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August 2019 Blog Archives

Saturday, August 31

7:56 AM Why does this song keep goin' through my head?

Well, the surfboard IS waxed down and I'm READY. I'm taking these books with me to the beach:

I am always in the middle of a few books at once. Usually at least one about running and one about spiritual growth. The temps for tomorrow's race will be in the mid-70s and sunny. So it should be a great weekend.

Here's a few miscellaneous things I've been thinking about:

1. The last 3 miles of a half suck.

2. Relationships can have an expiration date.

3. If you want to know more about God, open your Bible (in whatever language).

4. When you can't, God can.

5. Fireworks have nothing on the sparks of Christ's grandeur.

6. I am never content. Deep within is the God-given urge to know God better and to worship Him face to face.

7. If you take God seriously, you ought to take Satan seriously.

8. Loving actions do speak louder than words. 

9. Always try to see the best in other people.

10. Age does not define me.

11. No matter what happens to me, God is always there.

12. Good art isn't confined to a gallery any more than good drama is confined to a stage.

13. Friendships are serious business.

14. "No" is a sign God has something better for me.

15. Pursuing goals and ambitions that aren't eternal is a game nobody ever wins.

16. Get comfortable with you own very special, unique looks.

17. Avoid bad advice from well-meaning people.

18. Serve God with all your heart and mind.

19. God won't make your decisions for you.

20. Thankfully, wrong choices are forgivable.

21. "Come soon, Lord Jesus."

22. Get along, except when you can't.

23. If it's mediocrity you want, it can be easily had.

24. The cross. The closer we live to it, the more truly we are alive.

25. Stay curious.

Well, bored stiff yet? Sorry, but the nice thing about a blog is you get to say whatever you want.

Y'all have a great holiday weekend, and stay awesome !

Friday, August 30

8:08 PM Are you done improving?

That's a question I ask myself every day.

Are you done getting better?

I'm still getting better aged 67. Despite various setbacks, I refuse to stop moving. I'm planning on getting much better. As a man. As a Christian. As a dad and granddad. As a teacher. As an athlete. At 67 my window is closing. But it's still open. The older I get the more I realize how much better I want to be. I have learned so much about life just in the past year. I have so many goals. I want to keep pushing to see what I can achieve. Good days, bad days, and everything in between keep me moving forward. I've got a lot of room for small growth.

We can never be done getting better.

Thank you, Lord! 

4:44 PM My buddy and I got in a nice 15-mile bike today in South Hill.

Our pace was kinda slow but neither of us felt like pushing it today.

The scenery was inspiring and we both enjoyed a pleasant ride. He's off to the mountains tomorrow with his family, while I'm heading to the beach. On tap for tonight: Hosting my farm guests for dinner. Life is good.

8:24 AM The neat thing about the Virginia Beach Half is that it starts and ends on the boardwalk. Also, you get to run right through the middle of Camp Pendleton.

The problem there is that the Camp has absolutely zero shade. Thankfully, the course is flat, except for a bridge you have to run over twice.

The weather promises to be on the warm and sunny side, but with a race start of 6:30 am that shouldn't be too bad. Thankfully there are tons of water stops along the way. This will be my third VB Half. I love the course and all the free stuff afterwards. At each mile you're joined by a rock band. No shortage of bathrooms along the course either.

If you're looking for a fun end-of-the-summer run, this is the one!

7:50 AM Today I got out the old surfboard and need to scrape off the old wax before I take it to the beach.

The Virginia Beach Half Marathon is on Sunday so I thought I'd hit the waves there tomorrow before I check in at my Airbnb. Sure, the latest reports say the waves are tiny, but we surfers are the ultimate optimists -- "I just know there's a huge swell coming!"

Surf legend Phil Edwards once famously said, "The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun." I strongly agree. Like running, surfing is so much more than a sport. It's a lifestyle. Surfing depends mostly on your location. When you live on a beach in Hawai'i it's easy to surf daily. When you live 3 hours from the beach as I do now, it's something you rarely do. But hopefully this weekend I've got time for a splash and dash.

Cowabunga, dude!  

6:10 AM I dropped out of Greek after only 3 weeks. That's right. I thought to myself: What's wrong with me? I should be able to get this. It's not all that hard. I'm such a loser!

My second story: I took Greek from Moody Bible Institute by correspondence, passed it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here's the deal. In both cases I did my best. I gave it my all. I studied my heart out. Eventually I made it and lesson learned:

Holy Shoddy Is Still Shoddy.

Just because it's hard doesn't give me the right to give it anything less than my best. The richness of life is found in moving out of your comfort zone. While sipping my coffee this morning, I read these words from Paul to the Colossians in The Message:

The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work.

And this:

And, oh yes, tell Archippus, "Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best."

If you're in my beginning Greek class this semester and end up getting a C for the course, you can hold your head up high -- if you have done your very best and tried your very hardest. Sure, there are risks. But faith takes the risks, without knowing where it is being led. Think of it as taking a trip without Google Maps. Or as a tried and true adventure. You have to go full bore. You have to quit holding out.

Become a risk-taker for God today, my friend.

Thursday, August 29

6:10 PM There's a philosophy out there that says you need to run 26 miles in training before you run a marathon. For me, that's way too much distance. So here's what I've decided to do. I will run and cross train for the next 7 weeks but nothing as far as 26 miles. Tomorrow I plan a 10-mile bike. Then I'll swim on Monday (Labor Day). Then I'll run on Tuesday. As you can see, I like to trade off sports (cycling, swimming, running) to keep my interest up and my injuries down. I have the whole thing planned out, and this includes two more foot races before the big event in Chicago:

The Virginia Beach Half Marathon (this Sunday).

The Virginia 10-Miler (Sept. 28). 

I am going to try and resist the temptation to get bent out of shape if I miss a training day or two because of soreness or illness. That's all in God's hands anyway. No sense in becoming a slave to your training. Besides, it's not about the mileage. It's about the quality of your runs. Right now I feel pretty strong. I'm also watching my diet and my attitude. To be honest, we runners can become very competitive. We need to learn to cut ourselves some slack even as we push hard to accomplish our audacious goals. The main thing is to go into Chicago as prepared as I can be (that is, as prepared as "life" will allow me to be, and you never know what the future holds). If you have healthy eating habits, then you don't need to worry too much about your weight. Just exercise consistently. My most glaring weaknesses (and I have many) are: (1) running while fatigued, and (2) running paces that are too fast. No doubt that's a recipe for disaster. You can't get there if you're beating your body into submission. Bill Rodgers, who won Boston 4 times, now runs much slower and shorter distances. He's happy just to compete for age group awards. Impatience and unrealistic expectations are the twin curses of the runner. Your running shouldn't conform to anyone's expectations but your own. I'm on a journey to a fitter and more active lifestyle. No need to push myself too hard.

For me, the half marathon is the perfect distance. Don't get me wrong. A half is never easy. But they don't leave you wiped out for the rest of the day like marathons do. As for the 10-mile distance, I really love this race too. The best thing about the Virginia 10-Miler is that it feels more like a social gathering than a race. Sure, you have the elites. But you might also see your dentist or your grocer. Both the half and the 10-miler are more about consistency than about a sprint to the finish.

As I said, I truly do love the half marathon distance. The mileage is doable yet I still feel challenged. The half is definitely my "comfort" distance!

1:02 PM Today's training for Chicago involved a 45-minute workout at the Y.

My goal for Chicago, as I think I've mentioned here before, is just finishing the course. But I have the additional goal of running the distance in a specific amount of time. That is, if it's a good day and the weather is just right. Maybe even a PR-kind of day. But you have to anticipate that things aren't necessarily going to go your way. At some point in the race my goal might change to run only the miles that are left or even run to the next mile marker. You never know what your body will do at mile 20. What started out as a goal of, say, 5:00 becomes the goal of taking a single step. In the end, this uncertainty is what makes the sport such an adventure for me. That's why I think the marathon is the perfect metaphor for life. No other distance so closely parallels the ups and downs of life. Learning to set reasonable goals is one of the most difficult things I've had to learn how to do. I'm still not very good at it. But, interestingly enough, as I think about my Chicago goals, I also find myself thinking about my life goals for today and tomorrow. That's all for the good!

When I got back to the farm I started to play catch up with all of my farm chores. Right now I'm about halfway done but I decided to come indoors to grab some grub and check emails and texts. If I get an hour or two behind on emails and texts, I'm history. Here's one of the nicest things I received all day.

Can anything be sweeter than a grandson and his pet chickens?

I love these pics. I get them on a regular basis from my kids. Grandchildren seem to bring a special joy to your every day life. They're the "dots that connect the generations," as someone once said. Boy, do I love them.

Okay, you can go back to whatever you were doing.

7:48 AM The reason I asked my NT Intro class to read my books The Jesus Paradigm for this week's class and Seven Marks of a New Testament Church for next week's class is not because I think people should agree with everything I say. I've always distrusted books that make church transformation out to be a piece of cake. As we saw in Acts yesterday, it wasn't that way for the early church and it won't be that way for us. There are no quick fixes. I hope I never convey that there are. At best, I hope the reading we do in class this semester (especially our reading from the New Testament) will serve to get the juices flowing in our congregations. The secret, I believe, is in unlocking the revolutionary potential in our membership. When people begin to use their spiritual gifts for mutual upbuilding, good things happen. With church reformation, we strive to integrate what needs integrating, no more and no less, no sooner and no later. Workable decisions, even if imperfect, are better than "perfect" solutions. People need to serve from within, not from a feeling of obligation. We simply surrender to the divine calling in our lives. And when we do, we hold nothing back. When we discover our soul's calling, we commit unambiguously to it. We live and act from the certainty that God is fully present in the ordinary details of our lives. Even when we miss the mark, we fail bravely. We learn and grow from our mistakes. Life on this planet is one of constant growth. So let's never forget: Our calling is simply to be like Jesus, mimicking the life He lived 2,000 years ago.

In my books I call this the "downward path of Jesus." As Christ-followers, it's in our DNA to complete what Jesus began. It's not about instant change. It's about unfolding more and more truth and obedience into our reality than we had before.

6:50 AM I don't get it. Why does everybody act so serious when they're studying Greek? My classroom philosophy can be summed up in one word: Fun. We'll laugh. A lot. Mostly at ourselves.

Which got me to thinking. Are there unwritten rules about the classroom? Here are a few I can think of:

1. "Don't take yourself too seriously. No one else does." This is an actual quote from one of my profs at Biola. And it's true. Lighten up, folks.

2. Don't over-study. Work on this week's assignment, not next week's. As we said in Greek 1 class on Tuesday, Greek is a marathon. There are 26 chapters in our textbook. Which means we will take one "mile" (chapter) at a time. No need to rush.

3. Don't whine. We all know that language study is grueling. We all so want it to be done. So put your head down and trudge on. We'll be right there with you.

4. Don't go it alone. You are running this race with others. It was so encouraging to see after class a group of ladies talking about studying Greek together this semester. You know what? Each of them will be the better for it. Be sure to seek help if you begin to fall behind. I can tutor you. So can my assistant. So can others.

