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Tuesday, July 25 

7:48 AM Here's a blessing I don't talk about much. But my beginning Greek grammar is being used in families and churches for Greek instruction on a pretty wide scale. I know because I hear from these students on a regular basis. Not every story ends well of course. One class I personally started in a church a year ago petered out after completing only half of the textbook. To that class (and anyone else who's ever "dropped" Greek), I want to say: Look, I know how overwhelming and intimidating Greek is. I grew up surfing, not studying. When I went to Biola and became a Bible major, I was required to take two years of Greek. And not just Koine Greek. The first year was based on a Classical Greek textbook designed for students at Harvard. It was called Chase & Phillips.

After three weeks in class I ended up dropping. Turns out, I wasn't cut out for languages after all, or so it seemed to me at the time. Greek was just really really hard. That was maybe one of two times in my life when I felt completely overwhelmed by something. To this day I still can't believe how close I came to missing what today is such a huge part of my life (Greek). Folks, the hardest challenge in life isn't always the subject matter or the task. It's finding the courage to take the first step and then sticking with it. Runners know exactly what I'm talking about. After two months of "enjoying" their new-found love, they peter out. I think the only reason I've stuck with it is because my goal is simply to have fun during my workouts each and every day. And, this is isn't merely a daily commitment. It's for a lifetime. I know I won't get stronger and healthier by sitting on my rear end or if I let myself get embarrassed by lack of ability. It was the same way with Greek. After dropping my class (and seriously thinking of changing my major at Biola to CE), someone told me about Moody Bible Institute's Greek course by cassette tape instruction. The textbook they used was a really simple (many today would say over-simplistic) one by a man named Ray Summers. But it was down to earth and didn't assume I had had three years of Latin. Within 4 months I had passed both semesters of beginning Greek with flying colors, and a year later Dr. Harry Sturz invited me to teach 11 units of Greek at Biola University. That was 41 years ago. And guess what? The book I taught from was none other than that little monster called Chase & Phillips.

Folks, the hardest part is not getting started. It's getting started and then saying "I'm going to stick with this even though it's soooo hard." Neither Greek nor running is easy. Just figuring out how to stay motivated is half the battle. Listen, I know how intimidating becoming active can be for those of us who didn't play sports growing up or who avoided anything too physical. Greek's the same way. Greek was the first foreign language I had ever studied. I was as ready and prepared to take Greek when I got to Biola as I was prepared to run a marathon when I first started jogging two and a half years ago. So I bit the bullet and enrolled in Harry Sturz's Greek class, and even though I lasted only three weeks I have no regrets because I gave it everything I had and walked away knowing that failing wasn't the end of the world. I just needed to try again.

Regardless of where you are in your Greek studies, dear reader, what matters most is that you dare to fail, because failure is a part of life. But even should you fail, you won't have a single regret knowing that you gave it your all. Brush yourself off and then start all over. All that matters is that you keep saying Yes to life.

And to any would-be runners who may be reading my blog today: Let me tell you the bare nekkid truth. Unless you really want something, you'll never get around to pushing yourself to the place where you will stick with it. Never. I don't care if your goal is to run a 5K or to qualify for Boston. The hardest part about running is giving it 100 percent. My easy runs are hard. My long runs are hard. But they're still FUN because I love what I'm doing. Even when you claw your way through the first two months of running it doesn't get easier. But if you have the courage to think and live like an athlete, then you will find, as I have, that you have more strength than you ever dreamed possible.

Monday, July 24 

6:20 PM Good evening! Today I put exactly 9.22 miles on my mountain bike, and I did it in one of the most interesting cities in all of Southern Virginia. Lynchburg is really two cities. The one I'm most used to hosts a huge university and dozens of upscale restaurants. I rode today in the other Lynchburg, with its barred windows and pawn shops. Actually, this side of the city has carved out a trail system they call the James River Heritage Trail. It has four interconnected shorter trail systems and I was able to bike three of them today: The Blackwater Creek Byway, the Point of Honor Trail, and the Kemper Station Trail. I'll save Percival's Island Trail for some other day. I arrived at the Ed Page trailhead at around 10:00 am and found it full, though I only had to wait a few minutes before I got a parking spot. Before beginning my ride I noticed what looked to be garden next to the parking lot and sauntered over to investigate. Turns out I was in the Awareness Garden that is dedicated to the memory of people who have died from cancer. It was heartbreaking to see so many names there, but cancer is, unfortunately, a fact of life (and death). Eventually I took off and found the first several miles to be a piece of cake. You're going downhill at a slight grade, which meant you could maintain a 13-mph pace without even pedaling. (Of course, you also had to pedal up this same stretch of asphalt on the way back to your car.) Eventually you cross a couple of wooden bridges, go under a tall railroad bridge (as in TALL), and then find yourself at the entrance to the funky Hollins Tunnel. Here the air temp went down by at least 20 degrees and you could even feel the water dripping on your bike helmet as your rode to the other end. From this point it was a short ride to my turnaround spot, the Kemper Street Railroad Station.

I loved this trail. All the fears, worries, and pressures of life seemed to melt away as I cycled through some of God's most beautiful creation. At one point I even met a little doe who was the spitting image of Bambi. What a wonder that here, in the middle of the city, the joy I felt the very first time I got out in nature in Hawaii as a surfer came back to me. You know, getting older isn't all that bad. You tend to slow down and smell the roses more. With each passing day you also worry less about what people think of you and more about how you feel and look and dream. I've learned that my 65-year old body will do almost anything I ask it to do (within reason) as long as I allow it to adjust to the new demands. I don't believe I have had my last best day. That day is still out there waiting for me, and each day I'm alive is a chance to find it.

Pix (of course):

8:50 AM Good morning!

Gonna be another busy day. My plate's full, as is yours. So much to do, think about, write, plan. But I couldn't start the week without at least mentioning the passing of one of our greatest saints, a man I came to know and love in Dallas. I heard him speak many times on visits to Becky's family. He often filled the pulpit at the church where they attend. He was a professor of "preaching," or homiletics if you will. We used his textbook on preaching when I was in seminary back in the Dark Ages. Those were the days. In my homiletics classes we were taught all sorts of things. How to project your voice. Which tie goes with what suit. And to follow your notes. Religiously. "Be well prepared!" Like any organization, church has many good leaders who can communicate well, and some who are terrible at public speaking. In my experience, one of the least desirable traits in a preacher is lack of authenticity. What ever happened to brother So-and-So when he clambered behind the sacred desk? The voice becomes wispy, breathy, and even "Jesus" takes three times as long to say. Folks, authenticity is not easy, but it is simple. You just be who you are. "Naturalness," is what they call it. You're talking with us, not at us. Notes aren't needed, because you are speaking to us from the heart. (We love eye contact!) Great public speakers care. They depend not only on force of reasoning but on passion. Listeners crave intimacy with them. Great speakers keep it simple. Their sentences are short. Special vocabulary is left to the homileticians. A great speaker's voice is like a Swiss Alp. It's beautiful. It goes up and down, its rhythm changing with the contours. Great speakers are decent people. They may or not be funny, but I've never heard a great speaker who didn't have a sense of ease, who didn't poke fun at himself. And yes, you should illustrate your points.

The man who just went home to be with the Lord he so faithfully served is named Haddon Robinson. If you've never heard him speak in person, I feel sorry for you. Thanks to YouTube, you may yet have a chance. This is perhaps the most powerful graduation speech I've ever heard. If you take the time to listen to it, you will discover what a great preacher looks like, sounds like, feels like. What a precious gift from God.

 

Be well, pastor friend. Give your messages a chance to work. Everyone is fighting a tough battle in life, but you're the pacesetter. Give yourself to your people, and they will give back.

Dave

Sunday, July 23 

9:05 PM No nap. My neighbor had the spare part so back to work we went. Just now finished the mother of all hay fields. Glad it's done. The barns couldn't be fuller. Earlier I biked 9 miles. Felt great, but I can't wait to run again. People run for different reasons. Some run for causes. Most run for themselves -- in a good sense. They're running from a destructive relationship. They're running to prove to themselves that they are worthy of another's love and affection. They're running to become fit. I run for many reasons I suppose. I think mostly I run for Becky, in her honor, to raise money to combat the disease that took her away from me, and maybe mostly to manage the bottomless hole in my heart that I feel every day of my life. Someone has said that running isn't any different from grief. Both are hard. Neither gets easier. But both make you stronger. Honestly, I just love running. I'm not trying to set new PRs every time I run or anything like that. I just want to be out there with my fellow athletes. Your last race doesn't matter any more. Each new starting line holds the promise of a small victory as you struggle against your limitations and push to the edge of your ability. You rediscover the will to win and the desire to finish.

Each race is a new chapter that God is writing in my life.

3:32 PM The baler just broke down so we've stopped haying for the day. Good thing too. The real feel is a mere 107 degrees. The Lord has a good purpose in everything! New Holland's got the part, so we'll be back in business later this week, when things promise to be cooler.

Nap time :-)

1:45 PM Snapped this not two miles from the farm.

Yep, a neighbor's cattle got out again. I keep informing them but it doesn't seem to do any good. Oh well, at least the owners of this property won't have to mow their grass this week. 

9:14 AM As we attend the fellowship today, let's recall the words of Paul in 1 Thess. 5:12-13:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you, and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

Think how helpful it could be if we followed this injunction. Paul realized that people need practical help on how to treat their leaders. All of this is excellent nurture. Remember also the need to pray for one another, and the need for more experienced colleagues to take younger leaders under their guidance. Finally, notice three things Paul says about these leaders that are often overlooked:

  • It's striking that the verbs controlling this passage are a long ways from the imperatives that call for obedience or submission.

  • Note too the absence of titles (overseers, pastors, elders). Instead, these leaders are identified by their activities.

  • Finally, it's not possible to take these three descriptions of leaders as suggesting different kinds of people, as if some "care for" the flock while others "admonish" it. Almost certainly the three Greek participles used here assume that these are tasks that all of the leaders fulfill.

These three points are made by Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, which I highly recommend. Today I'm convinced more than ever of the usefulness of studying the subject of church leadership through the exegesis of specific texts like this one. There's real value in such an undertaking. At least there would be, if the best teachers in the church were doing it. Many a young pastor has not the faintest idea of how to read the Greek of 1 Thess. 5:12-13. This is perhaps a weakness of our educational system. Indeed, in some settings, exegetical training is discounted in comparison to practical training. Only those who are academics by temperament go on to master the biblical languages. No wonder the church is in some disrepair. I fear much of the trouble goes back to those of us who teach Greek. Showing just how useful Greek can be in pastoral ministry is one of the most urgent tasks of the church if it is to be a true New Testament body.

8:54 AM Switching for a moment from textual criticism to Greek lexicography ....

In our Syntax and Exegesis class this fall we'll be looking at the various parts of speech in the Greek language, including conjunctions. Believe it or not, we'll have a lot to say about kai, since it is used about 9,000 times in the New Testament. If students are introduced to the gloss "and" in their beginning courses, all well and good. But more comprehensive descriptions are necessary once we move beyond elementary studies. One of my favorite examples is the use of kai in Matt. 21:5. Did Jesus really ride on a donkey and a colt, perhaps straddling them? Or take Acts 5:29: "Peter and the apostles." Clearly Peter was an apostle. Hence Luke meant something like "Peter and the other apostles."

Is kai ever pleonastic? Is it ever used to intensify an idea? How can we be sure that kai is being used adverbially as opposed to being used as a coordinating conjunction? How does kai join phrases? What about the so-called Granville Sharp construction? What is the difference between kai and te? Can kai ever introduce a paragraph break? Why do we read "Grace to you and peace" instead of "Grace and peace to you"?

We'll look at these and other questions in class. But it will be up to you to write the next chapter in the story.

8:36 AM The ETC blog is featuring a post about Kirsopp Lake's views on the need for conjectural emendation in New Testament textual criticism. But there's also this interesting quote:

It is between these texts, and not between individual MSS., that we shall have in the last resort to judge, so that the situation which we must face is that we have to deal with a number of local texts, that no two localities used quite the same text, that no locality has yet been shown to have used a text which is demonstrably better than its rivals, and that no one of these local texts is represented in an uncorrupt form by any single MS.

This quote is a challenge to modern-day textual criticism. In my experience, students tend to fall into one of two camps: They are either Alexandrian priorists, or else they are Byzantine priorists. My hope is that they will see that no text type can be followed automatically, if indeed it can be shown that no text "is demonstrably better than its rivals." This is precisely what Harry Sturz argued in his work The Byzantine Text-type and New Testament Textual Criticism. It is the view I personally prefer. It is also a theory that I applied in numerous essays in Novum Testamentum, New Testament Studies, etc. Anyway, I'm guessing that some of you have never heard of Dr. Sturz or are familiar with his views. My life was greatly enriched by first studying under him at Biola and then becoming his colleague in the Greek Department there for many years. I can hardly articulate my gratitude for his contributions to the art and science of textual criticism, though I have attempted to do so here. So as we consider "what" we do as students of the New Testament, may we constantly be reminded "why" we do it as well.

Saturday, July 22 

10:08 PM Thank You, Lord, for a wonderful evening of work. This is the fourth night we've worked on this one field and we're still not done. What a blessing from Your kind hand.

Thank You that today was Lake Fest in Clarksville. We enjoyed the fireworks show while we were picking up bales long after dark. I now have enough hours to qualify as a second shift laborer. Thank You, Lord, for tuna fish and rice. It's not a fancy meal but I'm going to enjoy it in just a few minutes. Thank You, finally, for air conditioning. Mr. HVAC, you make my life tolerable. 78 degrees feels a whole lot better than 103.

3:05 PM Good afternoon folks! I hope you've been having a really great summer. Mine has been wonderful so far. I turned 65, I completed my first triathlon ("survived" might be a better word), I got to teach 6 weeks of Greek, and I was interviewed on The Today Show and NPR (not really, but one can fantasize, right?). I still can't believe I have another marathon coming up in October. I've been so grateful to the Lord that He's allowed me to get this far without any major injuries. I'm happy, too, because I've been able to keep my weight off and maintain an even 210 pounds (down from a high of 245). I've never been too much of a yo-yo person anyway; I usually finish what I start. Exercise and healthy eating works. Who would have thunk it? However, I can also be a bit overly-ambitious at times. Like today. Believe it or not, I've been praying about trying to do the 50/50 marathon challenge. This simply means completing a marathon in all 50 states. Of course, it's gotta be okay with my doctor -- and with my body. Hopefully by the end of this year I will have completed a marathon in 4 states: OH, VA, UT, and -- no, not HI, but AZ. That's right. I'm nixing the Honolulu Marathon in December. I suppose it's mostly because I've been reading too many blog reports that decry the race's horrendous humidity, even in December. You know, when you grow up in Hawaii you never notice the humidity until you move away and go back. When you do go home, you ask yourself, "How in the world did I ever put up with that for so many years?" So where shall I run in December? I'm looking into the Tucson Marathon on Dec. 9.  Like my race in Utah in October, this is mostly a downhill marathon. People say it's one of the prettiest courses in the nation. We'll see. If I do try and do the 50/50 Challenge, I'll need to do 5 marathons a year for the next 9 years. Think that's possible?

