Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Maybe We Could Have More Musical Variety?

My friend, if you struggle with the bland sameness of contemporary worship music, just remember there's Youtube. Maybe it's just me, but I keep thinking, "Could we please have a little more variety -- say a Keith Getty style piano accompaniment or a children's choir or an organ piece or even country gospel. It's been years since I've heard anything like this in church. Seems a shame. 

Just something to think about as you worship pastors prepare for Sunday. 

The Altra Torin

Someone asked me the other day what kind of road (versus trail) running shoe I like. I told him, the Altra Torin. It's the best shoe I've ever run in, and I have tried a lot of shoes. 

It has completely changed my running. In normal shoes (the kind with a drop) your toes tend to go to sleep and bunch up. You want your toes to spread, activate, and grip the ground. The Torin is great for that and therefore great for me, but I'm sure it's not for every runner. 

Happy running everyone! 

God Be with You

It's been 10 years since Becky passed into the presence of God. If you have a loved one battling cancer, may God lift you high today. His strength be with you and your family. Made the Lord grant you deep peace as only he can do. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

"More Than These" (John 21:15)

If you're a teacher, has this ever happened to you? A student asks you a question, you spend a few minutes answering it, and then he says, "Well, that's not what I was asking." Oops! In John 21, Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Peter answers, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love." Jesus replies, "That's not what I asked you, Peter. Do you love me more than these?" -- meaning, more than your fishing gear and your business. How easy it is for God's good gifts to us to become the object of our affection! 

As we go through the day today, let's ask ourselves, "Do I love the blessing more than the Blesser? Do I love the provision more than the Provider?" 

Have a wonderful day! 

Three Cheers for Spooner!

Sometimes I'll say to the grandkids, "Let's get this road on the show!" or "If you do that, you can kill two stones with one bird!" Spoonerisms are great! I think I'm going to try and teach them to say "wishdarsher," "speanful of poonutbutter," and "Ban and Jarry." 

Grandparenting is so much fun! 

Please Start Out Lightly

Good morning everyone! Hope you're doing well wherever you are today. I spent the morning at the gym doing some basic calisthenics. 

I was planning on running but it ended up raining. 

I'm pinching myself (gently, but repeatedly) for not telling you this earlier. Weight training can be good, but please start lightly. Begin with something you know you can easily do. You only have one body! Also, you do not have to go to the gym to exercise. You can get healthy, fit, and strong at home, with just your body and gravity. Of course, if you want to use lots of weights, the gym is there for you. Either way, there's nothing wrong with starting out with very limited, basic movements. Make it simple and convenient for yourself to do your planned routine sustainably. A suggestion for beginners is to design a routine for the lazy version of you because that's the version that's going to use it. And feel free to join the Y if that's your jam!

Thanks for stopping by.  

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Saying "No"

Saying "no" is hard. I just had to do that after being invited to write a chapter for a book. It gets easier when you realize that the consequences of not being clear upfront can hurt others far more than simply saying "no." I try not to be rude when saying no. Sometimes, though, you have to be short and not give excuses or be defensive. You really don't owe anyone a reason for saying no. 

The "Girl" Push Up

I recently saw a guy at the gym doing what's often called a "girl" push up. 

This is just my opinion, but calling something a "girl" thing because it's perceived as easier doesn't make any sense. Going the slow and easy route doesn't diminish your progress, like when I do assisted pull ups in order to help me to do more unassisted pull ups. 

Don't be afraid to do an exercise just because people say it looks "girly." 

I Don't Like Church

Fun fact: I don't like the word "church." Mostly because it implies a building to me. I'd much rather say "community," because that's what a church is. I also prefer "elder" to "pastor" and "missionary partner" to "missionary." Sadly, unless I become president of the universe, I think I'll just have to roll with these terms. 

Every Person Is Special to God

Reading Scripture before going to the gym in the morning really affects me and how I see other people around me, even if I never get super ripped or do 10 pull ups in a row. Every person at the Y is special in God's eyes. 

Just a thought. Have a wonderful week. 

Today's Run

Someone once said, "There's more to strength than muscles." Sometimes our muscles are strong enough to move on, but our joints and sinews are not. As you know, I've been doing leg exercises (including squats and stretching) for about 2 months now  -- in addition to running, of course -- and already I've noticed a difference in my running form. The change isn't earthshaking but it's there. 

I'm so grateful to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. Even the smallest improvement in any endeavor we are trying to master comes from his gracious hand. So let me give credit where credit is due. Thank you, Lord! 

Losing Belly Fat

Just a friendly reminder: The reason belly fat is so hard for us men to lose is because it's generally the last place to lose it. Losing fat is like a puddle drying. Water doesn't dry from the middle out but from the outside in. Don't try to force it off. Just slowly coerce it away. It's like watching paint dry or grass grow. You'll eventually get there my friend.


My deepest condolences to the families of these three soldiers. I am very sorry for your loss. 

Our service men and women are the best. 

I'm Not Kidding

But our mama goats are. Here's our first baby goat of 2024. He's introducing himself to my grandson. 

This never gets old. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Blessed with "Free" Weights

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I'm going to try and get in 4 consecutive pull ups at the gym. 

I see guys doing weighted pull ups and think, "I could never do that." 

Actually, I'm doing weighted pull ups all the time except that I have the weight attached to my tummy. If you're heavier and still want to do pull ups, it just takes longer than someone who is lean. So don't compare yourself to others. Do what you can, and that will be good enough. 

