On requesting a letter of transfer from your previous church

  • It is—at the very least—a courtesy to your new church to request a letter of transfer from your old church.
  • It lets the new church body know that you are in good standing with your previous church. You’re not running away from church discipline or keeping the new church in the dark. It better primes the new community for recognizing the credibility of the profession of your faith.
  • It lets the previous church body know that they can gladly release your membership. Your love has not grown cold, you have not left the faith, and you have not detached from the body of Christ.
  • It honors the pastor-elders that previously were responsible for shepherding you. It encourages you to involve them in evaluating the new church you are you considering.
  • It reinforces the duty that the elders of a previous church have to encourage outgoing members to find a new healthy church wherever they go.
  • It invites the elders between both churches to have an open line of communication during the hand-off. They may have something pastorally relevant and helpful to say for the sake of shepherding.
  • It celebrates the season of fellowship you had with your previous church.
  • It honors the “communion of saints” — the broad fellowship that Christians enjoy across many local churches.

To those thinking, “I would never do that”:

This requires a high level of trust in the elders of the church you attend. If you don’t have this kind of trust, consider changing your mind about it, or finding a church where you can trust the shepherding leadership to that extent.

It also requires a kind of transparency that is fitting to the community life of a healthy church.

If this seems foreign to you — please keep an open mind. It’s possible to have that kind of relationship with a local church!

  • Pastors don’t have the freedom to bind a person’s conscience from moving to a different faithful church. Christians don’t technically need their “permission” to move.
  • Nor can pastors overstep their bounds to infringe upon the conscience, the family, or the state. They can only act in accordance with the Bible according to their “jurisdiction” as church shepherds.
  • And even then, there are important decisions pastors are only supposed to make in unity and consent with the congregation (such as excommunication, or the adding of a new elder). “Christ has likewise given power to his whole Church to receive in and cast out, by way of Excommunication, any member; and this power is given to every particular Congregation, and not one particular person, either member or Officer, but the whole.” (London Confession of 1644)
  • There is a brotherly and healthy protocol (when between faithful churches) in letting one’s prior shepherds know that they are no longer under their spiritual care or congregational governance, and letting the new church know that one isn’t running away from something (kept secret). So it’s not about seeking de facto permission, but about unity, open communication, and voluntary accountability.
  • Churches are free to apply the “light of nature” and apply wisdom as they seek to obey the Bible. How churches fulfill the conceptual equivalent of “membership” (the recognition of a belonging that comes with special responsibilities) may look different in the details and terms and formalities.

On Menstealers

Paul explains how “the law is good”: it is laid down “for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers [also translated “menstealers”, “slave traders”, “enslavers”], for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:10)

Where does the Law deal with “menstealers”?

“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)

“If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 24:7)

Oh, would that Americans had enforced this capital punishment against transatlantic slave traders. Christians saw the connection long before the Civil War.

“Though this law was given to the Israelites primarily, yet was made for men stealers in general, as the apostle observes, who plainly has reference to it, 1 Timothy 1:9.” (John Gill, 1697-1771)

“Here is a law against man-stealing (Exodus 21:16): He that steals a man (that is, a person, man, woman, or child), with design to sell him to the Gentiles (for no Israelite would buy him), was adjudged to death by this statute, which is ratified by the apostle (1 Timothy 1:10), where men-stealers are reckoned among those wicked ones against whom laws must be made by Christian princes.” (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714)

“By this law every man-stealer, and every receiver of the stolen person, should lose his life; no matter whether the latter stole the man himself, or gave money to a slave captain or negro-dealer to steal him for him.” (Adam Clarke, 1762-1832)

Lessons Learned at Seminary

Apartments and dorms on the campus of MBTS

I love Utah. But all the changes with COVID provided me an opportunity. I was suddenly working from home. I reasoned: if I could work remotely, why not take evening classes at a seminary?

So I moved in 2020 to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Classmates from Theology 2

It has been a blessing. My daughters dash out the door in the morning to play with their campus friends. We now live on campus among believers and have made some dear friends.

I am moving back to Utah this July, and now I reflect on what God has taught me.

When I first moved here I asked a brother (Garrett) what advice he could give me for the seminary experience. He advised:

  1. Take the initiative to make relationships. More people than you realize are just waiting for others to take the initiative.
  2. Don’t murmur or complain. You might find yourself in a funk where this is tempting.
  3. Choose classes based on the professor, not the topic.

Here are some other things I picked up along the way:

Continue reading “Lessons Learned at Seminary”

My First Love, Remembered

Sometimes I listen to an old CCM worship song—not because the artist still believes (sometimes he doesn’t), or because the lyrics couldn’t be improved (sometimes they could)—but because God powerfully used it to bless me in my youth or youth adulthood, and it reminds me of my “first love.” (Rev 2:4)

Oh, when the Lord first opened my eyes! I could see! My heart burned for Christ!

Dick Baer (1934-2016)

Eric Johnson recounts:

My friend Dave was a missionary in California in the 90s and met a baptismal candidate at Home Town Buffet with his companion. They discussed the baptism happening the next day. Dick saw the missionaries and went to their table for 5 minutes to introduce himself. Dave is a big guy and wanted to punch him.

But what he said in 5 minutes rocked Dave’s world. The missionary candidate bowed out. Dave could not get DC 82:7 out of his mind that Dick had shared. When he returned from the mission field, he left and embraced atheism.

Years later Christ came into his life In 2011, I had met Dave and wanted to introduce Dave to Bill McKeever. Dave’s mission president was Jeffrey R. Holland who made the missionaries read Bill’s book Answering Mormons’ Questions to study “anti Mormon” arguments. When Bill and I drove up to the eatery in Bill’s 20 year old truck, Dave watched out the window. When we came to the table, Dave asked, “Where is your Mercedes?” Holland had told the missionaries that Bill wrote his book for the money and he lived in a mansion with fancy cars.