Oh, here's good ol' moi today in Farmville, VA. I'm enjoying a caramel macchiato at the Uptown Cafe, having just completed a half marathon on my bike.

Nothing too rigorous, of course. I gave my heart and lungs a rest. But my legs got a nice workout, which is a good thing when you consider that downhill races put a lot of pressure on your quads.

When I exited the cafe I noticed two men in starched shirts and ties across the street sitting at a portable table with some literature on it. Well, since I had praying all morning that the Lord would open up for me a Gospel opportunity, I made a beeline for these distinguished-looking gentlemen. "You know the Bible doesn't say anything about wearing ties when it's 100 degrees outdoors, right?" We laughed and shook hands. "Jehovah's Witnesses?" I asked. "Yes, sir," they replied. And thus began an hour-long conversation. As you folks know, I'm currently writing a book on the concept of the kingdom in the New Testament. The book is called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, and in one chapter I'll be discussing how various Christian denominations (and sects even) understand what the kingdom looks like. I asked the men, one of whom was about my age, and the other of whom was about 40: "Can you please tell me why your New World Translation says 'a god' in John 1:1 instead of 'God'"? The younger man started in. "In Greek there is no word for 'a.' So every time you have a word like 'God,' you have to decide whether or not to use the indefinite article in English." I said, "So you believe that Jesus is divine but not 'God'?" The same man spoke up, "Exactly. We believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is a theological construct that's not taught in the Bible. As a result, we don't see Jesus being called God here." I had them turn to other passages such as Tit. 2:13 and Rom. 9:5. Conveniently for my interlocutors, the NWT renders both verses in such a way as to avoid a reference to Christ's Deity. They had a little more difficulty when I asked them to read for me John 20:28, where Thomas, speaking to Jesus, says "My Lord and my God." After about a half hour of discussing Christ's Deity, I felt led to move the discussion in a different direction. "If you were to die today, do either of you know with certainty that you would go to heaven?" Again, the younger man spoke up first. "No one can know for sure whether they're saved." "Okay," I replied. "Let me ask my question this way: On your understanding of the Bible, what must a person do to be saved?" "Strive his best to obey Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount," said the younger man. "It's the meek who will inherit the earth," chimed in the older man. I said, "Well and good. I'm all for living out the ethics of the kingdom of God. But what about these verses?" I then quoted to them Eph. 2:8-9.

For by grace

are you saved

through faith,

and that not of yourselves.

It is the gift of God,

not of works,

lets any man should boast.

They looked at me like I had ten heads. I honestly believe they had never heard this verse before. Then I quoted Acts 16:31:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

and you will be saved.

About this time I sensed that the conversation was going in a way they felt uncomfortable with. The older man excused himself to go to the restroom. The younger man stood up and announced with his body language that the discussion was now concluded. He said to me, "I want to thank you for for being so polite and respectful to us during our conversation today. You know, people can disagree about salvation and that's okay because it's our sincerity that counts in the end." I replied, "People can be sincerely wrong. Muslims are sincere. Buddhists are sincere. Even atheists are sincere." Then I added, almost in a whisper, looking at that handsome, well-dressed young man straight in the eye: "I can tell you with complete certainty today that when I die God will take me straight to heaven, not because of any works of righteousness that I have done, but because on the cross Christ died the death that I, a terrible sinner, should have died, and when I placed my faith and trust in Him, God imputed Christ's righteousness to me. I want you to know, my friend, that no amount of good works will get you or anyone else into heaven. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."

We look at each other for a moment. Then we shook hands, and as I patted him on the arm I quipped, "And remember: There's no verse in the Bible that says you have to wear ties on a hot day!"

Laughing, we parted ways.

Friday, July 21 

8:52 PM I was feeling pretty good today, in fact so good that I thought I'd drive into Raleigh for some Ethiopian food and then see the movie Dunkirk. The former was outstanding. The latter was, well, let's just say it was less than outstanding. As usual, for lunch I order the kai wat, which was Becky's favorite dish at the Abyssinia Restaurant. It's basically the Ethiopian version of beef stew but a whole lot spicier. If you're ever in the mood for some real finger-licking-good grub, I tell you what ... my goodness. You can't beat the Abyssinia. But be forewarned: There's nothing shy about Ethiopian cuisine. You'll love the restaurant, which is now under new owners, Berhanu and his lovely wife (who is also the chef).

You're still quite a ways from Ethiopia, of course, but you get my drift. By the way, on each table is a little basket with the message "Word for Today" on it. Each basket contains Scripture verses. Yes, the owners are in the Lord! It don't get much better than that, folks.

As for Dunkirk, I'll just say: Don't fall for the hype. I give it a D at best. The stumbling blocks were simply too many. Take the musical score for one. The vibrating, gnawing string background (think the theme from Jaws) never shuts up. It's like listening to a pile-driver for 2 hours. Then there's the film's intensity. Imagine the vehemence of the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and then multiply that by four. Ugh. Finally, there's the "believability" factor. One could make a strong case that German rifle fire can't punch holes in the hull of an ocean-going vessel, or that a Spitfire that's ditched in the Channel can't stay afloat for an entire half hour before sinking to the bottom (and why didn't the trapped pilot try to shoot his Very Pistol through the Plexiglas instead of merely trying to smash it open with the butt of the gun?), or that a Spitfire that's run out of fuel can't glide east to west over the Dunkirk dunes at 200 feet and then turn around and glide west to east at the same elevation. Come on, folks. At one point I thought of just walking out of the theater, but I paid my 7 bucks and I sure was going to stick it out to the bitter end. Never again.

Do I recommend you see this movie? Many reviewers are calling it a "masterpiece." Well, I didn't care for it. It certainly wasn't as good as I expected. In fact, it was downright painful to watch. It didn't bother to get simple things right. At least a movie like Pearl Harbor (surely one of the worst war movies ever made, what with its cornball romantic triangle and awful acting) had some magnificent attack scenes. Dunkirk is worse than boring. I left the theater asking myself, "What was that all about?" The one redeeming factor in the film was its unspoken premise, which, in essence, is a movie theme that hits home for me every time: Ordinary people are capable of accomplishing some pretty amazing things. It was the common civilian sailors who saved the day at Dunkirk. They did what the Royal Navy, with all of its vast warships, couldn't do: get 330,000 soldiers back home safely.

In the end, Dunkirk is an action film and nothing more. If that's all you want, you'll probably enjoy it. But you may want to spend your hard-earned money on some good Ethiopian food instead.

Your humble culinary (and film) critic,

Dave

8:02 AM I just sent out an email to my Syntax and Exegesis class reminding them that one-fifth of their grade this semester will be based on classroom recitation, and that correct pronunciation of Greek is an essential component of this process. I reminded them that an appendix in my beginning grammar contains a very brief summary of the rules of Greek accentuation, which by now should be intuitive to anyone who's had a year of Greek instruction. Of course, it's possible to focus too heavily on accents, as many a beginning grammar does in my opinion. Such matters are probably best left for when students have some Greek under their belt. Yet even beginning students can still accentuate properly when they read the language aloud. Of course, at times the accent can change the meaning of a word completely (as in the present and future of meno). This semester we will also be doing English to Greek composition and, although accents and breathing marks are optional in my classes, I will ask the students to do their best to apply the basic rules of accentuation even during composition exercises.

You're welcome, by the way.

7:50 AM Last night I finished rereading this provocative book. With "The Juice" in the news again, I thought I'd at least mention it to you.

It's an absolute must read for the skeptical mind. If you think O.J. was guilty, read this book. If you think he was at the crime scene but wasn't alone, read this book. This book is meticulous in its examination of all the suspects in the case, including one you'd never think about, even though a very strong case can be made that he, and not O.J., was the actual murderer. I won't give the conclusion away, but I'll admit that I was convinced. All you need is an open mind to get value from this book.

Thursday, July 20 

9:14 PM Most of my readers know that I've been trying to do everything just right in preparation for my 2017 races. I've followed a solid training program, eaten right, hydrated properly, stayed injury free, and gotten pretty good rest between workouts. But to everything there's a limit. Sometimes you just need to take a break from it all. Like driving down to the great state of North Carolina and pigging out at your favorite seafood restaurant -- a place you visited with Becky many a time in your former life. I'm talking sweet and subtly delicious hushpuppies, fantastically fatty fries, sweet pickle cole slaw, and, of course, a gigantic piece of deep-fat-fried trout. Is there anything better than a fish fry after writing all day and then getting up hay all evening? Well, yes, I suppose there is. What I'm "inching" toward saying here (yes, the allusion to one's waistline is intentional) is a seafood addiction isn't just due to lack of willpower. Satisfying an occasional craving is downright good for you, it really is. And what's more, I did turn down that second helping of hushpuppies after all. Now ain't yall proud of me?

P.S. This was my view while driving home tonight. "From sunrise to sunset, let the name of the Lord be praised!" (Psalm 113:3).

4:50 PM Okay. So I've followed my own advice and registered for my next 5K. It's the Blue Moon Ride and Run in Durham on Saturday evening, July 29, beginning at 8:00 pm. Yes, this will be the first race I've done in the dark. I'm not the most observant person in the world, but I did have to smile when I saw that so far I'm only one (of two) participants in the race who are between 65 and 69. That's out of 656 participants. (Looks like it will be White versus Black.)

My give-a-care bubble is pretty small, but this does give one a reason to pause. I will say at this point that I enjoy being in an older age category if for no other reason it's easier to win a medal. And nothing is nerdier than watching an old guy tooling around with a piece of tin around his neck.

4:28 PM Today I wrote the notes for a PowerPoint on Roland Allen's classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul's Or Ours? I'm going to us it in my NT 2 class this fall (Acts through Revelation). I'm also requiring my students to purchase this book even though it was written over 100 years ago. In my estimation, Allen's Missionary Methods ranks right up there with other Christian classics such as Jacque Ellul's The Subversion of Christianity and William Farmer's The Synoptic Problem. Authors such as Allen, Ellul, and Farmer appeal to me because they ask the reader to forget virtually everything that has been previously accepted as fact about the subject at hand. Historians make a distinction between the "ephemeral event" (an event as it actually happened) and the "affirmed event" (a commonly agreed-upon interpretation of that event). A practical example is the synoptic problem. Over the years an agreed-upon interpretation of the facts is hammered out by scholars. This interpretation claims to be able to smooth out the gaps in knowledge and provides students with a longed-for consensus. Once this consensus has been reached, the interpretation becomes almost indelibly fixed. Even if seemingly contradictory evidence is put forward, the "affirmed interpretation" becomes nearly impossible to dismiss. For William Farmer (and for others like him, such as Bernard Orchard and myself), this is precisely what has happened to our attempts as scholars to resolve the synoptic problem. Markan priority is now so embedded in the popular consciousness that it's almost impossible to challenge. As long as the agreed-upon interpretation of the facts remains anchored in our minds, alternative explanations will remain hidden.

William Farmer felt that the consensus opinio didn't work. It didn't explain, for example, the unanimous testimony of the early church that the apostle Matthew, and not Mark, was responsible for our earliest Christian Gospel. He therefore produced a bold book that was unafraid to offend, rather than an inoffensive book that was destined to simply collect dust. This is why I consider Farmer's work a "classic." The "affirmed solution" to the synoptic problem has left the historian with lingering questions. The answer to these questions will remain incompatible with each other until the central piece of the puzzle is put in its place.

I have a friend who says that every hundred years or so a book comes along that messes everything up. That, I can say, perfectly describes Roland Allen's book about missions.

P.S. Feeling better today. Walked for 4 miles at the track then cooled off in the county pool. Getting more hay up tonight. My body, all except for my chest, feels superb. I have three and a half weeks before my next triathlon, and I plan to get back into running very slowly. Famous last words, I know. But I really am trying to be patient. Besides, in exactly 14 days I leave for Hawaii. And I really can't afford to be in bad health if I'm going to catch a few.

8:24 AM This sermon title from Phil. 1:6 caught my attention this morning: The Most Important Day of Your Life. The "day" being referenced in the sermon, of course, is the day of Christ's return (see Phil. 1:6 and 1:10). The speaker asks: "If this day were to come tomorrow, would you be happy about that?" From the time I became a Christian when I was 8 and heard someone pray, "Come, Lord Jesus," I've always eagerly anticipated the Second Coming of the Lord. The Bible is clear about one thing: though we may not know the day or the hour of His coming, we can be prepared for that day. And so I began asking myself the question: "How do I become prepared for the Judgment Seat of Christ?" I think Philippians itself has the answer. Let's return to Phil. 1:6:

And I'm certain that God, who began this good work within [or among] you, will continue it until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

All of this talk about Jesus returning to judge and to reign is, of course, very important. But is that the emphasis of this verse? It sounds rather like Paul is complimenting the Philippians for the "good work" they had begun, and this good work is to be found in verse 5:

They had become participants in the Gospel Commission along with Paul.

In other words, the Philippians had become what I like to refer to as "Great Commission Christians." This began on the very day Paul had brought them the Gospel, and their faithfulness in the work of sharing Jesus with others was evidence that their faith went beyond mere belief but had issued in action. Gospel action.

Do you support the propagation of the Gospel? Do I? This can't be reduced to mere financial considerations. I may place some money in the offering plate to help "all those missionaries out there" and never become a missional person myself. Paul was in the Gospel "business" fulltime. So, evidently, were the Philippians. Thus he could describe his relationship with the Philippians as sunkoinonous -- "fellow partners." Moreover, since God is the one who founded this "fellow-partnership," only He can complete it.

In short, Paul's eager anticipation of Christ's Second Coming had more to do with this day than some coming day. Remember, Christ has already come once. He rules spiritually in the hearts of His people, whom He has commanded, "Go everywhere in the world and tell everyone the Good News!" (Mark 16:15). In other words, the choices we make in the here and now are binding in eternity.

So what's the most important day in your life? Other than the day of my conversion, I think it was the day I realized that my life was not my own. God longs to redeem this fallen world. He cares about people, but He can only work with what He's got to get the job of reconciliation done. That means you and me. Have you joined the cause of global missions? I tell you, life is as simple as that. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do good to others. Share Jesus' love in practical ways. Then let people know that there is truly Good News for them.

God is still moving and active in our world today. Throughout the centuries, followers of Jesus have been responding to the Spirit's call and have taken up the Cause of causes. We are the people of God, and we are moving forward to that day, prophetically embodying the shalom of God.

