Monday, February 28, 2022

C'mon and Join the Fun

This week my focus at the Y continues to be on upper body strength. 

Here's why. 

I think the Allalinhorn may well be the most challenging Alp I've tried to climb so far. Can I do it? Should I even try? If I do make the attempt, it only makes sense to be in the best shape possible for a soon-to-be 70-year old. 

Beginning this week, after I teach my class tonight, I will be on vacation for 2 weeks. My hope is to bag a couple of local peaks, beginning with Flat Top near Bedford, VA. The weather will be lovely -- in the 60s and 70s and sunny. I just have to keep telling myself to go slow and enjoy the exciting process of getting into shape. Patience is an essential quality for an athlete at any level. The goal is to never overdo it. Don't get greedy. Don't try to go too far or too fast. Stick with the plan. Don't let overtraining ruin your life.

C'mon along and join the fun. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Helping Ukraine

I realize that things are pretty heavy right now in the world, so I thought I'd post a YouTube that might provide an encouraging distraction from the daily news cycle. 

That said, it might be a good time to post a link that contains some helpful information about where to donate should you like to help the people of Ukraine

I hope you are all are doing well. Have a blessed week.


Drunken Noahs

This morning, I heard an excellent message from Ephesians 4 on the believer's "walk." I love that metaphor -- for obvious reasons. I love to walk! Many have called walking the perfect exercise. Yet the habit is practically non-existent nowadays. When Becky and I lived in Basel, we walked everywhere. Ditto for Ethiopia. But in the U.S., walking is almost un-American. Who has time to just walk and think? We have to be "doing" something.

The book of Ephesians was written for the Christian pedestrian. Here the Christian life is set forth more as a walk than as any other figure of speech. As Harold Hoehner notes in his magisterial commentary on Ephesians, we are to walk in unity (4:1-16), walk in holiness (4:17-32), walk in love (5:1-6), walk in light (5:7-14), walk in wisdom (5:15-6:9), and stand in warfare (6:21-24). Love it!

Elsewhere, Paul can say that we are to walk by faith, walk circumspectly, walk in the Spirit, walk in newness of life, and walk in the truth. Perhaps the greatest spiritual pedestrian was Enoch, who walked with God right into heaven! 

Today the church cannot be said to be walking in unity. The reason is that two cannot walk together unless they be agreed. If you are not in agreement with your companion, it's almost impossible to walk with him or her. Perhaps the reason we are not walking in unity is because we are not walking with the Lord in the light of his word. A walk allows time for reflection. 

Once, when ordering a cheeseburger, I was asked, "Will that be with or without cheese?" That is probably a record low in inane conversation. But I have heard much longer discussions these days on the internet that said nothing more important. 

In this shallow and superficial day, few souls know what it is desperately to thirst for truth before spouting nonsense. It's no time for drunken Noahs. We need sober saints who understand the times to know what they ought to do and who are enabled by the Spirit to do it. I know a few saints like this. I am so thankful for you!

"Senior Pastor"

Let's reserve this title for Jesus, shall we? 

"So in the first century, no Christian would dare take the title of sole ruler, overseer, or pastor of the church .... There is only one flock and one Pastor (John 10:16), one body and one Head (Col. 1:18), one holy priesthood and one great High Priest (Heb. 4:14ff.), one brotherhood and one Elder Brother (Rom. 8:29), one building and one Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:5ff.), one Mediator, one Lord. Jesus Christ is 'Senior Pastor,' and all others are his undershepherds (1 Pet. 5:4)." -- Alexander Strauch. 

For more, please go here

One Light Left in the Darkness

From The Jesus Paradigm:

"Power has ruined America. Not only on the liberal left. Now it seems to have done the same for the religious right. The right has a large clientele. When it takes a wrong turn it turns all its followers in the wrong direction. The right has taken over every platitude, every trite slogan. It has prostituted itself with power, status, and wealth. Only a few would deny that these attitudes have infiltrated a large segment of the evangelical church in America .... There is only one small light left in the darkness, and it is the pure Word of God." 

Eating and Singing

A word or two about last night's dinner party. One, you can't go wrong with spaghetti. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Don't underestimate its magic.

Two, Ishi got more carrots than he has had in his entire lifetime. Spoiled forever. Loved it.

My favorite part? Singing hymns together -- in four part harmony. You don't know how rare that is these days. What a great blessing. 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

RIP: "The" Ministry

It's time to stop referring to pastoral work as "the" ministry:

We do a great disservice to the church whenever we refer to the pastorate as "the" ministry. For if we use the definite article, we give the impression that we think the pastorate is the only ministry there is. I repented of this decades ago, and invite my readers to join me in penitence today. If someone says in my presence nowadays that so and so is "going into the ministry," I try to look innocent and respond, "Oh really? Which ministry do you mean?" To this my interlocutor replies "the pastoral ministry" -- to which I reply "Why did you not say so?" 

John Stott, The Living Church, p. 74. 

In Case You Missed It

My interview about textual criticism with Henry Neufeld and Abidan Shah. 

Ryan Hall on BEING the Good News

I loved reading Ryan Hall's book about his career as a runner. 

