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September 2019 Blog Archives

Monday, September 30

11:06 AM Hmm. Disconnect much?

Phaedrus is reported to have said, "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many." We all have perceptions of reality. Unfortunately, at times we are wrong. As you know, I love to think outside of the box. Through the years I've discovered a passion for the primary sources, whether they are in Greek, Latin, German, or whatever. I'm a huge fan of putting your head down and tuning out the cacophony of noises from others and digging into the text for yourself. Luck, nope, not in Bible study. I frankly do not have all the answers to the questions of life. At the end of the day, each of us has to evaluate the evidence and come up with our own convictions. Let's all work harder at doing our own thinking and not falling into the trap of group think. Of course, the opposite is also true. Let's not disagree with the majority unless we feel there is some pretty strong evidence for doing so. Let's just say there has to be a balance between skepticism and reasonable affirmation. 

Onward, upward, and Godward!

7:15 AM "Efficiency." Yes, that's the Word of the Day. I think I'm pretty good at staying on top of things, but sometimes things can get left behind in the day to day of life if you know what I mean. Oil change. Post office. Bank. House cleaning. Grocery shopping. Animal care. Life can get busy when you have a fulltime job plus two houses and a farm to care for. I often wonder how I can do better. I want to become more efficient in the use of my time and energy so that I can maintain that oh-so delicate balance between being and doing.

When I get to the office today first up will be to print off and copy my quizzes, exams, and handouts for the week. Then I plan to get some writing done and maybe even work on a book review I've been intending to finish. Maybe I'll get in a final September workout today, but right now that's iffy. As you can see, I met and surpassed my monthly goal of 100 miles so I think I can skip a day or two of training.

Only 2 weeks of training left before the marathon in the Windy City. Yes, I'm a bit nervous, but I think I'm still on track to arrive in Chicago both fresh and fit. You just keep breathing and moving forward one day at a time in this world. 

Love God.

Serve others.

Be as efficient as you can.

Sunday, September 29

6:44 PM Next week will be our fall break and I've got two trips planned, one to Philadelphia to meet up with some good friends and another to Chicago for my marathon. In making my plane reservations I always ask for the window seat. I never tire of seeing the earth from 29,000 feet, though I also notice how many of my fellow travelers keep their window shades closed even during takeoff and landing. The day I lose my childlike curiosity about planet Earth and stop staring out the window with awe and wonder is the day I know that my childlike innocence is gone forever. Life to me has been an inspiring, challenging, rewarding, heartbreaking adventure. Even today, I will crawl into bed tonight full of gratitude for such an amazing day. Any runner knows that just being able to ambulate the day after a race is as much cause for celebration as is running the race itself. I'm so glad that our bodies can adapt. So can our psyches. God knew what He was doing when He designed us. So let's not miss all the good things He has in store for us in this all-too brief life. Challenge yourself to live big. Grab that window seat. And leave the shade open.

4:58 PM What a journey running has been. Can you believe Chicago is in only 2 weeks? Many lessons have been learned over the past 4 years. Not easy but very rewarding. I do hope I've learned the lesson of taking time off from running after a race. Today after church I got in an easy 2 and a half mile walk in Appomattox.

I started out on the Sweeney Trail and ended up backtracking into the village itself. Below are a more few pix for your reading enjoyment. Can you identify the surrender house?

8:12 AM The Word of the Day is "recovery." What are the best strategies for recovering after a hard race?  For me, sleep is the best recovery tool, and I was indeed blessed by a good night's sleep last night. Then there's nutrition. Eat healthy and frequently. Again, everyone is different, but for me chocolate milk does the trick. Nothing helps me recover better than CM. Stretching and rolling come next. Finally, I like to take lots of walks, nothing too strenuous, just something to keep me active.

So here are only a few items in my recovery recipe. What are yours? Once again, it's all about walking that thin line between competition and rest.

7:40 AM Congratulations to Ethiopian runner Kenenisa Bekele who missed the world record by only 2 seconds at today's Berlin Marathon. What a magnificent performance. The satisfaction of knowing that you pushed yourself way farther than you ever thought possible is as valuable as any cheer from the spectators. These are the moments when Heaven touches the earth.

6:58 AM It is time for you to "fall" into a new hobby or habit? Like learning to read New Testament Greek? Fall is a great time to begin. The kids are back in school and your routine has finally returned to semi-"normal." The days are getting cooler and shorter. And what better season than the fall to reassess your goals? Change is, after all, literally in the air.  If your goal is to learn to read Greek, here are some suggestions for getting started:

1. Pick your beginning grammar. There are a ton of them out there. If you're savings-conscious, try to get one with the exercises built-in so that you don't have to buy an additional workbook.

2. Select your teacher. Just Google it on YouTube. They're available!

3. Set realistic goals. You can't learn the subject in a few weeks or even months. I'd suggest one lesson per week.

4. Know your obstacles. If you tend to jump off the bandwagon as quickly as you jump on it, ask someone to hold you accountable. Better yet, study with them.

For resources on all of these steps, check out my Greek Portal. There you'll find the latest Greek textbooks, YouTube channels, and all the bells and whistles you could wish for to get you started.

Get the most out of the fall season and accomplish that goal you've been postponing. You can do it!

Onward and upward!

Saturday, September 28

1:06 PM The Virginia 10 Miler went down today with an amazing showing of thousands of runners in the beautiful city of Lynchburg, VA.

This race is not for the weak of heart.

The last mile is the hardest as it's all uphill. It takes true grit to get up and over this course. I find it helps to keep smiling.

The Kenyans, of course, breezed by me going the other way before I had even gone 3 miles. Man were they smoking.

After I had crossed the finish line I looked at my watch to see what my time was. I had secretly been hoping for a new personal course record. I wasn't disappointed.

A new PR. Yes!

Thanks to the Lord's kindness, this will be a race I will remember for a very long time to come. I felt that it merited lunch at the Mexican restaurant.

Now it's off to take a long nap and then take the dog for walk. Thanks for coming with me on this journey. As I always say, onward and upward! 

4:30 AM Yes, I'm off to another Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg, my third time running this race. I have my eye set on reaching a few personal goals, but you never know what you'll encounter out there on the course. One thing is for sure: it's going to be hot and humid. Let me know if you're running today and we'll meet up at the starting line. The fall running season is in full swing. Let's see what the Lord has in store for us!

Friday, September 27

4:16 PM Today I'm honing in on the various beginning Greek grammars I have in my personal library to see what others are saying about the aorist tense.

Time to keep fighting for a better understanding of the Greek verb system. As long as you're teaching, you never outgrow your need to keep abreast of current scholarship. My goal in teaching is to always arrive at the classroom as fresh as possible. In the background is the beautiful bouquet of flowers I was given at Liberty U. a week ago. How kind of them.

8:05 AM Have you noticed? With the football season upon us, the spirit of competition is at its peak. I truly believe that the spirit of competition is hardwired into the human psyche. That's why we are so attracted to sports of all kinds. That's also why we love to cheer for the underdog. In fact, the Word of the Day is "infracaninophile" -- a word I use in my bio to describe who I am. It means "lover of the underdog." Growing up in Hawai'i, it seems I was almost always the underdog. A couple of months ago I visited my old schools in Kailua. From marbles to basketball to volleyball, the playground images are painfully clear. I was rarely chosen to be on the "A" team if you know what I mean. What I learned was that the athletic challenges I faced as a young person are being refought every of my life as an adult. There is something inside me that seeks to prove to myself and others that I can "play the game." This spirit of competition is so healthy for the human race. It causes us to strive to be and do our best with whatever talents and gifts the Lord has graciously given us. You never reach the edges of your dreams.

This morning I read through the book of 1 Corinthians. In chapter 15, Paul is very honest with us. He knew that Jesus had revealed Himself to all the other apostles before He had revealed Himself to Paul. "It was fitting that I bring up the rear," he writes, adding:

I don't deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God's church right out of existence.

Still, Paul was grateful to be able to serve the Lord. Earlier in the letter he insists that no part of the body is unimportant.

Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, "Get lost; I don't need you"? Or, Head telling Foot, "You're fired; your job has been phased out"?

Of course not. We all need each other -- the slow need the fast, the up front need the hidden, the higher need the lower.

What we have is one body with many parts, each in its proper size and in its proper place.

What we have to do, my friends, is make sure we are doing the very best we can as an ear, or an eye, or as whatever part of the body God has made us. As Paul says, "But because God was so gracious, so very gracious, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste." When the gun goes off in tomorrow's race, as the gazelles speed away from us back-of-the-packers in search of a new PR, we penguins will waddle along proving to ourselves that our past will not determine our future. I realize that every time I challenge myself to do more, to climb to ever greater heights, I am a winner.

Underdog or first-place winner, we all can still be victorious.

Thursday, September 26

8:08 PM My oh my, blog family, been spending the evening at the lake -- enjoying a hot fudge sundae, watching the sun go down, and thinking about aging.

Yes, I said aging. My brief foray into running has taught me many valuable lessons. One of these lessons is that the body at 67 is not the same body it was at 47, even though my mind may think so. Your body is not young forever. Which means that physical activity, while it may delay the aging process, can't reverse it. With age, everything is harder both physically and mentally. This means that both the intensity and volume of training needs to be reduced the older we get. A good starting point, I've discovered, is introducing non-weight-bearing activities into my exercise regiment. As a result, I'm now involved in 5 sports -- running, cycling, surfing, swimming, and weight training. I have accepted the fact that continued heavy training is detrimental to my overall health. It's as though my muscles have developed a reduced capacity not only to absorb shock during running but also to recover after training.

All that to say that while I may be slowing down a bit as a age, I don't plan to give up any time soon. I just want to be sure that my exercise regime include repair cycles that will last a lifetime rather for limited period of time.

What's on store for tomorrow? Lord willing, I'll spend the morning in the weight room and then spend the remainder of the day resting up for Saturday's race. Before you know it, it'll be time to rock n roll!

11:38 AM Feeling good about today's effort at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Boston. I'm ever grateful for trails like this one so close to my farm.

