Friday, August 19, 2022

Got Your Goat?

No, I'm not referring to what someone says to you when they think they've gotten the better of you in a situation. I'm saying, if you ever plan on living on a couple of acres, be sure to get goats. 

When Bec and I lived in La Mirada, CA, we had a third of an acre. On this small property we had 21 fruit trees, 3 avocado trees, a large vegetable garden, a chicken coop, a donkey, and two horses. We also had goats. Remember: this was in the middle of the city! 

Goats make the greatest pets. They are adorable creatures. They love to be with you. They are active and playful. They love kids (both theirs and yours). I know from years of experience that goats are easier to care for than sheep. (A shepherd might strongly disagree with me here.) They are smart as all-get-out and as curious as a cat. Oddly enough, each of them has its own personality and emotions. Goats LOVE to be petted. 

Having goats around is not only good for companionship but a good measure of stress relief. I remember Becky saying, "How can you worry while watching goats?" The more goats feel loved, the more they will return love to you. 

Goats, when cared for properly, are a fun choice of livestock. 

You really ought to "get a goat."  

Training Update

Today was my final day of training for this weekend's triathlon in Wake Forest. I'm always seeking to improve my swim times, which means the more upper body strength you have, the faster you should be able to swim. 

Speaking of training, I've added two more races to my schedule prior to the Milwaukee Marathon on Oct. 2. They are:

  • The Ashland Half Marathon in Ashland, VA, on Aug. 27.
  • The Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg, VA, on Sept. 24. 

The Ashland Half (as you can see below) runs along the town's famous railroad tracks before moving out into the picturesque fields and rolling hills of the countryside. I've completed this half marathon twice before and I'm hoping for a course PR this time around.  

Whenever I think about training for a race, I think about General Norman Schwarzkopf who said, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." His quote is a perfect explanation of why training is so vital in the life of a runner. Once you get to the race, it's too late to prepare. 

Students of mine: You are NOT wasting your time memorizing paradigms and long lists of vocabulary words. This is all necessary preparation for a lifetime of teaching God's word. I would rather be prepared and never called than called and not prepared. The Christian life is not a vacation but a vocation. God is not putting on a show for our entertainment. Don't shortcut your preparation for ministry. 

*Sermon over.*

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cheat Night

You know food interests me. I love the idea of clean eating and eating the "right" kinds of food. I would LOVE to lose the 5 extra pounds I've had for the last 5 years but I'm not sure how to do it seeing that I already eat well. 

As is so often the case, discernment in this area of life is so important. I lift 3 days a week. The other days I'm either cycling or running. Then almost every weekend I have a race. In the last 30 days I've done:

  • One triathlon.
  • One 32-mile ultramarathon.
  • One 13.1-mile half marathon.
  • One 5-mile trail run. 
  • And one 10 Miler. 

Not too shabby for someone who is as undisciplined as I am. But as I blogged the other day, too much activity is a bad thing for your body. It needs to rest frequently. The same thing applies to one's diet. I eat healthy for the most part. But I'm not perfect in this regard nor do I want to be. That's why, about once a week, I enjoy a "cheat night" where I eat anything I like, be it healthy or fatty. Tonight was such a night. As you can see, I stuffed myself with GREASY trout and GREASY fries and GREASY hushpuppies. 

It was so delicious! I wouldn't want to do this every night, of course, but sometimes you just have to indulge yourself a little. The seafood restaurant where I went tonight is in Henderson, NC, just off of I-85. It's called 220 Seafood. I don't know what the "220" stands for. Maybe that's the number of calories you put into your mouth with every little bite. Man, it's like I turn into a Hoover vacuum cleaner whenever I visit this place. Not to worry, though. Tomorrow I'll be back to my old healthy eating routine. 

Do you ever have cheat nights? I hope you do. I've discovered from all the reading I've done on this subject that the healthiest people with the healthiest eating habits enjoy eating "fun" foods that aren't necessarily the most nutritious from time to time. Thus about every 7 days or so I tell my body it can eat whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and in whatever amount it so desires. I find that I can live without some of my favorite junk foods most of the time if I know I can eat them some of the time. I find that my body works best when I don't feel guilty when I occasionally indulge some of my favorite foods. This means that, in some ways, having a cheat day is really healthy. 

