Thursday, June 4
8:32 PM Ordered this book today. Two of my kids are raving about it.
How can a book be #13 on the Amazon Best Seller's list and I'm just hearing about it today?
5:50 PM Got in a short bike ride this evening. At one point I stopped and paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, along with much of the nation.
Thank you, sir, for these timely words and for your lifetime of service to our nation.
12:34 AM Yo folks. Hope your summer is going well. I'm okay though I feel fatigued all day long it seems. Thankfully, my injections are kicking in. B12 deficiency is a runner thing, I've discovered -- especially if you're a long distance runner. Glad we caught it when we did. Today I actually got in 3 miles at the local high school parking lot, and this evening I am planning on a short bike ride -- if it doesn't get any hotter. Otherwise I've got my work cut out for me -- I'm finishing up an entry for a forthcoming dictionary of Greek linguistics; working with my assistant on posting to Moodle the syllabi and schedules for my four classes this fall; making minor changes to the glossary to Ben Merkle's and my book Linguistics and New Testament Greek; answering some interesting emails (though some go immediately into trash); and working on more power points for the fall. I'm kinda surprised my squash plants are doing so well considering how hot it's been of late.
I know I should have a larger garden than I do, but I just haven't been motivated to do all the work. Thankfully, I have kids who keep me well supplied with various and sundry produce. These were laid this morning on their farm. Talk about fresh eggs!
Other than that, I've been trying to keep up with the protests. The bottom line is that we who have pledged our lives to Jesus are called to do one thing -- follow him! Regardless of our politics, we're called to mimic his loving service of others even if this entails suffering for our enemies. Let's let our refusal to engage in violence be proof to the world that we belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. This is the only way to true wholeness, abundant life, and profound joy.
11:33 AM The brilliant wisdom of C. S. Lewis (writing about World War 2 though you'd think he was writing about today):
This quote is from Wheaton's Marjorie Lamp Mead's excellent piece In Times of Uncertainty: Encouragement from C. S. Lewis. Loved, loved, loved this essay.
10:42 AM The main emphasis in the final two chapters of the book of Galatians is that in Christ Christians enjoy liberty. Those who were under the curse of the law Christ has now set free. And those who were slaves of sin he has made God's children.
Of course, Christian liberty, like our national freedom, can very easily be lost. Some Christians exchange liberty for license. Others exchange liberty for legalism. True Christian liberty, writes Paul, is neither license nor legalism but rather a life of self-control, service to our neighbor, and obedience to the laws of God. Christian freedom is never liberty to indulge the flesh; it is never liberty to exploit our neighbor; and it is never liberty to disregard the law.
In society, likewise, there remains a very grave danger that people will lose their liberty, as the former Secretary of Defense reminded us this week. He says is it the duty of public officials, no less than the common citizen, to obey and uphold the law. "The protests," he writes, "are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values -- our values as people and our values as a nation." He continues, "We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution." This is simply another way of saying, as the apostle Paul did centuries ago, that we can never use liberty to indulge our personal desires, exploit our neighbors, or disregard the law. That goes for protestors as well as politicians. As Paul emphasizes, we are free in relation to God, but we are debtors in relation to each other. "The whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'."
As our nation undergoes trauma, there is hope. Ask God to change you. I will do the same. We will get through this if we love and serve one another instead of biting and devouring one another. Further, if we love one another, we will bear each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is "the freedom with which Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:13). May we stand firm in it during these difficult days, nether relapsing into license on the one hand, nor falling into legalism on the other.
Wednesday, June 3
7:22 PM Jeff Christopherson's essay The Magnetic Power of Shared Burdens is worth your time! Burdens draw us together. "Freedom is found only when we engage with others and allow others to engage with us." Truly, this is the heart of the Christian experience. Oh, how I wish I could have joined Ed Stetzer in Chicago yesterday during their peaceful march for justice.
7:08 PM Thankful today for the Bible, God's holy word, which I can open and read every day and whose message is plain: "The goodness of God leads us to repentance." The whole of the Christian life is one big "Thank you" to God for his goodness.
7:02 PM George Lloyd's cousin encourages us to Lament, listen, love, and lead. A good word, brother. I need more humility and perseverance when I am corrected in this fashion.
2:22 PM Today, June 3, 2020, is Global Running Day. Many of my friends have posted their runs today on YouTube. I can't. Recently my B12 levels tanked and I've been grounded until I can get them back to normal. It may be a few weeks before I recover enough strength and stamina to run a marathon again. Still, on this day I am able to enjoy the freedoms that a lot of us take for granted: going for a walk, watering the garden, filling the donkey's trough, caring for my aging dog, enjoying the swallows sitting on their nest eggs, texting with friends and family. I feel so blessed to live in rural America. Even when it looks like the world is turning mad, the birds keep on chirping. Today is a celebration of movement, whether you walk a few steps, run a marathon, or just drag up old memories of races gone by.
I really believe we're living in a period of history that our grandchildren will read about in their textbooks. Personally, I feel stressed and anxious more than usual. I know that my sadness and exhaustion can't possibly compare to that of minority communities or the families that are grieving the loss of their loved ones. There will never be an end until we all achieve true equality before the law. At the same time, I feel a lot of hope and optimism right now as well. It seems that people are starting to listen and to commit to action. Among my friends and loves ones I see a lot of open hearts and minds. I am hopeful there will be better days for all of us. My own heart is changing, and as never before I am committed to manifesting that change outwardly in the world I live in. Thankfully, the violent protests of recent days seem to be subsiding, and today there are wonderful peaceful protests in many of our great cities. I hope and pray that the chaos is settling. I can't believe that hatred and division will win out in the end. I hope and pray they won't. What I'm most ashamed about is that it always seems to take a Trayvon or a Tamir or an Eric or an Ahmaud or a Breonna or a Philandro or a George to make me sit up, take notice, and really listen. I'm so ready for that to change.
Be safe, and show some love to someone this week, preferably someone you don't know. We're all going to need it.
11:15 AM Last night Jimmy Fallon interviewed Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. The dialogue was so encouraging. Jimmy had made a grave mistake during one of his taped broadcasts. Last night he owned up to it. I am so proud of him and his courage. Everything in America is hard right now. As Derrick Johnson put it, "The last 70 days are perhaps the worst in our history in my opinion since the Civil War."
70 days? Doesn't that number sound vaguely familiar? I'm reminded of the 70 years ancient Israel spent in captivity in Babylon. Or the 70 years of Sabbaths that the city of Jerusalem kept while Judah was in captivity. Or the 70 years that Daniel prophesied for Jerusalem to complete its transgressions. At the same time, I think of how Jesus once sent 70 disciples on a mission to preach the Good News to the surrounding area. And in Matt. 18:21-22, Jesus told us to forgive 70 times 7.
Someone has said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." I sense that Jimmy Fallon is committed to doing just that. So am I. I too want to learn how to self-reflect and unpack my conscious and subconscious beliefs so that I can be a better ally of truth and justice. I hate that our nation is going through so much suffering and turmoil right now, but this is an opportunity for us to change. It's time to heal and rise above the fear. It's time to become the UNITED States of America. And it starts with the courage to own up to our own mistakes and blindness. I don't know how God is going to fix this mess, but maybe when we've been honest in our own lives, in our families, in our churches, and in our communities, he will feel free enough to move into our pain and grant us a new beginning as a nation.
Tuesday, June 2
12:30 PM Thank you, Tony Evans.
Monday, June 1
5:38 PM Today would be a great day to read the thoughts of the president of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. His essay is called Weep With Those Who Weep. He writes, "I am convinced that the only true solution is transformation in our hearts and minds that can only come from the one in whose image we are created."
How we view our fellow human beings can be the difference between life and death.
7:04 AM Laying claim to the nearness of God this morning. The crises just keep on coming. We wonder, "How long, O Lord?" We read in 1 John 3:9 that "the Son of God appeared to destroy the devil's work" (NIV). The Greek has the plural "works." The devil manifests his works in at least three ways, says Stott in his 1 John commentary. "Morally, his work is enticement to sin; physically, the infliction of disease; intellectually, seduction into error." Perhaps we could add a fourth: Socially, the sowing of public discord and rioting. The ancient Greeks called this stasis -- societal disorder. Tony Evans calls it our cultural pandemic. John the apostle would define it as lawlessness. "Everyone who sins breaks the law. In fact, sin is lawlessness." Wherever there is sin, there is lawlessness. Lawlessness is the very definition of sin according to John. And wherever you see lawlessness, there you will find sin in all of its ugliness.
Isn't that what we're seeing today? Not only on a moral, physical, and intellectual scale. Our social fabric is being torn apart. Hopefully not by people who claim to follow Christ. As followers of King Jesus we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. These conditions should put the nation at the mourner's bench. As for all those who have lost their lives in our nation, whether due to violence or Covid, my heart goes out to your families. "May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."
Sunday, May 31
8:22 PM One more.
8:14 PM Never has a 60's folk song had more relevance.
"How many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind."
7:12 PM This is Pentecost Sunday. What is the promise of Pentecost? Jesus promised something that no one dared to imagine -- that he would send his Spirit to be among his people as their Helper. "Christ in you -- the hope of glory." There is hope nowhere else. There is no hope in science, including medicine. We have made staying alive our major concern when it should be how to live. Politics holds no hope. High sounding speeches quickly become meaningless scraps of paper. Religion offers no hope. The only answer to our situation is an awakening the likes of which we haven't seen since the Second Great Awakening. "It is time for you, O Lord, to work" (Psalm 119:126). "It is time to seek the Lord" (Hos. 10:12). "It is high time to awake out of our sleep" (Rom. 13:11). Let John Piper's prayer be a start until out of sheer desperation all of our churches are filled with men and women humbling themselves and praying and seeking God's face and turning from their wicked ways because of the need of the hour in our hearts and in our homes and in the nation we love so much. Love is not flabby sentimentality. Christian love is devotion to Christ that is loyal to him at any cost and intolerant of anything that smacks of untruthfulness and injustice.
God is in this crisis. And he's calling us to turn to him.
6:08 PM Stop today and listen for a moment to John Piper's prayer his own city of Minneapolis. Only God can treat the trauma of America's soul. Gather your family tonight before bedtime and listen together. Jesus promised something more than an afterlife. He promised a better life. He hasn't forgotten us. He is fully engaged. He is the potter and we are the clay. But the work begins with prayer.
7:04 AM A verb students learn early on in Greek class is aspazomai -- "I greet." Its importance might surprise you. Paul concludes most of his letters with personal "greetings," as he does here in Philippians 4:21-23.
Here the verb aspazomai is found 3 times. Verse 21 begins, "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus." The Living Bible renders this, "Say 'hello' for me to all the Christians there." No doubt this is what Paul meant. But let's dig deeper. Why does Paul go out of his way to "greet" both individuals as well as congregations in his letters? One lexicon says that the term aspazomai has the sense of "hospitable recognition." In other words, when we "greet" someone, we are recognizing them, acknowledging them, showing that we value them. When Becky and I lived in Europe, it was not very common to greet or be greeted when you were walking down the street. That was a bit frustrating for my wife, whose gregarious personality had her saying "Hello" to almost everyone she met. Her "Hello" was a way of saying, "I see that you're there, I know that you're there, I'm glad that you're there." That's exactly what Paul is doing here in Philippians. His greeting is what linguists call "phatic communication." Phatic communication has a very important function in society. The emphasis is not so much on information as it is on expressing friendship and eliminating social distancing. It's why I usually begin an email, not simply with "Rob," but with "Hello, Rob," or "Greetings, Rob." It's also why "No problem" (instead of "You're welcome") can seem rude to some of us. So when Paul goes out of his way to greet the Philippians, he is affirming that they exist, that he knows they exist, and that they matter to him. This makes sense. The great theme of Philippians is "Unity in the Cause of the Gospel." Thus Paul's greeting serves to strengthen the bond of fellowship with those who are engaged in the same task and who serve the same Lord. Note too that he greets "every saint," not "all the saints." I think he wants to be sure that he's not seen as playing favorites in the church. Each and every Christian in Philippi is to be cordially recognized, including Euodia and Syntyche, the two women around whom the church had become polarized.
Paul's last words, then, are a warm embracing of the Philippian believers -- a gesture of genuine affection and brotherly love. May we have eyes to see the worth in our fellow Christians and may we celebrate the banquet of blessings that is ours because God is our Father and we are all brothers and sisters "in Christ Jesus."
Saturday, May 30
7:35 AM "Why? Why me? Why this?" Ah, the questions we ask when we are suffering. But God has the answer to each. Notice the three occurrences of "so that" in 2 Cor. 1:3-11 (NASB):
Verse 4: " ... so that we are able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God."
Verse 9: " ... so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead."
Verse 11: " ... so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
As usual, Paul combines simplicity and depth. When we invite God into our world of suffering, he walks right in. He brings a host of gifts -- resilience, hope, patience, joy -- but also understanding. He wraps us in his arms and says, "My dear child, here is why I allow you to suffer affliction. That you might be prepared to comfort others. That you might not trust in yourself. And that you might learn to give thanks in everything."
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. If we are suffering, this is a time to examine ourselves, as Paul suggested in 1 Cor. 11:28. In the first place, suffering brings us closer to reflecting God's own empathy. Who best knows how to comfort a man who's lost his wife than someone who has lost his own? Who better knows how to comfort a couple who has lost their infant child than another couple who has lost a baby? Who understands cancer better than someone with cancer? Think of dominos bumping against each other: God comforts us, we comfort others, they comfort still others, and the domino effect goes on and on.
Then too, when we suffer we're forced to look up. We abandon reliance on ourselves and become utterly dependent on God alone. We have to surrender. We have to give in. And when we do, God wonderfully comforts us. "I'm right here," he says. "I never left. Just lean on me. Let me comfort you. The One who pulled off the resurrection will see you through." He may not bring back the wife or baby you lost, but he will being back your soul, your hope.
Finally, maybe it's time we gave thanks for the situation we find ourselves in. To be honest, it took me years to give thanks after Becky's passing. Years. No one and nothing could bring thanksgiving out of my mouth. Finally, God brought it out. The silence had lingered for 5 years. Four Christmases had come and gone. Then one day, it was like a light broke into my life. Finally I was able to say, "Thank you, Lord, for what you have taught me in the midst of all this pain. I would never have gotten so close to you. In the mystery of your will, it's not only what you give us but what you take that is a vital part of the plan. You lovingly and sovereignly rule over me, shaping me into the image of your Son. Thank you for your comfort, your grace, your mercies. Thank you."
The three lessons of suffering?
We aren't victims of circumstance. In fact, the very suffering that Satan intends for evil, God intends for good.
Believe that today.
6:45 AM In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott argues that the cross is a revelation not only of God's love but also of his justice. Hence the community of the cross (the church) should be concerned not only with loving philanthropy but with social justice. Pity for the victims of injustice isn't enough. We cannot sit by and do nothing to change the unjust situation itself.
The cross, says Stott, doesn't solve all of life's tragedies but it does provide the perspective from which to look at them. "I could never myself believe in God," he writes, "if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of this."
Suffering and injustice are alien intrusions into God's good world. As we try to muster the courage to confront these issues, let's not forget God's personal, loving solidarity with us in our pain.
Friday, May 29
8:12 AM In a recent edition of USA TODAY, writer Alan Gomez explores how long-term loneliness affects us physically and mentally. It's a valuable analysis. In short, Gomez writes that "humans were not meant to be alone." We are hard-wired to be social creatures. (The writers of the New Testament might say we are created for koinōnia -- deep and genuine relationships.) The forced isolation of Covid-19, "if it is prolonged, puts wear and tear on our bodies. The reason it's unpleasant is it's a biological signal, much like hunger and thirst, to motivate us to reconnect with others."
If you are the friend or loved one of someone who lives alone -- and 25 percent of Americans do -- I have a few suggestions. Continue to pray with and for your friend. Reach out to them in simple ways. Call or text frequently to check in. Sometimes a mere smile on FaceTime can be a balm for another person. Make sure to listen to your friend sympathetically as he or she pours out to you the pain and struggle of living in isolation. Be a good listener. Give your friend permission to say whatever is on their mind. Ask God to give them the courage to trust him. Additionally, you may need to direct them to a pastor or trained counselor. Remind yourself that it's not your job to "rescue" them. That's God's responsibility. You may find it beneficial to share with them your own struggles with loneliness. Being transparent with your hurting friend will help create a loving and honest atmosphere. Ask God to show you how to help your friend along the way. Be like the four men in Luke 5. They did not ignore their paralyzed friend's need. They did not abandon him to a life of loneliness. They were fully committed to seeing that he got relief. They were willing to sacrifice their time and energy. They were persevering and undaunted in their caregiving.
During this time of isolation on the farm, my friends and family have been wonderful. This pandemic has given all of us an unexpected opportunity to reconnect with each other. My friends and family spend hours with me every week on the phone just listening. They demonstrate their love and concern on a daily basis. They encourage me to stay in the word and trust God. They pray for me on a regular basis. I know they are only a phone call or text message away if I need them.
When I feel lonely, I find that reading or listening to Scripture is a source of comfort to me.
Finally, let's not forget that Jesus experienced loneliness. "All the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matt 26:56). "He was despised and rejected by men" (Isa 53:3). His ultimate loneliness was when he died for you and for me. Jesus was lonely for us. If you have come to the end of your rope (and we all do eventually), turn your life over to him. Let him bear your burdens. He is the closest friend and companion we will ever have. The more we meditate on his presence, the less we will tend to be overwhelmed by the loneliness of life.
Thursday, May 28
5:04 PM This evening I'm requesting prayer for the former manager of our seminary bookstore who has gone missing in Hawai'i. Bob Walker is suffering from dementia and was last seen on O'ahu's North Shore. Here's the story. The official search for Bob was called off days ago but private volunteers have continued the search and need our support. Please consider giving at the Go Fund Me page called Find Bob Walker. Thank you.
4:50 PM I am convinced, now more than ever, of our Christian duty to pray for our nation. Yet some social activists seldom seem to mention it. If in the community there is more violence than peace, is it because we're not praying as we should? Prayer is an indispensable part of our calling as Christians. Paul gave it first priority (1 Tim. 2:1-2): "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life, godly and respectful in every way." No matter what the issue may be, we cry out, "Lord, help us! Please intervene!"
Humble prayer, for the Christian, is not a sign of weakness, but of maturity.
2:32 PM In 1978, Becky and I spent the summer in Germany. She worked at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse while I played the trumpet on an evangelistic brass octet that toured the country.
Our favorite composer was, of course, J. S. Bach. Our director, Mr. Julian Bandy, would often introduce the famous German musician with these words:
By this he meant that Bach wasn't only a fantastic composer of music but, just as importantly, a Christian by conviction. Someone once called him "A Christian who lived with the Bible." He used to pour over Luther's three-volume translation of the Bible. Music was never just music to Bach. Music was to be done to the glory of God and for the refreshment of the spirit. He signed all of his church music with the initials S.D.G. -- "Soli Deo Gloria," "Glory to God alone."
Below is one of Bach's most beloved chorales.
The English title is "Jesus Shall Remain My Joy." Please remember that Bach wrote in a time of misery and sorrow on the European Continent. The 30-Years War had resulted in the death of a third of the population. Bach gave faith a dynamic physical form. In the darkest of times, his music reminded listeners that God was a physical presence in the lives of his children and that salvation was just around the corner. We live in a day of Covid-19 and George Lloyd. Never have we needed Bach more. Please take the time to read the lyrics below and bring your heart once again into harmony with the heart of God.
11:48 AM Reading a widower's letter to Twitter president Jack Dorsey yesterday was heartbreaking. Timothy Klausutis wrote of his deceased wife, "Her passing is the single most painful thing I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister." He added, "I have mourned my wife every day since her passing."
My wife passed away on Nov. 2. 2013. It's been said that it take 2 years to recover from a natural death in the family. If, like me and Mr. Klausutis, your grief lasts longer than that, you're not abnormal. The event was. And so, even though hope has replaced despair, you continue to remember. There is literally not a day that goes by that I do not miss Becky.
Perhaps you have questions about recovering from grief. Does it mean forgetting the emotional pain of the loss? No. There will forever be a core of grief that will emerge at unexpected times for many years. There is nothing unhealthy about that. At first your life was diminished by the loss, but now it is enhanced. Your faith is stronger, oh, so much stronger. Priorities toward your family are reordered. Your commitment to living a life more fully is deepened. You learn to direct your pain to meaningful activities. You learn to live with your loss and adjust to your new life. Still, a good-bye creates an empty place in you. Thankfully, if your loved one knows Jesus as their Savior, the goodbye is only for a season. One day we'll say hello again. And the thought of Becky in the very presence of the One she served so faithfully brings only joy.
As we grieve, some days will seem freer than others. This is the way of grief. Like Mr. Klausutis, we can share our grief with others so maybe, just maybe, they can understand. It may help them with their own grief one day.
8:22 AM Doing a deep dive in Galatians this morning. There were three points of controversy between Paul and the Judaizers of his day:
1) The question of authority. Who should I believe -- Paul who claimed apostolic authority directly from Jesus, or the Judaizers who claimed ecclesiastical authority from Jerusalem?
2) The question of salvation. Am I saved solely through the atoning death of Christ on the cross or through circumcision and law-obedience?
3) The question of sanctification. How is it possible to be holy and "fulfill the law"?
The short answer to all three questions is Jesus Christ:
1) The answer to the question of authority is Jesus Christ through his apostles (and today, through his apostolic word).
2) The answer to the question of salvation is Jesus Christ through his cross.
3) The answer to the question of sanctification is Jesus Christ through his Spirit.
In short, we have Christ through his apostles to teach us (chapters 1-2), Christ through his cross to save us (chapters 3-4), and Christ through his Spirit to sanctify us (chapters 5-6). (This power point may be useful as you study these three themes in the book of Galatians.)
Blessed are you when you depend on Christ for your authority, your salvation, and your sanctification! Since he is at work, you're never without hope, because you're never without him.
Wednesday, May 27
2:25 PM Civilization is facing its harshest winter in ages. When people cry "Peace and safety," sudden destruction comes. But this world is not our true home. We are only pilgrims and strangers. But the Lord will keep us going. All he asks is that we acknowledge his Lordship. "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
2:18 PM Every day we're alive is a special day. It's the only day we have. Tell yourself every day, "I'm not guaranteed tomorrow. So if it's worth doing, it's worth doing today. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying today." It's time we lived the en-Christed life, the exchanged life, Christ living in us, living in his strength every hour of the day and every day of the week by the power of Christ himself.
2:15 PM But we don't know what our life will be like tomorrow. James says our life is just a vapor that appears for a very little time and then simply vanishes, like a puff of smoke. And because of that, we need to respect the Lord's will for our lives and avoid pride and presumption.
2:14 PM These are dangers we face each and every day. I know I do. Sometimes my list of things to do is longer than my prayer list. The fact is, as James reminds us, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." We do not know what our lives will be like tomorrow. Oh, we think we do. We've got it all planned. Why do we need the Lord when we've got it all figured out?
2:12 PM As we walk through the months that remain of the pandemic, we all face certain dangers. There's the danger of walking in the flesh instead of walking in the Spirit. There's the danger of walking by sight instead of walking by faith. There's the danger of planning every detail of our lives but forgetting the most important duty of all -- prayer for God's guidance and direction.
Tuesday, May 26
11:30 AM But we must make a choice: The flesh or the Spirit. It's certainly not an easy choice. But it's one God demands we make daily, if not multiple times daily. Fellow Jesus-followers, let's do that today.
11:24 AM The goal is Christlikeness. On our own, that's as impossible as adding another foot to our height. But we don't struggle alone. God is working in us both to give us the desire and the ability to do what pleases him (Phil. 2:13).
11:22 AM But it's a very great mistake to think that all we have to do is crucify the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit.
11:20 AM Our rejection of the flesh is to be pitiless. The secret of holiness lies in the decisiveness of our repentance.
11:18 AM The word of God, when empowered by the Spirit of God, not only informs but transforms. There is never a time when we don't need both. I want to go in the same direction the Bible and the Spirit are going. That's simply another way of saying I want to go where Jesus is going. In Paul's words, we must crucify the flesh and walk by (or in) the Spirit.
11:16 AM It was a lovely August day in 1971. A 747 took off from Honolulu International Airport. On board was a 19-year old, leaving home to attend college in California. He was enamored by the airplane. He still is.
