Saturday, July 20, 2024

Am I (Are You) Too Fat for Pull Ups?

The title isn't meant to offend anyone. But if you're like me and carry around more body fat than you want to, you can quickly become discouraged when it comes to learning how to do a pull up. As I've often said, the key is to start with a progression you know you can do and then work on it until you're strong enough to move on from there. That's why today I was working on improving my band-assisted pull up technique. A complete pull up exercise recognizes the importance of strong scapulae, which are the key to executing the motion. When you reach the bottom of the movement you want to keep your shoulder blades down and back. This is obviously something I need more practice doing. So that's what I worked on today.

I think the point is that we can always improve our workouts. I know I can. I never have arrived nor will I ever arrive. A pull up involves a lot more than simply grabbing a bar and pulling. Likewise, the Christian life includes more than a one time profession of faith. We need to learn how to take ownership of our own spiritual development, not expecting others to do all the heavy lifting for us. That's why although we appreciate a good Sunday sermon, we never view it as a substitute for our daily time in the word.

Whether you're working on a gym exercise or on developing a Christ-like trait, remember that it's never too late get started!

Friday, July 19, 2024

Slow and Steady

On June 17, I was 25 percent body fat. Today I am 22 percent. I've gone from 240 pounds to 230. I have huge bones so even 235 pounds would be an achievement. It's not where I want to be. But I'd rather be 230 and healthy than 210 with body dysmorphia and a need for steroids. 

Remember that bodybuilding is not a quick fix. It's a lifelong pursuit. You have to think long-term and ask yourself what sort of workout plan is going to get the results you want and allow you to make the muscle gains you desire while staying healthy over the long term. 

A slow and moderate approach is probably best most of the time for most bodybuilders out there. 

Lord, Use Me! (Eph. 4:12)

Today's 5-mile walk netted 12,000 steps. 

As I walked I thought about three words in Eph. 4:12 that I had read in my morning Bible study. 

The KJV renders them as "for the work of the ministry," though the words could also be rendered "for the work of ministry" or "for works of service." Paul's point is that the entire flock is to be engaged in rendering service to each other and to the church. The job of the leaders is to equip the church for this task. The key idea is participation.

For me, this means that this very day (July 19, 2024) there are good works that God has planned for me to do (Eph. 2:10). I am to "walk in them" -- not just by getting in a certain number of daily steps, but by allowing Christ through his Spirit to use me to serve others in ways that only I can do. This is what we are here for. By life or by death, in sickness or in health, young or old, by what we do and by what we don't do, whether we eat or drink, our business to glorify God and serve him. 

An inactive Christian is a contradiction in terms. 

Have a blessed day! 

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ways Husbands Offend Their Wives

We husbands can hurt our wives without even knowing it. I once read a book that listed 8 ways a husband can say or do something that unintentionally offends his wife. 

1. He frequently criticizes her.

2. He doesn't pay attention to her words and ideas.

3. He doesn't assume enough household responsibilities.

4. Her needs and desires are always second to his activities.

5. He tries to explain her hurts instead of empathizing with them.

6. He acts as if he's superior and she's inferior.

7. He shows preference for others over her.

8. He doesn't go out of his way to add romance to their relationship.

Amazing list isn't it? Have you ever considered how you might be offending your wife without even knowing it? It's never too late to begin to take positive steps that will build and strengthen your relationship. 

That's Always Encouraging

When was the last time you encouraged someone? I mean, deliberately encouraged them? Your purpose in talking to them was to lift their spirit. Not to talk about you but about them. Sometimes they'll tell you when they're hurting. Many times they won't. Either way, it never hurts to tell them, "I just want you to know how much I love and admire you."

That's always encouraging. 

Easier Exercise Variations Are Fine

If you've never studied Greek, don't let that keep you from using other helps, be that an interlinier or a website like Biblehub. Likewise, if you're not strong enough to do, let's say, leg squats or pull ups, you can do easier variations of these exercises. At my age I simply cannot handle squats. Thankfully, my gym has a leg press machine. 

My legs can handle it fine. 

Likewise, if you can't do pull ups with your entire body weight yet, try a band assisted pull up. 

It comes about as close to an unassisted pull up as any exercise out there. 

Just some thoughts that occured to me during my morning workout.

P.S. This was the amazing view on my road while driving to town this morning. It never gets old. 

Hope you're having a great day wherever you live! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

I Love Walking

Hey guys. As you all know, I've been walking at least 10,000 steps a day now for over 30 days. That's well over 300,000 steps. I've become convinced that walking is the best form of cardio. Even at the gym I walk between sets. I just love it. We humans are programmed to walk. I remember when I lived in Europe. Everything was walkable. But here, you have to be intentional about getting in your steps. I mean, even some newer communities aren't built with sidewalks. The U.S. is designed mostly for car transportation. 

Have you tried it yet? You might learn to love it. Don't just walk. Use your walks to learn how your body works and how to make it happy. Every cell in your body really ought to feel impressed with your commitment to nurturing them. They want to feel pampered. That's one reason why I walk and have a weekly massage. It consciously shows my body that I care about it. I know that sounds wacky, but it's true. The cells in your body love it when you exercise and eat nutritious food because they get to break down the nutrients and absorb more oxygen. This keeps your cells happy and functioning properly. 

Walking might be something you could implemented into your daily routine. I hope you'll consider it. 

"Dieting"

Westerners have become so unhealthy that ordering water with one's meal is considered "dieting." 

It's Okay to Mourn

"Rejoice always." -- The apostle Paul.

"Jesus wept." -- The apostle John. 

These verses are not contradictory. Paul's not telling us to put on a happy face when things go wrong. Elsewhere he puts it this way: "As sorrowful, yet as always rejoicing." Jesus could weep but still be joyful. Joy is not defined by circumstances but by position ("rejoice in the Lord"). People experience pain for a reason. The loss of a spouse is bad. The loss of a baby is bad. Abuse is bad. Betrayal is bad. We know they are bad and we feel they are bad. But our belief in God's sovereignty gives us the security of knowing that God is in control. He is making our lives better (hopefully not bitter) through those circumstances. 

