Thursday, February 29, 2024

Good Or Bad?

Youtube is so confusing at times. There are videos on lifting that say one thing, and others that say the exact opposite. Heavy lifting volume is good, heavy lifting volume is killing your gains. Waiter curls are good, waiter curls are bad. Coffee is good, coffee is bad. Eggs are good, eggs are bad. 

I'd like to see a scientific study on the accuracy of scientific research! 

Keep the Fire Roaring

Are you leaning into something right now, whether in your running or in your life? Are you enjoying being challenged by the process? Who said it was going to be quick or straightforward? As you know, I am ancy to get back to Switzerland. I just want the climb to be done and am definitely eager to see what I can do. That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it taking a lot of time and effort. I just need to slow down and appreciate the process for what it is. There is in fact joy to be found in the slowness of the process. The simple enjoyment in the act of running or lifting as well as the lack of pressure have been liberating. If you focus on the process, you'll seldom be disappointed. 

I've got one month left to prep for the climb. I'm starting to realize, though, that what will make me successful is not what I do but how I pursue it. According to my picture files, I began serious weight training on July 8, 2022. Bit by bit, step by slow step, I am making my way back to the Alps (perhaps). My competitive nature and obsessive personality make this all the harder to deal with. I want so much to get springier, better, faster, stronger. I want that bread. But bread takes time to kneed, rise, and bake. If it's sourdough, it takes even longer. I'm pushing. Hard. Real hard. There is a glimmer of hope, and I'm clinging to it. I took this picture today after my workout.

Can this 71-year old climb another alp? It's incredibly tempting to slack off and give up. But I'm wired differently. Maybe it's the goal I've set for myself and a strong refusal to give up on it. When I do things, I like to do them well. Of course, it goes without saying that I don't always do them well. But when I miss the mark, it gnaws at me. If you're going to do something, you might as well do it right. Anything worthwhile requires time and dedication. We must not shy away from it. We embrace the temporary discomfort for the long term goal. And if the ship sinks? If the pond is fishless? You will press on still, not only because you are too stubborn to quit, but because nothing in life allows us to slacken our effort. 

My friend, as you chase down your goals, whatever they are, stand your ground. Keep the paths clear and the fire roaring, whatever happens. The Lord will not love you more if you climb the Allalinhorn, or less if you don't. 

Feed My Sheep

Dinner time! 

The Bar Assisted Pull Up

Essentially, when you go to the gym you can either wing it or you can plan out beforehand the exercises you'd like to perform for that day. Of course, a visit to the gym can often combine both approaches, because even if you do have a plan, you will tend to adjust it as you proceed throughout your workout. Together I was a bit more disciplined than usual and completed each of the exercises on my list for today's gym session. 

The bar assisted (or foot assisted!) pull up is shown below. As I've said before, the idea is to work on easier variations to build up your foundation for regular pull ups. After all, your joints may not have adapted to full push ups yet. 

Though it wasn't on my list today, I also performed a machine chest press, which I had never done before (I prefer to use free weights in my workouts). It was a really strange experience but one I'm sure I'll get used to the more I perform it. 

If you're learning a new exercise, be sure to use lighter weight and then increase it as necessary. I think I may have gone a bit too heavy on this exercise today.

Hope you are all well! Have a wonderful day. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Upper Body Workout Routine

Tomorrow is upper body day at the gym. Here's my list of exercises after warming up:

  • Machine assisted pull ups.
  • Lat pull downs.
  • Supinated lat pull downs.
  • Bar assisted pull ups.
  • Australian rows.
  • Dead hang.
  • Negative pull ups.
  • Jumping pull ups.
  • Regular pull ups. 
  • Dumbbell curls.
  • Dumbbell hammer curls. 
  • Incline dumbbell bench press.

My experience: it helps to plan your workout the day before. And no -- I don't always complete ALL of the exercises in one day! 

Indirect Benefits of Studying Greek

At last weekend's conference I spoke with a number of you who homeschool your children. Many of you expressed an interest in teaching your children Greek. Yes! I am a HUGE proponent of traditional, subject-matter-focused education that believes that the study of Greek (or Latin) not only has direct benefits but also indirect ones by inculcating mental discipline and critical thinking. But note: One doesn't automatically lead to the other. I've met a number of young people who studied Latin in homeschool. For some, Latin obviously did not teach them to think. It just taught them Latin. So let's remember that a person becomes educated not only by learning but also by using what they learn! 

P.S. It makes a big difference who your teacher is and what textbook you use. 

Honesty Online

"Isn't it unwise to share your innermost thoughts, even your struggles, on your blog? Isn't it better to keep them to yourself?"

For clarity, here are a couple of thoughts.

Believers are commanded to bear each other's burdens. No Christian was ever meant to struggle alone. Of course, a great deal of selectivity should be observed as to the trustworthiness of those with whom we share. Furthermore, some things should not be shared publicly. But we are cheating ourselves of the help and encouragement of others when we do not share our burdens with someone. 

Just thought I'd "share" that with you. 

Hope you're all well today! 

Calf Raises

Hello friends. Just back from the gym. 

Today I focused on legs, especially calf raises.

Of course, anyone who lives on a cattle farm does calf raises all the time :-) 

I'm certainly no role model for impressive calf development, but that doesn't make the exercise less important. Just like any other muscle, they have to be trained within a few reps of failure if you really want them to respond. For best results you're going to want to emphasize letting your heels hang down as far as possible and also making sure you're not just bouncing out of the bottom position by using momentum on every rep. Then make sure you come up as high on your toes as you can. 