Little People Matter

The apostle Paul was a great man and a great leader. So it's all the more impressive to find him emphasizing the importance of little people. He tells us how God chose the foolish in the world to shame the wise. He shows us how God uses what is lowly and even despised to bring to nothing the things the world highly esteems. Teacher friend, remember: little people matter to God. So they should matter to us. 

It is only when our students know they matter that they can grow and find their true potential in life. 

Don't Feel Ashamed

You should not feel ashamed if you can't do an exercise like a pullup. Health is a journey, and we're all at different places. I feel blessed and thankful that every day I have the opportunity to improve my health and fitness so I can better serve you and make better content for you on this blog. 

Have a wonderful day. 

Is Exercise "Christian"?

Scripture says, "The wicked run when no one is chasing them." So you are excused if you skipped your morning run.

But seriously, why should Christians take care of their bodies? It's simple. The essence of Christianity is to love and serve others. Being healthy is a way to care for those around you. Especially as you get older, you will need to have the strength to help your children and grandchildren. You will also be less of a burden by helping to make your aging easier on them. Plus, when they see your health and vitality, they will want to imitate that when they grow old. 

Someone says, "But Jesus didn't exercise." That's only technically true. As for cardio: Jesus and his disciples walked from town to town. As for muscles: They did physical manual labor without any power tools. As for hiking: they had hills to climb as well as stairs to ascend (people often slept on rooftops). As for weightlifting: they had fishnets to haul in. Makes me tired just thinking about it. In my opinion, Jesus and his disciples would have been in great shape. They didn't need to worry about going to the gym or on a run. Lifestyle then required physical exertion on a daily basis. Plus there was no junk food. Everything was organic and homemade. We are living in a vastly different culture.

Augustine said, "Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever, and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow." Being healthy lifts up everyone around you. I can hardly think of a more Christian act. 

Our Utter Dependence on the Spirit

The sort of work we do as students is quite impossible without the Spirit of Christ. It simply cannot be done. The Spirit of Christ caused a great stir in the New Testament. He still does today. Lean on him, student.  

The Greek Verb!!

My poor students. Today comes the first of two major hurdles we need to get over -- how the Greek verb works. Shore ain't like the English verb! 

On Reading the Bible

Don't read the Bible only for the comfort it brings. Sometimes God wants us to hear a thunderclap of rebuke. The latter is just as necessary as the former. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

A New Combo

This week I'm going to try something new at the gym, and that is to combine a barbell curl with a spider curl. 

As you can see, a barbell curl has a strength curve at the middle of the exercise.

A spider curl, on the other hand, actually gets most difficult at the end of the exercise, not in the middle.

Doing both of these exercises back to back will hopefully help me to maximize muscle growth in my arms in preparation for rock scrambling. Wish me luck! 

Free Giveaway!

Want a copy of my Learn to Read New Testament Greek? Write me and I'll make a random selection tomorrow night. This is for people who need a grammar but perhaps can't afford it. The winner has the option of either using the book or passing it on to someone who needs it. I will also throw in a copy of my book Using New Testament Greek in Ministry.

Thank you all for being here! You make this super fun. 

Kansas City Wins!

The GOAT does it again. Congrats, Chiefs. 

Keep Going

Here's what I do when I don't feel like doing something. I tell myself I'll start and stick to it for 5-10 minutes and stop if I really want to stop. I usually keep going!

When Teaching Beginners

I've noticed that the best trainers at the gym are the ones that have the ability to readjust their mindset to that of the beginner for our benefit. I'll try to remember that when I enter the classroom tomorrow. 

Use It Or Lose It

I alway feel happy when I see older people working out or being active. I want to become like them when I get old. Oops. I am old haha. 

Leg Training

The work I've been doing on lower body strength and mobility is beginning to pay off. The better your bones and joints get at bearing loads and moving through a full range now means that the more likely they are to continue functioning properly as you age. I know I won't be as strong at 80 as I am now, but hopefully I'll still be able to move like I do now. 

Doing It Scared

I like to say "Do it scared." Sometimes I really want to do something but fear gets the best of me, like when I began mountaineering and had to face down a couple of knife-edged ridges or climb up a vertical rock face. It was an amazing experience and now I have no acrophobia at all. Stepping outside your comfort zone is a huge, humbling experience because you're opening yourself up to being vulnerable, where your faults and fears are laid bare. For me it's been acknowledging that I still have so much to learn about exercise and healthy eating. It's like when I dropped Greek after 3 weeks at Biola. Often there are moments when you just want to surrender and find excuses to stay the way you are. But remember: you don't magically improve yourself in a moment. On the other hand, you are capable of improving anything you want as long as you persevere. 

The Public Reading of Scripture

Scripture reading when we come together is vitally important because it's the only part of the service that's always guaranteed to be inspired. 

Because God Said So

During my sojourn in Switzerland I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of the well-known American apologist Francis Schaeffer as he gave a series of public lectures in Basel. 

I regret to say that his talks were not well received. You see, in sophisticated, post-Christian Europe, very few are attracted to the gospel. Christianity is for little children and old people who don't know any better. No educated person would ever be willing to make a "leap of faith" to become a follower of Jesus. In the words of H. L. Mencken, "Faith may be defined as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."

If you are a student of mine, may I urge you to reject such nonsense. Faith is not synonymous with credulity, superstition, let alone ignorance. Faith is neither irrational nor illogical. Faith and reason are never set against each other in Scripture. Faith and sight may be valid alternatives, but not faith and reason, for faith is eminently reasonable. And the reasonableness of faith lies in the fact that it never exists in a vacuum. It is always a rational response to a revelation of God. When God says something, faith responds with "I believe what you have said." Why do we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Because God said so. Why do we believe that Jesus will come again to receive us unto himself? Because God said so. Why do we believe that God forgives sinners who repent and put their faith in Jesus? Because God says so. 

