Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Christmas Quiz!

What's the German word for "Christmas"? (Choose one.)

  • Ostern
  • Fasching
  • Oktoberfest
  • Weihnachten
  • Karfreitag

The answer is "Weihnachten." Know what that means literally? "Consecrated night."

Frohe Weihnachten! Bis bald!


A Word to Students

You can have excuses. Or you can have results. But you cannot have both. Always keep that in mind. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Low (No) Drop Shoes

A simply running hack: No single running shoe is suitable for everyone. But in general, choose a shoe with a lower drop -- or no drop -- in elevation from heel to toe. This will allow your feet to behave like feet and avoid shifting the center of mass forward and away from the site in the foot that is meant to bear the load. My preferred brand is Altra. 


Editing Forthcoming Book

Had breakfast today with Abidan Shah, who organized the 2022 Clearview Apologetics Conference that dealt with the question, "Can We Recover the 'Original Text' of the New Testament?" Here we are putting some editorial touches on the book by the same title. A preliminary draft of the chapters goes to the publisher this week. 

Abidan has also written this excellent book on textual criticism. 

Might seem boring to some, but I always like to get my students thinking about textual criticism as an essential step in New Testament exegesis. 

Back to writing .... 

Monday, November 28, 2022

Asyndeton and Prayer in Phil. 4:5-6

"Asyndeton" is a fancy word scholars use to describe a rhetorical device found in literature. The word simply means "unconnected." Asyndeton is used when an author intentionally eliminates conjunctions between phrases. Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered [not "and I conquered") speeds things up, is punchier, and adds emphasis. 

In Lord of the Flies, William Golding writes, "We saw no houses, no smoke, no footprints, no boats, no people." Because of asyndeton, the relationship between phrases must be determined by the context alone.

In my Bible time this morning, I was in Philippians 4. 

Let me ask you: What is the relationship between "The Lord is near" in verse 5 and "Be anxious for nothing" in verse 6? Here's what occurred to me today. It seems to me that there might be a cause and effect relationship here. I might put it this way: "The Lord is near, so be anxious for nothing." See the connection? We all have worries and cares. But Paul says we should stop being anxious about anything because of the presence of Christ. He is always here, and therefore we can turn to him with our prayers (the general term) and our petitions (the more specific term) in every circumstance that might cause us to worry. The only condition is that we ask "with thanksgiving" -- a grateful acknowledgement of the presence of the One who promised, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm 81:10).

So the next time you are tempted to worry, remember Paul's encouragement: "The Lord is near, so don't worry about anything. Instead (a very strong conjunction in the Greek), tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers." If you do this, the result will be the peace of God, which will set a guard over your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. His presence will be like an impregnable fortress from which no one can dislodge you!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Don't Fear Homilophobia

We live in a fearful generation. There are at least 800 official phobias, from A to Z. These include agoraphobia (fear of open places) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed places). There's even a phobia called phobophobia. Anyone care to guess what that means?

Recently I ran across a phobia that really stood out to me. It seems a bit of a stretch but it actually does exist. It's called homilophobia, or the fear of preaching, that is, of listening to sermons. 

Here's the scoop on it if you're interested. I don't think I've ever met a person who has admitted to suffering from this phobia, though I suspect that some of us have had major bouts with "fear of bad preaching." The great John Stott once called the state of preaching today "abysmal." (Go here if you don't believe me.) There's much truth to that, methinks.

That said, I think there's another way we can define "homilophobia." I'm referring, not to the fear of listening to sermons, but to the fear of giving them. Substitute "respect" for "fear" and I think you will get my drift. Preacher friend, there may have been a time in your life when your pulpit world seemed safe, secure. Preaching was "no big deal." You gave it your best, and you often felt your best was good enough. But you were much younger then. Now, as a more experienced preacher, you find yourself so stifled you can hardly breathe. The task seems a lot more daunting, now that you have a few years under your belt. 