This interview with him was just as edifying.

In both the book and the interview, Ryan shows us what it's like to be a Christian in the very competitive world of marathon racing. That entails things like reaching outside our small group of friends, being more open about sharing our faith, and setting a positive example for the next generation. In other words, it means living the gospel -- being the "Good News" and giving to Christ what little we have because he can take it and multiply it. 

Christ told us to be a light in our own corner of the world. I'm grateful that Ryan and his wife Sarah (also a marathon champion) are truly that. All glory to God. 

The (Real) Reason I'm Hosting Dinner Guests Tonight

I'm forced to clean the house. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Praying for Ukraine

In my Bible reading this morning, I came upon this verse from Acts 12:

But earnest prayer was going up to God from the church for his safety all the time he was in prison (Acts 12:5). 

What was written about Peter is also true about our sisters and brothers in Ukraine. I have so many precious memories of my three trips to that nation. Here's a picture of me teaching in Mykolaiv in December of 2012. 

Its airport came under missile fire yesterday. 

My heart has been heavy around the farm here as I've thought about my friends in Ukraine. What a reminder that things can turn on a dime. Suffering in this world is unavoidable. We rally around those who are suffering and they do the same for us when we cannot get up. 

Our main business as Christians is to glorify God. Sometimes God has strange ways of bringing glory to himself. Lazarus' sickness was for God's glory (John 11:4). Peter was told by what death he would glorify God (John 21:19). Sometimes we glorify God more in our sickness than in our health, more by death than by life, more on those days when nothing seems to be going right than on those days of thrilling events. We Christians are sorely mistaken when we think that following Christ will put us at the top of the ladder. It may drop us to the bottom rung. 

Today I am praying for the peace of Ukraine. It is a brave and proud nation. May they, and we, remember what we are here for. In body and in spirit, by life or by death, in sickness or in health, whether we eat or drink, our business is to glorify God, who will be with us "all the days" unto the consummation of the age. Prayer and faith and godly living can show up even in the face of great suffering with a beauty that no invasion can thwart. 

The Reason for Our Existence

"God never intended theology to be divorced from life. In our day, such a divorce has become a major problem within Western Christianity. We must reconnect the academy with the church. We seminary professors, wherever our area of expertise, need to live missions, not just talk about it. As with Paul, the gospel must become the one passion of our lives. 'What am I here for?' might serve as a good daily reminder to those of us who serve as academics in our colleges and seminaries. We so easily lose sight of the reason for our existence: to further the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a matter of keeping first things first (Philippians 1:27)."

Running My Race, p. 137. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Some Guidelines for Life

A few guidelines for life I've developed through the years:

When you read, engage both your heart and your mind.

When you attend church, give to others as much as you get from them.

When you succeed in something, give glory to God.

When you receive a gift, say thank you.

When you suffer, be honest with your emotions.

When you become angry, channel that emotion into something positive.

When you are in a difficult relationship, exercise compassion without enabling misconduct. 

When you want to act like a prophet, be sure your own house is in order first.

When you discover what you're good at, don't bury that talent. 

When you are with young people, give them what they crave -- depth and substance.

When you become old, cultivate the discipline of joy. 

A Personal Invitation to My Readers

"Grant to us that we may sit ...." (Mark 10:37). The request of James and John was foolish. We will serve the Lord in the world to come, not sit around doing nothing (Rev. 22:3). 

Today we do practically everything seated, whether in the office or at church. We live in a "Please be seated" age. Indeed, as a society we desperately need to become active. Take heart disease and diabetes. The best prevention is to eat a healthy diet and go on a daily walk. Nothing is as convenient, relaxing, and enjoyable. This is the natural way to good health. Our bodies are meant to move, and walking is the most accessible movement for most of us. As far back as 1961, JFK said:

Our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our society. We do not want in the United States a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life. This is not a matter that be settled, of course, from Washington. It is really a matter which starts with each individual family. 

Today, more than a third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. My own state of Virginia has the 32nd highest rate of obesity in the nation, with 62 percent of adults overweight or obese. We have this mentality that says, "Eat food when it's available, and rest when you don't have to work." The fact that we have so much food available at our fingertips and that it comes in such large proportions doesn't help. 

The solution is simple: start moving, running, and playing -- and eating well too. The CDC estimates that 75 percent of healthcare dollars are spent on chronic diseases that are preventable. In addition, the mental health benefits of being outdoors in nature may even exceed the physical benefits. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I became interested in health and exercise only after my wife died of cancer. Regular exercise was one of the ways I coped with her passing. Since then it has become a regular way of life. 

When was the last time you took a trip into nature? Nearly everyone who develops the habit of walking stays with it over the long term. They don't think in terms of having to go out and walk but getting to. 

My invitation to you is this: Please don't wait for a crisis in your life before beginning to take care of the temple God has given you. The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. I have one request of you: get off the couch, go outside, and move. Together, let's nurture a pandemic of exercise. 

