Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter!

Was an incredible Holy Week. I hope all of you are doing well. Happy Easter Sunday! Praise the Lord! 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Humbled and Thankful

Hard to believe we're already one fourth of the way through 2024. What a wonderful quarter it's been. So many great memories that we have shared with you all. I am forever grateful for the values I learned growing up. Nowadays we are handed things on a silver platter and we complain every time the least amount of effort is required. We want to take but aren't willing to give. The sacrifices and efforts of previous generations are what have allowed us to have it so easy and comfortable. I don't want to forget what it took to get us here. I feel blessed and grateful to be able to have the luxury of enjoying the outdoors and exercising. This was my view when I left the farm this morning. 

I had a wonderful time in the word over coffee and then had a workout at the gym.

Then it was back to the trails -- again! 

I run because I love it and because of the way it makes me feel. The weather is changing from winter to spring and I am finding myself wanting to be outside more than ever. I even rewaxed my surfboard today in hopes that there will be a swell at Virginia Beach soon. I can always hope, right?!! 

I am thankful and try not to take things for granted or think that I'm entitled to anything. I thank God for everything I have and own (it's his -- I'm only the steward) and for giving me a family that loves and supports me. Humbled, and yes, thankful! We must remember these two words because if we don't we'll become a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, alone and lonely. I always remind myself that although I am aging I am still active. I can move and see my grandkids grow and feel what my body is capable of even at the age of 71. Life really does get better with age, and I think we start seeing how the little, small things have so much more value than the large accomplishments. In a sense, staying grateful is easy because there are SOOOOOOOOOOOOO many blessings and things to be thankful for in life. Our Lord did not come to make our lives barren and narrow but rich and full. It's not the life the world has but a new life, even himself, and plenty of it. Yes, our times are in the hands of the Timeless One, the Great I AM, and we cheat ourselves when we ask for molehills when he has offered mountains. 

Don't let aging cause you to settle for less than his best. Why shouldn't the warrior's last victory be his greatest? 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Thank You

I'm currently a few days away from making a decision with my mountain guide. I've been sharing my journey with you every step of the way. I know many of you have been praying for me. Here's my latest photo. 

Either I am ready or I am not. Either way, the Lord has taught me so much through my strength training. Making changes to your diet and exercise routine as you age is critically important. As we age, we automatically lose muscle mass. This irreversible process is called sarcopenia. Your efforts in the gym can go a long ways toward staving this off, but some loss is unavoidable. It is commonly felt that you can't build muscle over 40. This has been used as a cop-out on a colossal scale. The truth is that the muscle growth and fat loss you desire is likely achievable through nothing more than hard work and dedication. I'm 100 percent sure about that. The key is consistency. Even if I never summit another peak in the Alps, I'm committed to making sure of having all aspects of my diet and training in check and to continue on this path for as many years as the Lord in his mercy and grace should grant me. When it comes to improving your quality of life as you age, you need to prioritize getting stronger. And one of the most effective ways to do this is through weight lifting. I'm not talking about getting jacked or ripped. It's not about your external physique but about enjoying the benefits of overall health the older you get. It's about a higher quality of living with less illness along the way to old age and (inevitably) death. 

I just want to say thank you very, very much for your love and your prayers. Your support means an immense amount to me. So please accept my sincere thanks along with my best wishes.

Hope you're all doing well, my friends. 

Pastoring a Rural Church (Eph. 4:11-12)

This week I had a delightful lunch with a graduate of the seminary who just took his first church way out in rural Virginia. We talked at length about how pastors are "elders among the people," encouraging the ministry gifts given to the whole church by the Holy Spirit. I told him how country folk can be a bit skeptical about their new pastor. More than once they've seen him resign to take a bigger charge. We also talked about the fact that the very concept of "clergy" and "laity" is absent from the pages of the New Testament. This is no narrow anticlericalism. It's the liberation of the whole people of God to do "the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12, KJV). For it is through the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit that both elders and people are restored to their proper dignity. 

