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Saturday, June 24 

12:24 PM Love cutting grass.

Ain't nothin' like a freshly mown lawn.

Also worked on my tan for my August Hawaii trip (hehe). Now I'm off to do some training for my event tomorrow. It's a gorgeous day!

9:14 AM Just three weeks to go until I fly out to Chicago for my next half marathon. Which reminds me: I'm doing this for a reason. Not because I'm a glutton for punishment, but because of the space the Holy Spirit creates in me to keep moving forward with my life. I can no longer default to a couch-potato, mindless, thoughtless, inactive lifestyle. Not if my body is the temple. What does the Holy Spirit want to do with this aging sarx of mine? I really don't know for sure. I do believe he wants me to try and climb Mont Blanc (the tallest Alp) next summer to raise more funds for cancer research. But I'm not going to box Him in. It's one thing to make the decision to live a more healthy lifestyle. It's quite another to act on that decision month after month after month. I told my Greek students (and I really meant it): "There's only one thing worse than never having studied Greek, and that is to have studied it and then gone on to forget everything you learned." As an adult-onset athlete, I have to choose my races carefully lest I overdo it. Like this weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest. At this point I realize I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. Maybe I'll love the event. Maybe I'll hate it. I don't have the foggiest idea what a "transition area" is or what I'm supposed to do in it. (Do bikes with luggage racks count?) For the swim leg I'm starting at the very back of the pack. No doubt that's where I'll end up too. Don't matter. I feel this race is for me. I'll pin on that race number and put myself on the line for the umpteenth time. If I'm tired, I'll just have to find a way to keep on going. If I'm hot, I'll have to figure out how to cool down. I will discover my own struggles, and maybe even breath a word of encouragement to others who are sharing those same struggles. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get through the swim leg without drowning. I even took a picture of the pool yesterday so that I could study the lane configuration.

Oh boy. "Dear Hawaii: I miss you so much. Remember how you and I would swim together every day? Now it's been years since I've done the crawl stroke." It's a good time to tell you I take my limitations seriously. That's why I asked to be placed at the end of the swimming leg. Well, eighth from the end.

Which means there's a likelihood that I'll be last in the bike leg too. And the running leg. If you're there, just look for the old guy babbling uncontrollably as he waddles across the finish line.

Folks, I can't help myself. I have an inexplicable love for the sport of running. I've poured over websites, read heaps of books, celebrated the triumphs of marathon winners. Racing has become a classroom for me. I'm learning my limitations -- and maybe even my potential. So I have a clear dog in this hunt. I am literally running for my life. If my kids bury me early, it won't because I was out of shape. There is something noble about an assembly of people knocking themselves out for the sake of a cheap finisher's medallion. The rules of racing are simple: Get to the starting line and do your dead-level best to finish.

Oh say, did I tell you that the Wake Forest Triathlon was the first triathlon to benefit Smile Train -- the world's largest cleft lip and palate charity? 100 percent of the athlete registration fees go to Smile Train, which provides free care to children in over 85 developing countries. It has performed more than one million surgeries since 1999. See if you can read this story without tearing up.

There is nothing triumphalistic about this approach. Nothing arrogant. It has a simple authenticity that comes from suffering, from showing compassion to the poor, and from the generosity and involvement of donors from all the over the developed world. As Christians, our lips can't proclaim one message and our lives another. These are humbling reflections. We are far too prone to see Christianity as something we do in a church building. It is far more than that. Giving of our time and energy for a cause like this takes us to the very heart of God. Magnetized by God's great gift (2 Cor. 9:15), Christian donors joyfully do what little they can. Praise God for believers with generous hearts. The glory goes to Him. And we get the joy of honestly sharing the Gospel with others both in deed and in word.

P.S. My daughter Jessie sent me this photo earlier.

That's her eldest son at the Farmer's Market this morning. She now reports he's already sold everything and is back home. Way to go Nolan!

Friday, June 23 

8:10 PM Recently I've received text messages from people who were grieving a loss. Grief is a lot of things. It's usually not a fleeting feeling that's here today and gone tomorrow. You can have outward jollity and still have grief. If you are one of these "grief-sufferers," I offer you the following letter.

Dear __________. I am so very sorry for your loss. There is no quick fix to your problem. I say this because our culture has come to expect instant solutions to our personal pressures and daily trials. Maybe sharing from my own experience will be an encouragement to you.

I desire to live my life to the fullest, even though I don't have life all sorted out. My life isn't about "easy answers" or what I call "churchianity" any more. It's all about Jesus and why I follow Him even when I can't make peace with unanswered questions, even when I wrestle daily with all the weirdness and stupidity in the church, even though Becky's passing caused the God I once knew to disappear like steam on a mirror, even as I sort through my own grief and memories. I'm under no illusion that coping with your loss will be easy for you. It will take a lot of rethinking the "promises."

As you may know, I met Jesus during the 1960s. Back then life was simple. We sat around campfires singing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" surrounded by the waves of the beach and fellow saints attired in mariachi sandals. All of us had long hair then. After all, we wanted to "look like Jesus." Is it any wonder He loved us so much? Then at some point we grew up. Church became important to us again. The Holy Spirit was calling us back to our roots. To us Jesus Freakers, Christ was the glue that bound us together regardless of our church affiliations -- EV Free, Grace Brethren, Calvary Chapel. We gathered with the people we grew up with because we had fallen in love with them again. Our leaving the institutionalized had been an act of defiance. We were determined to become a real New Testament church. So, of course, that's exactly what we didn't become. Later in my life, I began to move into culture -- yes, the secular culture so despised by many in my evangelical subculture. I still listened to countless (mostly boring and ill-prepared) sermons in church, but I also listened to NPR and classic rock and Beethoven. I began to move into the mainstream of culture. Church became more and more of a burden to bear, a game people played, a system of professional advancement, programs to operate, superstardom to attain. There is something disturbing about watching a beautiful butterfly turn into an ugly wart. For years I elevated the Bible to being the fourth member of the Trinity. Not any more. Systematic theology can't heal a wounded soul. In my house on the farm there are boxes of letters I can't bring myself to read. There's a bedroom I can't enter. Becky's things remain untouched. It's all too much for my fragile emotions.

We Christians think that if we ignore our grief it will simply go away. Just when I think I've got my act together, Father's Day comes, or her birthday, or Mother's Day, or our anniversary. This is sacred ground -- this losing someone you love. Now I realize that because Jesus died, all of life can be seen through the cross. I now have a higher view of Scripture than ever. I see light in the darkness, His Light. And in that Light I see hope for grieving Christians -- even for grieving widowers. I have come to firmly believe that all of my life is His, including my heartaches. There is room for all of us in the house of grief. The problem is that we want answers now. We're desperate for some spiritual "fix" that will numb our pain and drive away our tears. "It's easy," you say to yourself. "I'll just read So-and-So's book. Surely that will lift the fog of depression and frustration." Yet the very things we turn to men for are the very things we ought to trust God with. He promises some day to rid the world of every tear, even of death itself. God knows and cares about you. And through your circumstances He's making Himself known. What you can't do, God will do. He'll help you grieve, help you cry, help you to keep trusting Him -- if for no other reason than He's your Daddy. Unwanted grief is a dreadful thing. But each time one of our loved ones dies, surely God cringes. Do you believe He loves you? Well, do you? "Yes" is only a word, but sometimes it makes all the difference in the world. A tough decision? Oh my! But it's a decision that He asks us to make. And whether we like it or not, it's a decision we must make daily.

Want to know what I do when I don't think I can take another step? Cry out to God. At any point God's presence can be extended to us. Unable to do anything else but reach out to this God we blindly trust, He comes to us in our pain. Only Jesus can help us bear the sorrow of loss. All we have to do is take His outstretched hand.

Your friend in Christ,

Dave

3:30 PM Hola amigos! You thought maybe the rapture had occurred, eh? Not really. I've just been busy teaching Greek. I've encountered thousands of students over 40 years of teaching, but this summer school class has been one of the best I've ever taught. Their passion and curiosity about language are contagious. In the past 6 weeks there were good patches and bad patches and on occasion nothing went according to plan. In the final analysis, I've found that all learning is ultimately self-learning. We hear, memorize, and remember selectively. We must all find the path to ourselves with our own minds. But this can happen only if we're willing to take the risk of moving off the spot we're on. So to all my summer Greek students I say: You've done it, and I'm mighty proud of you. All it took to begin was a single step. You were willing to do the work. You were willing, to use an athletic metaphor, to put in the miles, to run in the rain or the heat, to learn to run one day at a time. And I know you will keep running because you know that every step you take is a step in the right direction of becoming more and more who Jesus wants you to be. I can assure you: you're in for the race of your life.

A few pics from the week:

1) On Tuesday night some of my students invited me over for a dinner party. Imagine being offered three different kinds of rice dishes. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Thank you for the treat!

2) This morning I had a cuppa and some pastry at my colleague and friend Tracy's coffee shop in Wake Forest. It's called Back Alley Coffee. Those who know me know I'm not a connoisseur of coffee. On the other hand, I know a good cup of coffee when I taste one. This place had just what I was looking for.

3) Ben Merkle and I are now in the penultimate stages of planning our Greek and linguistics conference. I think we Greek students tend to see Greek studies as something the experts have figured out. Alas, the subject is far more frail, far less adhesive than it seems. As Paul once exhorted the Corinthians, we need to constantly examine ourselves and check up on our progress. There is nothing triumphalistic about the Greek magisterium. "Look at me. I've laid aside deponency!" It's more like a group of private detectives probing here, poking there. So stay tuned for an announcement about the when and where and who of our conference.

4) While we're talking about conferences, here's a blast from the past. It shows President Paige Patterson kneeling before the assembled sages at the first New Testament conference I ever organized on campus back in 2000. Bill Farmer and Eldon Epp are directly in front of the grand genuflector. Can you recognize any of the other scholars?

I am grateful to each of them, each in their own way, for helping me find myself. I love being a member of the academy. My life is richer, fuller, and more satisfying because of it. And the learning just gets better and better. I don't believe I've lived my last, best days. My best days are still out there somewhere, and each and every day that I am alive is an opportunity to find it. The same is true for you, my friend.

Grace to you,

Dave

Monday, June 19 

7:24 AM Good Monday morning to you all! Everyone has their race to run this week. For my summer Greek class (which is in its sixth and final week), we've got the subjunctive and imperative moods to cover, plus 1 John. In addition, today we're looking at the art and science of textual criticism. As for me, the Chicago Half Marathon is only 20 days away.

My heart is singing! I could spend hours upon hours sharing my thoughts with you about this race. There's nothing more motivating for success than a huge challenge. After Saturday's race I have a new-found confidence that I'm where I need to be right now.

This weekend, by the way, was tough on me emotionally, as holidays always are without Becky by my side. Today, though, I feel fantastic, so you can put those violins away. As with running, life keeps chugging along and you take the good days with the bad ones. This weekend the Father reminded me (again) that I'm not just another insignificant 8-digit code. Rather, my name (MY NAME!) is written in His book of life. A more wonderful thought is hard to imagine.

One last note. Einstein is supposed to have said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Here's a page from a book on the Greek perfect tense I was intending to review for publication.

I stopped when I saw what the author did with the Greek. I'm sure he must have thought, "No big deal." Well .... In a doctoral dissertation, you had better use a Greek font if you want me to read it, simply because I can't read Greek in transliteration any more than I can blog without mentioning running. Are you listening?

Sunday, June 18 

4:36 PM Yesterday I ran the "Race 13.1" Half Marathon in Roanoke, VA. I thought I'd share some of my photos and thoughts from the race since so many of you can't wait for my race reports (ha-ha). Besides, this is about the only way I know how to memorialize my life for my great-great grandchildren who will be mightily bored when they read about my exploits. As you know, I started the month in terms of my marathon training by running in the Raleigh Half Marathon two weeks ago. I finished the race with a respectable time of 2:36 if I recall. Yesterday, the same outfit put on the race in Roanoke -- which meant the same set up, the same DJ, the same music, the same style of bibs and medals, etc. I drove to the venue Friday night so that I could get up early on Saturday morning in time to grab my race bib and warm up for the race. I stayed in a very nice hotel that was located directly across the street from the course, which is always convenient. The hotel staff included a Greek receptionist named Ari (short for Aristotle) who was, I think, a bit taken aback that I could speak his own language with him. The course we ran is famous for its hills and stunning scenery along the city's famous Roanoke River. It's the longest distance I've ever "run" in my life -- as in running without stopping to walk. Boy did that feel good. I couldn't have done it without two things. First, I trained for the race ahead of time. I worked like a dog to prepare my legs and lungs for the rigors of the race, and yesterday I got to enjoy the fruit of my labor. At the starting line, I took a deep breath, relaxed my muscles, let go of all of my worries and cares, and focused entirely on the race. Secondly, I ran with a group of runners that kept spurring me on. I joined the 2:45 pace team that was led by a volunteer (and Marine Corps officer) named Mac. Mac constantly encouraged us to meet our goal of 2:45. In fact, near the end of the race I had just enough zest in my legs to push ahead and beat that time, though not by very much. Mac, as I said, was a great pacer. He had run the course before and knew where every hill and turn was, when we could expect the next water stop, etc. Running with him allowed me to focus on the present and not to obsess about mile markers, timing, pacing, etc.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday's race I thought you might enjoy reading:

1) Regular running builds discipline and character. In other words, success breeds more success. You'd be surprised to find out what you can accomplish when you take control over your mind. (Greek students take note!)

2) I can't thank the race organizers enough for arranging plenty of water stops and the post-race pizza as well. The entire event was extremely well organized and full of energy, swag, and comradery.

