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July 2019 Blog Archives

Wednesday, July 31

8:58 AM As you know, I once took a semester off from Biola and went back to Hawai'i because I was burned out. The urgent had regularly crowded out the important, and I just needed to put body and soul back together again. Well, ever since Becky passed away I've been going back to Hawaii for much the same reason. Because the culture there is so laid back, and the weather so perfect, it's an opportunity to allow God to draw me up into His heart and to refocus on the important and (if need be) adjust my priorities accordingly. Pastor friend, be gentle with yourself. I don't mean to sound condescending, but bench yourself if necessary. Ministry is slow and often maddening. You move from one crisis to another. Don't imagine that you can serve and serve and serve and leave rest out of the equation. I'm starting my 43rd year of teaching. Honestly, the last thing I need right now is burnout. Discipleship is more than Bible study. It's spending time with Jesus.

Sometimes it's through subtraction and not addition that transformation takes place. We rest well to work better. It's a paradox. But those who've experienced it can testify to it.

8:34 AM C. S. Lewis (Narrative Poems):

My love's laughter is light falling/Through broad branches in brown woodland,/On a cold fountain, in a cave darkling,/A mild sparkling in mossy gloom.

Yes, I still miss her.

7:48 AM Was just watching a video of Dr. James Rosscup of the Masters Seminary (my former teacher at Talbot) lecturing on hermeneutics. He said something to this effect:

The Holy Spirit is to be resident in our lives. And that's exactly what happened when we received Christ. The Holy Spirit also wants to be president in our lives. He wants to guide our daily steps.

Of the nine fruits of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in Galatians, you will notice that love tops the list. Love is always a mark of a Christian. When we see discord and backbiting maybe it's because we aren't keeping in step with the Spirit. Christ said, "If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?" Love is always patient and kind and forbearing and eager to turn a blind eye toward others' faults. It keeps no record of wrong doing. "All mankind loves a lover," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Christians (little Christs) should be the world's best.

6:45 AM Well, it's the last day of July so we might as well talk about the month of August.

August 1 (as in tomorrow): Dentist in South Boston for teeth cleaning. I go through this torture every 6 months. My hygienist hates my crooked teeth. Is threatening to use a chain saw to remove all the plaque she finds. Would help if I flossed more but I'm too lazy. Then I have an interview at 1:00 in Henderson, NC, about my new book They Will Run and Not Grow Weary. There's no reason I wrote this book other than the fact that I always wanted to write a book about running. Problem is, they won't let you write a book for runners unless you are one, and most of my life I wasn't.

August 2: Back to campus to put the final touches on the editing of our book on Greek linguistics for Baker. My daughter, who is visiting with her family from Alabama, has also been reading it and catching typos I never found. Sharp-eyed girl, she.

August 5: Fly home to Hawai'i. It's incredible that today I work as a Greek teacher and have even published a few books since I used to be the most undisciplined, laid back kanaka in the Islands. It still haunts me what I could have become in life had I actually studied in high school.

August 11: I'm registered for the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Garner. Only problem is, when I registered for the race I forget that I was going to be in Hawai'i on that day. Oh well. Hope my fees are going to a good cause because I won't be there.

August 15-16: Faculty workshop.

August 17: Run for Life 5K at the Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary. Tough course, great cause.

August 22: Convocation and first day of classes. This fall I'm teaching Advanced Greek Grammar, Greek 1, and NT 2. Imagine that. I, the classic dropout from beginning Greek, am teaching Greek. God sure does have a sense of humor. From the depths of ineptitude, I want my students to find inspiration. If you're a new Greek student this semester my advice for you -- and I know you will be shocked -- is to stop buying into all your excuses and begin believing you can actually do this. The moment you listen to your brain telling you why you can't learn Greek, you might actually start believing it.

I'm also reminded that there are only 10 weeks to go before I leave for Chicago. No, I'm not happy with my current training schedule. Preparation is everything in life. If all I had to do was train everyday, that would be one thing. So I'm not going to freak out just because I didn't prepare for the race as well as I should have or wanted to. I'm just grateful my body allows me to do the things I demand of it, within reason of course. Today it's back to the weights and then I'll get in a 45-miniute swim. Yes, I do want to train well for the marathon. But mostly I just want to stay fit and healthy.

Be honest: Are you pushing yourself too hard in life? Too easy? Or just right?

Tuesday, July 30

8:22 PM Next year I'm thinking about climbing the Mount Nimbus Via Ferrata in Canada. Highlights include being 3,000 feet up while crossing a 200 foot long sky bridge.

Via Ferrata is Italian for "Iron Way." The course consists of iron ladders, rungs, and bridges. I had such an amazing time a couple of years climbing the NRocks Via Ferrata in West Virginia.

My guide and I were the only climbers that day so we had the whole mountain to ourselves.

Via Ferrata are extremely popular in Europe; I climbed the one in Zermatt 3 years ago.

Today, however, was a day for the pool. Here are 9 -- count 'em, nine -- of my grandkids, aka, fish.

Grandfathering seems to be my badge of honor these days. I'm going to bed early, because being in the pool for 3 hours with your grandchildren is just not something calculated to make you feel well-rested.

7:34 AM Been enjoying some great nourishment these days. Mexican food with fam can't be beat.

Then this morning I enjoyed a bite out of a New Testament epistle.

I love how the NEB renders James 1:17:

All good giving, and every perfect gift, comes from above, from the Father of the lights of heaven.

How paltry the NIV!

Every good and perfect gift is from above ....

It's as if the Greek didn't have two different words for "gift"! The ISV puts it like this:

Every generous act of giving and every perfect gift is from above ....

God is never fooled. He sees through our counterfeit lives. He knows when we're just pretending to care. He wants to be a Giver in and through us. He wants giving -- both the generous feeling and the things we give -- to flow from a deep relationship with Him.

Think about that. Not a single thing we have ever given to someone is something we can take credit for. God gave us both the desire and the ability to give. Our works are always His works. There is nothing we can do, no matter how good or great, that God has not already worked in us. That said, the values we live by today are the values others will remember us by later. Do people see in Dave Black a generous man? As James puts it, faith is dead if it's not accompanied by action.

Put your faith to the test today, my friend. Don't just pray for others. Love them practically and actively. Help them when you can. Faith like that speaks louder than words.

Monday, July 29

7:46 AM As the book of Habakkuk was being read aloud in the assembly yesterday, I noticed something odd in 3:1. The reader said something like, "This is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet according to Shigonioth." My English version lacked the words "according to Shigonioth" and had a footnote that read, "Hebrew has an additional phrase, the meaning of which is unclear." In fact, I noticed the words, "Hebrew unclear," several times in the notes to Habakkuk. I thought to myself, "This could never happen in the New Testament. Translators would never leave a word untranslated because they had no earthly idea what it meant!"

Then I remembered....

Years ago I was studying the Gospel According to Mark. When I got to 7:3, I was flabbergasted. Here the RSV reads:

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands.

There it was, in black and white -- a Greek word left completely untranslated in the RSV. The note at the bottom of the page said:

One Greek word is of uncertain meaning and is not translated.

How could this be? I'd never seen anything like it before or since. The word is pugmē. I would literally translate it as "with a fist." Here's what other versions do with it:

NIV = "ceremonial washing"

NLT = "over their cupped hands"

ESV = "wash their hands completely"

NASB = "carefully wash their hands"

NET = "a ritual washing"

ASV = "wash their hands diligently"

I immediately began to look into this but eventually lost interest. (My half-written journal article lies buried in a computer somewhere.) The approach I was taking was to see if the word pugmē could be understood as a gesture -- i.e., with a closed fist instead of an open hand. Maybe I'll revisit the issue one day.

When I was working on the ISV New Testament, I found the whole thing quite intimidating. The challenge was great. The odds of failure were huge. The walls between me and the biblical text often seemed impenetrable. And yet. Through the art and science of lexicography, New Testament readers are in a good position to reach a fair level of certainty as to the possible meanings of the Greek words they encounter. Frankly, I have no idea what Mark meant by the expression "with a fist." I notice that at the time I jotted down the words "a particularly vigorous scrubbing" in my Greek New Testament, but that was only a guess. I suppose the Greek could also mean "up to the wrist."

The NRSV, incidentally, has reversed the decision of its predecessors. It reads "unless they thoroughly wash their hands." A note, of course, is added:

Meaning of GK uncertain.

Such is life for a Bible translator! 

Sunday, July 28

8:45 PM I'm getting the guest house ready for my daughter and her family who are visiting from Alabama tomorrow. Meanwhile ...

The message this morning covered the entire book of Habakkuk. I mean, all 3 chapters. It was fabulous. I had never before seen how important Hab. 2:4 is to the central argument of the book. No wonder this verse is so frequently quoted in the New Testament.

You know me. I'm always looking for takeaways from the Sunday messages I hear. There were so many of them today. Where do I begin? My son-in-law emphasized, among other things, how necessary it is for us to be in the word more than on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. I kept nodding my head in agreement. The New Testament has a lot to say about the "daily." We take up our cross daily, we exhort one another daily, Jesus promises to be with us daily, etc. And this is our constant prayer: "Give us today our daily bread." The danger of the heights we reach on Sundays is that we may become complacent the rest of the week. Nowhere do we need God's word more than in the "daily."

I think we make a mistake when we limit this daily dose of God's word to what are normally called "devotions." Too many saints are content to read a chapter of the Bible and then let it go at that. The leftovers of time, of money, of devotion -- this is no fit gift for the Giver of all good things. What would Habakkuk say to Christians who go to God's word only when they can find nothing else to do? Recently I've been rereading this book.

I think it's possibly the best introduction to biblical preaching ever written. Stott has a chapter called "The Call to Study." Pastor-teachers, he insists, must give themselves to constant preparation. "There is no doubt that the best teachers in any field of knowledge are those who remain students all their lives" (p. 136). Stott then adds these quotes:

"None will ever be a good minister of the Word unless he is first of all a scholar" (Calvin).

"He who has ceased to learn has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit" (Spurgeon). 

"If I had only three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing" (Donald Grey Barnhouse).

I'll add one more by Stott himself:

"If this book is the Word of God, then away with slovenly, slipshod exegesis!" (p. 138).

In the ISV, we translated the adjective didaktikon in 1 Tim. 3:2 as "teachable" instead of "able to teach." We felt that this rendering better fit the context. The best pastor-teachers are lifelong learners. They are constantly expanding their minds and digging deeper and deeper into the things of God. A pastor/elder I highly esteem tweeted recently, "A pastor without a Bible is a pastor without authority." There is an abundance of cheap Christianity today, with just enough prayer and Bible reading and service to get by. Few of us give our very best to the Master. I know I don't. Often my work for the kingdom is routine and perfunctory. I keep having to ask myself, "When my task is finished, will it be merely 'done,' or will it be 'well done'?"

This morning, while fellowshipping with God's people in Roxboro, I was reminded that the kingdom is no place for persons with their face pointed one way and their feet the other. We are never more foolish than when we try to substitute human thinking for God's thoughts. Habakkuk knew that a lot of sound orthodoxy may coexist with outright disobedience to God. What we know intellectually must be obeyed volitionally.

"Those who are righteous will live because of their faithfulness to God" (Hab. 2:4). Righteousness. Life. Faithfulness. Get the combination right and the result is assured. Doctrine translated into duty brings delight.

Thank you, son, for the reminder!

7:48 AM Newer is not necessarily better. This is true of all areas of life, I think, but no truer than in biblical studies. This truth was brought home to me again this morning while reading this volume.

Though printed by Bloomsbury in 2015, it was first published by Sheffield Press way back when the ark landed on Ararat (1995). Most of my students weren't even alive then. Of course, I read this book many years ago. But I have a big reading problem. I can never read a good book only once. This disorder started back when I was in seminary reading books by F. F. Bruce and Bruce Manning Metzger. At any rate, I've long been a fan of books about linguistics, so when I ordered this one I knew I was in for some pleasant surprises. If I could give you one example. The irrepressible Moisés Silva, in his chapter on "Discourse Analysis and Philippians," writes the following. (Keep in mind that Silva is discussing the growing confusion on his part about the character of Greek discourse analysis).

Every researcher seems to be following his or her own agenda -- usually quite an expansive agenda. Certain that the problem was not the early onset of senility, I picked up the recent and fine collection of papers edited by David Black, with the hopes of clarifying matters once and for all. My anxiety, however, was only aggravated to realize in a fresh way that discourse analysis is about ... everything! It is grammar and syntax, pragmatics and lexicology, exegesis and literary criticism. In short, fertile ground for undisciplined minds.

Silva's was a tough chapter to get through because it is so blatantly honest and on target. As he puts it, "... the more I read the more lost I feel."

The offending tome.

There's no need to fool ourselves into thinking that our discipline (New Testament Greek) has gotten any less confusing since Silva wrote that chapter 24 years ago. Conferences on linguistics like the one we recently had on our campus are not the solution either. Here's what I think it's going to take. It's going to take someone (a multi-authored volume will not work) writing an understandable and simple (though not simplistic) introduction to New Testament Greek linguistics that puts the goods on the bottom shelf while not compromising scholarly integrity. It will probably have to be written by a non-specialist but rather by a dabbler and someone who has proven him- or herself to be an effective classroom teacher. I will not try to say who I think would do us a very great service by writing this book, though I have in fact spoken to that individual and let them know my thoughts. The goal would be, in the words of Silva, " ... to encourage these obviously competent scholars to work a little harder at helping us see the significance of their contribution." I used to try to write such books, but the time has come to pass that torch on to the next generation.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up to hear one son-in-law teach this morning in one church while another son-in-law teaches in another church. (Wish I was ubiquitous.) They are both excellent Bible teachers. Both of them, too, love Greek, and I'm sure both would benefit tremendously by the book I described above. Now if only that person I talked to would write it!