Like Noah, Christians today have to choose between believing God and believing the ridicule of their contemporaries. Faith believes what God has said. Period. But to know what God has said, we have to read and study his word diligently. We must lift up our hearts by faith and lay hold of his promises.

May God grant each of us such faith.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Philoktenes and the Wounds That Afflict Us

In Greek mythology, the archer Philoktenes once received a gruesome wound on his foot that festered and produced a horrible smell. He never failed to miss his mark as long as his wound continued to discharge pus. As soon as his smelly sore healed, his accuracy left him. It returned only when his sore broke out again.

Can the secret of our strength be our weaknesses?

Can the hurts and wounds that afflict us lead to achievements? 

Food for thought. 

Body for Life

It doesn't matter whether you are 21 or 71, you can change your body into what you want it to be. Getting into shape involves four things:

1. Doing the right exercises.

2. Lifting progressively heavier weights over time.

3. Eating correctly.

4. Giving your body enough rest between workouts.

If you decide to start, I can guarantee you're going to learn to love it. You are going to meet your goals. You are going to get stronger, both physically and mentally. You are going to get a little bit closer to the person that you want to be. 

How to Learn a Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language such as Greek is like doing anything people fail at:

1. It's harder than you think.

2. It takes more time than you think.

3. It involves making more mistakes and false starts than you were expecting.

4. You can't fail unless you give up.  

Friday, January 26, 2024

Today's Run

They say a church alive is worth the drive. (Yes, a church I once attended in North Carolina actually said that, even though no one drove more than 3 miles to get there.) Well, I'd say the same thing about running trails, but I'm not very good at rhyming. Yes, I drove -- again! -- to the High Bridge Trail in Farmville for today's run. It's "only" an hour and 15 minute commute, which is nothing compared to what y'all in LA have to put up with (and I don't mean Lower Alabama). Not sure why I like this trail so much. Maybe it's because I love history so much. After all, this is where Lee's army made one of its last stands against Grant in April of 1865. 

Maybe it's because the bridge itself features such amazing views of the Commonwealth State.

Or maybe it's because it's on this very gravel trail that I ran two 21K half marathons and three 50K ultras. 

For whatever reason, I started my run today at the River Road parking lot. See how fresh I am? 

My goal was to go for 3 miles toward Rice Station and then turn around and run 3 miles back to the car. As you can see, no one in their right mind would even think of staying indoors on a January day where the temp was 73 degrees. 

I'd like to blame thank my children, especially my daughter, for getting me into this mess. Without being fully aware of it at the time, when she snookered me into running a 5K with her, I immediately became more health conscious and thus decided I would try this running thing. 

At the 3 mile turnaround marker, I stopped to wipe the sweat off my brow. Good runners always forget something on their runs, and today I really could have used my sweat band, as I was perspiring profusely. When I started my run back to the car, I think I got a second wind. I was completely out of excuses for not pushing myself -- good cardiovascular health is important for mountain climbing, right? -- so I put it into high gear. The fact that I ran so well today may come as a shock to my teammates on the U.S. Marathon Olympic Team, but it's true.

The only question left to decide is which (if any) races will I do this year on this, my most beloved trail in the great state of Virginia. Can these legs get me 32 miles again? 

We'll see. I'm gonna play this one by ear, especially since I have so many other athletic goals for this year. The bottom line is that, although I may come across at times as a very self-disciplined and forward planning person, at my core I'm actually a very lazy, hang-loose, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants Hawaiian beach bum. 

I'll let you know when I know. 


The best French rebus I've ever seen reads: "Ga." This means "I am very hungry." Here's how it works:

The French capital letter G is pronounced "G grand." And the French small letter a is pronounced "a petit." Putting these together you get:

J'ai grand appétit.

That is simply inspired. Today the rebus is largely forgotten except on license plates, one of my favorites being:


My own conviction is that no play on words in language is ever without significance. Think of the famous Latin anagram that turns Pilate's "Quid est veritas?" ("What is truth?") into "Est vir qui adest" ("It is the man who is here"). A doctoral dissertation fairly begs to be written some day on all of the puns, riddles, and rebuses in the New Testament!


Report: Religious "nones" are now the largest single group in the U.S. 


If you become radical about Jesus, you'll be radical about everything else in your life. It takes no special education or training. The early Christians were uneducated nobodies for the most part. Even an educated man like Paul wasn't impressed with book learning alone. If we can become so thrilled with Jesus that we appear to be drunk to others, our testimony will be what it should be. 

This Made Me Chuckle

Recently I ran across this statement:

The last verses of the gospel of Mark (16:9-20) are not considered by any reputable scholar to be the authentic original ending of his gospel.

Now that put a smile on my face. 

The Mystery of Karl Barth's Chair

Here's the story about how Ed Miller got Karl Barth's Chair (and how Stanley Grenz almost took it from him). Ed and I were students in Basel in the early 80s. He was finishing his doctorate. I was just starting on mine. What he writes about theology and pipe-smoking is absolutely true. I can remember sitting in one of Markus Barth's doctoral seminars in a dark and cavernous upstairs room in the Theologisches Seminar building with all the doors and windows firmly shut and everyone (sans yours truly) puffing away at their pipes. If one day I should die from lung cancer, I will know why. :-) 

Those were good years. Thanks, Ed, for the memories. 

Immengasse 18 in Basel, the 13th century building where I wrote my dissertation. 

