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November 2019 Blog Archives

Saturday, November 30

5:24 PM This afternoon, after a workout at the Y, I did what I often do. I watched YouTube videos in the languages I've learned and want to maintain. Foreign language retention is what it's all about, folks, and that largely comes down to a mixture of listening to Spanish, say, on a regular basis and then reviewing the language structure and vocabulary. And, of course, doing these things on a regular basis. Be sure to choose YouTube channels you are truly interested in because it's easy to get bored and lose focus if you don't. I know that some of you are eager to learn how to speak Koine Greek. I absolutely admire that goal, but learning to speak it in a realistic setting (and with a native speaker) is the problem. As I said, I'm giving Spanish a go now but it's so much harder even though I try to speak the language whenever I can. Grammar is one thing, speaking is another. I listen to the Bible in Spanish. I talk to my server in Spanish. That looks funny to others but I think it can help. Often I'm just too afraid to speak Spanish in public because I'm not very good at it. "Jeder Anfang ist schwer," as the Germans would say. Being able to comprehend when all you have done is listened and studied is totally different than speaking if you don't have someone to talk to. German especially is a technical language. Following the grammatical rules is difficult in a free-flowing dialogue. My German is still not perfect, and I'm probably too critical of myself, but at some point you simply have to let go of your insecurities and start speaking the language or you never will.

Think of your own friends who are learning English as a second language. Do their mistakes get in the way of your talking with them? Do you think less of them for mixing up pronouns? Neither will your German-speaking friends shun you when you get an article wrong. (Yes, there are 24 words for "the" in German.) What I'd really like to do is live in Spain for 3 months and practice chatting with people. Of course, the problem sometimes is that your Spanish-speaking friend will switch to English when speaking with you because they want to practice themselves!

I know I'm rambling, but my point is that anyone can learn to speak a foreign language. It's just a matter of repeated effort and refusing to speak English when you could speak, say, French. As Tim Ferriss (the 4-hour chef) says, "Good follow-through doesn't depend on the right intentions. It depends on the right incentives."

8:36 AM Finished: The schedule for my J Term Greek 1 class. Only 12 days to cover what we normally cover in 14! I certainly remember taking Greek for the first time years ago, and frankly I have not forgotten the anxiety you get before class starts. Learning a foreign language is no joke for those of us who lack language aptitude. At the end of the day, language learning is a task that is beyond our human ability and requires leaning into God each and every step of the way. J Term students, eager to meet you as we begin this marathon of learning Greek together!

Friday, November 29

6:35 PM "Writing" is our word of the day, ladies and gentlemen. I spent most of the day gettin' 'er done, roughing out another chapter in my book on kingdom living (Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk). Eager to finish the book -- maybe in 2020??? Today's topic: Leadership in the new society of Jesus.

I call this, not servant leadership, but service leadership. Subtle difference, I know, but we're not talking about being a servant (title) but actually serving others. The insignia of Christian leaders are not thrones, robes, or titles, but aprons and basins. Yes, we should respect our leaders. Yes, we should value them very, very highly for their work's sake. But the distinctive mark of a Christian leader is not authority but humility.

Here's hoping that everything I publish in 2020 (whether a book or a blog post) fulfills the threefold goal of 1 Cor. 14:3: edification, encouragement, and comfort.

My key verse as a writer, for certain. As I look back over my writing in 2019 I simply rest in that peaceful presence of knowing that I fought the good fight. I'm excited to see what lessons the Lord has in store for me in 2020 and sharing those with you here on the blog.

Meanwhile, live in the moment, my friend, live in the moment.

8:34 AM Preparation, a key ingredient for all of us teachers to consider as we wind down the fall semester. Only two weeks left but the last week is for finals so, really, there's only one week left of teaching. It's time to press the envelope for sure. In my NT 2 class, each student will give a "towel and basin ministry" report to the rest of the class. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in a course on "New Testament Introduction" students have to perform the "attractive works" Paul talks about in his letters to Timothy and Titus. If I have time, I'll close with a devotional on Gal. 5:13-15, which I studied this morning in my Bible time here at Bradford Hall.

The paragraph speaks so relevantly into our contemporary church scene.

Here Paul speaks of (1) our duty to ourselves, (2) our duty to our neighbor, and (3) our duty to God. Christian freedom is freedom not to indulge our sinful human nature but to control it. It is freedom not to exploit our neighbors but to serve them. And it is freedom not to disregard God's eternal law but to fulfill it. This is the meaning of liberty and this is the meaning of love. If we love God we will serve our neighbors. It's as simple as that. And who is my neighbor? Hendriksen says it is "anyone whom we can assist in any way, even though he hates us and is in that sense our 'enemy' (Matt. 5:43-48)." Everyone who has been set free by Christ exercises their liberty in these three ways: in self-control, in loving service to their neighbor, and in glad obedience to the law of God.

  • Our incentive is gratitude for what God has done for us.

  • Our strength is furnished by the Spirit of God who dwells within us.

  • And our example is none other than the One who "rose from the supper, laid aside His garments, and having taken a towel, tied it around His waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel" (John 13:4-5).

Surely this is far better than "biting and devouring one another." Writes Calvin, "How distressing, how mad it is that we, who are members of the same body, should be leagued together, of our own accord, for mutual destruction." Such "conduct is more fitting for wild animals than to brothers in Christ" (Stott).

Stay tuned for a report next week of the "towel and basin ministries" my students performed for a grade, yes, but also because this is the freedom to which Christ has called them.

P.S. My view every evening. Enjoying it tremendously.

Thursday, November 28

7:22 PM "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to the one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help" (Eccl. 4:9-10). I always seem to get a little sentimental on holidays. Thanksgiving is no exception. And why shouldn't I be sentimental? For 36 years I celebrated this holiday with Becky by my side. We supported each other and "lifted each other up" in many ways over the years. It felt comforting to have a partner who was there to lift me up when I was down. It's all well and good to rejoice in the wife of your youth, but somehow it seems a little weird to me that I should feel so un-lonely today. Except it's not weird. It's the rightest thing in the world. God made me. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I need and when I need it. Most importantly, He knows, so much better than I do, what I can handle. I'm not trying to sound super-spiritual here, but one of the most ordinary lessons I've learned since Becky died 6 years ago this month is that aloneness and loneliness are not the same thing. Yes, my aloneness is sometimes accompanied by pain -- and then it's loneliness. But more often than not, like today, my aloneness is simply an experience of solitude. Overall, solitude can be a healthy thing. It's often a necessary counterbalance to our busy and hectic social world. Since I am an introvert (you wouldn't have known that, huh) I've always valued my alone time, even when I was married. Today, solitude allows me time for self-reflection, for peace and quiet, and for pursuing personal interests like travel and exercise. I don't know about you, but I tend to sense my solitude in an especially poignant way when I'm experiencing the grandeur of creation -- a hike through a National Park or a climb to the top of a Swiss Alp or a roaring wave crashing down upon me in Hawai'i. Nature can be terrifying or comforting. It all depends on our relationship with the Creator. Without His presence in the midst of His creation, hiking or climbing or surfing become merely another refuge for our loneliness.

Overall, I've found solitude to be a valuable thing. Loneliness can't be "cured." But we can coexist with loneliness by harnessing its creative force and finding value in our solitude. It's been a good 6 years. Hard. But good. And now a new year stretches out in front of me like a rainbow. I will go to sleep with tears of gratitude in my eyes tonight, overwhelmed by a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings I so often take for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


5:58 PM My organist son sent me this link.

Passion, my friends, life is all about passion. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." As one commenter put it, the organist isn't playing with music. He's playing with his heart. "Wherever you are, be all there all, and live to the hilt whatever you know is God's will for your life" (Jim Elliott). Rarely is passion something we stumble upon. It has to be discovered and cultivated. Passion is a wonderful gift, as long we handle it well. When an idea interests you, give yourself the freedom to pursue it. Don't be constrained by your past story. Overcome the resistance that says "I couldn't possibly do this." Remember, nearly all great musicians began as people merely following their passions. Never let perfection become the enemy of the good. We musicians can become perfectionists if we are not very careful. Make passion a bigger part of your life, incrementally.

Thanks be to God, this Thanksgiving Day, for the gift of passion.

