Monday, January 31, 2022

"Signs of the Times"

At school tonight teaching on the present and future tenses in Greek. I am SO excited! I saw they put some new tabs on our office doors while I was away. 

There are two others that say "In a Meeting" and "Out of Office." 

I think they left one out.

I have NEVER been too busy for my students. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen: A Lesson for Us All

Patrick Mahomes' post-game presser:

Obviously he [Josh Allen] played his tail off. He really did. Every single series he was battling, he was running, he was throwing and doing everything he needed to do in order to win the game. I've been on that side. I've lost that overtime game, and not having the chance to get the ball, I know exactly how it feels.

Josh Allen's post-game presser:

I have a lot of respect for Pat. He throws the game-winning TD, and he comes straight over to find me. To be in that situation and to do that, that was pretty cool of him to do.

As soon as the game ended, Patrick Mahomes said this to Josh Allen when he met him on the field:

We're gonna do this a lot, man.

Great quarterbacks? Yes. But even better men. 

The real trophy in any athletic competition is the soul. You win the big game and receive the best prize of all -- becoming a person you can be proud of. This trophy is beyond any trophy. Football is only a means to that end. This striving for personal excellence the Greeks called aretē

The goal is always to achieve your personal best. Not to be the best in the league or the best on the team. But the best you.

Last Sunday, both Josh Allen (the so-called "loser") and Patrick Mahomes (the so-called "winner") took another step toward the lifelong task of becoming an athlete -- and achieving aretē.

A lesson for us all. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Bring on the Long Run!

For a marathoner, nothing is more important than endurance. That's why we do long runs, as I did today on the treadmill (still too cold to run outdoors). 

To do a long run every 7-10 days, you have to be persistent, organized, disciplined, goal-oriented, and committed. I want to remind everybody that I am a back-of-the-packer marathoner. But that doesn't mean I don't have dreams. Nothing is impossible, but everything takes time. That's why I run by the minute/hour, not by the distance. 

Speed is the wrong priority for novice runners like me. Speed will only increase your chance of injury and -- worse -- burnout. A minute has no pace. You just run/walk. And you do it for pleasure, not for pain. 

To get healthier and maybe even faster, you have to do a lot of your runs at a slow pace. Before my first marathon of 2022, I will work up to a 4 hour long run. The idea is to get used to the stress of having to lift your feet up and down nearly 8,000 times per hour. 

Psalm 84:5-7 says: 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca (Weeping), they make it a place of springs. They go from strength to strength.

Is the life of faith really different from the life of the marathoner? It's the same stuff everyone endures in one way or another. God does not whisk us at once to glory. We go on living in a hurting and fractured world. Yet we come to understand that even suffering is a gift because of the transforming power of Christ. The very time when we feel so weak is an opportunity for us to put our faith in him. We press on because our perseverance is really his, and it is in his strength that we live and move and have our being. 

Bring on the long run! 

Relief from Law-Keeping (Matt. 11:28-30)

I want you to be encouraged as we continue with our journey of faith, especially in light of new forms of legalism arising. This was my Bible passage this morning. It's a very well-known text:

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will rest you. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is kind, and my burden is light. 

The literary device used here is called a chiasmus, where you have A and B, then B' and A'. 

Maybe I can try and reproduce this in the following manner:


A. pePHORTismena



A'. PHORTion






Notice that when we come to Jesus, life doesn't become burdenless. No, he simply replaces his burden for ours. The burden we bring to him is explicitly identified for us in Matt. 23:4. It is the burden imposed by legalists who seek to oppress others with their rules and regulations, obedience to which "earns" us salvation. Christ urges people weary and burdened like this to come "to him" -- that is, to rely totally upon him, leaving our entire salvation in his hands. When we do this, the result is both rest and relief from law-keeping as a means of earning our salvation. A new burden replaces the old burden. Yes, it involves obedience, but an obedience that comes out of gratitude for the complete work of salvation Christ has accomplished through his cross and imparted to us by faith alone. 

I recently heard someone say that the gospel is not enough. We need, he said, the "full" gospel, whatever that means. That is nonsense. There is only one gospel, only one message of salvation. Sadly, it seems that nowadays the gospel fares much better against outright opposition than against frivolous legalism. Better a world that fights the gospel than a church that trifles with it. I have never preached a "full" gospel and I never will. We do not have to bow to the world to win it. 

Beware of those who would have the church conform to the age and be squeezed into its mold. Beware of any deals to get the kingdoms of this world by a shortcut. The only way is by the cross, and we travel it together with our Lord. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Beginning Greek Students Make

When I first started running, I made every mistake in the book -- no warmup, poor form, old shoes, unhealthy eating habits, going out too fast, running when fatigued, forgetting hydration, etc. I wish that someone had warned me ahead of time that I would face these challenges. Now that a new semester has begun, I want to talk with you about what I consider to be the 5 biggest mistakes beginning students of Greek make. 

1. Thinking that all Greek classes are the same. They most definitely are not. Before taking a class, be sure to get a copy of the professor's syllabus. What textbook are they using? What is their approach to classroom teaching? Is the professor accessible outside of class? Is the class a good match for your personal learning style? Should you do an online class? Or do you need an in-person class? I often find that students end up signing up for a class based simply on convenience. Then they find out, often too late, that they made a major mistake. As always. "Know thyself!" Know what your options are, and then make an intelligent choice.

