Monday, January 17, 2022

My New Weight Training Routine

I want to thank VDOT for having the roads scraped today so that I could get to the Y. I just got back, put the rice on to boil, did my farm chores, and am sitting down for a few minutes to update the blog. 

I have switched from pretty much mostly running mode to full mountain climbing training mode as my goal is to climb a 4,000-meter peak this summer. My routine is lifting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then cardio every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Sunday is my rest day. I'm thankful for our local Y. I don't attend any of its classes -- yoga, spin, etc. -- but I do take advantage of the weight room. Here's my resistance training routine:

SHOULDERS

Seated dumbbell press.

Bent over dumbbell raises.

BICEPS

Incline dumbbell curls.

Seated dumbbell curls.

Standing dumbbell curls.

Dumbbell hammer curls.

TRICEPS

Pulldowns.

Dumbbell rows.

BACK

Pulldowns. 

Dumbbell rows.

CHEST

Dumbbell press.

Incline dumbbell press.

Dumbbell flys.

Barbell press.

QUADS

Leg extensions.

CALVES

Standing calf raises.

Dumbbell calf raises.

I go through all these exercises once without stopping, then rest and repeat two more times for a total of 3 sets. That takes me about an hour to accomplish. My new routine won't produce any miraculous results. I'm not expecting it to. If I take off body fat but add muscle, my weight probably won't change very much. As you can see, 80 percent of my training is on my upper body, in part because that's where you'll need a lot of strength while climbing. My goal is to lift to the point of muscle fatigue, meaning that you lift to the point where you can no longer lift the weight with good form. You should reach this point between 8 and 12 repetitions. If I can't lift the weight 8 times, it's probably too light. If I can lift it all day long, it's undoubtedly too heavy. 

Off to cook supper! 

Happy "International Quitters' Day"!

Today is INTERNATIONAL QUITTERS' DAY, the day when people are most likely to give up their New Year's resolutions. Not me!!! 

So ... by God's grace I have yet to break a resolution I passed on January 1st of this month. 

  • Eating breakfast every morning? Check!
  • Keeping a daily activity journal? Check!
  • Flossing every night? Check!
  • Making my bed every morning? Check!
  • Cleaning up the kitchen each morning? Check!
  • Watching every single thing I put into my mouth? Check!

My friend, the best way to start something you've been putting off is to just START! It's the first step that counts the most. The others will follow. No, it won't be easy. Rome wasn't built in a day. (I just made that up.) It takes time, effort, pain, suffering, resilience, stamina, planning, dedication, and a truckload of other virtues. 

When former alcoholics were asked by Harvard psychologist George Vaillant why they had given up their drinking, their number one answer was that they recognized they were no longer in charge. All change begins with self-knowledge. Once they decided to take charge of their lives, Dr. Vaillant asked them, "What forces helped you to make that decision stick?" There were four factors:

1. Behavior modification, usually with some sort of supervision.

2. Substitute dependencies.

3. Increased religious involvement.

4. New relationships. 

It's evident that Christianity provides all four of these factors. We allow God to change our behavior through the supervision of the Holy Spirit. We substitute a living relationship with God for our dependencies. We begin practicing spiritual disciplines. And we find new relationships in the body of Christ. In short, Christ becomes a substitute dependency

I have often said this to my classes so I might as well say it again: I couldn't live a single day with Jesus in my life. His presence becomes an experience that gives hope and wellness to my life. In Christ, we begin to discharge what is latent within us. Our potential as a human being becomes more and more a reality. We learn how to get the best out of our bodies, our minds, and our souls. 

I'm curious. What's something you have been putting off that you KNOW you should be doing. Why haven't you taken that first step? Yes, its going to take time and effort. But the key to anything is taking that first baby step. Any of us can tackle that first step and keep going if we truly believe it's what the Lord wants us to do. 

I'm sick and tired of being safe. Here I go, one day at a time, one limitation at a time. 

Baby steps!

You Are God-Taught (Theodidaktoi)!

I have some personality traits that are stamped into my DNA. For example, I love details. Things are never as simple as they seem. You have to dig a little deeper sometimes to find the nuggets of truth that are in the text. 

In my morning reading in 1 Thess. 4:9-12, I actually had to stop and reflect on a word Paul apparently coined in verse 9: theodidaktoi ("God-taught"). 

When you think about it, that really is an amazing word because of the truth it reflects. Paul is about to take up with the church two topics:

1. Love toward the Christian brotherhood. 

2. Diligence in daily conduct. 

He begins by stating that it is not even necessary for him to write about brotherly love (philadelphia) because his readers have been taught by God and are already reflecting this teaching in their lives. The verbal adjective theodidaktoi occurs only here in the New Testament but it must have been inspired by such passages as:

  • Isa. 54:13
  • Jer. 31:33
  • Joel 2:28
  • Micah 5:2
  • Zeph. 3:9

Jesus himself reflects this teaching in John 6:45 when he says, "The prophets wrote, 'Everyone will be taught by God.' Anyone who hears the Father and learns from him comes to me." Here "taught by God" is didaktoi theou instead of theodidaktoi, but the meaning is the same. 

Thus, when Paul writes in 1 Thess. 4:9 "you have been taught by God," he is not saying something new. He has just reminded the Thessalonians that God gives his Holy Spirit to the church (verse 8). He now adds that God himself, through his Spirit, has already taught them how to practice love toward each other. 

My friend, when it comes to studying the Bible, the ball is ultimately in your court. If the Holy Spirit has come into your life, then you have everything you need to engage in serious Bible study. John writes (1 John 2:27):

The anointing you have received from the Holy Spirit remains in you, and you do not need for anyone to teach you.

John is emphasizing that our relationship with Jesus Christ can be a personal rather than a mediated one that is meant to grow richer and deeper until the day we meet him "face to face" (1 John 3:1). It is the Holy Spirit who grants us understanding of the Scriptures. It is he who allows us to grow in knowledge and in spiritual stature. It is he who illuminates to our hearts and minds not only the person of Christ but his will for our lives. The Spirit is thus the supreme interpreter of God's word. Once you understand this, daily Bible study will become a discipline you can hardly afford to neglect. We have in the Spirit a teacher who is resident within us to show us the mind of Christ! 

As Christians, then, our teachers are threefold: gifted leaders and teachers in the church (Eph. 4:11), our fellow believers as we teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16), and ultimately the Holy Spirit himself. This is not to belittle the ministry of shepherd-teachers. I have trained a good number of them through the years! Nor am I pleading for an "anything goes" mentality when it comes to Bible study. We are always to be wary of false teaching. As we see from the book of Galatians, Christians are dangerously liable to add something to the finished work of Christ and his sole sufficiency. I am simply pleading that we continue to devote ourselves, both as individuals and as congregations, to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42). 

