Monday, September 22, 2014

2014 IRONMAN Louisville Race Report

 Finish Line: 4th Street Live! 11:28 pm
5,375 feet of elevation gain on the bike.

That is what I anticipated all summer. My previous IRONMAN finish in Florida last November had only 991 feet of elevation gain by comparison. A flat bike. That would not be the case on August 24, 2014 in Louisville, KY. Thankfully, the bike leg turned out to be the most enjoyable part, though I had feared it the most. 

I had a compact crank installed on my bike the week of the race. I had not tested it on a long ride, but it turned out to be the key to an enjoyable 112 mile bike ride. On one of the most difficult climbs of the race, I overheard a fellow triathlete I was (slowly) passing say to himself (so I could hear): "What?" How are you passing me? Oh. You have a compact crank." He was grinding out the hill with a standard crank. I felt so lucky! That, however, would not be the case at the start of the swim.

There's nothing quite like the moment you begin a 140.6 mile triathlon, because the moment you jump off the dock into the water, you realize that you will not stop for the next 16+ hours. Living in the moment is a necessity, and there's plenty to do, so the feeling doesn't last long, and usually I just say: "Here we go!"


It always takes me about 20 minutes to settle down into a comfortable breathing rhythm when I start swimming, but there were a couple of instances when I feared not finishing at the very start. The current of the river stunned me and the swinging arms and kicking legs of faster swimmers didn't help! It felt like there was no escape, and that was pretty much the case for about the first 1/2 mile of the swim. The beginning of the Ohio River swim, unlike the Gulf of Mexico, is very narrow because Towhead Island is only a 100 or so feet from the shoreline where 2300 athletes were previously lined up on a concrete river walk.

Upstream Swim for .7 miles
Till you get to the end of the island the swim was a test of survival symbolized by one kayak pilot asking me if I was okay when I thought I was swimming well. Great! I'm still not calmed down, I'm fighting this current, and now a kayak pilot tells the next pilot upstream standing on his vessel to watch out for me! Not encouraging.

The second symbol of my survival 14 minutes into this suffer fest occurred when I saw Laura on the shoreline looking for me. I was next to the island so there was virtually no chance. I raised my right arm waving at her and calling out her name. Guess what the swimmer behind me thought? Yep. This guy is calling for help.

Exiting the Ohio River
So, she called to the nearest pilot, "Hey, this guy needs help!" Paranoia has officially set in at this point. Time to swim-or fight-which was pretty much the same thing at that point. Thankfully, by now, the end of the island was at hand, and the twenty minutes I need to calm down have passed and my main problem is how slow I'm swimming compared to a great practice swim I had only a week earlier. Not a good time to realize I needed lower expectations.

It took me an hour to swim the 7/10 of a mile to the red turnaround buoy. That's only 1/3 of the swim, but thankfully the last 2/3 were downstream. That was definitely a plus, but didn't seem to help me as much as it did others. In fact, a difficult aspect of swimming downstream was that it carried me to the wrong side of the yellow buoys. After 2 or 3 course corrections I foolishly asked one pilot, "Are these things moving?" To which he replied, of course, "No." I knew that, but what would this swim be without another negative feeling? Swallowing my pride, I finish the swim in 1:53:39. 29 minutes slower than my 2.4 mile practice swim in the Tennessee River a week earlier of 1:24:42. Oh, well, on to the bike!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Usurping the Authority of Husbands

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Nietzsche

The separate class of elders and gospel preachers in churches of Christ usurps the God-given authority of husbands over their own wives. When power is hedged away from husbands, their options become severely limited to join that peer group, be dependent on it, or leave.

Control over the man-made pulpit and man-created church treasury by a plain-clothed clergy usurps the authority God gave to husbands by misinterpreting the husband-wife contexts of 1 Cor. 11:1ff, 14:34-35, Gen. 3:16 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 as "man-woman" rather than "husband-wife."

If husbands and wives decide what to do with their own private treasuries as Paul instructs (1 Cor. 16:2) and the husbands are the teacher-preachers, then what becomes of the organizational- institutional view of "church?" It is rendered impotent and is exposed for the unnecessary entity that it is.