1:32 PM The 2019 Inside-Out Sports Turkey Trot is now in the books. It's an incredible race as long as you don't mind some elevation gain and loss. The course is certainly difficult, so I felt pretty good about sustaining just under an 11-minute mile pace for the entire course. Overall I'm very pleased with my effort today among some real competition. I came in 602nd out of 958 runners and 7th of 14 in my age group (65-69). I feel like I'm starting to get the feel of the 8K distance really well. My legs still struggle a little bit on the hills, but the only way to improve your ability to run up and down hills is, well, to run up and down hills. I saw a lot of families out there on the course today getting some exercise before indulging in turkey and dressing. I would highly recommend this race for all of you who live in the greater Raleigh area!

Lining up midway in the pack before the race starts.

Still maintaining my "middle-of-the-pack" status halfway into the race.

Did I mention that the course was "hilly"?

The vital stats:

Of course, what would a race in North Carolina be like without Krispy Kreme donuts?

Wednesday, November 27

5:20 PM What a joyful time celebrating Thanksgiving a day early with loved ones. The reality of 2019 coming to an end is still settling in. Where has all the time gone? Wrapping your head around all the blessings of the past year is always difficult. Thank you, family, for being behind me every step of the way in 2019 and Happy Thanksgiving. Tomorrow it's back to the races, literally. Doing a Turkey Trot (8K) in Cary, NC, tomorrow morning. Getting ready, prepping for what is predicted to be a beautiful sunny day. Just a Hawai'i native trying to pursue excellence and live a "balanced" life with passion, making changes when necessary and trying to marry enthusiasm with equally strong self-awareness.

Thanks for tuning in!

8:38 AM Yesterday Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary, wrote a very touching tribute to his Doktorvater Larry Hurtado, who passed away after a long fight with cancer. I was very moved by Kruger's words. It seems that Prof. Hurtado was everything one could hope for in a major professor. He was a model of scholarship. He was friendly. He was accessible. He was fair and even-handed with the evidence. He was willing to push back against views with which he disagreed. All these traits I could also apply to my own Doktorvater in Basel, Bo Reicke. As a doctoral advisor myself, I'm reminded that these same virtues should be found in me. May we all inspire to such exemplary scholarship. 

7:55 AM Guten Morgen! Ich freue mich auf eine Reise in die Schweiz in 2020. Wie höflich sind die Schweizer? Sehr, würde ich sagen. Mindestens in Basel sind die meisten Leute sehr sehr offen. Die sind keineswegs ausländerfeindlich. Meiner Meinung nach sind die Schweizer in ihrer Kommunikation viel höflicher als die Deutsche und Amerikaner. In Basel hört man nie "Ich kriege einen Kaffee" sondern immer "Ich hätte gern einen Kaffee" oder "Einen Kaffee, bitte." Ich habe also hauptsächlich positive Eindrücke von Basel, vielleicht weil Basel nah an Deutschland liegt. Ich habe auch den Eindruck, dass die Deutsche recht freundlich sind. Becky und ich hatten keine Schwierigkeiten in der Schweiz Freunde zu machen. Aber wenn man in einem anderen Land lebt, ist man immer ein Aussenseiter. Die Freunde die ich über deise Zeitspanne gamacht habe kann ich an einer Hand zählen.

Sorry for the German, folks, but I'm considering a return to Switzerland in 2020 and I needed the practice. Here I'm talking about how polite and open the Swiss are. On the other hand, they make friendships a lot slower than we do. As someone told me when I first arrived in Basel, "We have fewer friendships here but they are deeper ones." Anyway, I hope to get reacquainted with some old friends while I'm in that beautiful city on the Rhine.

Vorwärts und aufwärts!

Tuesday, November 26

7:02 PM Here is E. Power Biggs demonstrating why he will always be known as one of the world's great organists. This is breathtaking!

The clarity and crispness is amazing. Biggs brings a pacing to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor that I've never heard from anyone else. To top things off, his hands were severely deformed from arthritis. Bach's organs works will always stand the test time. Sad they are not more well known and appreciated in our churches. So much of our church music today is theologically and musically vapid and maudlin, in my opinion. A great work on a great instrument always sums up the frisson of encountering the numinous and the spiritual almost without noticing it. Yes, I am totally biased in favor of organ music, even though I also love contemporary Christian music. But hey, it's hard enough to find a good organist. At the end of the day, whatever musical style is chosen it needs to be done well. Again, just my humble opinion.

6:05 PM History is so rich and, yes, even your own local history. Simply incredible day visiting the home of our 5th president James Monroe. I couldn't wait to visit it because I just finished reading a book about him.

Here's the long driveway to the house, which is located not too far from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

I'm so stoked to have so much American history within a 3 hour drive of the farm. This building isn't the original house, which was burned down in the early 1830s.

But you can really get a feel for the lavish taste of President Monroe from his guest house. Remember, it was Monroe who arranged for the Louisiana Purchase and whose "Monroe Doctrine" signaled to the world that the United States was now a geopolitical power. While up that way I also got in a bike ride at the Rivanna River Trail.

The scenery took my breath away.

And guess what? There was actually a Salvadorian restaurant in the area and I couldn't resist.

The pupusa was out of this world.

I believe pupusa is a flatbread that is unique to El Salvador. Mine was stuffed with pork. I also had a great time getting to know my Salvadorian server named Eduardo and saw to it that he got a copy of Becky's book in Spanish.

Okay. Back to reality. Got to clean the house for my grandkids who are visiting tomorrow. And you know how much I like to clean the house!

7:45 AM Several years ago the publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of Heinrich von Siebenthal's Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament. It's a wonderful work. Very detailed as you might imagine.

I love comparing how different Greek grammars treat various topics in New Testament studies, an example being verbal aspect. For von Siebenthal, there are three aspects called Durativ, Aorist, and Resultativ. (Go here for a comparison of the leading grammars.) It'll be interesting to see how the English translation of his grammar treats this subject. A copy is on its way, and I plan to write a review essay on it as soon as it arrives. Beyond excited to get that done. Let me know where you think I should publish it. We New Testament Greek geeks are driven, and sometimes we need to take the foot off the pedal and slow down a little bit to get caught up with all the good, God things that are happening in our little world of scholarship. A good place to do this, by the way, is the Nerdy Language Majors Facebook page, which always has something for someone, whether you're studying Greek, Hebrew, German, or Latin. I get a chuckle out of its discussion sometimes, like this morning when I read a mini-debate about the use of Greek-English interlinears. My own opinion is to use any and every tool out there that will get you to think about the language you're studying. I did that when teaching myself Latin back in the day. I acquired a wonderful little interlinear of Caesar's Gallic War -- you know, the book that starts out with "Gallia omnis divisa est in tres partes." Of course, I wouldn't have needed an interlinear if books like this one were available back in the late 1970s. My philosophy about using interlinears can be summarize in a quote from my Using New Testament Greek in Ministry: Halitosis is better than no breath at all. Also check out when you can our New Testament Greek Portal for What's New -- especially if authors like Steve Runge and James Snapp interest you. Snapp's recent interview in which he defends "equitable eclecticism" resonates with me on several levels, as I've argued in my New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. The key question, of course, is whether Hort's theory of a Lucianic recension can be falsified. James and I both say yes, and so I always ask my students to work through the question of what to do with the Byzantine text.

Excited to continue the pursuit of excellence in my studies in 2020. How will we as fathers, husbands, athletes, students, employees, church members find the right priorities in life? Discernment, my friends, discernment. May God grant that gift to us all in the New Year.

Monday, November 25

7:36 PM Been watching an excellent YouTube by Scott Hartwig, a senior historian at the Gettysburg National Battlefield, and something he said made me sit up and go, "Say what?" Hartwig is describing the fighting on the first day of battle, when the Union First Corps is being pushed back to Seminary Ridge just west of town. The First Corps artillery commander, a Colonel Wainright, is under the impression that he's been ordered to hold Seminary Ridge at all costs. Seminary Ridge is the last obstacle standing between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal forces that are reforming on Cemetery Ridge to the southeast of town. This misunderstand is based on a literal error of language. The overall Union commander in Gettysburg at the time, General Oliver Otis Howard, had sent a German staff member (remember, a fourth of the Union Army was foreign born) with an order for Colonel Wainright to defend Cemetery Ridge at all hazards. Somehow, however, the order came out as "Seminary" Ridge. My head is spinning. In all my study of the American Civil War, I had never heard that anecdote, but it reminded me of the importance of language and how often something as simple as a single word can have serious consequences. Honestly, I don't see how anyone can learn English as a second language. Our spelling system is atrocious (pronounce "colonel" and then spell it phonetically). Of course, it's natural to simplify the pronunciation of words. Who says the "t" in Christmas? (This is called syncope.) Wasp used to be waps. (This is called metathesis.) For folk, talk, and walk we say fowk, tawk, and wawk. (This is called velarisation.) I recall once ordering (in German) a "pepperoni" pizza for Becky and me when we were traveling in northern Germany. Eventually we were served a pizza --  smothered with red peppers. So many German words are spelled the same in English that it's easy to make a mistake ("Gift" means poison in German). "There is a problem" isn't "Da ist ein Problem" but "Es gibt ein Problem" -- which literally means "It gives a problem." (Err!!) And please, I beg you, never say "Ich warte auf dem Bus."

