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October 2019 Blog Archives

Thursday, October 31

5:36 PM Indian summer has arrived, with temps today in the mid-80s and the humidity very high. Good day to worm the donks and do some shopping.

Still working on this eating healthy thing. Proper recovery and fueling are essential for maintaining health before races. I am trying to learn how to cook and have some absolutely delicious recipes I want to try out. I would definitely say it's a high learning curve though. That's okay, you just keep pressing on and do your best, all the while trying to avoid fast food. We used to eat our own farm raised goat meat and beef, but those days are long gone and, in fact, I actually eat very little red meat these days. Again, balance is the key. I don't completely avoid comfort food like chips and dip but try to focus on fresh vegetables and chicken. Mexican food, I still love you and will definitely indulge you again in the near future!

11:12 AM Time for a brief miscellaneous update? First, I just added this book to my stack of books-to-read.

I'm really interested to see what Jenny says about the use of the article with names in the book of Acts. Just a pet interest of mine I guess. Second, the grass is getting green again folks, it's getting green!

Thank the Lord for sending us some much needed rain in the past week or so. Am I the only one who noticed the lack of moisture for the past month and a half? Time to soak up the rain for all it's worth, my friends, and it couldn't come at a better time. I'll take another two inches, but I'm so grateful for what we've gotten so far. Finally, as I usually do on Thursday mornings, I lifted today, having become a firm believer that strength training can help keep you injury free.

It definitely helps my running, makes me feel stronger, plus it's amazing for one's mental well-being. I feel it helps a lot during the later stages of a long race like a half marathon, preventing my posture from breaking down too much and helping me maintain a good arm swing even if I'm tired. Strength training is absolutely key for anyone wanting to get into shape. Nothing new here I know, but that's my routine.

Time for lunch! 

6:58 AM The mid-semester slump is upon us, and almost everyone is feeling it. How do we as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and students and teachers and runners and creators maintain balance in life? It's all about maintaining simple priorities, and to do that you have to have discernment. I'm someone who thrives on structure, so for me having a daily routine works best. If I do "first things first" -- coffee, Bible reading, blogging, breakfast -- I feel more productive for the rest of the day. I also make sure I'm pursuing my personal goals and they include healthy fun activities. Exercise does not have the highest priority in my life but it's something I enjoy doing. During the "slumps" of life we need to say no to lower priority things for sure. For me, running is never a chore because it intertwines with my everyday life.

6:20 AM The "Question of the Day" on this Reformation Day: Who is your favorite magisterial reformer? Mine is obviously Zwingli since I once lived in German-speaking Switzerland.

From his birthplace in Wildhaus, to Constance where he was ordained a priest, to Basel where he studied, to Glarus where he held his first pastorate, to Einsiedeln where he perfected his Greek, to the Grossmünster in Zürich, and -- sadly -- to the Kappel battlefield where he died defending his beloved canton, I have seen it all. It was in Bible studies with Zwingli that my spiritual forebears the Anabaptists began to form their views of a believers' church. This is one of many reasons Why I Love the Anabaptists. It's often true, folks, that pupils go further than their teachers, hopefully in the right direction. That's one reason I love teaching so much, knowing that I am passing the baton to a new generation who will be even better equipped that I am to take the Gospel to the nations. 

Wednesday, October 30

7:14 PM Curveballs, they are a part of life, folks. On Nov. 2, 2013, I was thrown a curveball. Thankfully the Lord knows a lot about the curveballs of life, and He's seen me through. To commemorate Becky's life, and to thank the staff at UNC Cancer Hospital for the excellent care they gave us for 4 years, I’ve decided to run in this weekend's UNC Healthcare Half Marathon in Raleigh and to make a donation to UNC in memory of Becky.

Training for the event is now in process. Near perfect weather is predicted for race day, with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 50s. This is going to be fun! And by the way, thanks for your prayers. We all get tired at times in the race of life. As Christians, we must realize that the Christian life isn't easy. We must continue to work hard and overcome. Today is the day to look unto Jesus, the one who designed the race course and who stands at the finish line with open arms, cheering us on.

7:06 PM Brisket always inspires devotion, and yesterday was no exception as Ben Merkle and I went out for lunch at Brigs in Wake Forest. We both ordered brisket. Beef brisket (sorry you pork lovers) is the ultimate lunch meat.

Our tender, loving efforts to devour our sandwiches were interrupted by occasional forays into a discussion of Greek or the book on linguistics we're co-editing, but brisket was never far from our minds. Yes, folks, brisket will be in heaven, guaranteed.

Monday, October 28

6:45 AM Six years ago this coming Saturday, the Lord Jesus welcomed Becky home. The morning of her passing was, as I recall, dark and a bit cloudy. With the sun barely peeking over the eastern sky, the farm was as tranquil as I ever knew it to be. While I felt a great loss at Becky's death, I knew she was glad to be where she was. I thought of her brave battle with cancer. Like a difficult trail run, each step of her cancer journey was unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. When she could no longer run, we ran for her. Later, I would learn how to literally run. It seemed to be exactly what my ailing spirit needed. Every time I crossed the finish line, I felt renewed. It's true that we want to avoid the storms of life because they are powerful and frightening. We can't control them, and so we fear them. Running has become a way for me to chase down my fears. I realize that running helps me to endure the storms and come away stronger on the other side of the finish line. Just like the giant trees on the farm, storms make us stronger. We would all desire a life without storms, yet ironically we need them. Life always goes on after a storm. The air is somehow cleaner, and the pastures are replenished.

As you can see, I'm kinda sentimental today. Probably be like this all week. Grateful for you all taking a moment to read. Most important to me is knowing where Becky went on Nov. 2, 2013. Just one more thing to be grateful for. I have been changed forever by Becky's passing. I am not the same person as when I last held her hand. I'm a blessed man filled with love. Now I know that attaining any goal is possible as long as I do it step by step with God's help and with my family at my side. Family and friends are a big key for the journey of life. Love them unconditionally, and watch beauty fly onward.

Sunday, October 27

6:04 PM Fort Benning, yes famous Fort Benning, the "Home of the Infantry," will, God willing, be the site of my next race on Nov. 16, the 19th annual Soldier Marathon that starts at the historic National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA.

Race options include the full marathon, the half marathon, and the 5K, and it's this latter race I've signed up for along with my daughter and her husband who is stationed at Fort Benning. Yes, I can't wait to toe the line against some hefty competition! Then, on Nov. 23, I hope to participate in the 10th annual Chestnut Ridge Trail Run in Efland, NC. The course features rolling hills through hardwood forests and offers both a 4 mile and 10 mile option. Trail runs are not, I repeat NOT, for the faint of heart. Patience and fortitude are the keys to finishing a trail race. As I continue to dabble in trail running I do look forward to testing my physical and mental limits. My 31-mile ultra trail run in Farmville a year ago was one little step in the right direction I do believe. A lot of mental focus and toughness will be required on race day. Am I up to the task? We'll find out.

Karen and Tino, can't wait to see you again in the great state of Georgia!

8:18 AM Yesterday, one of my doctoral students emailed me a link to Roland Allen's classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours?

You can now read the entire book online for free. I always require this as a textbook in my New Testament 2 classes when we're studying the book of Acts. We need to rediscover New Testament principles of evangelism and church planting. Praise the Lord, this is one book all agree points us in the right direction.

