Instead, this week I hope to find quality time with family while not neglecting my workouts and my farm jobs. Maybe this is a new beginning on a new perspective on balance. Hopefully so.

7:40 AM I read Stan Porter's essay on discourse analysis last night.

When I think about the guy who published Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek in 1988, my second book, I can't remember him. It would be like describing another person. I had only just begun to be interested in the art and science of linguistics and its application to the study and teaching of New Testament Greek. Today, all that has changed. As Stan reminds us, discourse analysis "is important to the future of New Testament interpretation" (p. 208). Stan warns against neglecting discourse analysis for a reason. All exegesis needs to be grounded in linguistics. It's just that simple. When I wrote my 1988 book, I was a linguistic neophyte. In many ways I still am. So if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by your Greek studies and are considering surrender, do read this essay by one of the world's leading New Testament Greek scholars. His perspective would, I think, do us all good.

Sunday, July 8   

6:16 PM I did it! My fourth triathlon is in the books! Because the race site in North Carolina was at least a two hour drive from home, I got a room in the Hampton Inn and enjoyed some great Ethiopian food last night.

I woke up at 4:30 (the race started at 7:00 am) and grabbed some coffee before driving to the Rex Wellness Center in Garner. After picking up my bib and getting body-marked, I headed off to set up in the transition area. This time I tried to be scientific about where I put my stuff, and believe it or not, my T1 and T2 times were my best yet for a tri. I tried to keep everything simple and well organized during transition.

The swim was a breeze. So was the bike. The bike course consisted of a simple out-and-back for a total of a mere 10 miles. I usually hug the right side of the road and let the speed demons pass me, but this time it seemed like I was the one doing the passing, thanks to my nifty new road bike. The second transition was easy. You just rack your bike and throw your helmet off. All I had to do was a 2 mile run. I was secretly planning on placing in my age group if possible. I felt pretty good. The 2 miles flew by and I finished the race with a smile on my face. Here are the vital stats:

Official Finish Time = 1:11:49.

65-69 Age Group = 2nd Place.

Lots of thanks to all of the course volunteers who made everything happen today. I'm especially grateful that I placed in my division because let me tell you, the people here in Garner are SUPER FIT. It was humbling to be able to stand on the podium with these guys.

After the awards ceremony I headed to one of my favorite Mexican eateries to celebrate. La Cocina has some of the very best chili rellenos in Raleigh.

I came home and mowed about 4 acres before my lawn mower bit the dust. That's fine, I needed to get a new one anyway. Besides, I needed a nap too! It was a great race, but I still have things to work on. I'm getting faster on the bike, but my swim times can be greatly improved. This will only happen if I'm willing to put in the effort to get faster at this whole triathlon thing. Hopefully, this is only the beginning.

Another day, another race, another personal victory over sedentary confinement:-)

Thanks for reading.

Run on!

Dave

Saturday, July 7   

9:38 AM I probably shouldn't be admitting this, but I'm enjoying reading the Festschrift edited by Mel Winstead. My colleague Ben Merkle's essay ("Verbal Aspect and Imperatives: Ephesians as a Test Case") concludes as follows (p. 51):

With imperatives, the author is often not making a subjective choice but is merely conforming to the normal or expected use of a term. Thus, we should be careful not to over-interpret imperatives based on the tense-form used.

Ben still thinks the general distinction between aorist imperatives as referring to specific commands and present imperatives as referring to general precepts is helpful. But it's too simplistic. With that I agree. As I'm prepping for my Hebrews class, I took another look at the present hortatory subjunctive in Heb. 12:1: ""Let us run with endurance the race set before us." Here trechōmen seems to have the idea of "continue running," but did the author have the luxury of choosing an aorist form for this lexeme? A glance at the data shows that he did. I found numerous examples of aorist hortatory subjunctives of the verb trechō in Greek. Take a look at these:

And these:

Truth is, I need to do this kind of research every time I examine the use of a present versus aorist imperative/hortatory subjunctive. That said, I do think the general distinction between these two tense-forms holds true. All told, Ben offers some pretty good perspective. We sometimes place verbal aspect on a pedestal it wasn't meant for. If we're not careful, exegesis can become over-exegesis, as Ben reminds us. The dangerous part of exegesis is not what it focuses on but what it distracts us from -- context and usage.

8:42 AM Hey guys, and welcome back. I just returned from a week in the Big D where I visited with mom and dad as well as her brother and his wife. I'm sure we did more eating than is legal.

On Wednesday morning, I competed in the Liberty-on-the-Lake 10K in The Colony, TX. Truthfully, I wasn't sure I was going to run in this race. The forecast looked bleak (heat and humidity). But I felt I had trained hard for the event, so why not give it the old college try? On my way to the race site I fueled up at the local Dennys. It was my usual fare: two pancakes and two cups of coffee. Breakfast of running champions! I then drove to the race venue, got my running bib, and waited for the race to start. At 8:10 am we were off. The first mile was probably the hardest. The sidewalk we were running on was too narrow to hold all the runners and we were practically stumbling over each other.

Finally the 5K runners turned around and the 10K runners were left on their own. At this point, I was running with about 300 other people. I tried to keep a 13 min./mile pace, hoping to shave a couple of minutes off my course PR. That was not to be. By mile four, I was beginning to wilt. I was taking three cups of water at every aid station -- one to drink, and two to pour over my head and down my back. There was a guy about my age who was really smoking it, and I fell behind him for the rest of the race, letting him pace me.

When I passed the 6 mile marker I kicked it into high gear and crossed the finish line strong. I got my finisher's medal and chugged down two liters of Gatorade while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Believe it nor not, I was awarded third place in my age group.

I felt I had run a mediocre race, but hey, I'll take it.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the event. The heat was blistering, but if you kept hydrated you were okay. The next morning I woke up feeling super motivated and got in an early 6.6 mile run through the local subdivision. It felt great.

Afterwards I stopped by 24 Hour Fitness and swam laps for 40 minutes in a last-ditch effort to get ready for Sunday's tri.

Looking back, I was super glad I participated in the 10K on Wednesday. Now I'm more pumped than ever to train for my ultra and the MCM in October. Game on!

Thanks for checking in, and talk to you soon.

Dave

Monday, July 2   

6:40 AM One of the extraordinary blessings of being married to Becky Lynn Lapsley was getting to know her missionary parents, who ministered the Gospel in Ethiopia many years ago. There they raised their eldest daughter, who ended up marrying a surfer dude from Hawaii. Could anyone have predicted that?

Becky is no longer physically present with us, and her death left a gigantic hole in our lives. But we have all grown during the past four years, grown spiritually and -- just as importantly -- grown closer to each other. This week I get to visit mom and dad in Dallas again. Of course, we will talk about Becky, but not very much. Our focus is more on the present and the future than on the past. We are, each one of us, finding ways to feed our souls, to keep going, to stay involved in the world, to find new places for our lives. Becky would have expected that of us, and I expect that of myself. Becky would have loved having Ethiopian food with us or going to a concert on the Fourth of July. She and her mom would probably work in the garden together. She would, for sure, never allow us to give into self-pitying thoughts. "Go on with your lives," I can hear her saying. Becky is still with us, if only in our memories. She will always be a part of our lives, a huge part, and we shall love her forever.

Sunday, July 1   

8:18 PM Haying is done for the day. The real feel today was exactly 100 degrees, and it felt that way too. Miserable.

Can't wait to get to Dallas tomorrow, where the temps are even higher. Not only do I get to visit mom and dad, but Becky's brother and his wife will be there too. It will be a grand reunion.

This morning I was up at 4:30. I read the entire book of Hebrews. (My daughter tells me that in her Sunday School class this morning the teacher read aloud the entire book of Galatians. Sweet.) Tonight I'll read something else. Like my book on the 1996 Everest disaster. How foolish of them to climb beyond the agreed-upon turnaround time. Summit fever is very real. I felt it myself in Switzerland. The week after I was on the Matterhorn two 67-year old Brits died on the mountain because they got caught out overnight without warm clothing. My heart goes out to their families.

I have a race this Wednesday in Dallas. It's only a 10K but the weather will be brutal. Thankfully we have the Weather Channel, cause you're checking the weather forecast several times a day. The real feel on Wednesday will be 102. Perfect weather, right? The jury is out on whether I'll run. I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. I am not lying when I say that I love running so much I can easily get running fever every bit as much as I can get summit fever. Be aware of this possibility for you. Sometimes it's best just to take a couple days off and not risk your health or safety doing what you love to do.

Well, time to get cleaned up and cook supper. (Stir-fry? Yes.). The rice is already cooking. Me? Cooking dinner every night? I still can't believe it.

See ya,

Dave

7:15 AM Well, I blinked, and suddenly half of 2018 disappeared. Where did it go? The halfway point is perhaps a good time to take stock of where we've been and where we hope to go.

Becky.

That's the first word that comes to mind as I reflect on the first half of 2018. It's crazy, I know, but I think of her first thing every morning. How can't I? I live in our house, still enjoy her canned veggies, still see her picture on the mantel and hear her voice singing. Marriages go through phases -- newlyweds, first home, children, empty nest, widowhood/widowerhood. People a lot smarter than me describe these as "seasons" of life or psycho-social stages. Each stage of life requires us to learn new lessons. "Even the saddest things," wrote Frederich Buechner, "can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead." I once read that it takes about two years to recovery from a natural death. But if the death was traumatic, recovery can take a lot longer. Ann Kaiser Stearns, in her book Coming Back, writes: "Recovery from loss is like having to get off the main highway every so many miles because the main route is under construction." Exactly. I live in Podunk, Virginia. So on my drive to work in North Carolina, I take the countriest of country roads. It seems that one of them is always undergoing a bridge repair. You are rerouted through roads and hamlets you never expected to visit. Basically, you're still heading in the right direction, but you're not following a straight line any more. It often takes months for the county to finish building a bridge, and you sometimes wonder if they will ever be done. Ann Stearns basically says, Don't worry about that. There is a finished highway in your future.

For me, recovery has involved many elements, both good and not-so-good. Concentration and focus have become difficult. Sleep can still be a struggle. The ache in my heart never seems to go away. On the other hand, I've discovered exercise to be a great stress reliever. And teacher. Climbing the Alps and the Rockies has taught me so much about grieving. You have to take one step at a time. You look for a rhythm between your breathing and the steps you are taking. You settle into a metronome-like pace, one that can sustain you for a very long time. It took me seven hours to summit Mount Bierstadt in 2016. To manage fatigue, I pictured very precisely in my mind what my body was doing. I saw my legs balance as they prepared to take the next step. I saw my muscles tense as they pushed into the next step. I saw my muscles then relax as they rested for an instant before taking the next step. I saw the air as it moved in and out of my lungs. I was brand new to the sport of mountain climbing, but what seemed strange to me began to feel familiar. Today, as I continue to cope with Becky's death, I'm creating another "new normal." It's like learning to climb. You just take one step after the other, knowing that you will eventually reach your goal. And, as with climbing or traveling along a highway detour, the journey of grief takes you through uncharted territory. Anniversaries are the hardest. Becky's birthday. Mother's Day. The anniversary of her Homegoing. I recall the first anniversary of her death. Am I losing my mind? Will I ever get over this? Today, the pain is not as in-your-face, but it's still there. It's seems that I have to "let go" on a daily basis. Easy? No. Essential? Yes. You feel, and God continues to heal.

Prior to Becky's death, I had a very limited view of God's sovereignty. I now see that God takes all of our experiences and molds them into a greater whole. God's sovereignty doesn't protect us from loss. But our Sovereign God is also a Suffering Sovereign. We approach Him boldly because He can feel not only our sorrow but our joy. His presence doesn't erase our grief. But it gives us peace. The road is still crazy crooked, but at least I don't have to travel it alone.