I believe Eph. 4:11-12 has the power to change any church that is weary of half-hearted Christianity and is unafraid to take some giant steps with God. May God bless this young man and all pastors who labor for Christ in our rural churches! 

Outlining Rom. 12:9-16

How was your time in the Bible this morning? Mine was wonderful. I decided to exegete Rom. 12:9-16 for a sermon I'm preparing. 

Paul titles this section of Romans "Love Unhypocritical!" Love is THE pervasive trait that colors all the others. Thus far my outline looks like this:

  • Love sincerely (v. 9)
  • Love discerningly (v. 9)
  • Love affectionately (v. 10)
  • Love enthusiastically (v. 11)
  • Love patiently and prayerfully (v. 12)
  • Love sacrificially (v. 13)
  • Love redemptively (v. 14)
  • Love empathetically (v. 15)
  • Love humbly (v. 16)

You may read the passage differently and that's okay. But this is what I've come up with so far! 

Curious about Textual Criticism?

Can you believe this book has been in print for 30 years?  

It's meant to be used as a brief introduction to the subject. Hope it helps! 

Checking Out Your Local Gym

Just back from the YMCA. 

If you ever have some extra time and energy and want to push yourself a bit harder, try checking out your local Y or gym. This allows you to feel like you're not all alone in your fitness journey. It's not always necessary -- but it can be nice to try! 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Changing As We Age

This helps me make long term changes as I age!

While it's difficult sometimes, I try some time-tested steps like making new friends, removing some old ones (unfortunately), making new commitments, taking on new projects, trying new exercises. I like the analogy of a lobster. Each time it expands from within, it sheds a confining shell. People too shed some of our protective structure in each passage from one stage of life to another. 

You might feel panicky and withdraw into your shell. Change leaves us exposed and vulnerable. But taking the new step is infinitely less frightening than being stuck in a rut for years!

Good night and talk to you tomorrow! 

O Happy Day!

The rain is gone (yay!) so it was back to running today. 

Then back to the gym tomorrow. It never gets tiring! 

Finding the Warrior Within You

It's amazing, really. Amazing how much support runners get at every event hosted by the Marines. This includes the Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA, every year. 

Alone, or in groups, you make your way to the starting line. You wait for the cannon to go off, lost in your thoughts and fears. The dreaded Hospital Hill awaits you at mile 11. 


Slowly, defiantly, you begin to run up the hill, to the cheers and encouragement of the Marines. 


With them at your side you discover renewed enthusiasm. 


As you dig deeper to find the courage to battle those last few miles, you discover that you can be brave when you need to. You cross the finish line and they are all there, the brave men and women of the United States Marine Corps, gathered to cheer you to the finish. 


The race over, you sit down exhausted. You can finally quit. You can stop running. You are tired. You are hot. And you have never been happier. 

You had found the warrior within you. 

Magnanimity

How magnificent it is to meet a magnanimous person!

In 1 Tim. 6:18 (my Bible study this morning), Paul tells the wealthy to use their means to:

  • do good
  • be rich in good works
  • be generous and ready to share

We've all known such people. I'll tell you my story. When I went to Biola in 1971, I paid my own tuition for the first two years of my B.A. program. Before my third year of study arrived, I got news from the registrar that a man planned to pay my tuition not only for the rest of my bachelor's program but for my entire M. Div. program at Talbot. I never paid a penny of tuition again. I found out that this individual was doing the same for several others whose potential in his estimation had merited his support. The man insisted on being anonymous. I never knew his name. But his gift to me represented many thousands of dollars. Because of his magnanimity, Becky and I were able to save the funds needed to live in Basel for 3 years. 

I'll never forget that. How wonderful to find generous people in the body of Christ who are willing and able to share their wealth with others! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

When I Speak ....

What I try to do when I speak in churches or chapel services is to cover two bases:

1. First, I want the topics to be inherently interesting. If it's not interesting, it's not your fault. It's mine. So I like to make it interesting and keep it interesting. If it isn't, feel free to check your emails.

2. I want to talk about subjects that I never heard when I was in seminary or church. The topics I speak on are topics that maybe 99 percent of people have never heard before. For example, in my final chapel message, I spoke on Luke 3:23 and on the topic of Jesus and the age 30 transition. This is the kind of subject that isn't talked about in most places.