This YouTube tells you why. It is the perfect flying machine by any standard. And it was to usher in the age of the jumbo jet. Alas, the 747 is no more as a passenger jet. It first rolled off the assembly line in 1987. Many of my students weren't even alive back then. During one of my trips to China I flew on one of the last 747 routes. In the upper deck no less. But no memory can ever replace the one I have of that lovely August day in 1971.
7:40 AM As Christians, it's our duty to "weep with those who weep." Likewise, it's also our duty to "rejoice with those who rejoice." What's there to rejoice about in a pandemic? Maybe we could begin with solitude. Haven't we all had a bit more time to ungarble our thoughts, restring our nerves, gather some perspective, and realign our priorities? Then there is the evidence of God's care and help every day. This evidence starts in creation -- those cotton candy clouds we see, the snails we pass on the path, the sunrise and sunset. These are reminders that the most valuable things in our lives are things that no one and nothing can take away from us. A pandemic has no effect whatsoever on the indwelling presence of the Spirit, or the love of God, or the wisdom of the word. It can't diminish the STORY of the Bible: God knows the situation and has a plan worked out. What may seem impossible to us is possible with God.
Our joy doesn't depend on good times. It doesn't depend on what we read in the news. Christian joy is soul deep. And it can be evidenced in our lives at all times.
Do you know someone who's rejoicing today? Rejoice with them!
Monday, May 25
7:32 AM As we continue our study of Rom. 12:15, it occurred to me that Memorial Day is an apt time to weep with those who weep. As pastor Alan Cross reminds us, today we grieve not only for all those men and women who paid the ultimate price in service to our country. We also grieve for the 100,000 Americans who've died during the coronavirus pandemic. Whatever the object of our grief, we are to "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15). On the one hand, we weep for all we lost during the pandemic. Loss of life. Loss of innocence. Loss of normalcy. On the other hand, we also weep because of what has been exposed by the pandemic. Loss of civility in the public square. Loss of truth. Loss of moral absolutes. The pandemic has exposed our pride as Christians. Our autonomy. The delusion of self-sufficiency. Our complaining spirit. The sin that lives within us.
Alan writes, "This weekend should provide for us a perfect opportunity to mourn, grieve, and fully express the sorrow of what has happened in America over the past 3 months." The word "should" is important. The Greek of Rom. 12:15 is simply, "To weep with those who weep." There is no command here in the imperative mood. Infinitives are used instead. To understand Paul's statement we have to supply a little word in Greek. That word is dei -- "it is necessary." Paul is saying, in essence, "It is necessary, it is our moral and logical obligation, to weep with those who weep." The apostle is appealing, not so much to our will, but to our sense of "moral oughtness." In short, he's saying it's our Christian duty to mourn with our fellow mourners. Writes Stott in his Romans commentary, "Love never stands aloof from other people's joys or pains. Love identifies with them, sings with them and suffers with them. Love enters deeply into their experiences and their emotions, their laughter and their tears, and feels solidarity with them, whatever their mood."
There are no loopholes. Every Christian has an obligation to fulfill this duty. Paul once wrote to Timothy, "Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there's no getting around that" (2 Tim. 3:12, The Message). But the good news is that we don't have to face trouble alone. Jesus paid the ultimate price to see to it.
Sunday, May 24
7:46 AM I love art. I love drawing and painting. To engage in art is to have a conversation with yourself. It's like blogging -- we see the ups and downs of our lives through our work. Through art we struggle, heal, are liberated. Art reveals the soul. Think of a great cathedral. Its sublimity. Its grandeur. Its architectural precision. Its symmetry and texture. Its hidden treasures. Now look at a text of Scripture. Take verse 15 of Romans 12.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." The Greek has two clauses, each using the exact same number of syllables. Notice too the rhyme:
This is literary artistry on a monumental scale. It's "cathedral" beautiful. What does the phrase "The power and glory" conjure up in your mind? This wonderful book we call the Bible, this place of worship, may enable us to come closer to that God whose power and glory we declare when we gather on Sunday mornings like today. Scripture that is endued with this kind of power cannot be passively received. It has power to survive in the desert. Power to build community. Power to live by the New Covenant, to love God as we ought, to care for one another as we should. It is God's power to destroy human darkness. In the coming days, I hope to unpack the meaning of verse 15 and the other verses in Rom. 12:9-21. In a pandemic, what is there to weep over? And what it there to rejoice over? Much indeed, as we will see.
Remember, art enables us to observe minutely. Designs. Colors. Patterns. Meanings. Textures. You tend to see things you could never see before. Even if they were always present there!
I trust you will have a glorious time of worship today, my friend. Remember, if we want to meet with God and worship him, we don't have to go to any special place, be it Gerizim, Jerusalem, or a church sanctuary. We come instead to a Person. True worship is impossible without Jesus.
Saturday, May 23
7:40 AM My publisher is kindly offering two copies of my book Running My Race for free. They are very slightly damaged copies. Simply contact me with your mailing address and I will see that the publisher gets a copy to you. Only two copies are available.
7:22 AM It's wonderful to believe in the past value of studying Greek and the future value of using the language in our ministries, but do you also believe in the daily nowism of your Greek New Testament (directing, transforming your life)?
7:06 AM Good morning. This was my view as I arose.
There's never a day in our lives, no matter what it going on, when we don't have reason to rejoice. His mercies really are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness.
Friday, May 22
7:06 AM In Mark 5 we have three miracles. (Another instance of the "rule of three" so well beloved by the NT writers?) They concern (see Hendricksen, p. 216):
Yet Christ triumphs over each hopeless case. He expels the demons, he heals the woman, and he raises the child back to life. Writes Hendricksen:
One example of Jesus' compassion is given by Mark. When he speaks to the little girl he is about to raise, he says "Talitha Koum!" Mark renders this "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" (The words "I say to you" are not in the Aramaic but are implied.) Were these the words her mother used to awaken her in the morning? Another example: "He ordered that she be given something to eat." What thoughtfulness! What complete and marvelous restoration!
On to more miracles in chapter 6.
Thursday, May 21
10:38 AM My morning reading has been in Mark 5. Here Jesus encounters a demon-possessed man living among the gravestones. As is typically the case, Mark's account is longer than those of Matthew and Luke. Jesus eventually permits the legion of demons to go into a herd of pigs, which run headlong into the lake and drown. The Greek tenses here are fascinating -- a point brought out wonderfully by my favorite NT commentator, William Hendricksen. He writes, "Here Mark suddenly changes the tenses of the verb. So far he has very briefly stated four incidents, four summary facts: gave, came out, went into, rushed down. It is as if he, in very rapid succession, showed us four snapshots. Then we are shown a slow-motion picture movie: one by one we see the (approximately) two thousand pigs choking to death in the sea, until all have drowned."
Like a good commentator, Hendriksen wears his considerable learning lightly. It's only in a footnote that we have any idea he's basing his conclusions on a close examination of the Greek:
In this regard, perhaps things haven't changed all that much since the introduction of linguistics into the study of New Testament Greek. Hendriksen is discussing verbal aspect and contrasting the unmarked nature of the aorist tense with the more marked significance of the imperfect. Such observations are common in his writings, but the fine points are usually left for the footnotes.
Another reason for you to consider getting a set of commentaries by the one and only Wm. Hendriksen.
Wednesday, May 20
4:58 PM Been rummaging through my old sermon notebooks and stumbled on the wise words of Chuck Swindoll in one of his messages on prayer. He concluded with "Four relevant reminders":
1) Prayer is to be continuous. It's not limited to Sunday, or to when we go to bed, or to when we eat.
2) Prayer is designed for every part of the Christian life. Prayer fits -- no matter what the situation. You're walking into a business meeting? Pray. You're making a decision? Pray. Nothing is too insignificant or too overwhelming for God. He cares about it all.
3) Prayer is not a substitute for our responsibility. It's not an excuse for laziness or passivity. It's okay to pray, "Lord, give us safety through the night," but you still have to lock the door and turn on the burglar alarm. Every night. Otherwise you're being irresponsible. Yes, you should pray for good health -- but are you eating properly, exercising properly, listening to your doctor? "Prayer in place of those things is wrong," said Chuck.
4) Prayer is not for perfect people, but for the imperfect, needy person. The only perfect person is the Savior, and he's praying for us! Prayer is simply remembering you're nothing and calling on the one who is everything, and then getting out of the way.
I'm glad I found those notes today. I needed these four reminders. Everyone has an "insurmountable obstacle" in their lives. It's got "impossible" written all over it. I know I do. So I'll make a deal with you. For the next two weeks, I'll pray about my obstacles every day. Preferably several times a day. I'm going to take the obstacle and give it to the living God and leave it in his hands, trusting him with it. Will you do the same? I've got a feeling that within a week or two, we're all going to have some pretty wonderful things to share with each other.
11:22 AM I've signed this statement, along with David Dockery, Don Carson, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Darrel Bock, Ed Stetzer, and 10,000 others. Let's take a stand against anti-Asian discrimination.
9:08 AM Got missions on my heart this morning. What exactly is missions? It is the intentional and sacrificial penetration of human barriers whether at home or abroad. It is acts of Calvary love that produce obedient followers of Jesus Christ. All of us must work at creating within every culture communities of sons and daughters of God who will love and serve him forever. The "ends of the earth" Acts 1:8) may be found right next door to you as God brings the nations to America. These people represent what one missiologist has called "the great blind spot in missions today." Oswald Chambers put it best when he said, "The light that shines furthest shines brightest close to home." In this definition of missions, there is no difference between between "senders" and "goers." We are all sent (John 20:31) and we are all to go (Matt. 28:19).
In this day of global pandemic, will we prioritize the cause of global missions? What if each of us could say with Elton Trueblood (Company of the Committed, p. 23):
Friends, this is the calling of every one of us. Together, let's determine to make Christ's global cause the unifying cause -- the "reason for being" -- of all we are and all we do. World Christians (in the words of Corrie ten Boom) are "God's tramps who have left their hiding places to roam the world with Jesus."
Why should we settle for anything less?
Monday, May 18
11:10 AM After a spring rain.
10:32 AM It's become clear to me that Paul's letter to the Philippians (which I have the privilege of teaching every year) summarizes many of Paul's core convictions about Christianity. These include:
1) Christians aren't just to study theology but are to follow the example of Jesus and live the way he lived -- in selflessness and humility.
2) Followers of Jesus are to put the needs of others before their own needs.
3) Christianity is a matter of ethics as much as theology.
4) Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.
5) Believers are called to pursue a kingdom that is radically different from all versions of the kingdoms of this world. This kingdom is always cross-centered and countercultural.
Perhaps this pandemic is giving us the opportunity to reexamine our priorities, to learn humility the hard way, and to choose to help one another as we pursue Christ's upside-down kingdom.
10:10 AM Just finished grading my students' exams for the semester. Can't believe I won't get to do this again until the fall semester. If you miss the classroom, raise your hand!
Sunday, May 17
7:48 AM While reading through Mark's Gospel this morning I was again impressed with the way Jesus chose ordinary people to follow him. He sees Simon and his brother Andrew, commercial fishermen, and says, "Come, follow me! I will make you fish for the souls of people!" A little farther up the beach he sees Zebedee's sons, James and John, in a boat mending their nets. He calls them, too. It's easy to forget that two of these plain fishermen later wrote two of our Gospels. With God there are no ordinary people. Think about that when you meet (vicariously) with your church family today. Most of us are ordinary folk. But God specializes in taking "nobodies" and making them "somebodies." The only question is: Are we willing to be used by him? I am, though I am keenly aware of how short I fall of loving and serving him as I ought. I come to him daily asking for a renewed heart and a renewed desire to follow him as his disciple.
This is a challenge each of us must face daily.
Saturday, May 16
7:54 PM Congratulations to my assistant Rodolfo and his bride Lauren on this, their wedding day! May God richly bless you both!
Friday, May 15
9:32 AM My AM reading today was in Mark 1. Jesus has just taught in the Jewish place of worship, the synagogue:
Why did the people say that? What was different, even unique, about Jesus' teaching? Hendricksen notes 6 features:
1) Jesus spoke the truth. Evasive reasoning marked the speaking of many of the scribes.
2) Jesus spoke on matters of great significance like life and death. The scribes often wasted their time on trivialities.
3) There was system in Jesus' preaching. The scribes, as their Talmud proves, often rambled on and on.
4) Jesus excited his audience by making generous use of illustrations. The scribes' speeches were often dry as dust.
5) Jesus spoke as the Lover of men, as someone who was deeply concerned with the welfare of his audience. The scribes' lack of love and compassion is clear from such passages as Mark 12:40.
6) Finally, and most importantly, Jesus spoke "with authority." His message came from the very heart and mind of the Father, and hence from his own inner being. The scribes were always borrowing from fallible sources.
John Stott's service over many years at All Souls Church in London has tremendously impacted my own understanding of the act of what is called biblical preaching. Listen to his sermons (which rarely go over 30 minutes, by instruction of his elders), and you will see that just about everything said about Jesus' own preaching above applies to Stott's. His sermon library can be found here. Stott's book I Believe in Preaching lays out his method:
1) Choose your text.
2) Mediate on it.
3) Isolate the dominant thought.
4) Arrange your material to serve the dominant thought.
5) Add the introduction and conclusion.
6) Write down and pray over your message.
Stott also insists that the speaker ought to use simple words and avoid committing "verbicide" -- murder words (C. S. Lewis's expression). Say what you mean, and never over-inflated words. And make sure your message is based on the text itself. (See What Is Text-Based Teaching/Preaching?)
That's precisely what John Stott did over and over again throughout his life. Not in his own power, but carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Go and do likewise.
Thursday, May 14
5:20 PM A brief(ish) update:
I got running shoe issues. Big time. Nobody carries my size. Well, except for New Balance. Thankfully, they've got the 880s in 13 extra wide. Seriously, the 880s are far and away the best shoes I've ever run in. And the new version (which I got in the mail today) is amazing.
It's been completely overhauled to include a flashier Hypoknit upper, from the toe box all the way through the midfoot, as well a Fresh Foam midsole.
I've already taken them out for a walk and I feel like I'm on a cloud. The icing on the cake? I sensed no movement in the heel at all. Can't wait to run in them. Comfortable, light, and cushiony. What more could you ask for?
Meanwhile, I've been grading Greek final exams. Still can't believe that this time next week the semester will be over and my final grades will have been reported to the registrar. Overall, it was a good semester. The students adapted well to the online learning environment. Your do your best to try and foster community even when you can't meet together physically. So we write emails and make comments on Moodle and reach out by Zoom. We try to provide a structure that makes finishing out the semester not only easy but enjoyable. Above all, we pray. If you have a front porch, then you have an altar to gather around. Next Monday I'll spend the day grading the finals in my NT 2 class. These will take longer because they are essay exams, but I find nothing but sheer pleasure in reading them.
Finally, I see that Paul Himes, one of my former doctoral students, has just published an essay in our seminary journal. To read it, go here. Thanks for another insightful essay, Paul.
Gotta boogie. The supper dishes are calling and I need to feed the animals.
Wednesday, May 13
9:22 AM Today I read Ephesians for my AM Bible study. I was curious to see how The Living Bible (TLB) rendered 4:11-12, where Paul writes about apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Here TLB has:
It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of this passage. A few thoughts:
Strictly speaking, there are no eye witness apostles today. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't any "apostolic ministries" at work today. I'm thinking especially of pioneer missionary work, church planting, and itinerant ministries.
What about prophets? TLB seems to suggest that the NT gift of prophecy has to do mainly with what today we call "preaching" (that is, the Sunday sermon). But again, in the technical sense, there are probably no prophets today if by "prophet" we mean the recipient of special revelation from God. But as with apostles, there may also be a less technical way of understanding the term. Paul may have also had in mind what Stott calls "a special gift of biblical exposition" (p. 162). High on my list of such gifted men would be James Boice, Haddon Robinson, Chuck Swindoll, and John Stott himself. Not surprisingly, two of these men have written standard textbooks on biblical preaching. (If I were to ever teach homiletics I would require my students to read Robinson's Biblical Preaching and Stott's Between Two Worlds. In my opinion, no better books on the preparation and delivery of expository messages have even been produced.)
As for evangelists, I think TLB has nailed it with its rendering "some have special ability in winning people to Christ, helping them to trust him as their Savior." Stott thinks the term includes a special gift of "evangelistic preaching" or of "making the gospel particularly plain and relevant to unbelievers" (p. 163). "There is a great need for gifted evangelists today," he writes, "who will pioneer new ways of exercising and developing their gift, so as to penetrate the vast unreached segments of society for Christ" (Stott, p. 163).
Finally, I love TLB's rendering of the couplet "pastors and teachers":
For one thing, TLB makes it clear that Paul is not calling these people "pastors." He's using a metaphor. For another thing, TLB rightly stresses the need for shepherds to lead and teach their flocks. Who would deny that sound biblical teaching is a major need in our churches? So let pastor-teachers teach well! As Paul writes in Rom. 12:7 (NLT):
And what is the purpose of these gifts of Christ to his church? "Why is it," writes TLB, "that he gives us these special abilities to do certain things better?"
I would render the first clause here as, "To equip God's people for works of service." This is the well-known principle of every-member ministry that I have written about in my books The Jesus Paradigm and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. A pastor will encourage "God's people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts" (Stott, p. 167).
The Protestant Reformation, adds Stott, recovered the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Isn't it time that the modern church recovered the ministry of all believers?
To recapitulate, let me offer here an expanded paraphrase of Eph. 4:11-13 to attempt to bring out the meaning of this passage. In so doing, I will take TLB's translation and tweak it in certain places:
As I conclude, I venture to suggest that Paul's words here in Eph. 4 are indispensable to all members of God's new society, the church. Shepherd-teachers must actively cultivate body life. Christians are not passive spectators of what God is doing in his church. The way the body of Christ grows to maturity is when all of its members use their God-given gifts for the building up of the church. It is good to see this simple truth being affirmed and practiced more and more in our day.
Tuesday, May 12
6:12 PM A thousand thank yous to my son and daughter for getting up the hay today.
The donks will love this stuff come winter.
Weather couldn't be better for haying. Thank you, Lord!
11:34 AM From my AM Bible reading:
Those 3 underscored letters pack meaning. (The little kat is an intensifying prepositional prefix. Kat means "down.") To "laugh" is one thing. To "laugh down" is another thing. The verse is Matt. 9:24. You recall the setting. The rabbi of the local synagogue has asked Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus arrives at the man's home and sees noisy crowds and hears funeral music. He says, "Get them out, for the little girl isn't dead. She's only sleeping." What happened next? See the following versions:
However, the Greek verb seems stronger than "laughed." The KJV has "They laughed him to scorn," but nobody talks like that any more. I like the TLB: "Then they scoffed and sneered at him!" The ISV has "they ridiculed him with laughter." I believe these translations do more justice to the meaning of the compound verb. "They laughed at him" just doesn't seem to cut it.
Notice how quickly the crowd turns from mourning to laughter and ridicule. Writes Hendricksen sarcastically, "It seems that these mourners were endowed with the dubious gift of shifting (automatically?), in one sudden moment, from dismal moaning to uproarious mirth." By the way, have we ever done that? Dare we ask God to comfort the grieving without at the same time turning to him for a miracle? Yes, a grieving heart and a hopeful spirit can belong to the same person. Our sorrows are Christ's own sorrows, for he dearly loves these burdened ones. He feels for them, deeply, and is eager to help them. He is deeply moved with pity and compassion when he sees how helpless and hopeless we are.
God calls on us to do the same. Illustrate stubborn faith. Incarnate hope. Who knows but that God is giving us a Goliath-size chance to see Jesus do something miraculous in the lives of our loved ones.
Monday, May 11
6:36 PM Went through 100 verses about prayer today. Basically, it's a mind-blowing subject. So many takeaways:
The "Back 40" -- one of my favorite places to pray.
To sum up: Paul wrote, "Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long" (Eph. 6:18 MSG).
11:58 AM Thank You Notes:
1) Thank You, Lord, for the New Testament in Greek.
2) Thank You for being so clear in how You wrote it.
3) Thank You for the fun I'm having trying to translate Your words in John 14 into English.
4) Thank You for English versions whose editors have worked hard at their craft.
5) Thank You for what You promised, Lord, in verse 27. My Greek text has:
I hope, Lord, it's okay to render this emphatic statement as:
Thank You, Lord! Forgive me for all the exclamation points, but this is ohmystars wonderful!
8:04 AM Happy 67th Birthday to Becky Lynn Lapsley Black. Her life continues to inspire me and so many others. Am grateful for the 37 years the Lord gave us together.
Becky in Bobitcho, Ethiopia, age 2.
Sunday, May 10
5:34 PM What in the world is the message of Covid-19? Good question. Sometimes I can't figure out the simplest things in life. It took me two years and eight months to figure out that I was to propose to Becky. Had to have all my ducks in a row first, of course. Becky knew right away. I once ordered a "pepperoni pizza" in Germany only to be served a pizza covered with red peppers. During my doctoral exams in Basel I uttered those unforgivable words, "Ich weiss nicht" (I don't know). Can you relate? Of course you can. Who hasn't scratched their head when faced with tough questions?
One of life's giant-sized questions is facing us today. What is God doing during Covid-19? While we may speculate, we don't really need to guess. Has any other time been so conducive to solitude? To self-examination? To taking stock of our lives? To going deeper than we have ever gone before? Today Chuck Swindoll embarked on a 2-part series at Stonebriar Community Church with the title, "The Priority of Solitude." I'll link to it below. You need no ephod to know where Chuck's going. Covid-19, he says, is "the most abnormal, unusual time in which we have ever lived." If we're not careful, we'll miss its significance. Chuck drives home his point with a quote from Malcolm Muggeridge: "Any happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us. And the art of life is to get the message."
To help us get that message, Chuck gets up close and personal with us. He tells the story of the months he spent overseas courtesy of Uncle Sam. He was unprepared for the deployment. He didn't want to leave his wife alone at home. He couldn't imagine there being anything worthwhile about the place where the military was sending him. He was happy where he was. The message God had for him during this time? Merely the most life-changing message of his life. In Chuck's words, the Lord was saying to him "I want to remove from you every crutch, everything you normally lean on, so that I can have your full attention, because my plan is to change your whole course of life." The result? Chuck came away with a new sense of calling:
It's so easy, says Chuck, to be riveted to Covid-19, to the statistics, to the news, to the impact of the virus. But with strong emotion he adds, "That's NOT the message! That's NOT what God wants us to hear!" The Covid-19 virus stops us in our tracks. It pulls us out of the fast lane. It pushes us into isolation and we're left to ourselves. Traffic has stopped. Business has stopped. The movement of life, the rhythm of life, has stopped. "We have been pulled over for an extended pit stop in this race track called life."
"Let's not miss this message," says Chuck. This is time to "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7). Godliness isn't automatic. It doesn't come miraculously. Discipline is involved. "It won't come easily, and it won't come naturally. But it can come at a time when we're all set aside from the normal activities of life, if we are aware of it and see it as a priority." Quoting from Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipleship, Chuck brings it all home:
It's time, concludes Chuck, to "go deeper in ourselves, to take stock of how we've been living our days, our years, and we pause and go through the disciplines involved in probing deeper and deeper in our relationship with our Lord."
Today I thought of Chuck Swindoll not so much as a famous pastor but as our national chaplain. I ask myself, "So Dave, have you learned this lesson -- the lesson of Covid-19?" This lesson begins with disconnections. It continues with self-awareness. And it ends with finding God -- and yourself. "You'll never know that Jesus is all you need," writes Max Lucado in his book Facing Your Giants, "until Jesus is all you have."
No, we never saw the storm coming. Its arrival jolted our complacency. It destroyed so much of what we love. The devil's stirred up nothing but trouble, fear, and death. We're all living in the Covid-wilderness. We want to go to church. We want to attend that game. We want to eat out again. We want to return to the classroom. We want to visit grandma and grandpa or see our grandkids. We want normalcy.
That day is coming. Maybe even sooner than later. But in the meantime, we don't have to travel to a faraway country for 16-17 months to face a life-changing encounter with God. A pandemic does the trick just fine. Yes, it will require some work on our part. But never have we had more time for solitude and self-reflection than today. Maybe God will do for us what He did for Chuck those many decades ago. Isn't it time for us to take that long inward look we've been avoiding all these years? Assemble a meeting of three parties: Yourself, God, and your Bible. Let Him speak to you as never before.
As Muggeridge reminds us, Covid-19 is a parable whereby God is speaking to us. And the art of life is getting the message. Chuck Swindoll gets that message. May God help us to do the same.