5. Don't fib about your abilities. Some of us (like me) struggle to learn foreign languages. But it can still be done.

6. Finally, remember to tell your prof how much you like his textbook -- and him. (The word "brilliant" works well.)

I know I'm bad at languages, yet I still love them. I love them as much as I love running. Every year, more than 40,000 people come to Chicago to travel 26.2 miles through its boroughs, on foot. For none of them is running easy. It's clear to me that I'll never have a runner's body, no matter how many miles I run. So instead I'm concentrating on enjoying the journey. I'm worrying more about the product and less about the packaging. Maybe if I act like a runner I'll become one some day.

Studying Greek is a series of tiny victories and defeats. And both are only as important as you make them out to be. 

Wednesday, August 28

8:04 PM We sent this off to the publisher today. Final draft. The hay is in the barn!

Oddly enough, this will be the third book I've published that has the word "linguistics" in its title. I can't thank my co-editor and each of the contributors enough. All this to say that I think the future of New Testament Greek studies is in good hands with these writers. Glory to God.

7:25 PM Hey virtual friends! You are welcome in advance for me not posting any pictures of my 3 days on campus. I was simply too caught up in the excitement of the beginning of a new semester to even think about snapping photos of my classes or the lunches I enjoyed with colleagues. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I'm not the only one who gets super excited to be back on campus after a long hiatus. I am so overwhelmed by the potential I see everywhere I look. You know where I'm going with this. I love teaching. I especially love teaching the Bible because Scripture is the scepter by which King Jesus rules His church. Let's never forget Christ's promise that His Spirit will lead us into "all truth." Liberals insist that truth is unknowable. But the authority of Christ and the authority of Scripture are intertwined. I am so thankful for colleagues who are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, which is another way of saying they are willing to submit to the authority of Scripture. When 650 evangelicals (I was among them) gathered at TEDS in 1989 for a consultation called "Evangelical Affirmations," we affirmed: "Evangelicals hold the Bible to be God's Word and therefore completely true and trustworthy." Of course, we were referring to Scripture as correctly interpreted. Simply put, a text cannot mean what its author never intended it to mean. And that's why I revel in teaching classes in New Testament Introduction or Elementary Greek or Advanced Greek Grammar. We evangelicals are Bible people, first and foremost, now and always. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and we can hope through prayer and study to grow more and more in our understanding of what God's will is for the church.

I can hardly fail to be stirred by the passion for truth I sense among our student body. And to think that I get to equip them with tools that will hopefully help them interpret and apply the Bible. Why, this is just beyond my imagination! My point in this is that a new semester is a good time to give thanks. Thanks for the power of God's grace. Thanks that God is growing my soul and filling it with Himself. Thanks that I have endured pain. Thanks that I've found meaning in loss. Thanks that I have changed and grown. Thanks that I wake up every morning joyful. Thanks that I have the honor of being a classroom teacher. Thanks that Becky is in heaven because she believed in Jesus. Thanks that heaven is my true home however good life on this farm seems to be. Thanks that I am never alone but am a member of a great community of people who love Jesus. Thanks that I am the Lord's and that He is mine. Thanks for the inspiration I draw from my colleagues and friends. Thanks for the gift of brokenness, because brokenness forces me to find a source of love outside of myself. Thanks for kids and grandkids who love me.

I'm a bit tired after ministering on campus for 3 days. That's okay. Tomorrow I will have my strength back again. It will be time to get back to the gym. It will be time to get caught up on my farm chores. It will be time to welcome a family to Maple Ridge for a retreat. It will be time to gear up for Sunday's half marathon in Virginia Beach. I can't wait to see how I do. I imagine it's like taking a Greek class for the very first time: You're excited and scared at the same time. And to think: You actually pay to engage in this type of suffering.

My motto these days is "Keep It Simple Stupid." (Sorry I called you stupid.) Friend, there's no time like the present to "be all there." Rise up and do what it takes. I know I will. However, be ready for anything. Life is always full of surprises!

Monday, August 26

6:58 AM So today begins my class called (officially) Advanced Greek Grammar, which is actually a course in Greek linguistics. I know I called my 1988 book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, but like the rest of the book, the title is questionable. There's no way to say everything that needs to be said about linguistics in a brief book like that. Moreover, the author wasn't, isn't, and never will be a linguist in the technical sense of the term. I know this creates a lot of confusion when someone like me is invited to speak to linguistics majors (like my speech next month at Liberty U.), but let the organizers figure that one out.

The one thing I most certainly am not is a purist. The purists in the academic world would suggest I have nothing to say. To be fair, they are right, in a sense. I haven't had a single class in linguistics. Ever. The elitist view of linguistics suggests that no one should ever do anything unless they can do it at the highest level. There are elitists in every field. Some elite marathoners think that slow runners like me are ruining their sport. I would simply ask them: What about that person who needed a challenge in their life? Who, like me, never thought they could run a marathon, and then did. That makes it a victory for all of us. Incidentally, the one thing you will never hear your fellow runners say to you after a race is, "What was your time?" That doesn't matter. At all. You showed up. You tried. You gave it your all. And somehow, you finished.

Greek students, that's what I'm asking of you this semester. Remember: A twelve-minute mile is just as far as a six-minute mile. So what if your "run" isn't much faster than a walk with a good tailwind. Run your race this semester. Be the best linguist you can possibly be. God's word demands it. We all have a lot to learn from professional linguists about how language works. And maybe even from rank amateurs like me.

By the way, the sunrise this morning was out of this world.

Spontaneous worship can break out at any time, any place. Spread before us from horizon to horizon are these little reminders of God's care over His creation, including us. "If you have never heard the mountains singing, or seen the trees of the fields clapping their hands," wrote McCandlish Phillips, "do not think because of that they don't." This morning I heard the skies singing and wanted to add my own accompaniment.

Yesterday I talked about Grimm's Law. To apply it, you need to know this little chart. I'm posting it here because I couldn't find one on Google Images. The key is to go one step counter-clockwise. Try it with the verb pherō.



Sunday, August 25

10:14 PM Tonight I saw a new release called Overcomer. It's a touching film that gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian: forgiveness. I know of no more staggering and humbling truth than that God has forgiven me of my sins through His Son. In turn, a Christian is characterized by a willingness to forgive.

The film powerfully illustrates the foolishness of saying no to our Father in heaven. We are given the choice, day by day, to trust Him, even for those things in our lives that seem so destructive. The acting in this movie is superb. And the Gospel comes through loud and clear. I encourage you all to see this poignant and powerful film.

1:58 PM Is linguistics descriptive or prescriptive? Before you say the former, it's actually both. With linguists, languages are generally approached descriptively. But the science of linguistics can also be employed prescriptively. Languages, indeed, have their own "rules." One of the most important of these is called Grimm's Law. Grimm's Law will figure very prominently in tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class when I ask my students to come up with an English cognate or derivative for every one of the Greek words found in Eph. 1:1-2.

Yes, this is actually possible! So let's not argue about whether there are "rules" in languages. Of course, attitudes toward "correctness" in language are not shaped solely by grammars. To a large degree, it is language usage that determines rightness or wrongness in language. For example, formal and ordinary language registers may lead to two different languages being formed. The colloquial form of the language is not a "corruption" of the language preferred by the elites. As you know, I grew up in a milieu of diglossia, where about half of us who lived in Hawai'i could speak both Standard English and Hawaiian Creole (Pidgin). The latter is sometimes thought to contain numerous "mistakes" or "infelicities" of English. In Pidgin, for instance, we say "shave ice" instead of "shaved ice." Actually, this is perfectly understandable as there has long been a tendency in English to drop the -ed suffix in words that belong to noun phrases. To wit:

Whip cream = whipped cream

Cream corn = Creamed corn

Roast beef = roasted beef

Wax paper = waxed paper

Skim milk = skimmed milk

Where I live in Southern Virginia, final "g-dropping" with verbs is the norm even among highly educated speakers of English.

And the list goes on and on. When it comes to the study of Koine Greek, the fact is that many of the "exceptions to the rule" have their own rules. And this is precisely where Greek phonology can help us -- hence our little exercise in the opening greeting of Ephesians. I want my students to see that linguistics is a cognitive science that provides a link between the humanities and the social sciences.

What fun!

6:18 AM Today I am definitely not working out. Of course, if I had to get up hay today (which I don't), I would. Life goes on whether or not you've just run a half. But wisdom tells me I need to take a day or two off from exercise. The whole idea is about listening to your body. Besides, I've got plenty of other stuff to do. By the way, this week a couple from the seminary will be staying at the farm for a bit of R & R. Years ago Becky and I dedicated Maple Ridge as a place of prayer, rest, and restoration. The goal is for retreatants to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ. Plus have lots of fun butting heads with the goats.

Originally build in 1810, Maple Ridge has been completely renovated and is equipped with such modern amenities as air conditioning and a complete kitchen. We designed it to accommodate larger families on retreat or those needing temporary housing. They can stay at Maple Ridge from a few days up to 6 months, free of charge. These families are sometimes in a period of transition or adjustment. Maple Ridge is a safe shelter in which to put body and soul back together and to seek guidance from the Lord for the next step.

So glad to see Becky's vision still bearing fruit!

5:34 AM This Wednesday in our NT 2 class we'll begin our discussion of Acts and will hone in on ecclesiology. To begin with, students will read my The Jesus Paradigm as well as Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. On Wednesday, one of our topics will be the concept of "primus inter pares" -- first among equals. Here are some slides I'll be sharing with the class. They are based on Alexander Strauch's definitive work Biblical Eldership.

The overriding principle I'm trying to bring to the table is: Pastoral ministry is a "fellowship of leadership." The expression is Michael Green's. I once heard Green speak about this in chapel, and he also served as a priest in a nearby Anglican church in Raleigh. Green argues that both democracy (which leads to shared incompetence) and monarchy (which leads to suppression of initiative) is bad for a congregation. "What is needed is a leadership team accountable to God and the congregation; a team which will lead and enable each member to achieve his or her full potential and use that in God's service" (Adventure of Faith, p. 86). Some argue that this leadership team itself needs a leader. "Every healthy organization has someone at the top." I fully agree. And every local church has such a Senior Pastor (see 1 Pet. 5:4). That's why I'm suggesting we might want to try avoiding the language of "senior" or "lead" pastor and instead consider using "co-pastor" or even what Peter uses in 1 Pet. 5:1: "fellow elder." The fact is, all of us need to be serving the Lord Christ. "You need a fellowship of leadership to model that sort of thing and to help it come about" (Green again).

So do I agree with the idea of primus inter pares? Absolutely. In Christ we have a Lead Pastor but sadly our nomenclature too often masks that reality. He is, however, ready to assume that honor if we will but allow Him.

P.S. Here's an example that just came to mind. You're the senior or lead pastor of a multi-staffed church and have been invited to speak at a convention. Each of your staff pastors are considered elders (co-equal and non-hierarchical) but your church masthead cites you as the senior or lead pastor. When asked how you would like to be identified in the convention program, list yourself as co-pastor. In the first place, this is true: you are one of several pastor-elders. In the second place, you will be willingly receding into the group -- which is precisely what Peter (the most prominent of Jesus' apostles) seems to be doing in 1 Pet. 5:1 when he refers to himself as a "fellow elder."

"Co-undershepherd" would also work but that's a little wordy!

Saturday, August 24

5:28 PM Without a doubt, today's half in Ashland was one of the best races I've ever participated it.

