Sunday, July 31, 2022

James Packer on the Anglican Realignment

M'Cheyne on Introspection

"For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ." 

A Brief Word About Retirement

My Bible time this morning was in Luke 12, where we find one of the parables of Jesus. It's often called "The Parable of the Foolish Farmer." Remember him? He's the guy who tore down his old barns and built new ones. I always chuckle when I read this parable because, as a farmer myself, I have built new barns (though I've never torn down an old one except to move it from a neighbor's farm to mine.). For example, my son and I built this gambrel barn for hay storage. 

This is just one of many barns we've built. As I said, building a new barn often brings me back to Jesus' parable. What on earth is he trying to teach us?

These days, this question is all the more urgent for me. Though I'm still teaching a few classes each year, I am officially "retired." As with so many other baby boomers who have completed their careers, I keep asking myself, "What do I do now?" Traditional concepts of retirement mimic the foolish farmer in Jesus' parable, do they not? 

"I'll eat, drink, and be merry." 

"I'll hang up my work gloves, sit around watching the cows, and wait for the sun to go down." 

But, like Jesus' farmer, retirement isn't just about living longer. What matters is how we choose to make something meaningful out of our remaining years on earth. The question is, "What to do with all this leftover life?" 

What a man is supposed to do when he retires is not altogether clear. Periods of transition are always unsettling, for everybody involved. I always thought growing old meant one's bulb dimming and one's body falling apart. Today, however, people are taking longer to grow old. And, I might add, to grow up. At least that seems to have been our foolish farmer's folly. He dreamed of a kind of male menopause. "It's time prove your virility on the golf course, old boy, or through your bank account." Of course, all this only masks an increasing sense of uselessness. "I want to count," we tell ourselves, even as we sit back and gloat on our past careers. 

I think what Jesus was saying to this farmer is, "A man can't base his life's work on the things he has acquired. It would be nice if you thought more about your influence than about your career." Which leads me to ask myself at least three questions:

  • What, in the end, do I want my life to add up to?
  • Is it too late to add more meaning to my life?
  • Do I want others to remember me as the man I have been up to the point of retirement or as something else?

I suppose it all depends on how one defines "retire." If you look up synonyms for the verb "retire" (as I just did), you come up with:

  • discard
  • dismiss
  • resign
  • retreat
  • depart 
  • pull out
  • relinquish
  • separate
  • surrender
  • vacate
  • withdraw
  • abandon
  • renounce
  • abdicate
  • forswear
  • repudiate
  • back down
  • opt out

Which of these shall I use when people ask me if I am retired? 

Hopefully, none of them. You see, Jesus is teaching us that what men need for a satisfying third act is something to live for that is bigger than their possessions. You certainly can never go back to what life was like before. Somewhere in the hidden recesses of your mind, you recall someone saying, "Don't back up; severe tire damage." Instead, you have to find another way to be useful.

Craig Blomberg, in his excellent discussion of this passage in the NIV Application Commentary, notes that our foolish farmer is not acting imprudently. He builds new barns in order to store what God has provided. "His error comes in how he views what has become his." Blomberg then adds:

He will not share his abundance, but keep it for his own private use. His goal is to ease back and withdraw from life. He will "eat, drink, and be merry." He feels no concern or responsibility for anyone else. The essence of greed is keeping what resources God brings your way for yourself.

This leads Blomberg to ask:

  • How do we use what God has given us?
  • Do we seek to pile up treasure for ourselves?
  • Is generosity our habit? Or does compassion take a back seat to our personal desires?

There are the kinds of questions we would do well to ask ourselves, regardless of our age. 

As I enter my third and final act, I desire to do so with a heightened sense of accountability to God, with a desire to honor the values that Jesus sets forth in this parable and elsewhere in his teachings, and with a desire to reflect more intentionally on how I make choices with my time, energy, and resources. "The fundamental test for the use of resources," concludes Bloomberg, "is whether they become tools of service that benefit others and enable them to be in a position to serve God better." 

Do you remember John Glenn? He was the first man to orbit the planet when he was 41. Thirty-six years later, at the age of 77, having passed the rigorous physical that all astronauts are required to go through, he boarded the space shuttle Discovery and became a pioneer -- again. 

My wife's grandmother died at the age of 105. A women's Bible teacher all of her life, she had to adjust to a life of quiet solitude. When I last saw her, she was sitting in her rocking chair, praying for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. The many years she served as a women's Bible teacher at her church in Dallas had morphed into a full time prayer ministry at home. 

It would be easier, of course, if faithfulness in our dotage could be determined as easily as measuring the air pressure in our tires. But in the end, we must rely upon God to show us how we can best serve him in our older years. Allowing him to use us as he sees fit might well be the best preemptive strike against the sameness and sourness of retirement.  