At the end of his career, Billy Graham said, "If I had to do my ministry over again, I would have done two things differently. One, I would have prayed more. And two, I would have studied more and preached less." James would agree: "My friends, not many of you should become teachers. As you know, we teachers will be judged with greater strictness than others" (James 3:1, GNT). Of course, God knows our weaknesses. He knows that even when we labor long and hard over our messages, we still feel like we missed the mark by a mile. And yet, as Elton Trueblood once put it, "Holy shoddy is still shoddy." 

It's probably better not to preach than to preach poorly. Think: "study more and preach less." I sometimes feel a certain guilt in knowing that I have not always pursued excellence in the classroom with the same relentless effort and determination I give to my running or lifting. Those aren't very enjoyable times, because I know I've fallen short of God's (and my own) standards. So I dig in and redouble my efforts to work out my own sanctification amid daily battles with apathy and sloth. It's not easy, but God never promised it would be (James 3:1). 

Being a preacher of God's word is a sweaty struggle. It's one of the hardest things you will ever do. No wonder it deserves our greatest fear and respect. That said, huge rewards await those who face the struggle head on, work diligently, and don't let up. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Why Not?

Why not? Learn German, that is. It's relatively easy to master. The grammar is a bit difficult but not impossible. Germans generally pronounce their words very clearly so it is easy to follow. English is pretty much Germanic so that's a start. You just have to watch out for declensions and grammatical gender. Other than that, not too big of a deal. And German spelling makes English look like it was invented by extraterrestrials on drugs. 

A Senseless Tragedy

Today my thoughts are with my daughter and her church family in rural Alabama. One of their members was senselessly murdered a few days ago. The tragedy is incomprehensible. A wife and mother tries to stop a carjacking and is run over and killed. Our hearts go out to the family, to her community, and to her church. If it feels right, please lift up a prayer for this family. What has happened is pure evil. The response to it has been pure goodness. This comforts me beyond words. 

Having a Tough Time Studying?

It's okay to dread studying for your next quiz or exam. It's nothing special. Everyone one of us gets a case of the glooms from time to time. Study anyway. Solve the problem by dissolving it. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Internet Ruined Me

The internet totally ruined me. I thought I was going to get jacked after a few months of lifting but I'm coming to see that the "key" secret is just doing it every week and dedicating myself to the process for a very long time. Every stage in life is different. I wish that I started earlier with an active lifestyle. Focus on being healthy -- not just on getting ripped or losing weight. 

Good Night, Planet

Just Get the Work Done

Hard, hard hour of training this morning. 

Notice I didn't say "exercise." There's a difference between training and exercising. 

Exercise is mere activity. Training is activity with a purpose, a goal. 

My goal? A 4,027 meter peak in the Alps. Ice, crevasses, snow. Danger of avalanches. Rock scrambling near the summit. A three day climb. Cost of professional mountain guide: $640 daily. 

Lesson: No one will do the work for you. 

Running, lifting, and climbing have taught me that I don't have to be gifted or natural at something in order to love to do it or to be the best at something. I am hardly a gifted athlete. However, I get out the door and can at least try to build a solid base for myself. Nobody looks at me running and says, "Wow, what an awesome runner." However, I love to do it. I know I can get the job done if I work hard enough. 

Training has taught me how far consistency can go in life. Your own mind can either be your greatest strength or your worst enemy. No one else can convince you what you're capable of. You must convince yourself. 

Never settle for anything less than the best you can be. Get the work done even when it is hard (especially when it is hard). 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Turkey Trot to Fight MS

I had set my alarm for 5:45 this morning but I was awake long before that. I was SO excited to get down to Raleigh and give Multiple Sclerosis a swift kick in the pants along with a bunch of other health-minded people. 

It was so much fun to see all the kids running with their parents. 

And yes, I got passed by dads pushing baby carriages!

But it was all for a good cause. 

Not that anybody is interested, but I finished in 1,275th place out of 1,809 finishers and 6th out of 15 in my age group (= men born in the Paleozoic Era). 