It's "auf den Bus."

One last thought. As a teacher I know how important it is to correctly pronounce my students' names. It's so easy to stumble when saying an unfamiliar name. To my shame, I've done this more times than I'd like to admit. But when we pronounce our students' names correctly we make them feel valued, honored, and respected. If you don't know how to pronounce someone's name correctly it's okay to ask for help. I've had to do this muchas veces. Spell the name phonetically if you have to.

For years I had no idea that badminton had an "n" in it. Honestly. I thought it was badmitton. And I'm supposed to be a language teacher!

Chow! (That's Ciao for those in the know.) 

1:42 PM Hmm. Gotta decide about my 2020 marathon schedule but boy is it hard, folks, it's hard. I'm really tempted to do the Flying Pig in Cincinnati again, for the 4th time in fact. This is the race that got me started running marathons 4 years ago. If you're a newbie and want to have a fantastic first marathon experience, I cannot recommended this race too highly. I wish every race was like this one. The course is fairly flat except for Mount Adams. But what makes this the marathon of choice for your first 26.2 race is the organization and the world class volunteers. You'll find an aid station every mile, and half way into the race you will begin to munch on bacon, cookies, gummy bears, and fruit. Considering that the entry is the cheapest for any major marathon, the amenities are great. I've recommended this race to anyone who will listen. The course is absolutely beautiful and the runners are some of the nicest I have ever had the pleasure of running with. This event is worth every penny. Do it!

12:40 PM What a day it's been so far. Got in a great workout at the Y and then did a 5K run at the track. Afterwards I treated myself to a burger and then finished my pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping. I need to get on my A game when it comes to this cooking thing. I am truly grateful for the ability to run today; my legs are feeling much stronger than I thought they would. Onward we go, ladies and gentlemen, onward we go.

8:38 AM So I just went online to check out the 2020 marathons here in the good U.S. of A. Yes, it will be a busy year for me as I teach J-term and then 4 classes in the spring semester and 2 summer school classes, but there's always time to run a 26.2 miler if you know what I mean. We humans desire to be better. It's in our DNA. Health is often at the top of a person's New Years wish list, as it should be. Taking care of our human body actually affects our lives in so many other ways, including the emotional, mental, and spiritual. The key is to have a sound racing and training plan, and that's what I'm working on this week. I strongly encourage every one of you to think about why, why are you treating your body the way you do. It really is a fascinating topic to discuss as Christians whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Anyhow, the question remains: Which marathon shall I sign up for in 2020? Should I stay local or travel? Should I repeat a marathon I've run in the past or try something new? Should I try an "easy" (flat) course or a more "challenging" (hilly) one? So far I've added the following races to my list of potential races in 2020. Most I've never done before.

  • Irving (TX) Marathon

  • Sand Hollow (UT) Marathon

  • Newport News (VA) One City Marathon

  • Virginia Creeper (VA) Marathon

  • Myrtle Beach (SC) Marathon

  • Phoenix (AZ) Marathon

  • Flying Pig (OH) Marathon

  • Colfax (CO) Marathon

  • Charlottesville (VA) Marathon

  • Richmond (VA) Marathon

Feel free to email me with your suggestions. Onward and upward as we enter a new year of fitness and health to the glory of God!

7:55 AM I'm humbled to announce the publication of my magnum opus.

All of your questions have now been answered definitively in what is sure to become the go-to reference work. Everything is explained in easy-to-read language -- the shape of the skateboard, the size of the wheels, how to pull off a successful Olie, how to raise $30,000 to cover your medical bills, etc. One reviewer has said, "Reading Black on skateboarding and surfing is like reading Hemingway on bullfighting." In this massive 8,000-page tome, you can learn how to live life through the gloss resin of a skateboard or a surfboard. Entries include:

  • If there's a will, there's a wave

  • When nothing's going right, go left

  • Sorry I'm late. Had a board meeting

  • Goes crowd surfing

  • The motion of the ocean

In the words of professional surfer Kelly Slater, "Elegantly written and structured, Black's Encyclopedia of Surfing and Skateboarding is more than a reference work. It's an intellectual autobiography." The introductory price is a mere $299.00, and all proceeds from book sales will go to needy children (my own).

Sunday, November 24

12:48 PM Time to give some serious and sustained thought to the giving of thanks. "Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door." So wrote Emily Dickenson. Today I've been thinking, thinking about my grief-challenged yet glorious life. I tap away at the keyboard not knowing what I will write, except that Jesus is worth it. If there's anything I've learned since that fateful day in November 6 years ago, it's that the dawn sneaks up on us when we're least expecting it. I see the dawn in the faces of my children and grandchildren. I see it in the imperfect community we call church. I see it when the kingdom makes ordinary things sacred -- a head cold, a death, a race, feasting on Thanksgiving ham, marriage, singleness. There is more to this life that is still to come, many other dawns that await us, many doors to open still. Pay attention, Dave! Don't miss it!

There's an awful lot for me to be thankful for this week, no doubt about it. What makes my daily life sacred and holy isn't the books I've written or the classes I've taught but the way God shows up when I put the dishes in the dishwasher or sweep the floors or clean the toilets or pick up the mess after Sheba's had an accident or work through a difficult relationship or see my entire life as vocation. Grief recovery isn't a pat formula. It's a mystery. Grief can be healthy. It's a reminder that when we make ourselves vulnerable in this life it sometimes means getting hurt. The thing about grief is that it's relational. You never grieve alone. First, there's Jesus. We can always tell Him the truth. Then there's family. They offer grace. And then there are the Gatherings. Church is very simple: we gather, even in our suffering and loss, to remember God. I have admired, deeply, the way C. S. Lewis handled the death of his wife. That was a metaphor for me. You simply go on. Like the pastor who labors long and hard over a message knowing he will deliver it to five people. Or the mother who homeschools her kids in absolute anonymity. No single act of love and selflessness is ever forgotten by Jesus. You can't put the Dove in a cave. Realize this, and you cannot help but exhale praise and thanksgiving.

When I think about Thanksgiving, Nora Ephron's definition of family comes to mind: "A family is a group of people who eat the same thing for dinner." The earliest followers of Jesus "devoted themselves to the breaking of bread." That was long before the Eucharist was infused with pomp and circumstance. They were too busy celebrating the Real Presence. In many parts and in many ways, I witnessed that Presence today at church. I experience it every time I get together with my own family. Being family together is a way of speaking to each other and, sometimes without words, saying "You matter to me. I love you." Just as there is often plenty of leftover bread after a communion service, so there's always enough and more when we feast at the Table of God.

It's been a scary thing, this opening up of your heart to those you love, this vulnerability of being rejected, this unclenching of fists. But there is power in connecting. I can be open and unsheltered with my family. Imagine if every home was a place where we told each other the truth. No family is perfect, but I love mine with all the love I can muster. When Becky was alive, it never occurred to me how much I would need their presence one day. They have helped me see God in the stuff of everyday life again. We might not get together often, but we know we are always there for each other.

I think about Becky every single day. 37 years is a long time to be with someone. And we were just getting to know each other. This Thanksgiving post is for you, Becky Lynn. And for the family you and I created together.

We are family. Not me first, but you first. Blessed be God, both now and forevermore.

8:55 AM Good Sunday morning, internet family! Today I plan to go for either a long walk or a bike ride. It's beautiful outside. As for my next marathon, I'm still trying to decide. Why would someone with as little talent as me want to do another marathon? I'm not sure I have the answer. I keep coming back to the finish line. Have you ever stood at the finish line of a marathon? I mean, the pure unmitigated joy you see on the faces of the runners. Even as you watch their bodies giving in to fatigue, you witness their souls as the realty of their accomplishment dawns on them. There's nothing like it in the world. It's a joy you can see, feel, believe in. It doesn't matter what you look like or what position you come in at the finish. The joy is in the act of running. It's in the joy of accomplishing a goal. It's in knowing you're not stuck somewhere in life but moving forward. I suppose that's why I keep on running. If I had known this would happen, I would have started running years before I did.

Greek students, you are in a marathon of sorts by taking beginning Greek. Here is some encouragement for you from John Stott, who wrote these words in his book The Living Church (p. 103).