So the next time you're driving through the Carolinas on I-85, do plan on stopping at 220 and treating yourself to some of the tastiest, fattest, and unhealthiest food in all of the South.

Just be sure it's on your cheat night. 

P.S. I just noticed that the distance between my farm and the restaurant is exactly 32 miles.

This is the distance of a 50K ultra, and thus far I've run this distance 3 times. Which is a reminder that runners are completely out of their minds. Why would anybody run 32 miles? That's what cars are for, you knucklehead. 

Small Town USA

As I'm sitting here writing this post, I am so mindful of how much I love living in rural America. I mean, you have Clarksville ("my fair city"), Chase City, Boydton, South Boston, Nelson, Keysville, Farmville, and many other non-descript blink-and-you'll miss-it towns. Only an hour away I can access the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, where I do much of my training both on foot and on bike. 

Today I did a bike sprint to prepare for this weekend's triathlon. I simply cannot imagine a more perfect place to train. 


I love to see how little old Farmville is so proud of its heritage. 

Seems like every town in Southside Virginia has its "Historic District" even when there's nothing much "historic" about a bunch of old buildings. Never you mind. Small town people are a breed of their own. Doesn't take much to make them feel justifiably proud of their surroundings. 

I write all this simply for what it's worth. Don't underestimate the idea of "community." Of "belonging." Of "simplicity." One thing I have definitely realized is that all of us need a change of pace from time to time, and a drive out in the country might be just what the doctor ordered. No, the Farmville Chamber of Commerce didn't pay me to say that. They didn't have to. 

If you live in a small Midwestern town, be proud of that. If you live in rural Podunk, enjoy the flavor of simple living. Small Town USA is a pure gift from the Lord. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

O Magnum Mysterium

Last night I spoke with mom in Dallas. Dad would have turned 95 yesterday. He went home to heaven a year ago. 

Tonight, as part of my evening worship, I listened again to this piece. It exalts the God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who became flesh on our behalf so as to make a way to heaven for those who trust him. 

I haven't heard every song ever written for choir, but I have heard enough to say that this is one of the most beautiful pieces of choral music ever written. It's absolutely halting. I can't help but well up when listening to it. Only someone with great spirituality can write something like this. Morten Lauridsen isn't just a composer. He is a bridge to that other side which our eyes cannot see yet but which our hearts can touch. The first time I heard this piece I just sat there and listened with eyes closed, so transported was I to another realm. 

The older I get the more I find myself leaving behind music that merely excites me. Instead, I yearn after music that elevates my soul to God and brings joy and peace to my heart. This piece does just that for me. When I hear it I think, "This is what heaven sounds like. This is how the angels sing and how someday I too will sing." This piece touches something deeply unexplainable in me in a way that is hauntingly beautiful. I praise God that it has graced my present life. I hope that when my time comes, this piece will heal the hearts of those left behind and they will feel the love I bore for all of them. 

Dad, we miss you. Requiescat in pace. 

Our Main Problem Is Not Poverty

Liberation theology remains a powerful force for evil. It has taken hold in many countries. Liberationists believe that God is serving the world instead of the world serving God. This is completely backwards.

Poverty is not our main problem. Sin is. Neither LT nor Kendiism can alleviate the problems they claim to alleviate. What is the solution? To spread the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only a return to biblical orthodoxy can remove from our churches the curse of liberation theology and the prosperity gospel. 

Pen Or Pencil?

What are your remaining goals for 2022? In life? All of us must have goals to thrive in this world. Some goals can be written down in pen. Others in pencil. The art of goal-setting requires tremendous discernment. We do need some goals that are etched in stone, no doubt about it. Other goals are less significant. An illustration from my life might be:

Pen goal: Continue to be active in life.

Pencil goal: Qualify for the Boston Marathon. 

The discernment process can be arduous at times, but at the end of the day you have to be intentional about living out your life to the best of your ability, to the glory of God. Continuing to pursue the gifts that God has given me is my number one priority right now. Being "retired" doesn't affect that goal in the least. However, I am confident in my decision to pursue other avenues of service in the coming months and years. 