If you haven't already paused today to open God's word, may I encourage you to do so right now? Begin with prayer. Many blunders of interpretation would never have been made if we had prayed as much in advance as we pined after the damage was already done. So before you open your Bible, ask God to bless you. Just pray a simple prayer like, "God, thank you so much for your word. May your Holy Spirit reveal truth to me today. Not yesterday, not last year, but today." And he will do it. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

No Run Today

Why Do Slower Runners Compete in Races?

As a mid-to-back of the packer in races, I've decided to take out membership in the Guild for the Acknowledgement of Slow Runners, otherwise known as GASP. I know some people who never enter races because they don't see the point in driving or flying to a race and paying a hefty fee in order to come in 27,077th place out of 32,000 runners. Why not just go for a nice run in the neighborhood and be done with it? 

There are a few reasons I can think of:

1. To visit new places. Racing has taken me to places I've never been to before and hope to see again. When I did the St. George Marathon in Utah, I got to hike in the Snow Canyon State Park. 

When I did the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon, I went horseback riding in the local mountains. When I did the Baltimore Marathon, I got to see the famous USS Constellation. 

The list is endless. 

2. To enjoy running with other people. If you're like me, you probably run and train alone most of the time. In races, running becomes a social experience. 

3. To run faster than you did before. I'm not done chasing down new PRs yet. 

Jazzed at getting a PR at the Virginia 10-Miler. 

Being a mid-to-back of the packer doesn't make you non-competitive. Occasionally I'll hang around the finish line to see the people who are finishing after me. I see them doing finishing kicks. I see them weeping. I've seen them puking. It's obvious that most have been working hard. 

4. Sometimes it's just another long training run. I usually run half marathons at a slow pace because I'm building up my aerobic base for my next marathon. You really can't simulate the racing experience by running in your neighborhood or on the local track

5. It's motivation to stay healthy and fit.

6. The t-shirt and medal, of course. 

7. Charity (a big reason I've run many of my races). 

The point is: people are out there for many different reasons, and you don't need to worry about their reasons. If you're a front runner, then you probably won't have to see them again after the race starts anyway. 

I measure my personal improvement by the clock, knowing that there are many runners who are a billion times faster than me. Doesn't bother me one bit. Racing is a journey where the finish line is just the beginning.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Aristotle on Running

Passages describing running are common in ancient Greek and Roman literature. Footraces were very popular in the eastern Roman empire. The running track (called a stadion) was 180 meters long and 27 meters wide. The spectators would stand or sit along the earthen embankment that flanked the track (only rarely were there seats). The crowds would cheer on the runners, whose desire to look good in front of others spurred them on to even greater efforts. "At the sound of the signal they were off," writes Virgil (Aeneid 5.315), "leaving the starting line and tearing over the course." 

In a comment about the writing style of Herodotus, Aristotle has this to say about the race itself (Rhetoric 3.9.2): 

"This is the exposition of the history of Herodotus of Thurii." It was formerly used by all, but now is used only by a few. By a continuous style I mean that which has no end in itself and only stops when the sense is complete. It is unpleasant, because it is endless, for all wish to have the end in sight. That explains why runners, just when they have reached the goal, lose their breath and strength, whereas before, when the end is in sight, they show no signs of fatigue. 

Aristotle is talking about what in rhetoric is called  a period. A period is a sentence that draws a number of different ideas into an integrated whole. The Greek word periodos conveys "an image drawn from paths which go round and are in a circle" (Demetrius, On Style 10). Recently on this blog, I looked at Heb. 4:12-13, which begins and ends with the Greek word logos. This period starts out with God's "word" of revelation and concludes with our "word" of explanation, as we must all render "account" (logos) before God on the Day of Judgment. Of course, the most famous periodic sentence in Hebrews is its opening prologue, 1:1-4, which I have studied in detail here. (It is an amazing passage.)  

As a runner, what's interesting to me about Aristotle's quote is when he says that it is only when runners have reached the finish line do they "lose their breath and strength." Until then, their endurance carries them through their fatigue. Modern science seems to confirm Aristotle's observation.

Dr. Timothy Noakes is one of the world's leading sports physiologists. He has studied and written about practically every aspect of running. He observed that in a run of any distance, fatigue occurs around two-thirds of the way into the run. This pattern occurs whether you are going out for a 10 mile run or a 26.2 mile marathon. When you begin your run, you are full of energy. About halfway through, you being to feel tired. About two-thirds of the way through the distance, you begin to have to work really hard to continue. This pattern repeats itself regardless of the distance you are trying to run. On this basis, Dr. Noakes argued that fatigue is more a mental than a physical phenomenon. Whether you are running 5 miles or 20 miles, you will have a similar level of mental fatigue. I have personally experienced this in every race I've run, from 5Ks to 31-mile ultramarathons. It is only in the final third of the race that you really have to push and put in the work. 

It is endurance, then, and not speed, that gets us to the finish line. And what is true of the sport of running is true about life. Both sports and life push us to our limitations. Our motivation comes from the way Jesus "endured from sinners such opposition against himself" (Heb. 12:3). Our Lord remained faithful despite suffering, and so can we, as we "look unto Jesus, the Pacesetter and Completer of faith" (12:2). 

At the finish of the St. George (Utah) Marathon. A new PR! 

Fellow runners in the race of life, let's not fall short of the goal. Let us visualize our success, yes, but also the obstacles we will face, and how we can surmount them. This is the only way to prepare for the running (and life) challenges ahead in 2022. 

Before the start of the "10K on the Runway" in Greensboro, NC. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Why I Might Not Answer Your Questions

It's mainly because I'm not the Bible-answer-man. 

I used to be. I used to answer any question asked in class because I feel like I had to. Wasn't I the expert? 

No, I wasn't. 

Here's what I do nowadays. If you ask me a question (either in class or via email), I might just answer it. On the other hand, I will often answer it only if I've written on the subject. If I haven't written on it, I will likely say something like this: "That's a great question, but to be honest with you, I've never really given it the thought it deserves. On the one hand, I could give you all the stock answers I'm familiar with. But it would save both of us time if you just read a good book or essay on the subject. Here are a few resources to get you started." 

Let's say you asked me how I interpreted Paul's highly debated "husband of one wife" requirement in 1 Tim. 3:2. Well, I could point out to you the major views on the subject. But I probably would say, "I can't give you a definitive answer because I haven't worked through the issue in enough detail to give you an opinion I'm happy with. But here's an excellent essay (or book) that contains the four most common views on the issue." It's not that I don't have personal convictions on many issues like this one. I do. But I'd rather you worked it out for yourself in consultation with the experts on the subject. I am definitely not an expert on every exegetical debate in New Testament studies! 