Tomorrow it's back to upper body. The fun never ends! 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Describing Your "Ministers"

When you begin to read the Bible regularly, you will also begin a period of reorienting your mind in so many areas of life. For example, it's one thing to say you believe in "every member ministry," but it's another thing to absorb it and reflect it in the way you speak and even in the way you might describe "ministry" on your church's website. Since I'm not a pastor, I might be getting out of my lane here, but for a minute this morning I imagined I was writing the text of an imaginary church's web page called "Our Ministers." (Churches also call this "Our Team," "Our Leadership," "Our Elders," etc.) Let's imagine you've come to our imaginary church website (let's call ourselves Piedmont Bible Church) and wanted to know something about who our leaders are. You see a link ("Our Ministers"), click on it, and read the following. (Mind you, this is not from an actual webpage. I'm just making this up.)

Our Ministers
The New Testament teaches that Christian ministry is entrusted to the whole church (Eph. 4:11-12). It is the task of every follower of Jesus to carry out works of service for the praise of God and the benefit of all. All believers and the whole church are the clergy of God. Under no circumstance do we consider the elders listed below to be the only "ministers" at PBC. They do not form a special rank or caste in the church. They are selected and appointed for the purpose of "equipping" all God's people for works of service. Each of our elders is a servus servorum Dei who understands himself as a servant of servants, a minister of ministers. Their place is not above but below the saints who are not adorned by special titles. In short, it is the entire body of believers at PBC who must do the work of the ministry, equipped and guided by gifted men who are able to teach and apply the Scriptures in such a way that every member discovers and begins to exercise the gift or gifts the Holy Spirit has given them. 
Of course, you'd probably write this differently, and that's okay. (For example, you don't have to keep the Latin!) 

Bless you, my friend! 

Maxing Out

Sorry for yet another post about the gym. Today I got up to what for me is a whopping 30 pounds per arm dumbbell bench press. 

You see, the idea with lifting is to start with weights you can lift and use heavier ones as you get stronger. However, it's equally important to learn to do a proper form bench press, or pull up, or lat pull. Depending on your fitness level, the exercise you're performing might be too hard, too easy, or just right. It's okay to test your strength, but try to spend most of your workout doing exercises you can do with good focus! 

"Show Us Your Face!" (Augustine)

As we begin to develop a daily Bible reading time, we might also want to familiarize ourselves with the great literature of the Christian faith, including the writings of the church fathers of the first four centuries. This morning I happened to bring along to my Bible time a copy of Augustine's Confessions, a book that I really enjoy reading and that always seems to bless me. 

Here's a line I decided I'd commit to memory because it seems like the perfect prayer to begin my daily Bible reading with. 

I might render it as:

O God of all virtue, turn us around and show us your face, and we shall be whole. 

I know, the last thing you needed today was another Latin saying. But this one just stuck out to me!

Have a beautiful day! 

Monday, February 26, 2024

The Ministry of the Saints (Eph. 4:11-12)

Markus Barth -- whose 2-volume commentary on Ephesians is simply outstanding! -- was a Professor of New Testament during my sojourn in Basel. I'll never forget him saying that no teaching about church life through the centuries has been more revolutionary than Paul's instruction in Ephesians 4 that ordinary believers do the work of Christian ministry.  Paul's teaching can be summarized as follows:

Note that pastor-teachers are not expected to do the work of the ministry or even build up the body of Christ. That's to be done by the "saints" -- plain, common Christians. The work of pastor-teachers is essentially that of katartismos -- gettings the saints ready for action, equipping them, preparing them, or "getting them into shape" to do the work of the ministry. This they do by the word of God, which is the primary instrument of growth in the lives of believers. If pastor-teachers ignore this task, then the saints will remain unequipped for their tasks. I like to think of pastor-teachers as functioning like the trainers at my gym. They don't do the work of lifting for us. Their job is to coach us so that we might engage in weight training efficiently and effectively. And they do that both by teaching and through their own example. (I have never met an out-of-shape trainer.) Naturally my analogy is somewhat overdrawn, but you get the point (I hope!). Teaching alone -- the imparting of correct doctrine -- is not enough. Thus, both by his example and by his teaching, Paul had so equipped the believers in Ephesus that he could say that the whole province of Asia had been reached by the gospel through the common, ordinary saints who fanned out from Ephesus in the normal activities of their lives.

This is the ministry of the saints. If you're a fellow saint, I thank God for you. And if you are someone who is equipping us for ministry, may God bless your work. This teaching is the truth of the word of God! 

Why I Still Test

Today I'm prepping my Greek students for their first exam next week, despite the fact that the campaign against testing is an integral part of the modern educational system in America. I would argue that tests are necessary to achieve fairness and excellence. They are also effective in determining the adequacy of a teacher's performance. Without effective monitoring, no educational system is likely to achieve its goals. The gravest disservice to education entailed by the anti-testing movement is the delusion that educational achievement comes as naturally as leaves to a tree, without discipline or effort on the part of the student. The opposite is true! 

Mark 10:43

"It shall not be so among you." Throughout 20 centuries of Christian history, the church has virtually ignored these words. 

Bolder Boulder -- I'm Registered!

It's official. Lord willing, I'm heading back to Boulder in May.

No turning back now! 

The Gift of Giving

Do you know a truly generous Christian? I do. Christian giving can in fact be a gift of the Holy Spirit. We know this from Rom. 12:8, where Paul lists giving as a charisma of God, along with prophecy, teaching, serving, etc. The Greek is:

Here are some renderings:

  • NIV: "if it is in giving, then give generously."
  • NKJV: "he who gives, with liberality."
  • NASB: "the one who gives, with generosity."
  • GNT: "Whoever shares with others should do it generously."

In its original context, the reference is probably to those who distributed the alms of the church. But we may extend this meaning to refer to private benevolence as well. Every Christian will be a giver. But wealthy Christians will have a special responsibility in the matter. Hence The Message:

"If you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond."

