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The Busy Pastor’s Guide to Inbox Shalom

July 24, 2017

Screenshot 2017-07-24 14.58.10

 

I’ve recently had a new article published at CTPastors.com: “The Busy Pastor’s Guide to Inbox Shalom.”

It begins:

A ministry supervisor once told me a quick way to lose respect in ministry: Don’t return people’s phone calls. The same holds true for email.

The article suggests how pastors (or anyone) can reset to Inbox Zero in two minutes, and then recommends some strategies for keeping your Inbox in a state of shalom.

You can read the whole article here.

Brand New Accordance Webinar I’m Leading Tomorrow on the Septuagint

July 18, 2017

 

Tomorrow I am leading a brand new Accordance Bible Software webinar: Studying the Septuagint with Accordance.

The session will cover as many of these topics as we’ll have time for in an hour:

• Septuagint resources in Accordance
• Setting up an LXX and Greek NT Workspace
• The New Testament’s use of the Old Testament
• LXX Reading for vocabulary acquisition
• Reading the Septuagint with Göttingen editions
• Advanced: Hebrew-Greek translation equivalents and the MERGE search (as time permits)

I’m looking forward to this one. Sign up info is here.

 

A Thorough Review of Runkeeper (Go)

July 17, 2017

 

I may have been premature when I said Runtastic has the best running app on the market. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a great app, and I still use it regularly.

But Runkeeper—especially in its “Go” (premium) version—is a more versatile and aesthetically pleasing and powerful app.

In this review I’ll cover Runkeeper via these categories:

  1. Runkeeper on iPhone
  2. Training Plans (and Runkeeper Go)
  3. Personal Records and Goal Setting
  4. Runkeeper’s Web Interface
  5. Bells and Whistles
  6. What’s Missing
  7. Pay for Pro: Yes or No?

 

1. Runkeeper on iPhone

 

The most likely point of entry to the Runkeeper world is through the iOS App Store (or Android).

Although Runkeeper isn’t as economical with screen space as Runtastic is, Runkeeper looks great on a phone:
 

 
You’re definitely not going to miss any of your stats at a glance! A recent update made them nice and huge. You can also see a live map of where you’re going, provided you give Runkeeper permission to track your location when you’re using the app.

Once you’re finished with a workout, you can see a nice summary of your run:
 

 
With splits, too:
 

  

Each activity automatically saves the weather. You can add notes, track shoe mileage, and even tag a fellow Runkeeper user you might have run with:
 

 
You can add multiple photos of your run to an activity:
 

 

 
There’s even a setting to engage Runkeeper’s “Pocket Track” to automatically track your movement. You don’t even have to start an activity, for example, for it to track a walk:
 

 
It’s a little less immediate than in other running apps to get right away to your last activity–often the purpose for which I’m opening the app. You have to tap on the “Me” section, scroll down through a not-quite-optimized screen a bit, then tap on “Activities” to pull up the list.

The app also features a social component, so you can view friends’ activity. (This feature is much more robust than that of Runtastic.)
 

2. Training Plans (and Runkeeper Go)

 
The training plans in Runkeeper are awesome. I clicked on a “challenge” that popped up one day, and based on my previous runs, it smartly recommended my average 5K time, which would be a base for the training. Love it.
 

 

 

 
After working through the five interval-based runs, my sixth run in the ASICS Pace Academy Challenge did, in fact, have me showing some improvement.
 

 
The app also features audio coaching, which is especially useful in knowing when to adjust your pace on an interval run. The audio cues for interval runs are perfectly clear and well executed.

You can change the voice. I like Boston Fan, who invites me to the packie for a couple of beeahs after the run. Drill Instructor is pretty cool, too. You can adjust the volume and even how often your audio cue comes up—whether by distance (every mile or two or five) or duration (every x minutes). You can specify which stats it gives you, too—time, distance, average pace (the ones I use), split pace, even average and current heart rate (this works because I can link my Garmin with built-in HR monitor to the app!).

You can set up your own intervals and training plans, based on a goal time. Some of these plans are available without the premium Runkeeper Go; others require the subscription.
 