On the other hand, there are quite a number of important topics I have written about. In that case, I am only too happy to share with you my opinions/convictions. After all, I worked very hard to form them. I will usually give you a link to one of my books or essays and say, "Have at look at this." Even then I will add, "It's only my opinion, of course. You will still need to read what others have said." 

I believe there comes a time when we have to become our own teacher, educator, schoolmaster, coach, pedagogue, even counselor. This does not mean that we don't study what others have said or written. Of course we do. On the other hand, there is such a thing as a healthy distrust of experts. Most of us go to school (even grad school) to learn what others have thought about this or that. After graduation we continue this practice. We become parrots, mere imitators of what others think, without having our own convictions based on our own research. 

That is why I write books, essays, and even blog posts. I write not so much to tell you what I think but to tell myself. Writing allows me to find out what I think and to discover what I believe. Unless we do that, we don't really know what to think. 

Thankfully, I ran across a number of authors in seminary and grad school who were original thinkers. I remember Dr. ____________. His thoughts were his own. I couldn't put his books down. Today, I read very few authors. But I read him again and again and again. Authors like him have earned my trust because their writings have substance. It's impossible to learn, really, without reading geniuses like these. But they would be the first to tell you to put your own thinking cap on. 

And that is why I might not answer your questions

Then again, I might!

Shrimp and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

Here's what I cooked for supper tonight.

Look at that. You made it, and it is restaurant quality. 

I got the recipe here: 

Try it. Your family will love it. 

Today's Run Was Awesome

Today's run was one of the best I think I've ever had. I ran for an hour at the high school track and l loved every minute of it. 

It was a hard effort but well within a healthy heart rate zone.

I am very proud of this chart because, honestly, as a Type AAA personality I suffer from "hurry sickness" and have a demonstrable antipathy toward anything less than full out. But running is supposed to be stress management, not stress inducement, if you know what I mean. I run because my life -- or at least many aspects of it -- depend on it. The length of my life -- probably. The quality of my life -- most certainly. 

Running may produce fitness of muscle but it produces another kind of fitness as well. There is no question whatsoever that my brain also requires exercise. For example, my next blog post -- "Why I Don't Answer Your Questions"-- came to me during today's run. It was no different in the fifth century B.C. when educated Greeks (including philosophers) spent time working out in the gymnasium. 

The Greeks believed that the simplest way to keep your mind healthy was to exercise. All runners embraced that philosophy. Hence the Greeks saw sports as essential to their educational system. 

In sports, the body, mind, and soul are all integrated. I am not yet "educated" in that sense, but I'm trying -- and that's what makes the difference. 

On the "Brevity" of Hebrews

Heb 5:11 reads: "Much more could be said about this subject, but it is hard to explain, and you are so slow to understand." 

Have you ever noticed how great writers have an exceptional mastery of language. In every paragraph they write, they never waste words and still find a way to communicate with amazing succinctness. 

It's obvious that the author of Hebrews was struggling a bit when he came to 5:11. On the one hand, he's aware of the breadth of his subject. On the other hand, I get the sense that he wants to be selective with his words. The book of Hebrews does not seem short when you read it, and yet the author calls his entire speech "brief" (Heb. 13:22). 

Philo, in his book Heir, reflects a similar struggle (133):

But as the discussion on the subject of a division into equal portions, and on that of opposite contrarieties, is of great extent and of necessary importance, we will not wholly pass it by, nor will we dwell on it with prolixity, but, investing it as it is, we will be content with such things as seem suitable to the occasion. 

I think writing shorter books is harder than writing longer books due to all the editing you have to do. When Baker asked me to write my intermediate Greek grammar, I agreed, on one condition: that I could keep the work under 200 pages. (Many "intermediate" and even "beginning" grammars seem more suitable as reference works than as textbooks. Just my opinion.) 

"Prolixity," by the way, means "the state or quality of being unnecessarily or tediously wordy." Who does not struggle with prolixity? The author of 2 Maccabees certainly did. After a wordy preface, he writes (2:30-31):

It is the duty of the original historian to occupy the ground and to discuss matters from every side and to take trouble with details, but the one who recasts the narrative should be allowed to strive for brevity of expression and to forego exhaustive treatment. 

Indeed, "brevity of expression" is something a writer has to strive for. In the words of Mark Twain, "If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare."

Remember Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address"? Sure you do. How about the words of Edward Everett, the other speaker at Gettysburg? He began in the verbose style of the day:

Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet ...." 

A far cry from "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent ...," wouldn't you agree? Even Everett recognized the brilliance of Lincoln's speech: "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

Whenever I write a blog post (like this one), at some point I have to stand back from the computer screen and ask myself, "What am I trying to say here? Have I already made my point? If so, shall I end the post now?" I also do this with my books, which (have you noticed?) are becoming shorter and shorter. I don't like wasting other people's time. Get to the point, Dave, then shut up. 

When I read Hebrews, I get the sense that the author only scratched the surface of his topic. Yet what he left to us is a profound look at the New Covenant and why we should hold to it, and to its Great High Priest, faithfully. Hebrews even ends with a signature salutation that sounds an awful lot like the apostle Paul to me!

THE END

Thursday, January 13, 2022

What I Eat in a Day

It was a terribly hard decision to know what to prepare for my meals today. After all, I'm a complete newbie. Well ... training has started, research commenced, plans made. FWIW, here's what I enjoyed today:

1. Breakfast. To break the fast I had a cup of coffee while reading my Bible and then cooked up some scrambled eggs with cheese, a couple slices of bacon, and some sour dough toast with homemade blueberry jelly. The perfect balance of fat, protein, and carbs.

I actually saved the banana for later. 

2. Snack. After my workout at the gym, I had a banana and a few sips of chocolate milk to tide me over until I got home and prepared lunch.

3. Lunch. For lunch I enjoyed a tuna sandwich (protein + carbs) and a delicious avocado (fat). 

4. Supper. I just finished eating a scrumptious chicken stir-fry with some jasmine rice. I got the recipe from Spice N' Pans on YouTube. 

5. Snack. If I do snack tonight, I will probably have some popcorn with a cup of hot milk -- a tradition stemming from my visits to Ethiopia. 

By the way, did you know that you can tell where someone is from in America by whether they use "supper" or "dinner" to describe their evening meal? Becky and I would usually use "supper" for our evening meal and "dinner" to refer to a larger or more formal meal. So our main meal after church on Sunday was called Sunday dinner, never Sunday lunch. It was usually served between 1:00 and 2:00 pm. 