My point is to show that from the very beginning, Bible context is often misinterpreted generically as "man-woman" rather than "husband-wife," and the former interpretation sustains a pernicious, superior class of Christians that unnecessarily comes between husbands and wives much like they unnecessarily come between Christians and God. At best, the man-woman interpretation creates a dysfunctional democracy of husbands attempting to counter the clerical class by majority vote.

Neither of which is NT Christianity.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fulfilling the Law: Acts 2:44-47 & Acts 4:32-36 Are Not Temporary

Illustration by Judith Clingan
"When Jesus said, 'The poor you will have with you always,' He was quoting Deuteronomy 15:11, but he expected his disciples and us to think about the whole passage."

Ben Irwin continues his insight into interpreting Jesus' quote of Deu. 15:11:

"When Jesus said that there would always be poor people in the land, it was a concession to Israel's likely failure to obey the law requiring them to protect its most vulnerable citizens. Sure enough, that's pretty much how the story plays out in the rest of the Old Testament."

"There would always be poor people because Israel would not prove as generous as they were meant to be. There would always be poor people because Israel would not cancel everyone's debts like they were supposed to."

"Deuteronomy 15 commanded ancient Israel to cancel each others debt every seven years. Interesting to note that no distinction was made between responsible and irresponsible debt; no matter how people fell into financial distress, they were to be given a clean slate every seven years."

"The passage ends with the statement quoted by Jesus centuries later: there will always be poor people among you. Which is precisely why laws protecting the poor were needed in the first place: 'There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.'"

"What's more, to the writer of Deuteronomy 15, persistent poverty was anything but acceptable. Back up a few verses, to Deuteronomy 15:4-5:
There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands...."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tour De France: Review of the 2014 Official Guide

Photo by Tim De Waele
The Tour De France begins this Saturday and lasts for three weeks (July 5th--27th). The 2014 Official Guide is on shelves now, and gives an overview of cycling's most anticipated annual event. Reading the guide will give anyone an appreciation for how grueling an event Le Tour De France really is.

I was surprised to learn that the Tour actually begins its first three stages in England. And while most stages stop and start from the same cities, there are two flights: one from England to France and another to the final stage in Paris, as well as, two rest days.

Most of the daily rides are a minimum of 100 miles, and of the 21 stages overall, 9 are considered flat, 5 hilly, and 6 mountain stages that include 5 summit finishes. There is only one time-trial stage near the end of the race. 

The degree of difficulty in addition to the 100 miles of distance each day comes from climbs, or elevation gain. Being a novice cyclist for only two years, myself, and even having completed an IRONMAN, the endurance needed to complete, much less compete in, the Tour is quite impressive.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Misinterpreting Prophets in 1 Cor. 14:29-40

Illustration by Judith Clingan
Paul says:

"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."

"The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the assemblies of the Lord’s people."

"Wives should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a wife to speak in the church..."

"If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." 

If we limit the definition of a prophet to miraculous situations or only to those who foretold the future then we are leaving out vital information.

Paul says:

"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."

So, we have here a "revelation" comes to someone who is sitting at the Lord's Table. There is no need to insist this must be miraculous anymore than "instruction" and "encouragement" must be miraculous. All three can be non-miraculous and for the purpose of edifying the church (1 Cor. 14:1-40). Prophets were more "forth-tellers" than future "fore-tellers" anyway.

Also, why would anyone need to "weigh carefully what is said" God's "plain truth?" The way we do things, they should just "submit" to the "authority" of what is said. The way Paul says do it, there is equal function among all.

I've always liked this quote from John Mark Hicks:

"While the prophets of Israel peeked behind the scenes and saw the future in some cases, their main function was to prosecute, rebuke, and confront the people of God. They called Israel to renewal and recommitment; they called them out of their injustices and idolatries."
Historically, our people have been conditioned to define "Bible words in Bible ways," but we really don't do this in action when it comes to prophesying in the assembly. We have created the position of "gospel preacher" in churches of Christ which is a synonym for Protestant pastor, and have relegated the role of prophets in our assemblies down to one man.