3) Never underestimate the value of a mini weekend vacation. It was awesome to just gel in a swanky hotel for 2 days. It felt like I was a million miles from Wake Forest and the farm. The price of the hotel even included two home-cooked breakfasts.

4) "Slow and steady finishes the race." You see, every part of my body has changed in the past few years through exercise. I've been working hard to develop muscular skills that allow me to walk, bike, hike, run, climb, surf, and even compete in long-distance races. I'm nowhere where I want to be, but I feel that yesterday's race represented an important milestone in my progress that will help me set even higher goals for myself in the future.

5) Some of the best things I've accomplished in life have happened since Becky passed away. I so wish she were here to enjoy them with me. There's a lifestyle change when you get involved in running. But the change is sweeter when it's shared with others. If you don't have an accountability partner, you will often fall victim to your own excuses, most of which are pretty lame. I've learned so much about myself through running, not least that (a) I'm a slow runner and (b) I have a hard time running in distance races (anything over a 10K). At the same time, I'm very stubborn, and being stubborn isn't all bad. This is what drove me to do my second half marathon in the span of 2 weeks. With my focus and stamina improving monthly, I think next month's Chicago Half will be a good test of my commitment.

6) Yesterday, when I woke up at an indecently early hour, I knew I was ready for the race. My finish time wasn't a PR, but still I had a great time. Going into this race I tried to use my experience of running 5 half marathons to my advantage. Thanks to YouTube, I was familiar with the course. I was expecting a long downhill in the middle of the race -- which meant, of course, that I'd be running back up that hill later. Maybe it was the cool weather and the overcast skies, but I felt better and stronger as the race went on. For the first time in my brief career as a half-marathoner I didn't feel like I was dying after mile 8. The last mile was, in fact, the fastest mile of the race. Approaching the finish line, I was actually disappointed that the race was over. I ended up completing the race with a time of 2:43.

7)  Now that I have 6 halves under my belt, I think I might have some insight into how this "running" thing works. As I crossed yesterday's finish line, I thanked my heavenly Dad that on this Father's Day weekend I could reach my goal. I accepted my finisher's medal, picked up my second place medal, chatted with my fellow runners, and realized once again that there's no "secret" to long distance running, just as there's no "secret" to mastering New Testament Greek. You can only run as fast as your training allows you to. I was happy with my efforts yesterday. I know I gave it all I had. I so want to live the rest of my days that way. I know I've made many mistakes along the way, both in running and in life, but I've got plenty of things to be grateful for.

Well, if you've had the patience to read this whole thing, you're the one who deserves a medal! I close with a few pix:

1) My weekend pad.

2) Mac is da man!

3) Woohoo! Beat 2:45!

4) My mile splits. Go, Dave, go!

5) Roanoke's famous "Star."

6) The city and the distant Blue Ridge are lovely.

7) Roanoke is famous for its architecture.

8) Feels like I'm in Switzerland. 

9) I attended here this morning.

10) The first hymn we sang was "For the Cause" -- which was commissioned for the Gettys by our own Danny Akin!

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

Friday, June 16 

4:56 PM Photo Friday:

1) One of our grads is heading back to the Philippines. Her mom and dad are here helping her pack. Hope you enjoy the books!

2) Did almost 7 miles at Umstead Park in Raleigh yesterday.

3) Beautiful place to hike!

4) Today I finally bit the bullet and got a pedicure before tomorrow's big race. As if they needed one!

Make it a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 14 

7:28 AM Too funny! Too true!

Tuesday, June 13 

7:48 PM I love work. I can watch it all day. Like, for example, when my assistant Noah taught our Greek class today.

Oh my! Participles! Yikes!

Or when my summer Greek student Adam helped us get up hay today.

(That was so fun.) Why, I even did some work myself today. (I need approval desperately.)

Right now it's time to settle in with a good book and chillax. Which is hard work for me.

Later!

7:25 AM Yesterday Chip Hardy and I met at Red Robin to discuss the student evaluations of our LXX course last semester and we made several (we hope) positive changes in our syllabus for the next go-around.

I love teaching this class with Chip (Ph.D., University of Chicago). We both view the classroom as an altar, a place where we can provoke one another on to careful exegesis of the biblical text. And speaking of exegesis, I just finished reading Stan Porter's marvelous chapter called "The Grammar of Obedience: Matthew 28:19-20" in his book Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament and will be sharing the results of Porter's analysis with my Greek class today, where we've already argued that "Go" should probably be "Going" because this keeps the focus on the main verb, "Make disciples of all nations" and its concomitant modal participles: "baptizing" and "teaching." As Stan so eloquently puts it, "The notion of going (to make disciples), rather than being grammatically prominent, is the background to the command to make disciples, realized by the finite verb in the Predicator of the primary clauses." He then concludes: "The making of disciples involves the public witness of baptism followed by and mirrored in a life of Christian obedience" (p. 253). Think of it: In the book of Acts, you got saved and got wet. Baptism preceded instruction -- unlike some places in Africa I've been where a long period of catechism and probation precedes the waters of baptism. Thank you, Stan, for reminding us of the importance of the first step of obedience in the Christian life -- following Jesus in the waters of baptism as our public profession of faith in Him.

More on this later ....

Monday, June 12 

10:04 PM We worked from 4:30 to 9:00 this evening.

A student from my summer Greek class was a HUGE help by driving the truck for us while we picked up hay. A million thanks, Brett!  

If I were to pare my life down to the bare essentials, to what is good, what is beautiful, what is life-giving, I believe it would include working with my own hands. Thank you, Lord of the harvest, for this wonderful blessing.

7:12 AM Having reread Noah Kelley's excellent overview of the Greek perfect tense in recent discussion, I decided I had to purchase this hefty tome.

Now if I can just find the time to read it. Meanwhile ....

Today marks the beginning of our fifth week of Greek class. What does that mean? It means that students will be getting an earful of participles, infinitives, subjunctives, imperatives, and a healthy dose of 1 John. Phew! Here I thought that things were going to get easier! I think the class is a bit tired but we're having fun. I often think back to my own experience in Greek classes at Talbot. What I experienced had a profound influence on my life and  ministry. One prof in particular was known for the combination of academic scholarship, evangelistic passion, and truly world-wide perspective. He was an inspiration and guiding light and I will never forget him. Oh to be that to my students!

This weekend my poor students were asked to read my little book called Using New Testament Greek in Ministry. I hope it will challenge them to emulate the passion of the great teachers of the church in years gone by. I have long ago lost count of the students, full of enthusiasm when they graduated, who became frustrated by a schedule that would not allow them to maintain a working knowledge of Greek. Everything is dictated by the tyranny of the urgent. This is a tendency so reprehensible and so far from the discipline required of a teacher that I have fought against it long and hard. What good, however, is it to study something and then proceed to forget it? Greek instruction is critical. But so is using Greek in one's personal life and ministry. Dedicated students set their sights on nothing less, and it is happening, though not as often as I would wish. We will see how things pan out in the next half century. Of course, I won't be here to see it!

Sunday, June 11 

9:35 PM Had a nice hike today in one of my favorite state parks.

The trail was deserted except for me and the wildlife.

Do you pronounce this "Am-phee-theater" or "Am-pee-theater"?

If the latter, then welcome to Grassmann's Law! Afterwards I got up hay with Nate and then pigged out on Mexican cuisine. Now it's time to settle in with Free As a Running Fox.

Bis Morgen....

7:28 AM Good morning everyone! First order of business: Report on the-best-birthday-party-I've-ever-had-in-my-65-years-of-living. It all started when two of my sons-in-law "kidnapped" me and drove me to the cemetery to visit Becky's grave. We prayed, read Scripture, and reminisced. (Okay, one of us also bawled like a baby.) Then it was back to the farm, which by now had been magically transformed into a Hawaiian beach scene with slack-key guitar music, waving palm trees, tiki torches, and leis for the bunch. I was completely taken by surprise. I felt like I was at a hukilau!

I watched while my kids and grandkids bantered and played and got caught up. I loved it. I had a lot of happy and productive chats. This morning I jotted down some life lessons that occurred to me this past year:

  • Nothing beats a loving home atmosphere.

  • If you want to be happy, do good to others.

  • Always risk making a complete fool of yourself.

  • Remember that not getting what you want can be a blessing in disguise.

  • Worship can never be shunted off to a one-hour time on Sunday morning.

  • Every year, visit a place you've never been before.

  • Relationships are so very fragile.

  • Keep in step with the Spirit at all times.

  • Play hard.

  • Give more than you get.

  • Stop trying to fix the ones you love.

  • Avoid assumptions.

  • If you haven't had a major crisis in life, you're probably very young.

  • Do something you love with your life.

Well, it was quite a day yesterday, one I will not soon forget. I don't feel old. I feel like a 30-year old. I'm committed to developing my body and soul to levels they've never reached in the past. My health has never better thank the Lord. I have a new zest for living. I am the me I have always been and perhaps even a better one. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family that loves me. It does no good to live in regrets for the past or in sadness about loved ones who have passed on. Life is the quest. We can have a rebirth no matter how old we are. My birthday this week is simply the beginning of the process -- still ongoing -- of becoming the person God wants me to be. All praise to Him!

A thousand thanks to everyone who made yesterday such a special day in my life. As I watched you cheering each other on and calling forth the best in one another, I realized, This is what families are for. We point each other to God and call out His blessedness. This is our life together. I love you so much.

Saturday, June 10 

2:50 PM Greek is humbling. We've had only 4 weeks of summer Greek and already we've touched on leadership, ecclesiology, the Lord's Supper (not Snack), baptism, and a myriad of other topics. Leadership is not so much a status; it's a way of life. The church is a New Testament concept; it can't be based on concepts of holy people doing holy things in holy places. For all of our talk about the Lord's Supper, we miss its real import: to keep the gathering Christocentric (rather than pulpit-centric or anthropocentric). Paul warned the Corinthians what he warns us today: Take heed lest you fall. A truly apostolic church cares less about how to "do" church and more about obeying Jesus' simple teachings. It honors and respects His commands. Thus Greek, if correctly used, affords us an opportunity to dig deep into the text and perhaps allows us to discover some long-forgotten truth. J. I. Packer makes this wonderfully plain in a quote one of my daughters shared with me this morning:

... anyone who deals with souls will again and again be amazed at the gracious generosity with which God blesses to needy ones what looks to us like a very tiny needle of truth hidden amid whole haystacks of mental error.

I'm already seeing this happen in my Greek class. Little lights come on, tiny needles are discovered. My prayer is that my students will ask the Holy Spirit to show them what they need to know in order to become lowly servants in His kingdom. Let Greek play its proper role in this process.

7:45 AM Whoa ... words spewing out of my computer. Must mean I'm not exhausted yet from all the celebrating. It's been a great birthday weekend so far:

1) The haying weather was perfect last night.

2) Then a late dinner with the Glass family.

3) Oh -- please help us welcome "Chigger Yellem" ("No Problem") to the farm. (All of our donks have Ethiopian names.) He was born on my birthday.

I absolutely love everything about my life. My zany family. The perfect summer weather we're enjoying. My incredibly diverse interests. But what I'm most happy about is how the Lord gives me strength to face every new day with hope and optimism, despite some pretty hard blows in the past few years. I still sometimes reflect on Becky's passing and know my life still aches without her. If your soul aches too, my friend, I believe your sorrow can increase your capacity to live well and love well. Losing Becky wedded brokenness and love together in my life. Her life was a pure gift to me. So was her loss. "Till our grief is fled and gone, He doth sit by us and moan." These words were written by a Puritan after one of his children died. It's what I believe, and what I will continue to believe until I go to the grave.

But enough of this introspection. Sheba, let's go feed the donkeys some carrots.

Friday, June 9 

4:58 PM Today's bricolage.

1) As always, it's great to be back on the farm, but it was really special to drive up and find my daughter and her family at Maple Ridge. They drove all the way from Alabama.

2) In honor of my 65th birthday (today) and Global Running Day (Wednesday), I ran 32 miles this week. (That's because I don't feel older than a 32-year old.) Of course, that's nothing compared to this: 94 Year-Old Woman Breaks Half Marathon World Record. Inspiring!

3) Here I am crossing last Saturday's half marathon finish line. The thrill of victory and the agony of de feet!

4) I like this pic even better. It shows our 2:30 pace team. I'm cracking up at all the jokes they're telling. We were running an 11-minute mile pace. Tiring but manageable. Everyone is sopping wet.

I give pace team leaders a lot of credit. They've got tons of responsibility. We depend on them to help us reach our goal. We look to them for leadership. Carrying that "2:30" sign is a badge of honor. The Chicago Half Marathon is just 5 weeks away and the big question is: Should I race with a pace group again? I had a great experience last Saturday with one. The pacers were very experienced and superb leaders. They reminded us when to prepare for an upcoming hill, when to slow down or speed up, when to take a deep relaxation breath, etc. I think this time I'll start with a pace group slower than my goal (2:45?) and use them to keep me going easy for the first 9 miles. If the pacers end up going faster than I want, I’ll just drop behind and run at my own pace. If, by mile 10, my tank is still somewhat full, I'll try and sprint to the finish line. I'll need to talk to the pacers before the race to see if they believe in even or negative splits, if they slow down and walk through the aid stations, if they've run this race before, etc.

5) Last night I read this 817-page doctoral dissertation! Ph.D. students of mine: don't you dare get any ideas!

6) Parse this verb. (Hint: It's an imperative.)

7) My friend Moisés from Santo Domingo likes our grammar in Spanish!