Today's run was an easy 5 miles on a very soft surface (crushed gravel) instead of on either concrete or -- the surface I will run on this Saturday in Lynchburg -- asphalt. I might call today's training a shakeout run to make sure my legs are fresh and happy before the Virginia 10-Miler.

It was definitely a confidence booster for the marathon in 3 weeks. Even though I will never have a runner's body, I can still strive to have a runner's soul. Time now for a nap and then I hope to get some solid writing done.

8:24 AM Chicago will be my 16th marathon. Where shall I run after that? That is the question of the day. There are so many marathons out there that it's not easy to decide. Is the Atlanta Marathon the ticket? It might very well be. The date is perfect (March 1). Plus I have kids who live within a 2-hour drive of greater Atlanta. The downside are the hills. As in HILLS. So I may end up in Cincy after all. But at least Atlanta is now in the running.

Off to get in a run.

8:05 AM New Power Point now up at our Greek Portal: Biblical Eldership.

Here I inquire as to whether the concept of "first among equals" (primus inter pares) is biblical, drawing heavily from Strauch's classic work.

7:15 AM Today's key word is "responsibility." One way that running has influenced my life is that it has taught me that I have a body to look after. Even the mere attempt to get into shape shows that you care for your temple. Running has taught me what I can do with the body God gave me -- and, just as importantly, what I can't do with it. I do not have a runner's body. I'm just not built to run fast. I'm way too tall and my body type is wrong for this sport. But these very limitations have heightened the rewards of running. As with studying Greek, the more effort that goes into something, and the more difficulties there are to overcome, the more rewarding the results. Running competitively has taught me the humility to realize my limitations. I've come to realize that I can still devote the same effort to attaining my goals as elite runners do to attaining theirs. Perhaps most importantly, I can derive as much pleasure from running as they do.

Anyone of us can be more active. Anyone of us can find a way to treat our bodies more responsibly. The first step (pun intended) is to get out there and run or walk. Nothing stops us except our own indolence. Even if you've never run before, even if you're overweight, even if you're clumsy and unathletic like I am, even if you have never been involved in sports, you can become a runner. You don't have to run marathons to be a runner. You don't have to have a perfect body to be a runner. You only have to want to run.

The secret to getting started is that there is no secret. All you have to do is lace up and go. Somewhere between the soles of your shoes and the road beneath your feet lies the answer.

Wednesday, September 25

8:28 PM Wow. That supper hit the spot. The book I was talking about earlier is Suffering as Participation with Christ in the Pauline Corpus. Wesley Davey is the author.

Wesley teaches religious studies at Forman Christian College in Pakistan. The book originated in his doctoral studies at Southeastern under my supervision. I think it makes a noteworthy contribution to our understanding of how the early church viewed suffering. I could not be more proud of the author.

7:38 PM Today I got home just in time to see the sun setting in my backyard -- a sight I never had until I cut some timber a few months ago.

I'm doing well in my taper before Saturday's 10-miler in Lynchburg. Hence yesterday's 5-mile workout at Joyner Park in Wake Forest at an 11:56 pace.

A solid effort 4 days out from the race but I don't believe it was too hard. As a runner you're always walking that fine line between doing too much or too little. Can be a bit unnerving at times.

Tomorrow it's either a run or a bike -- haven't decided yet. Then for Friday I've planned an easy workout at the Y before the big day.  

Gotta keep this short so I can get some grub but I can't sign off until I give a big "Thank you" to my colleague John Hammett for his exceptional lecture today in our NT class on the subject of the significance of Romans in church history.

He knocked it out of the park as always. So grateful for all my friends and colleagues here at school. Stay tuned for more coverage of my Chicago training. I also ran across a recently published book I want to call your attention to.

In the meantime, onward and upward!

Monday, September 23

6:10 AM Only 21 days until Chicago. One thing is for certain. Chicago draws some of the best runners from around the world. It will be an honor to race with them even if I'm at the back of the pack. The legs are not the freshest after 3 weeks of hard training, but I'm looking forward to another week of preparation. I have to continue to lay the aerobic foundation for a solid race effort. Slow and steady are my watchwords this week.

Today's key word is "modesty." The teachers I had in college and seminary were, thankfully, never superior or rude. Rather, they were modest, thoughtful, and anxious for me to acquire new knowledge. Above all, they hated flattery. These are attributes I've found in virtually all of the top teachers I've known throughout my life. Indeed, I suspect that these characteristics are essential in the field, in which success is so dreadfully visible and in which the duration of that success is so ephemeral. The New Testament scholars of my generation that we so highly respected are all now long gone and (to a sad degree) forgotten. But who can ever forget the modesty and self-effacement of an F. F. Bruce or a Howard Marshall? I for one never will. Incidentally, I have never met a successful runner who made me feel inferior. I think even elite runners know that their days of fame and stardom are numbered and it's this very temporary nature of success that keeps them from becoming arrogant. No passage in Scripture explains this we well as the verses below. If you are up to the challenge, read them over and over again. As you read remember that our weaknesses are not liabilities with God. There is no handicap that hinders our Lord.

Remember, my dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. In fact, God has chosen the things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He has chosen things that are powerless to shame the powerful. God has even chosen things that are despised by the world, things that count for nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

Love God.

Serve others.

And remember to walk humbly.

Sunday, September 22

6:06 PM The message this morning was from one of my favorite passages in Acts.

Paul's teaching in Acts 20:17-35 is a reminder that the leadership of a local church should be both pastoral and plural. "Pastor," of course, is a metaphor. Elders are to do the work of a shepherd and tend to a flock, as it were, especially by feeding and protecting it. I'm so grateful for all the elders I know. They are good shepherds keeping watch over their flock day and night. Paul's example is an unfailing inspiration to them. Implicit in this chapter, however, is the truth that God is the supreme overseer of His own people. The church is His, not ours. And over this church is no man but the Holy Spirit who appoints the overseers. Elders have no proprietary rights over the church. This truth should both humble and inspire those who are in church leadership.

Time to prep my meals for the week. Congratulations to everyone for your heroic efforts out there in class, whether you're studying Greek with me or New Testament. Onward and ever upward!

8:04 AM Training this week:

Today after church: Gym

Monday: Run

Tuesday: Gym

Wednesday: Bike

Thursday: Gym and run

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg!

7:40 AM The Word of the Day is "failure." Like many, I discovered trail running by accident. I was looking for a winter race and Liberty University was hosting a trail race called the Arctic 5K in February. Perfect, I thought. That run was absolutely decisive. Trail running brings you into direct contact with nature and her always awesome and sometimes dangerous beauty. When you're out on a trail run, you know it's good to be alive because you are so close to nature's embrace. There's something surreal that happens when your arms and legs are pumping, your lungs are heaving, and the earth is moving swiftly beneath your feet. I even love the privacy and solitude of being on the trails. Even in a crowded race like the one I ran in yesterday, you reach a point where fatigue and concentration drive you back into yourself, into that part of you that only times of duress and discomfort bring a clear focus on the person you really are. I suggest that to achieve real success in any area of life there must always be a level of pain and discomfort as well as a sense of insecurity. Knowing that you can fail keeps you from becoming arrogant, while our inevitable failures become the catalyst for real personal growth. I failed at Greek when I first took it. Thankfully, God got me back on my feet and we plowed on. Even today, when I suppose I've reached some level of expertise in the field, teaching Greek has given me a heightened sense of self-criticism and self-expectation. I realize it's never possible to do your absolute best in any endeavor. Likewise, running in competitions like yesterday's Nasty Nine teaches you to identify your limitations and to accept them with pride, without envying those who might have athletic abilities that far surpass yours. After every race there will always be another challenge to be tackled. I still have a lifetime of goals and ambitions to achieve, and so do you, my friend.

Blog family, God understands when we are hesitating to move forward because of past failures or old wounds. He picks up the pieces of our lives and gets us back up on our feet. "You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head" (Psalm 139:5). Why? Because He loves us and wants us to experience the plans He has for us from the beginning of time (Rom. 9:23).

What is next for me? Only God knows. But I do know this: I can never be satisfied with the level of spirituality and commitment I've attained. God has a magnificent plan for my life. And He's willing to both guide, correct, and protect me toward that end.

P.S. A few more pix:

1) Meet and greet at LU on Friday.

2) What drives me as a Greek teacher: The New Testament is God-breathed.

3) I snapped this not 5 minutes ago.

"God made a home in the sky for the sun. It comes out in the morning like an athlete eager to run a race" (Psalm 19).

Saturday, September 21

6:44 PM Today's key word is "audible." Every now and again we have to call an audible in life. That was the case today as I ran the Nasty Nine Trail Run at Brushy Hills.

The day started off like any other day of uphill goodness.

After about a mile of running I got into a relaxed groove behind a guy named Dave, who was going along at a pretty good clip.

I was looking forward to a competitive foot race when we came across a young lady who had just fallen. She had either sprained or broken her right ankle and was in incredible pain. Dave and I tried to carry her down the mountain but it was just too much for us. Eventually the paramedics were able to produce a stretcher and off she went to the hospital. (Charissa, I hope and pray you are doing much better!) Dave and I continued our pursuit of the finish line and crossed together. When we began our race today, neither of us had expected to encounter an injured runner. But that's the nature of a trail run -- roots, rocks, branches, streams, and any number of hazardous obstacles. Little wonder they called this race "nasty." But we did what anybody would have done in that situation. We called an "audible" and took care of the business at hand. Internet family, life is full of audibles. You may agonize (as I often do) over our uncertainties and insecurities. But God is always there to support those who trust in His certainty and security. He promises His children "a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11). The hardest part is usually just letting go and trusting God for such things as losing your job, coping with the death of a loved one, and dealing with the pressures of a stressed-out world.

After the race, everyone was hungry, but the race directors were prepared to assuage our ferocious appetites with sandwiches, chocolate milk, bananas, lemonade, and cookies.

A group I just had to congratulate was the contingent from VMI in nearby Lexington. Like me, this was their first Nasty Nine, and they crushed it.