2. Comparing yourself with other students. All Greek students do not have the same language aptitude. We all are different. For some of us, language learning comes easily. For others, a lot more work is involved. Do not, under any circumstance, compare yourself with any other student. Go at your own pace. That might mean 1 hour of study outside of class per week, or it might mean 4 hours per week. I, for one, have never had an aptitude for language acquisition. I've had to work hard to master the language I'm learning. I wish it could come easier but it doesn't matter, because I'm happy in my own skin .

3. Over-studying. By this I mean thinking that you have to acquire every book ever written on Greek to be successful. I once knew someone who was teaching himself German. He bought practically every beginning grammar out there on the market. He was under the mistaken impression that the more grammars he had, the quicker his learning would go. That person was me. Don't make that mistake. Yes, over at my Greek Portal you will find dozens of helps that supplement my beginning grammar, including flashcards, quizlets, YouTubers who teach from my textbook, and worksheets. There is even a workbook you can buy that was written by the faculty of Liberty University, where my textbook is used. However, the only book you need to learn Greek is my beginning grammar. It's a complete package that includes exercises and an answer key. 

4. Not being fully committed to the process. I liken studying Greek to running a marathon. In fact, my textbook has 26 chapters, just like a marathon has 26 miles. To reach the finish line will take all the dedication and perseverance you can muster. The key is to "run the mile you're in." For students in my classes, that means about one lesson per week -- a completely manageable pace. In Colorado, there's an ultra race called the Leadville 100. You run 100 miles in 30 hours or less. Before the race starts, the runners are asked to repeat these words: "I will commit. I will not quit!" The race is tough, tiring, tedious, and often painful. The payoff comes from reaching the finish line.

5. Forgetting to pray. Prayer is the underpinning security that holds us fast when the ground beneath our feet begins to fall out. It is saying, "Jesus, without you I can't do this. Please help me." Perseverance is not something we muster up on our own. It is a gift from God. Ask God to prepare you for the race ahead. Then follow your Pacesetter, Jesus, all the way to the end. 

Fool's Gold

"Whatever reportedly works in one church is being franchised out to various 'markets' abroad. As when gold was discovered in the foothills of California, so ministers are beating a path to the doorsteps of exploding churches and super-hyped conferences where the latest 'strike' has been reported. Unfortunately, the newly panned gold often turns out to be 'fool's gold.' Not all that glitters is actually gold."

Pastor Steven Lawson, BibSac 158, pp. 198-99. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

A Prayer for My Greek Students

Over the years I've strived to do one thing in my teaching of and writing about Greek: to make it as simple as possible without sacrificing content and without giving the impression that language study is easy. Kierkegaard once said that, given that everything was becoming easier and easier and easier, and that people would eventually cry out for difficulty, his role in life was to strive to do nothing other than to make life more difficult for everyone. How does one get strength? By doing something difficult over and over again until it's no longer difficult. When you can't change a situation, change yourself. 

As I look back on the heartaches in my life -- the loss of my father at the age of three, the loss of my wife when she was only 60, my struggle to become a student when I went off to college -- I realize that whatever happens to me actually plays a less significant role than what God can do with it or how I will respond to it. The supreme challenge to anyone facing the darkness of loss or the challenge of conquering new mountains is learning to live with gratitude on the one hand and learning to face the losses and challenges of life head on and so to be enlarged by them. Insufferable hurdles can diminish us, but they can also expand us. 

My hope and prayer for my students is that, through the rigor of studying an ancient language, they would not only be expanded in terms of their self-discipline and time-management skills, but would learn to view the challenges of life as catalysts to transform them from the inside out. It all depends on the choices we make and the strength we receive from the One who alone has the power to give us life. 

Dear student of mine, this semester may your prayer be, and may my prayer be, the words of a great old hymn, now utterly forgotten:

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word, I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all. 

Is This the Final Schedule?

I had to use the Y for today's 1-hour run. Yes, the sun was shining brightly, but there was no warmth in it. We're expecting yet another! snow event tomorrow, so a cold front is definitely on the horizon. Anyways, it was a great workout, thank you, Lord. 

Earlier today, I sat down with my day planner to finalize my race schedule for 2022. No, I haven't actually registered for every one of these races yet, but I do enjoy having them on the calendar. I remember how I used to surprise Becky by taking her out for her birthday. But I quickly learned that she preferred knowing about it a few weeks ahead of time. "Half the fun is the anticipation," she would say. I'm the same way. By scheduling my races ahead of time, I'm able to eagerly look forward to them. Do we type A personalities always have a perfect plan? Of course not. But I work better when I have a plan in place, even if it's a temporary one. I always do better with structure

Here's what's on my calendar:

  • February 19 = 6.5 mile race in Cary.
  • March 26 = Run on the Runway 10K in Greensboro.
  • April 9 = Petersburg Half Marathon.
  • May 1: Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy.
  • June 5 = Rex Wellness Triathlon in Knightdale.
  • June 25: Night Train Ultramarathon in Farmville (31 miles). 
  • July 10 = Rex Wellness Triathlon in Garner.
  • August 21 = Luray Triathlon.
  • September = ????
  • October 1 = St George Marathon (Utah).
  • November = ????
  • December = Honolulu Marathon.