I might add a third: I speak without notes, but that's a personal choice. 

Thanks for reading! 

The Great Commission of Mark 16:15

Delving into textual criticism can be safe and rewarding -- but stay alert! You sadly don't have to look for examples. How many people have read this note in the ESV:

"Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20."

However, as many have pointed out, the long ending of Mark is supported by some 1,653 Greek manuscripts, whereas the reading that ends the Gospel in 16:8 has the support of but 3 Greek manuscripts, only 2 of which are "early." This is just my opinion, but it seems to me that Aleph and B may have gotten it wrong here. It wouldn't be the only place.

For what it's worth, I would teach and preach from the last twelve verses of Mark without any hesitation whatsoever. Also, in addition to the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19-20, I freely quote, as Scripture, Mark 16:15: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." In fact, this is one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible. 

Go everywhere and tell everyone!!!! 

Have a wonderful day!

Rope Climbing in the Alps

Unlike the Rockies, the Alps often have routes with large diameter ropes affixed to the mountain. Athletic rock climbing ability is not normally required, but you should expect rope-length sections of climbing. Excellent fitness is required, and this includes upper body strength that will be needed to haul yourself up any ropes that present themselves. Climbing the Alps is really fun and engaging! But you'll need to include your arms while preparing in the gym! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Arriving at Life's Finish Line

In this blog I want to tell a story that's unique to me. It doesn't need to be marked by race medals or publisher's accolades. It needs to be marked by me giving everything I possibly can. My goal is to get to the last finish line of my life knowing that I gave every ounce of the person God created me to be. That means that I'm going to arrive at the finish line tattered, beat up, broken, and completely spent. But I can't imagine arriving at the finish line of life any other way. 

Have a wonderful evening! 

Grief: The Uninvited Guest

If you're going through the pain of loss, it's okay to grieve. This isn't a time for "Get over it as soon as you can" advice. Embrace your grief and the steps to recovery. Eventually the wind subsides. The God who once seemed so far away will again seem radiant. Be sure to deal with your pain one little bit at a time. Grief is a natural, normal, and expected reaction to death. Eventually you will take steps to move from the old to the new identity. Ask God for help. Reach out your arms to him. Let others know you need them to hold you too. 

Should Bloggers Niche Down?

Let's say, hypothetically, that people are complaining that your blog is too broad in its appeal. Should you:

1. Pick a niche and totally own it.

2. Keep on posting about any and every topic that interests you.

Asking for a friend. :-) 

The Text of Mark 1:41

Fun fact. Some scholars will prefer a reading that's supported by a single Greek manuscript. Only one! (See the SBLGNT on Mark 1:41.) 

Sometimes things that feel weird ARE weird. I'm guessing that the place of the internal evidence has played a big role here. Maybe. But the external evidence is conclusive!! 

I Am a Runner

Twas a lovely day for a run.

You know you're a runner when your ties last a lifetime but your running shoes last 6 months. You know you're a runner when no amount of weight lifting can satisfy you quite like being out on the trails. You know you're a runner when you finish races at the back of the pack and you could care less. You know you're a runner when it has become increasingly more difficult to tell yourself that you're not a runner. 

I am a runner. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Which Text Type Do You Prefer?

Which text type do you prefer? 

(Incidentally, I think the term "text type" can and should be used. As Peter Gurry says, it's all about definitions. I do NOT use it to refer to recensional activity on the part of any of the text types. I DO use it to refer to groupings of early witnesses.)

Good news -- you don't have to prefer one over the other! God has preserved all the text types for us to use. I know some in my audience have a strong preference when it comes to text types, so I have to reiterate that you don't have to agree with me. If you're happy with your position, keep at it! However, I feel like I'm doing you a disservice if I pretend I don't have an opinion. I'm especially thinking of those who think I might automatically prefer the Byzantine family over the other families of witnesses. I have several convictions about textual criticism which include:

1. No text type is edited in the Westcott-Hort sense.

2. No text type is perfect or to be preferred automatically.

3. No text type is evil, vile, or satanic.

4. Internal evidence is rarely probative.

5. All things being equal, readings that enjoy the most widespread geographical ubiquity are more likely to be original than not. 