8) Checked this out from our library last night.

Lookie here.

Holladay nails Hebrews. Love it. Like, LOVE IT. The dam is beginning to burst, folks. History is about to reverse itself.

9) My next surf-cation is August 3-11. Not all surfing trips to Hawaii are winners. The waves can be flat, or the weather can be too stormy to catch anything but slop. That said, surfers are the most optimistic people I've ever met. Even if the ocean is completely flat, as in snorkeling conditions, we'll sit on our boards and wait ... and wait ... and wait .... 

Even if a wave never arrives we can still say we "surfed" that day. Who knows, maybe we should have waited just a little bit longer ....?

10) Haying time!

Monday, June 5 

5:50 AM "This week in Greek": Finish the middle and passive voices; review the entire indicative mood; move on to the third declension (easy cheesy), participles (no problemo), and the infinitive (to study or not to study the infinitive is not an option). The biggest mistakes students make are:

  • Failing to be able to read Greek aloud. (English pronunciation is much harder than Greek.)

  • Forgetting their paradigms.

  • Looking at the word (rather than the morpheme) as the minimal unit of meaning in language.

  • Believing that immersion means speaking Greek with a native Koine speaker. (There ain't none.)

  • Getting frustrated when listening to the smart guys recite Greek. (Be yourself. Do your best. Race at your own speed. Remember 1 Cor. 12:6: "God is the one who works all things in all people," so there's no need ever to compare yourself with anyone else. Trust Him for the results.)

  • Believing that it has to be hard. (Greek grammar is actually very logical and perfectly learnable. It's us teachers who most often get in the way.)

  • Failing to focus on the big picture. (As in: THE GOAL. It isn't just using Greek to help you read a commentary. It's to be able to read and understand the text without even translating it.)

Friend, if you're struggling to learn Greek, you're not alone. I lasted a mere three weeks in my beginning class at Biola before dropping. Way over my head! A year later, I was teaching 11 units of Greek at the same university. To master Greek, your brain is required to work in brand new ways, such as constructing new cognitive frameworks. Take a tip from an old geezer: Focus on your goals. Enjoy moments of fresh discovery. Get surrounded (there are many teachers who are using my grammar. Check them out on YouTube when you need a change of pace.) Make peace with your imperfections and/or lack of language aptitude. At the same time, no excuses! What matters in the long run is not aptitude but commitment!

Sunday, June 4 

5:34 PM We live in a culture that provides us with a multitude of opportunities to be active. Fitness is literally a moving target. Picking up hay, like I did today, is a good example of what I'm talking about. Out in the field it's just you, your trailer, and your will. Haying is elementary, elegant in its simplicity.

And here's the funny thing. Even though I did a 13.1 mile race yesterday, my legs never felt better -- or stronger. They had no problem at all trudging from one bale to the next. That truly is the paradox of running, as every runner knows. The more you stay active, the more your body wants to be active. Of course, there are days when haying is easy and there are days when it's harder. But today was pure joy and delight. Before getting up hay, I mowed. The day was perfect for it. Here's my old mower.

But it's never worked better. And that's because I recently had new mower blades installed on it. Other people sharpen theirs. But everyone knows that unless you have sharp blades, your lawn will not look very good. At any level of life, we need to stay sharp. When we get dull, things don't go as well. Greek students know what I'm talking about. How easy it is for us to allow our Greek to fall into disrepair and disuse. No amount of money or status can compensate for sloth or inactivity. Truth is, for many of us, it's time to sharpen our "Greek blades." And there's many ways we can go about doing this. I see that Todd Scacewater's offering a Greek review course. Michael Halcomb's doing the same. Or just grab any intermediate grammar and dig in. Sooner or later, you'll get caught back up -- if you are diligent.

Well, it's time to cook supper and prepare my meals for the week. Just so you know that my life's not all work and labor, here's a picture of the classic car show that our fair city of Clarksville put on this weekend.

Can't you just see me in this red convertible roadster!  

1:05 PM Do you enjoy what you're doing? You can! Read my latest essay, The Joy of Running.

8:20 AM Miscellaneous thoughts before heading out for my Sunday activities:

1) Looking forward to another great week of teaching Greek plus continuing my training for the Chicago Half Marathon. The weather this week will be lovely -- which means time for lots of yard work as well. My birthday is on Friday, and there's a rumor floating around that my family is planning on "surprising" me with a party on Saturday. WOOHOO!

2) I want to give a word of thanks to all the volunteers who staffed yesterday's race in Raleigh. These are some incredible people. The leaders of our pace team always allowed us to stop at the water tables (if for only 20 seconds) to wet our whistles and catch our breath. Badly needed, I must say! By the time we back-of-the-packers arrive, there's usually more water than anyone knows what to do with, so it's okay to take more than one cup. I always try and thank every one of the workers I can. We high-five each other as they shout encouragement. As I've continued to race, I've come to appreciate these selfless servants more and more. Thank you, volunteers!

3) Been getting gobs of requests these days for our Greek DVD series. I'm so glad God is using these videos to help self-starters learn this fabulous language. The idea of recording my lectures in Addis back in 2005 was Becky's idea, and she gets the credit. I'll be forever grateful for her and her partnership in the Gospel during 37 years of marriage. 

4) My assistant and I spent an hour last week planning my new course syllabi for the fall, including a new syllabus both for my Greek Syntax and Exegesis course and for my New Testament 2 course. I like to think that I never teach the same class twice. I'm always trying to make improvements based both on student feedback and my own intuition. Noah's insights and suggestions as a current student are invaluable in this process. I think you'll enjoy the changes we've made. There's a bit less busy-work and more student participation.

5) Across the Atlantic has been featuring a discussion of the style of Matthew's Gospel and the relevance (if any) this has on the synoptic problem. Everyone who knows me knows that I believe that issues of style are moot when it comes to the synoptic problem. Mark's stylistic peculiarities, for example, prove neither this Gospel's priority nor its posteriority. It's the external evidence that's probative, friends!

6) Finally, THANK YOU for visiting my blog today. I know you didn't "have to." DBO is now in its 14th year. When we started blogging there was no Face Book or Twitter or Instagram or YouTube. My site has given me satisfaction plus lots of new friends. DBO is nothing fancy. It's just me and my thoughts. Some people complain about blogging. Not me. Yes, it's like having another part-time job. But you know the saying: Do what you like and you'll never work a day in your life. So thank you, everyone, for your readership and support, and here's to another post, and another, and another ....

Dave

Saturday, June 3 

4:48 PM Just checked my Map My Run app. Here's the monthly workout summary for May:

  • Workouts: 21

  • Duration: 26.7 hours

  • Calories: 149,000

  • Total miles: 99.2

What a crazy month it was. Many days I couldn't work out because I was haying (which is not a bad thing, of course). I also began teaching summer school. Still, I managed to get in a decent number of training hours. If I can maintain this schedule, maybe I'll be ready for Mont Blanc next July (which, Lord willing, will be my next fund-raising project). Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps and definitely one of the hardest to climb. If you'd like to watch my mountain guide, Walter Rossini, climb this peak, go here. It's a beautiful setting!

4:30 PM Yesterday I was privileged to present a check for $7,000.00 to UNC Cancer Hospital. Here's Victoria Bae-Jump (Ph.D. and M.D.), whose cutting edge research seeks to explain the relationship between obesity and endometrial cancer. She's already put last year's donation of $25,000 to good work in phase 2 of her study. What a joy to be able to leverage my Alps climb last year and my marathon this year for something so worthwhile. Go Tarheels!

4:22 PM Today I ran my fifth half marathon (since competing in my first one a year ago) and it was awesome! I trained carefully for this event by sticking to two or three running days per week. The conditions for the race could hardly have been better. We started out in about the 65 degree range at 7:15 this morning. And much of the course was shaded. In fact, everything about the event -- packet pickup, aid stations, finish line festival and food -- went smoothly and easily. As I said, my first half marathon was exactly one year ago, on this same course, so my goal today was to try and beat my course record of 2:48. After the race briefing and a warm-up, we were off. I decided to run with the 2:30 team, which was made up of mostly middle-aged women, some of whom were doing their first half. For the first couple of miles they bantered with each other (they were funny!), but eventually everyone quieted down as we knew this was serious business! I did fine until around the 10 mile marker.

At this point the 2:30 pace team began to pull away from me despite my best efforts to keep up with them. I was running just as hard as before but for some reason I simply began to slow down. At one point I started walking. Say what?? Legs, I didn't say you could walk!! Eventually I began to shuffle again. I crossed the finish line with nothing left in the tank and a new PR on this course of 2:35! I can clearly remember the last hill. Ugh. It seems I have a knack for picking races that end up being hilly. Well, running sure keeps you humble. As for the race in general, I felt pretty controlled and comfortable for most of the course. I was really happy to be part of a race group that encouraged one another. Every time I hit one of the aid stations I was ready to cool off. I would take a cup of water and pour it over my head, then take two or three cups and drink the contents. I ended up racing about four minutes slower than I had hoped for, but I'm more than okay with the end result. There's always something to be learned during a race, even on the not-so-great days. It was a grand event and definitely one I'd like to do again. Onward to my next half marathon in Chicago on July 16!

Friday, June 2 

9:54 PM The headline this morning on the WRAL website read: "Decreasing humidity, clear skies lead into pleasant weekend." That's really great news! Especially because I had to get hay up this evening and I have another race in the morning. Oh, did I tell you that my very first triathlon is now on the calendar? It's in Wake Forest on June 25. I'm sure it'll be more challenging than I can imagine. I have no idea what to aim for but I'm setting the (modest) goal of finishing the same day as the race. Here's what it involves:

  • 250-meter pool swim

  • 12-mile bike ride

  • 3.1-mile run

In order to stagger the starting times, racers have to enter their anticipated time for the swimming leg when they register. I put down the maximum time allowable: 99.99 minutes! Believe me, for my first tri I'm happy to start at the very back of the pack. It's not that I'm a terrible swimmer. Did tons of it while growing up in Hawaii and when I was a swimming instructor and lifeguard in California during my college days. But it's been years since I've done laps in a pool on a regular basis. As for the biking leg of the race, I'm a bit more confident of my ability since I've peddled 26.2 miles nonstop on two different occasions. I imagine, though, that by the time the running leg of the event begins, I'll be ready for the race to be OVER. I honestly don't know why I'm doing this race. A triathlon was never on my bucket list. I guess you could say I signed up on a whim. After all, how awful can it be? (Well ....) I've heard that your first swim in a tri is the most nerve-wracking experience ever. Thankfully this leg of the race is in a pool and not in the open water. I'm 23 days out, which means that I still have time to go to the pool and get some lap swimming in. But I'm not about to go overboard and buy a TT bike or an Aero helmet. This is just a test to see if I like this event or not. It's going to be another test of endurance for sure.

Speaking of exercise, I recently heard about a park in Wake Forest that's been there forever and yet I'm just beginning to use it for my running. It's called Joyner Park and is about a 5-minute drive from campus.

I can't imagine a more convenient or beautiful venue for doing anywhere from 3-6 miles at a pop.

In other news, I'm so thankful for these endorsements that just came in for my forthcoming book Siete marcas de una iglesia neotestamentaria:

De ves en cuando se necesita ver la iglesia neotestamentaria para compararle con nuestras iglesias de hoy. Dave Black nos ha dado esa vista en su libro Siete marcas de una iglesia neotestamentaria. En una manera bíblica y clara nos hace ver la manera en que la iglesia neotestamentaria actua, y nos pone un modelo bíblico para nuestras iglesias. Aquí se encuentra lo más básica de la iglesia de Cristo, y nos ayuda para establecer y crecer iglesias bíblicas. Lo recomiendo como un libro principal para los que estamos como pastores y lideres du Su santa iglesia.

Alex Montoya, Pastor de First Fundamental Bible Church, Whittier, CA.

En estos días cuando la iglesia muchas veces se ha convertido a un centro de diversión, es muy importante de revisar las siete marcas básicas de la iglesia que vemos en Hechos 2:37–47. Este libro es fácil de entender con muchos ejemplos personales. Lo recomendó para estudio bíblico de grupos Cristianos en todas iglesias.

Dra. Aida Besançon Spencer, Profesora del Nuevo Testamento, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Thanks Alex and Aida!I hope you'll tell all of your Spanish-speaking friends about this book.

Let's see ... what else shall I mention? Brain fade has set in! Oh yeah, on Tuesday I took the grandkids to Chuck E Cheese to help them celebrate their graduation from kindergarten (Caleb), first grade (Rachel), and third grade (Nathan). We all had a blast.

Well, I think that's going to have to be the extent of my update for tonight. I need to get to bed as I'm dead tired. I worked until 8:30 tonight getting up hay. And I have a half marathon in Raleigh tomorrow morning at 7:15. Running is so much fun. It's also good for you. It helps you lose weight, have a healthier lifestyle, relieve your stress, and lower your cholesterol. But mostly running is about discovering the joy you experience when you move your body with your own two feet.

Make it a great weekend!

Dave

Monday, May 29 

6:24 AM Even as I prepare to host a major conference on New Testament Greek, I ask myself: "What would I be like today had I never taken Greek in college?" Greek has taught me so much about myself. It's been the entrée into a wonderful career. It's humbled me, that's for sure. There's always so much more to know, so much more to master, so many topics I've yet to explore. It's a Grand Canyon of discovery.

