restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations

                

 

home

welcome

about dave

on the road

the book box

columns & essays

reading room

contact dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2018 Blog Archives      

Friday, August 31   

1:25 PM Hey folks. Despite a flat tire, I knocked out a pretty good bike today. It was hot, it was challenging, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Training is going well, but there's nothing like actually racing. Can't wait for Sunday. I don't think any course records are in jeopardy, but it should be boatloads of fun, even if I have to drag myself across the finish line.

7:45 AM Two reminders:

1) I saw this on CNN.

John McCain was one of my favorite politicians. His complicated dance with DC politics and all its tentacles is one that is familiar to so many of us. He lived with the fire of a preacher and the soul of a mother. His memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church was thoughtful, moving, compelling, and real. McCain modeled a stripe of politics that many are seeking but are afraid to voice. He was strong but gracious, prophetic but approachable, strident but accessible. I have no idea how he managed it. But I'm sure his faith -- and his wife -- had everything to do with it. "You were his ballast," said Joe Biden to Cincy McCain. How do I possibly name the ballasts that have been in my life? I can't. They are simply too many. You know who you are, and that I wouldn't have survived this season of life without your practical help and prayers. Still, no one can compare with Jesus. Your name is honey on my lips. With You, life is beautiful and terrifying and wild and intimate. I love You more than life itself. I desperately want to come to know You, deeply and intimately.

2) This came in today's inbox. Hype it's called.

The Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series has 28 marathons and half marathons, 20 of them in the U.S. The San Diego Marathon was its original race. Their philosophy is, "Anybody can do it. You don't have to be an elite athlete to cross the finish line." Me, I like that. Some races can expect upwards of 30,000 runners. Think of it as a huge block party. What's more, the Series has raised more than 335 million dollars in their charity program. If you're ready to go the distance, give them a look.

Time for a bike. Just to be able to move my body is a pretty awesome feeling. All this to say that I'm thankful for the things I can do. Thank you, body. I appreciate and honor you.

Thursday, August 30   

6:42 PM Why do older people run? I can't speak for others. But I run for several reasons, including these 4:

  • I've always been fascinated by challenges and feats of stamina that people endure. I ran my first half marathon because the notion of seeing if I could go 13.1 miles proved irresistible.

  • I like to prove myself not to others but to myself. I like to prove that age is simply a number. I'm finding aging more positive and beneficial because I run. I'm not fast but I have tons of determination.

  • I like my own company. When I run, I often stay inside my own head. I think about all sorts of things: my walk with the Lord, my kids and grandkids, the research and writing I'm doing, and sometimes I lose a few miles that I didn't know were there because I just tuned out. Running makes me forget I'm 66.

  • I run because I need to be outdoors. I need to feel the sun on my neck, to see the fall foliage and the winter snow, to hear the sounds of silence. I grew up in the ocean. Now I am a landlubber. But God's creation is something I will enjoy until I draw my last breath.

It's unbelievable. This Sunday will be my 15th half marathon. I can't quite fathom it. Talking about how the Lord has helped me to stay active after losing Becky is very much in keeping with my reasons for writing this blog. Runners are exceptional, yet they are also ordinary. I will never be an elite athlete. But I believe that ordinary stories hold just as much value and that we can learn much from them. 

If you've been sideswiped by life, I have some advice for you. Start again. Get up and get going. Don't hate yourself. Focus on the new thing the Lord has for you. You can't let obstacles stand in the way of your journey to the goals He has given you.

1:02 PM I got out of the house today and there was no way I wasn't going to get me some exercise. I plain and simple needed a workout after 3 days of physical inactivity on campus (no time for any workouts in Wake Forest this week). Sometimes the best way to rejuvenate your body is to get it moving. So after a 45-minute workout at the Y, I managed to get in a 10-mile bike.

Yeah, that worked! I almost died from the heat, which makes me wonder what race conditions will be like this weekend. Fall weather tantalized us last week, but hot and humid conditions have returned with a vengeance. Besides, the course on Sunday is notorious for having very few water stops in the last 3 miles of the course. Realizing this, I'm actually toying with the idea of carrying several liters of water with me in my backpack and hope that it will help me to cope better with the hot weather. It would be so much easier to get water along the course but that may or may not happen. Water intake is crucial for me. Even when I crank the pace down to a slow plod, I perspire like nothing you've ever seen. I'm trying hard not to think too much about this aspect of the race, but it's hard not to do. As you know, heat and me are not the best of friends. However, I WILL master pacing, hydration, and fueling some day -- I promise! The one time I didn't freak out over the weather was during the St. George (Utah) Marathon and it got me a PR. I hope I can get my mind back there again. It's a sweet place to be, for sure. 

Today I have a couple of writing projects I need to work on. I was hoping to mow (the grass is tall!) but that will have to wait.

Happy Weekend,

Dave

7:10 AM It came out of nowhere. I awoke from a nightmare feeling as though I was under direct assault from the Evil One himself. I reached with frantic hands to pull back the nightmarish reality in the fog of my weariness and fear. Hubris is what the ancient Greeks called it -- pride, arrogance, the cult of me-ism, temptations that have dogged me all my adult life. I've travelled the globe, explored dozens of countries, but the darkness of my own soul will always be my greatest adventure.

What do you in such circumstances? You do what the apostles did on the Sea of Galilee. I cried out, "Lord, save me! I'm drowning!" I threw my arms around Him. I got out my iPhone and listened to a Haven of Rest song.

 

Though you walk through darkest valleys, and the sky is cold and gray, though you climb the steepest mountains, He will never let you stray.

Like a lamb who needs the Shepherd, by your side He'll always stay. 'Til the end of life's long journey, He will lead you all the way.

I have no wisdom, no insight, no words that can match the onslaught of the Devil. Sometimes I feel completely trapped, crying out for salvation from myself. And then in the face of all the darkness, hope and joy appear. In the face of the blackness, another Face pulls me out of my own darkness, every single time. I went back to sleep and awoke refreshed and renewed, the suffocating fear removed as if by an unseen hand.

When I get to heaven, I'll see who had the most faith, and it won't be me. I've always been good at life. I learn languages easily and read quickly and speak widely. Somehow I allowed these things to define me. But thorns are no respecter of talent. Thank God, O thank God, that He is the one who walks through this fire with me. Because He is enough, I am enough. Should I be stripped of everything, I would still have Him.

It's hard to imagine a world without Jesus. Christ is victor, whether I understand it or not, whether I feel it or not. I experienced a miracle last night, a forerunner, a precursor perhaps of a different kind of miracle where the healing will be forever. Until then, dear Lord, my kind Shepherd, stay by my side and lead me, all the way home. 

Wednesday, August 29   

7:58 PM Hey folks! This week is turning out to be another busy one. The highlight so far was having lunch with two Southeastern grads. Both earned their doctorates in New Testament from our seminary. Mel Winstead was visiting the campus from Charlotte, where he teaches New Testament and Greek at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Alex Stewart is currently spending a semester on campus as a visiting scholar. He teaches New Testament and Greek at Tyndale Seminary in Holland.

I believe still today what I've always believed: Teaching is one of the greatest vocations God can call us into. And here are two of His choicest servants. And of all the things I'm grateful for right now, being able to be in the classroom again after 41 years of teaching might be at the top of the list. Since Becky died, I've somehow made it through to a new, better place. Our hearts are more resilient than we think, and the work of healing and transformation can do things you can't even imagine from where you're sitting now. Now is your time, my friend. Own it. Believe it. Become it. Walk in the path God has placed you in. Don't get stuck in the past. And don't try to second guess the future. Give today everything you've got. Never lose the dream.

P.S. Here's my assistant Noah Kelley introducing himself to one of my Greek classes this week.

He's helped to organize a new group on campus called Biblical Languages for Everyone. You can check out their Facebook page here. Almost makes me want to start my Greek studies all over again!

Monday, August 27   

6:48 AM News and notes ...

1) This is week 2 of beginning Greek and by far the most important week of all. If students can't grasp the idea of how the Greek verb works (conjugation -- ugh!), then the party's over. Knowing a little Spanish will help. Mucho.

2) So far this year I've ridden 554.2 miles on my bike. I guess you could say I'm hooked.

3) I highly recommend the Joshua Project for anyone wanting to know how to pray for the nations. 

4) In NT 2, we're studying the Pauline epistles in their chronological order. One reason I treat 1-2 Thessalonians before Galatians is the absence of apostolos in their opening greetings. If you'd like to see what I mean at a glance, here's a Power Point.

5) This morning I prayed Phil. 1:9-11 for my grandkids. They will need love. They will need knowledge (love is never blind). They will need discernment (NLT: "I want you to understand what really matters"). And they will need a fruitful life ("By their fruit you will know them"). "Prayer is the very sword of the saints" (Francis Thompson). I need to unsheathe it more often.

6) For what it's worth, I enjoy listening to John Stott's sermons. His series on Ephesians is outstanding. His sermon titles are always catchy and, hence, memorable. I bet you can complete the following message titles:

  • Amazing ______.

  • When everything begins and _____.

  • History and _________.

  • New life -- new ________.

  • Unity and _________.

  • Be what you ___.

  • Spiritual weapons for spiritual ________.

7) Daily Dose of Greek continues to amaze me. Greek student, bookmark it today.

8) The director of the Boston Marathon, at age 63, completed the World Marathon Challenge this year. That means running 7 marathons in 7 days on all 7 of the world's continents. I got to meet Dave MacGillivray at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May. The man is truly an inspiration.

9) Why your kids should study Latin, the "other" classical language. (You see: I'm not biased.)

Sunday, August 26   

5:35 PM Haying has concluded for the evening, early. A bolt broke on the bailer and a spare was nowhere to be found.

Oh well. You win some and you lose some. I felt exhausted this afternoon. Like the kind of tired you feel when you can do nothing but crash and burn, which I did for about 3 hours. I'm still a bit tired but it's nothing a good night's sleep can't fix. My training goal for the week is to begin my taper for the half on Sunday. Come race day, I need to be in top form, both physically and (maybe even more importantly) mentally. I actually think I was long overdue for a bonk. By far the best part of my afternoon (after napping, of course) was working in the fields and enjoying some good old-fashioned farm labor. I've noticed that about a week before a big race all my runs feel horrible. But when I decide to run more conservatively something in me tells me I'm running too conservatively, and then I kick myself for being lazy. What a life. I know part of it is physical fatigue, but part of it has got to be mental fatigue as well. So frustrating, but that's all a part of life, no?

Anyhoo, it's time to cook supper. The rice is already cooking. I made extra for you know who. Sometimes I think Sheba must hail from Asia.

8:44 AM Although it's somewhat reductive, I categorize most New Testament scholarship as either cutting edge or traditional. There are pros and cons to both approaches, and lots of overlap too, but still, most of us tend toward one or the other. (Any guesses where I end up? Hehe.) That's why I was delighted to see on the Nerdy Language Majors website this morning someone cite Stan Porter's view on the "Go" versus "Going" debate in Matt. 28:19. (You may recall that I just blogged about this.) Is there anything quite like a debate about Greek grammar? I'm conditioned to hold to "my" view and never even consider that I might be wrong. Sometimes the value of Greek is obvious. Sometimes it's less than obvious. We don't live in a cocoon. We have to deal with differing viewpoints.

Can I tell you my goal for my Greek students? That their Greek experience will help them read and obey their New Testament. Also, that they will never see Greek as an Open Sesame or an Abracadabra to biblical interpretation. Exegesis can be mind-numbingly hard, and none of us is perfect at it. After teaching Greek for 41 years, I still feel like a child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean. That's why we cheer on each other's attempts to do exegesis. We give each other the permission to hold to minority viewpoints. The best kinds of conversations are like those found at the NLM site. Sometimes the debate is boring and pedantic, sometimes it's rich and rewarding. But it all sets the table for sound exegesis. Good friends can disagree with each other. The church can handle it. Sure, life would be simpler if we didn't have any disagreements. I mean, I always have the best answers, right? However, the best transformation takes place when we listen to each other respectfully.