The Quotable M'Cheyne

"A man is what he is on his knees, and nothing more." 

Why I Am No Longer a Sturzian

In a recent interview, I believe I referred to myself in passing as a Sturzian. As you may know, Harry Sturz was my Greek teacher at Biola and, subsequently, my colleague in the Greek Department there for many years. 

His classic treatment of textual criticism -- The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism -- has just been reprinted and will, I'm sure, engender quite a bit of discussion at the Clearview Apologetics Conference on Sept. 24 of this year. 

In essence, Sturz held that the three major text types -- Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine -- were equally early and should therefore, all of them together, be considered when discussing places of textual variation in the New Testament. I personally hold to this position and, in fact, have defended this view in print. In other words, I unashamedly espouse the views put forth by Harry Sturz. But am I therefore a "Sturzian"? 

I wonder. 

To explain what I mean, allow me to quote to you what the great J. I. Packer once said when he was being interviewed about Calvinism.

This minority calls itself "Reformed." But people around and about usually refer to the members of this group as "Calvinists." I, for one -- who belong to this group, as God enables me -- I don't like being called a Calvinist because Calvin himself was very anxious not to make a party bearing his name or anything like it. And I venerate the memory of Calvin too much to do something which, if he knew about it -- as I suppose in glory he might well -- he would want to rebuke me for.

In a similar vein, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, having discovered the remarkable works of John Edwards, once wrote:

How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear besides such a sun. 

But then he went on to say:

But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to me. 

Neither John Calvin nor James Packer nor Jonathan Edwards nor Harry Sturz are with us today. But I wonder what would happen if they should somehow miraculously show up at one of our conferences. Perhaps they would ask us, "Why do you look at the borrowed light when you can all go directly to the source?" 

I am not ashamed to say that I avow the views of Harry Sturz. But Sturz himself made no claim to infallibility, nor did he ever seek a following or to start a school of thought. Like all great Christians, he thought nothing of himself. His only desire was to point to the truth as he understood it. 

I suppose, then, that I am really not a "Sturzian" after all. We could view Harry Sturz as a biblical scholar in the purest sense of the word. But I would suggest that the best way to regard him is as a churchman who sought to use his considerable gifts to build up the body of Christ and to offer a credible reason for believers to trust the sources on which their faith is founded. Those of us who were blessed to have known him personally would, I think, agree that Harry Sturz taught not only by his words but by his example. For us, he was a bright light in our lives. Yet most of all he was a spark symbolizing his unflagging pursuit of the Son. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Farm Work Completed (For Today)

Been doing farm work all day. I just finished. I like the way the farm is looking. But I know I will have to do all it over again in two or three weeks. 

Wouldn't have it any other way.

Heading out for some well-deserved supper. :-) 

Our Only Source of Peace

This beautiful music blessed my soul this morning.

"Dona nobis pacem" simply means "Grant us peace" in Latin. I sang a different version of this hymn when I was a freshman music major at the University of Hawaii as part of a classical music chorale. It may have been the first time I ever sang something in Latin. 

Here's a passage about peace I read this morning. 

I've been chronicling my pet peeves about English Bible versions on this blog for years, but I somehow wish we could do a better job of indicating emphasis when we render the New Testament into English. Here in John 14:27, Jesus says, "I am giving you my peace." Actually, there are several options in Greek when you want to say "my peace." Here they are in ascending order of emphasis:

1) hē eirenē mou (the normal construction)

2) hē eirenē emou (a little more emphasis on "my")

3) mou hē eirenē (even more emphasis on "my")

4) emou hē eirenē (even more emphasis on "my")

5) hē emē eirenē (a great deal more emphasis on "my")

6) hē eirenē hē emē (probably the strongest possible way in Greek of saying"my")

It's this last construction that's used here in John 14:27. Not only that, but the words "my peace" come before the verb "I am giving." 

So what are our options in English? Unfortunately, we can't use what we should use to indicate emphasis, namely, italics. Those are already taken to indicate words in English that aren't found in the Greek. Hence we have to resort to a paraphrase of sorts. Remember, #5 is very strong. I might render it as, "It is my peace that I am giving you." But #6 is even stronger. Perhaps we can say, "It is my peace -- yes, my very own peace --  that I am giving you." 

Why bother? When I teach Greek, I encourage my students to look for the smallest details that might have exegetical significance. In fact, we spend a lot of time talking about emphasis and how Greek achieves it. I can translate the words alright, but it's no good if I just repeat what I already know from the English ("my peace I give you"). I am handling a book in which not only the words are inspired by the Holy Spirit but other features of language as well. 