This morning I thought about another question: "What would I be like today had I never gotten into running?" Oddly, and despite my innate laziness, this sport didn't end up like so many other 21-day fads, adopted and then abandoned. What makes running so wonderful for some of us is that from our very first step we got it. Running met our need for courage and conviction. It helped us to move off the spot we seemed to be stuck in. Every step takes us closer to who we want to be. I think of every race as a pure gift from God. Each day that I can get out of bed and exercise is a day I can treasure. I guess you could say I'm living life literally one step at a time. At 64, I realize that nothing lasts forever. At the same time, life ain't over till it's over, and we humans need to keep growing and striving and improving. Running has taught me that there is joy in accepting the infirmities of old age, as long as I'm always discovering new secrets about myself. Every run opens some window into my soul. Running has taught me that I can persevere. It's taught me self-discipline. In fact, when you become disciplined in one area of your life, that discipline tends to spill over into other areas of your life as well. As I munched on my sirloin yesterday after the race, I analyzed my motives for running. I'm motivated, in the first place, by a strong sense of personal duty to my family to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I also have an intense desire to conquer new territories in life. I desperately crave adventure, to live my life to its fullest. I've come to realize that devoting my mental and physical energy to the sport of running has a very beneficial, even therapeutic affect. The differences and varieties of the problem are so challenging that I'm always fully occupied. Something inside of us humans needs a finish line, a symbolic "game plan." What's more, we need to fight for something bigger than ourselves, like those two men who lost their lives in Portland over the weekend defending someone from hatred. Charity and good works fill a void inside us that just sitting behind a desk all day can't. As in the church, there's a solidarity in the running community. My server at the restaurant yesterday is a high school student who told me he'd like to get involved in running. I told him about the sponsor of yesterday's race -- the Richmond Road Racers Club. I spoke with a number of club members yesterday. Their support goes far beyond running. How about you? You may not be the fastest runner or even the most dedicated person out there, but running will embrace you anyway and offer you rewards beyond your expectations. As I face the challenge of growing older, of ever-changing relationships, of all the good and bad that life brings, I realize that I'll have to dig deep. And I can because through Christ I have a mighty reserve of strength.

Sunday, May 28 

5:50 PM You hear it long before you see it. The finish line. The crowds. Those coveted words, "Great job!" But I'm getting ahead of myself. Even though my 10K race ended at 9:00 am, it's already turned into a happy blur. In case you'd like to be bored with the details ....

Yesterday at noon I packed up and got in the car to drive up to Richmond. It was either spend the night there and sleep in, or get up really early and leave the house at 5:00 for the race. Since I wanted to be super fresh for the event, I drove up yesterday, stopping briefly on the way for some yummy Bulgogi.

I Googled hotels and sure enough, there were two that were close to the race venue -- the Hampton Inn (where I normally stay), and a Days Inn. The Days Inn was about 50 bucks cheaper than the Hampton. Score!

Or so I thought. The place was pretty lame. Well, really lame. Smelly room. A boom box playing near the trash dumpsters outside my room until about 2:00 am. Oh, some nice guy set the alarm clock to go off at midnight. Thankfully I managed to get about 4 hours of quality sleep before the race -- barely enough to function let alone to try and run for 6.2 miles. But as Becky used to say when asked how much sleep she got the night before, "As much as the Lord wanted me to get."

I loved this race. I had a total blast. Here is my "before" picture.

You went downhill for a long mile, ran along the James River (which was at flood stage or so it appeared -- a day sooner and the race would have been rerouted because of the high water), and then you plodded back up the hill you started on. Finally, I saw the finish line. I staggered, punch drunk, to the water and refreshment tables, found the man who had taken my pre-race picture, and asked him if he'd be so kind as to snap a post-mortem as well. I was sopping wet.

The humidity was 95 percent, and light rain had begun around mile 4. Just before he snapped this picture I heaved a sigh of relief. It was over. I had done it. I had beat that "HILL." I had even PRed the race. My time was 1:03:16, a full 5 minutes faster than my last 10K in Raleigh. My last four 10K races were 1:08:49, 1:10:55, 1:26:42, and 1:30:28. I had set out to slay the dragon, and on a humid, rainy day in Richmond, I had done it! When my legs were screaming at me, "Please can we walk now, just for a moment!" I said, "No, not yet, not now. Wait!" I had every excuse under the sun to slow down and walk. Others were doing it. I had had a lousy night sleeping. The humidity was pure torture. (Humidity is to me what Kryptonite is to Superman.) My pace was slow and agonizing, but I kept moving forward, my arms pumping gracefully, regularly, forcefully. Sweat and rain had rolled down my legs and pooled in my shoes and socks. "Go, go, go!" a spectator yelled to me at mile 5. People were passing me. You're fine, Dave. You're not trying to beat anybody. Stick to your plan. I felt light in my new running shoes. They even made me look like a "real" runner. Good, average pace at the start. Legs and feet going strong. I was running smoothly. Breathe in. Breathe out. I was pushing my body to the brink. My breathing was steady, however, and I felt strong. And then it was over. I came, I saw, I had an incredible experience, and I got a PR on top of everything else. God is so gooooood!!!!!!

I always feel like a million bucks whenever I have enough gas to really gun it at the finish.

Running is ...

  • Terrifying

  • Challenging

  • Inspiring

  • Addicting

And hunger-producing. But don't worry, I got a post-race sirloin at the Texas Road House.

Today was everything I'd hope it would be and more. Such a special race and happy day in Richmond!

Saturday, May 27 

10:45 AM My workout at the Y is done. Plus my morning run. It's too wet to mow today so I'm blogging instead. I forgot to tell you why I chose to run in the St. George Marathon. It's mostly downhill. You heard me right. DOWNHILL.

You're bussed 26.2 miles to the starting line in the Pine Valley Mountains of Utah. And then you descend 2,600 feet into St. George. Sure, there are some gradual uphills, and the infamous "Mile 18 Hill." But all in all, its an easier course than the Flying Pig. Plus, October is said to be the most beautiful month in St. George. Of course, you have to be careful not to push yourself going downhill so you don't burn out at the end. But I'm really looking to seeing what it takes to conquer this course. My non-downhill-trained-legs are in for a huge surprise, I think!

7:30 AM This week I took a little time off from running. Mostly because it seemed to be raining all the time. I did get in a couple of 5K runs at a local park in Wake Forest between squalls. I am more than a little behind on yard work so I know what I'll be doing today. But first the gym and then a 10K workout in South Boston. I spent most of yesterday evening making flight and hotel arrangements for my upcoming "big" races, in addition to actually registering for the events of course. Many of these races sell out quickly so you have to stay at least an hour ahead of the hounds in terms of registering. Thus far I've registered/book flights/hotel rooms for:

  • The Chicago Half Marathon on July 16

  • The Virginia Beach Half Marathon on September 3

  • The St. George Marathon on October 7

  • The Richmond Marathon on November 11

I'm not worried about the logistics for the Honolulu Marathon in December because the race doesn't have any limits on participants. So today I plan to spend a gorgeous day outdoors and see if I can work up a "good tired" so that I can get in a great sleep in preparation for tomorrow's 10K, which is "only" 6.2 miles. Needless to say I'm not anticipating a PR tomorrow because of that final 1-mile hill. But all that matters is that I ran. Besides, it'll be a good time to work on my uphill form -- pushing rather than pulling (with your weight moving forward rather than behind you), using your arms to keep your legs on task, speeding up your breathing before you reach the hill, waiting for the crest before letting up, etc. As you can see, learning how to run is like learning Greek. I feel like I'm in Running 101. Here's the deal. Whether it's learning a new language or learning how to run, you need to step outside of your comfort zone and prove yourself wrong whenever you say to yourself, "I can't do this." Running the marathon hurt so bad. It was sooooooooo hard. But the feeling you get when it's over -- well, there's nothing like it. (Okay, I'm done now. Runners are the worst bores.)

Friday, May 26 

7:58 PM Love quotes like this one:

"Our running shoes are really erasers. Every step erases some memory of a past failure. Every mile brings us closer to a clean slate. Each foot strike rubs away a word, a look, or an event which led us to believe that success was beyond our grasp." -- John "The Penguin" Bingham.

4:22 PM I put this sticker on my van this week.

I would have preferred a sticker with my marathon finish time on it, but the numbers don't go that high (hardy har). Of course, this would make a great sticker too:

I know that, for some, a 26.2 sticker makes me look like a complete dork, but personally I like seeing cars with that sticker on them. They always motivated me to want to try a marathon one day myself. Here's the deal about displaying a marathon sticker: People who know you, or who have run a marathon themselves, will understand the sacrifices you made to earn it. Of course, that's nothing when compared to stopping behind a car that has a Purple Heart license plate on it. I guess everything in life is relative. Yes, I know the sticker makes me look like just another happy jogger, but that's what I am, and I'm honored and blessed to be one.

I'm crazy excited about my upcoming races. This Sunday I've signed up to do the Stratford Hills 10K Race in Richmond. The course looks really interesting. It starts with a mile downhill section, then it follows the historic James River Road for about 4 miles, and then it ends with a mile uphill back to the start/finish line. The weather promises to be clear and not too humid on Sunday. I have to say, I LOVE 10K races! I also have to say I'm a bit nervous about this race. I'm hoping my hams will hold up, the cramps will stay away, and I will stay positive. But psychologically, I've never been so ready for another race. It just gets into your DNA after a while. After the race I plan on visiting Grace Bible Church in Midlothian, where I saw this on their website.

Love it. The site also says that Grace welcomes people "who desire to learn and obey the Word of God." Glad they added "and obey"! Next weekend, of course, is the Raleigh Half Marathon in North Hills. I would absolutely recommend this race. (I ran it last year.) There's great course support, lots of photographers, a huge variety of charity runners, and a giant post-race party. The course itself is beautiful, and the finisher's medal is gorgeous.

This week I stopped by Fleet Feet Sports in Raleigh to get a new pair of New Balance running shoes. I heard that this store actually had 13 wides, which is something of a miracle these days. Sure enough, they had just what I was looking for.

These shoes are even MORE comfortable and springier than the shoes I've been wearing for about two years now. Plus the colors are pretty "groovy" wouldn't you say? The store manager was extremely helpful. She had run over 30 marathons and was keen to give me advice on where I should run my next one. Right now I'm scheduled to do the Richmond Marathon in November, which is billed as "America's Friendliest Marathon," and indeed the manager at Fleet Feet confirmed that it IS a great race. At first I assumed that the course was very hilly because Richmond is perched atop a mountain, but it turns out that the course is relatively flat with only a couple of mildly challenging hills. I'm also going to be signing up for the St. George Marathon in Utah in October, which corresponds with my fall break. After the race I'll spend a few days in Bryce and Zion, where Becky and I spent so many happy weeks camping together. I plan to climb Angel's Landing (scary!) and capture the adventure on my GoPro. Let's see ... what else?

  • I'm signing up for my first triathlon on June 25. The race involves a 250 meter pool swim, a 12 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.

  • I'll be visiting mom and dad June 29-July 3 and have decided to run in the Liberty by the Lake 10K Race near Frisco, Texas. 

  • I plan to do the Honolulu Marathon in December. Then next year it's on to Chicago and New York, Lord willing.

Two other items of good news:

1) Green light for our Linguistics and New Testament Greek conference on campus! This will be the fourth conference I've helped to organize since I came to SEBTS in 1998. I'm praying that it will be the best one ever. In fact, I've never been more excited about the future of New Testament Greek studies than I am today.

2) Next Friday I'll have the honor of presenting a check to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center based on my Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund when I ran the Flying Pig Marathon three weeks ago. Our goal was $4,000 for endometrial cancer research, but by the grace of God and thanks to many of you, I'll actually be presenting a check for $7,000. I could not be happier.

Run on, everyone!

Dave

Monday, May 22 

7:10 AM Learning Greek is so much like learning to run. In running, you focus on running one mile at a time. In our 6 week class, you've already done one week. DON'T PANIC! You got this. Yes, five more weeks seems like a very long time. Focus on finishing this week well. Remember, you are building a base. Don't rush it. The hardest part is adjusting to the daily grind of studying. Focus on winning small victories. Today is review day. What, no new material? Nope. Welcome to your first review exam. We'll do this every 5 chapters or so. Enjoy your kickback day! Keep going because you're doing amazing.

Coach Dave

7:06 AM I'm ordering this book on the Greek perfect today.

6:54 AM Thinking of adding this race to my 2017 schedule. Flat course. Yay!

Sunday, May 21 

7:22 PM Evening yall! Tomorrow begins week 2 of Greek class. I'm more excited than when the Big Mac was first introduced. Experts say that it only takes 3 weeks to develop a new habit. That's only 21 days, folks. So tell yourself you're now one-third of the way to establishing your new habit of LOVING GREEK. That's right. Your life will never be the same. I'll never forget when I ran a mile without stopping for the first time. I was ecstatic. I'll never forget where I was: Kainalu Avenue in my home town of Kailua. I haven't stopped running since. My second happiest memory is finishing my first 5K. I will tell you, when you cross that finish line for the first time, no matter how fast or slow you are, it will change your life forever. Martyred missionary Jim Elliott once said, "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you convinced is the will of God for your life." Friend, you're in this class not just because you chose to attend. God is sovereign, and I believe He wanted you to be here, I'm completely convinced of that. And, because He's the One leading you, you can trust Him to carry you to the finish line. Your part is to set your sights high. Once upon a time I was a doctoral student at the University of Basel. One of the greatest influences in my life was my doctoral advisor, Prof. Bo Reicke. Before I embarked on my dissertation project he wanted to know, "What difference will it make in anybody's life?" More and more I'm becoming a language pragmatist. Why should I study Latin if I'm never going to use it? Or German? Ditto for running. As a runner newbie, I find it's so easy to get caught up in all the techy stuff like apparel and food supplements. But the only thing that makes any real difference is running. Even if I come in last place, even if I look like an old man with a goofy stride, I am rewarded by the race itself. Greek student, listen. You're in a race that will bring you more joy and satisfaction than you could ever imagine. In racing, if you're motivated to train for an organized running event, you're a runner, regardless of what your pace per mile is. Likewise, Greek is for people of all shapes and sizes, people with language aptitude and people with none, people with good memories and people with lousy ones, people who take an hour to master the lesson and people who take five. You are a Greek student because you believe you are. And no one can tell you you're not.