Dear reader, you have permission to disagree. But do it well. Being proven right is not the highest goal. Engage your empathy, and then watch how God grows you.

7:48 AM Despite my great love for India, I haven't been able to return to that great nation in many years, so I love it when I get updates from brother Mammen Joseph in Bagdogra (Northern India). I once had the privilege of teaching his son Moncy at the seminary. Moncy's father-in-law just passed away so they are now in Kerala, where, as you know, severe flooding is taking place. Mammen reports that thousands of people have lost their homes. I remember thinking to myself the other night during a thunderstorm, "I sure hope the power doesn't go out." And here you have people losing their homes and all of their belongings. Mammen also gave me an update on the Bible School in Bagdogra (whose building is named after Becky). Last year they had 21 graduates who have joined with their mobile evangelism teams. This makes 6 mobile teams working in 6 different directions. This year the school has 65 students and some of them were the first to convert from their people group. Here's the current class.

Even though I've spent much of my life teaching, writing, and bouncing in and out of all kinds of theological debates, I still don't know how to live my life except at the feet of Jesus, eyes focused squarely on His. Once you taste His love, once you see His heart for the nations, you are ruined forever. "I have found the paradox," wrote Mother Teresa, "that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Joseph, I thank God for you and your family. I imagine your legacy is more far-reaching than you will ever know. Thank you for allowing me to be a very small part of your beautiful ministry. Together, we are the people of God, moving forwards, prophetically embodying God's shalom. Blessed be His kingdom, now and forevermore.

Saturday, August 25   

9:12 PM Today I got back into running. But first I did a 40-minute workout at the Y. That was followed by a mere 5-mile run at the Tobacco Heritage Trail. My goal was simply not to kill myself as I was coming off a long bike yesterday. So I took my time and just soaked in the gorgeous weather. We were going to get up hay this evening but the grass was too damp so we'll finish up that job tomorrow, Lord willing. Oh, and guys, I found the perfect Airbnb for next weekend's half in Virginia Beach. It's in a quiet neighborhood and the parking is free. I'm hoping I can get a good night's sleep there. Road races are cruel because they make you run (I use that word somewhat loosely) hard the whole way. I still have a lot more running to do this coming week, so it's forge ahead with my training plan and see what the Lord has in store for me next weekend. I'm not sure my 66-year old body can hold up doing 4 major races in the next two months (two halves, one ultra, and one full marathon). We'll see, I reckon.

And now I must get back to watching my favorite Hitchcock film, North by Northwest.

Run strong, my friends.

Dave

8:10 AM Hello virtual friends. Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend. Mine is exhaustingly delightful. Today I need to spray Roundup. This evening I need to get up hay. In between, I'm going for a long bike ride. Not. My quads are pretty much trashed so the best I can do today is either a long walk or a lift at the Y or a swim. This coming week on campus I'm teaching some really heavy duty material, both in Greek 1 and NT 2. I've been doing this for 42 years. This is shocking, I know, because I look so young (thanks for playing along). I clearly haven't always placed the proper emphasis on what's of eternal value, however. Ladies and gentlemen, teachers don't teach forever. So I'm extra careful about what to include in my lectures these days.

For example, this week in NT 2 my students are reading my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. This is literally the only book I will ever write on the church. When I assess the current state of the evangelical church, I sense the subject of chapter 3 ("Apostolic Teaching") is more relevant than ever. I don't care a whit about preaching styles. I love teaching that's based on the text, that's simple without being simplistic, and that's affective -- it affects you, the listener. Obedience inspires me. Talking heads don't. I've been listening to sermons since I was 8. That's 60 years. I once thought that listening to someone else talk about God was where it's at. Not anymore. Now, I'm grateful for God-gifted pastor-teachers. I've known many of them through the years, and I've been training them for 42 years. But Paul is clear about what their main function is. The passage I have in mind, of course, is Eph. 4:11-12. The purpose for which the risen Christ gave the gift of pastor-teacher to the church is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" -- or, better, "to prepare God's people for works of service." Notice that the "service" (diakonia) mentioned here does not describe the pastors but the so-called lay people -- you and me. Paul does not mean, of course, that there's no place for pastoral ministry. There is! He means, rather, that pastoral teaching and training ought to be directed to the enabling of all God's people to be ministering actively according to the gifts the Spirit has given them. Too often we think of the pastor-teacher as the primary conduit by which God speaks truth into our lives. He drives the bus while we sit docilely in the back. I argue in my book that all believers have direct access to biblical truth themselves. For clearly the way the whole body grows is not by becoming dependent on human teachers but by all the members relying on the Holy Spirit to use God's word to help them become more healthy and mature. The word of God, then, comes to us in three ways: through the teaching of gifted pastors, through us "one-anothering" the word (see Col. 3:16), and through personal Bible study and meditation. When we come to Christ, we begin a life of friendship with Him -- a personal rather than a mediated relationship that is meant to grow richer and richer until we see Him face to face. Once we understand this, personal Bible study will become an important part of our lives, a discipline we can hardly afford to neglect. As our "Anointing," the Spirit not only teaches us the truth of God's word but guides us as we seek to live out that truth in our everyday lives. To allow ourselves to depend on others for spiritual truth is to condemn ourselves and the church to perpetual immaturity. What Paul is calling for is a balance between formal teaching, informal teaching, and personal reflection. The apostle calls us to hold these three truths together.

It's our turn to step up to the plate. Run headlong into the life-changing power of the Bible for yourself. Allow the Spirit to speak to you as you read His word. Let your "Anointing" teach you, and you might be shocked how that changes your entire life.

P.S. Did you see the photo of John Lennon's son Sean and Paul McCartney's son James posing for a selfie? The headline reads, "Lennon and McCartney sons come together for selfie." I suppose the words "come together" could have been placed in quotation marks. If not a direct quote of their fathers' song Come Together, it's at least an allusion to it. Those familiar with the interplay in the book of Hebrews (which I'm teaching this fall) and the Old Testament often face the same question. Is this a direct quote from the Old Testament? Is it an allusion? An "echo" perhaps? Or a paraphrase (see 10:38 and 13:6)? One thing is clear: The theology of Hebrews derives in large part from an engagement with the Scriptures of Israel. And just as obvious is the fact that the author of Hebrews  read and knew these Scriptures himself.

Friday, August 24   

8:30 PM Today I biked from Jamestown to Richmond.

It's a distance of just over 50 miles.

It was the longest ride I've ever done. It was so much fun. As you can see, the weather was perfect.

Afterwards I treated myself to Ethiopian food at the Kuru.

My road bike didn't skip a beat. I'm so glad I bought it. This brings my monthly Map My Run total for August to 245.6 miles. As crazy as it may sound, I've loved every mile. I am blessed, truly I am. I am filled with the happiness and peace that comes from being out in God's nature. Right now I'm about to sit on the front porch with Sheba. We'll enjoy a full moon rising in the eastern sky.

What a historic day. I'll always remember it. I think I'm getting stronger. I know I'm getting stronger. Soli Deo gloria!

P.S. If you would like to bike this route, the shuttle service I used from Richmond to Jamestown is called the Capital Trail Bike Shuttle. Highly recommended!

P.P.S. Praying for all my Hawaiian friends!

Thursday, August 23   

9:08 PM "Dig deep, and remember that you like to do hard things." I've decided that's gonna be my mantra for the Virginia Beach Half. When your body tells you to stop, you must ignore those voices. As I've said, I'm using the half marathon as a training run for my ultra on Oct. 13. I don't have any wild expectations for next weekend's half. I've given up on the notion that I'm anything faster than a 2:45 half marathoner. I know that sounds slow, but for me it's actually a good time. My PR is 2:27 (set in Petersburg), but I really don't care if I ever beat that time. If I'm healthy, I know I can finish a half. Plus, I'm learning to feel my pace effort without always having to look at my watch. The main thing is that I'm getting outdoors and enjoying God's beautiful creation. When I run, I'm lost in wonder and don't care about doing X distance in Y time. I'm just happy to be alive, completely immersed in this adventurous life God's allowed me to live.

It's not lost on me that my days spent on a race course are numbered, so I soak up every drop. Running is the best therapy I've ever had, and mountain climbing comes in a close second. Both sports give me an awareness of my God-given strength and the confidence to run the rest of my life with gusto. I'm eager to get back to the Rockies and climb Mount Elbert. Although I've already summited two 14ers, I don't consider myself a "peakbagger" who has to conquer all of the 14ers in Colorado. What I like most about hiking in the Rockies is the vast array of scenery. You start out below the tree line, then all of a sudden you're doing rock scrambling. I'm so immensely grateful I've had the chance to enjoy these gorgeous peaks. The view from the top of a 14er is stunning, like a well-written love note from the Creator.

A summit always reminds me that the best views in life are those you have to work for. I'm not sure how much longer my body will hold out, but if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough. Entering an unknown ultra in October, I don't have much of a gauge to tell me when I'll land across the finish line. But I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I'll be smiling if and when I cross it. Sometimes I have fleeting thoughts of reaching my breaking point before the end of the race. But I will never, ever give up trying. And to you, all of you, who've been by my side ever since Becky passed away, I am deeply filled with gratitude. I'm honored to take you along with me on my journey. I truly hope one day, when I'm long gone, to have painted for my children a vast landscape describing a life that placed its hope in Jesus. We need one another, all of us, sharing our life experiences with each other. We're not designed to thrive as Lone Rangers. Life can be hard, really hard, but not for a second will it ever be impossible, not as long as we have Him and each other. Adapting to our circumstances is the key to survival. Just ask anyone who has summited a 14er.

Dear reader, you can't change the past. You can't change the inevitable. But you can take charge of your attitude. I hope, my friend, you embrace each opportunity you have been given and never get too down on those days that are inordinately tough. Somehow you'll find the strength to keep on climbing -- even on legs that are absolutely spent. "Fill all thy bones with aches" said the sorcerer king Prospero in The Tempest. Or, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, it's not the spectator who counts, nor the one who points out how others stumble. The glory goes to the one who enters the arena and whose face is marred by blood, sweat, and tears.

1:10 PM Raise your hand if you can't wait for fall weather to begin. Today we got a taste of fall: no humidity, a cool breeze, and temps in the lower 70s. I spent the morning in South Hill having the oil in my van changed. While there I did an 11.3-mile bike followed by a half hour workout at the Y. I'm praying about biking the entire Virginia Capital Trail tomorrow, all 50 or so miles of it. If I do, that will be my major workout for the week. I've already done both halves of this trail and I can tell you it's nothing short of spectacular. My next big race is in only 10 days in Virginia Beach. I've done the Virginia Beach Half Marathon twice before. This year the race will mark my 15th half overall. I love half marathons. I think the 13.1 mile distance is my personal favorite. A half challenges you without beating you up too much. I think most of you know I'm training for two big races in October -- my first 31-mile ultra, and the Marine Corps Marathon. Before doing these races, I'm trying to build up my base mileage. The idea is to sort of snooker your body into thinking its only going 20 miles and then gently coax it into going farther than that. I'm so thankful I have lungs that can go the distance without exploding. But I still need to teach my brain to fight through fatigue. I thank EVERYONE who has given me advice about running.

I think that's it for now. Pretty simple, eh? Until my next post, happy miles!

6:12 AM Good morning, folks! Time to fire this old blog up again after spending 3 days on campus.