Saturday, July 27

9:35 PM Only 9 days to rubbah slippahs and:

  • You stay hungry?

  • Get choke grindz dea.

  • Cute da baby.

  • You like talk da kine?

  • No ack lidat.

  • Watchu stay doing?

  • Mo' bettah.

  • Bumbai.

  • Kapakahi.

  • I tink dat buggah crack block a'ready.

  • Like beef? (Tinking back to my high school dayz. Ugh. I no like catch cracks.)

  • I need go da babba shop.

  • Who wen cockroach da icebox?

  • Whateva.

  • To da max.

  • Bo da dem.

  • Kaukau.

  • Ono.

  • Not my kuleana.

  • Pilikia.

  • Boddah you?

  • K den.

  • Kawika (my name).

  • You pau?

  • Plate Lunch (da bestest!).

Yep. I grew up bi-lingual. Hawaiian Pidgin is not an accent, dialect, slang, or jargon. It's a language. Half the state's population of 1.4 million speaks it. Pidgin not only one language. Ees da way all kine peopo in Hawai'i tink. Even get one Bible in Pidgin called da Jesus Book. You know, da language been officially reckonoticed. Fo realz! Da U.S. Census Bureau say so. So garans I go talk da kine wen I stay Kailua. Caz in Hawai'i, we get time fo talk story an no need fo do erryting wikiwiki all da time.

Mahalo nui loa! 

5:02 PM These were waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home today. Woohoo!

Books and bananas have about the same value in my home.

4:32 PM Today I did a 5K in Morrisville/Raleigh. My goal was to run at a 10 minute/mile pace or faster. But the course threw me for a loop. It turned out to be a lot hillier than I expected. On a Hill Scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate this at about a 52.

Dude, is this Raleigh or the Himalayas?

Not sure what I was thinking when I signed up to do this race. The gun goes off and you think, "I need a Sherpa." (Actually, no gun went off. Someone shouted "Go.") As always, there is a plethora of really fit people around me who gradually disappear into the horizon. Finally, the finish. Even though I didn't have a 10 minute pace, I did manage to maintain an even 11 minute/mile pace.

At least my eyelashes didn't hurt.

I was the oldest runner out there today. I finished 24th out of 38 runners. A 23 year-old female beat me by 3 seconds. A 24 year-old male beat me by 5 seconds. A 19 year-old male beat me by 6 seconds. Braggarts. Here's the thing about a 5K race. It almost always plants a seed that later blossoms into a desire to run a 10K, a half marathon, and then a marathon. Being a middle-of-the-packer can be incredibly demoralizing and discouraging if you let it. To top it off, in a small race there are no cheering crowds. But eventually, if you let it, a light bulb goes off in your brain that you are really doing something amazing. A race strips you of your defenses and lets you see a part of yourself you've never known before. The heart and soul of running is about beating back discouragement and obstacles and being determined to drive your body through the pain barrier. Someone has said that the degree of discomfort experienced when running a marathon is the worst that most men (and most women outside of childbirth) ever experience. Who cares? Eventually you fall head over heels for running. You begin to love the entire environment of a race. Even when you're suffering like crazy, one thought keeps going through your mind: "I get to do this."

While driving to Raleigh this morning, I kept thinking about a phrase in Romans 12. "The mercies of God." I prayed, "Lord, thank you so so so much for the ability to get out of bed this morning and do this race today. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for healing my prostatitis. Thank you, dear God, for causing my piriformis muscle to feel so much better. Thank you for allowing me to live life to the fullest each and every day." Runners can have an absolutely miserable race and still feel themselves to be the most blessed people on earth. Look at the runners today. Despite the adversity and exhaustion, everybody stayed amazingly positive. And why not? We get to do this. People generally try to avoid suffering. But in running, suffering is the norm. And it teaches you a valuable lesson: It's possible to suffer and not give up. Just showing up for a race proves that you "dared greatly."

To wrap things up, allow me to wax a little philosophical here and say that I realize that most of the people in my life don't really care that I'm a runner or even care that I ran today's race. I'm totally at peace with that. Sure, I love the challenge of racing, but it's not my life. It's totally an optional activity and I'm blessed to be able to do it, plain and simple. Realizing this helps keep racing fun.

So there you have it. Thank you for reading. You rock! (Unless you beat me in today's race.)

Friday, July 26

8:44 AM This morning I was reading the blog of someone trying to raise support for the new ministry to which God had called him. No one had prepared him, he said, for how difficult support raising would be. But the good news, he went on to say, is that the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will always supply the needs of those who follow Him. However, that's not the point of Psalm 50:10 (as this essay shows). The Psalmist mentions the cattle not to remind us that God is able and willing to supply our needs, but to remind us that He is not dependent on us for "food."

Thinking about the future can be frightening. Thankfully, God knows our uncertainties. We can relax in the knowledge that He has a definite plan for our lives. And He will provide for all of our needs, even when we fall into the trap of quoting verses out of their context. I guess that's the main point of this blog post. "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills" is a chorus I grew up singing. I didn't realize at the time that we can't necessarily allow our hymnody to be our theology. In the end, however, the truth remains: God has a plan for our lives, a plan more fulfilling and exciting than anything we could ever ask or imagine. Even when we don't know what it is, He does. All we have to do is allow God enough elbow room in our lives to do what He's best at doing. 

Which verses have you quoted out of context? (Come on, we've all done it.)

What's the impossible or unbelievable situation you're currently facing? Why not turn it over to Him (again)?

Angus on the farm. What wonderful creatures. God owns 'em!

7:24 AM When I was in seminary I took a course in Christian apologetics. The idea was to learn certain types of argumentation that might convince the interested non-believer in the truthfulness of the Christian faith. A verse that we used to justify this approach was 1 Pet. 3:15, which says we are to offer a defense (Greek apologia) to everyone who asks us for the hope among us. In that day, apologetics involved (at least) a defense against charges that Christianity was subversive to the empire. Peter is therefore keen to show that Christians, under ordinary circumstances, are willing to submit themselves to "every human institution" (2:13). Today, apologetics often centers on questions about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible. That will, in fact, be the focus of the apologetics conference on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Clearview Church in Henderson, NC. We live in a world where people often challenge the reliability of Scripture. Those challenges must be addressed. But we also live in a world where people are turned off by Christianity because of the way Christians behave. That's why Peter immediately adds that our defense of the Gospel must be matched by a Christ-like attitude. We are to do apologetics with gentleness and respect. That's how Christ responded to His enemies. Everywhere He went He was gentle with those who were hostile toward Him.

Francis Schaeffer, whom I had the joy of hearing personally when I lived in Switzerland, once wrote a book called The Church at the End of the 20th Century.

Many have never heard of it, but I dare say it may well be the most important book on apologetics Schaffer ever wrote. It in he argues that the greatest apologetic for Christianity is nothing other than love (John 13:34-35). I recall as a teenager in Hawai'i being turned off by Christianity, not so much because I believed it was illogical or indefensible, but because of the disconnect I saw between the apologist and his or her lifestyle. How can people respect us when we are not living consistently with what we believe? God is not only asking us to tell our unsaved neighbors what a friend they have in Jesus, but also to show them what a friend they have in us. Love them, Jesus says. Love them until they ask you why.

Evangelism is godliness lived out. God's plan for evangelism is for every believer to become a redemptive person by loving their neighbor sacrificially and even scandalously if necessary. We fit into God's purpose by loving Him and then by loving others until they ask us why. Can you loan out your lawn mower? Can you bake a key lime pie? Can you drive a friend to the doctor's office? Somebody's neighbor found Christ through just such a kind gesture. Paul says we are to be "living epistles, read by all" (2 Cor. 3:2-3). The imagery presupposes regular, close contact with not-yet-believers. Our goal is not to beat people into submission with our arguments. Yes, words are necessary. But we must also "play the music." It may take years for your friend to come to Christ. Don't give up! Pray for boldness and for open doors. Ask God to use the witness of your serving lifestyle. Let people see the heart of the One who died for their sins. Most of all, be a genuine friend who loves people in very specific and tangible ways.

May God help all of us to defend the faith -- not only with our lips but also with our lifestyle.

Thursday, July 25

4:56 PM If you're not sick of me yet talking about races, click here to visit the 25th Annual Run for Life 5K and 1 Mile Run website. I literally just found out about it not 20 minutes ago via email. I actually ran this race last year. If there's one thing the running community is, it's a community of mutual support. Most of us run for various causes, and what better cause can one possibly run for than to benefit Birth Choice of Raleigh, which has provided free service to pregnant women since 1971. You hear it all the time -- we need to do something about the problem of abortion in America. We'll, here's something you can do to make a difference. You get to donate to a worthy cause while doing something you love. "Well, I don't love to run," you say. Then do the 1 mile fun run/walk. You'll be glad you did. I'm so glad to see that my calendar is free that day. In my opinion, running for a reason other than your own health and well being is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. So I hope you will come out and support the cause. It's certainly a worthy one. Whether we're talking about abortion or euthanasia, people think they can control life and death by taking the matter into their own hands. This is pure hubris. How we humans think we can trespass into God's territory in this matter is beyond me.

Life is a gift of God. So is the ability to run. And when the two are wedded together, so much the better!

4:05 PM I'm sitting here having just eaten my supper. (Yes, supper. I'm up at 5:00, so 4:00 pm is supper time in this household.)

I actually cooked this. And yes, I like ground black pepper.

What are you doing? Here's more:

1) What I'm reading. Anne Groton's fabulous textbook on Classical Greek called From Alpha to Omega. (I see I'm not the only one who calls the three aspects: imperfective, perfective, and aoristic. Go Anne!)

2) What I'm working on. Mowing the yards. The weather has been purr-fect.

3) What I'm watching. The Volcom Pro Tournament from the Banzai Pipeline on YouTube. Sadly, the North Shore will be completely flat when I'm there in August. Boohoo.

4) What I'm planning. Things to do in Hawai'i.

5) What I'm drinking. Weird, but since I cut out all sodas I've been consuming lots of water.

6) What I'm dreading. The long flight from Denver to Honolulu.

7) What I'm trying. This intense dumbbell routine. It's a killer. You should try it too! 

By the way, today one of my grandsons turns two. Here's the birthday boy (left) with his brother Bradford. Happy Born Day, Chesley! Papa B loves you!

6:10 AM When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon in Cincinnati 4 years ago, I didn't know what was in store for me. These past 4 years of running have been a wild ride. If I'm able to run in Chicago in October, it will be my 16th marathon. Would I have been the same person had I never started running? I can't answer that question. What I can say is this: I am as excited today about the Chicago Marathon as I was when I ran Cincy 4 years ago. Like everything linked to the body, the desire to run and finish a race is linked with the urge God gives all of us to push through grueling and challenging times in our lives. What I've learned is that, unless we are truly motivated to keep on going, the temptation is very strong to stop running. Thankfully, I still find enjoyment in the sport, otherwise I'm not sure I could continue to run. I've learned to appreciate the little things along the way -- the importance of good shoes, the need for rest, the value of training. Ask any marathoner (and I only qualify for that title by the most generous of terms): all of us run for the same reason. What could be better than challenging your body to go 26.2 miles in every conceivable kind of weather conditions?

Of course, the most exciting thing is not the race but the comradery. If you don't know what I mean, just stand at the end of a marathon and watch people crossing the finish line. Not just the elite athletes, but those who finish 5, 6, 7, or even 8 hours after the race begins. I keep saying that nothing is impossible is you're willing to pay the price for your dream. That's true whether you're looking to start a doctoral program or are wanting to raise a family. Sometimes people look at you like you're crazy. But I'd rather be a crazy, happy man than someone who has stopped dreaming.

Racing is never easy. It shouldn't be. It just takes time and perseverance. Like life.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 24

8:15 PM Becky and I met in the cafeteria line at Biola. She had just experienced a rough spell dating Bible majors. She told me she found them, well, somewhat immature. But we began dating, even though I was a Bible major. We usually went to the local coffee shop and just talked. One semester I took a hiatus from Biola and spent 8 months in Hawai'i surfing all day and working in a Waikiki restaurant in the evenings. Becky and I would correspond through letters. She'd tell me about her life in California, and I'd relay glimpses to her about my life in Hawai'i. Before long, I began to miss Becky achingly. I recall that for a long time I would sign my letters, "Best, Dave." Then one day I wrote, "Love, Dave." Thus began a love story that would last for 40 years.

Like you, I love the Scriptures. I love studying them and I love teaching them. But my relationship with the Lord can't be all intellectual. My goal, on a daily basis, is to fall increasingly in love with God, to bring honor to Jesus Christ, and to become more like Him in both my attitudes and my actions. W. H. Griffith-Thomas, co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, once wrote:

It is, of course, essential to remember that theology is not merely a matter of intellect, but also of experience. Theology is concerned with spiritual realities, and must include personal experience as well as ideas .... The feeling equally with reason must share in the consideration of theology, because theology is of the heart, and the deepest truths are inextricably bound up with personal needs and experiences.