My friend, if you end up being traumatized by something that has happened to you, there's nothing wrong with you. You are not abnormal. It was the event that was abnormal. You're not weird or unusual. This is the way of grief. Share your grief with others so that they may understand. Remember that Jesus promised, "I tell you the truth. You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:20). Believe me when I say it: "Your days of sorrow will end" (Isa. 60:20). 

God's Timing

Hey there! Well, my AC is fixed, which means that all systems are go for this week's triathlon and for spending a couple of days at the beach, assuming the waves are at least 3 feet. Today I got in my 5 miles in Farmville. The weather was gorgeous. 

During my walk I thought about the concept of "time." One the one hand, time is the passing of days, weeks, months, and years. Think of a ticking clock or a page turning in your desk calendar. But when I say, "When I turned 24 I knew it was time for me to marry Becky," I'm not talking about a glance at my watch. I was thinking, not about time, but about timing, specifically God's timing. A new season was about to dawn in my life -- the season of marriage -- even as that fall a new season was beginning for me occupationally as I entered the classroom for the first time. When asked to teach Greek by the head of the Greek Department at Biola, I thought he must be talking to someone else. "What? Me, a Greek teacher?" I said to the Lord. "Yes you," he said. 45 years later, when I was informed that I would be retiring, I said, "What, Lord? Am I really at retirement age?" And he replied, "Yes, son, you are." 

Every one of these milestones was God's timing. It was the right thing, a divinely arranged intervention when God stepped in and carried out his plan. When this happens, it won't always seem right or good to us. But we can be sure that God works all things together for good. Some things are done immediately by him. Others are only permitted by him. But the fact remains: "God makes everything beautiful in its time" (Eccl. 3:11) because they ultimately advance his wisest and greatest purpose. I love how God's Word renders this verse: "It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time." 

Friend, you'll have a smoother life when you realize that God has a master plan for your life that's unfolding according to his timing. Much of what happens to you won't be obvious to you at the time. But you can be certain that what you are living out is what God has arranged for you to experience, and all of it is "beautiful." 

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Trouble with Idioms

Aren't languages fascinating? As I said, today I've been reviewing basic Spanish phrases. Some can be very confusing. Is it "Cómo estás?" or "Qué tal?" Is it "Cómo te llamas?" or "Cual es tu nombre?" Is it "Mi nombre es Dave" or "Me llamo Dave"? Is it "No entiendo" or "No comprendo"? Sheesh! Give me a break already! Here's another example:

It seems that almost every culture has its own way of answering the phone. When I arrived in German-speaking Basel in 1980, I needed to rent an apartment for Becky and me. One day I called the number of an apartment owner to see if her "Wohnung" was available. Let's say her name was Frau Weiss. A lady answered the phone and I asked her (in German of course), "Is Frau Weiss available?" The response from the other end of the line was, "Sie ist am Apparat." Hmm, I thought to myself, she's apparently on some kind of apparatus. So I inquired. "Could you please ask her to come to the phone?" The reply was instantaneous: "I'm speaking with you!" (The words "You idiot" seemed to be implied.) I had no idea that "I'm on the apparatus" meant "Speaking"! Likewise, when I was lecturing on the Costa del Sol in Spain several years ago, I called up a friend of mine who lived in Madrid. He picked up the phone and said "Digame!" I thought to myself, he just said "Speak to me!" How rude! But all he meant was "Hello." 

Idioms exist in all languages. English has about 25,000 of them. In German, "Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof" doesn't mean "I understand only the train station." It means "I don't understand a thing you're saying."  Italians say " Conoscono i miei polli" -- "I know my chickens." They mean, of course, "I know what I'm talking about." In Hawaiian Pidgin, "You like beef?" means "Wanna fight?" I could on and on but I think you get the point. 

What's your favorite English idiom? Or Spanish? Or German? 

Thankful for Progress

Hello, friends. 

This morning I had planned to drive to the beach with my surfboard but yesterday my AC gave up the ghost and I need to get that fixed before I leave. Meanwhile, it felt soooooo good to get back to the track today to get in my 5 miles. 

Though sopping wet I was as happy as a clam at high tide. I can only imagine what these guys in their football gear were going through.

Earlier I went to the gym for a total body workout. Even though I'm not very good at them, my workouts always include pull ups. When it comes to pronated pull ups, I can knock out 3-4 reps maximum. 

For neutral grip pull ups I can usually get in one or two more. 

Today I noticed that the effort to lift my body weight seemed to be just a little bit easier than usual. When I got home I discovered why. A month and a half ago I weighed in at 240 pounds. Today the scales indicated a weight of 230. Increíble! Estupendo! (Sorry, but I've been listening to Spanish phrases during my workouts.) No, I'm not in a big rush to lose my belly fat. Most good things in life take time. But I am very happy to see progress. Believe you me, it's a lot easier to do pull ups when you're lifting 230 pounds as opposed to 240 pounds. I also seem to be gaining muscle and boosting my cardiovascular fitness and overall health along the way. The other day I was talking to someone who told me that if you lose weight too quickly your skin and fascia may not have enough time to adjust to the changes in your body composition, leaving you with loose and saggy skin. So slow and steady is the name of the game. 

Sorry for the repetitive nature of today's post. But I just had to share with you the progress the Lord is allowing me to make. 

Have a lovely day! 

Monday, July 15, 2024

Simple and Brief

Today I was talking to an entrepreneur about their business model. I told them that I've tried to do two things in my teaching and writing career. Keep things simple, and keep things brief. Simplicity helps people understand something. Brevity helps them remember it. No book illustrates this better than the Bible. Some people say the Bible is a complicated book and that only deep thinkers can comprehend it. I emphatically disagree. The Bible was meant to be read by all of us. Its most profound truths can be expressed simply and succinctly. You: "How can I become a part of the family of God?" The Bible: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Still, ever and again, our unending fascination with the teaching of Jesus springs from his ability to speak to the common man and woman. Earlier today I said we shouldn't confuse the Bible with the irrational. But we can't forget that reading the Bible is a spiritual act as much as it is a cognitive act. God reveals himself not to the proud but to the humble. 

