Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Focusing on the Negatives

Did you know that one of the most important things you can do to build muscle size is to start focusing on the negatives?

Newbie lifters like me sometimes forget how important the negative portion of a repetition is. When you do any type of lift, you have a positive (or raising) portion and a negative (or lowering) portion of that lift. You want the muscle to be under tension regardless of whether you're lifting up or lifting down. You don't want to lift the weight up and then just let the weight drop due to gravity. Some people might argue that the most important part of the rep is the positive. That may be true but only because it puts you in a position to do the negative part of the rep. Experienced lifters focus all the time on getting the most out of the negative portion of the exercise. With a concentration on the negative or eccentric portion of the rep, you elicit more muscle growth response from your body and ensure that your muscles are growing and benefiting from every workout. 

When I started lifting, I was looking for ways to get over my slow biceps gains, but it was all concentric (raising) focused. But when I tried heavy eccentric sets, it was immediately clear to me that they were the missing piece of the puzzle. 

I've noticed consistent biceps gains every week ever since. 

Thus, in lifting, positive is good, but negative is best. 

You know me, so you know that I'm going to apply all this to our spiritual lives. Jesus often warned his followers that they would have "negatives" (i.e., troubles) in life (John 16:33). Paul likewise told his converts that they would have to "go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). It's always been this way with believers. We can't avoid trials. I can't. You can't. Nor should we want to. The perfection of our Christian character is best achieved through the negatives in life, not the positives. Just as in lifting we can't rush the lowering part of the rep, so in the Christian life we can't hasten perseverance in trials. We have to let the testing run its normal course. This is not a call to some morbid fascination with suffering. All I am saying is what every New Testament writer says: the negatives in life have the potential to draw us to God and grow us in grace. Without the negatives in our lives, we are doomed to perpetual immaturity. 

To grow into Christian maturity is to lay down the wisdom of the weak and lazy ("just let the weight drop") and to take up the wisdom of the strong and mature ("let the weight down slowly even though it's harder"). 

Numbering Our Days

There are very few public speakers that impress me. I've said "Wow, I want to communicate the way he does" very rarely. Maybe I've said that only three times in my lifetime. What stands out to me is how easy great speakers are to follow. Their word choices are selective, they often speak without notes, and they relate extremely well with their audiences. 

I'm 71, and if there's one goal in life im still pursuing, it's excellence. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." When I think about how far I still need to go, I'm disturbed. At my age you'd think I'd have all that down pat, but I don't. The more I get to know myself, the more I discover how much there is to learn. Have I used my gifts to their fullest? Have I done my best as a husband, father, churchman, missionary, teacher, friend? Sooner or later, I will pass from this life, and all of my opportunities to contribute to God's kingdom will be gone forever. If I'm going to use my blessings for eternal causes, I'm going to have to start now. It can't be done afterwards.

When Becky passed away 10 years ago this Thursday, she wanted to make sure that her remaining days were spent wisely. She never stopped wanting to make a positive impact on others. As a result, I can say with 100 percent certainty that to her last breath she modeled a Christ-like life. Her life was centered in the eternal. 

How brief and fragile life is. Lord, please help me to number my days, that I may have a heart of wisdom.

Today's memory verse. The Message renders it as: "Make the most out of every chance you get. These are desperate times!" 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 6)

"Internal evidence plays a crucial though subordinate role in determining the original text." 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

"We Don't Care"

"We don't really care if you take care of your health or not" said no family member ever to their aging parent. 

Reading Greek!!

Dear Greek students. I hope the next 6 weeks of class will change your life forever. Guess what? The Greek New Testament really packs a punch. Let's tune in together. 

Weak Christians

It's okay to be a weak Christian. It's not okay to stay weak. 

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 5)

"All things being equal, readings that enjoy the support of the majority of text types are more likely to be original than not."  

Time to Try Something New?