This morning in my Bible time I was in 1 Thess. 2. 

Here are two variants I noticed there. 

In one of them, I side with the Byzantine reading. In another, I side against the Byzantine reading. I do the latter somewhat rarely because the Byzantine text type least often stands alone among the major text types. In my essays in Grace Theological Journal, Novum Testamentum, New Testament Studies, and Filologia Neotestamentaria, I've defended readings that are supported by the Byzantine text but rejected by most critical scholars. Yet I don't hold to Byzantine priority.

Care to delve more into this topic? Recently I've been enjoying Dwayne Green's YouTube channel. Even though he espouses the Byzantine priority approach, he's interviewed scholars that don't hold to that view, including such outstanding textual critics as Peter Gurry, Dirk Jongkind, and Elijah Hixson. I encourage you to check out Dwayne's channel. 

Well, the day is sunny and I need to get back outdoors. The farm calleth! But before I go, I'm giving away these two books. 

When you write, tell me which book you'd like. I'll have a drawing tomorrow evening. Please include your mailing address. You can write me at dblack@sebts.edu 

Love you guys!

Dave 

Crunch Time

Good morning! Just back from the gym. 

Can you believe it's only a week before I need to make a decision about the Alps? Today I'm reaching out to my mountain guide to get the discussion going. Yes, I'm nervous! There are many of you who believed in this project even when my own faith failed. My fitness journey all began with family. The struggle to find yourself is a lot easier if you have the light of their love. Most of all, the one who has been the brightest light is not here to read these words, but my life stands as a testimony to her love and support. With every step I run and every mountain I climb, I think of her. Without that beautiful woman, becoming myself wouldn't have been possible.

May God's will be done! 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Palm Sunday -- 2024 and 1865

Greetings on this Lord's Day -- and Happy Palm Sunday! I just spent 4 wonderful hours working on the farm, enjoying the beautiful day the Lord has given us here in the Piedmont. Previously I spent the morning in Appomattox, where Lee's surrender to Grant took place 159 Palm Sundays ago. General Meade had just written to his wife, "The telegraph will have conveyed to you, long before this reaches you, the joyful intelligence that Petersburg and Richmond have fallen, and that Lee, broken and dispirited, has started towards Lynchburg and Danville." 

The struggle between the two armies had turned into a race. Lee's army roughly followed the course of the Appomattox River. In Farmville he retreated over the river on the High Bridge, where I so often exercise. Lee had run out of options and agreed to meet with Grant on April 9 in Appomattox Court House. The village is set among fields and trees. 


Its homes and outbuildings are just as they appeared in 1865. 


The centerpiece is the re-created McLean House. 


It was all over sometime around 4 PM. The nation would have a single flag again. Long may she wave! 


While in Appomattox I had the joy of attending the church where a former Southeastern doctoral student pastors. His excellent sermon was an exposition of John 19:1-5. 


Today I was reminded of just how many great things were not produced in ideal circumstances. Much of it arose in the midst of adversity, poverty, and great sorrow. Pilgrim's Progress was composed in a prison. Through Gates of Splendor would never had been written had not Jim Elliott given his life in the service of the Aucas. Books like 1 Peter and James came from a background of severe hardship. Easter would not have occurred without Passion Week and Good Friday. 

Great souls aren't produced in idyllic settings. A grindstone is needed to sharpen an axe. If you find the going hard, remember that great soldiers are produced in battle, not in a lecture hall. Chase fleeting fame and you are famous for a moment. But when we "lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose" (Elliott), we can outlive ourselves. 

Heading back outdoors. Have a lovely evening! 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Teach Yourself Greek!

I love hearing from readers who have taught themselves Greek! Resources abound for you to do just that. Free videos, free exercises, and free vocabulary files are available at my Greek Portal. Feel free to check it out! 