And here's the Living Bible:

"If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it."

In the end, all Christian giving is inspired by the cross. "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" (2 Cor. 9:15). 

Moving from Tradition to Biblical Patterns

Sometimes I'm asked, "If what you promote (about church leadership, for example) is so clearly taught in Scripture, how come my pastor wasn't taught it in seminary?" Great question! Not sure there are any easy answers. Maybe I could say this for starters. In my experience, it's easy for seminaries and Bible colleges to train leaders to fit what the churches are looking for rather than to follow biblical patterns. We teachers might not want to admit it, but tradition is a powerful force. Thankfully, while some seminaries are moving toward conformity with the world, many are moving intentionally toward a renewed emphasis on biblical principles. If you're in a church that has followed convention for years, the proper place to begin reformation is with the corporate study of Scripture, from the pulpit or in Bible study classes, over time. Churches need to see that the Bible does teach these things. While this is taking place, let's not forget to be loving and patient with each other. Remember, God is a good Shepherd. He gently leads his people to the place where they're willing to change! 

Just a thought :-) 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Lovely German City

If you ever get to Germany you have to visit Tübingen. It is one of the prettiest cities in all of Europe!

And to think, I almost studied there for my doctorate! You see, during a summer-long trip to Europe in 1978, I visited all of the universities I was possibly interested in. Eventually I settled on two -- Tübingen and Basel. As you know, I ended up at the latter uni. But I had been accepted as a student in Tübingen as well. It was a hard choice! Even while studying in Basel I made trips to Tübingen to take advantage of its excellent theological library. That's the neat thing about living in Europe. Nothing is really "far" away, and no need to have a car to get you there -- public transportation is amazing! 

Asking the Text Questions

Here's a change in my approach to Bible study that really improved my results several years ago. Instead of just reading a passage of Scripture, I bombard it with questions. In fact, my approach to the Bible now has three steps: I ask the text questions, I look for the answers, and then I try to put the answers together into a meaningful whole. 

This last step is critical. It's easy for a facts kind of guy like me to come up with all kinds of tiny details about a passage. But it's much harder for me to put all the data together into a meaningful synthesis. But I'm improving! So every time we come to the Bible, let's approach it in terms of both the details and the big picture. 

I can hardly wait for my Bible study tomorrow morning! 

Building Muscle As We Age

Good evening! I hope everyone is doing well. Just had a great time at the gym. Nothing much to report except that I'm feeling pretty good about my upper body strength. I mean, rock scrambling still intimidates me, and the Alps can be pretty unforgiving, but it is what it is and I can't overcome my genetics so I do what I can do and leave the rest with the Lord. 

I may be wrong, but I think I've got my arms dialed in. 

This means I'll concentrate on leg strength for the next month. Can I improve and get stronger even though I'm aging by the month? Everyone LOSES muscle as they grow older. The loss begins in your mid-30s and continues for as long as you live. This is probably one of the more challenging aspects of aging, because without muscles you can't move (or at least move very well). So our actions can make a difference. 

Friend, I hope you'll choose, as long as you're able, to exert control over your personal fitness. One of my mantras is, "It's never too late to start, and it's always too early to stop." So use exercise to enhance your life. We may not be able to climb that Alp, but we are the better for trying. If we sit on the sideline, we can only wither away.

Thanks for stopping by! 

How We Grow

How do we grow? As a bodybuilder? As a Christian? 

This is a big topic, but one thing seems clear. Growth doesn't happen simply by thinking about it. As Jesus pointed out, you can't add a cubit to your height simply through your imagination. You can't just say, "I'm going to grow." You have to make sure that the factors that make for growth are present. If they are, growth will occur by itself, naturally and unforced.

According to Paul -- I was in Eph. 4:13 this morning -- the factors for spiritual growth involve increasing in (1) the unity of the faith and (2) the knowledge of the Son of God. These two factors, he says, will lead to mature manhood -- "the fullness of Christ." 

The unity of the faith is our shared understanding as Christians of the great truths revealed in the Scriptures. We grow when we exert ourselves to understand the Bible and Christian doctrine. That was an emphasis in my talk yesterday. What good does it do to say we have an authoritative Bible if we don't read it! The knowledge of the Son of God refers to a growing personal encounter with the Lord Jesus himself, so that we come to know him more and more, intimately and personally. This, too, results in maturity.

In short, it's no good to say "I'm going to grow my muscles" without a knowledge of proper lifting technique coupled with a lot of exertion at the gym. 

We can apply this to our spiritual life as well. By the way, I hope I was clear yesterday that you don't need professional training to understand the Bible. You don't have to know Greek and Hebrew. If you can read, you can dig into the Scriptures yourself. So don't be afraid of the word "study." Bible study can be fascinating beyond words!

Have a wonderful day! 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Bible Can Be Trusted!

Hey friends. I just got home after my trip to Wilkesboro, NC. It took me an hour longer to drive back to the farm. I took all the back roads I could -- through places like Mount Airy, Ararat, and Stuart, which are some of the loveliest parts of North Carolina and Virginia. What a beautiful world we live in!

The conference was such a wonderful time of Christian fellowship around God's word. 

In my earliest years as a Christian, I discovered the book of Acts and loved all those verses about the power of the Holy Spirit. I have tried to visualize in my own mind what the Day of Pentecost must have been like. Imagine the thoughts that would have run through your mind had you been one of the 120 in the upper room. I imagine many of them spent a lot of those seven weeks waiting for the Holy Spirit to come wondering what the "Holy Spirit" was going to be like. They probably visualized all kinds of things! My guess is that none of them ever anticipated that there would suddenly be the sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies. And can you imagine what they thought when they saw that first tongue of fire? But what they thought is really not important. The important thing is that they immediately began to be witnesses! They immediately took their lamp from under the bushel and began to shine it all around, so much so that the people around them thought they were drunk! 