Despite the stress I put on my body the last two days, this afternoon I was able to get in a light dumbbell workout at the Y. I think it's largely because of the amount of sleep I got last night. Believe it or not, I slept for nearly 11 hours. I went to bed at 10:00 and woke up at 8:50. It's been months if not years since I've slept that long but obviously my body needed it. 

This afternoon I tried my hand at 2 new dumbbell variations I had never done before nor had I ever seen anyone at the gym do. One is called the one arm preacher curl. 

And the other is known as the two-handed hammer curl. 

I'm told there are over 100 various exercises you can do with dumbbells. I like that. I'm the kind of guy who likes to experiment with new and different routines. There are, it can be seen, a variety of ways for the body to adapt and to produce muscle. You'll never know what works best for you until you try them for yourself. 

Many people do not realize it, but one of the accidental consequences of exercise is an increased ability to learn. What are the lifting options out there? Which will work best for me? Are there any exercises I'm not currently doing that could be beneficial? The art of living is the process whereby the mind/body complex is constantly changing, adapting, and (hopefully) improving. The game of life requires physical energy in addition to emotional and spiritual energies. Exercise provides that energy. Life is not a spectator sport and never has been. I am doing what every American can and should be doing -- exercising regularly at something I enjoy doing. All of us are potential athletes. The difference is that some of us are in training while others of us aren't. Motion of almost any kind will suffice, including walking, bikling, swimming, and, of course, running. The best we can do is find something we enjoy and then just go out and do it. As with our spiritual lives, so with the physical -- there is a battle to fight and to fight daily. But the good news is that there is also a victory to be won and to be won continually. Add to this an additional element -- the accomplishment of some goal -- and that goal can transform even the most boring exercise into something meaningful. 

Friend, when was the last time you attempted something you've never attempted before, something you thought yourself perhaps incapable of doing? I can tell you from personal experience, there are many mountains out there waiting to be climbed. 

Chiasm and Heb. 4:16

What do the following have in common?

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

"God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good."

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

"Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Answer: They all involve chiasm. A chiasm is a common literary device in which ideas are presented and then repeated in a mirror-like structure. The term "chiasm" is derived from the Greek letter chi, which looks like the English letter X. 

My Bible time this morning was in Heb. 4:14-16, where I noticed this chiastic structure in verse 16.

Here "mercy" and "grace" are tied together very closely and form the focus of the verse. I might render this as: " ... that we might receive mercy, and grace we might find, in time of need." What an encouragement! Each of us needs mercy for past failures and grace for present and future work. And get this -- both are gifts from God. How do you get mercy? You "take" it. How do you get grace? You "find" it by seeking it. Our needs may be material, physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, relational, etc. Whatever they are, God stands ready to help. 

So as we read Hebrews, keep in mind that God is a very present help in time of need. This side of heaven, there is nothing sweeter than to know that he truly cares about us. 

The Source of Our Strength (Phil. 4:13)

God's Providence

God's providence is always at work. Even when it seems hidden, it is at work. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023


I think I first heard this beautiful word from the great C. S. Lewis. Somewhere he wrote that we worship a serendipitous God. By that he meant that we are often "surprised by joy" as God serendipitously grants us the desires of our hearts. That's just the nature of God, said Lewis. Our heavenly Father delights in giving good gifts to his children. Take this weekend, for example. God blessed me with not one, not two, not three, but four serendipities! Care to know what they were? 

Serendipity #1. I surfed. 

Rumor had it that Virginia Beach was breaking this weekend with excellent conditions, including a light offshore breeze. For surfers, it don't get much better than that, folks. So yesterday morning I tossed my board in the car and drove three hours to the beach. When I arrived, I mixed things up. I usually surf at 71st street, but today, based on what somebody at a local surf shop told me, I decided to try 50th street. Here's the beach access from Pacific Blvd. 

I set up my beach chair and towel, waxed up my board, then took a few selfies to send to the kids to make them jealous of me.

Dear kids: I realize that your father entertains the illusion that he's still a 15-year old surfing the Ala Moana Bowl, but he'll get over it one day. In the meantime, if you would continue to overlook his idiosyncrasies, he would be very grateful. 