May week 2 be one more step in attaining your goal. I'm behind you 1,000 percent!

6:54 PM O my. This is soooo true! Lol!

 

2:36 PM While I'm cooking my meals for the week, I thought I'd list here my sporting goals for 2017:

1. Run the Flying Pig Marathon. (Done.)

2. Run 20 5Ks. (Eight down: January 28, February 12, March 4, 11 and 18, April 1 and 9, and May 20.)

3. Run 4 Half Marathons. (Two down: March 25 and April 22.)

4. Run the Raleigh Half Marathon on June 3.

5. Run the Chicago Half Marathon on July 15.

6. Surf in Hawaii August 3-11.

7. Climb Mount Elbert (the highest 14er in Colorado) in September.

8. Run the Richmond Marathon on Nov. 11.

9. Lose 10 pounds of body fat.

10. Listen to my body.

11. Have fun.

You might have noticed that I changed my mind about running the Savannah Marathon in November. The course can be extremely humid and I HATE humidity. In fact, a couple of years ago they diverted runners from completing the entire 26.2 miles because of heat and humidity. I plan to do the Richmond Marathon instead. I might be the slowest kid in the park, but I'm determined!

7:46 AM Was up early finishing my review of The Synoptic Problem: Four Views, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016). It's now been sent to JETS. I almost ran a 10K in Raleigh today but decided against it. I had been eying this race for several weeks. No biggie, though. My body needs a break.

Saturday, May 20 

6:16 PM A few thoughts of mine on Philippians 4. Here Paul runs the gamut, from women in leadership to reaching the "up and outers" among us.

Thus ends our overview of this wonderful letter. This leads to my response to one of the questions I'm most frequently asked: "When do you plan to stop teaching Philippians in your Greek classes?"

Never, of course.

1:50 PM If you're like me, you're counting the days and weeks until your next big race, which for me happens to be the Race 13.1 Half Marathon in Raleigh on June 3. Time flies, and it will be here before you know it. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy a few 5Ks just for the fun of it -- and to raise funds for great causes. Today's race was called the NC DNA 5K Run. This is the second year I've participated in this event. The goal is to connect scientists from all over the Triangle (Duke, UNC, etc.) with high school classrooms all across the state of North Carolina. I had mixed emotions as I drove to the UNC campus this morning. You'll recall that this was the same drive that Bec and I took hundreds of times for her countless cancer treatments, hospitalizations, surgeries, checkups, etc. I needed Jesus to help me through the day because I knew my mind would be flooded with memories of her. The weather was very pleasant for race day, around 70 degrees. I felt I was well prepared for the race both physically and mentally, though I sensed an underlying desuetude probably caused by me coming off of a marathon high two weeks ago. For the first mile or so everything felt good, but once the hills started I was in a psychological mess. I can honestly say the air was being knocked out of me. Everything in me wanted to stop or at least walk the rest of the race. I had run out of steam long before the finish line. I realized it would be a miracle if I could come in under 40 minutes, if I came in at all. Then I remembered Becky. I remembered all the times she could have quit when the going got tough. I remember how she would always push through her tiredness and her aches and pains, and how she'd always do it with a smile on her face. My mind went back to the last essay she published on Dave Black Online. It's called Running to Home Base. In it she wrote these courageous words:

I am not going to get to home base by just looking at it. I can’t just sit down and wait. Any baseball player runs with all his might to reach that home base. The race is not done. God still has work for me to do. God still has challenges for me to conquer by faith. God still has ministry for me, even as my body is failing. And I want to be faithful all the way to the end. And that means taking every advantage to influence others for Christ. That means pushing through the fatigue, pushing through the pain, pushing through the discomfort to pray, to communicate, to obey the Spirit.

I knew, at that point, that unless I did my very best for the rest of the race, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror again. So I mustered up the remaining strength I had to cross the finish line. Minutes later, by the grace of God and the sheer will-power He gave me, I had done it! I finished 83rd out of 243 runners and even placed first in my age division with a time under 30 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly!

I stayed for the awards ceremony, and when my name was called to receive my medal I knew, I just knew, I had done it for Becky, inspired by her example. My head was filled with many happy memories as I ran, and some unhappy ones too. I relished every second of the race. Eventually my thoughts shifted to today and how happy I am despite my singleness. Running has helped me learn a lot about myself. On a regular basis, it clears my head and gives me perspective. It makes me happy when I think how far I've come. Everyone there today did such a great job. I stayed at the finish line until the last person crossed it with a time of 57:51. I shouted, "You got this! You're almost there! This is what you trained for! You can do it!" Unconcerned with what others are doing, each of these runners is driven by the need to do their best, to make the effort, to finish. For those few moments, all of us became equals, regardless of our finish times.

I want to thank the running community for being so wonderful. After the race a guy about 30 years old came up to me and said, "Thanks for being such a good pace setter for me today. I needed that. I just followed you from beginning to end." When I told him that at one point I had wanted to stop, he said, "Thanks for not quitting." I'm really writing this recap so that I can express to everyone how grateful I am for the blessing of being able to get up in the morning, let alone to run in a 5K race. And I'm so glad for the inspiration God gave me to finish the race today. Why, I think I would have crawled across the finish line if I had to. I dedicate this race to the one who is living happily in heaven with the Lord she loved so well. I love you, Becky!

Again, thanks to all, and let's all get ready for our next race! 

Friday, May 19 

6:48 PM Soaking wet but happy. Humidity felt like it was 100 percent. Otherwise, it was a good day for haying.

Rain storm began just as we parked the last trailer. Believer, we get to rest in the provision and protection of the Lord.

Tomorrow's race at UNC is iffy. My left knee is talking to me. Nothing major. A couple of Ibuprofen and I'll probably be good to go. We'll see. I run because I enjoy it. I don't feel like I have to run. Does this mean that I always feel like running? No! That said, I never regret it when I get up early and get in on one of the many races in the greater Raleigh area. The best way to look at it is this: Running is an avocation of mine, not the core of who I am. If I do run tomorrow, I look forward to sharing my experience with you. And mighty bored you'll be!

7:04 AM Today it's the Greek adjective. Many adjectives can be used interchangeably. On the other hand, synonymous adjectives can sometimes have different connotations. For a good overview of how adjectives function in New Testament Greek, go here. Yesterday in class we went on several rabbit trails (intentionally, of course), including one that addressed the 8th qualification for an overseer: didaktikos, which we rendered "teachable" in the ISV.

How can you teach unless you are a good learner? We also discussed whether book learning is the most effective way to train up leaders in the church. Arguably, the best way to produce Christian leaders is through apprenticeship, which could well be supplemented by the more formal training one gets in a seminary. There is real value is being mentored by someone more experienced than you are. In Basel, my professor was called my "Doctor Father," and for good reason: the first month I lived in Basel, I stayed in  his home. I had access to his personal library. He viewed his job as training, not merely teaching. I love the emphasis in our own doctoral program on mentorship. I like the way students are asked to do and not just think. Remember, a "disciple" (mathetes) is more of a "trainee" than a "pupil." Perhaps as a result, more and more students are taking teachers and not classes. This is a far cry from simply enrolling for a course because it's required!

Biblical insights on leadership? Ah yes. Greek can help us aplenty here!

P. S. Greek student, this quote from Augustine will "encourage" you!

Why then did I hate the Greek classics, which have the like tales? For Homer also curiously wove the like fictions, and is most sweetly vain, yet was he bitter to my boyish taste. And so I suppose would Virgil be to Grecian children, when forced to learn him as I was Homer. Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue, dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable. For not one word of it did I understand, and to make me understand I was urged vehemently with cruel threats and punishments (Confessions 1.13-14).

Thursday, May 18 

9:04 PM It was a terrific day in every way. Taught all morning, then got up hay all afternoon and evening.

I've never worked so hard in my life. Well, at least since yesterday. I know a group of people who also worked very hard today. They learned the first declension. They're in it for the long haul. They running to win.

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (1 Cor. 9:24-17).

Why, you'd think the apostle Paul worked for Adidas or Nike! Paul seemed to know something about running. He knew how easy it is to give excuses for not doing our best. But not him! He wasn't going to "get caught napping"! How 'bout you, my friend? Why not take a few minutes and make a list of the 10 biggest obstacles that hold you back from achieving your goals -- whatever they may be (learning Greek, losing weight, etc.). Write them down. Then ask God for help to run your race with endurance. Starting is easy. Finishing? That's another story!

Keep running your race,

Dave

5:54 AM My next half marathon is in only 16 days, and I couldn't be happier! 10Ks and Half Marathons are my favorite distances right now. I need to focus on getting in more miles, however. I did 3 the other day in Wake Forest so I'm getting back on track. If you're in the midst of training for a race, all the best! Be sure to go at your own pace. You're competing against yourself, period. Also, be sure you do races you enjoy. I love Raleigh's Race 13.1 because the course has easy parking at North Hills Mall and takes you through the Crabtree Creek Greenway before heading back to the starting line. You have to register early for this event because it's limited to only 1,500 runners. There's also a 5K and a 10K in case you're interested in coming out.

Where do I go from here? The Chicago Half on July 16. Surfing in Hawaii August 3-11. Then the Savannah Marathon in November. In each of these races I'll be ecstatic to cross the finish line regardless of time. I am driven to do better, and I will. Continuous improvement is a constant goal of mine. When I turn 65 on June 9, I hope to leave 64-year old Dave in the dust!

I'm so grateful for running. Life sucks at times, it just does. This past month has been particularly difficult for me because of Becky's birthday and Mother's Day. But the Cincy Marathon was a huge encouragement. When I reached the finish line I was so happy. I almost cried when the kind volunteer placed the finisher's medal around my neck. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had done it and had raised not a little amount of money for a great cause. My purpose here is not to brag but to remind myself that when I need Him the most, God is always here. I love, love, love my life today, despite all the emotional ups and downs. Reflecting on the past 3 years, I don't think there's one thing I would have done differently. Starting new hobbies like running, and resurrecting old ones like surfing, made a world of difference. My love for the classroom still runs deep, and I'm so thankful to be part of a guild of New Testament scholars who truly love the Lord. I'm really looking forward to what He has in store for me in the coming years.

5:14 AM Enjoyed some Latin poetry before hitting the hay last night.

4:48 AM Up early this morning meditating and praying. And blogging (wink). We've now covered the first three chapters of Philippians. For whatever it's worth, here are a few takeaways I've jotted down.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 1.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 2.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 3.

In chapter 3 we read that our Savior is going to return and transform our humble bodies into glorious bodies. Nobody knows the date of His coming. But He urges us to live in anticipation of it at all times. This morning my mind plays the same tune over and over again: "Come soon, Lord Jesus, come soon." For two thousand years He's been preparing a place for us, and I imagine it's going to be quite a habitation. In the meantime, I'm to hold forth His life-giving word to all who will listen.  

Wednesday, May 17 

8:35 PM Attitude is everything. That's true whether you're studying Greek grammar or running a foot race. This week we introduced the Greek verb (present and future active indicative) and the Greek noun (second declension). It's the concept of inflection that we're after, not just memorizing paradigms. I praise the Lord for helping us to grasp these difficult concepts. Here's the class taking their first quiz yesterday.

So proud of them!

Got home today and got up tons of hay.

Ain't nothin' I like doing more.

My body worked so hard I treated it to Fajitas Texanas tonight. Buenísimo!

I saved half of this gignormous meal for lunch tomorrow. This Saturday, of course, is race day again. This time we're running to help raise money for science education in Chapel Hill's high schools. Life is good.

Stay positive folks! Attitude is everything. If you're struggling with your mojo, try adjusting your attitude. 

Monday, May 15 

7:08 AM Back to Phil. 3. For the sake of Christ, Paul has willingly experienced the loss of all things. But does he call those things "dung" (3:8)? Or something else? For a discussion of the options, see Gary Manning's fine essay Did the Apostle Paul Use Profanity?

I'll add this. Let's not think of Paul as some sort of wannabe when it came to status. No, he had in fact acquired well-nigh unmatchable personal achievements. His grounds for boasting were impeccable. It's one thing to say, "I could have gone to Duke (or Harvard, or Cambridge, or Oxford) for my Ph.D., but I chose a state institution instead." A good question might be: Were you accepted at Duke? Or at Oxford? And turned them down? Paul had studied under Gamaliel II in Jerusalem. Didn't get much better than that in those days if you were a Jew. I'm reminded of the famous words of Malcolm Muggeridge:

I may, I suppose, regard myself as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets: that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the highest lopes of the internal revenue. That’s success. Furnished with money and even a little fame, even the elderly if they care to may partake of trendy diversions. That’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently headed for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time. That’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you and beg you to believe me. Multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing – a positive impediment measured against one draft of that Living Water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

"They are nothing -- less than nothing." Indeed. Why not take some time today and write what you would say about your achievements in light of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ?