I felt this way today while speaking at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. As I spoke there was such a crying out in my soul for everyone to know the truth concerning the word of God. 

I will never be able to thank God enough or praise him enough for the fact that he had so much mercy on his church to give us his word. Can it be trusted? Absolutely! Can its detractors be rebutted? You bet they can! I believe with all my heart that every committed follower of Jesus faces a decision like the one I posed to my audience today: Who do we love the most? And what book is the most important one in our lives? The most beautiful part of all this is that when you love God more than anyone in the world, he will give you a greater love for his word because that's his love letter to us! I wonder what excuse we're going to have when we stand on the day of judgment and he says, "Did you read my love letters -- ALL of them?" Think of some of the flimsy excuses we are going to have. "I meant to, but ...." "I was too busy ...." "I didn't have the time ...." The Bible is nothing but a bunch of printed words on paper until God's Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us. And remember: the Holy Spirit is the ONLY person who can reveal the truth of the Bible to us! I hope you will never open the Bible without first asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you.

So that was pretty much my message today. 

The most neglected area in the life of a defeated Christian is probably Bible reading. It doesn't have to be that way! This should be the most exciting part of your day. The Bible can be trusted! God faithfully preserved it to us! Now it's our responsibility to respond with our fidelity! 

Have a wonderful Lord's Day tomorrow! 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Weekend Conference: Can We Trust the Bible?

Do you think there just might be a fifth column in the body of Christ? Hmm. I think it's possible!

  • How else would you explain the undermining of faith or the fact that unbiblical doctrines are being tolerated or even advanced in the church?
  • How else can you explain the widespread skepticism about the reliability and authority of the Bible, a skepticism that has become pervasive in the worldwide church?
  • How else can you account for the fact that evangelism is being replaced by human development and social justice?
  • How else can you explain the fact that dissenting theologians aren't being asked to retract unsound teachings?
  • How else can you understand how the church has become dangerously allied with unbiblical causes?
  • How else can you explain why having a biblical faith is often labelled blind fundamentalism?

This is just a small sampling of the forces that are broiling under the surface of an increasingly secularized church. As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. This state of confusion can't be ignored. It must be resolved. Is there a way forward? I believe there is. We must point out with clarity what truths must be recovered in light of what is being attacked. The solution begins with Scripture, and it ends with Scripture. 

This weekend we're going to be analyzing some very troubling developments in the church today. I will be up front with my deepest convictions. My hope and prayer is that the Bible, the precious gift of God, will be more keenly read, believed, loved, and followed than ever before.

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you can, please say a prayer for me!

Word Study Principles

Here are 5 ways to improve your word studies when you read the Bible. Remember that:

1. A word often doesn't mean what its component parts would otherwise indicate. A "butterfly" is not butter that flies!

2. The meaning of English words shouldn't be read back into the biblical meanings. 

3. The same word may have different meanings in its various contexts in the Bible.

4. Normally, each word has only one meaning in the passage where it's found. This meaning is determined by context and usage.

5. A word shouldn't be given all of its shades of meaning in any one passage. If you do this, you will be guilty of "illegitimate totality transfer," which is punishable by a lengthy jail sentence!

Just things you might want to consider as you live your regular life.

Have a wonderful day! 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Your First Time at the Gym

There's always a first time for everything, right? Going to the gym for the first time is going to seem kind of overwhelming. When I went to the gym for the first time I felt like everyone was judging me. Of course, nobody was actually doing that. Everyone there was once in the exact same position you were now in. They completely respect you. 

The reality is that EVERYBODY at the gym is there because they are trying to lose weight or build muscle or simply wanting to stay healthy. Most of them are just as self-conscious as you are! We all have insecurities about our bodies, no matter how mature we are. Don't let your initial anxiety and insecurities stop you from being active or achieving your goals. Don't compare yourself with others, and never try to look like someone else. Your DNA and body type are unique to you, so celebrate that. 

No matter what your weight, gender, or age is, you've made a decision and you've shown the fortitude to put that decision into action. My advice is: keep on showing up, say hi to people, ask questions, and pretty soon you'll be a familiar face at the gym whom everyone knows and appreciates. Find a gym that fits your fitness goals, give yourself time to orient yourself to the place, and soon enough you'll have a full-fledged workout routine. And in the end, just know that you are always your own worst critic. Others don't really care about how much you're lifting, so be confident in yourself. What's most important is that you find a way to move your body that is fun and achievable for you.

There's more we could explore on this subject. Let me know if you want a follow up! 

When You Feel Like a Failure

It's easy to feel like you're a failure when you see everyone else's achievements and successes on social media. But you may not be as unsuccessful as you think. All of these achievements you see in other people took years to achieve. Even if you don't feel like a success, all of your "failures" in the past can teach you what not to do, which makes you more likely to be successful in the future. When I dropped Greek after only three weeks at Biola, I never could have imagined that just two years later I would be hired to teach 11 units of Greek there. 

I have a lot more I could say about this topic but I'll just post this for now. Have a wonderful evening! 

The Origins of the Gospels (A Bird's Eye View)

Hey folks. What do I believe about the historical origins of the Gospels? After all, I like to speak on this topic when I travel (as for example this Saturday). Well, I wrote a little book on this subject. And although it defends Matthean priority (that is, Matthew, not Mark, was written first), its main purpose is to defend the historicity and reliability of the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. I know some of you might not be able to attend our conference this weekend, but don't despair. You probably don't need anything more than this very brief essay that appeared in Credo Magazine.

As always, thanks for your interest in my sometimes obscure views about the Bible! 

