Tuesday, April 30, 2024

3 Hours

1 hour at the gym.

1 hour on the trails. 

I hour nap!!

Haying Season Has Begun!

The kids have begun mowing the fields here at the farm. 

This year they will cut about 150 acres of horse quality square bale hay. Ain't it purdy? 

It will keep them busy until December.

I love cut grass -- except for my sinuses! 

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Note to My Greek Students

Today my Greek students will have their final lesson in Greek 1. Faithful ones, you have persevered. We have come to the end of our journey. How I'd love to sit down with each of you and discuss Greek with you now that you've completed Greek 1. Think of how you've built yourself up in the most holy faith this week, let alone over the past 14 weeks. Thank you, beloved of God, for honoring our Father by honoring his word. I say that with the deepest respect and love. I know that if you will continue to study, you will be able to say with the Psalmist, "I have not turned away from your ordinances, for you yourself have taught me" (Psalm 119:102). 

I am going to miss talking with you, for that is what I feel I've done these past few months. It's hard to believe that after our final exam next week I won't see you until the fall. Beloved, remember that what you learned is not just for for you. It's also for you to share with others. Do you realize just how many people will esteem God's word more highly because of your efforts this semester? As you ponder what we've studied, ask God to speak to you, to search your heart. Ask him to help you to use what you've learned. Application will come -- if not now, then later. Rest assured -- it will come. 

My heart is filled with such affection for you. Thank you wanting to know God, to understand him, and to love him with all your heart and soul and mind and body and strength. I am so honored that you would have decided to take Greek with me.

Love always,

Dr. Black 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Greek 101

How to succeed in your beginning Greek class:

1. Read the chapter carefully.

2. Memorize the paradigms.

3. Do all the exercises.

4. Parse all the verbs.

5. Learn the vocabulary.

The rest is just details. 

Worked Really Hard Today

Saturday, April 27, 2024

It's SO HARD!!

To be idiomatic when speaking another language, that is. Here's an example I ran across today at the Easy German website:

It's far more idiomatic English to say, "Germans can be rude sometimes." Whoever wrote that was thinking in German but writing in English. The German would read, "Germans can sometimes rude be." 

A famous example of what I'm talking about is the German tourist in the U.S. who told his server at a seafood restaurant, "I've been here since an hour. When do I become a fish?" He meant, of course, "I've been here for an hour. When do I get a fish?" But he was thinking in German, not English: "Ich bin hier seit einer Stunde. Wann bekomme ich einen Fisch?" Close, but no cigar.

I tell my Greek students that the goal of learning Greek is, to a degree, to be able to think in the language and not merely to translate Greek into English. That's why we work on English to Greek sentences. Hard? Absolutely. But indispensable! 

Can't Wait

Lord willing, in only 2 months I'll be surfing Makapuu again. It's only a 10 minute drive from Kailua. 

Today's Cardio

Fifty minutes of jogging in place with weights. 

Followed by a 1 hour run. 

My kids said, "Dad, you look so serious." LOL.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Enjoying the Process

How much longer is this going to take? Am I doing something wrong? Is all this hard work going to pay off? 

We lifters often ask ourselves these questions. We slowly start to doubt the whole process. Because of this we start to get sloppy. Eventually, progress stalls. The problem is that we want results NOW. But there is no same day delivery or quick fix for health and fitness. Strength training isn't just about getting stronger. It's about changing your lifestyle from being sedentary to being active. The impressive physiques you see on social media are the results of either great genetics or years of training or both. But for people like me with average genetics, this process is a long journey. 

The best option we have is to learn to enjoy the process so that time is no longer an issue and we can make our health journey something we want to do for the rest of our lives. If you don't enjoy eating well and taking care of the only body you will ever have, how do you plan on sticking with it? If you don't learn how to enjoy resistance training, how long can you hold onto your motivation? 

Friend, don't love only the end result. Learn to love the process. If you do, discipline will no longer be a problem. Instead, it will actually feel weird if you DON'T exercise. You learn to accept the ups and downs and you never give up. So what if it takes a bit of time to get there? I'm very grateful for my 69-year old self that got started, but I'm also very grateful for my 71-year old self that makes consistent though never spectacular progress. I am really thankful to God for how far I have come and I am enjoying every step of the journey. Because of that, I've never worried about achieving a "perfect" physique, whatever that means. Likewise, if you stay consistent, if you continue training, your results are inevitable. Be patient, and just keep on swimming.

Keep up the great work my friend! 

"Blessing for Studying Torah" (in Hebrew)

One of the things I like most about the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels are its prayers. 