This isn't a particularly cosmic thought, I know. But today I experienced again what it feels like to be in fellowship with the Triune God. Of course, true love is more than an emotional rush. Love must be nurtured in an environment of mutual trust and respect. Without trust, love dies. Love means contributing my best to the relationship. After all, that's how God first loved us.

Truth and love. Intellect and emotion. It's a difficult balancing act. Jonathan Edwards once described his relationship with God as being full of Christ, loving Him with a holy and pure love, trusting in Him, serving and following Him, being totally wrapped up in the fullness of Christ. What a beautiful picture of how mind and heart can work together to produce a deep experience with God. I long for these times with the Father, just as I believe He longs for these times with me. That is the heart of a Father to His children, expressed to us through His Son, and mediated by His Spirit.

I Long to Worship Thee!


7:12 PM Our NT 2 class covers Acts through Revelation, so you can imagine my joy when these arrived today.

Craig Keener (New Testament prof at Asbury) has penned some of the best commentaries on the New Testament. His commentary on Acts (4 volumes!) runs to roughly 6,000 pages. Keener is also the author of the highly acclaimed 1,200-page study called Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Not shown here is his book on the Holy Spirit called Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. Most of you probably know that I spend no time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I simply don't have the time or energy to devote to this blog, my farm, my teaching and writing, and my family plus all of that social media stuff. Instead, I spend my free time in reading. Some books you want to read. Others you have to read. Keener's books fall into both categories. I want to be a person who's interested in many things and who's learning new things. I think reading books helps me to do just that.

What have you been reading lately?

What's the best book you've read this year?

7:46 AM I've signed up for a race this Saturday in Morrisville, NC. I love the name: Sole to Soul 5K: For Hope. All proceeds will benefit an NGO called Projects for Hope, which works mostly in Kenya. This will be a smallish race. Thus far only about 35 people have signed up. Have I told you how much I enjoy small races? They are very cool. No age group awards. No fancy eats afterwards. No fanfare. You are pretty much just a group of runners who are out to raise money for charity. Here's the thing about racing, though. Runners love to run. And runners love to run with other people. It doesn't matter whether that number is large or microscopic. Big events like the Chicago Marathon (October 13 -- Yay!) attract about 40,000 runners each year. The course is lined with spectators from start to finish. There's lots of hype and excitement. And why not? It's CHICAGO! At the other end of the spectrum are races like this Saturday's 5K in Morrisville. Small races are boss. For one thing, there will be no elbowing other runners as you make your way to the starting line. Don't get me wrong. I still love bigger events. I love the adrenaline kick you get, plus I love all the spectators. But small races are much more personal. In the end, there's no reason to do any of it unless it brings joy into your life. Runners are people who find satisfaction in moving their bodies. Even people like me, whose lack of genetic ability is obvious, can find joy in the activity itself rather in their level of proficiency. My best is good enough. And so is yours, my friend.

Movement proves that we're still alive. If you are a slow runner like me, it's okay. Don't try to keep up with the other runners. Don't worry about looking dumb. A race is a good place to find the best in yourself, the best in others, and the best in running. 

6:10 AM The other day I listened to a wonderful sermon by pastor Bryan of Summit Denver on A Different Kind of Leadership. His text was Acts 6 and how a need arose in the early church and how that need was met. The apostles ended up delegating the care of widows to 7 men "full of the Spirit and wisdom." I was reminded that, in the body of Christ, all ministries are needed. There is no hint whatsoever that the apostles considered the ministry of distributing food as in any way inferior to the ministry of teaching and prayer. Each follower of Jesus has a God-given task, and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted through concentrating on anything but own own calling. This truth should not only humble but inspire us and especially motivate us to work together as one team in all that we do as the body of Christ. We follow One who came not to be served but to serve, and it would be unthinkable that we would go through life spending our lives in any other way than serving others. I remember very clearly the time when the Lord seemed to grab a hold of Becky and me with His tender but firm hands, impelling us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto His mission. Since then, God has enriched my life with hundreds of likeminded people, ordinary believers doing the work of the kingdom and extending God's mercy further than they ever thought possible. I can't articulate my thrill and gratitude to be able to be teaching NT 2 again this fall. I can promise my students no expert's example, only the words of a man who has never been more aware of his own ignorance and arrogance. Together, I pray we will learn how to follow the downward path of Jesus into a life of obedience and sacrificial love. May He come in power and unleash the hands of His servants.

Tuesday, July 23

4:30 PM This morning I enjoyed breakfast with my assistant and his wife and their 6 children. It was a bittersweet time.

At the end of the month, Noah will be transitioning out of his role as my personal assistant as he begins to focus on the writing of his dissertation under my supervision. I am extremely grateful to Noah for the immense amount of time and energy he invested in my teaching and writing ministry. I cannot speak too highly of his conscientious work these past 4 years. He will be sorely missed.

Tonight one of my former Ph.D. students is traveling through the area and is visiting the farm for dinner. Gotta give him a lot of credit, risking, as he is, his digestion on my home cooking. We'll see if he survives.

Monday, July 22

7:05 PM Today I got in a 45 minute workout and then swam for about an hour. Who says you slow down with age? I like to break up my swim between the crawl stroke and the breast stroke. I am pathetic because I'm too uncoordinated to do the butterfly. I definitely need to take swimming lessons. Afterwards I got home and found these waiting for me.

Everyone knows I have a reading problem. I read everything I can get my non-nicotine-stained hands on. These tomes will keep me busy this week. As you can see, the classicists have been publishing some pretty hefty grammars of late. As for George Will. Well, George Will is George Will. You kinda know what you're going to get. (As if I'm not predictable.) One of my resolutions this summer was to read more -- hence all these books I've been showing you pictures of. I don't do historical fiction much, but if you think there's something in that genre I need to read, let me know.

I close with these words of Helen Keller:

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

7:48 AM There are a couple of things on my bucket list that I'd still like to accomplish in 2019 if the Lord wills. One of them is climbing the tallest 14,000-er in the Rockies. I want so badly to see if I'm up to the challenge of Mt. Elbert. Climbing has meant so much to me post-Becky. I can't even begin to tell you. It seems unreal that it was 3 years ago this summer that I left for Switzerland to climb the Alps. I came to Zermatt in search of a summit or two. Like Terry Fox, the Canadian who ran thousands of miles on one leg to raise money for cancer research, I also wanted to give a nod to the Becky Black Memorial Fund, which I had started just before I left. (To date, 650 million Canadian dollars have been raised in Terry's name. By God's grace, I was able to raise $25,000 for UNC Cancer Hospital.) I displayed a banner with Becky's name on it every time I summited one of Zermatt's peaks. You ask, "Weren't you even a little bit afraid?" Oh yeah. For the first hundred yards or so I always had butterflies in my stomach. But as Helen Keller once said, "It's okay to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation."

In climbing I've discovered something I love -- a thing that really turns me on and excites me. Passion is what enabled Aimee Mullins to set records for running even though she's missing two legs. I care passionately about what I do in life. I really want to do them. I don't know where these passions come from (other than from the Lord), but I've got them. I love teaching. I can't imagine doing anything else. I think being irrationally passionate about what you do is enormously healthy. I'm what psychologists refer to as a "striver." Strivers are people who know what they want and run straight toward it. There's something in me that pushes me to challenge myself as a climber, and I just have to go with it. Exploring your passions doesn't mean you have to go all the way. I have no interest in climbing anything over 15,000 feet. And yes, it's hard work, but that's part of the fun.

Here's my message for you today, my friend. In the strength of the Lord, be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your God-given goals. I believe that climbing not only brings me satisfaction but also a sense of confidence. We become confident when we meet a challenge head-on and overcome it. I'll never forget the day my guide Walter took me to Zermatt's famous Klettersteig -- a vertical rock wall on very exposed terrain. It took me 4 hours to climb 1,800 vertical feet. Focus was absolutely critical. Many people work hard but they're not focused. They're Dabblers and not Doers. I realized as soon as I began climbing the Klettersteig that I had to focus. The focus paid off and I completed the course.

When Bill Gates started Microsoft he focused on one thing and only one thing. "Microsoft is designed to write great software," he said. "We are not designed to be good at other things." Being able to focus will help you regardless of what you're doing. The truth is that we all find it easy to focus on what we love doing. When people are lazy, they're usually lazy about things that don't interest them. To climb you've got to love the sport -- and then you're got to push, push, push yourself, mentally and physically. Mostly I've had to push through self-doubt. In climbing there are plenty of opportunities for second-guessing yourself: Will my body adjust to the elevation, will my legs be strong enough to carry me, will I tire out before the climb is over? On my trip to the Alps there were many moments when I said, "Oh man, I can't believe I got this far!" The trick is to keep pushing yourself, even when you think you can't go on.

I find that being pushed for a climb (or a marathon) actually helps my teaching and writing. Pushing is absolutely necessary in a creative environment. As a youth I wasn't very self-disciplined, but now I'm very self-disciplined and I think it keeps me in top shape. Thankfully, I had my guide Walter to push me along.

I need people in my life who keep telling me, "You can do this, Dave." I really need that support system. Not that I will ever be in the same league as Walter, who has summited the Matterhorn 17 times. But watching him excel at his job helps me dig down deep and push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I love pushing myself to the limit. And it's a lot easier when you have a guy like Walter as your mentor (tor-mentor?).

In my day I've seen a lot of good teachers grow old and then sort of get to a certain point in their career where they just take it easy. And that's where they stay for the rest of their careers. My philosophy is simple: If I can say, on December 31, that I'm a better athlete or teacher or dad than I was on January 1 of the same year, then I've been successful. Not for the sake of being better than someone else, but just because it's so satisfying to be improving at something. I'm really never satisfied where I am in life. I'm always trying to push myself to the next level. But I'm not a person who's unhappy if he isn't perfect. I just want to keep improving.

Friend, whatever you are doing with your life, do it to the very best of your God-given ability. Forget about your weaknesses. Find something you're good at and go for it with gusto. From the moment I summited my first Alp I knew I could accomplish a big goal. So I'd say, do what you love to do and everything else will fall into place. And no matter what you do, the secret to accomplishing your goals is plain old tenacity. It takes a long time to become really good at something. I've learned that if I can put just put one foot in front of the other, things generally work out well. Sure, setbacks will come. The problem is when we give up on ourselves. Adopt a "Don't look back" attitude.

Climbing is the hardest thing I've ever done besides burying Becky. But in climbing I've discovered something I really love. What is it that gets you excited? Nothing is more important in life than being passionate about what God has created you to do, whatever that is. Someone has said: "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

As for age, who cares? Age is merely a state of mind. It's a label people use to pigeonhole others and place limits on what they can be. I choose not to be governed by labels. And doing what I love to do is one of the ways I stay young at heart. For years now I've left age at the door when I've walked into the different rooms of my life, being far more concerned about doing solid work, supporting my colleagues, and showing leadership without having some lofty title on my office door. Be an original, friend. There's only one of you in the whole world. And no one else can be as good a you as you.

Sunday, July 21

9:45 PM Lord willing, in 2 weeks I leave for the island of O'ahu in Hawai'i. I'm no Rick Steves, but I do have a few suggestions for you in case you ever end up in the Paradise of the Pacific.

1. Use Airbnb. This can be a much less expensive alternative to staying in a fancy hotel. And in some parts of O'ahu there's not even a single hotel room (like, for example, in my home town of Kailua on the Windward side). But plan to book early, as in at least 8 months before your trip, because Airbnbs go fast.

I snapped this picture of Kailua Beach during my trip there last year.

2. Growing up in Hawaii we used to joke that the state has four seasons: summer, summer, summer, and summer. Basically that's true. But we do have our rainy season, which is January through March, and these months can get pretty wet. Avoid them if you want to enjoy the constant sun you can expect pretty much the rest of the year.

3. If you're into hiking, you have to climb at least Diamond Head, the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, and Mount Olomana. The latter is in Kailua and boasts breathtaking views of Windward O'ahu. But be forewarned: The hike can be a bit on the dangerous side. If you have acrophobia and are easily frightened by knife-edged ridges, you might want to pass. Here's a YouTube I made of one of my recent Olomana hikes. (This is obviously not a professional video!)


4. Other must-see touristy destinations include:

  • The Dole Pineapple Plantation

  • The Arizona Memorial

  • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

  • Renting a kayak at Kailua Beach

  • Enjoying a sunset cruise at Waikiki Beach

  • Visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center

  • Seeing the view of Honolulu from atop Punchbowl Crater

  • Stopping by the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore

  • Running the Honolulu Marathon (if you're there in December)

5. Avoid the rush hour traffic by staying off the freeway from 5:30 - 9:00 am and 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Honolulu has the absolute worst traffic in the nation so don't get stuck in it if you can avoid it.

6. As for cuisine, you must try these 5 foods: poke, plate lunch, shave ice, manapua, and (my favorite) malasadas.

7. Attend church on Sunday. There are a number of sound evangelical churches on O'ahu, from Southern Baptist to New Hope.

Pastor Kevin Akana of Windward Baptist Church. A dear bruddah.

8. Always be friendly toward the locals. Remember: How you treat people greatly influences how they behave toward you. Be yourself but your best self. Hawai'i is one of the most friendly places you will ever visit as long as you exercise basic respect. 

Well, I hope you enjoy your visit to O'ahu should you be able to go there some day. Sure, there are other islands you could also travel to, but O'ahu is probably the best island to visit if you're going to Hawai'i for the first time. It's not only easier to find accommodations and packages there due to increased competition, but O'ahu is the cultural heart of the Hawaiian Islands. Of course, the best thing about it is that I was born and raised there :-)

My view each morning. Every day is beautiful in Hawai'i.  