We Love Conjunctions!

Here's another reason why. 

In Eph. 4:11, the first three occurrences of "and" in the NASB 1995's list of leaders is the same Greek word (de). But the fourth occurrence of "and" (the one between "pastors" and "teachers") is a different word (kai), which is perhaps best rendered by a hyphen ("pastor-teachers").

All pastors are teachers, but not all teachers (like me) are pastors! 


Perfection Is SO Overrated

Hey guys. If you'll permit a gentle reminder ....

Don't make the mistake of excessively strict form when lifting. Take the incline dumbbell press I did today. 

You don't need to be lifting like a completely inflexible robotic automaton while trying to micromanage every tiny movement on every single rep. It's better to aim for a middle ground approach where you're lifting with a solid technique but also giving yourself the freedom to move naturally. 

Enjoy the gym today wherever you are! 

Are You Consistent? Pat Yourself on the Back!

Hello. I hope everyone is doing well. I'm so hyped up and happy and in the mood to sing. I feel I have finally found consistency in my training and consistent motivation in my workouts. See how happy I was at today's workout? (Well, my smile could have been a bit larger!) 

This motivation isn't always there, you know. You work out consistently for a few weeks and think, "Well, I'm gonna do this for the rest of my life," and then a week later you're telling yourself, "I'm too tired to go to the gym anymore." I get that. I'm not always go, go, go either. I'm not always super motivated. If you're a beginner and you struggle with this, try to find a consistent way to work out but don't make it more than 15 minutes a day for maybe 3 days a week. Don't work out every day! Plot out a workout plan and then commit to sticking with it for a couple of months. If you do, you will get better long-term results. I think it's a very important part of life to have some level of fitness, but it's really about whatever is enjoyable to you. You can make real progress on 3 workouts a week. People treat fitness like it's a sprint but it's more like a marathon. So if you want to cultivate long-term fitness, forget about all those 30-day challenges out there. They NEVER work.

At the end of the day, if you're becoming fairly consistent with your workouts, give yourself a big pat on the back. And if you can't reach your back, there are stretches I can recommend you can do for that :-) 

Make it a wonderful day! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

"Errors" in Mark's Gospel?

How many 14,000 foot peaks are there in the Rockies? Are there 53, 58, or even 74? It all depends on how you define "peak." 

On Saturday I hope to defend the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and trustworthiness of the Bible against its detractors at our conference in Wilkesboro. In one of my two talks, I'll specifically answer the objections of a New Testament scholar who insisted that Mark's Gospel contains numerous "errors" (his word). Mind you, this scholar was no liberal. He taught at a prominent evangelical seminary for years. To be sure, Mark's diction is different from that of Matthew and Luke. But in my opinion, it goes beyond the evidence to argue that Mark's Gospel contains "errors" that were "corrected" by Matthew and Luke -- way beyond the evidence. An example is when Mark says that the rich young ruler "kept" [middle voice in Greek] all these things from my youth." Both Matthew and Luke, we are told, "corrected" Mark's "error" to the active form of the verb "kept." There are many problems with this argument, which I will discuss in detail at the conference. Now, I don't deny that the verbs are different. But it's a difference without any significance. It's like you saying "He pleaded guilty" and me saying "He pled guilty." In effect, the matter boils down to a mere stylistic choice (think judgment/judgement, dived/dove, "It's me"/"It is I"). The widespread but uncritical propensity of so many to resort to such fallacious arguments is, to me, simply intellectually indefensible. While Nietzsche was no friend of Christianity, he correctly saw the abyss toward which Western thought was heading. When Christianity reaches the point where its scholars glibly refer to "errors" in the Bible, dark and sinister days are ahead for Christ's church. 

Lots of things will be covered at the conference that I can't fully cover in a short blog post. I'll provide a longer report this weekend! 

My Day

Hey friends. When running, as I did today, you want to cover the ground as relaxed as possible. Your greatest enemy is tenseness. So the less strain you carry with you on your run, the farther and easier you can go. 

Great runners don't waste energy with their arms. All your effort should go to your legs. Just watch Eliud Kipchoge. You'll immediately notice the absence of arm-pumping in front of his chest. He looks effortless when running, which is the goal of every efficient runner. (No, this is NOT a video of Kipchoge!) 

Replenish your protein and carbs as soon as you can after you've finished your run. Eliminate sugary drinks, including fruit juices. Drink water (mostly) when you are thirsty. 

Arriving back on the farm I noticed that the daffodils were up -- a sure sign that spring is not far away. 

I fed the animals and noticed that we had yet another baby! He was born this morning. 

Ira says, "Hey, Bandit!"

Just sharing a few pics from my day. Hope you're all well! 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Australian Pull Ups

Pull ups without a pull up bar! I've been playing with this exercise for months. It's perfect to help you get your first pull up. All you need is a Smith machine and a straight bar. Start out with a high bar. Simply grab hold of the bar with your feet on the ground. Then pull your chest toward the bar while keeping your body in a fairly straight line. 

Once you are able to do that, you can make this harder by reducing the height of the bar. I generally aim to do 3 sets of 8 reps. 

To be clear, this obviously doesn't have to replace other back and arm exercises like the lat pull. 

By all means, use both if you like. There are many roads to achieving your very first pull up! 

Pull ups are a great exercise that everyone should be doing. If you can't do a pull up, work your way up so that you can eventually bang out your first one. And even if you're good at them, Australian pull ups are great ways to get in more pulling volume. 

Have a beautiful day! 

Monday, February 19, 2024

A Most Lovely Day

From the classroom in Wake Forest ... 

... to the bridge in "my fair city" of Clarkesville ... 

... to welcoming yet another baby to the farm ... 

... it was a lovely day. Hope yours was too! 