Up next:

  • Animal care
  • Nap
  • Turkey dinner
  • Football

I know I say this all the time, but having an attitude of gratitude can change your perspective in a nanosecond. Be thankful for all of it. In that moment when you think you can't take another step, whisper "Thank you." 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Farm Vignettes

I am the world's ultimate procrastinator. Especially when it comes to chores I dislike doing. It will get done, but later rather than sooner. For months now I've needed to remove a dead weeping willow from the pond area. 

Today I decided that enough was enough. Get off your duff and get to work. I did have a lot of help from the goats, as you can see. 

They couldn't wait to explore the bark on the tree. 

This guy here starting to eat my running shoes. 

No sirree, buddy. You may NOT chew on these Altras that cost me $145.00. And what do ya think of lil' miss Hollywood? 

She loves to be scratched. Finally, I've started Ishi on his winter hay. 

He'll go through a lot of these bales before the pastures are green again. 

It's all part of normal farm management and I love it. 

The Message of 1 John (With a Nod to Philipp Jacob Spener)

Here at DBO it's all about good books, and here's one of the best -- a Christian "classic" if ever there was one. 

I read it, along with 1 John, during my morning coffee time. My favorite chapter is called "Das Christentum besteht nicht im Wissen, sondern im Tun" ("Christianity consists not [merely] of knowing but of doing"). Specifically, here are the five areas that Spener was addressing, and my, how they resonate with the needs of modern Christianity/Churchianity!

1) Intensivierung des Bibelstudiums des einzelnen Gemeindegliedes

2) Praktizierung des allgemeinen Priestertums aller durch die verantwortliche Mitarbeit der Laien innerhalb der Gemeinden

3) Verwirklichung eines allein überzeugenden Christentums nicht der Wörter, sondern der Tat

4) Reform des Theologiestudiums im Blick auf den Dienst in der Gemeinde

5) Ausrichtung der Verkündigung auf das Missionarisch-Seelsorgerliche, auf das, was der Christ für Leben und Sterben night entbehren kann

As you can see, this is precisely the message of 1 John in a nutshell, as John himself writes in 1 John 3:18-20 (TLB):

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him -- how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God's side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord. 

As for Spener, this meant:

Keine Gelegenheit versäumen, dem Nächsten Gutes zu tun. 

This is so clear! A musician who spends all his time tuning his instrument never plays. 

A farmer who continually breaks up his ground never grows a crop. 

It is high time to convert our orthodoxy into orthopraxy. Instead, our churches have gone in for theatrics, running a showboat instead of a lifeboat, staging man-centered performances instead of living out an experience. Along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much shall be required. If today there is a famine of the hearing of God's word, how much more is there a famine of the doing of it? "You are my friends," says our Lord, "if you do whatever I command you." I like how Luther put it to Zwingli in 1529: "If Scripture told me to eat dung, I would." One cannot hear the truth and remain the same. If we really love others, let us show it by our actions. 

And that is the message of 1 John. 


TGIW. (Thank God It's Wednesday.) I had two goals this morning: lift, and get in at least 7,000 steps of cardio. During my workout I was memorizing 1 John in Greek. It's really not that hard after you've been teaching that book for four decades. 

Then it was off for my run.  

I managed to get in a bit more than my target goal of 7,000 steps. 

I love running despite its unpleasant side effects including camel toes (no pic -- thankfully). Despite it all, I can't and won't stop. I love the feeling when it's over and I want to do it again. Ditto for lifting. At this point I'm just trying to establish my base for next year's races and mountain climbing. You know what they say: Dare to prepare. (Just made that up but I'm sure it's true.) 

How 'bout you? Watcha working on these days as the year winds down? Goals for 2023? What do you do that makes you feel amazingly good? What race is next for you? Remember: you can't please everybody, so you just have to make sure you are true to the person God made you to be. 