7:55 AM Preparations for tomorrow night's Advanced Greek Grammar class are now in full swing. We will be discussing A. T. Robertson's chapter on "The Article," Steve Runge's chapter on "Left-Dislocations," Stephen Levinsohn's chapter on "Discourse Analysis" in my and Ben Merkle's forthcoming book for Baker, Johannes Louw's "Reading a Text as Discourse" in my Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, and finally my essay in the latter volume called "Discourse Analysis, Synoptic Criticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological Considerations." Our guest speaker for the evening will be my colleague Ben Holloway, lecturing on "Language and the Existence of God." Along the way I'll have a few more things to say about verbal aspect now that our Power Point on the topic is almost complete. With the semester halfway over it's time to build a strong foundation and prepare a sound and timely approach to the subject of the Greek verb. NOW is the time, folks, to keep pushing forward in our understanding of Greek and its intersection with linguistics. My own approach to verbal aspect is nothing earth-shattering, but there are a few hidden wrinkles that could help out all the Greek students out there. Language study is a fine art. It must be executed with incredible precision. The same is true of any endeavor in life, including the art and science of running. If you take care to prepare thoroughly, the race will go well.   

Saturday, October 26

6:38 PM We are moving on up in the running regimen this fall, with an attempt to break my 10 mile record in Richmond today. I was grateful to have the health and the early wake-up opportunity this beautiful morning to try and get a new PR on the books.

It was a fun day on the Virginia Capital Trail, reconnecting with a place where I've ridden my road bike many a time.

As you can see, the course elevation left much to be desired (I don't like hills very much), so it was a bit iffy as to the outcome.

Of the 7 ten mile races I did prior to coming into today's event, my last PR of 2:04 was set a month ago at the Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg.

I am beyond excited to report that today God enabled me to crush my old PR by about 12 minutes.

We will take it everyone, we will take it. Exciting day for sure out on the trail and I look forward to sharing more races with all of you in the coming weeks as we push on into 2020.

Thanks for tuning in everybody. Training and racing marches on into the fall and winter months.

P.S. My Garmin watch is notoriously unreliable for its VO2Max data but at least it provides a good laugh.

5:20 AM Where will you be worshiping God this weekend? That's not the same thing as asking, "Where will you go to church tomorrow?" Today I will worship God by running a race and then doing yard work before getting some writing done. True worship includes praising God in song on Sunday morning, but it has to go further than that. True worship, as John 4 teaches (cf. Rom. 12:1-2), is the offering to God of all that we have and is in response to all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Anyone can sing praises on Sunday morning. But it's another thing altogether to worship God on Saturday night or Monday morning when you're surrounded by friends who perhaps have no desire to live for God. In other words, a church's "worship" can never be judged by what happens on Sunday morning. In fact, we do not go to church to worship God; we go to encourage one another (see 1 Cor. 14:26). Howard Marshall has written ("How Far Did the Early Christians Worship God?", Churchman 99 [1985] p. 220):

It is true that Christian meetings can be described from the outside as occasions for worshipping God and also that elements of service to God took place in them, but the remarkable fact is that Christian meetings are not said to take place specifically to worship God and the language of worship is not used as a means of referring to them or describing them. To sum up what goes on in a Christian meeting as being specifically for the purpose of 'worship' is without New Testament precedent. 'Worship' is not an umbrella-term for what goes on when Christians gather together.

So the correct answer to the question "Where do you worship?" is not "_________ Community Church" but "everywhere."

The Bible insists that worship consists of the whole of life.

Even running a race.

Friday, October 25

6:10 PM The key word for today is "leftovers." What are some leftover goals you have for the year 2019? The brain is definitely a goal-seeking organism. When your goals sink into your unconscious mind, you will work night and day to achieve them. 

I've definitely had a good year so far. I've had some challenges, of course, as we all have. I wish I could eat cleaner. My house is not always picked up. I wish I could eat out less. On the other hand, I got a chance to teach some wonderful classes. I was able to do some pretty awesome marathons, including one in Phoenix. The linguistics conference on campus that we helped to organize was a genuine blessing. Surfing in Hawai'i is always a blast. But goals for 2019? I still have some. I'd like my blogging to improve. I want my posts to have a tighter "focus" that keeps them from meandering too much or becoming too wordy. I don't want to publish posts that don't have a clear vision for what I'm trying to accomplish here. In short, I want to be consistent while still having fun. I have other 2019 goals as well. I want to do a thorough de-cluttering of my office, create a more efficient way of handling my emails, spend more time with my grandchildren, complete the new landscaping in my backyard, lose 10 pounds, take a long road trip, learn to speak Spanish better, say "Thank you" more often, increase my daily water intake, eat less salt, learn a few new computer skills, and plan for a productive and meaningful 2020. I have one guiding principle in setting my goals. I want to reach the God-given limit of what's possible in my life. Not all that long ago I set as a goal "to run a marathon." At the time it seemed like an audacious or even unrealistic goal. Maybe your goal is to walk two times a week. It all depends on what you want to accomplish in life. I like to stay clam, reflect on my journey thus far, be grateful for all the blessings of life, be comfortable in my own skin, and focus on keeping in step with the Lord. Right now, though, I have got to cook supper and fuel up this old body of mine. Tomorrow's another big race day.

Happy rest-of-2019 goal setting, folks!

8:50 AM Read: Philippians, Missions, and You.

8:36 AM On my reading desk:

So many good, God things are happening today in Greek studies that's for sure. As Con Campbell puts it on the last page of his Advances in the Study of Greek:

The study of New Testament Greek is probably more exciting now than at any time since the discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri in 1897. So much substantial work is being conducted, some of which has huge implications for our understanding of Greek, and all of which has bearing on the exegesis of the New Testament. A world of discovery and insight await those who heed its call.

Will you heed that call? I hope so!

7:55 AM Giving thanks....

I am thankful for the classroom. For 43 years the Lord has given me the privilege of training students to follow Jesus in obedience and love. These have been the very best years of my life. In fact, I am more passionate about the classroom today than I was when I first entered Sutherland Hall at Biola in 1976. Each week is a new joy as well as a challenge to be the best I can be.

I am thankful for the men and women where I teach. You are literally the best people I know. You love Jesus and the lost so well I can't believe it. Thank you for believing in me and making me braver and better.

I am thankful for a family that still doesn't quite understand this crazy passion I have to run races but who love and support me anyway. It's an honor to be part of this brood.

I am thankful for my wife of 37 years. In one week we will be commemorating her passing 6 years ago. I am a better man because of her. Even her passing has been a blessing in disguise as it forced me to push myself beyond what was easy and comfortable.

I am thankful for close friends who keep prodding me forward. To the Corinthians Paul said, after spending one and a half years with them, "You've seen my life. Now follow me." I am convinced that God has given me these friends to be an example and an encouragement.

I am thankful that my cooking is no longer a complete disaster. My chicken tikka masala is so good you can't believe it. Cooking warrior I am not, but at least I've got one meal down pat.

I am thankful for you, my wonderful blog readers. I am so for you. I'd like to think that sometime during our day we can come together and lean on each other for rest and encouragement. Let's continue to point each other to God.

I am thankful that the kingdom is simple:

Love God.

Serve others.

Walk humbly.

Thursday, October 24

7:06 PM When you clear cut your pines and hardwoods, you get this:

For years I was never able to enjoy the sunset in the West. That's all changed. I like to spend part of every evening outdoors with the animals and nature. I like to listen to my soul and take time to converse with the Creator. I like to say that farm life is hard work but good work. It usually puts you to bed with a good tired if you know what I mean. Getting out of doors on a regular basis -- so key for long term physical and mental health.