Adjectives Are Great!

It would be a mighty dreary world without adjectives. In fact, it would just be a world, because there'd be no words like dreary. Thus far in Greek, all we've had are nouns. Nouns are fascinating, true, but the fun really starts when you get to describe things. And that's where adjectives come in. For example, in 1 Tim. 3:2-3, Paul uses eleven adjectives in just two short verses to describe a pastor. See for yourself! This morning I went to a well-known pastor's website and noted how frequently he uses adjectives in his sermon titles:

  • A wise life.
  • An encouraging prospect.
  • The sight of the pure.
  • A hardened heart.
  • Constructive teamwork.
  • Am I a balanced person?
  • Love of the poor.
  • The penitent prayer.
  • The right purpose. 
  • The glorious Father.

I suppose we could also think of movie titles like Sleepless in Seattle, Senseless, Big, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and, of course, Dumb and Dumber.

In today's Greek class we'll learn adjectives like good, beloved, powerful, new, bad, evil, first, wise, holy, worthy, righteous, strong, small, and impossible. I have 5 word studies prepared for today's session but will probably be able to only get through two or three of them! 

P.S. Don't tell my students, but there are 24 forms for every adjective in Greek. That's right, 24 ways of spelling "good." There might be more I could add about adjectives at this point, but I'm going to get me some Ethiopian coffee at the moment. 

Have a wonderful week! 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Holy Spirit Is a Gift!

Hey folks! Saw something really interesting at church today. In Acts 2:38, Luke refers to "the gift of the Holy Spirit." 

The NIV, ESV, and NKJV all read "you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." That makes sense, right? That's precisely what the Greek says. But I wonder. Is that what the Greek means? True, the so-called genitive case frequently indicates possession. We might have:

the word of me = my word

the house of you = your house

the gift of the Holy Spirit = the Holy Spirit's gift

But the genitive shouldn't be TOO closely identified with the idea of possession or ownership. Genitives can in fact serve many different purposes. Here's a sampling:

possession = children of men

composition = a group of men

origin = men of Rome

description = men of honor

apposition = the sin of pride/the month of January/the city of New York/the garden of Eden, etc. 

I think it's pretty obvious that this last category is the one Luke uses in Acts 2:38. Check out these English translations:

LB = you shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit

ISV = you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift 

To summarize ... when you think "genitive," there are two basic options:

1. John's milk (possession)

2. A glass of milk (non-possession)

Not sure why I should be telling you this. On the other hand, I do recall once hearing someone say that the gift of the Holy Spirit in view here is the gift of tongues! 

I hope I'm not publishing too many blog posts about grammar. But the study of grammar has made for me some of the most enjoyable times of my life. Hope this helps! 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Surrounded by Beauty

Just got back from my evening walk. 

Brrr. Time to light a fire. The sun was out today but there was no warmth in it. But the Son was shining! Do you ever take a walk and spontaneous praise breaks out? Open your eyes and there he is! 

We don't need a church pew to experience God. He isn't confined to a building any more than drama is to the stage. He surrounds us 24 hours a day with evidence of his love and glory. 

Let's not get too busy to notice! 

Where Is the Church?

Did you know that in Paul's earliest writing, the apostle gives us a pretty good working definition of the word "church" (1 Thess. 1:1)? Paul is writing "to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Notice, first, that the church is "in God the Father." This distinguishes it from secular assemblies and clubs. Then notice that the church is also "in the Lord Jesus Christ." This expression now distinguishes the church from a strictly Jewish assembly. (No Jewish synagogue would self-identify as being in BOTH the Father and Jesus Christ!) Thus, a New Testament church is a community of people who are rooted in the Father and the Son. 

Of course, the church is also in the world. God's church lived in Thessalonica, just as it lives in my neck of the woods in Southside Virginia. You see, there's the spiritual location of the church, and then there's the physical location of the church. I would not want to have lived in Thessalonica, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, or Philippi without being in Christ and having him live in me. Nor would I want to live in Los Angeles, London, Paris, or Hong Kong without the power of Christ. The truth is, we can enjoy his presence anywhere as we serve him and others. Because the church is in the Father and in Christ, we don't need ultimate security in any given place!

Just a happy reminder :-) 

The Christocentric Church

Have you noticed? The early church was more like a family than an organization. I noticed this again while reading Acts this morning. 

Disciples followed Jesus in everyday life in an organic way. Christianity was the body of Christ in ordinary houses. Believers met (among other things -- teaching, fellowship, prayer) to eat. Luke calls this "the breaking of the bread" (Acts 2:42). The early church was a table community, whereas the churches I'm most familiar with today are pulpit communities. In the church of Acts, the Lord's Supper wasn't an addendum to the preaching service, observed quarterly or maybe monthly. Furthermore, the Supper was a substantial meal with a symbolic meaning, rather than a symbolic meal with a substantial meaning. Christ was front and center in their gatherings. "When you come together in order to eat, wait for each other" (1 Cor. 11:33). Can the church of today recapture this emphasis? Our pulpit-centricity could be a bug, not a feature. (The problem is NOT the pulpit but the anthropocentricity.) 

Christocentrism displaces nothing except all other centers!

My Favorite Delt Exercises

There's no such thing as any single individual exercise you need to do for your delts. These are simply 4 exercises out of many possible different shoulder training options. You can test them out and see if they're good for you. Here are my faves:

1. Standing one arm dumbbell overhead press. The form is pretty straightforward. Just be sure to tuck your elbows forward slightly to minimize the stress on your shoulder joints. 

2. Lateral dumbbell raises.

3. Cable face pull. You can play around with this to find the exact distance and pulling angle that activates your delts most strongly. 