There are to be no gurus in the Christian community -- only pastors (shepherds).

But how do shepherds feed their sheep? The answer is that they don't! To be sure, if a newborn lamb is sick, the shepherd will doubtless take it up in his arms and bottle-feed it. But normally shepherds do not feed their sheep; they lead them to good, green pasture where the sheep feed themselves.

He then concludes:

Thus all preaching should lead people to the Scriptures and encourage them to browse there for themselves.

Paul often uses the images of milk and meat when he describes Christian growth and maturity. Babies in Christ need the bottle. But very soon afterwards they need to consume meat so that they can begin to discern the mind of God for themselves. It is to that high measure of independence that Christian teachers need to bring their charges. I love teaching. It's what I do. But I'm learning that enabling and equipping is just as important to my teaching ministry as is lecturing. I see a generation of Christians who are overly dependent on others for their spiritual growth. Yes, we need each other. But nothing can compare with a personal encounter with the God of the Bible!

Saturday, November 23

6:30 PM The 10th Annual Camp Chestnut Ridge Trail Race went down today in Efland, NC -- about a 2-hour drive from the farm in the heart of the North Carolina Piedmont. This race is certainly not for the weak of heart. It's run entirely on trails and camp roads (dirt and gravel). It features rolling hills that surround a 10-acre lake. The race was superbly organized but rather sparsely attended I thought, no doubt because of the heavy rain that was predicted to begin about an hour into the race. You could sign up for either the 4-mile or the 10-mile version of the race. I went for the longer distance. I'll just say that, whew, this was probably the hardest run of my life. I finished WAY over my goal of 2 hours.

I started out feeling in control, but at mile 3 the wheels were definitely starting to fall off the bus.

I do believe my legs were holding up fine until the rain started, turning the single track path into what looked like a water slide at Disney World. I wanted to take a picture to show you the trail conditions but I was so wet and cold I couldn't unlock my iPhone. Keep in mind, as always I'm trying to race hard and, yes, to finish the race with the best time possible. It's not really in my DNA to sit back and take it easy during a race of any kind, but today I was forced to throttle back for fear of slipping on the course and breaking something. Again, this was by far one of the hardest races of my life. It was at least as hard as the Allen, TX, Marathon I did on New Year's Day 2 years ago, where the temperature was literally 1 degree Fahrenheit and stayed that way throughout the race. Today's race was pure torture. So much vertical!

So much rain! So many roots and rocks and low-hanging tree branches! Thankfully, I stayed hydrated the whole distance because of some pretty awesome people crewing the aid stations along the way. I was the last to cross the finish line but the entire race staff had waited for me. Can't thank you guys enough! The race director snapped this picture of one very wet but very happy noodle. On a scale from A to F, I give myself a G for GRIT.

In short, I'm not sure I'll be back next year but I am SO glad I ran this year. Camp Chestnut Ridge Trail Race, you did not disappoint when it comes to hosting a race with extreme vertical and difficult footing really the entire way. Excited to be able to continue to learn from these events and press ahead for better racing in 2020!

Friday, November 22

5:08 PM How do we achieve balance in life when we are so busy? I like to approach each day with simple priorities. My main goal today was to chillax after a grueling week of teaching and farm work. Not that I was idle mind you. Relaxation is the goal, not necessarily idleness. So I walked for an hour at the high school track before completing the errands I had to run today. After that I basically just read. I started a book that just arrived from Amazon.

I ordered it because I had watched the movie Operation Finale in Georgia last week starring the one and only Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for orchestrating some of the worst crimes of the Holocaust. The movie was so pulse-pounding that I had to order the book. After the war, Eichmann managed to escape to Argentina. His capture by Israeli agents is a thriller for sure. Obviously, I love history of all eras. I absolutely loved history in school. Biographies, ancient histories, war stories, you name it, I read it. Reading allows you to see how history so often repeats itself though often in slightly different ways. Studying the past influences your thinking today, right now. As we move forward in life may history remind us where we have been and inspire us to where we want to go.

7:30 AM Fiona Hill's testimony yesterday was what the perfect delivery of one's thoughts should look like. Would that we all could speak with such clarity.

As a student of language and linguistics, I want to say something about her Northumbrian accent. In her opening remarks she mentioned that she felt discriminated against in Great Britain simply because of the way she spoke English. Linguists refer to this as the "standard language ideology," in which the dialect with the highest social prestige is thought to be the only correct and, therefore, valid form of the language. I once read that workers from the north of England (where Ms. Hill was born and raised) are pressured to tone down their accent in order to improve their job prospects. Studies have also shown that we make snap judgments about the kind of person you are simply by hearing your accent. Without even realizing it, we engage in linguistic discrimination. When I arrived in California in 1971 after 19 years of living in Hawai'i, some people claimed they had a difficult time understanding my English. I'm not surprised. Hawai'i is a melting pot of ethnicities and languages, and the state even has its own second official language after English -- Hawaiian Creole (aka, Pidgin English). Even today, when I visit the islands, I lapse into my familiar mother tongue and accent. This is called "code-switching." But I wouldn't think of using it in lecturing in North Carolina. Of course, the idea of "standard" English is an abstraction at best. I think some accents and dialects of English are more appealing to my ears than others, but that is merely a matter of esthetics. Personally, I enjoyed listening to Ms. Hill's Northumbrian accent, which, to my ears, seemed to border on Scottish. But my main takeaway from her accent was the reminder that dialect discrimination is alive and well, not only in Great Britain but here in the U.S. Dialects that vary from Standard English are often stigmatized, even among people who would normally champion equality in other social domains of life. Language is cultural capital. Hence it's likely that languages like Hawaiian Creole will continue to be considered "Broken English" for some time to come. But such linguistic snobbery has its price. Locals in Hawai'i speak Pidgin. And visitors to the islands, or those considering permanent residence, will eventually have to come to terms with that fact.

Don't have time to develop this idea here, but during the time of Jesus there were apparently two dialects of Aramaic in use: a Galilean-Aramaic dialect and a Judean-Aramaic dialect. The former dialect seems to be mentioned twice in the Gospels, first when Peter is identified as a Galilean merely by his accent (Matt. 26:73), and second when Jesus' followers are identified as Galileans on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:7), again simply because of their accent. In his book Herod Antipas (p. 63), Harold Hoehner suggested that "the defective pronunciation of gutturals" characterized the Galilean dialect. Regional differences shouldn't surprise us. In Switzerland people speak "Swiss German." More specifically, in Basel you speak Basel German, in Bern you speak Bern German, in Zürich you speak Zürich German, etc. When I moved to Basel in 1980 I could speak Standard German well enough, but I soon realized that if I wanted to communicate with the older people in my church I would have to purchase a Basel German grammar. And, while I normally preached in Standard German, on my last Sunday in Basel I attempted to preach in Basel German -- much to the delight of some and the consternation of others.

Have you ever thought about language discrimination?

Do you speak English with an accent?

Have you ever felt stigmatized simply because of the way you speak?

By the way, the differences between Standard German and Swiss German are discussed in this delightful YouTube interview with the Swiss ambassador to Germany. Viel Spass!


Thursday, November 21

6:36 PM Back to the track today after running errands in town. Could not be more grateful. 

The question of the day: How quickly do you bounce back after a cold? After my workout I had farm chores to do, including putting a new tire on the farm truck.

My reading this evening is in Estep's magnificent The Anabaptist Story.

On pages 82-83 he summarizes the teaching of Balthasar Hubmaier. Here's a sampling:

  • Faith alone makes us holy.

  • Faith cannot remain passive but must break out in thanksgiving to God and all kinds of works of brotherly love to mankind.

  • The mass is not a sacrifice but a remembrance of the death of Christ.

  • As often as the memorial is observed should the death of the Lord be preached in the language of the people.

  • As every Christian believes for himself and is baptized, so each individual should see and judge the Scriptures.

But right now it's time to scarf down some dinner. Yes, I like pepper on my food!

9:10 AM During my run today I'll be working on my running form or "body mechanics." After 4 years of running it's time to improve my posture.

I'm excited to hone in on some small changes in my running mechanics in preparation for the 2020 running reason. Folks, we never outgrow our need to improve regardless of our age. We all have weaknesses we need to overcome. Thankfully, there's so much help on YouTube these days. Run tall. Look toward the horizon. Keep the ball of your foot and your heel level. Lean in like giving a kiss. I feel we should all take strides to improve something in our lives so we can all be better persons.