So there you go! 

Chuck Swindoll on Depression

One of the things I appreciate most about Chuck Swindoll is the way he's become vulnerable in his older years. Not in a maundy sort of way that disguises a weak ego. But in a godly way, like King David of old in the Psalms. In his book The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, we read these words on p. 9:

Why do I share all this with you?

What is Chuck referring to? He's referring, not to his successes in life and ministry, but to his failures and challenges. If you'd like an example, here's one:

It was not easy. In fact, those were the most difficult months of my five decades of ministry. Very challenging. Very stressful. Very painful. 

Or how about this:

There were difficult things that included tears, hurt feelings, tough decisions, sleepless nights, hard moments, and misunderstandings.

Or this:

I've never regretted the time I did not quit ... though at the time it was all I could do to stay.

Finally, referring to his marriage, he writes:

I'll be honest ... we almost broke apart those first ten years. We didn't, though, because she stayed with me and stuck it out.  

Did the Swindoll family ever struggle with heartache? With depression? With feelings of suicide? You bet they did. Of course, a pastor is "not supposed" to talk about his or his family's struggles. I think Chuck would disagree, as this amazing video shows us. 

I give Chuck and his daughter Colleen a lot of credit for this interview. Unreasonable expectations leave pastors and their families constantly depleted. Sometimes, like Chuck back in the 60s and 70s, pastors project authority while trying to figure things out for themselves. When a church does not allow its leaders to be human, they begin to act less like pastors and more like CEOs. Writes Chuck:

Entertaining churches with a shallow, superficial, feel-good message can never prepare you for the doctor's report that reveals cancer. Or the call from the policeman who says your son was in a head-on collision. Or the day your spouse abruptly walks out on your marriage. Suddenly, all of the Christian cliches, clever sermonettes, dazzling performances, and twisted Scriptures offer no help. Why? None of those are realistic. They lack depth. They are papier-mâché facades that crumble under the stress.

I won't belabor the point. I just find it incredibly encouraging when pastors like Chuck Swindoll are not afraid to admit that they deeply struggle. Again, it's easy to overdo this. But transparency can go a long way to helping your church members see that you understand their grief. Pastor Eugene Peterson writes (Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry, pp. 1-2):

American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn't the remotest connection with what the church's pastors have done for most of twenty centuries ....

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns -- how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the road, how to package the good so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it's still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs ....

The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is his responsibility that is being abandoned in spades. 

I know of few pastors who are more committed to keeping the community "attentive to God" than pastor Chuck Swindoll. No, he does not use his weaknesses and his limitations as a means of excusing himself from diligent leadership. He has just never been into the pedestal thing, and it shows. 

Do watch the above video, then share it with someone you love. It is so basic and so lovely.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

About Those Soft Drinks and Fruit Juices

Here is today's run. 

Outdoors, I might add 😀. I loved every minute of it. Running is a gift beyond words. 

Many people start running to lose weight but are unable to do so. What probably happens is that when you are running you are using more glucose than fat. Be that as it may, from everything I've read (and can confirm from my own experience), body weight will not come off without following this basic principle:

Don't drink carbohydrates or sweeteners. 

This obviously applies to all soft drinks (even if the word "diet" is in the name) as well as all fruit juices. Drinking a Pepsi or some grape juice is going to make you build body fat instead of take it off. Even "natural" fruit juices are loaded with sugar. Substitute water for all calorie-laden drinks. 

Of course, we should also cut out fatty foods like cookies and chips. Sugar-sweetened drinks and highly processed foods are dragons that simply must be slayed. Weight loss always begins in the kitchen. On the other hand, while exercise is important, vigorous physical activity is not associated with significant weight loss. What we eat/drink plays a much bigger role than exercise in taking weight off and keeping it off. Running and walking, as well as weight training, are in my opinion the best ways to keep off any pounds you lose through a healthy diet. 

Recently I committed myself to cutting out all drinks except for water and occasionally some chocolate milk after a run. I began by acknowledging my sugar addiction. Having been off all sugar drinks for over a month now, today I decided to take a sip of some Welches grape juice I had in the refrigerator. It tasted horrible. It was way too sweet. It's been easier to cut out sodas since I wasn't drinking any sodas at home. Honestly, I don't think I'd enjoy the taste of a Pepsi any more. 

By the way, if you're a male, don't expect to lose your belly fat quickly. Men tend to lose fat from the circumference inwards. In other words, you will lose excess fat in your arms, legs, and even face before you begin to see results in your belly. This will require a great deal of patience and perseverance. 

Oh, and one more tip. As Americans, we tend to eat large quantities of food that have lots of calories but tend to be of poor quality. Cooking at home has been replaced by convenience and fast food. I am discovering, for the first time in my life, the art and joy preparing my own healthy meals at home. Expect to see some of my home-made concoctions in the coming months. 

Now let's see if I can follow my own advice. 

A Lesson from the NFL Playoffs

Well, the playoffs are here. In case you couldn't tell, I'm a Bucs fan. Don't tell me an old man can't play quarterback. 

And just what are they playing for? A trophy. 


It is the prize so greatly desired, the reward for all their effort and for the months of training and competing. But the Superbowl will soon be over and forgotten. The memorable thing for most players is not that they excelled against others but they excelled against themselves. The real contest is within.

I am trying to be the best possible Dave Black. Win or lose, that's the trophy I want at the end of the day. The "best I can be" means the best God created me to be and to do. This is the spirit of sports -- always striving for excellence. 

As Christians, we must unflaggingly pursue spiritual growth. Just as you cannot complete a marathon without months of training, we should allot the necessary hours and energy to our spiritual lives as well. 

For role models, we can look to the athletes. The way of the athlete is indeed hard. There is nothing but fatigue and pain. Sometimes you just want to go back into the stands and watch. Still, we are drawn to sports. The demand for total effort that sports imposes on us explains its popularity. It's a chance for mere men and women to achieve greatness. To those who reject sports as ungodly or un-Christian, I would say: Do something to show as much pluck and determination before assuming an attitude of superiority. 

Sports reminds us that winning is important but trying is everything. Someone has said of elite marathoners that they make the effort and make it more often. The unknown amateurs at the back of the pack do the same, driven by their need to do their best, to make the effort, and to make it more often. 

When people become committed to winning a prize or a trophy, it means that they are committed to a struggle. Becoming a mediocre athlete is not all that difficult. You just settle for less. But when life is worth living, there is only one thing more important than doing something well. It is doing it better

Christian friend, never settle for anything less than God's will for your life. "Wherever you are, be there all there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." So said Jim Elliott before his martyrdom. 