4. Forward dumbbell raises. 

Remember, your delts are the single largest muscle in the entire upper body, larger than the pecs, the traps, and even the lats. So they deserve a little pampering!

Shoulder exercises are honestly a pretty simply matter. I'm excited to share my progress with you as time goes by. It's a long-term project. Thanks everyone! 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Thank You, Students!

What you see when you grade Greek quizzes and exams:

Solid scores and excellent translations.

What you don't see:

Hours and hours of study, self-discipline, and perseverance. 

Thank you, students! 

We Probably Should Use a Variety of Translations

Should we do word studies when we read the Bible? Yes -- even though people tend to abuse words more than anything else in Bible study. Rephrased a bit -- how should we do word studies? I employ different methods, but a standard one is comparing as many different translations as I can. I think this can be good for us in the right doses! On the other hand, word studies can complicate things. Maybe I could give you an example from my Bible reading this morning. 

Bojangles coffee will be in heaven -- guaranteed. 

I was really puzzled by Rom. 1:14. Paul is contrasting two kinds of people: Greeks/non-Greeks, and wise/foolish. That's the NIV. The ESV has: Greeks/barbarians, wise/foolish. The GNT reads: civilized/savage, and educated/ignorant. Phillips insists Paul is contrasting the "cultured Greek" and the "ignorant savage." 

Yikes! Those are a lot of different renderings! Incidentally, La Biblia de las Americas has los griegos/los barbaros, and los sabios/los ignorantes. There's a footnote on barbaros that I found really helpful. It reads: los que no eran griegos, ni por nacimiento, ni por cultura. Love it! Paul is referring to people who are not Greeks either by birth or by culture. Sorry to bother you at this point with the German, but the New Geneva Translation translates verse 14 as follows:

Allen weiss ich mich verpflichtet sowohl den Völkern griechischer Kultur als auch den übrigen Völkern, sowohl den Gebildeten als auch den Ungebildeten.

I'll let you Google translate that :-) But it's spot on! 

Deciding the matter isn't easy, but here's how I would express the contrast Paul has in mind: between the civilized and the uncivilized, and between the educated and the uneducated. I'd avoid the term "barbarians" lest readers think of a certain movie star!

This matter of word study could be a much bigger topic. In fact, I've treated it in several of my books! 

Have a beautiful day!

Ready Or Not?

Exactly one and a half months from today I will decide whether I will return to the Alps this summer for one last crack at a 4,000-meter peak. Today I continued to train hard toward that end. 

As I look ahead to the summer, there's a part of me that wants to call it quits. After all, when I last climbed the Alps I was 65. This time I will be 72. At the same time, there's another part of me that is anxious to get going, a side of me that says it's time to take care of unfinished business. The perfectionist in me says it's a dangerous game, that it could easily turn out disastrously. I remember when I was running trail races. There was always a rock or a root or something that gave me reason to pause. If I had bowed out every time I felt intimidated I would have missed a lot of races and missed a lot of enjoyment. Some of my best marathons have been the ones where I was sure I couldn't finish but did anyway. 

At the end of next month my mountain guide and I will decide. I told him, if I don't have a better than 50-50 chance of summiting, I don't want to try. Looking ahead, I am excited about what awaits me. I don't know what that will look like yet. But this I do know: sometimes our hesitations are valid and need to be heeded. At other times they are a stumbling block. If you really want to succeed at something, you have to be willing to fail. When I first climbed a 4,000-meter peak, the challenge was so intimidating that it seemed impossible. That is, until I summited. Seven years later, I must admit that I am at peace with whatever the outcome might be. What deems me successful is not what I do but how I pursue it. 

Just wanted to share a bit behind the scenes. Hope you're all well! 

P.S. If I do climb again, I'm going to make it another fundraiser for UNC Cancer Hospital where Becky was treated. 

Thanks to many of you, $25,000 was raised. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Jesus, the Way to God for EVERYONE

The word "Christian" is misunderstood by some people. When Jesus said he was the way to God, it doesn't mean that Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims are left out. All we need to know about God is in Jesus Christ. Doesn't matter what background you come from or what religion you practice or whether or not you go to church. Do you want to know God? Everything we need to know about God is in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way to God for EVERYONE!

C. L. Lewis once said that Jesus is like the Rubicon. You cross it or you don't. Friend, if you haven't yet crossed, I pray you will do so soon.

Love you all!

My Morning Exercise

Hey friends. Here are a few pics (and one short vid) of my workout and run today. I apologize if you find all this boring. I realize that not all of you are interested in my fitness journey. But some of you are! 

Have a lovely day! 

Stay Vigilant!

Bible study can be fun and rewarding. But stay aware! You sadly don't have to look too far for exegetical fallacies. Somehow, even though we should know better, the "once-and-for-all" meaning of the aorist tense is still celebrated in both sermon and commentary. The fact NEVER changes that all of us can be a bit too quick in making assertions that in the end turn out not to be so true or accurate. While driving, accidents can happen even when we're careful. The same is true in exegesis. It always pays to stay vigilant! 

Do You Have a Bible Reading Plan?

I get a lot of questions from people wanting to know what Bible reading plan I follow. While I love these discussions, I recommend you start with something you will stick with. The idea of reading through the Bible in a year has been around for many years -- and with good reason. Some Bibles even have a schedule you can follow in the back. Of course, there are other approaches. Sometimes I will take a month to study one book of the Bible. At other times I will go through an entire book like 1 John in one sitting. You can devise your own schedule and plan, or even be spontaneous. The point is, devise a way to help you stay excited about your daily Bible reading. Mine never gets stale! 

"I Could Never Learn Greek!"