Meanwhile, I can't believe my day yesterday. So great to see my former student Ben Laird and to be a guest in his Greek classes again.

We met on the ninth floor of the Divinity School's new tower building with crazy good views of the Peaks of Otter.

Last night's meeting was in the lecture hall in the Science Building. I hope the students weren't too bored!

I can't thank Jill Ross (Biblical Studies) and Jaeshill Kim (Linguistics) enough for doing such a great job of organizing my talk. It was a long day but a good one. I could not be more impressed with the students at LU.

Not much else to say on this fine fall day.

Love God.

Serve others.

And call an audible when you need to.

Friday, September 20

8:10 AM As promised, here's today's schedule at Liberty:

12:00-12:50: Ben Laird's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)

2:10-3:00: Ben Laird's Greek 3 class (Tower ninth floor)

3:15-4:05: Jill Ross's Greek 1 class (Tower ninth floor)

6:30-8:00: Lecture (Science Hall)

The latter is sponsored by the university's linguistics club and is, I believe, open to the public. My topic is "Why Bible Students Ought to Be the Best Linguists Out There." After the lecture I'll head to Lexington, VA, which is about an hour drive from Lynchburg. I hope to do a mountain trail race there tomorrow. Here's the elevation map. Oh my goodness.

Which leads me to our Word of the Day: "Leisure." In our busy world, finding ways to relax can be challenging. Personally, I love both work and leisure and choose to maximize the two. Both sleep and leisure are recovery techniques that we Type A personalities have a hard time balancing with our busy work schedules. Leisure isn't idleness. It's not laziness. Laziness doesn't benefit anybody. Leisure is being present in the moment and leaving ourselves open to God's goodness all around us. Leisure, like work, can and should bring glory to God. Leisure is simply the right balance between work and play, between give and take, freeing us to be fully alive. The Psalmist wrote, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." Tomorrow, when I'm up in the mountains, I hope to relax and "take it all in."

This is a new topic on this blog but I hope you've enjoyed it. Looking forward to what God has in store for me this weekend. Hope you have a great one too.

Love God.

Serve others.

Start each day with a grateful heart.

Thursday, September 19

12:52 PM Feels good to have a 5K tempo run under my belt as I prepare for Chicago.

Running by feel, I averaged 8 miles per hour on the faster sections of the track. A solid effort on an absolutely beautiful day.

Earlier I managed to get in an upper body workout at the Y.

I don't necessarily want to have large arms. But runners need good upper body strength especially toward the end of a race, when your legs are shot and you're relying on arm swing to get you to the finish line. Still earlier, I spent an hour or so at our local Amish bakery sipping coffee and putting the final touches on my lectures tomorrow at Liberty University.

I'll be speaking a total of 4 times so there's a lot of preparation work involved. I'll post my speaking schedule tomorrow before I leave. Stay tuned for more updates both about my training and my lecturing at LU.

Alright, signing off, time for a long nap.

6:55 AM Today's key word is "worship." A sub-theme might be "Bible translations." This morning I was reading 1 Cor. 14 in The Message and ran across these words:

When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all....

I think The Message often gets it right. Here, however, it gets it wrong, in my humble opinion. Paul never refers to the purpose of a church gathering as worship, though we often do. Although what we do when we gather can indeed be described as worship because we should be worshiping at all times, the New Testament teaches that Christians are to meet primarily for the purpose of mutual encouragement. That's exactly what Paul says here: "When you come together ... do all things for edification" (1 Cor. 14:26). It's not so much a worship service as an edification service. Another key passage is Heb. 10:24-25.

Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good works. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The "Day" the author is talking about here is the return of Christ, when we will see Jesus face to face and all earthly sorrow will come to an end. Until then, says the author, life is full of trials. That's why we need to "spur one another on" and "encourage one another." As with running a marathon, there's a grave danger that I will give up in the Christian life before I reach the finish line. That's why we need each other. You need me and I need you. And our meetings should serve that end.

Edification is so central to the New Testament understanding of why we meet as Christians that it provides the test as to whether or not we should do something during the meeting. This is the argument Paul is making in 1 Cor. 14: "Does it edify? Does it build people up as believers?" If, for example, you have a tongue and there is no interpreter present, no one else receives any benefit. Hence Paul insists that uninterpreted tongues should have no place in church gatherings.

Churches today desperately need more pastors who will obey Paul's injunction to "do all things for edification." Pastor-teachers play a crucial role in God's work of building up churches, but not at the expense of the contributions of others. All God's people have the responsibility of ministry. This is how the Bible expects churches to be built up. And none of us can say we have nothing to contribute.

So, the question of the day is: How will I worship God today? We should pray that God would use us to bless others. We should think of ourselves not as laypeople but as priests who worship and serve God 24/7. And, when you go to church, remember that you are going not just to meet with God. You are also going to meet with (and serve) other Christians. We are a family, after all. And the more we spur one another on to love and good works, the better we will worship God.

Hope that makes sense!

P.S. Couldn't resist:

Maybe it will "spur you on" to get outside and take a short walk today!

Wednesday, September 18

6:24 PM The spirit of competition is so healthy for us humans. I really, really love races  because of the comradery and the opportunity to go head to head with some great runners. But I also love to run solo. So far this week I managed 3 runs. I did Monday's 10-mile run on the hard concrete of the Neuse River Greenway.

Although I ended up with a minor blister on my left foot, I felt great afterwards.

Yesterday and today I ran 4 miles each day at Joyner Park in Wake Forest, where the surface is a lot more runner-friendly (asphalt). This was my view this morning during my run.

I am beyond excited for the continued challenge of marathon running in the United States and (if the Lord allows) beyond. I think I'm just getting started in this sport, and I know the competition from my fellow racers will push me to new heights. At the end of the day it all comes down to the joy of running. I think the same applies to anything in life. Students who enjoy Greek tend to master it quickly and permanently. When I fell in love with Greek back in the 1970s, it was like finding myself for the first time. Likewise with running. When you're running, loneliness does not creep in. That's because you're having fun and doing what God created your body to do -- move.

By the way, "move" is the Word of the Day. My friend, you are capable of so much more than you think. Challenge yourself to live big. Turn off the TV. Get outdoors. Think about what you want to accomplish. Now go and DO IT!

Monday, September 16

5:45 AM Only 12 days to go until the Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg. This is one tough race, especially the final hill. It's remarkable to see runners who are clearly struggling (like me) but continue to push forward. What a parable of the Christian life. In a perfect world, we would live obediently, practice spiritual disciplines, claim our identity in Christ, and be problem-free. (There would also be a Butterfinger under my pillow every morning.) The truth is that life has a way of throwing us into such confusion and pain that we lose all sense of hope. Don't be ashamed of where you are in this process. Learn whatever lessons the Master Teacher is putting before you. One of the things I love about marathons is the adventure of never knowing how things are going to turn out. Good results aren't guaranteed. Your race can go badly or well, but know what? You'll never know until you muster the gumption to try. Any marathoner knows that making it to the end of the race in one piece is as much a cause for celebration as is going the distance. What I am saying is that the human body is amazing. It can do some really astonishing things. God knew what He was doing when He created us. He also knew how awesome the sense of accomplishment from running is.

Recently I heard of somebody who just lost their spouse after many years of marriage. I saw to it that they got a copy of my book Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and 40 Years of Teaching. When we struggle, we need someone to trust. Without someone we can trust in, we will inevitably either pretend things are better or else try and relieve the pain through craziness. I wrote my book in response to the cry of my own heart to know God better in the midst of my loss. As with marathon racing, recovering from loss is hard, a road less traveled, but the journey is definitely worth it.

As I continue to share with you my journey on this blog, I hope that a passion to know God in the midst of your problems will be stirred within you. The world is too uncertain a place to put our trust in man. But it's a perfect place to find God.

5:22 AM To my beginning Greek students: If you get tired of (or bored with!) my teaching, remember you can go here for videos of other teachers using our grammar.

5:15 AM Today's key word is "nudge." David Halpern once wrote a book called Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference. I like that title. If you're like me, the Holy Spirit doesn't always impel you forward in your Christian walk in one giant leap. Sometimes He'll pester and nudge you just to take another step. A nudge is a push but a gentle one. The transformation occurs from the inside out. A nudge is a seed of faith planted in the heart. Sure, there are risks. But faith is willing to go where it's being led -- er, nudged -- because faith follows the One who leads: Jesus Christ.

How do you measure spiritual growth? It think it's largely by asking ourselves if we are practicing what we're learning. The favorite times in my life have been those when I got involved in helping and serving others. But I'm ashamed to say that there were periods when my growth slowed to a halt. My soul atrophied. My spiritual muscles got flabby. The Spirit may have been nudging me, but I wasn't paying much attention. The Bible contains testaments of people who at times trusted and obeyed God completely and at others times completely disregarded Him. But being a "doer of the word" is not just an idle suggestion. "Don't just listen to God's word," writes James (1:22). "Do what it says." Balanced spiritual growth only happens when we're giving into those little Holy-Spirit nudges.

So how is He nudging you today? Remember: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Hence the Bible is God's primary way of making Himself known to us. It guides us out of darkness and it helps us to maneuver through those awfully tight places we often encounter in life. God cares about these matters and more. And His word tells exactly what He's like and what He expects from us. Our duty, then, is to avoid becoming dull and insensitive to what the Spirit is saying to us. One of the highest and noblest functions of our minds is to listen to God's word and thus to read His mind and think His thoughts after Him.

How I thank God this morning for His word and for His Spirit, who is constantly nudging me from where I am to where I ought to be. And what a joy it is to teach that word this week on campus.

Sunday, September 15

6:30 PM The time at Clearview was well spent I do believe. It concluded today with a fun panel discussion.

Here's wishing Peter and John well as they wing their way back to Phoenix tonight. Lots was discussed today. I'm afraid I may have raised a few eyebrows when I said I don't separate my devotional reading of the Bible from my academic reading of same. I just don't see a sacred/secular divide at all. That includes what we normally refer to as "worship." As I said, we don't come to church to worship. We come to church as worshippers. Which reminded me of this little book. (It's small but it sure packs a punch).