He has become the "spokesman" (only prophet) for the local congregation and/or elders and they (GPs) themselves have evolved into a class of people since we made that position an employee of the church. In our model, "truth" is viewed as a settled package to be repeated weekly, and "elder expediency" reduced it to one man.

What we do is not what Paul wrote. Not even close. And that ain't good for those who make as bold a claims as some coCs make! In fact, it's a solid step in the direction of cultish behavior among congregations.

The kingdom of God is about power:

"But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power." (1 Cor. 4:19f)

And we need to continue challenging (weighing carefully) the powers that be for everyone's good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fellowship Meals During Worship: The Early House Churches & Wives at the Lord's Table-Symposium

Robert Banks writes,

"At first sight, Paul’s endorsement of women praying and prophesying in church seems to conflict with his statement that “the women should keep silence” in the gatherings (1 Cor 14: 34). Attempts to overrule his earlier endorsement by this statement or to elide these later verses from the text should both be avoided. There is no justification for the former and scarcely any manuscript support for the latter, and an appreciation of the wider and immediate context of Paul’s advice renders such solutions unnecessary."

"The injunction is the third in a series (14: 20ff.), all of which are directed against the existence of chaos in church, first through all speaking in tongues at the same time and second through all jointly prophesying. The precise nature of the offense of the women (more strictly of the wives) becomes clear in the following verse: “If there is anything they desire to know,” he says, “let them ask their husbands at home (14: 35, RSV)."

"The wives have been interrupting the meeting with questions about things said within it. If more than that were involved, then Paul would not single out this one problem without any reference to others. The injunction to “keep silence” does not itself necessarily possess an absolute sense and must always be interpreted by the context in which it occurs. The situation presupposed by Paul’s remarks is perfectly understandable."

"Women for the most part did not receive any substantial education in religious matters, yet in Christian gatherings they could be present throughout the whole meeting and also contribute to it in a number of ways. Particularly in a church like that at Corinth, where Christian liberty was prized so highly, it comes as no surprise that wives felt free to query things they did not understand. In advising against this, Paul reminds them again of its contravention of prevailing custom (14:35)— in Greek cities it was only the hetairai, courtesans, who engaged in public discussions with men— and of the practice of other churches (14: 36) and even of the OT (14: 34)."


Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, writes:

"The Jewish people throughout the generations did not live in a vacuum; it absorbed much from its surroundings. But it did not absorb blindly. The Sages absorbed the form of the symposium from the Hellenistic world, but drastically changed its content. The Greeks and Romans discussed love, beauty, food and drink at the symposium, while the Sages at the Seder discussed the Exodus from Egypt, the miracles of God and the greatness of the Redemption. The symposium was meant for the elite, while the Sages turned the Seder into an educational experience for the entire Jewish people. Indeed, this pattern repeated itself throughout Jewish history."

"... the stunning similarity between the Greek banquet known as a symposium and the Passover Seder. Few Jews realize the Seder is a rabbinic invention. The rabbis instituted the seder to standardize practice after the destruction of the Temple. The Haggadah is an outgrowth of that standardization. And the Seder mirrors a Greek Symposium in many ways..."

"The Greek word epikomon means "after meal entertainment" and likely (again per Wikipedia) refers to the "games, songs, flute-girls, slaves performing various acts, and hired entertainments" that followed the discussion and the food. When the Sages said "one may not add an afikoman after the paschal lamb” they were referring to (and outlawing) this practice... We close each segment of the seder with a cup of wine. At the symposia the same custom was followed."

"... the rabbis took a common secular practice, widely popular in the Hellenized world, and cleaned it up a bit, removing the raunch and using the order to tell the story of Passover."

Luke 14:1-24 reveals the banquet setting among Jews in the first century:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Understanding The Bible & History For Yourself: The Lord's Supper and "Women" in the Greco-Roman World of the New Testament

Food Feasts in Ancient Rome
Dennis E. Smith, in his book, From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World, writes:
"Whenever they met as a church, early Christians regularly ate a meal together. In this they were no different from other religious people in their world: for when any group of people in the ancient Mediterranean world met for social or religious purposes, their gatherings tended to be centered on a common meal or banquet."