The Goal of Teaching

The goal of teaching is to prepare for that day when you will no longer teach. Your task is to replicate yourself in the lives of your students. You want to see them not only come to Christ but come after him, to take his yoke on them and not only do church work but live Christian lives in home, school, office -- everywhere. Teaching is successful only when people grow up in Christ. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Not Gifted? Work Hard Anyway

This was a gut-wrenching video to watch. 

The aviator who was killed was not an exceptional pilot but he was a hard-working one. Here's the money quote from the video:

Often natural aviators are not the best ones. They work less hard than less gifted ones to reach the same goals. 

I've seen this in my Greek classes for 45 years. Students who have a high level of language aptitude tend to work a lot less than your average student. Yet both talented and not-so-talented students can succeed. It really doesn't matter whether you get an "A" in the class or a "C." If you have done your very best, that's all that matters. When I run a marathon, I finish way behind the "A" runners. My best grade is about a "C." I am a lot older and slower than most of my fellow competitors. Yet I refuse to stop thriving, striving, and seeking new challenges. Why should I? More than ever, I need high (but realistic) goals and I continue to set them.

If you're a student who is struggling, learn to adjust your expectations. I call this "adaptive excellence." This means you don't stop trying even when others are far exceeding you. Continue to pursue excellence. Keep climbing the mountain even if it's not as high or as steep as the ones you've climbed in the past. Never stand still. Always keep moving forward.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Quote of the Day (Roland Allen)

"Our organization immobilizes our missionaries. It creates and maintains large stations and great institutions, and these absorb a very great proportion of our energy. We cannot move freely. A mission station is indeed a contradiction in terms: mission implies movement, station implies stopping."

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, p. 105. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Good Monday Morning!

Hey all! I hope you had a great weekend. This is going to be an exceptionally busy week for me. That's all the more reason to stay on top of my workouts and rest/sleep. Last night I slept for an unheard of 9 hours. I normally sleep for 8 hours. My body is obviously compensating for Saturday's race. Thankfully, my legs feel great -- very little DOMS -- and I was even able to add 10 pounds to my sets this morning. If I am able to maintain my current training schedule, I hope to be able to summit the Allalinhorn this summer. Upper body strength will be the key. 

My writing goals this week are ambitious to say the least. I'm also entertaining a large family for supper this weekend and I haven't cooked for a group in ages. Cooking is definitely not my spiritual gift (though eating definitely is). I've also begun training for my first half marathon of 2022 next month, to be followed by my first marathon of 2022 in May and my first ultra of 2022 in June. Then, Lord willing, it's back to Zermatt after 6 weeks of teaching summer school. I know one thing about myself. I am tenacious and stubborn. As difficult as training can be, there is an equal and opposite reaction of pride, satisfaction, and overwhelming gratitude that comes after a race. The rewards are completely intrinsic. It's the satisfaction of knowing you've pushed yourself way more than you thought possible. 

Well, it's time for farm chores. My Bible study this morning in Colossians was, as always, wonderful but I don't have time right now to share with you what I'm learning. 

I pray you and your family have a safe and blessed week. 



Sunday, February 20, 2022

Sunday Evening Organ Concert at Duke Chapel

The Duke Chapel organ recital series has resumed. This was tonight's program:

The first two pieces were played on the chapel's Flenthrop organ. 

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E Minor was flawlessly played. I also feasted on the English language and its unique power of expression. The program notes included these eye-pleasing phrases: 

  • intense crescendo
  • virtuosic textures
  • hypnotic movement
  • boisterous introduction
  • swirlingly flamboyant
  • grand projections
  • infectiously popular

All in all, a perfect evening at an amazing venue. 

Incidentally, one never saw the organist. 

He would be the first to admit that the evening wasn't about him. Modern worship leaders could take a cue from that, I think. Get rid of the stage. No one needs to see you. I can't understand why more people don't say anything about this. It's about the music -- and the words -- and the God we are worshiping. I want to be an optimist, but I dare say nothing will change because it's really about us

Next up: Duke Chapel, Sunday, March 20 at 5:00 pm, with organist Robert Parkins. 

A Beautiful Picture of the Church (Acts 14:21-23)

Everything is here in one passage, which I studied in my Bible time this morning -- Acts 14:21-23. 

Here is the church as it should be -- preaching the Good News, making many disciples, helping the believers to grow in their love for God and each other, encouragement to continue in the faith in spite of persecution and to enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations, appointing elders in every church, praying with fasting, turning the people over to the care of the Lord in whom they had trusted (a rare pluperfect in Greek). I am tempted to write another book on the marks of a New Testament church. It would wreck the theology of some culture warriors who think that by appeasing the crowds they can grow the church. But earnestness is not unction. We are conformed to the age but not to the image of God's Son. What we ought to do has been magnified above who we are in Christ. This is a far cry from facing a holy and righteous God, confessing our sins, trusting the Savior and obeying him as Lord. 

The early Christians wore scars. We wear medals. What wounds do you have to show that you've been in battle? 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

First Race of 2022!

Unless you're into running, you're probably not interested in this post, but today I got in my first race of 2022. It was a 6.5 mile "half-half-marathon" in Cary. I arrived at the Wake Med Soccer Park at around 10:30 for an 11:00 am race start. 