I'd like to say I will be doing all of these races. But if I miss one or two, no biggie. After all, it's not like I'm training for the Olympics or anything. 

By the way, I've already done each of these races at least once, some more than once (if I do get to the Flying Pig this year, it will be a four-peater). The only new race is a marathon in the sweltering humidity of Honolulu. I guess if you have to do 26.2 mile race in Hawaii, the best time of the year to do it is in December (with a 4:00 am start to boot). 

Oh, sorry for repeating myself, but I turn 70 on June 9. The reason that's significant is because on my birthday I get to move into a new age group when racing. I'll never forget turning 55 and being able to order off the senior menu for the first time. Say what? 55 ain't old. Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to finally coming in first place in my age group, even if I'm the only runner.  

Dave then. 

Dave now. I wouldn't be caught dead in a tie today. 

THE Definition of Passion

Sometimes I get as passionate about a Greek participle.😏

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

We All Need Mentors

The most famous organist you've never heard of is probably Dieterich Buxtehude. He was the organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck. 

You've never heard of him because his career was eclipsed by his more famous student, Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach once traveled 200 miles by foot to hear Buxtehude play. Later, he studied with him from 1705-1706. Bach wanted to succeed Buxtehude as church organist in Lübeck but didn't want to marry his daughter, which was a condition for the position! 

This morning, while lifting, I listened to this YT of some of Buxtehude's more well-known works. 

The titles include (in English translation):

  • O, My God and My Lord!
  • Christ, our Lord, to the Jordan Came.
  • Preserve us, Lord, through Your Word. 
  • Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
  • Come to Me, Says God's Son.
  • O Man, Do You Want to Live a Blessed Life?
  • Now Come, O Savior of the Nations!
  • Praise the Lord, O My Soul!
  • We Praise You, O God!
  • Was Not God with Us This Time?
  • We Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ. 

What an influence Buxtehude had on his pupil, whose compositions are no less Christ-centered. When I played the trumpet on the Eurocorps brass octet in 1978, we traveled throughout Germany playing evangelistic concerts. Here's how we would introduce a piece composed by J. S. Bach: "Er was nicht nur ein grosser Komponist, sondern auch ein überzeugter Christ" ("He wasn't only a great composer, but also a Christian by conviction"). 

Friends, it's the honest truth when I say that every book I've written, every sermon I've preached, every class I've taught, anything in my life that is worthy of emulation have all been a direct result of people who poured themselves into my life, just as Dieterich Buxtehude poured himself into the life of Bach. Make no mistake, we all need people like that in our lives. We all need another's encouragement, prodding, wisdom, example, insistence on excellence, and accountability -- someone who loves us enough to point out our blind spots. Maybe I've been that kind of a person in your life. I hope so. Nothing would please me more than to see my students far outshine any of my accomplishments.  

We all have hard work ahead of us in the body of Christ. And that includes mentoring -- being mentored, and mentoring others

An Empty Y

This never happens.

Unless you begin your workout at 6:30 am. I think I've found my new sweet spot. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

No Longer Playing for a Tie

Well, it's been several months now that I began to cook at home to complement my workouts. I feel so good about it. I'm no longer playing for a tie when it comes to exercise. So many people burn calories by spending an hour on the treadmill or the bike machine and then proceed to erase all the benefits by not watching what food they put in their mouths the rest of the day. Most forms of cardio burn about 500 calories in a given workout. For example, during my 1-hour run today, my Garmin tells me I burned 472 calories. All of this can be undone merely by having two slices of pepperoni pizza, which underscores a basic law of exercise: you can never outrun a bad diet. 

The only form of fat loss that is sustainable over the long haul is one that includes -- not dieting -- but good nutrition. Resorting to the latest diet fad won't cut it. You have to develop a completely new mindset when it comes to your nutrition. I am slowly learning from my mistakes in the past and realizing that what made me not follow through was the fact that I was never truly committed to eating healthy. The problem is that neither cardio nor weight lifting is effective if you don't get your nutrition in check as well. Workout consistency as well as consistency in healthy eating is crucial for seeing long-term results. The fact is that cardio doesn't really burn all that many calories and that a day full of bad eating can quickly eclipse what you lost in your training. 

For what it's worth, here's what I ate today. 

  • Breakfast: Eggs and sausage. 
  • Lunch: Tuna sandwich and avocado.
  • Supper: Pork ribs with rice. 
  • Snacks: 2 protein drinks.

Is this easy? Not at all. For me, good nutrition is the harder part of the process since the discipline required to get my nutrition right requires much more diligence throughout the day than getting my workouts in. Working out is the easy part. Passing up a fast food joint on the drive home is the hard part. 

The bottom line is that Americans are not overweight -- we are overfat. If you are looking to lose body fat while adding body muscle, then you've got to have an approach that balances activity with good nutrition. I'm not talking about a "diet" to help you fit into your pants. I'm referring to a completely new way of looking at your nutrition. This will involve some pretty big dietary changes, attitude adjustments, and balance. 

"Who Listens to the Organ"?

I was watching a sermon the other day and the pastor was talking about music styles -- how they have changed, and how the church must adapt to the times. This is not the first time I've heard this. "The organ. Who listens to the organ?" he asked. 