12:14 PM A very happy and blessed Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there. On this 2020 Mother's Day I honor the cherished memories of my wife who went to Heaven on Nov. 2, 2013. I still love and miss her.
And to mom Lapsley in Dallas, I express my love and deepest affection.
Saturday, May 9
5:50 PM Odds and sods ....
1) My daughter-in-law and I were texting today. In Spanish. And she's not even Hispanic. Talk about fun.
2) I wore these out weeks ago.
Thankfully, the New Balance store in Raleigh reopened today. My news 880s are in the mail!
3) Our final frost is tonight. These beauties will go into the garden tomorrow.
Wish me well. Becky used to do all the planting.
1:08 PM Today's view while exercising. Somber time.
11:12 AM At long last, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the phases of a running/sports injury. Not sure it's your cup of tea. But maybe it will be helpful to just one person out there.
My injury occurred when I went biking recently on a very cold morning and on a day when the pollen levels were through the roof. The result of breathing cold air through my mouth and inhaling a gazillion particles of irritants was a brochospasm. Instead of seeking treatment for it right away, I continued to train for my next marathon. Why? I was going through the "phases of a running injury." To wit:
This is where you begin to suspect that something has gone awry. Hmm, that doesn't feel normal. Why do I feel so tried and achy? Man, it feels like I just got hit by an 18-wheeler. There's no way it could be an -- INJURY? Which immediately leads to phase number 2:
This can't be something serious. After all, I've got a big race coming up. And I've been doing so well. No way the Lord would allow me to get injured. NO WAY. Which leads to phase number 3:
Here's what I'll do. I'll take some time off tomorrow and then get back into training the next day. I just need some time for my body to recover. Nothing to worry about, really. Besides, if I stop now I'll lose all of my fitness. I'll get fat and lazy. Which leads to phase number 4:
Okay, Dave old boy. This might be serious. It might even require some medical attention. Which leads to phase number 5:
5. Seek treatment.
Alright, it's time to see the doc. Time to take follow her instructions like a good boy and practice some patience.
The key is to get to phase 5 sooner rather than later. Alas! As you know, I'm not one who can slow down very easily. But the times in which we live right now have helped me realize just how thankful I am for my overall health, for the exceptional medical care available to me even though I live in the boonies, and for having a roof over my head and loved ones who check on me and pray for me each and every day. For many of us, the pandemic has put a lot into perspective. An injury that takes me out of running for a few weeks is not the worst thing in the world. Most of all, we do what people did back when Jesus was on this earth healing those who were brought to him. We place the sick at his feet and request his touch. When we do that, he always responds. Mark it down -- Jesus will do what is right each and every time. Will he do it right away for you? I hope so. But he will still work something GOOD on your behalf.
Dear reader, I'm sorry for the pain you may be going through right now. Your injury or illness or suffering is not what you wanted, but it's what you were dealt. Just remember that we all move through these phrases at different speeds. Because of my own folly, I stayed in the denial phase longer than I should have. Even today I ping-pong between acceptance and negotiation whenever I have an injury. The Bible says, "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7, NIV). When you sense fear or dread beginning to well up in your heart, cast it, THROW IT in the direction of Christ. Do it immediately. And do it each and every time. Let your prayers be specific.
Lord, you are good. Please help me to slow down. Please help the medication to work. Please help me to be patient. Please help me to sleep well tonight. Please bless my doctor's appointment tomorrow. Please help me up cough up more mucus. Thank you.
Specific prayers are effectual prayers. They are golden opportunities to see God at work in specific ways. Do not indulge the lies the Evil One throws at you. Place yourself entirely in God's care. If you struggle with regrets, take them to Jesus and leave them there. (I've had to do this more times than I can count.) There's a reason the windshield in your car is bigger than the rearview mirror. God made us for more than breath-stealing anxiety. He's writing a new chapter, and in him everything is secure.
So there you have it: Sports Medicine 101. Believe me, Dave Black speaking on sports injuries is like Nero speaking on fire safety. As I said, take my advice for what it's worth. But know that I love you. And that he loves you. He will help you well, my friend.
9:05 AM A couple of weeks ago I asked my NT 2 students to read an essay I once wrote on John 17 -- Jesus' prayer for Christian unity. It appeared in the Criswell Theological Review. John 17 is an unusual chapter. Ponder it for a moment. Remember: Jesus prayed this prayer. My main takeaway? Christian unity is such a precious treasure. It is God's gift to us, or we don't have it. But it would be a gigantic mistake to think that what is free for us is cheap. It cost God everything. He gave His Son to provide this gift for us.
Here Jesus makes 3 brief points about church unity. First, spiritual unity should be expressed visibly. Second, this visible unity of the church must be founded on truth. And third, this visible unity must allow for diversity of belief and practice in matters of secondary importance.
In my essay I mentioned something all the evangelical churches in Basel did every Easter. We gathered in the city's central cathedral to celebrate both our unity and diversity. Later, back in California, an annual Easter Sunrise service was held at the Hollywood Bowl. The idea was the same -- to show to a dubious world that believers worship and serve the same Triune God.
I want to say to you with all the conviction I possess that I care intensely about Christian unity because I believe that God has revealed it fully and finally in Jesus Christ.
8:32 AM Good morning, friends. The email I got today from India was so encouraging. The relief work I spoke to you about last Saturday with the Peniel Gospel Team has gotten underway. Aren't these pictures beautiful? Brings tears of joy to my eyes.
Can we not see in this the call of Christ to discharge our duty to the mass of non-churchgoers?
The goal is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every household in Siliguri, Sikkim, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Church, we cannot delegate the task of evangelism and social assistance to the few.
I visualize my work at the seminary as the training of a considerable number of church members for the task of fulfilling their unmistakable, indispensable responsibility toward our neighbors who are strangers to Christ and His Gospel of grace. We cannot play at this. It will mean real sacrifice in our busy lives.
Mammen Joseph writes:
Again, if you'd care to join me in this task, please go to this page and give as the Lord leads.
Friday, May 8
5:18 PM I wasn't going to watch it. I knew I didn't have to watch it. But I did. I needed to. I have no doubt this weekend will be uniquely painful for many. A grieving woman will spend Mother's Day without her 25-year old son. It would have been Becky's 67th birthday. How I will miss my wife and the mother of our children. And who knows how many families will grieve the loss of wives and mothers and daughters who were taken by the coronavirus? Our Lord said that only two things can put out our light as the people of God, a bushel and a bed, the one a symbol of worldly wealth, the other a symbol of worldly pleasure. May we the church reject both and instead be the light of the world, refusing to fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather exposing and reproving them.
To all my pastor friends: I realize this Sunday's message may well be like no other you've ever preached before. Intentionally or not, what you say will communicate what you believe matters most. Praying for you.
You spoke to storms. Would you please also speak to ours? We are worn out from our worries and fears, battered by the wind and waves of viruses, illness, death, and injustice. As we consider events in our nation, will you stir up courage in us? No human life is without value. We must face that truth and deal with it. There is no deliverance until we stop passing the buck. We the church cannot be allowed merely to coast along.
Above all, Lord, thank you for the Gospel. Through it men and women can not only find salvation from sin, they can begin to be remade into your image. The Gospel of your love supplies the most wonderful incentive to rescue people and nations from all that dehumanizes them. This weekend, I pray that you would help all of us to remember that the Great Commission neither replaces nor overrides the Great Commandment to love and help our neighbor.
Through Christ I pray. Amen.
9:45 AM Summer reading suggestions for those who've just finished first year Greek:
9:12 AM Each fall I get to give away quite a number of my books to deserving students. Been doing this for about 30 years now. Here's the email I sent to my Greek students yesterday:
8:15 AM Racism is in the news again. That's why I was glad to stumble on this video of Billy Graham's 1965 crusade in Honolulu. How might we as a society overcome the scourge of racism? Listen to Dr. Graham as he preaches the Good News with a grimace and a fresh resolve to display Jesus Christ as the only solution to our need.
P.S. In that ethnically-mixed audience that evening was a 13 year old young man singing in the crusade choir behind the speaker's dais. It occurred to him then, as it occurs to him now, that Satan, the master deceiver, wants us to think that one race is superior to the other. He wants to leave our society in a swarm of unresolved racial tension. But if we are facing the perfect storm as a culture, Jesus offers the perfect solution. I'm so thankful for Billy's message. May it resound throughout the internet today as it did so long ago in an island melting pot.
7:55 AM It's the end of the semester. The light is at the end of the tunnel, but there's still plenty of work to do. If we're not careful, we can get flustered by the demands our students put on us and that we put on ourselves. But Paul doesn't allow any leeway for that. He says we can stay calm and even-keeled even when life turns frenetic on us. If your life is a bit weighed down with worry and care this morning, I have a Scripture for you to read. Actually, it's one word from Scripture. If there was such a thing as the Greek Word Hall of Fame, I'd nominate this word for it. It's right up there with charis (grace) and agapē (love). The word is epieikes (upper right hand corner).
It's found in Phil. 4:5. It's one of those Greek words that could be translated in any number of ways -- generosity, forbearance, mildness, magnanimity, kindliness, considerateness, gentleness, charitableness. I like Hendricksen's rendering the best: "Big-heartedness." In essence, Paul is saying:
Others may freak out, but we are to be known for our levelheadedness, our fairness, our clear thinking. The big-hearted teacher is the one who tells his students, with words but especially with demeanor, "You really matter to me. Whatever happens, you can bring your concerns to me and you will be treated fairly and graciously."
Paul adds, "Let your big-heartedness be known to all." It's to be evident, not hidden. When you possess it, people sit up and take notice. Calmness ensues. "I can count on you to be fair and evenhanded with me."
Students aren't impressed by our eloquence or trite formulas. But they are moved by our love. After all, isn't that how Jesus taught and lived? I'm so glad I had teachers like this when I was in college and seminary, and even in grad school in Basel. I can remember my aging and arthritic Greek professor at Biola taking the time to actually walk to my dorm room at the end of the semester, knock on my door, and say, "Dave, I know you're leaving for Hawai'i tomorrow, and I thought you'd like to see your final before you left. Congratulations on a job well done." Then he turned around and hobbled back to his office with his cane.
Do the same. Tell others they matter to you. Less consternation at semester's end, more sweetness. In the end, what better lesson to teach our students than the magnanimity of our Savior?
Thursday, May 7
10:48 AM "Always pay attention to the small words." Good advice for anyone doing exegesis. I've often told my students to do this very thing. Well, let's try and apply this to James 1, the passage I was studying this morning.
Notice, first of all, the word "when." James doesn't say "If trials come." He says, "When trials come." "When" stands out. Trials are inevitable. They are unavoidable. They are inescapable. They are inexorable. Don't try to ignore them. Don't try to escape them. Don't try to deny them.
Secondly, look at that word "various." James says we face "various kinds of trials." The Greek word is poikilois.
Harmless sounding enough. But it carries a deep meaning. James says we will face all kinds of trials in this life. Some will be minor. Some will be life-threatening. Some you'll be responsible for. Others not so much. You may suffer a trial you did not choose or cause. At other times you suffer the consequences of your own sin or stupidity. (My recent running injury is an example. Ugh! More on that later.) Some trials are outward -- loss of job, grief, a broken arm, some other hardship. Others are inward trials -- anxiety, feelings of rejection, emotional pain, depression, anger, battles with the flesh.
In my own experience, the hardest struggles have been when the trial was both outward and inward. Thankfully, that hasn't happened very often. When I suffered from malaria after a trip to Ethiopia, the trial was outward. Even after a week in isolation at UNC Hospital on morphine the pain still hadn't subsided. I wouldn't wish malaria on my worst enemy. But the struggle was largely external and physical. Loosing Becky, on the other hand, was an internal struggle called grief. It's not a comfortable place to be. And it seems to always last longer than you wish. There is nothing pleasant about grief. It's disruptive. It's painful. It's hard work. Sometimes the weight is so oppressive you can hardly bear it. It changes you as a person and your whole perspective on life. Grief is an internal battle, but it's also a natural, God-given process of recovery.
So, two little words that make a big difference: "When," and "Various." I'm so grateful for what the Lord is teaching me through this passage. And I'm grateful that God accepts me as I am, wounded and broken. I am being transformed daily in the arms of my Abba, Daddy. How about you, my friend? Open your heart to Him. Be renewed in your inward person. Let joy and thanksgiving be found in your heart again, for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
[To be continued ....]
7:50 AM Spent this AM praying the first chapter of James. Do you know someone who is suffering today, either physically or mentally/emotionally? One thing they will need is wisdom. Wisdom is nothing other than seeing life through God's eyes, from His perspective. Wisdom is knowing that God is using our pain to deepen our faith in Him, increase our endurance during trials, enhance our character so that we become more godly (= Christlike), and building our maturity so that we don't remain stagnant in our spiritual walk. That's a combination that can't be beat. But it usually comes by way of a trial -- what we would not have chosen.
If you're helping someone you love walk through a trial, please remember that you can't rescue your friend or loved one. Rescue is God's responsibility, not ours. On the other hand, here are some things we can do:
My life has not turned out as I imagined it when I was a youth. I wanted life to be easy. I wanted to need God only for the easy things. I'm glad God didn't give me what I want. Faith and suffering are not mutually exclusive. You can have faith and have pain. Hasn't this been true for you? What did you learn about God and about yourself through the experience of pain? How has it developed a deeper trust in God? Have you asked Him to give you His wisdom -- His perspective on your pain? Are you learning to praise God in the midst of your circumstances.
All this and more, the Lord has been gently teaching me. May God continue to lead us on our journey.
Wednesday, May 6
7:44 PM Let the haying season begin.
Never has fescue looked greener!
7:04 AM Please join us for chapel today at 10:30. President Danny Akin will be our speaker. It will be a wonderful encouragement to us all I am sure.
Tuesday, May 5
11:22 AM Had a wonderful Zoom conversation this morning with a good friend who lives in Israel and teaches Greek and Hebrew at a Bible College there. He once studied under me before getting his Ph.D. in Hebrew at one of our sister seminaries. We had a blast chatting about Greek and Hebrew. Should you need some entertainment today, take a look at John 1:1 in both the Delitzsch translation (left) and Modern Hebrew (right).
See anything wrong with the final clause of verse 1? Not sure? Remember that the Greek theos ēn ho logos is to be rendered "The Word was God," and not "God was the Word"! (Okay, so Luther wrote "Gott was das Wort," but notice that the more modern German Bibles all have "Das Wort war Gott" -- Schlachter, Neue Genfer, Hoffnung für Alle, etc.)
Incidentally, I've been invited to teach Greek 3 and 4 at this college, and my friend (who is also the dean) has already translated most of my beginning grammar into Hebrew.
I have feelings about this. Good ones. I could never have imagined in a million years that I would be working with my friends in the modern State of Israel to teach the language of the New Testament to Hebrew and Arabic speaking evangelical pastors and pastors-in-the-making. Let us be inspired and grateful that God made us to do crazy things for Him that we could never have asked for or imagined. You and I were made to run. So run!
P.S. I'm told that the president of this Bible college is an avid surfer and that the college itself is very close to the Mediterranean. Oh boy.
7:20 AM This week, as my students prepare for their finals next week, I'm continuing to scour the Gospels for information concerning Jesus' view of the kingdom of God for my book Godworld. As I think about my students and their research, and as I contemplate my own work in the Scripture, I feel burdened to reiterate the place that the Bible should have in all our study and life. I'm seeing again and again that Jesus was conservative in His attitude toward Scripture. Jesus may have gone beyond the Old Testament but He never went against it. Likewise I want my students to know that if submission to Scripture in all areas of life was right for Jesus, it must be right for us, always and without exception. This is because we are evangelicals, whose view of Scripture is never compromised on the altar of accommodation to modern liberal thinking.
That said, Jesus did two other things. In the first place, Jesus was quick to challenge the accepted wisdom of His day. But secondly, He wasn't content with a mere knowledge of the Scripture but called for a profound application of its demands for life in the kingdom of God. Students, Jesus is calling all of us to a similar radical obedience. "Evangelical" is not enough. We should be obedient evangelicals, even radical evangelicals. Our calling as kingdom Christians is to be both conservative and radical at the same time. We are to guard God's revelation and to be thoroughgoing in its application to our lives. We are to be both faithful and relevant.
As you prepare for your finals, and as I work on my book, may we all listen to the Book of books more carefully than perhaps ever before. May we be anxious to read it, study it, understand it, believe it, and obey it. Above all, may we find it to be true that real freedom is found not in discarding the yoke of Christ but in submitting to it. May Christ the Lord control our thinking and our living and may we, through the Scripture, reject everything that is plainly contrary to it, and accept Christ's emphasis on love for others as an indispensable call.
I hope our final days of the semester will be marked by grace and affirmation instead of inward-turning and isolation. Let's do all we can to help each other achieve our goals. A rising tide lifts every boat in the harbor. When one rises, we all rise. Let's call forth the best in each other and strengthen each other to love our families, our neighbors, and our world well. Let's point each other toward God, to whom alone be the glory in this semester, and every semester, both now and forevermore.
Monday, May 4
1:05 PM Hey everybody. How ya surviving isolation? Today I got in an hour walk as I try to recover from my recent injury/illness. I've also been trying to get more writing done these days. In fact, today I'd like to talk to you about a character trait that's been on my heart for several days now. It's a trait that all Christians need, but especially those of you who are serving in pastoral (teaching) ministry.
I suppose we're all familiar with Paul's lists of qualifications for church leaders. They're found in Titus and 1 Timothy. The trait I want to talk about today is found in 1 Tim. 3:2. It's the 7th qualification that Paul sets forth for "overseers." The Greek word is didaktikon. "An overseer," writes Paul, "must be didaktikon." Your Bible translation probably says something like "must be able to teach." And that's one way the Greek can be rendered. But did you know that the same Greek word can be rendered in a completely different way? My Greek dictionary tells me that didaktikon can be translated either as (1) "able to teach" or as (2) ... are you ready?
That's right. Teachable. You say, "Well, Dave, what does it mean here?" And my answer would be, "I don't know!" You see, one of the things I have to constantly remind my Greek students is that Greek is not a magic potion you can ingest and then afterwards everything becomes crystal clear. It isn't the Abracadabra or Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. It's a not a magic wand you can wave over your passage and then -- POOF! -- expect the meaning to jump out at you miraculously. This is precisely one of the most important things we can ever know about Greek: It doesn't necessarily tell us what the Bible means. But it can (and does) limit our options. It tells us what is possible, and then many others factors -- especially the context -- have to kick in at that point.
So do I have an opinion about what didaktikon means in 1 Tim. 3:2? Sure do. Here I think it means "teachable." Look, first, at the context. No other qualification mentioned in Paul's list has to do with an aptitude, or a skill set, or an ability. Instead, they all have to do with a man's character. His lifestyle. I think "teachable" fits this context quite nicely, don't you? Secondly, think for a moment, if you will, about those pastor-teachers in your life you've come to love and respect the most. I'll do the same. Know what I think they all have in common? They're passionate learners! They love studying the Scriptures! They don't burn out or rust out. Instead, every week they can't wait for Sunday to come. "Look at what I've been learning this week! I can't wait to share it with you!" In a word, they are teachable. In two words, they are lifelong learners. That's called teachability. It's one reason so many pastors are returning to our seminary for their Doctor of Ministry degree. They are lifelong learners. That's why some pastors even enroll in our Ph.D. program. Recently my former assistant received his Ph.D. in New Testament from our school. Know what he does, week in and week out? He pastors a local church.
Billy Graham once spoke at a pastors' conference in London toward the end of his ministry. Someone asked him, "Dr. Graham, if you had to do your ministry all over again, what would you do differently?" He thought for a moment and then said, "Well, I would have prayed more, that's for sure." BAM! That struck me right between the eyes! If ever there was a prayer wimp, that's me! Then Graham added, "And I would have studied more and preached less." I find that it's difficult for me to learn anything when I'm doing all the talking. There's a time for listening, and a time for talking. A time to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." A time for study -- deep, reverent, Spirit-led study. R. C. Sproul once said that the key to being an effective pastor-teacher is being simple without being simplistic. He said a great teacher-preacher is like an iceberg. You only see 10 percent, but underneath you sense the other 90 percent.
What's your teachability quotient, pastor friend? Are you preaching from the canteen of Saturday night or from a reservoir of Bible knowledge? If you're not sure, just ask your people. They know. You can't disguise mediocrity.
Are you teachable? The leader who has nothing to learn has nothing to teach. So ... are you teachable? If not, you can be. Start today.
Saturday, May 2
6:48 PM This morning I attended a drive-in church in North Carolina and then an online service in Alabama.
Coincidentally, the text for both sermons was Phil. 2:1-11. Elsewhere I've called this passage "the heart of Philippians." If there's one section I will ask my students to memorize in Philippians, it's this one. Both of today's sermons spoke eloquently of the need for unity, humility, and Christlikeness during a time of pandemic. The thought that came to my mind was:
Looking for some relief during a time of crisis? Serve others. Be kind. Reach out. Often. Offer to wash the dishes. Volunteer to mow the grass. Check up on your elderly friends and relatives. Need more ideas? Look at the totality of how Paul describes the body of Christ in 2:1:
What a bucket list that is! Notice: "One another," "others," "we all," "each other." Today is no time for rugged individualism. As Mother Teresa once put it, "I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things." As both pastors said today, during times of crisis we can either pull together or pull apart; we can either divide or unite.
I think this may be what is Paul is trying to drive home in this passage. Serve, serve, serve. Give, give, give. Others, others, others. That's the "mind of Christ" (2:5). We must regard no task as too menial or degrading to undertake for our brother or sister in Christ. We are to be like Christ -- in His incarnation, in His love, and especially in His service.
April wasn't the month any of us wanted. May will probably be more of the same. But God is not baffled. Jesus has a plan for us during these stormy days: "It is more blessed to give than to get" (Acts 22:35).
Happiness is ours when we give it away.
Saturday, May 2
2:20 PM I wasn't sure if I should share this with you, but hey, what's to lose? When I get too caught up in my own problems, it's a relief to pray for someone else. Prayer is (or ought to be) the center of all we do as believers. Then we act on our prayers whenever we can. Today I have a good friend in northern India who is requesting prayer. He wrote:
I asked, "What can be done?" Here's what he told me. He said he is hoping to give 150 food relief kits to 150 families who are suffering from hunger. Each kit will contain:
Each kit will feed a family of four for a week. One kit will cost $12.00. So $100.00 will feed about 9 families, and $500.00 will feed about 42 families. Just think -- for a mere $12.00 a family of four can be fed for an entire week!
I'm not necessarily asking you to give to this cause. We are all "prioritizing" these days. But for some reason I felt led to share this need with you. Seeing needs like this always gives me perspective. "God, I thought my needs were pretty big, but their needs are so much bigger than my own." Oh, the inexhaustible compassion of our Lord! He not only felt sorry for the 4,000. He fed them. Maybe if you have kids it might be fun to see if they can all pitch in to raise $12.00 to feed a hungry family in India for a week.
Just for the record, I know this ministry in India backwards and forwards. Their son studied at our seminary. Two of my kids have made trips there to serve with them and to dedicate the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra, which houses both an English day school and a theological seminary.
Mission trips like these are sort of like being on dialysis. They flush the self-pity out of our system.
Okay, enough. This season of quarantine has introduced a level of fear we haven't seen since 9/11 in our nation. Fear of what we can see, and fear of what we can't see. And so we pray: Father, let your mercy fall on all who need it. And please use us, your church, to heal a hurting world.
If you'd like to make a donation, please go here.
And do it with a smile, every day.
11:32 AM My good friend Ben (who pastors in Roxboro, NC) reminded me today that it was 10 years ago that our team entered a village in Burji, Ethiopia (where Becky was raised) on the back of motorbikes to share the Good News and to teach the believers there.
I must admit: I miss those crazy days. But these are happy memories, unmistakably. Praise be to God.
Friday, May 1
10:42 AM Happy May Day! In Hawai'i we'd all be wearing plumerias behind our ears. I've started a study of According to Luke. Luke often puts into words what my heart is feeling but can't fully express. His writing makes me smile as much as it makes me cry. I feel like Luke is patting me on the back and encouraging me to step into all God has for me. Really, I feel like I'm having coffee with my best friend! Here are a few notes I've taken so far:
1) Luke was probably the most highly educated of the Gospel writers. And yet his story is readable, accessible, and oozes with love. The preface (1:1-4) is Classical Greek; that of 1:5-2:52 anything but. He uses Classical Greek when he is not using sources and Koine Greek when he is.