Sunday, May 14 

7:04 PM Yesterday I walked a mere 5 miles. Today my goal was to walk at least 10 miles. (Notice I said "walk." My family would kill me if they knew I was running a mere week after Cincy.) Well, I got 5 miles done. My body is fine externally -- no aches or pains whatever. But there's an underlying lassitude and weakness that I'm having a hard time describing to you. So I came home and mowed the yard instead, and believe me, it needed it badly.

My mower threw a fuel filter at the worst possible time, and it took three weeks for me to get it fixed. I still have a couple of acres to mow but I'm done for this evening. I need to cook my meals for the week and then finish reading a wonderful book called Griego Para Pastores. It even has a section on sentence diagramming.

If you read Spanish, do yourself a favor and check it out. You're welcome.

Earlier today I was browsing the Nerdy Language Majors website (which I do daily) and noticed that Mike Aubrey resurrected a couple of his essays on Ephesians. In one of them he mentions (in passing) that he's still a bit agnostic about the letter's destination. Let me ask Mike (and any one else who's interested) to put aside the variant in Eph. 1:1 for a minute. Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that the epistle was originally sent to the Ephesian church. We would still have to explain the noticeable absence of personal greetings in the letter. That is, how we do account for the impersonal nature of Ephesians if it were indeed sent to a church that Paul knew so well? These are good questions that deserve our careful consideration. Believe it or not, I think there are good answers to these questions, and if you're interested in them I invite you to take a glance at my essay on the topic. Yes, I know the essay originally appeared way back in 1981, but if Mike can resurrect an oldie but goodie, so can I!

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out my training schedule for my next half marathon, which is coming up in only 20 days. To me, running is a wonderful sport. It's a time for me to be alone, collect my thoughts, and decompress. Plus, the internet allows me to connect with runners all over the globe. There's nothing I crave more when I'm stressed, sad, or lonely than time in nature with the Lord. I know I'm not alone on this. For me, running is the perfect sport to build stamina physically and mentally. In fact, I'm still on a "high" a week after the Cincinnati Marathon. I have a feeling of exhilaration that just won't go away. Odd thing: I'll carry this same sense of exhilaration into the classroom tomorrow morning at 9:00 as I begin my 41st year of teaching Greek. Running is a very daunting hobby no matter how fast you are. I think the same thing is true of language learning. My advice to people just starting out: it's hard in the beginning, but keep trying, because YOU CAN DO THIS. 

Catch you later!

Dave

8:14 AM This is how the syllabus for my summer Greek course begins:

There are at least three very important reasons why you should study Greek. The first, of course, is to be able to intimidate your pastor. The trick is to sit in the front pew with your Greek New Testament wide open and watch the poor soul sweat to death. (Note: This procedure is considerably less effective if your pastor is preaching from the Old Testament.)

Second, you also need to take Greek to be able to impress others with your considerable learning. You see, anyone can say what the Bible means, but only Greek students can say what the Bible really means. The key is to use all kinds of impressive jargon—aorist passive imperative, for example—that nobody understands but all can be impressed with. Take a lesson from your medical doctor: Why say a child is turning blue when you can say he's cyanotic?

The final reason to take Greek—and the most important one—is because some day, if you're really lucky, you too can become a Greek professor!

7:42 AM The Bible, as you know, is full of genealogies. Names were important to God! More than any other label, your name symbolizes who you are. It's so personal that some marathon runners have their name printed on their running bib. When they hear their name on the lips of a bystander, they seem to get a real psychological push. My Hawaiian name is Kawika. In Ethiopia I'm Dawit. The author in me uses David Alan Black. But mostly I'm just Dave.

Today we come to Philippians chapter 3. The first major shift in the letter body took place between 1:11 and 1:12. There Paul moved from thanksgiving and prayer to the body proper. Here in 3:1 we find the second major shift-- a shift so sudden and seemingly unexpected that many scholars resort to theories of multiple letters to explain it. Not necessary.

Beginning in 3:1, Paul takes up again the theme of pride and personal ambition -- the lack of humility being the greatest obstacle to Christian unity (2:3). Paul, if you will, reverts to his Jewish moniker "Saul" for a moment. In contrast to their opponents, who (like Paul once did) set their minds on earthly things, the Philippians are to have an attitude shaped by their heavenly citizenship. The passage in 3:1 opens with a vocative ("brothers and sisters"), a command ("keep on rejoicing"), and the adverbial phrase to loipon, which here cannot mean "finally" (Paul's got 44 more verses to go!) but rather "furthermore." Thus, 3:1 serves as a transitional element to Paul's warning against the Judaizers beginning in 3:2. These "dogs," "evil workers," and "mutilators" rely on dietary laws, works, and circumcision, just as proud Saul once did. The Philippians, by contrast, are to worship God by the Spirit and place no confidence in the flesh. Then Paul sets forth his own life as a pattern for them to follow in this regard. I love how Eugene Peterson puts it:

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

In short, Paul voluntarily renounced all of his "gains" for the sake of something far better -- to know Jesus personally by conforming himself to Christ's death and taking up his cross daily. In other words, Paul is no longer Saul.

This fall I'll have the privilege again of teaching the letters of Paul in my New Testament 2 class. It's impossible to find anything to say about Paul that's not been said before by other scholars. But if there is one theme I would like to emphasize (hopefully not at the expense of other equally important themes), it's this: When Jesus really gets a hold of you, your life begins to move in a different direction. People take on new importance because of who they are rather than for what they can bring to the table. Jokes at the expense of others now seem like a waste of time. Now scholarship is not a goal in and itself but a mere tool for the Master's use. Becoming a follower of Jesus is an acceptance of these facts and many more. It's not a striving after something, a ceaseless seeking for credit and recognition. Slowly you begin to notice that Christ is working in you both to give you the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. He gives you new purpose, new values, new goals, and a whole new pattern of life shaped not by the evangelical cult of the superstar but rather by men like Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus.

I truly sympathize with people who have been told (and believe) that the book of Philippians is all about joy. But for Paul, joy is at best the byproduct of living for others. It's the result of what happens when we stop just telling people we're Christians and start showing them. And above all, Jesus' own example provides the best guideline for us:

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Saturday, May 13 

8:12 PM The greatest of Boston's greatest hits. Ever. Don't look back (Phil. 3:13).

6:24 PM Greek Syntax and Exegesis students, take note of this series on Philippians, a letter we'll be exegeting in class this fall. The series is called "The Cause." Friends, let's live for "the only thing that matters" (Phil. 1:27) and penetrate the darkness with the light of God's love!

6:12 PM Check this out, Greek students!

5:48 PM As an avid student of Hebrews, I'm eager to get my hands on this new Festschrift.

5:10 PM Have you ever noticed the parallels between Paul's speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:18-35 and the book of Philippians?

  • Paul claims to be a servant in both.

  • In both he insists that humility is an indispensable Christian virtue.

  • He speaks about persecution in both.

  • In both he emphasizes his financial independence.

  • In both he exalts the Gospel over all other messages.

  • In both he notes how courage is necessary for the servant of the Lord.

  • Unselfishness is emphasized in both.

  • In both he calls upon his audience to imitate him.

Interesting! Incidentally, this is the only message in Acts where the audience is exclusively Christian. Preaching in the New Testament is otherwise to the lost, not the saved. Yet we often call our pastor the "preacher" and the 11:00 service the "preaching service." Intriguingly, Luke records that Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Pastors/elders/overseers are "teachers" (Eph. 4:11). They must be "able to teach" (or "teachable," 1 Tim. 3:2). The implication is that each of the Ephesian elders was teaching. Apparently none was the church's "preacher." Is this an argument for team teaching in our churches? Thom Rainer seems to think so. Personally, I think a team teaching approach is immensely attractive, not least for the reasons Thom mentions (as well as those who left comments on his blog post). At any rate, there are many takeaways (real and potential) in Paul's address to the Ephesian leaders, and I feel I've only scratched the surface!

12:18 PM Bank, post office, workout at the Y, a 5-mile walk -- been a pretty normal Saturday around here. The highlight was definitely the local farmers market, where I found these detectible stir-fry ingredients (including fresh snow peas!).

If you value your food at the peak of freshness, there's probably a farmers market near you.  

A certain Mr. Yoder and I chatted away in German (Pennsylvania Dutch for him, High German for me). His family is part of the growing Amish community in Charlotte County, VA, which boasts that it's the only country in the state that doesn't have a single traffic light. The Yoders recently moved here from Dover, MD, after their eldest son was killed when a car collided with their buggy. I can only imagine the heartbreak this family has gone through. People, please slow down around the Amish. Anyhoo, right now it's time to relax and enjoy the last of the rainy weather, as the rest of the week will be perfect for getting up more hay. By the way, if you have a chance, listen to Scott Simon's interview about the English language on NPR that aired this morning on Weekend Edition Saturday. The point is that we often use the English language not to communicate but to obfuscate. I think of the technical jargon we Greek teachers sometimes use in class. Listen, our students have enough trouble memorizing Greek words let alone having to adopt all of our neologisms!

(Yes, I just used "obfuscate" and "neologisms"! Sigh!)

6:44 AM Greetings to you students taking summer Greek with me starting on Monday! Please keep in mind that there are many tools besides my beginning grammar you will want to consider purchasing eventually. Here's a list for your consideration. There are some honest disagreements among sincere Greek scholars about the best approach to learning Greek, but we all agree on one thing: Greek will help you live out your faith in very ordinary ways and trust God in very extraordinary ways!

6:40 AM Yesterday I signed up for the Chicago Rock N Roll Half Marathon on July 16. This will be sort of a running vacation for me, having just taught 6 weeks of summer Greek. I'll be staying at the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. I hear the second half of the course is pretty brutal. You're away from the crowds and by that time the sun is beating down brutally on your head. Still, they say this is one of the best races in Chicago (right up there with the Marathon). Besides, I love the Chicago skyline. Prior to this race, I'm registered for the Race 13.1 Half Marathon in Raleigh on June 3. I did this one last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The race takes you through three beautiful greenways, and they've even added a downhill finish. The race tech t-shirt you get is pretty cool, as is the finisher's medal. I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a challenging but certainly do-able half marathon. The other big race of 2017 will be the Savannah Marathon on Nov. 4. I hear there can be a lot of heat and humidity at this event (even in November!). I'll probably do this race as a fund raiser for UNC Cancer Hospital since the event comes just two days after the fourth anniversary of Becky's homegoing. I'm told this is the premier racing event in all of Georgia, so it should be fun.

So when's your next race?

Friday, May 12 

6:28 PM She would have been 64 today.

Honey, I'm so grateful for the 40 years I knew you and so honored to have been your husband for 37 of those years. Today you and I are both experiencing the sweet presence of the Savior, just in different ways. I never knew until the day you died just how much of my self was gambled away upon the heart of another. I miss everything about you, but especially your smile. For all I know, you might have been an angel in disguise! Was there ever a more powerful demonstration of the grace and power of God than when we went through our cancer journey together? I watered this day with tears, but they were mostly tears of joy and happiness at every thought, every memory, and the anticipation of That Day. Happy 64th Birthday, Becky Lynn. I love you.

6:14 PM Celebrating the goodness of the Lord in the lives of our graduates.

 

7:38 AM No marathon would be possible without a vast array of volunteers. Think: information booth (who? what? where?), gear check (pre- and post-race), corral ("chute 'em!"), aid station (hydration support), cheer station (cheer, laugh, scream), course entertainment (are you an Elvis impersonator?), post-race area (hand out medals, distribute food and water), tear-down crew (which, well, tears everything down). Even runners are "volunteers" in the sense that we pay our own way to run, and many of us are running for a charitable cause of one kind or another. This year the Boston Marathon had 9,400 volunteers supporting 30,000 athletes.

As I was running on Sunday I saw these volunteers everywhere. They literally kept me going.

If you want to see a good picture of a what New Testament "deacon" should look like, look no further. Deacons are servers, plain and simple. And get this: we are all to be serving one another, whether or not we have the title "deacon." I say this because many churches today have two categories of people: the ordained, and the ordinary. But there's good news. More and more I'm seeing in my students a willingness to challenge this way of thinking. In fact, today God is ordaining the ordinary. Shepherds (pastors) gladly see themselves first and foremost as fellow sheep. There is a great deal of New Testament teaching about spiritual gifts, about serving one another in love. Every single writer mentions its gravity. Fellow-service -- isn't this part and parcel of our salvation? Then why isn't it a reality for so many? What happened to the spirit of volunteerism?

Today is commencement. To our graduates I say: May the world see in you committed family members who can't get enough of each other, members of a body that requires a thousand moving parts to function optimally. You are capable of that kind of Spirit-filled life without constant management by your profs. The tools for kingdom service are yours for the asking: the Bible, willing hands, and a heart full of Jesus.

Love God.

Serve others.

Happy Graduation!

Thursday, May 11 

7:55 PM This classic is yours for the asking.

I got it when I studied in Israel. The book is personally signed by Anson Rainey. I need to hear from you by 6:00 pm tomorrow. If more than one of you requests the book, I'll pick the recipient by random.

7:38 PM Great time with Nate, Jess, and the grandkids today at THE happiest place on earth. Well, in Durham, at least. Four sons, with another on the way. :-)

8:18 AM Endless gratitude and appreciation to everyone who's already sent me feedback (some emails several pages long!) about my idea for a linguistics conference. In what follows, I've incorporated a good many of your helpful suggestions. There are so many special challenges our guild faces -- nomenclature confusion, pedagogical disagreements (some major), hermeneutical disputes, etc. Right now I'm looking at invited papers (possibly) followed by discussion groups. Let me mention here the main topics I'm thinking about. Feel free to offer any feedback you like via email, including the names of possible speakers. (I've got my ideas, but I'd like to hear yours.) There are four major areas of research I'd like to see discussed:

  • Lexical semantics

  • Linguistic theory

  • Pedagogy

  • Syntax

I would probably want sessions on the following specific topics:

  • Semantic domains

  • Lexicography

  • Discourse analysis

  • Linguistic "schools"

  • The use of electronic tools

  • Pronunciation

  • The living language approach

  • The ideal beginning grammar?