I've run this course maybe 10 times before so I know how hilly it is. 

Bundled up for the cold, off we went when the horn sounded. 

I had 4 goals going into today's race:

  1. Not look at my watch.
  2. Run the entire distance without walking.
  3. Maintain the same heart rate going uphill and downhill. 
  4. Finish under the 1.5 hour time limit.

By God's grace I managed to achieve each goal. 

What I loved about this morning was the sheer pleasure of running, surrounded by people who love this sport as much as I do. What I loved most was being able to do what I love to do. Yesterday I was listening to a podcast and a barber was interviewed about having to close down his barber shop during Covid. To make ends meet, he stocked shelves in a grocery store at night. When asked if he enjoyed that work, he replied, "Yes, it wasn't bad at all, and I loved the people I worked with. But I really missed doing what I love."

Doing what I love.

That is so true. I can't believe that God still allows me to what I love to do, be that teaching or running or lifting or writing or farming. I run at a comfortable pace, which allows me to spend most of my time in deep thought. 

Like all runners, I live in the present. I stand at the finish line happy and content and more than a little grateful. With Tennyson's Ulysses, we hear ourselves say, "And though we are not the strength which in olden days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -- made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

One mile at a time. 

God's Unfinished Work

My morning reading was in Acts 13, which recounts the start of Paul's first missionary journey. 

To paraphrase the text, "On a certain day the Holy Spirit told the church at Antioch, 'Dedicate Barnabas and Paul for a special job I have for them.' So when the church had fasted and prayed, they sent them on their way." The words "They sent them on their way" is only one word in the Greek but, my, does it pack a punch. What great things lay ahead for Christianity! As Roland Allen puts it, "The rapid and wide expansion of the Church in the early centuries was due in the first place to the spontaneous activity of individuals" (The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, p. 143). 

I believe God would be pleased to give us much more if we had faith to ask for it. Hezekiah asked for an extension of his years. Jabez wanted an enlargement of his coast. Caleb asked for a mountain. At the age of 69, I am still wanting to push out my borders, to possess my possessions in Christ, to be blessed under God's guiding hand, and to be used by him to spread his gospel. This is a big request, but he can grant it. 

Much effort is spent these days in trying to get young people to enter what is called "full-time Christian service." Of course, this is a terrible misnomer. Every Christian is meant to be in it full time. Christ's work for us is a finished work. But his work through us is an unfinished work. We are to proclaim the finished work of the cross and to perform the unfinished work of the Great Commission. All of us. As long as Christ's work is not finished, ours is not finished. That's why Paul could tell us to "always abound in the work of the Lord." 

Winston Churchill was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. During World War II, he paid tribute to England's airmen with these words:

Never did so many owe so much to so few.

Our debt as Christians to men like Paul and Barnabas is incalculable. Now it is our turn to get the message out. We are debtors to everyone. We owe it to God. We owe it to them. 

Where Is the Excellence?

I began my talk at Liberty U. last Thursday with a word of encouragement to these young students to pursue excellence in all they do and dream big while they are still able to do so. I am very concerned about what I see as a war on excellence everywhere in our culture, whether in education, business, art, or music. Mediocrity is preferred because it is easy. We have fast food, poor diets, screen addiction, easy transportation, shamefully horrible church music, etc. More times than I would to like to admit, I have seen students get stuck in jobs they didn't like or didn't fit them. The solution is to "know thyself," get your own house in order, write down your God-given goals, and strive for meaning and excellence. Don't overthink, but don't hesitate either. Believe passionately in what you are doing, and never simply ape what others are saying. Happiness is not the goal. It's merely a by-product. Let everything not important fall out of your life. Pursue the highest good you can conceive of. Never say, "I could never get my doctorate at Oxford." If that's your goal, shoot for the stars. If God closes that door he will open another one. Never settle for anything less than the best. 

May the world be a brighter place because of you. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Live from the North Shore of Oahu

What am I watching right now? Only the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach surfing championship -- live from the North Shore. 

I had two favorite breaks on the North Shore -- Sunset and Pupukea. They were perfect for right-footed surfers like me, whereas Pipeline was great for goofy-footers. Of course, back in the late 60s the crowds were much smaller than they are today, and the North Shore was much less territorial. 

Sunset was the ultimate performance big wave. A wipeout here will really humble you. 

Interview with Admiral Ted "Slapshot" Carter

This is a very impressive interview. 

Before today I never knew that are only 47 aircraft carriers in the world. 14 nations operate them. But there are only two nations that have ever operated nuclear powered carriers -- the U.S. and France. We're the only nation that builds the super-aircraft carrier, starting with the USS Enterprise with 8 nuclear reactors. 

This interview about the rise of an airman to the position of CO of a nuclear powered carrier had me spellbound. What is it that separates the ordinary from the special? What does it take to rise to the height of one's profession? And just how hard is it to accomplish what most can only dream of? It is simply an amazing story and a very inspiring one as well. Young people especially should think hard and long about these things. God has made each of you for greatness, as he defines greatness in your life. How dare we put him in a box when he is able to do above and beyond what we could ask or imagine. There is only one way to live life, and that is giving it 100 percent. 