Without wanting to sound disrespectful, let me say unashamedly that I, for one, listen to the organ. Church organ music has been my companion through some of the darkest moments of my life. So you will forgive me for thinking that organ music is far too beneficial for our Christian heritage to lose. Hans Zimmer, who scored the music for movies like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Thelma & Louise, Mission Impossible II, Pearl Harbor, and Interstellar, once said that he chose the pipe organ for Interstellar because it relies so much on air to produce its sounds, which, of course, is something integral to human survival. He also said that at the time of its creation the organ was one of humanity's most advanced machines. That's why the organ worked so well in Interstellar. There is a kind of parallel with looking up at the stars. The score of Interstellar will probably go down in history as one of the most important film scores of all time because it so beautifully conveys the emptiness yet majesty of space. I once heard live and in person a famous organist give a concert including Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and I was just about melted to my chair. Remember: Bach composed all of his pieces "SDG": soli Deo gloria --  Glory to God Alone. 

So yes, I listen to the organ. It is a majestic instrument. When its sound is amplified in a great venue (such as a cathedral) I can't fail to be moved to cry out in worship to God. Yes, older Christians can sometimes confuse tradition for inspiration. "Only the old hymns of the faith should be sung in church." I disagree completely. Where is that in the Bible? There are neither praise bands nor pipe organs in the book of Acts. But saying that cultural relevance requires ONLY modern styles of worship music is nothing less than its own subtle form of traditionalism. Please don't go there. Somehow we have to find a way to deal with church music (1) without allowing our Christian worship to be completely contextualized by the culture itself, and (2) while at the same time functioning within the culture

Running Outdoors Again

Let's face it. While there are some people who prefer to run on the treadmill every day, there are others who just have to do as much of their running outdoors. In my opinion, running outside has many advantages, including fresh air, privacy, and the enjoyment of being in nature -- or, as in my case today, running at the local high school parking lot, which I used for today's 1-hour run along with the adjacent track. 

Once again, I'm trying to balance a three-days-per-week weight training session with a three-days-per-week cardio session. I do love this new routine. Yesterday I had a full upper body workout at the Y, which I hope to repeat tomorrow and then again on Friday. 

Last night our Greek class got off to a great start. It's going to be a fantastic semester. However, one of the things I'm really praying for is that my students will always see the big picture and remember that studying isn't everything. If you overemphasize its importance, then you begin to lose your balance in life and place your academic life above your family life. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but there is NOTHING better than having equilibrium in life and not moving too far on either end of the pendulum. For me, running is amazing, as it lifting, but my life is so much more than athletics and I always want to keep it that way. A happy and contented life is made up of enjoying ALL of the opportunities God gives you. 

On Thursday I'm hoping that the snow has melted enough for me to return to the trails. Sure, you can always do your outdoors running on a track or a school parking lot, but for me there is nothing like being able to admire the sights and sounds of nature, feeling the warm glow of the sun filling your body, and being amazed at the random thoughts that fill your mind when you're running all by yourself. I've never been bored while running on trails. Every single run brings me joy in one form or another even if it's not always easy. 

Can you tell I'm happy to be running outdoors again??!!!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Ah, Grammar

 Ah, grammar. What would we do without it? How, for example, would we be able to discuss intelligently Heb. 1:8? Should the text read, "Your throne is God forever and ever"? Or, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever"? 

Here the question is: What case is "God" (theos) in? 

Most take it as being in the nominative case, which here is being used as a vocative. Say what? Never heard of "nominative" or "vocative" in my life! 

Then, too, the passage is a quote from the Old Testament. It's from Psalm 45:6-7 in the LXX. There the words were originally addressed to God. But now God is the one speaking and he is addressing his Son as "God." But how can the Son of God be God? Isn't God one? (Enter the doctrine of the Trinity.) 

By the way, this isn't the only place in the New Testament where Jesus is called "God." Other passages include Rom. 9:5, Tit. 2:13, John 20:28, 1 John 5:20, 2 Pet. 1:1, and the passage we'll be looking at tonight in Greek class -- John 1:1. 

This is the meat of biblical interpretation. 

No one can deny the importance of grammar. God doesn't want us to merely scratch the surface of his Word. He longs for us to dig deep, yes even in the midst of our busy lives. Like many of us, the readers of Hebrews had been Christians for many years. Little wonder Paul is exasperated with them. "By this time you should be far enough along in your Christian walk to be able help others grasp what God is saying in the Scriptures, but the truth is that you're still in kindergarten!"

For some of my beginning Greek students, tonight will be the first time they have ever really studied language or grammar, even things like the nominative and vocative cases. My prayer is that they would be challenged to think deeply about God's word, perhaps more deeply than ever before, and begin to make grammatical study a regular part of their lives. Oh, the difference that can make! 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

"This Is Complete Lunacy!"

You're right, Al Michaels. Yet even madmen have moments of sanity. 

As I sat there and watched the finish of the game, I thought to myself, This is how the game of life is to be played. The important thing is to compete until the end. Doing one's absolute best is what matters.

Congrats to both the Rams and the Bucs. I forgive you for almost giving me a heart attack. 