The old Scots had a wonderful saying:

"Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it's not at the head of the cross, where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross, in humble service to Christ."

The best teachers never show off their considerable learning. They keep it simple -- and brief.

Marvelous!


Our "Reasonable" Faith

When I was in Basel in the early 1980s, theological liberalism held sway in large swathes of Europe. Becoming a liberal or a neo-orthodox was all the fad. Liberalism ruled the day. 

Today, liberalism is an abject failure. It failed because it wasn't true. It put human reason above the mind of God. It claimed exclusive title to the cognitive and denied biblical revelation as objective truth. In so doing, it became estranged from its roots. 

I'm writing about this because I had a long talk today with a student of mine who is contemplating going on for his doctorate in Europe. "Can an evangelical survive in Basel?" "Yes," I told him. "Remember that it was to Basel that young Calvin fled and where he wrote his great Institutes. Or that it was in Basel that Erasmus edited his Greek New Testament that turned the world upside down." When I went to Basel in 1980, it was "liberal" in the original sense of the word -- they were "open-minded" when to came to your dissertation topic as long as it was a quality piece of scholarship. True liberalism is reasoned, conceptual, and principled. In the view of all early Christian thinkers, Christianity was no leap of faith into the unknown. Neither was it a subjective attitude. It was a reasoned conviction. 

The tension facing theological students today is not between faith and reason. It's between a reasonable faith and a faithless reason. Or, as I heard Francis Schaeffer put it, "When you become a Christian, you don't have to put your brain in park or neutral." 

Nadelberg 10, housing the Theology Department of the University of Basel. I spent hours here every day researching and writing my dissertation. It was one of the happiest times of my life. 

Burning Calories at Rest

Research has shown that muscular people live longer and have a lower risk of all-cause mortality (heart attack, type 2 diabetes, etc.). As people have more and more lean mass, their chances of dying get lower and lower. This is why strength training is so important, especially as we age. 

When you gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate goes up, meaning that your body is burning more calories at rest. That's worth mentioning because those are calories your body is burning that you don't have to move for.  And the more calories your body burns at rest, the easier it is to maintain a calorie deficit.

Hope this makes sense. If you already know this, sorry for repeating the obvious! 

Keys to Success

Last night I finished this book. I loved it. 

A few takeaways:

You already know how to do everything it would take to make you a success. All you have to do is keep doing the little things that have gotten you this far.

No matter how good the information, it won't do you any good until you have the right catalyst that will let you apply it effectively.

Your philosophy creates your attitudes. Your attitudes create your actions. Your actions create your results. Your results create your life.

The difference between success and failure amounts to the simple daily disciplines you practice. 

The secret to success is always mundane. It consists in constantly doing those simple things that lead to results. 

No success in life is instantaneous. Life is not a clickable link. 

Greater success creates with it a greater responsibility to share that success with others.

Learning by studying and learning by doing -- book smarts and street smarts -- are the two essential pistons of the engine of learning.

Sometimes you need to let go and disassociate. 

Steady wins the race.

You have a choice over your habits through your choice of everyday actions.

Start with a plan; make the plan simple ("Gentlemen, this is a football" -- VInce Lombardi).

Have a wonderful day! 

A Deload Day

Hello friends. The area is under a major heat advisory and so I will not be walking today. Instead I got a 90 minute massage and am going to take a deload day. Overtraining is definitely a real possibility for athletes. Chronic overreaching can lead to a situation where your gains are negatively affected or where you begin to experience side effects in your everyday life. So this heat wave is perhaps just what the doctor ordered to keep me from being me -- always going going going. Lord willing, I will hit the ground running tomorrow. 

Hope your day is going well! 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

The "Interior Design" of Philippians

When we built our home about 24 years ago, my son designed and constructed the interior. Unity (coordination), variety, and utility (function) all played important roles in his work. 

When you step into a well-designed house, these elements tell a great deal about the purpose and character the house. 

That's the way it is with the Bible. We'll apply this truth to the book of Philippians in Greek 2. Its "interior design" is absolutely amazing. The more you know about the patterns, styles, and construction of the various units in the book (there are 24 of them), the better you'll be able to determine the letter's purpose and unique character. This aspect of exegesis is unfortunately often neglected in Bible study. This is not all that surprising. A good design doesn't draw attention to itself. But upon closer look, you will see that both the form and the content of Philippians reflect a fabulous design (for my analysis, you can go here if you're interested). 

"Pleasant and functional" -- that's how I'd describe our home Bradford Hall. I think the same two words could easily apply to the book of Philippians. 

God Keeps the Calendar of Our Life

No one has full freedom over their life. God is the one who keeps the calendar of our lives. He schedules our hours and our days on his desk planner. Our job is to submit to that plan because his agenda is always best for us. This means accepting life as a gift from him and making the most of it. 

Today's Tri

When racing, I've often found it helpful to break the race up into smaller and more manageable units. I like to think of a marathon as four 5-mile runs with a 10K tacked on at the end. At other times I focus on getting to the next aid station and then repeating that 12 times. The neat thing about triathlons is that they're already segenented for you. In today's race, as soon I began to swim, I knew I needed to go easy. For some reason, my legs seem more tired than usual. Than I remembered. This past month I've walked 5 miles every day. That means 35 miles each week and 140 miles for the month. My brain told me, "You can either relax and not push yourself and enjoy the race, or else go all out -- like you normally do -- and suffer for the next hour." I decided that the latter course of action was the wiser one. There is something very pure and simple about running a race just for the enjoyment it brings you. I kept thinking, "This is so much fun, Lord. Thank you!"