1) Remember my "Five Minute Greek Club"? You know, the club that never meets and has no dues? I launched this "club" years ago to encourage my students to continue to use their Greek during the summer months. Translate 2 verses daily, Monday through Friday, and you get one of your prof's books for free. Well, club members have begun collecting their prizes. The more the merrier!

2) On Monday I got in a 26.2 mile bike between Wake Forest and Raleigh. Hope to do another long ride today.

3) Joining our office quad this semester is Ben Holloway, who teaches philosophy. (I don't understand a word Christian philosophers say, but I'm sure glad they're on our side.) Yesterday we enjoyed some Korean bulgogi together at the Seoul Garden in Raleigh. Ben is a Brit to whom I will henceforth defer all questions about the English language that arise in my Greek classes.

4) In NT 2 yesterday, we did a thorough exegesis of Matt. 28:19-20, the Great Commission passage most of us are familiar with. Who would have thought there were so many hidden gems in this text? Jesus promises to be with us "all the days" (not "always"; Greek has an adverb for that idea). I would render this as either "day after day after day" or "each and every day." When you're suffering for Christ in an overseas prison, methinks you will probably need Jesus one day at a time! Then there's the verb "Make disciples" (one word in Greek). I asked the class not to use biblical jargon in rendering that verb. We came up with something like "Train." You get hired at Wal-Mart, and you become a "trainee" for the first few months. I might render Jesus' command as "Train the people from every nation how to follow Me in obedience." Finally, is it "As you go" or "Go"? Enter Stan Porter. If you're able, take a gander sometime at his essay "The Grammar of Obedience: Matthew 28:19-20" in his outstanding book Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament. (Even Sheba likes it.)

He's one of maybe two scholars who argue for the translation "Going, therefore...." I'm convinced he's right.

5) Finally, this week I was able (thank you Jesus!) to send to my publisher the final page proofs of the Mandarin translation of Becky's book My Life Story. Mind you, her book will now be available in English, Spanish, and Chinese -- the 3 most widely spoken languages in the world. That's over 2 billion people!

"Amazing" might be applicable here.

Love each other well, my friends.

Dave

Monday, August 20   

7:10 AM "Old teachers are better." That's the catchy title of a blog post I stumbled upon this morning. And just how are old teachers better?

  • We know ourselves better than we did when we were young.

  • We have discovered the difference between wisdom and knowledge.

  • We tend to take more account of deeds than words in our spirituality.

  • We are often gentle and kind.

  • We have usually become more tolerant and open.

First of all, let me reiterate: I'm not an expert in pedagogy. But you already know that. I write based on my personal experience and maybe some research I've done through the years. Take what I say here with a grain of salt and do your own research. If you're a teacher, only you know what's going on with you. That said, what's my response to this post? I say hogwash. Age is just a number. You can be 70 and have the physiology of a 30-year old. And you can be 30 and have the physiology of a 70-year old. Ditto for spirituality and maturity. Of course, I'm protective of older teachers because I am one. But at the end of the day, what I look for in a teacher is very simple:

  • Vulnerability.

  • Diligence.

  • Humility.

  • Passion.

  • Discernment.

  • Spiritual depth.

Teacher, I really don't care how old you are. Find your tribe and love it with all the grace and ardor you can muster. Love God and love other people. That's pretty much what teaching is all about. Learning dies in the toxic soil of self. Be someone who aspires to change the world. Keep your office door wide open, and remember: You're as much a learner as your students are. Put their interests before your own. Flee the original sin of teaching (being a bore) with all you've got. Our students crave examples. Let's give them the goods. A good place to start might be with setting a precedent. Teach them: This is how to love the lost, this is how to spend our dollars, this is how to serve the needy. And remember, even if ultimately we aren't able to live up to our own standards as teachers, God is always at work. Blessed are the wonderers who look beyond the faults of their teachers (no matter how old or young they are) and place their confidence squarely and only in Jesus. He is always the best Teacher and the greatest Example. With good reason my students may doubt a man entering his 42nd year of teaching, but it's a lot harder to doubt a Master as good as Jesus. Even if you're not a teacher, I think your discipline, drive, determination to be your best, and guts in the face of life's trials speaks volumes.

By the way, I never did get in my bike yesterday. It rained again. As in thunder and lightning. Don't tell anyone, but I schlepped and chillaxed and even griped a bit. I went to bed early. If you read this blog as I hope you do, you know that I have a Sheltie named Sheba. She is the most lovable dog you could ever imagine. Anyhoo, while I was laying in bed having a mental pity party, I heard the pitter patter of a dog's paws on the steps. It was Sheba, scared to death of the thunder, seeking solace as she used to do in my upstairs bedroom. I knew that, because of her arthritis, she was struggling with every step, so I bounded out of bed to carry her the rest of the way up the steps but she had already arrived on the landing. There she was, with that same pitiful look in her eyes that says, "Daddy, I'm scared." The best word to describe how I felt at that moment is stupid. Here you are, feeling sorry for yourself that you couldn't bike for 20 miles when your puppy can barely make it up the steps. What kind of a man are you anyway? I got down on the floor and Sheba tucked her head into my lap. We just sat there, and I cherished every moment. I guess every dog owner gets attached to their pets. For almost 14 years we've been inseparable, Sheba and me. I know the day will come when there will be no more walks on the farm together or lounging on the front porch. Losing a pet is losing family. I love Sheba and worry about her. My senior tail wagger follows me everywhere and never lets me out of her sight. And don't get me started on how therapeutic these fine furry creatures can be. A dog is never "just" a pet. Thankfully, I still have her with me. For now.

Well, I've rambled on long enough. Time to get to school. There's a short saying I once read about dogs and I think I'll close by quoting it here.

Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.

Have a blessed week,

Dave

P.S. C. S. Lewis had 8 dogs. You can read about them here. You will even discover why Lewis called himself "Jack."

Sunday, August 19   

9:12 AM This morning I've been reading the Shepherd of Hermas. It's not in our Bible, but Irenaeus considered it canonical. It's even part of Codex Sinaiticus. Like so many other writings from the 100s and 200s, it shows just how sacrificial the earliest followers of Jesus were. In the section on fasting, the writer says you'll eat nothing but bread and water, then you'll count up the money you saved and give it "to a widow, or an orphan, or someone in need."

Tertullian likewise notes how Christians of his day used a common fund to support widows, the elderly, burials for the poor, the disabled, and even the release of slaves. Even the pagan Emperor Julian declared that "The impious Galileans relieve both their own poor and ours .... It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance." I'd call this extravagant giving. Rather than extravagant hoarding. And note: Believers didn't only help other believers. They spared themselves no effort to serve the lost community all around them. Me, me, me? No. Other, other, other.

When sacrifice is left out of the Gospel, then it isn't the Gospel at all. Those who have received mercy dispense mercy. I'm a huge fan of "causes." But the real secret? Making the decision to live sacrificially and do it every day. What it boils down to is a pretty simple solution. Stop thinking inside yourself so much. Look outside yourself. Exercise some self-discipline (maybe even fast?). Yeah, yeah, yeah. Easier said than done. I know that. Boy do I know that. My biggest challenge this week is not the office appointments I have or the classes I'll teach or the writing I'll do. It's to stop focusing on myself and balance kingdom blessings with kingdom duties. The good news is that it's a lot more fun and satisfying to be a giver rather than a mere consumer of God's blessings. I can do better than I'm doing. I must do better.

Glad to get that off my chest.

6:44 AM Sunday morning scattershooting ....

1) This was my view at 6:00 am this morning.

It rained all evening yesterday, and I mean it poured. The pond is about to overflow. I think the skies will clear later today. After church I'm thinking about doing a bike since I need to take tomorrow off from training to prepare for classes.

2) Speaking of rain, I just got an email from a friend in India. He asks for prayer for the millions who've been displaced by the recent flooding in different parts of the country (especially Kerala). The constant downpour is hampering the rescue operations too. Please pray.

3) After I finished yesterday's 5K, I stood at the finish line to cheer on the other runners. I think it took the last person just over an hour to finish the race. Big cheer! When you see somebody who is overcoming obstacles to reach their running goals, it's like watching a victorious gladiator. I see such resilience in my fellow runners it's amazing. This is how the running community is. We celebrate each other's personal victories, one victory at a time. Our church communities could well do the same.

4) Next month will be busy. I'll be speaking at churches in both Greensboro and Severn, NC. As for running, my races include:

  • Virginia Beach Half Marathon on September 2.

  • North Hills 5K in Raleigh on September 8.

  • Virginia 10-Miler in Lynchburg on September 29.

If I can cash in some flying miles, I also like to climb another 14-er in the Rockies, Mount Elbert in particular (because it's the highest).

5) I've been reviewing this book for Filologia Neotestamentaria.

The author's argument is that ekklesia never lost its civic denotation even when writers like Paul used the term for "God's people." The word "in Paul's time denoted predominantly the honorable body of citizens" (p. 218). As such, ekklesia was rarely used for voluntary associations. The use of the term by Paul also suggests the existence of a hierarchical structure. Interesting perspective, to say the least.

Stay blessed,

Dave

Saturday, August 18   

6:44 PM When I heard that BirthChoice was sponsoring a 5K run in Cary today, I jumped at the chance to participate in it. The WakeMed Soccer Complex is maybe my least favorite course in the world because of the hills. (I tried not to think about it.) I finally did what I always do: Hit the Go button, and see what happens.

I quickly discovered: The race was trying to kill me. Murder might be a better word. I finished it only to learn that I had come in first place in my division. I began to believe that maybe I'm not a Cessationist after all. I resumed my will to live and made my way to the awards table.

Instead of a silly medal I got a nifty gift certificate to the local running store. (Yes, I've already cashed it in.)

I could have, at this point, gorged myself on bananas and oranges, but I decided that since I was in Cary, why not beat a retreat over to the Awaz and grab some doro wat. The finish line is nice, but the post-race food is even better.

Before I left the race venue, I listened to the sponsors share about their ministry to pregnant mothers.

Last year BirthChoice counseled 1,000 mothers at their clinic. When I heard that 80 percent of the women chose to carry their babies to term, I spontaneously broke out into tears. I tear up now just thinking about it. Moral of the story: Beware of falling in love with the sport of running. It might renew your faith in humanity. It might also help you to maintain perspective when you're passed by a mother pushing a 40-pound baby stroller during a 5K. Aargh!

Friday, August 17   

7:25 PM Got up two loads of hay this evening. This was the first.

Nate drove the second load to his farm while I walked back to my car. 

I can see the commercial now. "Honda Odyssey. Farm Car of the Year."

Bulgogi time!

2:12 PM Sweet, sweet, sweet. SWEET. Today at around 7:30 I left the house to get in my 20-mile bike between LaCrosse and Brodnax. I would be remiss not to mention that this was one of my fastest bikes ever.

A speedier Dave has never been known. Yay me! May I also brag on my road bike, my Garmin watch, my padded riding shorts, and my anti-chafing goo? Please act impressed, because I am a biking moron and have no idea what I'm doing. If I don't hear from at least five of you, with very complimentary emails, I'll curl up into a ball. Please don't make me read my Amazon reviews. Again.

Afterwards I returned to the public pool and got in some laps. The pool is Olympic-sized, which means that there's plenty of room for people who want to swim laps and for people who just want to play in the water. Since the public schools are back in session, the pool is practically empty these days, but not completely. Today I witnessed, for the very first time, an Amish family enjoying the cool water on a warm day. They were dressed to the hilt -- fully clothed, ladies' hair in buns -- and frolicking like ducks taking a bath, all the while speaking Pennsylvania Dutch (which I can understand). I mean, isn't America a crazy cool place to live?

And good news! We're getting up more hay tonight. Yep, the weather's been dry enough to cut, rake, bale, and trailer. (I may have just invented a verb.) I'm poised for pickup, but not before mowing again. What happens when the Lord sends rain? You mow, and mow, and mow some more. Then you bale, bale, and bale some more. Also called farming. Which I love. Farming is hard but it's a good hard. It puts you to bed at night with a good tired. Know what I mean?