Wednesday, July 19 

7:22 PM I was going to write a lot tonight about what I've been reading lately, and I may still get on a blogging roll, though I'm kinda tired. (Supper, by the way, was delicious: hamburger/onion/cream of chicken mixture over rice.) Believe it or not, I've been rereading one of my own books that I haven't looked at in a very long time, but since I'm requiring it for my NT class I thought it might be a good idea for me to revisit it. Seven Marks of a New Testament Church reminds me of a crusty old man on the sidewalk yelling "Go, man, go!" during a marathon. As someone who's not an expert in ecclesiology, I had tons of fun writing this little book and was delighted to find that people are using it as they prepare to teach through the book of Acts. I've also been going through Walter Hansen's Pillar commentary on Philippians, which is very good though not in the same class as Hawthorne (in my humble opinion). For one thing, I think Hansen makes way too much of a supposed connection between Philippians and the "letter of friendship" genre that existed in the first century -- not that Paul wasn't friends with the Philippians. I do, however, like his section and paragraph headings, obviously written by someone who loves teaching through this book. He calls 1:1-2 "Greetings and Grace" (I might have written "Servants and Saints"), and 3:18-19 "Mourning over the Enemies of the Cross" (a good title but the discourse unit is most certainly not limited to these two verses). In wonderful chiastic fashion, he crafts the closing paragraph under the title: "Greetings and Grace" (4:21-23). Another nice thing: He refuses to impose the canons of the ancient rhetorical handbooks onto the letter. I'm with you there, brother. Another book I've dusted off is Homer Kent's outstanding commentary on Hebrews that appeared way back in 1972 but still has a lot of helpful information in it. I'm reading it partly because I loved that era of New Testament studies, when so many of our profs were either Dallas or Grace ThDs. And even though he employs the now-outmoded outline of Hebrews that draws a sharp distinction between "Doctrinal Discussion" (1:1-10:18) and "Practical Instruction" (10:19-13:17), he remains very good at weaving together the author's theological foundations with his practical applications. As I read through Kent's commentary on Hebrews, my respect for his knowledge and wisdom continues to grow.

Okay, so there ya go -- three books I've been reading of late. Of course, I'm always on the lookout for more books on running and runners, and I want to ask you if you have any recommendations. (If you do, just post them on your blog or Facebook page.) I still haven't read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, though it's one of the most popular running books out there. Running is a challenging sport, and if you're like me, you need books to keep you motivated. But mostly I'm plugging away at New Testament commentaries, mainly ones that have been sitting idle on my shelf for years. As with books about running, I take into consideration the reputation of the author before selecting a book to read. Not that I won't read a book by a novice author; these can have great content! But books written by well-known writers have the upper hand in my thinking (and purchasing).

Happy reading!

6:04 PM Well, the doc just put me on Amoxicillin and a steroid for my cough/chest congestion. I'm told I should be feeling tons better very quickly. I wouldn't mind that at all. Every run -- and every non-run -- seems to open a window on my soul. It's as though I'm having to confront the real me over and over again. As running has become a more central part of my life, I'm finding it more and more impossible to be unaware of who I am. Someone who likes ease. Someone who wants to be good at something other than teaching. Someone who wants to have the courage to live like an athlete. And it all began with a single step. I need to be careful not to look so far ahead in my life that I miss what's right at my feet.

Whoosh! How's that for a zany blog post. I'm heading off to cook supper ... and take my new pills like a good boy.

11:45 AM Hey folks! Not much news to report here. I've been working away at prepping for my fall classes, including several new lectures. This morning I was reading Hawthorne's Philippians commentary and his discussion of the words "overseers and deacons" in 1:1. He suggests that the expression is a hendiadys, meaning we should translate it as "overseers who serve." (Whew! I almost typed "swerve.") I can't say I wasn't intrigued by his suggestion. There are very few occasions in reading a biblical commentary when I run across a truly novel interpretation. I feel hesitant to join the Hawthorne bandwagon, however. (I've always felt Paul was referring to two groups of leaders in the church -- "those who oversee and those who serve [in some special capacity]"). But if Hawthorne is right -- if the emphasis is indeed on "overseers who serve" -- then we have a ready-made explanation of why Paul would mention the leaders at the beginning of his letter. It would also be consistent with his theme of "unity through humility," as well as with his insistence that "authority before all else means responsibility" (p. 10). If Paul and Timothy can be "servants," so can the church's leaders, indeed so can all of us who claim to follow the One who said "I didn't come to be served, but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many."

So, is it ....

"Overseers who serve"?

Or "Watchmen and Waiters"?

You decide!

This morning I also rambled into town to run some errands and while there did some light weight lifting and then walked 5 miles at a 3.8 mph pace. My cough is still there, and I'm seriously thinking about going back to see the doc tomorrow or Friday if things aren't better. However it goes, I'm eager to get back into running soon. I recognized another local runner at the track today and for a moment I felt a tinge of jealousy arise within my heart. Thankfully it passed quickly and I returned to my humble, grateful self. I truly am blessed to be able to get up out of bed in the morning, let alone walk, let alone RUN. My lapses into self-pity, however, give me a clear picture of my constant need for a Savior and how easy it is for me to fall flat on my face. Don't get me wrong. I'm actually a fantastic guy. But deep down I know (as does everyone else) that I fall short of the standard God sets for His people. Without Jesus I would get exactly what I deserve: condemnation. Thankfully the cross has mastered evil, and the closer we live to it, the more we truly live.  

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, July 18 

6:08 PM When I was in seminary, my intermediate Greek prof used Philippians in class to illustrate the method of exegesis he was teaching us. It was a wise choice. There are many good reasons for students who've had a year of Greek to study Philippians.

  • It's a fairly short letter (only 4 chapters).

  • Its grammar is straightforward (for the most part).

  • Its theme is literally out of this world (living as citizens of heaven in a manner required by the Gospel).

  • Its theology is deep. Here Paul deals with Christology, false teaching, suffering, Christian giving, division (and its cure), joy (we served a serendipitous God who delights us with joy), and gratitude -- to name but a few themes.

  • It's a good way to get acquainted with discourse analysis.

  • It contains several famous rhetorical flourishes (see 3:1-2 for examples of anaphora, paronomasia, polysyndeton, alliteration, and chiasm).

When this bit of dialogue was taking place between Paul and the Philippians, dusk was beginning to settle over the apostle's life. Paul was continuing to discover that his life's work was to be a witness for Jesus wherever he found himself, even in a prison awaiting possible death. Like Paul, we can either focus on our insufficiency or on Christ's sufficiency. When we give Christ what little we have, we will find that He is only too willing to take it and multiply if for His glory and our good. The result is abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine.

12:52 PM This morning I cycled for 10 miles, with an average heart rate of 104 bpm. The CDC defines a moderate cycling pace of less than 10 mph and a vigorous cycling pace of more than 10 mph. My average speed today was 10.3 mph.

Want to hear something funny? Sometimes I make believe I'm actually paid to exercise, which means that I simply have to be active because ain't no way a cheapskate like me is gonna leave any money on the table. Also -- believe it or not -- I'll sometimes bike and not blog about it. (Does something really happen if no one on social media knows about it?!) Okay, that doesn't happen often. One of my big motivators is community. If something is worth doing, it's worth sharing with others. Who knows, maybe they'll become motivated to make the Big Transition from Cheetos-covered fingers to sweat-covered foreheads? Maybe endorphins are useful after all. Thankfully, I'm not a bad cyclist. Plus, there's very little that can hurt you when you're biking -- except for a certain unmentionable part of your anatomy hurting like the dickens. Besides, during my next triathlon I'm really looking forward to getting some "kills" in. I'm planning on going all out in the cycling phase and will try not to yell "Ha ha, I'm beating you!" when I start to pass another cyclist. When the bike leg is finished, of course, these same people will be passing me during the final 5K run.

Over coffee this morning I was reading the section in Gerald Hawthorne's commentary on Philippians where he deals with the Christology of the letter. I jotted down these takeaways, for what they are worth:

1) Paul was "obsessed with Christ, because for him Christ was everything (1:20-21)."

2) "The centrality of Jesus Christ ... vibrates throughout the letter to the Philippians ...."

3) "A life of goodness, that is, one filled with the fruit of righteousness, is possible because of Jesus Christ (1:11; cf. 2:5-11)."

4) "Jesus Christ was the central 'fact' of Paul's life ...."

5) "The day of Christ's return, the day of transfiguration, is near (4:6)."

And yet when I visit a church's website, often the most prominently displayed page is the one about "leadership" or "staff." That's odd. Shouldn't a confrontation with the living God, like the one Paul had at Damascus, cause a reversal of one's priorities? Or is it just that we don't take verses like Col. 1:18 very seriously. (In all things Christ is to enjoy preeminence.) The way some people talk, coming to their church is more about their pastors and their programs than about a Person. For that reason, many today have grown weary of churchianity. For them, the razzle-dazzle of church has simply fizzled. They seek, instead, to follow a man who was born in a smelly backyard stable and who lived in poverty before dying in disgrace. Yes, Christ's light was rekindled on Easter morning. But mostly that light shone in the plain package of a human being. Paul was so awestruck by this man that he willingly gave up all of his assets to know Him and the power of His resurrection, experienced in the midst of his own human suffering.

There's no tremendously deep or theological point to be made from this, other than pointing out that what Hawthorne says about Paul is absolutely true. The greatest apostle who ever lived was a man obsessed with Jesus Christ. I just thank God that each of us, regardless of the world's standards, can have the same attitude.

8:36 AM When you think of the book of Philippians, what one word comes to mind? Or the book of James? A recent blog post argues that "Each [Bible book] has a major theme that emphasizes an aspect of God's character or a way he is working to carry out his perfect plan." The author is quick to note: "What follows is an attempt to capture these themes. These themes are certainly reductionist and required me to make a few tough choices, but I hope you'll be helped by considering them."

As everyone knows, I love simplification. Less is so often more. My books are getting shorter and shorter for that reason. But there's a fine line between simplification and oversimplification. In discussing New Testament books, I guess I prefer something a bit more analytical. I'll give you a couple of examples and let you decide for yourself:

"1 John: God of Love"

Actually, the message of 1 John seems to be predicated on two (and not just one) characteristics of God: "God is light" and "God is love." Go here if you'd like to see my PowerPoint on the subject. Another example:

"Philippians: God of Joy."

Of course, joy is a significant sub-theme in Philippians ("joy" and "rejoice" occur 16 times in the book). But the rest of the letter suggests that joy is at best the by-product of something else Paul is emphasizing in the book. As to what I think that theme is, you might go here, where I discuss the discourse structure of this wonderful book. One last example:

"James: God of Trials."

Actually, it seems that "trials" is one of several major themes James deals with as he describes what a "mature" (see 1:4) follower of Jesus looks like:

  • A mature Christian is patient in trials (chapter 1).

  • A mature Christian practices the truth (chapter 2).

  • A mature Christian has power over his or her tongue (chapter 3).

  • A mature Christian is a peace-maker, not a trouble-maker (chapter 4).

  • A mature Christian is prayerful in trouble (chapter 5).

Even this outline is an oversimplification (cf. Robert Longacre, "Towards an Exegesis of 1 John Based on the Discourse Analysis of the Greek Text," in Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, ed. David Alan Black [Nashville: B & H, 1992] pp. 271-86). At any rate, it seems clear to me that "trials" is only one of several major themes in the letter we call James.

Deciding the theme of a book of the Bible is not easy. Swift changes of topic and even of tone often occur. But to argue, for example, that Galatians is about justification ("Galatians: God of Justification") while Titus is about good works ("Titus: God of Works") implies an antithesis that simply doesn't exist -- in either book.

Sometimes oversimplification works like magic, and sometimes it so doesn't. But the goal is a worthy one.

Monday, July 17 

7:20 PM What's wrong with the Living Bible's "To: The pastors and deacons and all the Christians in the city of Philippi" in Phil. 1:1? Does the Greek word order matter here? What did Paul actually write?

6:48 PM Did 5 miles today. Feeling like Hercules.

6:20 PM Here's a typical opening salutation from the Ancient Near East (Dan. 4:1):

Ναβουχοδονοσορ ὁ βασιλεὺς πᾶσι τοῖς λαοῖς φυλαῖς καὶ γλώσσαις τοῖς οἰκοῦσιν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ εἰρήνη ὑμῖν πληθυνθείη.

The pattern is "A to B, Greeting." How Paul expands this conventional formula in Phil. 1:1-2 will form the basis of our discussion in Greek class beginning next month. As Joe Hellerman notes in his commentary, here Paul both refrains from honoring himself and affirms the status of others. Hawthorne notes, "Paul allows Timothy to share the same 'platform' with him." I won't lie. I love how Paul writes. There is so much he says in these 2 verses and so much he doesn't say as well. In a world where relationships were established by status, I love how he begins to attack selfishness and hubris right out of the chute in this letter.  (This is so important and matters forever.)  

8:34 AM Last week Bill Clinton and George W. Bush met in Dallas to discuss leadership and the presidency. The interview is -- fantastic!

It's worth watching if for no other reason than to hear both presidents agree that the most important quality in a president is humility -- the willingness to learn from others and to recognize that the universe doesn't revolve around you. That's one reason in the ISV we rendered didaktikon as "teachable" instead of "able to teach" in 1 Tim. 3:2. The best teachers are learners, pure and simple. They are eager to be taught, to grow, to stretch. They disagree respectfully. As a novice runner, one of the reasons I love this sport so much is because I've had to become a learner all over again. I'm in the Kindergarten of racing. I need, crave even, the help and advice of others. One way is to find friends who will be willing to do this. Alas, where I live there ain't many. I have to really hunt them out. But I dare say, they are some out there somewhere. Start putting your feelers out and they will come. One piece of advice I welcomed as a newbie? Sign up for a race. Don't overthink it. Just do it. Lock yourself in before you lose your nerve. With dollars (and a t-shirt) on the line, you and your heart have a good reason to follow through. Another piece of advice I welcomed: Never take yourself (or anybody around you) too seriously. Unless, of course, you are that competitive runner at the front of the pack. The rest of us will hang back and be cool. Sure, you may be an idiot. But at least you're an active idiot. Yes, I enjoy being a runner-learner. Running has taught me so much. Resilience, for one. "You completed a marathon, so you can get through this too!" It's the same feeling I get when I present a really compelling PowerPoint presentation in class. I realize that neither running nor teaching is the same as curing cancer, but I still find both rewarding.

Pastor friend, are you truly humble? One way to know is by being teachable. Do you need to know Greek? Yes? So what's holding you back? Do you need to get out into the "real" world more often? Why not take up running/racing? It can fill a void in you that a cushy, air-conditioned office can't. The ultimate point is to keep on learning, striving, growing, expanding your horizons -- like George Bush and his (awful) paintings. He was getting bored and said, "I'll try doing portraits." Good for him! If you're a leader, maybe you should consider a new avocation too. It is so worth it.

P.S. The dilemma I mentioned yesterday has been resolved -- where to celebrate my 41st anniversary. One of my kids asked me to run the 9-11 Memorial Half Marathon in DC on Sept. 10, and of course I accepted the invitation (er, challenge). What a great way to honor Becky's memory -- and the memory of those who perished on Sept. 11.

Sunday, July 16 

2:02 PM Today I got up early and went for a walk.