I don't know what other detours the rest of 2018 holds. But I know they'll be there. If you are traveling on the detour of loss today, I have no advice to give you. I am so done with pious (and even un-pious) platitudes. Thankfully, I have friends and family who want to listen and sympathize. I have often told them how grateful I am for their concern and love. Sometimes a person will write me and let me know how they found meaning in their suffering through something I wrote or said. Recently I received an email from a pastor whose wife died from cancer. "I sure do miss her!" he wrote. Then he concluded his email with these words:

Jesus is wonderful!

I'm sure my friend is still probing for meaning in his wife's death, trying to make sense of it all. We all do. My appreciation for widowers has grown exponentially in the past 4 years. Our loss joins us. Through it we have found community, a community for broken people like me, a "Jesus-is-wonderful" community. William Blake well captures the meaning of "Jesus is wonderful!" in his poem "Can I See Another's Woe?"

He doth give His joy to all; He becomes an infant small,/He becomes a man of woe; He doth feel the sorrow, too/Think not that thou canst sigh a sigh, and thy Maker is not by;/Think not that thou canst weep a tear, and thy Maker is not near,/O! He gives to us His joy that our grief He may destroy;/Till our grief is fled and gone, He doth sit by us and moan.

Today, with half the year gone, I feel like I'm halfway up the Matterhorn. Becky's death was and will always remain a horrible experience in my life. But I'm climbing on. I noticed that Becky always seemed to have had a much higher pain tolerance than I do. I'm getting older. No matter how hard I try to control the airplane I'm flying, I can't control the natural flow. The lesson here? Do what Becky did, and did so well. Surrender. To the loss. To the pain. To the unmet goals. To the grief. To the fear. To the raw emotions.

Then look forward.

Embrace the future.

Trust the One "who doth sit by us and moan."

Have faith.

Keep climbing.

So that's my mid-year report, friends. A jumbled array of feelings, eh? That's the way of grief, I reckon. Grief is very personal. Each of us mourns in a different way. So heal in your own way, my friend. I'm not a lover of advice columns. But that's about the best I can do. God doesn't give us explanations, only a deeper revelation of His heart.

Saturday, June 30   

9:45 PM Another busy but rewarding day of farming. 

 

6:44 AM Today I want to run another 5 miles. Today I'm glad my 66-year old body can still run. Today I am glad I can run another marathon this year. Today I am glad I will never qualify for Boston (keeps one humble). Today.

Dear God, Giver of life and Author of love, the gifts You have given me have really made a difference. Today, I'd just like to publicly say, "Thank You."

Friday, June 29   

5:58 PM It's a lot of work to maintain a whole bunch of acres and two homes. But the work goes a lot easier when one of your daughters and two of your grandkids help.

I mowed while they spiffied up the houses. What a blessing. Tomorrow I'll finish my yard work in the early morning before it gets too hot and then go for a run and swim. My next tri is only 9 days away in Garner, NC. The clock is ticking. Monday I leave for Dallas, where I see the temperature is a mere 100 degrees. Made today's high of 95 seem nice and cool.

I'm still glad I'm farming. I'm still glad I'm running and biking and swimming and climbing. I'm still glad I'm teaching and writing. Did I mention that I love life? It's not perfect of course. But it's the best I could have hoped for.

May today you find the blessings around you.

8:26 AM In one of my essays, I likened the composition of Hebrews to Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel. Grandeur. Symmetry. Sublimity. Architectural precision. This is obvious from the very first paragraph of Hebrews, which Lightfoot once called "the most beautifully constructed and expressive sentence in the New Testament." Paul's momentous theme called for a literary style unparalleled in its beauty and form. Here's the outline we'll be using in my Hebrews class this fall.

It's taken from the work of Albert Vanhoye. As Vanhoye notes, the exact center of the book -- its rhetorical "high water mark" if you will -- is the anarthrous Christos in 9:11.

Χριστὸς δὲ παραγενόμενος ἀρχιερεὺς τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν διὰ τῆς μείζονος καὶ τελειοτέρας σκηνῆς οὐ χειροποιήτου....

I keep telling myself I should spend more time in the book of Hebrews. But then again, the message of Hebrews is that through Christ we have constant access to and fellowship with the Father, not only when we are praying or reading the Scriptures, but throughout the day. Brother Lawrence once wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He said that some of his closest times with God were not spent on his knees or in Bible study but "in the noise and chatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things." I wonder where you are right now as you read my words. Try practicing God's presence amid the nasty noise and chaotic confusion of your world. Jesus opened that door for us. How ironic if we Bible readers do not walk through it.

7:20 AM I want to thank brother Mammen Joseph for sending me this picture of the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra, India.

Becky organized and funded the school before she passed away. So much love to all these wonderful children and teachers. I get choked up when I see this picture, because I love these people so much. I hardly know what to say. Yes, I miss Becky, but I could not be more grateful for her vision and faithfulness to the Gospel Commission.

The magnum opus of Becky's life isn't this building project, however. Nor is it any of the other works she did for Christ. It's the way she lived. Likewise, our greatest work will not be seen in the spectacular but in the impact of our ordinary daily lives faithfully lived in extraordinary ways. Becky made a difference in this world because she was always seeking out ways she could help her brothers and sisters in foreign lands. If you will, Becky had a robust theology of Christian vocation, and her life inspired others to embrace common grace for the common good. Having herself embraced the Gospel, she then lived it in humble deeds of service to people small and great. Like the apostle Paul, she didn't view her work as a tentmaker a distraction but instead saw it as a conduit for Gospel incarnation. Christian discipleship was woven seamlessly into all aspects of her life. Her well-lived life now lives on in this building and the ministries it houses. I am so proud of her.

Thank you, Becky. Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, June 28   

7:28 PM So I've done 3 sprint triathlons. No biggie. Lots of people have done that -- and much much more than that. But each race has taught me lessons, and so without further ado, here are 7 things to remember if you ever want to try a tri:

1) The swim is always the first part of the race. This is because if they were to put the swim last, everybody would drown.

2) Even if you are fast on your bike, others will be faster. Much faster. Get used to it.

3) Always concentrate on your own form and abilities. Ultimately, you're racing against yourself.

4) Don't skip the awards ceremony. You want to applaud the winners -- and spy out the competition for your next race.

5) Need gear? Don't feel like you have to break the bank. You're not trying to win the silly thing, just finish it.

6) Never worry about "looking" like a triathlete. (Some guys actually shave their legs before a race. Yuk.)

7) Dress comfortably.

The sprint triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. The beauty of the tri is that you don't have to be an expert in any of the three sports to take part in it and enjoy it. At least you won't be bored.

7:35 AM Here's a connection I hadn't seen before. It's between Heb. 1:3 and Heb. 6:1. Note the words highlighted in green.

Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι’ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας· ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος  ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων.

Διὸ ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα, μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν, ἀναστάσεώς τε νεκρῶν καὶ κρίματος αἰωνίου. καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσομεν, ἐάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός.

In 1:3 the Son is said to carry the universe by His powerful word. In 6:1, believers are described as being "carried along to maturity." I had always assumed that the Carry-er in 6:1 was the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21, where the same verb phero is used in the passive to describe how the writers of Scripture were "carried along by the Holy Spirit"). However, I wonder if the agent in 6:1 isn't Christ Himself. After all, He carries "all things" (Greek: ta panta) by His powerful word.

How practical is the book of Hebrews! The purpose of this book is not only to demonstrate the finality of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. It is also to strengthen and encourage the weary members of a house church to respond to their trials with the resources that God has lavished on them, including the presence of the One who sustains them (and all things) through the word of His power. This is why so many commentators have concluded that the dominant motif in Hebrews is parenetic -- that is, the book was not written merely to inform but to shore up the readers' sagging faith.

This is a word I often need. The amazing thing is that it's often within our power to decide which way we will go. Ignore Jesus, and we can create horrors. Trust Him to work miracles, and He can heal a multitude of hurts. My friend, what do you need to entrust to Him today? What do I? Who in our lives right now needs an encouraging word? A pat on the back? A touch on the shoulder?

5:55 AM This interview on the authorship of Hebrews just came out and I thought you might be interested in it. The interviewer is none other than Abidan Shah, one of our doctoral students in textual criticism at SEBTS.

Wednesday, June 27   

6:10 PM Hey there guys! My 20 mile run is done. As in dun, dun, DUN, DUNNN!!!!!!! When I finished, I went through my post-run check list:

  • Legs: Sore but good.

  • Feet: Sore but good.

  • Toes: Ugly but fine.

  • Quads: Trashed.

  • Calves: Hurtin'.

  • Hip Flexors: Great.

  • Lungs: Perfect.

  • Heart: Never missed a beat.

  • Motivation: High.

  • Goal: Achieved.

As you can see, I ran at a very slow pace.

Since I didn't want to walk, I chose to combine a jog and a walk. It's what one famous world-class athlete (me) has dubbed a "wog." So I wogged until I could wog no more. My wog started out nice and cloudy.

This was the easy part. I guess I averaged about 5.2 mph during this part of my run. Later, the sun came out in all of its force, and my pace slowed to a crawl.

Maybe 4.2 mph max. But I got 'er done, folks. Thumbs up! The one thing I did forget to do today was apply anti-chafing cream to those places that are most sensitive to chafing. (You runners know exactly what I'm talking about.) I also underestimated how much water I would need today. I took three liters of water with me plus one liter of Gatorade and believe me, I could have used more. Otherwise, I felt good about today's training run. Running for 20 miles gives me confidence going into the marathon in October. When I run nowadays, it's like reading Greek. I feel the joy. It's the same as when you make a brand new friend. "Dave, meet running. Running, meet Dave." The joy is in the magical moment of watching the world as you pass it. When I pound the pavement (or, as I did today, pound the crushed gravel), I know that I'm truly alive. It's being a runner that matters, not how far or how fast I can run. I have to laugh, by the way, when I think that my "new" shoes already need replacing. I have to do that every 300 miles. It's already been 300 miles? Yep.

When I got home this book awaited me.

I read it in less than an hour. It's great. The five core habits the author speaks about are:

  • Eat Everything.

  • Eat Quality.

  • Eat Carb-Centered.

  • Eat Enough.

  • Eat Individually.

Actually, I'm already doing many of these things, but I can still make significant improvement. I try and eat "everything" (that is, meals made from the six basic categories of natural whole foods -- vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds/healthy oils, unprocessed meat, seafood, and dairy. My problem is, rather than eating high-quality foods, my diet is still skewed toward eating low-quality foods. Tonight, for example, I made stir-fry and used mostly all fresh vegetables, though I did add some frozen peas and frozen corn to the mix. I want to change that. By "eating enough," the author notes that fit people neither mindlessly overeat nor consciously restrict the amount of food they eat by enforcing inflexible calorie-cutting "diets." Finally, he says we are to "eat individually." Each of us is a unique person and has different eating patterns and diets. We therefore have to develop our own version of the endurance diet. While I don't agree with everything the author says, I do recommend reading his book.

I'm not a vegetarian, and I've raised Angus, but I really don't eat an awful lot of red meat anymore. What I want to do is increase my intake of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. I want to eat my veggies as raw as possible (the broccoli in my stir-fry tonight was nice and crunchy). I want to eat whole foods instead of processed foods (hard to do where I live, where the only grocery store is Food Lion). I want to stop eating off of "freezer food." I know, I know. I'm stating the obvious. You probably know a lot more about a healthy diet than I do. My hugest, biggest goal? Try some new vegetarian recipes. Yes, I, the ultimate meatasaurous, actually said that. Woo ... the pressure is on!

Pray for me.

Dave

6:15 AM Happy Wednesday, everybody! I'll start off this blog post with a disclosure: I think Hebrews is the perfect book to teach novice Greek students. Challenging, but do-able. If you know anything about me, then you know that I've defended the Pauline authorship of Hebrews -- in print, no less. Thus Hebrews is just another Pauline letter. Did you know that Hebrews has some of the best Greek in the entire New Testament? Did you know that it also contains numerous Septuagintalisms? Did you know that I brushed Sheba yesterday? You get all of this and more if you read my blog. You are welcome.