Thank you, everyone, for your support and prayers through these 19 years of blogging. The adventure of daily blogging will continue. Why? Because I get to capture some pretty incredible moments in life, and yes, to share them with all of you. I love blogging and it fits my personality well. Bottom line: life is exciting, it's hard, it has its challenges but it also has its rewards. Cheers from this blogger, and may God grant us wisdom as to when to take up the pen and when to reach for the pencil. 

Edwards' Resolution #54

"Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it." 

"Never Man Spake Like This Man"

This morning's sermon by Spurgeon was titled "The Unrivaled Eloquence of Jesus."

Here Spurgeon discusses "the peculiar qualities of [Jesus'] speech." Says Spurgeon:

Those who are most excellent as preachers are those who are most like him.

Jesus' style is, among other things, "singularly clear." Jesus speaks "in short sentences and with plain words."' 

The hackneyed properties of theatrical oration are not for him.

For this quality [of simplicity], our Savior remains unrivaled.

I couldn't agree more. Simple writing is effective writing. 

Simplicity is a difficult skill. The problem is that everyone has their own idea of simplicity. I've been criticized for writing books like I speak. Hey, it's just me being real, as if I were actually talking to you in person. My philosophy in my textbooks is: write less and say more. There is no place for clutter in writing. As someone has said, writing is best done to express, not impress. 

It's a writer's duty to give their readers something simple (but not simplistic) to digest. This is a craft I have yet to master. Clear writing is no accident. You just have to keep trying to improve. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Rest, Oh Rest

Today I had my weekly sports massage in Wake Forest. This is not just pampering my body for an hour and a half. This is the bare minimum I can do to take care of a body that works so hard for me during the week. A good massage is right up there with other health-inducing practices such as getting a good night's sleep and eating a healthy diet. Massage does several things, from improving tissue flexibility to relieving trigger points to identifying areas of tension. Today we discovered that my 10 mile race on Sunday produced extreme tension in my triceps because I had not been using my arm swing in a relaxed manner. Lesson learned. 

Running can wear us all down at times. We have to remain vigilant of how our bodies are feeling and listen to them as far as whether we are going too hard and too fast. Part of training is incorporating weekly rest days into our schedule as well as a week or two of complete rest. I plan on taking two weeks off from running after the Milwaukee Marathon on Oct. 2. 

Rest, oh rest. I'll say it again: I do not enjoy resting but I know it is necessary.  

How Far?

How far can you depart from the clear teaching of God's word and still be considered a follower of Jesus, the incarnate word of God? 

Ecumenism Is Dead

The division between liberal and orthodox Christians runs through rather than between Christian denominations. A liberal Anglican tends to have more in common with a liberal Catholic than he does with a conservative Anglican. Still, major differences remain. Anglicans will never accept transubstantiation and the Catholic Church will never accept women priests. Ecumenism is dead.

Edwards' Resolution #40

"Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking." 

Sturz Book Giveaway

I've got an extra copy of Sturz's book and I figured I might as well give it away. 

Let me know in an email why you'd like a copy. Deadline for submissions is tomorrow night at 6:00 pm, at which time I will draw lots for the winner. Be sure to include your snail mail address when you write. My email is black@sebts.edu. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Lies of the Devil

Becky and I were still living in Switzerland when I took a train from Basel to Walzenhausen on Lake Constance to speak at the local Bible school there. My topic was, "Can We Trust the Bible?" During the three years I was enrolled in my D.Theol. program, I had become increasingly aware that there was an emerging number of problems with the European church. Many theologians were not only seriously departing from the faith but were influencing ordinary Christians to do the same. 

If in 1983 you were to ask me what the top three lies of the devil were, I would have answered:

1. Satan doesn't exist.

2. Hell doesn't exist.

3. The Bible is merely the word of man.

Today I would add a fourth:

4. God did not create man as male and female. 

It all comes down to the question of revelation. Has God truly revealed himself? And if so, can we have access to what he reveals? Is Sacred Scripture a reliable witness to who God is and his will for us? And how are we as Christians to approach the interpretation of Scripture? Even Evangelicals seem confused about such matters. If we continue to edit the word of God to suit our cultural preferences, we are in danger ourselves of being cut off for not obeying the Savior's command to teach everything he has revealed to us. 

We need to recover our confidence in the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture. It's just that simple. 