The weather was overcast and cool -- perfect for a 13.1 mile run. Packet pickup this morning was a breeze. There were only about 1,000 runners so there were no corrals to line up in. I placed myself about 2/3rds of the way back and was able to start my run at just the right pace without being pushed forward by the crowd. I loved the course, especially when an Amtrak went by!

At almost every turn there were spectators, and they were loud and tons of fun. Once we got out into the country, there were a few rolling hills, but nothing stood out as being exceptionally challenging. I ran the entire race except for the aid stations, which were placed every 2-3 miles. They were well stocked with water and Gatorade. A slight downhill made for a strong push at the end. All the people cheering for you made the last 1/3 mile fly by. The medal was pretty nice.

You also got the standard race shirt. I spent the next half hour basking in the glory of my finish time.

This is about 11 minutes slower than my PR, but I didn't want to push myself too hard. It's not easy for me to describe how I felt during the race, but perhaps the best word is joy. Joy in the Lord. Joy in the health He's so undeservedly given me. Joy in feeling the wind and seeing the corn and bean fields. Joy in knowing that my body could still do this. Here are a few more pictures. I realize I have a billion more I could show you, but these are enough to bore you to tears.

1) Airbnb is so great. I got this room (with a private bath and balcony) for only $59.00. The house reminded me so much of Maple Ridge here on the farm.

2) I snapped this pic at around mile 9.

At this point in the race, nobody is passing anybody else and nobody is being passed. Everybody has settled into a rhythm. Everyone is relaxed. We were all running a 12-minute pace. This happens in just about every race you run. You see the same people for the last half of the race. I'd love to have been able to talk with them, but at this stage of the game you're too focused on finishing to converse.

3) This was an amazing race for me. I felt incredible cardio-wise and had absolutely no pain anywhere afterwards.

I think I got some confidence back after the health issues I faced between May and July. One of the hardest things to do after you're injured is to get your mojo back. Nothing is more rewarding than to be able to trust your body again. Sure, there were a couple of times when I was tempted to go faster than I should have in order to try and break my old half marathon PR. But I realized that if I did that I couldn't face myself in the mirror after the race. How encouraging it is to know that you can run "within yourself" and not have any regrets when the race is over. After the race I had that utterly fabulous feeling (endomorphs?) when you think you can go on forever!

Well, another race in the books. Half #19. If you're looking for a fast race with lots of scenery, this one's for you. I met my goal of finishing and having fun. Mile after mile I fell in step with some awesome people of all ages, shapes, and levels of ability. Running gives me community and a way to improve my health. Running a half marathon is a crash course in gratitude, perseverance, patience, and the rewarding feeling of knowing you've pushed through but not to the point where you've injured your body. I'm not a gifted athlete (the understatement of the year), but I am dogged. And in a long distance race, you can take that quality a very long way. I actually yearn for those moments in life when my mettle is tested or when I am asked to persevere despite overwhelming challenges. These are the times when I can feel Him beside me, and heaven comes down and touches earth.

Thanks so much to the race organizers for putting on a first-class event. And thank You, Jesus, for running every step of the way with me today.

Friday, August 23

12:48 PM Here's a recap of today's visit with the neurologist at Duke. The good news is that my motor functions and nervous system seem to be working just fine. He thinks there might be some minor nerve damage in my feet. Not sure. Story of my life. So he's ordered an MRI of the lumbar spine as well as a Nerve Conduction Test. I'm not sure either test will do any good but the more information you have the better you can deal with the issue, right? Now I just have to wait for the insurance company to approve these procedures. Keeping fingers and (partially numb) feet crossed. Hoping it's nothing too serious. A least the doc said I can continue running and being active.

How's that for an update?

The only other news around here is that my old GE refrigerator is on its way to the landfill or the metal resellers or wherever. It served me well for going on 15 years.

Tomorrow is the half in Ashland. No sense in freaking out now. You just have to trust your training to get you through. My primary race goal is to smile and have fun. I realize that at some points during the race that will be well nigh impossible. That's okay. Finishing is winning.

7:22 AM There's a touch of fall in the air this morning.

A pleasant day indeed to read Ephesians in The Message.

I like how Peterson renders 4:11-12: "He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work." Nicely done. I might have translated the purpose clause as "to prepare God's people for works of service." I'd love to camp out on this for a while but I've got to get to my neurology appointment in Durham. More later.

6:20 AM Can anything top reading A. T. Robertson's Big Grammar at 6:00 am?

I remember reading this book for the first time in seminary. Today, I'm intrigued that it's still in print. The modern revolution in Greek linguistics has not come about because we have all kinds of novel ideas but because we are building on a foundation laid in the past. There is real value in reading an old book like this one. At least, there would be if teachers required it. Robertson's greatest strength, of course, is also his greatest weakness. Linguistics is much more than historical-comparative philology. But he was a man of his time, and by all measures his book represented a real breakthrough. That he does not do this in simple, nontechnical language may be a stumbling block to some. Actually, I find Robertson eminently readable. I love his heavy, Teutonic prose. I love his Latin and German and French quotes. There is no sniff of stifling fundamentalism among his chapters. In so many ways, Robertson embodies what a good philologist should be but frequently is not.

You can see that I'm taking thorough notes (in green) of chapters 1-2. These notes will form the basis for a quiz over this material in my Advanced Greek Grammar class. A "fun" quiz, mind you -- meaning one that doesn't count for a grade, though the student with the highest quiz score will receive one of my books for free. Here's one of the questions:

Robertson held that Greek was "the most perfect organ of human speech." True or false? 

How would you answer that?

I've written a number of books on Greek, but I am a grammarian by mistake. It was by reading Robertson and Moulton and Zerwick and others that I felt led to enter the fray. I discovered that books like Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek evoked an enormous response. I had not yet cottoned on to the fact that linguistics was then sweeping all over the scholarly guild. Once I realized that, I found myself writing more and more about discourse analysis, morphology, semantics, etc. That said, I'm not a huge fan of my book on linguistics. It really wasn't all that good, but surprisingly it's stayed in print for over 30 years. I think the time has come for a replacement, don't you? Maybe you will be the one to write it.

5:56 AM "... whether I spend my days in India or America, I desire to spend them in the service of God, and be prepared to spend an eternity in his presence." A. J.

5:45 AM "I am a creature of God, and he has an undoubted right to do with me, as seemeth good in his sight.... He has my heart in his hands, and when I am called to face danger, to pass through scenes of terror and distress, he can inspire with me with fortitude, and enable me to trust in him." A. J.

5:20 AM "O how different were my views of myself and my God, from what they were, when I first began to inquire what I should do to be saved. I felt myself to be a poor lost sinner.... This view of myself humbled me in the dust, melted me into sorrow and contrition for my sins, induced me to lay my soul at the feet of Christ, and plead his merits alone, as the ground of my acceptance." Ann Judson.

Thursday, August 22

5:35 PM Seminary and college convocation was today. I belong to a community that seeks to inspire men and women to live and learn the example of Christ. Sometimes that example is best seen in the lives of real-life human beings like Ann Hasseltine Judson, the wife of Adoniram Judson. Danny Akin's message on this subject was, in short, powerfully humbling and convicting. Had there been an altar call after the message, I'm sure people would have flooded to the front. I know I would have. I still can't believe that for years I had missed something so central. It was Jesus' un-normal ideas that made Him so unique. Follow me? Be prepared to give up everything. If you're Ann Judson, be prepared to die at the age of 37 in Burma. Carrying out the ministry of Christ in this earth is somehow always mingled with the concept of death. Death to self, at the very least. Broken so you can feed someone else. Not what I envisioned when I became a Christian in 1960. But that is what Jesus is teaching me through His cherished servants like Ann and Adoniram Judson.

I assure you, if you listen to today's chapel message, you will be deeply touched. Our holy Savior said it well: "What you have is not yours. So give it up, give it all up. Because once you come to the end of yourself, once you hit bottom, it is surprisingly peaceful down here."

Jesus is our only hope and inheritance. His followers glory and boast in Him despite crushing instability and hardship. Ann Judson lived on the margins and paid for it. But by becoming broken and poured out for others, she redefined for the church the nature of greatness. Our only hope, people, is to follow the example of Jesus and get back out into the world from which He rescued us, winning people over with our scandalous love and a lifestyle that makes them sit up and listen.

Here's the link to today's message. Danny's text was Psalm 142:1-7. I jotted down the following outline:

1) God hears the cries of your heart.

2) God knows what you are going through.

3) God will deliver you as your Refuge.

Below: Welcoming our new students to the seminary and college. Looking forward to getting to know all of you! 

Wednesday, August 21

7:08 PM Only 7 weeks to go before I run in the world famous Chicago Marathon. It's hard for me to even describe what it's like to finish a marathon. You're exhausted but you love it. I have such a supportive family and I don't take that for granted. The Chicago Marathon is a world class event. The course is said to be fast, well attended by spectators, and fun. I go into this marathon knowing that it will be a while before I run another one. I'm down to one marathon a year, remember? I'm already nervous. Marathons are the hardest things I've ever done. But that's kind of the point, right? I'm not doing Chicago because it's easy. I know the miles will hurt. I know I'll have to push myself to finish. I know I'll have to be mentally tough. Most of all, the marathon will teach me humility. Everybody faces obstacles in life. When we're faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must quit listening to the mockers and naysayers and shout, "With God's strength, I can!" His help is always but a prayer away. If you're after mediocrity in life, it can be easily had. But if you're going after excellence, no matter what the field, you have to work at it with all your might. Nothing is too difficult for God. The very problems we fret most about are the very things we need to trust God with. If you think you've got it tough, read 2 Cor. 11:24-33. Paul endured beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, beatings, and threats in his own race of life. Yet he endured and persevered through every bout of despair. Like marriage, our relationship with God will be marked by hardships and heartaches. And yet the rewards of faithful love are worth the perseverance it requires to develop them.

I learn from every marathon I run. The marathon tests my character each and every time. But if I do my best, I'll mature not only as a runner but as a human being and follower of Jesus.

The marathon -- what an inspiration! 

4:42 PM What a funny day it's been today. Not as in "funny ha ha" but as in funny weird.

1) Yesterday my refrigerator went out on me just like that. But "coincidentally," Lowe's was running a sale on new refrigerators. They were marking off 30 percent until 9:00 pm tonight. It will be delivered Friday. How kind of you, Lord!

2) My favorite slippers broke this morning. I mean, I had those things for maybe 25 years. I caught one of them on a floor board in the house today and, again, just like that, they were history. Sob. The good news is that I found a new pair at Wal-Mart that fit me perfectly. Snazzy, huh!

3) Yesterday I ordered a book on Amazon Prime and it came today. It usually takes two days for Amazon Prime to deliver. Wow. That's crazy! 

4) Finally, I went to bush hog the pastures today and the donks just wouldn't leave me alone. Weird! Maybe they think this machine has carrots or something. I had to shoo them away like they were flies. Poor babies.

So you see, it's been a really weird day. Almost as weird as Hawai'i having Interstate Highways!