Overall a fun morning and a great way to kick off my vacation. A few pix (and one video) before I go down for a much-deserved nap. Thanks for stopping by! 






Saturday, July 13, 2024

My Fat Loss Journey (Part 8): Weight Loss Versus Fat Loss

Today I realized that my goal isn't to lose weight as quickly as possible. It's to lose fat and keep muscle as quickly as possible. In short, I shouldn't be too concerned if I'm not losing weight per se. Or if I'm not seeing a dramatic change in the scales. The goal is not to lose weight but to lose a percentage of your body fat while maintaining muscle. This means that, at the end of the day, you can accomplish this goal without actually reducing your overall weight by all that much. And that is exactly what I've been discovering to be true during my own fat loss journey. The goal is to improve your overall body composition while actually enjoying the process. So the key question is not, "What is my weight?" but "What is my weight composed of?" 

When I began this process, I was at about 25 percent body fat or maybe even a bit higher than that. Today it's more like 21-22 percent. My goal is to get to 15 percent (or even a bit lower). The overall process is pretty simple. You break down stored fat through a calorie deficit, and you build muscle through a workable weight training program and matching that with some form of cardio (walking is perhaps the best form of cardio for beginners). But the bottom line is that it's never too late to start getting into better shape.

Taken today. 

If your approach is casual and non-committal, then you are likely not going to be able to sustain progress over the long term. But if you can instead follow a specific plan with consistency, it will become clear to you very quickly that you can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. 

I'll see you guys in my next blog post. 

The Message of Ecclesiastes

Solomon, after he became king, began to write books. First he wrote the Song of Solomon, likely at the beginning of his rule. Around middle age he wrote the Proverbs of Solomon. Toward the end of his life he began keeping a journal that we know today as the book of the Searcher, which is what "Qoheleth" or "Ecclesiastes" means. 

When he arrived at old age, Solomon began a search for meaning, purpose, and happiness. By now he lacked all of these things. As someone has said, "That old ship of wisdom had lost its rudder." His wives had turned his heart away from the Lord. The old man had become skeptical of all that is good. 

Today I began to read through Ecclesiastes again. 

I love this book because it's raw and it's real. The Searcher wrote about how he was observing life. For him, life had become meaningless, futile, and vain. He's bored. He's cynical. He's trying to find himself as well as trying to figure out God.

My friend, when you get to be my age, make absolutely certain that you have trusted in Christ. With him, life makes sense. Without him -- well, don't go there. The last invitation in the Bible says, "Let the one who is thirsty come" (Rev. 22:17). Blessed are the aged if they hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). Like Solomon, we must be conscious of our need. Then we must come to the Source, the only one who can satisfy our thirst. There are cisterns aplenty in this old world of ours, and how many poor souls stop there. We must not stop there. We must come to Christ. We must drink of him, receive him by faith, and then believe we have received (Mark 11:24). Then we, though aged, will overflow to the glory of God and the good of others. 

First Tri of the Season

Lord willing, tomorrow morning I'm doing my first triathlon of the year down in Knightdale. It will be my 14th tri. I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. Isn't that gracious of the Lord? Then next weekend, Lord willing, I'm scheduled to do the Williamsburg triathlon in the mighty James River. Last year the water temp was a "mere" 81 degrees at race time. I practically melted.

Today I'm laying out my race outfit, charging my Garmin, and rechecking the weather to make sure I'm prepared for anything. I don't expect fast times in either the biking or the running legs of the race. I am a mediocre cyclist (at best) and a slow-as-molasses runner. But I'm not the world's worst swimmer, and I hope to put these muscles to good use in the pool. 

(From today's workout.) 

I keep reminding myself that first place, last place, or somewhere in the middle in my age division, I GET TO DO THIS  and I am extremely BLESSED. 

Have a wonderful day! 

Friday, July 12, 2024

This and That

It's been a great day! 

1. Hurricane vestige rain. That's been the name of the game around here since last night. 

The kids have needed the rain for their crops.

Thank you, Lord. 

2. The rain let up long enough for me to get in my 5 miles at the track. Though a slight drizzle was falling, it was either that or the dreadmill at the Y. I'll go with the rain any day. 

3. Someone recommended this book to me this week. It arrived today. 

I'm adding it to my reading list for my mini-vacation. 

4. I've signed up for my first triathlon of the year down yonder in North Carolina. It's this Sunday. Seems I almost always come in second place in my age group in these events. 

I noticed that the first and third place finishers didn't bother to stick around for the awards ceremony. Probably my BO. 

5. This morning I memorized (in the LB) Phil. 4:6: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers." I'm a little stunned at just how fast the year is passing by. I feel like I just got used to spring when all of a sudden we're in the middle of summer. I'd go all over the world if God called me to. But right now I'm content to listen to the rain pitter-pattering on the tin roof. I've learned what it means to be at peace even when I don't understand, to trust when so many things are crying out for answers. There's room for my searching heart, because I'm surrounded by this peace and I know that nothing can touch it. 

Hope you're having a wonderful day! 

When Silence Speaks Loudly (Phil. 1:1)

People who read the Bible need more than good eyesight. They need great insight. They must have more than just clear vision. They must be perceptive. They need to be able to see what's on the lines as well as what's between the lines -- what's there, and what's even absent.

August is almost upon us, which means the start of the fall semester. My course, Greek 2, covers the second half of my beginning grammar. But I also use this semester to introduce my students to what is called exegesis -- the steps we use to go from text to sermon or Bible teaching outline. 

I love Greek 2. For the first time my students begin to see clearly the relevance of everything they've been learning. I use Paul's letter to the Philippians as a model of how they should do exegesis. Its four fairly simple chapters lend themselves well to this task. An example is Paul's salutation in the very first verse of the letter. 