In much of Europe, Holy Scripture is considered to be nothing more than a set of ancient documents, devoid of any supernatural significance. How tragic. We should devour and treasure God's word as our most precious possession. It must become again our sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of the church frantically trying to accommodate the secular world all around it and its new trinity of me, myself, and I. 

The only church practices that can be pleasing to God and beneficial to the church are those which first distinguish between New Testament teaching and ecclesiastical tradition and then subject the latter to the former. There is no middle ground. There never has been. As theologian Donald Bloesch would say, "The Christian way is not the 'middle way' between extremes but the 'narrow way' between precipices." 

Never has this been more true. 

Happy Helplessness

What -- Spurgeon again? Yep. I'm turning more and more to his sermons during my morning coffee hour. Like this one called "Heart Disease Curable!" 

Quotes:

"A broken heart needs oil to be poured into its wounds, and Christ [one anointed with oil] is an oily name."

"The Good Samaritan poured in oil and wine, but here is heavenly oil in the hand of the One who is himself the health of our countenance."

"Drop into his hand. Faint upon Christ's bosom, and lie there in happy helplessness. May the Lord disable you for anything else, and lead you to believe in his Anointed. God has sent you Jesus. Will you not admit him?"

Have a very blessed week! 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Devil's Den 10-Miler Race Report (and a Nod to Activism)

After having an absolutely great week, I wasn't sure the weekend could get any better. It did. Yesterday I took my time driving to Culpeper. After all, there's so much history around here. Eventually I arrived at my destination -- this lovely B & B about 15 miles outside of town. 

It's run by a retired couple. The husband is a master chef who used to work in the Reagan White House. I relaxed by the pool while he prepared a gourmand's delight for supper. 

Seeing that he was from Austria, I had requested Jagerschnitzel with Spaetzle. It was fabulous. After the race today he prepared a delicious breakfast for me. 

Peter also used to be a chef in the Swiss Foreign Office in Kenya, so we had a lot to talk about (in German, of course). 

This morning dawned with cooler temps and a partly cloudy sky. There was an initial traffic jam at the starting line. 

Soon enough, however, runners were spread out all over the 10 mile course. 


It was nice to have aid stations every 2 miles. These guys and gals are always the true heroes of any race.

I smiled when I saw this sign. Whoever the owner is, he's definitely a man after my own heart. 

Here I am at about mile 9, still feeling good. 

I didn't PR today, but I was very happy with my time. 

I forgot to mention that the race ran alongside the Brandy Station Battlefield, the site of a famous calvary fight on June 9, 1863. It was the largest cavalry battle of the entire Civil War. The rural nature of the battle means that much of the battlefield looks the same as it did 159 years ago. 

Everywhere you went you saw signs opposing a proposed data center that would expand across 350 acres of prime farmland and install 100-foot tall power lines over the residences. Understandably, the people are up in arms (not literally, of course). Oh my. Activism. Seriously? Like, who does that? How about moi? I recall my high school years when I was a huge supporter of the SOS organization -- "Save Our Surf" -- in an effort to save miles of surfing sites on Oahu. Ain't nothing like a little community action, eh? We were largely defeated, though we did have a few small victories. The next time you surf the Ala Moana Bowl -- the "Pipeline" of the South Shore -- you can (partly) thank a lanky 16-year old kid from Kailua. 

As I said, it was a great week -- and weekend. I love being around people who are committed to what they are doing. I absolutely abhor sandbagging, yet it's so common for us humans to do. We don't want to show up to compete so we make excuses. One thing I like about races is that when runners show up they give it their all and finish wherever their body takes them. They are always such an inspiration to me. 

Next weekend, Lord willing: My third and final triathlon of the year in Wake Forest. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The 10 Miler

Off to run the Devil's Den 10 Miler in Culpeper. I might also try and get by some battlefields while I'm in Northern Virginia. 

There are, in fact, two Virginias. When I think of Northern Virginia I think of Silicon Valley. If NoVa was its own state (including Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, and Arlington Counties), it would rank #38th in size. Land in DC and Maryland is so constricted it only made sense for the population to expand southward. The good: Lots of jobs (and Ethiopian restaurants). The bad: Lots and lots of traffic. SoVa, by contrast, is largely rural. Think Food Lion versus Harris Teeter. The pace is a lot slower, and I don't see very many cars on the roads. I actually feel right at home in both environments. 