Thank you, Admiral Carter, for your service. 

As Simple As Possible, But Not Simpler

I'm back from the gym and I wanted to say a word about the videos I sometimes watch about weight training. I personally would not want to be a content creator for a YouTube channel for lifters because you are always having to come up with different ways of saying almost exactly the same thing. One YouTuber is annoyingly repetitious. Here are just a few of his videos on reducing body fat:

  • Getting to 10% Body Fat
  • Losing 10% Body Fat
  • First Time Getting 10% Body Fat
  • How Much Walking Until 10% Body Fat
  • How Long To 10% Body Fat
  • Reach 10% Body Fat

And here's what another popular YouTuber has to say about biceps training:

  • 6 Best Biceps Exercises
  • The Perfect Biceps Workout
  • Get Big Biceps
  • Can't Get Big Biceps?
  • Bicep Workout
  • How to Get Big Biceps -- Guaranteed!!
  • How to Get Bigger Biceps
  • Insane Biceps Workout

I'm reminded of another YouTuber who posts videos about New Testament Greek. He's got several videos on which beginning grammar you should use. They mostly all say the same thing. The truth is,  almost all beginning Greek grammars cover the same material, though some of us do so in greater detail than others. But I don't really have to watch 5 videos telling me that. One would suffice. 

Losing body fat is not all that complicated. You have to watch what you eat. You have to increase your metabolism through weight training. And you have to have sufficient recovery time (especially a good night's sleep). As for biceps growth, all you really need are barbell biceps curls and incline dumbbell curls. That's basically it. (Go here for more.) 

As you can imagine, I get a lot of emails from people who are teaching themselves Greek from my textbook or taking their first Greek course at a Bible school or seminary that uses my book. I got one such email this morning. It said, in part:

By the way, I really appreciate your effort to make learning Greek "no more difficult than it should be." It makes me enjoy the lessons a lot more. 

This email came from a student in Asia who is using my beginning grammar in a theological college. I am aware that some think my books on Greek are too short. But if have erred, I hope I have erred on the side of making things a little bit too simple rather than more difficult than necessary. 

A few years ago McDonald's announced a new slogan -- "The Simpler, the Better." The slogan was supposed to fall in line with its attempt to both streamline its menu and speed up its service. Yes, I'm scratching my head too. "The Simpler, the Better" sounds to me more like a slogan for Whole Foods than for a fast food chain. (The slogan never caught on, by the way.) That said, simpler is almost always best because it makes something easier to understand. But you must be careful. The goal is to strike a happy medium between being overly complicated and simplistic. A Greek grammar that has over 500 pages is, by definition, too complicated for the vast majority of beginning students. Posting 10 different videos about how to grow huge biceps is definitely TMI for most body builders. 

Like Einstein, who reportedly said, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler," I believe in the beauty of simplicity. This philosophy of writing has been the foundation for much of my scholarship, though not all of it (this book has 672 pages). 

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Harry A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & NT Textual Criticism

Good morning everyone. If you have found my other books on textual criticism to be of some help, then perhaps you might be interested in this new book that will be released next month. 

The publisher's announcement is here. There you will also find an interview I did with him on this subject. 

I have been interested in getting Harry Sturz's classic work back into print for some time now. It has been my delight to work with Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications, and I want to pay tribute to his publishing house for their interest in serious Bible study. Most of all, I want to express my gratitude to God as I look back over 69 years of life, 45 of which have been spent in the classroom. Many of those years I spent as the colleague of Dr. Sturz. He was one of the best men, let alone scholars, I have ever known. I hope many of you will be able to read his book now that it will again be affordable. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Lecture at Liberty University

I am very grateful to Dr. Benjamin Laird of Liberty University for his kind invitation to speak in his class today. 

The class was called "Biblical Backgrounds" and my topic was the authorship of Hebrews and its place in the New Testament canon.

I am very grateful to the students for their kind attention during my 1-hour-plus talk. 

Afterwards we went to the Scriptorium on campus to peruse its excellent collection of ancient Bibles, including this beloved work. 

So thank you again to Ben Laird for this wonderful opportunity. It was an honor and privilege for me to be with you today. Ben, by the way, is an expert in the New Testament canon. Here is his latest book

On "the Classics"

Someone asked me the other day what I was referring to in a recent blog post when I spoke of the "classics." Well, in my response I forgot to mention these three books. 

I do not suggest that the approaches taken in these books to church and mission will resolve today's controversies, but they will go some ways towards it. I do not know whether my books The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy should be included here, but both are designed to build Christian believers up in their understanding of what their baptism into Christ implies and how to handle some of the very real difficulties that keep coming up. Soteriology must be accompanied by solid ecclesiology. Hence there is real value in rethinking the wineskins. At least there would be if the best leaders in the church were leading us. Often, however, good leadership is trumped by the ephemeral, culturally correct issues of the day. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

How I Lift

This was my upper body workout today at the Y. I do 3 sets of each exercise with 12 reps. I do this 3 times a week. 

As you can see, nothing too strenuous.

Just trying to get ready for some rock scrambling this summer. 