  • Tense and aspect (including temporality in the indicative mood)

  • Voice (including deponency)

  • The perfect

  • Word order

  • Linguistics and exegesis

Your thoughts are welcome. I'd especially like to hear from you Greek students out there. Just write me at dblack@sebts.edu.

Dave

7:05 AM Today's assignment -- grade these essay exams.

6:58 AM Good morning fellow bloggers! Here are a few lessons from my first marathon:

1) I need encouragement, and I need to be an encouragement to others. The energy you draw from the bystanders during a race makes a huge difference in the outcome of the race. For me personally, it allowed me to achieve a sub-6-hour PR. The day before the marathon I was on the sidelines cheering for the 10K runners. It was as though I was experiencing their race with them. The first half marathon I ever attended was as a cheerleader. The point? We're in this together.

2) Run light. I took nothing with me that I could leave behind -- iPod, iPhone, snacks, etc. As a result, there was less to weigh me down. I could do this because the race was so well-organized with plenty to drink and eat along the course.

3) Stay positive. I smiled -- a lot. I kept my head up. I fought through the rough spots. Sure, you could spot a frown on me from time to time. But overall, I was cheerful. Again, Phil. 2:14 -- one of my favorite verses from this wonderful letter -- came to mind.

4) Sleep before the race is vital. So is rest afterwards.

5) Your feet are the key, both to avoiding injury and to enabling you to make good, comfortable strides. God has undeservedly blessed me in this area -- no blisters, no feet pain, no knee pain, etc.

6) The finish line is as amazing as everybody claims. I first noticed it about a half mile out. It took me over two years to train for this event, and all of a sudden it's right there. The Finish Swine! The goal was attainable! At that very moment I forgot all about my tiredness. As I crossed I raised my arms in gratitude to God because it was a deeply personal victory. I didn't have any family members there to hug on, so I just bent over and sort of gave the Lord a big hug. Running, like all of life, is an extraordinary event. It's not a sprint but a marathon. But the finish line will come, trust me on that.

I can't really explain it, dear friends, but running has changed me for life. I no longer see barriers in my life as insurmountable, as long as I take it one step at a time. Awesome feels awesome. The sense of achievement I felt on Sunday, May 7, will stick with me forever. As the old saying goes, "The more you work to get there, the more you'll appreciate the result." My goal in life today is to help others run the race set before them with as much gusto as they can muster, relying completely on God to supply their needs. This goes for my students too. That's why today I'm giving away a copy of this book.

It's the story of how the Lord took me from Kailua Beach to Basel and beyond. If you're contemplating a doctorate in biblical studies, and if you'd like to have a glimpse into my personal journey, the book is yours for the asking at dblack@sebts.edu.

Keep running your race!

Dave

Wednesday, May 10 

5:22 PM I'm excited to share with you that my vision for a Greek and linguistics conference is moving forward. Everyone I've talked to so far loves the idea. I'll know more in the next couple of weeks. Feel free to shoot me your ideas about topics, speakers, format, etc.

Yesterday my assistant and I had our final mentorship meeting of the semester (he's also my Ph.D. student).

I love my students. They're moving forward, growing in grace and faith. God hasn't failed us once.

Oh, today Ben Merkle and I spent time over lunch talking about our possible linguistics conference and what we would like to see happen.

Many of you are using Ben's remarkable books in your New Testament and Greek classes. Much appreciation for the insights, friend!

Finally, saw this 0.0 car sticker and had to laugh out loud. Ya gotta love their honesty!!!

Time for supper!

Tuesday, May 9 

8:02 AM I have to say it again even though I've said it ad nauseum. Take the first step toward better fitness. I know. It's going to hurt. You will think it's IMPOSSIBLE. There will be doubts galore, but the only way to overcome them is to push through them. Take a second to ask yourself: Am I taking care of the temple? Accept where you are now. Ignore any shame you might be feeling. The past is past. Today is today. In exactly one month I'll turn 65. But that doesn't mean I have to slow down. Working out isn't about looking cool or being the "best" at what you do. It's about taking nothing in life for granted.

I want to be a cheerleader for you. People, we're stronger and better together. Looking towards the rest of 2017, I want to see more people taking ownership of their health. Hard work really does pay off. I want you to know that the fitness community is inclusive. Even if you're never exercised a day in your life, you are still invited. Come exactly as you are. Feel proud that you are making an effort. All you have to do is take that first step.

7:35 AM The crowd support at the race was, as I said, amazing. Along Eastern Ave, in Linwood (about 8 miles to go), was a group of seasoned citizens that had everybody in stitches.

A few miles later and there was the theme from Chariots of Fire. Corny? Nah. Inspiring! I would do this race again if only for the crazy signs and great music (including an Elvis impersonator who was really good!).

Monday, May 8 

9:10 PM Hey folks!

I arrived back on the farm just in time to get up this trailer load of beautiful Orchard Grass. It's gonna make some horses very happy.

But methinks my reading audience (all two of you!) are expecting a post-race report. So here goes ....

As you know, yesterday's Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati was my very first marathon experience. I've been running now for about two and a half years, and I've managed a few half marathons plus gobs of 5Ks and 10Ks. But I felt it was time to go for the "big one." I chose the Pig because it just sounded like fun, plus (and this was a huge plus) it had a very generous 7 hour time limit, which makes it the perfect race for newbies like me (despite the hills). So .... Cincinnati it was!!!

Friday at noon I hopped a flight to Atlanta and then flew to the Cincinnati Airport (which is actually in Kentucky). It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived and the interstate was a parking lot, so our shuttle driver decided to take us via a "short cut" along the Ohio River, and I'm so glad he did. We passed bucket loads of quaint ante-bellum homes snuggled up against the river. Beautiful! Before we knew it we were in Porkopolis itself, and there I checked myself into the plush downtown Hyatt.

Then I walked across the street to the Duke Energy Center to get my bib and race shirt in what they called the "Expo." The Expo itself wasn't very interesting -- mostly salesmen pitching their wares. But boy was it packed! After finding a place for dinner I settled into my room and slept hardly a wink that night, I was so excited. Saturday morning I took my legs for a 5-mile walk along the Ohio River and then rested all of Saturday afternoon and evening. I really prayed hard for a good night's sleep on Saturday night and the Lord came through for me. When I awoke at 5:00 am I was refreshed and ready for whatever lay before me. I ran downstairs for a cup of coffee and a pastry and then walked down to the river to find my race "pig pen" (corral). My nerves were fine and, in fact, I was eager for the excitement to begin. I was in the very last corral with a few thousand other runners, many of whom I'm sure were first-timers like me. Everyone was in good spirits. There was no jostling for position or anything like that, just joking around and lots of laughter and picture-taking. I wish I had had my iPhone with me, but I felt I should run as light as possible, so -- alas -- no pics of the race! At 6:30 on the nose the horn sounded and the first wave of elite runners were off. It took about 20 minutes for our pig pen to get moving, but eventually we were off and running too.

The race was SO MUCH FUN!!!!

I was in the back of the pack but I think we slow pokes had all the fun. I began tiring around mile 16 and was worried I wasn't going to make the 7 hour time limit. But God seemed to give me extra strength, and all of a sudden there was the Finish Swine! I turned on the afterburners and not only beat the 7 hour time limit but came in UNDER 6 HOURS!!! I was in absolute and utter shock. Yes, I know I trained hard for this race, but coming in at 5:56 was beyond belief.

The race itself was perfectly organized I'd say. Gatorade and water every mile. Tons of cheering fans along the course. Porta potties everywhere. And you could choose from a large variety of snacks along the way, from orange slices to gummy bears to cookies and gels. There was even bacon (of course!) As I said, the course was hilly, and I mean HILLY, especially miles 6-9 or so. It felt like I was climbing the Alps again!

But then again, there were so many volunteers and supporters on the course that you knew you couldn't stop for anything. As mentioned above, when I realized that I only had about a mile or so to go, I felt I could break the 6 hour barrier if I really poured it on. As I approached the Finish Swine I began to hear the crowd roar with shouts of encouragement. I turned my head, eager to see who they were cheering for. It was ME! In fact, the announcer had even called out my name. So there I was, finishing my first marathon, to the shouts of complete strangers who must have known I had come to run my best race possible. I got my race medal, and then (since I didn't have a camera) asked one of the race officials if she would be kind enough to snap a photo of me so I'd have something to send to my kids and grandkids. Thank you, Robin!

Right now I'm sitting here at the computer savoring yesterday's accomplishment. God has been sooooooooo good to me. But we can't live in the past, folks. Yesterday's finish line was not the end. Finishing a marathon only gives you permission to plan and dream. What's the next adventure? Climbing the second highest mountain in the contiguous U. S. in September to celebrate what would have been Becky's and my 41st wedding anniversary. You know, running allows you to do that. You've been humbled by both your potential and the fragility of your body. You've discovered what you thought were limits and gone beyond them. You've also discovered what keeps most people from achieving their dreams -- the confines of their imaginations. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned yesterday is a lesson for all of life: it comes down to taking each mile one step at a time.

This week I'll face a special post-race challenge. John Bingham likens a long-distance race to being in an auto accident. Your body has taken a beating. It needs time to heal. For a marathon, a person needs about a month to recover. I'll try to be a big boy and lay off running for a while, but I'm sorely tempted to get out and run tomorrow!

I want to thank the Flying Pig organization for putting on a race that can only be described as spectacular. I will definitely run this one again. I did this marathon as a fund raiser and to pay tribute to a pretty wonderful gal named Becky. I won't say it wasn't tough, but to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed every single minute of the Pig, even the hills! Now I've got my sights set on the Savannah Marathon in November. In short, I still can't get over the race yesterday. As unbelievable as it sounds, I finished. Even more unbelievable is the fact that I can now humbly say these words:

I AM A MARATHONER.

Dave

Friday, May 5 

7:48 AM Well, it looks like a perfect weekend for a marathon. I'm adopting John "The Penguin" Bingham's marathon strategy:

Finish the same day you start.

I'm not kidding! Beyond that, I'll just chew off one bite of the course at a time. You'll recall that I'm using the "5 Mile" trick. The idea is to convince yourself you're only running 5 miles. They you do the same thing for the next 5 miles, and then for the next 5 miles, etc. I'll also take along a few mini-candy bars for nutrition. I plan to eat about one per hour -- but who knows? As you know, for this race I'm trying to put the "personal" in "personal record." It's all about cancer research. I get to train for and run the race for Becky and then share my experience with all of you (plus, hopefully, a check for $4,000 to UNC). Life don't get much better than that. This is a huge deal for me, both physically and emotionally, as you can imagine. I could go on and on but that's really not the point I want to make here. So let me get to my POINT.

(Deep breath.)

Why aren't you out there running? Of course, you might not be ready for a marathon. But how about a 5K race? You could walk it or run it or do a combination of both. The causes you'll be running for are out of this world. Plus, when you join the running community, you'll have a built-in support system. Sign up your whole family (there's usually a kids' "fun run" mixed into the fray). As you know, I try and use my blog to inspire others. If only one person started walking or running or climbing or biking or going to the Y because of me, I would feel like I've accomplished something important. In fact, the reason I'm running today is because someone I know asked me to attend a half marathon as an observer a couple of years ago. How amazing is that??!! They managed to inspire the laziest guy on the planet to get out and do something healthy. O sweet irony. So go online and sign up for a race today. Don't even think about it. Just do it. Then go on Facebook and tell everyone about your new adventure. Get out there on the course and be proud of yourself. You'll find that "fitness" quickly becomes a lifestyle. And, believe me, you'll never go back to your couch potato days. I can't wait to hear about your first race!

Okay. It's time to pull the trigger. Sooooo excited. I'm feeling good, thank the Lord. No aches and pains. As I said, my grand plan is to (hopefully) finish. I really do love my crazy life. I'm grateful that I'm still safe and sound after all the training I've done. Loving all your emails too. Keep 'em coming. I so appreciate them -- and you! You keep me g oing. Thank you for cheering me on and making me laugh with all your great comments. I'm so thankful to be on this journey with you.

See ya at the finish line.

Dave

P.S. Hope to get into many Jesus convos this weekend. Taking copies of Running My Race to give out too. See how great running is? The blessings are everywhere.

6:54 AM Summer School Greek (which lasts for 6 weeks) starts a week from Monday. Thus far there are 30 enrolled. To you (and to any audits who might attend) I want to extend my warmest welcome. When I think about Greek, of course, I think back to my own introduction to the language in 1975. In subsequent years, the language seemed to take hold of me. For me, language study is truly a foretaste of heaven. I hope your own experience will likewise be enjoyable. If you're after mediocrity, you can get it easily. But if you want to attain excellence, you're gonna have to work with all your might. For starters, you may wish to take a moment and peruse our New Testament Greek Portal, which I hope will give you a pretty clear picture of what's available today in terms of online helps. I am well aware that our website is incomplete, so if you find something that's not there please let me know and we'll add it. On the first day of class we'll be learning the Greek alphabet and how to pronounce Greek words, and it might help if you listened to the MP3s that are available on the portal. Until then, I just thank God that each of us, regardless of the world's standards, stand equal before God. The only thing that truly matters is that we measure up to His standards. And for that, we'll need our Bible.