When LA meets San Francisco next week, it will be like the good old days when I lived in SoCal and enjoyed the rivalry between "my" Rams and our archrivals the Forty-Niners. Should be a great game.

A Note on the Text of Mark 1:41

You guys know I have some pretty strong views about textual criticism. After all, I've written the DEFINITIVE 79-page book on the subject. (Oh my.) 

Note this:

This means that there are more important textual variants in Mark's Gospel relative to total verses than any of the other Gospels. But obviously they are not all viable. 

A -- or maybe even the -- classic example? Mark 1:41. Here we are presented with two options. Either Jesus was "moved with compassion" when he healed the leper, or he was "moved with anger." In my opinion, there is no possible way the reading "moved with anger" can be original when you take the external evidence into account. The reading "moved with compassion" is contained in ALL of the majuscules (save one), ALL of the minuscules, ALL of the lectionaries, and ALL of the versions (except for 4 Old Latin witnesses). I think it's worth mentioning that I'm not the first to point this out. See this essay for a defense of "moved with compassion" on both external and internal grounds. 

As you know, in the book I'm writing on New Testament interpretation, I have an entire chapter on textual criticism. You can't avoid this topic. I'm also really excited about a classic work on the subject that is about to be reprinted. I can't share the details yet, but look for an announcement very soon. Again, this isn't a subject just for experts. It affects all Christ's followers who want to live by God's word. So we must resist quick assumptions and settle into a long-term approach, which means leaning into the ABCs of the subject. It just makes sense. 

Ronald Reagan on Exercising

Ever heard of Ronald Reagan? He was a Hollywood star who became a U.S. president. He was also a fitness nut. Reagan said there were two keys to exercising:

1. Find something you enjoy.

2. Keep the exercises varied. 

Jesus may be the same yesterday, today, and forever, but sameness will always spoil your workouts. Among other things, Reagan used to ride horses. I don't know if you realize it, but so did I. Here's Reagan enjoying a canter on his Thoroughbred. 

Here's me on mine. 

Furthermore, Reagan's gym in the White House had a treadmill, an exercise bike, and a machine to work his arms and legs. Each day he exercised for about 30 minutes, always alternating his routine. 

The point is simple: Do whatever works for you, but make it fun, and keep it varied. Eat when you're hungry. Drink (water) when you're thirsty. Pick your activity (or activities) and do it (or them) 3 or 4 times a week. And please, don't forget to exercise your brain. When I lived in California and took the daily LA Times, I used to do their crossword puzzles. Nowadays I read, study, and write at least 2 hours a day. My home is a gymnasium for the mind. 

I turn 70 this June. I once read that the health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) for Americans is only 70 years, which doesn't even make the global top twenty. The HALE, by the way, refers to the length, not of one's life, but of one's healthy, active life, in contrast to the total number of years we spend on this earth. 

If you don't want to take it from me, take it from Ronald Reagan. Find something you enjoy, and keep the exercises varied. 

Good health to you all!

On Serving God

Continuing in my study of 1 Thessalonians 1 ....

In verse 9, Paul says that the Thessalonian believers had "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." Here's the literal: "you turned to THE God from THE idols to serve a God living and true." Do you think Paul's use of "the" might be significant? If it is, then maybe the idea is, "You turned to the (only) God from the idols (you used to worship and serve) to serve a God who is alive and real." The only other thing that's befuddling me is Paul's use of douleuō ("serve as a slave") instead of the more usual word for "serve" -- diakoneō. Henricksen's probably correct when he says that he does "not favor the translation to be slaves of. Although that rendering does bring out the idea of complete submission, it clashes with the voluntary and joyful character that is rendered to God." 

What I find is that I am infinitely happier when I go about my day with an attitude of joy and gratitude. I am more content in my roles as a father and grandfather and teacher and friend and runner when I accept  where I am in life and the opportunities God gives me to serve him. I love what Hendricken says about the voluntary and joyful character of our service to God. If the past few years have taught me anything, it's that less can really be more. Loss can become a means of bringing into focus the things in life that really matter. That's how Jesus lived. Jesus could invite others to leave all behind and follow him and know him closer than family because that's exactly what he had done. He knew no greater joy than that of serving others. May we all follow him closely like that. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Oh Yeah

The Successful Life

It was 13 degrees when I left the farm this morning. 

The car "automatically" drove to the Y. 

Today on the treadmill, I did 15 minutes of walking (warmup), 30 minutes of running, and 15 minutes of walking (cool down). 

I believe that the human is hardwired to push to one's limits. For 45 years as an academic I was pushed to the limits intellectually and professionally. After Becky died I was pushed to the limits emotionally and spiritually. I guess the one area of my life that hasn't been pushed to the limits yet is my physical body. The longer I do this, the more I want to explore the reasons behind it. Why is a question we all have to answer for ourselves. 

Right now I'm training for a 31 mile trail run. But why? Why do I do this? When it's my time, is the goal to leave behind a body that was never tested, or do I really want to use it? 

I am so blessed to have the health and the capacity to enjoy being active. But I want to take it to the next level. I am slowly learning how to eat, how to cook my own food, what I need to be able to push further and further so I can keep extending my limits. I am thankful for the body God has given me and how extraordinary it is (not just mine but yours too). I love to exercise and I just can't quit. I know that after I work out I have more energy for the rest of the day. The relinquishing of time for exercising actually creates more time. I am learning how to pace myself. I am learning what kinds of foods are good for me and keep me healthy and free of colds and flus. 