When God Allows Physical Or Mental Illness

Years ago I ran across a book by psychiatrist Gaius Davies called Genius and Grace. It's a fascinating read. The author has two basic convictions:

1. Grace does not change our personality. It does, of course, change our ambitions, motives, outlook on life, character, etc. But it doesn't change our inherited disposition or temperament.

2. Grace does not render believers immune to physical or mental illness. I want to emphasize this point. It seems that among evangelical Christians there's a tendency to say it is no business of the believer to be sick or depressed. The truth is, although God can and often does heal, he sometimes leaves us to struggle with our disabilities and to bear our pain. What incredibly important theology. If you are hurting, own it. If you are sick, say it. In his book Dr. Davies shows how some of the greatest heroes of the Christian faith have been eccentric, neurotic, and have even suffered repeated nervous breakdowns. His point is that while God may not always remove our weaknesses, his grace is always sufficient for us in them

Do you or someone you know suffer from mental illness or depression even while clinging to the promises of God? It's perfectly understandable that believers should pray to be delivered from such things. But sometimes God says no. The belief that Christians living in gospel hope should not experience depression or mental illness is not helpful. Discipleship is a lifetime calling that requires endurance, perseverance, and patience in the midst of our infirmities. I wrote about this in my books Paul, Apostle of Weakness and Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Teaching

Let's make our faith communities beautiful again, using the unsexy, ordinary tools that have always worked: truth, humility, prayer, and complete dependence upon God. 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Confessions of a 71-Year Old

When I wrote my book The Myth of Adolescence, I did quite a bit of research into what is commonly called the human life cycle. I prefer that term to "life span." The latter simply refers to the interval between birth and death. "Life cycle" implies that life is a process or journey from a starting point to an ending point. Within this life cycle are various stages or seasons, each different from those that precede and follow it. Years have seasons. Days have seasons too: dawn, day, dusk, and night. Each season of life is a fairly stable part of the total cycle, though change goes on with each, and transitions are required between them. Psychologists agree that no season of life is better or more important than any other. Each is an organic part of the whole, linking past and future.

There are other ways to discuss the human life cycle, including the occupational and the familial. In my book, the chapter on "Jesus and the Age 30 Transition" focussed on the time when Jesus closed the door on his childhood home, left the family's construction business, and pursued the Father's will for his life. Similarly, in my own life, I have experienced significant familial and occupational transitions when I:

  • left Hawaii at age 19 to attend Biola in 1971.
  • got married in 1976 at the age of 24.
  • began teaching in the same year.
  • got my doctorate in 1983.
  • had my first child in the same year. 
  • published my first book in 1984.
  • left Biola for Southeastern in 1998.
  • was appointed the Dr. M. O. Owens Chair of New Testament Studies in 2012.
  • was officially retired in 2021.

I am now in the "winter" of life, the "final quarter," the "seventh inning." One of the most difficult decisions I make on a daily basis is how to remain plugged into the various structures of life: family, friends, teaching, writing, culture, social matrix, etc. There is no accepted criterion for identifying a man my age as a "success." Significant work is involved in forming and maintaining relationships. Undertaking and managing this process is a crucial part of aging.

As I see it, the human developmental cycle has a sequence to it. The sequences are as follows:

1. Childhood (age 0-11).

2. Young/novice adulthood (age 12-29)

3. Mature/senior adulthood (age 30-?)

The apostle John hints of these three stages when he writes to the "little children," the "young men," and the "fathers" in his churches (1 John 2:12-14). Of course, adulthood is much broader than it might appear at first. There is both "middle adulthood" and "late adulthood" to reckon with. The transition to late adulthood occurs between 60 and 65. By the time you are 66 or older, late adulthood is a fait accompli.

At mid-life I began to transition into a more mentoring phase of my teaching ministry. A new change in generational status also began in my late 30s. Statistically, declining health begins at about 30, but no one grows "old" suddenly. Even if you are in fairly good health and physically active, you have many reminders of your decreasing rigor and capacity (like aches and pains). At this stage, you begin to see yourself as "elderly." You are now the grandparent generation in your family. Furthermore, you no longer occupy the center stage of your world. Hence the older generation can often suffer from powerlessness and conformism. On the other hand, retirement from formal employment often means that one can now engage in valued activities that stem more from one's creative energies than from external pressure. The older man can devote himself in a serious-playful way to the interests that flow directly from his innermost being. If a man can successfully negotiate the transition between middle adulthood and late adulthood, the latter can indeed be a season as full and rich as the others.

In short, late adulthood is an era not only of decline but of opportunities for development. At least that is what I've been discovering to be true. Although an older man's contribution to society is largely completed, he can still find meaning and value in life.

On this blog I often share with you my aspirations as I age. I cannot live up to them fully. In the end, I suppose that aging is simply a process of reconciling the flaws in our lives by making peace with ourselves. It's quite an interesting process, I must say. 

A Brief Word to Young People

I'd guess that most of my students this semester are in their mid-20s. They are the future leaders of the church. Paul tells them, "Don't let anyone despise your youth" (1 Tim. 4:12). Despite their relative "youth," they will soon be put into positions of great responsibility. Some may be tempted to look down their noses at these young leaders. Older people have always seemed to find it difficult to accept young people as responsible adults in their own right let alone as leaders in the church.

How should young people respond? Paul answers that in our text. Writes J. B. Phillips, "Don't let people look down on you because you are young; see that they look up to you because you are an example to them." If you want older people to accept your leadership, then you must set for them a good example. They won't despise your youth if they can admire your character. Notice that this example is to be comprehensive. 