The word "saints" refers simply to the New Testament people of God. "Overseers" and "deacons" are not titles but descriptions. These are people who "oversee and serve." The most striking feature of this salutation is the absence of any reference to the term "pastor." This is what linguists call "zero significance" -- the significant absence of something. Today, a typical letter to a church family would first address the pastor, then perhaps other leaders, and then the congregation as a whole. In fact, in Phil. 1:1 the Living Bible actually has, "To the pastor and deacons and all the Christians in the city of Philippi." This, of course, completely misses Paul's emphasis. In a profound sense, Paul's greeting here summarizes his larger theological perspective on church leadership, namely that each local church is led by a "fellowship of leadership" (Michael Green) in which you'd be very hard pressed to single out one man as "the" pastor. In the theology of the New Testament, it is clear that the risen Christ never entrusted leadership of a local church to one man, unless that man was an apostle. As I have said many times, Paul's language here implies that these leaders are extensions of the church and not over it. Having made this point, they are hereafter neither mentioned nor spoken to. The injunctions and exhortations in Philippians are directed to "all the saints" -- that is, to those who constitute God's people, set apart for God's purposes and subject to him and his service. 

Isn't it amazing how much "incidental" theology we can find in even the opening salutation of a letter? And isn't it interesting that when we observe not only what's there in the text but also what's not there, this can lead to insights that we might otherwise miss? 

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Hawaii 5-O Theme Song (with TWO Drummers)

The best TV show theme song in history. 

The Librarian of Our Souls

Every few days my daughter in Kentucky sends me a picture of my newest grandson. Here's the latest.

Noah, as you can see, is enthroned on a pillow, watched over by his mommy and daddy. I was praying about him today, about the life he has to look forward to growing up in a loving home. As I prayed I felt like God was reminding me all over again that family is like a library -- books tucked tightly against each other, be the bookshelf large or small. This is your library, he said to me. These are the books of your life. Every book, and every page in every book, is a story written by me before any one of them was birthed. I, the Librarian of your soul, have carefully arranged each book in its proper place on the shelf, weaving them all together in my perfect plan of love for you.

I love my library of books, just as you do yours. Some are hefty volumes, others are slim. But each spine has a name on it. One of these names is "Noah Hadley." God has written all of us into each other. When one wins a Nobel Prize for Literature, all rejoice. Should one become damaged or water stained, all weep and suffer. Either way, together we entrust our souls to the One who authored us. We will do life together for however long he determines. And when our shelf life is over, we will take our allotted place in the Library of Libraries, beside the Author himself. 

Hit with Wanderlust

Man do I have Wanderlust. I've decided to take the next couple of weeks for vacation and travel. I'm keeping a close eye on the surf at Virginia Beach. Be lovely to spend a few days there riding some swells. I'm also hoping to get back to G-Burg to visit the new interactive trail at Devil's Den and Little Round Top. Finally, it's been years since I've visited the Custer National Battlefield in Montana. That battle has always fascinated me for some reason. It's fairly easy to fly from RDU to Billings via Denver on United. We'll see. 


God gives each of us a limited number of days on this earth. I pray that I would use them wisely, that I would be faithful, and that I would not grow weary. I feel so small, so useless, when faced with a world as broken as ours. I tell myself that God is working to redeem it in his own good time, but my heart wants everything to be made right immediately. It's hard to maintain a conscience void of offense toward both God and man. It takes prayer, right living, proper devotion, and lots of patience. Sometimes it involves taking a vacation to get away and gain a new perspective on this old world of ours. 

We are servants of the Eternal Contemporary, and he will be with us "all the days" even unto the consummation of the age. Amen!

I Am Thankful

I am thankful for this morning's sunrise.

I am thankful for the strength to get out of bed and go to the gym. 

I am thankful that I can do what my body is asking me to do.

I am thankful for air conditioning.

I am thankful for the rain we got last night. 

I am thankful that I've stopped comparing myself to others.

I am thankful that I don't do Facebook. 

I am thankful that less and less often I am forgetting to be thankful. 

I am thankful for the great news I got from one of my kids today.

I am thankful that I have people in my life that make me feel like I can do anything. 

I am thankful that I live on a quiet farm out in the boonies.

Not a day goes by when I don't count my blessings. I never before in my life had so much to cherish and so much to lose. Spell check. Bo's coffee. Running water. Hot showers. Classical music. A good book. Best friends. Hugs. And of course, delicious food. 

What are you thankful for today? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Soda

There. I said the word. I have always loved soda. Fruit juice too. But I haven't had either in months. I think I began to make better choices when I began to understand that my body had to process everything I put into it, turning that food or drink into something my body needed. I gradually came to realize that my digestive system wasn't designed to convert a 12-ounce Pepsi into food that my body could use for anything other than creating fat around my waist. At first, I saw my love for sodas as more powerful than anything I could overcome. However, when I began to view my digestive system as one of the many components of my overall fitness program, the battle I had been fighting for years was over. The one thing I wish I had learned sooner is just how important water is to your body. Without proper hydration, it's all too easy to use sodas and fruit drinks to quench one's thirst. 

Friend, please be careful about consuming too many calorie-containing beverages as those calories can add up very quickly in terms of their sugar content. My rule of thumb is to drink enough water that my urine is fairly clear during the day. Just how much to consume will vary hugely from person to person. Personally, I just drink a good amount of water upon waking up and then carry a water bottle with me throughout the day from which I sip regularly. 

Hope this helps! 

Belief Versus Conviction

A belief is not a conviction. Believing that something is true is good. Standing on that truth when times get tough is even better. That's when a belief becomes a conviction.

It's possible to have too many beliefs and too few deep-seated convictions. 

Just a passing thought!

Today's Walk (er, Run)

Over time I have discovered something very interesting about myself. Although I'm able to run the same distance over the same route every day for the rest of my life, I also enjoy variety. Having variety keeps the activity fresh and alive in your life. So this morning I decided to get in my 5 miles by running them rather than by walking them. 

The challenge, of course, is to jog at a slow enough pace that you tap into your fat storage instead of your glycogen. However, since I normally run about as fast as a wounded tortoise, that didn't seem to be an issue. Anyway, I got my 10,000 miles in (actually more like 11,500).