This one is called "Blessing for Studying Torah." It's a lovely prayer. I have begun using it regularly. 

In Jewish practice, it is recited before Torah study of any kind. For Messianic Jews, this would include the New Testament of course. Please forgive my American pronunciation! 

The English is:

Blessed are you, O LORD, King of the universe,

who chose us from all of the peoples

and gave to us his Torah.

Blessed are you, O LORD, who gives the Torah. 

Have a lovely evening! 

You Have to Be Nuts ....

The Newport Wedge is breaking again. 

I lived in SoCal for 27 years and never once surfed the Wedge. I may be dumb but I'm not stupid. But it's great fun to watch! 

Christian Education As Likeness Education (Phil. 4:9)

I'm so enthusiastic about Greek I can hardly stand it!

This is Spring Break and I'm missing my students terribly. I can't wait for next week to arrive and to see them in person again to find out how they're doing. Greek class is not just content. It's not just grammar. I want them to learn to LOVE Greek. If they're like me, they think about it in the daytime and dream about it at night. Without glamorizing it, I can say that the most enriching and fulfilling and meaningful of all careers is teaching -- what we say and, more importantly, what we do as teachers. I saw this again in my Bible reading this morning in Phil. 4. 

Teaching is so much more than content transfer. As Christian educators, our goal is to model Christ.

 Thomas Hudgins has written an excellent book on this subject. 

Christian education, he said, is essentially likeness education, as Jesus taught us in Luke 6:40. At the incarnation, the Word became both visible and audible. That's why early in my seminary career I learned to take a professor and not a course. True, Paul was an apostle and we are not. Nevertheless, we can imitate his example of pastoral concern and care. The communication of the gospel is by seeing as well as hearing. No teacher can minister the word with any degree of integrity, let alone credibility, unless he or she has been changed by the word they teach.

Be well my friends! 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

"Know the Course"

I learned this piece of running advice when I first started marathoning. Whenever I followed it I did much better than whenever I didn't. 

A few years ago I was scheduled to speak at a church in Annapolis, Maryland. A couple of days beforehand I learned that the Baltimore Marathon was to be run on that Saturday before the church service. I decided that since I would already be in the area I might as well run it. That was a mistake. Not only had I just run a marathon the previous weekend in another state, I knew nothing about the Baltimore Marathon course. It was so hilly I finished the race with a very bad case of walking-on-lava-with-tin-man-knees-syndrome. 

Fortunately, the Dallas Marathon was a different story. Before the race I carefully studied the course map. Two things stuck out. For one thing, the course was a relatively flat one. For another thing, the course would take me right next to the very spot at White Rock Lake where I had proposed to Becky in the summer of 1976. Needless to say, I started crying when I reached that spot. It was truly a moment I will never forget and the reason I decided to run Dallas again. 

"Know the course." 

How do we get to know the course of life's marathon? In several ways I suppose. I enjoy reading about the lives of great men like David and Daniel. I enjoy reading biographies of men who taught Greek before me, like F. F. Bruce and Bruce Metzger. I enjoy reading the testaments from the men and women whose lives are recounted for us in Hebrews 11. But above all, the marathon of life is described for us in a book called the Bible. The Bible is God's way of making himself and his ways known. It tells us exactly what he's like and what he expects of us. It provides guidance and inspiration for us when we feel weary of the race and want to quit. It's at once a songbook, a how-to-manual, a love story, and a warning flasher. Sometimes it's an aid station where we have to drop out of the race for a while, a hospital where sick or injured runners gather to have their health restored, a place where our sin-sick hearts can be examined by an expert (God), and a place to find comfort as we recover from the blows of life. 

In a sense, God is a coach who is in the business of helping us to the finish line of our personal marathons. And in his eyes, there are no elite runners or back-of-the-packers, just people either willing or unwilling to follow him, even when the course seems impossible. On our own, we can't make it. But the Bible assures us that we're not struggling alone. God is at work in us to "give us both the desire and the power to do what pleases him" (Phil. 2:13).

After all the preparation and training, we've got to hit the course and run like the wind to receive the prize. But no marathon -- not even a figurative one -- can be won without him. 

Thank You

Lord, today I want to say thank you. Thank for the ability you gave me this morning to place my feet on the carpet after waking up. Thank you for the ability to walk without the use of a walker or a wheelchair. Thank you for the air I'm breathing today. Thank you that I could run today. The worst day I've had as a runner has been better than almost any day I've ever had as a non-runner. 