People may say you are too old. Tell that to Tom Brady. The pursuit of excellence never ends. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Tuesday Update

Today's workout (after lifting):

My meal du jour (chicken francaise -- flower and egg dipped): 

As I was running on the dreadmill treadmill, two thoughts came to mind:

1. The Y is host to a bunch of older people, in fact people who are even older than me, if you can believe they exist. I give them a lot of credit for being out there, getting in their steps or walking on the treadmill or doing light lifting. Exercise is easier than you think. You just move your body. And for you thirty-somethings out there snickering about your youth, remember that the aging process begins around the age of 30. At whatever age, movement confers health benefits to your muscles, skeleton, heart, brain, and more. I love being around people like that. 

2. My plan for tomorrow is to run outside, because we are about to have a heat wave here (the high will be 47 degrees). I plan to cruise along at about the speed of a snail while admiring the beauty around me. This is the story of my life -- always adjusting to the weather. I guess I could move back to Hawaii. 

Speaking of which, diss buggah too funny:

Hebrews as a Pauline Sermon?

Technically, there are only two anonymous letters in the New Testament: Hebrews and 1 John.

First what

How can we call 1 John "First John" if the letter itself is anonymous? We do so on the basis of (1) the tradition of the early church (that is, the external evidence), and (2) the internal evidence. I have argued that we have the same thing happening with the letter to the Hebrews. Just because a writing was anonymous didn't mean that its author was unknown. 

For example, the four Gospels are formally anonymous. In none of them is the author's name mentioned in the text. Some scholars have argued that, since the Gospels were written anonymously and only later ascribed to certain authors, these authors probably did not write them. These scholars are both right and wrong. They are right in the sense that, in the four Gospels, the authors names are not explicitly listed in the text. But they are wrong to conclude that we cannot be confident about who wrote them. In fact, there are no anonymous Gospel manuscripts of the New Testament. None. They simply don't exist. All of our earliest Greek manuscripts containing the Gospels attribute these writings to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Writes Richard Bauckham, "Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such [Gospel] would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in worship" (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, p. 302). 

Furthermore, Armin Baum, in his essay "The Anonymity of the New Testament History Books: A Stylistic Device in the Context of Graco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern Literature" (Novum Testamentum 50 [2008] 120-142), notes how the Old Testament historians "presented themselves as rather insignificant mediators of the traditional material they passed on and by which in contrast they gave highest priority to their subject matter" (p. 139). He sees the same principle at work in the New Testament Gospels and Acts. The practice of anonymity was employed "to make the authors as invisible as possible and to highlight the priority of their subject matter" (p. 140).

This brings us back to Hebrews and 1 John. Remember, these are the only two letters in the New Testament that are formally anonymous. And how does each writing begin? With a focus on the subject matter: "Son of God" in Hebrews, and "Word of Life" in 1 John. Here's the opening of Hebrews (Heb. 1:1-4):

Long ago God spoke to our forefathers in many different times and in many different ways, but in these last days he has spoken directly to us through a Son though whom he created the universe and to whom he has given everything. He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact representation of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his all-powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of humanity, he sat down in heaven at the right side of the Majesty on High, having been made greater than the angels just as the name he inherited from his Father is greater than theirs.

Writes Simon Kistemaker (Hebrews, p. 25):

Why would the writer not address the readers in the customary way by making himself known, specifying the addressees, and pronouncing a salutation of grace, peace, and mercy? The answer must be that the author wants to focus attention primarily on the ultimate revelation of God -- Jesus Christ, his Son. This revelation is contrasted with the piecemeal revelation that God, through the prophets, gave to the forefathers for many centuries. The author stresses the theme of the person, offices, and function of Jesus, the Son of God.

And what about 1 John? Here are the opening four verses of this letter: 

We are writing to you about the Word of Life, which has existed from the very beginning. We have heard it and have seen it with our very own eyes. Yes, we have beheld it, and our hands have touched it. When this life became visible, we saw it, and so we speak of it and report to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was shown to us. What we have seen and heard we are announcing to you, so that you will join with us in the fellowship we have with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this to you so that our joy may be complete. 

Karen Jobes summarizes the content of 1 John 1:1-4 as follows (1, 2, & 3 John, p. 57). :

These opening verses of 1 John establish the author's authority to teach spiritual truth because his message is grounded in both the historical reality of Jesus Christ and his authoritative understanding of the true significance of those facts. His message is not something that he has merely dreamed up, perhaps in contrast to the false teaching mentioned later in the letter. John invites his readers to the fellowship not only with the author but also with the Father and Jesus Christ, and thereby truly know God. This will make their joy complete. 

As for the genre of 1 John, Jobes notes that "the structure shows characteristics suggesting the author intended it to be read or performed aloud (see Structure, below). Most likely it originally served as a sermon in the author's church, and it was then circulated to other outlying churches in the area" (p. 37).

The question arises, could Hebrews have also been a "sermon"? I have argued such in my book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. I am not the only one. Andrew W. Pitts and Joshua F. Walker published an extremely important essay in 2013, the same year my book appeared. Their essay is titled, "The Authorship of Hebrews: A Further Development in the Luke-Paul Relationship" (Paul and His Social Relations, eds. Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land [Leiden: Brill, 2013]). They argue that Hebrews is "Pauline" in a very real sense, in that Paul's companion Luke took a sermon given by Paul in a diaspora synagogue and published it as a written text. They write (pp. 268-69):

Although Hebrews has been handed to us without an author, we have argued that both external and internal considerations suggest that Hebrews contains Pauline speech material, recorded and later published by Luke, Paul's' traveling companion.

The letter, in short, is Paul's. 

Finally, I want to point out that Hebrews has always had a close connection in history with the Pauline Corpus, not the General Epistles. (Go here to see where Hebrews is placed in our early manuscripts.) The title of the book itself, Pros Hebraious, was probably coined on an analogy with the Greek titles of Paul's letters (for example, Pros Romaious). Thus, for David Trobisch, the title Pros Hebraious implies the name of Paul (The First Edition of the New Testament, p. 59). The fact is, the book of Hebrews always circulated in the early church as part of the Pauline Corpus. Both the canonical placement of Hebrews and its title Pros Hebraious indicate the compatibility of Hebrews and the writings of Paul. Why would the early church add Hebrews to the Pauline Corpus, and not only that, but in one very early manuscript (papyrus 46, ca. 200) put it next to Romans, Paul's chief epistle, if Hebrews was not already considered a Pauline writing? Precisely because the letter lacks important Pauline markings -- the author's self-identification, a designation of his intended readers, the customary salutation -- it seems that it would have been necessary to include Hebrews on its own merits. 