5:42 PM Ever heard of Neil Armstrong? Check. Buzz Aldrin? Check. Michael Collins? Who????

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, of course, were the astronauts who set foot on the moon 50 years ago yesterday. Michael Collins was the man who flew their spacecraft to the moon, kept it in the right place while Armstrong and Aldrin did their thing, and then brought them back home safely.

Collins had perhaps the most important job of all yet was barely recognized in the press. In fact, there were thousands of people who collaborated to make the Apollo 11 mission a success. They were all part of a single team formed to carry out one of mankind's greatest feats. These men and women were all heroes.

As for the church, let's remember:

1. God calls all of His people to ministry.

2. God calls different people to different ministries.

3. God expects us to fulfill our ministries, not someone else's.

In Acts 6, the work of the Twelve and the work of the Seven are both called a diakonia ("ministry"). The Twelve were called to the diakonia of the word, whereas the Seven were called to the diakonia of tables. Neither ministry is superior to the other, and neither ministry is inferior to the other. We do a great disservice when we refer to the pastorate as "the" ministry. In the New Testament, there is a wide diversity of callings, gifts, and ministries, and each and every one of them is vital to the cause of Christ.

Thank you, Michael Collins, for your service to our country. You're a reminder that there's no such thing as bit players. Everybody is important. The same thing is true in the church. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor, the meek, the nobodies, the people relegated to the background. In the end, all of them received star treatment from Christ.

11:15 AM This morning's message, brought by one of my former personal assistants, was fabulous. It was on the topic of hell from Matthew 13. I hadn't heard a message on hell in I don't know how many years. The exposition was both solid and practical. We're here on this planet as God's children to be salt and light. We've been given a serious and sacred task -- to help shine the light of the Gospel so that people will be delivered out of a living (and future) hell. C. S. Lewis once spoke of heaven and hell and then added: "All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations." Every person you know will one day arrive at either heaven or hell. Thankfully, by the light of Christ they can be guided toward heaven.

Of course, as always I'm looking at the textual variants in the passage, and today was no exception. In Matt 13:43 should we read "Let him who has ears to hear hear" or "Let him who has ears hear"? I'll go with the longer reading.

It's pretty obvious that we're dealing here with a case of parablepsis (an oversight of the eye). The scribe passed from one -akou- to the next -akou- and thus left out the infinitive akouein, "to hear." ("Ears to hear hear" became simply "ears hear.")

The external evidence corroborates this conclusion, at least to my way of thinking.

The reading akouein is as early as is its omission (the Old Latin alone pushes it into the second century) but akouein is more geographically widespread (in the omission we have basically an Alexandrian reading that is up against a Byzantine and Western reading). As for the text of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, I recall Keith Elliott once referring to the "hypnotic effect of Aleph and B." Could that be in play here?

It's too hot to be outdoors today (even by the pool) so I'm going to get caught up on my reading. Heat stroke is nothing to play around with. It's super important to pay attention to the weather. The line between feeling "Wow, I'm really hot" and losing your mental faculties can be crossed quickly. 

Be careful today, friends.

6:10 AM My assistant Noah Kelley has just updated our Greek Portal. Check it out at our What's New? page.

I like geeky Greek things, don't you? And I say that as someone who dropped out of his beginning Greek class at Biola after only 3 weeks. Yes, I had one of those classes. You think you're prepared and all of a sudden the unexpected happens. Your heart drops, your spirit droops. I came all the way to California for this? That said, there are two choices. You have two and only two possible attitudes.

I'm outta here. Greek is too much. If I was meant to learn Greek I would have. It's just not worth it. I won't try that again.

Or ...

Well, that wasn't exactly what I was expecting. But if at first you don't succeed, get back on your feet and try again. This failure will not define me. I'll master Greek yet. I'll create a new memory.

There's that word "new" again. You pick yourself up. You dust yourself off. And you get back on track.

I'm sorry if things aren't going your way right now. Believe me, I know it hurts. Don't let that disappointment define you. You'll get another shot, and you'll rock it that much harder after that experience. I know. Been there, done that. I signed up for another Greek course at a different school and the rest, as they say, is history. And I plan to be teaching Greek when I'm 100.

Glory to God.

Saturday, July 20

9:02 PM So, what are you watching tonight to celebrate the moon landing 50 years ago? I'm going to watch First Man for the tenth time. I think I've seen every documentary about Neil Armstrong out there and I've appreciated each one for telling the story of a very humble American who did what he was asked to. First Man, while about the landing on the moon, is about something more, however. It was the characters' personal lives that really spoke to me, especially the reunion of Armstrong and his wife at the end of the film. The distance to the moon was matched only by the distance between husband and wife. Their marriage was far from perfect, but they seemed to accept that fact, as least in the movie. The one thing First Man will do is get you thinking about your own relationships and what's holding you back from making them work. Anyway, I need to take the dog out for one last walk tonight before cranking up the movie. I'm resisting the urge to talk to you about the Chicago Marathon even though it's been on my mind all day. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel once said, "Did you know it's illegal to run a marathon unless you tell eighty people about it all day every day for three months?" Let's face it, who really cares (other than my fellow runners) how much you suffer and persevere in a foot race? I don't expect you to love running the way I do. Thankfully, we don't all have to share the same interests to be supportive of each other. I try to strike a balance on this blog between personal stuff and biblical/theological stuff. Truth be told, if someone is passionate enough about something, you're gonna to hear about it -- a lot. I try not to blog too much about my races, but they keep me excited and, in the end, people understand. Right????

Now, let's see .... What's that you said about your dog learning how to roll over?

8:48 AM Good morning! Been up since 4:30 reviewing my lectures on Acts for my NT 2 class. One session will be devoted to a discussion of eldership in the New Testament. Here's one question we'll discuss: Is the concept of "first among equals" (primus inter pares) biblical? Can you have a plurality of co-equal elders in a local congregation and still have a "senior" or "lead" pastor, someone who is usually known among the public as the pastor of that church? The issue is debated. I personally don't use the expression "first among equals" because the New Testament doesn't use it. But even if you do employ it, would this justify a senior pastor model in which one of the elders is seen as somehow being "the pastor" or the "head/leader" of that local church?

Here I'd like to defer to Alexander Strauch and his magnificent book Biblical Eldership. Mind you, Strauch does believe in the concept of "first among equals." He uses the expression positively several times in his chapter on "Shared Leadership." But let's not overlook the fact that he is also very intentional about nuancing his notion of "first among equals." Here are two passages from that chapter that everyone should carefully consider. First, after showing how Peter was the chief speaker among the apostles and their natural leader, he observes:

In spite of his outstanding leadership and speaking ability, Peter possessed no legal or official rank or title above the other eleven. They were not his subordinates. They were not his staff or team of assistants. He wasn't the apostles' "senior pastor" (italics in the original).

For Strauch, nomenclature matters. The point seems to be that, while Peter may have been the most prominent among Jesus' apostles, he wasn't the "senior" apostle and the others "associate apostles." They were all equally apostles. In the second place, after discussing elders who work hard at teaching and preaching (1 Tim. 5:17-18), Strauch notes:

This doesn't mean, however, that elders who are first among their equals do all the thinking and decision-making for the group, or that they are the pastors while the others are merely elders. To call one elder "pastor" and the rest "elders" or one elder "the clergyman" and the rest "lay elders" is to act without biblical precedence. To do so will not result in biblical eldership. It will, at least in practice, create a separate, superior office over the eldership, just as was done in the early second century when the division between "the overseer" and "elders" occurred (italics in the original).

Again, Strauch seems to be questioning, not the concept of first among equals, but the nomenclature a church uses. There simply seems to be no biblical grounds for separating off a "senior" or "lead" pastor from the rest of the elders. Here I'd also like to mention something Strauch writes later in his book in a section called "The Church Is Under Christ's Headship." After noting Christ's promise to be with His disciples "where two or three have gathered together in My name" (Matt. 18:20), Strauch writes:

Because the apostles knew that Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, was uniquely present with them as Ruler, Head, Lord, Pastor, Master, Overseer, High Priest, and King, they chose a form of government that reflected this distinctive, fundamental, Christian truth.... The first Christians were truly Christ-centered, Christ-dependent churches.... Christ's person and work was so infinitely great, final, and complete, that nothing -- even in appearance -- was to diminish the centrality of His presence among and sufficiency for His people.

This is followed by what I think is a really profound conclusion. Please read it carefully and thoughtfully.

So in the first century, no Christian would dare take the position or title of sole ruler, overseer, or pastor of the church.... There is only one flock and one Pastor (John 10:16), one body and one Head (Col. 1:18), one holy priesthood and one great High Priest (Heb. 4:14ff.), one brotherhood and one Elder Brother (Rom. 8:29), one building and one Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:5ff.), one Mediator, one Lord. Jesus Christ is "Senior Pastor," and all others are His undershepherds (1 Peter 5:4).

As an aside, I think it's striking that one rarely hears today of the title "lead" or "senior" deacon in our churches. Deacons are deacons (though, of course, the deacon board might have a rotating chairmanship). When it comes to elders/pastors, however, there seems to be a tendency to move toward a "lead" pastor model. It is sometimes argued that "Every organization needs someone at the top, a head." If I understand Strauch (and the New Testament) correctly, however, every local church already has such a Head in Jesus Christ.

What then? Tentatively I would like to suggest that we would do well to avoid the use of titles like "senior pastor" or "lead pastor" in our churches, especially in churches that practice plural eldership (a "fellowship of leadership," to use Michael Green's unforgettable expression). This doesn't mean that a local church will not have one or two elders that are more well-known among the public or even do most of the formal teaching Sunday after Sunday. Interestingly, when we look into the pages of the New Testament, we look in vain for the name of the "senior/lead pastor" of any local church. Who was the lead pastor of the church at Thessalonica? We can't determine that. The church in Philippi? No one knows. The church at Corinth? Impossible to say. There is only one local church in the New Testament where we actually know the name of the leader who sought to "be first" -- the church described in 3 John -- and here Diotrephes is hardly being set forth as a positive example. To my knowledge there is not one instance in the New Testament where a lead pastor of a local church is singled out for mention. Instead, Paul appoints "elders" (no mention of a lead pastor) in every church. Paul meets with the Ephesian "elders" in Miletus (no mention of a lead pastor). When we are sick we are to call the "elders" (no mention of a lead pastor) to pray over us. In Philippians, Paul greets the church's "overseers" (no mention of a lead overseer) and deacons. Of course, titles are not the Gospel. I personally know a good many lead/senior pastors. Not one of them could be described as hubristic or authoritarian. Each is a godly, humble man. But again, nomenclature matters. Paul is very clear in Colossians: Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the body, which is the church -- so that in all things He might have the preeminence. To repeat what Alexander Strauch said above: "nothing -- even in appearance -- was to diminish the centrality of [Christ's] presence among and sufficiency for His people." 

Not being an expert in ecclesiology, I hesitate to suggest an alternative title for the elder/pastor who does in fact serve as "first among equals" in our churches (if, indeed, you accept primus inter pares as a biblical concept). I find it very interesting and perhaps instructive that the apostle Peter, whose name always appears first in the lists of apostles in the New Testament, describes himself in 1 Pet. 5:1, not as senior apostle or as lead pastor, but simply as "fellow-" or "co-" elder. It is Christ Himself, he asserts without any hesitation, who is literally the church's "Head/Chief/Lead Pastor" (1 Pet. 5:4). It seems to me that Peter might be intentionally trying to recede into the group by using the word sumpresbuteros ("co-elder") to describe himself. If we take that as a hint for church leadership today, I'm wondering whether we couldn't benefit from using a term like "Co-Pastor" or "Co-Elder" for the primus inter pares. Such an expression would make it crystal clear that we are not trying to abrogate to ourselves a title belonging primarily if not exclusively to Christ. Perhaps it would also help to emphasize the importance we attach to shared leadership in our congregations -- we are all pastors, we are all overseers, we are all elders, and equally so. Here is an example of a church in Denver that seems to intentionally stress that their six pastor-elders are co-equal; as far as I can tell, none of them holds the title "lead pastor." Instead, their different ministries/areas of pastoral oversight are described. Here's another example from Wilkesboro, NC. Of course, in cases where only one man is qualified biblically to serve as elder, then that church will have only one pastor, even as it seeks to raise up additional qualified leaders from their own number.

Much more could be said, of course, but this post is already too long. Much of this I'll be incorporating into my book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. In class, I'll also be referring a good deal to my esteemed colleagues Ben Merkle and John Hammett, whose books on biblical eldership and church polity are most helpful and instructive. In particular, Hammett's discussion of how to transition a church toward a smoothly functioning plural leadership without causing a church split is indispensable (Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, pp. 213-219).

Earlier I referred to Michael Green. A quote from his book Adventure of Faith might be a fitting conclusion to what we have said here (p. 86):

Monarchy is a bad principle for Christian leadership: it leads to the suppression of initiative. So is democracy: it leads to shared incompetence and ineffectiveness. What is needed is a leadership team accountable to God and to the congregation; a team which will give a lead and enable each member of the church to achieve his or her full potential and use that in God's service. You need a fellowship of leadership to model that sort of thing and to help it come about.

Friday, July 19

4:40 PM Odds and ends ....