Moving on....

Today my goal is to get in a 20 mile "long run" at the High Bridge Trail. (Whenever I type "Trail," it almost always comes out "Trial." Hmmm.) Yes, I'm telling you this even though I know most people don't really care. Telling others what we're doing -- ad nauseum -- is just what runners do. While I'm running I'm going to try and visualize crossing the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. I'll be listening to Chicago as I do so. Why, there's even talk about the group doing one final grand tour with Danny back on drums and Peter singing lead vocals again. Danny would sound great, but poor Peter seems to be struggling these days hitting the high notes. The dude is getting old. Believe me, Peter, I know how you feel.

So what are your big plans for the day? Whatever they are, get up, take care of business, drink your coffee, and get on with it. 20 miles is a long way to go, but the last 5 miles aren't so bad when you spend them planning your post-run meal. What's your biggest challenge today? Think of the rewards. A fatty pastry. A long hot shower. Starbucks. (They could use our business right now.) And if you should have a mental meltdown? Keep going anyway. One tip: If you visualize where you're going ahead of time, getting there is so much easier.

Okay. I'm off. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 26   

8:58 PM Hey guys. Just for fun, here's the course map for the Marine Corps Marathon:

As I prepare for race day, I've been studying this map and watching as many YouTubes as I can about the race. My goals for race day remain undefined. I may want to try for a new PR. Or I may simply lace up my shoes and run as leisurely as I care to. But you have to have a goal going into your races. And, once you set such goals, you accept the risk of failing to meet them. Unlike a daily jog, during a race you put everything on the line. You're willing to find out what you're made of. Once you pin that number on your shirt, you're a racer!

Let me take another look at that map. I noticed the following:

1) The course is marked out for the runners. It is intended to be a track or path kept by them. Runners don't design the race course. And they don't have the luxury of going off course either. Their job is to run within the boundaries. That's their duty.

2) One look at a course map and you quickly realize just how much effort is going to be required of you on race day. You can already see your muscles straining, your body kicking it into high gear. Nothing can be accomplished unless you give it your best shot. Running a race requires concentration and vigorous effort. Nothing less will do on race day.

3) The course by its very nature is progressive. You don't cross the finish line immediately. You finish mile 1, then mile 2, then mile 3, until you reach the 26.2 mile marker.

The image of a race is a common one in the New Testament, and so I can't help applying these observations to my own Christian life. First of all, God has a very specific plan for my life. It's been marked out by Him, and He intends for me to finish it. To diverge from it would be foolish and perilous. I have to constantly ask myself before beginning my day, "What is God's appointed task for me today? At what stage of the course am I on?" Obligation is laid upon me to finish my course! Secondly, continual effort is required if I am to finish my race. Anything worth doing in life requires effort. The Christian life demands constant concentration and the utmost energy. Finally, is my Christian life one of continual advance? Am I a more faithful follower of Jesus this year than I was last year? Am I making progress? Of course, our progress will be marred by failures and imperfections. One can be blameless without being perfect. Racing is all about putting forth an honest effort. And, one day, I'll answer for my choices.

Believers, let's oppose the temptation to become lazy in the Christian life. Let's challenge the laissez-faire mentality that says "It's never been done that way before." Let's stop lying about ourselves and using our weaknesses and imperfections to keep us from pursuing wholeheartedly the downward path of Jesus. But be prepared for a struggle. We've invented a thousand excuses to take the easy way out. According to Scripture, no real disciple is content with the level of spirituality to which they have attained. Time and again, the apostle Paul spoke of the need to run with endurance the race set before him. "I'm not beating the air. I'm not running around in circles. I'm giving life all I've got. I'm getting the most out of myself. I am determined to finish all that God intends for me to do. Nothing will move me, so that I might finish my course with joy." Friend, no one can run your race for you. But be sure of this: The Author and Perfecter of faith will enable you to finish your course, meet faithfully every duty, and overcome every trial.

Oh my stars, what a great way to live life!

6:12 PM You students will love this blog post about Greek word studies. Farewell, sloppy agape!

5:36 PM Today I had a great workout at the gym. If I could only be 1/25th as disciplined as some of the people I see working out. So naturally I overdid it. That's just me. Go all out. Thankfully, it wasn't anything a long nap couldn't solve. Now, feeling fully refreshed, I am about to bore you silly with a few mantras about exercise (no need to thank me):

1) If you want to be happy, don't rely on the horizontal. Good health is a blessing, but real peace and joy come only from above, from the Father of Lights.

2) Share your knowledge. We all have something to give to others. When I need to learn a new exercise, I ask a more experienced lifting buddy. When I was in seminary, I took my professors out for lunch. And guess what? They were approachable, each and every one of them. They were more than willing to counsel a young married man with stars in his eyes about the academy. They were sharers. Nice trait.

3) Travel to a place where you've never been before. Like I did yesterday. You see, I've lived in Virginia for 18 years but only yesterday visited one of the most historic sites on the planet (Jamestown). As far as exercise is concerned, try running or walking or biking on a new trail. Mix things up. Don't get stuck in a rut.

4) Remember that there is risk in everything we do with our bodies. Try climbing the Alps. You will quickly reach your limits as an athlete. Risk it my friend. Risk running your first 5K. Risk ugly toenails. Risk getting sweaty. The payoff may well be a new you.

5) When working out at the gym, try not to sing out loud while listening to music. I caught myself doing that today. Not a good idea. You never sound as good to others as you do to yourself. So stop singing. Lip-sync instead. Your gym-mates will love you for it. And stop tripping you.

6) Be prepared for some pretty awesome events that will change your life forever. Learning to run is like giving birth or publishing your first book. It's amazing, for example, what a marathon will do for you. After months and months of preparation, and miles and miles of training, it all boils down to a single step when you cross that finish line for the first time. That experience will change your life forever. 

7) Live in the moment. The past is past. You will never be able to relive it. And the future is future. Living in the moment means concentrating on this time in your life. For me, that looks a lot like being content to let time march on without becoming complacent about  getting older. Truly enjoy each moment of your life, my friend. It's a pure gift from God.

8) Be yourself. Always. I get passed in races. A lot. That's because I'm slow. It's just who I am. By giving myself permission to be myself, I accept the body God has given me. So if you see me running in a race, don't be surprised at the sight of my persistent and stubborn style. But don't expect the smile to come off my face either.

9) Keep moving. Motion is the proof that you're still living. When I feel the breeze of a bike ride, when I feel the heat of a road race, when I feel a pouring rain as I walk, I know that I'm alive.

10) There is no secret. To anything, least of all diet and exercise. And don't let anybody tell you there is.

The end.

4:34 PM Welcome back everybody. How's the weather where you are? It's been raining constantly here -- a nice, slow "farmer's rain." Which got my somewhat addled (quasi-theologian's) brain to thinking: The Bible often speaks about God sending rain upon the earth. In Hebrews, in fact, the author is very clear: richly watered fields produce useful crops instead of worthless weeds (Heb. 6:7-8). These two verses are what I often refer to as the forgotten verses in this famous warning passage. The principle seems obvious: Where there is fruit on the tree, there is life in the tree. This is why the author can be so confident about his hearers' "salvation" (see 6:9-12). The basis for his confidence is in the work that God is doing in and through them, as seen primarily in their love for one another. Not only did they show practical concern for each other in the past but they continue to do so. (Note the shift from the aorist participle "having ministered" to the present participle "ministering." See, I told you Greek was useful!). Love is always the first mark of a genuine Christian community. So is progress and growth. Apathy is a sure sign that we are drifting away from our biblical and spiritual moorings (2:1-4). How ironic it would be for, say, students to take a year of Greek and then neglect all of their learning. That would be like a field that was well watered and cultivated producing thorns and thistles. Unthinkable! Growth in knowledge and love are indisputable evidences of God's blessing and work in us. The issue is not merely facts. It is obedience. Or, as the author of Hebrews suggests in 6:1-3, a foundation exists for only one reason -- to build a superstructure on top of it.

If you're a Greek student -- seasoned or unseasoned -- it's worth reflecting for a moment on how you plan to continue your Greek studies. Years ago I wrote A Letter to My Greek Students. If we are going to get better at our Greek, then we're going to have to participate. The good news is that there are plenty of helps out there to assist us on our way. Why not teach Greek in your local church? I spent a year doing this in my local church and it paid huge dividends. God bless those students of mine. They worked so hard. And for what? The study of Greek has a goal, which is not the careful study of Greek. The object is to discover Jesus and allow Him to wreck our lives (in a good sort of way). Show me a Greek teacher (or student) off mission, and I will show you someone with no concept of what it means to follow Jesus.

To all of my summer Greek students: You are my heart's delight. It's been a privilege to truth-seek and rabble-rouse with all of you. I hope and pray, even in a small way, Jesus is wrecking your life. We're in this together. Let's do this together.

6:15 AM Hey guys, and a very happy Tuesday morning to you. Here's a brief update for you as I continue to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Today I'm giving my legs a much-deserved day off and spending most of my time at the gym working on my upper body. My plan for tomorrow (Lord willing and weather permitting) is to get in a long run (maybe as many as 20 miles) at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, where my ultra will take place (also in October). Last Sunday, when I listed my upcoming races, I forgot to mention that I'm scheduled to do a 10K (6.2 mile) race in Dallas next Wednesday while visiting mom and dad. As you can see, by running so regularly, I'm trying to build up my "base." The idea is to try and convince your legs/heart/lungs that running 26.2 miles (or, in the case of the ultra, 31 miles) is not that big of a deal. Training is all about maintaining an overall consistency. Having a training schedule is important, but it's even more important to be out there doing it. You don't have to be super-regimented, either. Just a bit self-disciplined. And you need to remember to always have fun! (I believe in the "work hard, play hard" philosophy of life.) By the way, the same idea applies to the study of Greek. I was thrilled to see a post about this on Nerdy Language Majors this morning. How can I keep up with my Greek? What tools/apps are there to help me? Is there a Greek reading group I can join? If I can throw my hat into the ring ...

You probably know that I have a summer "Five Minute Greek Club" for my students. When you join, you agree to translate, unless providentially hindered, any two verses from your Greek New Testament daily, Monday to Friday, until the beginning of the next semester (which is Aug. 16 at Southeastern). If you do this, you get one of my books for free. Today I'm going to make this offer public. The first five people to sign up for the club and who complete their translation work by Aug. 16 will receive a gratis copy of my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. This offer is valid only today, and only to the first five people who email me at dblack@sebts.edu. Want a free book? Enter today!

Okay, back to my training plan. After logging 180 miles in the past 30 days, it's time to focus on proper nutrition. Yes, one's digestive system is every bit as important as one's exercise routine. Of course, the goal is not to get thin but to get fit, so I'm not that concerned about standing on the scales every day. In fact, I haven't weighed myself in probably three months. I know when I'm feeling/looking good and when I'm not. What I would like to do -- and need to do -- is learn about how my body uses the food I put into it and to make choices that foster good health. I want to focus on balanced meals -- and more of them at less frequent intervals. I need to begin by eating at least three meals a day. I also want to eat several smaller meals a day rather than three humongous ones. I want to make better choices about what I put into my mouth. The key is to work with my body. I have to trust it -- and myself. I've got to strike the right balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Like a car engine, my body requires the proper fuel.

I hate writing about diet. I am not a nutritionist. Bottom line, my body type is large, and there's very little I can do about that. But what I can do is eat balanced meals and move my body in a way that makes me happy. I actually don't think my diet is too bad, but (as with every area of life) I know I can do better. How about you? Do you struggle (as I do) to treat your body with respect and fuel it accordingly? What's your eating philosophy?

All the best!