Lord, I do not take any of these blessings for granted. I cannot thank you enough for them. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

How to Achieve Your Goals in Life

Achieving your goals in life is not a glamorous, glorious, grandiose flurry of activity. It's the result of small, gradual, cumulative, repetitive, and undramatic actions. It's the manifestation of unrelenting habits. Make a good plan and stick to it to achieve your goals. 

Think Quality, Not Quantity

This change in focus really improved my approach to running years ago.

Instead of making my runs a matter of distance, I made them a product of intensity. I'm more likely to run "an hour" than run "5 miles." As my performance decreased with my age, I found that the experience of running had not changed. The secret is to focus on logging in the time rather than the same number of miles. This helps me to maintain my endurance while never approaching fatigue. I train about 5 hours each week at a slow speed. I then use weekend races as my high-intensity training. 

"Think quality, not quantity" has become my new mantra. This is simply returning to the first rule of exercise: Listen to your body. 

If you're a runner, hope this helps! 

Letting Your Passion Show

One of the things I love most about the gym is the passion I see on everyone's faces. 

No one is there because they have to be. They love being there. Everyone is working their tail off to achieve a goal, and they are enjoying chasing down their dreams. 

Passion is contagious. If there's one thing I learned while sitting in Lloyd Kwast's missions classes at Biola was the importance of passion in teaching. We sat spellbound as he walked us through the book of Acts. He loved his "job." He loved the word. He loved us. And it showed. Passion has been called one of the seven important characteristics of an excellent instructor. We teachers must model for our students what it means to be passionate learners. Teachers who are passionate about what they do give off a special energy that students pick up on. 

My Bible reading this morning was in 1 Tim. 4. 

Notice the 2 commands in verse 15:

Paul writes (literally), "These things care about! In these things be!" The Living Bible says, "Throw yourself into your tasks." The Good News Bible reads, "Practice these things and devote yourselves to them." Philipps has, "Give your whole attention, all your energies, to these things." The Message reads, "Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them."

And why should we do this? Paul writes:

"so that everyone may notice your improvement and progress" (LB).

"in order that your progress may be seen by all" (GNB).

"so that your progress is plain for all to see" (Philipps).

"Then people will see you mature right before their eyes!" (The Message).

But my favorite rendering is probably that of the New Geneva Translation:

"Konzentriere dich also ganz auf diese Aufgaben; lass dich durch nichts beirren. Dann werden die Fortschritte die du 'im Glauben' machst, allen sichtbar sein."

I love that word "Fortschritte." It means "forward steps." To say "Wir machen keine Fortschritte" means "We're getting nowhere." To say "Er hat schulische grosse Fortschritte gemacht" is to say "He's made great progress in school." Such progress is unlikely to occur without passion -- without "throwing yourself into your tasks," without "immersing yourself in them," without giving "your whole strength, all your energies" to them. 

That's how I want to live. That's how I want to love God and others. That's how I want to teach. That's how I want my students to study. That's how I want to grow old. That's how I want to work out at the gym. 

The most passionate people in the world ought to be Christians. Passion is always the result of something that is happening inside of us. It springs from the unquenchable desire in our souls to please God and connects us to our mission in life -- to glorify him. To crib a thought from Jim Elliott: "Wherever you are, be ALL there, and live to the hilt whatever you are convinced is the will of God for your life." This can be a very radical way of living.

Have a fantastic day! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Everyone a Hero

There were professional photographers at last Saturday's 10K in Richmond. I've been looking at some of the pictures they've posted of the race online. It's interesting watching the race not as a participant but as a spectator. I do not see bodies but wills straining to reach the finish. I see uncrowned champions at the back of the pack unconcerned about what others are doing. For them, winning is saying "I didn't quit." This is why every finisher deserves applause, especially those farthest back. They are using the same level of effort as those who finished at the head of the pack. No one did less than their best. It matters little that they cannot run any faster. It matters that they are doing it with all their might. I no longer aspire to quality for the Boston Marathon. I will never win the Nobel Prize for literature. "I am writing the best I can," said a best-selling author. "If I could write any better, I would." 

Here we are in the finishers' chute after the race. 

People were anxious to greet their friends and loved ones. Everyone was a hero in my eyes. And none were more heroic than those deep in the struggle against genetics or age. 

Just a personal observation I thought I'd share with you. Love you all! 