As I said, the race is called a 10 Miler. A mile for each finger -- what could be easier? The 10 Miler is perfectly situated between a 10K race (6.2 miles) and a half marathon (13.1 miles). If you train right, a 10 Miler will mean increased fitness as well as faster times in your other races. I think of it as a truncated half. 

The most famous 10 Miler in the US is probably the one I have now completed 4 times. It's in Lynchburg, VA, and it's called the Virginia 10 Miler. It achieved its fame with the legendary dead heat between Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. 

Lynchburg is a lovely area in SoVa. What's not to like about the Blue Ridge? Plus, the best barbeque in the entire state is found here. I set my 10 Miler PR here in 2019. 

That was a blessing from the Lord for sure. 

At the end of the day, though, a race is only a race. What we do from day to day is what really counts. Like racing, we should all live with passion and enthusiasm. We don't have to get a PR every day, but we should be committed to giving everything we do an honest effort. Just jump in with all your heart and give it everything you've got. 

Blessings to all of you whatever you are doing this weekend! 

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Church Will Last Forever

More from the Preface to my book on the kingdom of God:

In the book of Revelation, Jesus comes and pats the churches on the back and says well done then adds, "Look, there are some real problems that need to be addressed." You and I have no status to bestow praise on the church, but if the ship is sinking, and if the churches need reforming, then we might be able to help by saying, "Look, this is where it's going really badly wrong and this is what might be done about it." In all of this, let's not forget that the kingdom of God is not equivalent to any of our denominations. A denomination may crumble and fall, but the church will last forever. 

Fire the Cannon!

Let the NFL games begin! My bucs have the scariest offense in the NFC. Did you know that the number one selling jersey in New England is a Bucs jersey? I think Brady's got three more rings in him. Y'all stay healthy the whole year, please. 

The New Anglican Zeitgeist

Good morning, Bible people. Today I'm finishing my chapter on the Church of England, which now has apparently adopted what the Bible says is not something that can be blessed and is thus going down the same road as the Episcopal Church in America. For all intents and purposes, the Church of England is now a secular organization. It's not serving the kingdom, it's serving itself. The problem began, it seems, in the theological colleges in the way in which people are trained for leadership in the church. Evangelism has taken a backseat to spiritual therapy of some sort. Few if any of their theological colleges are training people in biblical apostolic Christianity but have instead adopted a new Zeitgeist narrative. The result is a church that is characterized by feminism, relativism, and religion but that doesn't convert people. And to think: this is the same church that gave us Roland Allen, Lesslie Newbigin, Michael Green, John Stott, and James Packer. Stott (the unofficial leader of evangelical Anglicanism) once said, "Evangelicals are Bible people, and they are Gospel people." Thankfully, some Anglicans still are (think ACNA). 

The lessons? One is surely this: Pay careful attention to your theological colleges. When more professors subscribe to politically correct culture than to the sufficiency of Scripture, you know you are in trouble. 

I'm taking a break before I begin my chapter on Roman Catholicism. I just signed up for another race this weekend, this one in a town called Culpeper in Northern Virginia. The running community has become my new mission field. What I'm trying to do is to bring people on a journey to wholeness through Jesus Christ. He is the medicine I think this sick society of ours needs. 

Blessings,

Dave

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Don't Be Afraid to Disagree

Don't be afraid of disagreement. We wouldn't have had the creeds if there weren't serious disagreements about doctrine in the early church. There wouldn't have been a Reformation if people hadn't taken a stand for truth. Yet those things brought the church back to where it needed to be. 

In a sense, the church is in the midst of a new Reformation, calling people back to the Bible. Our Lord said he would rather have a man be cold, without any profession whatsoever that he was a Christian, than a lukewarm moderate. We cannot carry out the mission of the church without boldly asking God for a new Pentecost and courageously removing any limits on what he is permitted to do in our lives and our churches. 

The Bible Is a Difficult Book

The Bible is a difficult book. Every day, when I read the Bible, I am challenged. It challenges the way I think. It challenges the way I behave. It challenges me to grow. The teachings of Jesus Christ are difficult and challenging. 