The surf report said the swell was 2-4 feet, and it wasn't far off. As you can see here, there was both a small shorebreak as well as a larger wave that broke on a sandbar about 100 yards offshore. 

Most waves were, I'd say, about waist high, but from time to time there'd be a wave that broke about chest high. (Another serendipity!) A few minutes after I got to the beach, a couple of surfers joined me at this spot, which made me feel good because wherever the locals are is usually where you want to be. We surfed to our heart's content, and when I got back to shore I guess you could say that I was one happy camper. What is it about salt water that makes you feel so relaxed and rejuvenated? 

Serendipity #2. I had Korean food. After surfing for a couple of hours, I went to a restaurant in Norfolk called 757 Korean BBQ, which serves as authentic Korean cuisine as you can get around here. I know this place well. When we moved here 25 years ago, the seminary had extension campuses in both Richmond and Norfolk (next to Virginia Beach). Since I lived the closest to these campuses, I was often given classes in both places every semester. This would involve spending all day Friday and Saturday teaching New Testament introduction. Whenever I was in Norfolk, I spoiled myself on dishes like bulgogi and kaegi gogi. Yesterday's bulgogi was the tenderest I have EVER tasted. Chosumnida!!! 

Serendipity #3. Running the Capital Trail 10-Miler. After my Korean meal, I drove to my Airbnb located about 30 minutes east of Richmond. I was there to get some rest before running this 10-mile race on the famous Virginia Capital Trail. The VCT is a bike/running trail (all asphalt) that connects Jamestown with Richmond. I've biked its entire 52-mile length three times. I LOVE this trail. Last night I checked into my private room at around 6:00 pm, having earlier stopped to grab some pics of the historic church where George and Martha Washington were married. Don't you love its architecture? 

After that I spent a very peaceful and quiet evening before getting 8 solid hours of sleep, so that I arrived at the race this morning fresh and raring to go. 

There were probably several hundred racers out there today, all of them as eager as I was to enjoy the summer-like weather we've been having. 

After a couple of miles a guy in a yellow shirt passes me. (See previous picture.) 

It was just what I needed. My body took over, and I became a spectator. I tried to match his pace with the hopes of maybe passing him before the finish line. Now there are times when I run entirely for fun, and there are other times when I say to myself, "Hey, let's turn this into a bit of a competition." I felt myself do just that as my body subconsciously settled on a relaxed and efficient stride length. Alas, Mr. Yellowshirt eventually outpaced me. I did, however, storm across the finish with one of my best times at this event. 

Serendipity #4. Whenever I'm in Richmond and it's lunch time, you'll find me at the Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant which is run by my friend Bitew. 

Today, in memory of Becky, I delighted in kai wat, or beef stew. It was sooooo good. I mean, both Korean and Ethiopian food in the same weekend? Serendipitous! 

Throughout the weekend, my body thanked me. "Thank you for taking good care of me. Thank you for knowing when to act the child and when to play the elderly sage. Thank you for realizing that effective stress management is effective self management. Thank you for pushing me but not pushing me too hard. (You're getting better at this.) Thank you for getting outdoors and roughhousing with God's wonderful creation as often as you do. When you surf, it's like you're using the ocean as a dancer uses a stage. Thank you for the amount of time and effort put into your health and fitness. It's been fun watching you as you've grown older. Every person can be a hero. But none is more heroic than the man deep in the flow of the struggle against time. I think you're doing pretty good at this, old boy. Hang in there."

This was no weekend to be at my desk. The surf was up. There was a race to be run. In the surf and on the roads, it was time to give the Creator (and our serendipitous God) a standing ovation. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Sunset and Moonrise on the Farm

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 4)

"No single English translation can be equated with the original text of the New Testament." 

(I told you things were about to get interesting.) 

Chief of Sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)

Years ago I memorized this famous verse in English. But it was time to learn it in Greek too. 

