December 2020 Blog Archives
Thursday, December 31
12:50 PM I'm an avid reader, as many of you are. So I thought I'd collect and photograph some of the books I read in 2020 that I enjoyed the most.
Mind you, these are 13 out of hundreds of books I read this past year. Each has helped me get perspective on some topic or issue I was working through/thinking about. I'm pretty much a huge fan of these authors, even when I disagree with them (Scot McKnight and I do not agree on a whole lot).
One of them even had the audacity to call for an end to church buildings (hmm, maybe like Bonhoeffer did?). Two of these authors are Greek grammarians, and we all know how much people love them.
The book by James McWhorter merits a nod because it's about language and how language works, and because he discusses these subjects with both aplomb and humor.
And what can I say about Malcolm Muggeridge? You've never heard of him, right?
Reading Muggeridge is dangerous. He might actually change the way you think about Christianity.
Muggeridge was always talking about the bankruptcy of politics and how materialistic societies are prone to hero-worship. Having by and large ceased to believe in God, we pay increasing obeisance to the king or the president, creating a kind of ersatz religion. Little wonder he was banned from the BBC.
Behind the Ranges is about missionary J. O. Fraser.
It's a must read. It was a required textbook back in the day at Biola. It was Fraser who famously said: "I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel that it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third place, and teaching the fourth."
Finally, where would an educator be if he or she didn't work on their craft? That's why I was delighted to have picked up at a library sale somewhere Suskie's Assessing Student Learning.
So there you have it. I am never happier than when I am reading a good book. How about you? What titles did you read in 2020 that you'd recommend? Let us know on your blog or Facebook page.
8:42 AM Today I'm focused on figuring out my race and training schedule for next year. I don't yet know what that will include. So I thought I'd take a glance at the past year to see how many miles I managed. Here are my May My Run stats for 2020.
Hard to fathom that I averaged 4 workouts and 25 miles each week in 2020. The 1688 mile total is the largest since I started using a Garmin watch. As you can see below, most every year I've been bumping up my miles:
This year was made possible by many people who supported my efforts. Neither running nor life is ever a solo project. Of course, each of us is ultimately responsible for our results, on the race course and elsewhere, but we owe so much to others for their support. My family has been there for me the whole year. I appreciate their support on the journey. They know me yet they still love me unconditionally. I hope, in return, I might have inspired them to pursue their own goals with passion. Thanks to all the doctors, physical therapists, and specialists who took such great care of me when I was injured in April. You allowed my body to recover to keep digging deeper. Thank you to all the race organizers who put on great events. Above all, thank you, Lord, for caring for me this year and teaching me many lessons about life through my running. I love running, and by your grace I hope to always be able to do it.
Running is so much like life. You do the best you can and don't let the setbacks defeat you. Perhaps you've heard of the "Serenity Prayer" -- you know, the one that asks God to grant you the serenity to accept the things you can't change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I'm so thankful to the Lord for teaching me this year that age is just a number if we learn to listen to our bodies and adapt to its changing needs. With his help, I hope to do a better job of that this coming year.
I will let you all know how it goes.
6:55 AM Here's a contrast to ponder on this New Year's Eve. The prodigal wasted his substance.
Mary wasted her perfume.
Has there ever been a greater temptation to wasteful living than today? We squander away our time, our health, our wealth. Our body, mind, and soul waste away as a result. O, the prodigal in me!
In the eyes of Jesus' disciples, Mary's anointing of Jesus was also a waste. The dictionary defines waste as "an act or instance of using or expending carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose." Waste means too much, but we can never give Jesus too much.
Lord Jesus, in 2021, I long to love you extravagantly. You are worthy of all I give you. Kill off the Scrooge in me that laments generosity. Let my wealth (such as it is) no longer be spent on ostentatious church buildings or on a wasteful lifestyle. Instead, may I give myself to you daily and then give my gifts to the needy in your Name. Selfless service to others in the cause of the gospel was the order of the day in the early church, and it must be for me. O, may 2021 see nothing less than a continual giving of self and time and talents to others. Strip away what falsely defines me and replace it with what is real. May I follow in your footsteps as never before, and may I cover myself in the dust of your feet.
For the great glory of your name I pray. Amen.
Wednesday, December 30
5:38 PM I had some business to do in Farmville today and while I was there I thought I'd get in a run. I decided to run to Tuggle and back, which turned out to be just over 11 miles.
Time to get back to writing. So far it's been a great day. Hope yours is going well too.
6:10 AM I was listening recently to a sermon over the last 12 verses of Mark. I was a bit surprised to find such a sermon, because most scholars argue against the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20. The preacher said little enough about the controversy in his message (all well and good), though what struck me was his attitude. He dismissed the evidence in favor of the shorter reading with the mere wave of the hand. He did the same thing when he came to the signs and wonders Jesus mentions in verses 16-17. The preacher merely asserted, "These gifts are not for today," as if his assertion could deal fairly with a controversy that has engendered the writing of untold books both pro and con the genuineness of the sign gifts for the church today. Now to be sure, I happen to agree with the preacher that the passage under consideration is both original and inspired (see my book Perspectives on the Ending of Mark), and that today's church should affirm the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture over against any claim to the contrary by those who would seek to add their prophetic words to those of the Bible. That said, it seems clear that while the primary sense of "apostles and prophets" in the New Testament is that of organs of direct revelation, we should be ready to acknowledge that there are apostolic and prophetic ministries in the church today. Paul clearly teaches in 1 Thessalonians that we are neither to reject prophecy nor accept it outright but to test everything, to sift it, to weigh it against the plain truth of the Scriptures and against the gospel of free and saving grace that comes only through Jesus Christ.
I bring this up because last night I was again reading Bruce Metzger's thrilling autobiography and was interested to see that he, along with ten other Presbyterian leaders, were asked to serve on a special committee on the work of the Holy Spirit.
The committee gave its final report in 1970. Metzger cites the report's conclusion. I give it here because I think it is both balanced and full of spiritual wisdom:
This is a splendid doctrinal and pastoral summation of what the Bible teaches about the "charismatic" gifts. This should humble both Charismatics and non-Charismatics. It should also motivate us to the loving care of all God's people. This came home to me on one of my six trips to teach in South Korea, where the Presbyterian church is largely non-Charismatic but whose congregations sometimes contain a goodly number of parishioners who speak in tongues. The pastors there, most of whom were cessationists, asked me if I might give them some guidance on how to deal with the matter both scripturally and pastorally. As a result, I developed a 4-hour lecture on "The History and Theology of Pentecostalism." I felt this was a good opportunity for the Korean church to practice MRI (mutual responsibility and interdependence). Occasionally I share this lecture with my students here in the hope that it will persuade them to treat more thoughtfully, more systematically, and more lovingly this controversial subject in their own churches.
I will now add Dr. Metzger's statement to my lecture.
Tuesday, December 29
11:48 AM Wrote for 2 hours this morning, then ran for 5 miles. Now I'm back in my farm office, hard at work again. While running, I listened to this great interview with one of the world's leading trail ultra racers.
She happens, like yours truly, to be an educator in real life. Which reminded me: I read somewhere that most runners (professionals and non-professionals alike) are college educated. Hold on. Let's see if I can find that stat. Okay. Here it is:
This doesn't surprise me. Come to think of it, I don't believe I know a single runner who's not been to college. I don't know why that is. And I really don't even want to venture a guess. But when I consider that stat, my mind goes to another "stat" that I mention in the preface to my book How to Make the New Testament Come Alive! Did you know that Bible study is for every follower of Jesus? You don't have to be a seminary graduate. You don't have to have an academic degree or several of them. You don't have to have a high IQ. You don't have to be of any race or ethnicity. You don't have to be physically strong or attractive. You don't have to be wealthy. You don't have to be of any age. You don't have to spend ten years on the mission field. You don't have to speak well before a group. That's not a requirement. None of these are. The only thing required is a willingness to learn.
Of course, you don't need my book (or anyone else's) to get started. You just do it. If you and I do it, maybe everyone will.
Monday, December 28
6:14 PM In case you didn't know, I'm a major to-do-list maker. I also like to set long-term/personal goals. Always write them down, too. I love reviewing my goals at least weekly. Some of my goals I blog about, others are just there on my calendar. Research shows that writing down your goals makes it infinitively more likely you will accomplish them. Today I set a very challenging goal, especially for someone who's as lazy as I am (Hawaii born and bred, you recall). I want to write at least 3-4 hours every day. I've even set target dates for the completion of my 2021 writing projects. Someone has said that goals that aren't frightening aren't worth having. I have asked the Lord not to allow my fears to keep me from reaching my goals. You have to keep your eye set on the prize. That said, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff. Life is more than writing. I'm just grateful I still have legs I can run on and fingers I can type with. If I'm able to get outdoors it's a good day. Don't ever take that for granted, Dave.
To all my buddies out there (you know who you are): Thank you for all of your amazing support and for sharing this journey. I have gotten so much good advice and encouragement from you and it has meant everything. (Yes, I am talking to you, daughter. Thanks for allowing me to talk your ears off today, sweetie.) The truth is, nobody achieves their goals effortlessly. Most of us have to work for what we have. This is what makes life so amazing. Something in our spirit sings when we go farther than we ever thought we could have.
Brother Lawrence once said, "We must turn to God in complete confidence in the hour of battle, abide strongly in the presence of his divine majesty, worship him humbly, and set before him our woes and weaknesses. And thus shall we find in him all virtues though we may lack all of them." That's a great thought to begin a new year with, don't you think?
6:45 AM Chuck Swindoll's sermon yesterday from Phil. 3 was a stirring challenge to stop living in the rear view mirror. "The one thing I do," writes Paul, "is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to live the life above." He then adds: "All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude."
Here's what I took away from Chuck's message: The ability to let go of the past is a sign of maturity. I don't recall his exact words, but Chuck made it clear to the congregation at Stonebriar that he wasn't about to rest on his laurels, even though he's got a lot of laurels to rest on if he wanted to. At the age of 85 he's convinced he's got a lot of tread left on his pastoring and teaching tires. He said he also wanted to make 2021 more about Christ than about himself. He wanted to (my words, not Chuck's) know Christ as friend, trust him as Savior, and obey him as Lord.
How about you, my friend? The end of the year is a good time to consider the past -- and then promptly forget it. Retrospect must always give way to prospect. There is a new year to be greeted and a new chapter to be written. I am so excited to see what 2021 has in store for me. I know there will be surprises. Perils do not necessarily grow fewer as we grow older. Little wonder the Psalmist could ask God not to forsake him when he was old and gray-haired (Psa. 71:18). If 2020 was anything, it was another year of God's faithfulness. But it is a dying year, and there's no need to tarry by the casket of things past.
This week I'll be putting together my list of New Year's goals. Like Paul, I want to finish my course with joy (Acts 20:24). Why should I give my last year of full-time teaching anything less than 1,000 percent? Why should I just coast through my J-term class that starts in exactly one week? No, the students deserve better, and so does my Lord.
January 1, 2021 will be here before we know it. You just start at mile 0 all over again then launch out to see if you can complete all 52 miles of your ride.
There will be brand new mountains to scale and risks to take. Are you up to it?
There will be more Greek classes to teach in local churches both in Hawaii and elsewhere.
And yes, folks, there will be good food to be enjoyed -- without facial coverings!!!!
If I had only one encouragement for you this morning as you contemplate a new year, it would be to make sure you start each new day of the year with God. Many of us would never think of dashing out of the house without our breakfast, so why should we think we can plunge headlong into a perilous world with an unprepared soul? No, we can never get off to a good start without him. Meanwhile, let's forget those things that are behind us. That's the only thing to do with the past -- learn from it whatever lessons are to be gained, and then forget it. Instead, think of all the land that remains to be possessed, all the service that remains for us to do while we press on toward the mark. Make up your mind today about "this one thing." That will bring everything else into its proper place.
Love you and thank God for you!
Sunday, December 27
2:50 PM I am late to the sport of running, but I am loving it so much. A big "Thank you" to the Lord for giving me yet another great training run today in Farmville.
While exercising I heard two wonderful sermons. In the New Year, we can either wear our hurt or wear our hope. I am determined to wear only my hope in 2021. No more whining from me (okay, maybe once or twice). Max Lucado once said, "I'm sorry if you were inappropriately touched, intentionally mocked, or unfairly dismissed. I'm sorry if you ended up in Egypt. But if the story of Joseph teaches us anything, it is this: we have a choice" (Anxious for Nothing, p. 59). God, give me the courage to be a Joseph in the new year. I'm thanking you in advance!
7:05 AM And the winner of this week's Greek DVD drawing is:
Elliott in Germany.
The DVDs will go out as soon as I return to campus. Enjoy!
6:20 AM A video I watched recently was titled "Why are experts so often poor communicators?" Haven't you often wondered that yourself? I have. The presenter said there are four kinds of public speakers:
1. Those who have no skills and poor communication.
2. Those who have great skills and poor communication.
3. Those who have no skills and good communication.
4. Those who have high skills and great communication.
I loved this quote: "An actor is an expert in being someone else. A speaker is an expert in being themselves."