5:58 AM Next month I'm giving two rather major talks, one at Liberty University and one at Clearview Church. Like you, I've got pet peeves about public speaking. For my whole Christian life I've listened to sermons and lectures. All too often the speakers were "pumping sunshine" (as we used to say in California). We the People are obviously not stupid. We can tell if you know your subject. We can see whether or not you're really passionate about what you're saying or just reading a lecture someone else wrote for you. When I was at Biola, my CE prof once told me, "Dave, there are no boring teachers. If they're boring, they're not teachers." If you're familiar with TED Talks, then you're probably familiar with their Ten Commandments:

Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.

Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.

Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.

Thou Shalt Tell a Story.

Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.

Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego.

Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.

Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.

Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.

Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.

Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

The ninth one (in red) may well be the most important. I'm about 100 percent positive that public speakers would make a 100 percent greater impact on their audiences if they simply got rid of their notes. Pay attention to the people you're trying to reach. Look them in the eye. "Read" their reactions. And do it authentically. You say, "How is that done?" Watch a TED Talk and you'll see how. They are the most popular lectures on the web. They've been called "spectacles for smart people." Their motto is "Ideas worth spreading."

Which means, when a TED-talker is done speaking, you have a strong urge to share what you just heard with others. Speakers are genuinely "speaking" -- not lecturing or scolding or shouting. Their content is great. And the information is not coming from the canteen of Saturday night but from a reservoir of knowledge and expertise.

TED Talks take the audience on a journey. I've enjoyed a good many excursions myself -- which is why I'm pretty much a hopeless TED Head.

5:20 AM Sitting here wide awake since 4:00 am, there's too much in my heart to keep it there. So I turn to my blog, as I always do, to let it overflow even though it's just cobwebs and echoes. Since Becky's death I've had to make an investment in a "new self" as it were. I've had to struggle with such questions as, "Why am I here?" "What parts of me died with Becky and what parts didn't?" "What's the meaning of my new-found bachelorhood?" Thankfully, in the midst of all these questions (and many more like them) there has also been an amazing level of consistency -- my work, my family, my farm, my writing and publishing. But at times it felt like I was only going through the motions. I needed to find new passages to a new self. I needed new dreams.

Life offers us many new and rich and varied opportunities if we will only look for them. Since that fateful day in November 2013, I've fought a battle against sameness. I needed to find new ways to make a difference in people's lives. I guess that's one reason I've enjoyed running so much. Or why I like going to the gym. My days are full of firsts again. It's like learning how to surf all over again, or learning Greek all over again, or riding horses all over again. I've also had more time for intimacy with the Lord, exploring new ideas with my publishers, and trying out new foods. I can speak from personal experience when I say that growing older doesn't mean you have to slow down and stagnate. Even a 67-year old widower can sprout new foliage and choose a new direction. In a sense, in moving forward I've turned to the past -- witness my trips to Hawaii since Becky died. Waking up morning after morning at Kailua Beach to squint at the endless horizon and the sun rising over the Mokulua Islands works wonders with a sagging spirit. Sitting for hours on a surfboard has given me time to decode the mindboggling changes I've experienced in my life. 

So as I'm aging, I'm also trying to outwit it. I'm writing a new map of my life, eager to travel the new passages the Lord has designed for me in His sovereignty and love, recognizing that each new change is a passport to renewal. For far too many men, their whole identity is tied up with the status they've achieved so far. That's not what I want. As far as I'm concerned, 67 is the new 47. I'm not ready to accept "old age." Where's the adventure in that? No, I've got too much tread left in this old carcass of mine to coast through my 60s. 60s did you say? In my mind's eye I'm still that 19-year old who left Hawaii for Biola or that 26-year old who married a gorgeous lady from Texas or that 31-year old who received his doctorate in Europe. The 20-somethings who leave me in the dust during my races ain't got nothin' on me. I've got more wisdom and I'm probably tons happier too. I can still manage to pump blood and oxygen around my circulatory system with the best of them. Sure, I've got my inner battles (as do you), but today I'm more comfortable with uncertainty and I feel far more diversified on the outside and far more unified on the inside.

The only thing I'm having difficulty understanding is why people like you would even be faintly interested in anything I write here on this blog. Maybe it's curiosity. Maybe you want to know what a major life-passage looks like. If so, that's normal and necessary. Glad I can be of service! But listen, folks, there are no rules for aging today. The answer to the manhood puzzle must come from within. If there is a key to successfully negotiating the aging process, it's to be geared toward goals that are larger than yourself. Go where your spirit (and the Spirit) leads you. Stand apart from the crowd. Like William Wallace, be willing to risk your life for what you believe in. At the same time, discover your nurturing side. You can't help everybody but you can help someone.

To speak of aging as being "over the hill" is as absurd as it is destructive. God has a purpose for our lives regardless of our age. The greatest joy in life comes from seeking His will and then obeying it to the very best of our God-given ability. "I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star," spoke Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "whose influence if I now court not, but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop." Friend, there is still time to redirect your life toward that Star, the Lord Jesus Christ. Health never lasts. But influence can outlast our mortality.

Tuesday, August 20

5:14 PM It happened to me again today. I had a bad run. I felt out of it. I felt lazy. I felt heavy. Am I overtraining? Sleep deprived? Just plain lazy? I can't seem to pinpoint any cause. I wanted to go 10 miles but ended up cutting my run short and finished only 7. I knew I just had to keep moving and I would finish. This little doe agreed. 

I finished the miles, but it was painfully slow. I'm happy that this happened during training and not during a race. When I got back home I decided to do some yard work to get my mind off of my run. The trees needed trimming, the water troughs needing cleaning out, the weeds needed some Round Up, etc. It was just what the doctor ordered. Worked like a charm. I feel great again, and the house and yard look pretty good as well.

Thankfully, one bad run doesn't define you. And thank God for all the clichés we runners are fond of, like "You don't have to run, Dave, you get to run!" There are people who'd give everything they have to be able to run or even walk. Suck it up, Dave. Be thankful for what you do have. Embrace the hard. Remember that tomorrow will be better. And if you need a little encouragement, read the Word. Like this snippet from 3 John.

John uses "love" language 3 times in the letter's opening verses to describe his friend Gaius. Three times!

... to Gaius my beloved

... whom I love

... beloved

Love is one of those words that's difficult to define. I saw a cartoon the other day of a guy chomping on a piece of fried chicken and a gal eating a vegan meal. The caption over both was, "I love animals." You can say you love your spouse and love going to basketball games. But what is love? It's not just a mark of a Christian but the mark. It's sort of like God's DNA in our lives. The elder John was eager to tell Gaius how loved he was. Have you told God you love Him today? He wants to know. But remember: a child's loving actions speak louder than words. 

Tomorrow I plan to cycle 10 miles while I'm having the oil changed in my van. Cycling perfectly complements running. It offers a non-impact activity that works opposing muscle groups. It also trains your cardiovascular system without adding more stress to your body. I like to cross train, but when I do I miss running. But it's the very fact that I'm not running that allows my body to rest. I also try to work in swimming.

What do you do for exercise?

Do you cross train?

Ever have a bad day? What do you do to relieve your stress?

7:45 AM In less than a week our Advanced Greek Grammar class will begin. We'll meet on Monday nights from 6:30-9:20. We'll be studying the little book of 3 John as well as going through a goodly number of advanced grammars. The first night of class should be interesting. What do I have planned? Plenty of sight reading. Oral recitation. English to Greek composition. Discussion of Robertson and Runge and a host of other authors. Two students will give presentations. Of course, we'll read through 3 John in one sitting. And students will begin to think about their paper topic. That topic has to be based on 3 John, which, as you know, talks a lot about Christian eldership/leadership. Historically, the church has oscillated between two extremes when it comes to leadership. These two extremes have been called clericalism and anti-clericalism. If you hold to clericalism, you tend to see pastors as monopolizing leadership and ministry. If you hold to anti-clericalism, you tend to see clergy as redundant. 3 John has a lot to say about local church leadership. In fact, if I could, I would require my students to read Alexander Strauch's magnificent book Biblical Eldership, if for no other reason than it avoids both extreme positions. We have to try and maintain a balance between every member ministry (think of Paul's body analogy) and Christ's delegation of leadership to qualified under-shepherds.

As I begin my 43rd year of teaching, I've asked myself, "What can I say about 21st century leadership that needs to be said?" The godly leader in 3 John, Gaius, is said to walk in the truth, love the brothers and sisters, and entertain strangers. On the other hand, a leader named Diotrephes is portrayed as loving himself more than others and refusing to welcome the traveling evangelists. In other words, doctrinal heresy does not seem to be in view. Rather, personal ambition had caused the problem. Students in our class can pick from any number of topics for their paper based on 3 John, but I sincerely hope one of them will do a detailed word study of the verb philoprōteuō, which is used in verse 9. For one thing, there's the question about the best way to translate this word. The versions differ somewhat:

NIV: "who loves to be first"

NLT: "who loves to be the leader"

ESV: "who likes to put himself first"

CSB: "who loves to have first place"

GNT: "who likes to be their leader"

ISV: "who loves to be in charge"

HWP: "like be da boss"

SCH2000: "der Erste sein möchte"

HOF: "die führende Rolle spielen möchte"

RVR1960: "tener el primer lugar"

SG21: "être le premier"

NTLH: "que deseja ser o líder"

VULGATE: "qui amat primatum gerere"

The difference between "liking to be leader" and "loves to be in charge" is considerable. The context seems to indicate that Diotrephes is singled out by name because he had not only sought to undermine the apostle John's person and position but had also wanted to have the preeminence. He apparently did not share Paul's desire that in all things Christ should have the supremacy (Col. 1:18). His refusal to welcome and assist the traveling evangelists had simply unmasked a deeper problem, that of self-love.

Many lessons can be drawn here. Perhaps one of them is this: I am convinced that leaders need a safe place where they can share their struggles with people who can guide them ever deeper into the Father's love. This doesn't mean that pastors must bring their faults and temptations before the congregation at every turn. It means, rather, that ministers (meaning all of us) are called to minister with their whole being, including their broken selves. The pedestals that we have erected in our churches have become nightmares. What if we freed ourselves and our church leaders to be ordinary men and women? Spiritual pride thrives where pastors are deemed untouchable. This might all sound very unrealistic, but all of us, Christian leaders included, are called to live in the body, not only our own physical bodies but also in the corporate community. The leadership that Jesus speaks of is radically different from the leadership practiced in the world. It is, as Alexander Strauch says, a servant leadership in which leaders are vulnerable servants who need the people as much as they need each other. 

What ever happened to Diotrephes? We don't know. But his spirit lives on. It lives on in my heart. It dawns on me as I begin another year of teaching that much of what I say in class will likely not be remembered. It's my example (or failure to set a good example) that will be remembered. I hope that Jesus will become real and present in my classes this semester. I'm a slow learner. Old patterns and habits are not easy to give up. I pray that what we learn in our Advanced Greek class will not only be good grammar and syntax but also something that helps all of us catch a glimpse of what a truly godly leader looks like.

P.S. A pastor friend of mine told me about this book yesterday. I just ordered it.

I think the table of contents is revealing:

Section One: Brokenness

Section Two: Uncommon Communion

Section Three: Servanthood as an Identity

Section Four: Radical Immediate Obedience

Under leaders like this, I believe the church can be the safe family that God intended for it to be. It really can.