This is from p. 34:

Offering my body to God is not just something I do as I sing on a Sunday and then can forget about for the rest of the week. It must be worked out in practice, day by day, hour by hour.

And then there's this:

A friend of mine has put it like this: 'To say, "I'm going to church to worship", is about as silly as saying, "I'm off to bed to breathe for a while".'

My oh my oh that's good! Worship is all of life. It's the dishes I washed today, the beds I made, the grass I mowed, and, yes, the songs I sang during the services at Clearview. I want to worship God not just on Sundays but with the whole of my life.

Time to get my meals prepped for the week. Onward and, yes, upward!

6:45 AM The WOD is ressourcement. This is a French word describing the act of returning to the sources in order to glean from the past so that we might better live in the present. I'd argue, folks, that this is why we study ancient Greek and Hebrew. The engagement with the past is not merely a recollection of the past but an uncovering of meaning for the present. This explains the watch-cry of the Reformation: Ad fontes! Back to the sources! And what are those sources? The words of God written in Scripture. That's where we must always turn for normative wisdom.

Today during the panel discussion at Clearview, I hope to make this clear. "Dogmatics is science." So said Karl Barth in the opening of his Church Dogmatics. Theology and science are collaborative disciplines. Hence my lecture on New Testament Greek linguistics this coming Friday at Liberty University will be held in their new science building.

Though not identical in content and method, both linguistics and biblical exegesis are "sciences" in that they are both engaged in appeals to human rationality. What we're after is a better understanding of how the languages of the Bible work based on a scientific study of language itself. Exegesis is thus engaged with linguistics. It has to be. This is why I love teaching Greek from a linguistic perspective. Greek is both heuristic and utilitarian.

In Basel, where I studied from 1980-1983, theology was known as the "queen of the sciences." This expression is a holdover from the Middle Ages, a time when the Bible was seen as the ultimate source of truth. Hence theology became the standard by which other scientific disciplines had to abide. That standard no longer exists today, at least not in most European universities. The gold standard is no longer the Bible. Yet theology remains "queen" and the Bible remains the gold standard. Indeed, the Bible warns us against "the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20).

So let's get "back to the Bible." In the original languages if at all possible. Let all our research be "scientific" -- orderly and disciplined. Today it's no longer a question of faith versus reason. The choice is between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason.

Saturday, September 14

7:52 PM The first annual apologetics conference at Clearview is now in the books. What a great day of thinking about the Old and New Testaments. Both Peter and John absolutely shattered their topics. I was also very impressed with the audience. Many great questions were asked during the Q & A. Overall I'd say there were about 90 in attendance. Kazaam! A few pix:

1) Pastor Abidan Shah kicks off the conference.

2) So great to see John Meade again. Last year he spent a semester with us on campus as a visiting professor and we were in the same quad. Boy was that fun. John knocked it out of the ballpark with his lectures.

3) Peter Gurry is an amazing speaker. I love how he simplified his topics without becoming simplistic.

4) Books, books, and more books.

5) A big thanks to the marvelous staff at Clearview for making this happen.

On the docket for tomorrow: Panel discussion in both morning services. The hay is almost in the barn!

7:05 AM Here we go, heading out the door for the Text and Canon Conference at Clearview. Excited to see old friends and make new ones. What a big topic to dive into. I remember growing up in Hawaii and how we had conferences like these several times a year. Would not trade those times for anything. I think it was in those conferences that I fell in love with Bible study. The experts spoke, but they did so in such a way as to connect with ordinary Christians. The key question I have is: What will people do with all of this new information they get today? It's so easy to acquire information without allowing truth to change our lives. For example, when running a marathon you have to carefully monitor your hydration. Too little water can cause huge problems. Too much water can cause huge problems. Hydration has to be exact and balanced. Likewise with Bible study. Only a mind schooled at the Master's feet and illuminated by the Spirit can guide us aright. Sometimes, like Martha, we should be communing instead of working. We can be so busy doing that we have no time for being something. If we're not careful, we can easily become "Marthafied." The Bible does us no good unless it is mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2).

So let the conference begin! And let us receive the word for what it is, letting God be true and every man a liar. Hearing the word imposes a solemn responsibility of heeding it. Enjoy the privilege, accept the responsibility, and avoid the penalty of knowledge without obedience! 

6:04 AM Today's key word is "Hamlet." Yes, indeed, the 2020 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy next May, that is the question. To run or not to run. I'm allowed one (or at the most two) marathons per year, and I always like to try out new races. But the Pig was my very first marathon 3 years ago and it has a special place in my heart. I need to decide soon.

Sometimes I'm a terrible decision-maker. (This includes restaurants.) Many of life's decisions are simple yes-no questions. Should I major in Bible? Should I marry Becky? Should I apply to Basel? Should I leave Biola for Southeastern? Should I have dessert? Yes or no?

When faced with a "Hamlet" moment, you've got to decide which way to go. Stay or go? Yes or no? Right or left? Race or don't race? God promises to help us make good decisions. But it's conditional -- if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. My friend, have you made the decision to love Him? Have you given your heart to Christ as your Lord and Savior? The decision is yours to make. And the consequences are yours alone to live with. But once you've made the decision to follow Him, He'll be by your side every step of the way.

And so, what decisions are you facing these days? What great crossroad looms in your path? Whatever it is -- and no matter what it is -- your answer is but a prayer away. Of course, sometimes it feels like you're playing verbal ping-pong with God. But eventually you settle on a simple yes or no. The main thing is that we listen to the Lord. His is the most important voice of all. Leon Morris once wrote, "God has no need of marionettes. He pays men the compliment of allowing them to live without him if they choose. But if they live without him in this life, they must also live without him in the next."

Wise words indeed.

Friday, September 13

5:34 PM Today WAS a busy day! The weather couldn't have been better for another cycling workout deposited into my account for the Chicago Marathon. One day closer, a little more sharpening. I worked mostly on flow and leg turnover, keeping my average heart rate at 114 BPM. The temp never got over 75 and there was a light rain falling during the entire ride. I managed to complete the mileage I set out to accomplish.

Somehow I even managed to knock two minutes off of my time since my last 26.2-mile bike.

Afterwards I treated my hard-working body to a delicious sandwich at Subway.

All in all, a solid week of preparation for Chicago. Right now I've got to put the finishing touches on my talks for tomorrow as well as finish cleaning the house.

September 13, a good day indeed. I'm in the mood to give away a book. Write me at for a free copy of New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. I'll draw straws if there's more than one request.

Keep running, folks, just keep running your race, whatever that is! 

6:45 AM Today's WOD is "correctness." Am I honestly doing my training for the Chicago Marathon correctly? Making it to the starting line is, of course, extremely important, but perhaps even more important are the stepping stones along the way. Ya gotta be as wise about your training as you are committed to the race itself. Hope that makes sense.

That said, today I'm going through my training goals for the next 4 weeks, looking myself in the mirror and asking, "Are you making the correct decisions?" We can get so excited about the race that we forget how vital it is to set up our training schedule properly. I've made that mistake before and don't want to repeat it now.

Signing off for now, and I will do my best to give you a report after I complete today's training block and a long list of farm chores. Whew, gonna be a busy day!

Thursday, September 12

5:40 PM Yesterday I got a report from a ministry in northern India that Becky and I have been intimately involved with for many years. There is strong opposition to Christianity all over the nation, the report said. Yet "There are hundreds of villages and people groups which remain unreached." This particular ministry is poised to reach some of the most needy of these people groups, situated as it is on the border of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bangladesh. Here's a photo they sent me.

It shows the men and women who are studying at the North East Theological Seminary. The seminary building is called the Becky Black Building. It was largely through Becky's vision (and hard work) that this building came into existence. Through all the joys and heartaches of cancer, Becky and I prayed that it would become a reality. I so wanted Becky to be the one to go and cut the ribbon when the building was dedicated. But it was not to be.

On this blog, I often talk about my life. My life? It's not mine. Never has been. I don't get to choose what it will look like. It's not about what I want. It's not even about what I need. As it turns out, the life I planned for myself is very different from the one God had in store. I've had to come to terms with the heart-rending fact that that incredible chapter of my life is over. Yet I take heart in the knowledge that Becky's good works live on -- in the lives of our children, in the lives of all who knew her, even in a faraway place like India. He is the God who knows the end and the beginning of everything, the one who works everything, even the hardest things, together for good. When God says He'll make everything good, He means it. This picture is proof.

12:55 PM O boy, o boy, my lunch today was sooooo tasty.

In fact, let's make that the second WOD -- "tasty." My fajita burrito sure hit the spot. And the nice thing about it is I was able to get two meals out of it, and all for the low price of $5.99. Not bad, folks, not bad.

So my lunch today was tasty, but that wasn't the only thing that was tasty this morning. My run was absolutely fantastic. My goal was a short 5 miles at a very easy pace in order to try out my new hydration vest.

Let's just say I much prefer having my hydration available throughout my runs/races and not just at the aid stations. Today I filled one 12-ounce bottle with a sports drink and the other with well water. I can safely say that I never got thirsty during my run today. I'm thrilled. With my new vest I'm also able to safely store my iPhone 7 in a pocket just over my left chest, which is a perfect place in terms of ease of availability. So all in all, a tasty morning. Of course, you never know who or what you'll encounter out there on the trails. Meet Nala, who's got to be the sweetest Pit Bull/Pointer mix I've ever met.

Her owner was kind enough to snap these pics.

He and I yakked about how much we love our dogs and find it regrettable but almost inevitable that we outlive them. I can't tell you how many of my beloved pets I've had to bury through the years. Yet who could live without them? They bring the human heart so much joy.