How rare it is to find a #4 type of communicator. Oh, they are out there. And they are not only "themselves," I would say they are their best self. They work hard on communicating empathy to their audiences. They have a knack for making the complicated simple without being simplistic. Practice may not make you perfect, but that's okay because nobody is expecting you to be perfect. Inspire, don't only inform. This is the goal every time you stand behind the pulpit or enter the classroom. Watch anything Chuck Swindoll says, or Haddon Robinson for that matter. O my goodness. So beautiful, so powerful, so inspiring. Role models for us all.
Saturday, December 26
9:25 PM My supper tonight, if I do say so myself, was delicious. I finished it in less than five minutes, eating rather faster than senior professors of New Testament and Greek are expected to. This evening I've been trying to plan my marathon for 2021. I would love to get back to the Flying Pig in Cincy.
This was my first marathon back in 2014. This would be my 4th time running it. I can honestly say this is the best of the 16 marathons I've done so far. Every detail is planned to perfection. Just be prepared for a tough but really gorgeous course. It's in May, and for now the race is still virtual, though the RD hopes that will change soon (don't we all). I love the faces in this video. Anybody can be active. Anybody can convince themselves that moving their body is better than not moving it. Whether you're 17 or 70, you future is in your hands. Actually, your future is in your feet!
5:20 PM While getting in an easy 5K walk today at the track I watched this fabulous lecture about the life and work of the famous Swiss theologian Emil Brunner.
The lecture is full of humorous anecdotes, like the time Brunner's friend Karl Barth told him, after Barth had listened to him preach, "Du bist sehr langweilig" ("You are very boring").
Actually, as the speaker in this video noted, whereas the typical lecturer in theology at the University of Zürich may have had a total of 20 students attending his weekly talks, Brunner's audience numbered anywhere between 100 and 200. As a student in Basel, I can recall reading everything I could get my hands on written by Brunner and Barth. Brunner's theology was actually one of the three topics I had to prepare for when I took my orals at the end of my doctoral program. Brunner, like Barth, was widely travelled. He was especially involved in theological education in the U.S. and Asia. As the speaker says, "Ihm war die ganze Welt wichtig" ("To him the whole world was important"). I loved Brunner's works on the church, in particular his book Das Missverständnis der Kirche (The Misunderstanding of the Church).
"Eine Kirche, die nicht missioniert, hat demissioniert." This is a powerful statement in German. Good luck translating it into English with the same rhetorical oomph.
In Basel, much was made about the disagreement that happened between Brunner and Barth prior to and during the Second World War. Brunner felt there was a place for natural theology, whereas Barth insisted there could be no such thing. His response to Brunner's misreading of the Bible was a sharp "Nein" (see Barth's book by that name). You may recall that many Germans claiming to be Christians in the 1930s felt they could use history and culture to get behind Hitler and his nationalistic movement. Hitler was on the "right side of history," they argued, and so there was no need to maintain Christian principles. In short, the end justified the means. Opposed to this was a much smaller group of believers called the "Confessing Church" who insisted that only Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church and not any political leader, no matter how nationalistic he might be. We are looking only to Jesus for truth and direction, these believers said. Something to think about today for sure. In fact, I've often wondered if the time was ripe for another Barmen Declaration.
Right now, though, its time to enjoy some stir fry and the Banzai Pipeline :-)
9:42 AM Aren't you glad that when God wrote the New Testament he removed the expiration date? God's answer for troubled times has always been the same: come to me, come to my word, and there you will find strength and the guidance you need to take another step. That's what I'm finding to be true this morning, ladies and gentlemen, as I do another deep dive into a passage in my Greek New Testament, this time Matt. 9:35-38.
I may or may not ever get a chance to speak on this passage from a pulpit, but that's almost beside the point.
What personal Bible study does for you goes far beyond teaching and preaching. The more we read and study God's word for ourselves, the more it takes permanent residence within.
Here are some of the steps I take when I study a passage of Scripture (for what it's worth). First, I read the passage at least 30 times. This is what John MacArthur recommends in his excellent little book How to Study the Bible.
The first day, read it through. The second day, read it through. The third day, read it through. If you push through and stick with it for 30 days, he says, you will have a tremendous comprehension of the text. I have taken that advice to heart.
The next step is to look carefully at the Greek text.
What are the main verbs? What clauses are subordinate? Are there are any direct commands to be obeyed? How does the text flow from idea to idea? In German we say, seek to discover "wie der Text spielt" (not sure how to translate that). What individual words demand further study?
Then it's time to look at as many foreign language translations as you can. This morning I read the text in Hebrew, Latin, English, German, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Hawaiian Pidgin (of course!).
I wanted to see, for instance, how these versions translated the Greek word poleis -- "cities" or "towns"? Or how about the verb for "send out" in verse 38-- yep, here we have ekballō again. I'm allowing the Spirit to help move me forward from observation to interpretation to application. Remember: Bible study is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, you've been traveling, but you need to keep moving forward. At some point you need to cut to the quick and determine the overall theme of your passage. I am convinced that if large pools of information don't get summarized for people, the significance of your passage is vaporized within minutes. I haven't come up with a sermon title yet, but I have compiled a list of titles from the interwebs, though I haven't read any online sermons yet and won't until I've complete a draft of my message.
I think I like the first title the best.
Does it look like I'm on the right track? Bible study can be exhausting but it's never exhaustive. So far I've covered only the bare facts -- but think of the insight they represent. The key is to remember that the Scripture itself gives you the basic outline of what the author is saying. So there's no need for us to impose on the text what the Scripture doesn't say.
Time for some exercise of the physical kind (I'm already tired mentally). The day is simply glorious. It's also a bit warmer than yesterday. Yes, I'm a cold weather wimp. A final reminder: If you haven't entered our book/DVD giveaway yet, I'm still accepting emails until 6:00 pm tonight.
Friday, December 25
2:28 PM We've gotten a lot of rain here lately so I gasped for JOY when I saw that the local rail trail was still open. It's getting cold here, as in very cold. I think the real feel was 22 degrees during my run today.
Virginia has issues. Of course, there's a certain part of the anatomy that tends to be fatty and that you would think would keep you warm but this is so not the case. Fat may be a great insulator, but it can't carry around your blood like your muscles can. Anyhoo, I layered up and everything turned out out fine.
This weekend's supposed to get up to 50 so I might try another long run on Sunday or Monday. During today's run my mind was on one thing and one thing only: What passage shall I speak on in chapel next semester? After all, this will be my last opportunity to address the entire student body before I retire. What a journey discipleship is. You never truly "arrive," do you? For a while I thought Heb. 1:1-2 would be a great passage to talk about -- our "encouragement," our "entanglements," and our "example." But today a passage from Matthew kept bouncing around in my subconscious and I let it rise to the surface so I could examine it. It's the passage that probably did more than any other part of the Bible to make Becky and me consider becoming followers of Jesus (rather than good Christians). And the passage is all about the Great Commission. No, not Matt. 28:19-20 but Matt. 9:35-38. I can't think of a clearer and more concise definition of missions -- the Where?, the What?, the Why? and the How? Jesus told us exactly what to do and why. He also did what he told us to do (that's called leading by example). I truly believe I am a fulltime missionary of the gospel (not a professional, mind you, but fulltime all the same). So are you if you're an obedient follower of Jesus. Jesus loves the world so much. He died so that the lost sheep for which he had so much compassion could have a Shepherd. And get this -- he is relying on us loving them as though he were loving them through us. Jesus lived as an example. He is the perfect missionary. I so want to be like him. I'm going to take some time to pray about this and thoroughly explore my options before I decide. Meanwhile, in all humility and simplicity, let's keep on learning from the example of our Savior.
9:20 AM Last night I couldn't resist the urge to reread Bruce Metzger's delightful autobiography.
From the beginning of time, God had destined Bruce Metzger to become one of the world's leading New Testament Greek scholars. But everything has a beginning in time and space. For Metzger, it was his freshman year at Lebanon Valley College. (Never heard of it? Neither had I. But great blessings sometimes come in small packages.) In his book, Metzger tells the story of how he got involved in Greek. He says that all first-year students at the college were required to take a foreign language and "for some reason I chose the elementary course in classical Greek grammar." He goes on to state that the reason he chose Greek was something a pastor once said in a sermon to the effect that English translations can't always convey the meaning of the original Greek. Says Metzger, "I had never before realized that the New Testament was written originally in Greek." He later took additional courses in Greek and, upon graduation from college, decided to study Greek under the great A. T. Robertson at Southern Seminary in Louisville. However, before he could apply, he learned that Roberson had died in the summer of 1934. In due course, he applied to Princeton and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1938, at the ripe old age of 24, he would be asked by the president of the seminary to teach Greek to entering students who required instruction in beginning Greek. "In the autumn of 1938, therefore, I began the first of my forty-six years of teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary."
I was impressed with several things as I read this beautiful story of how Bruce Metzger embarked on his career. One of them is this: God values a slow, steady pace over a dash. Growing academically is a marathon, not a sprint. Friend, are you willing to go forward? To put in the effort? To be patient and wait for God to open the door for you? You can't just clap twice and expect to go from Greek student to Greek teacher. Two things happened to me when I was a student at Biola that utterly shocked me. First, I dropped out of my beginning Greek class after only two weeks. Second, a year later and with four semesters of Greek under my belt thanks to summer school, I was hired (at the age of 24, by the way) by Dr. Harry Sturz, the head of the Greek Department, to teach 11 units of Classical Greek at Biola. Forty-four years later I'm still teaching Greek. (God has an incredible sense of humor, doesn't he?)
A student once asked me, "Why should I bother to study Greek when there are so many English translations available today?" I replied, "That's a very good question. However, it is precisely because there are so many English translations available today, and none of them agree with each other, that now more than ever it's vital to be able to judge their accuracy against the Greek text." I am honest when I say I don't believe that you must know Greek to be able to understand the New Testament. I can think of handicaps far more serious than that (pride or sloth, for example). That said, have you ever considered taking a basic course in Greek? This year I taught Greek in one of our local churches. Before Covid hit, we had 45 people coming out every Monday night to study Greek with me for 2 hours. (They lasted more than two weeks, I might add.) But I was very clear with them that Greek is not the Open Sesame or the Abracadabra of New Testament interpretation that some make it out to be. "Greek," I told them, "won't necessarily tell you what the New Testament means. But it will limit your options."
I long to communicate to every Christian I can possibly reach that the living God has arranged a way to make it possible for you to learn how to read your New Testament in Greek. Are you willing? If so, I've produced a series of tools to get you started. It's never too late to start, either. When Benjamin Rice retired as a missionary with the China Inland Mission, he decided to learn New Testament Greek at the age of 80. Eighty! It is said that he kept a well-worn copy of his Greek New Testament in his pocket while waiting for public transportation. If an 80-year old could learn Greek, anyone can. That includes you. Here are some resources to get you going.
Learn to Read New Testament Greek. This is my grammar for beginners. It doesn't get any more basic than this. This book is short and to the point, and you don't need to buy an additional workbook; I’ve provided an answer key in the back of the book for all of the exercises.
It’s Still Greek to Me. So you've laid the foundation of beginning Greek. Now it's time to build on that foundation. This intermediate-level grammar will keep the Greek fires burning. You may even enjoy the lame puns in it ("To Koine Phrase," "Up the Greek without a Paddle," etc.).
Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. This book contains my easy-to-use approach to go from text to teaching outline.
My Greek DVDs. This professionally-edited set of 24 videos was recorded before a live class of seminary students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Don’t worry; everything is in English. The instruction is based on my beginning grammar, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. To learn more, please visit my New Testament Greek Portal.
Fellow believer, never forget what God is doing in our day. He's ordaining the ordinary. No longer is serious Bible study in the hands of a few. Every member gets to roll up their sleeves and dig in to grow even stronger in the Christian life. It's a fantastic new day, and I invite you to join the merry company of those who, like Prof. Metzger, "happened" to fall in love with this wonderful language.
P.S. In the spirit of Christmas, I want to offer you at no cost either a copy of my beginning grammar or a set of my instructional DVDs ($200 value). Simply write and tell me which one you'd like. I'll announce the winner of our giveaway tomorrow night at 6:00 pm. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your mailing address when you write.
Thursday, December 24
5:50 PM What a great Christmas Eve service in Alabama with my son-in-law preaching, my granddaughter singing "O Holy Night," and my grandson operating one of the cameras.
Jon brought a wonderful message from Gal. 4:3-6.
"God is never early, he's never late, he's always right on time." Thank you, Jesus, for coming to this earth right on time. O Lord, I praise you that there is no place you will not go and no person you cannot reach. On this Christmas Eve, my prayer is that during this holiday season you will feel the presence of Immanuel in a deeper way than perhaps ever before. When Christ was born, so was our hope and peace. Whatever your need may be today, the Savior has appeared. With him, everything changes. Receive his grace today.