P.P.S. As I sit here writing this post I am doing what all runners do, obsessing about the weather for Saturday's half marathon. Here's the latest forecast for Richmond and its environs.

Wow. Rainy and hot -- until Saturday, when things dry off and cool down considerably. I know things can change between now and then, but for now I'm excited and grateful. I just think running is that much harder when you're fighting not only your own body but also the elements, such as heat and humidity. I run all year round. This isn't a bragamony, just a fact. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that it takes tons of mental fortitude to run when the weather is less than optimum. So for now, things are looking good for Saturday, as in real good. Praise the Lord.

Monday, August 19

5:36 PM Top 10 signs you were born and raised in Hawai'i:

1) You can correctly pronounce words like papahānaumokuākea.

2) You say "slippahs," not flip flops.

3) You call it shave ice and not shaved ice.

4) The very mention of "Li Hing Mui" makes your mouth water.

5) You love lau laus and lomi lomi salmon.

6) You can play the ukulele.

7) Your favorite suit is your swim suit.

8) You love cultural diversity.

9) Your blog is full of sunrise photos.

10) You say "shoyu," not soy sauce.

There are tons more examples I could give but I think you get the idea. Yesterday I began reading a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a very long time.

Maybe my renewed interest in all things Hawaiian emerges from the sense of raw and joyful hospitality I received from friends and even from strangers during my recent visit to the Islands. It was there, in my mid-teens, that I became vaguely aware that God had a plan for my life. It was there that I began to grasp the truth that sin equals self. It was on O'ahu that I began to lead people to Christ and to experiment with the talents and gifts God had given me for the upbuilding of His church. It was at First Baptist Church Windward that I began to realize just how wonderful God's family is and that it is the complex pattern of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ that often governs our development into mature Christians. It's no exaggeration to say that it was in Kailua that I began to understand what God meant when He asserted that it was not good for man to be alone -- a reference that Calvin understood as having a much wider reference than to marriage. I saw that the Greek word koinonia bore witness both to what we share in as Christians (our common inheritance in Christ) and to what share with each other (our mutual responsibility to care for and nurture each other). It is our koinonia in God that unites us and it is our koinonia with one another that causes us to love one another, not bite and devour one another, but rather encourage and build each other up. As Jesus said:

I give you guys one ting you gotta do: Show love an aloha fo each odda. Jus like I get love an aloha fo you guys, dass how you guys gotta get love an aloha fo each odda. If all you guys get love an aloha fo each odda, den everybody goin know you my guys.

It was in Hawai'i that I first saw that true Christian koinonia involves the rich and all-encompassing sharing that I have tried to practice in my life and ministry. I keep asking myself, "Am I serving the Lord, the church, the world? Am I growing in love and care for others?" I was only 8 when I was baptized at Kailua Beach Park. Little did I imagine that 59 years later I would still have the privilege of leading students into the Scriptures and encouraging them to browse there for themselves. For when they read the word of God, they will discover in no uncertain terms that God calls all of us to ministry and on no account are we to allow professionals to do all the work of the church. They will also see that we come to Christ in worship and go for Christ in mission, that the gathering exists for the going, that a living church is a learning church, and that fidelity to the teaching of the apostles is the first mark of an authentic body of believers but not the only one. The church is God's new society, and we cannot proclaim the Gospel of God's love if we do not exhibit it in our love for others. Authentic mission is always incarnational mission. It must express itself in a way that is both faithful to Scripture and relevant to the contemporary world.

In Hawai'i, people have time for each other. "Island time" is real. Everyone seems to know everyone. You greet everyone with a hug and a kiss. You can't tell who are your real aunties and uncles because everyone is "Aunty" and "Uncle." Hawai'i is truly a melting pot. Diversity means we love and respect one another. You feel like one big family (ohana). You respect your elders (kapuna) and enjoy watching all the kids (keiki) you see. Everyone treats you with aloha, whether it's your restaurant server or the TSA personnel at the airport. People seem less grouchy and are willing to start a conversation with you in a heartbeat. Even guys wear flowers in their ears on May Day ("Lei Day").

All I can say is that the pre-history of growing up in Hawai'i has formed my current thinking about the church in ways that I'm probably not even aware of. I ask myself, "You think the church could ever be this way too?" I have a dream of a caring church, marked by genuine love and aloha, whose congregation is drawn from many races, nationalities, and social backgrounds and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God. A church where we feel like one big ohana, where we love and respect our kapuna, where the keiki are not marginalized but included, where the nāwaliwali are supported and the mehameha are befriended and the members bear each other's burdens and obey Christ's command to turn from self and give their lives tirelessly in the service of others. I believe in the power of the 'Uhane Hemolele to accomplish this. But there is no passivity in the attainment of Christlikeness. I venture to say that we have to do our part. If we love each other, pray for each other, and bear each other's burdens, this can be one of the most encouraging and attractive things the world can see.

Mahalo nui loa. Me ke aloha pumehana.

Dave (aka Kawika)

11:54 AM Now that the Daily Dose of Greek is available in Spanish, I thought this might be a good time to mention that our beginning grammar is available on Amazon for only .99 on Kindle.

11:30 AM The Y is a great place to do strength training. Lifting weights can help make your body a better tool and help you achieve your other goals such as biking, running, and swimming. I usually use free weights and I try to train 3 times a week, with at least 3 days of rest. I used to call this "weight lifting" but I now prefer "strength training" because the goal is not to lift weights but to become a stronger athlete. Next to the actual time I spend running, I've found strength training to be the most important method of cross-training for my races.

Here was my routine today:

  • Lat pull downs.

  • EZ bar curls.

  • Lateral raises.

  • EZ bar upright rows.

  • Hammer curls.

  • Dumbbell lateral raises.

  • Dumbbell flies.

  • Seated dumbbell press.

  • Bent over row.

There you have it. I hope I've convinced to get to the Y!

7:20 AM We're always adding new links to our Greek Portal. One of the best is a link to the Bryan College Library: Greek Resources Page. I was reading it this morning and was drawn to a page that features online Greek New Testaments, including the one produced by Tregelles. There is much uncertainty today about the role that Paul may have played in the production of the letter to the Hebrews. There is a constant tendency to neglect the external evidence of authorship. Even the ordering of the New Testament canon is sometimes overlooked. This occurred, in my opinion, in the Tyndale House Greek New Testament, which is said to be based largely on the work of Tregelles. So this morning I turned to Tregelles and here's what I saw:

Clearly, Tregelles himself placed Hebrews after 2 Thessalonians. This shouldn't surprise us. Our earliest majuscules have the same order, as this chart shows:

Yet the THGNT departs from this pattern by situating Hebrews after Philemon. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Hebrews always circulated among the Pauline Corpus in the early centuries of the church, whereas we speak of Hebrews today as a "General Epistle." I invite you, then, to read Tregelles for yourself -- something our friends at Bryan College are eager to help us to do.

On another note, I'm already beginning to freak out about this weekend's half marathon. There's really no set formula for running 13.1 miles. Bottom line? Mind over matter. You simply put your head down, place one foot in front of the other, and pretend that nothing hurts. Repeat until you cross the finish line. You're usually super excited at the very beginning. Bottle it. Go out too fast and you'll pay for it later. Keep a modest pace and you'll thank yourself at mile 10. Weather on race is supposed to be hot and muggy. Maybe that's why they're starting the race at 7:00 am. Last time I forget to lube my thighs and paid the price.

The reality is that you can't fake a half marathon. Even if you start out without any pain you'll be hurting bad before the race is over. I'm an optimistic guy, but it's been my experience that my brain and body mess with me before a big race. I just hope I'm taking the right steps to prepare for the event and that I'll have the right attitude on race day. If I don't get hauled off on a stretcher I'll feel pretty good about my efforts.

Friend, what are you doing today? Pick a goal, large or small, and go for it. Never talk yourself out of doing something you want to do.

Off to the gym.

P.S. My Airbnb this weekend. Loverly, eh?

Sunday, August 18

5:58 PM Okay, you can stop sending me emails asking me how my bike ride went today. Well, nobody actually did that, but here's a brief report anyway. Yes, I've gotten back into cycling since I developed a bad case of prostatitis back in June. Thankfully, that's mostly cleared up, so today was the day to see if all of my internal organs were working again. The ride went well. It was a gorgeous day along the Virginia Capital Trail.

Even the drive there (two and a half hours one way) was delightful.

And if you're going to drive that far, you might as well get in more than just a few miles. Yes, this was today's mileage.

I've got to admit, I'm a little saddle sore, but biking that distance in under two hours is right up there with tikka masala and malasadas. I know there are many of you who bike regularly and are super UN-impressed with my feat today, as well you ought to be. You all might remember that I rode 67K on my bike to celebrate my 67th birthday back in June. Thus began all my woes. I don't know why, but I thought today's ride would go well and, so far, so good. Praise the Lord. If you are looking for a really nice biking trail that's easy and safe, you can't do better than the Virginia Capital Trail. And if you want a real professional's description of the ride, go here.

Next cycling goal? The Virginia Creeper Trail! 

7:48 AM A few random reflections before heading off to church and a bike ride. Been spending a lot of time in prayer these days. God seems to be calling me to serious intercession. I have a burden to pray, if you will. A burden is different from those times when you hear someone asking for prayer and you say, "I'll pray for you." A burden is when you feel like you just got gut-punched upon hearing of someone else's distress. A burden makes you gasp for air. It's an unrelenting anguish for the soul of someone that we can meet only with uncompromising dedication. You and I can expect much from God when we pray like this. But it begins with the willingness to carry the burdens of others.

Moving on, yesterday I was reading the Evangelical Textual Criticism website (one of my favorites) and saw that the text of Matt. 1:7-8 ("Asaph" versus "Asa") was being discussed. The ETC post is a kind of prolegomenon to the forthcoming Textual Commentary on the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT) by Dirk Jongkind and Elijah Hixson. The latter first lays out what he calls the "textual evidence" for both readings. What I find highly ironic is that in doing so he has to rely on evidence (the versional attestation) derived, not from his own Greek New Testament, but from the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament. As I begin teaching another year of introductory Greek, my students are asked to acquire a Greek New Testament that provides a sufficient amount of textual evidence upon which to base a sound judgment when a textual variant arises. By the way, I am assuming that all Greek students are committed to doing textual criticism. We are not only exegetes of the New Testament; we are students of its text. At least I hope so. For textual criticism lies at the very foundation of what we do as exegetes. Yes, I recognize that the art and science of textual criticism is often considered an unnecessary add-on to exegesis. Nevertheless, interest in this discipline is growing. My own students have to learn textual criticism in their second semester. That's because there are some 2,000 significant textual variants in the Greek New Testament. And in order to be able to resolve textual problems satisfactorily, you've got to have access to all of the evidence -- the Greek testimony PLUS the testimony of the ancient versions PLUS the testimony of the church fathers. For this reason, I personally recommend that my students acquire the UBS Greek New Testament despite the fact that think it has a tendency to over-value the early majuscules. At our 2000 Symposium on New Testament Studies, I recall my friend Keith Elliott talking about "the hypnotic effect of Aleph and B." One might say there's an almost over-fascination with the date of a manuscript instead of the date of its reading. However, you can have a later manuscript and it might still preserve an early reading. In fact, Westcott and Hort claimed they could recover the "New Testament in the Original Greek" based on the readings of two fourth-century Greek manuscripts (the papyri had yet to be discovered). So let's say you're deliberating whether or not the last 12 verses of Mark are original. You'll often hear someone say, "These verses are absent from the earliest and best manuscripts." This is quite vague, especially when you consider that these verses were apparently known to Justin (c. 160), Tatian (c. 170), and Irenaeus (c. 180), as James Snapp is always careful to point out. Their evidence would appear to push Mark 16:9-20 back into the second century, would it not? Why, then, isn't this fact emphasized, along with the fact that both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus have features that suggest their copyists were aware of the missing verses?