And yes -- in case you were wondering -- I do rest between sets. 

That's all I got. Hasta luego! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

A Psalm of David (Black)

Because my Greek textbook is my guide, I have everything that I need. It makes me learn the conjugations; it leads me beside the declensions. It restores my confidence in grammar; it guides me along the paths of exegesis for its publisher's sake. Even though I face the scourge of Greek participles I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your charts and appendices, they comfort me. You prepare an answer for me in the presence of my teachers. You anoint my head with wisdom; my soul bursts with pleasure. Surely you will follow me all the days of my life, and I will remain a Greek student forever. 

Praying for Ukraine

My relationship with Ukraine began in the early 2000s. It slowly unfolded into a total of 3 trips. 

Speaking in a chapel service. 

This was the overriding principle I tried to bring to the church there: equipping and empowering all Christians for the work of serving the Lord Christ rather than allowing the pastors to do most of the work themselves. I believe that if this principle of every-member ministry were more clearly seen and acted upon in our churches, there would be a far more vigorous church life. Unfortunately, I see many churches, whether in Ukraine or Romania or Hungary or many of the other nations I've visited in Europe, hamstrung because the leadership will not decentralize. 

The current political situation in Ukraine obviously is of great concern to us all, but yesterday I heard from my contacts in the church there and I can tell you they are strong and doing well. Still, care shows itself in a myriad of ways, and the church in America, if it is to attract anyone to its Master, must embody the practical care for others in need that so characterized the life of the early church, as I noted in chapter 7 of my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Incidentally, such help as keeping the believers in Ukraine in our prayers can be a marvelous way of nurturing the body of Christ there. Then we can help in practical ways as the Lord makes these ways known to us. We can't casually walk away from our obligation to our sisters and brothers in Europe. They require our personal attention. Our response may well mark the difference between life and death, so let us continue to pray and pray fervently. 

My class in Odessa. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Monday Morning

I live as far out in the boonies as you can possibly live. And yet the Lord has provided me with practically everything I need, including a local Amish/Mennonite Bake Shop called the Windmill Bakery. This morning I had breakfast with its owner and my good friend Josh, who is an elder in his local Mennonite church. What didn't we talk about? It ran the gamut -- ecclesiology, the Anabaptists (who had little patience with the Halfway Reformers), youth ministry, education (homeschooling and otherwise), the economy, etc. 

Then it was off to the gym where I was able to get in another weight training session that included (thank God) the bench press again after taking two weeks off for my shoulder injury. 

Now it's off to school for an interview with my publisher and then to teach my Greek class tonight. We'll be learning the first declension together and I may even have a surprise spelling bee, the winner of which will get a free copy of one of my books. The weather is perfect and I couldn't be happier. 

Hope your week goes well.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Nothing To Be Ashamed About

Winning a game means that you beat another team. It doesn't necessarily mean that you did your dead level best. Tonight, however, no one can say that both teams didn't do their best. The players have nothing to be ashamed about. They gave it their all. Win or lose, that's the only trophy one wants or hopes for in this life. 

Congrats to the Rams on their fantastic comeback drive. And mega props to the Bengals for their outstanding effort. Both of you reminded us that the excellence sought by the ancient Greeks is possible for anyone. 

Rams Versus Bengals

I actually don't care that much who wins because my Bucs aren't playing. I could root for either team. I lived in Los Angeles for 27 years. At that time I was a HUGE Rams fam. I still love 'em. On the other hand, I could easily cheer for the Bengals because I've done the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy 3 times and I LOVE that city. The race takes you through Eden Park, Covington, Newport, Mariemont (my fave), Fairfax, and Columbia Township. The race, in fact, begins and ends at the Paul Brown Stadium where the Bengals play. Either way it's going to be a good game. Both teams deserve to be there. But to win, the Bengal's O-line is really going to have come through for them. 

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a Bengals' upset. 

The Day I Stepped Off the Tram

When we lived in Basel, Becky and I walked everywhere. But occasionally we rode the tram. 

I'll never forget the time someone pulled the emergency cord that each tram had. Despite thinking that we were on an uninterrupted course to our destination, the tram came shuddering to a halt.

At the age of 29, having been teaching for 5 years, I pulled the emergency cord and left the familiar. It was a decision to pursue a new course, a new direction. At the age of 29, I was born again intellectually.

The previous Dave was not me at all. It was the person others wanted me to be. For years I played along. I parroted what others had told me to say. I was pursuing a trip planned by others and goals that were not my own.

I stepped off that tram when I published my first journal article about the destination of Ephesians, arguing that the encyclical theory -- the consensus view -- was wrong. I began to think for myself. It was a rebirth that stretched my mind and soul. I would never get back on that tram again.

Did anyone agree with me? My friend Harold Hoehner did. In his magisterial commentary on Ephesians -- his magnum opus -- he convinced himself that Ephesians had never been an encyclical letter at all, as most scholars held. No, it was written to, address to, and first read by the Ephesians. Make no mistake about it. Hoehner was swimming upstream. Deviation from Alexandrian fidelity is not generally appreciated. But the evidence seems clear: The words "in Ephesus" should never have been placed in square brackets in our Greek New Testaments in Eph. 1:1. 