When We Disagree

Disagreements in life and ministry are inevitable. Viewpoints will differ, even among the Spirit-filled. What to do when we disagree? Here are 3 suggestions:

1. Work as hard as you can to see both viewpoints, not just your own.

2. In the case where both viewpoints have good support, seek a wise compromise.

3. If the matter cannot be resolved, graciously agree to disagree and sometimes even separate. 

Incidentally, the older I get, the more I'm convinced that my musical tastes, my personal preferences, my biblical convictions can easily lead to the sin of pride. I've learned to ask myself, "Which glorifies God more -- me defending my preferences, or me deferring to another's preferences?" Often it's the latter!

Keep at It!

Do you give up before you even start? Here are two things you can try:

1. Do something you enjoy. Too often we try to do something that's disagreeable to us. That's a sure recipe for disaster. If you don't enjoy doing it, you won't persist!

2. Think back to all the times when you didn't quit and were the better for it. I've never regretted the times I did not quit. I'm glad I stuck with it. You will too! A personal example is strength training. I became serious about this sport about 2 years ago. I've stuck with it because I really enjoy it!

By the way, I had a monster workout today, beginning with stretching. 

That was followed by three of my all-time favorite upper body exercises: 

The standing dumbbell curl. 

The pull up.

And the lat pulldown. 

I know some of my readers have probably tried weight training in the past and have had bad experiences with it. I want to reiterate that you don't have to do anything I do. You can go heavier or lighter. You can work out at home instead of at the gym. You can hire a personal trainer to help you or you can work independently. Once you're happy with what you're doing, keep at it! 

Have a wonderful day! 

Friday, March 22, 2024

We Need More Zwinglis

This film about Zwingli, the great reformer of Zürich, is a breath of fresh air. For one thing, it's historically accurate. For another, the actors all speak Swiss German. (You can enable English subtitles.) I loved the scene beginning at 27:49. Here Zwingli and two of his assistants are translating Acts 22:16 from Latin/Greek into German. The discussion gets heated. At one point Zwingli even enlists the aorist tense to defend his preferred rendering! 

I have great admiration for Zwingli. He launched the Reformation in Switzerland by preaching week by week through the book of Matthew, verse by verse. He was a self-taught Greek scholar without peer. He wrote out and personally memorized Paul's letters in Greek. He attacked one unbiblical Roman doctrine after the other. He eagerly sought to apply the Lordship of Christ to every area of life. The Bible became the basis for all law. He taught that grace could neither be bought nor sold. For him, the word of God was always above the church. "I shall allow myself to be taught better, but only from the Scriptures, which are inspired by God," he wrote. He called the church of his day back to the word of God. 

Would that we had more Zwinglis today!

Start Today!

Do you have a regular time set aside in your day for God? It's never too late to begin. Start today. This step is necessary for your spiritual growth. Ask God to help you find time in your busy schedule to make this possible. He is as eager to meet with you as you are to meet with him! 

The Joy and Hope of Aging

When you think of aging, what mental picture do you have? 

David Allan Hubbard, former president of Fuller Seminary, once wrote a book on Ecclesiastes called Beyond Futility. In it he tells a story about a teacher and theologian he knew who also happened to be a mountain climber. Hubbard recalls the man once saying, "I would like to get another crack at the Alps or at least tackle the Grand Tetons." Hubbard goes on to say:

I looked at his tall frame, trim as a javelin, erect as a lance. My amazement was not based on any doubt about his climbing prowess. His feats were known to a wide circle of his acquaintances. What surprised me about his hopeful words as he recalled his desire to scale the Alps or take on the Tetons was that he knew what it was to grow older without allowing the thought of the reality of aging to destroy his spirit. You see, he was 90 years of age when he spoke these words to me. He had learned in the process of growing older to mature. His spirit had enlarged and ripened, even while his body felt the taxing toll of time. Joy and hope were strong even when muscles and sinew had begun to weaken. Coping with the futility that some feel in old age was a skill he had developed and mastered well. His vitality defied the old grotesque picture of aging.

This year I will turn 72. How old will you be? As you age, may joy and hope remain strong as you celebrate one birthday after another.