2) Luke was a medical doctor. What a provision of the Lord for a man like Paul in all his afflictions!
3) Luke's "new" material is truly profound. Where we would be without his telling of:
4) Luke emphasizes certain cardinal truths of Christianity:
5) Luke has provided artists with many themes. Think of Plockhorst's The Good Shepherd:
Or Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son:
What more can I say? Luke is a remarkable book. Readers of this Gospel will feel understood, comforted, and challenged to grow. I'm already in chapter 18.
Thursday, April 30
8:35 PM My evening reading.
If you're looking for just another book on theology, this book is not for you. Gordon Fee transcends the lines between theology and worship through his exegetical insights and pastoral heart. I wish I could put this book in the hands of every one of my students.
My drive home.
All in all, a very good day. Thank you, Jesus!
Wednesday, April 29
7:44 PM This care package arrived today from my daughter.
It contained gloves, masks, a pulse oximeter, wipes, hand sanitizer, Soft-soap, and a thermometer. Thank you, sweetheart. Heart you!
1:28 PM "Why do you read New Testament paraphrases?" Been asked that question a few times lately. Here are some renderings from the Living Bible I love (all from Luke):
Don't like it? Ken Taylor is good with that. From the preface:
1:12 PM Spending the day reading 1) a term paper on the use of Greek prepositions in the Nicene Creed and 2) a dissertation on the discourse structure of the Didache. Classico, classico.
12:58 PM Now this is a timely essay: Fear, Prayer, Trust, and Action by Energion publisher Henry Neufeld. The money quote:
Tuesday, April 28
9:50 AM On Sunday I attended three worship services. One was in Alabama. One was in North Carolina. And one -- the one below -- was in Frisco, Texas.
What a way to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing like a sermon -- or two, or three -- to prepare you for the coming week. Chuck's message is titled "Seven Insights From Job About Our God." You'll need to have your Bible open to Job 42. If it motivates you to listen in or watch, here are his seven takeaways (all of which are so true to the text and so true to life):
1) There is nothing God cannot do.
2) It is impossible to frustrate, hinder, or stop God's purposes.
3) God's ways are beyond our understanding and are too deep to explain.
4) Only by focusing on God are we able to humble ourselves and rest in His will.
5) When the day of reckoning comes, God demonstrates firm judgment mixed with great grace.
6) No one can be compared to our God when it comes to blessings.
7) Only God can fill our final years with the kind of music that frees us to live above our circumstances.
Chuck is right. We don't need more information. We need insight for living. Says he, "No one suffered like Job. Insight drips from his pen."
And, I might add, from Chuck's sermon.
9:25 AM Shelter-in-place bonus: You have plenty of time for reflection. You can expect a long blog post soon about all the Lord has been teaching me these past two months. At the top of the list has got to be a weaning from my slavish attachment to the daily news shows. Not any more. When I get up in the morning I'm now repulsed by the desire to open CNN or any other website. Great character is not grown in worldly pursuits. I don't know about you, but early in the morning my soul, as never before, is athirst for God as the hart after the water brooks. He invites me come and drink, and who can resist His invitation? And I don't mean a sip of water. I mean being drunk with the wine of His word. I mean being gorged with the satisfactions of His life. "He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Psalm 107:9). The God Who Satisfies!
This wasn't me even a mere two months ago. I could hardly wait to get up in the morning to get the latest scoop on Covid. I preferred broken cisterns to the fountain of living water. But all that brought was a sour morning aftertaste. Today I will read the news but try not to obsess on it. Yes, it's hard. My generation was bred on TV and entertainment. We want to sit around and amuse ourselves. The idea of church as entertainment began with us Baby Boomers. But the early church had no desire to "make it interesting." It was interesting, but what drew the crowds wasn't entertainment but the power of God.
America needs a revival. But there will be no revival until we exchange our obsession with entertainment for amazement.
9:10 AM Big news! My essay "The Thessalonian Road to Self Support" is now available in Arabic. This is a first for us here at DBO. I'm definitely grateful to the translator. So a shout out to all my Arabic readers. More to come, God willing!
Monday, April 27
8:54 PM There's a place, a secret hiding place, where I go to spend time alone with the Lord, an oasis in the desert, a Gethsemane when my heart fails me for fear and I am so heart-conscious physically.
It is my light in a dark place, my shadow and my sunshine, where I wait for the fog to clear when I don't know what is ahead, knowing that my afflictions have not escaped His attention. It is a place where prayers are prayed and praises are sung and tears are wept. Here plots are plotted and grievances grieved over. I spend many an evening here, as I did this evening, a peaceful retreat away from the noise and the din, a place to get apart not so much to escape the pressure as to refresh the soul before I return to it.
We used to sing "Sweet Hour of Prayer," when we actually prayed only a few minutes a day, or less. But our God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The art of meditation, it seems, is a lost art today. Blessed are we if we hunger and thirst after righteousness for we will be filled. We must come to the only One who can satisfy our thirst. To be with Christ is what makes heaven, heaven.
The honest truth: social distancing sucks. It's hard, and a lot of the time I just want it to be OVER, except I don't really think it will ever really be over. But there's one Face that pulls me out of the darkness every single time. I am enough because He is enough. I am safe because He is my Safe-ior. And so I'm forced to peel away all the facades I've erected, to set fire to the passion that lies within, and then to step back out into the night, covered in only what has survived the fire. Thank God -- O, thank God! -- that He is my covering, that He is walking through this fire with me, with us.
Now that we are stripped of everything else, we still have Him, only Him, and because He is enough, we are enough.
5:40 PM How do you spell joy? Being interviewed by your grandson for a school project.
(Can you even handle this? Ought to be a law against having so much fun. Oh, and the questions he asked!)
5:04 PM Watch. And learn what a great Christian leader looks like.
Five minutes in and you'll be hooked. What a blessed relief when a Christian leader confesses his own humanity. Leadership is no role to accept lightly. Graham hated the whole pedestal thing. This interview is so basic and lovely. An ordinary man used in extraordinary ways, all the while modeling the mind of Christ -- godly character, never self-promoting, obedient to the Spirit, serving others without any expectation of anything in return, accountable. Listen to Graham talk about his upbringing, his start in evangelistic ministry (10 years in complete obscurity), his method of planning a crusade, how he deals with suffering and persecution, his definition of "success," how he worked with his teammates, and on and on. His is an example of the truth that faithfulness is not easy but it is possible.
Godly leadership really does happen.
10:08 AM My good friend and former assistant Abidan Shah has started a new series on the book of Philippians at Clearview Church (in the parking lot no less!). Here's the church website.
Also, Abidan and his wife Nicole have produced a wonderful little devotional called 30 Days Through a Crisis, which I am thoroughly enjoying. It's free on Kindle. Thanks Nicole and Abidan for helping us navigate these stressful days!
Sunday, April 26
1:40 PM Even the goats are practicing social distancing.
9:28 AM Every spring the robins build a nest on my front porch (upper right hand corner).
The nest is the apotheosis of ornithological architecture -- perfectly rounded and expertly crafted. Every morning I watch the baby birds with their little heads and beaks resting on the rim of the nest, making tiny "I'm hungry" sounds. All day long Momma Bird flies up to feed her little ones. Thankfully, there's plenty of stuff around the farm to feed them. These baby robins need not worry about being nourished and well cared for.
Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you far more valuable to Him than they are?" When Jesus spoke of our needs, He pointed us to the birds. They have no worries. Neither should we. Of course, easier said than done, especially for worriers like me. Every morning my front porch reminds me, "Dave, God knows what you need, and He is sufficient to provide. You must put your trust in Him. All of creation is reminding you of that. Even the birds. They are telling you of God's love, God's love for you. "
So this morning I gave thanks to the God who loves me, who gives me life, who gives me each morning of my life.
How about you?
Give thanks, my friend. Yes, give thanks.
Saturday, April 25
9:38 PM The silver lining in Covid is FaceTime. Here I'm praying with my daughter and her husband in Alabama today.
Today I talked with 4 of my kids, 5 of my grandkids, and some good friends who live in North Carolina. When loneliness strikes, I get on FaceTime. I feel like I'm right there with them. Physically distant, yet socially connected.
Please, if you live alone as I do, do not allow yourself to become disconnected from those who love you. The virus may be strong, but it's not stronger than the love we share with our family and friends.
Friday, April 24
8:14 PM Greetings fellow-sheltering-in-placers! What a week it's been. The news is relentless. But in the midst of all the chaos are the constants -- people who are living selflessly for others and even risking their own health to serve the public. Today I want to say a gigantic "Thank you" to all of you in the front lines of the war against the coronavirus. You never thought in a million years that your profession could become so demanding. And yet there you are -- taking care of us as you swore an oath to do. Your courage astounds me. Your perseverance is incredible. Your dedication is exemplary. I had to stop by the office of one of you today for a check up. You and the office staff were standing tall -- constant, relentless, never giving in or folding up. Many of you in the health care profession and many of you first responders are born-again Christians. You have realized that you can't be the light of the world if your only contacts are with believers. You haven't withdrawn. Instead, you are penetrating the darkness with the light of God's love. Chesterton once said, "The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried." Well, you have tried it. I know that your job must get tiring. It's not easy to do what you do in today's world. Even faith is not easy. Christ talked about a faith that could move mountains. I'm sure He didn't mean an "Abracadabra" kind of faith. The faith that moves mountains always carries a pick. Thank you for shouldering that pick. You are the bright spot in many people's lives. You are lighting your own corner of the world. I'm sure you aren't the same person you were two months. None of us are. But all of us owe you a great debt of gratitude.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thursday, April 23
6:02 PM So grateful for Urban Ministries and the way they are taking care of the homeless in Durham and Wake Counties, NC. As we sit in our comfortable homes with cabin fever, let's remember to pray for those who have no place to live either because they are homeless, have been disowned by their families, or can't be physically reunited with their families due to travel restrictions.
5:56 PM Lots of great online conversations on YouTube these days. Check out this interview between my provost Bruce Ashford and the lieutenant governor of North Carolina.
4:45 PM Yesterday's chapel service was awesome. Danny Akin led us in a virtual commissioning service of our students who will be deploying to the nations. This is always my favorite chapel service of the year. Ben Quinn also brought a fabulous message from the book of James. Click here to watch. I love watching younger people growing and their passion be recognized.
As for me, sleep, sleep, and more sleep. In between sleep, plenty of liquids. That's about it whenever I get sick. Just bear with me. Generally, I keep going until it's physically impossible and then I stop because I'm forced to. For a runner, being sick is purgatory but no doubt there are lessons I need to learn about not pushing myself too hard. Meanwhile, hot showers are like heaven on earth.
Stay safe and well out there everyone.
P.S. Greek DVD orders are on hold until the governor lifts the "stay at home" order. The post office is not exactly a place I want to be right now if you know what I mean.
Wednesday, April 22
10:10 AM Becky's rose bush has erupted.
And brightened a room.
9:26 AM Blog family, just wanted to say thanks for your emails and texts. Your prayers are appreciated so very much. Paul included several prayer requests for himself in his letters. Even though he was an apostle, he knew how weak he was in himself and how utterly dependent he was upon God. So he boldly asked others to pray for him. Rom. 15:30 is one of my favorite verses in this regard: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." God commends prayers like this. So thank you for asking God to help me in my illness. And if you have a prayer request, please don't hesitate to let me know. It would be my joy to struggle in prayer on your behalf.
8:44 AM Feeling better today, with Psalm 103 on my lips (which I can only read in the KJV for some reason!):
Tuesday, April 21
1:06 PM This finally came today. Been years since I've owned a copy. Try check 'um out when you can, bruh.
Monday, April 20
6:54 PM Precious words from Ken and Joni.
They ask: Which Bible verse have you found to be an encouragement to you during this pandemic? I have too many to mention. But near the top of my list would be Deut. 8:2:
As Christian and Hopeful were drawing near to the Celestial City, some shepherds went out to meet them. The shepherds were called Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. They gave Christian and Hopeful hospitality, then sent them on their way with a warning that many temptations would impede their "Pilgrims Progress." For me, this time in isolation, and now of illness, has been a time of real testing and great, undeserved blessing. In a sense, trials serve to show us who a person really is. Deut. 8:2 reminds me that character is not built in a day. It doesn't pop out of a box with easy-to-read directions. It is built, day by day, crisis by crisis. Our response does matter. At some point, we need to unplug from today's propaganda machines (the news outlets) and figure out where our treasure truly resides. Character doesn't just happen. You discover it as you draw closer and closer to God each day.
Thank you, Ken and Joni, for your positivity, your balance, your encouragement, your heart of trust in God. That's what grace is all about.
12:32 PM Praying this AM via Zoom with my suite mates -- they in Wake Forest, me on the farm.
So many blessings. So many needs. What a joy to bear one another's burdens.
P.S. The doc put me on a Z Pac today for what she's calling walking pneumonia. We'll take it one day at a time.
Thank You so much, Lord, for all those who share prayer time with me. Thank You especially for these special moments with my colleagues on campus. And thank You for all who are praying for my recovery. Help me to do the same for others. Amen.
Sunday, April 19
9:40 AM How's your sojourn in Arabia going? I'm referring, of course, to the first chapter of Galatians. There we are told that Paul spent three years in Arabia. Why? Stott notes that Paul "went into Arabia for quiet and solitude .... Now he had Jesus to himself, as it were, for three years of solitude in the wilderness" (Galatians, p. 34). Hendricksen suggests that "withdrawing to Arabia for rest, prayer, and mediation was exactly what Paul needed" (Galatians, p. 56). For Paul, Arabia was a time of obscurity. It was a period of training. It was a time of digging deep into the things of God. It was a time of soul-searching. It was a time, not for activity, but for inactivity. A time to be quiet and listen. To learn.
Perhaps many of us will go deeper with Christ during this time of sheltering in place than we have ever gone before in our lives. Especially those of us who are highly driven, type A personalities like the apostle Paul, people who need to learn how to pull back and go deep. Well, now's our chance. In Arabia, Paul was alone with God. He went into Arabia to pray, not to do.
How about you?
These are strange times in which we live. We could never have predicted them. We are being tested as never before both as a society and as individuals. We are shut out and shut in, and the temptation to discouragement is enormous. But it's all part of God's plan for our lives. Don't fight it. Instead, remember the words of Isa. 30:15: "In quietness and trust is your strength."
Let me be perfectly honest with you. It's been a very long time since I've spent so much time with God as I have during these past four weeks. I mean spending hours and hours in the word and in prayer. And not just offering up prayer requests either. Not just communicating with God. But communing with Him. For hours on end. Enjoying His company. Being real. Curling up in His arms. Listening rather than talking. Probing my relationship with Him. Getting as close as I can to my heavenly Father. Addressing the things in my soul that for years have needed addressing. Releasing all my worries and cares to Him. With God's help, I am learning to let Him work things out in my life, to be the anchor in my ever-turning world.
You want to make the most out of your Arabia? Before you go to bed tonight, talk to God. Don't just mumble off a pew pious words. Really pray. Cry and carry on if you have to. Arabia is a sign that God has something far better in mind for us than we, from our finite perspective, could have possibly imagined.
So be still. Be quiet. Listen to God. Most of all, thank Him for Himself, the King of all Kings, the Author of love, the Giver of life beyond and hope for today. For these and a thousand other things offer Him your prayer of gratitude.
8:28 AM This morning's reading on the front porch was in Psalm 19: the World and the Word.
I love how the Psalmist describes the sun as (1) "a bridegroom going to his wedding" and (2) "an athlete looking forward to a race." Can a groom ever forget his wedding day?
Can an athlete ever forget anticipating the start of the Chicago Marathon?
No one thinks much about the sun, but if it fails to shine for several days we long for it. No one gives much thought to the word of God when they are preoccupied with their own lives. How we take both the world and the word for granted!
Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Thank You, Lord, for the marvel of creation and for the majesty of Your word!
Saturday, April 18
4:22 PM More often than not I'm way behind on my reading. An example is this three-volume set.
I just unpacked it today. Might seem boring to some, but I absolutely love theology. I read these books back when they first came out. In fact, were I to teach theology, this is the textbook I would use. It's approach is absolutely unique. Lewis and Demarest (Denver Seminary) are out-of-the-box thinkers to the Nth degree. What you will find in their textbook is theology on steroids. For example, let's say you're wanting to study the doctrine of Christ (Christology). Here's how Lewis and Demarest would approach the subject. First, you'll study how that doctrine was treated throughout church history, from the early fathers all the way to contemporary theologians. (In German-speaking Europe, where I studied, this is called Dogmengeschichte -- the history of doctrine -- and in fact some universities have entire departments devoted to that subject.) Second, you will study everything the Bible has to say about Christ, beginning in the Old Testament and going right up to the book of Revelation. Third, the authors attempt to systematize their findings about Christology based on their previous research. Finally, they ask, "So what? What are the implications of this doctrine for practical Christian living?" The sequence is:
Needless to say, many if not most theology textbooks in use today say nothing about the first and last of these subjects. In addition, as icing on the cake, the authors throw in a section on Apologetic Theology, in other words, how to use this doctrine to defend Christianity against her detractors. Today I've been working through the section on the church in volume three.
I have no hesitation at all in calling Christians of every theological persuasion to use these volumes as a great starting place for understanding the things of our faith. It is a solid introduction to theology.
10:20 AM "We err when we think of the church as a storehouse for converts instead of as a distribution plant." Read The Church Is a Granary.
10:15 AM How nice to have kids who supply you with farm fresh eggs from their own chickens.
Friday, April 17
5:50 PM Every time I wash my bedding I think of Becky. Whenever we made the bed together we had a competition to see who could put the pillow cases on the pillows faster. She inevitably beat me. She volunteered to teach me her method, but I refused. I'm sure she thought I was being stubborn. Actually, I secretly looked forward to the competition every time we made the beds.
Every second of every day the world is changing. Today someone is getting married. Today someone else is watching their marriage end. Nothing is predicable, except for change. Grace is the calm both before and after the storm. It's what holds us together when everything else seems to be falling part. It's the sun through the dark clouds. It's the promise that, no matter how great the test, God provides a way through it.
Have you traveled the path of grief? Recovery does not mean you forget your loved one or the life you shared. It doesn't mean you'll forget those little, seemingly insignificant moments of memory-building, like changing the bedding together. God doesn't want us to forget the past. There will always be a small core of memory that emerges at the most surprising times. Missing someone you love isn't weird. In fact, it's the rightest thing in the world. God knows you much better than you do. He knows the trauma of having to say goodbye. The God who will wipe away our tears tomorrow will hold us close today.
Becky, I love you. I miss you. You are never forgotten.
10:10 AM You'll find Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, just north of Dallas. Chuck Swindoll is its senior pastor. When you visit the church's website, here's the first thing you see.
I love it. I've only been to Stonebriar once. It was for the funeral of Howard Hendricks, long-time professor at Dallas Seminary. I attended along with Becky's mom and dad. I recall dad and Chuck Swindoll out in the lobby swapping stories just before the service began. Chuck got his start as the youth pastor at the church where Becky and her family had been attending in Dallas. As I watched dad and Chuck chatter away, the one thing I remember was how approachable and good-natured the senior pastor of Stonebriar was. The church had, well, a family atmosphere about it, of which there was no mistaking.
The New Testament uses several metaphors to depict the church. The church is a building. It's a bride. It's a body. It's a flock of sheep. It's a temple. It's a group of branches in a vineyard. But the most predominant picture of the church in the New Testament is "family." God is our Father. We are all brothers and sisters. We are the oikos, the family of God. By the way, unlike the other pictures of the church in the New Testament, "family" isn't a metaphor. We really are God's family. We really are His adopted children. You, dear readers, really are my siblings. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. This is the foundation of everything we believe about the church. When you pray with someone, walk with them, carry their burden, defend them, gently confront them, that's family. That's community. That's church. And wherever you find such a family, it's always a gift.
Two takeaways for me:
1) The concept of church as family would have been a good foundation for MRI -- Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ-- a program put forth at the Anglican Conference in Toronto in 1963. Family members are neither all recipients nor all givers. The family of God is a partnership of giving and receiving. Perhaps we need to revive the idea of MRI today in our churches. Let's think of the church not as rows upon rows of spectators but rather as a circle facing each other, as though we were all sitting in a living room together, practicing the "one anothers" -- loving one another, forbearing and forgiving each other, submitting to one another, building one another up, practicing hospitality with each other, praying for one another, and bearing each other's burdens. It can scarcely be conceived what advantages we could reap from viewing our churches as families in this way.
2) If we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, then we should have no problem with calling one another by these terms. The titles we use express what we really believe about the church. The New Testament encourages us to be sibling-minded. We call each other brother and sister because we are anxious that we will exhibit the richness of our spiritual family. I've visited a country in Asia some 13 times. There it was common to call each other brother and sister. I was "brother Dave," and right glad to be so! Maybe we could work harder in our American churches to be true to our identity as the family of God, expressing the fullness of our love and care for one another even through the words we use to address each other.
This morning, during my prayer time, I prayed for some of you. I prayed for a brother whose dad is recovering from surgery and for his family. I prayed for a sister who is struggling with her faith. I thanked the Father for a brother who just passed his Ph.D. dissertation defense. I prayed for my brothers and sisters who are facing enormous persecution in a nation many miles away from the U.S. I still believe today what I have always believed: that God is our Father, that He takes good care of His children, and that His comfort is like nothing else in the world. I'm so thankful He's there when we need Him, because I've needed Him desperately this month. He asked me what I needed and I told Him without any fear that He would rebuke me for asking (James 1:5).
He is my Abba, my Dad. And He's yours too, my brother and my sister.
Thursday, April 16
2:14 PM Grateful for this beautiful day and for the God-given health and strength to get out and run. It was wonderful. Today I did about 6 miles in preparation for this Sunday's charity long run of at least 12 miles.
This weekend's charity? The Healthy Harvest Food Bank in Richmond, VA.
P.S. Yes, I had my Marine Corps Marathon buff ready to pull over my nose and mouth on those rare occasions when you encounter another runner on the trail.
8:15 AM This morning I was in Psalm 40 and in this book.
I acquired it during my sojourn in Basel some 40 years ago but, like so many other books these days, I've "resurrected" it for another pass-through. Thank you, brother Spener, for writing this little booklet ("Büchlein"). Bet you never thought you'd be helping an American get through the coronavirus.
The foreword summaries Spener's goals (his "pious longings" = pia desideria) in producing his booklet:
1) Deeper Bible study by every church member.
2) The practice of the priesthood of all believers through responsible cooperation of the laity within the fellowship.
3) The realization of a convincing Christianity not only through words but through deeds.
4) The reform of theological study with a view toward service in the church.
5) Equipping people for proclamation both in terms of missions and counseling.
So far my favorite section of the book is the part called "Erziehung der Prediger auf den Universitäten" ("The education of preachers in the universities"). Reader, brace yourself. Here Spener discusses:
1) The example of the professors (Das Vorbild der Professoren).
2) Study and practical Christianity belong together (Studieren und Christentum der Tat gehören zusammen).
3) Theology is a habitus practicus (Theologie ist ein habitus practicus).
4) The Holy Spirit is the true and only teacher (Der Heilige Geist ist der wahre und einzige Lehrmeister).
5) Theology is not a mere science (Theologie ist nicht ein blosses Wissenschaft).
6) It's not about a philosophy of religion but about the study of theology (Es geht nicht um eine Religionsphilosophie, sondern um das Theologiestudium).
7) Professors should not make demands merely of the students' talent (Die Professoren sollen nicht allein der Begabung die Studenten födern).
8) Disputations ought to take place also in the German language so that one can learn how to make oneself understandable in the church (Es möchten Disputationen auch in deutscher Sprache gehalten werden, um lernen, wie man zu einer Gemeinde verständlich spricht).
9) The prospective student needs a true mentor (Der angehende Student bedarf eines truen Mentors).
10) All of theology takes us back to apostolic simplicity (Die ganze Theologie wieder zur apostolischen Schlichtheit bringen).
Now do you see why I love Spener?
Budding theologians are conditioned to assess their studies through the eyes of learning alone. We don't mean to do this; it's just the nature of being involved in an educational institution. In doing so, we unintentionally drive a wedge between knowledge and practice. In contrast, take a snapshot of the German Lutheran Pietists of whom Spener was the first:
I realize that Pietism is multifaceted and deserves a more thorough analysis than what I've provided here. The whole topic is way bigger than me. But I wonder if we couldn't learn a thing or two from these men and women who sought to be known as people living simple lives on mission for Christ and who loved God and neighbor. Truth, mutuality, confession, humility, prayer, sacrifice, practical obedience -- these are the unsexy, ordinary tools God has always used to make His faith communities beautiful.