At lunch, Dick’s name was brought up and Dave still hated him despite Dave recently becoming a Christian. So Bill took out his cell phone and speed dialed Dick and handed the phone to Dave When Dick answered, Dave fumbled around and said he had met Dick 20 years before at this Home Town Buffet “Oh, are you the missionary with the dark blue eyes?” Dick asked “I’ve been praying for you.”

Whoosh! Dave and Dick became long lost friends on Facebook, and Dick called Dave every year on Dave’s birthday until Dick passed away a few years ago. It’s how God puts pieces together, testimony to His incredible sovereignty.

Dick’s close friends called him Papa [Baer].


William Wilberforce and Conversational “Launchers”

William Wilberforce would prepare conversational “launchers” to “move the conversation to more ‘relevant’ matters”:

One final aspect of his Wilberforce’s life and spirituality was that of the importance he attached to sharing his evangelical faith, something he would do primarily through his ‘Friends Papers’ – his use of ‘Launchers.’ Wilberforce could easily spend an hour preparing these ‘launchers’, openers that he could use to move the conversation to more ‘relevant’ matters in his mind. We learn that among Wilberforce’s manuscripts was discovered one such ‘Friends’ document that he had marked ‘to be looked at each Sunday.’ On the sheets he had listed thirty of his friends, and written aside each of the names he had attached thoughts of how he could personally help each of them toward Christ.

Interestingly though, it appears to have been common knowledge amongst many of his friends and acquaintances, that this indeed was Wilberforce’s plan, but so attractive as a potential guest was he viewed by them, that no one thought anything of it. Indeed so much so, that one contemporary recorded that, ‘when the little man came in late to a dinner party, bristling, maybe, with “launchers”, every face lighted up with pleasure at his entry.’

Source: William Wilberforce: His Unpublished Spiritual Journals (Biography)

Thoughts on Learning Koine Greek

  • If there is anything I have learned after four semesters of Greek, it’s that you can trust your major English Bible translation.
  • What a blessing to be able to sit down and read a Greek New Testament. It’s one of the highest educational blessings one can have in the world.
  • Taking language classes in-person is 10x better than online. There are incalculable benefits to learning in community with “zero latency”, friendship, faces, and the care of a professor. If you have to take it online, find a local friend to study with. In either case, start a WhatsApp/Signal chat group with your classmates.
  • The Bible Vocab App (with spaced repetition) is amazing. I used it all four semesters. Buy the audio add-on. Thanks to Logan Williams for the tip.
  • Participles are the brick wall. If you can get through that, you’re going to be OK. But if you’re like me, you probably need to re-read the entire grammar textbook after a break. I’m a slow language-learner.
  • Grammar comes first, but learning syntax (i.e. function) is easier afterwards. If you’re done with Elementary Greek semesters 1 & 2, you might as well take Intermediate Greek for electives. It’s where things come to fruition and empower your exegesis. It’s among the most valuable classes you can take at seminary. Learning only grammar will tempt you to easy-to-correct but faulty exegesis.
  • Buy Randy A. Leedy’s Greek sentence diagrams on Logos. Print out a passage being preached and follow along.
  • Though not 1-to-1 with Köstenberger/Merkle/Plummer’s Going Deeper textbook or Wallace’s Beyond the Basics, a lot of syntax data is available on Logos. See Lexham’s SBLGNT Notes.
  • There is tremendous potential for software to help improve the learning experience. I’ll be porting features from greek.theopedia.com to the new practicekoine.com (work in progress). I count it a life-goal to see this come to fruition.
  • I’m still convinced that some conversational Koine would be helpful to students, at least as an introductory exposure. It’s delightful and it internalizes the language deeper than parsing or translation. See the Biblical Language Center, The Graphē Institute, or Polis.

My friend Bradley adds:

Most helpful thing for me in Greek thus far [has been] discourse analysis. Steven Runge’s book Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament and Stephen Levinsohn’s Discourse Features of New Testament Greek were wildly helpful for me. (Paired with Runge’s The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament on Logos, which shows all of the various discourse elements visually over top of the NT text.)

Jesus Loved His Momma

He was submissive to his mother. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them [his parents].” (Luke 2:51)

He spoke with courtesy to his mother. As of John 2:1-5 Jesus is already living out of the house, already about thirty years old, already anointed with the Spirit, and already acting with authority. His mother says, “They have no wine!” Jesus replies, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” But she evidently knew he’d do it anyway: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'”

Notice how Jesus calls her “woman”. Jesus is not under her authority, but he does address her with courtesy and respect. BDAG: “The voc. (ὦ) γύναι is by no means a disrespectful form of address.” EDNT: “Voc. γύναι is not irreverent in Matt 15:28; Luke 22:57; John 2:4; 4:21; 19:26; 20:13, 15.” Liddel-Scott: “in voc. often as a term of respect.”

Jesus ensured that a trusted disciple would take care of his mother. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”” (John 19:26)

Jesus died for Mary. Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” And, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This includes his mother. Mary was a sinner, a friend of Jesus, and a member of the Bride of Christ. She rejoices with the rest of us believers:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11)

Like Dew of Hermon

Performed by Brian Sauvé

Behold how pleasant and how good
And how becoming well
When brothers doth together come
In unity to dwell

Such is a thing like precious oil
That down the head doth flow
Ev’n Aaron’s beard they’re running to
The collar of his robe

Like dew of Hermon
Dew that doth
From Zion’s vastness flow
For there the Lord he did us bless
With life forevermore