I Pray in Tongues

Well, sort of. I sometimes pray in a language other than English. Often it's German. Or Spanish Spanglish. This morning I prayed in perhaps my favorite Romance language of all, Latin. It's just a great language in which to worship the Lord! Here is my favorite vocal ensemble singing one of my favorite Latin motets, Ubi Caritas

The lyrics are given in the notes. They go like this:

I love this vocal ensemble for many reasons, not least their gorgeous collective tone, pure sound, wonderful breath control, and heavenly overtones. I am blessed to have my hearing to be able to listen to such beautiful and worshipful music. True bliss. My soul drinks it in like a horse that's been across the desert and has finally found water. 

Thank you, Voces 8. 

Aleph and B Get It Right in Acts 21:8

Can Aleph and B ever get it right? Absolutely!

Here's an interesting variant I encountered in my morning Bible time. 

In Acts 21:8, the ESV reads:

"On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea."

But the NKJV has:

"On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea."

The reading of the ESV has widespread geographical attestation (= both the Alexandrian and Western families), while the reading of the NKJV is supported only by the Byzantine family, whose reading strikes me as a needless interpolation. The words "who were Paul's companions" is also lacking in the Syrian, Coptic, and Vulgate versions. The Cambridge Study Bible says, "We can see at once how such a marginal comment, thought useful by the reader of an early MS., would be brought into the text without scruple by the next copyist." In fact, the Byzantine reading reminds me of the kind of additions one often finds in the Western text of Acts.

For a Sturzian, the Greek behind the ESV is likely to be the original because of its ubiquity. It's also supported by the internal evidence. Which means that Aleph and B have gotten it right!

Just something you might want to consider in your own study of the Bible.

Monday, April 22, 2024

"I'm Too Tired to Work Out"

Last night I stayed up a bit too late listening to great music. So when I got up this morning I knew I should go the gym but did not FEEL like it. 

Here's what usually helps. Go and lift for a few minutes. Tell yourself, "If I still want to quit after that, I can." Ninety-nine percent of the time I keep going. As with most things in life, the first step is usually the hardest.

Incidentally, the "I'm too tired/busy/unmotivated" excuse is usually pure hogwash because you'll end up doing other (often less important) things. Of course, sometimes you actually ARE too busy for something.

I hope you have a wonderful day either way!

P.S. Here are some videos from my workout today. This will probably be totally boring to most of you so feel free to skip!

1. Warm up/stretching. 

2. Lat pull downs. 5 sets of 15. 

3. Waiter curls. 3 sets of 10. 

4. Single (one at a time) neutral grip pull ups, focusing on the eccentric (lowering). 10 sets. 

Let me know how I can improve! 

Introducing the Douay-Rheims Bible

Here's a Bible translation you may not have ever heard of. It's called the Douay-Rheims Bible. Check it out on the Bible Gateway website! It's a translation of the Latin Vulgate into English for service in the Catholic Church. It is a formal equivalence translation produced by members of the English college in Douai (Douay), France. The New Testament portion was completed in the city of Reims (Rheims). The Douay-Rheims translation is one of several Bibles used by Roman Catholics in addition to the New American Bible (NAB) and the RSV Catholic Edition. It usually presents what has traditionally been called the Western text. Here are 2 examples:

1. In Rom. 7:25, most English translations read "I thank God/Thanks be to God" (essentially meaning the same thing). But here the DR reads "The grace of God." This is the reading of the Latin-speaking church of the earliest centuries of Christianity (D, it, vg, Jerome, Pelagius, Augustine). 

2. A more well-known example is 1 Tim. 3:16. Here there are three different readings. 

Once again, we see these differences in our modern English Bibles. 

  • The ESV follows the Alexandrian text: "He was manifested in the flesh."
  • The DR follows the Western text: "which was manifested in the flesh." 
  • And the NKJV follows the Byzantine text: "God was manifested in the flesh."

What, you ask, are the "Alexandrian," Western," and "Byzantine" texts? These terms refer to three families or streams of witnesses originating mainly in:

  • Alexandria, Egypt (hence "Alexandrian" text).
  • Greece and Asia Minor, which later became known as the Byzantine Empire (hence "Byzantine" text).
  • The Latin-speaking world of the day, including North Africa, Spain, Gaul (France), and Italy (hence "Western" text).

In places of textual variation, each of these families is represented by modern English translations, as in:

  • Alexandrian = ESV, CSB, NASB, etc.
  • Western = DR, NAB, etc.
  • Byzantine = KJV, NKJV, etc.

Which Bible is the best? Should I use the ESV? Should I use the NAB? Should I use the NKJV? The answer is "Yes!" Use any you want or all of them together. Where there are variant readings in the Greek text, these will be noted in the footnotes. 

The NKJV has the best notes, though!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Should Everybody Become a Runner?