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Our Serendipitous God

I didn't love Greek at first. It was something that found me more than I found it. Growing up I would never have expected to become a Greek teacher at the age of 24. C. S. Lewis would call this serendipitous. 

Never underestimate God's ability to intersect your life in a new way. 

How to Fail Your Greek Class

To ensure that you fail your Greek class, be sure to stop studying as soon as you get bored. 

Tuesday's Steps

Today is for writing. But I also needed to get in my steps. 

My goal is at least 7,000 steps per day. 

Of course, I also needed to say hey to the animals. 

Not gonna lie, I'd rather be outdoors than inside writing right now. But books do not write themselves. On some level I realize that one day I will not do any more writing, but for now I continue to enjoy (literally) putting pen to paper. Just because it's hard doesn't mean you should stop. 

A Cold Winter in Ukraine: How You Can Help

Like most people, I take many things for granted, including the heating and air conditioning I enjoy year-round. Most of the time I am NOT thinking about people, say, in Ukraine who will be facing a winter without heat. Yesterday a friend in Ukraine sent along this report: "The government advises Ukrainians to leave the country for 3-4 months if possible.... The damaged energy infrastructure is not able to produce enough electricity to meet current needs, so any way to reduce consumption, including leaving the country, is seen as helping Ukraine. We expect a new wave of refugees from Ukraine to surrounding countries." Winter is here and it's going to be a matter of, frankly, survival for many. SEND International is currently making a special appeal to specifically provide wood and coal burning stoves for Ukrainians. I commend this effort. 

Please pray for Ukraine. Please pray for the preservation of life during the winter months. Please pray that we in the West might be a source of comfort, hope, and truth for those in Ukraine. Please ask God to show you if you are to join me in giving to this project. 

This morning I am huddled in a warm house enjoying perfect temperatures but painstakingly aware that others cannot. As you know, my blog is not a forum for arguing political viewpoints or attacking me or others. I don't like Twitter and don't use it. Just not my thing. I don't know what the political solution is to the war in Ukraine -- please don't make this that debate. I mean, we're talking about survival here. Today my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. Here I am about to speak in a church during one of my three trips to Ukraine. 

The enormity of what my friends there are facing is incomprehensible. WHY? WHY? WHY does this stuff happen? How do we make sense of it? Today I will get out of my head and live from my heart. I will go out for my run with the intention of becoming a better person and to see the gifts all around me and to love every minute of the precious people in my life. I will do what I can for Ukrainians. It won't be much but it won't be nothing either. And to all my friends in Odessa and Mykolaiv and Kherson etc: Our hearts continue to break for you, your families, and your communities. We've heard it a thousand times: "Focus on the good and be grateful for what you do have." I know that sounds like a cliché but it's got so much truth in it. When faced with tough times, we all go through despair initially. But it's up to us how long we stay there. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us how he faced a major test in his own life. I call it the test of the mysterious. The test of the mysterious is when we undergo inexplicable trials, those thorns that God does not remove. But in the depths of the mysterious we may be driven by desperation to meet God in our extremity. He becomes the source and object of our joy. That joy is fuzzier and harder to find than at other times, but it's there. 

Anyway, just know that I love you and am praying for you. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Sheep With a Shepherd

Thomas Jefferson, an avid agrarian, once referred to the land he farmed as the "great workshop of nature." He himself was an avid farmer. He had about 10,000 acres planted in grains and tobacco. He believed that agriculture would be the heart and soul of American society. He was wrong, of course. How could he have foreseen today's tragedy of the government subsidized, heavily regulated agricultural system we know today? 

How to stem the tide? We'll, if you've got a few acres, you already know the answer. My grandson decided he'd like to raise sheep. Et voilà. 

He's already got 18 head and that number is sure to increase. 

The "yeoman farmer" -- idealized by Jefferson -- refers to a population of common people who maintain small subsistence farms by family labor. And the idea seems to be intergenerational. I went out to check on the sheep today. They seem happy on their newly acquired pasture with its large pond. In his own eyes Jefferson considered himself first and always a man of the land. I suppose I do so too. Of course, there's no need to rhapsodize about farming. It has its fair share of headaches as does every calling in life. But when you walk back to your house and see this view, it makes you pause. 