Today's "Easy" Workout

Here are a couple of exercises from today's workout. I know this won't interest all of you. If these posts aren't your cup of tea, feel free to skip them. You won't hurt my feelings!

Since today was an "off day," I did easy exercise movements. These included the assisted squat. 

And the assisted pull up. 

Sometimes your muscles just need a little break. Both of these exercises can be done easily and safely. They allow me to do harder exercises on my "on" days!

Remember: health has many enemies. In the U.S., one of the major foes is our lack of activity. Our sedentary lifestyle has left Americans overweight and have caused our death rate from heart disease to be one of the highest in the Western world. Excess fat is, obviously, a hazard to your health. 

Thank you, my friend, for taking your health seriously! 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Pay Attention to Your Joints!

Just a friendly reminder: Sometimes our muscles are strong enough for a particular exercise but our joints are not. This may be why you're hearing "joint sounds" while exercising. For example, to do a pull up you'll need both strong arms and strong elbow joints!

If you hear really disturbing sounds or feel really sharp pain, stop what you're doing and see the doctor. Better safe than sorry! 

Slowing Down When You Read

Here's a tip for reading your Bible. SLOW DOWN! Did you know that ancient texts were written very differently than modern texts? This is especially true of New Testament Greek. The earliest manuscripts of the New Testament were written in all caps and with no spacing between the words. There was no thought of reading swiftly or speedily. In fact, the absence of spacing was not considered a hindrance to effective reading but just the opposite! Look at this sample:

IWANTYOUTOKNOWTHATWHATHASHAPPENEDTOMEHASREALLYHELPEDTHEPROGRESSOFTHEGOSPEL

Did you notice how significantly you had to slow down to read this verse from Philippians? This is how people read for centuries. As you read, your eyes had to slow down -- and so did your brain. 

So please don't be in too big of a hurry to read your New Testament. It deserves our most careful attention! 

The opening verse of Acts. 

"Behind the Ranges " by J. O. Fraser

I'll never forget a book that was required for my Acts class at Biola taught by Lloyd Kwast. The book was titled Behind the Ranges. It's the story of J. O. Fraser, a missionary to China from many decades ago. 

It's a riveting work. If you haven't read Behind the Ranges, your Christian life isn't complete. I'm so grateful that Dr. Kwast made this required reading in his course. Little did I know when I read it that later I would make 13 trips to that great nation. I'm reminded of the words of Jim Elliott, who was martyred for the gospel in Ecuador:

"What good are Greek, commentaries, insight, gift, and all the rest, if there is no heart for Christ?"

You say, "I can't share my faith." What you can't do, God can do. He'll go with you, just as he went with J. O. Fraser, helping you speak, teaching you what to say, if for no other reason than to keep you trusting him and not yourself day by day. 

Have a lovely evening! 

The Word and the Spirit

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Without the word, the Spirit is powerless. Without the Spirit, the word is weaponless. We must never divorce the word and the Spirit!

The Spider Curl

The spider curl is a great exercise! Here's how you do it. 

Put your chest on the bench pad at about a 40 degree angle. Start with your chest on the bench and your feet on the floor. Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body engagement. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms perpendicular to the floor. Then squeeze your biceps to curl the weight up. Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the weight back down under control.

The simplicity and effectiveness of this curl make it one of my go-to exercises for arm training. 

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Decision Making and the Will of God

"Are you still on target to climb this summer?" 

I get asked this a lot -- especially since people know why I've been training so hard. 

I snapped this pic just now. Am I in good enough shape to summit the Allalinhorn? 

There are lots of philosophies and mindsets that might work here, but I usually give two points:

1. The Bible doesn't necessarily give us guidance about whether or not we should participate in any activity per se. That's the role of wisdom, which cannot be reduced to a single Bible verse. If you want to be a wise person, then you may also want to seek the advice of friends and family members before making up your mind, not to mention spending lots of time in prayer.