Dave

Monday, June 25   

6:40 PM This morning I awoke at 5:00 with an insatiable case of Wanderlust. Where to go today? Preferably a place I'd never been before. But where? An idea had been forming in my sub-consciousness, and now I let it surface and examined it. The Virginia Capital Trail. You know, the one that connects Virginia's first capital (Jamestown) with its current capital (Richmond). 52 miles of pristine bike trails. 400 years of history. Historic plantation homes by the bucketful. So off I went, enjoying the sunrise over the bridge at "my fair city" of Clarksville ...

... before stopping at the Cracker Barrel in South Hill for some scrumptious hotcakes. Now I was ready for a ride!

I started my bike about 20 miles east of Richmond. Which meant that I ended up biking about 30 miles today. (Yes, I'm saddle sore.)

But it was biking through some of the prettiest countryside in Old Dominion. There were cornfields galore.

And wheat fields.

And plantation homes. Here's Berkeley.

And Shirley.

And Westover.

Eventually you arrive at Jamestown.

Talk about history! You pass historical marker ...

... after historical marker ...

 ... after historical marker.

And in the middle of it all -- smack dab in the center of the trail in the town of Charles City -- is the cutest little restaurant you will ever find.

The food was out of this world. I couldn't even finish my meal, the portions were so large. I brought half of it home with me.

I've had a love affair with travelling for many years. Wanderlust, the very strong desire to travel, is in my blood. I imagine we adopted the word from German without change because it can't be improved on. (The Germans actually have a "Tag des Wanderns," an annual Hiking Day.) Becky and I travelled all over Europe together. I still laugh whenever I recall how we once got lost in Lamorlaye, France. And where hadn't we gone in Ethiopia?

What will you do with the rest of the year? Where will you go? What are your goals, and what should they be? Do some people have a Wanderlust gene? I think I do. Well, wherever you go and whatever you do, may God be with you.

Thanks for reading!

Dave

Sunday, June 24   

7:58 PM My upcoming races (a reminder, more for myself than for you):

  • July 7: UNC Oral Cancer 5K (Chapel Hill, NC)

  • July 8: Rex Wellness Triathlon (Garner, NC)

  • Aug. 4: Bull Moon 5K Run (Durham, NC)

  • Sept. 2: Virginia Beach Half Marathon (Virginia Beach, VA)

  • Aug. 29: Starry Night 5K and Lantern Ceremony (Raleigh, NC)

  • Oct. 6: High Bridge Trail Half Marathon (Farmville, VA)

  • Oct. 13: High Bridge Ultra 50K (Pamplin, VA)

  • Oct. 28: Marine Corps Marathon (Arlington, VA)

  • Nov. 10: Richmond Marathon (Richmond, VA)

  • Dec. 8: Race 13.1 Half Marathon (Durham, NC)

I don't know about you, but I find goal-setting something to help me stay dedicated. Most of us would agree that when we don't plan for something, nothing is likely to happen. What are your exercise goals for the remainder of 2018? Remember: Your goals must be your goals. Judge yourself only by your own standards. If you do, the rewards will be yours as well.

Happy running everybody!

7:44 PM The race staff wrote my age on my leg. I gave them explicit instructions NOT to add another 6.

5:42 PM Hey guys! Today I conquered my third triathlon. It couldn't have been more different from the first two I did last year. This might be the first time I really felt like a triathlete. I loved everything about today's race. Right now I'm feeling a bit tired but great. Here's a brief race report.

The setting: The course is set in the beautiful suburbs of Wake Forest, NC. The swim takes place at the Heritage Swim Club pool with a 250-meter swim. You are told to put down 99.99 for your swim time if you want to be placed last in the group. I did so, and was seeded at the end of the line. The bike is a relatively flat 12 miles with police officers and volunteers at every turn. The route does NOT close to traffic so you have to be extra vigilant while riding. Thankfully, the traffic seemed extra sparse today. The run is a simple out-and-back 5K (3.1 miles) and takes you through the neighborhood subdivisions. As I recall, there were water stations at the half mile point as well as at the 1.5 mile turnaround. At about mile 1.4 somebody had their water sprinkler out, which was most refreshing.

I woke up at 4:00 this morning and headed out of the driveway at about 4:45. This put me in Wake Forest around sunrise. It also put me there in plenty of time to find some coffee and pick up my race kit, bike and helmet stickers, timing chip, t-shirt, and a pair of free socks.

I also got my race number written on my arms and my age written on the back of my right calf. Then, as with most of the other participants, I attended the pre-race briefing. I had lots of time to set up in transition, use the porta-potty, put on sunscreen (sorely needed today), and get wet before the race.

The swim: I used to be a very strong swimmer. You had to be a good swimmer if you surfed in Hawaii. But nowadays I rarely swim, so I started at the back of the pack in order to avoid the tangle of swimmers at the start and in the middle sections of the course. (Sidebar: I left my goggles at the pool yesterday and so I arrived at the race venue goggle-less. Thankfully, one of the race vendors had a pair for sale. My new pair is even nicer than my old pair, so everything worked out in the end. I can't imagine swimming 250 meters without swim goggles!) As in the past, this year the race officials were starting the swimmers out with a rolling start. Presumably, this results in fewer swimmers making contact with each other. My goal today was to continue at a steady pace, using the crawl stroke exclusively. (Last year I had to do the breast stroke when I got tired.) The water was calm and, by starting out at the back of the back, I had absolutely no contact with my fellow swimmers along the way.

Time: 6:25.

Transition 1: I exited the pool and ran to the transition area, where my bike, helmet, and sunglasses awaited me. I think I wasted a few precious seconds putting on my socks and shoes. (I need to work on this.) I also hydrated (simple water, no Gatorade yet) but didn't feel I needed nutrition.

Time: 2:26.

The bike: In my first two triathlons, I rode my mountain bike. That was a huge mistake. A lot of people passed me. I have to admit: I was so discouraged after those first two races that I seriously thought I would never do another triathlon -- until I purchased my road bike. Today I actually passed a few riders. I was pretty happy with my 15.2 mph average speed on the bike course.

Time: 48:37. (Last year it was a whopping one hour and two minutes!!!)

Transition 2: Back at the transition area, I racked my bike, swapped a hat for my helmet, drank some water, and took off.

Time: 1:20.

The run: When I came off my bike, my legs were feeling pretty shot. I was breathing heavily and knew I had to slow down. It was a very hot day. I took water at every aid station and also poured cups of water down my neck and back. The run went fairly well, I think, considering that my legs were dead.

Time: 38:08.

Overall: I had a PR today. My overall time this year was 1:37:35. Last year, at the same event, my overall time was 1:50:02. The best part of the race was the bike. The hardest part was the run due to the heat. However, I wasn't alone. There were many fellow athletes to commiserate with! My favorite memory from the race? The water sprinkler at mile 1.4. (Suggestion for the race directors: Next year please have the fire department bring their hoses.) Afterwards I stayed for the awards while munching on post-race pizza. I earned second place in my age group this year, as opposed to seventh (and last) place in 2017. Clearly I should do triathlons more often (*wink*).

I highly recommend the Smile Train Triathlon in Wake Forest, especially for any newbies out there. It's a blast -- and an awesome way to spend your hard-earned dollars (all proceeds go to provide cleft lip and palate surgery to children in the Majority World).

With that-- thanks for reading! 

Dave

Saturday, June 23   

7:44 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to:

COUNTDOWN TO THE MCM!

I'm sitting here digesting a plate load of carbs in preparation for tomorrow's tri. After all, my body has to swim/bike/run over 15 miles tomorrow. Although I'm trying to train myself to eat several small meals each day rather than two gigantic ones, I fell off the wagon big time today. For breakfast I had eggs, toast, and a large serving of corned beef hash. Then I pigged out on seafood and hush puppies tonight. Habits are hard to break sometimes. My biggest problem is learning to view food as fuel rather than as a weight management problem. And, where I live, food is all too often a provider of comfort and companionship rather than something we use to fuel our bodies. You know: faith, hope, love, truth, justice, the American Way, and key lime pie. Running is a whole being activity. Ditto for cycling and swimming, I imagine. (I wouldn't really know since I'm not a very consistent cyclist or swimmer.) It's much easier to make poor food choices than to get fit. The good news is that I was able to get both a bike and a swim in today.

I am so, so, so excited about tomorrow's race. I'm eager to see how I do. Can I top last year's time? I hope so. But rather than just focusing on the destination, I want to enjoy the journey to the finish line. I'm so glad that the pool is located outdoors. I absolutely detest indoor swimming pools, like the one we had to swim in last year during the Rex Wellness Triathlon. Heated water -- along with about 500 swimmers expending their body heat -- make for cauldron-like conditions when you're enclosed in a swimming hall. As for the 12-mile bike ride, we'll see how things go. Having a road bike should make a difference in my time for this leg of the race, but then again, I'm a complete novice when it comes to cycling. The easiest leg for me should be the 5K run, mainly because I've learned to accept my own limitations as a runner. As always, I will do my best, not someone else's best. In my mind, equating "second place" with "first loser" is just plain idiotic. The difference between a win and a victory is huge. Racing meets a need in my life. It's the need you and I and every other person has -- the need to rise up and face a challenge. This need, as with every other need in life, challenges us to meet our greatest need: learning how to love and serve our Abba Father with every fiber of our being.

Tomorrow, I will lose the race. That's a given. But I can be victorious if I know what I'm striving for.

8:20 AM I'm preparing my initial lecture on Hebrews. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:

1) Is Hebrews a letter that lacks the customary opening or a sermon to which an epistolary conclusion was added? The latter seems more likely. Here's Heb. 1:1:

Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις....

And here's Heb. 13:18-25:

Προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν, πειθόμεθα γὰρ ὅτι καλὴν συνείδησιν ἔχομεν, ἐν πᾶσιν καλῶς θέλοντες ἀναστρέφεσθαι. περισσοτέρως δὲ παρακαλῶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι ἵνα τάχιον ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν.  Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, ὁ ἀναγαγὼν ἐκ νεκρῶν τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου, τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν, καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς ἐν παντὶ ἀγαθῷ εἰς τὸ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ, ποιῶν ἐν ἡμῖν τὸ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ἀμήν. Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν. γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον, μεθʼ οὗ ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς. ἀσπάσασθε πάντας τοὺς ἡγουμένους ὑμῶν καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας. ἡ χάρις μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.

Clearly, Hebrews is a "word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22):

Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν.

2) Such exhortations were common in the Jewish synagogues of the day (see Acts 13:15):

μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν ἀπέστειλαν οἱ ἀρχισυνάγωγοι πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγοντες·  Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν λόγος παρακλήσεως πρὸς τὸν λαόν, λέγετε.

Here Paul gives a sermon in response to an invitation to do so by the officials of the synagogue in Antioch on his first missionary journey.

3) Now note 1 Tim 4:13:

ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ.

This verse establishes the pattern of reading from Scripture followed by an exhortation in the earliest Christian assemblies.

4) Finally, note how Paul expects his first letter to the Thessalonians to be read aloud to the entire congregation (1 Thess 5:27):

ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς.

Hebrews therefore seems to be a homily, intended to be read aloud. Approaching Hebrews from this perspective allows us to see how the book does not neatly fit into the category of "epistle."

This is so much fun!

6:45 AM A few random reflections on a cloudy Saturday morning:

1) Yesterday I sent the editors of Filologia Neotestamentaria my review of Paul Danove's latest book called New Testament Verbs of Communication: A Case Frame and Exegetical Study (LNTS 520; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).

I wrote:

Paul Danove, Professor of New Testament Studies at Villanova University, has produced an innovative study relating distinct uses of verbs and deriving their various connotations. Danove is well-known in New Testament circles as the author of two major works dealing with case-frame analysis: Grammatical and Exegetical Study of New Testament Verbs of Transference: A Case Frame Guide to Interpretation and Translation (2009); and Linguistics and Exegesis in the Gospel of Mark: Applications of a Case Frame Analysis and Lexicon (2002). His current study applies case-frame analysis to describe the 4,528 occurrences of the 122 New Testament verbs that designate communication. The author establishes a heuristic model for relating distinct uses of verbs and their various connotations.