 
And you can even get a weather report showing atop your training plan!
 

 
Runkeeper Go also adds the ability to compare workouts. I could hardly believe a little iPhone app could do this, but you can select two different runs, for example, and see how they compare at various points.
 

 
Go also gives you “progress insights,” so you can quickly see (in chart form) your average pace over time, mileage per month, and even track weight over time.
 

3. Personal Records and Goal Setting

 
Runkeeper does a nice job of keeping track of all your personal records in one place. And where you haven’t achieved a personal best (for a half marathon, say), you can tap on training plan options.
 

 
The opening screen on the iPhone app also has a row with your records showing.
 

 
New records show up right away, if you beat them:
 

 
And you get an email!
 

 
One huge lack is that if you beat your 5K time but then run another kilometer, your run won’t count as a 5K.

There was one run where I got a new fastest 5K, which showed up as a badge in the activity:
 

 
But you’ll see it says my “Fastest 5K” is 27:29 under the badge, whereas that was the time for that activity, which was 3.2 miles. The 5K itself (at an 8:35 pace) would have been more like 26:42.

Oddly, it still does register properly as my fastest 5K pace, as seen in the comparison screen here:
 

 
What I really want to see is how long the first 3.1 miles/5K of this activity was (duration), showing under my record badge wherever it appears, so I know what my fastest 5K time actually is. Support told me I can edit the map and delete the overage, but that feels like more work than I should have to do to track a fastest time.

The app also supports goal setting, including exercising a certain number of times a week, losing a certain number of pounds by a certain date, and more. I use this feature regularly.
 

4. Runkeeper’s Web Interface

 
With Runkeeper (unlike Runtastic) you can bulk export your data, so that the app does not hold your running info hostage, so to speak. I love this about the app. You can export individual activities and a whole date range–right to a spreadsheet, if you want to make your own platform-agnostic running log.

You can access your feed (also available on the phone)…
 

 
… as well as all your activities:
 

 
Your Web dashboard is basically your own feed that includes activity, personal records, and goal progress.

You can also use the site to manually log a run and access any routes you’ve saved.
 

5. Bells and Whistles

 
Here is a sampling of additional features available in Runkeeper:

  • you can see your average pace for this week vs. last week (or this month vs. last month) in the “Me” part of the app–same with total miles. I use this often
  • you can track indoor runs with “Stopwatch Mode
  • there’s the ability to share to social media with run stats and photo (see here)
  • you can track mileage for a pair of shoes
  • you can tag your runs. The longer I use Runkeeper, the more I make use of this feature. The tags are pre-selected (you can’t make your own), but you can tag long runs, speed runs, races, etc. And then you can filter activities by run type. Sadly, and for some odd reason, you can’t see these tags on the Web site
  • activity splits are easy to see, whether per mile, or per predetermined interval

 

6. What’s Missing

 
You can’t see an activity’s weather details in Web view, even though it shows on the iPhone app. (Runtastic has it in both places, and I’d expect more features, not fewer, on a Website.)

There is no iPhone Today widget, which would be a cool addition, even if only to see total miles for the week or month.

The app is a data hog. In this image, I was using Runtastic to track my 8-mile run, and only opened Runkeeper at the end so it could pull in data from my Garmin and sync the run. Runkeeper used far more data than Runtastic to accomplish far less.
 

 
If you turn data off for the app (I do), you’ll see this message after your run, each and every time, until you reach Internet:
 

 
It’s not the end of the world, but if you’re on a limited data plan, turn data off for the app. The GPS can still track you and make everything work as needed.
 

7. Pay for Pro: Yes or No?

 
For most users, the free version of Runkeeper will do just fine. But if you’re trying to up your game with in-app training plans and want the added metrics of run comparison and progress “insights,” Go is well worth exploring. All the features are listed here:
 

 
Details at this link.

All in all, Runkeeper is not a perfect app and doesn’t do everything I’d wanted, but it looks great, works well, has powerful options, and is (from what I can tell) the best running app on the market. I’ve been using Runtastic and Runkeeper in tandem—import/export options make it not that cumbersome to track runs in both places. But if you’re just starting running and want to try an app, go for Runkeeper, and see what you think.
 