The problem is that many church leaders, in attempting to be "prophets" to a new generation, explicitly contradict the teachings of the Lord they claim to serve. They believe they have the authority to teach new doctrines even if those doctrines conflict with what we find in the Holy Scriptures. 

A new semester begins for me in two weeks. The questions I will be raising with my students are basic ones: 

  • Are we willing to accept the challenges of the Scriptures and try to live by them? 
  • Or will we adapt what Scripture says to our own times and agendas? 
  • Do we have authority to reinterpret the teachings of Scripture? 
  • Or is it our role to pass them on? 
  • Are we ready to pray, not, "Lord, bless me," or "Lord, use me," but "Lord, glorify yourself in me whatever it takes, whatever it means, wherever it sends me"? 

Greek means absolutely nothing if we never get around to dealing with these issues. 

Running Ruminations

Today's run was an easy 5-miler. Here is what my runs look like in case you forgot. 

Runners are sometimes asked, "What do you think about when you're running?" For me, the answer is usually, "A lot." Today I thought about two matters that are very much on my mind these days -- what I will say at the apologetics conference on the "original text" of the New Testament (since for some reason this seems to be debated today), and what I will write in my chapter on the Anglican Church, and especially its view of same-sex marriage, in my book about the kingdom of God. These are two very meaty and important topics in the modern-day church. We shouldn't live in a society where there's even a discussion about these topics but we do. I believe the Anglican Communion today is about 80 million strong, and about 60 million of them take an orthodox view of matters of human sexuality. Perhaps 98 percent of African Anglicans are opposed to same-sex relationships and this is partly due to the fact that when you promote homosexual marriage the Muslims have a very strong reaction which they think is morally justified by our moral deviancy. I have seen this firsthand in my many trips to Ethiopia. Perhaps the day will even come when the AC will prescribe clergy to celebrate homosexual marriages. This is one reason why Anglican conservatives feel the need to separate from the whole Canterbury-driven progressive pansexual agenda. 

This is a fight that won't go away, and not just in the Anglican Church. John Paul II (whom I will be writing about in my chapter on Roman Catholicism) once said he felt that the decisive battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family. He said that anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage will always be fought and opposed in every way. Progressives in many of our denominations are giving way step by step to the progressive agenda. The progressive agenda is a triumph of the therapy culture in which we look to God only for unconditional affirmation without the salvation and transformation of the gospel. Every liberal progressive agenda begins by being permissive and ends up being prescriptive. 

The conservatives are fighting this every inch of the way. However, in some denominations, only a handful of orthodox leaders have made and are making a difference by standing rightly for the faith against the siren call of culture and political correctness. In many denominations, you have the Somebodies and the Nobodies, with the Somebodies moving their church body away from its orthodox moorings but not being confronted about it since they are untouchables. I think there is still a window open for the body of Christ where, if enough of us are willing to repent of our infidelity to the word of God, he may yet spare us from more devastating correction. And even if the whole church of Jesus Christ can't be healed, we can pray that a remnant will continue in his service no matter what storms rage all around them. 

But I need to stop and do my farm chores. I'll leave you with a question: Do you realize that the more you put things off, the bigger the snowball becomes and the harder it is to just start? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New Clearview Apologetics Conference Ad

The staff at Clearview just sent me this ad. Handsome mugshots, eh? 

Please note that the conference is free for pastors and church staff. 

Veggies, Shoes, and the Anglican (non)Communion

Yesterday my kids left me these veggies from their garden. They also left me some fresh -- as in slaughtered and butchered last week -- hamburger meat. Perfect for Chinese stir fry.

Yesterday I also bought a new pair of running shoes from my good friends at Run-N-Tri Outfitters in Wake Forest. These are the new Altra Torin 6's. I've happily run thousands of miles in the Torin 5's, but this is my first time purchasing the newer iteration. I love the new colorway. 