I concluded with this statement, which I hope will challenge all of my students to pursue a study of Greek linguistics:

At the present time, linguistic analysis of the New Testament is one of the most active and creative areas of biblical studies. As is the case with other academic disciplines, linguistics is not absolutely essential to the study of the literature of the New Testament. One does not need to know linguistics in order to read and understand, for example, Paul's letter to the Romans. That being said, linguistics can contribute a great deal to our understanding of a text .... The present study helps ensure a proper foundation for exegesis by enabling the student to recognize the systematic regularities in the language of a text. For this reason, Professor Danove's book is to be considered a most welcome contribution to the field of New Testament studies.

2) Here are three brief comments based on my reading of the Orthodox Prayer Book this morning. First, I noticed how similar chrestos ("good," "kind") is to Christos (see line 7).

In fact, some have argued that Jesus was originally known as Chrestos and His followers were called Chrestians instead of Christians. I seem to recall F. F. Bruce suggesting somewhere that the earliest believers may have been derided as being "Goodie-goodies" (Chrestianoi) because of their high moral character in contrast to the pagan culture of the day. At any rate, the two terms are very similar indeed, and there may even be a word play between chrestos and Christos in 1 Pet. 2:3 (where p72 actually reads Christos).

3) The last line of this famous prayer reminded me that the optative (instead of the indicative) was commonly used in Greek prayer-wishes.

This helps me when I run across Paul's opening greetings, in which the Greek verb is elided (left out), as in Phil. 1:2: "Grace to you and peace ...." Here the likeliest rendering is "May grace be yours and peace ...." rather than "Grace is yours and peace ...."

4) Even though I don't see a clergy-laity division in the New Testament, I still think this is an awesome prayer.

5) Finally, "One pearl is better than a whole necklace of potatoes" (Etienne Decroux). There is some awful good prose in Bill Lane's Hebrews commentary.

Friday, June 22   

6:34 PM Good Friday evening, fellow bloggers! I have so much to be thankful for this week.

1) I enjoyed a Father's Day celebration on Wednesday with my daughter and her sweet family.

2) I began rereading this fine work on Hebrews.

I admired Bill Lane enormously. I got to know him when he was teaching at Seattle Pacific and I was guest lecturing at Fuller Northwest in Seattle for two summers. Almost all great scholarship involves being intellectually rigorous without being rude. Bill was a scholar's scholar. I strongly recommend that you check out his commentary on Hebrews. There's a simplicity and elegance to everything he writes. Bill retired in 1999 and passed away only two years later. He is greatly missed but his ideas live on through his writings.

3) Since summer school has ended, and because I got in a solid 10-mile bike ride today, I decided to treat myself to some Ethiopian food at the Abyssinia Restaurant in Raleigh. Thank you, Tegegne, for the great food and fellowship. As usual, I got kai wat in memory of Becky (that was her favorite dish). 

4) Finally, I laughed out loud when I saw this.

For this weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest, yours truly has been seeded #313 out of 314 participants. I'll start the swim a good 50 minutes after the first swimmer begins at 8:00 am. Looks like I'm quickly becoming the patron saint of the back of the pack! My philosophy is: Have fun with it, or why do it?

Next week my summer vacation begins in earnest. I plan to bike two trails this summer: The Virginia Capital Trail from Jamestown to Richmond, and the Virginia Creeper Trail from White Top to Damascus. Weather permitting, I hope to begin my cycling adventure next week. Overall, I'm feeling real good about my training workouts. The marathon can't get here quickly enough. I think the chances are about 50/50 that I'll complete the race the same day that I start!!

Tomorrow I'd like to get in a workout at the Y, a run, and a swim. I'm also behind on my farm projects and hope to knock out a couple of major projects.

Happy training wherever you are!

Dave

Thursday, June 21   

6:12 AM Well, today we take the quiz over chapter 25 of our beginning Greek grammar. Only one chapter to go. There it is -- the finish line! Only one more mile to go in your 26-chapter "marathon"! You've done it. You've finished your first race. It's fantastic.

When I ran my first marathon, someone told me, "When you cross the finish line, don't stop. You have to keep moving through the finish area. If you stop, your legs will freeze up on you. You've got to keep on moving." Greek 1-2 is only the first step in a lifetime of using Greek in your lives and ministries. Most of us will use it on an occasionally basis at best. Others will go on to become "elite" Greek athletes, even earning a Ph.D. in the subject. What it's all said and done, the only question any of us needs to ask is, "Did I do my best?"

Greek students, thank you for all of your hard this summer. I mean that: Thank you! I'm so proud of you. This is your moment of victory. Savor it!

Wednesday, June 20   

7:15 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to DBO. I just wanted to update you on my training log for my marathon in October. This week I got in two runs, two bikes, and two swims. That's right. I finally found a swimming pool where I can do lap swimming any time of the day or evening.

It's in a town called Knightdale, which is about a 35-minute drive southeast of Wake Forest. But it's well worth the drive. I'm able to get in as many laps as I want to without anybody disturbing me. And the best news of all is that it's a YMCA, which means that my Virginia Y membership is valid there -- hence no cost to me at all. In addition, I've also gotten back into cycling big time. The main reason for this is that I've decided to do another triathlon this weekend. It will be my third tri. It's called the Smile Train TRI and all proceeds will go to the world's largest cleft lip and palate charity called "Smile Train."

I did this tri last year at this same time and came in almost dead last. I was pretty good at both the swim and the running legs of the race, but because I only had my mountain bike for the cycling portion, everyone else was racing past me at speeds exceeding 25 miles per hour. All of that has changed as of yesterday, when I visited The Bike Guy in Wake Forest and purchased a brand new road bike. It's called the Marin Argenta Elite and is as light as a feather.

I tested it twice yesterday at the Neuse Rover Greenway and now I'm the one blowing by slower riders. What an adrenalin rush! This means that I now have two bikes, my Marin for road races and for concrete or asphalt paths, and my Fuji mountain bike for crushed gravel. Best of all, I won't feel like I'm kicking against the goads every time I do a triathlon. This weekend's race is a fairly short affair: a 250-meter pool swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and an out-and-back 5K run. The weather on race day will be hot and muggy, but what do you expect for June in North Carolina? Last year, as I said, I was doing my very first tri and I can remember how difficult and challenging I found this event to be. The swim and the run were relatively uneventful, but by the end of the bike segment I was so discouraged. As I settled into the run part of the race, I thought of the utter futility of trying to do a road race with a mountain bike. It was clear that if I was going to continue to do triathlons I would eventually need to get a road bike. Thankfully, the Bike Guy had exactly what I needed. Incidentally, as Rob (the owner) and I got to talking, he suddenly blurted out, "Are you Dr. Black? Why, I had you for New Testament at Southeastern!" It's a small world, folks! Right now I'm filled with trepidation, expectation, and a desperate lack of preparation. As I said, I've been getting in some good rides and laps at the pool but not nearly enough training to feel that I'm ready for the race this weekend. But I've paid my entry fee and I'm not turning back now. I figure I can at least expect to do a little bit better on the bike leg this time around. But I'm not going to push myself too much. I still need to get used to how my new bike handles before I go full bore. Besides -- perspective, Dave, perspective! These races I'm doing now are really only training events for my 26.2 mile marathon and my 31-mile ultra in October. I often think to myself, "Is this really happening to me? Am I really going to run in the Marine Corps Marathon?" It all seems like a big dream. Can you imagine standing at the start of the MCM with 25,000 other runners who share a common goal and a common dream? I have to laugh, mostly at my own lack of talent. But what I lack in talent I make up in raw dedication. At the starting line, all runners are equal. All of us are alone, and yet each of us is part of a larger group. The thousands of people standing next to you are both companions and competitors. Each of us has a gnawing need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and yet each of us maintains the integrity of who we are as individuals. I can't imagine another sport where this happens. Tomorrow I hope to get in another long bike ride as well as some lap swimming at the pool in Knightdale. Then Friday, with the end of summer school Greek, I return to the farm for some much needed R & R before this weekend's race. As always, I'm struggling with balance. Somewhere, all athletes have to find that equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. When I climbed the Alps two summers ago, I recall Walter, my mountain guide, telling me, "Dave, you should climb with as little effort as possible. If you become restless, speed up. If you become tired, slow down. Above all, enjoy each step you take. Tho goal is not just the summit. The goal is to enjoy each footstep to the top and back."

What a wonderful thought. Equilibrium is so important in every area of life, isn't it? Nearly all of us find a healthy balance between work and leisure to be an unattainable goal. But we keep striving for that balance anyway. We have to. By not striving for that goal we actually prevent ourselves from improving.

Well, I see I've begun to ramble again. Let me close this post with pictures of two websites I told my Greek students about today. The Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page is a real winner.

I hope many of my students will consider applying for membership in this group. As for Rob Plummer's Daily Dose of Greek, it's a solid resource to keep you in your Greek for years to come.

When I started running three years ago, my goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping. At the time, that seemed like an unattainable distance. The first time I achieved that goal -- it was in Hawaii where I had gone to surf -- I couldn't wait to text my kids and let them know. I wanted them to celebrate with me, not just because I had finally covered that distance, but because I had overcome my self-imposed limitations. Greek student, don't underestimate your ability to do sound biblical exegesis based on the original languages of the Bible. If you persist in making progress, sooner or later the unthinkable happens. In time, reading a passage of your Greek New Testament that you once thought was way beyond your ability becomes routine. At that point, you'll begin to set new goals for yourself. What that next step is, you will have to choose, not me. And the greatest joy comes in being enough of a student to make that choice wisely.

Thanks for stopping by!

Dave

Monday, June 18   

6:12 AM Greetings, fellow athletes, and welcome to another episode of:

COUNTDOWN TO MCM!

I can't believe it's only 4 months to the Marine Corps Marathon. And frankly, I don't really know why I'm so excited about this event. Maybe because it will be in DC and I'll get to see all of the monuments up close and personal. Maybe because this will be the first "major" marathon I've done. Maybe I'm going crazy. Honestly, when I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati 13 months ago, I had no plans to run another one. And here I am running my 10th! Surely my motivation would have tanked by now, you'd think. The "inspiration muscle" is always the hardest one to use. Most of us who say we need motivation to get into shape are just dreaming. Dreams are very illusive things. A dream without regular action will get you nowhere fast. So let's talk about motivation for a second. Here are some reasons that come to my mind this morning of why I think I've been able to stay motivated for so long. I'm listing them here for my sake more than yours!

  • When I run, my right brain is engaged. My mind is re-energized and the creative juices are really flowing. Which is one reason I can't wait to blog after a race.

  • When I run, my spirit is engaged. I am free to soar and dream even bigger dreams.

  • When I run, my body is engaged. My stress levels are reduced, and my attitude is better after every run.

  • When I run, I become a "complete" person. Mind, body, and spirit are all engaged, together. You're learning about connections you thought were never there. Indeed, verses like Rom. 12:1 begin to make better sense to you ("present your bodies as a living sacrifice unto God").

  • When I run, I feel myself being drawn closer and closer to my Creator and Savior. I'm always conscious of His presence, realizing that He is the One who gives me strength.

  • Finally, when I run, natural chemicals called endorphins relax me and help my body to cope with all of its aches and pains.

It's really no more complicated than that. To stay motivated, you simply have to have good reasons to do what you're doing. When I took Greek, I fell in love with the language. Yes, it was challenging. After all, it was my very first foreign language. But when Greek clicked, everything else seemed to click along with it. I found my "niche" in life, so to speak. And, 42 years later, I am enjoying the classroom as much today as I did when I first entered it.