Let's go ahead and address this "stuff" in our own churches if we need to. It is noble, necessary work.
Wednesday, April 15
8:40 PM Tonight's walk at one of my favorite state parks.
Perfect end to a wonderful day with the Lord.
12:52 PM Seems I wasn't the only one on the trail today after all.
8:40 AM My reading this morning was in what is probably my favorite letter in the New Testament. Perhaps no human being is less into writings that are too wordy, but the author of Hebrews doesn't waste a single syllable. His point in the final chapters of his message (a letter, true, but more of a transcript of a sermon spoken to a group of Christians audibly) is that the way we love each other, serve each other, and live our lives with each other really matters. It's a big deal to Jesus. One little snippet jumped out at me:
This reminds me very much of Rom. 12:13 (which, by the way, is my life verse):
Generosity ranks terribly high on Jesus' list of required attributes for His followers. Back to Hebrews for a moment:
The Greek here seems to be even stronger: "I will never, ever leave you, nor will I ever, ever forsake you" (5 negatives). But the promise is tied to the command: Be satisfied with what you have. Once again, I can't help but think about Paul: "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6).
You know, friends, a person may have an abundance of things without an abundance of life. We can be poor in the midst of plenty. Has there ever been a generation who surrounded themselves with more things to make their lives enjoyable only to be the most bored and unhappy generation of all time? I remember watching the kids of rural Ethiopia playing with their toys. No, these gadgets didn't come from Wal-Mart. The kids would find scraps of discarded plastic or metal and fashion toys for themselves. These kids had practically nothing yet were the happiest kids I think I've ever seen.
Here's what I'm learning. Dave, life does not consist in the presence or absence of things. You are rich and have an abundance beyond the fluctuations of the stock market. "We have nothing and yet possess everything" wrote Paul (2 Cor. 6:10). I am both a pauper and a plutocrat! I have nothing because it all belongs to God and I am only its steward. I have everything because I am a joint-heir with Christ. I have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of being both poor and rich.
Believe me, I'm still working on this generosity thingy. I am hardly immune to the feverish selfishness of this age. Yet the earliest Christians "had everything in common" and "gave to anyone as they had a need" (Acts 2:44-25). I've been reading a book by an author whose church gives more than half of its income to the needy. "We won't spend more on ourselves than on our poor neighbor" were the author's words. Think about that while looking at your church's budget! Bottom line: Generosity has always been a characteristic of the society of Jesus. That's because God is a generous God. And His Holy Spirit gives His people a tender conscience for the needy.
This is the kind of kingdom man I want to be and the kind of kingdom students I want to raise up. The extent of our generosity is but a whisper of our devotion to God.
Tuesday, April 14
8:02 PM Canadian geese at Kerr lake.
5:20 PM Chickpea Curry with Jasmine Rice for dinner tonight.
First time cooking with garbanzo beans. Man, they are good!
Meanwhile, I am trying to decide which New York charity to support when I do my long run this weekend. The running community is so amazing. So many good causes to support. I remember reading that just after the Boston Marathon bombing, several people who finished the race before the attack ran several more blocks to donate blood to the victims at the nearest hospital. This it the kind of humanitarianism I've come to love and appreciate in the running community as a whole. The stuff we Americans are made of that rises to the surface in such times is truly inspiring. And if you're a Christian, it's all the more sensical to support these causes. It really is simple-- a kingdom lived out in ordinary ways by ordinary people like me and you. How else can we understand God's goodness?
Now if you'll excuse me, the donks are expecting their carrot.
12:12 PM An easy shake down run this morning.
Then did my grocery shopping for the week.
During my run I listened to audio of the Living Bible (the book of James) and sermons by Church Swindoll. I have listened to thousands upon thousands of sermons since becoming a Christian 60 years ago, but I only remember a handful of them. Many of them are by Chuck Swindoll. What makes him such an effective public speaker? Is it his passion for his subject? Is it his visible enjoyment of his audience? Is it his ability to create sound clearly and accurately? Is it his ability to keep your attention? Is it his steady pace and intonation? Is it his credibility (he has a great deal of that)? Is it his ability to evoke empathy? Is it the way he avoids filler words like "um," "like," "you know"? Is it his obvious love of the Lord Jesus? Is it the way he excites, energizes, and engages his audience? Is it his openness, his honesty?
Tell you what. I'll let you decide :-) Today's message was titled When Heartbreaking Events Rock Our World. Watch it and see for yourself.
Off to do yard work on a gorgeous April day!
Monday, April 13
3:02 PM Just back from a 5 mile walk. The neighborhood has taken a hit from the storm. Y'all be careful out there.
10:34 AM Like you, I've been dusting off books I've read before and taking time to reread them. This is one of the more fascinating books I have on my shelves.
Many takeaways, but to me the most important one was a saying that came up over and over again in the book: "Never assume. Always verify." Of course, we can't help but assume some things. On the other hand, it's okay to question things. I did this with my master's thesis at Talbot. Eventually I arrived at a conclusion that went against the scholarly grain. Then there was the place of the Byzantine text. Many reject it pretty much out of hand. But why? Ditto for the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, or Markan priority. People always say "Do your own research," but that's easier said than done. If the subject matter is important enough, you will find time to do it. Acquiring detailed research from a variety of sources is not difficult. It's not rocket science. You simply make the most of what you have available, not depending on others to do your research for you. If we're constantly regurgitating unverified information because we're too "busy" to fact check, then we're just too busy. If you really want to see the opposing evidence, you'll make an effort to find it. René Descartes said all you have to do is use your brain. Someone else has said, "The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about."
As a teacher, I know that sometimes it's good to step back and get re-inspired about my research. I just wish I did it more often than I do.
9:25 AM The biggest storm of the year just rumbled through the area bringing a tornado to an area about an hour south of the farm. Here in the Piedmont the weather changes fast and unpredictably. In the meantime, time to rest up. Maybe I'll do some writing today, maybe not. Just feel like chillaxing today. Thankfully the skies are clearing.
Hope you're well wherever you are.
Sunday, April 12
3:46 PM He is RISEN INDEED!
3:22 PM You are welcome in advance for me not posting a yucky picture of my sweaty face during today's run. I went 10 miles at a very slow pace (aka "recovery run") at the High Bridge Trail, which thankfully was deserted.
The run felt good. What felt even better was, during my run, being able to attend church in Alabama via the world wide web. I got to see my granddaughter lead worship.
And I got to see my daughter's husband bring a wonderful, Spirit-filled message from Matt. 28.
While I was running I had a ton of time to think about what Easter means to me. If I could summarize the message of the season it would be: "God loves us." And when we receive that love, we are able to love Him and others in return. Let me ask you a question. How do you define love? How's this?
Listening ... Overlooking ... Valuing ... and Expressing = LOVE. I once heard Chuck Swindoll define love that way and I've never forgotten it. By His death and resurrection, Jesus showed us how much God loves us. His death was a gignormous "I love you." And so I ask:
Francis Schaeffer once wrote a book called The Mark of a Christian. Very few people know about it today. I don't know why. It's one of his best books. In it he talks about the "badge of a Christian." You can be a Christian and not wear this badge, he said. But to be an obedient Christian, wearing this badge is not an option. That badge, of course, is love.
Faith is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I realize that I am loved by God, I have heard my Master's call. I put myself gladly at His disposal, to love as He loved. Will I do this? My fulfillment as a human being depends on my answer.
7:20 AM Happy Resurrection Sunday! Here is today's sunrise service held on my front porch.
Today's message from 1 Cor. 15:3-4 by John Stott was titled The Significance of His Resurrection. He made three points:
I love the teaching of John Stott. I have found his messages to be both easy-to-follow and thought-provoking. I found this sermon to be both stirring and practically helpful. I hope you do too.
Saturday, April 11
11:30 AM So, after my successful 10 mile run for charity the other day, I brought back in my speed work today in the form of a 5K tempo run. I maxed out at a 10-minute/mile pace while still keeping my heart rate within the moderate zone.
Is it just me, or does everybody feel challenged by tempo runs? The point of a tempo run is to push yourself to race-day pace without taking breaks while at the same time staying aerobic. Today's run began with a warm-up and was followed by a cool down. The miles in between were supposed to be run at my 10-mile pace (as in the Virginia 10-Miler). I felt good about today's workout. I think low heart rate training is definitely helping me to increase efficiency and decrease injury and fatigue. Of course, we'll never know until we enter another event. I just don't want to shuffle through my next race!
8:54 AM This morning I'm watching German sermons on YouTube. This brings back many memories of course. I remember finding German/Swiss culture so much different from my own. And that was a good thing! It makes you think about your own habits, about different points of view, etc. Many little things in American culture would never have occurred to me had I not lived abroad. For example, when you are counting with your fingers, which finger comes first? I've always started with my index/pointing finger when counting "one, two, three." In Switzerland, however, they usually start with their thumb. This is quite clever, because "one" equals a "thumb's up"! In terms of time, "Halb 12" (Half 12) is not "half past 12" but "half hour to 12." In Switzerland, 1 is the worst grade in school, 6 is the best. Oh, and in one of the YouTubes I watched someone said, "Wir haben jetzt zwei Tage nicht gepodcasted." Oh me oh my oh! I guess English isn't the only language that loves to borrow! Then too, I'll never forget someone telling me they lived on the "first floor" of their apartment. In California, "ground floor" and "first floor" of an apartment building were usually the same floor. But in Germany, first floor is one level above the ground floor. Confusing much? By the way, ever wondered which floor Eutychus fell from in Acts 20? The text says simply from "the third floor." Depending on how you count "floors," this may have actually been four stories!
Languages. Don't you love them?
7:45 AM I woke up this morning and could hardly wait to get into my Bibles!
It's Easter weekend after all. Even the secular press is talking about the death and resurrection of my Savior -- they have to! Let me tell you, Jesus is the most exciting person I've ever met. When you read the Bible, the entire Bible, read it seeking Him. This is where so many people get hung up. They think the story of Jesus is only found in the Gospels. They don't know that Jesus is on every page of the New Testament!
This morning I turned to one of my all-time favorite Easter texts in the New Testament -- 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians??? Yes indeed! In fact, it's a passage you and I know and love. This passage can revolutionize your entire life if you read it carefully. I often refer to 1 Cor. 15:1-5 as the Reader's Digest Gospel. Look at what Paul has to say about the Good News of Easter (paraphrased):
Here's the best part:
Isn't this beautiful -- the Gospel in a nutshell! Just as there are four Gospels, so the Good News has four basic parts to it:
1) The death of Christ.
2) The burial of Christ.
3) The resurrection of Christ.
4) The post-resurrection appearances of Christ.
Many forget this last one, but that is a very grave mistake. The appearances of the risen Christ are essential to the Gospel story, because no follower of Jesus actually saw Him rise from the grave. Now then, these four parts can be reduced to an irreducible minimum of two parts. Which ones? The ones accompanied by "just as the Scriptures said He would."
A) Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said He would.
B) Three days later He was raised from the dead just as the Scriptures said He would.
That's the HEART of the New Testament Gospel -- the death and resurrection of Christ. Then why mention His burial and appearances? Because these are the PROOFS of His death and resurrection! You don't bury someone unless they have died, and you don't see someone who has died unless they've been raised from the dead! Did you ever realize that these are the evidences for the death and resurrection of the Savior? What was God's purpose in having His Son appear to the disciples on many different occasions? So that they would know beyond the shadow of any doubt that God had raised Him from the dead! Even now, many years later, I know with absolute certainty that Jesus is alive because His own followers saw Him living and moving and breathing! New Testament scholar C. F. D Moule puts it this way:
Even the German skeptic David Strauss was forced to admit:
Just think! At the incarnation, God's grandeur was funneled into the plain package of a human being, born in the stink of a barnyard. He endured all the pain and hardships of human experience and then died in deep disgrace. But on Easter morning, God lit the fireworks! Harnessing heaven itself, Jesus burst forth from the tomb, arising victorious to light our lives for eternity. Just one more reason to praise God. Just one more reason to love Him. Just one more reason to thank Him. Just one more reason to bless Him for giving us wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that He has done for us.
This Easter weekend, I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the hope and the future God has called you to share. I want you to realize that you now sit with Christ in the heavenly places along with Christ, all because of what He did.
Thank You, Lord Jesus!
Friday, April 10
2:02 PM Gigantic shout out and thank you to Ohana Baptist Church in Mapunapuna for distributing over 600 pizzas to families impacted by the coronavirus on O'ahu. ("Ohana" is Hawaiian for "family.") They are starting where every church should start: the local community that want to serve. Folks, pick your mission and then invest with all your guts!
1:10 PM Every morning I wake up and give thanks that I'm still healthy. I also wake up a little sad because of all the suffering that's going on. I'm so thankful for the ability to get outdoors and run. It's just what I need and definitely the highlight of my day other than time spent in the word. I am learning to appreciate and be thankful for so much that I took for granted in the past. Even after yesterday's long run I am feeling good. I just printed out the stats for my last 30 days of running.
Man if that doesn't look like I'm trying to outrun the coronavirus! But a good, sound running plan will not run you into the ground. You have to incorporate rest days so that your body can adjust to all the stress you're putting on it. It also gives your mental state a break. It's clear to me now that I'll never be a great or even a good runner, no matter how many miles I run. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on developing a runner's soul -- a soul that sets and pursues spiritual goals with relentless determination and effort. Being a Christian in a very non-Christian world is a sweaty struggle. You have to work diligently and never let up. The difference between succeeding and failing in life is often as simple as taking another step. My hope is that you will read something on this blog that will help you find your own path to the joy of living. Trophies and ribbons don't fuel it. It's fueled by the relentless need to find that as-yet untapped strength that Jesus provides to everyone who is weary no matter who or what they are.
You may never win a race, but the years ahead can be filled with victory after victory.
8:55 AM Know what? Bad news is actually good news. That's one of the lessons of Good Friday. As the saying goes, "The Gospel isn't good news until it's first bad news" -- the news that all have sinned and are in need of a Savior. In other words, there would have been no Easter without Good Friday. No resurrection without crucifixion. No salvation without suffering. That's why bad news is good news and why we must never omit the sin problem from our Gospel presentations.
We live in a day when the truth about sin and death is often sugarcoated. We don't want to "alarm" the general public, so we tell them, "Oh, don't worry about that. It will all go away, miraculously." Likewise, spiritually we are hard of hearing. We will not open the door to Jesus because we do not hear Him knocking (Rev. 3:20). Sometimes we are up in the attic of intellectualism, too "smart" to come to Christ. Sometimes, like Martha, we are too busy in the kitchen, working away but not listening to Jesus. Sometimes we are in the bedroom asleep, inured to truth. Sometimes we are in the basement of our lower natures, and we do not hear His knock. How strange that we live in a day and age when we ignore or overlook so plain and unmistakable signs of a deadly virus. We grow a little weary of those dear souls who are always looking on the gloomy side. Jesus did not come to this earth to give everyone a pair of rose-colored glasses. His was no mission of "Just be happy!" He never painted the clouds with sunshine. He was the ultimate realist. He saw things as they were and as they would always be. He knew that the way of the cross was the way of the crown, but we want our crowns now.
The "sermons" in the book of Acts are to non-Christians. However, Luke does record for us one sermon that was given to believers. It's found in Acts 14. As Paul and Barnabas were revisiting the churches they had established in Iconium, Lystra, and Derby, the Bible says "They encouraged them to continue in the faith in spite of all the persecution, reminding them that they must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations." This was Paul's "encouraging message"! What? No triumph without trouble, and lots of it? Yep. That's Paul's encouraging message. And the reason it was encouraging is because it was true.
Church, beware of cheap optimism under the guise of political or religious optimism. The important thing is to be on the right side, however dark the truth. We are the light of the world. The business of light is to dispel the darkness of untruth. Christians aren't meant to be decorative candles on a birthday cake. They are meant to expose the unfruitful works of darkness. Our Lord went through the agony of the cross to reach the joy set before Him. We go through the shadow of His cross to reach the sunshine of His love. No one can follow a Galilean teacher and emulate His teaching while dodging His cross. Jesus Himself said so.
Good Friday is the darkest of days. That's the bad news. But the good news is that Jesus was on the cross but a few hours and He lives forevermore. Today, as ever, we must not entangle ourselves with the false gospel of salvation-without-atonement. We must beware of the serenity fads and the tranquility pills of false optimism. Peace without victory over sin is not peace but compromise. Only old-fashioned conviction that keeps us awake at night and makes us miserable until we get right with God will do.
Thursday, April 9
3:12 PM Today's specialty random morning thought was: I wonder what I can do to raise some money to help fight the pandemic? My mind takes these weird turns from time to time. Like most runners, my races have all been canceled, including those that were fundraisers for this or that cause. Being so random, I thought, Okay, I'll just organize my own fundraiser at the local track. The idea was to raise $10.00 for charity for every mile each participant ran. Well, the race has come and gone, and the participants (there were only three: me, myself, and I) have made a donation to the cause of their choice. ("We" chose Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.) How far did I run today? 10 miles, which means $100.00, which in turns translates into 5 protective gowns for the health care workers of NYC.
Anyway, this was so much fun I plan to do it again next week for a different charity during my long run, which I hope will be at least 12 miles. Isn't that what it's all about? Friends, do not underestimate the power of those random morning thoughts. They can be your best friend. If you're not a runner, no worries. Tons of people walk instead of run. If it's for a great cause, so much the better. Now more than ever we need each other in these here United States. Running today was the only thing I could think of doing for the city of New York, which has suffered so much during the pandemic. It reminds me of the days right after 9/11. I'd be driving down I-85 in North Carolina and I'd see a car with a New York license plate and we all sort of felt more like Americans than New Yorkers and North Carolinians. We were a community of support. We still are.
I leave you with the words of John Wesley:
9:50 AM My reading this AM:
Jesus gave us lots to work with in this thing we call Christian living. For one, through Him we have become the children of God, with all the potential for growth which that involves. Take a little baby step. Tomorrow, take another. Offer yourself the same grace you offered your children when they were small. For most of us Americans, this will begin with deconstruction. We think we are children of this world, but this has only led to a sort of war within. Sometimes we become a full-blown mess over it. But if we say we love God, if we claim Him as our Father, then we will care about acting like His children. God doesn't pull any punches here. If we are His children, then we need to act that way. A child says "Me." Adults say "We." Maturity means "staying pure," which means at the very least curbing our appetites and shifting from a me-focus to a one-another-focus. We listen to what Jesus says and obey even His littlest commands. We live in a way that shows trust in God and not in our own understanding. God asks us for everything, and until we give it to Him we don't yet understand what adoption into the family of God means.
Here's the real issue: Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you can put your feet up and become comfortable in your relationship with Christ. If we love Him with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength, there's really no room for competing loves. If He is truly our Lord and God is truly our Father, there is no room for competing thrones. It is Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, who gives us the power to say no to this world and to please our heavenly Father with all that is in us.
That's not a particularly brilliant thought, I know. But it's something to remember during these days when the need for us to act like obedient children of God is universally demanded.
Wednesday, April 8
9:20 PM Okay -- who else was busy today? I did survive, however. My day consisted of a 5-mile run, virtual meetings with students, grading term papers, yard work, cooking and cleaning, and answering emails. Guess what? I'm learning to love cooking. My kids are helping me make healthy, unique, and delicious recipes at home. I'm currently into Indian food. To which I can add all the healthy veggies I like. Right now I'm on a Brussels sprouts and asparagus kick. Tonight's supper was (almost) perfection. And EASY. For the record, I am not a great chef. I just have "moments" with cooking. Right now, all the moments seems to be falling into a row.
Tomorrow I hope to do a long(-ish) run, with caution and care of course. I'm religiously following the low heart rate method and beginning to see the results. I want to get fit, but more than anything I want to stay healthy. I'm sorry if you get tired with all my running reports. I have to say, training for my 17th marathon is time-consuming as well as brain monopolizing. My biggest goal for 2020? Stay injury free. This will involve balance, dietary changes, training changes, and attitude adjustments. It's not all about the mileage. It's about how you get there. It's about the quality and type of runs you're doing. It's about how you are feeling. Strong? Burned out? Sick? Frustrated? It also means not taking myself too seriously. Running is only part of my life, not my whole life. Bottom line: I am committed to becoming a balanced, healthy, and efficient person. Major kudos to those of who who have arrived. I know it couldn't have been easy to get there. My only point is that we all have to work hard at this life thing. We can love each other and practice empathy each and every day. God is big enough and good enough to lead us all.
7:50 AM FYI: We still have chapel services every Wednesday. Please join us if you can at 10:30. Today's speaker is our president Danny Akin. Love to "see" you there!
7:42 AM As you would expect from a NT prof, I read only the Greek NT. Except sometimes when I also read the Good News Bible and the New Living Translation. (Okay, and so many other NT translations it's embarrassing.)
When I came to the Lord at the age of 8, I was given a KJV Bible. It had my name embossed on the front cover. They called it the "Scofield Bible," which meant I was taught dispensationalism from day one. Later, I began seeing people walking around with a Bible with an attractive dark green leather cover. I soon discovered that this Bible was (in my circles at least) the much-detested Living Bible produced by a man named Kenneth Taylor. Eventually I acquired a copy. I felt blessed to have so many Bible translations available to me, even one that was clearly one man's paraphrase. It was perhaps the first Bible I read in its entirety. It's not a study Bible, but it's so easy to read and sometimes the translator just nails it. (Much like The Message.) This morning I read from it, along with the Good News Bible. I didn't even glance at my Greek NT, with which I think I've become too familiar in a sense. In the end, both translations and paraphrases have their usefulness. None of them is exact except for the original text, but we can learn from all of them. The Bible is God's way of stepping out of the shadows and making Himself known to us. It tells us what He's like and what He expects of us. It tells us what things are supposed to be like and why they aren't that way. In short, the Bible is God's word, even in translation -- His final word on how to experience a rich, abundant life. It's at once a love story and an owner's manual. It lights the way.
If the Bible is inspired by God (and it is), we should read all of it. Even more, we should let it permeate our lives to the point we act upon what we read. "You must do what it says," says James (James 1:22). Balanced spiritual growth doesn't happen from eating an occasional Twinkie. Dig into the word continually!
Tuesday, April 7
1:25 PM Just back from a 5 mile run at the track. "Where?" you ask. In my fair city of South Boston, VA. Not necessarily a household name, I know. But that's one reason we moved out to the boonies years ago. In my neck of the woods you don't see too many people out there exercising. In other words, most of the time you'll have the track or the trail all to yourself. Now, just to the south of me, the situation is dramatically different. Take Raleigh and environs, for example. In spite of citizens being encouraged to move and keep active, local and city governments in the RDU area are concerned about too much use of their ample trails and greenways. The concern is that since the stay-at-home recommendation was put into place, there's been a huge increase in people using paths and trails, which compromises social distancing. A friend told me that last weekend the Neuse River Greenway was clogged with people out for a walk or a run. Ugh to people who just aren't getting the social distancing thing. When I encounter someone on the track, I stay at least 6 feet away from them if not farther. I like to imagine them smoking a cigarette and that I'm trying to avoid the second hand smoke on a windy day. I would hate to see the RDU region close down their trails but that might have to happen to keep everyone apart. In normal times it would be great seeing so many people outside being active. But these are not normal times. It's frustrating to watch how some people are behaving -- or not behaving. "Social distancing is for someone else, not me. Wearing a mask is for someone else, not me." Say what???
A few years ago Forbes came out with a list of their top 10 best cities in the U.S. for runners. They were:
I've been in all these cities but I've only run in two of them (the Chicago Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in DC). I imagine runners are going crazy in those cities trying to find a place to run where there aren't hordes of people. They'll just have to get creative I guess. When I do leave the farm it's to go to the grocery store or to run. Even when I go to the store I head out early to avoid the crowds. Thankfully, most people are wearing masks. I don't think anyone can count on getting a "mild" case of Covid, so we all need to act like it's a deadly virus. No, we can't be perfect with physical distancing, but we can try. If you're doing your part, thank you. Don't wait for someone close to you to get sick to change your behavior. My kids and my grandkids -- I love them -- but this isn't the time for interacting with each other. I get that it's hard and that we are all miserable (to one degree or another), but we'll get past this if we all work together.
Be safe and wise out there, friend. Remember: You can be physically distant without being alone or lonely. We've got Jesus -- and social media to connect with our friends and family!