1:44 PM Today's key word is "setback." We all face curveballs in life -- times when we hit an unexpected pothole or are dealt a lousy deck of cards. Five months ago, after running my 15th marathon, I noticed some irregular heart beats. That began a long series of trips to various specialists including cardiologists, sports physiologists, and neurologists. I've been really impressed with the expertise of all of my physicians. Today I had my 5-month follow up with my cardiologist and, thank the Lord, the report card came back with an "A+." Running injuries happen to all of us. I've used this time to try and figure out how I can avoid a repetition of the same thing going forward. The bottom line is that I was not overtraining but over-racing. Four or five marathons a year turned out to place a bit too much stress on my cardiovascular system. So, with the doctors' blessings, I will continue to run marathons but just not so many each year.

Folks, life is a learning curve. Setbacks are just part of life's journey. When you face a curveball, you take it one day at a time and one step at a time. You seek professional care and then you move forward, this time with a bit more wisdom hopefully. Cross training is now a huge part of my weekly workout routine. My schedule now has me running no more than 3 times a week, then lifting twice a week. If I can get in a bike now and again, so much the better. Today, for example, I worked out for an hour at the Y.

It was also time to renew my annual membership. For only $420.00 per year I can enjoy some outstanding facilities. If you work out a mere two times each week, that amounts to less than 4 bucks a visit. That's pretty phenomenal.  Moreover, Y membership is nationwide, so you can visit a gym wherever you travel in the U.S. After my workout I did another 5 miles at the track.

This time I picked up my pace just a tad from yesterday.

Just trying to stay on my A-game before Saturday's big race in Richmond. After I got back to the farm I rolled out my legs and did some stretching. Foam rolling has become a key ingredient in my race preparation.

Time now to get some rest before getting back out into the great outdoors to mow the yards. Today's weather is some of the nicest I've seen in a very long time. Health is awaiting all of us. You just have to go out and get it!

6:55 AM Here's another new Power Point, this time on Eph. 5:15-24, showing that we can't teach on Christian marriage without at least beginning with a discussion of the filling of the Spirit in 5:18, because that's where Paul starts. The theme of wise and Spirit-filled living begun in 5:15 is now applied to special groups: wives and husbands (5:22-33), children and their parents (6:1-4), and slaves and their masters (6:5-9). Nor can we begin a new thought unit in 5:21, as though "submitting" is a finite verb: "submit." "Submitting" is a participal that relates back to the main verbs in 5:18. This doesn't mean that there's no shift in Paul's thinking at 5:22, where he begins his discussion of Christian marriage. But this shift must never become a separation from the preceding context. Success in marriage is impossible without Spirit-filled living. Thousands of times in a marriage we have to choose to go our way or the Spirit's way, to choose our happiness or the other's happiness, to tear down or to build up. Marriage is hard work but it's good work. And it works best when two people are regularly getting over themselves and living a Spirit-filled, other-centered life.

Wednesday, October 23

6:16 PM My new Power Point on verbal aspect has finally been published. You'll understand why I'm so excited about it when you open it. It's not quite complete. I need to add Wallace and Porter. It's time to play it smart folks when it comes to verbal aspect. More to come for sure. I've also been going through a grammar of Koine Greek written in Modern Greek.

Earlier today I got in an easy 5-mile run at Joyner Park in Wake Forest.

We train slow to run fast, folks. I can't wait to see if my training pays off this Saturday when I join a few hundred other runners to race 10 miles on the historic Virginia Capital Trail. The VCT is a 52-mile multi-use trail connecting Richmond with Jamestown. I've biked all 52 miles of it twice, but this will be my first time running it. I'll do another 5 miles tomorrow, Lord willing, and then after that no more running until Saturday's race. As runners we need to always watch out for the signs of overtraining and burnout. Running must always be balanced with proper rest. The key to running for the rest of your life is not just discipline but being smart!

Tonight I'm gelling after 3 long days of teaching and meetings. Time to rest and recover from the effort teachers put into their classes. I can't wait to share with you some of the things I'm learning about verbal aspect. I've even toying with the idea of putting my thoughts into a journal article. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 21

7:56 AM The perfect tense. That's our topic in tonight's Advanced Greek Grammar class. There's always more to learn, folks. But you have to keep abreast of current scholarship. This is one book we'll be talking about tonight for sure.

It's the first full-scale reference grammar of Classical Greek in a century. Though I'm not familiar with any of the authors, they must be accomplished Greek scholars by virtue of their being chosen to produce this massive 811-page volume. I am finding some inconsistencies, however, and one of them has to do with the perfect tense. In introducing "aspect" (p. 406), the authors pretty much tow the party line in writing that the present stem presents an action as incomplete. "This is called imperfective aspect." Then they write that the aorist stem presents an action as complete, that is, as a single (uninterruptable) whole. "This is called perfective aspect." Finally, they say that perfect stems present action as a state resulting from a preceding completed action -- a very traditional way of looking at the perfect tense but one with which I happen to agree. Curiously, here there is no "This is called___________ aspect." In fact, I have yet to find a reference anywhere in the book to the term they use to describe this third aspect in Greek. I've asked my assistant to contact the authors for an explanation. If I were to venture a guess, I think it might be because they have already used the term "perfective" for the aorist tense stems and are therefore unable to use the traditional "perfective" for the perfect tense stems. But we'll find out. It's never safe to speculate what an author is thinking.

At the end of the day we never stop learning. It's the joy of education that keeps us going. Boredom does not creep in when you're having fun!

6:30 AM Our key word for today is "stages." When I give someone a copy of my wife's book My Life Story, I will often turn to the photo of us when we were just married and say, "That was her first husband." At first people will look at me with a quizzical stare, but soon they get the joke. Everything in life goes through stages, folks, including marriage. In 37 years of marriage I would say that Becky had three or maybe four husbands. Hopefully we all grow and mature as husbands. After decades of marriage, "knowing" each other has a far deeper meaning. You have made a conscious choice to be together despite your faults and foibles galore. The goal is a true partnership and, I would add, a partnership in the Gospel if you are a Christian couple. Take a few minutes and jot down five specific areas in your life you'd like to grow in this year, using a short word or phrase. Talk to God about overcoming inertia and about helping you reach these goals. And remember: God has a lot at stake in your growth too. He's there through every stage of life you will ever experience, rooting for you to succeed. Now is the time to take your next step, to seize the day if you will, without hesitation. Are we done growing? Certainly not, certainly not!

Sunday, October 20

5:28 PM In my little talk this morning I referred to Eph. 3:8, where Paul calls himself the "very least (Greek: leaster) of all the saints." In his excellent commentary, William Hendricksen says that Paul is probably thinking back to "his former life as a persecutor of the church" (p. 156). Our limitations are not liabilities to our God. He recruits the most surprising people. No handicap from the past hinders Him. "God has chosen things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important." So if you expect other people not to let you down, you can expect to be disappointed. Corrie ten Boom's famous quote came to mind this morning during my talk:

Look inside and be depressed.

Look outside and be distressed.

Look to Him and be at rest.

Friends, all of us are flawed. We need to accept other people for who they are: people who are basically just like us.

P.S. There's only one commentary set I recommend in its entirety, and it's the one by Hendricksen. Oh my, what a great author with both a brilliant mind and the heart of a pastor. Rare combination these days it seems to me.

12:30 PM My message this morning was from Josh. 3:1-3 and was titled "The God of the Impossible." Along with the children of Israel, we metaphorically camped out for 3 days on the eastern shore of the Jordan River and watched a river at flood stage, thinking to ourselves, "Ain't no way anyone can cross this river, not here, not now!" Still, we carry on, keeping our eyes squarely focused on "the box" -- the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God (the ark being one of greatest types of Christ in the Old Testament).

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?/Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?/God specializes in things called "impossible."/He does the things others cannot do.

It was pure joy getting to know these young adults from Cary, NC. The world needs more men and women like them.