2. That said, the Bible does give plenty of testaments from men and women who trusted God completely as well from people who completely disregarded God. As Christians, these people can serve as guiding lights, illuminating our path to God. The Bible tells us exactly what God is like and what he expects from us -- our love, our trust, and our obedience when we understand his will for our lives. It's the final word on how to experience a rich and full life even as it helps us maneuver through every difficulty and decision. 

As far as the Alps are concerned, there's probably no decision that is "totally" right and "totally" wrong. I guess that's why I like the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr so much: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." I believe we can be as bold as Jabez when he asked God to enlarge his territory. But he also prayed that God would lead and direct his paths. We should always look to God for every step we take in life, approaching him in humility, faith, and complete reliance upon his goodness. 

Just some thoughts! 

We Are God's Masterpiece (Eph. 2:10)

Hello friend. I've always liked to draw. Since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was drawing or sketching or doodling. It's fun to try to bring your ideas to life. There are many different styles and techniques when it comes to drawing. I especially love to draw faces. 

There is so much to explore in the human face. 

Plus, when I'm drawing, I only have to focus on one thing -- the details of my drawing. 

I forget everything around me when I'm drawing. 

When all is said and done, I suppose the best part about drawing is that the result is yours and nobody else's. You will even "sign" the drawing. Paul's word for this would be poiēma. In Eph. 2:10 he writes, "For we are his poiēma." That is, we are God's "workmanship" or even his "masterpiece." And please notice that the first and most emphatic word of the Greek sentence is "his." 

It is God's work of art that we are. Imagine that! He made us and saved us with his own hands. Both the work of creation and redemption are his. He alone owns the patent on our lives. And he alone can "sign the drawing." 

Let's also remember that although we are God's masterpieces, we're uncompleted projects. So be patient with yourself  -- and others! 

Second Chances

Have you been outdoors today? Renewal is all around us.

I think this happens in relationships too. Just because someone has let you down doesn't mean that God is finished with them. John Mark is a classic example of this. He starts out with Paul and Barnabas but then abruptly heads back home (Acts 13:13). Later Paul refuses to take Mark on another missionary journey. "No way! We ain't taking him!" (so the Greek haha). Seems that Paul and Mark had parted ways -- permanently! But just before Paul is martyred in Rome he says to Timothy, "Pick up Mark and bring him with you. He's useful to me for service!" (2 Tim. 4:11).

Is there a lesson here? Mark was given a second chance. God had developed him into a person he could use again -- and Paul could too!

Happy first day of Spring! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Bible Hub

Can you use Greek when you read your New Testament?

There are many who don't but who can! If this is for you, here is a simple way to use Greek:

1. Open your browser to Bible Hub.

2. Search for the verse you want to study.

3. Click on GRK.

4. Start the adventure.

Hope this helps! 

We Can Always Improve!

In his book Leadership Jazz, Max Depree tells a story about a German machine tool company that once designed a very fine tool bit. It could bore a hole the size of a human hair. It seemed the ultimate in machine technology. The company sent samples off to Russia, the U.S., and Japan. From the Russians they heard nothing. From the Americans came an inquiry about pricing and discounts. Eventually a polite response along with a small package arrived from the Japanese. "We've made a slight alteration to your bit," a note read. When the Germans opened the package and examined the bit, they discovered that the Japanese had bored a neat hole through it. 

I've been at my craft for 48 years. Can I still improve? You bet I can. Are their contributions I can still make? Absolutely. There are things in life I can and should be doing that I'm not doing. 

Aging is no excuse for becoming neglectful or lazy. We can always improve! 

Trying Out Different Bible Translations

Feel free to read the Bible in the English version of your choice  -- it's totally up to you!

However, personally I find I need to read several different versions just to feel like I've stretched myself. Also, I think it's beneficial to read both literal translations and idiomatic ones. Or at least have the willingness to do so! I still have my Old Scofield KJV Bible that I got when I was saved at 8. And, of course, I read the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible quite a bit. Perhaps my favorite paraphrase of the Bible is the Living Bible. This excellent resource came about when author Ken Taylor began rewriting portions of the Bible in a way his younger children could understand. Like the Good News Bible, it uses simple English and is great for review and repeated reading. For example, here's Psalm 23:1 in the Living Bible:

"Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need!"