So what other "tasty" things are in store for me today? Mowing. Writing. Napping. House cleaning. And prepping for tomorrow's bike-a-thon in Richmond. That's right, Lord willing I plan to do a "bike marathon" of 26.2 miles at the Virginia Capital Trail. I've had this on my calendar for weeks and it's an important part of my training schedule for Chicago. The marathon is exactly one month away. Unbelievable. It will be here before you know it. Which means I have to stay on schedule as much as I can during the next 30 days. In 3 weeks I'll start my taper for Chicago, but until then I've got to stay laser focused on my current training block. I'm trying to play it smart and stay healthy and uninjured. Time will tell.

Hope you have a tasty day!

8:48 AM The key word for today is "Beginning." Every journey in life begins with that first step. This weekend I'll be speaking at a conference on textual criticism. Me, a textual critic? That's almost laughable. I am hardly an expert in the field. Neither am I a novice. I'm probably in about, say, the 12th grade, while others are in college or grad school. But -- and this is a huge but -- I wouldn't be where I am today if hadn't taken that first step.

Let's see, where did it all begin ...." (flashback machine starts here).

My first exposure to textual criticism (TC) was under Dr. Harry Sturz at Biola. I found the subject fascinating, not least because Sturz held a position that seemed to fly in the face of both the Alexandrian Priority position and the Byzantine Priority position. Taking his class on TC allowed me to read those hieroglyphics at the bottom of my Greek New Testament and eventually led me to write an M.Div. thesis at Talbot on the question of whether the words "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1:1 were original. I argued that they were -- and published my views in the Grace Theological Journal in 1981. This was a year after I had arrived in Basel to get my doctorate in New Testament. During this time I began publishing essays in journals like Novum Testamentum and New Testament Studies on textual variants that I had become interested in. Finally, in 1994 I published a brief lay introduction to TC called New Testament Criticism: A Concise Guide. Recalling my own interests as a beginning student of TC, I was careful to keep the book on the bottom shelf. I later produced other writings on TC: Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, and The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research.

This brings me to today. You can probably guess that I love to make things accessible to the average Christian. That's exactly what I'll try to do at this Saturday's conference. My goal, simply put, is to connect the scholarly guild with the church. Too often they are put into two different boxes. This impoverishes both, in my humble opinion. I'll try to set the right balance between academics and church life. Scholarship is not healthy without application. I dare to hope that my books have been a help in both categories. By the way, here's the schedule for Saturday's conference:

8:00 am -- Doors open

9:10 am -- Old Testament Text, John Meade

10:15 am -- New Testament Text, Peter Gurry

11:25 am -- Application of Textual Criticism to the Christian Life, Dave Black

12:25 pm -- Lunch

1:35 pm -- The Canon of Scripture, John Meade

2:40 pm -- Modern Translations, Peter Gurry

3:50 pm -- Greek Preaching: Practical Applications, Dave Black

5:00 pm -- Conference ends

Maybe this conference will help you make a new "beginning" in your study of the Bible!

P.S. This is what I read in my morning Bible reading on the front porch. It's from 1 Timothy 6.

"Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith." A great motto for conferences like the one on Saturday for sure!

Wednesday, September 11

7:42 PM Here we go again, just back on the old farm after 3 days of teaching. The WOD is "mental toughness." Ladies and gentlemen, I'm firmly in the camp that says if you don't develop mental toughness, you'll never succeed in the race of life. Ya gotta put in the work if you want to expect great results. We can aspire to learn Greek, for example, but the race is usually won or lost in the first 3 or 4 weeks of the semester. I want my students to arrive at week 5 tough and as confident as possible, which in turn will make them even tougher for the weeks ahead. How's your mental confidence? Are you getting tougher as you get older? I'm truly excited for my students. They are off to a great start. But they (and I) never outgrow the need to stay mentally alert and tough.

Well, as you know, today is my 43rd anniversary. One of my kids sent along this picture.

Oh my, what a happy memory. This was taken exactly 6 years ago today. Less than 2 months later, Becky would be in heaven. No more pain, no more struggle. Because she was too weak for us to go out and celebrate, one of my daughters set up a "restaurant" in our formal living room. Party of two! She even prepared Swiss fondue for us as a reminder of our days in Basel, and then waited on us hand and foot. An unforgettable evening to be sure. Becky Lynn, you still mean the world to me today. You were a blessing to everyone who knew you. I’ll see you in glory one day, sweetheart. Love you big!

Okay, so what are my plans going into the weekend? This morning I had a great workout at the Y in Wake Forest. Worked them biceps and triceps. Worked, worked, worked. This means no lifting for 2 days. Tomorrow I hope to get in a long run, and then do another long bike ride on Friday. Not sure how long, but at least 10 miles. Then, Saturday is the BIG DAY. Hope you can join us in Henderson for our apologetics conference. There'll be a book giveaway in case you need any further incentive to attend.

Finally, a quick shout out to Dr. Ant Greenham who gave a wonderful lecture today in our NT class. His topic was Muslim evangelism and the book of Acts.

It was a fascinating talk. I can't tell you how much I love and cherish the academic community to which I belong. It's got to be the greatest group of guys and gals in the world.

Well, time to wash the supper dishes. Stay tuned for how my training goes tomorrow!

Monday, September 9

6:15 AM Just a friendly reminder: The Clearview Apologetics Conference is this Saturday in Henderson, NC, from 9:00-4:00. To register, please go here. Come and hear my good friends John Meade (OT) and Peter Gurry (NT) from Phoenix Seminary!

5:20 AM Good morning, one and all! The WOD is "comfort." The human body was designed to move. To be tested. "Comfort" has largely replaced that. We go from our air-conditioned homes to our cars with heated seats. I remember attending the annual SNTS meeting in Montreal one August. To say it was hot would be a gross understatement. Becky and I got the surprise of our lives when the university put us up in housing without any air conditioning. We slept on the balcony at night to try and stay cool. I thought every developed nation had air conditioning. I was wrong.

How quickly we get used to the comforts of life. Yet none of these comforts really seem to make us happy. Maybe we were designed to find comfort through discomfort. When you lose the comforts of life, that's when you find out what you're truly made of. A year ago I did a 31-mile ultramarathon. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. It nearly broke me. But I can't describe to you the satisfaction I felt when I crossed the finish line. Why do runners punish themselves like that? Maybe because, like a pearl, God's way of working in our lives is by turning our biggest irritations into priceless gems.

What comforts are you willing to forego in order to test your mettle? While we sleep the Enemy does his work. Even sound Christians can be sound asleep. This is no day for weaklings. The Christian has never had more to face from more directions than now. An old saying puts it like this:

The modern Christian needs the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

I need more of all three!

Sunday, September 8

8:22 PM Enjoying some ice cream while watching the sun go down over Clarkesville, "my fair city." Been a great day. Hope yours was too.

6:42 PM Just finished my delicious supper and am now rolling out my tired legs on my new foam roller.

Love it, love it, love it!  Also, these were my notes during today's message from 2 Tim. 1:12 (sorry for the water stains).

Once again, ya gotta love the two perfect tense verbs. Badda Boom! Badda Bang! Again, though, it all comes down to how you would translate them. I'm not going to tell you how I did it!

Time now for a hot fudge sundae. "Sunday." Get it? :-) 

5:50 PM Today after church I hiked to MacAfee Knob.

It's said to be the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail and I believe it! This is my fourth time standing on its (in)famous ledge.

My legs weren't the freshest after 3 big weeks of training, but somehow I managed to pull it off.

This mountain hike is a thing of beauty from beginning to end. It was well worth the 3 hour drive to get there. What a journey hiking and mountaineering have been for me. Not easy, but very rewarding. I do hope to return to the Rockies and Alps some day, but in the meantime our local 3-4,000 footers will do just fine. Thank you, Lord, for giving all of us hikers such a beautiful day!

5:55 AM The WOD is "inspiration." Where do you draw your inspiration from? Can a movie inspire you? Last night on YouTube I watched a movie about running called Leadman: The Dave Mackey Story. It was so good. Everyone who finishes a 100 mile foot race is courageous, but to me there's something heroic about a man who does it on one leg. Even if you've never been a runner, this film will draw you in and inspire you. Oh my, the indomitable human spirit. Everyone has one, even non-believers. It's a pure gift from God.

But those who trust in God have something more. In Jer. 32:27, God asks, "Is anything too hard for me?" Nothing is too difficult for God. Your impossibility might be the loss of a limb or the loss of a loved one or feelings of inferiority or your job or a marriage that is falling apart. For me it's dealing with the memory of Becky. It's that feeling of loss that will come flooding over me this Wednesday on what would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary. Grief takes you to the top of the wave and then it breaks, and you struggle in the froth of emotion until the wave runs out of energy, which it eventually does. To try and resist the wave is an exercise in futility. You have to let it do its work in your life and mourn.

Will you ever forget the emotional pain of your loss? No. There will always be a small kernel that emerges at certain times for years. Will you ever be able to move on with your life? Yes. Never forget Jer. 32:27: "Is anything too hard for me?" For the word "anything," why not substitute the burden you are carrying at this moment? Go ahead and fill in the blank: "Is ___________ too hard for God?" Once it sinks in that God is at work in and through your "impossible" situation, everything will change. It may be as dramatic as watching new sprouts erupt from an old tree stump. I know, because I've been there. Friend, I can assure you, after the winter, comes the spring. Yes, you will continue to remember, but the pain will subside. The ache in your heart will go away. Hope will replace despair and a smile a frown.

Dave Mackey let his loss become a force for good in his life. What a wonderful story. I love these stories and appreciate the strength of these athletes. They are inspirational to us all. And as followers of Jesus, we have an even greater source of strength and inspiration. I don't want to slog through life. Neither do I want to rush through it. We need to take it one day at a time. And when we do, we'll be blown away by the goodness of our God.

Saturday, September 7

4:50 PM The Hopscotch 8K is now in the books and, phew!, what a wild race it was, one of the best of my life. I managed a very respectable pace without tiring during the race or collapsing afterwards. From the gun going off, we ran uphill and then downhill, and boy was it hilly.

I felt amazing the whole distance. I am beyond excited at how well my legs held up during the race. I never slowed down and I never once walked, not even through the aid stations. My race strategy today was a simple one. I would line up about two thirds of the way back and start out at a fairly easy pace and then ease up to an 11-minute mile pace. As you can see, not too many gray-haired folk out there today!