Hope you're having a great day! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Welcoming God's Word

My Bible time this morning was in Acts 2. 


I'm preparing a message based on verse 41. Here we read that some who listened to Peter's evangelistic message "received his word." Perhaps the better rendering is "welcomed" or even "eagerly welcomed" (the Greek word is a compound verb). Isn't that a beautiful picture? I can vividly recall the exact day I eagerly welcomed God's word into my heart for the first time. It was a Sunday evening service at First Baptist Church Windward in Kailua, Hawaii. When the altar call was given, this 8 year old boy stepped into the aisle and went forward with tears of inexpressible joy streaming down his cheeks. That day the Lord was adding me to his church, and I've never forgotten the wonder of it.

Interestingly, this welcoming of God's word into our hearts isn't something we do only once. James 1:21 tells us we are to "humbly accept the word God has implanted within us, for it has the power to save our souls." Again, that word "accept" could also be translated "welcome." Think of it this way. Every time you open God's word, you are laying a big welcome mat before your heart. 


You are coming to God's word with nothing to defend, nothing to prove, nothing to impress God with. You are simply saying to him, "Lord, I welcome you into any area of my life you want to deal with. I want you to do so."

I suppose that one of the greatest dangers those of us who teach the Bible professionally face is to make God's word just another analyzable datum of investigation. However, the ultimate test is not knowledge but obedience. To fail to pass this test is to stand self-exposed. We may still claim to know God and to be a Christian, but Jesus insists that our verbal profession is negated by the facts. We cannot claim to live in him unless we are behaving like him (1 John 2:6).

Anyway, just some miscellaneous thoughts from my time in God's word this morning. I hope you have a wonderful day! 

My Fat Loss Journey (Part 7): Abs Are Beginning to Show!

You read that right! For the first time in years, I can finally see my obliques and a hint of my upper abs. I am beyond ecstatic. I still have a very long ways to go, but at least these muscles have begun to play peekaboo with me. 

Let me remind you that my goal in all of this is basically to burn lower belly fat and get clearly defined abs. There are no magic tricks here. Getting a flat stomach from top to bottom just comes down to fat loss in general by lowering your overall body fat percentage. As you know, my plan is to go from 25 percent body fat to 15 percent. Since there is no way to specifically target lower ab fat, just as there is no specific way to target arm fat or face fat, it just comes down to getting leaner in general. It's not that ab training should be avoided. I do a number of fun ab exercises, including leg raises. But since spot reducing just isn't possible, I go about my fat loss journey simply doing my regular workouts. Today is a good illustration. I showed up at the gym for my workout.

I performed my exercises. These included spider curls.

Lat pulls.

And, of course, pull ups.

Afterwards I drove over to the high school for my cardio. 

Without exception, I walk 5 miles every day, which translates to anywhere between 10,000 to 13,000 steps. 

Today's total. 

Then I immediately replenish my calories. For lunch I had noodles along with barbecue chicken dipped in a blend of shoyu and Chinese mustard. 

Again, whereas I used to get two or sometimes even three servings when I went to a Chinese buffet, what you see here is all I needed to feel comfortably full after my meal (protein is very satiating). This will hold me over until dinner tonight (one ground beef soft taco, rice, and refried beans, along with a large salad). 

I've heard some people grumbling about lacking abs despite having a low body fat percentage when in fact they are well above the body fat level needed to see well-defined abs and obliques. If your body weight is stagnant right now, try to reduce your calories until it starts dropping. Being in a moderate calorie deficit each day is a great place to start. You can also increase your activity level as well. Make sure you maximine your diet by eating less calorie-dense foods and making sure you're getting enough protein and drinking enough water. (My server had to refill my water glass three times today.) 

At the end of the day, it really just comes down to discipline and hard work if you want to lose those last vestiges of belly fat. If that's what you're doing, my hat's off to you!

Monday, July 8, 2024

Never Forget What Is Central

Let's never forget to draw a distinction between the central and the peripheral in our lives. Like the apostle Paul, who said "This one thing I do," we need to know where our main responsibilities lie and then leave everything else to one side. One way we can do this to is to distinguish the important and the urgent. Jesus didn't finish all the urgent tasks he had to do in Palestine, but he did finish the work God had called him to. I believe we can do the same. 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Why I Love to Surf

Four weeks ago I was at this exact spot on the South Shore of Oahu. It's called Panic Point. This picture of me was taken at this spot 52 years ago. 

Today, board surfing isn't allowed here any more. You can only body surf. But back in the day, I loved surfing here. Surfing is a unique sport. It's perhaps the only sport where you can harness pure natural energy (waves). When you think about it, it's absolutely mind-boggling that you can be riding waves that were generated thousands of miles away. When I'm in the water I think of nothing other than the wave and it is totally mind-clearing. This picture was taken with some friends. There's nothing better than a fun surfing session with people you enjoy. I hope to surf until I'm physically incapable. It's the only place where I feel completely free to do whatever I want however I want to. 

Evening at the Gym

I love being at the gym with other lifters. But this afternoon the gym was empty. 


I'm not complaining necessarily. Sometimes it's nice to have the gym all to yourself. 😀

The Danger of Stagnation (Heb. 5:11-14)

I was in Hebrews 5 this morning and noticed that I had written down in my Greek New Testament a Latin sentence:

Cui cessat esse melior cessat esse bonus.

We might translate this as, "The one who ceases to be better ceases to be good." Here in Heb. 5:11-14, the author is confronting his readers with the peril of spiritual apathy. By now they should have become teachers, he says. Instead, they have become slow to hear. In short, they had stagnated. They had plateaued in their walk with Christ. They were stuck in kindergarten like little children who had to be taught over and over again the elementary truths of God's word. Most egregious of all, they didn't seem to care.