Sometimes when I blog about what running has meant to me, I think I may come across as someone who thinks that everyone should run. I apologize if that's been the case.

As I reflect on my life as a runner, I am so thankful to God for this sport. I have run for charity. I have run for fitness. I have run for health. I have run for the comradery it provides. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other can have a profound effect on so many areas of life. Yes, running can hurt -- running a marathon isn't painless -- but it can also heal. As you know, I began to run after my wife passed away. I know many runners who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their lives because they became runners. 

That said, there is no activity in life that works for everyone. Walkers are athletes too. So are cyclists. Some people at my gym do water exercises in the pool. They are mostly the elderly. They are no less athletes than anyone else. 

As humans, we were created to do, not just to be. Each of us must have our own mountain to climb, even if it's no bigger than an anthill. I don't believe that running is the only option out there. You simply need something that challenges you. 

Just wanted to make that clear :-)

That Little Word "All" in Rom. 8:28

Do you ever ask yourself the "What if ...?" question?

What if I wasn't born and raised in Hawaii?

What if my parents never got a divorce?

What if I had studied in high school?

What if I didn't go to college?

What if I married someone else?

What if I never decided to follow Jesus?

Generally speaking, I think I've made mostly wise decisions. But not all of them have been so. Nevertheless, God used even those bad decisions in a positive way. 

As I type these words, I know that even as a 71-year old I still have many major decisions to make in life. I will face forks in the road that I could never have imagined having to face 5 or 10 years ago. I will have to decide which way to go. 

In Rom. 8:28, God promises to work all things for good, even the bad things in life. This is a promise he makes to everyone who loves him and is called according to his purpose. Notice that word "all." 

God means it. "Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (The Message). In other words, I know that with every decision I face in the future, God will be there to help me. He will be there to direct my steps and he will be there to pick me up if I fall. 

Let's never forget that little word "all." 

Have a wonderful Lord's Day my friend. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Today I Joined the Police Department

But only for about 20 minutes.

As everyone knows, the largest 10K race in North America is the Bolder Boulder (obviously) in Boulder, Colorado. I ran that race last year and hope to run it again next month. The second largest 10K race takes place in my own backyard practically -- the Ukrop's Monument 10K in Richmond, Virginia. The Bolder Boulder averages 50,000 runners each year, while the Monument 10K averages a measly 25,000. I ran that race today.

I had four goals going into today's 10K:

1. Run the whole race without stopping.

2. Finish within the top two thirds of runners.

3. Place in the top half of men in my age group (70-74).

4. Complete the race without my legs looking like a newborn giraffe trying to stand for the first time.

The race began at 8:30. Up first were the elite runners. I see that the guy who won the race finished in 30:18. His name is Jordan Bendure. I've never met Jordan, but I'm pretty sure he's an amazing runner. Us lesser mortals began the race after the elites did. There were about a dozen waves, each based on your average 10K finish time. Each wave, as you see, was crowded. 

I guess we had to wait about 35 minutes for our wave to be launched due to the size of the event. We were a bit giddy to get started to say the least. 

I managed to run with the pack for the first 3 miles of the race. 

But I knew I'd need some extra motivation to finish the last 3 miles strong. Then it happened. I saw ahead of me just the thing I needed to get the job done -- a group of Richmond police recruits undergoing training. Impudently (and without even applying!) I joined myself to their ranks. 

They paced me for the rest of the race, at which point I unceremoniously resigned my appointment to the police academy. 

It felt so good to finish. (By the way, we love the volunteers at these races. I cannot thank this dear woman enough!) 

I checked my watch to see how I'd done. 

Over 23,000 runners had registered for today's race. I was disappointed to finish 11,769 out of 18,399 who finished the race. I was even more heartbroken to miss out on 11,768th place. It still haunts me. However, the good news is that after I finished the race, my walk looked nothing at all like that of a newborn giraffe. Instead, I gave the tin man from The Wizard of Oz a run for his money. 

As for my other goals, I ended up finishing in the top two-thirds of runners and even managed to place 48th in my age group (out of 134). Thankfully, the level of joy you are able to have at a race isn't determined by when you finish. Nobody else cares about your finishing time, and even you won't care in a year's time. What will stick with you five years from now are the times you said to yourself while running, "Lord, I can't believe how wonderful this is. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Chorizo: Me Gusta!

Here's my new go-to meal at the local Mexican restaurant. It's called pollo chorizo or chori pollo. 

It's chicken topped with spicy and delicious sausage. Have I died and gone to heaven? By the way, chorizo is NOT considered a health food. High calories, high fat, high sodium. Low carbs though. There's even a vegan version of chorizo. It's called soyrizo :-) 

Me gusta!