As head of the church, Jesus Christ himself is offering us his peace. It's as though he is saying, "There's a big fight ahead, and I want to prepare you for it." The world says peace is downing a six pack or gorging our stomachs or spending money at the mall that we don't have. Christ says there's only one kind of peace that works. His peace. The peace he gives us. 

It's not a peace that removes hardships and confusion. But it is a peace that will sustain us through our biggest wars. 

It's Official!

It's official! Last night I registered for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on Oct. 2, 2022. 

Lord willing, this will be my 19th marathon. I chose this race over St. George and Honolulu for a couple of reasons:

1) I've never run this course before.

2) For 2022 they just moved the race from a point to point (running mostly through rural farmland and housing subdivisions) to a downtown race that showcases the city of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan. I love big city marathons.

3) While I'm in Milwaukee, a nearby Bible college/seminary has graciously invited me to speak the Friday before the race. 

I've booked my flights as well as my Airbnb, which is in a town south of Milwaukee called Saint Francis. The house is only a block from the lake. 

I feel better, at age 70, than I have ever felt in my 6 years of running. Slower, yes, but much more pleased with my running. True, I've had to add more rest, run more intelligently, and take walk breaks, but the endorphins are the same at 70 as at 20. 

So, I venture out. The race is in two months. 

A Self-Controlled Life

In 2019, I ran the Chicago Marathon. This was the race in which Brigid Koskei of Kenya broke Paula Radcliffe's women's world marathon record by 81 seconds.

It takes more than natural ability and dedication to win a world record. Plenty of runners have that. The difference with Kosgei was her rigorous training regime.  In Kenya, she trains over 9,000 feet above sea level. She stays in the Rosa Training Camp perpetually. Her training involves long and hard runs. She runs a marathon distance at least once a week. She rarely trains on a track, and even running on a flat road is the exception and not the rule. I imagine that other Kenyans her age are out partying while Koskei is in bed preparing for a predawn workout. That's no way to live if you don't care about breaking a world record. It's the only way to live if you do.

When we become Christians, it's sort of like training for a marathon. To say yes to God means saying no to your former loves. To love and serve God wholeheartedly, we have to wrench our desires from all that would keep us from obtaining God's best for our lives. It means not giving in to every desire or temptation. It may mean saying no to something we have every right to say yes to. It will mean weeding out the things Paul lists in Gal. 5:19-21: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism, hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, the constant need to get the best for ourselves only, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in our own little group, wrong doctrine, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and "all that sort of thing." 

A famous man once said, "To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition." As a runner, I must always keep this as my focus. I must never forget that "Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important" (1 Tim. 4:8). And, when I feel like the task is too much, I must remember that a self-controlled life is an exchanged life (Gal. 2:20). Rather than worrying out what I will face, I should work on releasing every area of my life to God's perfect control. Only as I abide in the Vine can the seemingly impossible of life become possible. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Gym, a Welcoming Committee, and Some Shocking News

Today I spent the morning at the gym. Yes, I'm still hoping to return to the Alps to climb one more 4,000-meter peak before I apply to become a Walmart greeter. Maybe this time next year? We shall see.

After my workout I drove home. One of the things I love about the farm is that an eager welcoming committee is always there to greet you. 

But first things first -- reading Scripture, meditating, praying, writing, worshipping at the only place I know that sells "Bo Rounds." 

I once heard someone define prayer as turning the heart and mind to the Lord. I love that definition. Prayer is a both/and, not an either/or, proposition. Bible time should not just be cerebral. It should involve our entire being as we stand in awe of God's glory and majesty. Living the normal Christian life involves being convictional, Spirit-guided, contemplative, emotional, intellectual, and personal as well as believing, hoping, and loving (faith, hope, and love). This perspective about prayer is, I think, all the more necessary as the church is transformed by the spirit of the age and the mind of the world. 

For example, I was shocked (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) this morning to read that a Roman Catholic bishop recently celebrated a "queer" mass in Munich instead of calling his listeners to repentance and chastity. More and more of their teachers are insisting that their catechism needs to be changed. Even the president of the German Bishops' Conference is calling for "a reevaluation of homosexual unions and a further development of the Church's sexual morality." Speaking at a mass, he said, "I desire an inclusive church," adding, "The kingdom of God is to discover that God is Love -- in all its dimensions." He also said, "All human relationships must be marked by the primacy of Love. Then they can be accepted by God." 

As usual, this is a half truth -- at best. But as J. I. Packer once said, "A half-truth masquerading as a whole truth becomes a complete untruth." 

What the church needs now is not necessarily more discussion and debate. We need truth. We need a new life. We are going off a cliff and we need to hold on to God's word more than ever before. Whether we are experiencing the apostasy of 2 Thessalonians 2, I do not know. But clearly we are facing a very grave situation. Thankfully, even in nations that are repudiating Christianity, there is a faithful remnant. 