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I think hermeneutics is a fascinating field of study. I also think it's filled with booby-traps. In the words of William Leonard, who himself doubted the Pauline authorship of Hebrews before examining the data, "Many indications are forthcoming that true progress very often means a returning to positions which we should never have left" (The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 387). During my days in seminary and the first years of my teaching career, I held to the consensus view that Hebrews could not have been authored by Paul. Today I contend that there is strong (though not probative) internal evidence and solid external evidence for the Paulinity of this writing. My philosophy has always been to examine the evidence for myself, though I haven't always applied my philosophy consistently. I do, however, think it's important to be responsible. Examine for yourself both the internal and the external evidence. Then go wherever you believe the evidence is leading you. You might get hit in the head by a two-by-four, but it's better than simply going with the flow. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Monday Update

I'll tell you some of the "stuff" I've been up to these days. I spent the morning at the office. I wrote, then edited what I wrote, then wrote and submitted a paper proposal for the regional ETS meeting in South Carolina in March, then drove to the Y for a workout, then came home and had supper. These days I've been eating a lot of rice and stir fry, so today I decided to have pasta instead. To top things off, I added some Korean kimchi, which I am addicted to. I've made 6 trips to Korea for two weeks a pop, ostensibly to teach, though the real reason was to get my digestive tract working properly again. I cannot get enough kimchi or any kind of Korean cuisine for that matter. Here's the deal: you can't effectively lose fat without regulating your food intake, whether you call it counting calories or meal planning or something else. Good health is just a matter of a fair amount of muscle and a low amount of body fat, and nothing more. Burning your muscles with tons of reps does nothing to improve your overall look (and health outlook) without creating a proper weight loss environment. In my opinion, you can only get so far with cardio and resistance training alone. You have to regulate your food intake. 

Don't want to deal with all this? Then go ahead and put your feet up on your desk and pick your nose all day. Believe me, I'm an expert at this. 

Above all, avoid kimchi like the plague. 

My biggest challenge right now is getting into shape for my goal races this year -- 3 marathons and one ultra. Oh, did I mention returning to Zermatt in June for my 70th birthday? I might have one last Alp in me. I guess I'll find out this summer. This is not to toot my own horn. It's not like I'm fitter than most people out there. I just crave challenges. There's nothing like it. 

Believe it or not, I've incorporated some indoor runs on the treadmill, like today's workout. (If you read this blog, you know I will do practically anything to avoid the treadmill.) What I need now is an AARP marathon training plan, you know, the kind that adds Depends to your race kit. It just so happens I have a longish run planned for tomorrow. I haven't decided where or how long yet because it's been so crazy cold. I love my life but I've always questioned the internal thermostat I was created with. Every time I run in the cold I question my sanity. Maybe I need to stick with the treadmill for the time being. 

In my last bit of news, next month I'm speaking in a class at Liberty University on the subject of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews and its place in the New Testament canon. So today I began compiling a list of all the myths I've heard about the authorship of Hebrews, including the one about Paul never using the "he says" (legei) method of introducing Old Testament quotes. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that fallacy

That's all I got. Time to feed Ishi his nightly carrot and check up on the goats. Or maybe I'll take a long walk in the cold because I'm crazy that way. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Single But Not Alone

What do you do with a sermon that begins with the words, "How do you go on when you lose someone who meant the world to you? What do you do? How do you handle it?" 

What you do is read carefully the words of Joshua 1:1-9, as Chuck did. 

I think sometimes we minimize the significance of the words that are said at our weddings, "for as long as you both shall live." You link yourself to your partner without possibly knowing what the future will look like or how your relationship will unfold. Marriage is a decision to have and to hold "till death do us part." That's a lot to commit to in the abstract. Then one day, it's no longer an abstract pledge. That's when you ask, "How do you go on when you lose someone who meant the world to you?" 

Almost every day for 37 years, Becky and I prayed together. We worshiped one and the same God. Now she is gone. The house is empty. Your bed is empty. You grieve, and grieve deeply. As Chuck says, the Joshua we meet in Joshua chapter 1, this mighty man of God, was a grieving Joshua. Joshua and Moses were as close as any two people in the world could be. Death changed all that. 

But God never changes. "Be strong and courageous, Joshua. Do not be afraid. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you." God says to the widow and the widower, "Don't worry. Don't be afraid. I am with you still." Our God is always with us. Our job is to rest in his arms, basking in his love, filled with thanks and gratitude for memories of a marriage he blessed and sustained all those years. 

When I  look back now, 8 years after Becky's death, I see grace revealed and experienced, made abundantly real by the presence of Moses's and Joshua's God, and mine. I have found peace in the loneliest times, not only through acceptance of the situation, but through making my widowerhood an offering to God, who knows how to take loss and make it into something for the good of others. Let's not sugarcoat it. The loneliness at times can be overwhelming. When I get scared or lose faith, I always turn to the Light. It is always there, exposing the dark edges. I know it and trust it. 

I'm a long way behind Becky and the others who have gone before me and have so brightly shown me the pathway to God. I'm panting to catch up, surrendering to the same God Becky was surrendered to, trusting that the same Lord who went with her will go with me. The tears, the loneliness, the pain are all temporary, all part of the process God is using to draw me to himself. And one day the pain will be exchanged for wholeness.

That's why, like Joshua, we can sing and go forward and fight our battles and claim the promises of God. The heart that has no agenda but God's is a heart whose emptiness is filled with the love of God. Its loneliness can be turned to praise. 

Recovery Is Essential

Dave McGillivray is the race director of the Boston Marathon. In 1978, Dave ran across America from Medford, OR, to Medford, MA, a distance of 3,452 miles. He's completed 141 marathons, including 48 consecutive Boston Marathons. He's logged more than 150,000 miles, raising millions of dollars for charities in the process. He's completed 8 Hawaii Iron Man Triathlons. He once ran 7 marathons on 7 consecutive days on 7 continents. 

With Dave McGillivray at the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. 

Six months after the 2013 Boston Marathon -- the year of the terrorist bombings -- Dave was diagnosed with coronary heart disease. He underwent triple bypass surgery, slowed down, cleaned up his diet, and lost 30 pounds. The day before the 2014 Boston Marathon, he spoke before the American Medical Athletic Association. After thanking the first responders who had treated the bombing victims the year before, he spoke about several of his running buddies who had gone out on runs and hadn't made it home, felled not by bombs but by heart attacks. "I spent a lifetime trying to be fit," he said, "but I didn't spend time trying to be healthy." 