If you lack language aptitude and are trying to learn, say, Greek, you can still master the language. You might find it encouraging that people like me with very little ability in foreign language acquisition have been able to overcome that handicap. You don't NEED to be really smart at language. Just durable enough to withstand the inevitable setbacks and other obstacles. In that case, sometimes just studying an hour every other day gets the job done. And yes -- a short-term solution is to seek tutorial help from your teacher or pastor. Most will be eager to help! 

I know I've mentioned this a thousand times before, but I still get questions about this a lot :) 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Quest for Context

This is something I discovered years ago to help me read the Bible better. Using secondary sources can help us discover the historical context of the biblical books. You see, the Bible is largely a record of God working in and through real historical circumstances to accomplish his purposes. And you can discover a lot about those purposes if you read his word in light of its historical context. Many of you probably do this intuitively. It has REALLY helped me in my Bible study. So when you come to a book of the Bible, always be sure to ask, "Where does this book fit historically?" 

Happy Bible reading! 

Get Confident But Not Arrogant

As we get better at any area of life, it helps to maintain perspective. Being humble has its place. Paul says, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment" (Rom. 12:3). As we get better at certain things, we tend to improve in our confidence, and that's all well and good. But sometimes the opposite takes place. Success leads to overconfidence and arrogance. Thankfully, as we mature, we can gain a healthier perspective on life. We are perhaps better able to look at ourselves objectively and realistically. My goal isn't to say that we should never feel confident. However, Paul (and the Lord) calls us to humility (or at least having a correct awareness of our abilities). Please be kind toward those who are struggling to get to where you are in the process. Guys, let's model masculinity without machismo!

Let's Stop Marginalizing Our Youth

Friends, just a friendly reminder. All Christians are called to be in full-time ministry (diakonia). All, without exception. This means young as well as old. There is no "teenage" Holy Spirit and "adult" Holy Spirit. There's only the Holy Spirit. And if you are born again, you have a spiritual gift regardless of your age. I don't see why our teens should not serve on adult committees and sing in the adult choir and go on adult mission trips. It would give plenty of room for the full emergence and development of the undoubted gifts our Christian youth possess.

Just a thought. Enjoy this evening wherever you may be! 

Today's Walk

60 degrees :-) 

Faith AND Reason

Shortly I'll be meeting up with one of my best friends and favorite pastors. He has no formal biblical education. Remember: wisdom is not mainly a question of degrees and diplomas. These obviously have their importance. But the wisdom from above is not necessarily a matter of formal education. Wisdom from above is a gift of spiritual discernment. The Bible everywhere encourages us in its pursuit. God wants each of us to use our minds. He made us insatiably inquisitive, which is why we never outgrow the child's "Why? Why? Why?" It's God who made us that way! 

"Faith seeking understanding" is how the theologians of old put it. That comes from the Latin Fides quaerens intellectum (Anselm). Augustine put it like this: Crede ut intelligas. "Believe that you may understand." Anselm himself wrote: "O God, let me know you and love you that I may rejoice in you." So to all my fellow Bible students: reason is essential to faith. You are working very hard at your studies because you believe this to be true. Thank you! 

(Sorry, friends, for all that Latin stuff. It's just the way I'm wired :-) 

Tip for Doing Calf Raises

I've been someone with skinny calves almost my entire life. I also tend to have really stiff Achilles tendons. But since I started doing calf raises, they feel much better. 

Recently, a trainer taught me a game-changer. Next time you do calf raises, try holding the bottom portion for 4 seconds, then holding the top portion for 4 seconds. This means no more bouncing up and down (like I used to do). Don't worry about the number of reps. Just do them until you need a break. For most of my sessions, I do 3-5 sets. This isn't to say that you can't do fewer or more sets. This is just a rule of thumb! Be sure to center the movement by squeezing at the bottom and the top. This has already worked wonders for me. I simply place a couple of plates on the floor of a Smith machine, with toes on the plate, and then do this pausing technique.

The purpose is to strengthen your calf muscles, which play a central role in ankle flexion and therefore in allowing you to propel forward when running, walking, or hiking. Remember: calf raises should be SLOW and CONTROLLED. 

By the way, I totally get it if you do not want or need these workout tutorials. Feel free to skip them as needed!

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Is "Ethics" Enough?

Hey, did you know that Jordan Peterson has a new book coming out? Don't know if you're a big Peterson fan or not. I'm not, but I do own his books. I appreciate his emphasis on self-responsibility ("make your bed!") and his general position on wokism. So it will be interesting to see what he has to say in his new book. His subject is actually theology, which is a topic I love. I wonder, though, about all these people defending conservative values. Ultimately, people need to come to terms with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So I'm not sure their message is all that helpful. As Christians, we believe that it is God alone who empowers both our "willing" and our "doing" (see Phil. 2:12-13). In other words, responsible living has nothing to do with self-effort ultimately. Rather, it begins with a life that is being transformed from the inside out by the Spirit of God. It means being invaded, as it were, by God's Holy Spirit, who creates in us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him. We "work out" what God has "worked in." Moreover, whatever we do that is right and good we do ultimately for God's good pleasure, not our own. Our ultimate goal is to see that GOD'S purposes are accomplished in our lives and communities. 

Happily for us, God has made provision for all this in the Good News of Jesus Christ. You see, living responsibly is a God thing. It's not a matter of working out rules and regulations ("make your bed") but a matter of being devoted completely to Christ. So regardless of what we may think about JP -- and I know he is a controversial figure -- I hope we can all agree that our goal is not simply ethics but Christian ethics. This doesn't mean that "God does it for us." But it does mean that God, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, supplies the working power. 

So while it is valuable for us to listen to conservatives like Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Candace Owens  -- I do so quite often -- we can't afford not to check their message against the only perfect and infallible source of faith and practice known to man. 

Leaving it at this for now. Have a wonderful evening!