As you can see, I walked exactly 7 miles. My legs thanked me profusely. I'm actually feeling a whole lot better today. My cough is decreasing both in its intensity and frequency. Which means I'm glad I didn't run in the Chicago half today. A half marathon takes everything out of you even if you're 100 percent on race day, which I most certainly was not. Afterwards it was off to church -- Rats! I told you I'd never use that word again! It's not "church" but "community""! Aaaargh!!! -- where the message today was from Ezek. 22:30. I need to stand in the gap for my kids and grandkids more than I do. The Lord is looking for someone -- anyone -- a man or a woman (Hebrew ish, Greek andra, which itself can be used generically) -- to intercede for others. It was quite a convicting message. I've also been thinking a lot about a very important day that is due to arrive in less than 2 months, and that is my 41st wedding anniversary. I know this is not the place to review the grief I've experienced over the past 3 plus years. So many issues come up in a time of loss. New grief often triggers old grief. The fact is, I haven't stopped grieving over Becky's death, as odd as that might sound to some. Perhaps incompletion is an avenue of connection. Perhaps what is unfinished will always remain unfinished. These days I need to see and claim my life in those terms. That's why, I suppose, I still celebrate her birthday and our anniversary. For me, losing a wife isn't that simple. I know we're no longer married, I know she's in heaven with the Lord. And I'm truly grateful for that. But there is still the psychological residue of grief, if that makes any sense. I don't want to be the object of pity. Instead, celebrating her memory is a way, I've found, to live the paradox. So ... what shall I do in September to honor that day, to relive that wonderful memory? I've got two options. One is something I've been thinking about for a very long time, and that is climbing the highest of the 14ers in the Rockies, Mount Elbert. I even know someone in Denver who's said he'd love to climb it with me. That's one option. The other option is something that just occurred to me recently. It's the Dick Beardsley Marathon in Minnesota. It's held on Saturday, Sept. 9, only two days before my anniversary, in beautiful Detroit Lakes. It offers, I'm told, picturesque scenes along Big Detroit Lake, complete with flat stretches and a few rolling hills. I've longed admired Dick both as a runner and as a person. I've even read his autobiography. Ever since the famous "Duel in the Sun" at the 1982 Boston Marathon, where Dick came in less than two seconds behind Alberto Salazar, Dick's been holding running camps and offering online coaching to help people reach their fitness goals. I'd love to meet him in person. Plus, I'd really like to complete a marathon between now and the St. George race in October. Right now I'm torn between the options. But either one would be a magnificent challenge for me physically. To follow Jesus means you have a divine companion all the time. But it does not mean that you won't ever feel lonely. Traveling and being active, I guess, is one way I cope with my loneliness. I especially long for the communion I enjoy with my Creator when I'm out in nature. It's there that I most often experience the strange peace that is not the world's. As for my grief, I'm simply waiting on the Lord -- no agendas, no deadlines, no demands. I have full confidence that what He chooses will be better than my best. The tears, the loneliness, the pain -- all these are part of the process He's working on. If I understand that, then I will never need to become disappointed or bitter.

By the way, even though I'm not in Chicago today as I had hoped to be, I'm still following the results. Heartiest congratulations to all of those who won their respective races:

  • Austin Winter, who won yesterday's 5K with a time of 16:51.

  • Brigette Girouard, who won the women's 5K with a time of 18:33.

  • Tyler Pence, who won today's half marathon with a time of 1:09.

  • And Neely Spence, who won the women's half with a time of 1:13.

Kudos to all. And "well done" to everyone who took part in a great event. I'll run it with you next year, Lord willing. Right now it's time for lunch, however -- egg salad sandwich, half an avocado, a kosher dill, and some V8 fruit juice.

Told you I was eating clean.

Saturday, July 15 

8:34 PM Here's our field du jour. This one's about 9 acres and very loooong, so we worked over 5 hours on it today.

Thankfully there was a cool breeze and the temps didn't get much over 90. Meanwhile, I've been looking online for another race between now and the Wake Forest triathlon in August and I think I might have found one. For a while now I've been wanting to do an evening/night time event, and the Bull Moon 5K in Durham, NC, on Saturday, July 29 fits the bill perfectly. Drama to end the month, I know. Actually, should be a breeze. You run through downtown Durham and end with a huge block party on Blackwell St. Proceeds go to a good cause: Habitat for Humanity of Durham. The race starts at 7:45 pm. You can also opt to bike instead. There may be less heat and humidity to complain about at this time of night. Too bad it's so long from now. Sigh.

More haying tomorrow.

Night night!

1:08 PM As you know, I've benched myself. From running at least. But not from walking. Yesterday I walked 2 miles at the local track. Today I did 4 miles in 1 hour with an average heart rate of only 98. I've heard that the more similar an activity is to running, the greater the benefit. It's called "transfer benefit," or something like that. Walking is simply running without the "flight" phase. The forces exerted on the body (heart, lungs, joints) is also less. That's exactly what I need right now -- and for as long as I still have this hacking cough. Today I burned a mere 580 calories in 1 hour. But my pace was a comfortable one, and, actually, I felt I could have walked a few more miles without any problem. But I'm trying to be patient. And eat well. The slippery slope to bad eating is an easy one. Going forward I'm gonna try and exercise wisely. Until then, it's walking for me. Slow walking. I call it wogging (think: "jogging"). As I wog along, I think about all kinds of things. Occasionally I'll say hi to a fellow wogger/jogger. They are usually ladies out to get in some speed-walking. (Dudes, I guess, don't like to walk in 85-degree temps.) So when I feel good, I'll wog. When I don't, I wont. My next big race is my triathlon on August 13. I need to get back into swimming and biking before then. I also need to get back to the Y and start lifting again. I mean, really lifting. Look out, Lou Ferrigno.

See you soon (*cough, cough*).

9:05 AM Shabat shalom! Dear reader, I wanted to call your attention to a new video series by Will Varner over at the Daily Dose of Greek website. Will is talking about how to use what everyone knows is the standard lexicon of the New Testament. If you are not already a user, Will will get you started. And if all you have is the second edition of Bauer, my stars, you're in for a delightful surprise with the third edition.

Click here to get started.

Friday, July 14 

4:14 PM Hey peeps! I can't believe we're already half way through July. We were going to get up hay today but it's started to rain so that will have to wait. So I've been working on my fitness and running goals/challenges for the remainder of the year. I would like to race a bit more often, a bit faster, and a bit longer if possible. 2017 has already been a fantastic year for running and I can hardly wait to see what the Lord has in store for the rest of the year. After what happened this weekend I'm a bit hesitant to share my goals with you. But I'm going to be positive. Here are the races on my calendar that I'd like to do in 2017 if I'm healthy. Which I will be, God willing.

  • August 13: Wakefield Sprint Triathlon, Wake Forest, NC.

  • August 19: Run for Life, Cary, NC.

  • September 3: Virginia Beach Half Marathon, Virginia Beach, VA.

  • September 16: Race for Our Heroes 5K, Cary, NC.

  • September 23: Virginia Ten-Miler, Lynchburg, VA.

  • September 30: Starry Night 5K, Raleigh, NC.

  • October 7: St. George Marathon, St. George, UT.

  • September 21: Paws for Life 5K, Wake Forest, NC.

  • November 11: Richmond Marathon, Richmond, VA.

  • December 10: Honolulu Marathon, Honolulu, HI.

I've already registered for all the "big" races. I'm going to try some new races while repeating the ones I love. I've been blessed to have already met some of my biggest goals as a runner this year, including completing my first marathon and triathlon. It's going to be a fantastic rest of the year, and I'll try to blog about my experiences along the way. I'm very much looking forward to these challenges and being surrounded by the people in my life that I love and care for as I go about my adventure. 

Happy you stopped by!

Dave

9:35 AM Should I run with the remnants of a chest cold? I think the better part of wisdom is to answer No. There's not too much of a chance I'll feel perfectly fit in a couple of days anyway. Doing a half is a massive effort for your body even when you're running slowly or walking. The human body requires balance between rest and work, which means we can't overdo anything. Right now I still need to rest. Sure, if I rest and recover, I'll fall behind. But if I run I'll fall even more behind. So it's a no-brainer. It's merely a temporary setback anyhoo. Let's say you have $100 and you invest it and it grows to $1,000. Then you lose $200 and are left with $800. You may have lost $200 but you're still $700 better off than when you started. What's frustrating is that chest colds are not generally weaknesses for me. The old windbag has been functioning pretty well since I began running. There's nothing worse than the frustration of working towards something and then seeing it slip away. So what happened? I must have run last week when my immune system was weak. Running can take a lot out of you, and perhaps I need to take more time to recharge my batteries completely. So it's all been canceled -- my flights, my hotel, my plans for glory (hardy har)! To be fair to myself, I'm not just sitting around moping. So ... like anything in life, you just take things one day at a time. So long, Windy City! See you next year, Lord willing!

My thanks to everybody who's run beside me in races and in life. Thanks especially to my family for their love and support even when I mention the crazy things I want to do. I just want to get back to running so badly!

Thursday, July 13 

9:50 PM The Lord gave me a wonderful day today. I spent most of it in Roanoke on business, but the drive there and back was through some of the most beautiful farmland in all of Virginia -- corn, soy beans, and acres and acres of hay. I got back just in time to help Nate get up hay. No, I didn't pick up the bales as I usually do. (I may be be dumb but I'm not stupid.) What I could do was drive the truck. Around 7:00 pm a thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere on Google Maps, heading straight for Clarksville ("our fair city").

By that time we had only been able to get up one trailer load of hay. I pray and prayed (that's the imperfect tense in Greek) that God would dissipate the rain. Sure enough, a half hour later the storm had disappeared completely from the radar. It was GONE.

Miraculous? Providential? I can't say which for sure. (I think a miracle happened.) No matter what happens in my life, God is always there. Spontaneous worship can erupt any time and anywhere. There's something so touching and, well, so human about this aspect of God's dealings with us. You get the idea that personal relationships with His children mean something special to God.

By the way, I'm feeling tons better today. I'm coughing less and my energy levels are way up. In addition, yesterday's x-ray came back completely negative -- no pneumonia or bronchitis. Everywhere I looked today I saw the gracious hand of God. He asks us, "Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jer. 32:27). The problems I tend to fret the most about are the very things I ought to trust God for. Like the trailer loads of hay we got up tonight. Dry hay.

Fill in the blank: "Is _____________ too hard for God?" Substitute the worry or fear you have for the word "anything." He's a hands-on God, this God we serve. He's always there to help us.

7:48 AM Here's an interesting read: Bilingual Speakers Experience Time Differently from People Who Only Speak One Language, Study Finds. The study also suggests that being bilingual has long term cognitive benefits. Hmm. I'm not so sure. As one of the commenters notes, different languages simply have different ways of referring to the same reality. In Hawaii, we never used the directionals "north," "south," east," and "west." You either were going "mauka" (toward the mountains) or "makai" (toward the sea). This is simply about  geography. Likewise, while living in the German-speaking part of Switzerland I learned not to interrupt people when they're speaking because very often vital information (such as the verb) comes at the end of the sentence. This hardly means that German speakers think and speak "backwards." I'm used to measuring distances in miles; the Swiss in kilometers. I can't drive without a compass in my car because I tend to think in terms of north, south, east, and west. "Head north on Hwy 96, then go south onto ...." When I was driving in Germany people thought more in terms of geography: "To get to Stuttgart take the autobahn via Augsburg and Ulm." As for measuring time, I think the article forgets to include idioms: "I'll be there in a minute" is never taken literally. On the other hand, if a Swiss train is scheduled to leave at 7:45, it leaves at 7:45 -- not a minute earlier or later. I say "5:30." The Germans say "half six" (halb sechs). So I'm really not sure if this involves two perceptions of time or merely two different ways of saying the same thing.

But what do I know? I'm not a linguist.  

Wednesday, July 12 

9:50 PM Okay, let's talk Chicago weather. The high on Sunday is predicted to be a pleasant 76 degrees with partly cloudy skies. Not bad for a 13.1 mile race. But will I be there? Friday will be D-Day (decision day). I will have to honestly face myself and not pretend I'm well when I'm not. With running, as with all of life, you have to decide which battles you will fight and which you will walk away from. The problem with people like me (who are late-comers to the sport) is that we are so used to being quitters that we end up going to the other extreme and turn a deaf ear when our body is telling us to rest. The problem with me (as in Dave Black, in particular) is that since I've started exercising regularly I have very seldom been sick. As a result, at times I've fallen into the delusion that my fitness is complete and absolute. It isn't. Neither is yours or anyone else's for that matter. On the days when everything in my body is working just right, I never think about my health. I take it for granted. An illness is a good reason to sit back and take stock of your life. There's something about being on a Z-Pack that drags you back into reality. "You are human after all, Dave." All of us think we're invincible from time to time. It's human nature, I suppose. The real truth is that each of us has our limitations, and it's better to face them than to risk injury -- or worse. I'm learning a lot during my own personal health journey, and one of the things I'm learning is to go easy on myself and not feel guilty when I miss a workout or a run. There are times when even the most committed warriors have to sit out the battle. Any sport or hobby can become a prison. In the end, you have to listen to your body. You have to. Day after day. Moment by moment. It's one thing to push past comfort. It's another thing to race when you shouldn't. To be a good runner you have to do more than run. You have to think.

3:04 PM One of my sons joined me for lunch today and then off I went to see the doc, who listened to my lungs and promptly said, "We need a chest x-ray NOW." I'll find out the results tomorrow (I'm in small town and the x-ray needs to be read in the big city hospital.) I also had her write me a doctor's excuse saying I'm too sick to fly just in case I need to cancel my Expedia reservation (and use the travel protection plan I always purchase when I book a flight). You guys, I want to go to Chicago! But I also know that pneumonia is not something to fool around with. So I will be patient. Count on it. Except when I'm impatient. (We all have different strengths.)

Thank you for praying! (You are praying, right?)

11:50 AM I'm bored stiff. Nothing to do until I see the doc at 1:30. Hey -- I'll check out the web!

1) Loved this pic with the caption: "I was going to run, but it looks like rain so I think I'll pass."

2) This t-shirt describes me perfectly.

3) She ran her first 14 miles. You go, girl!

4) Harrumph!

Later.

9:28 AM Morning cyber pals! A year ago I was in Zermatt climbing the Alps. I found myself pushing my body in a sport that doesn't come naturally to me. I remember how great it felt when I summited my first 4,000-meter peak. But there are more reasons to be involved in the sport of climbing. Some reasons are communal. You get to meet people who inspire you. As you watch them trying to become better versions of themselves, you want to do the same thing. Climbing also helps me manage my emotions, which sometimes can be overwhelming. Climbing doesn't require you to think very much. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your mind and heart are free to think about other things. I've also learned that everything we do in life can be leveraged for a greater good.