In the years ahead, our personal decisions -- yours and mine -- will contribute to the outcome of what is tragically unfolding in our day. Issues of the greatest consequence rest on our fidelity to the word of God. I realize that some scholars will continue to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. They point to all of the differences between our copies. "How can we possibly trust a Bible like that?" Some seem desperate to undermine our confidence in God's word. The fact is, there is nothing to fear. We have not lost a single word of the New Testament. 

As I said yesterday, there is no possibility of forward progress until we face this situation squarely. Either the church will become a proud, insubordinate, and rebellious harlot, or a bride -- pure and radiant when her Lord returns. My constant prayer is that 2022 will be a year of renewed commitment to the historicity, apostolicity, trustworthiness, and sufficiency of the Bible. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Where are the Wesleys?

Twenty-first-century subjectivism and eisegetical hermeneutics have affected the church of Jesus Christ very greatly. Perhaps nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the shocking fact (which I just discovered today) that Richard Rohr's The Universal Jesus is number 5 at Amazon in books on Christology. A Post-Enlightenment culture is flocking to it, relieved to finally be able to reinterpret Christianity without reference to divine revelation. Have we ever needed a Great Awakening more than we do today? Where are the Wesleys and Whitfields and Edwards who are prepared to stand against the trend of our times and bear humble yet firm witness to the truth? 

I don't think we can keep our heads down below the parapets much longer. 

Now Here's Something Strange

Are you familiar with the New English Bible (NEB)? 

I got my copy about 45 years ago when I first began teaching. In the New Testament, it claims to consistently "use the idiom of contemporary English to convey the meaning of the Greek." Many have charged it as being more of a paraphrase than a strict translation. I have never really used it, so I wouldn't know. Today, however, I was listening to a sermon and the text being read was Phil. 1:7 from the NEB. It included a very strange rendering. Yes, the Greek permits it, but the Greek word order argues against it -- strongly. 

Note that we are dealing with two different pronouns in Greek. Notice also that both may be taken either as the subject or as the object of the verb in the Greek. Here are your two options. 

me = I (subject)/me (object)

humas = you (subject)/you (object) 

The question, then, is: Does Paul have the Philippians in his heart, or do the Philippians have Paul in their heart? 

Here the NEB has, "It is indeed only right that I should feel like this about you all, because you hold me in such affection." However, when the NEB was updated and replaced by the Revised English Bible (REB), this was changed to, "It is only right for me to feel this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart." The REB is undoubtedly correct. (See also the ESV, NIV, etc.) The rule of thumb in Greek grammar is to make the pronoun closest to the verb the subject. In this case, the Greek pronoun me functions in this manner, making it almost certain that Paul is the subject of the verb "have" (echein). 

This is just one example of the kinds of questions translators face. Small wonder there are so many English translations available today (though I doubt that you can purchase a hard copy of the NEB any longer). 

All of this, and more, will be discussed in my book How to Make the New Testament Come Alive!, especially chapter 3: "Choosing a New Testament Translation." 

I'm working hard to complete it.

Today's Marathon Training Run

"If you're planning on doing a marathon, you need to put in the training." I don't recall who first uttered this famous dictum. Justin Bieber? 

Roger Bannister once said, "The marathon is the acme of athletic heroism." (Note: Acme, not acne.) Well, most of us marathoners aren't heroes, just your average Joe or Jane Runner. But that's precisely what I love about the marathon. It allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things. This is why dedication and discipline are so important, not to mention training. The marathon takes the human body to its limits and beyond. You will experience fatigue and pain like you've never felt before. You go into every race wondering if you will have enough toughness to carry it out. The two key components are persistence and moderation. You train regularly and you build endurance slowly and at a steady rate. 

Today's run was, as per usual, at the local high school. When I started running it was only about 88 degrees. 

I told myself I would stop as soon as the real feel got over 98. 

It was wasn't long before that moment had arrived.

I took a final lap or two around the track and then called it a day. 

I ended up running just over 6 miles.

The first thing I did after the run was reach for my favorite post-run beverage. 

Chocolate milk helps with three things. Since it's liquid, it rehydrates. Since it contains carbs, it helps replenish glycogen. And since it has protein, it helps recover the muscles. The perfect recovery drink! 

In case you're wondering what my next marathon is, the answer is, "I honestly don't know yet." Here are the 3 leading candidates:

1) The Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Lakefront Marathon in October. I've heard a lot of good things about this event. It's a point to point race, which I love. I also hear there are great views of the lake for the last 4 miles. But I've also read that the roads are full of potholes. Ugh!