Today, I am an adult-onset athlete. I believe that having an active lifestyle is the only responsible course of action for a 66-year old who takes Rom. 12:1 seriously. I owe it to my family to stay in shape for as long as possible. Moreover, I've found the running community to be one of the most compassionate, supportive, giving, and understanding communities I've ever been involved with. Had I known how rich my life would have been as a runner, I would have put my running shoes on much earlier. Staying active is really a matter of faith. It's part of our stewardship responsibility before our Creator. The people you see running 5Ks on the weekend aren't any more talented or gifted than you are. They haven't suddenly discovered the secret to happiness. They aren't any different from you and me. They're just normal, everyday people who've discovered that running is a whole-being activity. It nourishes your mind, your body, and your spirit. Anyone can be more active!

When you stand at the starting line of a marathon, your goal that day is to complete 26.2 miles. The difference between success and failure is as simple as taking the next step. I imagine that's how all of life is. "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt what you consider to be the will of God for your life" (Jim Elliott). Jim Elliott did just that, and entered heaven "through gates of splendor." The truth is, every step in life is important. Every step takes us a little bit closer to who we want to become. Every step reveals some new God-given potential. My hope and dream is that you will find your "niche" in life and then pursue it with all the gusto you can.

Thanks for reading.

Dave

Sunday, June 17   

8:55 AM Good morning, guys, and Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there. This morning I thought I'd continue blogging about the book of Hebrews, which is my favorite New Testament writing outside of the Gospels. This morning I'm meditating on the opening verses of the book. I used to spend a lot of time in the prologue of Hebrews when I was writing my journal article on the subject. What moved me greatly was to see the absolute beauty of the passage. At the time, I profited eminently from the work of Johannes Louw on discourse analysis, and so I called my essay "Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis," which appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal and can be accessed, free of charge, here. My study of this text was invaluable. It set a trajectory for me in my subsequent studies in Greek discourse analysis. In this opening paragraph of Hebrews, the exalted Christ is found, front and center. And the Greek of this text? It's perhaps the most exalted Greek in the entire New Testament, which is what you'd expect when the theme of the book is "Christianity Is Christ." I often tell my students to look for issues of style in a New Testament book every bit as much as matters of theology. The way something is said can enhance its effectiveness. Today I simply want to note the opening two adverbs of the letter. Here the author uses a figure of speech called alliteration in introducing how God spoke in the Old Testament -- "in many parts and in many ways" (Greek: polumeros kai polutropos). Note the initial "p" sound. This was designed to make the audience attentive and receptive to the speaker's message. God, he says, spoke in many parts and in many ways through His spokesmen the prophets. Here the words polumeros and polutropos have to do with the varied and manifold nature of Old Testament revelation. It helps, then, when studying the Old Testament, that we at least try and understand how all of these parts fit together. Likewise -- and here's the main point I'm trying to make this morning (cf. Heb. 8:1!), I believe we can apply these same two adverbs to the letter to the Hebrews. Has not our author (1) used a great variety of parts in order to communicate a single message, and (2) used any number of rhetorical devices (alliteration, assonance, anaphora, asyndeton, metonymy, hyperbole, etc.) in order to increase the impact and appeal of his message, the "hitting" and the "drawing" of his letter on his audience? What this means, at least to me, is that if we are to understand the book of Hebrews aright, we have to begin by understanding at least two things:

Its discourse structure (that is, how all the parts fit the whole), and

Its literary devices (that is, how the message is enhanced by the style of the writing).

What an achievement if we could even begin to understand these two components of meaning! For this reason, I'd like to call your attention to two essays of mine that might help us do just that. They are both accessible online, free of charge:

"The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews" available here, and

"Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews," found here.

At one time, as you can see, Hebrews occupied a good deal of my study time. I do hope you will not find these essays to be "scholarship for the sake of scholarship." I well recall in the 1980s having to come to grips with a serious academic issue. Would I write for the academy, or would I try to ensure that what I wrote (both my essays and books) would be of some use to the church at large? I have suffered from that schizophrenia ever since. But ultimately I decided that my writings would, hopefully, be useful to more than scholars. Hence my essays and books have tended to be, not less scholarly necessarily (at least I hope not!), but more geared for a broader reading audience. I've never had occasion to regret that decision.

Please read these essays if you can. I'm a little embarrassed to call attention to my own essays. Writing is, in fact, at best a supplement to what I do in the classroom. But since most of you can't attend class with me, I suppose the next best thing is to put my thoughts into words. God has called me to write, and I have tried to obey that calling, but others will have to decide how effective I've been.

Below: Heb. 1:1-7 in p46.

Saturday, June 16   

8:45 PM We were able to get up two trailer loads of hay tonight.

We worked until dark, per usual. What a gorgeous evening.

It was so much fun working with my son on this Father's Day weekend.

As if that wasn't blessing enough, I just found out today that one of my former doctoral students edited this book.

Mel, what an honor. I am so humbled and grateful, not to mention surprised! Thank you for your kindness to me. And to all of my fellow New Testament scholars: You will never know just how you, your friendship, and your prayers have meant to me at the time of my own greatest loss and confusion. I am so humbled to belong to the guild of New Testament academics. Thank you all so very much.

Time to wash clothes and cook supper. Pork stir fry over rice. Ono-licious!

2:18 PM Hey guys. I thought I'd update you again on my marathon training. Today my goal was to work out for 45 minutes at the Y, run for 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston, and then swim laps at the public pool. Mission accomplished! -- all except for the swimming. By the time I got to the pool it was way too crowded for lap swimming, so I just grabbed one of the lawn chairs and read for an hour or so. Here's a video of today's workout. Thanks for sharing my journey to the Marine Corps Marathon with me. I'm still feeling super motivated!

 

7:25 AM I spent the early morning hours on the front porch sipping coffee and reading Hebrews. Paul made this statement in 2 Tim. 3:16:

"All Scripture is God-breathed."

This verse drives everything I do as a Greek teacher. The Bible is the word of God -- every word, everywhere. Theologians call this "verbal-plenary inspiration." But not only are the words inspired by God. Inspiration includes the words, but it also involves tense, voice, mood, person, number, gender, case, source, word order, phrase order, clause order, discourse structure, rhetorical devices, and the list goes on and on. Exegesis is not something to tackle on our own. The same Spirit who inspired God's word has to illuminate its truths to our minds and hearts. At stake is a matter of life and death. There's zero chance of doing exegesis if you think you can do the job alone. But every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. He'll go with you, helping you study, teaching you what the text is saying, and showing you how you can apply its truth to your life. And, if you think the Bible is something else, look at Jesus. God's essence was funneled into the plain package of a human being. Through the incarnation Jesus proved to us that God can indeed be known. Today, my friend, harness the heavens. God's word is there to light our lives for all of eternity.

Friday, June 15   

9:30 PM Hey folks. Just a barebones photo update:

1) Had a wonderful lunch yesterday at a local Chinese restaurant with several of my Greek students. They were a happy bunch.

2) My able assistant taught today's class on pronouns. As always, Noah did a superb job.

3) I'm enjoying this book.

4) Our secretaries surprised me today with a birthday card and donuts for our entire quad. Thank you, ladies!

But that wasn't the only surprise ....

5) This came today from one of my daughters.

A healthy fruit basket! Just what the doctor ordered for someone in training.

6) By the grace of God, during the past 30 days I've managed to put 170 miles on my Map My Run app.

7) Yesterday I thought I'd do some biking. A marathon on wheels, if you will. 

8) Here's a time-lapse video of my ride.

 

I'm not a very gifted athlete. That's an understatement! But I'm tenacious and stubborn. Sometimes when out alone on the bike path I feel Becky with me. I imagine us breathing in the fresh air together and planning our next mission trip. In those moments, I feel her spirit beside me. As with athletics, so with life. And no more than athletics is life a game for rookies. It's the supreme aging game. I hope I can do a better job of it in the days and weeks ahead.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Have a great weekend.

Dave

Wednesday, June 13   

6:20 PM Hey guys. Dave here with another update. I'm back on the farm doing chores and checking up on the animals. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Greek class. We'll be reviewing chapters 17-21 in my textbook and then I'm sending the class home with their second take-home exam of the semester. I'm super excited to see how well they do with the participle and the infinitive. Grammar is never boring to me! Meanwhile, I was sent the final page proofs to Becky's book My Life Story in Chinese, and after one more pass-through, the book will go to the printer.

I still can't believe that her autobiography will now be available in the world's three most-widely spoken languages (English, Spanish, and Mandarin). God is good!

Finally, I'm on target to accomplish all of my marathon training goals for the week. Before this weekend's long run I only have a 26.2 mile bike ride left, which I hope to do tomorrow. For me, the best part about being outdoors is fellowshipping with the Creator. My running/walking/biking brings me closer to Him. Over and over again I can hear Him saying, "My grace is enough for you, Dave" (2 Cor. 12:9). At the end of the day, I know that He will be with me through thick and thin, enabling me to keep on taking one step after the other. I feel like my breakthrough moment in life came when I realized that anything we do as Jesus-followers has the potential of glorifying God, even if it's washing dishes or running a road race. (I do both of these activities quite frequently.) God helps me physically every day that I get out of bed, whether it's to do farm chores or teach my classes. I am about to say something that might sound revolutionary but I believe it's absolutely true: running is a "ministry" of mine every bit as much as teaching is. The truth is that, as Christians, we find our greatest pleasure when we are doing what God created us to be and do without ever comparing ourselves to anyone else. In Greek, the verbs "serve," minister," and "worship" are closely related. My goal in life is to serve and worship God in everything I do. This means, for one thing, that I no longer separate the "sacred" from the "secular" parts of my life. Being a Christian is not about dying to our natural gifts or God-given desires and joys. It's about living life, the life He's given us, to the max.

Every day, through my running, God is teaching me more and more about who I am in Him. It's not about running fast or about running slow. I run not because I want to but because I have to. I teach for the same reason. Yes, teaching is my "job," my "vocation," but it's oh so much more than that. I know of no other way to live than to teach. Likewise, I know of no other way to exist apart from being active, as long as God allows me to be active. Being a runner is so much like being a Christian. You begin at the starting line and then each step takes you closer to the finish line. There is always a goal in your relentless forward progress. Not only do you want to see what you're capable of accomplishing in life, in your heart of hearts you want to see how God works through your life to bless others. But here's the clincher: At some point in your race, pain becomes your companion. It becomes part of the journey. Sometimes the pain is relatively minor, and at other times it is practically unbearable. But pain always comes to us eventually. Fortunately, Christianity teaches us how to suffer. Running in the midst of pain is a crash course in perseverance and gratitude. In those moments when you are struggling, when your limits are being tested, you sense that the Lord is with you in a special way. Heaven seems to come down and touch the earth.

C. S. Lewis once put it this way: "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think that one would often want to do anything else." I love road races, not only because of the fantastic comradery, but because they remind us that we, yes WE, can do this, that we are capable of so much more than we know. It probably goes without saying, but when Becky died my life changed forever. I realized I faced a choice: I could let her death ruin me, or I could, as much as possible, learn to grow from the experience. My friend, just showing up at the starting line proves that you "dared greatly." If you make a few mistakes, learn from then and then get right back on track. Life is not supposed to be easy! You just keep plugging along. In my running life, I try not to live with regrets. "I should have done this or that." Nope. Learn from your mistakes, Dave, but don't dwell on the past. Life vacillates between peaks and valleys. Get used to it. The one constant is the Lord. Every day, God is teaching me more about who I am and who He wants me to be. It's awesome to know that while stretching or running or cooking or teaching or cleaning the house He's right there with me. He created me this way. He created me to celebrate the disciplined, physically hard-working lifestyle. I am meant to be fully alive, fully alive in Christ. I am adamant, therefore, that being a Christian doesn't mean a joyless existence. "When I run I feel His pleasure," said Eric Liddle in the movie Chariots of Fire. What are you doing to feel His pleasure, my friend? Our primary role is to find God's will for our lives and then pursue it with all we have. And this "divining" God's will for our lives is not exclusive to one denomination, gender, ethnicity, etc. Each of us can know God if we truly seek Him. After all, He's the one who both designed the race course and finished it (Heb. 12:2). Our only job is to look to Him, "the Author and Perfecter of our faith." 