The icing on today's pre-Christmas cake was an email I got from Bagdogra, India today.
During the pandemic, the Peniel Gospel Team was able to distribute more than 7,000 Bibles to the same number of households. They write, "We are praying for Bibles and New Testaments so that we will be able to share and provide it to those who receive, accept, and believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will be requiring a total of 25,000 Bibles in various languages and 50,000 New Testaments. One Bible costs $3 and a New Testament costs $1. When you spend $3 one family is getting an opportunity to read the Bible. Let us come together during this season to share and praise the name of our King."
I can't thank God enough for the Peniel Gospel team and ministries like it in India. These national Christians are taking up the banner of the cross where colonial-era missionaries left off. Thousands of individuals and churches in the West are praying for and supporting these nationals on the frontiers of faith. Maybe you're already one of them. If not, I invite you right now to consider living more simply and more creatively in order to support national missionaries. I especially plead with you young adults to choose to make your life count for the kingdom rather than succumb to the climb up the ladder. In order for us to make the necessary impact, we must send out hundreds of thousands more workers.
This is the kind of commitment and cooperation it will take to reach the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am convinced of it. When all is said and done, the bottom line must be "the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matt. 11:5). If that is not done, we in the wealthy West have failed.
1:10 PM I pretty much run all year round -- rain, sun, snow, wind. The only thing I don't do is ice. Today's weather is wet and miserable outdoors. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny but freezing cold. Conundrum. Do I try to run today when it's warmer, or tomorrow when it's colder? I'd be lying if I said that a run in the rain is super appealing to me. But I need to run either today or tomorrow to stay on my training schedule. Oh well. I love being outside. I'll get there one way or another. Meanwhile, I've had a fairly productive day. This morning I wrote the preface to my book How to Make the New Testament Come Alive! Why I wrote the preface before I finished the book I have no idea; it's just what I do. Then I began to deep clean the kitchen, interrupting myself to do some baking.
Then it was off to run a few errands, and now I'm back home enjoying a warm house and working on the kitchen again. Then I need to clean the rest of the house. So far, a very nice Christmas Eve.
How's yours going?
Wednesday, December 23
5:02 PM I did a quick 14-mile bike today thinking about all the blessings in my life right now.
The best is that my friend with Covid has been released from the hospital and will be spending the holidays with his wife and family after 3 long weeks in the hospital. Talk about a Christmas present. Also, this came today.
I cannot congratulate Todd Scacewater enough. I hope this book gets the wide reading it deserves. In addition, I know some of you will be spending Christmas Day by yourself this year, as I will be doing. Please remember to be authentic around those you love. If it hurts, it's okay to let them know. Always remember who you are in Christ. You belong. You are loved. You are valued. We have to renew our minds daily. The Bible says to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. It's a battle, because the enemy is always planting thoughts in our minds that are contrary to truth. We have to counteract that with the Scriptures, the truth of God's word, and do it over and over again. Also, do things that are healthy for yourself. Above all, remember you have an audience of One. Don't try to please everybody. You can't please everybody. You'll wear yourself out if you try. Just get in the Scriptures. Keep your Bible open somewhere in your house so that during the day you can always just run back to the Scriptures. I hope you have a wonderful, spectacular holiday. Soak up every minute of the time you might get with people who make your heart smile. We never know what's around the corner, so live in the present. No regrets allowed.
7:45 AM What a lovely sunrise this morning. What an encouragement from the Lord.
I hope you are having a good week. Christmas is around the corner and we certainly have some great things waiting for us in 2021, so don't lose hope. We've survived a very tough year. Thanks be to God! For those who are suffering from injury or heartache, trust me when I say it gets better. Pain and suffering can lead to fulfillment if we let it. Often the key to getting out of a low spot is doing something for someone else. I promise that will lift your spirits. Life can be hard but don't give up, press on for the finish line and the better days to come. Regardless of our current circumstances there is One who is in control and thankfully it's not you or me! Yesterday I was studying Heb. 12:1-2 for a message I'm preparing and did a deep dive into the description of Christ as archēgos, usually translated forerunner or pioneer. An archēgos is someone who pioneers the way for others to follow. He's a trailblazer or, in a race, a pacer. Our direction as runners is to look at our pacer. In the marathons I've run, I've often run in a pace group. The pacers leading us had to be expert runners. They had to have finished numerous marathons at a pace much faster than the one they were leading. Because of their example and expedience, we trusted them to lead us to the finish line. Guys, let's press on together. God gave us a pacesetter to journey with us. And we have his wonderful word to show us how to run. God is good all the time. Keep on running.
6:15 AM I love this mantra of one of the world's leading ultra runners.
The way he gets to the finish line is by running for only 15 minutes. Than another 15 minutes. Then another. He never looks past the next 15 minutes. "Anyone can run for 15 minutes," he tells himself. And it's true. You can run for 15 minutes. I can too.
This is exactly how I write. I write for 15 minutes. If I'm not motivated to continue, I stop. If I need to stand up and go for a walk, I do. But my best writing is done in short chunks.
Here's another thing I try to do: keep writing and editing separate. Writing is a right brain function. The writer creates. Editing is a left brain function. The editor analyzes. When I'm writing, I don't stop to improve that sentence or find a synonym for this word. I don't ask, "Is this readable?" I don't get hung up on the details. That's my job when I put on my editor's hat. So for what it's worth, my advice is: When you write, write. When you're done with that step, don't forget that editing is part of this process.
Tuesday, December 22
5:28 PM Not long ago I made a Power Point on Joe Hellerman's book When the Church Was a Family.
I had never heard the term "familification" before, had you?
Is it supernatural? You bet. This is Jesus-quality family love we're talking about. I think the more we deliberately show this kind of love to each other as brothers and sisters, the more it takes permanent residence within the body of Christ. May love be vicious in your family this Christmas. Ask the Spirit of God to move you forward from the negatives you may be focusing on to the positives. Love your siblings as Jesus loves them -- with a patience and gentleness that is amazing. We can start practicing love, peacemaking, and patience right where we are. Let's build bridges and not walls this holiday season. Familification is, actually, a huge part of our sanctification.
8:40 AM Here we go, here we go, ladies and gentlemen, a little replenishment on the morning after my long run, a day that promises to be bright and sunny with an unbelievable high of 52.
I'll take it, folks, I'll take it. Thanks for tuning in again. By the way, whereas I normally sleep from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, I hit the sack last night at 7:30 and woke up at 6:30. I'm at that juncture in my marathon training block where it gets very difficult to balance that fine line between training and overtraining. Right now I'm placing emphasis on rest and recovery, sleep, stretching, foam rolling, and, course, pampering your legs.
Now when I say rest I don't mean inactivity. I will do a recovery walk later on. Still, today is mostly a rest day, and I can't tell you all the physiological and psychological benefits of resting while training. The goal is to achieve a higher level of fitness by alternating pushing yourself so that your body adapts to more stress and recovering sufficiently. Remember: The greater the intensity of training, the greater the need for planned recovery. The most important thing you can do in recovery is listen to your body. Your body will usually tell you what it needs, when it needs it.
So my body is resting today. That doesn't mean that my mind is doing the same. It's racing at about a million miles per hour as normal. I think it's going to be a productive writing day. I kind of like this balance between my racing goals and my writing goals. Some say that training for and completing a marathon is one of the toughest things you can do. Personally, I think writing a book is harder. But both challenge you to the core of your being to become the best you can be. And there's always more self-discipline to be learned and acquired through both running and writing. So it's a win win situation. I'm glad the Lord still allows me to do both!
Monday, December 21
7:02 PM It feels so amazingly good to have been able to get in my 20 mile long run today.
When I decided to get back into marathoning last August, I knew I would have to up the ante on my distance running. I actually feel like I could complete a marathon if one took place next week. I know I'm slow. But that doesn't mean I can't be a successful runner. My hugest, biggest, most gignormous goal for 2021? Stay healthy. This will involve attitude adjustments and balance, neither of which I'm necessarily good at. But we can always improve, right?
That's all I got for tonight. Gonna read a book and then crash. Whatever your goals are, shut up and move forward. And remember: Race against yourself only.
6:25 AM In my morning reading from Mark 7, Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders who insist that the people obey their petty rules.
"You ignore God's specific orders and substitute your own tradition," he says. Food, Jesus insists, can't harm your soul. You aren't harmed by what you eat but by what you think and say. It's the heart that pollutes. For food doesn't come in contact with your heart but only with your digestive system.
Then Mark adds an aside:
This is easy to overlook, isn't it? But remember, Mark's Gospel is not his Gospel at all. It's Peter's. Yes, the same Peter who needed a special encounter with a sheet to convince him that no food is unclean (Acts 10) and to learn that God's will is larger and more encompassing than dietary laws. The oral law of the Pharisees was largely a surfacy law. The New Covenant operates on a much deeper level. Jesus takes the focus away from rules and regulations and puts it firmly where it belongs: on relationships.
What American values have we all chased after thinking they were biblical values? Sound familiar? Haven't we built a culture on selected parts of the Bible? One example: Politicians who pose as "good Christians" to advance their agendas. But above demanding our own agendas, Jesus call us to follow him, to learn from him, and to imitate his love.
Church leaders, create authenticity. Make opportunities for people to challenge mindless traditions. We have God's word (like the book of Mark) to show us how to make progress. Then follow Jesus. Only him. The Mishna urges, "Cover yourself in the dust of your rabbi's feet." May we follow that closely behind him.
Sunday, December 20
4:54 PM Right now I'm multitasking -- watching the Pipeline Billabong Pro Surfing Contest from Hawaii, and reading Mark's Gospel. Just saw a huge monstrosity of a wave at the Pipe. Then I saw this monster of a sentence in Mark 5:25-28:
Rarely does Mark show such subordination. The English would read something like this:
Now that thar is some subordination of clauses. Seven feminine participles in a row. The only main clause is "A woman touched his garment." Pretty cool.
Back to the Pipeline. Gabe Medina just got barreled. Those Portuguese dudes are crushing it.
1:14 PM Been pouring over According to Mark lately. Mark 8 is the key turning point in that Gospel. That observation is not unique with me. All agree that the focus of Mark's Gospel is on the cross. It will climax in Jesus' pronouncement in chapter 10 that he did not come to be served but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). But it is in chapter 8 where Jesus first reveals to his follows that his Messiahship is not going to be a warrior kind of rule that would defeat the Romans and establish God's rule on earth. No, Jesus came to conquer much greater foes than Roman soldiers. He came to defeat sin and death itself. "The Son of Man must suffer," he said, "and be rejected and be killed and after three days be raised." Peter then rebuked Jesus because he couldn't understand how Jesus' death could be part of God's sovereign purpose and plan. So Jesus rebukes Peter and adds: "If you truly want to be my disciple, Peter, you have to deny yourself and take up your cross as I must take up mine, and you must keep on following me."
The cross is at the very heart of Jesus' Messiahship, and it is to be at the heart of our discipleship. That's the message of Mark's Gospel in a nutshell. It's the very essence of Jesus' teaching. Bonhoeffer puts it beautifully this way: "When God calls a man or a woman, he bids them die." There is a cross at the center of our Christian life. Moreover, it is only in denying ourselves, our self-centeredness, that we can discover ourselves. If you are determined to live a selfish life, you will lose yourself, says Jesus. But if you're willing to lose yourself, to give yourself away in the service of God and of others, then you will find yourself.
It might be that some of us need this reminder at Christmas time. Some of us are asking for a Christianity without a cross. But there is no Christianity without the cross. And what I need constantly to do is to read and reread Mark's (that is, Peter's) portrayal of Jesus' life, at the very heart of which is the cross. For both Christ and us, the very same principle operates: Self-denial is the only way to self-fulfillment. There will be no reign without pain, no crown without a cross, for suffering is the path to glory. Without Christ's suffering, and without ours, the salvation of humankind will not be accomplished.
Are you familiar with the name Calvin Stowe?
He was a professor of Greek at Dartmouth College. But he was best known for being the husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose Uncle Tom's Cabin became one of the most poignant denunciations of slavery ever written. Once, when his wife was touring England, he preached to a large crowd on Anti-Slavery Day. He rebuked his listeners for being hypocrites. You are proud, he told them, because although you abolished slavery years ago, 80 percent of the cotton picked in America is bought by you English. Slavery would die out, he said, if only you would boycott its cotton. He concluded his message by asking his audience a simple question: "Are you willing to sacrifice one penny of your profits to do away with slavery?" The crowd booed.
You've heard me say this a thousand times before, but I believe with all my heart that unless we in America divert the majority of our resources directly to the 10/40 window, selflessly partnering with local churches there and encouraging indigenous missionary movements, another year will come and go and nothing will have changed. My mind boggles. How could we possibly fail such a calling. The most unreached areas already have a host of missionaries recruited and trained for evangelism and church planting. They are ready to do this work intercultural, near-culturally, and cross-culturally. Yet the majority of work is yet to be done. This Christmas, I am determined to move forward as never before, believing the Lord will enable me to send out many more workers into the ripe harvest fields of Asia.