Having been in the classroom for 45 years now, my experience has taught me that you must first and always seek the primary evidence. At all times, you must resist the temptation to play the game. If you are to succeed as a scholar, you must always be on the alert for groupthink. Learn independence, self-questioning.

It won't be easy. But it must happen. My rules for scholarship are simple. Read the classics and prefer authors who are older than you are. Don't merely be a spectator. Be part of the action. If you don't believe something to be true, then for God's sake don't teach it. Either we choose the status quo or we break the pattern and change course. You have to anchor everything you believe in a deep-seated logic. 

If, in the process, you have to sacrifice your acceptance by the guild, so be it. The rewards clearly outweigh what is being sacrificed. 

Saturday, February 12, 2022

The Good Earth

My view just now.

I've been putzing around on the farm all day. The temp got up to 70 today. I am so ready for farming season to begin again. But the good earth needs to rest a bit longer. Rest thee well! 

I'm Gone to Arizona in My Mind

Just back from a 1-hour run on the treadmill. 

Before that I warmed up on the trail 

During my runs I watched/listened to the livestream of the Black Canyon 100K race from Arizona. 

This is a tough and taxing course with the majority of elevation gain coming during the second half of the race. The winners earn a Golden Ticket into the historic Western States 100 in California. I would love to do some trail racing out in Arizona. When we lived in California we camped in the state I can't tell you how many times, from the Grand Canyon to the Kaibab National Forest to the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff to the Petrified National Forest to the Meteor Crater to Canyon de Chelly (where we experienced a flash flood). Who knows, I might do the Phoenix-Mesa Marathon again. So much natural beauty in the Grand Canyon State. If you love the great outdoors, Arizona is for you. 


I am in Romans 12 this morning. Rom. 12:11 says, "Never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically." Aristotle put it this way:

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

Whatever you do today, do it with all your heart. I'll try and do the same. 

Gonna Be a Bright Sunshiny Day!

I hope you're enjoying the sunshine as much as I am.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Senior Discount?

This morning at the gym I was able to do bench presses again, now that my AC joint has completely healed. It was a fantastic workout. My concern now is that I might be losing too much body fat, so I've scheduled a DEXA scan for next month. I've also changed up my workout routine a bit in order to avoid monotony. Today, instead of doing my dumbbell raises from a flat bench, I did them from a raised one, as in this photo.

This is obviously not a picture of me. 

I've also corrected my form for the lat pulldowns and the overhead dumbbell presses. So much to learn when you're a rank novice.

Now here's something funny. On the drive home I went into the local Bo's to grab a cup of coffee. The guy in front of me placed his order and reminded the cashier that he gets a "senior discount." So I asked for the same when it was my turn to order. It's so funny. I've been getting coffee at Bojangles for years now and it never once occurred to me ask for the senior discount. I still feel like a 45 year old. I still feel passionate about everything I do. I still love the classroom. I am more excited about teaching today than I was when I entered the classroom 45 years ago. Really, I don't have time to grow old. Yes, one day (maybe sooner than I think) I will be old and decrepit, but I hope I'm not there yet. I have discovered that changing my physical appearance has caused me to learn about my inner self. I have learned that I am dedicated, determined, strong, and persistent. I have learned to push myself beyond physical pain and emotional dead ends to achieve my goals. This is the gift the Lord has given me, and I am eternally grateful. But it doesn't mean I'm going to pass up on the senior discount.

Back to my writing. I am committing the morning to working on my book about the kingdom (Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk).  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Learning Greek Is Much More About Tenacity Than Talent

Greek is tough. How can I finish? 

You need to pace yourself. 

Here's an analogy. I just drew this picture. 

Let's say you're a bus driver and your route goes from point A to point B with several stops along the way. A good bus driver isn't one who gets to the end of the route in the quickest time possible. He's one that hits all of the stops along the way, at the right time. Basically what I'm saying is that's how you should approach the study of Greek. Never bite off more than you can chew. If you do, you're just going to burn out faster and increase your chances of falling off the wagon. 

Let's say you got a bad grade on last week's quiz. Well, determine to do better next week. If you did great on last week's quiz, then repeat that effort. I haven't found a mortal who couldn't finish a year of Greek. You already have everything you need to be a Greek student. You see, once you decide to see it through, your quest centers much more on tenacity than talent. It's your mindset that separates those who do from those who dream. There's no magic secret. You just persevere to get results. 

The finish line, like the truth, is out there somewhere. All you have to do is carry on. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

How NOT to Communicate

The other night I was watching a debate on YouTube where one of the debaters did nothing but ramble on, making incoherent sentences about absolutely nothing. It was pure bloviation. Nothing aggravates me more. The level of verbosity was absolutely incredible, as if rhetoric was employed to distract attention from the lack of him saying anything meaningful.