8:50 AM Folks, there is something undeniably special about reading. I was an avid reader of books growing up in Hawai'i. I especially loved the Hardy Boys series. I was able to visit secret hiding places, mysterious coves, and pine forests on the Eastern Seaboard of America without ever leaving my bedroom in Kailua. The wonderful feeling of refreshment that I experience each and every day of the week is simply indescribable. Novels. Historical fiction. Bible commentaries. Books in foreign languages. What I especially enjoy about reading is the way it challenges your perspective. Reading allows you to encounter diverse angles on life. Reading helps us persevere through tough places. It's been a friend in time of need. I love to physically explore the world, but when I can't, reading will take me there anyway. Through reading, I've discovered love. Love of God. Love of people. Love of this beautiful world God created. Sometimes when I read I even imagine I'm in the story. Here are some books that arrived yesterday. Yes, Becky's My Life Story is available in English, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Just think: People all over the world can read her autobiography in their own language. We're talking here about the 3 most widely spoken languages in the world. Chinese has 1.3 billion native speakers. Spanish has 460 million. And you, my friend, are one of the 379 million native English speakers on the planet, or one of the 753 million people who speak English as a second language. You also see that my little book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church was just published in French.

Amazingly enough, it's already available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. And just this week I spoke with someone about having it translated into Farsi as well.

I want to say a big "Thank you!" to every author I have ever read. You have enriched my life beyond words. You've taught me new words and turns of phrases. Because of you I've enjoyed a well-played literary pun. I have changed and grown with you. And let's not forget journals. This one arrived this week.

I've already devoured it, especially this essay on the style of Mark.

A book is a promise of untold intrigue. And yes, I may skim a downloadable PDF, but a good book is meant to be held in your hands. It's no wonder, friends, that when a book is laid flat, its pages curve into the shape of a heart.

Folks, we were made to read!

7:46 AM The word of the day is "kindred spirit." I've never met Peter Wick. But he's a kindred spirit for sure. He's the Chair of New Testament Studies at the University of Bochum in Germany. I just got a copy of his book Der Philipperbrief: Der formale Aufbau des Briefs als Schlüssel zum Verständis seines Inhalts. I suppose the English would read something like: "The Letter to the Philippians: The Formal Structure as Key to the Understanding of its Contents." Not able to afford the book (it's a "mere" 280 Euros), I got it through that wonderful service called interlibrary loan. Throughout his book, Wick asks what's distinctive about Paul's letter to the Philippians and shows how each paragraph contributes to the writer's overall argument. Oddly, he and I agree perfectly -- which is amazing since neither of us was able to consult each other's work because we were both writing at the same time (my essay in Novum Testamentum was published in 1995, his book was published in 1994). This kind of work is exegetical. If you can't follow the arguments based on the original language, Wick's book isn't for you. But if you can, and if you want to try, and if you want to see a master exegete show how to substantiate the full meaning of a New Testament book by appealing to the salient nuances within the text, this is an excellent work. Wick calls Philippians a "literary masterpiece" ("ein literarisches Meisterwerk," p. 13), and so it is. I could say a lot more about this great book. Exegesis is the supreme means by which Jesus invites us to learn about Him through His word. It drives us to our knees as we recognize the failures on our part to ever do justice to the biblical text. It elicits in our hearts profound gratitude for what the Holy Spirit has done in inscripturating the Bible. The message of Philippians is a simple one: We are called to live in harmony with each other and in usefulness to our Lord, especially to His call to reach the nations with His love. One of the ways I seek most intentionally to build up young Christians is through the classes in exegesis I offer them. We have abundant resources to teach them. In due course, they will take responsibility for the process. Such is the aim of every aspect of my teaching ministry: "to present everyone mature in Christ" (Col. 1:28). Wick's book, unfortunately, is available only in German. But the presentation is brilliant and the material magnificently packaged.

So grateful for a "kindred spirit"!

Wednesday, November 20

8:02 PM I can't believe I'll actually be running again tomorrow, Lord willing! I started out the week with some congestion but I'm strong again and my legs are just aching to get back into action. I've got lots to tell you about -- new books I've received, my racing plans for the future, writing projects I'm praying about, etc. I'm even thinking and praying about doing a trail race this Saturday. But right now I'm going to turn in on the early side. What a glorious day it's going to be tomorrow, what with sunshine and warmer temps. It will be a good time to run errands and enjoy the great outdoors. Overall, stay positive folks when it comes to the daily grind of life. At the end of the day, life boils down to simply walking and talking with Jesus.

Monday, November 18

6:58 AM "Life's best teachers are those who are getting up in years and have known pain. Often the more years and the deeper the pain, the better the teaching. Out comes, not information, but wisdom." -- Chuck Swindoll.

This week we're studying the book of Revelation together in our NT 2 class. I like to think of John, the author of this book, as a seasoned follower of Jesus. He was likely in his 90s when he penned this prophecy, and I'm sure he had known pain in his life. Hence, out comes not mere information. Out comes wisdom. As Christians, we need more than facts. We need insight. Insight especially into God -- who He is, how He works, and what He's about in this old world of ours. I have zero interest in trying to figure out what each and every symbol in the book of Revelation stands for. But I am keenly interested in finding out what this book can tell us about the nature and work of God. For starters, there's nothing that God cannot do. "All God's acts are done without effort" (A. W. Tozer). God needs no help from anyone. He possesses unlimited might, strength, and power. He is never surprised by the future. Moreover, God sustains life for as long as He wants. The universe too. He is not "almost" sovereign. That's like saying you're "almost" married. No, nothing can frustrate, hinder, or stop His purposes. Finally, God's ways are beyond our understanding. They are too deep for explanation. Paul wrote, "How unsearchable! How unfathomable!" Can you explain every detail in the book of Revelation? Neither can I. God doesn't have to explain Himself. We don't need to know everything that's going on. We just need to know the One who does know.

When will all of this happen? It's been over 2,000 years since Christ promised that He would return. Notice that He didn't tell us when that would happen. He just told us to live in anticipation of it 24/7. I personally hope that He returns soon. I didn't always think that way. No, a younger Dave might have said, "Lord, I hope You come back soon, but please wait until after I graduate from college and get married and have children and grandchildren." Now all of that has changed. True, I still have goals and ambitions and aspirations and dreams. What has changed aren't my goals. What has changed is the intensity of my desire to be with Christ and to see the world made right. 

So what does the future hold? A face to face encounter with Christ, with whom we will live and reign forever in the new heavens and the new earth. That's the promise of an aged apostle filled with insight. It's also the teaching of our Lord. The book of Revelation was not given to frighten us. It was written to remind us that God will win in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that suffering and pain and tears will one day be no more. This God dwells with His people even today. When our Lord walked on the water He did not say to His disciples, "There is no storm." He did not say, "The storm will blow over eventually, so be of good cheer." He said, "It is I." Trouble is a reality in this world. But we can be cheerful because He has overcome everything this world can throw at us. The Lamb indeed makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, November 17

5:02 PM My quick trip to Georgia is all wrapped up and my what a great weekend it was. The rain came in on Thursday and Friday but it didn't hang around and, yes, we did make it to a jazz club on Friday night. Time now to get over the chest cold I've gotten and focus on the week ahead, where the biggest challenge will be prepping my Greek 1 class for their second take-home exam of the semester. I do think we will focus mostly on parsing and try to absorb as much as we can from chapters 7-11 before the exam. With a diligent class of hard-working students, I am most grateful. I feel it will be a week of Greek goodness. Sure it's hard. But thankfully God knows everything about us. He is completely aware of all the personal struggles that threaten to undo us, including trying to prepare for an exam. All He says to us is "Christ." There's nothing more to say. So to all of my students this week: Let us believe Christ (faith), let us wait for Christ (hope), and let us serve Christ (love). We won't get anywhere without depending on Him. Let's reconnect to the supernatural this week and yield ourselves to no higher purpose than to know Christ and experience Him moment by moment!

Thursday, November 14

7:36 AM More often than not, on my days off from teaching I'm reading books. Many of them. My Bible reading this morning was in the Hebrew version of Matthew.

On my flight today I hope to devour this commentary by the one and only John Stott. Stott is always hard to put down.

Then, while in the Fort Benning area, I plan to peruse a couple of books that I own but have never read.

As you can see, I like to read widely. I like to begin with the Scriptures. Then I enjoy authors with whom I agree. Finally, I like to tackle books by writers with whom I might disagree. I'm always in the middle of a few books at once. Books. Can't live without 'em!

What's on your night stand or in your secret drawer?

Off to the races!