2) The St. George (Utah) Marathon, also in October. This too is a point to point race. Since I've already run it once, I can say without hesitation that the scenery is the most gorgeous you will ever experience during a marathon. The sunrise is beautiful as are the mountains and canyons. However, Veyo Hill is no joke. Might need to hire a sherpa for that challenge. 

3) The Honolulu (Hawaii) Marathon in December. I have mixed feelings about this race. Yes, it's in Hawaii. What's not to love about that? The course is mostly flat (except for when you go around Diamond Head). But the race (as you can well imagine) is hot and extremely humid. Oddly, growing up on Oahu I never noticed the humidity while living there. Now, I'm afraid I'll board the struggle bus so early in the race it won't end up being an enjoyable experience. Honestly, the only reason I want to do this race is because it's on my bucket list. 

I might just end up doing the Richmond Marathon again (for the fourth time). It's local, it's flat, and it's got some wonderful views of the James. Generally speaking, however, I don't like doing the same race twice. What's the point when there are so many races to choose from? And, you can no doubt tell that I love to travel. 

That's all for now! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

"Are You a Pastor?"

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked that question. I think people assume I must be (or must have been) the pastor of a local church because of my career as a New Testament teacher. I have always answered that question with a "No." I might have to rethink that.

I have been a professor for some 45 years now, but my general life has been marked, I think, by a pastoral bent. In teaching, the two things seem to come together. The best teachers I had in college, in seminary, and even in my doctoral studies saw themselves as pastors whether they were ordained or not. They "pastored" the young people that passed through their lecture halls. It was understood back then that a college or seminary professor would do that. The gulf between the academic and the pastoral didn't seem to be as large in those days as it is today. So in a sense, I believe myself to have been a pastor/shepherd to my students as I sought to guide them in their service to God. 

When I was taking Greek at Biola College (now University), I met Dr. Harry Sturz for the first time. He taught me many of the principles and techniques that I have used in my own career. His instruction has never left me. It has guided me all these years in my classroom teaching as well as in my writing. Most importantly, his passion to study the Scriptures has stayed with me throughout my ministry. When, in 1976, he hired me to teach Greek at Biola, I determined to follow his own example by modelling for others what he had so faithfully modeled for me. 

I am grateful to Harry Sturz (and others) for "pastoring" me (as good mentors always do) and for teaching me diligence in the study of God's word. The standards they set before me, and the self-discipline they required of me, have shaped my life and ministry for more than 4 decades. 

Ideally, wisdom should be passed down from parent to child, from grandparent to grandchild, and from teacher to pupil. It should be passed down as the older generation shares their experience in walking with God with the younger generation. The Bible is filled with an enormous amount of exhortation for Christians to become mentors to others. I urge you to consider taking on this role as your own. And, as you do this, may your walk with Christ continue to deepen, and may you be used to shepherd the sheep he has placed under your care, always pointing them to the Good Shepherd.  

My Conversation with Abidan Shah of Clearview Church

In case you're interested in these sorts of things, my latest conversation with Abidan Shah of Clearview Church has just gone live. If you'd like to follow along, please click here. Thank you. 

We Must Defend Historic Christianity

More from the preface to my forthcoming book on the kingdom of God:

The general assessment of our culture is that the Christian phase in the history of the world is over and, as post-Christians, we should be moving on to something else and leaving Christianity behind us as quickly as possible. We must adopt the "new" culture of the day, which is slated to replace the "old" one. This all seems clear.

Christians holding to and practicing biblical faith must be equally clear in rejecting any proposal that denies the finality of the Christian faith. We must defend historic Christianity, and we must do so as an expression of our love for and adoration of God. Our commitment to societal transformation will not be based on secular concepts of justice and equality but on the new birth that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. To put it another way, God's work of saving us in justification underlies God's work in us in sanctification. We will therefore reject all attempts to confuse the cup of cold water we hold in one hand with the Gospel of repentance and faith we hold in the other. The "full" Gospel requires no addition to simple faith in Christ, be that addition circumcision, tongues-speaking, or any other form of legalism. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Odds and Ends

Good afternoon, Bible students! This morning my devotions were in Luke 1-2 as I focused on the four famous hymns we find there. After that, I spent about a half hour studying the original Apostles' Creed and its use of aorist and present tense participles -- a study I hope to use in my Greek 2 class this fall when we arrive at the Greek participle. 

Then it was off for a run at the Tobacco Heritage Trail. 

The whole time I was running I was attacked by horse flies, which was totally my fault because I forgot my bug spray (again). 