By the way, just because I haven't been running doesn't mean I'm not training for my next foot race. Biking is making a huge difference in my overall fitness. Besides, miles go a lot faster when you're biking. Running is the absolute best. But I also like swimming and cycling. It's all bliss for me!

6:22 AM There will always be only one Aretha Franklin. When I was playing trumpet in a soul band as a teenager in Hawaii, she was my hero. Aretha had pure talent on loan from God. She was inspiring. She was beautiful. Here she is singing at the age of 73 at the Kennedy Center. I shed a tear:

  • When she sang her very first note.

  • When Carole King reacted.

  • When President Obama teared up.

  • When Aretha stood up to sing.

  • When she tossed aside her stole.

  • When she hit that final high note.

In its tribute to Aretha Franklin yesterday, Christianity Today wrote these powerful words:

But standing before the frenzied Kennedy Center audience, singing from somewhere deep inside the pain, Franklin tapped into the gospel music of Jackson and Ward, into the sanctified sermons of her father, into a lifelong belief in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and came out triumphant and redeemed on the other side.

Whitney Houston once said, "We all die. The goal isn't to live forever. The goal is to create something that will." Rest in peace, Queen of Soul. I just said a little prayer for your family. You will be remembered as the greatest soul musician in history. You earned the RESPECT of an entire nation. I'm glad I got to live in a world that included your music. Heaven is now blessed with your wonderful voice.

Thursday, August 16   

8:28 PM Well, just so I don't leave the impression that I never miss a workout, I needed today to recover from all the miles I've done so far this month. That's why when chapel let out I didn't do what I had planned to do today: bike 20 miles. Besides, the heat was oppressive. So I drove home and celebrated the day the best way I knew how. I took a really long nap. I missed a day of training but I'm not worried about it. I'm still good to go for my October races if I can stay healthy. I've enjoyed running as a learning exercise. I like the constant challenge and the ups and downs of it all. When I feel stressed at trying to balance it all, I put my family first and let everything else fall into place. If you're a beginning runner, the best piece of advice I can give you is to be patient and gentle with yourself. Find gratitude even when things are hard. This summarizes my general approach to life, though I don't always live up to it.

6:54 PM Today's powerful convocation message was on the incredible life of John Paton, missionary to cannibals. His story was popularized in this post by John Piper. When I think of John Paton, old fashioned terms like stalwart, fortitude, guts, and character come to mind. Our circumstances are less important than our response to them. When Paton arrived in New Hebrides, both his wife and his newborn died of the fever. He dug their graves with his own hands. He stated, " ... my reason seemed to give way." "But for Jesus," he added, "and the fellowship He vouchsafed to me there, I must have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave!"

Ah, the words of an honest widower.

I felt her loss beyond all conception and description, in that dark land. It was very difficult to be resigned, left alone, and in sorrowful circumstances; but feeling immovably assured that my God and father was too wise and loving to err in anything he does or permits, I looked up the Lord for help, and struggled on in his work.

That's widowerhood (or widowhood or divorcehood) in a nutshell.

  • Your reason seems to give way.

  • You feel her loss beyond all description.

  • It's difficult to be alone.

  • Then you look up unto the Lord for help.

  • And struggle on in your work.

That's been my life exactly for the past 4 and a half years. When unfortunate incidents come up in your life, you have a choice. You can give up or you can grow up. You can shake your fist at God or you can trust God to help you fight off the discouragement. When that time comes, remember the words of John Paton:

... feeling immovably assured that my God and father was too wise and loving to err in anything he does or permits, I looked up the Lord for help, and struggled on in his work.

Paton would serve alone for the next 4 years. Eventually he would remarry and experience the Savior's blessing on his ministry among the cannibals.

I'll just add this. It's true that widowerhood can affect you physically. But in the long run, loss shouldn't take away our strength. It should give us new energy and strength. It should fill us with the joy of the Lord, to whom we now look, as perhaps never before, for strength in the midst of our struggles. We must rely upon God. We must also believe that He knows what's best and will help us decide how to serve Him in our singleness.

It must be dreadful to face loneliness without Jesus. If you're in that category today, my friend, you need to start -- I mean really start -- getting the Solid Rock beneath you. The water is rising, and only a house that's build on solid rock can stand.

7:45 AM It's another beautiful day here in Southside. Off to convocation and then (I hope) a long bike on the Neuse River Greenway. Classes for me begin next Monday. In 1929, Ernest Dimnet wrote a book called The Art of Thinking. He believed that 19 out of 20 people don't think. They react. They are automatons. I would hope things have changed a bit since then. I want my students to learn the art of thinking. Nothing is more important. Except the art of living. Thinking gives rise to the actions that determine our lives. We must make every effort to develop the habit of thinking. That's true whether you're a 6-year old or a 66-year old. "The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts" (C. S. Lewis).

Time to get out the water hose again!

Wednesday, August 15   

1:44 PM Now here's a scary thought. There's only 52 days before my first ultramarathon on Oct. 6 in Farmville. D minus 52, I guess you could say. I've read a ton about how to prepare for your first ultra and to be honest, the more I read, the less confident I become. Here's the thing. No matter how well you train, things can always go terribly wrong on race day. No matter how well prepared (you think) you are, you can still end up not doing well. So if you have any tidbits of advice, let me know. Meanwhile, my training continues. Today I did a 1-hour lift at the Y. Nothing too strenuous, just some upper body work and stomach crunches while being very careful to avoid anything having to do with my delts (which are still recovering from being overworked by yours truly last week). Then I went to the public pool (which happened to actually be OPEN today) and got in a swim. I would LOVE to lose about 10 pounds, because the more weight you carry around with you, the more difficult it is to run. Being a bachelor who's also a meatasaurous doesn't help. Dietary changes need to be gradual if they are to last, but I'm a very impatient guy. I'm a healthy eater for the most part (I do cheat from time to time), but I struggle with a body that's not built to run long distances. Cooking at home more often is helping some, as well as trying not to live off of freezer food. But hey, the temptation to throw junk food down the gullet never seems to disappear. I still eat meat, just less of it. I know I need to eat more vegetables. Training (and diet) are definitely a challenge. In fact, life is all about the challenge. But truth be told, I have completely fallen in love with racing. How much longer? Only God knows. I'm just happy to be mobile. :-)

After my swim today I kicked back and soaked up the gorgeous sun. My mind went sort of in a weird direction. I began to muse, "Dave, any regrets? Anything you'd do over if you could in your 66 years?" I thought about my career. Let's say I didn't end up in the classroom. What would I have done with my life? Or how about studying abroad for my doctorate? Was it worth all the trouble and expense? I honestly can't say enough about how much fun it was to study in Basel. Living in Europe was such an amazing (and humbling) experience. I mean, where else can you:

  • Embarrass yourself in several languages? (Make a mistake in German or French, and you will be corrected.)

  • Play an alp-horn off key.

  • Be laughed at because Ronald Reagan was your president ("You mean to tell me that your president is an actor? You gotta be kidding.").

  • Have your landlord control your apartment's thermostat so that you froze during the winter.

Okay, so we never really froze during the winter (that's what hot baths are for). But as I look back at my life, there's very little I think I would want to do differently. I guess I could have become an airline pilot (my Walter Mitty identity). Well. Not really. I can't even change a light bulb without instructions. Or I guess I could have stayed stateside and done my doctorate. Well. Probably not. Too much busywork for my taste. I am now, more than ever, convinced that God has only good in store for us, and that nothing can separate us from His love, and that He does indeed guide His children both personally and professionally. No matter how hard I think things have become, and no matter how much second guessing I do, I have been blessed with friends who show me with their lives that God always makes a way for His children.

I could arguably be the poster child for worry. As I look forward to the next 10 years or so of my life, I wonder: Will I finish well? And by "well," I don't mean "well" by worldly standards. I mean "well" as God defines "well"ness. In the middle of my brokenness, I've arrived at the place where Jesus' "well done" trumps my publishers' and students' "well said." Before you desert me, let me add that I think things should be said well. But I want to belong to a Christian community known for its deeds as much as its words. As John Stott puts it in the book I'm now reading (one of many books by Stott I'm reading these days), "What we need is not less knowledge but more knowledge, so long as we act upon it" (Your Mind Matters, p. 84). Paul put it this way: "If I have not love, I am nothing." I thank God for my mind. I thank God that He delivered me from the spirit of anti-intellectualism in which I was raised. I also thank God that He's still in the business of changing me, not only my habits but my heart.

Like I said, I like challenges. While exercising, my body talks to me. It's telling me that I'm not really 66. "Age is just a number," it reminds me. It's telling me that I am an athlete capable of so much more activity than I ever suspected. Maybe, just maybe, even a 31-mile ultra. In short, today I am the man I always was. Lazy and undisciplined. Studious and self-giving. Confident yet fearful. The body, soul, and mind that I have -- for whatever length of time I still have on this earth -- can still become whole and healthy. For that, I can only thank Him.

8:10 AM Hey guys. Just wanted to give you a brief running update. This morning I registered for the Flying Pig Marathon to be held next May in Cincinnati. It will be my third consecutive Pig. My daughter and her husband will be running it with me. It will be their first marathon. The race usually falls on the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby so the city is slammed packed. I can definitely recommend the Flying Pig if this is going to be your first 26.2 mile race. The course is fun but it does have its challenging sections. I've divided the course into five parts:

  • My Old Kentucky Home

  • Conquering Everest

  • Enjoying the 'Hoods

  • Will This Highway Never End?

  • The Home Stretch

Actually, the worst hill comes at mile 24. It's not huge, but it comes at a point where you just want to be done with the race and have very little gas left in your tank. So ... will you be doing the Pig next year? How did you get into long distance running? Do you dislike hills as much as I do? Today I also registered for this Saturday's 24th annual Run for Life 5K in Cary. I think this will be my fourth time competing in this race at the WakeMed Soccer Park. All proceeds benefit BirthChoice, which provides free services to pregnant women in the greater Raleigh area. Great race. Great cause.

That's all for now.

Make America Chafe Again!

Dave

Tuesday, August 14   

9:08 PM The other day I got this crazy idea in my head. More than anything, I had an insatiable craving to entertain guests in the formal dining room here at Bradford Hall, something I hadn't done in a very long time. My wife designed it, and my son built it, so the room has a very special place in my heart. So tonight I hosted the Bradsher clan and we spent the better part of 3 hours having the most fun. My granddaughter set the table, and did a marvelous job don't ya think?

They risked their digestions on my homemade spaghetti, and then we enjoyed fresh cobbler (as in baked today) that my daughter brought.

The kids enjoyed feeding the donks ...

... and petting them ...

... and Papa B, of course, enjoyed reading to them a story ("Melody's Cookie Cover Up" in the Psalty series).

It's hard to sit down and try to quantify just how full my heart is right now. Today? Definitely a good one.

Let's see. Shall I bike or climb a mountain tomorrow?

3:30 PM Just back from my bike in Farmville. As you can see, it was a beautiful day to be outdoors.

The humidity was less than 50 percent. I got in my 20 miles.

But I felt like I could have kept going forever. I came home floating. Thank you, Lord, for this gorgeous day.

8:24 AM Good morning, fellow Gospelers! Today I'm writing up my review of this 600-page doctoral dissertation.

Ronald Hock, in his now classic The Social Context of Paul's Ministry: Tentmaking and Apostleship, argued that Paul had four possible means of support to finance his missionary work:

  • He could charge fees (as did the Sophists).

  • He could accept literary patronage.

  • He could beg (as did the Cynic philosophers).

  • He could work as an artisan.