If I could just comment on one of these areas, the expression "in your faith/faithfulness" has two possible meanings:

  • in your sincere and constant adherence to the truth of Scripture.
  • in the way you keep your word and follow through on your commitments.

Paul possibly intends for us to understand both of these meanings here. Greek student, if and when you should be tempted to surrender your belief in the authority and inerrancy of the New Testament, my hope and prayer is that your Greek studies will help you see just how perfectly the New Testament is made. Furthermore, now that you've taken on the responsibility of learning this language for the glory of God and for the good of the church, I pray that he will enable you through his Spirit to follow through on your commitment, granting you all the skills and dedication you will need to succeed in class. Despite your age, God is doing a magnificent work in and through your lives. It is my great joy to help you acquire a skill set that will hopefully bless you and your ministry for many years to come. 

I Just Upped My Workout Intensity

This week I decided to increase the intensity of my workouts at the Y. There are only 9 weeks left before I need to make a decision about climbing the Allalinhorn. After the end of March it will be impossible to hire a mountain guide or book the huts we'll need for our ascent. 

Alright, so why did I increase my training intensity? Because the experts I've read all agree that although both intensity and volume are important factors in the overall bodybuilding picture, intensity is the ultimate baseline factor. For that reason, just performing a certain number of sets cannot be considered as the primary component in muscle growth. You can have as much volume as you like, but in the absence of training intensity you won't see any optimal muscle building results. In fact, more training volume can actually be counterproductive and increase your chances of injury. Once intensity is set at a proper level, the way you get more gains is by focusing on how you can fit more recoverable volume in. Notice I said "recoverable" volume. If you aren't getting sufficient sleep at night, your body will never be able to recover from your workouts. Last Tuesday, after an intense workout, I went to bed at 8:30 and woke up at 7:30. That's 11 hours of solid sleep. My body obviously needed it. Keep in mind that sleep also affects the recovery of your central nervous system and not only of your muscles. I'm not saying that you should lift with every ounce of intensity you can muster until your eyeballs are popping out of their sockets. But the amount of workout intensity should be enough to trigger the body's muscle growth response.

At any rate, here are some short videos of three of the many different exercises I performed during today's workout. I was able to max out the cable pulldown machine at 115 pounds without straining myself. It was hard but comfortable. 

Furthermore, my dumbbell presses are now up to 30 pounds for each arm, which requires a lot of effort. 

Of course, my favorite exercise remains the pullup. 

At the end of the day, if you're wanting to see greater muscle growth from your workouts, you're going to have to be willing to push harder. There's no sense in spending hours and hours at the gym to get results when far less time is capable of doing the same. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

"I Don't Remember" (Basel Flashback)

The one and only Bruce Metzger once gave a fascinating piece of advice to one of his doctoral candidates just prior to that student's oral dissertation defense at Princeton. Metzger was fond of telling his students to say "I don't remember" instead of "I don't know" if they didn't know the answer to a question. When I took my orals at the University of Basel in 1983, I remember having to admit on one occasion during the exam that "I don't remember." I had been asked by Prof. Martin Anton Schmidt to repeat Oscar Cullmann's famous couplet. The answer, of course, was "Schon erfüllt, noch nicht vollendet." I knew the answer but had a bad case of stage fright. For the life of me I couldn't spit out the answer. Here's the funny thing. They knew the answer. I knew the answer. They knew that I knew the answer. I knew that I knew the answer. Why everyone in the whole universe knew the answer to that simple question. It was probably the easiest question I had been asked during the entire 3-hour exam. So I admitted, in a sheepish voice, "Ich hab's vergessen." They mentioned the answer, we all got a big laugh, and on we went to the next question. 

Basel -- what pleasant memories.  

Are You Mobile? Be Thankful!

While growing up in Hawaii, not once did I take the beauty of the islands for granted. Literally, not a day went by without me consciously and deliberately saying to God, "Thank you for surrounding me with such beauty." Even today, when I return to Kailua, I do the same thing. And why not? This is the view that greets me each and every morning. 

As I've gotten older, there's something else I've learned not to take for granted, and that is my health. Each and every day, first thing in the morning, I say to God, "Thank you for allowing me to get out bed this morning, to walk, and even for the joy of being alive." It's because of God, and God alone, that I was able to lift this morning. 

And it was he who enabled me to run on this warm and pleasant day as well. 

I love that verse where Paul reminds us that the gospel is a treasure of infinite worth. Here it is in Greek.

Wow! What a marvelous sentiment! I'm sure you treasure the gospel as much as I do. But Paul adds that it is a treasure we have in jars of clay. The metaphor emphasizes just how weak and fragile we humans are. If you've ever been to an archeological dig in Israel -- I've been to several -- one thing that's certain to be found are bits of broken pottery called ostraca, made of earthenware and very fragile and cheap. Then Paul adds a very common construction in Greek that indicates purpose. It is hina plus the subjunctive. The Greek means "in order that." Paul says that God deliberately entrusts the gospel to weak and fragile creatures in order that it might be abundantly clear to all that the power and strength is all his and not ours. The same truth is also articulated in a parallel passage in Acts 17:28:

"For we live and move and exist because of him" (ISV). No words could better express our complete and constant dependence on God for any athletic endeavor we undertake. God is not only the foundation of life; he upholds us every single time we move. Whenever we take a step during a run or lift a dumbbell during a workout, we derive the strength to do so from him. In fact, Paul insists that we owe our very existence to God. It would be impossible to take a single breath without him. Stated negatively, apart from the Godhead, we have no life, no motor ability, not even existence itself. 