1) Some are you might be thinking about studying Latin. The question you have to ask (and answer) right off the bat: Should I study Classical or Ecclesiastical Latin? The answer is yes. What I mean is that there aren't all that many differences between CL and EL in terms of grammar. But note: Pronunciation systems are quite different, as well as the vocabulary you'll be acquiring. My two cents: Learn to read Ecclesiastical Latin. Here are my two favorite books in this genre:


2) CNN is reporting that Mitch Petrus (former Super Bowl champion) has died at the age of 32 from heatstroke. Not enough electrolytes apparently while working outdoors. Again, if you're going to be outside today, be careful. If you're running, the earlier in the day you do so, the better. Our bodies are incredible pieces of machinery but they're not invincible. Stay focused on nutrition and hydration. And for the love of all things Greek, slow down. During my run this morning I plugged away at approximately the speed you move when standing in line at the DMV. It's frustrating to be going so slowly, but it's the only sensible thing to do.

3) I've just reviewed the sections on verbal aspect in Porter et al., Decker, Köstenberger et al., Mounce 4, and Voelz. I'm not content with any of them. I'm working on a comparison that maybe I'll publish here or in a journal sometime.

4) Hurray (again) for FedEx!

5) Read What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary.

12:58 PM All morning long I told myself to get my act together long enough to be able to go out and get a run in before it got too sweltering hot. The weather today is perfect -- for lounging around at the pool or running through sprinklers. Alas, all I had was the local high school track. Basically, I ended up a sweaty mess before I finally cranked out a respectable 4 miles at a 15 minute pace, which was all the heat allowed.

I was taking in 16 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of running. If you've had to go outdoors for any reason today, I feel your pain. Thank the Lord for air-conditioned cars and houses. Did you know that it's possible to over-hydrate? In fact, it's not uncommon to hear of runners getting sick or even dying from a condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium). If you drink only water, you deplete the sodium and calcium stores in your body. By drinking only water when you run (and not adding in some sodium-containing sports drinks) you dilute the sodium in your blood to the point of needing hospitalization. That's why on any given marathon course you'll find both water and a sports drink that contains sodium at every aid station.

Well, tomorrow I think I'll run at 3:00 am....

This is off-topic, but take a look at the following photos from some of our current introductory Greek grammars. The pages all have to do with vocabulary. Which do you like the best esthetically (i.e., is the easiest on the eye)? Which has information the others don't but should? Which has too much data? Feel free to send me an email at with your thoughts. The reason I'm asking is because I'm praying about revising my beginning textbook in the next year or two, and any input you'd like to offer (about vocabulary or anything else) would be most welcome.

7:44 AM Read this morning on Twitter that the Greek word behind "forgive" means to "send forth." This is just as wrong as saying that "forgive" means to "give for." This list could go on and on. These myths are useful in part because they preach so well. Lexicographical eisegesis is never helpful, however. Most words have a range of meaning (Liddell-Scott list the following glosses for aphesis/aphiēmi: letting go, dismissal, leave of absence, remission of a debt, forgiveness, relaxation, exhaustion, divorce, conduit, sluice, etc.) Context, as always, is king.

7:12 AM "All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death" (Phil. 3:10 NEB). The goal of every Christian is to know Christ. The Bible is our guidebook, showing us how to do this. Every morning I must offer to Him again my body as a living sacrifice, asking Him to accept it as an act of worship and to press on with His work of transforming my mind from within so that I may grow in conformity to Christ.

Thursday, July 18

6:14 PM I will tell you what makes me very happy. It's working out at the Y for 45 minutes and then swimming for 45 minutes and then -- and here's the icing on the cake -- having a hot dog "all the way." I'm usually way more self-disciplined about eating than I was today, but rules are there to be broken, right? Today's workout really knocked me dead. I needed a quick pick-me-up, and what better way to get energized than to eat a fatty unhealthy kuntry kookin' DAWG. Notice, by the way, I said "all the way." This ain't just any old dog. It's the way God made hot dogs. Plus, you know you must be doing something right when you can order a hot dog for a mere buck fifty.

Fun fact: Here in the great state of Virginia, a hot dog served all the way comes with mustard, onions, and chili. Not so 3 miles south of me. In Granville County, North Carolina, where I imagine the "all-the-way-dog" originated (eat your heart out, West Virginia), a hot dog comes automatically with slaw. You must be aware of this when you cross the state line. You may not notice it, but you are going from one major U.S. subculture to another major U.S. subculture. You are moving from Harris Teeter to Food Lion, from BMWs to pick up trucks, from highways with yellow lines down the middle to gravel roads. Hey, I didn't move to rural Virginia for nothin!

More information (in case you're ever in my neck of the woods and are trying to order a REAL hot dog):

  • Don't even try asking for ketchup. You will be laughed to scorn and chased out of town on a rail.

  • Only nuclear red hot dogs will do.

  • At Dairy Dell (my local haunt) don't expect chairs, tables, or fuss. Grab your paper bag and leave. This here is sacred ground for buying and selling, not for chowin' down.

  • You will get three or four napkins along with your order. You will need them.

  • Cash only, by the way. This ain't Raleigh, remember?

So there you have it, folks. Like almost everyone else, I love me some southern hot dogs. It's really my downfall. I would love to eat two of these every day.

Disclaimer: This is not a food blog. Be sure to check with your doctor before doing anything recommended here. The less I'm sued, the more money I'll have to spend at Dairy Dell.

8:30 AM FYI: I just placed an order for the New English Bible. I used to have a copy but somehow it just upped and disappeared.

I love this version! Here's an example from Heb 1:1:

When in former times God spoke to our forefathers, he spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets.

Did you notice the alliteration with the fricative sound "f"? Former, forefathers, fragmentary, fashion, prophets. This is absolutely brilliant. In Greek, of course, the alliterated letter is the "p" sound, but there can never be a one-to-one correspondence between Greek and English.

The "f" sound is good enough for me!


6:40 AM As usual, Sheba and I sat on the front porch this morning watching the sun come up. The dawn, they say, is clearer than any other time of the day.

So it is spiritually, I think. I'm never on the porch without my Bible at hand. This morning I was led to read one of my favorite Old Testament books. It contains the thoughts of "The Philosopher," a man who reflected deeply on how short and mysterious life is, filled with injustices and contradictions. He concluded that "life is useless." Yet he also advised people to make the best of their brief existence on earth and to enjoy each of God's gifts as long as they could.

This morning I was in Ecclesiastes 11. And here I read what seemed to me to be two contradictory statements. In verse 5 we read that "God made everything." But in verse 6 we read, "Do your planting in the morning and in the evening, too. You never know whether it will all grow well or whether one planting will do better than the other."

God makes everything grow. Remember that.

You must do the planting and harvesting. Remember that, too.

We see here the clear fact of God's sovereign will operating through people to whom He has granted freedom of will. Nehemiah might have put it this way (Neh. 5:16; 6:16):

I put all my energy into the work on this wall.

This work has been accomplished by the help of our God.

God could do everything Himself if He wanted to. But He so designed the world that we must plant and harvest if we are going to eat. There is perhaps no more staggering truth than the fact that a sovereign God has ordained our participation. Note: He doesn't force our participation. God's will is always gladly and willingly done. Greek student, it's of the utmost importance that you understand that God has ordained things in such a way that His own action is coupled with our action. When our will acts in accordance with God's, this is the Christian life. This is a beautiful thing to behold. I've noticed that the happiest people on campus are those who truly want to be there. They delight in their studies. Some are actually having fun. They are free to study, not forced to study. When I was a student in Basel, I took 20 hours of lectures my first semester and 15 my second. None of these hours was required. Students at the University of Basel didn't need extrinsic motivation to attend lectures. That's why there were no quizzes or exams, no term papers or even attendance rolls. I believe that's what's wrong with our American educational system. We never think. Not really. We simply lack the mental discipline to do so. We want someone else to do the thinking for us. We want God to make the plants grow, and He will, of course. But we forget that it is we who must plant and it is we who must harvest. "Do your planting in the morning and in the evening," wrote the Philosopher. "You never know whether it will all grow well or whether one planting will do better than the other."

As you look at your list of things to do today, my friend, don't underestimate the tremendous freedom of the will God has given you. Do not rebel at what He is telling you to do. You and I will be better off by obeying Him than by disobeying Him. Delight to do His will, and you might actually enjoy life despite its injustices and contradictions.

Wednesday, July 17

7:12 PM I'm a huge fan of documentaries. Last night I watched Spirit of the Marathon for the umpteenth time. It reminded me that I still had to make my plane reservations to run the Chicago Marathon on October 13. Just writing those words gives me the goosebumps. Are you kidding me? Me running Chicago? I'm nervous as all get out. But it's good to be a little scared and humbled by the distance. My goal? Finish under the 6 and a half hour time limit. We'll see.

Racing has become a classroom for me. I'm learning my limitations — and maybe even my potential. I am literally running for my life. If my kids bury me early, it won't because I was out of shape. I think there's something noble about 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. Now that running is an integral part of my life, I draw more and more insights from the sport into my essential self. These insights are perhaps less dramatic than those I find in the Bible, but they are no less profound.

One example: Running has taught me that good health is a gift from God, pure and simple. Sure, we think we can engineer a carefully sculptured body. I declare this to be sheer nonsense. If we are in good shape, super. But all the praise goes to the Lord. One day I'll go off the rails health-wise. We all will. Through sickness. Cancer maybe. Who knows? If you and I are doing our best to maintain the temple, that's good enough. We don't live in a reality TV show; we're living real lives. For me, getting in shape was like completing a doctoral program. I absolutely understand why people find other things to do with their time. Yet I think that sometimes we very much underestimate the power of God. I bet we are tougher than we think. Like all human beings, we grow through struggle, failure, and perseverance. And if it turns out that we never really do lose all that unwanted weight or get in perfect shape? We can still love God and follow Him. Because when our physical health tanks (and it will), He will hold us fast.

For me, a marathon is the ultimate metaphor for any major undertaking in life. Does it hurt? Yes. Does it require time, effort, and commitment? Yes. But the payoff is out of this world. It doesn't matter what your goal is. You've got to push out of your self-imposed boundaries and never look back.

I love these quotes from Spirit of the Marathon:

  • Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us the most.

  • When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow or how fast, it will change your life forever.

  • It's a scary distance.

  • That's what the marathon teaches you. It teaches you to keep going.

  • People run the marathon to prove that there's still triumph, that there's still possibility, in their life.

  • The marathon is every man's Everest.

Of all the things I'm thankful for at this stage in my life, it's the connection I have with friends, family, and colleagues who are right there for me anytime I need them. And nothing has connected us and reconnected us more than honesty, than taking responsibility, than seeing our very souls as intertwined and seeing our lives as gifts we can give each other. I am determined by God's grace to transform myself into the kind of man who would put the interests of others over my own. Running taps into all the fears I have about myself. But it also holds the potential to tap into something vastly more important and beautiful. The amount of grace that life requires is unfathomable. Let's all allow the Lord to fill our containers to the brim this week — pushing through exhaustion like a marathoner and wrapping our arms around each other's necks when we have to.

5:50 PM FedEx has been busy at Rosewood Farm.

I'm embarrassed to say it, but I still haven't read my colleague John Hammett's Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches!

6:58 AM With only 5 weeks to go to the fall semester, I'm in full preparation mode. For sure, I've got the butterflies. There are all those imponderables: How will my students do? How will I do? Will the classroom computer screens work? Will everyone get their textbooks in time? Will Jesus come back before I have to teach the book of Revelation? (You can always hope, right?)

Here's what I do know: I've put in the time. I've prepared. I am strong and fit. I cannot control everything. I can, however, expect the best of myself and of my students. And I can remember the point of it all: I love what I do. I just hope I do it in the Lord's strength (and not my own) and for His glory alone.

Off to campus. Stop by the office if you need to see me (or just want to bring me some chocolate cookies).

5:10 AM Isn't the word of God rich? "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Eccl. 9:10). This verse jumped out at me in my Bible time this morning. I've held many jobs in my lifetime. I imagine you have too. When I turned 16, I began working at the local Marine base in Kaneohe as a plumber's assistant. At that time I also began to play the trumpet semi-professionally. We played in officers clubs on O'ahu almost every weekend. At Biola I worked in the school cafeteria as a dishwasher. In California I was also a lifeguard and swimming instructor. A year after I had begun my M.Div. at Talbot, I was asked to teach 11 units of Greek at Biola. That was in 1976. This fall, amazingly enough, marks my 43rd year of teaching. Of course, when Becky and I lived in Basel in the early 1980s, neither of us were allowed to work. So before we left for Switzerland, both of us worked several jobs in order to be financially independent when we arrived in that pleasant city along the Rhine. The Lord gave me 3 jobs: teaching Greek, delivering tax returns to downtown Los Angeles, and two 12-hour shifts every weekend at the local Amway vitamin factory. All the while I was scurrying to finish my master's thesis.

Every one of us has a duty designed for us by God. Some forms of work are labeled "fulltime Christian service." But our work for God in the office or in the kitchen is no less Christian work. I didn't necessarily enjoy working for Amway, but it was necessary to pay our bills while we lived in Europe. This is the very point we need to get hold of. Fulfillment is not to be found in any job in the world. We are sorely mistaken to look for such there. We must be willing to do whatever the Lord requires of us at that moment. Even the pleasantest job in the world (which for me is classroom teaching) is not fulfilling per se. It is a living but it is not living. Life is Christ, pure and simple. I am not happier today as a teacher than I was in the 1960s when I was unplugging stopped up toilets on the Marine base. I serve the same Master, and therefore all my work is Christian work, or can be.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" must be our motto. Each of our abilities is a gift from God. A Christian is therefore characterized by a simple willingness to do whatever God requires of him or her. Even if the work seems at times like drudgery (and, believe me, even teaching and writing can become like that), it is still His work.

"Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all."

Tuesday, July 16

8:04 PM Two things to share tonight before I get back to my cookies and éclairs and have a sugar overdose and can't type anymore.

I love this quote from Elizabeth Elliot. Don't you? 

Next thing. Here's a translation I bet many of you have never heard of. It's called the New English Bible (NEB). It's a bit clunky but sometimes it nails it. I was reading Matthew 11 in my Bible time this morning and ran across this rendering.

"Bend your necks to my yoke." Brilliant. It's as simple as that. Faith is neither a mood or a feeling. It's obedience. We put the will of God squarely on our shoulders. To be a Christian in NT times was to be a disciple. There could be no two ways about it. Jesus Christ is Savior because He is Lord. Which means He's the commanding officer in my life. He invites us to come to Him (not to any human because only He can grant a person true rest). We are not on our own to "do our own thing." We must leave self behind, take up our cross, and go with Him. It is always thus. True life comes from being co-yoked with Jesus -- the most meek person who ever lived. Meekness is nothing but the wholehearted yes to the will of the Father. When I put myself gladly at His disposal, and do whatever He is calling me to, then I can know that I am a true disciple.

Do you see a common theme? It's all about Jesus and staying centered IN HIM.

5:18 PM Today I took a 2-hour nap. Happens to the best of us, I know. It was nice. Must have needed it. Did you know that mental fatigue can actually lead to perceived physical fatigue? It's a fact. I must be doing too much blogging :-)

Seeing as it is Amazon Prime Day, I ordered this online today at a very nice discount:

This little contraption is perfect for piriformis syndrome, or so I am told. Piriformis syndrome is caused by a microtrauma to the buttocks that leads to soft tissue inflammation and nerve compression. The PT tells me that it's usually the result of (1) overuse of the piriformis muscle, (2) long-distance running, or (3) direct compression of the muscle (like when you're riding your bike for 5 or 6 hours straight). I think I've been guilty of all three. Actually, I know I've been guilty of all three. I miss my long runs, but I do love to swim, and the weather has been perfect for looking at a little black line on the bottom of a pool while you do lap after lap after lap. There's always a lesson to be learned when you get injured. I suppose for me the lesson I've learned is that my hips and glutes are pathetically weak and need to be strengthened and stretched. I haven't yet given up hope of running pain-free again. But alas, a Type A runner tends to be a little impatient at times. I love being out in nature and can't wait to hear the soft sounds of the crushed gravel under my feet (or bike tires). When I do get back to regular running and biking again, I'll try not to go 10-15 miles at a time. Meantime, I'm self-medicating on chocolate cookies and éclairs. I wish. It's bananas and nuts for me. I'm also trying to stay off WebMD!

P.S. These arrived just now. I hear the new Mounce is excellent. Kudos to all my fellow textbook writers!

9:36 AM This morning, as I was washing my breakfast dishes (I need a motto above my kitchen sink: "Divine services performed here three times daily"), I witnessed a squirrel merrily eating berries off of one of my blueberry bushes in the back yard. I see this everywhere in God's creation: the animal world -- peaceful, worry-free, finding their food provided by the Lord.

All of them look to You expectantly to give them their food at the proper time. What You give them they gather up. When You take away their breath, they fail. But when You breathe into them, they recover.

This saith the Lord about the animal world. And then He says this about you and about me:

Cast all your cares upon Him, for it matters to Him about you.

I believe God sent that little squirrel into my back yard this morning so that He could feed it. I believe He guides the animal world, just as He guides us. But in a deeper sense, only humans can be aware that they are cared for by a Divine Being. And if I trust Him, He will lead me through the fog of life to the island of His peace.

Becky's death, a long and agonizing process, made me eternally grateful to God for plain, ordinary provisions, like having a vegetable garden or being able to bush-hog the pastures. I would find myself grateful for a pile of dishes to wash or a floor to sweep. These were tiny reminders that life goes on even in the midst of heartache and death. So today, when I do little things like wash the breakfast dishes, I'm reminded that there are many people on earth who have no dishes to wash because they didn't have breakfast this morning or any other meal for that matter. What do dishes mean to them? Daily chores are a blessing that we often take for granted. We forget the tremendous blessing that we have the hands and strength to do these humble tasks.

What makes a work for God great?  When we do it willingly and with a heart set on one thing: pleasing God. Without this motivation, nothing is acceptable to Him. With it, everything is.

8:28 AM This is a fascinating lecture from Basel on language acquisition. It's called "How Do We Learn to Speak?"


Apart from its evolutionary presuppositions, it makes several good points:

  • Language distinguishes humankind from other forms of life.

  • Switzerland has 4 official languages. One of them, German, has numerous dialects depending on where you live.

  • We are always inventing new words. "Menschen sind unglaublich gut darin, Sprache zu schaffen!"

  • Everyone can learn several languages. She asks her listeners, "How many languages do you know?"

This is just my opinion, but if you really want to learn how to read, understand, and translate your Greek New Testament, one of the best things you can do is to acquire a speaking knowledge of a modern foreign language. German would be a good place to start if only because it is so widely used in the theological world. You can also use it should you want to get your doctorate in a German-speaking university. Its grammar, especially its noun system, is very similar to that of Greek. And you already know some basic German vocabulary: Auto, Mutter, Buch, Vater, Angst, Kaput, Festschrift, Zeitgeist, etc. But any language will do. You want to get a feel for how translation works. At least it's helped me!

6:30 AM Every field has its own jargon -- its own specialized vocabulary. Running is no exception. A "streaker" is not what you think it is. Streaking simply means you're on a running "streak." "Chicked" is used when you're a male and are passed by a female runner. To "bonk" means you've run out of energy in the middle of a race. A "DNF" means you didn't finished a race you started. My favorite is LSD, maybe because it's something I'm famous for (Long Slow Distance).

I've not only been chicked during a race but strollered and dogged.

What about biblical studies? Do we use any jargon? Oh my word! Here's a sampling of our in-house lingo:

Weltanschauung. After all, why say "world view" when you can impress people with your German? 

Sitz im Leben. You Gospel students know what this one means. The life of Christ has 3 of these "settings in life": the setting of life of Jesus, the setting in life of the early church, and the setting in life of the author of the Gospel you're reading. (I personally prefer Das Sitz im Leben Jesu, das Sitz im Leben der Urgemeinde, and das Sitz im Leben des Verfassers. But that's only because I'm a pedant.) 

Heilsgeschichte. This literally means "holy history" and refers to the fact that our Gospels are theological biographies. Of course, ask any person on the street in Berlin what this word means, and they'll look at you like you have 10 heads. That's because, unfortunately, they're not an insider like you are.

LTT. Got you on this one, didn't I? For several years now there's been an attempt to replace "Pastoral Epistles" with the acronym LTT -- Letters to Timothy and Titus. After all, neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors. The attempt has met with abject failure. We scholars love our traditions too much to give up on this one.

First Testament. This one hasn't caught on either, but it's an attempt to replace "Old Testament" or "Hebrew Bible."

B.C.E. I grew up using B.C. ("Before Christ"). Shame on me. The po-mo term is "Before Common Era."

Antilegomena. In Greek this means "spoken against." Some of our early church fathers used the term to describe certain NT books whose canonicity was not universally accepted at first (Hebrews, James, Revelation, etc.).

Iconoclasm. Use this term (1) if you believe that images, paintings, and statues in your church lead to idol worship and should be destroyed or (2) if you just want to impress your friends.

Jeremiad. I'm pretty much an expert at this. It means to grip a lot about life's hardships. The connection with the OT prophet Jeremiah should be obvious.

Pentateuch. The first 5 books of the Bible. But you probably knew that already.

Blessed. God-ordained luck. Best pronounced as two syllables: Bless-ed.

Septuagint. This is a word no one knows how to pronounce. I kid you not. It refers to the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT.

Bauer. The standard NT Greek lexicon. Also affectionately known as BDAG.

Eucharist. Why call it the "Lord's Supper" when you can use this fancy term?

Hypostatic Union. Don't ask.

Just. Required in every sentence during prayer, sometimes more than once in a sentence.

Tzitzit. This is my favorite. Some scholars think that Jesus wore the tzitzit -- fringed garments.

Blah blah blah. What you say when you run out of examples in your list of Christian jargon.

So there you have it: Christian-eze 101!

What jargon did I miss?

What's your favorite example?

Monday, July 15

5:20 PM Today could not have been any more perfect -- for anything but running. After an hour workout at the YMCA, I decided to hit my favorite running trail, determined to get in 5 miles. I stopped after 3. I smiled big. Good boy, Dave. You're finally learning how to listen to your body. I was mentally and physically cooked, so much so that I lazed in the cool water of the county pool for the next 2 hours. It helped. My periformis muscle still hurts. Oh well. There are worse things in life than aches and pains. Like not exercising at all. Friend, continue to live life fully -- however you define that. For me, that means stop playing the blame game, especially with God. Accept the good and the bad, the valleys as well as the peaks. Keep taking risks. Most of all, stop seeking joy other than in Jesus. Nothing external can give you the joy that only He can give. Jesus became what God hates most (sin) so that we could become what God loves most (His children). He's the Great Provider of all that we need. I'm celebrating that fact tonight.

8:42 AM Call me crazy, but I don't think Greek is all that hard. That said, it does take lots of work to master the language. If you're just starting to learn Greek this semester, here are some tips:

1) Understand (I mean, really understand) that discipline is the key. It's like running a marathon. (Interestingly, a marathon has 26 miles and my textbook has 26 chapters. Strange coincidence!) You run one mile at a time. "Run the mile you're in" is a mantra many of us use when we're trying to complete a marathon. Really, it's the only way to succeed.

2) Stay away from Google. Sure, there are zillions of bells and whistles you can use/consult/become addicted to as you study Greek. My advice, however, is to stick with your basic grammar book.

3) Reach out. This isn't a race you can necessarily win alone. I offer tutoring to any student who requests it. Sometimes we just need a little boost to get us over the next speed bump. Let the people you trust the most lend you a helping hand. An elder at your church, for example, will (or should!) know Greek or at least enough of the language to guide you through the deep waters.

4) Keep your eye on the prize. Say to yourself, "In 9 months I'll be reading 1 John in Greek," and believe it. Goal setting is a very powerful thing.

5) Don't obsess. There's more to life than Greek. Much more. Don't spend all your time studying your textbook. Get out and distract yourself. And please, don't be so doomsday about everything. If you do poorly on one quiz, promise yourself you'll do better the next time. (In my classes we drop the two lowest quizzes each semester. Everyone is going to blow it at least once.)

6) Finally, persist. Be glad you're able to take Greek. One day you'll thank me!

8:25 AM Want to win a copy of They Will Run and Not Grow Weary? Just send me an email telling me briefly what running has meant in your life. If I get several emails, I'll pick the winner tomorrow randomly. Be sure to include your snail mail address.


7:55 AM In one month our new semester will begin. I've got 3 classes this fall: NT 2, Greek 1, and Advanced Greek Grammar. I could say a lot about all three. I recall how God used my classes in seminary to form me. The Bible became milk and then strong meat. It became a lamp to guide me through dark places and honey to my lips. I could say much more about the Bible and the benefits of reading it. But it is by serving the Lord that we develop our Christian muscles. The important thing is to show our love for the Lord not only with our lips but in our lives by giving ourselves to others in acts of service in His name.

A sort of odd thing that I do in my NT 2 class is to require what I call "Towel and Basin Ministries." The syllabus states it this way:

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? While I recognize that your love for others cannot be measured, I ask that you abide by the following instructions to complete this component of the class:

(1) Choose a ministry or ministries to participate in. Ministries chosen for class must be approved by the professor, and you must choose a ministry that is new to you (one that you have not participated in before) and is regular and sacrificial.

(2) Turn in a report of your ministry at the beginning of class on December 4th, in person. Please specify such things as how many times you participated in this ministry, with whom you participated in this ministry, what benefits accrued to others through this ministry, and any reflections you have regarding how God was working in your heart through this ministry.

(3) Give a 5-minute report to the class on December 4th about how the Lord used you and your ministries this semester.

All Christians are called by God to serve others in this way. Without service there is no possibility of being conformed into the image of His Son. Service is one of the great means by which Jesus invites us to honor Him. It is also the means by which He pours Himself into our lives. Of course, we'll also study a billion other things about the New Testament. We'll review the authorship and date, the structure and contents, of each New Testament epistle. But the important thing is to show our gratitude to the Lord by serving Him. In due course everything I've taught my students in NT 2 will pass away. But the principle of service will not. Close friendships often develop as the Scriptures are studied and applied in this way. I'm always fascinated to see what kinds of ministries my students come up with. They become, in short, "the church in the world." Such living out of the Gospel can be a great learning tool, and I trust and pray that such will be the case in the upcoming semester. 

Sunday, July 14

5:50 PM I'm back from up north. First off, I want to thank the National Park Service. I left Antietam and Gettysburg impressed again with the work they do to preserve and make accessible the many battlefields I've visited in the course of my life. The cloudless July sky promised me days of relentless sun, but better clear and hot than rainy and cold. Fields of soy beans and corn greeted me wherever I went. Harley-Davidsons mingled with Japanese tourists by the hundreds. But nothing can detract from just "being there." I can almost imagine what it must have looked like in 1862 and 1863 when these battles took place. For obvious reasons, the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg caught my attention like no other venue.