So many times I was reminded of Becky's perseverance during her long battle with endometrial cancer. Her courage made me think to myself, "Maybe I do can do this after all." When you push through more elevation than you ever thought possible, you reach a deeper appreciation about what you're made of. Climbing fills an inner craving we humans have for part of our souls to cry out, "I can do this!" Friends, we are often capable of so much more than we think. So much of climbing (or running, for that matter) is a mental game. There's so much No inside of us that we feel we can't dream big. I remember one day struggling to reach the summit of the Breithorn. I was desperately trying to keep up with my mountain guide Walter. All of a sudden I breathlessly looked down and realized there weren't any more steps to take. We had made it. That day I was reminded that when we go through something really hard, we will fear it less the next time around. This is one reason I so want to run in this weekend's race. Running gives you the opportunity to connect with others who are facing the same challenges you are facing. There is a solidarity in the running community that is unbelievably encouraging. We know that we will probably never see these people again, yet we feel bonded forever as we push each other into whatever we might be facing next.

Some say the best reason to run is the comradery. I tend to agree. Just watch your fellow racers as they struggle to finish, as they are running to honor the memory of a loved one, as they confront their overweight bodies as they strive to become athletes. They send a powerful message to anyone with the eyes to see. I'll be okay if I can't run in Chicago this weekend because I know there will be other races for me to run, other challenges to face, other runners who will be there for me -- strong, supportive, empathetic.

Let me warn you: You may be not fast or even a very self-disciplined person, but if you're not careful, running will embrace you anyway. One day all those medals will be hanging from your door knob, and you won't even recognize yourself in the mirror. If I can climb a mountain or finish a road race, you must now believe that you can too.

Dave

Tuesday, July 11 

12:12 PM Had a difficult night last night with a gigantic headache that didn't go away until 2:00 am. But I'm better today and even had enough energy to drive into town to eat at the local Amish bakery: a chicken salad sandwich with a bowl of fresh vegetable beef soup, as in cooked this morning. As far as running this weekend is concerned, I'm following the standard rule of runners: if it's above the neck (e.g., slight runny nose), run all you want; if it's below the neck (e.g., wheezing), don't run at all. I'm dealing with my current health issues the best I can. After all, a few minor setbacks are to be expected in this sport. One thing I've been blessed with is a strong heart and healthy lungs, plus drive and determination -- gifts that I do not take for granted. Maybe this is the Lord's way of helping me "taper" before the race this weekend. So there ya have it. There's not much more I can say right now except that it's time for a loooong nap.

P.S. Got the nicest email from a friend who writes: "You inspired me to run today!" Aw, shucks. :-)

Monday, July 10 

6:20 PM Just started a Z-Pack. They usually do the trick. Hope's hoping! Seems to be a lot of illness going around in the family right now. And just plain tiredness. The days are hot and humid so being outdoors is very unpleasant. Still, the hay has got to be picked up. Work continues. I bless you God. For my health. For my precious family. For kids and grandkids and ups and downs. We're a ragtag bunch for sure, but we love You. Thank You that I do not have to walk this pathway alone. Thank You.

9:15 AM I'm seeing the doc today about my chest cold. I have no idea where it came from. I was training moderately (and sleeping a lot), but "it is what it is" (as Becky would famously say). Speaking of training, you've got to watch this short video clip about an 85 year old runner who is breaking world records.

 

Deirdre Larkin started running much later in life than I did and she's already showing me up. The reason she started exercising? She was taking meds for osteoporosis that were making her sick. She decided to stop taking drugs and began running instead. She would walk three steps, then run three steps, then walk three steps. Today, she has earned over 500 medals recognizing her athletic accomplishments, including 21 half marathons. She runs in over 60 races a year. (By way of compassion, I've only done 16 so far this year.)

No doubt one of the reasons I run is the fact that Becky's death made me acknowledge my own mortality along with my powerlessness and vulnerability. It provides both mental and emotional release. It allows me to dwell on something else for a while and then come back to the house in better shape to care for my family as well as all of my other responsibilities. Running puts life into perspective. We can keep on going no matter what challenges we face, and oftentimes our challenges aren't nearly as difficult as those of others. (A sign at a marathon once read, "Blisters don't require chemo.") At the age of 65, I am a young man again. Like Deirdre Larkin, I've been released from "sedentary confinement." The sad truth is that I didn't know a fit lifestyle was available to me until I was well over 60. I'm from an era that says, "The older you get, the more you sit back and take it easy." Now I'm discovering the joy and magic of an active lifestyle. Exercise is a gift from God that keeps on giving. Today I face the challenges of life the same way I face the challenges of competing: taking one step at a time. Running is simply a mirror of my life.

Sunday, July 9 

9:34 AM Over at the Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page there's an interesting discussion about whether or not Timothy and Titus were "pastors." After all, we call their letters the "Pastoral Epistles" (PE). I'll just point out here that the most recent scholarship has begun to refer to the PE as the LTT -- "Letters to Timothy and Titus." It's a great improvement over the traditional nomenclature if you ask me. For more, see this issue of the Southeastern Theological Review, which is dedicated in its entirety to these important letters. 

9:12 AM Running is so much like life it's downright scary. Just when everything seems to be going so well disaster strikes. One day you're up, the next day you're down. One day you experience kindness, then someone treats you poorly. Chest congestion isn't something to trifle with. Life is a keep-on-moving-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other deal. I frankly don't know how I'll be feeling one week from today when the starting gun sounds in Chicago. The only thing I'm focused on now is taking one day at a time and waiting upon the Lord. Hopefully Sunday's experience will be great but it might also suck. Either way -- spectacular or sucktacular -- it will be an adventure, as all of life is. Can't wait.

8:50 AM I'm reading Gordon Fee's commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians this morning. It's truly a unique treasure-trove.

As Don Carson writes on the dust cover, "Fee could not be boring even if he tried. The zest of his prose makes him exciting to read, and his scholarship is always rigorous." This morning I'm focusing on Fee's discussion of what he calls the "disruptive-idle" in 2 Thess. 3. Here are a few takeaways:

1) Fee correctly notes the beautiful play on words Paul uses in vv. 11-12 when he writes ergazomenous and then periergazomenous. The Thessalonians weren't being "busy." They were "busy-bodies"!

2) Fee is right to "translate out" (as he puts it) the "walking" metaphor that Paul uses to describe a person's behavior. (Greek students are aware of this controversy: peripateo versus zao.)

3) The "traditions" to which Paul refers here have to do more with how God's people live in the world than simply how they think. Hence this classic Fee quote:

At this point a certain sector of the Christian church wants to yell "foul," because they think one really can divorce how one is related to God (by faith alone) from how one who has such faith must live in the world. But Paul was not privy to the kind of theology that thinks such division between faith and works can actually be made. Paul is obviously dead against anything that resembles "faith + works = a right relationship with God." But as this passage makes plain, he equally spells death for "faith" that does not lead to "works" (= behavior) appropriate to that faith.

4) I love Fee's emphasis on the imperfective aspect of the verb pareggellomen in v. 10:

Paul's verb (pareggellomen) is in the imperfect, thus implying an ongoing, or at least repeated, command.

Friend, I'm less and less impressed with many of the newer commentaries that seem to be coming out these days at a furious pace. Their authors are new names to me, perhaps even those who are just starting out in the academic world. The best voices, however, are often those with a world of experience, both in the classroom and in the world. I'm compelled by this commentary because I know Gordon Fee to be a man who's not content to sit behind a desk typing script for commentaries. He's genuinely concerned about the mess we humans have made with the world around us -- and within us. He gets down on our level, shoulders brushing. Fee, like so many other outstanding commentary writers, had been trained (whether in seminary or some other way) to believe that a story isn't enough. Faith without works is in fact dead. We dilute the power of the Gospel when we divorce it from the world God came to redeem.

Saturday, July 8 

11:45 AM Hey blogging buds! North Carolina farm fresh tomatoes are in.

Nothing like your first mater sandwich of the summer.

Meanwhile I've been perusing an excellent book called Paul As Missionary, and I just finished reading Steve Walton's chapter called "Paul, Patronage and Pay: What Do We Know About the Apostle's Financial Support?" I'm delighted to discover that Steve's conclusions are not inconsistent with my own. Here are a few of the highlights:

1) Paul's general philosophy of support was "Thanks, but no thanks." This was because his tentmaking trade was at the heart of his life and vocation. He considered manual labor not a hindrance but a help to his Gospel work.

2) Paul describes himself as not profiting from God's word -- "not marketing" the Gospel, is how he puts it in 2 Cor. 2:17. Traveling orators of the day charged fees. Paul made a deliberate decision not to follow their example. (Reminds me of a story. I was once asked to debate someone. I said I would do it provided we both waived our speaker's fees. His fee was, I believe, about $3,000.00. Mine was 0.00. The debate never happened. I have never charged for speaking and never plan to.)

3) Paul gives up his "right" to financial support in order to demonstrate that the Gospel is free. On this basis, he can argue in 1 Cor. 8-10 that the strong ought to give up their rights for the sake of their weaker brothers and sisters.

4) However, for Paul there was also a "No thanks, but thanks" policy. For example, he received monetary gifts from the Philippians because He saw those gifts as God's own provision for him.

5) Paul is not being inconsistent when on the one hand he refuses support and on the other hand he accepts it. The Gospel's radical idea of equality implied mutuality of concern for one another in the body of Christ.

I think Steve does a great job of fleshing out Paul's attitude toward support, at least as far as church planters are concerned. I know some folks don't think this is a very big deal, and maybe they're right. But how then do you account for Paul's lengthy discussion about work in 2 Thess. 3? Once again we have Paul trying to be consistent. "I'm not just saying you have to work. I'm not just telling you that if a person doesn't work neither should they eat. I'm showing you by my own example that work is not beneath the dignity of one who labors fulltime in the Gospel." I think this is perhaps a necessary corrective to what I've seen in some countries (some parts of Ethiopia for example) where fulltime pastors are strictly forbidden from holding "secular" employment. Paul viewed idleness as inappropriate behavior for Christians, and thus he modeled a high work ethic for others, even offering to pay Onesimus' debts. In other words, because he had a trade, Paul could contribute to the needs of others and (usually) pay his own way. Finally, I think a point often overlooked is this: Paul's activity in the workaday world enabled him to reach people he would otherwise not have reached. This, of course, is a pattern in many churches today that have volunteer elders. These leaders are perhaps more closely modeling the pattern of the New Testament, where elders were not parachuted into the community from the outside but were homegrown and apparently already had jobs, homes, and families in the community.

Whatever view we hold on this topic let's be gentle with each other. If Paul was anything, he was the ultimate non-legalist. That said, money corrupts in every human environment, even when no one intends this. The early church lived on mission with God, pure and simple. They lived simple lives, and what money they had went to the needy. Everyone pulled their weight, everyone pitched in, everyone was in "the ministry." I honestly doubt that professionalization existed in the church of that day.

As I put all this together, I'm led to the belief that it really doesn't matter that much where our income comes from because in the end it all comes from the gracious hand of God. What matters is how we steward these resources. Is the purpose of my life living for God and serving people? Honestly, it really is that simple. As someone has said, "The church is nothing but ordinary people doing ordinary things with Gospel intentionality." God is big enough and good enough to use us all, and together we just might see His kingdom come on earth.

9:50 AM Just finished registering for the Genworth Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg on Sept. 23. Care to join me? Go here. If you do sign up, please consider making a donation to one of the fabulous causes the event is sponsoring.

8:10 AM I love finish lines. I can stand there for hours and watch people completing their races. Some are crying. Others are shouting for joy. Once in a while you see something unique, like I did a week ago in Dallas when I ran the Liberty 10K. Just before our race kicked off, they held a children's 1 mile "fun run." The kids were all supposed to be finished by the time our race started at 8:05 am. But 8:05 came and went, then 8:10, then 8:15. You see, the starting line was also the finish line for the fun run, and the race sponsors wanted to make sure each and every child that started the race that sultry day in Dallas was given the chance to cross that finish line. Finally, there came into view the child we had all been waiting for. She was I'd say about 6 years old and was accompanied by her mother. The girl had braces on both of her legs, and I assumed she was suffering from childhood polio. She was a little unstable on her feet, and mom had to help her keep on the straight and narrow. But on that child's face was an expression I'll never forget. It was the biggest, hugest, most wonderful smile I think I've ever seen. Holding her mother's hand, she proudly crossed the finish line more than an hour and a half after she started. I will never forget the look of unadulterated joy on that child's face. Everyone clapped and clapped, and not a few of us had tears in our eyes. I wanted so much to go up to that little girl and her mother and give them a giant hug, but the gun sounded and off we went to run our 10K. If I could talk to that child today, I would say, "Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to be all that I can be. That you for reminding me that all of us can push through our handicaps and weaknesses if we just don't give up. Thank you for so joyfully accepting the hand God dealt you. Thank you."

It's been said that the key to running is not discipline but dedication. If you and I keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether it's in a marathon or in life -- we will see ourselves through to the end. As a Christian, I want to be dedicated to a life not only of physical activity but a life of service to others in the name of the Savior who loved me and gave Himself for me. As I grow older I may not be able to run as far or as fast as I hoped to run, but that's okay by me because the goal is perseverance, not coming in first.

7:50 AM Fundraisers generated $32.4 million at this year's Boston Marathon. Way to go guys and gals!

7:48 AM Taking another day off from running. My goal is to arrive at next weekend's starting line healthy -- and finish the race. Runners: If you miss a workout, don't feel guilty. Just start back up when you're ready.

7:40 AM "It's not about how fast we get there. It's about who's waitin' for us at the end." Beautiful.

 

Friday, July 7 

9:48 AM The internet is lovely. I go to the Nerdy Language Majors website and browse. I stumble across a post by David Yoon that calls my attention to three new articles in the Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics journal. I go online and read the essay called Semitic Influence in the Use of New Testament Greek Prepositions: The Case of the Book of Revelation. I then send the link to my Greek Syntax and Exegesis class for them to read.

The "hook" worked.

9:18 AM In only one month I'll be here again for 9 days. It will be the perfect respite before beginning a heavy semester of teaching and writing.

And planning. Yes, the the dates have been set for our Linguistics and New Testament Greek Conference. Please mark your calendars for Friday and Saturday, April 26-27, 2019, on our beautiful campus. Ben Merkle and I are starting to contact the speakers now. Tickets will go on sale September/October 2018. Stayed tuned for more details.

9:02 AM Good Friday morning to one and all! I'm beginning to cough up gunk, which I'm told is a good sign, but that means no exercise for me today. That's fine. I have plenty of light chores to do around the farm. Here's a video I sent to someone yesterday who is just getting back into an exercise routine.

Frank Shorter is a running icon. If you need someone to befriend you, pick you up and dust you off, and maybe even give you a good kick in the pants, he's the guy. His advice might, just might, help you to fall in love again with fitness. His two points are very simple: (1) exercise as little or as much as you feel like; and (2) beware of the two-month precipice. This is two months after you've begun getting into shape and when the danger is greatest of you falling off the bandwagon. Perhaps the hardest transition for those of us who are "adult onset" runners is to go from thinking of ourselves as exercise failures to accepting that we are truly athletes, slow though we may be. Bondage to past failures serves no purpose, however. The main thing is to be willing to move off the spot we're (stuck) on. Being an athlete doesn't mean that you win races. It means that you are committed to taking care of the temple God has given you to the best of your ability. If you have the courage to think that way and act on your thinking, you will find, as I have, that you have more strength of the will than you ever dreamed possible.