Per usual, at about mile one I fell in with a group of runners who were running at my pace and tried to keep up with them, letting them pace me through an unfamiliar course. My "pacers," as you can see here, were a guy in I'd say his late 20s and three young ladies who looked like they were in high school.

They paced me through mile 4 and a half, where I turned on the afterburners and made my way toward the finish line.

Praise the Lord, I finished well under my goal of 1 hour.

Overall I am happy with my marathon training. And I'm super excited to have tried something new in 2019. What a gift running is!

I hope y'all are pursuing your dreams, whatever they may be. Don't be afraid to try something new. You may learn something about yourself that you can apply to all areas of your life. Now I look forward to running the historic Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg on the 28th of this month.

Fellow runners, congratulations on your efforts out there today, and see you at our next race. Thanks especially to my unknown pacers. You pulled me toward the finish line. You inspired me to push through and finish. You all were winners today.

Time now to cook me some supper and chillax!

6:10 AM The WOD (word of the day) is "humility." The men and women of the Bible struggled with pride. They were real people with real weaknesses. I feel a certain kinship with them. How easy it is for us to wield "power," to take our "well-deserved" position at the top, to use our gifts to promote ourselves. Among Jesus' disciples, I suppose Peter was the one who could have done this most easily. After all, he's actually named "first" in the lists of the apostles. Yet as you read 1 Peter, you see how the Spirit of God had shaped in him a humility that lacked nothing in courage or imagination. Peter's whole life is a compelling witness to what he himself describes as "lowliness of mind." He writes, "God has had it with the proud. He takes delight in just plain people."

Peter's example is a breath of fresh air. He stayed out of the center. Jesus, our Chief Shepherd/Lead Pastor (1 Pet. 5:4), alone belongs there. Godly leaders are content to be foot washers.

Off to the city of Sir Walter Raleigh to do my first ever 8K. Onward and upward!

Friday, September 6

8:18 PM Up we go! Always climbing higher in our pursuit to summit those peaks God sets before us, be they athletic pursuits or intellectual ones. A big part of our "training," of course, involves reading, and here are two good resources for you to consider. The first is a book I'm having my NT class read for Wednesday. Throughout my teaching ministry I've tried to give some priority to evangelism, and it's worth remarking that some of the best books on the subject were written decades ago. This is one of them.

How shall we do missions? That's the question all of us wrestle with. Well, Roland Allen charted the way forward by, in essence, calling us back to the methods of the apostle Paul. I love books like this, and I think you will too.

Secondly, this essay just appeared in the journal New Testament Studies.

In my experience, defenses of the Paulinity of Hebrews are rare. Why? For years we've been told that Origen confessed ignorance about the author -- and so should we. Alas, this consensus is being challenged nowadays. Before I go and wash the dinner dishes, I'm a little embarrassed to do so, but I'd like to mention my book on the subject, which is available at Amazon.

Half of the book looks at the internal evidence in favor of Paul as the author of Hebrews, while the other half examines the external evidence. And what about Origen? I deal with that subject in my appendix, "Origen on the Authorship of Hebrews." I am curious to see what you think about this whole matter, so if you post something on your website let me know so I can link to it.

Remember: Let's welcome new approaches to old questions, and then hold our personal convictions in love!

6:20 PM Quote of the day (Conrad Grebel):

We were listeners to Zwingli's sermons and readers of his writings, but one day we took the Bible itself in hand and were taught better.

This was Grebel's response when he was asked where he found his new view of the Christian church. I love Zwingli and have studied his life. I have profited from his writings. But the Anabaptists were right: The clear teaching of the New Testament was more important than the teachings of their earthly teacher. Please, fellow students of the Word, let's never put the writings of our favorite Bible scholars above the Bible itself! 

5:44 PM Today was a day for "active recovery," meaning I went to the gym and focused on functional exercises (strength, core, etc.). Afterwards was Mexican food for lunch with a friend and then a nice long nap. Tonight I intend to go on a casual walk to get the old legs moving again, but nothing too far or too wild. I'm actually very good at doing nothing when I need to. The rest of the day I'll spend rolling my muscles and eating some good food, drinking tons of water, and stretching out my legs. Just trying to walk that balance between staying off my feet and doing nothing.

By the way, today my WOD (word of the day) was "trust." The Christian life is an act of trust maybe more than anything else. Trust removes all "no trespassing" signs from our relationship with the Lord. We surrender our worries and cares to Him and rest in an environment of trust, respect, and mutual love. We give God enough elbow room in our lives to do what He's best at doing -- turning our impossibilities into His possibilities. So, every chance I have today I'm going to go to the Lord and say like the man whose son had an evil spirit, "Lord, I do believe. Please, please help me overcome my unbelief."

Are you trying to move a mountain today on your own, my friend? I can tell ya, it ain't gonna budge an inch if you try and do the job alone. It just ain't. But there's every chance in the world if you entrust the task to God.

7:40 AM Time for a great debate ... not really ... unless you want to! Middle versus deponent -- a fairly contested and hot topic within the scholarly community. There are 16 verbals in 3 John (the letter we're studying this semester in Advanced Grammar) that are non-active or that come from non-active verbs. Cab you pick out some of them here?

You'll find many opinions on this topic. Are so-called deponent verbs true middles? And if so, how should we translate them?

Stay tuned!

6:10 AM Good morning, internets, on a very gusty day here in southern Virginia. The storm has now moved off the coast of the Old Dominion State. Virginia Beach, which last week was all bright and sunshiny, is now experiencing the brunt of the rain and wind. Prayers going up for sure. This morning I was up early getting caught up on family finances and then it's off to the Y and lunch with a buddy. If the weather forecasters are correct, Sunday should be nice and sunny in Roanoke, and if it is, I plan to hike MacAfee Knob, which means I'll go to tomorrow night's service. But first, I'm rereading chapters 3-4 in Robertson's Big Grammar. I've already found several quotable quotes. Whatcha think of these?

"It was really an epoch in the world's history when the babel of tongues was hushed in the wonderful language of Greece" (p. 55).

"Judea was not an oasis in the desert, but was merged into the Graeco-Roman world" (p. 77).

"There is no distinct biblical Greek, and the N.T. is not a variety of the LXX Greek" (p. 77).

"A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary" (p. 93).

"The only Bible known to most of the Jews in the world in the first century was the LXX" (p. 101).

"One cannot protest too strongly against the leveling process of an unsympathetic and unimaginative linguistic method that puts all the books of the N.T. through the same exegetical mill and tags this sense as 'regular' and that one as 'irregular'" (p. 117).

"Es überrascht uns nicht mehr, dass jeder paulinische Brief eine Reihe von Wörten enthält, die den übrigen unbekannt sind" (p. 130).

As you can see, there's tons of interesting stuff for us cover in class on Monday night. As well, two students will be making Power Point presentations over two chapters from my forthcoming book Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Thomas Hudgin's chapter on "Electronic Tools," and Rob Plummer's chapter on "The Ideal Beginning Grammar."

So, here I am, just a guy trying to stay abreast of everything that's going on in New Testament Greek studies and feeling like I'm wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. Ever feel that way? I just wonder when I'll ever feel caught up. Probably never. But it's the journey, folks, it's the journey that's counts.

Onward and upwards!

Thursday, September 5

5:52 PM Man, o man, o man, fall is almost here, ladies and gentlemen. I don't know about you, but I'm ready.

I don't think the temp got much over 75 today, and right now a light sprinkle is falling on the fields of rural Mecklenburg County, Virginia. O boy o boy. I've always loved the fall. Where I live, the summers can be hot, almost too hot I would say. The fall weather, however, is magnificent. Some days you walk outside and say to yourself, "Lord, the weather could not possibly be more perfect. Thank You." Can't wait to snuggle in front on my fireplace again with a good book. The best part about fall, however, is that everything around you is changing. You're about to experience yet another new normal, which I guess is another way of saying that fall is a good time for new beginnings, new plans, new goals.

Today I decided I would get in a run but only after I had gone over my calendar for the fall, winter, and spring 2019-2020. The local Amish bakery was the perfect place to sip some coffee and do this.

Right now I'm praying over my international travels, including a big trip to Asia planned for next March or April. As for this fall/winter, I'm considering two invitations, one to Nepal and another to Guyana. Then it was off to the Tobacco Heritage Trail, where I did a 5K run in order to put some miles on my brand new New Balance 880 running shoes.

They performed splendidly.

When I got home I saw that FedEx had delivered my new running vest and a new foam roller.

We all want to stay healthy and uninjured, right? It's a process, it's a process. For one thing, ya gotta stay hydrated on your runs, which is why I purchased my running vest. I can't wait to try it out during Saturday's 8K in Raleigh. For another thing, ya gotta roll out all those stiff muscles. I think we runners sometimes underestimate the importance of stretching and rolling, but you want to arrive at the starting line of your next race as fresh as possible and as fit as possible. My foam roller knows all the intricate parts of my body and does its best to take care of them. I'm not kidding you when I say that it feels like you're getting a massage but for only a fraction of the cost. You can get a roller for about $15 through Amazon. Here I am instructing Sheba on the correct use of the foam roller. I'm thinking it might help her with her stiff limbs.

Folks, I think my body is finally adjusting to marathon training. After long workouts I've started drinking chocolate milk. What a heaven-sent beverage. That, plus taking long hot showers. Right now it's time to have supper and then I think I'll spend time praying for those in the Bahamas who were hit so hard by Dorian. Hope you have a splendid weekend. Keep reminding yourself that fall is a good time to make those much-needed changes in our lives. We must know and remind ourselves that we all fail because we are all human. Yet with Christ's help, we can embrace the failures and in fact begin to carve out our true character.

Onward and upward!