8:15 AM Luke 3:23 was our text last night as we took a whirlwind excursion through the "Age Thirty Transition" of Jesus and then applied it to our lives.

Studying the life of Jesus will wake you up that is for sure. Overall, I do not believe we understand the implications of the decision Jesus made to close the door on His childhood home never again to return. He had made the "age thirty transition" and had begun a journey that tried His will and tested His endurance but He was faithful to the end. Now we are called to be His followers and imitators. He loves us and is on our side, in spite of all our failures and weaknesses. Our commitment is to do nothing but the will of the Master. 

Saturday, October 19

5:12 PM From the archives: Mark's Theology of the Cross.

4:54 PM Been in 1 Cor. 12 this afternoon. Let's always remember that the church has many members with differing gifts. When each member cooperates with all the others, God is honored and the Gospel moves forward. We work together, folks, we just keep working together. But we have to be aware of three dangers: giving credit to ourselves for our gifts, failing to use our gifts for the benefit of the entire church, and thinking that we are of no benefit to the church at all. Our thought must always be: "I have received a special gift from the Holy Spirit, be it great or small, and so I must use it as He requires." The benefit of all -- that's the goal. 

Onward, upward, and forward indeed.

12:06 PM Throwing out the myth of adolescence -- a key ingredient for all believers to consider in their study of the Bible. In fact, understanding the human developmental cycle, I would argue, cannot be complete without taking a very close look at Jesus' own stages of human development. Remember: If Jesus is 100 percent God, He is also 100 percent man. My game plan for this morning's session was to introduce my audience to Jesus' own developmental cycle, especially as it pertains to raising children in today's society. I will now wait until this evening to finish with Jesus' age 30 transition, the time when He began His public ministry. By pressing the envelope of our understanding of Jesus' earthly life, we will be better able to understand such key passages as 1 Cor. 13:11, 1 Tim. 4:12, and 1 John 2:12-14. Stay tuned for another report later tonight, Lord willing.

9:05 AM Oh my. The Amsterdam Marathon is tomorrow. The weather will be perfect. It should be an epic race. Keep your eyes on two East Africans to break the course record: Kenenisa Bekele and Lawrence Cherono. In the women's lineup, Ethiopian Meseret Defar will be making her long-awaited marathon debut. The race will be viewed live in 120 countries. What an inspiration for adult-onset athletes like myself! The love of running unites us. And you know what? You can be one of us. You too can push your limits to new highs and lows. Nothing keeps you from joining the ranks of those who have found regular exercise to be fun and healthy except your own belief that you can't.

Amsterdam, by the way, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The marathon allows you to see 26.2 miles of it. Hmm. Maybe next year?

8:04 AM Today's key word is "strategy." The mental strategy for doing missions is very complicated and vast. Or it is? I frankly do not have all the answers to this question. At the end of the day, it's all about living sacrificially for others. Especially when you live in the West where we enjoy so much wealth. That's why we gave a copy of my book Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions to everyone in attendance last night at the retreat. A heartbeat for world evangelism pulses on every page of the New Testament. That's what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus in the 21st century, I argued. We must forsake our fascination with material prosperity and personal pleasure and turn to Christ with all our hearts. That is the only path to true happiness and fulfillment, folks. Our Western culture contrasts so directly with the lifestyle our Lord commands. Unless we have travelled to places like India, we simply cannot comprehend the situation in the sin-blighted countries of the Majority World. The fields of lost souls are white unto harvest. God is not asking us to give money to missions but to make missions the central passion of our lives. We should be willing to exchange everything and anything we have for the pearl of great price, the kingdom of God. For the man or woman whom God uses there can be no other way.

Today my topics are "Jesus and the Age 12 Transition" and "Jesus and the Age Thirty Transition."

Love God.

Serve others.

Live on mission.

P.S. Never tire of watching the sun rise over the pond. Never.

7:34 AM If you're using our beginning grammar here's a nifty little cheat sheet for chapter 7 prepared by my assistant. Thanks, Rodolfo!

Friday, October 18

10:44 PM This weekend I'm speaking 4 times at a college-career retreat at a nearby camp. Tonight was session #1.

Great chance to remind these twenty- and thirty-somethings that:

  • Love is not sex.

  • Wealth is not money.

  • Relationship is not religion.

  • Faithfulness is not success.

I pose to all of you what I pose to myself: "Am I living for what really counts in life?" We march on, folks, fighting for what's of eternal value. Let us run on to our lofty goals, one step at a time, one day at a time. For this world is not our home.

12:42 PM Was great to be outdoors on this perfect fall day and get in 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

We must not forget that being in nature allows us to unhitch from the craziness of urban living. Detachment from smart phones and even people is a beautiful thing if you can find it. Let's enjoy God's nature when we can, people!

Here, by the way, is a solid example of the Greek perfect tense. In 1 Cor. 15:3-6 Paul defines the Gospel by using 4 verbs:

  • Christ died.

  • He was buried.

  • He was raised.

  • He was seen by Cephas.

Which of these verbs is in the perfect tense do you think? Remember: The perfect tense indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the present.

  • Christ died. Is He still dead? Nope.

  • Christ was buried. Is He still buried? Nope.

  • Christ was seen by the human eye. Is He still seen? Nope.

  • Christ was raised. Is He still risen? Yep!

We might render Paul's Greek as follows (compare the ISV):

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures -- and is still alive! -- and He was seen by Cephas.

Yes, this is a bit of a paraphrase, but not much. Gordon Fee (1 Corinthians, p. 726) has written: "The verb in this instance is the perfect passive ('he has been raised'), implying that he was both raised from the dead and still lives" (italics his). In Ann Groton's beginning Greek grammar (referred to below), we read (p. 123):

The perfect tense describes a state that exists in the present of a completed action (e.g., "I have won," which implies that I am now in the state of being a winner).

Hence Pheidippedes' famous pronouncement after the Battle of Marathon:

  • Nenikēkamen.

  • "We have won!"

We could even render this as "We are victorious!" Here the perfect tense focuses on the result or the state following the completion of an activity. An example I heard on YouTube just this morning was in an interview with a former White House lawyer. He was introduced, not as someone who "served in the White House" but as someone who "has served in the White House." The focus is on the result or state in the present time.

More later on imperfective and aoristic aspect. Ever onward and upward, folks!

8:55 AM Preparations for my Advanced Greek Grammar class next Monday night are in full swing here at Rosewood Farm. Our topic is verbal aspect, and my what a huge topic it is. This morning I took a spin through all of the beginning and intermediate grammars I own (both Classical and Koine) and am amazed at how much agreement there is despite superficial disagreements. My thoughts on the subject in brief:

There are three aspects in Greek. I call them imperfective, perfective, and aoristic. Of these, aoristic aspect is the default. An aoristic action is one that the speaker perceives not as an action occurring over time or as a completed action but as a mere occurrence. Aoristic aspect by itself does not specific whether the action is/was/will be prolonged, repeated, or finished -- hence the name aoristos, "undefined."

I continue to use "aoristic" (instead of "perfective") to describe this category of aspect for two reasons.  (1) The term perfective is too easily confused with the Greek perfect tense system, and (2) imperfective (incomplete) aspect and perfective (completed) aspect are binary opposites. One grammar I read this morning admits as much when it observes that the word "imperfective" derives from the Latin word imperfectivum, "not completed." Then what should "perfective" (Latin perfectivum) mean other than "completed"? But when discussing the Greek perfect tense, the later grammar says nothing about the Latin word perfectivum, "completed"! For the sake of simple consistency, then, I retain the more traditional use of "perfective." As I said above, perfective aspect (remember: I'm using the term with reference to the Greek perfect tense system) is the logical opposite of imperfective aspect.