I thought of this verse when I pulled into the farm this morning and saw this scene:

I know people have a lot of reasons for why they read the Bible. For me, I guess it's because I realize that the goals of Bible reading are a closer relationship with God and a lifestyle that is changing more and more in accordance with his will and his word. 

What about you?

Which versions do you use?

Are you open to trying different ones?

Have a great day! 

The EZ Bar Biceps Curl

You can increase your biceps strength!

Try doing the biceps curl with an EZ bar. It will put less strain on your elbows. 

On the other hand, if you can use a straight bar, it will develop your biceps in a more complete way because of the supination involved.

That said, stop chasing the perfect "optimal" exercise that doesn't exist and just start lifting!

Hope this can help! 

Monday, March 18, 2024

"Ego Greek"

At the gym, one often sees "ego lifting." That's when you lift more weight than you should because you want to impress others. Sometimes I see "ego Greek." You don't need to mention the Greek word or tense from the pulpit, but you do it anyway. Frankly, most people aren't even faintly interested in technical language. They could care less about "the present passive imperative" in Eph. 5:18. It's not that the tense, voice, and mood of the verb "be filled" aren't important. They are! But you trying to bring up scholarly language may be counterproductive. Try to find simpler ways to say what you think is important. 

Ego lifting may seem like a good way to impress others, but it's ultimately a self-defeating habit. 

Likewise, don't NEVER use Greek from the pulpit. But when you do, make sure it's for a very sound reason. 

Latin Versus Greek Personal Pronouns

This is an unintuitive thing I've discovered in my study of Latin grammar. 

Latin has the pronoun "I" and "you" but lacks a third person pronoun ("he"). The demonstrative or relative pronouns are used instead. In Greek, we find all three persons, as we will see in today's Greek class.

All I can say is, God did a good job at Babel of creating languages to be different! 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

A Fun Weekend in Carolina

Sometimes we need to break up our routines. Here's how I did that this weekend. I began by driving to Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina. As usual, I avoided the major highways. Country roads are always my favorites (nod to John Denver!). Check out this Christmas tree farm I saw on my drive.

Christmas tree farms help drive the local economy, providing thousands of jobs each year. In fact, did you know that the North Carolina Christmas tree industry is the second largest in the nation? I didn't either! Everywhere I went I saw the signs of spring. Lovely.

After about 3 and a half hours on the road, I finally arrived at the Pilot Mountain visitor center. 

In the past I've always hiked to the top. 

But yesterday I decided to change things up a bit. You need to plan to travel for a total of about 7 miles round trip. 

The hike is rated moderate to difficult -- for obvious reasons! 

As I said, instead of hiking the trail I decided I'd run up and back. 

Hey, if you're wanting to climb the Alps, you should probably do some cardio once in a while, don't you think? 

It took me about 80 minutes to arrive at the summit parking lot. Once you are there you have a short walk to the lookout point. 

This view makes the effort worth it every time! 

I galloped back down the trail, hoping fervently I wouldn't faceplant! Thankfully, I wasn't as klutzy as I usually am.

It was a wonderful day, blessed with extraordinarily pleasant weather. I rested up in my hotel room so that I would be nice and fresh before speaking this morning. It's a rural congregation where one of my former students pastors. It was their "Missions Emphasis Sunday." 

Never have I been more warmly welcomed. Essentially, this is a congregation that is ON FIRE for the gospel. In fact, here's the church's mission statement:

"It is our mission to glorify God by equipping local members to make global disciples."

I love it! This church not only teaches about missions and evangelism but does it as an integral part of their discipleship program. I think missions is in their blood. 

I could share a lot more but I've got to wash clothes and get my meals ready for the week. Remember, friend, when Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he didn't vacate planet Earth. He left his followers behind, filled them with his Spirit, and asked them to carry on in his name. Now, as then, we are his hands, his feet, and his heart. And if we are successful in mirroring his character, people all around us will recognize God and will want to know him. So let's do our job and do it well! 

Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Have a blessed week!