Here's my rendering:

"Christ Jesus came into the world, SINNERS to save, of whom I am chief -- I!"

We Love Our Goats

Three Weight Training Hacks

1. Don't do too much.
2. Don't train with low intensity.
3. Don't train aimlessly (training must align with your goals). 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Reading Greek

Who else can vividly remembering the moment you realized that nobody cares about whether you read your Greek New Testament as much as you? 

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 3)

"No single printed edition of the Greek New Testament can be equated with the original text of the New Testament." 

Fall Foliage Fotos

A good friend of mine put me in touch with some Mennonite ladies who clean houses as a business and I hired them to deep clean my house today. While they were hard at work, I was hard at play. A little drive during fall foliage season never hurt anyone, right? I headed west on Hwy. 58, got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then headed for a famous mill I'd heard about and wanted to photograph. I just got back home to a clean house and an appetite like you can't believe. But before chowing down, a few pics for your viewing pleasure.

Have a wonderful evening,


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 2)

"No single group of manuscripts or text types can be equated with the original text of the New Testament." 

Putting the Mower to Bed

Today I mowed the lawns for the last time until the spring. 

I've mowed for 8 months and my mower has never let me down. 

So long old friend. See ya next year. 

You Know You're Blessed ...

... when the closest city to your farm has the tastiest Chinese buffet in all of Virginia. 

Points to Ponder from My Latest Book (Part 1)

I am incredibly blessed to have been a co-editor of this book. 

I am even more blessed to have worked with an amazing team who contributed to this anthology. Thank you, Abidan, Bill, Peter, and Maurice. 

What does the book have to say? Well, I'll let the other contributors speak for themselves. But I'd like to take a week or so and identity a few takeaways from my chapter in the book. Here's my first conclusion:

"No individual Greek manuscript can be equated with the original text of the New Testament."

See, that wasn't so hard, now was it? More anon. (Yes, things become a little more controversial as we proceed from here.) 

Why Does the Church Gather?

The New Testament's answer to this question is clear:

Note it well: Those early Christians did not regard the Lord's Supper as an occasional activity. Neither were they content to add it on to the "preaching" service as a sort of perfunctory addendum. No, their meetings were Christocentric. A table, not an altar or a pulpit, was at the center. And the Lord honored that. 

I'll let Howard Marshall have the last word:

My Lifting "Sweet Spot"

I think I have finally found it -- my "sweet spot" when it comes to weight training. For me, this means lifting no more than 3 days each week, taking the other days off from lifting so that the entire muscle building process can take place optimally. Remember, muscles grow, not while you're exercising, but while you're recovering. Here's the other thing I've found. The amount of work you do is not the primary driver of muscle hypertrophy. Both intensity and volume matter in the overall bodybuilding picture. Muscle growth is quite simply an adaptive response to stress, and the primary thing that underlies the entire process is training intensity. You can perform with as much volume as you want, but without sufficient training intensity you won't see any lasting muscle building results. First quality, then quantity. For me, this mean training 3 times a week for one and a half hours with a level of intensity that is appropriate to my age (71) and fitness goals. Every time I go to the gym I ask myself if I'm truly pushing myself to that level of intensity that will help me reach my goal of climbing another 4,000 meter peak next summer. No, you don't need to train to failure on every set (I certainly don't), but if you're going much less than 2-3 reps short, you're probably not going hard enough to build up your physique to its real potential. 

When it all comes down to it, stressing your muscles has to be strong enough for your body to perceive that the demands of the current environment exceed their present capabilities. Otherwise, there's no reason at all for your body to build muscle beyond its current level. In short, my goal is a level of intensity high enough to trigger my body's muscle growth response but also low enough to where I won't burn myself or put excessive stress on my ever-aging joints. 

As always, thanks so much for reading and for following along on my strength and fitness journey. Remember that workout intensity (rather than frequency) is the most important factor in your entire bodybuilding workout plan. 

Happy lifting! 