At this season of the year, might I encourage you to seek the Lord and see if he's asking you to help support one or more of these native missionaries. With as little as $30 per month you can begin to help support one of them, sending them to an unreached village that's waiting to hear the gospel -- the "Wonderful News" that Mark mentions in the opening verse of his Gospel. What better way to obey Jesus Christ's directive to evangelize all the world (Mark 16:15)?
Messiah, Son God,
Break me of the need to busy myself pursuing a life of ease and a sense of self-worth based on my accomplishments. Make me secure in who you are and who you have made me to be. Teach me what it means to truly follow you, to take up my cross, and to deny myself. I desire to be characterized by generosity. Give me the grace to see the needs of the lost billions and to share with them the many good gifts you've given me.
In your holy name, amen.
9:10 AM If you've been praying for my friend with Covid/pneumonia, I've got some good news. He's taken a definite turn for the better in the past 24 hours. I'm reminded of the words of Alan Redpath: "Much of our praying is just asking God to bless some folks that are ill, and to keep us plugging along. But prayer is not merely prattle; it is warfare." Thank you for joining me in fighting the good fight of prayer on behalf of my dear friend. The family is hopeful he can be home by Christmas. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
8:54 AM I continue to be very, very impressed with both of these books, ladies and gentlemen.
They are so on top of how verbs work in Greek and especially in Mark. Generally, here's what these scholars are saying:
I know I've talked about the following verses before, but here in Mark 5:11-13, the four verb forms marked in yellow are aorists, whereas the verb form marked in green is imperfect.
In his commentary, William Hendriksen 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 chocking to death in the sea, until all have drowned."
I still have the memory of standing on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, watching in my mind's eye, as our tour guide called it, the first "swine dive" in history. Jesus has invaded Gentile territory and has shown there's no place into which the kingdom of God does not extend. Healing, compassion, evangelism -- all rolled up into one story. Glory to the Lord!
Saturday, December 19
6:36 PM How to Make the New Testament Come Alive! is half way done. Praise God. I hope this book will be easy and glorious to read. Do you ever stop to meditate on just how wonderful it is that we have the Bible? I do. It seems as though my entire life has been an apprenticeship for this moment. As a teenager, I loved the Bible. Looking back, I think I read it all the time. I loved the feeling of listening to the very words of God as they rose up to meet me from the pages of my Good News Translation. When there was no reason to read my Bible, I read it anyway. How about you? Rediscovering the simple pleasure of Bible study as an adult is a strange, frustrating, wonderful, confusing, and ultimately immensely satisfying preoccupation. "Adult-onset" Bible readers are made, not born. Bible study, like life, is alternately easy and hard, good and bad, exciting and boring. Sometimes it's made up of long periods of dreadful sameness interrupted by moments of pure exhilaration. These moments are available to us every time we open our Bibles. In the end, being a Bible student is no more complicated than that. To be a Bible student, you simply have to study your Bible. What you will read in my book is just about everything I know about Bible study and just about everything I know about myself. It's every discovery I've made, everything I've learned, including the mistakes. There are no secrets. It's just you and God's word. But millions of Christians have gone before us. We can do this!
Tomorrow I get to write about the text of the New Testament. About why there are 2,000 significant variant readings in the New Testament. About the different approaches to resolving a textual problem. And about why this is relevant and important. If you feel a "but" rising up, believe me, I know what you're thinking. But I hope you'll consider my arguments. This stuff matters.
2:04 PM Yes, I stopped and got a cheeseburger at Dairy Dell today as a takeout. With extra onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Oh my, was it ever good. It was awesome and SO appropriate for someone who just ran 5K in frigid temps.
How many calories was the burger? I don't know and I don't care. My philosophy is: Eat when you get hungry. See how simple? Step number 2 is: Think about what you'd really like to eat in that moment. What would truly satisfy you. It could be a bowl of soup or a grilled cheese sandwich or a cheeseburger. Tonight I will cook Indian food because that's what I'm in the mood for. And throughout the day I'll drink lots of water. I don't think my diet is too bad. I eat quality (except for when I don't). Listen to your body; this is the best way to know what it needs nutrition-wise. Trust your body to be honest with you. Yes, it might crave something sweet and fatty from time to time, but eventually it will want something healthy.
On the drive home I ran across a couple of Phoenician deities in our neighborhood.
I believe they're called "Baals." You will never see these unless you take the side roads. Since we're on the topic of dumb country jokes ....
Okay, back to writing.
8:55 AM Yes, writing makes you hungry.
Friday, December 18
7:22 PM Okay, so I've been writing for 5 hours now. I'm tired. It's not that I don't know what I want to say. It's trying to put it in language everyone can understand. My goals are to (1) use everyday English wherever possible, (2) keep my sentence length down to an average of 15 words, (3) imagine I am talking (not writing) to my reader, (4) use short words, and (5) be concise. In my universe, the written word is a keystone of learning. Writing in plain language doesn't mean you have to overly simplify the concepts you're presenting. Not at all. It means presenting the concepts in a clear and straightforward way. Sentences should only include necessary information. Long sentences blur their main point. A book should have an easy flow to it. Let's see -- who to emulate in this regard? Archibald Hunter. Tom Wright. Eugene Peterson. Helen McInnis. George Eliot. George Orwell. Mark Twain. Twain's style is always conversational. He's the smart guy who's always making fun of himself. "Never use 'very.'" "When in doubt, strike the adjective out." And on and on it goes. There's a good reason Twain's been called "the father of American literature." I mean, did you ever read his "Letters from Hawaii," which he wrote when he was a complete unknown?
He called my home state "the loveliest stream of islands that lies anchored in any ocean." Yes, that is an actual sentence. Twain lived in Hawaii for 6 months. I lived their for 19 years. But I think both of us could say "in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago." Of my beloved Diamond Head he wrote, "How strong the rugged outlines of the dead volcano stand out against the clear sky!" Of Maui he wrote, "I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five." Watching the sunrise atop Haleakala (house of the sun) he explained, "It was the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed."
Who writes prose like that today? Not me. But if Twain could succeed as a newspaperman, I can work my tail off to do the same as a teacher. Come on, scholars, let's get with the program. Simple language decreases a student's cognitive load. It improves information retention. And yet we persist in jargon and gobbledygook. Oh well.
I'm done writing for the night. Time to read what someone else has labored over. Before I go, let me see if I can find a paragraph I wrote today to share with you. Okay, here's one. Good night!
12:20 PM Big news, outdoor peeps! I finally got back on my mountain bike after about an 8 month hiatus.
I had been doing all my cycling on my fancy and super light-weight road bike but decided to finally get the mountain rider overhauled and up and running again. I tell you, it was so different riding this clunker of a bike -- so heavy and so hard to pedal when you're used to flying along. Other than that, today I finally got around to working on chapter 4 of my book and I just finished the section on genre. But I am antsy for another big outdoorsy thing. I think I might try to run 20 miles this weekend. The trails have never looked more beautiful, cold but touched with the slanting sunlight you get in the northern hemisphere.
Okay. Just cooked me some Chinese stir fry. Time to scarf it down and then get back to writing. Them juices is flowin'.
8:12 AM "Here begins the wonderful news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God."
This one sentence alone from The Living Bible fully justifies the value of this version of the Bible. Talk about nailing it.
Also, here's a shout out to Rod Decker, whose handbook is a must read for anybody studying Mark.
Rod notes both the external and internal evidence in favor of the reading "the Son of God" in Mark 1:1 and puts to rest, once and forever, the notion that these words should be printed within brackets in our Greek New Testaments. Way to go Rod!
Now, in my Greek New Testament, Mark 1:1-8 is titled "The Preaching of John the Baptist." Good, but bland. The question here is, what is the discourse function of this paragraph in the book? Well, in my humble opinion, Mark is setting up a deliberate contrast between the Messiah and his messenger. As I said on this blog a couple of days ago, Jesus isn't just another prophet in a long line of prophets. He is the fulfillment of all prophecy, the very first word out of his mouth being "Fulfilled!" Think of the ministry of John the Baptizer and that of Jesus as being the landing on a stairway.
John's ministry and that of Jesus overlap for a period of time. But whereas John brings to a close the Old Testament prophecies, Jesus' ministry inaugurates the ministry of the New Testament. So how can we improve upon the section title here? Here are some options:
The idea is: PREPARATION (John) ... FULFILLMENT (Jesus)! I'd say this. Question everything about your translations, even their paragraph titles. Some are helpful, others not so much.
Well, are you ready for some in-depth Bible study in the New Year? Ask the Lord to journey with you as you begin the ultimate road trip. Offer him now your commitment to start moving forward as never before. This begins with you.
Thursday, December 17
5:08 PM Saw this gourd on my run today and thought immediately of Jonah.
The prophet is throwing a pity party, all because of his prejudice. To Jonah, judgment withdrawn seemed very wrong and so he became angry. Nineveh deserved destruction, not salvation. The equivalent today might be ISIS. And they get off scot free? God's a softy. Weak. Too gracious. Note to self: Everyone and everything in the book of Jonah is quick to obey God -- the storm, the sailors, the great fish, the Ninevites, the gourd, the worm -- except for the man of God. Jonah is more concerned about a plant than about people. The lesson God drove home to me on my run?
God's heartbeat challenged my prejudices today. The God of the Old Testament is a global redeemer. The God of the New Testament is the same. God so loved the world -- not just Israel, but the foreigner, the wicked. How far I go is not the litmus test of a global Christian. Do I love as God loves?
If your local church has 150 in attendance, then your local church sends out 150 missionaries every Sunday. The only question is, do we go with God's heartbeat?
2:15 PM Just back from running errands and a 5 mile run at the trail. I took the back roads today.
Time to slow down, Dave, and smell the sweet gums. As I enter the final two weeks of 2020, it's my opportunity to reflect back on the year -- to celebrate the victories, embrace the failures, appreciate the new friends I've made, and remember my growth as a person, a Christian, a runner, a dad, a teacher. I hope young men will read this blog because it might help them better understand the passages they will experience when they get into their fifties and sixties. If you know these passages are coming you might be less resistant to change and more open to the benefits that aging can bring. My life has moved from competing to connecting. I no longer try to define myself by being the breadwinner or decision maker or through my physical attributes and strength. I'm more interested in real relationships, in nurturing friendships, in spiritual growth and godly attributes. I want and need friends to hold me accountable and to encourage me to live the life of the Spirit, to model servanthood, and to stay active in God's service. I have begun to pray Scripture, like Psalm 33. I often engage in sentence prayers -- one or two sentences at a time. I delve deeply and regularly into the Bible, both what it meant then and what it means today. It's a narrow road we travel, but the Bible is a safe guide. According to Heb. 12:1-2, Jesus makes the journey possible. He designed the race course and sets the example of how we can finish it. It's like today's run. Nowadays I can easily run 5 or 10 or even 15 miles without stopping. You simply find your rhythm, hit your groove, and everything else falls into place. So it is with the Christian life. It is found while moving. You get to know yourself, who you are, who God made you to be. I teach people how to fall in love with God and his word. This is my little niche in life. It's who I am.
My friend, God's a smart one. He's got a plan just for you too. Don't think he's forgotten about you. The Holy Spirit has blessed you with something unique. Something invaluable. Don't rest until you find it. Than be prepared to let it go. At some point, God will ask for it back. In the meantime, we are merely servants, plain and simple.
9:14 AM Excellent essay here by Jacob Cerone on Jonah 1:4c and its literary artistry. In Jacob's words, "Careful attention to the details pays rich dividends." Agreed! By the way, in our LXX class, one of our two required textbooks is Jacob's Into the Deep.
It's basically a comparison between the Hebrew and Greek texts of Jonah. Jacob also delves into discourse analysis in a big way. Kudos, Jacob!
8:54 AM Care to give it a try?
8:34 AM Just finished writing the schedule for our LXX class.
Even if you're not taking the class for credit, you might consider auditing it. It will be great fun. My co-teacher is Chip Hardy (Ph.D. University of Chicago).
By the way, you'll love this YouTube!
7:20 AM As I implied yesterday, I am so ready for another road trip. Of the mission trip kind. In 2020 I had to cancel trips to Asia (to teach), Hawaii (to start a Greek class), and Princeton University (for a lecture). Wanderlust might be my middle name. Was this not so in the first century as well? Harnack (The Mission and Expansion of Christianity, p. 13) speaks of "the ubiquitous merchant and soldier -- one may add, the ubiquitous professor." Travel was commonplace. And why not? The Romans had built 52,000 miles of roads whose safety was practically guaranteed (though, yes, there were still robbers and bandits). The situation is the same today. Becky's parents took 6 weeks to travel to Ethiopia by freighter. I can fly from Dulles to Addis or from Detroit to Beijing in a matter of hours. Never before has travel been safer or easier -- until Covid hit. Cultural exchange goes on even when it's unnoticed. Here I am lecturing to a group of students in the Linguistics Department at the University of Yerevan in Armenia. My topic was the morpho-syntax of Greek as applied to John 1:1. My audience were all not-yet Christians.