  
 

Thanks so much to the folks at Runkeeper who set me up with a trial of Premium so I could review the app! Check it out here.

Lee Irons’s Greek NT Syntax Guide, Reviewed

July 3, 2017

One of my favorite seminary classes was a Greek exegesis course in the book of Hebrews. The Greek of that book is difficult! Hebrews can even be a challenging read in English translation.

Part of our required assignment was to keep a translation and exegesis notebook, translating much of the book verse-by-verse, with our own comments on the vocabulary, grammar, and theology.

In those days Charles Lee Irons had a boatload of free PDFs on his Website, syntax guides for each book of the Greek New Testament. I printed out his Hebrews guide and kept it close at hand.

Now, some years later, Irons has turned his helpful work into a full book: A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament (Kregel, 2016).

This new resource is beautifully produced:

 

 

Irons’s goal is to help the reader toward fluid reading of the Greek New Testament: “to assist readers of the Greek New Testament by providing brief explanations of intermediate and advanced syntactical features of the Greek text.” The focus is on grammar and how words work together, rather than vocabulary helps for individual words per se.

In addition, should a sentence in the GNT lose the reader due to length, word order, or idiom, Irons’s guide provides the needed translation. Here’s an example:

 

 

Irons has created the book to be used in tandem with a reader’s GNT (see here or here), or with Kregel’s excellent New Reader’s Lexicon of the GNT.

The book’s size and production is such that it fits right with other GNTs:

 

 

 

 

Here it is next to a larger Reader’s GNT:

 

 

The binding appears to be sewn. This is as hoped for with a book that a reader might want to use for many years.

 

 

One pleasant surprise is how often Irons details Hebraisms and keeps an eye on the Septuagint and its influence on the GNT. He does that right from the beginning, in fact, as with this entry for Matthew 1:2

1:2 | Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ = LXX 1 Chron 1:34 – note the unexpected definite article τόν before the name of the person begotten, and so throughout vv. 2–16. Formula used in the LXX genealogies: x ἐγέννησεν τὸν y (see LXX Gen 5:6 ; 10:8 ; 1 Chron 2:10ff)

Here is a full sample page:

 

 

It is difficult to imagine an intermediate Greek reader working through the New Testament with just a Greek text and this book… as the author notes, the Syntax Guide is best used with a Reader’s GNT where infrequently occurring vocabulary is already glossed. And of course a book of this brevity will (inevitably) include grammatical matters that Irons does not comment on—it covers fewer words and phrases, for example, than “Max and Mary” (A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament).

But in the dozens of Greek chapters I read with just a Reader’s GNT and Irons’s book at hand, there were very few times when I had a grammatical question Irons didn’t treat.

You can check out a longer excerpt of the book here. And you can purchase it at Amazon here or through Kregel here.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

A Mind Map of Revelation’s Letter to Smyrna

June 24, 2017

Last week I posted the mind map I made to help me visualize the letter to Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7.

Here is my mind map of Greek Revelation 2:8-11, the letter to Smyrna. Interesting to see how the structure of this “oracle” is both similar to and different from the letter to Ephesus.

 

 

As with last time, this passage outline definitely informed my sermon outline, but the latter differs quite a bit from the former. If you want to hear these sermons, by the way, you can subscribe or listen to the podcast here.

Zondervan Reader’s Greek New Testament: An Illustrated Review

June 22, 2017

 

The Zondervan Reader’s Greek New Testament has undergone vast improvements in its Greek font since its first eye-hurting edition. Now in its 3rd edition, the lightweight, handsome, and well-constructed Reader’s Bible is perfect for sticking in a satchel to be able to read the Greek New Testament in transit.