Altra was founded in 2011. So it's a fairly new shoe company. Altra is famous for (1) having shoes that are ZERO drop from heel to toe, and (2) having a very wide toe box that allows your toes to splay out. Some people swear by this brand. Others swear at it. Do we really need another shoe company? I say yes. Since the 1970s, shoe companies have made their shoes bigger and snazzier, with arch supports and elevated heels that give the impression that these features can improve performance and reduce injury. The fact is, a good running shoe will allow your feet to behave like feet. This means two things: freedom and flexibility. In particular, elevated heels shift the center of gravity forward and away from the site where the foot is meant to bear load. With an elevated heel, the arch is destabilized, generating an imbalance in our knees, hips, and lower back. I'm loving my Altra shoes. Zero drop shoes definitely work the calves more than regular shoes do, so you'll want to ease into them gradually. Anyhoo, I'm eager to run in these shoes tomorrow. Again, these are the Torin 6's. The new heel-cup looks great, but I'm wondering if it will negatively or positively affect the heel lock down. The price was about 15 dollars higher than the 5's, but hey, everywhere there's inflation these days. 

Finally (for now), it looks like the Anglican Church is no longer a communion. A true communion of faith has a shared doctrinal and moral basis. That's no longer true of the AC. The conservative bishops are breaking fellowship with the liberals. They will now remain in communion only with whose who are of like theological mind. In a sense, there will be still "unity" in the Anglican Church. The two factions are still "walking together." However, they may be on the same street but they are walking in different directions. The conservatives' flag is nailed firmly to the Bible. Recently, conservative Methodists took a similar step when they founded the Global Methodist Church. Other denominations can't be far behind. 

Jesus said, "Come after me." In the great drive to have more church members, we gather a multitude of professed believers but far fewer disciples. They may come to Christ but they not come after him. Quality is sacrificed to quality. It is a decadent church that heaps to itself teachers who tickle the ears. 

Thankfully, God has his remnant! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Ethiopian, Anyone?

This is no food blog. No one needs to know what I eat or why. It's just not that exciting. As you know, however, I am a lover of all things Ethiopian, and that includes their unique cuisine. This evening I was able to share the joy of injera b'wat with some friends at the Awaze Ethiopian Restaurant in Cary. I had spent all day at my Wake Forest office and had a huge appetite when dinner time came. We enjoyed a chicken dish, a beef dish, and a mixture of various cooked veggies. In good Ethiopian fashion, we spent a long time at the table yakking about various and sundry. 

In Amharic there's the word "gursha." It refers to an Ethiopian custom where, as a sign of respect, someone at a meal feeds another person with a bite of injera and sauce. This is truly "hand to mouth" dining. Y'all look like pros! 

If you spend any time here on this blog at all, you know that I love dining with interesting company, and tonight was certainly no disappointment in that regard. But that's enough for now. I'm tired and need to have my vespers and then head to bed. If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy Ethiopian cuisine, you might give it a try the next time you're near an Ethiopian restaurant. You will, I think, like it, especially if you enjoy food that is a little on the spicy side. 

Edwards' Resolution #28

"Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Life for Jonathan Edwards in 18th Century New England

If you're anything like me, you love Christian biographies. Iain Murray's life of Edwards is one of the very best. I'm fascinated by what life was like in early 18th century New England. Northampton, where Jonathan Edwards ministered, was a pretty typical example. 

Let me give you some idea of what a man's life consisted of in that village. First, he was armed. In fact, every man was required to possess a musket -- and know how to use it. Rising at dawn each day, you had a quick breakfast of bread and corn meal. Then you went off to work "in harmony with the procession of the seasons as their fathers had done" (p. 81). In the springtime, you planted your corn and wheat, and calves and lambs were born. Then came haying and harvesting during the summer months. Finally, in the fall you picked and stored apples, slaughtered your animals for food, and ploughed your fields for next year's planting. Timber felling was done all year long, as was the milking of cows and the feeding of horses. At noon every day, the church house bell brought you back home for dinner -- more corn meal along with some meat and vegetables. Then you went back to work until nightfall, when you enjoyed a supper of cold meat, prayed and read the Bible, and went to bed. 