In this dissertation, the author argues that Paul availed himself of a fifth model: the societas. There's nothing really new here, of course. Years ago, Paul Sampley made much the same argument in his Pauline Partnership with Christ (which I cite extensively in my essay on the authorship of the Christ hymn in Phil. 2:5-11). What's new in this dissertation is the author's thorough examination of hitherto neglected documentary sources, namely the papyri and inscriptions. Indeed, for me the most helpful part of this lengthy tome are the two appendices on (1) partnership language in the inscriptions and (2) partnership language in the papyri. 

Right now I'm off to pick up my mountain bike in Farmville and get in a long ride. The day is absolutely gorgeous and I may end up getting in some laps at the public pool afterwards. Then it's back home to mow the yard and prepare a meal for my dinner guests.

Make it a great day wherever you are!

Monday, August 13   

4:55 PM I'm having dinner guests tomorrow night so I figured it was time to get the puppy all purdied up. Sorry, Sheba girl, for using men's shampoo on you, but that's all I got.

Right now she's experiencing post-bath hyperactivity. Don't know what that is? Just ask any dog owner. Sheba is 97 years old on the human scale. The sweet thing has to use the handicap ramp to get up and down the porch. Girl, I'm probably not far behind you. There's only so much you can do when a faithful companion grows old. Old dogs, like older people, need lots of TLC. I've had Sheba for just over 13 years now. I can still remember the day when Becky brought her home from Greensboro. Sheba stole my heart then and she steals my heart today. I'm one blessed guy to still have her around. She is such a big part of our family. Everybody loves Sheba. Shelties are awesome dogs. Great temperaments, and loving personalities. I honestly can't imagine life without one.

4:04 PM Hey guys. Just thought I'd give you a quick workout update. My training schedule for today called for a 20-mile bike at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. Because it's a crushed gravel surface, I can only use my mountain bike on it and not my road bike. My mountain bike has been in the shop in Farmville and I was planning on getting it out today for my ride but forgot that the store is closed on Mondays, so instead I did a 10-mile bike at the Tobacco Heritage Trail between LaCrosse and Brodnax, VA. Afterwards I planned on doing a 250-yard swim at the public pool, but for some reason it too was closed today, so I did my swim at the Y instead.

I feel really good about both of my workouts today, so I'm giving myself a big thumbs up. My ultra is exactly 2 months from today and I still have lots of preparation to do for the race. So tomorrow I'll pick up my mountain bike and try to get in a good long 20-miler. I'm halfway through the month and I still plan to get in another 100 miles or so of training, Lord willing.

I'm getting real excited about the ultra in October. Can you tell? I've never attempted anything of this magnitude before so I had better be prepared for it.

Well, I'll stop my rambling (for now at least).

8:40 AM Next week Wednesday my NT 2 class begins. The official title is "New Testament Introduction and Interpretation 2." Yawn. I'm calling it "Becoming New Covenant Christians: Living a Life of Sacrificial Service to God and Others by Following the Downward Path of Jesus." The course deals with Acts through Revelation. There'll be a lot of facts, data, details, information, etc., most of it drawn from my book The New Testament: Its Background and Message. But the goal isn't knowledge. I think of this class as "training" for life." It's like learning how to run a marathon. The first step is knowledge and motivation. But the real test comes only by running the race itself. It's the same with learning how to become New Covenant Christians. Truth receivers need to become truth practitioners. Here's a screen shot from the syllabus. Get the idea?

Hence I've designed the following SLOs for the class (Student Learning Outcomes). By the end of the course students will be able to:

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

  • Discuss what a New Testament church looks like.

  • Outline each New Testament book from Acts to Revelation.

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

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

  • Engage in towel-and-basin ministries with a view towards leading not-yet Christians to faith in Christ. Each student must choose a ministry that is new to them and is regular and sacrificial.

Hear this: I don't think God wants us to minimize knowledge. Ignorance isn't His medium. But Jesus finished the "discussion" on the cross, and that's exactly where we all need to go as well. There's no time for anything else. So while we're warring with each other, Jesus is waging war against sin and injustice and is calling us to join Him. The Christian life actually isn't all that complicated. You gain your life by losing it. What really counts is that all the information and knowledge we amass be conformed to one purpose: to allow us to speak more clearly and unambiguously God's truth into a hurting world.

Today I'm happily sequestered on 123 beautiful acres enjoying the morning breeze and watching the donkeys nip grass. The Artist of the Universe is everywhere you look, but He's also fanning to flames in my heart the desire to live out His mission. If we all lived sacrificially, the world couldn't ignore us any longer.

Sunday, August 12   

6:02 PM Thank You Notes:

1) Thank you, petroleum jelly. You make races possible. You are my soul mate.

2) Thank you, Phil. 4:13. I know Paul probably didn't have running in mind when he wrote that promise, and yes, I realize that the exegesis here might be a little suspect, but the guy I met today at the race with that verse on his t-shirt was at least being intentional about the Gospel.

3) Thank you, anonymous ATC who tried to help a suicidal pilot land his stolen aircraft yesterday, for doing such a great job in what I imagine were very trying circumstances. No controller I would suspect is trained to deal with mental heath issues but there you were, dealing with it anyway. Hope you get the support you deserve. You did one fantastic job. I might use the YouTube of your conversation when I discuss Jesus as our sympathetic High Priest in Hebrews 4 this semester.

4) Thank you, Heather Heyer's mom, for the reminder that we never forget our lost loved ones but work as hard as we can to leverage their death for good. Prayers going up on this, the one-year anniversary of her senseless murder.

5) Than you, Other Runners. Just when I feel like I want to quit, you give me the Head Nod of Approval, and on I go. Lord, let me be an encouragement to others like that.

4:12 PM Hey guys! The race is over and the results are in. First place went to 33-year old Dwayne Dixon with a time of 40:54. I finished 258th out of 358 participants with a time of 1:17:54. I placed second in my division (ages 65-69).

I've gotten to know both of these guys pretty well over the past year. They've been regulars in the greater Raleigh tri circuit for decades. In fact, this is the same order the three of us placed in the Rex Wellness Triathlon in Garner a few weeks ago. Ron Sauer always comes in first, and Ken Frinzl or I usually appear in second or third place out of about 6 runners in our age group. Today was Ron's 68th birthday. His wife told me before the race, "It's Ron's birthday today, so be sure to let him win." To which I drily replied, "You have nothing to worry about, I assure you." Ron always beats me by a good 12-13 minutes. After the awards ceremony, I told Ron to hurry up and graduate to the 70-99 age group so I could be rid of him! I consider myself a casual runner and not a competitive runner. As someone who finished next to last in the Allen (TX) Marathon on January 1 of this year (the temp was 1 degree that morning; there were 750 runners signed up for the race; 44 finished; I was #43), I can tell you what it feels like to have a police car or an ambulance trailing you. But the emotion of just crossing the finish line is as powerful for the last place finisher as for the first. That said, there's no denying the fact the human soul is made for competition. I've found myself locked in battle with people twice my age and half my age. As long as the competition remains "friendly," all is well. I love running with (and against!) Ron and Ken, but regardless of my finish time, I can look myself in the eye with respect after the race because I've done my best. You may not be the fastest person out there on the course, my friend, but running will embrace you anyway and offer you rewards beyond a cheap medal and a t-shirt. One day, in fact, you won't even recognize yourself. And if you run long enough, you'll come across some really inspiring people and even get to know their names and faces. Ken climbed Kilimanjaro last year. In a month he leaves for Machu Pichu. And he's 67. Both of these guys are in-your-face reminders to me that I have the God-given capability inside myself to overcome so much. Today I got back to the house sweaty and a bit weary, but then I immediately started planning for my training tomorrow. I guess the old saying is true after all: Behave like a runner long enough and you eventually become one.

Thanks for reading,

Dave

Saturday, August 11   

3:40 PM I'm very excited -- and nervous -- about tomorrow's sprint triathlon in Wake Forest. Excited because when I did this event last year I did the bike portion on my super slow mountain bike and was killed in that leg. Hopefully this year I can set a new PR for the course. But I'm also nervous. Last week, while lifting at the gym, I pulled a muscle in my right deltoid. Not a big tear, but just enough to make you uncomfortable. Of course, since you don't use your delts when cycling or running, that shouldn't be an issue tomorrow. But swimming is altogether another story. I use the crawl stroke during triathlons. This involves four basis phrases:

  • Catch (when your hand enters the water)

  • Pull (when your hand moves the water toward the back of your body)

  • Exit (when your hand exits the water just past your hip)

  • Recovery (when your hand comes back to the front of your body)

You use your delts during each phase of this stroke. I'm not anticipating any major problems tomorrow, though I won't be surprised if my swim time is slower than usual. Once again, I'll be starting the swim at the back of the pack because there's a lot less jostling when you do that and it allows you to avoid the "washing machine" effect. At 66, I love the challenge of a triathlon. I triathlon (there, I just made the noun into a verb!) because I love the hours you put into training and because I enjoy being around obsessed people. Oh yeah, I can also be competitive, but mostly with myself. Am I trying to prove something? Maybe!

By the way, one of our new faculty members is a runner. He's even done a few marathons though he tells me he hasn't run in years. Well, I told him it's never too late to start running -- again. When I finished my first 5K, the urge to keep going hit me like a ton of bricks. In many ways, running was my own mental therapy. Today I wake up every morning more thankful than ever for the ability to move. I hope to run both Chicago and New York next year, and maybe Boston the following. But I also love to motivate others to cross the finish line. Don't let your age stand in the way of your running. It's never too late to start. Studies have shown that it's not only safe for people over 50 to run marathons, but that it can improve your overall fitness. If I'm that slow and can still finish endurance challenges, surely you can too. First place, last place, or somewhere in the middle, get out there and just enjoy yourself!

P.S. The latest weather in Wake Forest? "Showers and a thunderstorm tomorrow morning through Monday afternoon." O my.

10:50 AM Hey, check out Flourishing Faith, where you can preorder custom made paintings like these.

Ain't they beautiful? I've already ordered two as gifts (one for myself!).

9:45 AM Hello bloggers! I've finally decided to give you a summary of John Stott's book The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to summarize the writings of a man who was such a profound thinker? For cry'n out loud! Stott discusses (among many things) the church's "self-understanding." In fact, I might call chapter 3 a "mini-theology" of the church. I can summarize the heart of Stott's discussion in three points:

1) There are two false images of the church prevalent today. On the one hand is what Stott calls "introverted Christianity." This is the church that is completely into itself, like an ingrown toenail. The church resembles little more than a golf club, except that the focus is God rather than golf. At the opposite extreme, says Stott, lies "religionless Christianity." The focus here is not on divine service but the secular city. Worship is reinterpreted as mission, love for God as love for neighbor, and prayer to God as encounter with people.

2) There's a third way to understand the church, says Stott, a way that combines what is true in both false images, a way that recognizes that followers of Jesus have a responsibility both to gather and to go, to worship God and to serve the world, to maintain a vertical focus and a horizontal focus at the very same time. Stott calls this the "double identity of the church." The church is the people of God who've been called out of the world to worship God and then sent right back into the world to witness and serve in Jesus' name. The church, in other words, is both "holy" (set apart) and apostolic (incarnational).

3) Nobody has exhibited such "holy worldliness" (the term is Alec Vidler's) better than the Lord Jesus Himself who, on the one hand, never compromised His own unique identity but who, on the other hand, assumed the full reality of our humanness and made Himself one with us in our frailty. This Jesus now sends us into the world (John 20:21) to penetrate other people's worlds just as He penetrated ours. We do this in three ways, says Stott:

  • We struggle to understand their worldview.

  • We try to empathize with their pain.