Wednesday, November 13

8:28 PM It's that time of the year, when the weather is no longer as welcoming and yet you have to keep on training for your next race. Cold or not, you just keep on going, pushing through to the next level of personal fitness. So far this week I was able to get in double workouts on Monday and then again this morning. Here are Monday's stats:

And these are from today.

Guess what, you really can do back to back workouts if you begin with cardio/weights in the gym and then hit the trails. I'm not saying that I'm an expert, but I do think it makes sense to balance weight training with slow running, especially as we all get a bit older. And the irony is, as we exercise the body, the mind is the beneficiary. Among other writing projects I had on my plate this week was finishing this book review, which I just sent to the publisher.

I also finished and posted the syllabi to two of my upcoming spring classes. Meanwhile, it was back to chapel yesterday, where we heard a splendid message from Phil. 3. As I often do, I took along not only my Greek New Testament but also my German and French New Testaments. It's always fun to see how other translations handle exegetical issues. Sometimes you find something pretty interesting, like the way the French renders 3:3: "The circumcision -- it's us!"

Keeping up with the languages is so key for all you exegetes out there, and what better way to do this than by taking along your foreign language Bibles when you attend chapel or a church gathering. And, might I add, if the message is from the Old Testament, it's a sure thing you'll find the LXX useful.

Meanwhile, packing for my trip to Georgia tomorrow is now in progress. I like to pack the night before in order to feel less rushed on the day I fly. Plans are to attend a jazz concert on Friday night with my daughter and her husband and then run a race with them on Saturday. Best rest for me is getting away for a few days and spending some quality time with family.

Been a good week so far, been good! Looking forward to sharing some pictures from my trip with you. 

Love God.

Serve others.

Walk humbly.

Monday, November 11

6:48 AM As today is Veteran's Day, I decided to see Midway last night. Yes, "courage" is our word of the day, ladies and gentlemen. A movie like Midway brings to mind old-fashioned words like fortitude, strength of character, and plain old-fashioned guts.

I think the writers of the New Testament knew what courage was like. That's why, in talking about the Christian walk, they used tough words like "race," "struggle," and "battle." The battle against the world, flesh, and devil is just that -- an endless battle. When attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States had the courage to continue. Likewise, when we're attacked, when we face adverse times, Christ's own strength moves in on our weaknesses. "When you look back and see just one pair of footprints," says the Lord, "it was then that I carried you." And that's what grace is all about. I haven't gotten over it yet.

Happy Veterans Day to all you vets out there. We salute your bravery and are thankful for your service.

Sunday, November 10

7:55 AM The topic for tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class? That's right, discourse analysis. Oh my, how to approach this gignormous topic? I'm a little bit of a mad scientist right now, thinking up all kinds of elixirs to help my students fathom the depths of the subject. To be right up front with you, we're using essays that I personally feel were helpful for me when I was beginning to dig deep into the topic. These include Parunak's "Dimensions of Discourse Structure: A Multidimensional Analysis of the Components and Transitions of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians," as well as two chapters by Porter:

  • Discourse Analysis: Introduction and Core Conceptions

  • Defining Discourse Analysis as an Important New Testament Interpretative Framework

I feel confident that these writings will give the class a good basic overview of the discipline. Then next week we will be looking at two additional essays, one by Longacre ("Towards an Exegesis of 1 John Based on the Discourse Analysis of the Greek Text") and the other by Osburn ("Discourse Analysis and Jewish Apocalyptic in the Epistle of Jude"). Do not fret, this topic can be understood and even mastered, but it takes time, folks, it takes time. Speaking of time, if there's enough time tomorrow night after the student presentations, I think I'll walk the class through my own study of the discourse structure of Philippians.

Over all, let's stay positive when it comes to learning new methods and approaches in New Testament studies. They are JUST methods, and at the end of the day it's not the method that matters but the resulting understanding of the text.

Saturday, November 9

12:42 PM Hey folks, I thought you might enjoy these aphorisms on teaching and writing by Albert Einstein:

  • You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.

  • Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

  • What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.

Einstein once said, "I am the acoustic type. I learn by ear and give by word." He wrote the way he would have spoken. It is said that he heard the words before he wrote them. He adopted a "conversational" style in his writing.

Here's the HOW of conversational writing:

  • Cut the "writer speech."

  • Use shorter sentences.

  • Use contractions like "we're."

  • Use "you."

  • Ask questions.

  • Use slang ("Doh!").

Here's the WHAT of conversational writing:

  • Share personal stories.

  • Be yourself.

  • Be more emotional.

Bottom line? If you want to connect with your readers, treat them like friends. Good advice, if you ask me!

P.S. What got me started on this topic? Watching sermons on YouTube by Lloyd Ogilvie and Haddon Robinson. Neither used notes (eye contact, eye contact, eye contact!), and both used simple language. An example from Haddon Robinson.

10:10 AM Exegesis, thankfully, is not all that hard when you pay close attention to details. All you need to do is stay close to the Greek text, and that is a beautiful thing. The sun is shining brightly this morning in Southern Virginia -- a good day to sit on the front porch and begin writing the syllabus for my spring break course on 1 Thessalonians. I'm reading the letter in the Greek, of course.

Various English versions (including Today's English Version) round things out.

My first item of business this morning was to decide if I was going to adopt Zondervan's Life Application Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. I know for a fact that this is an excellent commentary in many ways. But it has its "niggles" (as we say in the running community). I noticed, for example, a troublesome inconsistency. Note how the author divides 1:2-10 into two paragraphs (1:2-3 and 1:4-10) in his outline:

But then note how the same author actually treats chapter 1 in the commentary proper. Now all of a sudden we find 1:2-6 as the first major paragraph after the opening greeting (1:1).

Not sure how to explain this disconnect between the author's outline of 1 Thessalonians and his discussion of chapter 1. Therefore, it was back to the Greek syntax.

Here we see how 1:2-5 is structured. The main verb "We give thanks" is modified by three participles (a not uncommon practice in Paul, who loves the "rule of three"):

  • The TIME of the thanksgiving: "Making mention of you in our prayers"

  • The CONTENT of the thanksgiving: "Remembering ... your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope ...."

  • The REASON for the thanksgiving: "Knowing ... that God has chosen you ...."

This is called text-based teaching or preaching. You can find my power point on the subject here. I am excited to let you know that my essay on the structure of 1 Thessalonians is available online as a PDF in case you ever decide to study this wonderful letter on your own. Pretty amazing to see how the paragraphs in the letter hold together and cohere. Time to keep pursuing text-based Bible study! 

How's your Bible study going today?

Which book are you in?

What English versions do you enjoy using in your daily Bible reading?

8:18 AM The new year is knocking on our door. What are your goals for 2020? Lots to think about for sure. In life we tend to either burn out or rust out. Rusting out happens when you stagnate and never try anything new. Burning out happens when you continue to do and never stop to rest. I have decided that, by God's grace, I never want to rust out. I never want to stop giving the energy and discipline to trying something new. I want to chase my God-given dreams until the day I die. Do not get rusty, my friend. Use negative experiences as motivation to keep pushing forward. Failure should never frighten us. Keep trying again and again and again until you succeed.

This month and next I'll be prayerfully working on my goals for 2020. Looking forward to sharing them with my blog family. If we rest, we rust, folks. Life is about moving forward regardless of your age or circumstances. To me, there are no other options. We're not here to burn out OR rust out. Let's remind ourselves of that as we enter the new year.

P. S. In case you're interested, our new power point called Who Are the Evangelicals? It's based on Stott's magnificent book Evangelical Truth. You will notice that at the end of the power point Stott lists 12 areas of disagreement among evangelicals, ranging from baptism to the Lord's Supper and beyond. Worship style also comes up for discussion. My opinion, as a musician? Let's welcome the new styles in worship music because they are ways in which the younger generation want to express their love for God. Will the new songs last? Not many of them, I fear. The musicality? Often lacking. But I've also heard some pretty poor organ music in church. The point Stott makes is that we all must be willing to subordinate our preferences to what best serves the entire community of believers. "Unity in diversity" ought to be our hallmark. At the same time, let's be sure our church music is biblically based and theologically sound. And in the midst of it all, let love and mutual consideration continue. "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement," writes Paul, "give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6).

Friday, November 8

6:46 PM This is Veterans Day weekend. To all who have served, thank you.