8:48 AM It looks like rain might be on its way today, so I think I'll wait until later to climb MacAfee. So, what shall I do today? Today I'm thinking small. My body is a little tired (I had a really heavy workout at the Y in Wake Forest yesterday), so I'll probably do either a short bike, a short swim, or a short run. The key word for me today is "goal." If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. I think the key is to choose a manageable goal. We often pick off more than we can chew. I know someone who buys every gimmick out there to learn Greek. He's got all the books and CDs and has enrolled in all the latest online courses. Folks, I'm a huge believer in using the tools that are available to us, but when you're trying to learn Greek it's best to start off small. To use an analogy, a Greek student can't go from running (as it were) a 5K to running a marathon. I think I ran 8 half marathons before I attempted my first full. Especially if you're new to something, it's important that you don't sabotage your efforts by trying to do everything at once. Taking baby steps is vital in order to make progress. My greatest piece of advice for you -- I know you will be shocked to hear it -- is to purchase one good beginning (or intermediate) grammar and stick with it. Not to be shallow, but sometimes you've got to resist the urge to buy into the latest fad. I've said this 5 million times on this blog: the key to progress is persistence. You take one step at a time, one chapter in your textbook at a time, one goal at a time. The trick to motivation is not to overdo it. Let's face it, we've all started out to do something and then a few months or weeks or days later we've gone on to other pursuits. But if you're really committed to learning Greek (or learning how to run a marathon or whatever) you have to make a decision to follow through. Keep at it, because you never know what can happen. When I dropped Greek after 3 weeks, I thought the party was over. But God had other plans. The bottom line is, what matters to you is what is important. And remember: We're not alone and can learn from each other.

Putting in hours of training.

The result: A new PR at the St. George (Utah) Marathon!

6:45 AM Oh my, another rich time in the word this morning.

I've been reading Acts 13 in the NEB and The Message. In both, the word ekklēsia in verse 1 is rendered "congregation." I like that.

There were at Antioch, in the congregation there, certain prophets and teachers ...."

The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers ...."

The noun ekklēsia means something like "a group of people that have come together and have something in common." (This is opposed to an ochlos, which is a group of people that have come together and don't seem to have anything in common with each other except for the fact that they are, for example, shopping at Target.) Of course, ekklēsia can be glossed in several different ways. (A gloss is a summary of the meaning of the word that's suitable, say, for an interlinear.) Other English glosses for ekklēsia include "assembly," "meeting," and "church." We could also use "gathering" or "community." Here in Acts 13:1, I think the rendering "congregation" works, and works well. The New Testament understands the ekklēsia to be a community of people, living and meeting together in such a way that love, the supreme gift (1 Cor. 13:13), can be realized, as well as the other gifts of the Spirit. The church is a community loved and chosen by God, drawing its life from Him and manifesting this divine life in the basic Christian graces of faith, hope, and love. It is a community bought into being by the Gospel and one that is continuously shaped by the Gospel. Hence it can be justly called a "Gospel church."

Every now and then it's good to press the pause button and rethink how we translate certain Greek words into English. I'm excited to hear your thoughts about what a New Testament congregation looks like. If you publish your ideas on your blog, send me the post so I can link to it here. 

This morning I was thinking a lot about the churches where I live. Truth be told, cultural Christianity is alive and well in some parts of the good ol' U.S. of A. This is well documented in a book I just finished by Dean Inserra. It's called The Unsaved Christian. A recurrent theme in this book is how easy it is to let our local churches become incubators for cultural Christianity. The "remedy," according to the author, is "a gospel centrality that confronts Cultural Christians with the truth about Christ and themselves." Here are a few more quotes from this excellent book:

  • Thinking that I deserve heaven is a sure sign I have no understanding of the gospel.

  • ... the Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.

  • Not all "unsaved Christians" are Cultural Christians.

  • Being a self-identified Christian for cultural reasons, rather than the good news of the gospel, is commonplace in America.

  • ... Cultural Christianity isn't just an epidemic of the American South.

  • The hallmark of Cultural Christianity is typically familiarity (or even comfort) with biblical principles without a sense of personal need for salvation.

  • Cultural Christians are usually only a generation or two removed from gospel-believing Christians.

  • The cure for a country club church is not to care for members less but to care for them more.

  • For most churches, Easter and Christmas Eve are the local church versions of the Super Bowl.

  • Why raised hands and sinner's prayers don't necessarily indicate salvation.

  • In some Christian circles, God and country are entangled together into a Cultural Christianity not founded on the bloody cross and empty tomb of the Savior but rather the policies debated on talk radio and cable news.

  • The most common way to reject King Jesus is not with a defiant curse, but a disinterested shrug.

  • In the Bible Belt, identifying as a Christian is a way of life, but sadly, believing the gospel and following Jesus are often not.

  • Aside from human sin, if we could label one primary cause of Cultural Christianity, I'd say it's confusion over what the gospel is and what the gospel is not.

The result: Churchianity and religiosity have turned people away from the Lord. "The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you," wrote Paul (Rom. 2:24). The fact is, God has established his ekklēsia to be His representative in this world. And if our Christianity isn't contagious, it's very likely contaminated.

By the way, don't you enjoy reading books that are really well written? I find them inspiring and humbling. Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, once reported that her writing was going splendidly until she read the manuscript of John Brown's Body, another book from the Civil War era. "John Brown's Body gave me such a terrible case of the humbles that it was months before I could find the necessary faith in myself." Yep. Good authors can be intimidating. Funny thing is, we remember Gone with the Wind and nobody's ever heard of John Brown's Body!

A final word to my Greek students. I know that class this week was like drinking from a fire hydrant. But that's the nature of the Greek verb system. Don't give up hope. Read the chapter over and over again until things click. Don't try and take the easy way out. If you find yourself Googling "How to learn Greek without studying," you just might be in trouble. Seek out help. We are here to tutor you over this first speed bump!

Wednesday, September 4

7:12 PM Well, well, the hay is almost in the barn, both literally and figuratively.

Nate's taking care of the latter.

Meanwhile, all I have to do is grade the papers from today's NT 2 class and then record the quiz scores from yesterday's Greek 1 class and I can officially say, "The hay IS in the barn for this week of school." So far my great students are smashing it, including this group of 37 stalwart pupils taking their first quiz in beginning Greek yesterday.

Tomorrow my goal will turn from teaching to preparing for the Chicago Marathon in October. It's only 39 days away.

For the next 5 weeks my aim will be to build the aerobic engine and arrive at the starting line both fit and fresh. I want to feel rested when I get to Chicago, and I want to feel prepared. So as part of my current training block, I've scheduled an 8K race this Saturday in Raleigh.

I've actually never done an 8K before, so I'm not too sure what to expect. Goodness, I don't even know how far 8 kilometers is. Hold on a minute. Okay. Dr. Google tells me that 8 kilometers equals 5 miles. I think that may be just the perfect distance when you're coming off of back-to-back half marathon weekends. Tomorrow it's back to cross training -- either a long bike or a climb in the mountains. If the latter, I'm thinking of getting back to what is perhaps my favorite spot on the Appalachian Trail -- MacAfee Knob. In the meantime, I'm keeping a close eye on my diet. This week I tried to cook all of my own meals, though for lunch today I couldn't resist a piping hot plate of Korean Teriyaki Chicken at the Seoul Garden in Raleigh.

I topped that off this evening with a huge serving of Chicken Tikka Masala which I prepared as soon as I arrived back on the farm.

While I was down in Raleigh I stopped by Fleet Feet to buy a new pair of running shoes (New Balance, of course) as well as a pair of lightweight running shorts.

Unbelievably, with all the running I've done over the past four and a half years, I've never owned a pair of running shorts. My swimming shorts have worked just fine. But now that I've tried on a pair of these running shorts (again, New Balance), I'll never go back to swim trunks. Patience and fortitude are frankly the most important attributes you can bring to the sport of running, but having the right gear (including proper clothing and shoes) is also essential. As I continue to dabble in this sport, I'm eager to test my limits, within reasonable boundaries of course. I promised my doctors as much and I will keep my word. Saturday's 8K will be just another little step toward the level of fitness I'd like to achieve some day. I fight on toward that end.

I'm sorry if you get tired of all my musings about life, teaching, and racing. I have to say, all three are consuming and monopolizing my brain nowadays, so that's normally what you get to read about on the blog. It isn't the shoes or new socks or comfy pants that make me a runner. It's running. I realize that, every time I pin on a race bib, I'm a runner. A real runner, not just someone who runs. It's through running (duh) that we become runners. It's through studying Greek -- and never giving up, even when we have setbacks -- that makes us Greek students. That most of us will never experience the thrill of coming in first place in either a foot race or a classroom competition is never any excuse to abandon the search for our personal victories. It's a game you don't have to play to win. But you do have to give it your best.

Okay, onward to the rest of the week. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 3

6:45 AM If you're a newbie to the Greek verb, my advice to you would be to learn how to divide a word into its morphemes -- or minimal units of meaning. For example, in English:

  • Friend has one morpheme.

  • Friendly has two.

  • Friendliness has three.

  • Unfriendliness has four.

  • Superunfriendliness has five.

  • Ubersuperunfriendliness has six.

You get the idea. So when you learn the present tense of the verb luō ("I loose"), you will always try and pick out the word's morphemes. For example:

  • luō has two morphemes (lu + ō). Here lu means "loose" and ō means "I" -- hence the translation "I loose."

  • luomen has three morphemes (lu + o + men). Here lu means "loose," o means nothing (it functions as a cushion between stem and ending), and the men running around at the end of the word means "we" -- hence the translation "we loose."

Got it?

As you start (or continue) Greek class this week, do not think about how you paid good money to engage in this kind of suffering. In other words, keep your head up and your mind positive. It takes guts and persistence to learn Greek, and I am 67 years old and still chugging along, learning new things every day. After all is said and done, it will have been worth your effort. Working hard is a big part of the Greek learning game. Luck? Nope, not in this field. It really comes down to language aptitude, sound training, and, most of all, an off-the-charts work ethic. I'm a big fan of putting your head down when it comes to chasing down your dreams, whether that's to learn Greek or to run a marathon. It's always "Onwards and upwards."

Now go get to work.

Monday, September 2

5:08 PM So here goes. How did you translate:

Chairete. Nenikēkamen.