Every weightlifter knows that movement is the underlying drive of the entire muscle-building process. Consistently contracting your muscles over time is what forces your body to adapt and grow. There are many specific factors that come into play here, of course, including exercise selection, rep range, rep cadence, proper form, etc., but when it all boils down to it, none of that matters one bit if you aren't able to enjoy the motive energy that comes from God. The ability to "live, move, and exist" lies at the very foundation of the entire bodybuilding workout plan. If God does not allow you to get out of bed in the morning, to drive to the gym, and to pick up a weight, you can be sure you won't be getting bigger!

If you haven't been acknowledging your Creator as the source of your strength, it's time to get started. If you're the typical guy in the gym working with weights, this thought may have never crossed your mind. But the fact is that each of the 650 skeletal muscles in your body contract only when they receive signals from your motor neurons, which are triggered from a part of the cell called the sarcoplasmic reticulum. 

The better you become at having those signals tell your muscles to contract, the stronger you can get. All of this is simply a reminder that your body is a marvelous machine, a machine far more intricate than any machine ever devised by man. Your brain computes and sends through your body billions of bits of information that control every action, right down to the flicker of an eyelid. Meanwhile your heart is pumping blood through thousands of miles of blood vessels, carrying nutrients and oxygen to every part of your body. In one day your heart will pump enough blood to fill 40 fifty-gallon drums. 

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

Gen. 1:27 says, "So God created man in his image." What a glorious truth. The power to lift or to run is not ours. It's his. I say it again: We have this treasure of the gospel in earthen pots of clay, so that the surpassing greatness of the power might be of God and not of us. Why not thank him today? Be thankful for all of it. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

How a Macadamia Nut Changed My World Forever

Becky and I were married in September of 1976, but we had been seeing other since September of 1973. When people would ask us how we met, we would tell them our separate versions of the story -- mine using a strict economy of words, and Becky's filling in all the important details, much as Mark's Gospel does in the triple tradition passages. The short version is that we met in the cafeteria line at Biola. I had just gotten a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from home, and when I noticed a tall young lady behind me, I offered her a nut. We sat together at lunch that day, and 2 years and 8 months later I proposed to this beautiful Texan. I fear my version of the story is much duller than Becky's, and she was always quick to mention that she knew, the instant she saw me, that one day I would be her husband. What would you call that? Female intuition? A word from the Lord? No answer seems to me to be wholly conclusive. But there you have it: a fait accompli in a cafeteria line brought on by two hungry stomachs and cemented by, of all things, a nut. 

Being Active Is a Gift

Here's my workout today. I'd rate this one right up there with the Amazing Amazon Alpha Mensch Workout

Yes, I'm aware of that "scientific" study in the Wall Street Journal ("One Running Shoe in the Grave") which concluded that older people reap few health benefits from running.

Basically, my thinking is that you can find a study to support almost any position you want to argue for. Being active (whatever the "activity" is) is amazing for your spiritual, mental, and physical health. Is there a risk of injury? Of course there is. But what this study fails to take into account is the fact that even if there weren't any health benefits to running (or lifting), some of us would still do it simply because it makes us feel on top of the world. 

Doing no exercise is bad for you. Doing too much exercise is bad for you. That could be said about practically everything in our lives, including drinking water. Will I ever stop running? No, God willing. Will I ever stop doing bench presses? Hopefully not. Everything we do in life is a risk. I'd rather risk this than that. 

I may have surrendered the image of myself as a youthful hero going out to take on the world by storm, but I haven't yet yielded to the threatening spectacle of the dried-up, dying old man (despite my aging spots!). My philosophy has always been: being active is a gift and is far, far better than hanging out on the sofa eating Doritos and drinking Coors Light Mountain Dew. 

Inner Renewal Is NOT Inevitable (2 Cor. 4:16)

This morning has started out beautifully! It's actually going to be in the 70s this weekend! Cannot wait! For some reason, I found myself in 2 Cor. 4 this morning. 

What really struck me was Paul's expression "day by day" in verse 16. 

"Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." 

God calls us to live day by day. Just as in the Old Testament he provided a fresh supply of manna every morning, and just as the manna had to be gathered every day, so God offers us a fresh supply of his grace every day, but we have to gather and receive it. Our failure to do so, I believe, is a major cause of the spiritual complacency and stagnation we see in the church today. If the people in our churches would only feed daily upon the word of God, conferences on the Bible like the one I'm speaking at next month in Wilkesboro wouldn't be so necessary. God calls us to live as his children from day to day, looking to him expectantly for the grace we need. And so Paul can say, "Our outer man is being renewed day by day."

But note: there's nothing automatic about it. For the renewal to take place, we must be actively engaged in gathering the manna daily. On the other hand, the decaying process Paul describes here is automatic and unavoidable. There is a built-in obsolescence in the human body, as I am discovering only too well. Nothing will remind you of your mortality more than aging spots! 

It is the inner renewal that is not inevitable. The inner life has to be cultivated. We need to humble ourselves before God daily and acknowledge our weakness and dependence upon him. Then and only then will his power be made perfect in our weakness. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Why I No Longer Ride

Recently I rewatched the movie The Black Stallion. It brought back a flood of very happy memories of my own Arabian named Cody as well as my great and good Thoroughbred named Traveler. Eventually Cody died of cancer and I gave Traveler to a homeschooling family of 10. The thought was, after 15 years of daily riding, I had to give up the sport. I was always a very fast rider and therefore always a little afraid I would not be able to handle the potential injuries that come from cross-country riding. There are few temptations in life more subtle than the temptation to go beyond one's physical strength. I once thought about buying an older horse for pleasant rides around the pastures, but being earthbound has given me more time for my new hobbies of running and weightlifting. It's also given me more time for blogging and other writing projects. I still sense that at the end of the tolerably long row of books that bear my name on their fading dust covers there exists room for maybe one or two more. At any rate, for 15 wonderful years I took great pains to be a rider and a good one at that. But to watch a beautiful movie and get my riding enjoyment vicariously is not all that bad. Not bad at all. 