Today it is a battlefield museum, dedicated to telling the story of what medicine was like in the 1860s. Second on my list would be the movie shown in the Gettysburg Visitors' Center, narrated by Morgan Freeman. It's a reminder that there are so many reasons to explore these battlefields, and so many ways to do it, including on horseback. On my drive home I went to church in Gordonsville, VA -- another historic town. History buffs like me are very good at providing people with Too Much Information (TMI), so I'll forego posting any more of the dozens or so photos I took. Except this one, of course, for obvious reasons (see my post from Thursday).

Well, that will have to do for now. I am in love with history, always have been, always will be. One of my favorite sayings is, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts" (Mark Twain).

Where's the best place you've ever traveled to?

Where would you go if you could?

Friday, July 12    

6:20 AM Well, Wanderlust has gotten the better of me again, but before heading out let's have some fun. The Car Talk website has a really cool list of texting abbreviations used by seasoned citizens. A sampling:

  • FWIW: Forgot Where I Was

  • BTW: Bring The Wheel-Chair

  • LOL: Living On Lipitor

  • IMHO: Is My Hearing-Aid On?

  • BYOT: Bring Your Own Teeth

  • FYI: For Your Indigestion

Which got me to thinking. Maybe we Greek teachers need our own terms. Here are just a few I came up with this morning:

  • LR: Linguists Rock

  • TOD: Throw Out Deponency!

  • PSOC: Perfect: Stative Or Combinative?

  • AAA: Aspect Ain't Aktionsart

  • AAP: Aorists Ain't Punctiliar

  • AHSK: Anyone Here Speak Koine?

  • TABITW: The Amplified Bible Is Too Wordy [Circumlocutory, Repetitious, Verbose] (it has too many words)

  • TGINCG: Thank God It's Not Classical Greek

  • WWATHD: What Would A.T. Have Done?

Okay, enough, right? So it's back on the road for me. To me, living means (among other things) expanding your mind and perspective by traveling. On any trip there are a million things that grab your attention. I've been to Sharpsburg and Gettysburg a gazillion times but there are still a gazillion things I haven't seen or done. I try to travel with an openness to people and experiences. That's one reason I like to stay at Airbnbs. It's amazing how we human beings are alike even though we live in different states or have different backgrounds. As you leave home, you leave the usual and enter the world of the new. It's subtle, but you know when you've left your normal life behind. Suffice it to say, we all need to get away from time to time. I've never visited Thailand but I'd like to. I've never eaten a fried bug but I'd find that interesting. I still want to climb to the top of Mount Elbert (the highest 14er in the Rockies). Etc., etc., etc. This weekend is all about the 1860s. My goal is to not overdo things, meet nice people, soak up all the history, and return home refreshed. I plan on spending a lot of time with the Lord. In the moments when I think I am most alone I don't feel lonely. I'm a fervent believer in the promise of the Great Commission: Jesus is with me daily, helping me to be and do everything God created me to be and do. "A student who is fully trained will become just like their teacher" (Luke 6:40). As we immerse ourselves in the life of Rabbi Jesus, we are taking an intentional step toward being transformed. Amen.

Thanks for following along with me on this journey. Next month: Hawaii, if the good Lord wills!!!

Thursday, July 11    

5:10 PM I've booked my Airbnb rooms for the trip, one in Keedysville on the outskirts of Sharpsburg, MD and the other in a small town called Zora, PA about 20 minutes south of the Gettysburg battlefield -- Zora having a single restaurant but one that boasts "fall off the bone ribs." Hooker moved his I Corps through the little town of Keedysville on the morning of Sept. 15, 1862 and thence to the banks of Antietam Creek. Fighting would soon take place on a farm owned by John Miller. Today we know it as the Cornfield, a site that (tragically) earned the right of capitalization. I haven't done a great deal with my family tree, but I have been able to trace my ancestry on my father's side to a "J. Miller family who settled along the banks of the Antietam in western Maryland." The Miller family had emigrated from Germany and, no doubt, were German Pacifists. They may have even attended the nearby Dunker Church. Becky and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at the Piper Farm in Sharpsburg near the famous Sunken Road. My room in Zora is near Taneytown, MD, and from there I hope to be able to locate Meade's HQ on the night before the battle of Gettysburg. I'm told it's located just north of the town on Route 94. It was here that Meade received the report of John Reynolds' death and decided to push the army north to Gettysburg rather than fight it out on the Pipe Creek line. If all goes according to plan, I hope to do most of my sightseeing on bike.

11:55 AM Just took my Sheltie for a walk on the farm. Nobody enjoyed it (*sarcasm*). After all, the sky is blue, the grass is green, the temp is perfect, and there's a cool breeze blowing. Sorry, folks, but somebody has to enjoy farm life, and it might just as well be me.

11:28 AM Packing for a trip to the Antietam and Gettysburg Battlefield Parks. This time I hope to bike them. I am a huuuuge history buff. So I'm taking these along for the ride.

George Meade was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Union Army and deserves far more credit for the Federal victory at G-Burg than he's been given. Antietam was the war's single bloodiest battle. And Guelzo's book on Gettysburg has never been surpassed.

Looks like nice weather. I plan to use country roads there and back. So much history to enjoy and learn from!

7:30 AM Greek 1 is about to start again -- which means it's time to leap over those grammatical hurdles again! One of the tallest is called grammatical gender. Who needs it??!! Well, you do if you're going to read Greek. But you have to distinguish between natural gender and grammatical gender. Natural gender is, well, simply the gender of a person or object. Grammatical gender doesn't necessarily match with the natural gender of the person or object being described. English, I'm told, was once a gendered language, but all that disappeared in Middle English. Trying to learn a gendered language like Koine Greek can be tricky. The key is to memorize the article the with the noun. Of course, some endings are normally one gender or the other (in Spanish, nouns ending in -a are usually feminine in gender). But it's best not to guess. Most of the time you'll find gender not very intuitive, unfortunately. Classic example: The word for "manliness" is actually feminine in German, Latin, and Spanish. Some linguists believe that scrapping gendered articles is the wave of the future. When I was studying in German-speaking Basel, we students were usually addressed by the masculine Sehr geehrte Studenten. Then I noticed some profs using Sehr geehrte Studenten (masculine) und Studentinnin (feminine). Today I'm told the trend is to use the more-neutral sounding Studierende ("those who study"). I sometimes "cheated" when speaking German by using de instead of der, die, das. Few cared. After all, de is widely used in Low German.

If you've ever struggled with grammatical gender in German, you might find this video helpful. But don't be too hard on yourself. Even Germans get gender wrong occasionally!


6:36 AM I think I'll order this for my car.

Studies show that people who walk from their sofa to their refrigerator are 80 percent more likely to begin exercising than those who don't. (I just made that up. But it sounds good.)

Wednesday, July 10    

8:04 PM I promise you: I will never take good health for granted again. I actually just had a long talk with a good "friend" of mine (me).

  • Enough with the excuses already.

  • You had a GREAT half marathon just over a week ago.

  • So take self-pity off your to-do list.

  • Remember, there are many people who can't run.

  • Goodness, there are people who can't even walk (babies).

  • It is BLAZINGLY obvious that you are in good health other than some minor aches and pains.

  • So get out there and DO IT.

  • You always feel better after you run, even at your sloth-like pace.

  • Listen, you whiner. You GET to do this.

  • Be grateful there's nothing über-wrong with you.

  • Matter of fact, half the people you know have minor aches and pains.

  • So lace up and go!

Well, I guess I sure told HIM!

You know I like to take risks. I was, however, thrown off a bit by my recent bout with prostatitis, as well as that silly old periformis muscle that's pressing down on my sciatic nerve in my right glute. The PT told me to get my glutes stronger, and I'm working on that. I realize I'm the type of person to take myself way too seriously at times. But I want you to know that I'm absolutely and fully committed to being a healthy and long-lasting runner. If this means less marathons per year (say 1 or 2 instead of 5), so be it. If this means I need to cut way back on my racing goals, I'm good. I just have to be willing to back off when I feel I need to. Most of my current problems are caused simply by having too many birthdays. But the best thing you can do as you age is keep moving. For me, I think the key is going to change my running form. The important thing is to become smarter the older I get. Right now I'm making it a goal to plan how many workouts of each type I want to get in during the week and then I do whatever feels good that day. Or something like that. 

Okay. I'll stop. Even I'm falling asleep.

7:04 PM Travel note: Lord willing, I'll be speaking at Liberty University on Friday, Sept. 20. I'll be in Ben Laird's Greek class at noon and then Jill Ross's Greek class at 3:15. Finally, I'm slated to give a lecture in Science Hall from 6:30-8:00 pm, sponsored by the university's linguistics club. My topic is, "Why Bible Students Should Be the Best Linguists Out There." All fools and philosophers are welcome!

6:45 PM "After you've gone where I've sent you, do everything you can to participate in the work of training the people from every nation to follow me in obedience and love, immersing them in the name of the Triune God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And don't ever forget that I am with you each and every day, until the very end of the age." The people of God have a unique and beautiful ministry in this world. "To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God's love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love" (David Bosch). Then send us, Lord. Send every son and daughter of Yours. Cause us to join You in this great and glorious mission. As You sent the Son, we are now the Sent.

It's a lovely thing to watch men and women working together for something bigger than themselves, regardless of their location or their vocation.

Tuesday, July 9    

9:22 AM Guess what you can get on sale at B & H Academic!

Chuck Quarles is one of the finest exegetes you will ever read.

8:42 AM Church websites seem to always have a button you can press for "Giving." When I clicked on this one this morning I had a delightful surprise. Rather than talking about financial offerings, it emphasized that every member of the church has a spiritual "gift" to give to the body. Friends, there is a specific way God chooses to use every believer. He knows just what He wants to accomplish through the gift He's given you. Quite frankly, that should scare a lot of us. Paul explains it like this: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7). Do I know what that ministry is? Am I doing it?

There's been a lot of online discussion lately about whether or not you should get a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. So few jobs. So few opportunities. Such a major commitment of time and money. Are you sure you want to do this?

Big shock: If God calls you do to something, He will take care of the place of service. I wouldn't accept doctoral students unless I believed that. If you're not sure, ask yourself: What does it seem that God has predisposed me toward? Do I love to teach? Do I really and truly enjoy research and writing? As in: Nerd Alert. Then, as God begins to move you in a certain direction, obey. Go with it. It's God's responsibility to gift you. It's yours to show yourself obedient. God has spoken clearly on this matter (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Since the Spirit has gifted you, the Lord will appoint you to a place where you can exercise that gift, and the Father will determine the results of your service. Certainly you're taking a big risk. But all of life is like that. Christianity is an adventure. If it wasn't, we wouldn't need faith.

Believer, God has equipped you to love, to serve, to minister to others. Spend time with the Spirit today. Ask Him to point you in the right direction. If you're already using His gift to serve others, thank Him for it. There is hardly anything more rewarding in this world.

Monday, July 8    

8:34 PM In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Andrew Wilson offers an analogy to help us think biblically about what is involved in the "filling of the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). He suggests it's misguided for us to think of being "filled" in terms of a liquid like water filling a glass. Such an analogy raises all kinds of questions: "Can the Spirit be spilled?" "Are Christians capable of leaking?" Instead, he says we are to think of being filled with air or wind -- like a bagpipe or a trumpet. A good analogy is that of a sailboat, he writes. A sailboat "requires a power beyond itself (the wind) to go anywhere."

A glass of water only needs filling once; a sailboat won't be useful without constant filling.

Sailors know that they must rely completely on an external force to get them anywhere. And so it is in the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is needed if God is to move us from where we are to where we ought to be. The same metaphor is found in Heb. 6:1. What is normally rendered as "Let us press on to maturity" is rendered "Let us continue to be carried along to maturity" in the ISV because the latter is what the Greek seems to be saying. The language is one of metaphor. We might paraphrase the verse as follows: "Let us raise our sails as it were and be moved along to maturity in the Christian life by the Holy Spirit of God." The same Greek verb (phero) is also found in the passive voice in 2 Pet. 1:21: "holy men of God spoke as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit." (See my discussion here.)

I needed this reminder today. There are moments in my life when I feel I am being led and guided by the Holy Spirit, but there are also a lot of times when I try to move the boat along in my own strength. There are moments of grace and beauty, but there are also moments of self-reliance and do-it-yourself living. I've sailed enough to know that a sailboat can't go anywhere without someone raising the sails. I like the idea of the Holy Spirit moving me along to maturity. I wish my life was like that all the time. Needless to say, it can be. Thank God for His Spirit. Thank God we aren't reliant on our own strength to make progress in holiness. The analogy of Eph. 5:18 stuns me, and reminds me once again that just when I think I'm making headway under my own power, I'm not. If I'm making any progress in this thing we call the Christian life, it's because I'm living the miraculous, bright, beautiful stuff of the Spirit/Wind/Breath of God.

8:15 AM "For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."

Is this really talking about me? About damaged goods?