It has been very refreshing, while perusing the THGNT, to note how conducive it is to rapid reading and devotional study. But such an approach, admirable as it may look at first sight, has some considerable drawbacks in my opinion, not least being the lack of 2/3rds of the evidence that I believe is necessary to do textual criticism. I'll have more to say about recent editions of the Greek New Testament in the revision to my book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, which is a project I've added to my growing stack of revisions. Incidentally, our Greek Portal has a section devoted to textual criticism, including reviews of the THGNT. Click here if you're interested in reading them.

Finally, I just signed up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon to be held at Randolph-Macon College in beautiful Ashland, VA. The event is next Saturday. This will be half marathon #19 for me. What is my goal? Completion! If I can finish well under 3 hours, that would be awesome. I like half marathons because they don't leave me so exhausted after the race (as compared to a marathon). I'm excited to do this one, if only because it's a new course for me.

Off to the gathering. Have a great Lord's Day!

What's your favorite race distance?

Do use you use the Tyndale House Greek New Testament? What do you like most about it?

Paul says that each of us should carry our own burden of responsibility. But when that burden becomes too heavy to bear, God calls others to carry that load (Gal. 6:2, 5). How willing are you to carry the burdens of others in prayer?

Saturday, August 17

5:56 PM Oops. The race directors of this 50K race have pie on their face. They didn't expect a woman to win and one did. That left them one award short. Come on, guys. We can do better than this.

5:34 PM Pictures tell a story way better than words do, so here are 3 photos from today's race in the great city of Cary, NC. As you can see, the weather was über-perfect for a race.

Not only that, the motivation for running this race could not be better. I like races like this one -- "Run for Life" -- because you're not just running but you're raising money for a very good cause. Charities raise money in many different ways, including crowdfunding, raffles, bake sales, silent auctions, and walkathons. My favorite is the 5K race. Proceeds from today's event benefited BirthChoice, an organization that has provided free service to pregnant women in Raleigh since 1971 by offering pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and counseling services. Today's sponsors were mostly the Roman Catholic churches in the greater Raleigh-Durham area. Social change can take place through several different means, including prayer, evangelism, argument, example, and action. Our willingness to get involved in something as simple as running a 5K because we believe in the cause of the unborn is a test of our authenticity as Christians. Both evangelism and social action are costly activities. Both are unpopular because they challenge our built-in selfishness. So let's offer ourselves to God as agents of change. Every person at today's race (with, I imagine, a rare exception or two) was there because they believe that the Gospel has a transformative power, and that Christ has commissioned His church to be effective salt and light in the world.

The race itself was a blast. I had 6 goals going into today's race:

1) Finish.

2) Finish on the same day as the race. :-)

3) Finish in under 35 minutes.

4) Finish in first place in my age group.

5) Run (not walk) the entire race.

6) Have fun.

Here we are approaching the finish line.

These runners kept me on pace throughout the race. The dude in the white shirt ended up beating me by seconds to win first place in my age division. Got to hand it to him: I tried to net him in but he was just too fast for me today.

Here's what killed me today: 

This entire race it was so hard to know how to pace yourself because of the hills. Somehow I managed to maintain a (for me) respectable pace of 11:21. And I finished in well under 35 minutes. My key to a happy race is doing the best you can under the circumstances you find yourself in. If you want to move way out of your comfort zone, try the Cary Soccer Park course some time. It's pretty humbling. But the comradery and depth of friendships you develop make every moment of suffering worth it.

I seriously can't think of anything else to say about today's race. Well, maybe one more thing. Running teaches you a lot of things. One of these lessons is that there's no passivity in the attainment of Christlikeness. You don't just sit there and do nothing. In fact, when you do nothing in life, something always happens (just don't change the oil in your car or mow your yard and you'll see what I mean). The apostle Paul often spoke of the Christian life as a race. Quite simply, we are running for our lives. We don't let God do it all. We have to run from evil and run toward good. The apostle calls us all to be good runners. A healthy church is an athletic church. What we need to do is humble ourselves before God, seek the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, and then match our biblical teaching with our compassionate outreach. No task is to be too menial or degrading to undertake for each other and for the world.

Charity races like the one I ran today speak with clarity and power to a confused and demoralized world with a message that is pure gold. God loves everybody, from the preborn to those in hospice care. And we who follow Christ are to be like Him in His incarnation, His service, His love, and His mission.

5:10 AM I still believe today what I've always believed: Teaching is one of the greatest vocations God can call us into. Since Becky went to see Jesus, I've somehow made it through to a new, better place. Our hearts are more resilient than we think, and the work of healing and transformation can do things you can't even imagine from where you're sitting now. Now is your time, my friend. Own it. Believe it. Become it. Walk in the path God has placed you in. Don't get stuck in the past. And don't try to second guess the future. Give today everything you've got. Never lose the dream.

A few odds and ends before I leave for the race:

1) Beginning Greek is about to start. If students can't grasp the idea of how the Greek verb works (conjugation -- ugh!), then the party's over. Knowing a little Spanish will help. Mucho.

2) I highly recommend the Joshua Project for anyone wanting to know how to pray for the nations. 

3) In NT 2, we're studying the Pauline epistles in their chronological order. One reason I treat 1-2 Thessalonians before Galatians is the absence of apostolos in their opening greetings. If you'd like to see what I mean at a glance, here's a Power Point.

4) This morning I prayed Phil. 1:9-11 for my kids and grandkids. They will need love. They will need knowledge (love is never blind). They will need discernment (NLT: "I want you to understand what really matters"). And they will need a fruitful life ("By their fruit you will know them"). "Prayer is the very sword of the saints" (Francis Thompson). I need to unsheathe it more often.

5) For what it's worth, I enjoy listening to John Stott's sermons. His series on Ephesians is outstanding. His sermon titles are always catchy and, hence, memorable. I bet you can complete the following message titles:

  • Amazing ______.

  • When everything begins and _____.

  • History and _________.

  • New life -- new ________.

  • Unity and _________.

  • Be what you ___.

  • Spiritual weapons for spiritual ________.

6Daily Dose of Greek continues to amaze me. Greek student, bookmark it today.

7) Why your kids should study Latin, the "other" classical language. (You see: I'm not biased after all.)

Friday, August 16

7:02 PM Ok, all you kids out there. I see that tomorrow's 5K in Cary has only 7 people over the age of 65 competing. The oldest is an 80-year old female. That's nothing. Last year Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins set a world record for her age group for the 100-meter dash at the age of 102. I know I've told you many times that I plan on running till I drop. Hey, I'm just getting started. My philosophy is to embrace the older years but never give into the "I'm too old for that" mentality. Sure, I might have to work harder than other runners, and I may have to slow down more as I get older, and, sure, recovery time takes longer, and yes, you notice a few more creaks and aches, and you do, of course, become more injury prone, but I'm smarter and wiser than I was in my youth. At least I think I am. (You'd have to ask my kids to be sure.)

I hope I can run for many, many more years. Club 65+ ain't so bad!

6:15 PM Hey folks! Here's a saying I'd like you to consider. "Christians are self-feeders." That thought occurred to me today while meeting with a student. We were talking about the teaching ministry of the church. Many Christians try to live off a once-a-week feeding regiment. No wonder they're starving. On our farm we've raised just about everything -- goats, chickens, horses, beef cattle, and even sheep. How do shepherds feed their sheep? They don't! Shepherds do not feed their sheep (or goats or chickens or horses or cattle) -- they lead them to good pasture where the sheep feed themselves. Ever thought about that?

Of course, there are exceptions. Last year, when one of our mama goats died after giving birth, I bottle fed her baby. But that's the exception that proves the rule. "Christians are to be self-feeders." In order to mature and to grow, I have to feed myself. In other words, instead of expecting others to do what I'm supposed to do, I can take responsibility for my personal spiritual growth. Christianity is not Gnosticism, where only a few "insiders" can understand the Bible. Indeed, all good preaching on Sunday should lead people to the Scriptures and encourage them to read and study the Bible for themselves. If we are trying to live off the words of others, we are resisting God's best truth delivery system and His most gifted teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Pastor friend, if we only serve precooked meals, we condemn our churches to perpetual immaturity. I would like to see more local churches equipping their people with the tools they need to do personal Bible study. This is one reason I'm so excited about the apologetics conference coming up next month at Clearview Church in Henderson. Sometimes it's not easy to read the Bible on our own. But we must struggle to do so. I'm looking forward to learning a lot about Bible study from Drs. Meade and Gurry during the conference. It goes without saying that we must study the Scriptures until we have become really familiar with them. This conference, I hope and pray, will be an aid in helping us to do just that.

So there you have it. A (fairly) brief blog post for a Friday!

Thursday, August 15

7:55 PM Just ordered this book from Amazon. Can't wait to dig into it. You've likely never heard of it. Neither had I. But what a great title.

6:58 PM Takeaways from today's faculty workshop:

Best quote: "Our greatest mission field is not telling people to go 'over there' but to go back to work on Monday."

Best book mentioned: Henri Nouwen, Reflections on Christian Leadership.

Best neologism: "Sychar Moment" (how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman with love even as He told her the truth.

Best neologism (runner up): "Pracademician" (an academic who practices what he or she preaches).

Best stat: 61 percent of people in church are female.

Best recommendation: Have live preachers at your satellite churches (1) to emphasize the relational aspect of ministry and (2) to train up new pastors.

Looking forward to Day 2.

Wednesday, August 14

6:12 PM Nice day today. Had a 45-minute workout, then ran 4 miles on the track at a pretty good pace for an old man.

The whole time I listened to great sacred music -- Gabrielli, Lauridsen, Rutter. All in Latin of course. Learn Latin if for no other reason than to listen to the world's greatest worship music.

O magnum mysterium, 
et admirabile sacramentum, 
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, 
jacentem in praesepio! 
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera 
meruerunt portare 
Dominum Christum. 

Great mystery indeed! I weep every time I hear this. Unbelievably beautiful. Thank God for music. 

In the meantime, I've come up with this schedule of races to top off the running year. (This is a work in progress in case you're wondering.)

  • Saturday, Aug. 17: Run for Life 5K, Cary, NC.

  • Saturday, Aug. 24: Patrick Henry Half Marathon, Ashland, VA.

  • Saturday, Sept. 28: Virginia 10-Miler, Lynchburg, VA.

  • Sunday, Oct. 13: Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL. (WHOOP WHOOP ALERT)

  • Saturday, Dec. 7: Race 13.1, Raleigh, NC.

Not sure what else I might add this year. I would love to climb Elbert this year but I don't think that's going to happen. Maybe next summer. I mean, there's something about climbing the highest 14-er in the Rockies. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Great rest of the week to you all!