6:08 PM The word of the day, ladies and gentlemen, is "avocation." What's an avocation? Let's think of it as anything other than our "vocation." I'm a Greek professor, as you all know. That's my vocation. But today I barely touched my Greek at all. John Calvin said a lot about work but also about leisure (he allowed for recreation and sports). Avocation differs from vocation in that it's something you do alongside of your vocation. It's doing an activity you have a burning desire for. It's usually a side interest over which you exercise complete control. Life is a balancing act, folks. You can't always be pursuing your main line of action. Blessed is the man or woman with some hobby or interest aside from their main line of work. Today I dabbled in history -- World War II history to be exact. I find history to be endlessly fascinating. I read a lot of history just because I want to learn more. I remember my first visit to Kaiser Augst in Basel -- the ancient Roman ruins there. I was astonished to discover that the Roman legions had an outpost in Basel 2,000 years ago. I think experiences like that made me a history buff. I was blessed to have taken 2 outstanding courses in American history when I was a student at the University of Hawai'i. I am not content to die in ignorance of my own history. What's your avocation? The goal is to do what excites you. And the possibilities are endless.

P.S. My first glass of eggnog this season. Cheers! 

12:32 PM It may be fall but it sure feels like winter. The right clothing is essential. Today I nearly froze to death while biking because I had underdressed with only 2 sweatshirts and one windbreaker. I had to stop after 20 miles because the cold was starting to penetrate to my bones.

I'm grateful for the summer months of wearing tank tops and shorts, but those days are over. Time to winterize, folks, and embrace the cold! We in the northern hemisphere are about to take the plunge, so be prepared. 

7:14 AM Okay, gotta ask: How much lettuce is there in the New Testament? 

6:22 AM It's official. I'm teaching Intermediate Greek Grammar during our semester break next spring. The dates are March 9-13. It'll be a marathon folks -- we meet from 8:00 - 5:00 daily. We can do this! Which book of the New Testament will we be exegeting? Clue below.

It's maybe the 8th time I've taught this New Testament epistle. The big question: Which commentary will I require for the class? I've been looking at the Life Application Commentary series. It is definitely intriguing. I'm not excited and I'm not disappointed, just intrigued you might say. I will keep you all informed.

As an FYI, my other upcoming classes include:

  • J-Term 2020: Greek 1

  • Spring 2020: Greek 2, New Testament 1, Advanced Greek Grammar (Ph.D. seminar)

  • Summer 2020: Greek 1, Greek 2

What an honor it is to engage the mind with students in learning Greek. Scary road? Not any more, and even back in seminary, Harry Sturz was a great role model for me when I was a fledging Greek professor. Excited to read about your academic goals and achievements on your websites!

Thursday, November 7

7:02 PM Fun time this morning at the local coffee shop getting my fill of Colombian brew as well as rereading one of the books that "got it all started" for me -- that is, got me interested in Greek linguistics way back in 1982 when I was still a student in Basel.

At that time, Greek linguistics was what we might call a "niche" field of study. This was before there were any books by Runge or Porter, back when few people were actually even talking about Greek discourse analysis or textlinguistics or verbal aspect, etc. Indeed, if New Testament Greek is a niche field of study, New Testament Greek linguistics is an even more niche field, but back then there were very few books you could read on the subject. At that time I was writing my dissertation and dabbling with this or that linguistic school (Erhardt Gütgemanns of Bonn comes to mind), but writing an entire book on Greek linguistics (as I was fortunate to have done in 1988) wasn't at all on my radar. Later I would become friends with Johannes Louw (a South African), and even today I feel like I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for the way his little book provided something to nurture my fledgling interest in Greek linguistics. I could not help being impressed with his ability to take profound concepts and explain them in terms I could understand. Over the years, his book has led many people into the study of linguistics and semantics. Some years later I was able to convince the author to write the opening chapter in my Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, which is still in print. In the marketplace of ideas, few books have influenced me as much as Semantics of New Testament Greek has. I have been enormously helped in my understanding of how the Greek language works by the writing ministry of Johannes Louw. His scholarship is a constant challenge to the introversion of the guild. Anyway, onward and upward to the next challenge in the study of New Testament Greek. 

2:48 PM Believe it or not, I have decided not to race this weekend. Running can wear us all down after a while. Walking that fine line between exercise and rest is always a work of art. That said, I'm not going to be inactive. Today I worked out for an hour at the gym and then got in an easy 5K run at the track. After all, the day was too beautiful to stay indoors. The sky especially seemed to take on an unusual texture as I was running.

My legs are beginning to feel rested again, and I know if I treat them the way they deserve to be treated, I'll be ready for my next race, which is next weekend in the great state of Georgia. Running is a wonderful thing but it always has to be balanced with rest and days of recovery. Last month (October) I managed to do 23 workouts for a total of 115 total miles, averaging 4 workouts a week, which is just about where I like things to be. Hoping all this training keeps me in good shape to be able to continue to pour my heart and soul into teaching and writing!

Wednesday, November 6

7:02 PM I'll never forget my days of surfing the Pipeline. The world's most perfect wave that is for sure. Enjoy this montage of the North Shore of O'ahu set to some very relaxing music.


6:54 PM Wonderful days on campus this week seeking that ever-elusive excellence in classroom teaching. We are not giving up. This is our moment, ladies and gentlemen, to make our mark in this world. Time to hold each other accountable and nudge each other on to fresh ideas, fresh goals, and fresh dreams for our lives. Be not afraid to fail, my friends, in your pursuit of your life endeavors. If you need a fresh start with new hopes and dreams, take it. I hope this blog will help motivate you to strive to get them. What a journey 2019 has been thus far, and it isn't over yet. Let's finish strong and enjoy the Lord in all of it. Let's soar into the New Year with Heaven's wind at our backs!

Monday, November 4

6:50 AM Today's key word is "précis." A précis is a summary or an abstract of a text or speech. Not many books have a précis. But the other night I did notice one tome on my bookshelf that had a précis. It is the second volume of Winston Churchill's classic The Second World War.

This volume is called "Their Finest Hour" -- the "Their" referring, of course, to the British people who, for a long time, stood alone against the fury of Hitler's Germany. Here's the précis to this volume.

The back-story: The Battle of France had been lost, the Battle of Britain begun. Could the British Isles hold out long enough until the wealth and might of the United States came to their aid?

I thought to myself, "What if every New Testament book had a précis like this? Written by the author himself?" My oh my. That might very well have clarified to all the main purpose and theme of that writing -- especially in books whose main idea seems a bit opaque. Philippians, I have argued, is not really about joy, which is always a byproduct of living for others. Paul's main concern in Philippians is to see that a divided church deals head-on with the divisions in its midst lest their gospel witness be hindered or even blotted out. The précis to Philippians might perhaps have read:

How the people of God,

by having the humble mind of Christ,

can set aside matters of secondary importance

and joyfully "contend with one soul for the faith of the gospel" (1:27).  

We all know how divided our evangelical churches are today. Is unity possible? Is it even desirable? It all depends on what you mean by unity. Stott helpfully writes (Evangelical Truth, p. 116):

It is important to observe, however, what kind of unity Paul is commending [to the Philippians]. It is neither unity at any price, even compromising fundamental truths in order to attain it, nor unity in every particular, separating from anybody who fails to dot every "I" and cross every "t" as we do. It is rather unity in the gospel, in evangelical essentials, "standing ... side by side in the struggle to advance the gospel faith" (Phil. 1:27 REB).

Yes! "You all are of Christ" is our true status as believers, of which "I am of Paul, I am of Peter, I am of Apollos" is a perversion. True unity is never found in a uniformity engineered by us, but in Jesus Christ. The very worst way to combat sectarianism is by starting another ism that flies in the face of the Lord Christ at the masthead. As Stott puts it, "Our disunity remains a major hindrance to our evangelism." This week in NT 2 we will be talking about how we can discern between the essentials that cannot be compromised and the adiaphora ("indifferent matters") that are of secondary importance. My hope is that we can all grow not only in our understanding but in our agreement.

Additional resources:

Paul and Christian Unity.

The Discourse Structure of Philippians.

How to Teach Philippians.

Sunday, November 3

5:24 PM I'm simply at a loss for words after today's activities. What a glorious day! It all began with the City of Oaks Half Marathon at 7:00 sharp in downtown Raleigh.

As you can see, the field was a crowded one, which became obvious to me as we walked toward the starting line.

My 22nd half marathon is now official.

No, I didn't set a new PR or anything like that. Me legs were simply too tired, coming off of almost back-to-back races in Richmond and (before that) in Chicago. But overall, I was pleased with my effort today. Not anywhere near my half marathon PR of 2:27 but I'll take it, folks, I'll take it.