Then there's the revolution in mass communication. A year or so ago someone asked me why I hadn't been writing as much as I had in the past. He meant books and journal articles. I'm actually writing more than ever. It's just that the delivery vehicle has changed. I can write a book and maybe 3,000 people will read it in a year. I can publish a blog post and that number will read it in a day.
Jesus put no restrictions on the Great Commission. "Having gone on your way therefore, teach all the nations, making them your pupils" (Matt. 28:19a, Wuest). The Good News is to be carried to every nation (there are currently 195 of them) and class of people. A church with a New Testament dynamic is one that is going places. The New Testament writings clearly show that the early church saw itself as a charismatic (lower case "C") community and not an organization or institution. Within this community, the Holy Spirit produced the varied, multi-colored charismata. Each Christian saw him or herself as a change agent of God's plan for a new humanity. As such, the church is cross-culturally valid and can be implanted and grown in any human culture. This is because the church is an organism that transcends any particular cultural form. The Antiochian pattern of Acts 13:1-4 is one that will continue to be repeated until Christ returns. By "pattern" I mean that the church itself is a missionary structure. Where the church is, there are missionaries. And where missionaries are, there the church is. We can never go to another culture and leave the church behind. What we can (and must) leave behind are the parachurch forms that are peculiar to our own culture. The American standards we wrap ourselves in are stripped away.
Go on and try it. Transform your Jerusalem. Then tackle the ends of the earth. Once Covid is over, I ask myself, "Will I become a full-circle believer again?" Even now I am asking God for opportunities to serve him abroad once this scourge is behind us. I am spending time praying about my own journey of discipleship. I am asking boldly for the power of the Holy Spirit to enrich my gifts for use and empower me to carry on Jesus' mission. Our King has made it possible.
My friend, ask God today to prepare you for a paradigm shift in your life in 2021. This journey requires sacrifice. Ask God to make you willing to accept that. The American Way of Life is perishable. God's kingdom is forever.
Wednesday, December 16
9:25 PM I'm not really sure how to translate the title of this book I'm reading tonight.
"Migratory Birds Turn Back"? No, that's too scientific. How about, "Wanderers Return Home." That's better. You see, the book's about a Swiss family with 10 kids, 6 of whom were adopted in Ethiopia, where the family lives until they return to Switzerland years later. My favorite chapters thus far are:
Ah, "Zu Hause." I wonder if I'll ever feel "at home." I'm a fellow wanderer, pure and simple. I could probably live anywhere, including Ethiopia (17 trips there, mind you).
Wasn't it just yesterday that Becky and I were living off of injera and wat? Or maybe not. Maybe it was indeed years ago.
The times, they are a-changin', and you just have to get used to that. I will never forget Ethiopia. There's more beauty there than you can ever imagine. It's impossible not to feel the weight of history as you visit the ruins of Gondar or the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Harsh battles were waged over these places. But what I try to understand is this: God is in the moves of our lives. All of them. The places themselves are indifferent. Hawaii never knew I left her for California. La Mirada never realized I had gone to North Carolina. The mountains I climb don't care about me. The rivers are indifferent. People come and they go. So anyway, I like this story about a bunch of wanderers from the Swiss countryside who end up back there after sojourning in Africa. There's something about being "home" that you just can't get anywhere else. It's both a feeling and a truth.
Can world travel change your life? I think so. But still, there's no place like "zu Hause" -- home.
4:16 PM Thank you, Mr. FedEx man.
10:28 AM FYI: The course objectives for my Zoom Greek 4 course in Israel starting in February.
As you can see, we're going through Philippians along with my books on exegesis, linguistics, and textual criticism. Today I'm working on the course schedule. What an honor and joy to be teaching this class.
8:22 AM Doing another deep dive in Mark 1 this morning, ladies and gentlemen. I simply can't enough of God's word.
Today my question is: What does the use of the present tense in the imperatives of verse 15 indicate?
Very helpful here is a book you may not be aware of but it's one of the best Greek grammars out there.
Thankfully Goetchius was around when I was in college and seminary. I loved his linguistic approach. I heartily recommend reading it. The bottom line is that verbal aspect is vitally important, but it is more nuanced than we often make it out to be.
Right now it's icing outside so it will be an indoorsy kind of day for sure. Hope to knock out chapter 5 today, if I can stay focused. I just need to look at winter differently, not as though it's stealing summer from me. There's more time to sit beside the fireplace and read, to bake muffins, to write. Summer (and the beach) will always be my first love, but winter -- I'm giving it another chance.
Tuesday, December 15
6:58 PM And the winner in our book giveaway is ....
Shannon in Indianapolis!
Thanks to all who entered our drawing. If you didn't win this time, don't worry. We'll have another giveaway soon.
6:10 PM Today, though it was cold, the sun just wouldn't go away. It rolled lazily across the sky, whispering, "Come out and play." Below me, the earth took on the form of crushed gravel as I ran.
My goal was 12 miles.
No, my goal was to use my run as an excuse. An excuse to pray for my friend whose lungs are going through the ringer in an ICU in Pennsylvania. I figured if he can push his lungs to their max, I can push mine too on his behalf. Call it a prayer run if you like, but that's what I did for 3 hours -- I prayed for my friend to be healed, for his lungs to start working on their own perfectly again. Afterwards I was greeted in Farmville by a reminder of Christmas.
It's a reminder that "God is with us" in the person of the Comforter, the Power for all things, the One who inspired the words of Col. 3:2-3: "Let heaven fill your thoughts; don't spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God." This old world is passing away. So are we. The only things that matter are things that pertain to his kingdom. It's God working within us that makes the difference. And so I asked the Father to work in and through my friend, in sickness or (my preference!) in health, but to do far more for him than he would ever dare to ask or dream of, infinitely beyond his highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. Do this, Lord, because his heart is to serve you and your kingdom work in the world. As the sun shone down on me today, may the Son shine on him in his hospital bed. Because right now, all I can do is pray. And run.
8:54 AM Know what? I have a hankering to do some mountain climbing again. I wish I knew why the mountains call to me more than most people I know. Why I will drive 5 or 6 hours for a 2 hour climb. Why a day off feels wasted unless I'm active. Why it feels like the clock is ticking down the time so rapidly. I know there are people out there who are just the same way because I've met them on blogs. What fills you up is just getting out in the wilderness. The mountains are too far away for a casual outing so I have to plan ahead. And the cold weather is starting. We're expecting snow in much of Virginia tomorrow, possibly even where I live. It's been a very wet winter so far. However, I feel blessed that I am well enough to exercise. There are so many people I know who are desperately in need of a jog or a walk. Maybe it's because I was raised in a fit community (Hawaii is an outdoorsy place), but it's shocking to see what the average American looks like today. I just wish people knew how good it feels to be active. My time off from work is so precious to me, and I spend so many hours in front of a computer screen, that I simply can't stay indoors for very long. I would hate to start living otherwise. I've been through enough (and so have you) to never adopt a Pollyanna view of life. We all face our own unique struggles. But one thing we have in common is the need for balance in our lives. Years ago, when I was a different person, I thought the only thing that mattered was teaching and writing. Then I rediscovered creation. It's a place to get down to essential thoughts, spend some time alone with God, wrestle with your demons, sing loudly and badly, and eat whatever you like. Friend, don't let your work get in the way of this. Soon my "free time" will be a thing of the past -- J-term Greek, then seven classes this coming semester. Until then, I'm eager to spend time with my wonderful Creator in his wonderful creation. How much is enough? I really don't know the answer. As I trail race, I watch the young people and hope they will still be active when they get to be my age, countless, impossible decades from now. And that's just how I feel about this winter, guys. Someone asked me recently, "You sure do travel a lot. Where all have you been?" I thought for a moment. Then it came to me: "Everywhere." Everywhere that matters. I hope you get there too, my friend.
8:02 AM Don't forget about our book giveaway (see yesterday's blog). I'll do the drawing tonight at 6:00 pm. Thanks to all who've already put their name in the hat. And yet there is room!
7:40 AM My Bible reading this morning was in Haggai and Zechariah. Is the Messiah there? How about Haggai's "The Desire of All Nations shall come" (2:7)? Or Zechariah's "my servant the Branch" (3:8), "the Foundation Stone" (3:9), "King and Priest" (6:13), "The Righteous One, the Victor ... riding on a donkey's colt" (9:7), or "my Shepherd" (13:7)? If you will read the Minor Prophets I believe you will receive one of the greatest blessings of your life. May we all search to be as sensitive to Christ in the Old Testament as we are when we come to the New. Beloved, isn't it wonderful to know that God knows all about us, but in spite of it all was willing to send the Desire of the Nations to forgive us and wash as white as snow! Praise God that he makes these simple little truths so easy to find that even a little child can find them because of their simple trust. In both Haggai and Zechariah the ruling King at the time was Darius, whom God has raised up "for such a time as this." I have stood before the tomb of Darius in Persia.
I have also stood before the empty tomb of King Jesus in Jerusalem -- our risen, ruling, returning Lord of Glory. O, come let us adore him! How could we help but worship and adore him when he loved us and gave himself for us? Praise you, Jesus. We thank you for these wonderful promises scattered throughout your word. Lord, sometimes I think your promises are more than I can stand!
Monday, December 14
5:32 PM Beautiful evening for feeding the animals. But wet!
Earlier I had the joy of guest teaching a Greek class in Israel for an hour and a half via Zoom. Our subject? The importance and significance of verbal aspect and Aktionsart.
The rest of the day I spent editing the four chapters I've already written in my book. Here are the rules I'm following:
1) Keep your sentences short. The idea is to make three or four sentences out of my long 19th century interminable coal carrying trains that go nowhere fast and keep everyone bored to death because of their complex semotaxis.
2) Make sure every opening paragraph is no longer than 3-4 sentences.
3) Ruthlessly prune adverbs and adjectives (except for the adverb "ruthlessly," of course).
4) Use positive rather than negative language. Don't say "not bad" when you mean "good."
5) Don't forget to break every one of these rules when you must. Saying "The movie was not bad" has a subtly different meaning than "The movie was good." To take a New Testament example, in Rom. 12:9, I prefer the negative "without hypocrisy" to "sincere."
6) Think about how you'll blog about the joy and pain of writing later.
I usually go through 4-5 drafts of a chapter before I'm happy with it. Writers know the best writing begins to appear about the fourth time around. Always keep your imagined reader before you.
Okay. 'Nuff of that.
Really antsy to get outdoors for a run tomorrow. Remember how as a kid you loved running? Just because you're over 30 and so mature doesn't mean you have to stop having fun.
5:55 AM On deck this week:
1. Zoom Greek class in Israel.
2. Calculate final grades for the semester.
3. Complete chapter 5 ("Getting the Big Picture") of my book How to Make the New Testament Come Alive! The sections in this chapter are:
4. Begin working on my 2020 taxes.
5. Continue my fresh translation of According to Mark.
6. Begin writing down my goals for 2021. By the way, do you know what the number 1 goal is for most people when they make New Year's Resolutions? Lose weight. Runners-up include:
Here are a few of mine:
Oh, how ya doing with your holiday shopping? Well, today, in the spirit of the season, I'm hosting a book giveaway. Make it a stocking stuffer if you like. The giveaway starts today and ends tomorrow night at 6:00. I'm giving away a copy of my latest book, Linguistics and New Testament Greek.
All you have to do is tell me why you want a copy (you enjoy being bored, you need a new bookend for your shelf, your spouse is a nerd, etc.). I will do the drawing tomorrow night. You can write me at email@example.com. Be sure to include your snail mail address in your email.
On a more serious note, I have a very good friend in ICU with Covid-related pneumonia. The The doctors say that the next two days will be critical for him. I'd appreciate it if you'd whisper a prayer on his behalf when you read this. So many sad stories in 2020. How I long for Christ the King to come again in glory. Meanwhile, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).
Sunday, December 13
6:42 PM My Ph.D. student Noah Kelley received his diploma today at his home church in Wake Forest. His wife Lois was so kind to send me this picture. Congratulations to both of you!
1:38 PM 7.89 miles today. Easy-paced walk. It was a gorgeous morning.
Listened to two wonderful sermons and one wonderful Christmas musical program. Can anything top the songs of the season? Remember: Be present in this life. Soak up every minute of time spent with people you love. You don't know what's around the corner. The time is now.
6:45 AM This morning I decided to make Rom. 12:9-21 my theme passage for the New Year. The theme here is, if I can make up a word, "Jesus-ness." Jesus' love was never hypocritical. He sincerely hated what is evil. He not only held on to what is good but went everywhere doing it. He loved others warmly as brothers and sisters do. He worked hard and was never lazy (though he did take time for rest -- plus, just walking between villages must have been restorative). He served the Lord with a heart full of devotion. He let hope keep him joyful, was patient in all his troubles, prayed at all times. He shared what he had with those in need. He couldn't open his home to others because he didn't have an earthly home, but he shared Heaven with all of us. He asked God to bless his enemies, not curse them. He was happy with those who were happy and he wept with those who wept. He was never proud but accepted humble duties. When others wronged him, he never repaid evil with evil. He did everything in his power to live at peace with all. He never took revenge but let God's anger take care of it. He did not let evil defeat him; instead, he conquered evil with good. He taught us that we are to leave all vengeance with God, for that is his prerogative, not ours. Our responsibility it to seek peace, wash the feet of our enemies, and overcome evil with good.