10:22 AM The Clearview Apologetics Conference is only one month away!

It will feature John Meade and Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary. Both are excellent speakers and experts in the field of text and canon. To register, go here. Overall, there'll be lots of good info.

9:56 AM This week begins year #43 of teaching for me. It kicks off with our annual faculty worship tomorrow and Friday. I'm eager to see my colleagues and friends again after the summer hiatus. This morning I'm reviewing my writing goals for the upcoming academic year. For me, writing is the ultimate act of self-awareness. Whenever I write, I end up knowing more about myself than I did 60 minutes earlier. Writing has become a huge part of my life. It opens my heart and mind to the things of God like little else. Failure to communicate with each other locks us out of genuine relationships. If I'm sitting here with my thoughts and feelings locked up inside me and you're sitting there doing the same thing, communication has been pushed aside.

Of course, not all of my writing will be of the academic kind this year. For one thing, I will continue to blog. "Is that genuine writing?" someone asks. It is for me. I've been blogging for almost 14 years now. I find that the very act of forming words out of my life helps me understand it. My life is richer and more meaningful because there are words in it. Writing is not just something I do. It is me. My blog enables me to see where I've been and where I'm going. In a sense, it shapes my destiny. It's a yardstick of my pilgrim's progress. It enables me to see how far I've come and how far I've yet to go. Six years ago, when loss walked in and crumbled my life, I realized more than ever that I needed the outlet of blogging. Without question, blogging strengthens my internal resolve. I become what I write.

Last week I had lunch with a friend in Hawai'i who reads my blog. He was bemoaning the fact that so few bloggers have carried on and seem to have changed over to Facebook or Twitter. I could resonate. I find very few blogs that I read with regularity compared to what I could find 5 or 10 years ago. Even if no one read my words, I think I would continue to blog. I feel like I'm writing not only to myself but to my friends. Blogging forces me to organize my thoughts. As I share with my blogging audience what I'm thinking about and doing, those thoughts and deeds become clearer to me. I don't care about my traffic or numbers. I never look at my stats. And I don't really have a strategy for my daily blogging. I fly by the seat of my pants usually. I love the spontaneity of blogging. My only rule for blogging is that I don't force anything or write a post that I think everybody is "expecting" me to write. I don't blog if I don't feel inspired. I'd infinitely rather read a blog that's honest than a Facebook entry any day. It's fun to read how people are coping with their lives. Some of us are doing better than others, but we can all learn from one another. Blogging is just sheer fun, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you all.

If you're one of the bloggers I read regularly, thank you for doling out perspective. You may not have known that's what you were doing, but your readers need to hear from you.

What are your favorite blogs?

If you could choose blogging over Facebook, which would you choose?

What would you tell ME if we were sitting down at Starbucks having a cuppa together?

9:05 AM This morning, as I stared at the elephant shapes in the clouds, I remembered that a week ago I was watching a beautiful sunrise in Hawai'i. On both occasions, the majesty of God was all around me, and I was grateful. God's artistry is not limited to a gorgeous morning in Paradise. It's evident everywhere if only we would have the eyes to notice it.

Gratefulness is not exactly the same thing as thankfulness. Thankfulness is the response to a favor done. It's the reply to a gift. It's the "Thank you!" after a blessing. Gratefulness is more an attitude, a joy and contentment before anything is even given to us. It's a disposition we carry with us into our day, whether or not life is going our way. It's the "Praise the Lord!" without any guarantee of blessings. It's our "Yes" to God before He answers our prayers. In 1 Thess. 5:18, Paul says we are to be thankful in all things. Perhaps we could also translate this as "Be grateful in all things." God wants us to accept whatever He brings into our lives. We can complain about what we don't have or be grateful for what we do have. Today I choose the latter. When people look at me today, I want them to see someone who is gushing with gratefulness. No other quality of life will be sufficient for the long haul.

Tuesday, August 13

5:10 PM I need to get these:

5:02 PM Some of the points we'll be discussing from this book in our NT 2 class this fall:

  • "When "Go" Replaces "Come to Us"

  • The Costly Nature of Grace

  • The Kingdom Transcends All Church Forms

  • Tearing Down the Sacred/Secular Divide

  • Incarnational Engagement with the Wider Culture

  • Evangelism as a Way of Life, Not Just an Event

  • A Family, Not an Institution

  • A People Rather than a Place

  • A Movement on a Mission

  • Moving the Eucharist from an Occasional Observance to a Central Practice

  • Welcoming Those Who Are Different

  • Moving from Perceived Arrogance to Transparent Humility

  • Moving from Speaking about Grace to Grace Speaking through Lives

  • Moving from Having an Agenda to Letting the Holy Spirit Carry the Agenda

  • From Social Programs to a Socially Engaged Way of Life

  • Moving from Merely Proclaiming a Message to Demonstrating Personal Concern

  • Moving from a Dualistic to a Holistic Gospel

  • Moving from Serving in the Church to Serving Christ in Vocations

  • Fostering Full Participation

  • Encouraging Interactivity and Dialogue

  • Including All Ages in Worship Gatherings

  • Bringing Openness and Vulnerability

  • Prioritizing Authenticity over Relevancy

  • From the Vision of the Leader to the Vision of All

  • From Leadership Based on Willingness to Leadership based on Gifting

  • From Exclusive Decision Making to Inclusive Consensus Building

  • Team Leadership

  • From Mediators of God to Facilitators of Ministry

  • From Equipping Members to Equipping Missionaries

  • Embracing Liturgy

  • Restoring the Centrality of the Eucharist

  • Fostering a Worshipful Way of Life

What do you think? Do you agree with any of these? Disagree?

9:08 AM Been translating the book of 1 John. Here's a sample of the first paragraph of the letter -- quite a doozy syntactically!

And get this. "Kailua" is now a brand name.

Can't believe it. My little home town a marketing slogan. Who woulda thunk it.  

Monday, August 12

5:54 PM So you think I can be content with just one blog post about my trip? Ha. Hawai'i did not disappoint. I got a great deal on airfare. Yesterday, when I was checking in at the airport, I was offered $1,500 if I'd give up my seat to let a dead-heading United pilot use it while I took a flight that connected in Chicago instead of Newark. That was a no-brainer. 1,500 bucks is a lot of moolah when you travel as much as I do.

Competitive airfares aside, the best thing about Hawai'i is that it's -- Hawai'i. A place with no ethnic minorities. A place where all nationalities and races mix. I think the fact that I can get along with everyone and I love all nationalities has something to do with growing up there. Music, language, cuisine -- they're all mixed together in Hawai'i.

And the flowers. Oh my. Plumeria, anthuriums, gardenias, pikake, hibiscus. But these are all mere adornments to the beaches. Growing up in Hawai'i you learn to love the beach -- its warm sand, its flowing palm trees, the sound of breaking waves. When you leave, you miss everything about the Islands. Today it's the food, tomorrow the surf, then your friends, the sunrises, the hospitality, the trade winds, the jagged mountain ranges  ... all in one place, next to each other. When Hawai'i takes your heart away, you never fully get it back -- unless, of course, you're in Hawai'i.

Above all, Hawai'i is the place where I first came to know a man named Jesus and to hear His call to be Christlike in His incarnation, His service, His love, His patience, and His mission. Growing up in the Hawaiian Jesus Movement, Jesus never ceased to attract me. It was in Hawai'i that I saw Him for the radical that He was -- impatient with the traditions of the elders and the conventions of institutions, a merciless critic of the establishment, a lover of sinners. When I was a teenager I read the Gospels over and over again. For us Jesus Freaks, the church was a family, with God its Father and Jesus its Leader and Lord. I still feel my grasp of the church is undergirded by the years I spent in the Islands. What was so liberating about this time in my life was that theology seemed to engage with real life. We shared a vision of the future that was a renewal of creation, not an escape from it. I started to read a lot of books. I began to see that Christianity was a way of life -- orthodox to be sure, but happy to give itself away for others. I got excited about the Bible and went off to Biola. I was especially interested in missions and, in fact, almost did my Ph.D. at Tübingen under the famous missiologist Peter Beyerhaus. My missions professors at Biola were filled with biblical wisdom, candor, honesty, and plans for practical action. I loved to sit and read, to dream and pray. I did a lot of this in Hawai'i this past week in fact!

Even as a teenager, I began to discover that joy is to be found, not in discarding the yoke of Christ, but in submitting to it. I was determined to believe and obey what I understood to be the clear teaching of the Word of God. I've had to learn to climb the Hill called Calvary and from that vantage point survey all of the tragedies I've faced in life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn't solve the problem of suffering. Instead, it provides the indispensable perspective from which to view it. Christians bounce back from lousy situations. It's in our DNA.

How have you dealt with suffering in your life? I know many of you have dealt with all kinds of hardships and disappointments. Throughout my life I've believed that one of the reasons we go through hardships is so that we can hold up someone else who may need it. Everyone suffers. But then we get perspective, rise above the situation, yield to God's view of the matter, and take away what we were supposed to learn. My life as a child and teenager in Hawai'i was not all fun and games. But I tried not to let the bad things consume me. When bad things come our way, we can acknowledge them but we don't have to let them control us. The one thing that's helped me to overcome the bad times is my trust in the Lord and His plan for my life. With the 6th anniversary of Becky's home-going just around the corner, I know I'll make it through. With love. His love. His aloha.

We are more resilient than we think. Everything can be endured, my friend. Just do the best you can in the strength and wisdom of the Lord.  

12:44 PM Just got back. I can't thank the Lord enough for His gift of Hawai'i. I must be the luckiest man on the planet. The pure air, the beauty of the seascape, the stillness and seclusion, together make a uniquely satisfying combination of undeserved blessings. It's hard for me to imagine a greater contrast between Rosewood Farm and the shore of Kailua Beach, yet each has its own fascination and I revel in them both. As soon as you leave this place you want to come back. Maybe next year!

Monday, August 5

3:06 AM One word says it all:


Sunday, August 4

6:45 PM One of the books I'm taking with me to Hawai'i is Haddon Robinson's Biblical Preaching.

Man does he connect with his audience. Just check out this message he gave at a DTS graduation service.

I had many opportunities to listen to Prof. Robinson in person when I was visiting my wife's home church in Dallas. He has been called the modern-day prince of preachers. One of his "Haddonisms" was "A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew." Down to earth yet always biblical. Praise God.

6:15 PM After church today I decided to get in a 10-mile run at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. I took a lot of water with me because today's real feel was 98 degrees and there was a threat of thunderstorms. Thankfully the latter never materialized. My goal is to run/bike/swim at least 100 miles every month between now and marathon day. I averaged 100 miles/month when I trained for the St. George (Utah) Marathon and felt that all those miles were partly responsible for the marathon PR I got there. For the race on Oct. 13 in Chicago, I have three goals:

  • My A goal: Get a new PR.

  • My B goal: Finish well under 6 hours.

  • My C goal: Finish before the course closes.

Today I managed a pretty good pace (hovering around 5.5 miles per hour) despite the heat. The key to running in hot weather (and not dying) is:

  • Always take hydration with you, even if you're only going 3-4 miles.

  • Drink a large glass of water one hour before you run.