By the way, I'm not the only one who still uses the term aoristic to refer to the aorist tense system in Greek. In her recently published grammar From Alpha to Omega: A Beginning Course in Classical Greek, Anne Groton writes (p. 15): "A Greek verb has one of three possible aspects: imperfective, aoristic, or perfective." I would simply ask: Isn't there less terminological confusion if we say, for example, that the perfect tense indicates perfective aspect, and the aorist tense indicates aoristic aspect?

Okay, time to get out of the house and do my farm chores. I'll conclude with a summary:

Grammatical aspect in Greek concerns the way an action is presented or regarded.

Imperfective aspect presents an action as incomplete, that is, as an action that is ongoing or repeated.

Perfective aspect (the opposite of imperfective aspect) presents an action as a state resulting from a preceding completed action or it signifies the effects of a completed action that is somehow still relevant.

Aoristic aspect presents an action as a complete whole, that is, an action viewed as neither incomplete nor complete but in its entirety.

Put another way:

Imperfective aspect describes a process.

Perfective aspect describes a state of affairs that exists as a result of a completed action.

Aoristic aspect describes an event without commenting on whether it is a process or completed.

Make sense? Hmm, maybe not. Let's summarize matters even more simply:

Imperfective aspect: Incomplete.

Perfective aspect: Completed.

Aoristic aspect: Complete

Thanks for tuning in, everyone. I hope you found this useful. I'll try and give some illustrations later. But now it's time to enjoy the great outdoors.

Thursday, October 17

12:28 PM Took my running shoes out today for a quick spin at the local high school track. Today was a great test of my overall fitness and endurance after Sunday's race.

I'm truly thrilled and grateful to be able to run again so quickly after that effort. Overall I'm pleased with how my legs have recovered after the marathon. Earlier I spent 45 minutes at the Y doing some weight lifting with my trainer.

I am excited to put down some more good training this week with perhaps a bit more intensity at the end of the week. Stay tuned for more training updates.

P.S. Got word today that my esteemed New Testament colleague Ulrich Luz of the University of Bern (Switzerland) has passed away at the age of 81.

An online obituary refers to him as an "innovatinen, international angesehenen Forscher und engagierten Lehrer" (an innovative, internationally renowned researcher and an engaged teacher). He and I share the joy and honor of having studied in Basel. This was also said of him: "Luz publizierte bis ins hohe Alter" (Luz published well into old age). He was perhaps best known for his work on the Gospel according to Matthew. Requiescat in pace, Professor Luz. Your legacy will not be soon forgotten.

6:20 AM Today's word is "niche." What is your niche in sports? When it comes to exercise, we all need an outlet in life. I know I do. I love competing and pushing myself. The key question is, what are your strengths? Plus, what are your main interests? Frankly, I've made a couple of mistakes in my ever-so-short life as a runner by not focusing on what I enjoy the most. An example might be the marathon distance. As you know, I just completed my 16th marathon. I ran my first one in Cincinnati 3 years ago. Between then and now I sort of got carried away by that distance and even ran a couple of back-to-back marathons (as in only 2 weeks apart). What do I like most about marathons? I love the challenge for sure. I also love the unknown. No matter how good you feel going into a 26.2 mile race, you never know how your body will do at around mile 20. So that's pretty exciting. I also enjoy seeing how quickly my body takes to recover after a big race. So there's a lot to like about the marathon distance. The downside is that a marathon beats you up pretty good, especially if you like to push yourself hard. Will I run another marathon? Probably. In fact, I'm looking at several possibilities for 2020 as I type. But to be honest, I don't think the marathon is my niche if you know what I'm saying. I'm just not built for the marathon.

That leaves me with other distances: 5K, 10K, 10-miler, half marathon, and the ultra. I enjoy all of these distances, but I'd have to say that my favorite -- my "niche" perhaps -- is the 13.1 mile half marathon. Not sure why. Maybe it's because after 3 years of running I can finally run an entire half without having to walk. Maybe it's because the distance is better suited for my body type. Probably a big reason is that a half marathon is much easier on your body than a full is. So, while the marathon seems to be a be a "bridge too far" so to speak, and the 5K too short, the half seems to be just right.

What about trail races? Oh my, I love these events. The ones I've done so far have ranged anywhere from the 5K to the half marathon distance. Today I'll be checking out the trail runs in my area (that is, within a 100 mile radius from the farm) and hopefully I can find a race that's not too far a drive to start out the fall running season.

Other areas of our lives besides sports require us to think in terms of "niche." As a writer of textbooks, I'm naturally drawn to what I call the academic/popular genre. That's not to say I don't enjoy the strictly academic essay or book. Early on in my career I focused articles and books on narrow and often highly technical subjects. I suppose I did this partly because success in my profession depends on targeting academic journals and publishing houses, getting your work through the peer review process, and hopefully contributing to the academy in a helpful way. The problem is, very few people actually read the highly technical book or journal article. Even fulltime scholars rarely have the time to keep up with all the literature in their own field. I think this is where popular writing comes in. In fact, I believe my second book (after my dissertation) was a step in this direction. The fact that Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek is still in print 31 years after it was first published speaks to what is perhaps a felt need for academic writings that appeal to the normal everyday student. Whenever I write, I try to imagine that my audience is a busy seminary student rather than an academic. I try to avoid writing that is too technical. Above all, I strive to avoid being boring. Some authors (N. T. Wright and John Stott, for example) are experts at using language that is understandable. They focus on readability as well as on solid content. They write for a mass market. The result, if you will, are more "eyeballs."

"Niche." What's yours, as an athlete or a teacher or whatever? Believe me, I'm still in the discovery process myself. And let me add: at the end of the day we might just discover that we really don't have a niche at all. Instead, we love doing it all. People often look down on the "jack of all trades," but there are certain advantages to being able to do several things competently. There's nothing wrong, folks, with what I call "dabbling." Still today, at the age of 67, I'm trying to learn new things, including how to cook decent meals, how to clean the house, how to speak Spanish correctly (instead of my horrible Spanglish), how to run efficiently, etc. Being a jack of all trades doesn't necessarily mean you're a master of none. Just don't try and force yourself into a square hole if you're a round peg.

I wish all of you the best as you pursue your life goals and incorporate discipline and virtue into your daily living. Now go out and do something you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 16

6:40 PM Greetings, internet family! My, what a great weekend it was for the marathon. First of all, congratulations to Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya for breaking the 2 hour barrier in a phenomenal effort in Vienna on Saturday.

What a memorable moment it was as he crossed the finish line. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Kipchoge now ranks among the greatest athletes of all time along with Roger Bannister, Edmund Hillary, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Lebron, and Pele. Once again, it was a team effort. There were 41 pacemakers that helped him reach his goal by creating, in essence, a miniature wind tunnel for him to run in – a reminder that we need each other in this challenging world we live in. Also, Kipchoge never knew his father, but thankfully his coach became a father figure for him. If you grew up without a dad in your life as I did, you know just how important that is. You play the hand you're dealt, folks, trusting the Lord every step of the way. Second, during Sunday's Chicago Marathon, the women's world record in the marathon was smashed by Brigid Kosgei, also of Kenya.

The height of human ability is wrapped up in the breath and soul of this woman. I wish I could say I helped her to accomplish her feat but I was still several hours behind when she crossed the finish line. A solid weekend for the marathon for sure – every accomplishment a pure gift from God even if it's not always recognized as such. Glad I could be along for the ride.

Pursuing my passions and hopefully never rusting out -- that's my goal these days. Trust me, the marathon is no joke, and I will certainly return for more punishment in the future.