Thursday, May 4 

6:44 PM This is probably the next to the last post I'll be able to publish before I head out to Ohio.

Today I got in my final training by doing an easy 5-mile walk at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in Brodnax, VA. Folks, I entirely needed this. "Just a little walk with Jesus makes it right," the old song says. Trust me, nobody wants to begin a race feeling lonely or isolated. For the past four weeks I've not been myself. I've been more scatterbrained than usual and more unfocused than I like to be. It's been like taking a detour along life's journey, a walk on another path that at times seems to lead to Nowhere. For me, running this race is a chance to honor Becky's life and memory, but at the same time, even while remembering her, I'm filled with a huge sense of loss, where all the "right answers" fail me, where I've begun this monumental dialogue with God about death and resurrection and pain and joy. I've been forced to press extremely hard on the Gospel and ask the hard spiritual questions. AGAIN. That's why this walk today was so meaningful to me. Because God never turns away a seeker. He walks side by side with us through our valleys of fear and grief. He is my heart's full joy, and with Him in my life, everything else falls into place. Just look at the beautiful weather He gave us for our walk.

It's as though He was saying to me, "You're doing a wonderful job, Dave. I know that life without Becky is mind-numbingly hard, but I am here with you as your friend -- and your Savior. My light is greater than any darkness the evil one can throw at you." I am a grown man and I already know all these things, but sometimes it's good for the Lord to walk beside you and just remind you of what you mean to Him. I guess I'm just saying this: I'm at home with myself, at peace with the world, even ready for the weekend, come what may, because He is saying to me, "I will see you through this."

While I was walking I got this email from the good folks at Map My Run and I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. It's my performance summary for April.

140 miles of training in a single month. I fully intend to keep up this pace as long as my body allows me to do so. The possibilities of running other races excites and motivates me. God truly operates in mysterious ways, and I am shocked that I'm even attempting the race this weekend. But this is who I am, folks -- as unbelievable as that may seem. This is who I've become in Christ. Friends, Jesus is the only one who can define us. Learn to be who He has made you to be. Let Him walk into your home and determine what matters to you. I am either a man who is passionate about being all that God is calling me to be, or I'm not. We cannot have it both ways. I either follow where He leads me, or I don't. The fund raiser I'm doing for cancer this weekend might seem like a very small thing. Our culture has tricked us into thinking that a piddly amount like $4,000 can't make a dent. But hear me on this: Enjoy the little things that God allows you to do for Him in His strength. Invite Him into the chaos of your life and watch Him open the doors of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is embedded in the kitchen sink and a financial crisis and a crumbling marriage. It's everywhere -- even in Ohio.

Well, I've got to go and fix supper, but I did want to thank all of you who've written me today with words of encouragement. Your advice is timely, I assure you:

Dave, stay within your ability.

Listen to your body.

Don't start out too fast.

You can do this.

Really, I can't thank you enough. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say that each of you is at least a solid 26.2.

7:40 AM Who taught Greek to F. F. Bruce ? To C. H. Dodd? To Oscar Cullmann? To Bruce Metzger? I'd like to know. Wouldn't you?

7:30 AM Having just discussed "diminutives" in Greek class this week, I thought I'd post a link to this outstanding essay by Mike Aubrey.

7:16 AM Sending wishes your way for a fabulous weekend! The marathon officials sent me an orientation email that's left my head spinning. So much to decide! One matter of utmost importance: Which "pig pen" to join for the race?

Well, it's a no-brainer, really. I'm certainly no better than a G or an H. I almost hate to write this for fear of jinxing myself, but I really feel I have trained hard enough to finish under 6 hours unless something catastrophic happens to me on the course (which is ALWAYS a possibility). Of course, the irony of even mentioning a time is that if you don't reach your goal you'll feel like a loser, but at the same time setting a (tentative) goal pushes you toward it. Make sense? I'll be the first to admit that I can be really hard on myself. I've always been that way, even in my studies. But one thing I know I'm good at is not comparing myself with others. Just focus on what you do well and forget about "beating" anyone else. After all, there will always be people who are smarter, more productive, faster, etc. than you are. I am the Father's son, beloved and treasured, and that's good enough for me.

Like I said, enjoy your weekend. I'll try and do the same (said he while shaking in his boots). 

6:54 AM Since this subject came up recently ....

Wednesday, May 3 

8:32 PM Evening update:

1) I love work. I could watch it all day.

2) Can't we trade lives with our animals for just one day???!!!!

3) The oldest building on the farm (ca. 1790). Even predates me. Now that's old.

4:32 PM Howdy pards! Just back from our beautiful campus.

It's so hard to believe that in just four days my marathon experience will be over. (Insert the sound of me babbling like an idiot.) Since my thoughts have begun creeping me out, I've turned to reading fiction again (which always seems to settle me down). And what better fiction to read than Arthur Conan Doyle?

Regaining focus is my motto for the next three days. Prayers appreciated!

Oh, here's the latest weather forecast for Cincy.

Isn't God good??? Cool and sunny on Sunday! If you'll indulge me another pic or two, I wanted you to see my Greek class taking their last quiz of the semester.

I'm so proud of them and beyond excited about what they will now be able to do when they read their Greek New Testaments. Greek is challenging but worth it! Speaking of Greek, these guys are in my LXX class.

We had a blast eating Mexican and yakking about all things Hellenistic. Finally, endless gratitude to my former student Chris Jones for his outstanding lecture today on "Shepherding in the Gospel of John."

Our Lord transforms our ideas of "leadership." The way we acknowledge Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep and Senior Pastor is a big deal to Him. Thanks tons for the reminder today, Chris, and best wishes on your doctoral studies!

Time to get up hay!

Tuesday, May 2 

7:12 AM Quote of the day (source): 

Das paulinische Missionswerk wurde vornehmlich durch (mit-)reisende und lokale Mitarbeiter vorangetrieben. Erstere haben vor allem in der Erstverkündigung gewirkt, neue Missionsgebiete erschlossen und Gemeinde gegründet. Letztere waren vor allem für die Konsolidierung der gegründeten Gemeinden und die Missionierung des Umlandes zuständig. Sie alle waren einem gemeinsamen Werk verpflichtet, dass sie in der Verantwortung vor Gott wahrnahmen.

Of course, I didn't try to translate this into English. I just read it in German. German is German, and English is English. The goal of language learning is not translation but comprehension.

Let's remember that as we study the biblical languages.

7:06 AM I saw this amazing video this morning:

I know many of you have told me you'd like to be in Cincy rooting for me. I also know you can't be there in body. But I'll take your love and encouragement with me every step of the way. Thank you.

6:58 AM This is such a great letter from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Obesity and diabetes are associated with increased risk and worse outcomes for endometrial cancer. Metformin is a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Bae-Jump finds that metformin has anti-cancer activity, due to its indirect effects within the body (insulin, glucose) and direct effects on endometrial cancer cells through inhibiting signaling pathways involved in metabolism, including suppression of fatty acid and lipid biosynthesis. Thus, it is logical that metformin may break the link between obesity and endometrial cancer and emerge as a new targeted agent for the treatment of this cancer. A portion of this work was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in March 2017.

Based on this promising preliminary data, Dr. Bae-Jump has an ongoing randomized phase 2/3 clinical trial evaluating metformin versus placebo, in combination with standard of care paclitaxel/carboplatin for the treatment of endometrial cancer, sponsored by the NRG Oncology Group (GOG 286B). The phase 2 portion of this study has completed, and the trial subsequently re-opened to phase 3 in December 2016. Dr. Bae-Jump hypothesizes that predictors of metformin response will include both molecular and metabolic biomarkers, specifically obesity, insulin resistance, upregulation of insulin/glucose signaling and heightened fatty acid/lipid biosynthesis. From this work, Dr. Bae-Jump hopes to validate metformin as an innovative treatment strategy for obesity-driven endometrial cancer. Funds from the Becky Black Memorial Fund to Fight Endometrial Cancer will be used to support the biomarker research that is vital to this study.

It's pretty much all Greek to me. The gist is this: Vickie Bae-Jump's research on endometrial cancer is progressing well, thanks in part to yall's generosity through the Becky Black Memorial Fund ($25,000). Let replicate that effort this weekend. Our Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund is still open. This oinker appreciates every dime donated.

Monday, May 1 

8:50 PM Had a great workout today at the gym. The local gym. As in really LOCAL. Think hay field. That's where I picked up a few hundred 60 pound bales today. Like I say, it's as good a workout as you'll get at LA Fitness, for sure. Plus, just think of all the bonuses you get: runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, and post-nasal drip. All for no extra charge. We started haying at 12:00 noon and stopped at 8:00 pm. We ended up getting two trailer loads up today, and in the nick of time too -- a storm system was heading our way. But as usual, the Lord took care of us. No sooner had we parked the last trailer under the barn than the rain started in earnest. All glory to God!

Right now this tired old man has got to take a long hot shower and cook his meals for the week. Lots of pasta on the menu, I see. Wonder why?

Over and out.

10:44 AM Hey folks!

Well, after months of training, the big week is finally here. The planning is over, and the tapering is done. It's time to roll.

This marathon marks a turning point of sorts in my life. By God's grace, I've navigated three and a half years without Becky. I feel I'm finally out of the woods. It's time to mark my success by running this marathon in her honor and memory.

Running a marathon is like winning a major award in life, say an Oscar. For the rest of your life you can say you're an Oscar winner. And, like winning an award, you'll be thanking everyone who helped you reach your goal. My family members are not runners but they understand my commitment and are totally supportive. The miracle is not that I might finish. The miracle is that I had the courage to start the process. Marathoners give themselves permission to dream about the perfect race. It may not happen that way, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming. As in the Christian life, faith is what keeps them going when nothing else will. They've faced down their fears and have been humbled by both their strength and their fragility.

That's the grand lesson I've learned on this long journey. I've learned that life boils down to taking one step at a time. I've learned that I can't accept anything less than my potential. I've learned that life is lived not alone but in the company of others. I've learned to be grateful for my strengths and to accept my weakness.

So here we are.

I've put in the training. I'm ready to give it my best. I'm now a long-distance athlete, fitter and better trained than about 99 percent of the population. Somewhere in front of me is a finish line and a medal. I'll be surrounded by 30,000 other runners whose example will spur me on. At the front of the course will be the elite runners. They'll finish the race in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I couldn't finish that fast if the race were vertical and they dropped me down from an airplane. I'm filled with terror and excitement. My emotions are a cross between a child on Christmas morning and a soldier landing on Omaha Beach. My greatest danger now is not the course. It's my unwillingness to accept the difficulty of the challenge. Every mile marker will effectively start a new race for me. I will take whatever talent I have and go out and see what happens. I'll experience the limits of my body, the limits of my mind, and the limits of my spirit. But I know you'll be with me every step of the way.

Thank you for joining me on a journey where the finish line is just the beginning.

Dave

8:20 AM Ah, the discourse structure of Philippians. What a happy theme to return to on a beautiful Monday morning. What's Paul done so far in the body proper of the letter? He's shown us what kind of man he's turned out to be in prison: someone who lives completely for the Gospel (1:12-26). He's pleaded for a unified Gospel witness among the Philippians (1:27-2:18). Now he's going to do something that won't surprise anyone who's studied Paul. In accordance with the pattern set down by his own Master-Teacher (Luke 6:40), Paul encourages his readers by giving them two models to follow as they set about trying to live out their heavenly citizenship in a manner required by the Gospel. Against worldly ambition and self-seeking (2:3-4), Paul sets forth the striking examples of Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). Note: Paul is not only making it clear to the Philippians that these men are excellent examples of what it means to put others first. He is promoting them and their ministries, "esteeming others as better than himself," if you will. Of course, their work was done in a "supportive" sense relative to Paul's. But Paul implies that all of them are equally valuable to the work God is doing in Philippi. In fact, Paul himself started his ministry as an "assistant" to Barnabas. Frankly, I don't think Paul was very interested in status and titles. He calls Epaphroditus -- an otherwise unknown "lay" person from Philippi -- his "brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier." The two of them shared the same Father, shared the same work, and even shared the same danger. And think of the trust Paul placed in these men. He could rely fully on them!

Do you have people like that in your life, men or women who will drop everything to help you out when you need assistance? When I got home from Wake Forest last Wednesday, the water pump was out on the farm. No water for the animals. No water to take a hot shower with. No water to cook with. I called a man in the HVAC business whom I knew would help me out if he could. I asked him if he'd be willing to come over and trouble shoot the matter and then advise me on what to do next. Not only did he promise to help me, he sent his very best workers (including himself!) the very next day to replace the water pump. His gracious ministry to me reminded me of Paul's words about Epaphroditus. Here were two humble servants of the Lord, faithfully carrying out their normal duties, willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.

When brother Jason Evans and I trekked among a fierce tribe in Ethiopia years ago, the only Ethiopian who would volunteer to translate for us was a young 24-year old university graduate named James. He knew his mission carried its own particular risks. But James was James, a courageous person willing to take enormous risks for the Gospel. After Jason and I had returned home, we got word that James had been found dead, suffocated in his sleep. There are no words to describe the honor and respect and love we have for brother James. His life stands as a rebuke to a hot tub religion that makes no demands and calls for no self-denial.

Friend, don't wait for some kind of formal ordination before getting your hands dirty in ministry. Put your faith to the test by getting involved in people's lives. Don't just pray for others. Roll up your shirt sleeves and help. Anyone can say they are a Christian. But how many of us are willing, for example, to spend time with that elderly person we know or have lunch with the most unpopular kid on campus? Faith like that speaks louder than words.

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