  • Stay on the shady side of the path.

  • Take it slow and steady.

  • Run in the morning if you can.

  • It's okay to walk part of the way.

  • Wear loose, wicking clothing.

  • Don't forget sun block.

  • Dump water on your head every so often.

  • Wear a white hat.

Heat cannot be bargained with. If you try, it will win every time.

This is the absolute worst time of the year to train in Virginia. You are always too hot. The intensity of the summer sunshine makes you want to curl up into a ball in front of your home air conditioner. That said, if you're smart and careful, you should manage okay. Speaking of the weather, I see that a tropical storm is passing just to the north of O'ahu, bringing with it waves measuring up to 12 feet at Kailua Beach. Currently there's a high surf advisory in effect for all east-facing beaches. A surfer's paradise! 

8:45 AM It's just a small spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It's easy to miss on a map. Yet O'ahu packs an amazing amount into a relatively small island -- a fascinating history, a rich and diverse culture, and, of course, the world's best beaches, including the place where I was raised (Kailua Beach, just voted the # 1 beach in the U.S.). I took my first trip to O'ahu on June 9, 1952. I arrived, you might say, rather miraculously at Kapiolani Hospital, leaving my dark home in the wee hours of the morning. That's when my Hawaiian adventure began to unfold.

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to" (Unknown).

When I left Hawai'i for college in 1971, I shook off the past. My perspective was shifting from island boy to language student and eventually language teacher. The "Big Big Island" (mainland) held so many attractions for a keiki from Kailua. There's a moment, however, when everything in your life shifts back to your roots. For many years, Hawai'i was just my birthplace. It was used on legal documents to uniquely identify me as a person (birth certificate, passports, etc.). I "hailed from Hawaii" but it was no longer "home" for me. It's subtle, but when you leave your birthplace to relocate in another state, you realize you've joined a whole new reality. Today, my "world" is much bigger than a 597-square mile island. But can't the local boy go "local" again for a week or two each year? After all, you've fallen in love with O'ahu once more, and even though you will never live there again you catch yourself saying things like, "I was so very blessed to have grown up in Hawai'i."

"Where we love is home -- home that our feet may leave but not our hearts" (Oliver Wendell Holmes).

Hometowns are always special. Just think of all those happy childhood memories -- the drive-in where you got plate lunches, the skate board races at your high school, going North Shore fo surf. Home is a place where you don't need to put any effort into fitting in. The way of life, the local dialect, the regular pace of life (slooooow) put you at ease the moment you arrive at Honolulu Airport. You can't explain it, but even the food tastes better there. My guess is that my first meal in Kailua will be Crispy Gau-Gee Min with Vegetables at the New Mui Kwai Chop Suey restaurant on Oneawa St. My oh my. Broke da mout ono.

And you know the best thing of all? The people. Silly or crazy, kama'aina or haole, they're your people. Hawai'i is not just a place for me. It's 19 years of my life. It's my aunties and uncles and cousins and friends. It's my colony. It's my 'hood. It had a huge part in making me what I am today. And in that sense, I guess it will always be home sweet home.

Saturday, August 3

7:30 AM This morning I began a study of 1 John. Of course, one of the versions I'm using is Hawaiian Pidgin. A good test case of a translation is 1 John 3:9 -- a verse the CSB renders as:

Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.

Is this John's point in 1 John 3:9? His message, rather, seems to be twofold:

1) The Christian does not continue to sin.

2) The Christian cannot go on sinning.

Note carefully:

1) John is not denying the possibly of sin in the Christian. To deny sin is to be a liar (1 John 1:5-10).

2) If John is not arguing against the impossibility of sin in the Christian, then what is he arguing against? The incongruity of sin. Our new nature in Christ is a strong internal pressure toward holiness. In the words of John Stott, " ... the sin a Christian 'does not' and 'cannot' do is habitual and persistent sin." When a Christian sins, "he is overwhelmed by grief and repentance afterwards." Hence the GNB translation that true believers "do not continue to sin":

Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God's very nature is in them; and because God is their father, they cannot continue to sin.

This idea is reflected in several other versions. Here's a sampling:

  • Nueva Versión Internacional: no puede practicar pecado.

  • Nuova Riveduta 2006: e non può persistere nel peccare.

  • Neue Genfer Übersetzung: Gott ist sein Vater geworden -- wie köntte er da noch sündigen!

  • GOD'S WORD Translation: they can't live sinful lives.

  • The Message: It's not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin.

I don't think this point is made very clear in the CSB or in other translations such as the Luther Bible:

Wer aus Gott geboren ist, der tut nicht Sünde, denn dein Same bleibt bei ihm; und er kann nicht sündigen.

So, how did the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible render our text? I think it nails it:

Whoeva God's kids no stay do bad kine stuff, cuz jalike God stay live inside dem now. Dey no stay do bad kine stuff, cuz dey come from God.

You'll notice that Pidgin does not merely say "Dey no do bad kine stuff." Instead, it says "Dey no stay do bad kine stuff." That's a big difference. In other words, let's learn to tell God the truth about how we're doing. If we've messed up, let's say it. If we've sinned, let's say it. The holy practice of confession creates a healthy faith. This is enormously important theology. And no, it's not based merely on the Greek tenses used here. Friends, I think it's possible to over-exegete the Greek tenses. I also think it's possible to under-exegete them. And don't think for a minute that the debate over verbal aspect is going to go away soon. Here's a book I got recently.

And here's what it says about verbal aspect:

"Much confusion." I'll say.

Greek may be convoluted but the kingdom is not: Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Faithfulness is not easy but it's simple. Our supernatural birth (as God's "seed") keeps us from habitual sin. "If we would be loyal to his first coming and ready for his second, we must purify ourselves, as he is pure. By so doing we shall give evidence of our birth of God" (John Stott).

Meanwhile, today it's back to my training program. My goal is to stay healthy and balanced while doing it. (Easier said than done.) Up until the marathon, I plan to alternate hard and easy weeks, mixing in a few races (like tonight's) in between. I feel strong physically and mentally thank the Lord. There's only thing better than meeting my goals and that is watching people I love meet theirs. Folks, if we allow ourselves to be ourselves and God to be God, I believe we have a fighting chance!

Friday, August 2

2:24 PM Vacationing in Hawai'i? Here are some more characteristics of Hawaiian Creole (aka Pidgin):

  • Absence of th sounds. Think becomes tink and the becomes da.

  • Non-rhotic. (We no can say "r.") Letter is letta and poor is poa.

  • The letter -l at the end of a word often becomes -o. Mental is mento, people is peopo.

  • Verbs of being are often omitted or replaced by stay. Da house big. Da cup stay on top da table.

  • Wen is used to express past tense. Jesus wept is Jesus wen cry.

  • The future tense is expressed by goin'. I goin' town bumbai for I will go to town (Honolulu) later.

Pidgin is as common as Spam is in the Islands. Lord willing, I'll be there on Monday. I know I'll feel at home again when someone says to me, "Try wait" or "Pass me da kine."


1:10 PM Just signed up for tomorrow's 5K in Durham. It's called the Bull Moon Ride and Run. The race starts at 7:45 pm. All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity Durham. I've done this race twice. The post-race block party is fabulous.

12:58 PM New from Southern Utah University: 5 Benefits of Getting Outside. Great idea. Think I'll try it now.

Thursday, August 1

5:38 PM Today I had the joy and honor of being interviewed by Abidan Shah of Clearview Church for his podcast Carpe Mañana. His entire staff joined us for the interview.

We talked mostly about my books Running My Race and They Will Run and Not Grow Weary. Abidan wanted to know why I began running 5 years ago. I told the story of how 10 years ago Becky was diagnosed with stage 4 endometrial cancer, which had already spread to her lymph nodes. About how we fought this dreaded disease for 4 years. About how her treatments were as awful as her illness. About how it made me both angry and sad that cancer could attack my wife so viciously and there was nothing I could do to stop it. About how Becky sought comfort in her Bible and with her Lord. About how her last prayer request was that she would be able to finish her autobiography before God called her Home. About how on the morning of Nov 2, 2013, I heard an unearthly gasp as my 60-year old wife took her last breath. About how running provided mental relief and emotional release for me as I focused on something other than my grief. About how my loss pushed me to the edges of sorrow as well as hope and inspiration. Running was just what I needed at the time. It allowed me to get outdoors, clear my head, think about something else for a long time, empty out the accumulated emotions, and grieve the loss. Running became for me a way both to deal with and avoid the emotional pain of Becky's death.

Why am I telling you all this? I remember being up against the fear, the insecurity, the challenges of grief. Some days I still am. Maybe you are up against some of these same things today. That's why I was excited when Abidan ask me if I would be willing to talk about these books. I hope I've been a good role model for others, especially for my kids and grandkids. I have learned that life never gets easier, it just shifts. Through suffering I've returned to the absolute sovereignty of God. Am I so in love with my plans for my life that I am unwilling to bow to His? Or do I plot the course and expect Him to follow it? God takes no orders from us. He is Lord. Yet the One who is Lord invites us to His rest, and His Holy Spirit is still our Comforter. I can't imagine the widower who has no balm of heaven with which to meet the fiery darts of the Evil One. I don't need a religion that denies the existence of evil and sin and death. Our Lord refused to meet the ills of life with a Pollyanna philosophy. He met them with Himself. "In the world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." Trouble is a reality, but we can cheer up for He has overcome all the world can throw at us.

I have to tell you. I had prided myself on staying strong as long Becky was alive. Then to be suddenly filled with self-doubt was a tough pill to swallow. It took me years before I could finally surrender it all to Jesus. In all of these uncertainties, He was my crutch. Today He's my Rock, and I'm lost without Him. And He gave me the gift of running alongside every other blessing. I can't thank Him enough.

Well, there you go. That's my update/vent. The healing effect that getting outdoors and spending time alone with God is phenomenal. It's such a gift.  

P.S. These arrived today. The Hendricksen commentaries are simply the best. Scholarly yet practical and pastoral. I can't recommend them enough.

8:36 AM Here's why I run:

1) Praise. Running reminds me how shockingly gracious God is, and how free we are to love Him back with all our mind, soul, strength, and bodies. Yes, with our body, that physical thing wrapped around me that tells me I'm in my mid-60s when I'm really only 45. It's His, all His, but it matters what we do with it.

2) Appreciation. For the men and women and boys and girls I see out on the course every time I lace up. Who would have known how great the running community has turned out? I've met some really amazing people from all over the nation and even the world at racing events. Now if only fewer of them over 65 would run, I might have a shot at a medal.

3) Fitness. Live long enough and it becomes clear that health is a pure gift of the Lord. One of the best parts of being human is taking care of the "tent" He's given us. No, we don't live and breathe for health. We live for the love of Jesus and for the love of our families and for the love of a lost world. Honestly, that's why taking care of our bodies matters.

4) Challenge. Every day, every week, every month there are new goals to accomplish. What a chance to really test our limits. I deeply believe that God wants this for us, that He delights in seeing us challenge ourselves with bigger and greater goals. So few of us live up to our God-given potential. What a loss. What a tragedy. We can never get those years back again.

5) Happiness. Running is like a drug. I am a happier person because of activity. It helps me cope with all the "stuff" in my life.

Thank you, running!

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