Considering the high-stress athletic culture we have in America, "Be healthy, not just fit" is perhaps Dave's most overlooked piece of advice. The stress response activated in athletes is such that the body may not have adequate opportunity to return to normal, leading to a state of chronic stress. Walter Bortz once said, "The body is like a grandfather clock: every day you have to wind it up." But we must wind it up wisely. Just as it's not possible to outrun a bad diet, we can't become healthy by overtraining. There is nothing superhero about pushing when you shouldn't. 

What to do? 

  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Listen to your body. 
  • Slow down, and allow yourself plenty of time to recover from your workouts. 
  • Don't mask pain with medications and anti-inflammatories. 
  • Don't let running ruin your life.

Believe me, this is one finger pointing at you, and three fingers pointing back at myself. 

The harder and busier my days, the more I look forward to a run and the more immunity from stress I derive from the sport. But it's easy to overdo it. Yes, running can make us fit. More importantly, running can make us healthier. The trick is to combine healthy exercise with healthful recovery. It's not one or the other. Running your best is all about relaxing and harnessing the body's inherent ability to heal itself. The goal is to combine moderate, healthy stress with health-inducing recovery that happens naturally and slowly. 

Running coaches have a saying:

Training success = moderate stress + adequate rest.

Recovery may be difficult, but it's absolutely essential. 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Tonight's Stroll

Good night, sun. 

Ser Versus Estar in John 1:1

Lately I've been practicing my Spanish by watching videos in German. That's right -- I'm learning Spanish via German. This was my lesson for the day:

Did you know there are two verbs in Spanish for the one German verb "to be" (sein)? They are ser and estar. When do you use ser and when do you use estar? In the video, examples of ser include:

Soy Caroline.

Es mi hermana. 

Soy de Alemania. 

What do these uses of ser all have in common? Die Identität, that is, identity. Ser describes a permanent identity. 

So when do we use estar? Here are some examples from the video:

Cómo estás?

Estoy muy bien.

Estoy en Alemania. 

Estar is used for feelings or places, but without a sense of permanence. Feelings can change, places of residence can change, etc. Contrast soy and estoy in these sentences: 

Soy David. Ich bin David, I am David (permanently). 

Estoy bien. Es geht mir gut, I am well (though I might feel unwell tomorrow). 

Here's another example: 

Soy de Hawaii. Ich komme aus Hawaii, I come from Hawaii, and that fact will never change. 

Estoy in Hawaii. Ich bin in Hawaii, I am in Hawaii, but tomorrow I might be in California. 

Finally, I loved this example from the video:

Soy una persona feliz. Ich bin eine glückliche Person, I am a happy person. Damit drucke ich aus, wie meine Charaktereigenschaft ist, By this I'm indicating what my personal character is. It describes me. Generally speaking, I am a happy person.

But I can also say:

Estoy feliz. Ich bin glücklich, I am happy (at this time). 

Make sense? 

Now, here's John 1:1 in the Reina Valera translation:

El el principio era el Verbo, y el Verbo era con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios.

Now here's the same verse in the Nueva Versión Internacional:

El el principio ya existía el Verbo, y el Verbo estaba con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios.

Notice that the RV uses the same verb three times (era, the past tense of soy). However, the NVI uses three different verbs: existía, estaba, and era. These different verbs nicely bring out the different nuances of the text. 

Here's one more rendering of John 1:1, this time from the Traducción en Lenguaje Actual: 

Antes de que todo comenzara, ya existía aquel que es la Palabra. La Palabra estaba con Dios, y la Palabra era Dios.

Are you getting the picture? There is never a direct one-to-one correlation between any two languages. We have to use the grammar of the language we are translating the Bible into. And even then, we are often confronted with several possible choices. 

As you can see, languages are amazing things. As John McWhorter has put it, "A language is a fecund, redolent buzzing mess of a thing, in every facet, glint, and corner, even in single words" (What Language Is, p. 9). Who is adequate for such things? Not me, that's for sure. (Just now I had to look up the meaning of "fecund," "redolent," and "glint.") But the Spirit who started the church is the same Spirit who enables us to carry on today. You are gifted. I am gifted. We are probably gifted in different ways. The one thing we have in common is that we both use language for communication. I suppose, then, the more we understand about how languages work (and not just our own language), the better off we'll be when it comes to things like translating and understanding the Bible.

Ironically, and as counterintuitive as it might seem, I've found one of the best ways of learning a foreign language is by studying it in yet a third language. I felt like I had mastered German for the first time only after I had mastered a book called Englisch für Fortgeschrittene. I also love using books like this one to hone up on my Spanish:

At any rate, let's press on together. It's a pretty narrow road we travel, we who study languages. Let's buckle up and get going.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Escaping the Diet Trap

I know this is not a food blog, and I realize that the subject of diet is a very loaded one, but as I worked out on the treadmill today, my thoughts about eating and exercising came together in a wonderful way.

Later on I wrote them down. FWIT, here they are. 

  • Eat as few processed and pre-cooked meals as possible.
  • Consume some protein with every meal (runners especially need plenty of protein for optimal health).
  • Eat lean meat, fowl, and fish. (Example: I've started buying only 3 percent fat ground beef). 
  • Drink water (mostly) when you are thirsty. Water is your most important nutrient. 
  • Eat a healthy breakfast every day. Every time you miss a meal your blood sugar drops and you increase your hunger and cravings. This leads to overeating later in the day. 
  • Stop eating after dinner time. 
  • Eliminate all sugary drinks.
  • Cut out fatty foods like cakes and cookies. 
  • Eat food, not pills.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. 
  • Don't overeat.
  • Workout with weights regularly (for me that's twice a week). Muscle and strength loss can be reversed only with resistance training. 
  • Avoid going from lunch to a late-ish dinner without eating anything in between. (I tend to snack on bananas and avocados. Nuts are also fatty but not fattening.) 
  • Avoid eating by the clock. Eat when you're hungry. Remember: The less hungry you ensure you are, the more weight you are likely to lose
  • Slow down, slow down, slow down. Speed eating only leads to overeating. 
  • Chew thoroughly. I try and chew each mouthful about 20 times. Savor your food. 
  • Don't "eat for later." Aim to eat enough at each meal to be comfortably full. 
  • When grocery shopping, vote with your feet by avoiding crackers, chips, and processed foods in general. 

Remember: there is no one-size-fits-all nutrition/exercise plan that works for everybody. Also, I don't follow a strict diet in any significant sense of the word "strict." I do try to always cook from scratch. I'm far from perfect but I'm getting a lot better at it. And, although I am exercising regularly these days, I also recognize that the most vulnerable area in my effort to change my body and my health always seems to be diet. If I can win the eating battle, I can win the excess body fat battle. I know there are some "trigger" foods I will never get control over unless I totally eliminate them from my nutrition plan. (Doritos, are you listening???) 