Pastors Need Encouragement Too

Here's something you can do this week if you like. Do you know of some pastor who needs a word of encouragement? I don't necessarily mean the one with the Rolex watch and the diamond studs. I'm thinking of the guy whose name would be written at the end of Hebrews 11. Why not send him a word of encouragement this week? Tell him that he is incredibly special to God and to you. Don't just think about it. Do it. 

Hawaiian Place Names

Hawaiian place names have always fascinated me. But sometimes it's better not to know what words mean. In Kailua, Ilipilo Street means "Smelly Skin," while "Kaluamoo Street is "Lizard Pit." 

I know I just  made your day. 

Care to try pronouncing this one? 

The Gift of Life

Meet Snowball and Midnight. 

They lost their mama at birth but not their appetite. I would bottle feed them 4 times a day. Midnight was born with a cleft palate. He loved being with me. He'd jump into my lap every chance he could. After a week or two of living in the house with us they were able to join the herd. Sadly, Midnight didn't make it. But I wanted you to see his face. Some may have thought it ugly but I always thought he looked beautiful. In the end, farming has its good days and its not so good days. You take them as they come and make the best of them. One thing I will never regret about farming is the gift of life. We are expecting baby lambs and kids any week now. We will care for them as God cares for us. And even when they are gone, their memory will linger forever. 

Zwingli the Pastor

My friend and colleague Steve Eccher's new book has just appeared in print. 

Zwingli was an important figure in the Reformation. I especially appreciate his emphasis on expository preaching/teaching. I also appreciate how he not only interfaced with his fellow Reformers but also with humanists like Erasmus who never left the Catholic fold. Hear, hear! 

Thank you, Steve, for this copy. Ich tanke miim Gott immer wänn ich an dich tänke. D Gnaad sig mit diir! 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

What Are Your Fitness Goals for 2024?

I still haven't been able to schedule my first race for 2024. I was going to race yesterday in Asheville, but the temps were in the teens and I decided against running in the cold. I guess you might say I am getting a bit anxious to get back to the starting line. We humans desire to be better, if only in small and simple ways. Sound health is often at the top of people's New Year's resolutions lists, as it should be. How we take care of our body impacts just about everything we do on this earth. I strongly urge all of you to really think about what your health and fitness goals should be for the new year. This may mean moving into unchartered territories for some of you. Guess what? You really can get back into shape and back to fitness with sound training, the word "sound" being the key. Please don't overdo it. And be sure to think about why you want to do this. Let your goals flow from the eagerness of your soul. And remember: I will be your greatest cheerleader. 

Did You See THAT?

Did you all watch that insane Packers versus 49ers game? 

This game showed why I am such an NFL fan. Game of the year so far as I'm concerned. I truly wish both teams could have won. Both played their hearts out. Both teams showed a champion spirit. I never thought Purdy would come back but in the last 3 minutes of the game he played like Joe Montana. It was a sloppy win but they earned it. I just want to say to all of you GB fans, you guys have a really great team and Jordan Love has a very bright future. 

We Know in Part (1 Cor. 13:8)

This morning I loved being in 1 Cor. 13.

I decided to memorize verse 9:

What a vivid reminder of the incomplete nature of knowledge! I don't care how high you rise in life or how many degrees you earn. Our knowledge is so "bruchstückhaft" -- so fragmentary! See those words ek merous? They mean "in part." Would it help to have a concrete example? That would be me. I have literally dozens of books about Greek on my shelves, but have I mastered the subject? 

The exact opposite is true! I feel like I am at the starting point, not the finishing point. As the NBV puts is, "Sabemos muy poco y profetizamos imperfectamente." The BLPH says, "Nuestro saber es limitado." The LB has, "Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor." Finally, I love how The Message puts it:

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 

Again, look at the expression ek merous. Let it say exactly what it says. Don't soften its meaning. Don't try to remove its edginess. Above all, don't ignore it. I've never known a time in my 48 years of teaching when I've been more convinced about what I don't know than what I do know. I am more convinced than ever that both my knowledge and my instruction are only partial. I think this helps me get a better grasp of what Paul meant when he said that leaders must be "teachable" (1 Tim. 3:2, ISV). Remember, Paul is writing to believers in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a city that rated the mind very highly. By Paul's day it had replaced Athens as the intellectual center of Greece. Yet as Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:29, a true teacher is never authoritarian or unteachable. For a prophet, he says, humility is a mark of authenticity. And the church must be obedient to sifting and assessing what is offered.

I'd much rather teach students how to think than what to think. That's why I still love teaching Greek so much. But Greek is no Open Sesame or Abracadabra when it comes to knowing God. It's a never-ending process. The same Scriptures that can lead a child to faith in Christ are also inexhaustible enough to take people who've been Christians for decades deeper and deeper into their walk with God as adults. 

Friend, I urge you to value God's word. Study all of it. Follow it tenaciously. View all of the Bible as equally inspired. But never become so thick-headed as to think that you've arrived. To the contrary, let your imperfect knowledge of the Scriptures be something that spurs you on to greater devotion to God and his word than ever before. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Gospel of John in Greek and Latin

This is a FABULOUS resource! And it's free!!