But for now it's eating Mexican food and soaking in the memories of my race in the Windy City.

Thank you for reading. Cheers everyone, and see you soon.

Friday, October 11

8:18 AM Off to an adventure with my running shoes. That's right, the world's least athletic person is running "America's Marathon"! Time to see if all those training miles will pay off.

Today's key word is "courage." When I was in high school, I felt invincible. Life was going to be a smooth highway, remember? Then reality kicked in. Regrets. Old wounds. Disappointments. Loss and pain. Bad memories. You feel swallowed up by the world you were supposed to have by the tail. Dwelling on the past has a cumulative negative effect. That's why the Scriptures encourage us to dwell instead on the positives -- on the grand future that God has in store for us. He wants us to experience the "riches of His glory" that He's planned for us from the beginning of time. He understands that we are often hesitant to move forward because of past regrets. Fact is, He's got some surprises up His sleeve that will boggle our mind. I never once thought I would run a marathon, let alone 16 of them. Little did I realize when Becky passed away that God was scouting up ahead. "The Lord will go ahead of you," says Isaiah. "I know the plans I have for you ... to give you a future and a hope," wrote Jeremiah. God can take our brokenness and make something positive out of it. If it's self pity you're after, it can easily be had. But if you are to move forward in life, no matter what the goal is, you'll need all the courage you can muster to fight on. But you must rely on God. You must believe that He knows what's best for you.

Think of your past with all of its regrets and sorrows. Now let those memories give you fuel to begin to carve out your true identity on this earth. Indeed, God has a plan for your life that exceeds your wildest imaginations. And He's willing and able to guide you toward that destination.

Onward and upward everyone. See you after the race!

Love God.

Serve others.

Be courageous.

P.S. Fun facts about the 2019 Chicago Marathon:

  • There will be over 45,000 runners.

  • Around 1.7 million spectators will line the course.

  • You run through 29 different neighborhoods of the city (including China Town, Greek Town, and Little Italy).

  • Real Feel temps are forecast to be in the middle to upper 30s for most of the race.

  • A strong WSW wind of 15-25 mph will be a crosswind for most of the course.

  • The course is extremely flat and makes for lots of PRs.

  • You can watch the event live on TV. Look for me. I'll be the guy waving.

Thursday, October 10

4:30 PM Chicago update: After an upper body workout at the Y, I attempted to get in an easy 3 mile run at the local high school track but was unsuccessful. I was barely able to manage a 2 mile walk. Yesterday's test has left me very sore and my right calf muscle feels like it's been pulled. Just another reminder that running involves injuries -- even those induced by others -- but they can be overcome with a combination of patience and grit. You must be tough to do this sport, that's for sure, if you want to truly be your best. Time to take everything in stride. The Lord knew this would happen and He isn't surprised! I understand that this sport of running comes with its risks that are sometime unavoidable even when you're trying to be ever so careful. Onward we go along this running journey.

Right now I need to lay out my running outfit for the race, trying to keep in mind that the weather in Chicago can turn on a dime. Currently they're calling for partly sunny skies at race start with a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind will be out of the west south west at 16 mph. Looks like I'll need to layer and anticipate chucking some of my outer clothing along the course. Thankfully the chance of precipitation is zero. At any rate, I'm excited to get back to Chicago and to run another marathon. Racing is a little treat we get as runners for spending all those hours in training and prepping for our race goals.

Wednesday, October 9

7:46 PM Well, folks, the summer heat is a thing of the past and racing conditions for the marathon this Sunday are promising to be on the cool/cold side. That's fine with me. Rather be cold than hot. Then again, it's October. Let's just say you have to be prepared for all race conditions, so I'm trying to pack smart. Should I use my hydration vest on race day? I'll decide then. But it will come along to Chicago for sure. I'm kinda getting used to sipping on a sports drink every half mile or so rather than waiting to reach an aid station every 1-2 miles. Right now I'm trying to stay motivated for the race. Before every race you think about what kind of motivation works best for you. Shall I try for a new PR? Shall I allow myself to be pushed and challenged by a pacer? Shall I take my time and enjoy the sights of one of the greatest cities of the world? Don't know the answers yet, but the Lord will show me on race day. Don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but I'm running Chicago as a fundraiser for an organization called Lungevity, which helps people affected by lung cancer. If you'd like to make a donation, me web page is here. One thing is certain. I am far from being an expert about this running thing. I still have so much to learn. But with 15 marathons under my belt I've learned some basic things about running:

  • Never sit down during a race.

  • Never bomb the hills at full speed.

  • Be quick and purposeful through the aid stations.

  • Stay focused on both hydration and nutrition.

  • Remember that running is a gift.

  • Focus on the mile you're running at that very moment.

  • Anticipate having to dig deep toward the end of the race.

  • Embrace the suffering.

  • Monitor your pace so you have enough oomph to get you to the finish line.

  • Ignore your brain when it is screaming at you to STOP.

Folks, if something in your life is worth doing, do it now, because one day the opportunity may be taken away from you. If there's a goal you want to achieve, start working on it. But make sure your goals are your goals, not someone else's. They have to be based on your standards and values. Learning to set reasonable yet achievable goals has been one of the most profound things running has taught me. And there's still a lot more to learn!

1:18 PM Update on the ongoing situation with my right foot and the numbness I experience there occasionally. Today I had a nerve induction test where they poke you with needles and then run eclectic charges through your feet, calves, thighs, and lower back. The test took about an hour and wasn't pleasant but gathering as much information as you can about any injury is never a bad idea. Looks like I have some peripheral neuropathy in my right foot that might be caused by nerve damage in my lower spine. A lumbar MRI has been ordered, and I'm excited for the results to be delivered. Until then, the doctor suspects it's the result of normal aging and not directly due to all the activities I do. He wants me to stay active rather than sedentary. Hence a green light for Chicago. Maintaining fitness as a runner is a balancing act. But fatigue and soreness, even a few aches, is not the same as an injury. If you're active, you can never stop listening to the oh-so quiet voice of your body. Pain often means that injury is imminent, so if you're having pain it's best to see your doctor immediately. Sometimes the best remedy is to take some time off so that your muscles and joints have a chance to recover. Remember: the body you have is the only body you'll get. Most injuries are caused by overuse, which is why I've cut back significantly on the number of marathons I do annually. Nobody wants to have an injury, but they can and do occur. Expect them. Deal with them wisely. Seek professional help --  always. The patience and self-discipline you show during your recovery will be well worth it.

7:20 AM One of the points I try to make in my little devotional on running is that running (and all of life) should be to the glory of God. A well-cooked meal is not only a treat that delights the palate. It reflects creative talent, talent that only comes from God. Or take the arts. As you know, I've always dabbled in art. Drawing. Painting. Sketching. Oils. Water colors. I believe that all these pursuits can be seen as potential God-glorifying endeavors. The artist molds and shapes earthy elements into awe-inspiring paintings that reflect an ability "on loan from God." The architect fashions wood or stone into marvelous buildings that reflect a divinely-given gift of creativity. The athlete takes the human body and trains it to do amazing feats that remind us just how beautifully we humans are made by our Creator.

This month in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge will try and break the 2-hour mark in the marathon. If he succeeds, it will be an awe-inspiring feat. To me at least, it will be another reminder of how wonderfully God created our human bodies.

Pursuing physical activity can also be an act of love for God and neighbor. The healthier I can stay as I grow older, hopefully the less of a burden I will be on my family. I would argue, then, that becoming physically active promotes the ends of God as we strive to be responsible with the bodies He has given us.