  • We acknowledge the humiliation of their social situation, whether homelessness, poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination, etc. In short, we go inside the loneliness of the lonely, the doubts of the doubters, the questions of the questioners, and the sorrow of the sorrowing. As we do this, we gain the right to share with them the gospel.

I don't think any of us would disagree with the three points Stott makes above. Our churches are either too ingrown or too worldly. But our divine calling is to be holy and worldly at the same time. Stott writes:

The most common fault is for the church to be structured for "holiness" rather than "worldliness," for worship and fellowship rather than mission.

Please read that again. The center of the church, Stott insists, lies outside itself. Or, as I've said ad nauseum on this blog, the gathering exists for the going. This is essential. Because if we fail to get this right, we are in danger of perpetuating "come" structures rather than "go" structures. The gathering becomes an end in itself, not a means of impacting the world with the gospel.

Put all this together and you arrive at Stott's main point. "Come to Christ for worship and go for Christ in mission." If you didn't grow up in a Christian subculture, this will probably be all Greek to you. But for those who did, do you remember the centrality of "going to church"? Nothing was more important, not even evangelism (which was often defined as "bringing the unsaved to church"). So here's my invitation to you. Turn yourself outwards to the world. This entry into other people's world need not involve compromise. It should not be undertaken at the cost of your own Christian identity. But beware of becoming so insulated that you fail to live a mission-shaped life. Stott suggests (among many other things) adopting a local nightclub, not for the purpose of making occasional evangelistic "raids" into it, but to visit it regularly over a long period of time in order to make friends with the people who congregate there with a view to sharing with them the evangel, the good news. For me, the running community has become one of my newest mission fields. Many people look to running to help them cope with life. Jesus fraternized with the common people of His day. He identified with their sorrows and pain even though He never comprised, even for a moment, His sinlessness. His life was the very definition of "holy wordiness."

There's no substitute for genuine connection. We have the keys, folks! All we have to do is be the kind of friend we want for ourselves. Where to start? Maybe we could begin by looking around us. Who needs a helping hand? Who is lonely? Who is new to the neighborhood? Sure, we can spend all our time doing things with our Christian friends, but doing so leaves us starving for something else. Let's be the body of Christ. And what did Christ do with His body? He gave it away for the world.

I encourage you all to read Stott's powerful book. In another post (to come), I'll try and summarize Stott's chapter on "Giving." Until then, let's stay centered in Jesus.

Dave

Friday, August 10   

5:52 PM Whew! These past two days have been busy! Our faculty workshop took up most of yesterday and today. Then I got an invitation via email yesterday to write two 1,200-word essays for an online magazine. The topics? "Why Four Gospels?" and "Aging." Aging? Now why would anybody want moi to write an essay on aging!!!??? I mean, seriously!!! I got up early this morning and knocked out both of those pieces. Old geezers don't pussyfoot around, ya know? #writingnerd.

Yesterday too, I had dinner with one of my former doctoral students who now teaches New Testament fulltime in Wisconsin. Nice to see you again, Paul!

Finally (for now), after I left my Wake Forest office today I drove over to the Neuse River Greenway and got in a 20-mile bike.

It's totally worth putting all these miles on your bike since the running leg of the triathlon will be easier if your legs and lungs are strong from cycling. We'll see....

Before the sun sets, I still have to get up a few hundred bales of hay. No matter how busy you are, you'll always have time for what's important to you.

So there you have it. Short and sweet!

Thursday, August 9   

6:45 AM Today is Faculty Workshop, and I see that the school has been busy hiring new faculty. I look forward to meeting each and every one of them.

The sunrise this morning reminded me that God is always shining the sunshine of His truth upon our lives, truth that goes far beyond mere head knowledge. An example might be a truth which John Stott wrote in his Ephesians commentary and which I meditated upon this morning. "The traditional model [of the church]," he wrote (p. 167), "is that of the pyramid, with the pastor perched precariously on its pinnacle, like a little pope in his own church, while the laity are arrayed beneath him in serried ranks of inferiority."

It is a totally unbiblical image [he adds], because the New Testament envisages not a single pastor with a docile flock but both a plural oversight and every-member ministry.

Remember, the good Dr. Stott was a member of the Church of England! Like all of us, pastors are so human. Little wonder the New Testament talks about a shared ministry, a "fellowship of leadership" to use Michael Green's famous statement. After 58 years under steeples, I've become convinced of the truth of this. We'll have more to say about this when we get to the so-called Pastoral Epistles this semester. The moral of the story is: Keep learning, keep growing, keep striving to become more obedient to the Scriptures. I'll try to do the same. 

P.S. I'm a bit obsessive about the weather. They're calling for rain on race day morning, with the possibility of thunderstorms. Ugh. Are umbrellas legal in a triathlon?

Wednesday, August 8   

7:04 PM Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog. Today I drove up to Richmond to try and get in a 20-mile bike in preparation for my triathlon this weekend. I ended up going 30!

The course is called the Virginia Capital Trail.

If that name sounds familiar to you, it's because I biked about half of it a couple of months ago. My idea was to finish the other half today. I arrived in Richmond just in time to get one of the last parking spaces at the trailhead.

Then it was time to enjoy the beautiful day the Lord made. Isn't the scenery fantastic?

I must have crossed 20 of these wooden bridges.

If you like historical markers as much as I do, then you will love this trail.

By the time I finished I had worked up a mammoth appetite. I knew that Richmond had a few Ethiopian restaurants so I thought I'd try the one on Grace St. It's called the KuRu. As soon as I walked through the doors the owner Mesi made me feel right at home. The decor, the ambience, the food, the service, and of course the prices were outstanding!

The topper was that the restaurant was impeccably clean. Mesi's restaurant has been open for only about 6 months and I hope it does really well. It's location is perfect to attract business people and university students. Thank you for the outstanding service and meal, Mesi. I hope you enjoy Becky's book. After all, she was a fellow Ethiopian!

I hope y'all had a fabulous day. I know this will make everyone's green eyes pop out, but I'm cooking Korean barbeque beef for dinner tonight. I know, I know -- that all's I can cook. 

Happy miles, folks!

6:45 AM Like you, I begin my day by planning it out. When it's not too hot, I do this on my front porch enjoying the beauty of the sunrise.

Then I usually end up in my office typing up my thoughts as I'm doing now. (Dear coffee: Thank you for making all of this possible.)

This is a good time to tell you what I've been reading these days in the Scriptures. This morning I was in a wonderful part of Ephesians I'm calling "Walking in Wisdom by Being Filled with the Spirit." The passage is Eph. 5:15-22.

(Many translations, and even my Greek New Testament, begin a new paragraph in v. 21. This is a grave mistake in my opinion. Verses 18-21 are all one sentence in Greek.) In this chapter, Paul's been describing the standards that are expected of God's new society the church. God's people are called (1) to personal purity (5:1-14) and (2) to practical wisdom (5:15-21). What's immediately obvious is the threefold contrast Paul sets before his readers in 5:15-21. He says, in effect:

  • Don't be unwise but wise.

  • Don't be foolish but understand the will of God.

  • Don't get drunk but go on being filled with the Spirit of God.

In other words, wise Christians make the most of their time. They invest every passing moment in eternity. Wise Christians also discern the will of God. Nothing is more important in life. What is God's will for you this day, David? Have you thought about it? Prayed about it? Finally, wise Christians are filled (controlled) by the Spirit, the results of which are fourfold (as seen in the participles that follow): The praise of God, the worship of God, gratitude "always and for everything," and mutual submission to Christ and to one another. If I'm filled with the Spirit, I will be (1) constantly worshipping and praising God with joy and thanksgiving, and (2) constantly speaking and submitting to my fellow believers. I don't know how many more years God will leave me on this earth. But I acknowledge that what Paul is describing here is not the way I always live. I want to live more humbly, gratefully, hopefully, joyfully. Clinging to the past has not made me happier. It's just made me mordant. That's not the legacy I want to leave to my children and grandchildren.

So this has been my morning -- trying to discern the will of God for me, praying over the day, making my plans, acknowledging to God how disappointed and tired I am of the American rat race, trying to be like Jesus, the most completely unselfish, ungreedy, and unpretentious man who ever lived. "Don't be an imbecile," says Paul. "Wise up. What you do today matters, and so does the why."

So for now I'll continue to pursue a life that is marked by simplicity and obscurity. It doesn't matter what others think. For Christ's kingdom to come, my kingdom will have to go. Time is fleeting, Dave old boy, and the days are evil. Once it has past, not even the smartest and wisest and most gifted Christian can recover it. 

Tuesday, August 7   

2:05 PM Remember when I told you that I am learning, ever so gradually, to balance activity and rest as I train for my October races? I don't. But I went back and reread Sunday's blog and then remembered that I had not only told you that rest is an essential part of training, but that you have to know when to say "when." Well, today I woke up and my body was telling me to get outdoors and exercise, so off I went to South Hill to cycle 10 miles on the Tobacco Heritage Trail before swimming laps at the pool. Bike? Checked! Swim? Checked! When I left the pool I decided that since I had such a good workout I could gorge myself on hot dogs at the local convenience store. Boy was that good. After my jaw muscles had cramped from all the chewing, I stopped eating and struck up a conversation with the cashier, who I sensed might have hailed from India from his complexion and accent. Sure enough, he turns out to be from a state near Mumbai and also happens to be the owner of the convenience store/gas station. As we reminisced about his home country, I had the chance to share with him the story of the Becky Black Building in Bagdogra that was dedicated to the Lord in 2013. Before leaving, I gave him a copy of Becky's autobiography My Life Story. What a very nice man. I'm so glad we could meet and talk.

On a different (though perhaps related) subject, earlier today I listened to a sermon while cycling. It was John Stott (there's that name name again!) talking about the assignment Jesus entrusted to His followers shortly before He returned to heaven, and how we are to be His body, His hands, His eyes, His heart, and His mouth in this world -- serving Him, loving Him, speaking for Him. This assignment is one we can fulfill wherever the Lord places us during the day. Our words, our thoughts, and our actions should all mirror His character and His love. If people fail to recognize Him in us, could it be that we are failing to do our job? Real love, said Stott, wants to share, to give, to reach out. It thinks of the other, not of itself. We're here to shine in Jesus' name, to bring out all the God-colors in this dark world and to help illuminate people's way toward heaven. That's the way it is with Christ. If He is truly Lord, we can't keep silent about what He has done for us.

Well, it's time to get back to work. The yards need mowing, the water troughs need cleaning out, and the weeds are craving a good dose of Round Up. It's nice to do something other than swim, run, and bike. Anything to get me outdoors, I guess!

P.S. This beauty arrived today. It's worth its weight in gold (and cost about as much). Eager to peruse it tonight while sipping mango juice on the front porch with my puppy.

Monday, August 6   

1:50 PM Today I slept in until 7:30, even though I originally awoke at 5:00 am (as I normally do). My body felt tired so I went back to sleep. When I woke up again I was entirely restored and refreshed in body and mind and ready to face the day. On the docket was a workout at the Y and a swim at the pool. I've done both and am now back on the farm. Today's swim workout was important to me because my next sprint triathlon is this weekend. Tris are easy if you know what you're doing. First of all, start at the back for the swim leg so you don't have to pass (or be passed) by other swimmers. That way, when you get to the first transition area, you'll be able to find your bike easily as it will be the last one there. Then all you have left is the cycle and the run. Easy cheesy. If things go well, you'll probably end up in the back of the middle of the pack. If you doubt this, go to howtoloseatriathlon.com, a website that doesn't exist.