Keep on running your race!

Dave

Thursday, July 6 

5:28 PM I'm still feeling slightly blah, but at least I'm feeling about 50 percent better than I did this morning. Looks like tomorrow will be another "day of rest." Believe me, that's waaaay better than getting a full blown head cold or something worse. When I do get better my plan is to keep my runs light and easy leading up to the half and maybe focus on some cross training as well. I've been eating clean and sleeping well, so I don't anticipate getting worse as long as I listen to my body. Hands down, I'm the most blessed man on the planet. I just keep plugging away at this running thing, hoping that eventually I'll get it down pat. I know some of you are in transition now, between where you are now and where you want/need to be. Don't even think about tossing in the towel. Never give up on your goals, because if you persevere you'll eventually get there. One famous example I love to hear about (since I'm an author) is Jack Canfield. He tried 135 times -- and was rejected 135 times -- before he finally got his book Chicken Soup for the Soul published. It's now sold well over 100 million copies.

Pursue your goals.

I know you can do it.

12:02 PM Exactly one year ago I was doing this.

P.S. If you ever want to climb the Alps, here are the 3Gs of mountain climbing.

11:42 AM Mom served this blend of coffee in Dallas so I thought I'd try it myself.

I'm sorta tired of Food Lion brands anyway. Meanwhile, here's the book I'll be reading all afternoon (until I fall asleep).

Yep, I need to learn myself some conversational Spanish. (I can read it fine.) For some crazy reason I find spoken Spanish really difficult and frustrating. I really need to live for 3 months in a Spanish-speaking country. That way I'd pick up colloquialisms along the way (as I did with German and Swiss German). Trying to use reflexive grammar just doesn't click with my brain sometimes (despite my knowledge of the German reflexive). Sure, I can tell you my name, age, where I'm from, and maybe even ask you some simple questions (like where are the bathrooms?). But that's not where I want to be. Ordering in Spanish in a Mexican restaurant doesn't count much either. Lots of my Spanish sentences are really clumsy but I still keep trying because I want to learn this language so badly and I also want to set a good example for my Greek students. So what if I get it wrong? Most people appreciate the fact that at least I'm trying to speak their mother tongue. Patience and motivation are the most important factors in mastering a foreign language. But to be honest, I've massively underestimated the amount of time and effort that needs to be put into learning to speak this wonderful language. So here are my "rules":

  • Study as much grammar as I can.

  • Talk to as many native speakers as will listen. (Note: Native.)

  • Never try to speak perfectly.

  • Forget about not failing.

  • Feeling embarrassed is okay. (I once asked someone from El Salvador, "How many people live in San Salvador?" They laughed me to scorn. I had used hombres for "people." Ugh.)

  • Watch movies in Spanish with English subtitles.

  • Remember always that there's a huge difference between learning something and mastering it.

  • Ahora lo más importante para mí es la práctica de hablar con alguien que escucha. Práctica, práctica, práctica!

Don't say I'm not a tryer!

8:56 AM I've been trying to think about topics to blog about this morning but the truth is I'm still feeling a little under the weather (a slight cough) and my life is not all that interesting right now. I'm so ready for next weekend to come around because the half marathon is probably my favoritest race of them all. I'm supposed to be cross training today (I wanted to put at least 20 miles on my bike) but that's not going to happen and, besides, nothing can replace logging as many miles on foot as possible before a big race. Anyways, I'm sitting here surfing the web and to be honest with you, there's nothing very interesting out there, though the post I read about "Make America Great Again" now being an officially-CCLI-licensed "Christian" hymn did make me stop and think. Then I bopped on over to the official Marine Corp Historic Half site to see wassup with that. It boasts that it's "The Greatest Half in History" (maybe, maybe not), and it's only a couple of hours up the road from me in Fredericksburg, VA. The fact that it's held on May 20 fits nicely with my schedule as it will be coming on the heels of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy earlier that month. The problem is the infamous "Hospital Hill" that you have to climb at the end of the race. The good news is that most of the race is downhill from I-95 to the Rappahannock River. One of my daughters ran this race a couple of years ago, which in fact was the motivation for me to get started in running. So we'll see ....

Last night I went grocery shopping and tried really hard to weed out the toxic food products I occasional indulge myself in. Like cheese puffs, which travel in large packs. So yummy. So tasty. So healthy. (I am living in denial.) I also said goodbye (and good riddance) to prepackaged frozen food, which I discovered taste much like the cardboard boxes they come in. While teaching summer school Greek I unfortunately relied on these little monsters for relief when I got into a pinch. Not anymore. Yuck! On the other hand, I have no plans to get rid of coffee or my stir-fry ingredients. After all, a guy's got to have some fun.

Oh, just ordered this book.

Just imagine yourself running 2 marathons and a 10K each and every day. One Amazon reviewer writes:

Overall, a good read, and a great reminder of the unlimited potential of the human body, yet also a somewhat troubling look into the soul of a truly obsessed man.

This sounds truly insane. What would motivate a man to do this? Do runners do crazy things in order to redeem themselves from being bad fathers or bad husbands or bad whatevers? Should be an interesting read. Anyhoo, tomorrow I hope to be back in the saddle. Chicago will be here before you know it, and I refuse to go into a race unprepared. Yes, I can be stupidly stubborn at times.

Hope all is well with you all!

Wednesday, July 5 

9:16 PM Man alive. Just read a sad, sad story about a Pennsylvania mother of three who collapsed and died after finishing a half marathon back in April. She was only 36 years old. Compare that story with the news that a 94-year old completed the San Diego Half Marathon last month. On top of that, Harriette Thompson is a two-time cancer survivor. What to make of this? Not too much, probably. There are risks in life. It's just that simple. If it's mediocrity you're after, there's plenty of that commodity to be had. But if you really want to excel in life, no matter what your hobby or line of work is, that'll take all your might. If you're gonna run and run hard in the race of life, you can't be allergic to sweat.

Chicago will be my sixth half marathon. Only God knows the outcome. But this I do know: "There is more than enough room in My Father's house," says Jesus. "If this were not so, would I have told you that I'm going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am." Jesus doesn't ditch His own. He knows exactly when He will take us home. In other words, death is not something you can prepare for at the last minute. You need to be right with the Savior.

Someone has said that everyone who lives has a 100 percent chance of death. A person runs a much higher risk of dying in an automobile accident while driving to a race than while competing in the race itself. On the other hand, more people die from heart disease/stroke/diabetes every day than die from running. God designed for our bodies to be active. When we cease to do that, we age -- and we age irrespective of our years. The lesson? Maybe it's this. Make every day count. Make every person in your life count. Life is a gift, and every day is precious. We must be forever enlarging our lives, and not taking them for granted.

8:42 PM For all you runners out there, here are some quick facts and anecdotes about my 10K (6.2 mile) race last Saturday in Dallas.

  • The course was actually longer than 6.2 miles. Both my Garmin and my Map My Run app showed the distance to be exactly 6.33 miles.

  • My time was just under 1:10 -- 1:09:58 to be exact. I'm not exactly sure why I was shooting for a sub-1:10 for this race, except that it made my average pace to be around 11/mile, a pace that always makes me happy.

  • As I said, my average pace was 11:03/mile. My best pace was 8:05/mile.

  • My average speed was 5.4 mph. My max speed was 7.4 mph.

  • I was very pleased with my average heart rate: 138 bpm.

  • I'm not kidding when I say that the course felt like a mud race. Nobody anticipated rain, and few of us were aware that the course only began and finished on the roads. It slowed everyone down considerably, but better safe than sorry.

  • I made it through the race without any chafing, blisters, soreness, or G.I. problems.

  • I burned a total of 858 calories during the race. I put all of it back on that same evening at the Ethiopian restaurant.

  • As I said earlier, the last mile was a killer. I'm discovering that your body won't always give you 100 percent despite the fact that you push it to do so. It's the "Are we there yet?" syndrome that every parent on a road trip is familiar with. I so wanted to "be there." I finished just fine, but it sure took lots of determination.

  • Could this post be any more boring than it already is?

8:04 PM I hadn't scheduled a "rest day" for today, but God had. I'm just feeling a bit achy and dragging. But rest is as important to training as running is, and so I gladly accept this day of rest from the Lord. Tomorrow? Biking -- if my body is rested and the weather holds up (rainy!).

7:10 PM This week we're putting the final touches on the syllabus for my upcoming NT 2 course (Acts through Revelation). I'm calling it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." Our textbooks are:

  • The Jesus Paradigm (Black)

  • Seven Marks of a New Testament Church (Black)

  • The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Black and Lea)

  • Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? (Roland Allen)

Student learning outcomes include:

  • Show from Scripture what Christ's upside-down kingdom looks like.

  • Discuss what a New Testament church looks like.

  • Outline each New Testament book from Acts to Revelation.

  • Explain the basics of the authorship, date, purpose, etc. of each of these books.

  • Wrestle intelligently with the major interpretive issues that arise within these books.

Then there's this:

  • Engage in towel-and-basin ministries with a view toward leading non-yet Christians to faith in Christ.

What a great 15 weeks it's going to be! As you can see, the course has plenty of content --  as is in data, facts, information, doctrine, details, particulars, etc. But the goal isn't knowledge. Think of this class as "training" for life. It's like learning how to run a marathon. The first step, pardon the pun, is training. But real and lasting inspiration comes only by running the race itself. With each step forward, it becomes more difficult NOT to be an athlete. It's the same way with learning how to live as New Covenant Christians. Truth receivers need to be become truth practitioners. Head, heart, hands. Or, as I put it to my assistant today: Information, internalization, and implementation. Just think: Part of your final grade will be determined by the towel-and-basin ministries you and the Lord decide you'll do over the course of the semester. What other explanation exists for God creating such a beautiful community as the church? What insane advantages we students of the Bible have! What a treasure we receive alongside of our salvation! In a "me first" culture, what will our non-Christian friends conclude when they see us serving and uplifting them, simply because we love them. May the world see in me and my students this coming semester a thankful, committed, selfless family who loves their God, adores their Savior, can't get enough of one another -- and shows love for their neighbors in big and small ways. Church, God wants us out of the closet. Our love and faith ought to motivate us to love others actively and practically. Put your faith to the test today by getting involved in people's lives. Anyone can say, "I'm praying for you." But how many of us are willing to be inconvenienced for others? That's the message that Luke and Paul and Peter and Jude and John had for their churches. Students, don't say "I'm too young" (Jer. 1:7). Listen, instead, to Paul: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young. Instead, teach other believers what a true follower of Jesus looks like. Do this by how you speak, how you live, how you truly love others, how you keep your word, and how you live a life of integrity" (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul told Timothy that his actions and his everyday godliness would speak louder than his age. The only hitch is that you must first cock an ear toward heaven and, above the drone of the humdrum of everyday life, listen for His call to follow the downward path of Jesus.

8:32 AM I have a strange habit. Whenever I travel, I always enjoy looking around to see how ethnically diverse the place I'm visiting is. Texas, for example, is an immigrant magnet. Its largest city, Houston, is the most ethnically diverse city in America. Jobs fuel the influx. Here are a few pictures of our latest fellow citizens, all sworn in on July 4, 2017.

I imagine my ancestors had the same kinds of memories.

The Black family moved here from Wales.

My maternal grandparents, the Arsus, arrived via Ellis Island from Romania.

Looking back, I see just how ethnically mixed I am. I was born in a territory of the United States. Hawaii didn't become a state until I was 8. I grew up thinking that ethnic diversity was the norm. Of course, Jesus doesn't think it's so crazy either. Around the throne in heaven will be individuals from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. That's what grace is all about. People can't wait to come to America. The grand experiment in democracy that began two hundred years ago continues. The world hasn't gotten over it yet. A unique, miraculous creation of God? Oh, I suppose. But on a day-today basis, America has just about as many unreached people as any other country. And many of these are like my in-laws' neighbors in Murphy, TX -- expats from India, Ethiopian immigrants, Colombians and Persians and Iraqis.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as comprising one big mosaic. I wish it were true. Racial bias is alive and well, where I live and where you live. Overcoming our fears and stereotypes won't be easy. When Jesus said that faith could move mountains, He didn't mean that all we'd have to do was say "Abracadabra." He implied that the kind of faith that moves mountains always carries a pick axe. I drive through Raleigh and stare at the shrinking landscapes and burgeoning gridlock and feel my concerns rising with all the houses and people and cars. I watch quietly as God brings the nations to North Carolina. But God doesn't just watch. He directs. To Him, each new resident of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill isn't some ant swallowed up in the vastness of the nation. He views each person as a unique creation of His that He will lovingly and individually guide if only they will turn their lives over to Him. You too must decide what to do with these new neighbors of yours. As a Christian, you face that choice every day in how you respond to other people. Immigrants can't be ignored. So will you love them? That's the key. God sees through our shallow posturing. "I love all people!" Oh? Even the imam building that mosque next door to your church? Even those who can't speak English as well as you can? Even if they wear a turban? Churchianity only turns people away from the Lord. People, even immigrants, see through the phoniness of religion. Jesus told each of us to be a light in our own corner of the world. We should be the bright spot in other peoples' lives. Knowing that, there's only one thing we need to do. Start living like it.

Tuesday, July 4 

4:24 PM It began raining when I finished mile 5 (out of a total of 10 miles planned for today), so I returned to the car and drove home for an early spaghetti supper. My July totals thus far are:

  1. Workouts: 4

  2. Duration: 4.8 hours

  3. Calories: 2,901

  4. Total distance: 20.8 miles.

Thanks for being on this journey with me. Sometimes it's shocking to see how far I've come. I never thought I'd ever describe myself as a runner, let alone as a marathoner or a triathlete. I'm really looking forward to my bike ride tomorrow, weather permitting. I'm starting to get nervous about Chicago, though. Will it be hot? Humid? Too crowded? Either way, and whatever the conditions are, I'm learning that everything we do in life, even a road race, holds the possibility of the holy, as long as we do it in God's strength and for His glory. The human body is a marvelous thing. I agree with Kathryn Switzer: "At 70, 80, 90, the body will always get better if you push it." In fact, why not just read her entire Reader's Digest article: How This 70-Year-Old Marathon Runner Stays Just as Fit as She Was at 20. It's really fantastic.

I have no confidence in myself but I have plenty of confidence in Jesus, and as long as He says "Keep on going," I'm gonna keep on going.

10:46 AM Shot this pic in Dallas.