This lifestyle is not much different from those in rural America who still engage in some level of farming. Farming, I like to tell people, is hard work but it's good work. It puts you to bed at night with a good tired if you know what I mean. Some Christians are so convinced of the healthiness of the agricultural lifestyle that they have become "Christian Agrarians," calling their less-spiritual brethren to come out of the cities and return to their roots in the soil. I don't know about that. We live wherever God plants us. If he leads you to live in the city, then do it. If he leads you to live in the country, then obey him. I guess you could call me an agrarian enthusiast. I live on a farm but I do not make a full-time living from it. But I find it very satisfying to be able to enjoy my own beef and, when Becky was alive, our own vegetables. In one of his books, Thomas Jefferson argued that the United States should be based on an agrarian ideology. Apparently the idea never caught on. Today less than 2 percent of Americans farm. I recall in the early 1980s there was a back-to-the-land movement, especially among homeschool families. Time Magazine even ran a cover story called "Ex-Urbanites." But this too was short-lived. Many families discovered that where there's a Garden of Eden, there's often a Fall right behind it. Again, agrarianism is not for everybody. I prefer to speak of "country-mindedness," and a lot of my suburban friends share this mindset with me. 

When Edwards entered the pastorate, his salary was set at 100 pounds per year. The congregation also allocated to him 300 pounds for the purchase of a homestead, 10 acres of pastureland, and 40 more acres 5 miles up the river. It was here, on the land, that he, his wife, and his children spent many of the happiest years of their lives. I suppose Rosewood is like that for me. Here you develop a deep love for the land. You learn to care for other persons and things rather than just yourself. You understand life and death. And, if you are so inclined, you can develop a strong work ethic. The Amish are buying up farms all around, and I welcome them with open arms. No Amish kid ever grew up without learning responsibility. 

Every day I am thankful for the farm. Working outdoors is very important to me. The most important thing in my eyes is that we respect and care for the land that our Heavenly Father has entrusted to our tending. I have many happy memories and have never had any dull moments.  

A Plutocrat by the Grace of God

It's after 6:00 pm and I'm just now finishing up my farm work. Been a glorious day. Earlier, at Bo's, the Shepherd led me to Psalm 42. 

"As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you, O God." I have, many times, had a great sense of the glory of the Triune God, but there was something special about my devotions this morning. David looks over and sees a deer that wants nothing more than water, and draws a comparison from the desire for thirst to be quenched to his longing to be with Christ. I couldn't stop weeping. My soul truly longs for God, my King, my friend, my brother, my everything. What a beautiful doctrine is that of divine election. That a being that is so undeserving of grace and mercy was granted it because of faith. And that faith was given to him because God loves him, not because of works but because of grace alone. I love you, Lord, because you have given us hope in this life. I worship you with all I can offer. You indeed satisfy me every day.

After my coffee and worship time I had a workout at the gym. What made it so good was the fact that, while lifting, I stumbled upon a wonderful sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 31. The sermon is called, "My Times Are In Your Hand." 

Again, it seemed like revival was brewing in my heart. Is it just a coincidence that Spurgeon singled out 70-year old men for special admonition?

Some of you are older than I am. For you are 70 or 80 years of age. How much longer do you expect to travel in this wilderness? Have you another 10 years? God has been gracious to you for 70 years, and will you fret about the last 10, which indeed may never come? That will never do. God has delivered some of you out of such great trials that your present ones are mere flea bites. 

Then he added this illustration:

Sir Francis Drake, after he had sailed around the world, came up to the Thames, and when he had passed Grey's End there came a storm which threatened the ship. The brave commander said, "What? Go around the world safely and then get drowned in a ditch? Never!" So we ought to say, "God has upheld us in great tribulations, and we are not going to be cast down about trials which are common to men. My times are in his hand, and therefore the end will be glorious.

I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior 62 years ago at the age of 8. Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for my sins and for saving my soul. The Scripture says that the gospel will reach the ends of the earth before the Second Coming, and I feel Mr. Spurgeon's life was definitely part of God's plan to accomplish that. There's no question that he was greatly anointed by the Holy Spirit here on earth. He brought countless sinners to Christ through his unwavering integrity and his direct messages of truth and faith from the Scriptures. What a blessing to have his sermons at our fingertips anytime we want them. 

Spurgeon, in his sermon, wisely said: "We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long." Our Lord did not come to make our lives narrow and barren. He came to make our lives rich and full until the day he takes us home. This life is not the life the world offers but a new life, even himself, and plenty of it. The abundance is in God's grace, which is freely given. I am a child of the King. I therefore have an abundance beyond the world's fluctuating financial markets. I am a plutocrat by the grace of God. 

"My times" are not really mine but his. I am only the steward of my days, and I had better number them that I may apply my heart unto wisdom. That includes using my time to bear witness to the Timeless One every chance I get.