One of the greatest temptations that people my age face is the temptation to rust out, to think we've come as far in the Christian life as we will ever come, and so we stop training ourselves so that we can continue to grow and learn and mature. The author (Paul, in my opinion) is no perfectionist ("I've arrived"), but neither does he know anything of the stoicism often exhibited by the elderly. Paul could write in Phil. 3:12-14 that he's still pressing on. When he wrote those words he was about 62 years of age and had about 5 years to live. But those weren't going to be wasted years, not for Paul. Since he has "not already arrived," he strains every muscle finally to do so. As he runs, he pays no attention to "what is behind." Paul's focus in this passage is not on perfection but on persistence. His whole life is all about deepening his walk with Christ. 

Paul's voice, both in Hebrews and in Philippians, needs to be heard anew. The tragedy that so often attends retirement is that our culture no longer expects anything of the elderly, who as a result have largely lost their vision for and focus on the work Christ still has for them to do. Paul reminds us that our salvation is not just for yesterday, not just for today, but forever. Precisely because Christ is coming again, we will not merely wait for the end but eagerly press toward it. 

The early church was anything but a comfortable 72 degrees. Today's church needs nothing so much as to come to a boil. And that includes the elderly among us. There is indeed a Scriptural moderation (Phil. 4:5), but there's also a carnal moderation. Our Lord said he would rather a person be cold than medium, lukewarm, or "moderate." 

Lord, set me on fire for you! 

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Maybe It's Time to Be Honest with Yourself

Tomorrow will be a celebration of sorts for me. It will be two weeks since I began to track my calories and to walk 10,000 steps every day. Over the course of the next few weeks and months, the goal is to maintain a moderate calorie deficit and to be consistent with my workouts and walks as I pursue my ultimate goal of getting rid of unwanted pounds that I feel are holding me back from being the person I want to be. 

The key to progress is to enjoy the process. Most of us who exercise regularly are amazed that we are actually doing something physical. We are happy for having chosen to invest in our own health. We are also amazed that our bodies are adjusting and adapting to the new demands placed on them. At times, the improvements are dramatic. And there is almost always a constant state of delight. You realize that in the long run it doesn't matter if it takes you 2 months or 2 years to reach your goal as long as you are going in the right direction. You haven't failed if you don't reach the magic weight or physique you're after. If need be you can adjust your expectations and keep taking one step at a time until you get there.

I am living proof that anybody, even the least athletic, can do this. I am living a life that only a short time ago would have been a fantasy. Millions, of course, have gone before me. Every one of them faced the same hesitation and uncertainty. I just can't escape the fundamental silliness of it all. How rational can it be for a 72-year old to be doing back rolls and t-bar raises? The more I exercise, the more childlike I am, unapologetically happy. In time, health and fitness become a part of your life. Exercise actually becomes fun. It's as simple as that. After all, if it isn't fun, why do it? Training hard isn't work. It's a joy.

Running marathons and ultramarathons has taught me an invaluable lesson about exercise. I learned that success occurs in increments small enough and flexible enough to grasp. Two weeks. Only two, but what a great experience they have been. One of my college professors told me, "Success is a habit." For a runner like me, success usually comes down to taking one more step. Picking your foot up and putting it down again is now my working definition of success. Tomorrow starts a new week in my fat loss journey. Walking every day. Lifting three times. Having a massage. Eating wisely. Getting lots of rest and sleep. Dealing head on with stressors. As with a marathon, this week will mean taking many small steps if I want to reach the finish line. 

As human beings, we cannot hide from the moments of truth when we must take an honest look at ourselves. Perhaps in your own life it's time to take stock, to actively face yourself, to move past the lies about your health and fitness you tell yourself on a regular basis. Rather than seeking a shelter from the truth, you can choose to weather the storm of honesty and self-discovery. 

I would help you if I could. But I can't. That's something only you can do. 

Keep Yourself Spiritually Fit!

I've got this sign on my refrigerator. 

Five simple (but not easy) words. They could be rendered, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" or "Train yourself to be godly." 

The word "train" tells us that this won't be easy or automatic. It requires self-discipline. The verb, furthermore, is an imperative. It's a command, not a suggestion. And the goal? The word eusebeia is found 15 times in the New Testament, 13 of them in Paul's letters to two young men. Godliness is key to everything Paul prays for Timothy and Titus. 

Godliness doesn't just emerge in your life. If you meet a person who is fit and in excellent physical shape you can be sure that he or she wasn't born that way. Likewise, if you encounter a man or a woman whose walk with Christ is consistent and enviable and exemplary, you can be sure of this: they didn't just wake up one day and discover that the qualities of godliness were at work in their lives. It's a matter of consistent discipline. I say "consistent" because of the tense Paul uses here, implying that godliness is something we're engaged in and involved with on a ongoing basis. 

As he often does, here Paul uses a sports analogy. The verb he uses literally refers to exercise or bodily training in general. Today we'd call it a good workout. It carries the idea of sweaty effort. Moreover, that little word "yourself" indicates that if godliness is our goal we must be personally engaged in pursuing it. There's work involved here that we can't abdicate to our personal trainer or to the gym owner. It won't come easily and it doesn't come without a great deal of effort. But it can come. I might summarise Paul's message to us as follows:

"Become a Christian athlete in your pursuit of Christlikeness. Exercise your spiritual muscles  regularly and diligently. Make godliness a priority in your life. Pursue it with all that you have. It will require steady, intense concentration of effort."

Or, in the words of J.B. Phillips, "Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit." 

That's good instruction for us whether or not we ever go to the gym.

By Prayer AND FASTING (Mark 9:29)

What's the original reading in Mark 9:29?

"by prayer" 

or

"by prayer and fasting"?

Both the external and the internal evidence overwhelmingly support the latter reading. It's probably time for our Critical Text friends to admit they were wrong to follow Aleph and B here and allow "and fasting" to return to the text rather than being relegated to the apparatus.

(This verse is a good test case to see if CT people are willing to abandon WH.) 