Seven Hopes for My Greek Students

It's been over two years now that I began serious strength training at the Y. I've learned so many lessons through these months and years, not least from my own mistakes and failures. 

As I lifted today, I thought about my Greek students, past, present, and future. Some of them have even gone on to get their doctorates in New Testament. What hopes do I have for them? Here are seven that come to mind:

1. I hope you will wear your considerable learning lightly once you leave the halls of academia because that will make you accessible to everyday people.

2. I hope you will experience abject failure on at least one Greek quiz or exam because that will teach you humility and compassion for your fellow strugglers.

3. I hope you will wrestle with difficult passages for yourself and not just consult the commentaries because that will teach you the value of forming your own personal convictions.

4. I hope you will experience rejection when you submit that article or book for publication because that will shatter your self-confidence and drive you to your knees.

5. I hope you will be forced to deal with an unreasonable and harsh professor in your seminary career because that will help you discover the importance of discernment when scheduling classes.

6. I hope you will be overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Greek text from time to time because that will remind you that its author is equally magnificent.

7. I hope you will realize that once you have attained a reading knowledge of your Greek New Testament you will now have a chance to live it.

Have a wonderful day! 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Happy National Exercise Day!

On this "National Exercise Day" -- it's also "National Get to Know Your Customers Day," "National Animal Crackers Day," and "National Garlic Day" -- I am so grateful to the Lord that I was able to get in a run at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville today. Care to join me? 

I am now in my 70s. I'm still squeezing myself into wetsuits and signing up for marathons. 

Sometimes I'm the only one in my age group -- which fits perfectly into my winning strategy. I'm not fast enough to get on the podium, but my plan is to keep competing until everyone else quits. 

Running has taught me it's never too late to pursue your dreams. 

You don't have to be the fastest or the best athlete. But you can possess the best attitude -- gratitude for the good health that allows you to finish a race and then to sign up for the next one. 

I may be too old for some things in life, but I can still squeeze every drop of happiness out of life and stay active as long as I can. 

Happy National Exercise Day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Good Evening!

Lovely evening here in SoVa. 

Hope your evening is going well! 

Little Round Top to Reopen!

I just recently began rereading my favorite novel of the Civil War, Gettysburg

I simply can't put it down. As you know, I visit Gettysburg each year, and this year will be no exception. I'm especially curious to see what changes the National Park Service has made to Little Round Top. 

The site is scheduled to reopen to the public this summer.

I hope to either bike or run the battlefield again this year, though probably not on July 1-3, when the park is overrun with tourists. 

We study history because history helps us to understand how past events made things the way they are today. That's as true as when I visited Masada in Israel as when I visited the Great Wall in China or Persepolis in Iran. Hopefully, we can develop the ability to avoid the mistakes of the past. A civilization that disregards history is like a person who has no long term memory. It's when we remember why we disliked touching a hot stove as a child that we don't do that today. My favorite prof at the University of Hawaii was my history prof. He asked questions like, "Why did the people of a certain era think and act the way they did? What influences motivated them to do so?" Most of the history classes I took in high school or college got hung up on names and dates. Those are not unimportant, but what's more important is understanding causes and effects,. It's the difference between knowing that the Roman Empire collapsed and why it collapsed. I am glad to hear that Little Round Top is reopening. You can't understand the present without understanding the past. Just try and understand the modern-day borders of France and Germany without Charlemagne! 

Let's Retire "Retirement"

Just thinking out loud here. But I'm wondering if it isn't time to retire a few "Christian" terms.

  • "Pastor." That's a metaphor, not a title, in Eph. 4:11. You're an elder
  • "Reverend." Nope. That's reserved for the Lord (Psalm 111:9). 
  • "Master of Divinity." I have one and I have certainly NOT mastered divinity.
  • "Sanctuary." Your church building is just that. A building. God does not live there (John 4).
  • "Lay person." We are all ministers/clergy.
  • "Lay elder." An elder is an elder, whether he is paid or not.

Here's one more: "Retirement." Why in the world should Christians want to use this term? 

In his book Stepping Up, Dennis Rainey writes how he once met with 12 gray-headed executives, now retired, who had been highly successful leaders. They had been risk takers who had led big lives. For 45 minutes the men peppered him with questions. Why do I feel so unnecessary? Why are my adult children so distant from me? Why does our culture make me feel so emasculated? Why am I treated as though I have nothing more to give?