My career has taken me all over the world, but today I enjoy nothing more than a run outdoors in my own backyard, marveling at the satisfaction I get from knowing that the foods I am eating are actually the foods my body wants. My body craves a healthy diet. Is also craves movement. I remember the first time I ran one mile without stopping. It was maybe 7 years ago and I was vacationing in Hawaii. I ran down N. Kalaheo Ave for one mile without stopping to rest. What I once thought was impossible changed my life forever. I will never doubt myself again. If you believe you can run a mile, you can. If you don't believe, you won't. 

I am not afraid of my upcoming ultra. In fact, I am not training to run a 31-mile trail run at all. I am training to learn how to enjoy a 31-mile outdoor festival put on by the Creator himself, one mile at a time. 

I find it funny how the talk these days is  -- will Tom Brady retire this year if he loses a playoff game? Or Aaron Rodgers. I say "funny" because what we accomplish in life does not define us. It's not who we are. Sure, it's nice when people are impressed with what you've done. But we do not depend on the praise of others to confer value on our lives. Accolades are merely ornaments on the tree. The real you is the person who wakes up every morning to live a life you love. 

Be consistent to your commitment to your goals and live every day for eternity with all the strength you are given from above. At the same time, don't ever be afraid to do something audacious. Tonight I am cooking pork ribs for supper in the crock pot. I have no idea what I'm doing but it's so much fun. It's only been in the last 100 years or so that toiling in the fields and preparing one's own meals from what was at hand has not been the norm. With the decrease in daily outdoor activity, our lives have become oh-so very comfort-prone. The body, however, is always telling us to move. 

The key is to be completely relaxed and happy as you exercise. It may sound like a ridiculous claim, but I exercise with a nearly-magical sense of well-being. Being active can be energizing, fun, and comfortable for nearly anyone, at any age. Even low levels of exercise can improve our health. Simply move, and you will improve. 

Running an ultra doesn't have to be your journey. But isn't it time you took a baby step outside of what's comfortable? 

How we spend the rest of our days is completely up to us. It is not achievement per se but the unremitting effort to achieve that marks the successful life. 

The Baton Is in Your Hands

I began my teaching career when I was barely old enough to spell G-R-E-E-K. I had just graduated from college and was beginning seminary. I shudder to think about how clueless I was at the time about all things pedagogical. 

During my first semester of teaching, I took two classes at Biola in the Christian Education Department: College Teaching Procedures, and Tests and Measurements. If my teaching skills remained in their infancy, it sure wasn't going to be because I hadn't tried to improve them. And now, many years later, I ask myself: "What kind of an example have I been to my students? And how can I know if I've been successful?" 

This morning I began a deep dive into Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. I've been in 1:1-10. 

Paul tells the Thessalonians: Remember where God found you. Remember his faithfulness to you. Let's get properly centered on the one who is called Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11). But notice too: They had first become imitators of Paul, then of the Lord (1:6). When Paul says in 1 Cor. 4:16, "You must become imitators of me," he adds, "just as I became an imitator of Christ." This is always the biblical (and logical order): We imitate others in their own imitation of Christ. It is saying, "Dave, have you been a good role model for your students? Because Christian education is always likeness education." 

Think about Jesus. Heb. 5:8 says that he "learned obedience." To learn (manthanō) means to practice something. To say that Jesus learned obedience is another way of saying that he practiced obedience. To say that my students "learned" Greek, then, means much more than they learned facts about Greek. Those who learned should be able to use, apply, perhaps even teach. To those who failed to practice what they had studied, Seneca warned, "How long will you be a learner? From now on be a teacher as well!" (Ep. 33:8-9). Presumably, those who have had the good fortune to learn Greek have much to apply both in their own lives and by teaching others. 

With privilege always comes responsibility. We shouldn't try to capitalize on one while neglecting the other. When you graduate, the question won't be: "What did you learn?" It will be, "How did you leverage what you learned for the kingdom?"

This is the true power of teaching. A good teacher can absolutely alter the trajectory of an entire life. Harry Sturz, my Greek teacher at Biola, did that for me. He saw in this kid from Kailua Beach a classroom teacher. Then he said, "The baton is now in your hands." 

I likewise say to my students after 45 years of Greek instruction: The baton is now in your hands. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Today's Workout

1,325 Cals burned during today's workout. 

It was a doozy, partly because of these EZ curls -- one of my favorite exercises. 

I got in all the training I wanted. Only an hour run left for tomorrow. Then we start all over again on Monday. One of my mottos is, "Work hard so you can play hard." I work hard so I can lay around all afternoon and read. 

BYW, only 14 weeks to go until the Flying Pig Marathon. Did you hear that? 14 weeks! I think it's about time I began carb loading, don't you? I think I'll start with these.

Hopefully you realize that was a joke. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Farm Vignette

Time to feed the goaties. There's something satisfying about using hay grown on your own farm.

Stored in barns built by your own hands.  

"Come and get it, girls -- lunch is served!"

Ain't they sweeeeeeet? 