I'm not trying to romanticize sports. The fitness industry is obviously designed to make money, pure and simple. But any endeavor can be distorted by the ends of capitalism. Maybe it's best to think of fitness as a part of Christian discipleship. Created in the imago Dei, we are entrusted with the responsibility to care for all of creation, and how we treat the human body is often indicative of our relationship with God.

A marathon is so much like life. 26.2 miles is an odyssey of conflicting emotions. It's joy at how far you've come and despair at how far you have to go. Hard days come to all of us. But we keep on running the race of life. If we draw on the strength of God, we can all finish strong.

When I cross the finish line of life, I want to be spent. The real journey is the journey within.

6:15 AM The key verse during our conference in Philly was 2 Tim. 2:2: "And the things you've heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." To me, this is one of the most encouraging things about Paul's life. It seems to me that Paul was willing to pass the baton to those he had trained. To the Corinthians he said, "You've seen my life. Now follow me as I follow Christ." One of the brothers reminded us that "There is a time for everything." And now is clearly the time for the trained to become the trainers. Mark 14 shows us the kind of relationship Jesus has with His disciples. He's like a wealthy businessman who's gone on a long vacation, leaving his estate and power of attorney with his staff. The Bible calls this "stewardship." Stewardship is the normal Christian life. It's not a life reserved only for clergy or missionaries. Christ is not looking for cheerleaders but for athletes who will get into the game and play. Live this way and you will not be disappointed I do believe!

Today is a day for recouping. Got an appointment with a sports physiologist at Duke this morning, then it's time to clean the house before putting the final touches on my preparation for Chicago. As a 67-year old with a little bit of time and experience behind me, I truly believe that we never outgrow our need to keep on moving forward in life. Thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my story with you and hopefully inspire you to remain in state of growth, always. I'm so grateful for the chance to run Chicago. Even if the course is cold and windy (as things seem to be shaping up in Chicago as of today), I'll keep my goals in front of me, working as hard as the Lord will allow me to.

Love God.

Serve others.

Keep on growing in grace.

Tuesday, October 8

8:32 PM So great to visit Philly and get caught up with a team of men and women I've worked with internationally for over 10 years now. Pretty amazing how that journey began, and it's not over yet. We prayed together, huddling over meals while discussing the future work and just spending time together. We're all committed to a common core in some special way, and we have become close friends. I can't say "missions" without thinking of these folks and the measure of friendship and loyalty missions requires. I am committed to that friendship. There's a trust there, a reciprocity of values and relationships. My thanks to my good friend Rob for organizing our meetings and to Jake and Mary Ann for their warm hospitality in putting me up overnight. If you can't find God while hanging out with friends, you probably won't find Him in your quiet times. All of the blogging I do (and the occasional pontificating) doesn't matter one bit if I am not engaged in living out the Gospel Commandment in this world in conjunction with men and women like these. They are people in a real place facing real dangers, living out their faith just as I am living out mine. Yesterday and today I realized again that, oh, my God, You are so worthy of my praise. I was made for this life. I am but an exile and pilgrim in this fallen world, here to plant seeds and to prepare for that Day when all things will be renewed. All of us, wherever we live and whatever we do, are meant to be outposts of God's love in a broken world. I think that's because God is love.

The bride of Christ grows lovelier to me each and every day. I can't tell you how much I value my brothers and sisters (at least 100 were present for our meetings) -- men and women quietly doing the work of the kingdom in the oddest of places, not because we have to do this but because it's who we are. The joy of the Lord is our strength as each of us picks up our own little shovel and gets to work, living out the kingdom in our real, right-now lives. It isn't a chore. It's our vocation. It's the work God has given us to do.

Been a good week so far, been really good. Onward we go on this fantastic journey!

Monday, October 7

7:30 AM Up we go! Eager to fly to Philly later today for some meetings on global missions with some great friends. It's a time to humble ourselves before God and seek the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. The earliest Christians did not consider missions and evangelism an occasional activity. No, their witness was as consistent as their daily worship. A New Testament church is an evangelizing church. It reaches out in witness and good works. It is known not only for its biblical teaching but for its compassionate outreach. Only the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit can open the blind eyes of the church to see this. As God's new community, we are called out of the world to belong to God and then sent right back into the world to witness and to serve. I used to make a distinction between the "Great Commandment" and the "Great Commission." No longer! The Great Commission of Matt. 28:19 is not the Great Suggestion. We should also call it a "commandment," for that's exactly what it is. So I see no contradiction between what I call the Love Commandment and the Gospel Commandment. The missionary church isn't concerned with itself but is a "church for others." Its center lies not in a weekly gathering but in daily obedience. Perhaps nothing is so damaging to the cause of Christ as a church that is preoccupied with itself. Paul's own example as an indefatigable missionary (Acts 20) has been an unfailing inspiration to me in this regard. He threw himself heart and soul into the work of the Gospel. He worked night and day on behalf of Christ. No suffering could stop him, not even the threat of death, for he did not consider his life to be of any value. Above all, he had no ulterior motives. Nobody could accuse him of being in it for the money. Paul's life should not only humble but inspire us. All of us are called to the task of global missions. We must be willing to suffer for what we believe in. God calls us both to a wider love (a love even of our enemies) and a nobler ambition (to prioritize God's rule and God's mission over our own). I will be the first to confess that I don't always live with these priorities. Thankfully, today and tomorrow I will be meeting with men and women who have consistently modeled for me what it looks like to fight the good fight of faith. I also believe in the power of God's word and God's Spirit to renew not only the church but also my own heart.

Love God.

Serve others.

Always be on mission for Christ regardless of your location and vocation. 

P.S. Some Christians I know are facing tremendous opposition and persecution where they live. I know because I've seen it firsthand on my many visits to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. I hope that they, and we, will remember the final words of our Lord: "Remember, I am with you day after day after day, until the very end of the age." As Christ-followers, each of our days will have its trials and difficulties. But each day will also find the Lord Jesus Himself whispering in our ears, "My grace is all you need. I will never, never, NEVER leave you nor forsake you."

Sunday, October 6

4:42 PM The Word of the Day is "Hekastology." It's a word I invented several years ago. It comes from the Greek word hekastos, meaning "each" or "every." I was reminded of this neologism this morning as I listened to a wonderful message from 1 Pet. 4:10-11.

Here Peter writes, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he's talking about our hekastology! The purpose of our Christian meetings is to encourage one another. We are a family, and good families spend time building relationships. We should go to every church meeting thinking not just "What good can I get out of this meeting" but also "How can I contribute something to the whole?" Let's get into the habit of praying each and every time before we attend a church meeting to ask God to show us some way to encourage others, and then let's be on the lookout for opportunities to do just that. Otherwise we might as well just stay at home and watch the service on TV!

5:34 AM There are always lessons to learn whenever you run a race. Here's a few that come to mind after yesterday's half:

1) Realize that even "flat" courses have some amount of vertical to them. Yesterday we faced 1,274 feet of elevation gain.

To give you some perspective, the famous Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon is 91 feet of vertical. You get the idea.

2) Take care of your toes. As in having a professional pedicure. By the end of the race, toe #2 on my left foot was hurting something bad.

Should have known better. I definitely need to have that taken care of before Chicago.

3) Learn to suffer better. Pain comes with the territory. By mile 10 of a half marathon you're gonna be hurting. Accept your discomfort rather than dwelling on it.

4) Always do your best in life, no matter what you're doing. When yesterday's race was over I asked myself, "Did you do your best today, Dave?" Some days doing our best may mean running as hard and as fast as we can. On other days, it may mean slowing down and simply savoring the course and the experience. Races are a good place to find the best in yourself, in others, and in running.