As Rainey looked into their pained expressions, he thought they resembled broken antiques, collecting dust in an attic. They seemed to be without purpose. Each longed to fill his nostrils again with the smoke of the battlefield. They didn't want to trade their swords in for a five iron and a golf cart. They felt that they were created for something far greater than falling asleep in their lounge chairs while watching Fox News. Rainey described them as "men robbed of their glory, no longer dreaming because of a complicity of forces that had cruelly swindled them out of their courage. These men had been left behind." 

Retirement. What a stupid word. What a stupid way to live life. Thank goodness, it doesn't have to be this way. But you have to work at it. Retire? Just don't go there. Don't ever go there. Press on. Regardless. If you're not careful, people will become a bother to you. If you're not vigilant, you will stop living. You will stop reading. You will stop doing. Life will become wearisome. You will feel left behind.

Let me encourage you to rid your vocabulary of the word "retirement" once and for all. Go against the tide. Resist the temptation to live a life robbed of its glory. Stay close to your family, even though they may be geographically distant. Enter their lives and allow them to enter yours. Your job as parent and grandparent never ends. Cultivate friendships. Stop letting difficult people drain you. Don't feel you have to answer every email you get. If you want to start exercising for fun, fitness, weight loss, or any other reason, do it. Almost everyone would prefer to be physically fit than not. No one wakes up in the morning thinking, "I'm so glad to be overweight. I love getting out of breath when I climb stairs." What's keeping you from achieving this goal of health and fitness? I'm pretty sure there's an activity out there that's both fun and will get you in good shape. When we're firing on all cylinders we have the greatest level of life quality and happiness. 

Today's workout. 

Awaken the champion that is within you. The most important thing is to train smart, be safe, and have fun. Remember that you can make adjustments down the road if need be. 

The main thing is not to quit on yourself. Even if you're no longer a knight on a white horse, that's no excuse for going through life as though it were one long funeral. Never forget that "It is the old trees who have all the beauty and grandeur" (Emerson). 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Day at the Beach

Studies have shown that spending time at the beach can be uniquely rejuvenating. I agree!

Today I drove my son to Virginia Beach to pick up his new van. While there, I did what every guy who was raised in the islands would do -- donned my wetsuit and hit the beach.

The day was lovely. 

The waves weren't exactly huge. (It was more of a boogie board day.) 

But that didn't stop me. Afterwards I sat on the beach soaking up the sun. 

I hope you can get to the beach this year. Or maybe the lake. You'll walk back to the car feeling completely refreshed! 

Have a wonderful evening! 

Moving Beyond Facts

When people are having trouble affirming the inspiration of Scripture, we often point them to 2 Tim. 3:16. However, most of that verse (and the following one) speaks about the usefulness of Scripture. It is to be used for "teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness." For example, if your elders understand 1 Cor. 11:3-15 to prohibit women from going to church without a head covering, this interpretation affects what they will teach the congregation. Or if your elders interpret certain passages in the New Testament as permitting remarriage after divorce, then that interpretation will influence how they counsel divorcees. But not only elders and pastors are responsible to understand the truth of Scripture. In our own spiritual lives, how we understand the Bible will definitely affect us and others. 

Just a friendly reminder that we always need to move beyond facts to application! 

Antidotes to Bitterness

Just an additional thought to my post yesterday about aging.

Bitterness and discouragement are always of the devil. Their antidote comes not only through Christ but through perennial habits. Don't forget these three:

1. The Bible. Soak yourself in the Scriptures daily. Pursuing spiritual equanimity without the Bible is like wanting to gain weight without eating.

2. Prayer. There is nothing that opens our lives up to the Spirit of God like prayer. 

3. Relationships. Success in aging is found in faithful relationships. Develop a trustworthy spiritual network if you can. (I realize this may be difficult for some.)

Markers like these keep us alert to God's unexpected blessings in our later years. They are the protection we need as we face declining health and eventual death. 

Enjoy this beautiful day! 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Different Approaches to Exercise

I know there are different approaches to exercise, but I try to keep things simple.

You should be able to exercise four times a week for 30 minutes. Your pace should be comfortable. As for the activity, choose the one you enjoy the most that involves your legs -- walking, jogging, biking, swimming, racquetball, etc. Try this for 4 months. After that, your ability to exercise should improve. 

I'd like to elaborate more but I think you get the drift! 

Lemma Wins Boston!

Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia won today's Boston Marathon. Note the gray hair. 

Let's hear it for dem old guys! 

Bitter Or Better?