The theme of Romans 12-16 is living in light of the gospel. It's one thing to believe the gospel. It's another thing to live it. Paul the intellectual (Romans 1-11) now becomes Paul the pastor (Romans 12-16). The Christian life does not end at the beginning. Every day after we decide to follow Jesus we must commit our lives to him anew. Without doubt, love is the greatest characteristic of Rom. 12:9-21. Then follow:
It's a pretty comprehensive picture of what genuine Christian love is. I think we'd all be a lot happier if we loved one another like this.
Thank you, Jesus. It's like I was kidnapped and put on the wrong road, the road to hell, then you came and paid the ransom just to put me on the road to heaven. Hallelujah! Thank you, Father, for looking to and fro and seeing me and, in spite of seeing what I was, personally inviting me to be your child. I love you! Thank you, Spirit, for giving my power to live the Christian life and to be a witness for Christ. And thank you, God, for what you're doing in the life of every person who reads this blog. When we give you our first love, you give back far more than we could ever give you.
Saturday, December 12
5:52 PM Great day at the 2020 Lake Anna 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon. As you know, I opted to do the 10K because I was coming off a half last weekend. Question for ya. Did you know that the human body produces 2 million red blood cells every second? That's right, every second. Or that we humans have 30 trillion red blood cells in our bodies at any given time? Or that 84 percent of the cells in our body are red blood cells? Or that athletes generally have an increased total mass of red blood cells? As you know, red blood cells transport the oxygen in our bodies. When you exercise, the growth of new blood vessels improves blood flow, enhances oxygen and nutrient deliveries, and impacts the metabolic system's ability to "take out the garbage" or process waste products in your body. I imagined all these processes happening as I ran those 6.2 miles today. After all, I have been training long miles at a low heart rate in order to build my aerobic capacity. Would it pay off today? Here's what I'm discovering. I'm consistently racing faster with less effort. I normally train at about 4 miles per hour (that's a 15 minute pace). At today's event I averaged 5.4 miles per hour (that's about an 11 minute pace) on a really hilly and root-strewn course. Not only that, but when I finished the race I felt like I could run it all over again. That is highly satisfying. The moral of the story is: Don't think you're wasting your time going out slow on your training runs. You've heard it a million times before. Running too hard and too fast is stressful. Stress takes a huge toll on the body and can result in a myriad of symptoms like chest pain and headaches. So if your activities are causing burnout, you're likely doing too much too soon.
At any rate, I was ready to rumble when I left the house at 6:30 for a three hour drive to parts north. It was great running weather and the venue was gorgeous.
The race was extremely well organized and the trails well marked at every turn.
Thankfully it wasn't cold, as in COLD cold. I get grumpy and ornery when I'm cold. I had never run this trail before so I had no idea what to expect, but there's a first time for everything. There were, as expected, roots galore.
I guess what I loved most about the race was the sheer act of running and watching your body perform at its highest level. I kept saying to myself over and over again, "Lord, thank you so much for letting me do this. I love it. I can't believe I get to do this."
I keep my mask on when running on a single track since you're likely to encounter other runners passing in either direction.
I started out at the back of the pack, going out slowly (my MO at every race).
But then I ended up picking off runners in miles 5 and 6 who had likely gone out a bit too fast. Here's the third or fourth runner I passed.
I finished in a respectable time for an aging behemoth, and I managed to keep my heart rate within a reasonable zone.
There weren't really any moments when I didn't feel super good.
In fact, I found myself speeding up during the second half of the race without even trying. I see that my fastest miles were miles 5 and 6. Maybe I'm learning how to pace myself after all!
Overall, I feel fit and strong, thank you Jesus. Those months of not running last summer are behind me and seem like just a blip on the radar screen. I don't say this to brag but to give you hope. The body has a remarkable God-given ability to heal itself given enough time. No matter what you're facing in life right now, you will heal. You will feel strong again. It won't happen overnight and it will be frustrating as all get out, but it will happen. Oh, it may not happen exactly like you want it to happen, but be kind to yourself and patient and watch God work. Trust me on this one.
So there you have it. Another fun day out on the course. Meanwhile, time to rest. If you are at all considering doing a trail run (even a 5K), do it. The energy, the views, the people -- it was all a dream today. Sometimes you need days like this just to remind you why you love the sport.
5:56 AM Got very little sleep last light. Typical before a race. Why would anybody drive 3 hours there and back for a silly run? Sometimes I believe my family thinks I'm crazy. Even Sheba is looking at me funny this morning. Hmm, see if she gets a tummy rub tonight. Yet even though they look at me sideways sometimes, I know one thing. They love me. They love me enough to worry about me. To care. To wish me luck. To respond with an emoji when I send them "yet another" post-race picture. This is what matters in life. Having people in your life that care about you and that you care about. I make sure that I tell my designated "child" where I'm going and what I'm doing. I usually text everyone when I'm done. In the meantime, I try not to worry about them. I'm reminded of the words of Winston Churchill: "When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of an old man who said that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened."
Have fun today whether or not you're racing. And remember to whisper a "thank you" to the Lord for giving you people who care.
Friday, December 11
8:02 PM As we come to the end of another day, we're also coming to the end of another semester, my penultimate as a fulltime professor. Tonight I'm taking the opportunity to reflect on this day, and the prevailing thought and feeling that I'm going through is just one of gratitude. I think of all the people that helped me get to this point, from my awesome teachers in college and seminary, to my wife of 37 years, to my kids and grandkids, to my professors in Basel, to other people I met along the way at Biola and Basel and Wake Forest. It makes me overcome with emotion and thankfulness. You know, it wasn't the ideal career finish that I was looking for, but in many other ways my career has far exceeded my expectations and helped to crystallize the important things in life. It's not some arbitrary publishing goal or a plaque on a wall somewhere. It's the human relationships and the good in people. That's what I'm focused on tonight, and that has made my fall 2020 semester one I'll never forget. Crossing home plate today, feeling as joyful and satisfied as I do now, is an emotion I wish I could bottle up and experience over and over again. In a very imperfect year, fall 2020 was just the perfect finish. This was an amazing semester, and many of you were a big part of that. As with my running, in life I'm just a back-of-the-pack competitor struggling to overcome adversity time and again, inspired by watching others pushing though and never giving up. To all of you who inspire me, keep staying positive and living in the moment. I know I will remember your determination and grit when I need to dig deep.
Thanks for allowing me to share my journey, on bright and cloudy days, with all of you.
4:04 PM Tomorrow's race supports one of my favorite charities. The Semper Fi Fund provides urgently needed resources and support for combat wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured Armed Forces members. It was organized by a group of dedicated military spouses at Camp Pendleton in 2003 as a way to welcome home the first wave of wounded service members returning from Iraq.
This year their goal is to raise $10 million by December 31. So far they've raised a whopping $6 million. Tomorrow I'll be doing what I can to help them reach their goal. A wonderful race for a wonderful cause. Care to join us? If you live near Richmond/Fredericksburg, Lake Anna is close by. Here's the race link.
7:42 AM Super stoked about tomorrow's trail run, so der Herr will!
Weather promises to be perfect. Today it's back to grading and working on farm projects. Never seem to get caught up!
6:58 AM Doing another deep dive in According to Mark this morning. Chapter 1. So rich. Do you know what the very first words of Jesus were after he began his public ministry? It's found right here in Mark 1:15.
The Good News Translation says, "The right time has come!" The ESV reads, "The time is fulfilled." Literally, Mark writes, "Fulfilled is the time." Imagine that! The very first word out of the mouth of the Messiah is "fulfilled" (peplērōtai). Then Jesus adds, "The kingdom of God has come near!" This is what Mark calls the "gospel" in verse 14 -- the "Good News from God." So these words of Jesus are of the greatest possible importance. That's why we will camp out on them on the first day of my Greek 4 class in the spring semester. The whole Gospel of Mark can be summarized in two actions of Jesus: He announces the kingdom of God, and then he summons people to enter it. Announcement and summons. "The kingdom of God is among you," he said later. "What will you do with him?" The time long promised and foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament had at long last arrived. Jesus personally and publicly ushers in the kingdom of God. He wasn't just another prophet in a long line of prophets. No, he was the fulfillment of all prophecy. "Fulfilled" is his very first word! The prophets lived in the age of anticipation. "But you," said Jesus, "are living in the age of fulfillment."
The kingdom, not the church, is the central theme in the teaching of Jesus. No, not a territorial kingdom like the United Kingdom or the Kingdom of Nepal.
The kingdom of God can't be located on a map of the world. It is not a territorial concept but a spiritual concept. The kingdom of God is the rule of God through Christ the King in the hearts and lives of his followers. This kingdom brings with it total blessing and shalom -- and total demand. We must repent and believe the Good News. We must submit to Christ's rule and accept his values and the lifestyle of the kingdom (aka, the Christian counter-culture). This is what I have called the "Jesus Paradigm" elsewhere in my book by that title. His kingdom is spread not by soldiers but by witnesses (Acts 1:8) who go into all the world (Mark 16:15) and make disciples from among every nation on earth (Matt. 28:19-20). Our part is to repent (i.e., to change our minds about the Good News, to change our allegiance, to change the entire direction of our lives) and then believe that the kingdom has come with Jesus, that it has been inaugurated even though it has yet been consummated. To receive the kingdom is to receive Christ and submit to him as King.
This means that all work, not just church work, has the potential to be kingdom work. God sees all of us as equally important and necessary to his kingdom building. Arthur Holmes of Wheaton College, in his book All Truth Is God's Truth, writes, "If the sacred-secular distinction fades and we grant that all truth is ultimately God's truth, then intellectual work can be God's work as much as preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, or healing the sick. It too is a sacred task" (p. 27).
Part of my own journey has been to discover that all that I do, whether farming or teaching or evangelizing a tribe in Ethiopia or washing the dishes can be kingdom work because I do it in obedience to what the King is asking me to do. (Brother Lawrence's calling was washing dishes and cooking meals.) I'll confess to you that I'm often too quick to dismiss feeding the donkeys as "kingdom" work. It's easier to say, "That's what I do at the seminary, not at Rosewood Farm." I think it's high time I started to lean into the kingdom of God a little more.
Few things will reorient your life like becoming a kingdom Christian, recognizing Jesus' kingship in all aspects of what you do. The kingdom of God is nothing other than the disciples of Jesus in the world as they embody his values and goals in every area of their lives. This is possible because the Christian life is life in the Spirit. Without Christ's Spirit it would be both inconceivable and impossible.
Our Jesus once walked among us in his flesh with power and great authority as King. May he do so again in our own day.
P.S. Here's the Hebrew of Mark 1:14-15 if you'd like to compare it with the Greek. We'll spend a lot of time in the Hebrew in our Greek 4 class.
Thursday, December 10
5:22 PM Hey friends. Spent the day on campus grading Greek exams. Then I did 3 miles at the track here in town. Now I'm cooking Chinese stir fry for supper since I am one hungry boy. While at the track this afternoon I listened to one of Chuck Swindoll's best messages ever. It was on Abraham's offering of Isaac -- how he needed to yield, to let go, even of his most precious possession.
Chuck gave 4 applications of the text to our modern-day lives. He mentioned the need to surrender our (1) possessions, (2) dreams and goals, (3) relationships, and yes -- ouch! -- (4) our vocation, our career, our occupation, our calling. "Sometimes it was a career that was very fulfilling, that was unique. You were in demand. Now life passes you by. It's hard to go on without that career to claim." Then he said this:
Finally, he concluded:
I tell you, that was the Lord speaking directly into my life. Directly. I am the one who doesn't easily yield to the will of God. By golly, I am a teacher. That's my life. That's my career. I've got thick tread left on these teaching tires of mine. Me retire? Are you kidding? But the Lord said through Chuck, "Give it up, Dave." That's plain enough, isn't it? "Dave, the battle is won. You can put your sword back where it belongs. Trust me. I am good. I will always do what is best for you. I am all-knowing. I know what's going on even if you don't. I am almighty. Nothing happens to you that I haven't ordained or permitted."
Dear friend, I pray for you. I pray you find your vocation and calling and the joy God meant for it to be in your life. Oh, may your hands find the work they were meant to do. But remember, one day he will call you into a place of obscurity, but even there you will find God in all the days of your life. I pray that he would open our eyes and ears to see and hear what he is asking up to give up today, remembering that what we release is often the very thing he replaces with something even more valuable.