Right now I'm typing up some notes on church unity for a lecture I plan to give this semester when we get to 1 Corinthians. Warring factions among the Corinthian believers had led to deep splits. Each group advocated their own "hero" for leadership. Paul was snubbed by most. For my lecture, I've been reading an appendix in John Stott's wonderful book entitled The Living Church. The appendix is called "Why I Am Still a Member of the Church of England." Years ago, it seems, there was a major falling out between  evangelicals in the Church of England, with some of them quitting the church altogether while others deciding to remain within its folds. Stott adopted the latter course of action. In his appendix, he tells us there are three options open to evangelicals who face this question of whether to stay or to leave.

The first option is that of separation or secession. These evangelicals argue that it would be intolerable to remain within a doctrinally compromised church. Stott agrees partially with this view. He commends the secessionists for their concern to maintain the doctrinal purity of the church. We should all share a zeal for the truth of God's word, he says. But, he adds, secessionists tend to pursue the purity of the church at the expense of its unity. Stott notes how the 16th century Reformers were reluctant schismatics. They didn't necessarily want to leave the Catholic Church. They wanted to reform it according to Scripture.

The second option, says Stott, is compromise and conformity. He notes that there are those who would be willing to remain with the Church of England at all costs, even if this meant that they lost their evangelical witness. In this option, differences are minimized for the sake of unity. This position, says Stott, is misguided. Evangelical Christians can't conceal or smother their biblical convictions, he notes. That's because our highest loyalty as evangelical believers is not to a party or a denomination but to revealed truth. We therefore insist on sola scriptura. And, while nothing is gained by becoming obstinate or uncooperative, for the good of the church and the glory of God, we must maintain our evangelical convictions.

The final option, and the one Stott himself prefers, is what he calls "comprehensiveness without compromise." He argues that one can "stay in" without "caving in." In short, Stott believes that both options 1 and 2 are unacceptable. Option 1 pursues truth at the expense of unity. Option 2 pursues unity at the expense of truth. But option 3 pursues truth and unity simultaneously, which is the only kind of unity commended by Christ and the apostles, a unity in truth.

Stott makes sense to me. His position (option 3) does justice to Scripture and to the power of the Gospel. I'm afraid, however, that in some situations this option will simply not be possible, especially when a first-order doctrine is at stake. Seeking unity is noble, necessary work. But it's not easy. That's because we church people are regular old sinners. However, God is big enough to lead us all, and who knows -- together we just might see the kind of unity Jesus prayed would exist among His followers (John 17).

Sunday, August 5   

7:34 PM This morning's message on Col. 3:1-17 was fabulous, not simply because I'm hopelessly biased toward the speaker (my daughter's husband) but because his message contained all 3 essentials of a good sermon: transparency, relevance, and faithfulness to the text. Obviously, sermons are only starting points. Today's message triggered a half dozen questions in my mind:

1) Is "on the sons of disobedience" in 3:6 to be retained or not? The words are almost certainly original in my view yet they are missing from many English translations today.

2) Why does Paul's list in Col. 3:11 differ from the very similar one he writes in Gal. 3:20? In particular, why does the Colossians list mention "barbarians" and "Scythians" but leave out the "male/female" contrast? 

3) Finally -- and this has nothing to do with the sermon today -- since when can the editors of a hymnal change the wording of a hymn (in this case, "At the Cross') without any explanation or footnotes? Didn't Isaac Watts write "For such a worm as I" instead of "For sinners such as I"?

Why should we have an issue with worminess? William Carey's tombstone reads:

If you feel your "but" rising up, I completely identify with the desire to make our hymnody less offensive, but my argument should be considered, especially when the original text makes for very good theology. Afterwards we all enjoyed pizza and I even heard a piano concert by my granddaughter.

When I got back home my intention was to get in a long run. Not. Sunday is my rest day, and my body needed it. At least my 3-hour nap seemed to indicate that. Dave giving himself permission to rest? Yep. This thick head of mine is finally learning that rest is a part of training. The physiological benefits of rest while training should be obvious to all, but novices like me tend to forget that the greater the training, the greater the need for recovery. "I can't be tired; I only did a 5K yesterday" is not the healthiest example of self-talk. The last 30 days in numbers:

  • 200.5 miles.

  • 33 workouts

  • Weekly average of 20.3 miles, 4 hours and 47 seconds

I guess it's all about knowing "when" to say "when." Train, and then rest, and then train again, right?

Time to cook my supper!

6:58 AM Good morning friends! Happy to report that the race last night went well. It was even rain free!

I have to start by saying a huge THANK YOU to the race sponsors -- Habitat for Humanity of Durham.

I am overwhelmed by the support they received for the race. It will help them build at least 3 houses in Durham. Besides that, I can honestly say this was one of the best 5Ks I've ever done. Not because of my finish time. I missed a new PR by about 3 minutes. I'm happy because I paced myself intelligently. My goals from start to finish were to give it my best, run the entire course, and conquer the hills (and there were many hills). Post race, though, I was absolutely drenched.

But I had completed a really difficult course in what for me is a great time and a better-than-usual pace. Glory to God!

Afterwards I hung around for the post-race shindig and had some great convos with fellow runners. It's all about planting seeds for you know Who.

Running, like life, is alternatively easy and hard, good and not-so-good, boring and exhilarating. Above all, it's immensely satisfying. If I can't get any younger (and I can't), I can at least get a little bit fitter. Today I'm living a life that only 4 years ago I would have considered a fantasy. I'm enjoying running so much (especially what it's been teaching me about my walk with God) that I've started writing a book about it. I'm calling it They Shall Run and Not Grow Weary: 52 Devotions to Lighten Your Running Load. I love to take my experiences and distill them into black and white. And what keeps me going? Faith in God. His strength. Undeserved grace. His hand in mine. Don't know if I can put into words what I'm thinking, but I'm going to try.

So there you have it. The briefest post-race report I think I've ever published. Don't worry. You'll get used to it.

Enjoy your day,

Dave

Saturday, August 4   

4:55 PM Just when I was about to build an ark, the sun came out. Whatdja know. Hey, what's that blue stuff in the sky?

Which meant I could get in a 9 mile walk today between LaCrosse and Brodnax, VA.

If I look serious, it's because I listened to several heavy-duty sermons by John Stott while I was walking.

I like listening to God speak through regular people. No affectation. And talk about deep. Anyways, I gotta get in the car and make my way down to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for tonight's run. Can't let anybody beat me to the back of the pack.

8:12 AM It's race day! Woohoo! The 5K starts at 7:45 tonight in downtown Durham, rain or shine. For many runners, it will be their first race. Millions of racers have gone before them. Each of us has faced the exact same fear and excitement. Each has learned the truth in the Runner's Credo: There are no losers in a race. The measure of a true runner has very little to do with speed and PRs. I was reminded of this fact yesterday while I was perusing the running blogs. Have I ever mentioned the name Jamie Watts before? This year, Jamie completed her first marathon. She was born with cerebral palsy. She didn't walk until she was 3. Jamie has to concentrate with every step to get her body to cooperate. She took up the sport of running in 2012, two years before I did. At the age of 33, she decided she would run 34 races before she turned 34. She went on to finish 40 races by her 34th birthday. In 2016, she ran her first half marathon. She started the Marine Corps Historic Half at 2:28 am. She finished 7 hours and 53 minute later. In April of this year, Jamie completed the New Jersey Marathon. She started the race at 10:00 pm the night before. The other competitors started at 7:30 am. The winner finished in 2 and a half hours. Jamie's time was 14 hours and 33 minutes.

Sometimes in life I think we need to rethink our definition of success. The road of life is not always smooth or flat. Every runner has to learn to take the first step. Each of us, in our own way, has to find that courage. Whether you like it nor not, you're the only you that you will ever get. What you decide to do with your life is up to you. Every day, every race, gives you the opportunity to improve. And, as a follower of Jesus, I realize I never run alone. I have never won a race. I never will. But life is bigger than loss because God is bigger than loss. Life on earth is not the end. My loved ones are in heaven now because they trusted in Jesus, who loved them and died for them and who was raised for their sake. My wife Becky lives in a reality I long to enter one day, in God's good time. I hope and pray I will see all of you there too. Let me encourage you to trust Jesus today if you haven't done so already. As a Christian, you will still have problems on this earth. But believe me, the story that God will begin to write in your life will be a story that He will finish, and it will be a good story. Countless people can testify to the limitless power that God has to sustain them through every challenge of life.

Go here and watch Jamie finish her marathon. It will truly move you. I will never forget the look of pure, unabashed joy on her face. It's a reminder to me, and I hope to all of you, that we need to be more grateful for what do have and spend less time complaining about what we don't have. 

Run on, Dave

Friday, August 3   

9:24 PM Hey guys. I've been offline all day. Advanced System Care just took 8 hours to remove a very malicious trojan on my hard drive and run a full scan. Sure glad we found it. I found a wonderful story about perseverance that I can't wait to share with you in the morning. Night, all.

8:55 AM Good morning, fellow bloggerites! I'm currently reviewing a book called Liebe als Agape (Love as Agape) for publication in Filologia Neotestamentaria.

Love is difficult to define in any language. I love my kids and grandkids. I also love Korean food. What is love? Next time you're reading 1 Corinthians 13, you might try "fleshing out" love. Be practical. Be real. For example:

  • Love is the patience Becky displayed when I was building her raised garden beds.

  • Love is the kindness my son showed me when he volunteered to repair my bush hog.

  • Love is the absence of jealousy among the faculty at my school.

  • Love is the humility I see in my elders whose gifts could otherwise make them conceited or proud.

  • Love is the politeness I experience whenever I'm at Food Lion.

I think you get the idea. Try writing down a few applications of your own. Remember: Hebrews is a "word of encouragement" (13:22).

I beg you, my dear brothers and sisters, to listen patiently to this message of encouragement ....

And we are to answer with our willingness to be conduits of encouragement to each other (3:12-13):

My fellow believers, be careful that no one among you has a heart so evil and unbelieving that they will turn away from the living God. Instead, you must keep on encouraging one another each and every day, as long as the word "Today" applies to us.

Paul is writing to a group of people whose world was caving in around them. They were bruised with adversity. They needed to be encouraged, to be helped, yes, even to be rebuked. But if you're going to confront and rebuke and wound, be sure to be there to apply the salve afterwards.

Is my life a message of encouragement today? Is my blog? Is my classroom demeanor? What can we say this very day that will lift the hearts of others? After all, none of us can be assured of another "Today."

Love,

Dave

Thursday, August 2   

6:22 PM Hey folks! Time for a training update? The funny thing about my "20" mile bike ride today was (1) that it was cut short (I only did 12.7 miles) and (2) that I finished much faster than I started. That's because at around mile six I got caught in a downpour and had to race back to the car as fast as the crushed gravel would allow me to pedal (see avg. speed summary below. It's hilarious.).

When I finished, I felt liked a drowned rat. I was soaked, but at least I was cool. I'm calling it a successfully failed bike ride. I am not a cyclist and don't claim to be one. But rides are good for crosstraining, and so I doeth them. Meanwhile, Map My Run sent me this reminder.

While July wasn't in the "incredible" category, I feel good about going over 180 miles. Definitely feeling good about my fall races. Right now, though, our weather is crazy. Let's just say we're soaked. Which makes working out all that more challenging. Weather teaches you to be flexible. You do what can, when you can. But, you are tough. You meet your goal. You suffer. You get wet. Today I came this close (imagine my thumb and forefinger about a centimeter apart) to not biking today. Of course, if I had heard thunder, I would have bailed, big time. That's why I try and keep my goals in mind always. And my biggest, hugest, gignormousest goal for 2018? Finishing a 31-mile ultra.

What are your year-end goals? I'd like to eat cleaner and cook more at home. I'd like to have a more plant-based diet. I'd like to shed a few more pounds. I'd like to eat only locally sourced meat (since I'm not slaughtering and butchering my own beef any more). I'd like to push my body and mind to boundaries unknown. I'd like to draw closer to my Father. I have lots of other goals but they all revolve around stewardship. Nothing I have is mine -- not my body, not my house, not my strength, nothing. Being a faithful steward is the hardest thing we will ever do. It's a sweaty struggle. But it's the most rewarding thing we'll ever do too.