In short, there's nothing magical about diet. Eat consciously. Eat quality. Eat regularly. 

Why Run an Ultramarathon?

The ultramarathon. Why do runners do it? 

Every human being wants to find fulfillment in life. We are hardwired to seek a life filled with rich experiences, a life that you can look back on at the end of your earthly existence and feel a sense of accomplishment, a life that challenged you, a life where you grew personally and where you were able to pass on to the next generation a sense of core values. Our deepest values always arise in the face of adversity. 

An ultramarathon is a way of testing ourselves with the ultimate goal of reaching the finish line with its incredible feeling of achievement, a feeling we share with those we care about. It's that voice within us telling us not to give up despite the discomfort. It's courage, tenacity, and passion all rolled into one. It's a journey that builds what the Scriptures so often talk about: resilience that strengthens the character and the mind, as well as the body. The distance is one we need to respect and one that can grant us a sense of completion as we finish the voyage once started, coming out on the other side a stronger and better person. Could this be what drives runners to do an ultramarathon? 

At some point you begin to wonder if you'll be able to make it to the finish line. You need to grind through despite the pain. You realize you are stronger than the discomfort. You realize you're going to make it after hours and hours on the trail. The race was brutal on your body but you never gave up. It was an apotheosis  -- a day when you grew as a person, a day when you grew in perseverance, a day that made you stronger to confront the obstacles in your life.  

As an aging runner, I often think of an old saying: "It's never too late to start, and it's always too soon to stop." As a soon to be 70-year old, I ask myself, "What next?" The answer comes with crystal clarity. No matter what you have done in life, there is always more to do. Run again and again and again. Immerse yourself in pain and fatigue, and you will never exhaust your potential. Offer whatever strength you have left to the Father until your restless heart finds its final rest in him. 

At the end of an ultramarathon I say to myself, "You are still striving for the impossible." And for a brief moment in time, I catch a glimpse of eternity. 

"Does" Versus "Keeps Doing"

My morning Bible time was in 1 John 2. 

The message is clear: Only those who consistently do the will of God abide forever. This truth is magnificently brought out in The Living Bible

Sometimes I get the impression that the TLB is more in tune with verbal aspect theory than its myriad successors such as the ESV and the CSB. The Greek permits the rendering "keep doing." The context practically requires it. 

I sometimes fool myself into thinking that only the "big" sins matter and that following Christ can be separated from following Christ's pattern of life in a very literal, everyday manner. Students, the world needs young men and women who will say no to the world with emphasis, though the rest of the world say yes, men and women whose ambitions are not confined to their selfish desires for pleasure, passion, or popularity, men and women who put character above wealth and whose word is their bond. 

In a nutshell, obedience isn't an adjustable justification we use when convenient. It's not really a choice but a command. And the extent to which we gladly obey Christ probably says more about us and our Christianity than anything else. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Self-Feeders

"We should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self-feeders .... We should have taught people how to read their Bibles between services, how to do the spiritual practices .... What's happening to these people [is that] the older they get, the more they're expecting the church to feed them, when, in fact, the more mature a Christian becomes, a Christian should become more of a self-feeder .... We're going to up the level of responsibility we put on people themselves so that they can grow even if the church doesn't meet all their needs." -- Cited in Chuck Swindoll, The Church Awakening, p. 91. 

And the Queen of the Sciences Is ...?

Did you know that, although I have a doctorate, it isn't a Ph.D.? More on that later. 

You're probably familiar with the expression "Queen of ...." It means something like "Best of the Best." For example, the Boeing 747 was known as the "Queen of the Skies." 

It is now out of passenger service, much to my regret. I've flown this bird many times. My first trip was in 1971 when I took off from Honolulu Airport to begin my studies at Biola. In those days, the rear of the cabin had a lounge where you could grab a soft drink and chat with your fellow passengers. The airlines later wised up and replaced the lounge with income-producing seats. The 747 was created when Boeing was run by engineers who actually cared about building great airplanes. There's something about boarding a 747 that I've never felt with any other aircraft. A former student of mine is a pilot for United and tells me that the 747 was magical to fly. The 747 will forever be iconic in my mind. It's called the "queen" for good reason. 

But the main point of this post is not to talk about airplanes. Let's segue to the topic of education. If I were to ask you, "What field of science is known as the 'Queen of the Sciences,'" what would you say? Astrophysics? Microbiology. Hydrology? Well, where I studied in Europe, theology was known as the "Queen of the Sciences." One look at Basel's 1980 catalog proved this. Even though the Department of Theology was the smallest department in the university, theology was listed first. Its professors were some of the best paid in the university. Names like Bo Reicke, Markus Barth, Jan Milich Lochman, Ernst Jenni, and Martin Anton Schmidt were  recognized as leaders in the field. 

This concept of theology as a "science" (Wissenschaft) was a holdover from the Middle Ages, when the Bible was seen as the source of all truth. Theology was the "Queen of the Sciences" in the sense that it was the standard by which all other scholarship was to abide. Of course, in Europe this is no longer the case. But that doesn't change the reality that God's word is the ultimate source of truth that informs all other areas of knowledge, or at least it should. 

In my Bible reading this morning from 1 Corinthians, I was reminded that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. God uses man's own wisdom to trap him, and he stumbles over his own "wisdom." The Lord knows full well how the human mind reasons apart from divine revelation, and how foolish and futile it is. As Paul writes, "Our words are wise because they are from God, telling of God's wise plan to bring us into the glories of heaven. This plan was hidden in former times, though it was made for our benefit before the world began. But the great men of the world have not understood it; if they had, they never would have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 2:7-8).

In his book Hot Tub Religion, J. I. Packer reminds us that are all Christians are theologians in the sense they we all "think and speak about God." 

The book is vintage Jim Packer. He asks, "Do we think and speak truly about God, and do we live according to the principles of God's word?" For people who call Jesus Lord, nothing less is to be expected. 

When I applied to study for my doctorate in Basel, I had no idea whether my degree was the Ph.D. or the D. Theol. ("Doctor of Theology"). That is was the latter came as a pleasant surprise. After all, I know next to nothing about philosophy. But I am a lifelong student of theology. That our modern universities are so far from these conclusions grieves me no end. How far we have fallen. Secular culturists despise our theology as "unscientific." Yet they are wrong. Theology is the one essential field of knowledge. How could it possibly not be since the Bible is the very word of God?