P.S. You know, when I went to the track today I was planning on watching a YouTube video but it wasn't going to be a message by Chuck Swindoll. When YouTube opened, however, a link was placed before my eyes, and it was this very sermon. How many times does the Lord do that for us -- leads us to the exact message we need that moment, that day, that week? No, that wasn't a coincidence. I finished listening to Chuck's message with my hands open and a prayer in my throat, a fire in my bones, and an insatiable appetite to be transformed even more into the image of this wonderful Savior we call Jesus.
Enjoy your evening,
7:32 AM Today I was in John 15 in my morning Bible reading. On Tuesday I saw that I needed to be "in Christ" to enjoy stability, harmony, peace, and contentment (Phil. 4). Today Jesus is reminding me to live in him as a branch lives in the vine. He lops off every branch that doesn't produce, and he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops. How often did Becky do this with our fruit trees! A branch simply can't bear any fruit when severed from the vine. But Jesus says, "Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can't do thing."
"In Christ." This doesn't mean "inside Christ." The picture is not of a person living in a house or a car parked in a garage. It's the picture of union with Christ, like a branch in a vine. It's a goal that's unattainable in its entirety and perfection, but that's no excuse for complacency on my part. To know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering -- this should keep me occupied until he comes. It is not a pipe dream, a tantalizing will-o-the-wisp fantasy. I can actually know him better every day, I can experience increasingly his power, and I can enter more fully into his sufferings. It is a satisfying pursuit, though I will never reach it perfectly down here.
Fellow grapes, let's beware of any deals with the devil to make our mark in this world by a shortcut. The way is only by the cross and through abiding in Christ.
Wednesday, December 9
3:04 PM Nice to see Nate and Jess today, plus Nolan, Bradford, Graham, Peyton, and Chesley. Love you all dearly!
Earlier I got in a 6 mile run while training for a 10K (6.1 mile) trail run this Saturday at Lake Anna.
It's soooo peaceful and quiet on this trail.
I love how its course takes you along the Dan River.
What do I while running?
Pray. Think. Listen to sermons. Or to rock music. Today I mostly meditated on the things I read yesterday in Brother Lawrence's book. Right now I'm going to take a power nap and then start on chapter 5 of my book. And tomorrow? Back to campus to finish my grading for the semester.
If you don't trail run you should. No cars, no noise except for the wind through the trees and the occasional bird chirping. I am so spoiled to have so many biking and running trails within a 2-3 hour radius of the farm. I love my simple/complicated life. I love coming home and finding family here. I love rewarding myself after a long run with a good home cooked meal (tonight: sirloin steak with baked potato). I know, I know. Broken record. But I really do love everything about my life right now. It's far from perfect, but it's where I need to be right now.
8:40 AM I loved Becky's expression "Cycle of completion." It was a chance for her to cross something off her to-do list. I love to do that too. Chapter 4? Check! Time to work on chapter 5.
Does anyone else have this problem of having to pig out after writing? I mean, writing makes me hungrier than running does. Busy brains mean hungry bodies I reckon. Yes, that is spam, by the way. I used to think it was bad for you. Then I learned that the U.S. state that consumes the most spam is -- you guessed it -- my home state of Hawaii, and the people of Hawaii have the longest life span in the U.S. So there you have it. Now if they could only add Hostess Cup Cakes to the list of health foods.
6:50 AM Hey fellow Bible students! Here are three new Power Points we've just uploaded to my Greek Portal. Check 'em out if you're interested.
The first deals with the role and primary function of pastors/elders in the local church. The second is a reminder that the structure of a text is as inspired by God the Holy Spirit as are the words. And the final one is so helpful! You'd never think that even Greek teachers like me are unfamiliar with the actual Greek terms used in grammar. So if you're into Greek, have at it. Make plans right now for a committed life of Bible study and devotion in the New Year. His word is the only reliable blueprint for our lives.
Tuesday, December 8
5:05 PM Right now I'm watching a live surf meet at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii. It's in Portuguese. Thankfully, waves speak a universal language.
4:32 PM Today I've been reading a little book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Perhaps you've heard of him. He was a French monk who lived in the 17th century. He spent his days performing tedious chores in the kitchen of his monastery. As he cooked meals and scrubbed pots and pans, he began to fix his mind on the holy presence of God. He learned contentment while doing chores.
I think a verse in Philippians could well summarize what Brother Lawrence found to be true in his life. In Phil. 4:5 Paul writes, "The Lord is near." That might well be the key verse of Philippians chapter 4. What is the solution to instability in the church? "Stand firm in the Lord" (4:1). Only he can give the church stability. What is the solution to personal animosity and division? "Be of the same mind in the Lord" (4:2). It is the Lord who reconciles us when we disagree and divide. What is the solution to anxiety and worry? Prayer to the Father who grants to all his peace in union with Christ Jesus (4:6-7). And what is the solution to want and need? The contentment we find in union with the one who strengthens us (4:13). "In Christ" means nothing other than practicing his presence in our lives.
Stability. Harmony. Peace. Contentment. All "in Christ." In times of pressure and instability, we'll find the secret of stability. In times of dissension, the secret of agreement and reconciliation. In times of anxiety, the peace of God. In times of want, contentment. It's true y'all. I experienced this today in my own life. When this wretched Covid is over, I hope I do not soon forget the sweet times of enjoying the presence of the Lord in my big lonely house. He will give me shelter. He will hide me in his home. He will grant me his peace. He will give me joy.
We have the best Savior. Know him. Get close to him. Let his mind be in you by keeping your mind in the Scriptures. Let him shape your thoughts.
"The Lord is near." And you are IN HIM.
10:40 AM I don't know about you, but I hate sitting. I do way too much of it. This was my view all morning.
Typing away. If I suffer with back pain and poor posture, it's probably caused by too much sitting. Someone named Joan Vernikos actually wrote a book called Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. I'd order it, but then I'd have to sit that much longer at my computer desk. If what she says is true, well, I for one am not going to take it sitting down! Maybe I need a dynamic workstation (though standing all day in a static position isn't good for you either). Maybe I just need to get up and move about more. The fact that I do so much cycling doesn't help due to the bent-over position you're forced to maintain for hours. Studies have shown that even rigorous daily exercise doesn't mitigate the negative health effects of sitting, even for those who exercise regularly. So here's what I did this morning. I went out for a nice long walk on a beautiful day here in the Southland.
Then I fed the donks their daily carrot.
Then I began organizing my books.
As you can see, they are scattered everywhere. On the floor to my study.
On the library sofa.
On both the library sofas!
Later I'll get in a short recovery run. Then it's back to writing/typing. What a life. I love every minute of it.
Off to change the oil in my van. Cya!
10:02 AM What do you think about this translation? I include a whole section on it in my forthcoming book on how to study the New Testament.
7:46 AM "Here begins the wonderful story about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). Can you imagine a more beautiful beginning to a Gospel?
I just finished the weekly translation schedule for my Greek 4 class in the spring. We're doing about 25 verses a week in Mark. Many of us are getting a head start now. Even in the first verse of Mark there's so much to unpack. What is a euangelion? What does the name "Jesus" mean"? Should we use "Christ" or "Messiah" in English for the Greek Christos? Are the words "the Son of God" original?
Take the name Jesus. Here's a question I have. Why is it a common name in Spanish-speaking countries but so rare in the U.S.? The name is even found in Arabic countries (Isa/Issa). It's worth noting that in New Testament times "Jesus" was also a common name. Then again, have you ever met someone named "Joshua"? Both "Jesus" and "Joshua" derive from the Hebrew Yeshua. This means that, all told, Jesus (and its various iterations) is among the most common names in the world. Fascinating!
So much to study and learn. That's just like God, though, isn't it? Always stretching us, always giving us more to research and ponder and think through and then obey. The most beautiful part of all of this, however, is that when you love God more than anyone in the world, he will give you a greater love for his word and a greater ability to love others than you ever dreamed of. Hallelujah, Jesus, turn that floodlight on! And thank you, Father, for seeding your Son. You know what it's like to be human, to struggle, to go through tough times because you've been here. Because of that manger in Bethlehem, we have a friend in Yeshua!
Monday, December 7
6:56 PM A couple of days ago I watched a really interesting interview on the subject of exercise addiction. Before then I had never really considered that a person could become addicted to exercise. But after watching this interview, I'm convinced it's possible. For many adult-onset athletes, there's often a struggle to achieve balance in their athletic routines. Make no mistake, I am not immune to this over-training syndrome. Running can be just as much a self-destructive addiction as drinking, smoking, or taking drugs. When I first started running, I was convinced of my invincibility. Then I began to see that there is training on the one hand, and over-training on the other. Being an athlete means knowing not only what you are trying to accomplish, but also what you are trying to avoid. Eventually (and only recently) I learned that to be an athlete you need as much courage to say no to exercise as it does to say yes. More than ever I'm convinced that one of the greatest challenges an athlete faces is finding that all-too-elusive equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion.
When I first started running, I ran as fast as I could, as far as I could. I often wanted to push past what was comfortable. The result was that I often ignored the need for rest and recovery. But rest is essential. It gives the body a chance to recoup, to renew itself, and to build itself into a better body. My goal is no longer to run as fast as I can or as far as I can. My goal is to be who I am in myself and not in the minds of others. I'm trying to find the point that is "just right" for me. As I have matured as a runner, I've come to see that running can become just another source of negative stress in an already over-stressed life, or it can be a major stress-reliever. I was startled to learn that I could feel just as good about myself when I ran slowly as when I ran fast. In short, I learned the difference between distress and eustress. Distress is a bad kind of stress. Eustress (Greek eu- meaning "good" or "beneficial") is the opposite.
A carefully gauged running program works to optimize the body's eustress -- the optimum dose of daily physiological stress than builds health and imparts a feeling of satisfaction and wellness. But this presupposes the right amount of stress as well as adequate time for rest and recovery.
What we're after as runners is physical health that comes in carefully dosed levels of stress combined with rest. That's why I took today off from exercise of any kind after yesterday's half marathon. I am simply following the old coach's dictum: health = moderate stress + adequate rest. It's all about finding that "sweet spot" between no stress (complete inactivity) and excessive stress (over-training).
The bottom line? Stress can either kill us or make us healthier. Being a type-A personality, it's not my nature to do anything slowly. But I am changing, for the better I hope. There are a hundred reasons to start running, but for me one of the most important is the pure joy of the experience. After all, if it isn't fun, why do it? I am having the time of my life at this time in my life. From my earlier failures as a runner, I've learned what real success means. Real success is looking honestly at what you can do and being content with that. Let's face it, contentment doesn't sound very glamorous. It sounds almost as if you're giving in to laziness and apathy. Okay. How about we just call it balance? More is not necessarily better. Faster is not always healthier. We get out of balance mostly when we're doing too much or too little. It sometimes takes an injury or an illness to serve as a wakeup call. Folks, let's take care of ourselves, but let's do it in healthy ways. Believe me, I'm not saying I'll never get injured again. But I do think I now have in place some strategies to help me avoid that. It takes time to train hard. It also takes time to rest well. It takes time to recovery from a race. But one thing is certain, if you don't listen to your body, you're heading for trouble. You never realize just how important health is until it's taken away from you.
Cheers for a healthy 2021!
5:02 PM I love good books. I can stare at them all day.
Discussing Greek verbs with some students in Israel via Zoom. Shalom!
My weather app says snow is starting in three minutes. Snow???? I have no clue how to run in snow.
5:55 AM You can't control tomorrow. But you can plan for it. If ever there was a man who thought he had planned out his future, it was Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor exactly 79 years ago today.
But God had other plans for him. After the war he came to Christ. The rest, as they say, is history. Fuchida became an evangelist of the Prince of Peace and preached the Good News in many nations, including the United States.
Visit Pearl Harbor today and you can still almost smell the smoke. The man who led that attack is now a Christian? You've got to be kidding! Then some women started shouting "He has risen!" The one who laid down his life for sinners was alive. The price tag for our salvation read "Calvary," and he willingly paid it. As the Psalmist says, "The Lord frees the prisoners" (Psalm 146:7). That includes you and me too.
To read the amazing story of Mitsuo Fuchida, go here.
Sunday, December 6
3:55 PM Today's half marathon in Fredericksburg is in the books! I know it must get annoying to keep getting these updates about my races, but I love sharing these little victories with you. Did anyone else turn into one giant goose bump when they crossed the finish line today? I had three goals going into today's race. My C Goal was to finish, period -- running, walking, or crawling. My B Goal was finishing under the cutoff time of 3 and a half hours. My A Goal was coming in under 3 hours. Of course, I tried to remain flexible. But 9 miles into the race I could see that my pace was hovering around the 3 hour mark. All I needed was a little motivation to reach my A Goal! Per usual, I employed bribery. You see, a judicious dose of deferred compensation always works wonders. I told my body, "That take-home steak from O'Charleys is going to taste sooooo good!" And then the negotiations began. "I promise you, body, that if you will give me everything you've got now, I'll walk through the next aid station." Well, whatever I did, it seemed to work.
Oh, excuse me while I take a bite of my steak.