Hmm. Did you try:

"Rejoice! We have overcome!"

That's good. Real good! But that's not how I did it. Et voila!

"Be joyful! We are victorious!"

Yep. I bet that's what good old Pheidippedes told the Athenian council. Do you see now why I think those 2 Greek words are so useful in helping us to think through our view of Greek verbal aspect -- and how to translate those nuances into English? "Be joyful" is imperfective aspect. "We are victorious" is perfective aspect. See?

Okay. Duh. Pretty obvious, I know. But hey, I'll grab any excuse to talk about marathoning!

4:10 PM We all have our post-running rituals -- things we do after a long training block or a major racing event. For me, recovery usually invokes 3 things: a short workout of some kind, a time to indulge my food cravings, and either a massage or an easy swim in a nice cold pool. Today my lifting at the Y consisted of a very basic upper body workout using dumbbells weighing no more than 15 pounds.

Then it was off to Mi Careta for a scrumptious helping of arros con pollo.

Finally, it was time for one last swim at the county pool, which closes this evening and will stay closed until next Memorial Day.

After I let my lunch digest, I got in a few wonderful laps in some very refreshing cold water, then I did what all self-respecting Greek profs do when they're lazing by the pool. I read a book. Not just any book, mind you, but this one.

I haven't done so much underlining and circling in a long time. This is one good read!

You've heard people say it a million times. Stress takes its toll on a body. That's why it's important to schedule recovery days into your training and not feel guilty for taking time off from running to let your muscles recover. Tonight my legs are feeling good and they'll feel even better after I roll them. It's hard perhaps to believe that inactivity is just as important to a runner as being active, but an active lifestyle requires periods of rest and relaxation. Some call this "strategic inactivity," and it's something we all do from time to time (or ought to do). I often quip with my Greek students when we're saying goodbye after class, "Study hard, but not too hard!" Not too long ago, during a moment of questionable sanity, I made the decision to run two marathons back to back (they were only 2 weeks apart). But let me tell you, life in the fast lane eventually catches up with you. Oh, does it ever. The early warning system of over-training is always there, but it can be very subtle. The vast majority of injuries are caused by over-training. We run when we know we should be resting. We run too many miles. We run too hard on easy days. Of course, resting doesn't necessarily mean inactivity. Today I was active. I just wasn't running or doing anything too stressful for my old bod -- except chowing down a huge plate of food. That kind of over-indulging, however, is A-OK on the day after a big race, in my humble opinion.

Yesterday I had one of the most successful runs I've ever had. The race yesterday was all about the simple joy of getting out there and running. What matters is that we enjoy the process, folks!

7:34 AM Today it's time to put the finishing touches on my lectures for the week, including Greek 1. Please, please, please, if you're going to learn the Greek present tense, learn the future tense at the same time.

Only makes sense. The only difference is one Greek letter. Imagine that! As you will often hear me say: Greek has mathematical precision. It just does. Especially when you take a few basic, basic concepts of linguistics (like morphology) and apply them on a level that even a language dummy like me can understand.

This year marks my 43rd of teaching. I don't say that to brag. I say that so that you know I love teaching people like you Greek. Yes, folks, I'm in it for long haul. What a journey it's been, sharing my love for Greek with all of you. I wish I had more time to type out all of my thoughts and feelings and share them with you. The journey has been exciting, joyful, and at times tiring, but my students have given me so much in return. So thank you for your interest in Greek and in this blog. Thank you for caring about what counts for eternity. Greek class this week is going to be amazing. I think you'll love our approach to the Greek verb. Just sayin'.

5:45 AM It's kinda strange. I remember the days when I couldn't wait to read the New Testament in its original Greek. Nowadays I often prefer reading multiple versions of the New Testament to see how they render the Greek. This morning I was in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul's "Fool's Speech." I had The Message and the NEB in front of me.

I love the NEB's rendering of these verses:

It's odd: I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Paul's concept of weakness, yet I still have to learn and relearn it over and over again. When we get something other than what we want, we tend to become moody and whinny. "Please take this away from me, Dad!" Sometimes we cry and stay down. At other times we cry and then move on, realizing that (as I said on Saturday) God's "No" is a sign that He has something far better in mind for us than we could ever have possibly imagined from our limited perspective. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (perhaps -- runners take note! -- some kind of a sharp physical pain) could have gotten him down. But the Bible is full of stories of people who found God's-strength-in-weakness to be absolutely true. It helps to know that God doesn't write us off as failures whenever we fall into the slough of despair. He draws us back with His love when we feel like running away and fleeing.

Okay, enough about my morning devotions. Here's a question for ya: What two Greek words do all marathoners know? I mean, every marathoner knows these two words! The reason I ask this is because this week we begin our discussion of the verb system in beginning Greek, and we'll talk not only about tense but also about aspect -- in other words, not only when something happens but how that action is portrayed by the author. So here are the two Greek words:



Got it? How would you translate them? Notice that the first verb is an imperative in the present tense, whereas the second verb is an indicative in the perfect tense. In other words, the first verb indicates imperfective aspect, while the second verb indicates perfective aspect. (For pedagogical reasons I still use the term "aoristic" aspect for the aorist tense and "perfective" aspect for the perfect tense. But you can call them whatever you like.)

By the way, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, the first marathon was run in approximately 490 B.C. The story goes that a messenger named Pheidippedes (or was it Philippedes -- no one knows for sure) ran from the coastal city of Marathon to Athens and excitedly announced to the council a great victory over the Persians: Chairete! Nenikēkamen! Then he collapsed and died. (That story has one bummer of an ending.) The first modern "marathon" was held in Athens in 1896. Nowadays marathons are run everywhere. But it all began with those two words.

Now, those two little Greek words are a good test to see what you believe about Greek verbal aspect. So here's your assignment for today. (I know it's a holiday today, but surely I can ask you to do a little work seeing that it's Labor Day.) How would you translate those two Greek words? Write down your answer on a 100 dollar bill and send it to me by snail mail. (Sorry, Car Talk.) I'll give you my answer to that question later today (if I remember).

Speaking of running, I was disappointed to finish 2,979th out of 5,299 runners in yesterday's half marathon.

But I was even more heartbroken to miss coming in first place by 1 hour and 39 seconds. The blink of an eye, really. I lost to some guy named Harrison Toney. All right, Harrison. I'll be coming for you next year. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, September 1

5:26 PM Oh me, oh my oh! What a crazy, crazy, CRAZY weekend it's been! I mean, CRAAAAZY! You know, don't you, that runners are a bunch of over-achievers. We sometimes push our bodies more than they are ready for. What happens when you succumb to this temptation? Injury. Today, I almost succumbed. The key word is "almost." Spurgeon once said, "The worst thing that can happen to a man who gambles is to win." Well, folks, I almost "won" today, but the key word, again, is almost.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday I drove to Virginia Beach and arrived at the expo at around noon. Since I had procrastinated, I had to register there instead of online, but the process went smoothly and I got my race bib. I grabbed my t-shirt and then skedaddled because I wanted to get to the beach. Folks, I'm telling you, the best time to visit Virginia Beach is definitely not on Labor Day weekend. The crowds smothered the strand. I was thinking that the north end of the beach would be less crowded, but the crowds there were just as bad. I miraculously found a parking spot at 31st street and unloaded my board. Obviously I couldn't take my camera with me in the water, but you can see from this photo that the surf conditions were definitely not flat.

There was hardly anybody in the water, whether surfers or swimmers. I heard that the undertow was pretty bad and the lifeguards were discouraging people from venturing too far out. I counted one other surfer during the hour or so that I was frolicking in the surf. Needless to say, I had a blast. Afterwards, I checked into my Airbnb. It was a condo located in one of the nicer parts of V Beach and had a large bed and a gigantic private bath. I rested and then carb loaded at the local Olive Garden. I guess I must have turned in at around 9:00 and was wide awake at exactly 4:15 as planned. I got dressed and drove to Dennys for my traditional pre-race breakfast consisting of two pancakes and two strong cups of coffee. Mmm mmm good! Then it was time to find my corral and my 2:45 pace group. Oh, I forgot to say that as soon as I walked outdoors this morning it felt unseemingly warm. Even worse was the humidity. Not exactly a runner's favorite race conditions for sure. Here's my corral at the start at 6:30.

Six corrals had already started running. The air horn goes off and, man, the humidity is already killing us. My goal today was to hang with the 2:45 pace group until mile 9 or 10 and then, if I had anything left in my legs, begin to push ahead and try and break last week's time of 2:38. Sure enough, something happened at mile 10, but it wasn't me sprinting off toward the finish line. Folks, it isn't always easy being a runner. One of the canons of running is to always be true to yourself. At mile 10, my goal went out the window.

In one sputtering moment, my dream was shattered. My legs, my lungs, my body gave out. I had to concede defeat. I wasn't going to break 2:38, not today. I probably wasn't even going to come in under 3 hours, which itself would be a great achievement in a race that has a time limit of 4 hours. I slowed down, and as I munched on popsicles and placed cold towels on my neck and walked through sprayers and sprinklers, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had done the right thing. I had acted like a true athlete. I had respected my body. Here you can see how my pace began to go belly up at around mile 10.

But I've always said that it's the process that matters most, not the end results. Sure, you feel disappointed when you don't achieve a race goal. Yet I knew how much I could push my body, and my body was just saying "No." When I first started running, the joy for me was running to the edge in every race. These days I run because I love the sport. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other never ceases to amaze me and make me grateful to the One who gave me legs to run on. I'm overjoyed that I can run even when my run isn't perfect. I finished the race and the course photographer snapped this picture.

If you say that I resemble something between a wet dishrag and a bedraggled poodle, I won't disagree in the least. Today's race challenged me both mentally and physically in ways I've scarcely been challenged before. The mental challenge was by far the harder one. All this to say: Racing proves to me again just how running can make you stronger and wiser.

Thanks for joining me on my journey, guys. 

P.S. I somehow came in under 3 hours. 2:48 to be exact. God's grace!

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