I'll be back, Lord willing, with another update on Friday. I hope that you enjoy your "race" this day!

Dave

Monday, June 11   

6:12 AM Lessons about running (and maybe about studying Greek) from my run yesterday:

1) Never, ever try to predict the future. Stay in the moment. Focus on how you are running now, not how many more miles you still have to go.

2) Expect the race to get harder the longer you go. Before you reach the finish line you'll have to dig deeper, maybe deeper than you've ever dug before.

3) Do not listen to yourself when your mind tells you it's time to quit. You're stronger than you think you are. Unless you are injured (or have started hallucinating), you will find another level of strength to persevere.

4) Be willing to embrace hardship and suffering. It is possible to suffer and not give up.

5) Imagine how incredibly amazing it will be when you finish.

Only 2 weeks left in baby Greek. It's not always smooth sailing for sure. But don't give up. The good things in life aren't supposed to be easy.

Sunday, June 10   

9:06 PM Today I tried to get in a 10-mile run in Farmville on a hot and humid day. Here's a GoPro video in case you're interested in my run.

 

Thanks, and God bless.

Dave

Saturday, June 9   

4:55 PM Hey folks! What a busy day it's been. I had to get gas, go to two banks, visit the post office, work out at the Y, visit my favorite breakfast joint, and get to the pool. Plus pick up hay. We just finished (early) and so I'm going to upload a few pix and then chillax. Thanks for stopping by!

1) The local Amish run this place. The food is scrumptious. I had two delicious and fattening glazed donuts along with my coffee.

2) Then I picked up some treats for the donks and goats.

3) While at Tractor Supply, the Humane Society was trying to give away kittens. I made a donation but didn't take a cat home with me. They sure were adorable though.

4) My 45-minute workout at the gym today focused on upper body strength. For a Saturday, the Y seemed unusually empty.

5) Not sure who Bubba is, but I like his sign.

6) I arrived at the pool just when it opened so that I could get some lap swimming in before the crowds arrived. Yes, I'm actually thinking about doing another triathlon this year.

7) Did I mention we baled today?

8) I'll leave you with this wonderful church sign I saw in South Boston. I think they left out the word "When," but the message still comes through loud and clear.

"On Christ, the solid rock, I stand ...."

Friday, June 8   

9:32 PM I turn 66 tomorrow, but you know, that's merely a number. In this respect, I am the person I was 30 or 40 years ago. I am the me I have always been. "Have I matured?" is the real question. I suppose so, in maybe a few ways. I no longer need a lot of friends. Only a few trusted people. These I call my "Garden Friends" (an allusion to the Garden of Gethsemane). I find myself craving the company of the broken. I can't seem to get too excited any more about MMMs (massive mega ministries). I tend to meet God nowadays in the small places of life: a hiking trail, a fellowship group, a quiet beach, a hay field. I've learned to thrive in the darkness. I seek to be fully human, as Jesus was fully human -- the perfect example of how we are to move through life. One thing I've come to accept is that the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. He moves, and we move. I used to think this meant that some stayed while others went (to the mission field). I'm not so sure that's the correct way to view missions. I have learned to find a mission field wherever I am. I see leaders as empowering the rest of us to be who we are, Christ's witnesses to the kingdom of God ("Godworld"). I have been many Daves throughout the years. With each phase of life, I've done my best to figure out what I should be doing, not always successfully. Instead of fearing the inevitable changes that come with aging, I've decided I would (mostly) accept them, make the most of them, but certainly not fear them. Today I cling more to the Bible than I ever did in the past. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God looks like. The Gospels don't need my books to be understood. Jesus interprets the Gospels. I have learned to challenge my own assumptions in all things. I am free to walk away from preconceived conclusions, free to push into the hard questions. I still have answers for my students, but some of them are not the same answers I had 20 or 30 years ago. My opinions don't matter so much to me anymore. I would rather equip my students with tools that will empower and equip them to study the Bible on their own. These days most of my metaphors about Christian living come from running. Aging is like a game, and to play the game well we have to become aware of the unused capabilities resident in our bodies and minds. My health, thanks be to God, has never been better. My life is so changed by running that I am restless if I don't have a chance to get outside and exercise. You don't have to be old to be out of shape or bored. "It does not do," said the philosopher Bertrand Russell, "to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead." Young or old, we must always be looking ahead to the prize that lies before us. I hope we can all become a bit more relaxed about the future. I hope we can grow and change and push back against lies and become a change agent for the kingdom.

Yes, I am turning 66, but I'm not too old to learn new tricks. Above all, I can grow old, as can you, without living out my years in joyless existence. Sure, people will look at you as an oddity, but we are all capable of staying young (in heart at least), spiritually lithe and supple, remembering that for every disadvantage to growing older there is an advantage. I sometimes long for the past, but I would never want to relive it. There is something exhilarating about another birthday, something wondrous about flinging yourself on the mercy of God, anxious though you may be. We are never alone. We have constant company for the journey. God doesn't shift or change over a lifetime. He never has a birthday. So bring it on, Birthday Genie. Clinging to Jesus, my Hope, I'm ready to tumble headlong into the future.

6:22 AM I read very little fiction, but when I saw that Hal Higdon -- yes, that Hal Higdon -- had written a novel about a big city marathon, I just had to get a copy.

I started reading it last night. The book covers the 72 hours preceding the race and then the marathon itself. But like I said, I usually stick with non-fiction. There's enough interesting stories that really did happen that I don't feel a strong need to read about stories that never happened in real life. Different brains think differently I guess.

Back to school ....

Thursday, June 7   

9:39 PM We just finished picking up hay.

We worked long after the sun set.

I enjoyed the work except for the mosquitoes, who are out in full force these days. We would have gotten more hay baled tonight but a part on the baler broke and that delayed us for about an hour. We'll finish up this field tomorrow and Saturday, Lord willing.

Off to put my rice on. Stuck in a rut much, Dave?

2:20 PM Hey guys, and welcome back. I'm back home trying to get caught up on my farm work ("trying" being the operative word here). What a week! Sometimes I think things can't get any weirder, and then they do. Here's my list. I bet you have your own.

1) Just agreed to do 10 book reviews this summer. 10! I think I'm having commitment issues again.

2) The frames to my reading glasses broke. Just fell apart. A replacement is on order, but I look awfully strange/nerdy wearing the remains.

3) I tried to find a pool for lap swimming in the Wake Forest/North Raleigh area that didn't cost me an arm and a leg to use. Failed.

4) I had an awesome week of training for my first ultra in October. My goals were to bike 26.2 miles on Monday, run 10 miles on Tuesday, and walk 6 miles yesterday. By God's grace, I did all three. The best news of all: I have absolutely no leg or feet pain.

5) I've taken the week off from reading the news. They call that being "unplugged" I think. Never been happier.

6) I watched an amazing video about the 2018 Boston Marathon (aka the Bout in the Blizzard). It was your typical message: Shut up and get 'er done, push through your pain, never quit, etc. The best part was that the runner wasn't trying to be preachy or anything. He was just being honest and real, and let you derive your own inspiration. Which I did.

7) I finally ordered a hand-held water bottle for my training runs in the heat and humidity. I never, ever, thought I would carry a hand-held during a run.

8) This online article was food for thought: One Running Shoe in the Grave. It's subtitled, "New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits." I'm not sure what to make of it. My philosophy has always been, regular exercise is good for me, and running is actually better than sitting around all day doing nothing. The study argues that running faster than a 7:30 minute/mile pace could make you die quicker. Well, no worries there. I couldn't run at that pace if a pit bull were chasing me. My advice is: do try and be reasonable. Always check with your doctor first. (I did, and even had a stress test. I was told my heart is good to go.) Rest between workouts. Eat clean. Listen to your body. But hey: Everything we do carries risks with it. You can kill yourself by running. You can kill yourself by not running. But almost everyone in North America is on the "too little" side of the exercise equation. I'll take exercise over a sedentary lifestyle any day. But one thing I won't do is obsess over my health. I eat well, train hard, rest all I can, and try to be the healthiest 65 year-old (66 on Saturday) I can be.

9) Pet peeve: People who walk four abreast during a race. This happened several times last weekend during my half marathon in Raleigh. For crying out loud, move to the right. Otherwise, YOU ARE IN THE WAY.

10) Finally, tomorrow we finish week one of Greek 2 (and week four of Greek 1-2). I get more out of teaching than I put into it. To see these students study so hard in the midst of trying to balance school, home, jobs, church, etc. is an amazing blessing. They remind me to be thankful for all I have. I'm grateful for my health, my job, my family, my friends, my farm, and so much more. Instead of worrying about all the things that are heavy on our hearts, why don't we start each day with gratitude and end it with expressing our thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gifts, eh?

That's it for now. Time to mow the lawns and then get up hay. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm not sure why I started this blog way back in the Dark Ages (2003). I guess I felt it would be something fun to do. But ever since Becky died, the blog has become my therapy. So thank you for reading and being my blogging tribe on bright and cloudy days.

Dave

 

Monday, June 4   

6:10 AM Greek 2 starts today. Yay! My students will continue their "marathon" of 26 chapters. Praying for you guys! Do well in the Lord's strength! See you at the finish line! As for me, I'm seriously training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October as well as for this 50K monster:

I've already begun training at the actual site: The High Bridge Trail in Farmville.

I'll put in a total of hundreds of miles before race day. But a big part of running is drumming up enough courage to start. You can't force a race. You can't predict it. But when running becomes a part of who you are, you find a way not to be afraid. This is easier said than done. The greatest temptation in running is to either train too little or train too much. To be successful, you have to find that elusive balance between activity and rest. I often joke with my Greek students when they're leaving class: "Study hard, but not too hard." Only we can decide where that balance is in our lives. Greek is important, but so are our families, our jobs, our ministries. Yes, we want to challenge ourselves. Yes, we want to feel the satisfaction of accomplishing our goals. No one is satisfied by doing nothing. But resting (or taking a break from studying) is not doing nothing. And let me tell you: When you find that equilibrium between rest and exhaustion, that is sweet. Thankfully, in every race, as in every Greek class, there is a finish line. And, my friend, with courage and persistence, you can cross it.

Bye for now!

Dave

Sunday, June 3   

6:30 PM Have you seen this new book yet?

Probably not, seeing that I've checked out the library's only copy. "Proto-Mark" is the theory that all three synoptic evangelists used a document similar to, but earlier than, the Gospel of Mark. Hence it's not a theory of Markan Priority at all, since Matthew and Luke didn't use Mark's Gospel as a source. I'm not buying into it, though this book has numerous salutary features, not the least being the author's rejection of Markan Priority based on "corrections" or "improvements" of Mark by Matthew and Luke. "Markan priorists have made the mistake of regarding these features as signs of Mark's relative primitivity," writes the author (p. 93), adding, "Markan priorists have in many cases presented an overly negative view of Mark's Greek." And note this: "Markan priorists have often selectively presented only the data that supports their theory" (p. 94).

As Black observed, "from the perspective of Greek discourse analysis, no linguistic basic can be found for assuming that Markan grammar is inferior to that of Matthew or Luke.

I like this book. After all, the author cites two of my publications: "Some Dissenting Notes on R. Stein's The Synoptic Problem and Markan 'Errors,'" and "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations."

Black emphasized the adjective "linguistic" since certain grammatical forms might be valued as superior from a social or literary perspective.