One of the simple joys of farming is being out in nature all the time. I can't imagine life any other way. I can sit and watch the animals graze for hours. It really is a lifestyle. 

I would say that most people see farming as a romantic, laid back way of life. While it is sometimes romantic, it is rarely laid back. I would say the biggest thing farming has taught me is to appreciate the simple things of life. You know, the thing that money can't buy. I think the world needs more small farmers like my grandson. Mind you, I'm a kid from a beach in Hawaii and knew nothing about farming until we purchased the farm 22 years ago. 

Sorry for the length of this post but I justed wanted you to know how proud I am of my grandson. He and his family produce their own milk and beef and eggs and vegetables. In our day and age, I think that's something to be celebrated. The land is a unique gift God gives us. I, for one, do not take it for granted. 

P.S. There's nothing wrong with talking to your animals. It's when they start answering back that you have to be worried :-) 

What Do You Love?

Randall Wallace is an exceptionally talented novelist and screenwriter. 

He's perhaps best known for writing the historical novel Braveheart. Not long ago I listened to a podcast in which he was being interviewed and one line really stood out to me. It went something like this: "People sometimes ask me why I like to make war movies. Actually, I don't make war movies. I make love movies. I want to know what you love enough to sacrifice your life for." 

God's Son embarked on this course. He set his face steadfastly toward Jerusalem where he would offer his life for our sins. His servant Paul, although aware that bonds and afflictions awaited him, said "But none of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). He too had set his face. Later he said, "This one thing I do."

Make up your mind about "this one thing." Then bring all other goals into proper alignment with that. Set your face like a flint to living for Christ and you will not be ashamed. 

Feasting at the Table of Scripture

Here's the passage from 1 John my students will be translating for next Monday night's class. 

Yes, I write in my Bibles. 

It contains this profound statement: "God is light, and in him there is no darkness -- none!" (so the Greek). We so often get this backwards. We think, "The only infallible source of knowledge about God and the world are the writings of _____________________ [insert the name of your favorite Bible teacher here] that can be supplemented, illustrated, and illuminated by the Bible." No!! The only infallible source of knowledge about God and the world is the Bible, which may be supplemented, illustrated, and illuminated by _______________'s writings. When Becky and I took pastors to Ethiopia with us, we would bring the local church elders into town for a 2-week conference. Each of our teachers taught one thing and one thing only: the Bible. We didn't use any of MacArthur's books or Dever's books or Piper's books or my books. We taught through a book of the Bible verse by verse.

God is light. "In thy light we see light." "The Lord is my light." For four and a half decades I have cultivated a love for the Bible and have tried to inculcate this love in the lives of my students. My purpose in blogging is to help you do the same. I am absolutely convinced that you can open the Bible without feeling fearful or intimated. You too can confidently share with others what you are gleaning from its pages. 

As you feast on turkey this Thursday, I hope you will also feast and be satisfied at the table of Scripture. It's high time we rolled up our mental sleeves and spent time in the Scriptures on our own. Then be sure to share what God is teaching you with others. Learning is truly mastered when we can explain what we've learned to someone else. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Christ the King Sunday

Happy Christ the King Sunday! 

About 2,000 years have passed since Jesus talked about coming back to this earth and establishing his kingdom. The older I get, the more intense is my desire to see him face to face. I have grown tired of the struggle of the Christian life, of the daily battle with sin and pride and unbelief. I am tired of Satan's ploys. Most of all, I'm tired of having to ask forgiveness of the One I love the most. The early church cried, "Come soon, Lord Jesus!" I think I know what they meant. I feel like a 15 year old anticipating getting his driver's license, or a young groom about to be married. One day soon "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does its successive journeys run, his kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more." 