There's a word we've borrowed from German that refers to the pleasure we take in the bad fortune of others. That word is Schadenfreude. It's what lies behind reality TV, the Law & Crime Network, and the show COPS. The opposite is envy -- a specific kind of jealousy that leads you to become depressed at the good fortune of others. "Youth," it is said, "has its passion. Age has its bitterness." I don't know any sin more characteristic of aging than envy. You'll fight it constantly. The fact is: Your lack of success is in no way caused by the success of someone else. Their success takes nothing away from you. 

I want to practice contentment till the day I die. I want to practice that at my school, in my home, at church, and elsewhere. Bitter or better. The choice is indeed ours. 

The Passive Voice

Can't wait to introduce the passive voice in Greek class today! There would be no Beatitudes without the passive:

"They will be comforted."

"They will be satisfied."

"They will be shown mercy."

"They will be called sons of God."

Incidentally, I love how Williams renders Matt. 5:6:

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for being and doing right, for they will be completely satisfied."

His footnote on "completely" reads:

"Gorged, as a calf on clover."

This is precisely why I teach Greek! I want my students to so study their Greek New Testaments that they leave each session in the word feeling gorged, stuffed, glutted, satiated, filled to capacity! I want them to read the text greedily, craving the pure spiritual milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:2). As Richard Foster puts in his excellent book Celebration of Discipline, "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people, but of deep people." 

Oh, I also love how Williams writes "hungry and thirsty for being and doing right." As we begin to exegete 1 John, my students will see that the heretics were engaged in the perverse teaching that you could "be" righteous without bothering to "practice" righteousness. John roundly condemns this error. The only person who is righteous is the one who does righteousness, like Jesus (1 John 3:7). "Doing is the best test of Being" (Robert Law). 

Have a superb week! 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

I LOVE Spring!

Spent 5 hours out in the sun today. Maybe it shows. 

I worked in the yard and mowed. 

I have a guest arriving tomorrow and I wanted the farm to look fresh. 

Meanwhile, my son began bush hogging the hay fields. 

Hard to believe that in only a few weeks their haying season will begin in earnest. 

I love spring. The warm days make me feel more energetic and cheerful. I love the blooming of the flowers and trees. I wake up every morning to the singing of birds. Outdoor activities pick up after the winter. I actually like to feel sweaty and sticky. I like wearing the minimum of clothing (like I did back in Hawaii). I like being able to sleep with the windows open. Everything seems more colorful. Today was 78 and sunny. I LOVE the warmer weather and temps. I think I'm an even-tempered person with a very positive attitude toward life. But I have preferences as well as like and dislikes. I love the longer days and shorter nights of spring and simmer. I absolutely ADORE surfing at Virginia Beach. I can't get enough of wearing shorts and flip flops. 

Summer is good. 

But spring is great. 

Spring is my favorite, definitely!

The Difference a Mentor Can Make

It was back in 1971 that I moved to Southern California at the age of 19 to enroll as a biblical studies major at Biola College. I didn't know it at the time, but the Lord was calling me into the ministry of full-time teaching. My arrival in California happened to coincide with the rise to fame of the head basketball coach at UCLA. His was soon a household name as people watched with amazement as he won championship after championship. It was called the Wooden Touch. He was a great coach but an even greater human being. He won 88 straight games between 1971 and 1974 yet his success never went to his head. Quiet as a March snow, he taught his players as much about the game of life as the game of basketball. Of all the axioms he was famous for -- "discipline yourself so that others don't have to," "never lie," "earn the right to be confident," "treat your opponents with respect" -- perhaps my favorite was, "Never score without acknowledging a teammate."

When I got to Biola, my goal was to play basketball under head coach Lyons. I hoped he would mentor me even as I hit the books hard. I soon realized, however, that I couldn't excel at both sports and academics. I had to make a choice. In high school I had never applied myself to my studies. My life consisted of surfing, volleyball, and basketball. But college was different. To succeed, I'd have to change. I'd have to learn how to become a student. I knew it would be like turning the Queen Mary around with a teaspoon, but I was determined to make it work. Dr. Harry Sturz, Biola's Greek prof, became my teacher, my mentor, and eventually my colleague at Biola. Like John Wooden, Harry Sturz was eminently gifted but remarkably unassuming. He never knew how great he was. He never had a bad word to say about Westcott and Hort or Bruce Metzger. But in his unassuming greatness he made an indelible impact on my life. 

I'd like you to know that. I'd like you to know that his influence was THE turning point in my life. If he were here today I would write him and tell him so. 

Regardless of how much you learn or however greatly the Lord blesses your life and ministry, I hope you will never forget the words of Coach Wooden:

"Never score without acknowledging a teammate."