8:55 AM I'm a creature of habit. I usually spend most of my prayer time in the mornings. But last night I stayed up to midnight just talking with the Lord. Of course, I had my Bible open as I usually do when I pray. This time it was the (old, not the new) Living Bible.
When reading the Bible and praying like this, I often put my own name in there.
As I've often said, my Bible is my personal love letter from God. Do you read the Bible that way? Here are a few samples from Philippians:
Last night I prayed and prayed and prayed as the Spirit brought needs and requests to mind. Then I prayed that God would fill me back up so that I could pour myself out again tomorrow. For me, prayer puts everything back in perspective. It's a chance for all of us to take one more faltering step closer to God. We are storming the gates of heaven on behalf of those who are lost in sin or suffering from disease, speaking the names of the forgotten ones in love. May heaven be fragrant today with the incense of our prayers.
Monday, April 6
6:44 PM Did you know that the Bible can become nothing more than a bunch of printed words on a page until the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to you? Before you open your Bible, ask God to do something for you. Ask Him to reveal truth to you. Ask Him to help you pay attention to what He is saying. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, for example, he began his letter with his customary greeting, you know, the kind everyone used back in the day, something like "Hello to all my dear brothers and sisters, and my aunts and uncles, and of course my nieces and nephews, and everyone who works at Wal-Mart [and so forth] ...." I used to think, "Who needs all that kind of stuff? Let's get to the meat of the letter!" I recall one day, as I started to study Galatians, I was getting ready to settle into all the meat when the still small voice of God told me to go back. So I went back, and this is all I read:
That's pretty much the way I read it, as fast as I could so that I could get into the "body" of the letter, the "meat," but again, I heard the still small voice telling me to go back and pay attention. I began to see what was really there and that every word was important to Paul's teaching in the letter. I got so excited, I put together a power point showing how the opening 5 verses of Galatians (the "Opening Greeting") is far more than an opening greeting but more akin to a table of contents of the entire book. The words I had been scrunching together began to fit into a clear pattern.
Will you make your own Bible study personal in this way? Will you study it -- all of it? Ask: What is God's purpose in these verses? How are they arranged? What message are they trying to communicate? The opening of Galatians brings a chuckle to my mind because I think of all the times when I've raced through portions of God's word without paying attention to the text. The opening of Galatians is one of the most exciting paragraphs in the Bible, or at least that's the way it appears to me.
Many of the truths of the Bible are plainly, yet gloriously stated, in the "Hello!" parts of Paul's letters. How fabulous that we love and serve a God who can put together a book with that kind of genius! Do you really think we can just rush through the "milk" of the word so that we can get to the "meat"? Gal. 1:1-5 gives so much in such few words. But then, all of the Bible does the same thing. It gives us so much so fast! Just think of what God offers you when you do your best to pay careful attention to His word. It's the best reward in the world. Praise You, Jesus!
P.S. You can find my entire power point on Gal. 1:1-5 here.
2:58 PM It felt GREAT to get in a run today. I hadn't run in days -- the pollen has had my sinuses all stopped up. However, running is one of the best ways to relieve sinus congestion, or so I am told. Cardiovascular exercise helps because the release of adrenaline makes your blood vessels contract, which in turn reduces the swelling in your sinuses. The increase in blood circulation alleviates the pressure on your sinuses and that usually makes for much easier breathing. At any rate, the 5 miles I did today were out of this world. Moreover, I was able to maintain a slow aerobic pace, as you can see.
Finally, I had the track almost to myself, which is nice in this day and age of physical distancing.
But I need to go. A huge storm is brewing, and if I don't unplug now a thunder bolt might zap my hard drive. Then where we would be!!??
11:34 AM Goal for the month: Finish reviewing these books for Filologia Neotestamentaria.
But first -- a run!
Sunday, April 5
8:14 PM Tonight's walk.
5:46 PM Some good news out of New York state on this Palm Sunday where the governor just announced that the state seems to be reaching a plateau in terms of the coronavirus. One small ray of light into what seems like impenetrable darkness. One tiny hope to hold on to. I have no wisdom, no insight, no words that can dull the razor's edge of this tragedy. "[God] is the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and for the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts" (2 Pet. 2:19, The Message). Right now I have nothing else to say but a prayer of thanks to my God.
Thank You, my Lord.
Please pray for those who are suffering, for those who have lost their loved ones. And when you see your loved ones tonight, hold them close and tell them that you love them.
6:40 AM YouTube just published an interview in which I found some really helpful comments and one of them led me to order this book today:
Apparently this author believes (as do I) that our earliest Gospel is not Mark's but Matthew's and that the Gospels are trustworthy testimonies to the life of Christ. I'm not familiar with Brian Pitre but from his bio I see that he earned his Ph.D. at Notre Dame and is a professor at the Augustine Institute. The YouTube video where I found his book was actually a recent interview I did with Matt Whitman over at The Ten Minute Bible Hour channel. If you'd like to watch us chat about the Gospels (the video is called "Everybody Says That Mark Was the First Gospel, But Was It?") go here. Matt's videos are amazing and he deals with all kinds of interesting topics from "What Is the Septuagint?" to "Who Picked What Books Went In the Bible?" Check it out when you can. And thanks, Matt, for the interview!
Saturday, April 4
8:55 PM Well, they've closed the running trail in town but thankfully the high school track is still open -- now limited to 10 people at a time while maintaining at least 6 feet of separation. Today I got in two easy workouts for a total of 8 miles.
I consider these walks a part of my marathon training (12 weeks and counting unless they postpone or cancel the event). Life is always changing isn't it? Growth in life often comes out of experiencing heartache or a personal challenge or just plain old suffering. Life is about finding self-discipline and moving towards a better, healthier, and more selfless way of living. Besides, my only excuse for not exercising is laziness!
Tonight's reading: Escape from Colditz -- Germany's "escape-proof" POW camp for allied airmen.
11:55 AM My good friend and esteemed colleague Chuck Lawless offers 10 prayers to offer during the Covid-19 crisis. Prayer is a weapon that we have in our hands if we would only use it. I beg you not to dismiss it as a pious platitude when Dr. Lawless says we should all pray more than we do. Our main weapon to defeat the enemy is prayer. I ask myself if the lack of progress we're making as a nation in combating the scourge of the coronavirus is due more than anything to the prayerlessness of the people of God. I wish we all could take intercession more seriously, both privately in our own devotions and publicly when we come together. Why God should want to listen to the prayers of such imperfect people as us I'll never know, but praise God, I don't have to know! I just have to pray, because His word tells me to, and because I know my loving heavenly Father will answer. He is able to do far more than I would ever dare to ask or dream of -- infinitely beyond my highest prayers, thoughts, aspirations, desires, and hopes. Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Jesus!
8:16 AM "It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren." Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
7:58 AM This powerful message by Billy Graham has over a million views and rightly so.
He makes four simple points:
1) God doesn't change.
2) The Bible doesn't change.
3) The way of salvation doesn't change.
4) But WE MUST (and CAN) Change!
In this one video we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all its power and purity! It's been 60 years since I came into a personal relationship with this Jesus. Isn't it beautiful to know that because of the kindness He's showered upon me (and you, too) the very richness of His grace will lift you up above the things of this world? Isn't it exciting to know how well He understands you (and me, too) and isn't it beyond our ability to describe what it's like to have the promise that He knows what is best for me (and you) at all times? What was God's purpose in all this? Look at what His word says: "God's purpose in this was that we should praise God and give glory to Him for doing these mighty things for us, who were the first to trust Christ." Just another reason to praise You, Lord Jesus! Just another reason to worship You, Father! I was so dead and doomed by my own sins and yet His mercy was so rich and great that He gave me life again because of Jesus. And even though I am in the world, I am not of the world, so I sit in the heavenly realms day by day. Hallelujah!
Whoever thought life could be this fabulous?
Friend, watch this video and share it with your unsaved friends. Then stand back and watch the word of God do its work!
Friday, April 3
7:48 PM I'm feeling pretty spoiled right now. Long story short, today my North Carolina daughter brought over some freshly baked bread and pastries.
Then one of my Alabama daughters taught me how to cook Thai Green Curry via Face Time (mine is in the upper left).
Tasted awful good. I shared my plate with Sheba.
Isn't this what life is all about? Taking care of each other.
Well, that's all I've got. Today is all I've got. Today is all you've got too. I hope you made it a good one.
5:32 PM I wouldn't mind being quarantined on the North Shore of O'ahu.
4:50 PM Today's 5-miles.
Listened to great sacred music from the baroque period. Had a flashback to my days in Hawai'i. When I graduated from high school in 1970, I began my studies at the University of Hawai'i in music. My goal was to become a professional trumpet player. One semester I took several classes at the UH campus overlooking Pearl Harbor.
My classes that semester were, as I recall, piano, choir, and great sacred music. There, while listening to recordings of Gregorian chants in the campus library, I gazed out at the harbor where America had been attacked on a "date which will live in infamy." My dad, who was born in Honolulu in 1918 and raised in Alewa Heights just above the harbor, witnessed that attack. Later he was shipped off to Europe, courtesy of the U.S. Army, where he was wounded in Mainz, Germany in 1945.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most daring naval operations of all time and was considered by most to be a "surprise attack." In fact, Pearl Harbor was the result of a combination of related factors, not least false assumptions, a vast store of intelligence poorly handled, and a false sense of invulnerability. The fact is that we were caught napping. Our national leaders at the time were honest, hardworking, dedicated, and for the most part intelligent. But like all humans, they were capable of blunders both of omission and commission.
The U.S. had no standing Army on Dec. 7, 1941, or if it did, it was infinitesimally small. But the nation immediately declared war and went to work building what turned out to be the best military force the world had ever seen. Today, our nation is again under attack, this time by an invisible enemy but one that is no less deadly than the one that attacked us 79 years ago. Will we as a nation be able to mobilize in time to meet the threat? Or will we be so politically divided that we become too weak to defeat the foe? We read that our Lord "set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). His servant Paul did the same later. Though he was aware of the bonds and affliction that awaited him, "None of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). He, like Jesus before him, had set his face. America, let's make up our mind to set our face like a flint, from the federal to the state to the county level!
As for the spiritual dimension of the current crisis, we are living in a scared world. People's hearts are failing them for fear. But our Lord says, "Do not be afraid. Be of good cheer." He is the First and the Last. He was there before there was anything to fear and He'll be there after all we fear has passed away. Church, we must beware of cheap optimism under the guise of religion. The important thing is to be where we ought to be -- shining out in the world's darkness where we are needed most. Our Lord said, "You are the light of the world." The business of light is to dispel darkness. As a missionary once put it, "I have but one candle to burn, and I would rather burn it out where people are dying in darkness than in a land which is flooded with light." Christians are that light. We are also the seed, and the field is this world. But the corn of wheat must die if it is to please God and bear fruit. Only a month ago, the Christian life was for many of us a sham battle. We did not grapple with realities. Not so today. As long as Christ's work is not finished ours is not finished. We are debtors to everyone to get His message of forgiveness and hope out. We owe it to Him. We owe it to them.
Churchill once said of England's airmen during WW II, "Never did so many owe so much to so few." God's goodness to His people was never meant to lead us to complacency. Our supreme business today as the church is not survival or success or self-satisfaction. It is stewardship of the manifold grace of God as members of God's kingdom. Every member of that holy nation is meant to be an ambassador beseeching others to be reconciled to God.
That's my part -- putting aside my own desires and letting God have His way. And doesn't He spell that out so easy for us to understand in His word!
8:45 AM My reading this AM.
A few quotes/takeaways from this excellent book:
I hope these quotes have done as much for you as they have done for me. Can you imagine anything more wonderful than to know that you are part of a local church that is fully committed to displaying the love of Jesus in very ordinary, everyday ways? Christ entrusted us with an assignment shortly before He returned to heaven. For 33 years He gave people a close-up look at God. For the first time in human history, God was more than a voice in heaven or a concept in a scroll. He was a man with a body, a face. Now He asks His followers, collectively and individually, to mirror His character. We are His body, His hands, His eyes, His heart.
If non-believers fail to recognize Him, could it be that we are failing to do our job?
Thursday, April 2
4:18 PM Been practicing my social distancing technique.
10:32 AM The fall 2020 schedule is out. For what it's worth, here are my classes:
It will be great teaching the NT letters again. You know, God didn't write these letters just for Paul and Peter and Timothy. He wrote them through those men for us! For me! Doesn't that give you spiritual goosebumps? My message to my students: Your Bible is God speaking directly to you. The NT letters are God's personal love letters to you. Do you read His love letters -- all of them? In Philippians, for example, He's given each one of us a personal love letter, a letter to take to heart, a letter to read and reread and reread (if we can, in the Greek). It's a love letter where we can wallow in His love and accept His guidance. In Philippians, as in every NT book, we will see Jesus, the most exciting person who ever lived. If you want adventure, follow Jesus. The Christian life is the most adventurous life there is. If you want something daring, follow Jesus. If you want the unusual, if you would dare to be different, follow this Jesus. If you want love, there's no love like the love of God as He wraps His strong arms around us (and when problems come to us He just wraps those arms of love around us a little tighter and squeezes a little harder).
This fall semester, let's give Jesus reign and see what happens. The NT is a personal counseling session with Jesus Christ. Let God instill in your heart an almost fanatical desire to read His word. I guarantee that when you do that, Paul and Peter and Timothy will all come alive and romp across the pages of your NT, just like they romp through the pages of mine. Issues explored in these letters include marriage roles (Ephesians), how to suffer successfully (1 Peter), misplaced priorities in church leadership (3 John), how to restore unity in a divided church (Philippians), care of the lonely and the outcast (Philemon), and so much more. The key to success in our classes will lie in how much we really want to spend in reading our Bible. For me it all started when I became a part of the Jesus Movement in Hawai'i and God gave me this tremendous hunger in my heart for God's word. Today, when I read the Bible, I read it seeking God, not just information. Many people can become experts in the Bible and still don't know a living Jesus. There's a world of difference in simply reading the Scriptures and letting them come alive in our own lives. This fall, when I return to the classroom, I'm asking God to reignite in my heart the same passion I had for His word when I was a teenager. I want His presence to be so real and so near and so dear to me as it was when I first became a Christian. He's given us such a simple plan to follow, folks, because all we have to do is read His word and hear what He's saying to us. That's the way to the abundant life.
Father, thank You for what You're doing in the heart of every person who reads this blog. Please help each of us to spend more time in Your love letters. Thank You that You've given to each one of us a personal love letter. The promises in Your word are really earthshaking and almost beyond the scope of the human mind to comprehend. It's beautiful to know that You know what's best for us at all times. All we've got to do is to walk with You moment by moment and the best is always ours. Not because we're smart (hallelujah!), but because Your word says so.
Wednesday, April 1
7:50 PM Tonight's walk.
7:04 PM Do you ever have Wanderlust? Is there a place on your bucket list you just have to visit? There's one state I haven't set foot in yet.
Alaska, I'm coming for you!
2:35 PM Today I took a break from working on my classes to drive into the town of South Hill in order to keep an appointment with a dermatologist. Practicing isolation and all that, I wasn't sure whether or not I should keep the appointment but the office assured me that I would be around no other patients or staff and, sure enough, when I got to the office I was put into a private room to await the doctor. My GP was a little concerned about a small growth on my right thigh -- hence the referral. It turned out to be nothing at all, but you can never be too careful about your skin. The dermatologist wants to see me annually, not because she thinks I have a genetic predisposition to skin cancer (which I don't), but simply because of my pre-history: 19 years at the beach in Hawai'i, 27 years enjoying rays in Southern California, and 23 years working in the fields or else outdoors exercising here on the East Coast. She's new to the area and I'm sure glad she was able to see me. She reminded me of Dr. Fauci -- extremely knowledgeable and yet very humble and down to earth. Afterwards I did a long bike ride in cold and windy conditions.
And to think that last Sunday I was hiking 22 miles in shorts and a tank top in 88-degree weather!
Moving on, one of my daughters has offered to give me cooking lessons via Face Time during this time of physical distancing. Here are the ingredients she sent me for lesson #1.
We plan to cook it together via Face Time -- she in Alabama, me in Virginia. Cooking is something I've struggled with over the years. It takes a miracle for everything to turn out just right. However, I'm a pretty experimental guy and I'm really looking forward to learning a few tricks. What's to lose? While I'm not overly confident on how well I'll do, I love trying out new recipes.
More to come ....
Ever take cooking lessons?
Have a favorite new recipe?
Tuesday, March 31
1:10 PM So here's the latest in our neck of the woods. People are being encouraged to:
1) Go for a short walk or run while maintaining physical distance from others.
2) Walk their dog but not congregate at the dog park.
3) Shop at grocery stores that are open as long as you are not sick and practice social distancing.
4) Continue visiting restaurants that remain open for pick-up and delivery.
When I go to the track or the trail I do see some other runners out there but I always try to maintain distance. Today it's too rainy to go outside for a workout but the rest of the week looks like it will be sunny. Today I had two Zoom conferences plus several phone chats with students. I haven't been to the gym in weeks and I don't have any plans to do any weight training until the crisis is over. I'm finding hope in the realization that we are all so alike even though we are all so different. We all are scared. We all are vulnerable. We all need hope. We all need to try and find purpose and direction during this crisis. One thing is certain: We are learning just how badly we depend on each other and how badly we need the Lord. I love being able to "talk" to my students via the internet. I am just heartbroken for everyone who is suffering right now. I can't even fathom the anxiety and worry of those who have lost their jobs. I don't know about you, but I couldn't make it through a single day without Jesus. No one need be ashamed of such simple faith. The keenest intellects have spent their entire lives with this book we call the Bible, have been challenged by its teaching, and have confessed to barely to touching the surface of its treasures. Even if you're an intellectual, we all need to approach the Bible with the heart of a child. Take the Book for what it claims to be, my friend, and rest your weary soul upon it. Take it by faith and it will prove itself over and over again. God's people are pilgrims bound not only for heaven but for a victorious Christian life in the here-and-now. Let our unsaved friends see in us a people who have nothing and yet possess everything because all we have belongs to the Lord and we are only the stewards.
I am praying for you today -- those of you who are still going to your workplace, those of you who are working from home, those of you who aren't working at all because your place of employment has been shut down, those of you who are in poor health, those of you who are grocery store staff or medical staff or in law enforcement, those of you who are lonely and doubting. Hear His gracious words above the storm: "It is I. Be of good cheer. Don't be afraid" (Matt. 14:27). Do not toss and turn but trust.
Monday, March 30
8:08 PM I snapped these photos on my walk this evening. Tonight was pure magic. I don't know any other way to describe it.
5:22 PM Right now I'm sitting here at my computer watching my granddaughter help lead singing and my son-in-law bring a wonderful message from Hebrews 10 (live-streamed yesterday from their church in Alabama). Life don't get no bettah and that's a fact. Earlier today I did what I look forward to doing every spring. In fact, unless you're a landscaper, I'm sure your passion for mowing doesn't surpass mine.
And the flowers? Oh my. They were out in force today, clapping their hands to the Great Creator.
The average American spends 90 percent of his or her day indoors. 86 percent of workers spend all day sitting at their jobs. Studies have shown that getting outdoors increases creativity, productivity, and positivity. Businesses realize this and many incorporate a bit of nature into their offices (our office suite enjoys a wide variety of live plants). Nature (or, for us Christians, creation) can have a powerful effect on us for the good, whether it's during a leisurely walk or while doing yard or farm work. Don't get me wrong: I love teaching. But ain't nothin' like the great outdoors to find soul-refreshment.
Do you have an office job?
Do you get outdoors as often as you'd like?
What benefits have you seen from enjoying being out in creation?
7:12 AM I will be in my Wake Forest office this morning grading Greek quizzes and participating in a Zoom prayer meeting with my suite colleagues. Then I'll pick up my mail and return to the splendid confinement of the farm. Not much I have to do to try and self-isolate here since whenever I'm on the farm it's pretty much me, the animals, and 123 quiet acres. I may stop at the grocery store on the way home. For some crazy reason I'm in the mood for turkey and dressing. Since you asked about it (you did ask, right?), I'm going to take a day or two off from running though I might get in another long bike in tomorrow. I'm trying to keep my training to at least 40 miles per week. We'll see how that goes.
And on that note I need to say goodbye so I can invade the great state of North Carolina.
Sunday, March 29
7:48 PM It's always fun to change your exercise routine from time too time. Lately I've been feeling a bit bored with running and cycling. I'm feeling the need to pull back a little bit and take a break. In lieu of a run today, I therefore went for a long hike. I wanted to hike for about 6 hours and see how far that got me. So I drove up to Farmville, parked the car, then began ambulating through the highways and byways between Farmville and Burkeville. It was great getting outdoors again, and this time I unplugged from everything -- email, text messages, phone calls, my camera, photos -- everything. It was wonderful! I ended up going about 22 miles on today's hike.
How do you say tired? But it's nothing a good night's sleep can't cure. By far the best part of the day was spending time with Jesus without any interruptions. I'm not kidding you, I wish I had thought about this unplugging thing earlier. Overall I had a great time and a reminder that there's nothing at all wrong with getting outside and hiking from time to time.
Thanks for checking in, and have a great week.
Saturday, March 28
6:52 PM My body is on the farm, but my mind has wandered disobediently to my home town....
... where I'm surrounded by the trade winds and the smell of plumeria.
Oh my do I miss Kailua Beach.
In the meantime, I'm sitting here grading exams (online, of course) and thinking about all the perks of working from home:
1) I get to be with my animals all the time.
2) Coffee breaks? All day long.
3) I get to wear whatever I want. (Right now I'm in swim shorts, flip flops, and shirtless.)
4) I can count washing the dishes as work.
5) I have a vending machine (i.e., pantry) within easy reach at all times.
6) I can work whenever I want to, whether it's 5:00 am or 10:30 pm.
7) The view from my office is incredible.
Do I miss the comradery of the office and the excitement of the classroom? Are you kidding????? Some observers are wondering out loud whether the future has become the present. The coronavirus, they argue, will make online education "go viral." Bandwidth problems? 5G will solve them. So it seems pretty clear: Online learning will become more and more central to the way we teach and learn in the 21st century. Does this mean that the days of classes filled with eager students sharing their opinions are over? That's not a trivial question. I don't think those days are over. I hope not. In fact, I'm pretty hopeful that face-to-face classes will resume one day. Meanwhile, however, in times like these it's crucial that human tutoring be facilitated through online and digital means. Even crucial for tech klutzes like me. Which means ...
Back to grading :-)
What's your best work-at-home perk?
11:48 AM So, let's just call me lazy. Just back from a very easy 3 mile walk at the track. I could have gone farther but I was feeling, well, too lazy. In fact, I don't have any plans for today except to chillax and be lazy. Like any runner, I know there's a time to exercise and there's a time to refrain from exercising. I think I've said this a million times on this blog: The trick to exercising is not overdoing it. The minute you even contemplate running every day is the minute you are one step closer to injury. So, today will be an easy day. A lazy day. But tomorrow's another story. The forecast is calling for sunny skies with a high of 82 -- my kind of day exactly. That means either a very long bike or a very long walk/run. Right now I'm being pulled back to the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. Gorgeous scenery, plus peace and quiet. Triathlon is calling me back too ... but they won't be opening any of our local pools until mid-summer probably. So for now it's either biking or hiking or running. Either way, my exercise calendar is filling up with good stuff.
But for now -- it's time to be lazy.
Friday, March 27
2:25 PM So, I'm curious. Are you a runner? If so, have you ever tried LSD (Long Slow Distance) running, aka low heart rate running? If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I've been training for my June marathon by using this method of training. The goal is not to maintain a certain pace in order to complete a distance in a certain amount of time. Instead, the idea is to plod along, steadily, building your aerobic base so that when you do race, you will have a strong foundation to build on. There's nothing magical about a long run. You just get outdoors and do it. But be forewarned. It can get boring. You're out there for a long time. Today it took me just over 3 hours to run a half marathon.
But I didn't run today to try and match or beat my half marathon PR (2:27). The long run is a test, not of speed, but of perseverance, patience, self-discipline, determination, and stamina. The goal is to stay within a low to medium heart rate range. For me, that's about 120 beats per minute. Thankfully, I was able to maintain that heart rate for most of today's run.
Also critical is hydration and nutrition. Bring along your favorite gel or candy bar, and don't forget a drink that's packed with electrolytes. Try not to stare at your watch. Instead, focus on how your body is feeling. Your body will tell you if you're going too slow or too fast. Above all, enjoy the experience. Yes, 13.1 miles is a long distance. It can feel like forever. Just let it go. Tell yourself "I get to do this." And, when it's over, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover so that your body can recover from the stress you're putting on it.