Today I started the race where I always do -- at the back of the pack.
I mean, as in the very last person. Unlike these whippersnappers.
My thinking is, since I'm probably going to finish last, I might as well start in last place. Alas, I was robbed of that honor by 10 runners who decided they would finish after I did, though I did manage to succeed in coming in dead last (10/10) in my age group (aka, the Methuselahs). Honor saved! This, by the way, is Hospital Hill.
It's famous among runners. With grim determination I decided to run all the way up, thinking all the while of one of Confucius's famous sayings: "He who runs uphill is slow." Clever.
Okay. Time for my body to finish its well-deserved steak. Still basking in the wonderful Christmas message I heard today. Merry Christmas, my friends!
The mighty Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg.
Saturday, December 5
7:42 AM Here are some interesting facts about the half marathon in case you didn't know.
I'll be participating in a half marathon tomorrow, Lord willing. Unbelievably, this will be number 25. I'll never forget my first half. The emotion for me at the end of the race was overwhelming. It made me realize that, by God's grace, I could finish whatever I set my mind to. It actually changed who I am. Tomorrow I plan on walking through every aid station and keeping my overall pace pretty slow. My goal is to have fun. At some point in the race I know this will be well-nigh impossible. You'll be tired and ready to be done. Smile anyway!
Enjoying the Tobacco Road Half Marathon in Cary, NC.
Friday, December 4
4:26 PM My donkette Gobus accepted her first carrot a few minutes ago.
Here she is munching away. What a sweetie pie.
The three donkateers!
3:42 PM It's amazing how our pets become a part of our family. Recently Sheba has begun sleeping outside the master bedroom.
I've not been able to sleep in that room since Becky passed away. Plus, I like to keep the master bedroom and bathroom available for guests. I wonder, does Sheba think Becky is still in there and she's waiting for her to open the door and greet her like she always did? Sheba has been failing a lot lately. She can't hear at all. Her eyesight is almost gone. She has arthritis. She's incontinent. We no longer go on walks together. I'm afraid she'll lose her vision altogether and if she does what will I do then? Fortunately I don't have to let go ... yet. Sheba's the most lovable dog I've ever had, and I've had a few. Seems like only yesterday she was bounding up the stairs during a thunderstorm to be with daddy. Thank God she still has an appetite and is mobile. If you have an aging dog you're caring for, God bless you. Pets are never just pets. They love us unconditionally and make us better people.
I love you, Sheba!
7:12 AM In Greek 4 this coming spring semester, we're wending our way through According to Mark. (That's its title, by the way!) I've therefore begun rereading Mark in Greek and in as many translations as I can get my hands on. This includes The Message (MSG).
Mark writes with a sense of great urgency. His favorite word is immediately. "There's an air of breathless excitement in nearly every sentence he writes," notes Eugene Peterson in his introduction to Mark. "The sooner we get the message, the better off we'll be ...." This reminds me of growing up in Hawaii, where foreigners are often called haoles. Haole is a Hawaiian word that literally means "without breath." The name first became associated with the settlers of the 1800s. I once heard somebody say, "The foreigners were always in a hurry to build plantations and ranches. To the native Hawaiians they seemed short of breath." I don't know if this folk etymology is correct (think: root fallacy), but I do know from experience that busy mainlanders often have difficulty adjusting to the slower pace of life in the Islands!
But I digress.
As I said yesterday, I just completed writing my chapter on Bible translations for my forthcoming book How to Make the New Testament Come Alive! Here are a few summary thoughts of mine:
This morning, as I said, I was in The Message. I was curious to see how Peterson translated the verb ekballei in Mark 1:12. This verb (from ekballō) is commonly used in the Gospels to describe the act of "driving out" demons -- i.e., exorcism. But is Mark 1:12 really saying that Jesus had to be forcibly "driven" into the wilderness? The ESV reads:
Other translations use "compelled" or "impelled." Here The Message has, "At once, the same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild."
Did you notice that all of these translations seem to have one thing in common? They all imply a bit of -- can I use the word? -- reluctance on the part of Jesus to move into the wilderness. He needed, therefore, to be pushed or driven there. My friend Jim Voelz, in his excellent commentary on Mark, writes this:
Without question, this interpretation is possible. And do remember: All translation invariably involves interpretation. While I certainly would not want to soften the blow of the term ekballei, I'm wondering if we really need to resort to a "violent" interpretation. Candidly, I think Jesus just needed a little "hurrying along" from his Father. You know, like when a dad tells his son to "scoot along" when he's dawdling. Is Jesus basking a little too long in the Father's praise: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life" (1:11, MSG). If so, it's time to get moving again!
This conundrum can be repeated many thousands of times when you begin to translate the New Testament. Small wonder there are so many English translations available today. The one thing we must not do, in my opinion, is provide a translation that tries to incorporate within it every possible meaning of the Greek term. This is the difficulty I have with Kenneth Wuest's The New Testament: An Expanded Translation. In his preface Wuest writes, "Some Greek words are so full of meaning that many English words are required to translate them." He offers an example from Rom. 12:1, which he first cites in the KJV:
Then he provides his "expanded translation":
For the KJV's "Preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2), Wuest offers:
This kind of translation borders on pure interpretation. As we will see in chapter 7 of my book ("How to Do a Word Study"), Wuest might well be committing an exegetical fallacy known as "illegitimate totality transfer."
In all candor, my friend, I've never found anything in life more difficult than translating the word of God. That's one reason I've pulled out my writing tools and am penning my little book on New Testament interpretation. I hope you'll find it helpful when it's published.
Thursday, December 3
5:38 PM 3-mile run this evening. Rest day tomorrow. Saturday is travel day. Sunday is the race. Just had a large bowl of beef stew. Off to read President Obama's bio. It's slow going. For a guy from Hawaii, the man sure can be cerebral. I enjoy that style of writing. Ya just have to slog through it. I will admit that I'm a book addict. I think I've read every presidential biography ever published. Some were good. Others terrible. I'm not referring to the content but to the writing style. But at least they provide an entertaining respite from the crazy news. If Covid was a marathon, I think it's fair to say we're at mile 20, meaning there's still a lot of hurt to go between now and the finish line. Thankfully there's good news about a vaccine. Despite it all, God is still inviting us to join him in his kingdom movement. If you're wondering how to make an impact this Christmas season, great or small, a ministry that would welcome your support is the Jesus Film. Their current goal is to reach every man, woman, and child in India with the gospel. Currently there's a matching grant up to $200,000. Go here to make a donation. If we can't give, we can pray. God invites us to do as much. "So let us come boldly to the gracious throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our time of need."
Moving our generator from town to town as we showed the Jesus Film in the villages of the Guji tribe in southern Ethiopia.
11:34 AM Hey guys! Been a busy morning. The house is now completely swept and vacuumed. Plus, I finished a chapter in my book on Bible study. The chapter is called "Choosing a New Testament Translation."
I hope you'll find it helpful. What an hour for the church to hold forth the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. But how can we hold it forth if we don't read and study it? May God bless you in the study of his precious word this day!
Wednesday, December 2
6:12 PM Well, it warmed up to 49 degrees, so off I went to the track to get in 3 miles. My body may have been in South Boston, Virginia, but my mind was wandering disobediently to a place 4,800 miles away. When I lived there, people would call it "paradise."
Dream on, Dave, dream on.
This, by the way, was my view driving home.
Not exactly the same thing. I don't live in Podunk, but you can see it from my front porch. I just had dinner, then spent time praying for the many people I know who have pressing needs. I don't often pray on my knees, but this evening I did. I guess I've never seen so many who are struggling. I knelt in a tsunami of groans. First, I repented of my lack of prayer, and my lack of faith. Then I thanked him for the things he's redeemed, the things he's healed, and the things he's refused to redeem or heal and leaves just the way they are for reasons unknown to me but known perfectly to him. When it comes right down to it, none of us lives in paradise. Our lives are an interim. Everything is a preparation for the next thing, the eternal Paradise. We won't "arrive" until then. But in the meantime, we can be moving forward, you and me, living out our faith in our own little worlds (Podunks).
That's the most hopeful thing I can think of right now. That's why I pray. And if I told you I would pray for you, I will pray for you. On my knees or not. It will get done. With you, I will praise the Father for the joy that comes from loss, from pain, from reaching bottom and then climbing back up.
1:10 PM Here's Dr. Person hard at work on my feet. You should have seen him when he had the chain saw out.
Afterwards I went for a ride. It was so cold I had to turn around halfway. It's gotten cold, like really cold. Virginia has issues.
Right now I am doing -- NOTHING. I need a break. What, me rest????
7:34 AM Been a crazy morning already here at the Black ranch, ladies and gentlemen. Got some writing done, got caught up on paying bills (including my property taxes), answered emails, and now I'm getting ready to see the foot doc and then get in a ride now that I've got my road bike back. This morning's reading was in The Living Bible, in particular 2 Corinthians 10-13. I spent a lot of time in these chapters while I was writing my dissertation in Basel back in the Dark Ages. I love how TLB renders 2 Cor. 12:10:
I suppose the converse is true as well. The more I have, the less I depend on him. When it comes to learning this lesson, mine is a very imperfect story. I think the Holy Spirit is working on me though. I suspect I expect too little of him. Real life is a classroom for holiness. Life is not more + more + more = better. I have to confess though: Sometimes having less freaks me out. Less health. Less job security. Less time with family. But with God, less is always more, because it is more of what we really need. The gospel always dies in the toxic soil of self. There must be less of me, more of him. I needed that reminder today.
Well, seems December is off to a smashing success already!
Tuesday, December 1
5:36 PM "We would come sometimes into a place of such loveliness that it stopped us still and held us until some changing of the light seemed to bless us and let us go" (Wendell Berry).
3:24 PM News and notes ....
1) Spent the morning at school grading papers and exams. I love this!
2) Then I picked up my road and mountain bikes from The Bike Guy in Wake Forest. Both had a complete tune-up and are ready to rumble again.
3) My running/biking mileage was down last month but the weather did turn cold.
We're expecting rain later this week but I'm hoping we'll have clear skies for this weekend's half marathon in Fredericksburg. Praise the Lord for the ability to get outdoors and exercise. Speaking of which, I saw a wild turkey while running on Thanksgiving Day. I really did. It was still and quiet with just my breathing and the sound of my shoes on the trail. Remember, this stuff is free.
I was going to write today but I'm feeling supremely unmotivated. I think I'll watch a movie or something. Tomorrow I have an appointment with a podiatrist to have the calluses on my feet scraped off. Not looking forward to that. The price of being a runner I guess. I read this the other day:
Now if that doesn't put things into perspective.
Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading!
6:45 AM Hard to believe, but on January 1, 2021 I will begin my 45th year of teaching. Three simple quotes have meant the world to me through these years. May I share them with you?
"Christian education is likeness education."
"Holy shoddy is still shoddy."
"Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it's not at the head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Christ."
I first heard "Christian education is likeness education" in one of my Christian Education classes at Biola. I had just finished my B.A. in Bible and was beginning to teach Greek there while attending Talbot Seminary. Since I considered education a likely career path for me, I thought it might be a good idea to take a couple of classes in pedagogy. So that semester, while teaching 11 units of Greek, I took two undergraduate classes in education. The first was called "Tests and Measurements." Even today I find what I learned in that class helpful as I prepare quizzes and exams. The second class was "College Teaching Procedures." This is where the prof told me that "Christian education is likeness education." My mind went to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:40: "The student is not above his teacher. But when a student is fully trained, he will be just like his teacher." Since then, that has become one of my life verses as a teacher. I don't live up to it for sure. But I aspire to.
In that class we were required to read a book by the well-known American Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood. The book was called The Idea of a College.
In it the author made this profound statement: "Holy shoddy is still shoddy." Trueblood saw no reason why Christians shouldn't be as committed to excellence in their work as non-Christians are in theirs. Just because we are accepted in Christ "just as we are" is no excuse for shoddy work in the workplace. From that day on, excellence became my goal -- an unattainable one to be sure, but again, something I have aspired after.
I can't remember exactly where I first read the Scottish proverb about Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. But I do appreciate the point it's trying to make. Knowledge per se is worthless. Greek per se is abominable. It is only when we use our minds for the glory of God and in his service that acquiring knowledge and degrees makes any sense. Paul puts it this way: "We all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
What wonderful truths! There's no way you can Instagram them. Yet each makes me feel so fully alive. They challenge the socks off me. Through the years, I've found that they have been my life mottos in ways their original speakers couldn't have imagined. When I struggle with direction in my life; when I feel I have lost my way; when I get confused or angry or afraid, I come to them over and over again. I have turned to these three truths for comfort.
I now have a higher view of my calling as a teacher than ever before. It feels, actually, like I'm just getting started.
5:55 AM Up early per usual, sipping coffee and reading Psalm 112 this morning.
Lord, make me that person!
Lord, make me that person!
Lord, make me that person!
I cannot convey the depth of hope the Psalmist always gives me. I believe in the Scriptures. I believe in the power of the word.