Where Christ Is Not Preeminent

Wherever Jesus Christ is not preeminent, wherever there is a tendency to knock him off his throne or bring him down a notch, wherever we decline to give him the preeminence he alone deserves, you may be sure that in that situation the Holy Spirit is being quenched. When the Holy Spirit is not quenched, he will bear witness to Christ, and Christ will be magnified and glorified. 

J. I. Packer, in his book Keep in Step with the Spirit, likens the Holy Spirit to a floodlight. 

I'm reminded of the Basel cathedral, which Becky and I often visited for evening organ concerts. 

Packer writes:

The Holy Spirit's distinctive New Covenant role is to fulfill what we may call a "floodlight" ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. When floodlighting is done well, the floodlights are so placed that you don't see them. What you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. Just so, the Spirit is the hidden floodlight shining upon the Savior .... The Holy Spirit is Christ-centered in his ministry. He is self-effacing.

If you are a church leader, remember: Healthy leadership is vital to a church. Congregations rarely rise above the level of their leadership. It is astonishing that New Testament writers like Peter and Paul time and again used a term of opprobrium to describe their relationship to their Lord -- "slave." "But," you say, "my role is that of primus inter pares, "first among equals." Okay. Then let me ask you a question. How did Jesus describe "first"? Did he not define it as last? Did he not insist that if you wanted to become a leader you had to become not just a slave but the "slave of all"? Churches that today have co-equal elders (without a "lead" or "senior" pastor) are very rare indeed. But I find them extraordinarily attractive. In 1 Cor. 4:13, Paul could even refer to himself as "the scrapings from a saucepan." The wise leader will follow his example. 

Any achievements we have, any positive qualities we possess, are gifts from God. We do not boast about them. We are thankful for them. 

God's Faithfulness -- and the Cost of Following Jesus

This book came in today's mail. 

I'm so proud of the author. I know both her and her parents and have long wanted to see her story in print. Well, now it is. It's the story of a young basketball player from Wilkes County, NC, whose lifelong dream was to play at the University of North Carolina. And it's the story of how she fulfilled that dream only to give up her place on the team because of her biblical beliefs. I pray that the Lord will use her testimony to inspire many other young people to stand firm in their faith and always choose Jesus over everything else in life. 

Thank you so much, Leah, for sending me an inscribed copy of your new book. And thank you for writing it. 

Here's the Amazon link

God Gave Us a Spirit of -- Self?

I appreciate the biblical sentiment, but I think the owners of the Y where I workout may have forgotten a couple of words. 

This Could Have Been Me

This could have been me on a January day back in 1968 when I broke my board in half at Pipeline. Except I got hit smack dab in the head by the lip. 

Such "happy" memories! 

On "Feeding Sheep"

A friendly "pastoral" reminder to my elder/pastor friends: Shepherds do not feed sheep. Of course, if a newborn lamb loses its mother at birth, you will have to bottle feed it. But that's the exception to the rule: Shepherds do not feed their sheep. They provide good, green hay or grass where the sheep feed themselves. 

I would love to see among pastor-teachers a renewed emphasis on leading people to the Scriptures and encouraging them to feed there themselves. Maybe this is why Jesus forbade his disciples to call anyone "father" or "teacher" (Matt. 23:8-10).

Like the consumer culture we live in, many churches today have adopted a secular mindset when it comes to the pastorate. We pay the pastors to do the hard work of Bible study for us while we sit back and offer our criticisms. Where is that in the Bible? Want to sit at the feet of the apostles today? Open your New Testament. The best pastors and teachers of my acquaintance always asked me to do that. I have deeply respected that attitude among the pastors I've known. One of them would say to me, "Dave, come to church to supplement what you've been doing all week in your daily Bible time." That remains one of the greatest lessons I've learned in my 48 years of teaching. 

All preaching should lead people to the Scriptures. 

Friday, January 19, 2024


Phillipians. My, what a letter. Do you realize how much God must have loved us to have inspired men like Paul to put down on papyri the simple things that make the Christian life so exciting! Here I was, reading Philippians chapter 2 (again) this morning, and I saw for the umpeeenth time the emphasis Paul puts on humility. 

I wonder if you'd agree with me that at no other point does biblical Christianity come into more violent collision with the secular mind than in its insistence upon humility. The world despises humility. Western culture is more absorbed with the philosophy of Nietzsche than it is with the Bible. Nietzsche dreamed of the emergence of a "daring ruler race" -- brash, masculine, overbearing. His ideal was the übermensch, the superman. But the ideal of Jesus was a little child. There is no possible compromise between these two ideals. We have to choose between them, even during a presidential election cycle. To support a leader who exhibits an übermensch approach to politics is a person who betrays Christian ideals, especially if they claim to be a follower of Jesus. The Greek noun for "humility" is literally "lowliness of mind." True Christian behavior is impossible without a humble mind. How we treat other people depends almost entirely on how we think of people. So Paul writes, "with lowliness of mind, treat others as more important than yourselves," and "Christ Jesus ... did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead he emptied himself [and] humbled himself." 

Conceit means to have an exaggerated view of one's own importance. Humility is to have due recognition of others because they have been created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and value. No true follower of Jesus would ever think of denigrating another person based on their physical appearance, ethnicity, or social status. Instead, a humble mind recognizes that the way up is down. The only way to be exalted is to humble ourselves. 

How can we possibly claim to be growing in holiness -- in Christlikeness -- without also growing in humility? I particularly love Phil. 2:13: "For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you to do what he wants." How fantastic to know that is God is constantly working within us, helping us to want to obey. We can never obey God without this "want" to do so. And then to think that he will help us to do what he wants! Praise God!