Any other tips to share?
9:10 AM I must be a Greek nerd after all. Listening to the Beatles during my run yesterday I kept saying to myself, "Lookie there -- a middle voice!" or "Wow, they used the article of previous reference!" To wit:
1) At the end of "I Am the Walrus," someone says "Sit you down, father, and rest you." This is the same as "Sit down, father, and rest" but the middle is brought out more clearly by the addition of "you."
2) In the first stanza of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," reference is made to "a girl with kaleidoscope eyes." Then, in the last stanza, she's called "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes."
Then there's the rhyming in "With a Little Help from My Friends":
The Beatles -- linguistic geniuses.
Ok. Off for my run!
8:24 AM My Bible time this AM was in Matt. 28.
Here the risen Jesus tells the women, "Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." Wow. Jesus uses "brothers" to describe His disciples, who were also His apostles. My mind immediately went to Heb 2:11:
It is wonderful to have a brother in Jesus. A big brother, to be sure, but a brother nonetheless. I so want to become like my elder brother, not least in His utter condescension and willingness to identity with people in their suffering. How glorious to be the adopted child of God and the brother or sister of the Lord Jesus.
8:12 AM Working on my glossary this morning.
This book has been very helpful.
So helpful it deserves a place next to the great A. T.
Thursday, March 26
8:14 PM My daughter brought me some homemade bread today.
Yes, I toasted it and yes, it was delicious and yes, I'm completely spoiled.
7:42 PM Just back from our evening walk.
Yes, I said "our." Sheba is always by my side. Here she is getting her evening scratch.
The lifespan of a Sheltie is 12-14 years. Sheba is 14. She is completely deaf and almost blind. I love her so much. The thing that's the hardest is that there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent your dog from aging. What we do have, however, are ample opportunities to love on our pets for as long as the Lord gives them to us. I am tearing up just writing this. There will never be another dog like my Sheba. Every moment with her is truly special.
6:42 PM Been working on the farm this afternoon. The big question is: What should I plant in my garden once frost season ends? If you're a gardener, how do you prioritize what to grow? How much do you grow? What do you eat the most? I think I'm going to start by making a list of all the veggies I tend to purchase regularly at the grocery store. Already I can think of carrots, broccoli, and yellow squash. Problem is, we have never done well with either carrots or broccoli in the past. Squash, on the other hand, seems to grow well in the soil we have here at Rosewood. Plus, I consume squash on a regular basis, and Lord knows I've got plenty of growing space for that plant. Anyway, if you garden and would be willing to share with me some of your insights, send me an email.
Please do take care y'all. "Let's finish this" is my motto. Let's do what we have to do, when we have to do it, to get past this crisis. Today is all I've got. It's all you've got too. Today is a call to do something helpful and positive -- big or small. It's a time to follow through with what we say we will do, to have goals that are bigger than us. As with any crisis, life is forever changed and what was once normal will probably never be normal again. At this moment, life is so unpredictable. But the one thing we can do is look out for each other, like the grocery store I went to today that has started rationing how many loaves of bread or packages of meat you could buy at one time. If your kids or grandkids start Face-Timing with you more than usual, thank them for it. Let's make it our goal to get the most love, momentum, and energy moving to defeat this scourge. And let's not forget the unfinished work of Christ. His finished work is to be proclaimed. His unfinished work is to be performed. During this time of questioning and uncertainty, we are debtors to get the message out that Jesus is Lord and that He loves the people of this desperate age.
Thank you, and I hope you make the most out of your weekend.
12:30 PM An easy 6(ish) miles today. Hope to double that tomorrow for my long(ish) run.
I need to say goodbye so I can take a nap and then get my outdoor work done.
7:34 AM Is anybody else looking forward to sunny and warmer days again? As you can see, today's sunrise promises a lovely day here in Southside Virginia.
And y'all know what that means, yessiree, another run. Not necessarily a long run. I think I'll save that for tomorrow, when the temps are supposed to get into the high 70s. Overall, shaping up to be a great day in isolation: writing this morning, then a run, then a nap, then farm work in the afternoon while catching some much-needed rays and vitamin D.
Hope your day is going well.
7:10 AM In my book on the kingdom, right now I'm talking about the place of good works in the Christian life. A key text:
True faith, if it is indeed true, is more than a doctrinal system. Faith endures only when it's nurtured in an environment of service to others. Without deeds, faith erodes. Without sacrifice, faith flops. Faith says, I will relinquish my rights. I will surrender my pride that refuses to take risks on behalf of others. Faith working through love is life-changing. Trees seem greener, colors seems brighter, and tomorrow's Greek exam seems less threatening when we treat others as God does -- with sacrificial love.
6:25 AM Taking a little break from writing.
I know this is stupid, but stupid is necessary sometimes.
Wednesday, March 25
8:08 PM Awesome.
6:20 PM Today we had our first ever faculty meeting via Zoom. It was a smashing success. It struck me afresh what a privilege it is to have a small hand in preparing the next generation of Christians to follow Jesus in love and obedience.
Speaking of generations, here's a nifty little chart I stumbled upon today.
It's called a Doktorvater Tree. "Doktorvater" is German for "Doctor Father." That's what you call the professor who mentored you through your doctoral program. Reicke (not Reiche) studied under Fridrichsen in Uppsala. I studied under Reicke in Basel. Himes studied under me in Wake Forest. Teaching is demanding and sometimes frustrating work, but it offers the rewards of great joy and fulfillment to those who pour their heart and soul into it.
The good work goes on ....
2:06 PM How's your week going? I'm slowly getting back into biking and it's going surprisingly well. Today I got in a short 10-mile ride which, despite the rather unpleasant weather (cold and drizzly), was lots of fun.
This afternoon it's supposed to feel like spring again and I'm loving the thought of riding in short pants again. Right now it's time to grab some grub and then work on my writing for an hour or two. Right now I'm fixated on finishing the glossary for my book. Fixated!
5:05 AM Good morning one and all! For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on New Testament textual criticism. The discipline, it seems to me, has reached the point of stalemate. Is there a way beyond the impasse? I think so!
Tuesday, March 24
7:59 PM Here are 4 ways you and your church can help to meet food needs.
7:44 PM "Begin praying now, and then pray regularly, that God will use this situation to turn your church outwardly." Chuck Lawless.
6:52 PM I am a teacher. For me, that's like saying "I am a man" or "I was born in Hawai'i." I didn't sit down one day and decide to have an insane desire to teach. I just do it, like you just do your work. It's what we were made for. Picture God as a master jeweler. You're the priceless diamond in the rough that He is cutting, fitting, shaping, grinding, and polishing until each and every facet of your life reflects His genius and artistry. God doesn't ignore our natural inclinations or desires. He was the one who created them. Gross feelings of inadequacy will develop if we're not careful to ascribe our calling to Him. I didn't choose to be a Greek teacher. He made me one. He made you who you are. "We are God's masterpiece," wrote Paul (Eph. 2:10). "He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the great things He planned for us long ago." In other words, God will complete what He has begun in your life.
So here I am, up to my ears in preparing quizzes and grading exams and emailing with students and editing books and rearranging my speaking schedule. In the midst of the chaos (controlled, I promise) there's a peace, a restful rushing, an indescribable joy, the kind of peace and joy Jesus offers to all who heed His call, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." His rest doesn't come in an ivory tower where you are immune from pandemics and major life changes and challenges of every kind. (Moodle? Aaargh!!!!) It comes when you most need it, in the daily challenge of just being you, being who He made you to be, despite your nagging doubts or sense of inferiority. Me, His workmanship? His masterpiece? Yes me. Yes you. It's when we feel it's all too much that God steps in, rolls up His metaphorical shirtsleeves, and gets to work with His chisel again.
Sit back, my friend, and watch Him work. He is so near. He's the new life that surges into our lives just when we least expect Him to do so. In the midst of coronavirus hell, it's still possible for us to experience life in all its glory -- a state of heaven on earth. Being a Christian in a non-Christian world is a daily struggle. But huge rewards await those who face the struggle with unshakable faith in God. For just around the corner is a bright new world.
12:50 PM I'm a big fan of training hard days and then easy days. Today was an easy day -- 5K (3.1 miles) at the track. I'll push my body later in the week. I think my current marathon training plan gives me plenty of time to rest between workouts. The one thing I need to do is to make my easy days truly easy. When I do this I find that my cardiovascular system holds up amazingly well. I take my training very seriously, but to every yin there's a yang, ladies and gentlemen. You might call my philosophy "Train hard, recover even harder."
Time for some lunch, then back to work (writing). Then a long nap!
5:12 AM Shout out to my son for setting cedar posts to reinforce the driveway fencing this week. Thank you!
4:30 AM Up at 4:00 this morning with an urge to write! Might seem boring to some, but when you love books as much as I do, writing is just in your blood. But who are we kidding -- I know you love books too. Whenever I get to thinking (uh oh), I usually want to jot down my thoughts, such as they are. But you know this begs the question: what exactly are you writing this morning? Only a glossary for my new book on Greek linguistics. I just started it and I'm already about 90 percent done. You know, what is a velar, or a stative verb. Please tell me you could use a glossary for terms like these! Later on I'll get in either a run or a bike now that the rain has gone. Why don't you join me? Vicariously of course.
What are you doing today?
Write about it and share it with your friends!
Monday, March 23
8:10 AM I just completed, I know it's kinda crazy, but I just completed what is probably the highest volume of training in my life over the course of a single week.
And yes, I can officially say that my body is tired, and hence I'm taking today completely off from any kind of activity whatsoever except for walking the dog on the farm. Recently the New York Times published an article called "Jogging Was Made for Social Distancing." No, this is not the time for group runs or for racing in a group. But it's the perfect time to engage in what is called "lone wolf" running. Yes indeed, even during this time of coronavirus, folks, we can run as much as we like! We can train as much as we like! Unless you're feeling ill, there's no need to cut back on your training. Also, transient interactions with the public are hardly likely to occur. When you're running past somebody going the other way, just stay 6 feet apart. If you take the right precautions, you will be protecting not only yourself but the community. And just think of the benefits that come from getting outdoors and doing some exercise. Running (or walking) not only helps to relieve stress, it improves your overall cardiovascular health. And thus far, running hasn't been discouraged by the authorities. I think that's because they realize you can run and still be in full compliance with the CDC's recommendations.
Have I convinced you yet? Get outdoors, my friends! There's no better time to hit the trails, because they are practically empty!
7:20 AM Been reading The Climb in the evenings.
May 10, 1996, is the date of the worst tragedy in Mount Everest history. Many of you have seen the movie about it. This book is one of the best written and most objective. It's written by one of Scott Fischer's team members. The crux of the story has much to do with the way all of us make decisions in everyday life. It's the story of unwise risk-taking. It's the story of overly-ambitious leadership. It's the story of how making poor decisions almost always leads to disaster. This is the age of the crowd. We go along to get along. True, there's often safety in numbers. But there are times when we have to say no to the status quo. On that fateful day, except for a few, most of the climbers succumbed to "summit fever" knowing full well they should have turned around. Today, God wants out of the closet. He wants to affect every decision we make in life. He wants us to realize there's a difference between a Sunday school faith and a gutsy belief that is more than superficial. This book is teaching me a lot about that!
7:05 AM The grandkids are sewing masks for the local hospital. They are using Mama B's (Becky's) sewing machine at that. How cool is that?
Proud of you kiddos!
Sunday, March 22
11:22 AM Where are you worshipping today? If you need a suggestion, why not try the Creator's cathedral? Yes, worship is normally only thought of as services in which Christians gather as a group. But, as Jesus taught, Christians can worship God in any place and at any time. In fact, I'd say worship is basically 24/7 -- our reasonable act of worship as we lay our lives on the altar of daily service to Christ. When my mind turns to creation, my heart turns toward God. It was on this trail today that I sang Latin hymns ("O Magnum Mysterium!") and listened to my favorite Christian speakers as I got in a 5 mile run.
I once wrote an essay called Enjoying Nature Without Worshiping It. I still believe that's true. There's never been a better time to get outdoors, get regular physical activity, and get some much-needed natural vitamin D. There are so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for the ability to walk and to run. I am thankful for the life journey I'm on, my relationships, my health, and my job. I am thankful for who God made me to be and that I never have to compare myself with others who are stronger, wealthier, handsomer, faster, or more intelligent than I am. I am thankful for a phone that allows me to stay in touch with friends and family. I am thankful that I've learned to be adaptable and to accept how life is unfolding for me right now. I am thankful for hot coffee, sunrises and sunsets, the farm animals, hot showers, online recipes, the kindness of strangers, warmer weather, a good book to read. This time in our lives is all about unity, togetherness, and gratitude. When it comes right down to it, none of us is ever just thankful for the material possessions in our lives. It's always the people in our lives that matter the most. Despite the coronavirus, I hope we can all build some good memories during this time of "physical distancing" and give God the thanks He's due for His goodness and faithfulness.
Saturday, March 21
7:02 PM Watching a sermon in German (the topic was the coronavirus as a spiritual issue) got me to thinking about what Mark Twain once called "The Awful German Language." It reminded me of why I love the German language so much. I always get a kick out of the use of "thing" in German: Drive thing, fly thing, play thing, sport thing, punch thing. So shouldn't a boat be a swim thing and a submarine a dive thing? And who could ever improve on "Weltschmerz," "Schadenfreude," and "Zeitgeist"? In today's coronavirus world, "Hilfsbereit" makes a lot of sense. And I just have to ask: If you can have "Heimweh" (home-sickness), why can't you have "Fernweh"? Then there's that magical word "doch." Try saying that in English using only one word. "I didn't hit him." "Doch!" ("Yes, you did!"). Germans love interjections like that. I once had a friend in Switzerland who loved to hog the conversation when we spoke on the phone. All I could get in was, "Hmm, hmm, ja, naja, hmm, hmm, na gut, was?, ja, ach so, noch was?, na denn, tschüss!"
I leave you with this. Said a German to his waiter at a seafood restaurant in the U.S.: "I am here since an hour. When do I become a fish?" If you laughed, you know German!
12:35 PM Anybody else getting outdoors daily during our period of self-isolation? Got in 5 miles today at the track on a cool and rainy morning.
But exercising means nothing without eating right. And, of course, there's no one "right" diet that will help you lose weight. Diets, in fact, don't work. Stop dieting! If they worked, everyone would be healthy. Carbs aren't evil. Fats aren't evil. Proteins aren't evil. I'm trying a more common sense approach to keeping the pounds off:
Folks, the quality of our food is far more important than the number of calories we consume. I am constantly trying to make sure I am fueling correctly. For example, after my run today I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of chicken soup. And here are the snacks I'll consume this week.
I tell you, these days I'm hungry all the time, so I had better watch what I put into my mouth. There's nothing magical about health. Eat quality foods. Eat consciously. Fuel your body wisely. If you're exercising regularly (and if you're not, you should be) make sure you're getting enough calories, but also make sure those calories are of the highest possible quality. I'm a believer in the exercise regularly and eat wisely philosophy. I'm not bashing anybody who's struggled with their weight. I have too. I still do. I just believe good health is a lifestyle. I am not a "thin" person naturally. So what? It's important for everyone to remember that theirs is the best body! Each of us has a limit as to how good we can look and feel. But each of us can also have the joy of knowing we're doing the best we possibly can with the hand we've been dealt. Healthy eating is a constant battle, and for many of us it will never come naturally, but viewing our bodies as a temple can help us make smarter choices on a regular basis.
I love to run and I love to eat. A marriage made in heaven!
6:55 AM The latest on my racing schedule for 2020:
My guess is that some of these events will be cancelled or postponed to next year.
My first love is racing, and when you love something you want to do it all the time. It's way easier to train when you have a particular race to train for. Preparation is everything. I once heard someone say, "It's better to be prepared and not called than to be called and not prepared." There is something very pure and simple about training for a race or any goal for that matter. If you're pursuing your doctorate, focus on that. If you're trying to complete your master's degree, focus on that. If you're writing your first book, focus on that. Focus feeds the soul. To be honest, I will miss racing. But training is just as important. We do this for fun, supposedly. Last night I made a conscious effort to step away from my training and focus more on the present -- cooking a healthy supper, walking the dog, feeding the donks a carrot, reading a good book. Motivated or not, I am choosing to be positive!
Have you ever experienced postponed goals? How did you deal with it?
Friday, March 20
2:04 PM My bike today.
A mere 26.2 miles. I say "mere" because an elite marathoner can complete that distance in less time by running it than I can do it while biking. Anyway, time to get outside and enjoy the 81 degrees temp.
8:15 AM My Bible time this morning was in Matthew 11 and Jesus' invitation to come to Him and replace the burden of our sin and guilt with His yoke of peace, freedom, and service. Jesus is a wonderful burden-bearer. But He is also a wonderful teacher, and we have much to learn from Him about meekness and gentleness. We could use a lot of plain old-fashioned kindness in this world today. Alas, too many today, even among church leaders, enjoy moving mountains but never learn how to be kind. Sometimes I have found kindness where I least expected it, and often the world shames the church in this regard. But Jesus shows us that a truly great soul is kind. Here is a grace that will work wherever we are. It is a virtue we can practice anywhere and everywhere. The truly great, Jesus shows us, don't always sit in the highest places, but even when they do they grace it with kindness and meekness.
There is nothing weak or effeminate about kindness. Jesus proves that.
Thursday, March 19
7:25 PM I don't know how to start so I'm just going to start. "New normal." That's what life is for all of us these days. For example, today I would have taken a flight to Dallas to attend the ETS regional conference at Dallas Seminary and to see my mom and dad. Yesterday I would have spoken in a chapel service at a local Christian high school in Raleigh. Next weekend I was going to be speaking at a missions conference in western North Carolina. In May I had a speaking engagement at Princeton University. My list goes on and on. So does yours. It doesn't even have to be the big stuff like public speaking or teaching classes. And honestly, things aren't as scary as wetting-your-pants scary, but they're scary just the same. The point is that we are experiencing the same life we've always lived, just in new and different ways. And for many of us it involves stepping out of our comfort zone. I had a full day today, but it was nothing like I would have planned for even a week ago. Funny how avoiding contact with people becomes your new routine. What I've learned through the years is that it's really hard to make new habits and to break old ones. And yet it can be done. Example: Years ago we went from not using seat belts to using them unconsciously every time we get into a car. Someone famous once said (or maybe somebody completely unknown made this up) that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That sounds easy. But in reality, it's not.
So today I've been thinking to myself: Davey old boy, are there any bad habits you need to break and any good habits you need to start? I mean, life is all about "buying up the time," right? Today I actually allowed a thought to surface in my consciousness that a week ago I would have thought absurd. I'm actually thinking about planting a garden this year. Believe it or not, Becky used to grow our own vegetables. And she was good at it. But she also had a giant green thumb. If I started gardening, I'd really need some help because I wouldn't have the foggiest idea of what to do. Of course, that's what YouTube is for. I think I'll start by focusing on one small garden bed. My son suggests I grow yellow squash. I suppose that's because it's a plant that can more or less look out for itself without a lot of pampering. While they are growing, maybe I could go ahead and clean out another garden bed or two. Who knows?
I do know this: Change is always difficult, even when the changes we're making are for good, healthy reasons. When it gets hard (and it will), you can't just throw in the towel. No, you take a deep breath and move forward. It will be three steps forward and two steps back. The journey will be up and down. A bit like life, wouldn't ya say?
If we are going to make lifestyle changes during this period of social time out, it's probably a good idea that this transition involve only one or two things, not two dozen. Think "simple." Simple works. Complex only creates headaches. I should know.
How are you coping with the new normal in your life?
What's a bad habit you want to break?
What's a good habit you want to start?
P.S. My dinner tonight. Looks like it could use some yellow squash, don't you think?
12:36 PM Okay, Fudge (my teenage goat), here's the deal. You will get your head stuck in the fence every time you try to clip the grass on the other side.
Each and every time. And yes, I will bail you out every time, but maybe we could learn from our experience? Just saying'.
12:30 PM I drove home only to find the donks out sunbathing. Hmm, can I join you?
12:25 PM Today's run:
I did only 3 miles as my plan for tomorrow calls for a 26.2 mile bike and I wanted to save my legs for that. Notice the social distancing I'm doing? Yes, I am very serious about that. How serious? I passed up a visit from my grandkids this weekend. Yes, that serious.
12:18 PM Almost halfway done with editing my new book.
I tell you, the editorial staff at Baker Academic did a great job with their run through, as usual. This is my 7th book with Baker and it never ceases to amaze me just how wonderful their team is.
6:20 AM Can you imagine living in Thessalonica and getting a letter from the apostle Paul? They literally held his words in their hands. They saw his thoughts, and the images formed into words. They heard the sounds of his voice (he had been with them for about 6 months). The cadence. The rhythm. The intonation. The accent (if he had one). Perhaps they could even see Paul thinking the words while he was writing them. They must have read his letter slowly, word by word, knowing almost exactly the next word to follow. But most importantly, as they looked at the words on paper, they could hear the word of God. And they could look at the words again the next day and any day after, just to silently hear his/His voice again.
Wednesday, March 18
1:28 PM Wow, what a nice day for a bike. Never seen the bike path so empty though.
Please take care everyone and do try and get outdoors if you can (before we are not allowed to do so -- it could happen!). We can all continue to strive to reach our exercise goals even if we have to work out alone. Today I did an easy 10 miler in cool and windy conditions.
I told myself I was having a worship service. It was an hour well spent and that is for sure, all the while listening to great sacred music like Elgar's Lux Aeterna -- oh my! As I get older, I find myself leaving behind music that merely excites or inspires me musically. Instead I yearn after music that lifts my soul to heaven and brings joy and peace to my heart. Classical music always seems to do that. When I listen to Morton or Rutter or Elgar or Lauridsen I think, "This is what heaven will sound like. This is how the angels sing." Their music touches something deeply unexplainable in me, as if something lost has finally been found and you're lost in wonderment. By God's grace, I am a musician. I talk to Him daily through music, and many have been the times I've simply been overwhelmed by the genius of a musical score. How reverent ... how peaceful ... how beautiful! Praise God that this music has graced my present life.
Thanks for reading. Make whatever you do today a ritual of worship to our Creator!
5:30 AM It's that point in the semester where we're all feeling a bit overwhelmed, not only by the coronavirus but by all the assignments that are coming due. Being a student is a lot like running a marathon. When the semester starts you feel ready. The world is at your fingertips. You can chase down lions. Then it starts getting hard. You're still feeling OK, but you're becoming fatigued. People are starting to slow down, even walk. By mile 20 it's "What in the world am I doing?" Just put one foot in front of the other. Don't stop moving because if you do you might not be able to start again. You can't see the finish line yet, but you know it's there. You're finally DONE! You've taken a beating, but it was worth every step.
Isn't it true that one of the greatest feelings in the world is working towards a goal, giving it your all, experiencing the pain of the journey, and then reaching your goal? That's it. Simple. Basic. Good.
Run your race with joy today, my friend.
Tuesday, March 17
7:50 PM Hello, spring!
7:34 PM Been sitting on the porch this evening enjoying a book you've probably never heard of but it was a hugely important book in my life.
Eugene Goetchius wrote his beginning Greek grammar back in 1965. I acquired a copy of it while I was taking Greek at Biola in the 70s. It was the first book I had seen that tried to incorporate linguistic insights into the study of the Greek of the New Testament. Perhaps as a result, I began to develop an interest in that subject. I probably read through it 5 times. Years ago I lost my copy, but its replacement arrived yesterday via USPS. Greek is in my blood, no doubt, and it was books like this one by Goetchius that paved the way. I always have been, and always will be, grateful.
4:38 PM I won't lie: I love the classroom. Been doing this for 44 years. I also love diving into macro-issues in class with my brilliant students. The classroom has connected me, reconnected me, and (now) disconnected me. For the rest of the semester (about 8 weeks) everything's going online. I've quickly become the prof who went cyber, as we all have. What a blessing that we have things like Moodle. The good work goes on, though the delivery system is different. Learning knows no boundaries, ladies and gentlemen, and when we all start believing "We can do this!" guess what? We can.
Let's show up, folks. Let's be there for each other during this crazy time in our lives. Let's write a good story for our children to remember when they grow up. We'll stumble, of course. That's par for the course. But we'll leave nobody behind, we'll leave no stone unturned, we'll work together for the greater good. We are acting responsibly for our global brothers and sisters because that's WJWD. I want to be forever for you, and you for me. Let's open our hands and our hearts. Let's point each other to God. Let's continue to pursue short- and long-term goals, measurable outcomes, and educated Jesus-followers.