Day 4 of My Workout Week

Day 4 of my 6-day workout is done! I did an hour run at the Y on the treadmill. Tomorrow, if it doesn't snow too much tonight, my goal is to get in my third and final weight training session of this cycle. I plan to run again on Saturday and then rest on Sunday. One thing I don't get is why there are so many RBs in gyms these days (RB = Rule Breakers). Who cares about this cell phone rule? 

Well, I do. The guy two machines to my right was on his phone practically the whole time I was running. Can't we all just have some awareness of common courtesy as we travel through this life? When he was done, he broke another rule of the gym -- you are supposed to wipe down your equipment both before and after your workout. Ok, maybe I'm being too hard on the guy. I've had my own clueless moments in the gym. I think everyone is a little more rude these days than normal, more stressed out, more cold, etc. What I do love about where I live is the way people open doors for others rather than go barreling through the door and not waiting 3 seconds to hold the door open to greet someone who is entering the building. 

P.S. I've been listening to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor while working out. This is by far my favorite version of this amazing composition. Unlike most performers, this young organist doesn't play it too fast. And just wait till you hear the reverberation throughout the cathedral. Speakers up!

First Race of 2022

News Alert: 

I just registered for my first race of 2022. The date is Feb. 19, and the venue is the Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, NC. You can sign up for either the 5K run or the 6.5 mile run. I think I'll take a whack at the 6.5-Miler. The event is a fundraiser for a group called Soles4Souls, which donates shoes to children in developing countries. I like the Wake Med course. It's mostly grass and natural trails. Should be a fun event. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Our Local "Starbucks"

Meet our local "Amish Starbucks." 

It's real name is the Windmill Farm Bake Shop. It's the perfect place to grab a cuppa and work on your next blog post before heading out to the Y. It's also filled with luscious temptations. 

Resist, Dave! 

The young lady who works the counter and I speak German with each other. Actually, she speaks what she calls "Dutch." I don't know how we do it, but somehow we can understand each other. It's pretty crazy to think that the Amish are moving to southern Virginia in droves. I think they feel Lancaster County has become a bit too commercialized. Plus, who can afford to buy a farm up there? Down here the farms are much more affordable. 

If you're ever in town, be sure to check out the Bake Shop (and practice your German). 

Are You a "Real" Greek Scholar?

Greek class starts up again on Monday night. Please remember that things can be made simple but never easy. This is true of Latin verbs, American politics, and life itself. Learning Greek cannot be made easy but it can be made simple. Think quality, not quantity.

Should you accept my reasoning and care to put this theory into practice, there are two caveats:

1. You must not study every day. French farmers have a saying: "There is a time when the land must sleep." Whenever you feel run down, when you have lost your enthusiasm, when you have poor concentration, rest. The goal is to reset homeostasis -- to return your mental system to equilibrium.

2. You must never -- and I mean never -- compare yourself to anyone else. We are not all created equal when it comes to ability. I run a race and 3/4ths of the field beats me. I read a book on philosophy and I can't understand its logic. I speak Spanish and I realize how inadequate my attempt is. Like you, I am surrounded by people who are smarter, more gifted, more capable, than I am. That's totally irrelevant. What matters is my performance, not theirs. It matters little that I will never win a race. What matters is that I ran it with all my strength. Winning is being able to say, "I gave it 100 percent. I wanted to quit, but I didn't."

I often suffer from what's called "imposter syndrome." The truth is, I don't always feel like I'm a "real" runner. (Yes, despite 33 half marathons, 18 full marathons, and 2 ultramarathons.) Of course, I apply that logic only to myself. I think everyone else out there is a "real" runner.

If you are in my Greek class this semester, a very warm welcome. You are a Greek scholar (= student). Accept that fact, rejoice in it, and give God the glory. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Der, Die, Das

When you learn German, you discover that German nouns have gender, number, and case. So the word for "the" that you use with a noun has to agree with it in those three things. You just gotta know what German word for "the" to use. 

Der Tisch = The table.

Die Tasse = The cup.

Das Buch = The book. 

Now there's a website that's tailor-made to help you. 

Try it. 

You'll like it.

Well Done, Keira!

I almost forget to congratulate Keira D'Amato who broke Deena Kastor's American marathon record in Houston over the weekend. 

What an amazing feat. I loved watching her being greeted by her kids at the finish line. I ran the 2019 Chicago Marathon when Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered the then world record. The philosophy of the spirit of running is the philosophy of excellence -- achieving your personal best with the gifts God has given you. The road to that end is indeed a difficult one. But oh, is it worthwhile. As George Sheehan once said, "Taking a well-trained body through a grueling 26.2 mile race does immeasurably more for the self-concept and self-esteem than years with the best psychiatrist."

Well done, Keira! 

Where's the Beef?

For someone who has raised Angus, I actually don't eat very much red meat. But with my daily workouts being as they are, I felt I needed to get back on track with this excellent source of protein and fat. I'll let you in on a little local secret. There's a store in town called Supply Line. It's an old mom and pop grocery store with the absolute best beef cuts in the region. Here's what I bought today -- a sirloin steak, a T-bone steak, and beef stir-fry. And I spent just over $14.00 for the whole lot. 

I threw some potatoes in the oven for 20 minutes and then fired up the grill. This was the result (I added a few beets). 