Most notable is its size—it’s significantly thinner and lighter than its UBS5 Reader’s counterpart. Here it is with a 3.5” x 5.5” Field Notes notebook on top:

 

 

The included ribbon marker and gilded edges and lettering add a touch of class:

 

 

It’s worth repeating: the Greek font looks much better that previous editions. I think the UBS5 font still is the best-looking and most readable, but this one is good, too:

 

 

The text here is the Greek that underlies the New International Version—so not an exact match with the Nestle-Aland 28th edition. However, there are notes that point out where this Greek text and the NA28/UBS5 differ. For the purposes of reading through the Greek New Testament (the aim of this edition), I found the (minor) differences wholly inconsequential.

The footnoted vocabulary covers words that occur 30 times or fewer in the Greek NT. At the back is a “mini-lexicon” for everything else:

 

 

Whereas the UBS Reader’s edition has two nicely formatted columns, it can be difficult to quickly scan the single-column footnote jumble in Zondervan’s edition to find the appropriate word:

 

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And there are no verb parsings—just a list of possible glosses for each word (without a decision made based on context).

Overall I think the UBS5 Reader’s GNT is the best on the market, but the improved font, feel, and portability of the Zondervan Reader make it worth exploring. And if you’re going to own two Reader’s Greek New Testaments (because why not??), it’s nice to be able to switch between the UBS5 and this one, which is more affordable.

You can find the book here (Zondervan) and here (Amazon). See also my recent review of the UBS5 Reader’s Edition here.

 


 

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

Reader’s Edition of the UBS5 Greek New Testament: An Illustrated Review

June 18, 2017

Typesetting is somewhat subjective, but the German Bible Society’s UBS5 has some of the best-looking Greek text you’ll find in any New Testament.

The UBS5 itself is about three years old. (Hendrickson, which distributes GBS items in the U.S., put together this excellent infographic.) Known for its full-bodied text-critical apparatus, translators and students alike benefit from its footnoted listing of variant manuscript readings. (So do NA28-loving scholars; don’t let them fool you!)

The UBS5 Reader’s Edition significantly pares down the textual apparatus and in its place provides a running list of infrequently occurring Greek vocabulary. As the name implies, the Reader’s Edition is a one-stop shop that facilitates fluid reading of the Greek text, even for those who have had just a year or so of Greek studies.

Here’s what it looks like:

 

 

 

 

The “textual notes” here just “highlight the most important differences between major Greek manuscripts and identify Old Testament references in the margins,” the latter of which I have found really useful.

As for the footnoted vocabulary, any word that occurs 30 times or less in the Greek New Testament has a “contextual” gloss (short translation equivalent) next to it. What I really like about this volume in contrast to the Zondervan Reader’s Edition is that there are verb parsings and noun genders listed with the vocabulary. This helps me not just to know what a word means in its context, but provides occasion to review verbal forms—something that can slip surprisingly quickly without review! Everything on the bottom of the page is easy to scan, too, as it is in two columns, not all jumbled together as some other reader’s editions have it.

 

 

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Between the aesthetically pleasing font and the vocabulary and parsings, this is the best reader’s edition on the market.

I’ve found parsing errors in the previous UBS Reader’s Edition. No doubt there have been corrections in this one. I cannot recall coming across any errors so far, and I’ve been using it off and on for at least a year of reading.

If a vocabulary word is not glossed at the bottom (i.e., you don’t know your vocabulary down to 30 occurrences), there is a concise Greek-English dictionary in the back of the Bible. Yes! Just about everything you need for Greek reading is here.

The only potential annoyance I can think of is that sometimes if a word is glossed already on page (n), when it occurs again on page (n+1) it is not always listed on that page—you have to flip back a page. Sometimes it’s not even footnoted when repeated, but then you recall that you just saw it (hopefully).

The inclusion of a high-quality ribbon marker is icing on the cake.

Finally, I have to say I was a little saddened that a beautiful typo (found in the UBS5 stand-alone and UBS5-NIV11 diglot and even previous UBS Reader’s Edition) is corrected in this edition! For the better, I suppose.

You can find the UBS5 Reader’s Edition here at Whole Foo—I mean, Amazon, here at Hendrickson, here at GBS, and here at CBD. There is both a hardcover edition (what is pictured in this post) and a slightly more expensive imitation leather edition.

 


  

Thanks to Hendrickson for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

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