It is noble, necessary work.
6:10 AM Up early this morning about to head off to campus and work on my online classes. This is a stressful and trying time for all of us -- many challenges ahead and many miles to go before we sleep. We're all in this together now -- support, patience, and compassion is what we all need to show. A sense of togetherness even though we are forced apart temporarily. My heart goes out to all those who are affected financially by the pandemic. The knowledge that God is in control is what keeps our heads up through this turbulent and uncertain time. Just when it seems there is nothing we can hold on tightly to, we remember the One who has been holding us together all along.
Stay safe everyone and check on your neighbors/family/friends. God bless you all.
Monday, March 16
7:56 PM Beautiful reminder.
7:44 PM Our first redbuds of the year -- tiny clusters of magenta putting on their annual show, giving their Maker a round of applause.
5:22 PM In the Great Commission, Jesus promised to be with us, not "always," but literally "all the days."
In English we might say, "Each and every day." During these difficult times, Jesus is with us "day after day after day." He is schooling us in trust every single day. He is renewing His mercies every single morning. He is replacing fear with faith Monday through Friday. Why? He simply wants us to experience the "riches of His glory" that He has planned for us from the beginning of time (Rom. 9:23). He follows behind. He goes before. God has a plan for our life during this crisis. And He's willing to both guide and protect us toward that destination.
10:40 AM Let's see ... wormed the donks and goats ... prepped the garden beds ... filled in the winter ruts ... started to repair the driveway fencing. Sorry I can't take better photos.
Love caring for God's green earth!
5:55 AM Up early and looking forward to a full day. I've postponed my trip to Hawai'i this summer, cancelling my flights with United. I'll miss the beach and seeing old friends. It's still hard to believe that my sleepy little hometown of Kailua has become home to trendy coffee shops and restaurants like Morning Brew, where I bought this cup last year.
Kailua is a place where progressive residents and local entrepreneurs get along just fine. But the beach, ah, the beach. THIS is why you come to Hawai'i. This is my view every morning.
From here you can kayak to Flat Island or hike to the Lanikai Pillbox or catch a few waves before eating at Cinnamon's (a Kailua institution). I was hoping to begin another Greek class in August but that's for later. Nostalgia is the best part of our past plus our dreams for the future. Teaching Greek to my fellow natives has fulfilled my lifetime goal of returning something to the land that reared me. I know that living in the past is unhealthy. The clock only runs one way. But is it wrong to revel in memories? There's a lot of good, God things going on the islands right now, and I want to be a small part of it. I think nostalgia is fine unless it makes us ineffective in the present.
Kailua is one of the most beautiful towns in Hawai'i. And for me, it's still as magical as it's ever been.
Sunday, March 15
8:18 PM No more Greek classes at Clearview Church but you have several options to continue your studies. One of them is a series I did years ago for Bible Review magazine called "Greek for Bible Readers."
It's available in the BAS Library. There are also several YouTubes published by Greek teachers who use my grammar as well my own set of DVDs recorded before a live audience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For these, go here. Don't forget, you're not the only one who has a lot riding on whether or not you persist in your Greek studies. God has a lot at stake in the outcome too. He's on your side, rooting for you to succeed.
5:26 PM Did a 5 mile walk today while listening to a sermon by John Stott. Great message as always. Stott was a legend. I'm a big fan of his sermons. Just honest and sincere -- and deeply biblical. Glad to be part of a community that has teachers like him. His message was a voice of calm in this storm swirling around us. A breath of fresh air.
8:24 AM Saw these shoes for runners.
They have both men and women's versions. The idea is to hide their ugly black toenails. I do have ugly feet but these would just call attention to my ugly legs, so what's the use?
7:55 AM Cautious, but carrying on. That's my motto these days. Hard moments for everybody no doubt. But a lot of good things, too. Got to hand it to American Airlines for stepping up to the plate. I was able to cancel my flight to Dallas this Thursday without a hitch. They're even going to let me rebook my flight anytime between now and Dec. 31, 2020 without a change fee. Thank you, AA! Fighting together, we're going to overcome our fears, ladies and gentlemen. Panic is a bigger enemy than the threat. This too shall pass. It's time to embrace our community and make the best of a difficult situation. Americans have always been good at doing this. Thankfully in crazy times we have the Lord and we have each other. Stay informed and practice the same good hygiene you would for the more dangerous types of regular flu. Enjoy nature even more. Spend time with the Lord. Being alone is an opportunity -- to listen to yourself and to God, to get your bearings again, and to draw near to the Lord. Remember, too, that when Jesus ascended to heaven He didn't vacate Planet Earth. No, He left His followers behind, filled them with His Spirit, and then asked them to serve for Him, love for Him, speak for Him. If we are successful as Christians during this time of crisis, people around us will recognize Jesus and will want to know Him. Now, as then, we are His body, we are His hands, we are His heart. Let's act that way.
Love you guys!
Saturday, March 14
6:14 PM Music from my favorite scene in the movie 1917. It's got to be one of the most moving compositions in the history of cinema. Speakers up.
5:48 PM It's so nice to be able to get out and about. The rain is on its way so I like to take advantage of every minute I can be out in creation. There are 4 goals I usually try to accomplish on the weekends: rest, relaxation, refreshment, and recharging. Much of this comes by being active. The setting of a farm fairly begs relaxation. Not only does it keep you active, there's so much to see and look at. I'm always amazed at the beautiful birds that are building their nests on my porches. Lots of pics. Lots of fun. Lots of moving. (And lots of sleep at night.)
During this time of anxiety about the coronavirus, it's important to keep in mind that the best way to ward off illness of any kind is staying stress-free so that our immune system isn't compromised. Focus on those things that are within the sphere of your control. That's one reason I love running. For me, running helps me to step back, refocus, and come back to center. Running is such a wonderful, filled-to-the-BRIM kind of activity. No pace. No time. No cares.
Today's run was glorious. It was such a parable of life: We move forward, but slowly. Day by day. Even during a pandemic. Remember: This year ain't done yet. This is really just another life challenge. We'll make it through, hopefully stronger in the end. These uncertain times just bring us closer together.
Take care all.
12:44 PM Enjoying the Great Outdoors today. Here's my 5-mile run.
Afterwards I sprayed Roundup along the fences.
That's right -- be mowing again in no time! Right now I'm washing a load of clothes and sweeping the house. Hope to get in a bike either today or tomorrow.
Next up: Final edits on this book.
7:58 AM So thankful for the Timothies in my life. Timothy had accompanied Paul and Silas to Thessalonica. He is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians as being a valued member of the missionary team. And yet Timothy had disadvantages and even disabilities that are often found in God's choicest servants today. He was young (and inexperienced). He was an anxious type. And he was physically frail. "Years, fears, and tears," someone has said. But these very qualities endear him to us. To my students: I pray today that you may know God's grace in your life and ministry. Do not neglect either doctrine or ethics. Do not let your age or inexperience slow you down. As you pursue godliness, pursue also gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of eternal life. And let each day become a glad surrender.
Today I'm off to the post office, three different banks, the farm supply store, and to the trail for a run. A big approach to my marathon training is consistency!
Friday, March 13
6:24 PM So good to see my puppy again after several days.
5:26 PM This was my last day of classroom teaching for the semester. The rest of the school year will be taught online. I've also cancelled all of my speaking engagements and road races through the end of April. Here in Virginia, mass gatherings are being cancelled as well as the schools. It's out of our control but not God's. How do I feel? Fine. It's the only responsible course of action. Let's just hope the virus abates. In the meantime, a cheer for spring training and beautiful summer race weather. Folks, we are all in the same boat. We'll get past this and it'll be onward and upward again in a few months I do hope and pray. Times like these call for all of us to come together to fight this. If we are all respectful of the situation and take proper action without waiting for things to get worse, we have the best chance of treating those with the virus and ultimately defeating it altogether.
One thing is for sure. We at Southeastern have the best Distance Learning Office in the world bar none. A thousand thanks to Jerry and Lydia for helping me get my courses set up to go online. This is the time when we all have to act for the greater good. But I will sorely miss being in the classroom. I'll also miss my June marathon if it's cancelled but running is still just a hobby for most of us and there are bigger things in life. I'll keep on training for my next marathon -- wherever that will be -- and enjoying runs like the 6 miler I had on Wednesday on this greenway in Wake Forest.
Stay safe and stay healthy my friends!
Sunday, March 8
9:14 AM Excited to teach another Greek class at Clearview Church tonight. These folks are crushing it. The topic? Adjectives. That's right, folks, what we would do without adjectives in our lives?
In 1 Tim. 3:2-3, Paul uses 11 adjectives to describe the one who would be an elder! One of them is the Greek word didaktikon, which can be translated one of two ways ("able to teach" or "teachable"). Tonight I'll explain why I think "teachable" works best in this context. We will also talk about various synonyms that occur in the Greek New Testament -- for example, the difference between allos and heteros, or agathos and kalos. Is Jesus described in John 10 as the "good" shepherd or as the "good-looking" shepherd? Come tonight and find out! And then there are those pesky comparative and superlative adjectives, as in "greater" and "greatest." Imagine what the Ephesians must have thought when they encountered Paul's elachistateros (Eph. 3:8). They knew that elachistos meant "least," but Paul, wanting to emphasize his personal unworthiness, slapped a comparative ending on this superlative adjective. He's not just the "least of all the saints," he's the leaster!
If you have read this brief blog post carefully, you are a diligent and responsible reader (and possibly tall, dark, and handsome). At least you are able to better understand how those fascinating words called adjectives work -- and play.
8:40 AM My prayer for the church today: "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6). If, despite all of the controversies that surround us today in the church, we would genuinely seek unity, we would be much more attractive to a non-Christian world.
Saturday, March 7
5:38 PM Students of 1 Thessalonians: Here's my overview of the book.
5:24 PM God can use our "chains" for His glory and for the expansion of His kingdom (Phil. 1:12-13). God often grants His servants their greatest successes in their weakest moments.
5:15 PM I need not suspect the motives of others (Phil. 1:15-18). "The Gospel is being preached, and in this I rejoice!"
5:12 PM Do not be afraid (Phil. 1:28). Let us render no excitement over the passing trials that stir this poor jittery world into a frenzy.
1:04 PM Easy 10 mile workout today and it resulted in some good slow heart-rate marathon training.
We just keep breathing and moving forward one day at a time in this world.
7:50 AM Thank you, dear toenail, for the wonderful service you gave me this past year. Now be ye consigned to the deepest, darkest confines of my garbage can forever and forever.
7:46 AM When Paul says "The only thing that matters" (Phil. 1:27), he means it. Is the Gospel the one passion of our lives?
7:44 AM Each of our loving relationships -- as spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters in Christ -- requires constant care and growth (Phil. 1:9).
7:40 AM The love we have for one another is not our love at all but "the deep compassion that comes from Christ Jesus Himself" (Phil. 1:8).
7:37 AM Missions is the work of God in and among us (Phil. 1:6).
7:34 AM Nothing should make us more grateful than when believers partner together in the work of the Gospel (Phil. 1:5).
7:32 AM Leaders are extensions of the church, not over it (Phil. 1:1). "Overseers and deacons" are not proud titles but descriptions of functions: "Those who oversee and serve."
7:30 AM Spent time in Philippians 1 this AM. I needed these familiar words today. I'll be posting a few takeaways here.
7:24 AM I'm monitoring the corona virus carefully, as you are. Just trying to be wise. The data suggest that people over 70 have a higher susceptibility to the virus, especially those with preexisting conditions. I'm maybe 50/50 about flying to Dallas in 2 weeks. It's not the recirculated air I'm concerned about. That air's pretty clean because of the HEPA filters. It's the idea of being strapped in a seat next to someone who's been potentially infected. "It's best to be cautious" says the CDC. I do note that a major tech and film conference in Austin has been cancelled because of the corona virus outbreak. Methinks more cancelations are on the way. May God have mercy on all those afflicted.
I am, incidentally, zero interested in "hunches" about the virus. Just the facts, please, just the facts.
Friday, March 6
7:22 PM Tell you what's missing from the church. Jesus. Is it any wonder we're in the shape we're in? The church, more than anything, is the living presence of Jesus in the world. It is a contradiction to pray for healthier churches but to fail to walk daily in the presence, purpose, and power of the Savior.
7:16 PM Heard this?
We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that studying New Testament Greek is for our happiness. As enjoyable as the study of foreign languages may be, it is important to remember that God hasn't ordained our lives to be comfortable but to be transformative. Greek can be a big part of that transformation, if we let it.
5:34 PM Hello there again, kitchen stove.
5:30 PM This is just so very farmy to me.
1:16 PM In a single day a forestry crew planted 79 of my acres in pine seedlings. That's right, a few thousand of these little guys will one day -- say, in 25 years -- reap a harvest of pine trees.
I like what the apostle Paul said about farming: "I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it. But it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting or who does the watering. The one who plants and the one who waters work together for the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work." In other words, the judgment seat of Christ isn't something we can plan for at the last minute. Let's "work, for the night is coming!"
1:10 PM Seen on my 5 mile run today. Lovely.
12:55 PM Do you have a love-hate relationship with social media? So does Paul Tripp. In this YouTube he makes four points:
1) Not all social media sites have the same moral authority. Reader beware!
2) Be careful what you expose your heart to. The darker parts of the moral world are right there in front of our eyes.
3) There is so much unwholesome, ungodly, unhelpful, disrespectful communication in social media today. We should always speak in an other-centered, wholesome way when we use social media.
4) Beware of becoming poor stewards of our lives by wasting our precious time on unwholesome social media outlets.
I love social media. I started this blog in 2003. I was tweeting before Twitter. My theme verse as a blogger has always been 1 Cor. 14:3: "But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort." I make no claim to be a prophet, but I try to do at least one of these three things before I hit the send button when I publish a blog post. The amazing thing is that it's within our power to decide whether we will use social media for good or for evil. With a snub we can create terror; with charity we can work miracles. Communication is a power that's best left in the hands of God. But He has entrusted it to us as His representatives. When I read Twitter I sometimes feel like the witness of a murder, the murder weapon being the tongue. That ought not to be, my brothers and sisters.
9:00 AM Are you feeding on Jesus today? Don't wait for the Sunday sermon to be in God's word. His banquet table awaits you this very day.
8:42 AM A word to my Greek students in my 1 Thessalonians class: We read Scripture not just for information but for transformation. What areas of our lives are we asking God to change? Let me share with you two convictions as we begin our study of 1 Thessalonians on Monday. First, we must come to this book humbly. A Greek classroom is a dangerous place for any child of Adam. Our studies can easily degenerate into self-serving hubris. Pride is a soil in which godliness does not easily grow. Secondly, we must come to our study obediently. It's not enough to sing "Jesus, I love you." No, those who know the Bible know that the true test of love is obedience, and the reward of love is the self-manifestation of Christ. May He, then, be pleased to reveal Himself to us individually and to our class as a whole as we approach our course of study humbly and obediently.
8:18 AM In a couple of weeks I'll be showing a Power Point at Dallas Seminary on Rom. 12:9-21, one of two "love passages" in Paul's writings (the other, of course, being 1 Cor. 13).
Here Paul defines for us what genuine, Christ-like love is. Today I want to give you the 29 ways Paul says we can express this kind of love.
1) Genuine, Christ-like love is authentic. When we show love to people, we don't just pretend to love them.
2) Genuine, Christ-like love actively fights against the sin in our lives.
3) Genuine, Christ-like love holds on tightly to what is good.
4) Genuine, Christ-like love recognizes that since we are all part of the same spiritual family, we must love one another affectionately.
5) Genuine, Christ-like love takes delight in honoring one another above ourselves.
6) Genuine, Christ-like love is never lazy or slothful.
7) Genuine, Christ-like love relies completely on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
8) Genuine, Christ-like love always strives to serve the Lord obediently.
9) Genuine, Christ-like love faces the future joyfully.
10) Genuine, Christ-like love endures patiently when it experiences trouble.
11) Genuine, Christ-like love always expects God to answer prayer.
12) Genuine, Christ-like love is always ready to help God's people when they are in need.
13) Genuine, Christ-like love welcomes complete strangers when they need a place to stay overnight.
14) Genuine, Christ-like love makes us willing to ask God to bless people who are persecuting us and causing us to suffer.
15) Genuine, Christ-like love never asks God to make something bad happen to them.
16) Genuine, Christ-like love always rejoices with people who are rejoicing.
17) Genuine, Christ-like love always weeps with people who are weeping.
18) Genuine, Christ-like love seeks to live in harmony with others.
19) Genuine, Christ-like love causes us to never think we're more important than others.
20) Genuine, Christ-like love makes us willing to associate with humble people and do humble tasks.
21) Genuine, Christ-like love never allows us to think we're smarter than others.
22) Genuine, Christ-like love motivates us to refuse to pay people back with more evil when they do something evil to us.
23) Genuine, Christ-like love always does what it right in the eyes of others.
24) Genuine, Christ-like love is a commitment to doing everything possible on our part to live in peace with everyone.
25) Genuine, Christ-like love means actively fighting against the urge to take revenge into our own hands when people mistreat us, leaving that instead to the righteous anger of God.
26) Genuine, Christ-like love is being willing to give our enemies something to eat when they're hungry and something to drink when they're thirsty.
27) Genuine, Christ-like love gives us hope that when we treat our enemies with kindness and forgiveness, God will make them burn with shame and maybe even help them change their attitudes and actions.
28) Genuine, Christ-like love is never overcome by evil.
29) Genuine, Christ-like love overcomes evil with good.
Thursday, March 5
6:56 PM Nice to see the NEB's rendering of ekklēsia as "congregation" in 1 Thess. 1:1. They could have also used "community."
8:22 AM Molly Seidel. Ever heard of her? Neither had I. Until last Saturday when she came in second in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta.
This was her first ever marathon. You read that right. First ever! Her second ever marathon will take place in the 2020 Olympics. Not only that, Molly Seidel overcame OCD and an eating disorder to get to where she is today. Hers is a great story as we think about our own lives. We ought to live in anticipation of what could happen tomorrow. Our hearts should be full of optimism because of God's great power that allows us to overcome our weaknesses and keep on striding forward in this race called life. A few people I know have never had to overcome a major obstacle in life. But the vast majority of us, myself included, would have never established a deep and ever deepening relationship with God unless we went through some really hard times. When you're struggling, you need help. You need somebody to be with you, somebody to share your pain, somebody who can understand, not somebody who lives in an ivory tower. This "somebody" sounds an awful lot like Jesus.
Your "impossibility" might be finances or parents who divorced or feelings of inferiority or an old habit or your job or a death in the family. Nothing is too hard for God. That is what matters. He is for us. He is with us. And we are given the choice, day by day, to recognize that or not. "Every day we experience something of the death of Jesus so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours," wrote Paul.
Only Jesus offers us fullness of joy, far beyond the pitiful substitute the world calls happiness.
8:10 AM You know you're a Bible nerd when you see a title like this and think, "Wow, a book about an ancient city in Israel!"
Wednesday, March 4
7:05 PM Get ready because the Ethiopian Restaurant in Raleigh has re-opened under new management and a new name -- Nafkot. Meet the owners.
Check out their Yelp reviews, which are off the charts. Never has Ethiopian food tasted better or service been more gracious.
Felt like I was back in Addis. You really need to try this place, you guys. Practice your finger-eating skills and enjoy some healthy, fresh-made cuisine while you're at it. Meanwhile, I'm finally getting around to reading this book.
I'm requiring it for my Greek 4 class. Rod, you are my hero. The work you put into this tome is amazing. Reading it is like going for thirds in the buffet line. The contents are so delicious you will keep coming back for more. Can't wait for class to start next Monday. We'll be working through RD's book daily.
Tonight I think I'll watch Everest again for the 100th time :)
Monday, March 2
7:12 AM Happy Monday morning dear reader! What are you looking forward to most in March? If you're anything like me, I like to spend the first Monday of every new month planning ahead for the next 4 weeks and trying to wrap my mind around everything the Lord has in store for me. This month looks kinda heavy on speaking engagements. Next week I'm teaching 1 Thessalonians from 8:00 - 5:00 every day during our spring break. The following week I'm speaking in chapel at a local Christian high school. That weekend I'm lecturing at Dallas Seminary. The month will wrap up with a missions conference in Yadkinville, NC. (Not sure where that it is.) I realize this schedule pales in comparison to what many of you are planning for March but, hey, I'm just a Greek prof. The only race I have planned is the Run High Bridge 5K in Farmville on the 14th. So far my March is devoid of any planned lap swimming, but eventually I will have to get back to the pool if I'm going to do another tri this year. I am mostly looking forward to my marathon in June, but I also plan to run another marathon in the fall. Not sure what else I'll add in for this month. I know I'm blessed to have the kind of schedule that allows me to do a variety of fun things every month. When I do get a chance to write, I schedule those times around my teaching and farm work. It's a great fit for my lifestyle.
How do your coordinate your monthly schedule around your family/work responsibilities? Do you work from home? Do you ever back off from an exceptionally heavy schedule or do just plow right ahead?
Have a great March everyone.
Sunday, March 1
9:05 PM Today, as I said, I did some high intensity interval training. What's that you ask? HIIT alternates bursts of anaerobic speed with periods of aerobic recovery. The goal is to keep within a reasonable average heart rate. My "working" heart rate zone is zone 1 or zone 2. So I was glad to see that during my HIIT training today I never really got much above zone 3.
The idea is a very intense workout for a shorter period of time than you normally run. I had a blast needless to say. Whereas my average resting heart rate today was 47 bpm, I was able to keep most of my speed work today under 121 bpm.
Feeling real good about that. Tonight's Greek class at Clearview was the icing on the proverbial cake. Attendance is still very high.
How I thank God for these students. Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God in your life, no matter what that call is. For all of us, I hope that call involves learning how to study the Bible to the very best of our abilities. The Bible is so important. It doesn't always explain everything to our intellectual satisfaction, but it does explain everything necessary for our discipleship as obedient followers of King Jesus.
On deck this week in terms of my marathon training block:
Time to read a good book!
1:10 PM Today's run after church.
I had planned on doing a long run today but did a tempo run instead. The day was brisk and I was feeling frisky! It's amazing to watch the stress you put on your legs and feet during running, and scary too. I think doing squats is helping me keep my glutes engaged. Some day I probably need to have a gait analysis done. Thankfully I haven't had an injury in a very long time despite having really flat feet. It's nice to have shoes you can rely on. Thank you, New Balance!
I'm told that running or other forms of exercise can postpone disability by 16 years. This means I won't be using my walker until I'm 85. Can't you just see me!
8:34 AM The word of the day is "comeback." I'm talking about Galen Rupp. A year and a half ago he had major surgery on his heel. His coach was banned on doping charges. He had to drop out of the Chicago Marathon. For months he could hardly get out of bed or walk without pain. The naysayers were sure he was down and out. Finished. Yesterday, however, he proved them wrong. Rupp won the U.S. marathon trials by a whopping 42 seconds. 2:09 is an astonishing time considering how hilly and windy the conditions were. Hoping to see him medal in Japan!
As with Galen Rupp, we all face great obstacles in life. But obstacles and circumstances and even seemingly insurmountable odds mean little to God. He's looking for people who will believe that what's impossible to them is possible to Him. He delights in miracles. He lifts us up when we fall. The Jesus we're studying in our NT class this semester made the blind see. He made the lame walk. A word from Him and the dead were raised.
Opportunity always brings with it opposition. "A great and effectual door is opened for me," wrote Paul, "and there are many adversaries" (1 Cor. 16:9). Along with blessings come dangers. As with the Israelites about to cross into the Promised Land, it is a very grave danger to see only the milk and honey and not take into account the foes we will meet. We are not to blithely ignore their existence, but neither are we to be terrified by them as the ten spies were.
Friend, quit listening to the naysayers and mockers in your life. Don't give up, even when your dreams are routinely dismissed. If it's mediocrity you're after it, there's plenty of it to be had. But if you're after excellence in life, whatever the field is, you're going to have to work at it with all you've got. You must also, from time to time, thumb your nose at all the skeptics around you. "You want to get a Ph.D. and then teach in a seminary? You're crazy! You'll never get a job!" They've been wrong before and they'll be wrong again.
In the words of Jim Elliott, another hero of mine, "Wherever you all, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." Mind you: What you are convinced of, not what someone else thinks.
What about it?