"It did not matter whether it was a social or religious occasion; nor what the ethnic group might be, whether Jewish or Greek or some other ethnic group; nor what the social class might be. If it were a special occasion, whether religious, social, or political, more often than not a formalized meal functioned as a centerpiece of the gathering." [see Jude 12; Luke 22:14-29; Acts 20:1-11; cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-34, sp]."

"A banquet was an occasion of 'good cheer' or 'pleasure,' viewed here as values that governed the proper meal. Another term for the good cheer of the banquet was festive joy (euphrosyn), which was seen as an essential component of the 'proper' banquet. As such, it was spoken of as the gift of the god(s), and often associated with the wine. Festive joy was viewed not as an individual experience but as a social experience inherent to the overall communal function of the banquet. Indeed, a proper banquet could be judged by how well it promoted festive joy. Consequently, festive joy could also function as a category governing social obligation at the banquet."

"The ancient banquet presupposed entertainment as part of the event. This could vary from party games to dramatic presentations to music to philosophical conversation [see Luke 22:14-29 and Matthew 26:30, sp]. It developed elaborate and specific variations according to the different settings and circumstances in which the banquet would be held. But no banquet would be complete as a social event without some form of entertainment."
Paul's concern in 1 Cor. 5:1-12 and later in 10:7-14:40 is for decency, encouragement, and unity at the Lord's Supper/Table/Assembly (see also 1 Cor. 11:17-34; cf. 10:21), especially since the word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 11:20, deipnon, refers to the evening meal. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Strategy and Tactics That Move Us Toward "One Body-One Spirit" Consensus in Churches of Christ

Illustration by Judith Clingan
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:2-6). 

According to the Website Diffen:

"A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan. While the original usage of the terms strategy and tactic was in a military context, they are now used in a wide variety of everyday settings, including business."

Let's see... military and business... This must be applicable to the American Church!

Seriously, however...

John Mark Hicks, An American Restoration Historian, writes:
"While doing some research in Nashville newspapers, I encountered this piece by David Lipscomb:  “South Nashville Church of Christ,” Daily American (January 17, 1906), p. 8. I thought it was interesting for several reasons:
1. It illustrates that Lipscomb thought church planting was the way to grow the kingdom.

2. It illustrates the use of tent meetings in the planting of churches, and how other churches supported the planting of those communities.

3. It illustrates the use of “lay” (my term) preachers, that is, bi-vocational ministers, in the growth and maturing of congregations.

4. It illustrates why Nashville has so many Churches of Christ. Lipscomb prompted the planting of many small congregations who managed their own affairs (did their own teaching, missions, evangelism, etc.) rather than consolidating into large congregations. Small but many was better than few but large, according to Lipscomb...."
David Lipscomb (from the piece that Hicks cites) speaking of the growth of churches of Christ in Nashville, says:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Imitating Jesus Christ is the "One Faith"

Jesus Praying in the Garden
Robert Louis Wilken writes:

"The apostolic age is a creation of the Christian imagination. There never was a Golden Age when the church was whole, perfect, pure-virginal. The faith was not purer, the Christians were not braver, the church was not one and undivided..."

I believe that the "one faith" Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:5 is described in Eph. 4:13-15 as "the knowledge of the Son of God and becoming mature."

Essentially, "the faith" is growing up into/imitating/conforming to the image of  Christ.

Paul writes,

"...unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Eph. 4:13-15).

If there is "one faith" to keep, and there is, then I suggest that it is not any kind of "pattern worship at church," or any other mandatory form of orthodoxy to be enforced, but as Jesus said:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life..."

His life is "the faith."

As the song, "Where He Leads I'll Follow," says, "He the great example is and pattern for me...."

Monday, April 28, 2014

The False Doctrine of "Primary Bread Winner..."

1 Timothy 5:3-16, in the KJV, states:
"Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

"Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan."

"If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (1 Tim. 5:3-16).