Now, I love communication. Both verbal and nonverbal. I love to study it, read about it, watch it, write about it, and learn from it. It's a skill that must be acquired, practiced, and honed. This debater had no substantive argument. He belittled his opponent, disrespected him, and called him a whiner (and worse) for no reason whatsoever. In fact, I could make no sense of anything he said. He spoke a lot of fancy words but said nothing. Contrast that with the way the New Testament writers used rhetoric. I never, ever, get the impression that they used rhetoric to say to their audience, "Look at how smart I am." That's why in my book Using New Testament Greek in Ministry I urge my students not to use Greek from the pulpit. As R. C. Sproul once put it, "A great preacher is like an iceberg. You only see 10 percent, but you sense the 90 percent." As far as I can tell, this is how the New Testament authors wrote, completely free of artifice. If you'd like some examples, you could perhaps read my essays Paul and Christian Unity: A Formal Analysis of Philippians 2:1-4, The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews: An Evaluation and a Proposal, Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis, A Note on the Structure of Hebrews 12:1,2, On the Style and Significance of John 17, The Pauline Love Command: Structure, Style, and Ethics in Romans 12:9-21, and Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews

Here's another observation. If you're ever to become an effective speaker -- whether as a lecturer or a preacher -- you will have to know way more than you talk about. This is the problem I have with so much that passes today for "preaching." What I see nowadays is more or less a performance where a person is delivering a lecture couched in the form of a sermon. It's a packaged thing that could be presented just as easily to this group as to that group. There is little to no connection between speaker and audience. This is largely because the speaker is addressing the group rather than the individuals in the group. When I speak in the classroom or in church or in chapel, I will almost always address someone in my audience, by name if at all possible. It's not actually the group you're addressing, it's the individuals in the group. That's why I never use notes, because it's only by maintaining constant eye contact with your audience that you can tell whether the people are engaged or bored or connecting. 

So to speak effectively, you have to have something to say, something that is yours, because there is a big difference between knowledge and Google knowledge. Secondly, you have to pay close attention to your audience. Close your silly notebook and stop scrolling your iPad! Make every effort to connect with your audience, and they will thank you for it. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Lecture on the Authorship of Hebrews

Next week I'm scheduled to give a lecture at Liberty University. The subject, of all things, is "The Pauline Authorship of Hebrews." I'm always surprised when schools want me to lecture on this topic, given its strangeness and idiosyncrasy. I always thought that most people weren't even faintly interested in such a mundane matter. I was wrong. 

I recall once lecturing on Pauline authorship at a seminary in Washington, DC. A Catholic seminary, of course. Protestants by and large have already settled the matter in their minds -- the letter is certainly not Paul's in any way, shape, or form. But the Roman Catholics have tended to hang on to traditional interpretations of authorship a lot longer than their Protestant counterparts. The students responded positively to my new ideas, which, of course, are really the old ideas presented in a new way. I also once gave this little talk at the University of Oxford. I remember the students loving my lecture -- they had never heard such a "radical" idea before -- but I was more or less endured by the faculty, who seemed to shake their heads at what was being said. I was certainly making waves, but it's not like Regent's Park College didn't know what they were getting themselves into. I was also scheduled to lecture in Scotland, but the train tracks were flooded and thus my adventure in the UK came to an end. 

I came away from that trip convinced that my view was a threat to the religious consensus, even though I believe it is academically strong enough to hold its head up anywhere. We shall see how things go next week. My host is one of my former students who ended up getting his doctorate in New Testament in the UK and who now teaches full-time at Liberty. He has become quite the expert on the New Testament canon, and I will be very interested to know what he thinks about the fact that Hebrews always circulated among the Pauline Corpus. I think there is real value in such discussions. 

If this sort of thing interests you, my book on this subject is available at Amazon

Interview with Braveheart's and Secretariat's Randall Wallace

During my run today I listened to an interview with Randall Wallace. Wallace wrote the screenplay for the movie Braveheart and directed such films as Secretariat

What a pleasure to listen to two brilliant thinkers parley with each other. This is what a thoughtful, mature, and sensible conversation looks like. Never a demeaning or condescending word toward the other. Imagine what the world would be like if people could talk to other people like this. 

Wallace studied religion and attended seminary before becoming an author. He was very open about his faith in this interview. At one point he talked about losing his wife (not through death but through divorce) and said how he would come to the end of each day, fall on his knees, and thank God that he had had enough faith to make it through the day. At one point in the interview he quoted a famous author (I forget who) to the effect, "When you really sacrifice for something, it's a lot harder to surrender." I can see this philosophy at play in both Braveheart and Secretariat. Anyone sensible would have refused to back William Wallace. Anyone sensible would have sold Secretariat. 

Both were the ultimate underdogs, which is exactly why I, perhaps the ultimate infracaninophile, loved these movies. "Every man dies, but not every man really lives," says William Wallace before he is beheaded. 

And how true that is. I loved how Randall Wallace said how he would have written the screenplay for Braveheart even if it was never turned into a movie. You simply do what you have to do, what you are called to do in this life. 

Wallace wrote the song for the final credits of Braveheart. It's called "It's Who You Are." 

It's not the prize, it's not the game, it's not the sacrifice, it's not the fame. When every road looks way too far, it's not what you have, it's who you are.

That reprimands, encourages, and inspires me no end. 

For the interview, go here