The trail, by the way, is a so-called rail trail. Rail trails are multipurpose (walking, running, horseback riding) paths created from former railroad corridors and, because they are relatively flat, are a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors regardless of your level of fitness. There are more than 400 of these rail trails in the U.S. I have to give a big shout out to the city of South Boston for maintaining this trail so well. They were out there in force today. We appreciate all you do!

Lastly, this morning I began writing the first draft of the preface to my book Godworld. And yes, I always use handwriting first and then convert my notes into a Word doc. 

One reason I do this is because I'm able to see corrections and have a visual record of the various creative stages of writing I go through as I produce a book. I can also write notes to myself in the margin before typing. At any rate, here's what I jotted down this morning, for what it's worth. 

Recent events have reminded us that the evangelical church in America is in deep trouble. Success is now defined by growth, numbers, and size instead of by the New Testament marks of faithfulness and biblical holiness. Gatherings have become slick programs intended to boost attendance, using "whatever works." Disciples are now consumers, and pragmatism rules. Christianity is now hip. A sense of transcendence is now a thing of the past, replaced by a culture of consumerism and entertainment. The Christ-centeredness of the early church in Acts has been replaced by a dull experience of robotic activities that feed our egos and sense of self-importance. This book is designed to free us from the worship of self in order to regain a scriptural focus on the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We will make a good start by restoring the weekly practice of the Lord's Supper. Indeed, the idea of coming to the Lord's Table once a quarter or once a month is no longer tenable for me. One SBC church expresses it this way on their website:

We take the Lord's Supper every Sunday in order to remember Christ's atoning death and our identity as members of one body. This is also a time for repentance and renewal.

Many of the young people I encounter in my classrooms are tired of being entertained. They want to be fed through a balance of Word and Table. 

I'll stop here for now. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the church will never make a difference in the world until it becomes a Christ-centered community whose differences from the world are noticeable. And to do this, I believe that the New Testament teaching about the kingdom of God is the plumbline. 

Time for chores!  

Monday, July 25, 2022

I Love 2 Timothy 2:6!

Seems I've spent the whole afternoon picking blueberries. Our bushes had a bumper crop this year. 

Here's a care package I made for the grandkids. 

Of course, I'm not giving away all of the berries. After all, "The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." I agree, Paul! 

Thank You to All You Farmers Out There

Farm life is soooo crazy! I just went outdoors to say hello to the kids, who were parking a load of hay under one of my sheds. 

All of a sudden, who should we notice in the donkey pasture but our Holstein, Miss Moo. Girl, this ain't yo pasture!

Let's see. I wonder if she can be coaxed back into her pasture with some oats. 

Worked! Thank you for cooperating, Miss Moo! 

By the way, we just welcomed a new buck to the goat pasture. He's a registered Lamancha with excellent dairy lines. Ain't he handsome? Hope he's an Alpha Male. :-)

Anyhoo, I love to watch the kids farm. They fit right in not being afraid to do anything and to learn more every day. They really put a bright spot in my day. We've jury rigged the broken fence. Moo also broke the water line when she knocked down the fence. No worries. Everything will be fixed by tomorrow. The team work around here is amazing. 

Farming is one of the most underappreciated careers in the world. Thank you to all the farmers out there. Never a dull moment on a farm. Always something to do. And we wouldn't want it any other way.

A Lazy Man's Morning Devotional Routine

I know lots of people who are much more disciplined than I am. Still, I do have my daily routines. I eat breakfast every day. I floss every day. I feed Ishi a carrot every day. I pick my nose every day. And, like most Christ Ones, I have a formal devotional time with God every day. For what it's worth, here's what my morning devotionals generally look like. 

1) Bible reading and meditation. I do this either at home or at a coffee shop in town. This morning I got up at 5:30. I put on a pot of coffee and then began reading certain Scriptures I was drawn to. This morning, those just happened to be Proverbs chapter 1, and Luke chapter 11. I had been thinking a lot lately about wisdom and how one acquires it in life, so Proverbs seemed like a natural place to go. I went to Luke 11 because there Jesus promises to give us wisdom (actually, he promises to give us his Holy Spirit) if we simply ask him for it. I think both Scriptures are saying the same thing. We can only get wisdom from God. No one need be ashamed of such simple faith. The keenest intellects have spent lifetimes with the Bible and have confessed to barely touching the surface of its treasures. But when the simplest soul takes the Book for what it is, they begin to feed on its meat. 

2) Secondly, I spent time listening to morning prayers and Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, which, even though I'm not an Anglican, I love for its biblical texts and scriptural prayers. 

3) Next, I spent time in praise and worship, listening to this wonderful series of hymns. 

The words will be familiar to anyone who has studied Ecclesiastical Latin. The five movements are:

  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Credo
  • Sanctus et Benedictus
  • Agnus Dei

The last reads as follows:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. 