You'll notice that "community" is used instead of "church." This is the high calling of the body of Christ, including your local church and mine: to live in community. (Some day I will stop using the word "church" to translate the Greek ekklesia. If people around me aren't doing it, that's no excuse for me not to try. An ekklesia is a group of people who have something in common as opposed to an ochlos, a "crowd.") This illustrates something important for me. I am being lured back to the simple ways of Jesus. And I am finding the process so convicting. The humility of Christ doesn't grant us permission on this Fourth to call out our fellow Christians for feeling patriotic or to harp about a revolution in 1776 that was probably at odds with Paul's teaching about submission to civil authority in Romans 13. Oh my. This approach, it seems to me, is based largely on the habit of being negative -- seeing only (or mostly) what's wrong in our culture and even in our church culture. In Matthew 25, Jesus condemned those on His left not because of something they did but because of something they failed to do right. This is how simple the Gospel is. "Whatever you do for the least of these, My brothers and sisters, you do for Me." In other words, Jesus is describing (as in the church sign above) a community, and a community that cares. If, on my website, I'm constantly calling out gays or liberals or Trump-supporters or Trump-haters, how can I ever expect to befriend them with a view to sharing with them the love of Christ? I've already alienated them. As my seminary evangelism professor once told me, "You've got to play the music, Dave, if you want to say the words." We take our marching orders from King Jesus, and last I checked I don't think He was asking us to defend homeschooling or eldership or a political brand. Believe what you want, but be careful of becoming apologists for your views. That's the theme, by the way, of my little book Christian Archy. One example I used was pedagogy. Practice homeschooling if that's your personal conviction (it was ours), but remember that other Spirit-filled Christians might view education differently, and you can both hold your convictions in love because you are in community, not pontificating from a keyboard. Following Jesus never comes with a permission slip to get up on our high horses. In their book The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay write, "People in America are not ignorant of Christianity.... They've seen so much of pop Christian culture that they have a programmed response to us: Ignore, ignore, ignore" (p. 125). Representing a kingdom alternative to the world does not require a boo-hooing of everything else in our culture.

Well, Dave, isn't it time you stopped preaching to the choir and got real? How are you going to change? After all, aren't you the greatest of sinners? (Answer: Yes.)

If I see a serviceperson today, I will thank him or her for their service without stopping to think (not even for a nanosecond) about politics. I will watch tonight's fireworks and marvel at this Chinese invention. I will listen to Sousa and tap my feet. I will take a long walk. (I don't need to be in "church" to experience God.) I will look for Him in a grandchild's smile or in the reflection in a pond or in the scent of a gardenia or in feeding my puppy a treat or in taking a bubble bath. I won't feel guilty that I live in a free nation. Instead, I will seek to leverage that privilege for Jesus. For starters, I will ask God to help me to make the most of every opportunity that lies before me both on the internet and at home, school, work, and every area of my life. I will ask Him to knock down a few of my defensive walls. Like Jabez, I will ask Him for broader horizons to share my faith. I will think long and hard about people I know who are not yet heaven-bound and will add them to my salvation prayer list and intercede daily for them. I will ask God to soften their hearts to the love and saving power of Jesus and to convict them of their sins. More importantly, I will ask God to make my life a light that points them toward heaven.

Friends, the amazing thing is that it's within our power how we will view this national holiday. With a snub we can create enmity; with charity we can work miracles, even the miracle of leading someone to the Savior. A put-down, even if it seems well-deserved,  might make us feel good for a while, but loving encouragement can heal a multitude of wounds. And boy could our nation use some healing right about now.

So ....

  • Have your convictions.

  • Hold them in love.

  • Act civilly toward all.

  • Be Jesus to everyone you meet.

It's a tall order, but it's not one-sided. "Remember, I am with you, day after day after day." The Lord has big-time plans for Americans who, on the one hand, value their liberty, but who, on the other hand, leverage it for the Gospel.

Happy Fourth!

Monday, July 3 

7:38 PM Hello there pards! I guess you could say I've had a "successful" summer of training thus far. I'm now heading back into the "long" race season, with the Chicago Half Marathon in only two weekends, followed by the St. George Marathon (October), the Richmond Marathon (November), and the Honolulu Marathon (December). I wouldn't say that my overall performance has improved all that much, but I know my mental state has. I'm having fun with all of my goals (if it's stressful, it's not fun), and I'm listening to my body more closely than ever before, trying to keep it happy (and uninjured). One major goal I have is to combine travel and racing. That means Chicago, Utah, Richmond, and Hawaii this year, and (at least) Alabama next year. I know that I will run for the rest of my life, so every decision to run becomes another mosaic in an already somewhat colorful life. I placed another "stone" in my running mosaic this weekend when I participated in the annual Liberty Run 10K in Dallas on Saturday.

10Ks (= 6.2 miles) are unique races. They aren't simply doing a 5K twice. Almost all serious runners will tell you that the halfway point is mile 5. In fact, were I to be chosen by some imaginary athletic tribunal out there to adjudicate in such matters, I'd argue that there are 3 miles between mile 5 and mile 6. Eventually, success boils down to taking one more step, and then another. If you are really blessed, sooner or later you will step across the finish line. In the end, racing has nothing to with "winning" or "losing." It has to do with your being yourself from start to finish, at every moment of the race. As runners, we look at ourselves honestly. Together, yet alone, we chase our dreams. Running both brings us to each other and to ourselves. Here I am with the fastest man on Saturday's course.

He won the race, but we were both winners. How's that? We both started the race. We both finished it. We both endured the obstacles along the course (mud, rain, humidity). We both achieved our personal goals for the race. His was to win. (He finished in just over 33 minutes.) Mine was to come in under 1 hour and 10 minutes. (My finish time was exactly 1:09:58. I laughed out loud when I saw that. I also got a third place medal in my age division.) I had a blast running this race. I loved the challenge. I loved the camaraderie. I loved the competition. I loved all the celebrating at the end. I'm having the time of my life, friends. I am slow but happy!

I'm eager to run my next marathon this year. Little did I realize last May that the final step of my first marathon would be the first step of my next marathon.

Keep on running!

P.S. Mom and dad send their greetings!

Thursday, June 29 

7:48 AM I get to run a 10K this Saturday. Woohoo! Then again, it's only by the grace of God that I get to do ANYTHING. "What do you have that wasn't given to you? Answer that! So if you've really received it all as a sheer gift, why take the credit to yourself?" That's God's word on the matter. My taking credit for being able to run is as absurd as my taking credit for my salvation. Not only the gift of running has been given to me, but the very air I breathe while I'm running has. "All good giving, as well as every perfect gift, comes from above, from the Father." Just because God gives us things indirectly (such as the ability to work out or train or lift weights), that's no reason to forget that He's still the one giving it to us. Jesus said, "Beware of greed of every kind! Don't be like the man whose crops yielded so much that he pulled down his old barns and built bigger ones, then said to himself, 'Look at what I've done! Time to take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself, Dave old buddy old pal." You guys, this is exactly me from time to time. I'm learning, ever so slowly, to give God the credit. The one who is reluctant to acknowledge that God is the giver of all his gifts is the one who will also be reluctant to part from them. And one day we must all "part from them." Health and vitality  will be gone. God may even take our possessions from us. Okay. What then? Here's Paul's answer:

I count all these things as unspeakable filth for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself united with Him. All I really care about is to know Christ and to be conformed to His death.

Alright. I'm not there. Still, I truly believe that life and light are greater than darkness. I also believe that humility is no excuse for being anything less than God wants us to be. (Yes, He actually might want you to be active and get in shape. According to the CDC, only 20 percent of Americans fall into the "fit" category. Care to join?) Clothes, food, health, money, houses, vacations, family: all are pure gifts from His hand. "All these things the heathen run after, but not you. Your heavenly Father knows you need all of them." So there's got to be a balance. He is the Giver. I am the steward. That's about it. If we truly get this right, I believe everything else will fall into place.

Off to Dallas to visit mom and dad. Becky's parents are precious saints who brought the Gospel to Ethiopia some 65 years ago. I like the Big D. Like, love it. So much culture and fancy cuisine. And all the 5Ks and 10Ks are FLAT. But mostly I enjoy just hanging with two very special people who were responsible (obviously) that I was able to marry their eldest daughter in the first place. Maybe we start here: Call your parents today and tell them "I love you." Don't text them. No emails either. Call. Or better yet, visit. This is holy ground. "Honor your dad and your mom."

Thank you, mom and dad, for your love and prayers through the years.

I love you.

Wednesday, June 28 

9:06 PM So much to be thankful for tonight. Thank You, Lord, for our hay fields.

Thank You for our barns in which to keep our hay dry.

Thank You for all You're doing in my kids' and grandkids' lives. Thank You for another grandson due in 3 weeks. Thank You for Food Lion and Siri and tractors and books to read at night. Thank You for a body that's still ticking after 65 years. Thank You for I love yous and text messages and emails and Great jobs! Thank You for aluminum tubes that allow us to fly everywhere on this planet in a mere day. Thank You for coffee and Amazon Prime. Thank You for a whole new world that is waiting for me in heaven. Thank You for the messy soil of relationships. Thank You for moving and stirring in my generation.

Thank You for most of all for YOU! 

5:22 PM I'm taking the plunge -- again. Just signed up for the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Wakefield, NC on August 13. This will be just two days after I fly home from my 9-day surfing vacation in Hawaii. So far it looks like I'm the second oldest participant. #LifeIsAbsurd.

5:04 PM Takeaways from Ken Coley's new book Teaching for Change:

  • Where there is no change, no teaching or learning has taken place.

  • Students learn more when they actively engage with the content than when they sit, listen, take notes, and watch.

  • I have discovered the key to students' learning is the short, but powerful word, engage.

  • Effective teachers recognize and respond to the need for diversity in their approaches.

Lots to learn about learning!

1:18 PM Inspired by last weekend's triathlon adventure/exploit/escapade/feat, I decided to drive to a state park and swim some laps this morning. Who knows -- I may do another tri soon!

P.S. If, like me, you are a newbie runner, you will be greatly encouraged by this wonderful essay: If You Run Slow, Who Cares? Of course, "slow" should be "slowly." But who cares?

8:26 AM Have you read Robert Banks' classic book on the church called Paul's Idea of Community? It's a call for believers to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Jesus, off our mission and onto His mission, to get rid of the clutter and return to the essentials. Banks is insistent: the apostle Paul did not admonish his converts to "go to church" for a "worship" service. Instead, he teaches that worship is 24/7/365 -- an entire life of giving oneself away in deeds of service, not limited to special gatherings or places (Rom. 12:1-2). Roland Allen makes the same point in his work Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? Paul did not encourage his churches to form a Christian subculture. He didn't urge them to retreat from the secular culture surrounding them. They were to live "sent" lives. "They" don't have to come to "us." We will go to them.

This is how grave the Gospel challenge is and why I'm going to harp on these truths in my classes this coming semester. There is no way around this. The gathering exists for the going. If I could, I daresay I would require my students to cancel their Sunday School classes one weekend and go and play basketball with kids in the inner city instead. Christ's disciples are characterized by self-denial and love. When we do gather, it's not to worship but to recharge our missional batteries to be sent right back out into the world. Let's call it what Paul called it: an edification service (1 Cor. 14:26).

By the way, I crunched the numbers yesterday. I've got 34 students in one section of Greek 1 and another 34 in my second section of the same course; 19 students in my Acts through Revelation class; and 30 enrolled in my Greek Syntax and Exegesis class. This latter gathering will be especially exciting. We've got the skeleton. Now it's time to hang some meat on the bones. We will go, verse by verse, through Philippians, fixating on Paul's single theme: unity in the cause of the Gospel. Nothing matters quite as much to him (1:27)! We'll work through my little book It's Still Greek to Me and even rummage around in Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. Wait, what? You're using your own textbooks? Can't help it. For better or for worse, I tell my students they're getting Dave Black in my classes. It's a grand adventure, this foray into Greek language and linguistics. But it's not about Greek in the end. It's not about church either. It's bigger than that. It's about becoming what the Greek New Testament calls us to be: people who put hands and feet to the Gospel -- our hands and feet. The Gospel is not just an idea to discuss, it's a life to live.

Can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, June 27 

9:20 PM Nate's working late tonight, fertilizing the fields, while I "supervise."

Meanwhile, Sheba and I enjoyed some Hawaiian sweet bread, toasted and buttered. Growing up in the Islands, we used to call this Portuguese Sweet Bread. The Portuguese also introduced malasadas to our cuisine -- deep fried pastries that are out of this world. Of course, where we would be without that other great Portuguese invention, the ukulele. I grew up with friends named De Silva, Cravalho, and Medeiros. Love (and miss) the ethnic diversity of Hawaii.

Sheba, by the way, has decided to sleep in my upstairs bedroom. Back in the day, I had a strict no-sleeping-in-my-room policy. That went out the window as soon as the summer thunderstorms began. Sweet Sheba is scared to death of thunder and would slowly creep up the stairs and into my bedroom and I didn't have the heart to tell her no. Dogs are like people in that they are pack animals and crave companionship. Reckon there's no reason for her to be lonely at night. You'll notice that she sleeps squarely on the air conditioning vent to stay cool. How cute.  

7:54 PM While scarfing down my stir-fry this evening (I am so stuck in a cuisine rut) I was listening to NPR's Fresh Air and an interesting interview with the author of a new book on the Donner Party. The author is Michael Wallis and his book is called The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny.

Only half the party survived the trek to California mainly because they were convinced to take a "shortcut" that never existed. It's not that the travelers weren't warned, however.

[Explorer James Clyman, a friend of James Reed, made] a visit to Illinois ... and sat down over beverages that evening around a fire with members of the Donner-Reed Party and focused on James Reed and said, "Don't take this shortcut! Lansford Hastings doesn't know what he's talking about. He, in fact, has never taken this cutoff himself. I advise you strongly, don't take it. Stick to the known California trail. Don't take this shortcut that's going to save you time, because it won't." And unfortunately James Reed didn't heed his old friend's advice.

Classic.

Students: There are no shortcuts to learning, whether the subject is Greek or anything else. It's a profound moment in our academic journey when we realize this. I suspect many of you will relate. I travel quite a bit speaking and am always amazed at how people expect a public speaker to be a prophetic voice who can answer all their questions. We are not prophets. We have opinions, as does everyone. To be sure, we try to be gentle guides. But there is no way we would think of ourselves as having the last word on any subject. That you'll have to get on your own, through grit and determination. Friends, I've been teaching for over 40 years and I've never been more aware of my own ignorance (and arrogance). I'm sure I'm not the first to tell you: Your teachers are ordinary people who struggle with the same questions you do. When you agree with us, that makes us happy. But should you disagree with us, we will humbly and gratefully enter the conversation with you.

There are indeed no shortcuts in life. In teaching Greek, I cherish the hope that maybe I can inspire people to learn and live the example of Christ. I will write books that can perhaps guide you onto the right path. Half of me is thrilled that people seem to enjoy my writings. The other half of me is scared stiff that they will regard my books as replacements for their own study. God does His heaviest lifting when we get into the word ourselves. That's one lesson I learned the hard way, but it's a lesson well worth learning.

6:50 PM Odds and sods....

1) Zach Vickery's How and Why Pastors Should Study the Biblical Languages calls us to forsake exegetical shoddiness and to interrupt anything that gets in the way. A great read. Being missional is no excuse for sloppy thinking.