5) Be respectful of others. The trail yesterday was a multi-purpose one, meaning there were plenty of people biking while we were running. If you're ever biking where people are running, you are told to say "On your left" before passing. One guy was super polite and said "Rider on your left." That one additional word made the request to pass all that more congenial. I'm going to start using it when I ride.

6) Savor your victories. I've never won a race. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing the winner cross the finish line, I'm so far behind. But here's the deal in running and in all of life. Even if you never win a race you can still be victorious. Yesterday I enjoyed a personal victory.  I finished. I set a new course PR. I enjoyed the company of hundreds of other runners who were all working together toward the same goal. The time on a clock is not a reflection of the kind of person I am. The victories over ourselves are the ones that matter the most.

Saturday, October 5

3:44 PM Today I wrapped up my preparations for Chicago with my final long run of the training block.

Today's 13.1-mile race in Farmville required a steady pace, and it was nice to beat my finish time from last year's event by 15 minutes.

With Chicago next weekend it feels great to have my final long run in the books. Time to focus on recovery and tapering before I leave for Chicago next Friday. So excited for this moment in time and for the God-given health that allows me to enjoy the great outdoors.

Friday, October 4

5:38 PM What do runners do? We work hard, train hard, rest, and then RACE! Instead of doing the Raleigh 13.1 Half Marathon as I had planned, I decided yesterday to switch over to the High Bridge Half Marathon in Farmville, where I do a lot of my training.

Not only is Farmville closer, I prefer crushed gravel to concrete as a running surface. As I continue to dabble in racing I'm trying to be wise as well as determined. Running takes place between the ears as much as it does with your legs.

I ran this race last year and was very pleased with the course and the organization. It's just another small step on my way to fulfilling some dreams of mine. No matter how large or small your dreams may be, never stop chasing them down.

12:45 PM What kind of music do you enjoy listening to while working out? I love various genres but classical has to be my favorite. Here's a new addition to my play list. It will take your breath away.


12:12 PM Excellent workout at the Y this morning in the lead-up to Chicago. Excited to take the rest of the day off before tomorrow's half marathon. I can feel it, folks. Maybe a new PR at Chicago? We will see! Today I test drove the new 2020 Honda Odyssey after my workout. I'll need to trade in my 2017 Odyssey soon. It's already got 68,000 miles on it. Yes, I do drive a lot. Not happy with the 2020 model, though. The redesigned front panel leaves much to be desired in my opinion. Might have to go back to driving Fords.

Meanwhile, been praying that the drought would be over soon. We haven't had a good rain in weeks and the fields are very dry. James tells us that Elijah prayed and "down came the rain." A prayer on your part for rain in these here parts would not be unappreciated, my friends. 

5:55 AM In Galatians this AM. Here the key word is "flabbergasted." That's what Paul is. He writes, in essence, "You Galatians -- I can't believe how fickle you are! How quickly you've turned away from the One who called you by the grace of Christ and have embraced "another" Gospel -- a variant message, an alien message, a non-message, a lie! You're crazy! Have you lost your mind? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. How do you suppose you can be acceptable to God by adding to Christ this hyphen or that hyphen: Jesus-circumcision, Jesus-law, Jesus-religion? When you attempt to add anything to His sole sufficiency you rob God of His glory. I tell you: If you accept circumcision, you will trade all the advantages of life in Christ for mere morality!" Paul has had it with "religion." There's nothing we can add to the work of Christ on the cross. But more often than not we decide we can "improve" the matter by supplementing faith with our paltry legalisms. We only end up diluting the purity of the Gospel and the simplicity of Christ. Galatians was written for every hyphenated Christian who ever lived: Jesus-and-angels or Jesus-and-circumcision or Jesus-and-politics or Jesus-and-Allah. The Gospel deletes all hyphens. God's actions in Jesus are enough.

Few things make us more vulnerable to the enemy's schemes than legalism.

Thursday, October 3

2:14 PM Crushed a 20 mile workout today.

Patience and fortitude are the key words in my training these days.

Today was a little step in the right direction of obtaining a state of readiness for Chicago. Patience is an art form ladies and gentlemen.

7:48 AM Ended my reading in Ephesians 4 this AM. Paul writes that shepherd-teachers are to prepare God's people for works of service. Let's get out of our heads that only some Christians are called to ministry. We follow One who said, "I did not come to be served but to serve." We can follow Him without serving? Nope. The church flourishes only when people are free to exercise their gifts.

6:48 AM If I live to be 100, I will never forget this video.

The Word of the Day is "forgiveness." Christians never have nothing to repent of. Luther's first thesis in his 95 theses was, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." We may minimize our wrongs, but God won't. Sin is serious business with Him. Knowing that, this video brought me to my knees. How could it not? My friend, dwell on His forgiveness today. And if you have done wrong, ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you. Forgiveness is like a snowplow, again opening the road before us. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, October 2

7:46 PM Next half marathon chosen! It will be this Saturday in Raleigh. CANNOT WAIT! Should be the perfect long run before Chicago.

Upcoming training:

  • Tomorrow: 20 mile bike.

  • Friday: Weight training.

  • Saturday: 13.1 miles hard.

  • Sunday: Rest.

  • Monday-Tuesday: Philadelphia trip (missions-related).

  • Wednesday: 5 miles easy.

  • Thursday: Weight training.

  • Friday: Fly to Chicago.

  • Saturday: Race expo, shakeout run, rest.

  • Sunday: Chicago Marathon (26.2 miles hard).

  • Monday: Fly home.

We are moving onward and upward!

1:26 PM The Word of the Day is "moderation." The Greeks had a saying: "Nothing in excess." In ancient Greece, moderation was considered necessary to ensure normality by minimizing extremes. For runners, lack of moderation is a constant temptation. We tend to overdo things, even after a hard race. This is called OTS, or Over Training Syndrome. I am trying to be very intentional these days about not overdoing things. Thus my 7-mile run today was at a very slow pace. It almost felt like walking.

Prov. 16:32 says "Moderation is better than muscle." Balance is the key to so much of life:

  • I should focus on physical health but not to the neglect of my soul.

  • I should be sociable but not excessively so.

  • I can be so heavenly minded I'm no earthly good.

  • I should be outward-focused but not totally incapable of introspection.

  • I should be able to meet people halfway.

  • Knowledge is important but so is obedience.

Being a runner will test your moderation that's for sure. I've learned many lessons over the past 4 years of running. I do hope one of them is to do all things in moderation. "Nothing in excess" -- except, perhaps, loving God and serving others!

Love God.

Serve others.

Strive for balance in all things.

8:38 AM This and that ....

1) Reading the book of Micah in my AM devotions.

Verse 1 may be a word for somebody today. We sometimes have our favorite books of the Bible and tend to overlook (or ignore) others. I'm a New Testament guy, that's for sure. Still, I've always been a bit uncomfortable with language like, "Romans is Paul's greatest writing." The fact is, you can go anywhere in the 66 books of the Bible and pick absolutely any verse and say, "Thus says the Lord." It's God's word, all of it. "This is the word of the Lord which came to Micah ...." Equal inspiration. Equal authority. Equal usefulness ("All Scripture is God-breathed and useful ....").

2) I thought Fall had arrived. But the temp today will be about 180 degrees. Might have to run indoors on the dreadmill today. 90 percent of my runs are at slow pace and I'm shocked to see how that translates into racing. Chicago will be the next test of that philosophy.

3) I hate fast food but just had to try out the new Impossible Burger at Burger King. Tasted like rubber to me. Serves me right.

4) Back to running for a minute. If you're just getting started, the fall and winter is a good time. There are plenty of low-key races around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Have fun!

5) Took this pic exactly 3 years ago today. Can't wait to get back to Colorado and bag another 14er.

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