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. 

This music is dedicated to the glory of God, not self. I can't help but kneel before the Lord when I listen to Palestrina's music. 

4) Finally, I watched this video by Voddie Baucham on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. It "just happened" to show up in my YouTube feed this morning. I'm glad it did. 

Voddie shows us how the encroachment of our culture in this area has affected the church. Asserting that God "winks" (my word, not Voddie's) at homosexuality is the fruit of great exegetical imprecision. As Voddie points out, the Bible is unambiguous about certain things, including the sin of Sodom. It is therefore not a loving thing to coddle error simply because you say you "love" the other person. I suppose it all depends on how you define "love." Here's my favorite definition (source). Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person. Where there is great love there is always accountability. Everything else hinges on this, for if we believe that every jot and tittle of the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is not incredulity to accept Scriptural teachings for what they claim to be. Jesus even said that families will be divided because of the stand they take about him. This is a far cry from the cheap brand of Christianity so prevalent today, a variety that costs little and is worth even less. 

Well, that's it -- what a typical morning looks like for me. As you can see, the Scriptures form a big part of my daily routine. The Bible is God's way of stepping out of the shadows and making himself known to us. It tells us what he's like and what he expects from us. It guides us through  every difficulty. 

God knows and cares about all these matters. I cannot imagine starting the day without spending time together with him.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Me, DOMS, and Not Giving Up

A term that every runner should know is DOMS. It stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Of course, we runners could probably just complain about our muscles being sore, but if biblical scholars can use terms like Weltanschauung and Sitz im Leben to say World View and Setting in Life, I guess runners can be forgiven for trying to act cool too. Do you think I have a case of DOMS today? Hahahahahahahaha. What, do you think I actually went into yesterday's trail run severely undertrained, or that I ended it looking like the Tin Man from Alice in Wonderland (*creak*)? 

Despite all the adversity of the race and the exhaustion, almost everyone was amazingly positive after the race. They focused, not on what went wrong, but only on what had gone right. Sometimes the only thing "going right" after a race is the fact that you are still upright. 

In my life, I want to live without regrets. I don't want to look back and say, "I wish had done that." I believe that I am blessed with a body that enjoys being active, and I want to take advantage of that while I'm able. Runners can have an absolutely miserable day and still think they are undertaking the most amazing thing. Call us crazy, I guess. Nobody is making us do this. It is our choice. 

My friend, if there's something in your life worth doing, do it now. Don't wait. Live each day to the very fullest so that you don't look back and think about all the things you could have done. 

The guy who beat me yesterday is 77 years of age. How completely amazing it is that a 77-year old man would have the audacity to click the "Register" button for a tough trail race. One thing this tells me is that age doesn't necessarily need to be a limiting factor in pursuing your dream. 

Jordan Peterson has been on a roll of late. He's been talking about men being men and not wimps like the culture is asking them to be. If I could sum up his message in one sentence, it would be: Be willing to embrace suffering. This philosophy of life is completely contrary to normal, everyday life. We try to avoid suffering. We don't want DOMS. But in a trail race (and in the race of life), suffering is normal. It's perfectly acceptable. 

Perhaps the main thing that running has taught me is that it's possible to suffer and not give up. It is always possible to keep going. This one ability can't be bought but it is priceless. Don't stop. Crawl if you have to. Whatever you do, keep moving forward. 

Tomorrow, my tired and sore legs will awaken to a day of opportunity for advancing my fitness to the glory of God. After all, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is better than Daily Old Man Syndrome :-) 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Now More Than Ever

We cannot surrender truth to popular ideologies and remain faithful to Christ. We cannot sacrifice our theology in favor of some recent sociological trend. Now more than ever, the world needs a church that will speak the truth -- and live it. 

Lake Harris Trail Run 2022 Race Report

Imagine a group of guys and gals, all strangers, coming together to bust their buns running a twisty-turvy, up and down trail run over rocks and roots and fallen trees. 

These runners are all here for the same purpose -- to test their mettle not only against a really tough course but against the curse of all July races -- humidity. As in 100 percent humidity. Okay, it wasn't raining, so it probably wasn't actually 100 percent. But it sure felt that way. 

I'm not sure how this race first piqued my interest. Maybe it was because I was getting burned out on triathlons. Or maybe I just needed to see if a 6 foot 4 klutz could run a trail race without face planting. All I know is that I was up and at 'em at 5:30 this morning, dead serious about not only completing this race but competing in it. That's right. I said it. The "C" word. We live in a crazy time. We're not supposed to be competitive lest we offend somebody. Competitions can result in lower self-esteem because 90 percent of people don't get recognized, and if they don't get recognized they could experience fear and anxiety. Good grief. Competition is a part of life, so we might as well harness it productively. 