Friday, July 5, 2024

The Benefits of Walking

As much needed rain begins to fall on the farm (yay!) I've been listing some of the benefits I've already experienced since I began to walk 10,000-12,000 steps every day. You'd be surprised just how effective walking can be. If you're wanting to lose belly fat, this might be the best place for you to start!

Lessons on Leadership (Phil. 1:1-2)

Philippians is the only letter of Paul's in which the leaders of the church are addressed in the opening. He makes three points:

1. Within the local church is the fellowship (all the saints) and the leadership (overseers and deacons).

2. The fellowship is not "under" (hupo) but "with" (sun) the leadership. Leaders are not above the fellowship but are extensions of it. 

3. "Overseers and deacons" are plural nouns. Shared leadership was practiced in the early church. To put it in the words of Alexander Strauch in his classic book Biblical Eldership, the leadership was non-hierarchical. There was no senior pastor except for Christ himself (1 Pet. 5:4). The job of the leadership is to enable the fellowship to exercise its God-given gifts through teaching (1 Tim. 3:2 -- "able to teach") and to mature into Christlikeness. 

This means that leaders see themselves first and foremost as members of the body, and only then as leaders. They are shepherds, yes (and we thank God for them), but they are sheep as well and even more fundamentally. Leaders are essential to the functioning of the body, but they are not its essence. "All the saints" are. 

There is so much to be grateful for when it comes to the church today, so much to be in awe about. Every congregation is precious beyond belief. That's because their Senior Pastor is precious beyond belief. If you're a senior pastor and catch yourself not wanting to refer to yourself as such, congratulate yourself for having the humility and wisdom to focus the attention of your congregation on its Head -- and yours. 

English to Spanish

Did you know that Spanish translations are normally longer than English

Saw this sign while walking at the high school today:

The English sentence has 16 words. The same sentence in Spanish has 20 words. The Spanish literally says:

"All the visitors and contractors must report (themselves) in the trailer of work to receive permission to proceed on the site."

Sheesh! Will I ever be able to think in Spanish??!! 😅

Trying to Do a Pull Up? Try Eccentric Pull Ups

As everyone knows, pull ups can be kind of hard because, unlike the bench press where you can start out with lower weights and then build up over time, with pull ups you have to move your entire body weight from the get go. I've already talked about ways you can go about getting your first pull up. These include scapular pull ups, australian pull ups, and machine assisted pull ups. But the one that helped me the most when I was trying to do my first pull up is called the negative pull up. It's a really awesome exercise because it mimics the exact same range of motion you would have while doing a normal pull up except that you're focusing on the eccentric (or downard) portion of the movement. You can use a stool or even jump up to the top of the bar, then you more or less just slowly let yourself back down. Soon you'll be able to hold the negative for longer and longer periods of time. Here's a brief demonstration for you. 

If you could do this maybe once or twice a week during your workouts it will really help you with your pull ups. It's just such a great exercise to learn how ro do. 

Have a great day! 

Thursday, July 4, 2024

There's No Easy Way to Lose Fat

"The easy way to lose fat..." was said by someone who had no idea what they were talking about. 

Becoming the Person You Want to Be

Sooner or later it happens. Sooner or later the unthinkable becomes thinkable and the impossible becomes done. A lifestyle of exercise that was beyond your imagination becomes routine. In time, healthy eating becomes ordinary. Day by day, moment by moment, you are becoming the person you want to be. 

Between Two Worlds

I just love John Stott's book on preaching called Between Two Worlds

The central image in that book is that of a bridge. A bridge spans a gulf between two land masses. 


Stott says that the preacher is like a bridge. He brings two worlds together -- the ancient world of the Bible, and the modern world of the 21st century. He serves as a link between them.

A good preacher keeps his eye on both worlds. One world we have to enter is the ancient world. It's the world we enter through the skills of exegesis. In that ancient world, there are several things we have to understand, including the history of that world. It is there that we are to see the biblical revelation worked out. For a number of years I was fascinated with that little statement in Luke 3:23 that Jesus was about 30 when he began his public ministry. To read the Gospels well, it's helpful to know the Jewish culture of Jesus' day. The biblical writers all wrote within a culture. They could no more think without culture than they could speak without language. So to really understand the Scriptures, we have to understand the culture. There were cultural reasons why Jesus had to get some years under his belt before he became a rabbi. Today this is called the Age Thirty Transition. This is a reminder to me that life goes through developmental stages. A good read in this connection is Daniel Levinson's The Seasons of a Man's Life

The point is, we're always faced with cultural issues as followers of Jesus. What should I think of the Donald/Joe Comedy Hour? Why is life in the Bible Belt so conducive to obesity? Do we really need a Surfer's Bible? Should women today wear head coverings in church? In 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Paul commands us to pray for kings. But what if we live in nations that have no kings, like the U.S.? 

These are all questions about culture. Both spiritual discernment and careful study of the Scriptures are important in considering the impact of cultural matters on Bible interpretation.

Tracking Your Calories (Macros)

Is it really necessary to track your calories (macros)? I'd say that tracking your macros right down to the exact figure probably isn't necessary for most people. It's usually not sustainable over the long term and will make your day to day eating plan more stressful overall. Of course, if you're trying to lose body fat and you're really wanting to get a handle on your nutrition, then making sure you're in a daily calorie deficit is something you need to do. I personally have started tracking my daily calories though I think over time the ultimate long term goal is to be able do this intuitively. Here's the burrito supreme I pigged out on at Taco Bell after my walk today. 

Before checking online, I guessed this meal totalled about 700 calories and contained about 20 grams of protein. I was close about the protein (19.96 grams) but way off in terms of the total calories (only 400). That's one reason I don't trust myself to guess. 

Speaking of my walk, today's weather was a lot hotter than it's been the past two days. 

And the humidity was off the charts. I'm not saying that my walk wasn't pleasant. I'm just saying that you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to the weather. Thankfully, the daily habit of walking is something I genuinely enjoy doing and look forward to.

Hope your day is going well. Happy Fourth!