P.S. A few pics from today's workout. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Today's Bike

Been cleaning house all afternoon. I'm on my second load of clothes. Because the day was beautiful I decided to break things up a bit with a trip to Farmville to get in a bike. 

On the drive there, the scenery was gorgeous. You could tell the colors are changing.

Me: Hey, trees! How about some colors? Trees: Leaf us alone! 

Have you ever tried taking a selfie while cycling? It's a lot harder than it looks. 

At mile 5, I stopped to drink some water.

How much fun!

The Message of the New Testament Summarized

The New Testament is made up of 27 books, each with its own theme. Here's my somewhat reductionistic attempt to summary those themes. I'm sure you can improve them!

Matthew: The long-awaited Messiah
Mark: The Servant of the Lord
Luke: The Savior of the world
John: The Lord of lords
Acts: To the ends of the earth
Romans: Becoming right with God
1 Corinthians: Life in the local church
2 Corinthians: Power in weakness
Galatians: Only one gospel
Ephesians: God's new society
Philippians: Unity through humility
Colossians: Christ is supreme
1 Thessalonians: How to please God
2 Thessalonians: Our coming King
Titus: Good works and the Christian
Philemon: Freedom in Christ
Hebrews: Christ above all
James: Tests of faith
1 Peter: The way of the cross
2 Peter: The promise of his coming
1 John: Living in the love of God
2 John: Living in the truth
3 John: Living in discernment
Jude: The God of protection
Revelation: Heaven revealed

How Online Education Fails Us

When by the grace of God I got to Bible college in 1971, I realized that a major benefit of attending Biola was not just truth learned from books but truth taught from life -- from professor to student, teacher to learner, pastor to parishioner. I will never forget being mentored by several men during my time at Biola and Talbot. You've probably never heard their names before, but their memory lives on in my heart forever. These include Lloyd Quast, Curtis Mitchell, Robert Hakes, Nickolas Kurtanek, and Harry Sturz, who headed up the Greek Department at Biola. I ended up dropping out of his beginning Greek class after only 3 weeks, so ill-prepared was I for language study. Then something must have clicked, because 2 years later Harry Sturz hired me to teach Greek at Biola. Here I was, embarking on what would become my career, all because of the interest a mentor had taken in one of his students. 

A highly respected educator once told me, "You can't train a man of God without people of God rubbing up against them. You can never learn to be a good minister of the gospel online any more than you learn to be an excellent surgeon online or a military leader online. You need to be with others who are veterans -- older than you, wiser than you, more experienced than you, with brighter minds and deeper lives." How grateful I am to this day for men like that. I call it "likeness education" based on my favorite verse as a teacher -- Luke 6:40. Nothing -- and I man NOTHING -- can replace it -- people with people, life with life, be they friends or coaches or pastors or peers or teachers or colleagues or neighbors. You can never separate truth from the one who teaches it. I had men like Harry Sturz. What a wonderful man whom I got to know intimately. Who did you have? To this day when I teach Greek, I think of how Harry Sturz taught me and how I subconsciously imitate him. His patience and humility are always before me. He was competent. He was wise. He was kind. He cared about people. He took time with his students. He was everything I wanted to become one day. 

Today, as online education replaces in-person classes, please do not lose sight of the personal dimension of education. Ask the Lord to send a mentor into your life whose example will mold you and make into the person you want to become. He will do so. 

Today's Goal

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Book Ordered: The Second World Wars

I just ordered this book from Amazon.

I did so because of a Youtube lecture the author gave at Hillsdale College. Believe it or not, I had never watched anything by VĂ­ctor Davis Hanson before today, but all that will change. The man is a brilliant lecturer. Not sure if he can write, but I'll find out soon enough. In case you didn't know, I am a big WWII fan and most of the books in my library that aren't about the Bible or Greek are about that conflict. Who knows why. Maybe it's because I grew up in a war zone (yes, Oahu, Kailua even, saw action in the war). 

I am never happier than when I can't put a book down.