The steak was broke-da-mouth delicious -- and filling. I left half of the taters for tomorrow's breakfast. This is my nice way of saying I pigged out tonight. I wish I still had a dog to give the bone to. 

Running the Bolder Boulder 10K Today

Today my body was on a treadmill in southern Virginia.

But my mind was 1,665 miles away in Colorado running the famous Bolder Boulder 10K virtually. (Here's the one hour YouTube in case you'd like it run it yourself.) 

This race boasts 50,000 runners annually. I was glad to be part of it today, if only in my mind.

An hour later it was over and I packed up and drove home. 

Maybe you've noticed that I've begun running by minutes, not miles. Why push it? My body enjoys running for an hour. After that, running becomes work. My goal is to run at least 3 hours a week. Maybe 4 or even 5, depending on how I'm feeling. I'll use my weekend races as my high-intensity training. Most of all, I'll pay attention to my heart rate. Today I ran at an average heart rate of 108 bpm. That's exactly where I want it to be. Running today was almost effortless. All preparation for my next race, when I'll kick it up a gear or two. 

Now it's time for my daily one-hour nap. Yes, I nap every afternoon. I have too because I'm pushing my body so hard these days. 😏


Sara Hall Sets a New American Record in the Half Marathon!

Before going out for my run today, just a quick shout out and kudos to Sara Hall for setting a new American half marathon record on Sunday in Houston with a time of 67:15. 

Her husband Ryan Hall holds the American record in the half marathon. He ran a 59:43 in 2007. His record still holds today. Ryan has written one of the best books ever on running called Run the Mile You're In. It's subtitle is "Finding God in Every Step." 

This type of book is timeless and offers encouragement and advice not just on running but on Christian living.  Its 26 chapters have titles like "Vision," "Purpose," "Sacrifice," "Goals," "Relationships," "Belief," "Success," "Pain," "Worship." "Love," "Victories," "Seasons," and "Victorious." I think my favorite chapter is chapter 25, "Closure." In it Hall describes how hard it was for him to retire from the sport of running. Anyone who has retired can certainly identify with these words found on p. 213:

But I found that I had some sadness in saying goodbye to the marathon and to my professional running career. It was the same kind of sadness you feel when you lose a loved one with whom you've experienced life. You remember the good times, the hard times, and all the moments of life you've shared together.

But sadness soon turns to hope and perspective:

When something in your life dies -- whether it be a job, a hobby, or a dream -- I encourage you not to focus on what could have been and what is lost but instead to look for the new life and the new opportunities that result. A new season is here.

That's good advice for all of us.

Anyways, a great book to have on your bedside table or to give to a friend. And again, congrats to Sara Hall on her achievement last Sunday. I'm sure it had a lot to do with willpower and experience. I am very proud of our American runners. 

Interpreting Christ in Light of the Old Testament (and Vice Versa)

In Craig Koester's excellent Hebrews commentary, a section is devoted to "The Scriptures." Koester explains how the book of Hebrews uses the Old Testament in its Greek form, and how "Hebrews interprets Christ in light of the OT and the OT in light of Christ" (p. 117). Koester uses a wonderful metaphor to describe this:

Hebrews understands the OT to contain a shadow of what has been revealed in Christ .... The exalted Christ is like a person who stands in the brightness of the sun and casts a shadow upon the earth, so that those who look at the shadow can discern in it the contours of the one who made it. In a similar way, the shadows of the exalted Christ fall on the pages of the OT, allowing the reader to discern in them something of the shape of Christ himself.

Let me urge you to read Hebrews in this manner. A good example comes from this past weekend's Houston Marathon. While I was watching it, I notice that sometimes the street-level cameras would break away for a helicopter view in which the runners' shadows looked like the runners themselves. 

Similarly, in Heb. 7:1-10, the author of Hebrews interprets the Old Testament story of Melchizedek (the shadow) in the light of Christ as "a priest forever according to the type of Melchizedek." In the same way, Hab. 2:4 -- "the righteous one will live by faith" -- becomes in Heb. 10:38 a reference to the New Testament people of God who trust Christ for their salvation.

Here's the point. Churches and congregations that are faithful to Christ read the New Testament in light of the Old and vice versa. They would never think of unhinging the Old from the New. The Bible is one book in two volumes, and there can be no Bible without both parts. 

Why do I say this with such conviction? Because, as a New Testament student, I am more convinced than ever that to study the New Testament we must study the Old. That's why, when I introduced a course in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) at the seminary, I asked that it be co-taught by one professor from the Hebrew department and one from the Greek. Moreover, students were required to know both Greek and Hebrew before they could enroll for the class. This was almost unheard of back then. But our students needed to see that Christ is to be found in the entire Bible, not just in the New Testament. 

We never outgrow our need for truth. Hold fast to the word of God -- the entire word of God. Don't see the truth as out of date because it goes back several millennia. Truth then is truth now. Biblical information is timeless information. 

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:


Seated dumbbell press.

Bent over dumbbell raises.


Incline dumbbell curls.

Seated dumbbell curls.

Standing dumbbell curls.

Dumbbell hammer curls.



Dumbbell rows.



Dumbbell rows.


Dumbbell press.

Incline dumbbell press.

Dumbbell flys.

Barbell press.


Leg extensions.


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.