Thanks for reading,

Dave

8:44 AM Just listened to an excellent message on "brotherly love" in Heb. 13:2. Note the verbal aspect here: "Let brotherly love continue." My question is: What would we lose if we rendered the Greek, "Keep on loving one another as Christian brothers and sisters"? Much would be gained, I should think. By the way, the sermon pointed out that the 7 virtues Peter mentions in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 include both philadelphia and agapē:

Do your best to add goodness to your faith; and to your goodness add knowledge, and to your knowledge add self-control, and to your self-control add endurance, and to your endurance add godliness, and to your godliness add brotherly love, and to your brotherly love add love.

"To your love add love"? I like what the NET Bible does with the last two virtues here. The words philadelphia and agapē are translated "brotherly affection" and "unselfish love." Koester, in his Hebrews commentary, takes it a step further. He translates Heb. 13:2 as: "Let care for the brethren abide." He wants to show how "philadelphia is more of a bond than a feeling" (p. 557).

Using "care" rather than "love" helps to show the connections with care for strangers (13:2) and care fore [sic] money (13:5).

Just how can I better express care for my Christian brothers and sisters? I know can I do better at this. I'm going to start by saying "Thank you" more often than I do. In my emails. On my blog. In my classrooms. In my office quad. It's not just people I forget to thank. It's God. Why couldn't we write an email to ... God? Maybe it would read something like this:

Dear God,

Thank You for _____________. And for ___________. These gifts have made a huge difference in my life. I'd just like to say, "Thank You."

Love,

Dave

I thank you for reading this. The Lord bless you as you discern how to better express your love, care, and gratitude toward your brothers and sisters in Christ this very day.

7:45 AM A couple of random musings before starting my day. Very random!

1) You might have noticed that yesterday's post dated 9:55 am wasn't actually published until about 9:00 last night. I had just uploaded the latest version of FileZilla and it took that long before my site could be read by my server. For a while there, I was worried that FileZilla was no longer working, and since FZ is the only platform that allows me to upload from Front Page I thought, "There goes my blog." Does anyone else feel my pain? When you self-identify as a blogger, and can't blog "normal," it effects your entire life. It would be very hard for me stop blogging after 15 years of doing it almost daily. Idol or hobby? Honestly, sometimes it's hard to say. I once wrote a piece called Why I Blog. I think I still agree with what I said then. I blog because I'm trying to become a follower of King Jesus. I share this journey with you in the hopes of showing you how the soul grows through loss and how God uses the ordinary stuff of our lives to redeem us. Sometimes, of course, my blog is little more than a brain dump (like this morning). Either way, I hope you continue to benefit from reading it.

2) The older Tom gets, the farther he runs and the better his movies become. That's a fact, folks. (As for MI: Fallout. Preposterous plot. AMAZING STUNTS.)

3) Meet Yovana Portillo.

In 2016, as a healthy 35-year old, Yovana was diagnosed with stage 1B mucinous adenocarcinoma, i.e., lung cancer. Doctors removed the lower lobe of her left lung. Two years after her diagnosis she's celebrating being cancer-free by running in her first marathon. I'll be joining Yovana and other lung cancer survivors on October 28 in DC, where I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon as part of Team LUNGevity. Thank you, God, for the ability to enjoy running, and for allowing me to meet so many wonderful people like Yovana. 

4) What makes something a cult?

5) How to start running. (You knew this was coming!)

Ciao!

Wednesday, August 1   

9:55 AM Hey folks! August has gotten off to crazy start. It's already been an extremely busy morning. Not sure how it happened, but I've been juggling plates like crazy. Here's a snippet of my life beyond my farm chores, animal care, cooking and cleaning, etc.

  • Just finished Greg Boyd's book Benefit of the Doubt.

  • Started Scot McKnight's A Fellowship of Differents.

  • Stumbled across a YouTube by a guy named Andrew Farley.

  • This led me to Google the "Hyper Grace" or "False Grace" Movement.

  • I read The Rebellion of Antinomianism.

  • Then I read John Macarthur's excellent sermon called Total Forgiveness and the Confession of Sin.

  • This led me to the book of Hebrews and how the Father disciplines His children out of love.

See, I've got lots of pots on the fire. I'm studying the doctrines of forgiveness and repentance for my book Godworld. I love how John MacArthur distinguishes between judicial forgiveness and paternal forgiveness. Wise words. And with this I (finally!) came back to the book of Hebrews, especially chapter 12, where I spent about an hour this morning studying both the Greek and English texts. Put all this together and you arrive at the conclusion that the Father expects us to look out for our hearts and confess our sins and, when we don't, He disciplines us. I encourage all to read or listen to John MacArthur's powerful message.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Today I hope to get in a 20 mile bike before the rains return. I'm looking forward to another long run tomorrow followed by a swim. August will be a time for me to get back into racing -- and the classroom. I'm scheduled to do two races this month (the Bull Moon 5K in Durham this Saturday night and the Rex Wellness Triathlon on the 12th), attend our faculty workshop on the 9th and 10th, begin teaching on Monday the 20th, and "other." I'm not sure what the "other" category entails yet, but there are always surprises in life. I think the old bod is holding up pretty well despite all the workouts I make it do. As for my emotions, I took a pretty big hit yesterday. I was talking to my daughter in Birmingham about attending my granddaughter's choral performance on Nov. 2 when it hit me: that date will be the fifth anniversary of Becky's homegoing. Let's state the obvious: No, I haven't completely recovered from losing her. The tears began flowing. Thankfully, it wasn't the crushing, exhausting pain I first experienced when Becky died. Not the searing, agonizing realization that you live alone in a big house where "she" is in everything you see. But then the tears disappeared as quickly as they came. It's this jumble of emotion that surprises you as you go through your day. And maybe that God's gift to me. Maybe that's His way of reminding me that there is nothing in nature that is hidden from His sight, least of all the pain of a widower perched in the middle of a raging river with nowhere to go but deeper into His love. I'm not on this earth to live my own life, untouched by the suffering all around me. Jesus got dirty and hurt when He was on this planet. What I do know is that His victory over death has been won (perfect tense y'all) whether I can understand it or not and whether I can feel it on or not in my emotions. And so you cry and you pray and you read Scripture and you do, because there are grandkids to love and concerts to attend.

In "The Rebellion of Antinomianism" (see above for the link), the author quoted a stanza from "Depth of Mercy," a hymn by Charles Wesley.

What a promise! Is it any wonder I trust and love Him? For all of this, I count myself as blessed among men.

July 2018 Blog Archives

June 2018 Blog Archives

May 2018 Blog Archives

April 2018 Blog Archives

March 2018 Blog Archives

February 2018 Blog Archives

January 2018 Blog Archives

December 2017 Blog Archives

November 2017 Blog Archives

October-June 2017 Blog Archives

May 2017 Blog Archives

April 2017 Blog Archives

March 2017 Blog Archives

February 2017 Blog Archives

January 2017 Blog Archives

December 2016 Blog Archives

November 2016 Blog Archives

October 2016 Blog Archives

September 2016 Blog Archives

August 2016 Blog Archives

July 2016 Blog Archives

June 2016 Blog Archives

May 2016 Blog Archives

April 2016 Blog Archives

March 2016 Blog Archives

February 2016 Blog Archives

January 2016 Blog Archives

December 2015 Blog Archives

November 2015 Blog Archives

October 2015 Blog Archives

September 2015 Blog Archives

August 2015 Blog Archives

July 2015 Blog Archives

June 2015 Blog Archives

May 2015 Blog Archives 2

May 2015 Blog Archives

April 2015 Blog Archives

March 2015 Blog Archives

February 2015 Blog Archives

January 2015 Blog Archives

December 2014 Blog Archives

November 2014 Blog Archives

October 2014 Blog Archives

September 2014 Blog Archives

August 2014 Blog Archives

July 2014 Blog Archives

June 2014 Blog Archives

May 2014 Blog Archives

April 2014 Blog Archives

March 2014 Blog Archives

February 2014 Blog Archives

January 2014 Blog Archives

December 2013 Blog Archives

November 2013 Blog Archives

October 2013 Blog Archives

September 2013 Blog Archives

August 2013 Blog Archives

July 2013 Blog Archives

June 2013 Blog Archives

May 2013 Blog Archives

April 2013 Blog Archives

March 2013 Blog Archives

February 2013 Blog Archives

January 2013 Blog Archives

December 2012 Blog Archives 2

December 2012 Blog Archives

November 2012 Blog Archives

October 2012 Blog Archives

September 2012 Blog Archives

August 2012 Blog Archives

July 2012 Blog Archives

June 2012 Blog Archives

May 2012 Blog Archives

April 2012 Blog Archives

March 2012 Blog Archives

February 2012 Blog Archives

January 2012 Blog Archives

December 2011 Blog Archives 2

December 2011 Blog Archives 1

November 2011 Blog Archives

October 2011 Blog Archives

September 2011 Blog Archives

August 2011 Blog Archives

July 2011 Blog Archives

June 2011 Blog Archives

May 2011 Blog Archives

April 2011 Blog Archives

March 2011 Blog Archives

February 2011 Blog Archives

January 2011 Blog Archives

December 2010 Blog Archives

November 2010 Blog Archives

October 2010 Blog Archives

September 2010 Blog Archives

August 2010 Blog Archives

July 2010 Blog Archives

June 2010 Blog Archives

May 2010 Blog Archives

April 2010 Blog Archives

March 2010 Blog Archives

February 2010 Blog Archives

January 2010 Blog Archives

December 2009 Blog Archives

November 2009 Blog Archives

October 2009 Blog Archives

September 2009 Blog Archives

August 2009 Blog Archives

July 2009 Blog Archives

June 2009 Blog Archives

May 2009 Blog Archives

April 2009 Blog Archives

March 2009 Blog Archives

February 2009 Blog Archives

January 2009 Blog Archives

November 2008 Blog Archives

October 2008 Blog Archives

September 2008 Blog Archives

August 2008 Blog Archives

July 2008 Blog Archives

June 2008 Blog Archives

May 2008 Blog Archives

April 2008 Blog Archives

March 2008 Blog Archives

February 2008 Blog Archives

January 2008 Blog Archives

December 2007 Blog Archives

November 2007 Blog Archives

October 2007 Blog Archives

September 2007 Blog Archives

August 2007 Blog Archives

June-July 2007 Blog Archives

May 2007 Blog Archives

April 2007 Blog Archives

March 2007 Blog Archives

February 2007 Blog Archives

January 2007 Blog Archives

Nov-Dec 2006 Blog Archives

October 2006 Blog Archives

September 2006 Blog Archives

August 2006 Blog Archives

July 2006 Blog Archives

June 2006 Blog Archives

May 2006 Blog Archives

April 2006 Blog Archives

March 2006 Blog Archives

February 2006 Blog Archives

January 2006 Blog Archives

Nov-Dec 2005 Blog Archives

October 2005 Blog Archives

September 2005 Blog Archives

August 2005 Blog Archives

May 2005 Blog Archives

April 2005 Blog Archives

March 2005 Blog Archives

February 2005 Blog Archives

January 2005 Blog Archives

December 2004 Blog Archives

November 2004 Blog Archives

October 2004 Blog Archives

September 2004 Blog Archives

August 2004 Blog Archives

July 2004 Blog Archives

June 2004 Blog Archives

May 2004 Blog Archives

April 2004 Blog Archives

March 2004 Blog Archives

February 2004 Blog Archives

January 2004 Blog Archives

December 2003 Blog Archives

November 2003 Blog Archives