For all these years he's been preparing a place for us, and I imagine any day now we'll hear the trumpet sound. 

My Song Is Love Unknown

"This is my friend, in whose sweet praise, I all my days would gladly spend." 

Textual Criticism Is Necessary

I was in 1 Peter 5 this morning. 

Over half the page dealt with textual variants.

Yes, textual criticism is necessary. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Meaning of Life

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. -- David Viscott. 

Fighting MS

It's official! 

I've signed up for the 2022 Raleigh Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. Over 2,000 of us will be running to raise funds to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Join us and help fight MS. There's both an 8K and a Kids' Dash! 

Of Trails, Volcanoes, and Thanksgiving

Today was a perfect day to get in a long run at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville. I had an absolutely fantastic time. 

Because the weather was perfect for being outdoors -- sunny skies with a temp of 42 -- I was surprised that the parking lot was so empty except for my car. 

Then I remembered that most chain stores started their Christmas sales today. Or maybe the thing keeping people away was the bright red paint job of my new "chariot of fire." Seriously, I do love my new Passport. I bought it mostly because I am a man, and men have to live with their egos all the time. You see, I bought my Honda Odyssey 6 years ago because it was the only vehicle I could find that allowed me to simply chuck my bike in the back without having to take off the front wheel. However, where I live (Southside Virginia), real men do not drive Honda Odysseys. Around here, manhood is measured by one thing and one thing only: the make and model of the car truck you drive. I did not realize it at the time, but purchasing an Odyssey meant semi-permanent social ignominiam. All that is now over; I have now arrived! No, a Honda Trailsport isn't quite up there with a Ford 150 or a Chevy Silverado. But it will do. 

Pride restored. 

Leaving the parking lot, I made my way to the trail. Ain't it loverly? 

Of course, the highlight of the High Bridge Trail is its namesake, the bridge itself. 

Below it flows the mighty Appomattox. 

Nearby is a place of historical importance, and being an American history buff, I had to stop and check it out -- the Confederate earthworks that were overrun during the Battle of the High Bridge a couple of days before Appomattox. 

Know what this reminded me of? It reminded me of just how important topography was in the Civil War. Today, armies have global positioning satellites and computer-generated topographical maps to figure out where they are and where the enemy might be hiding. Civil War soldiers, including their commanders, had to figure things out the hard way. Even period maps could not answer such basic questions as, "What's the highest point on this ridge?" or "What is the terrain like along this river?" It's been truthfully said that had there not been a McPherson's Ridge there might not have been a battle at Gettysburg. 

Think about it. It was by a strange fluke of topography that I happened to have been born and raised on an inhabitable island in the middle of a vast ocean. Oahu is made up of two shield volcanoes, now extinct, that eventually coalesced to form an island with two mountain ranges -- the Waianae to the west, and the Koolua to the east. Eventually the eastern edge of the Koolua range collapsed and slid into the sea, leaving behind a caldera known today as "Windward Oahu." It was thus a matter of pure topography that I happened to have surfed during my growing up years, as would anyone who grew up on a beach that had a shore break, a reef break, a point break, and an island break. 

Goodness, how did I get from an empty parking lot to volcanoes and calderas? I just find all of life so interesting, don't you? One reason I love to run so much is because during your run something happens to you. You begin to open up to the whole wide world around you. You begin to notice the beauty of this great planet we live on. You appreciate the strength that God gives you to stand up in the morning and get out of bed. Not a day goes when I don't count my blessings. I have never before in my 70 years of life had so much to cherish and appreciate. 

The Thanksgiving season reminds up to give thanks. (Duh.) It's a reminder of something we should be doing every day. I ask myself all the time: If this was my last day on earth, am I living and doing as I should? Maybe, just maybe, the single best way not to take life for granted is by noticing little things like beautiful trails and historic landmarks. 

Such zany reflections, I know. Right now I have to go and deep clean the house. I've been putting this off long enough. 

Feel free to send sympathy cards and donuts. 

Happy Thanksgiving,