To honestly determine the context of this passage is not difficult. To misinterpret and proof-text 1 Tim. 5:8,
removing it from its above context, is even easier.

"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

How Christians allow 'authority figures' to get away with butchering God's word based on a fictitious "office" astounds me. Christians, we are responsible to God to "prove all things" (1 The. 5:21) not submit to authority figures.

We as individuals (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:7) are responsible to understand and defend the truth--not relegate OUR responsibility to an oligarchy and "gospel preacher."
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" ( 2 Cor. 5:10).

"So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God..." (Rom. 14:12).

Let us ask ourselves these questions about 1 Timothy 5:3-16 to determine if 1 Tim. 5:8 means, "males are to be the 'primary bread winners' of every family..." Is this teaching true or false based on the context of the passage?

Who is the passage discussing from the very first (vv. 3-16)? Widows.

Are husbands or males ever told that they must make more money than their wives? No.

Are women restricted by Paul on how much money they can make? No.

The context is not discussing "husbands or males exclusively making more money than their wives..." The context is discussing (taking care of) widows. All "children"(v.4)--male and female--are to "show piety" or "requite" (take care of, prioritize) their own parents so that the rest of God's children are not burdened with another person's responsibility. That is Paul's concern, not that it be gender specifically legalized.

1 Timothy 5:8 contains the phrase, "ei tis."

It means "If anyone..." not just husbands or males "...does not provide for his/their own relatives." The masculine pronouns "he, his, his own" while perhaps a grammatical necessity are unfortunate. Anyone "tis" has denied the faith who does not take care of his/her own. The word "aner, andras" (husband/male) is not present. Not even the word "anthropos" is present. That's how generic and NON gender specific this passage is.

Also, notice that "the faith" here is not making sure we follow 5 steps or 5 acts, but making sure we are behaving like Christ who took care of his widowed mother:
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (John 19:26-27).
1 Timothy 5:8 does not say "husbands/males are to be the primary bread winners of their households and those who are not are sinners/infidels/not manly, etc." It is a false doctrine to teach such because, as we can plainly see, it is not the truth of what the context of the passage states. In fact, money is not even mentioned, much less how much money "anyone" is to make or be limited to making.

Paul's concern is that (younger) widows not be idle, becoming busybodies--or minding other people's business--and talking non-sense.

Working mothers/women is exactly what Paul wants!

It is a male chauvinist doctrine--not God's word--that attempts to control and limit the amount of money women can make.

It is a false doctrine to teach "men are to be the primary bread winners..." from the context of 1 Tim. 5:3-16.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Becoming An Ultra Runner

I was glad to be done!
Photo by Gregg Gelmis
Running any distance beyond 26.2 miles is considered ultra running.

50k, or 50,000 meters (31 miles), is the most common distance followed by 50 miles, 100k (62 miles), and, finally, 100 miles. 

There are a few less common distances and even some beyond 100 miles, like the 135 mile Badwater Ultra Marathon in Death Valley, California (in July!), as well as, 12 hour, 24 hour, and many relays even longer than that, but 50k is where ultra running begins.


Since New Year's Eve 2013, I have finished four 50k's (with 1 DNF) and one 40 Miler. My first ultra marathon was a very satisfying experience. It is called "Recover From the Holidays" held every year on December 31st at John Hunt Running Park in Huntsville, AL.

JHRP is a 3-mile trail loop that winds along the outskirts of a golf course to its north and just over the hill, to the south, is the city dump. You never see the landfill, but if the wind is right, you definitely know it is there! Surprisingly, only a whiff is all I've ever gotten when running John Hunt, and I've run over a hundred miles there. I finished RFH50k in 6 hours and 32 minutes.

The set up is one aid station at the turn-around of the loop. That part of the course is an open field, so everyone sets up chairs and blankets on the ground with personal aid. The turn around itself is a row of tables with extra goodies to munch on every 30 minutes give or take, depending on your pace. The mood is jovial, probably because it's New Years' Eve, but also because the Race Directors do a great job. I am very glad I chose it to be my first ultra.