How can I disagree with that? In other words, the question isn't a linguistic one after all. It's a socio-linguistic one. Ultimately, people determine "correctness" and "incorrectness" in language, not grammar books. If everyone says "It's me," then "It's me" is correct. Hence arguing that Mark must be earlier than Matthew and Luke on the basis of grammar is like arguing the use of "shall" over "will" or "like" over "as" today. It just don't work.

Check this book out when you can. I'm returning it tomorrow :-)

5:10 PM I won't bore you with all the details, but today I somehow managed to jam my toe on the rocking chair on the front porch. Now I have a purple toe to go with my ugly black toenails.

Lovely. Oh well. Adjust and move on. As if to counterbalance my little klutzy encounter with a rocking chair, the Lord allowed me to hear a wonderful message this morning. I define "wonderful" as a message that is simple without being simplistic. As Haddon Robinson put it in his classic book Biblical Preaching, "Be clear! Be clear! Be clear!" And this was one doozy of a clear message. The passage? One of my faves: Eph. 5:15-21. I was so caught up in the message that I took two pages of notes.

The speaker did what so few speakers seem to be able to do nowadays: State biblical truths in ways that aren't trite and platitudinal (I just made that word up, and I'm already feeling proud of it). First, he taught the passage in context. Second, his outline was faithful to the text. (I tell my students that the best sermon outlines are those that are derived directly from the passage you're teaching. I know, a novel idea.) The rhetorical exigence behind his message was: How can we live a life of wisdom in the midst of our foolish and godless culture? Three thoughts came charging into our consciousness as he spoke:

1) We need to utilize our God-given time for kingdom purposes.

2) We need to understand our God-given purpose in life.

3) And we need to submit our lives to the conforming work of the Spirit.

And just what does a Spirit-filled life look like? It's when we :

1) Edify one another.

2) Give God praise for all of His work in our lives, i.e., for the good as well as for the not-so-good.

3) Possess a heart of thanksgiving.

4) And practice Christlike humility.

As I said: simple without being simplistic. No, the speaker never used the words "present active imperative" or "series of modal participles." But my oh my, he told it exactly like it is. I know because I had my Greek text open in front of me.

The Bible is God's Word. It's His final word on how to experience a rich, full life. It guides us through the maze of life. And when it is taught as well as it was this morning, well, you almost die of a heart attack, you are so refreshed and challenged. Of course, if the Bible is God's Word, we have to do more than read and teach it. We must let its truths permeate our lives to the point that we act on it. Like being thankful even when you bruise your toe, knowing full well that you could have broken it. Being a "doer of the Word" (James 1:22) isn't just an idle suggestion. It's God's plan for a truly inspiring way of life.

6:12 AM Good morning everyone. There's really no purpose for this blog post except that I like to write. Sheba and I were on the front porch this morning at 5:00 to watch the sunrise, which I'm sure happened though we didn't see the sun.

Today's another rainy day here in Southside Virginia, but we need the rain, so no one is complaining. I keep thinking to myself, "Dave, someday about all you will be able to do is sit on the front porch." But that day is not yet. I feel like I still have so much to do, and that includes the book I'm writing about the kingdom, or "should" be writing (I say "should" because I'm unpredictable at best). Right now, however, my mind is still on yesterday's race, which, of course, I lost. I know I lost because some guy named Brian Flynn won it with a time of 1:14:07. He also finished 700 places in front of me. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I came in 701st out of 879 runners. I was even more disappointed to discover that I came in 6th out of 6 in my age group. The winner in this category beat me by a "mere" 37 minutes. (That was sarcasm.) What's my point here? I'm not sure. Maybe it's just to remind myself that a guy my age can still complete a half marathon. If 700 people were faster than me, 178 people were slower. Trust me, I'm not bragging. I just want you to find inspiration from my running stories. There were 11 of us men over 65 who ran in the half marathon yesterday. Only 11. Whatever the reason, the old-timers are still out there, giving it their all. I suppose that's the other reason I'm talking about this. Do your best, and you can go through life with your head held high. Every semester I give out tons of A plusses. But I also give out Bs and an occasional C or even D. I tell my students, if you think you have to get an A in this class to please your professor, you're in the wrong class. In college I got Bs in several classes, especially if they had anything to do with philosophy, math, or logic. I stink at those subjects. But I tried as hard as I could. I am incredibly blessed to have finished a masters degree, not to speak of a doctorate. It's not like I studied or anything in high school. (You wouldn't either if you lived in Kailua.) Deciding to become a real student (i.e., somebody who actually studies) was the first step toward me becoming a teacher. I had completely run out of excuses not to study. Likewise, a couple of years ago, I decided to take up the sport of running. Without perhaps being fully aware of it at the time, I realize now that Becky's passing was a reminder of my own mortality and made me a little more health conscious. There are, of course, many reasons for running. For elite runners, it's their bread and butter. For me, it's a hobby. They'll do their thing and I'll do mine, much, much slower of course. Either way, running is a great sport. Today, there are well over 100 marathons in the U.S. alone. I'll pass on most of them, but before I end up permanently affixed to my front porch, I'd still like to do some of the majors, including Chicago, New York, and Honolulu. These are known as World Marathon Majors, but to me they're just races that have oodles of runners in them, and I like running in crowds. By the way, the average finishing time for a marathon is about 4 hours and 22 minutes. I'm happy if I come in under 6 hours. "No one ever drowned in sweat," wrote legendary football coach Lou Holtz. It's obvious that Mr. Holtz never met me.

So take courage, my friend. "The glory of God," wrote Irenaeus (an early church father), "is man fully functioning." That's true whether you're trying your hardest to get a good grade in Greek or just trying to finish a road race. For now, I simply rejoice at being healthy and of (relatively) sane mind. All of that will change one day, of course, but even then I suppose that one can still find the peace that passeth all understanding.

Saturday, June 2   

5:16 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. It's been a busy week and I'm feeling super tired but also super motivated. Greek 1 ended yesterday. Yay! You guys did it! Just think: you're halfway there! I can't wait for Greek 2 to begin on Monday. It was a great three weeks. I felt like the Lord worked overtime to help us. We mastered most of the indicative mood, as well as nouns and adjectives of the first and second declensions. This semester we get to cover the other moods (including those wonderful participles) and the third declension, plus we'll read Using New Testament Greek in Ministry (my intro to exegesis) and New Testament Textual Criticism (my intro to how to read the bottom half of your Greek New Testament). We'll also be taking a look at the structure and theme of Philippians (serving others in Jesus' name) and I plan to show my slides of Ethiopia. Right now my mind is a mishmash of random musings, so let me try and list some additional thoughts for you below as they come to me:

1) As you know, the month of May was a difficult time for me emotionally. I celebrated both Mother's Day and Becky's birthday. Now, in June, not only do we have Father's Day coming up, but the conclusion of my 65th year is staring me in the face. Not that I'm expecting to celebrate my birthday in any gigantic way this year. That was for last year, when I turned 65 and my kids threw a surprise Hawaiian beach party for me at the farm. I'm not going to apologize for my age. It is what it is. And let's face it – you're only as old as you feel. Besides, I'm in pretty good company in turning 66: Sting, Mark Hamell, Anjelica Huston, John Kasich, and so on. Still, I've been having some déjà vu moments. Wasn't it just yesterday I graduated from Kailua High School? Wasn't it just yesterday I went to Biola and met Becky? Wasn't it just yesterday I began teaching Greek? Or married that beautiful Texan? I'm SO grateful for all of these things and for so much more. Yet I'll have to admit: I never expected to grow old without Becky by my side. In the blink of an eye, my life was changed unalterably. That said, I have 37 years to celebrate. OH MY GOODNESS, DO I. She was a wonderful woman, so full of life, an incredible mentor to so many, a passionate missionary, and a superb wife. Yes, I know that June is gonna be another tough month but I'll make it. God's grace!

2) Hebrews, Hebrews, Hebrews! That's about all that's been on mind lately. I hope to have the course syllabus posted next week. If there's one book in the New Testament that can speak into today's stormy situation in our churches, it's the letter to the Hebrews. It has a special message for a day marked by spiritual drift. It addresses believers who are facing unbelief, disobedience, apostasy, and the temptation to be religious without being right with God. There's a lot of theology here, for sure, but I'm just as impressed with the author's deep concern and pastoral heart for his readers. Reading the admonitions that comprise a huge part of the letter are a great encouragement to me:

  • It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.

  • We must pay more attention, therefore.

  • Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, fix your thoughts on Jesus.

  • Therefore, let us be careful.

  • Let us, therefore, make every effort.

  • Therefore let us hold firmly to the faith.

  • We want each of you to show the same diligence.

  • Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us draw near to God.

  • Let us throw off everything that hinders us.

  • Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.

The author teaches, but he also exhorts. The message is clear: Keep the faith. Obey the Word. Keep running your race. Come humbly yet boldly to God. Claim your salvation. Hebrews, if it is anything, is a book of pastoral concern. Its message, I think, is sorely needed today, mostly by me. And I get to teach it this fall! Right now I'm pouring over all of these journal articles trying to decide which ones to use in the class. Help!

3) Last week I was able to donate some books to the new theological library at the North Carolina state prison, where the seminary has begun teaching classes.

I’m told Biblical Hebrew is being offered this fall, and maybe Greek next year. Isn't that amazing?  

4) Added to my summer writing schedule: 3 book reviews for Filologia Neotestamentaria. They are:

  • Paul Danove, New Testament Verbs of Communication: A Case Frame and Exegetical Study.

  • Heinz Hiestermann, Paul and the Synoptic Jesus Tradition.

  • Linda Joelsson, Paul and Death: A Question of Psychological Coping.

Back in the day I used to write dozens of book reviews for publication. I think I'm going to get back into that habit.

5) This week I got caught up with my journal reading. Man do we have a great library!

6) Yesterday I received the final copy of this dissertation.

David's work will eventually be published in book form. Greek teachers who participated in his survey include Alan Bandy (Oklahoma Baptist University), Ken Berding (Talbot School of Theology), Jeannine Brown (Bethel University), Randall Buth (University of the Holy Land), Con Campbell (TEDS), David Croteau (Columbia International University), David Farnell (The Master's Seminary), Karen Jobes (Wheaton College), Ben Merkle (SEBTS), Rob Plummer (SBTS), Stan Porter (McMaster Divinity College), Chuck Quarles (SEBTS), Maurice Robinson (SEBTS), Gary Shogren (Seminario ESEPA, Mark Strauss (Bethel University), William Varner (The Master's Seminary), James Voeltz (Concordia Seminary), Dan Wallace (DTS), and Danny Zacharias (Acadia Divinity School). That's quite a list of names!

7) A mere two weeks after running the Marine Corps Half I ran another half in Raleigh today. Let's just take a closer look at this gem of a race:

Yep, the course was mostly flat, except for the much-dreaded Lassiter Hill at the end. That meant one thing: a much-needed break from running up and down hills. I'm bad at hills. I mean, getting-passed-by-hundreds-of-runners bad at hills. I'm just not built for running hills. So I was very relieved to finish today's course. I think I had a pretty good race. I'm elated with a time of well under 3:00 hours. I trained hard for this race last week: 10 miles on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, and 5 on Thursday (I took yesterday off). I did all of my training at the Neuse River Greenway. The Greenway was gorgeous, per usual. This little fellow even stopped by to say hello.

Happy to report that my feet are doing great today, even my black toenails. But it was humid!

I was so glad to be part of the race today. I was glad I was part of a race that pushes us so hard to be better people, to learn how to push through when the storms of life come. I'm so thankful for that day in 2014 when my daughter said to me, "Hey dad, why don't we do a 5K together?" That was 14 half marathons and 9 marathons ago. These past 3 years hold a lot of happy memories. Running has changed me, for the better I think. I'm thankful I have had this opportunity. Thanks to all of the volunteers out there on the course today. You were the real heroes of the race. And XXXOOO to Becky. But mostly, thanks be to God, who gives me the strength to run. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."

Thanks for reading.

Dave

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