Being a kid in Hawaii, I just knew I wanted to be a musician when I grew up. I was certain that the only talent I had was playing the trumpet. I began to study music assiduously at the University of Hawaii after graduating from high school. Then I ended up at Biola. I had lost all vision of becoming a trumpet player. All I wanted to do was study the Bible. And Biola was the closest Christian university to my home in Kailua. I dragged my feet when it came to taking the two years of required Greek. Eventually I passed those courses and was hired to teach Classical and Koine Greek at Biola. I wondered out loud, Was I to become a professor? If so, I needed to find a good doctoral program. When I began working on my D. Theol. in Basel I could finally begin to see my future unfolding. I assumed I would be teaching at Biola for my entire career. But in 1998 God had other plans. Still today, it shocks me to recall the goodness of God in allowing us to move to North Carolina. My day to day work fits me just about perfectly. There seems to be the perfect balance between classroom teaching, academic writing, and personal mentoring. Steve Jobs once said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking backwards." Today I'm able to look back and see how God was working every detail in my life into something good. What I once considered devastating detours I now see as necessary steps God was taking to get me to where I need to be. What I had to learn is that what I saw as tragedies God sees as future triumphs. Even when cancer and death came knocking on our door, Becky and I opened it and said, "You, Jesus, are the resurrection and the life. Even though we die, we will live" (John 11:25).

I imagine that some of you reading my blog this morning are going through some gut-wrenching circumstance, wondering if you're tough enough to go on. I never, ever want to go through a journey as tough as our cancer journey again, but as we travelled through that dark valley, as we pressed into Jesus, our priorities began to change and our passion and love for people intensified. Now that Becky is gone, I have more time than ever to learn to pray and be with God. And the more time I spend with Papa, the more He renovates my life. It was in the pit that God prepared Joseph to take his place as a leader. Believer, you might right now be in that pit. Remember that God is using your messy circumstances to transform you into a masterpiece of His grace. If we're honest and tender with ourselves, our lives are a testimony to God's ability to turn our defeats into victories.

I went for a long walk recently. I needed to pour out before God my daddy hurts, the father wounds I've experienced all my life. By an act of faith, I started rehearsing in my mind the Gospel -- that Jesus loves me just the way I am, cares for me, was wounded for me, experienced the cross on my behalf, and now lives in my heart to live His life through me. I realized that wallowing in self-pity only makes things worse by magnifying the pain instead of magnifying what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Listen to what Paul writes in Eph. 1:5-6: "God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is exactly what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. And so we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son." God the Papa has adopted me, which means that everything Jesus has I now have because I belong to Jesus, the Father's Beloved Son.

Every once in a while, the bottom drops out in our lives. That's just the way life is. No one is exempt. Let me encourage you. No one else may see the behind-the-scenes work Jesus is doing through you, but your Father sees. He's cheering you on. The past doesn't have to define you. Papa is inviting you into a life of continual transformation. Because you are His child, you are nothing less than His masterpiece.

Final reminder: Take time today to be with people who make your heart smile. We never know what's around the corner, so live in the present. Soak it up. Enjoy every good gift Papa is giving you today.

Sunday, July 7    

1:54 PM In 1978, Becky and I spent 3 months in West Germany with Greater Europe Mission. We were based at the Bibelschule Bergstrasse in Seeheim. I'll never forget arriving at the gates of the Bible school and seeing the institution's motto. In German, just above the iron gates, were these words from Col. 2:3:

In ihm sind alle Schätze der Weisheit und der Erkenntnis verborgen.

(In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.)

I was reminded of that today while listening to an excellent message on Colossians.

Look at the verse again, believer. I hope you understand just how many opportunities Jesus has given you to hear from Him directly in His word. We never lack God's authentic voice. While He does use other modes of communication (such as blogs and books and sermons), nothing can ever replace the written word of God. In it God has made it nearly impossible not to see and hear Jesus. This side of heaven, nothing is sweeter than sipping from the Living Water that Jesus promises to anyone who is thirsty. He alone is the treasury of wisdom and knowledge. Yes, listen to your teachers and counselors. But ask the Spirit Himself to show you fresh truth directly out of God's word. God met me this morning in a church building through His spokesman. Amen for that. But the other 6 days of the week the word itself is His megaphone. (Even on Sunday that's true.)

Incidentally, one of the songs we sang today was "In Christ Alone."

I can't tell you how many times Becky and I stood, side by side, arm in arm, singing the words "Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I'll stand," knowing full well that Becky's days on earth were numbered. Believer, sometimes the blessings of life can only come through loss. Of course, you never choose the loss, but you wouldn't miss the comfort of God that only comes when we're in the dark. The breaking, the sorrow, is painful, but without it we'd never stand up straight and strong. Simply put, the Spirit ministers peace when we most need it, not a moment sooner. I think God knew how hard it would be for me to live without Becky, but He also knew the sweet communion we'd experience as a result of that loss.

Yesterday and today I've been on a personal retreat, studying what the Bible has to say about taming the tongue, focusing mostly on the book of James. Recently someone very close to me rebuked me for something I had said. Matthew Henry once noted, "See what a mercy it is to be under the restraints of an awakened conscience. Faithful are the wounds, and kind are the bonds, of that friend, for by them the soul is kept from perishing eternally." Believers, imagine life without friends like that. Humility is looking to God in heaven through tears and thanking Him for the liberty that's coming. I'd rather hear the Spirit's convicting voice than not to hear His voice at all. He speaks, and you know what to do. I'm such a talker. Literally. But I need to do more listening. The misuse of the tongue is a sin we can't ignore. Do you and I worship God with our lips? Ask Him to reveal any ways you might have distorted the truth. Pray for His incense to burn in your heart and on your tongue. With His help, I'll do the same.

8:45 AM I watched a wonderful movie last night on Amazon Prime. It wasn't a Christian film. In fact, it was secular, as secular as can be. Yet it oozed excellence. It's tempting sometimes to read the Bible as though it is against the arts. I doubt that this is the case. I am an artist. I am a musician. So are many of you. A work of art can be a doxology in itself. God is interested in beauty, is He not? Come with me to the beaches of Hawaii, or to the Alps above Zermatt, or to Lake Tana in Ethiopia, or to my farm. God made creation to be beautiful. What makes art "Christian" is not necessarily the fact that it deals with Christian truth. The works of art in the Louvre should be to the praise of Christ. Art is something to be enjoyed per se, like the movie I enjoyed last night. Its cinematography, its musical score, its acting -- all portrayed the kind of excellence that can only reflect the hand of a Creator God. Anything creative has value because God is the Creator. When I drew these pictures I didn't do so in order to make a theological point.

I just happen to enjoy drawing faces.

If an artist's technical excellence is high, he or she is to be acknowledged for this even though they might not even have a Christian worldview.

Even better is when we bring our art under the judgment of Christ. Have I done this to glorify God? Is it the best work I am capable of? And yes, is there a message, no matter how subtle, that my art is conveying? If so, am I conveying that truth accurately? My point is that Christian art is not always art that deals openly with Christian truth. I enjoy the sound of the wind rustling in the trees not because wind is a religious object but because of its intrinsic sonorous beauty. Yet doesn't the wind, and the sky, and the entire earth raise our eyes toward heaven, toward the One who created all this?

The Christian life is to be a thing of truth but also a thing of beauty. My goal, in the years I have left on this earth, is to allow God to use my broken life to be a thing of beauty, a work of art that He can use for His purposes.

Saturday, July 6    

10:08 PM The most superb of Dupré's works. I am dissolving into tears as I listen to this lovely melody.

I was born in the wrong era and in the wrong place. Organ music definitely brings me to my knees. Thank you, Lord, from the bottom of my heart.

9:24 PM Francis Schaeffer: "If I have a conversation with a theological liberal, I hope he'll take from it two equally strong impressions. One, I really disagree with him. Two, I really care about him."

That is really good.

12:44 PM From my daughter's garden. Thank you!


8:48 AM Look for this!

8:42 AM Here's mom sharing her daughter's book with our Ethiopian server in Dallas. Lovely.

8:40 AM Why you should consider having communion every week.

8:34 AM Every good gift is from above! When the aspirin works, the Lord is the one who made it work. When the surgery is successful, the Lord is the one who saw to it. All healing is ultimately spiritual healing. When I approached my doctor last week with my symptoms, she put me on an antibiotic, but I did not approach her without also approaching God. I should never cease to give thanks to the one who gives me all things!

Friday, July 5    

6:10 PM Had a wonderful time in Dallas with mom and dad. Also happy to tell you that my 10K yesterday went extremely well. It was worth all the sweat. Do not be deceived. Dallas is HOT in July.

I leave you with four words from my Bible study this morning from James 5.

Suffering? Pray!

Cheerful? Praise!

SHA-ZAH-YUM! Man, I needed those words. Why is it that when I suffer I seem to do anything but pray? And why is it when I'm enjoying ease I seem to do anything but give God the glory? Prayer and praise are always appropriate. To pray is to acknowledge God's sovereignty over my suffering. To praise is to acknowledge that He is the ultimate source of my gladness. Either way, my whole life is to be lived in His presence, whether sorrowful or joyful. Jesus is teaching me not to fixate on tomorrow's fears or today's joys but on His grace and presence. He's the only one worthy of my entire life's surrender. Believe that today, my friend. The same door flung wide open for your petitions is flung wide open for your praises -- petitions in times of difficulty, praises in times of well-being. Practice it!

Tuesday, July 2    

6:10 AM Happy Fourth of July week, everybody. Thank you to all who have faithfully and lovingly run alongside me in this journey and encouraged me to keep lifting my hands in praise to God. Thank you for helping me to see and know Jesus through your words, hearts, and hope-filled lives. You fuel me to keep writing. May God remain the fire in your soul and the wind in your sails!

Monday, July 1    

5:48 PM My discussion with Abidan Shah on the importance of textual criticism has now been posted. For more Carpe Mañana podcasts, go here.

4:54 PM I leave tomorrow to spend several days with mom and dad in Texas. How do I define a relationship?

Relationship = Time + Words

If we're not spending time with our loved ones, and if we're not regularly communicating with them, we may call it a relationship but it's anything but a relationship. Take the time to seek and pray about your relationships. Ask God to deepen them if they've become distant and stale. What I've learned over the years is that when it comes to practically anything in life, quality counts as much as quantity does. You don't need tons of relationships but you do need a few quality ones. And remember: with each other, we can be ourselves -- the good, the silly, the ugly, everything.

8:28 AM Here are two recent reviews of Dirk Jongkind's new intro to the Tyndale House Greek New Testament. I think you might need to read both of them to get a balanced perspective. One is by William Varner. The other is by James Snapp.

Varner's review is largely complimentary. Snapp's is somewhat the opposite. Varner's is brief. Snapp's is a bit more detailed (and nuanced). Having written not a few book reviews in my lifetime, I can say that trying to evaluate the work of a fellow scholar is a thankless task. So I want to start by saying thanks to both Will and James for their essays. I am no specialist in New Testament textual criticism, and I have no expertise whatsoever in the method behind the THGNT. Textual criticism is a field into which I have trespassed, though I am not the only one to have done so, of course. The topic has attracted an extensive literature, and I've only been able to read some of it. In some circles, the topic is even explosive. Yet I have persevered in publishing in the field, mainly because I'm interested in producing (I hope) a perhaps more balanced approach between Alexandrian Priorists on the one hand and Byzantine Priorists on the other. I've even offered to the reading public a brief primer on the topic -- a rather rough-hewn work of an ordinary New Testament teacher who is struggling to think Christianly and logically about the text of the New Testament. Like perhaps some of you, I feel myself caught in the painful tension between the two camps.

What, then, is my opinion of Dirk's book? Well, I wrote a positive endorsement of it, so that should tell you something. The THGNT fairly cried out for an explanation of its existence, and Dirk's book meets this need nicely. The book is a combination of practical suggestions and thoughtful meditations on issues such as evaluating variants and reading an apparatus. However, at the end of the day, I'm with Snapp: the THGNT leaves far too many questions to be very helpful as a basic guide to textual criticism. And, unlike Varner, I do not recommend that my students purchase it since they don't have the luxury of buying more than one edition of the Greek New Testament. (The textual apparatus in the THGNT is completely inadequate, in my opinion, for anyone intent on doing serious work in the text, as Snapp has noted. I much prefer UBS or NA.) The one good thing I hope ensues from the debate over the THGNT is a renewed distinction between textual criticism as a science and one's own reflections on the topic. Whereas the latter may have changed, the former has not. Thankfully, there are now many authoritative books and essays on this subject, many of them by evangelicals. One even hears more and more appreciative words spoken about this or that Byzantine reading. However, those who perceive a shift in the scholarly guild's stance on the Byzantine text would be wrong. With very few exceptions, we still live a world dominated by Alexandrian Priority.

Again, I would like to thank both essayists for their reviews. Each took time from I'm sure a very busy schedule to put their thoughts down in writing. I am also extremely grateful to Dirk Jongkind for the immense time and energy he invested in making his book available to the public. I do hope that it will stimulate a new generation of Christian students to think seriously about some of the big exegetical issues of our day. 

6:56 AM My Bible reading this morning was in Galatians 6. Paul talks about his "scars." A scar is a reminder of the body's ability to heal itself. Scars are a testament to survival. Your scars each tell a story. Wear them with pride. It's hard to think of scars as a blessing. Paul says we are clay pots. We are called to display the glory of Another. We each hold a priceless treasure. Who is watching you today? Do they see Jesus in all the chips and cracks? Do they see the inside of the box? The more holes we have, the more the light can shine through. Believe that today. In this scar-filled world, you are loved by an amazing God. He will take of all those who call upon His name. Today, as I continue to struggle with my scars, I know that God hears my cries for help and will sustain me. He gives me grace to endure and hope to persevere. In the meantime, I will serve Him as best as I can and always give Him the glory. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but there is nothing better than starting your day by focusing on what you have and not on what you lack. 

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