The best part of all was making a small contribution to UNC Cancer Hospital in Becky's memory. UNC was the host of today's half and I couldn't be prouder of that amazing organization for the way they treat their patients. Of course, life isn't only about sports. There are chores to be done, indeed many of them if you live alone on a farm with two houses. This week I'm expecting a gaggle of guests at Maple Ridge (our guest home), so I couldn't let my post-race tiredness get me down. Nope, there were lawns to mow -- which I always love doing.

Best of all is when you mow around an outbuilding constructed in the year 1790 (yes, that was even before I was born).

Then I "cleaned" Maple Ridge for our guests. I say "cleaned" in quotes because it's a single man speaking here, folks, and a man who knows next to nothing about house cleaning. This meant sweeping the floors and the stairwell.

It also meant wiping down counters and wall hangings.

Yep, a good day to strike that sometimes elusive balance between hobbies and responsibilities. Does life get any better?   

Rosewood Farm, you are a beautiful place. I wouldn't trade you for the world.

Saturday, November 2

2:50 PM It hath been done as the Lord hath commanded. The bib hath been picked up.

And the Ethiopian food hath been eaten. 

I'm behind in my farm chores so ... see ya!

8:56 AM Here's a fascinating lecture on the life and theology of Ulrich Zwingli. Armin Mauerhofer is one of Switzerland's most beloved theologians. He received his doctorate from the University of Bern with a dissertation on the rise of the free evangelical churches in Switzerland.


A few takeaways:

  • It was through reading Erasmus's Greek New Testament that Zwingli became inclined toward the notion of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.

  • It was after exegeting the Gospel According to Matthew on a daily basis in Zürich that Zwingli adopted evangelical theology.

  • Later he began to read the works of Martin Luther, whose writings only confirmed what Zwingli had already established through his own reading of Scripture.

  • Zwingli was convinced that any believer could understand the Bible apart from any Lehramt (official teaching office of the church). "Every believer who has the Holy Spirit can understand the Bible."

  • Zwingli's disagreements with the Anabaptists forced him into an inconsistent ecclesiology. The Anabaptists insisted that the Bible nowhere teaches infant baptism or that the church and the state should be united. Zwingli could not bring himself to accept what to his former students seemed so obvious.

  • From Zürich, the Reformation spread to Basel, Bern, St. Gallen, and Schaffhausen.

Armin Mauerhofer:

Ich muss sagen, ich bin auch ein Wiedertaüfer. Ich verstehe genau was sie gesagt haben. Ich würde sagen, das stimmt genau was sie gesagt haben. Aber sie waren zu fruh.


I have to say, I too am an Anabaptist. I understand exactly what they said. I would say, what they said is exactly correct. But they were too early.

I love his teaching style, don't you? A good lecturer is oh-so-much more than just an expert in his or her subject. A good lecturer does more than convey facts. Professor Mauerhofer's enthusiasm and constant looking at his audience is truly inspiring. I'm not sure that running an entire class in lecture format is always the best thing for students, but lectures do have their place, and when we give them, let's aim for a delivery that is characterized by clarity, good organization, and rhetorical skill.

7:14 AM The UNC Half Marathon is tomorrow! Lots of rest and recovery today that is for sure. It is going to be an incredible race. The half is my all-time favorite distance in running. I'm beyond excited to toe the line and especially happy to be running in memory of Becky and to raise funds for UNC Health Care. Looks like the weather is going to hold out nicely though it will be COLD. We just keep breathing and moving forward in this world.

6:15 AM If you would, please join me in praying for pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and his wife Lois. Treatment is no longer an option for her cancer, and she has been released from the hospital for home care.

"Even though chemotherapy and radiation are no longer options," writes Tony, "we still have total confidence in God's ability to supernaturally intervene and do what man is unable to do."

I am not unfamiliar with Tony and Lois's plight. When your wife is facing down a terminal illness, you do the only thing you can think of: You tell God you need help. You thank Him that He knows exactly what is going on in your wife's body and you ask him to ease your anxieties. You remember His promise, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." You repeat daily, "The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear." You call the church elders to pray over the afflicted. You humbly ask others for their intercession.

Above all, you submit to God's kind providence. Sometimes it feels like He's not there. But He's always there. For a reason known only to Him, He sometimes chooses to intervene directly in our daily affairs, and sometimes He chooses not to do so. He saved the three men who walked in fire. But He didn't save Jesus on the cross. In my case, He took Becky home to be with Him. Yet even at the moment of death, He was there. Yes, even at the death bed of a spouse, He is there -- maybe especially there. "God is our refuge and strength. He's always ready to help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:12).

Love and good wishes, brother Tony and sister Lois. I'm joining you in praying for healing. God is able. And may these adverse moments be enormously and outrageously hopeful for you. You can trust Him to help you fight off discouragement. For it's in these very moments that His strength moves in on our weakness.

Friday, November 1

12:38 PM Momentum is a key in life, ladies and gentlemen, and momentum is what I'm striving for as I think back on the 6 years I've lived without Becky. This is where inner strength comes into play a little bit, yes that inner virtue in our lives that allows us to accomplish our daily tasks. Momentum allows us to integrate hope into our lives in order to ease some of the pain we experience as we go through hard times of loss and sorrow. There's no sense in responding to a tragedy in such a way that only exacerbates the evil you've already experienced. In choosing to face your pain head on, you are taking your first tiny steps toward the sunrise. The pain I'm feeling this weekend at the loss of my wife reflects the joy and pleasure I felt in knowing her. Odd, isn't it, how the soul can feel both pain and joy at the same time? That's because the pain you're feeling demonstrates the supreme value of what was lost. Not that I have achieved perfect contentment or perfect momentum. I will never get there, that's for sure. What matters, as with running, is the forward movement. Death and loss require new adjustments and continued growth. We can learn to be content whether we are widowed or divorced or unemployed or even dying. We really must live this way. There is no other option. "Even the saddest things," wrote Frederick Buechner, "can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey ahead." God does not erase the loss or remove the pain altogether. Becky's death to cancer will always be bad. But grace takes an evil and turns it into something that results in good.

That, today, is my story folks. Tomorrow, as I commemorate Becky's homegoing, I will love and serve God with all my heart and strength. He has filled my life with bounty, even as I continue to feel the loss. God has given me more than I deserve, even in my suffering. How will I celebrate? I will go to Raleigh and pick up my race bib and then enjoy Ethiopian food in memory of my girl from Abyssinia. To anyone who will listen, I will proclaim the comfort I have experienced knowing that the sovereign God who is in control of everything is the same God who has experienced every ounce of my pain. He is not aloof from our suffering. He is acquainted with grief. He feels the sorrow of the whole world.

Friend, as you perhaps continue to experience pain in your own life, remember that the pain will eventually subside. Today it may be shouting. But someday it will become a faint whisper. You might think this is impossible. You might think that the pain will always be unbearable. But I am here to tell you, hope will return to replace the despair. Will you ever be able to move on with your life? Yes, a thousand times, yes.

6:55 AM This Sunday, while I'm running a half marathon in Raleigh, almost 50,000 runners will be participating in the New York City Marathon, and one of them -- Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa -- will be targeting the course record if the weather cooperates.

Right now the forecast calls for near-perfect conditions on race day -- sunny skies with a high of 52 and manageable winds (6 mph). The current course record is 2:05:06. The key that everyone is talking about? The Nike Vaporfly Next Percent shoes. I will be watching with interest! I'm a huge goal setter and I love watching other people trying to reach theirs. As runners we know how important it is to set goals. They not only help us track our progress but keep us dedicated. But to find true satisfaction in running (and in life in general), our goals must be based on our own ability, not on someone else's. And we have to become experts at adjusting our goals whenever that becomes necessary. Examine your goals. Why did you pick them? Are they realistic? Are they too low or too lofty? If you fail to meet them, what is your backup plan? Remember: A goal is merely something to work toward. But it's the process of moving toward the goal that's most important. When I graduated from Basel in 1983, I set a goal of publishing 1 book every 5 years and 1 journal article or book chapter every year. That's still my goal today as an academic. On the one hand, friends, it makes no sense to set unrealistically high goals. But it also makes no sense to underestimate your God-given abilities. The one thing we must do is set our own goals. Learning to set reasonable and achievable goals has been one of the most difficult things I've had to do in life. That's one reason I love running so much. Running makes us stop and consider our goals for today, our goals for our life, our goals for ourselves. All athletes have good and bad days. When we can accept both, we are well on our way to running the race of life successfully. My strategy in life, no matter how corny it sounds, it to shoot for the stars and see just how high I can reach. And I'm beyond excited to see what the Lord has in store for me yet in life.

Cheers everyone, and thanks for joining the journey. 

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