2) Forthcoming book: Greek Composition: A Greek Primer with English to Greek Composition Exercises and Answers. This book is sorely need. I never teach a Greek class without doing English to Greek composition. Never.

3) Saw this at Nerdy Language Majors: "I failed Greek because of all the fake ννν." What a hoot.

4) I see I'm not the only one who's excited to be running in the Anthem Richmond Marathon this year.

5) What happens when you're running a marathon and you're stopped by a train. Hilarious.

2:45 PM Sheba just took me for a walk.

We've started cutting our "Ripple Field."

Just call me Chief Hay Inspector Clouseau.

The weather today is perfect for farming: 78 degrees and a cool breeze.

Hey Tolo Tolo!

Home again, home again!

1:58 PM Did a 5-mile training run just now. My splits were 14:45 (mile 1), 13:38 (mile 2), 12:58 (mile 3), 12:40 (mile 4), and 10:41 (mile 5). This brings my monthly total for June up to exactly 108 miles based on 25 workouts. I'm training hard because one of my sons-in-law is threatening to run with me in Birmingham and I don't want a mere 40-something showing me up. By the way, I've been really emotional today. I discovered a birthday letter Becky left me. It was somehow overlooked when I was cleaning out her desk. There's no way I could ever express to her my love and thanks. So Becky is totally in my head. And so is Jesus. I love them both soooo much.

10:32 AM I Hated Running, Then I Decided to Run. Just in case you're considering becoming a runner.

10:15 AM Just added to my race calendar: The Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL on Feb. 11, 2018. Sweet Home Alabama!

8:38 AM In recent years I've been inspired by saints and dreamers and visionaries. Jody and Henry Neufeld are some of the wisest and most committed Christian publishers I know. You have loved Becky and me in many tangible ways, not least through publishing our books in Spanish. It is such a privilege to work with people committed to the Gospel and passionate about evangelism. Should any of you want to read our books in Spanish, please see Henry's latest post called La traducción de tres libros en español por Energion.

8:12 AM Did you know that students at the College of Charleston can take a class called Sport Physiology and Marathon Training? Bet you'll never guess what the final exam is. You guessed exactly right. Running a marathon. I ask you humbly: How can students take "New Testament" and remain overfed, arrogant, and unconcerned? The U.S. spends more on trash bags than almost half the world spends on all goods combined. This helps me better understand Paul's teaching in 1 Tim. 1:5: "The goal of our instruction is love." I like how The Message puts it: "The whole point of what we're urging is simply love -- love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God."

I'm finally beginning to connect the dots. As an old Scottish proverb puts it: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin have their proper place, but it's not at head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Jesus." God is requiring from our New Testament students obedience. Not the kind that is little more than an hour of inconvenience on Sunday morning. The next time there's a Run for Nepal -- a 5K race in Morrisville, NC dedicated to raising funds to rebuild that country after its devastating 2013 earthquake -- I hope hundreds of born-again Jesus freaks will sign up with me. "Broken and poured out for you" is the way Jesus, I think, would put it. Jesus left heaven to come to the foulest place in the universe only to be betrayed by His own. When His followers are asked to do the same thing, they can only hear and obey (hearken). I once asked God to send me to a closed country. I knew it was a dangerous prayer. But I meant it. And He answered. At the very same time, it was glaringly obvious to anyone who took the time to notice that my stateside priorities were far more about me and my scholarly reputation than about God and other people. Richard Rohr writes that "... power, prestige, and possessions are the three things that prevent us from recognizing the reign of God...." (Simplicity, p. 56). The pattern of ascent is so ingrained in our circles that it may be physically painful for some of us to reject it. But if I am to "take the lowest place" (Luke 14:10), I'll need to get off my high horse.

τὸ δὲ τέλος τῆς παραγγελίας ἐστὶν ἀγάπη.

I hate this kind of simplicity. I hate asking to be countercultural, even as an academic. But that's where I am, folks. I am so over upward mobility. I'm ready to join to Jesus at the bottom. And ask my dear students to do the same.

Monday, June 26 

7:54 PM Was a fun day today (except for the time I wasted in Raleigh visiting a doctor I was referred to by mistake). My assistant and I reflected on the shockingly beautiful kingdom and began making the changes to our course syllabus for NT 2 in light of the downward path of Jesus. As you know, true Christianity begins at the bottom, as Jesus (the founder of Christianity, duh) modeled for us. By the end of the course I want my students to be running toward the cross rather than avoiding it at all costs. Alas, how to motivate them? I suppose that's one reason I ordered this book today.

My friend and colleague wrote it. Ken is one of the best Christian educators I know. In many ways he exemplifies the teacher I hope to become one day. I dream of a classroom where students dream of being great not for their scholarship but because they had the humility of a servant. I want them to serve others selflessly and sacrificially. Mind ... heart .... hands. If I didn't grasp this in college, I do now. Jesus unpacks a whole new teaching linked to the way He lived and died. Oh may my students learn to love this broken world as they love themselves!

On an unrelated note, this is the map for the 10K race I plan to run in Dallas this weekend.

After the half marathon, the 10K is my favorite/preferred race distance. It's not as demanding as the half and short enough to push the speed a bit. If you've only done 5Ks, the 10K is the perfect next step. Speed + Endurance!

Time to feed the donks some carrots. (I know. What a life, right?)

7:25 AM Last night around 11:30 a wonderful thought came to me. (Occasionally my brain gets an idea.) God is devoted to us. In fact, so devoted is He that He prophesied through Ezekiel that He would actually place His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes (Ezek. 36:26-27). He would inaugurate a "better" covenant with His people. In the Old Covenant, when God's presence came, the earth shook. But when the New Covenant came, and God's people were filled with His Spirit, they were filled with joy and boldness. I deeply believe that God wants this freedom for us today. I deeply believe that He wants us to live in the power of the New Covenant, in the power of the Spirit. In the New Covenant we have an abundance of promises that we often either overlook or take for granted. Our generation is so hamstrung with Old Covenant living that we no longer realize God's gifts staring us in the face. As I labored over the syllabus for my NT 2 class this fall (Acts through Revelation), I fretted and agonized over the assignments. As I look at it now, I have to ask myself: If this class is all about New Covenant living, then why is the syllabus so heavy on extrinsic motivation to make the students get their work done? Friend, do you love the law of God? Do you delight in His word? I could cook a meal for days, but unless you want to eat it you won't get any benefit from it. Just because I have a long list of requirements (a lot of "busy work") doesn't mean you want to do them. To be honest, some of my seminary courses back in the 1970s drained me dry. If only the professor had made ruthless cuts. If only he had majored on the majors. The balance beam was too crowded.  People, we learn what we love. Then we combine the best of everything we've learned and conclude: I want to be like that. Now hear me. This doesn't mean that I'm going to throw out my assignments. You will still have to learn everything you need to know about, say, the background, date, authorship, purpose, and structure of Ephesians. But the assignments for which you'll be graded will be much different than that. They will be based on living out the New Covenant-like life that God has called us to and has enabled us to live through His Spirit. Heaven help us if our students are studying class material only to get a grade. The course will still be challenging. You'll get a decent handle on all of the controversial issues surrounding New Testament studies today. But we won't look sideways as much. Our benchmarks will be simplicity and obedience -- much like it was with the Anabaptists of old. Anne Dillard was right when she wrote, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives" (The Writing Life, p. 32). This is the biblical benchmark I want to use. The New Covenant is applicable everywhere or it isn't applicable anywhere. We are called to this work of New Covenant living. It is rarely big or famous work. Most of the time it's unplanned in fact. Not only can you do hard things for the Kingdom, you can encourage others to do the same by your example.

Here is the truth of the New Covenant (or "New Testament" if you prefer): Compliance to the will of God is by inner desire, not by external compulsion. God's laws are implanted in the very hearts and minds of His people and not merely inscribed on stone. The Holy Spirit residing in each and every believer now provides the basic enlightenment for Christian living. Of course, this doesn't mean that we no longer need teachers. (I happen to be one.) Rather, we teachers at best clarify and unfold the revelation of God that the indwelling Spirit provides through the word. This knowledge is at least possessed in germ form equally by all followers of Jesus. If you're a student, may I suggest a starting place as truth seekers? Be in the word yourself. It is not your teacher's responsibility to tell you everything you need to know about God and His ways. It is not their responsibility to fix every mess or answer every question. (Side note: I recall having lectured for an hour on Philippians in South Korea when a student raised his hand. "Yes, sir, do you have a question?" To which the student replied, "Who was Cain's wife?") In other words, make your front porch (or your bedside table or whatever) an altar to God. Be a self-starter. You can trust God to help you because He has given you His Spirit. Get to know the Book of books in great detail. Commit portions to memory. That way, when you come to class, what you get from us profs will be supplements to (not replacements of) your own time in Scripture. Begin to move away from the "Come to us and we will do it all for you -- lead you, feed you, organize you" mentality of some churches. The more responsibility you take for your own spiritual growth (including growth in knowledge), the healthier you will become. Again, I don't mean to minimize the importance of formal teaching. I'll be doing plenty of that in my class. But under the New Covenant, remember always that you can live a Spirit-filled life without constant management from others.

So today I'll begin tweaking my syllabus for NT 2. It will still be imperfect, I know. And I will still expect students to acquire a large modicum of basic knowledge about the writings of the New Testament. But I'd like to think that we don't need to be babysitted. You and me -- we are New Covenant people. When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read the words of Isaiah aloud -- "The Spirit of God is upon Me.... He sent Me to preach good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, announce freedom to all captives, pardon to all prisoners..." -- the crowd was incredulous. But that's the kind of kingdom I want to join. When we follow King Jesus, we desire to serve Him. That's because He has put His Spirit into our hearts. Glory be to God.

Sunday, June 25 

6:14 PM Howdy pards! The triathlon in Wake Forest is now history, and I think I've recovered sufficiently to give you a post-race report. To say the race was grueling would be an understatement. I lost 10 pounds during the race. 10 pounds! The easiest part of the race was actually the part I had been freaking out over all week: the swim. But I should have known the old lifeguard instincts would have kicked in once I got into the water. I found myself passing swimmers in front of me at a pretty decent clip. To do this, I had to change from the crawl stroke to the breast stroke simply so that I could see who was in front of me and not stumble into them. (That's a no-no.) The cycling part of the race was, on the other hand, hell on wheels. I mean, my three-inch mountain bike tires were laughable compared to the sleek one-inch tires of the fancy road bikes everyone else seemed to be using. One thing you should know about cyclists: they ride at virtually maximum intensity. Speed, not endurance, is their game. I can't tell you how many times I got passed by cyclists half my size. Still, I gave it my very best shot on what turned out to be a pretty hilly course. Nothing broke down on my bike (I don't think I could ever learn how to fix a bike tire), I had no major injuries, and the vehicular traffic seemed to be trying to exercise caution and patience (though one or two drivers must have hailed from Los Angeles). We cycled on the road, which I NEVER do. Too many drivers fiddling with their cell phones for me to ever feel safe during a road race. The cycling part did, however, have its great moments. I found that a flat-out sprint on a bike could actually be enjoyable -- an experience in how fast I can pump the peddles and how much pain I can endure.

The last leg, the 5K run, would have been a cinch had I not already beaten my body to a pulp. Although my legs were nicely warmed up from the bike ride, they were also quite tired. To tell the truth, I was beginning to feel a little bit fatigued by that point in the race. I was, however, encouraged (in a sadistic sort of way perhaps) to see that I wasn't the only runner out there who wasn't a Lance Armstrong look-alike. Where I was running, most of us looked like everyday, normal people trying to push our limits and have fun while doing it.

My finish stats?

  • Swim: 06:25

  • Cycle: 1:02

  • Run: 36:02

This made my total time 1:50:02 (including transitions 1 and 2). I guess that makes me a "triathlete." Crazy, huh?

Folks, if you want to try a triathlon, jump in. The water's warm (literally). Simply find a race labeled "sprint triathlon" and you'll be good to go. Once you've signed up (and paid the registration fee with your credit card), begin collecting your gear. Nothing fancy, mind you. All you'll need is a good swimsuit, a pair of goggles (I bought mine last night at Wal-Mart), a bike and helmet, and a good pair of running shoes. That's it. Believe me, you'll feel like a kid again. Remember all the running, biking, and swimming you used to do when you were young? Go for it!

Pix:

1) Hauling a bike around can become a huge hassle unless you're prepared. As you can see, one of the main reasons I bought my new Honda Odyssey was the ample room it had for transporting my mountain bike.

2) I showed up at the race site practically before anyone else did, I was just that excited. Someone snapped this pic for me and then I went about putting up my bike and getting my race numbers.

3) Proper body markings for a tri consists of your bib number on each arm. The numbers are written vertically and as legibly as possible.

4) In addition, your age goes on your right calf. Without question the purpose of this number is to humiliate us seasoned citizens. I actually requested that they write "30" on my leg but they insisted on scribbling my "real" age. Seriously, though, there is madness to their method. If you have a strong competitive spirit, you tend to go after the athletes in your own age group. Oddly enough, I don't think I saw anyone older than me on the course, but that's probably because all the "old guys" had long since finished the race.

5) This was a fun and very well organized event, thanks largely to the phenomenal efforts of race coordinate Rebecca. The swag and t-shirts were crazy good, and the night-before-the-race clinic was indispensable for all of us newbies. Rebecca, your "You can do this!" attitude and support made such a difference for me and I'm sure for many others as well. It gave me the confidence to go out and show everyone what I was made of. I loved it all: The volunteers, the cheering crowds, the "water cannon," the super-organized transition area, and the munchies afterwards. A million kudos to you and your staff!

6) Before the race, everyone had to make sure their bikes were properly and securely placed on their assigned bike rack.

7) Some riders racked their bikes facing backward. I placed my bike facing forward with the handle bars and brake levers hooked over the bike rack. I made sure my water bottle was securely fastened to the bike and that my helmet and sunglasses were in a handy spot. It was here that I also left my Garmin during the swim portion of the race since it isn't waterproof.

8) Here's the last picture I took prior to the start of the swimming leg as I had to return my iPhone to my bike rack. Everyone sort of milled around and chatted for an hour or so before the race festivities began. It took about a good hour after the first swimmer started for yours truly to begin swimming his laps.

9) I'm almost too embarrassed to show you these stats because I feel I did REALLY poorly on the cycling leg of the course. I was very blessed that I didn't come in dead last. Swimming is a sport in which technique is supremely important. With cycling, I think you mostly just race. But at least I did get up to 22.6 MPH at one stage in the race -- a long downhill portion, probably.

10) Here are my two favorite parts of any race: the awards ceremony ....

11) ... and the sponsors' display booths. Trust me, these organizations are doing lots of good for people all over the world, and from what I heard today, a whopping $25,000 was raised today for this particular cause.

12) Well, if you've gotten this far with my post-race report, you're probably thinking, "Maybe a triathlon ain't so bad after all." If so, I'll be the first to say a hearty Amen. Perhaps for you, and for hundreds or thousands of other participants, the party is just about to begin.

Grace and peace,

Dave

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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