Despite the Declaration of Independence, we are not all created equal. I will never win the Boston Marathon. I will probably never even quality for it, try as I might. You and I are surrounded by people who know more, do more, and make more than we do. Who cares? Live up to your potential! For most of today's race, I was striving to come in first place in my age group. Yes, the competitive juices were in overdrive. I would either win my division or die trying. Can you visualize it? My legs are heavy. My lungs are heaving. All around me are runners engaged in the same struggle. I am pushing myself as if my life depended on reaching the finish line ahead of the two other men in my age group. I am running at about 95 percent of my maximum oxygen capacity. Today I raced, I didn't just run. And I raced at the very edge of what I could handle. At mile 2 or so I fell in behind this guy and he paced me for a while. 

Then he succumbed to the humidity and I passed him. Later I was passed by these two women. 

They became my new pacers and somehow I managed to stay with them until the end. I was running against the absolute best I could do, not just competing for myself but competing for a prize.

When I finished, I was overwhelmed by a sense of unadulterated joy. The race was a great experience -- the sensation of speed, the expenditure of total effort, the competitive spirit I saw in myself and in others. In the battle for first place, my basic strategy was to go out easy, find my rhythm, then hit the afterburners in the last mile. I entered the later stages of the race knowing that I was giving it everything I had. A half mile from the finish I pulled the trigger, going as fast as I could. 

When I crossed the finish line, I was totally expended though also elated. My body had attained an efficiency that my mind could not comprehend. I let myself wander over to the results booth. I had finished in second place, 4 minutes behind the first place finisher in my age group. I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't disappointed. I felt like Sisyphus, forever pushing the stone yet never arriving at the goal. But that feeling lasted for only a minute. There was a battle to be fought, and I had fought it bravely. 

That's life. Each day that we live, there is a victory to be won -- and a defeat to be risked. 

Millions of Americans take to the roads or trails every year seeking to be their best. "The athlete instantiates the man," wrote the philosopher Paul Weiss. "I am proud to be of this breed." Every race day is a day in which I give special thanks to God. A trail race is a good place to become, if only for an hour, the person you are meant to be. 

Each of us must have a mountain to climb, even if it looks no larger than a hillock. To live a meaningful life, we need to have meaningful goals. Perhaps that's what Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians, meant when he said, "Wherever you are, be ALL THERE, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." 

Friday, July 22, 2022

A Wonderful Reminder

I'm at my Wake Forest office today getting some writing done, but I'm also doing some reading in my Hebrew New Testament just for the fun of it. 

Here are the final verses in the Gospel of Matthew. 

I just love how the Hebrew translates the Greek. Instead of "I am with you always" it has "I am with you all the days," which corresponds perfectly to the Greek's pasas tas hemeras. The idea is that our Lord is with us "daily" or "each and every day." 

What a lovely thought. God is the ever-present presence. Jesus assures us that he is with us day after day after day, always, even unto the end of the age. A truly wonderful reminder. 

Hope you're having a great day. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Biking to Jamestown

Greetings, friends! The morning started out with a beautiful sunrise. 

My plan was to drive to Charles City Courthouse and from there bike to historic Jamestown. 

I was thrilled to see so many lovely cornfields along the way. I love corn!  

Here's the halfway mark -- the bridge over the Pamunkey. 

After an hour and a half of cycling I finally reached the Jamestown Settlement, where you'll discover the story of America's beginnings through gallery exhibits and outdoor living history. 

The museum is open from 9:00 to 5:00 daily and is really worth seeing.  

There I turned around and biked back to the car -- about a 41 mile round trip in all. 

The ride was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Over the years I've realized there are things I love and hate about running, and one of the things I definitely do not like is what it does to your toes. My big toe started bothering me at about mile 20 and the pain only got worse the longer I rode. 

I'm kicking myself for not having pulled the toenail off before leaving the house today. The only good thing about injuries is that they are (thankfully) temporary. I know one other thing: The harder you work for something, the more it means to you. The fact that the last 20 miles of my ride today were monumentally difficult made the finish that much sweeter. 

But all that is water under the bridge. It's time to enjoy a nice quiet evening on the farm, full of gratitude for the amazing experience the Lord allowed me to have today. When the day is done, I try to remember a couple of things:

1) Exercise is not your life. Your life is filled with other things that are just important. Enjoy them while you can.

2) Your race/swim/bike/run will not always go the way you want it to go. So always be prepared for the pivot. 

3) You are capable of so much more than you know. So go and do it! It's okay to be scared. Challenge yourself to overcome your fears. Turn off that TV. Get off the couch. Go out and do something awesome even if it hurts a bit. Your body is an incredible piece of machinery!