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

Thinking of moving on campus at MBTS?

A prospective MBTS student asked, “You guys moved to campus after living on your own correct? How has living on campus as a family been for you all?”

  • It’s a blessing to live among so many believers.
  • I walk to the Student Center, cafeteria, gym, class, and the library.
  • My 7-year-old has a bazillion friends.
  • I am grateful for the availability of online classes, but in-person/in-classroom instruction is an order of magnitude better!
  • I have had wonderful professors.
  • There are good local churches available. The seminary feeds into them and this is a blessing. We go to Faith Community Church.
  • It’s safe.
  • Utilities are included. Campus housing is inexpensive compared to renting off-campus.
  • Campus maintenance is quick to act on an issue if you submit a ticket.
  • Stacie and I have made good friends.
  • In the Spring/Summer/Fall we have an informal bi-weekly fire pit + hotdogs hangout.
Continue reading “Thinking of moving on campus at MBTS?”

On pre-evangelism and evangelism

Having a category for “pre-evangelism” can help you maintain a robust category for evangelism:

  • Consider the distinct, intentional, concentrated mode of evangelism: I am going to talk to someone about Jesus and the gospel. And if they don’t want to talk about Jesus, I am going to move on to someone else without guilt or pressure to stick around (Cf. Matthew 10:5-15).
  • Pre-evangelism is different. You’re happy to stay and build relationships out of which you may seek evangelistic opportunities. You are getting to know people. You ask general, open ended questions. You see where it goes. You hope for evangelistic conversations down the road. But not every context is equally suitable.
  • Pre-evangelism is bundled with other goals worthy for their own sake: Getting to know people. Peacemaking. Acts of courtesy and generosity. Enjoying people in the various contexts God has given you (neighbors, family, work, haircut, dentist).
  • Distinguishing pre-evangelism from evangelism means you don’t have to strain the definition of evangelism itself. If evangelism means everything, it doesn’t mean anything.
  • It’s good to experience to distinct mode of evangelism. In that you’re not _casually_ talking about Jesus. It’s not merely ad hoc. You are deliberately sharing the good news of the gospel — on purpose. You are a messenger. Here you’re especially OK with people rejecting you. With being turned down. With having to endure 20 “no thank you” responses before God provides an evangelistic conversation.
  • A lot of “friendship evangelism” or “lifestyle evangelism” talk from the 80’s and 90’s justified an abdication of our responsibility as Christians to do actual evangelism. It was a half-truth, since it tapped into into our duty to build relationships and demonstrate our faith by our works. But it tended to undercut the legitimacy and importance of doing actual verbal evangelism, something we can and should do even without pre-established relationships.
  • Evangelism itself is the actual sharing of the good news, or at least the conscious activity with the _imminent_ goal of sharing the good news. It doesn’t necessarily have to result in relationships. Nor does it depend on them.

Related: I recently finished a 6-week series on conversational evangelism.

Questions when approaching the Bible

  • Am I willing to do the work to “rightly divide” this text?
  • Do I have basic reading comprehension? Do I even know the text, or am I hastily making ignorant conclusions?
  • Am I depending on God in prayer for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes?
  • Am I optimistic about generally knowing the basic meaning?
  • Am I content with the incomprehensibility of God and his works? Does this lead me to worship or to frustration?
  • Am I posturing myself before the Bible as God’s very inerrant, inspired, binding, infallible word? Am I putting myself under the word or over it?
  • Am I willing to bend the intellectual knee, though the text may offend my cultured, sophisticated, modern sensibilities?
  • Would the truth of this text rebuke me or cause me inconvenience? Am I motivated to avoid the meaning of this text?
  • Am I committed to principled, courageous obedience, no matter whatever it says?
  • Do I see this text as merely old, or as having ongoing, living, active power, as the very word of God?
  • What does a trusted Christian community have to say about this text? Am I making an abrupt departure from historic Christianity?
  • Do I desire to be one in mind with other believers?

Loving the least of these

The thirsty, hungry, sick, and imprisoned in Matthew 25:31-46 are the “least of these.” This is not generic to humanitarian aid (though that’s elsewhere in Matthew 6:1; cf. Galatians 6:10).

“Least of these” is idiomatic to the disciples of Jesus. Jesus himself says that these are his “brothers” (25:40; cf. 10:42, 18:6, 18:10, 18:14).

Giving a drink of water to the “least of these” means expressing practical affection to fellow believers, especially when they’re in trouble.

We learn elsewhere that the world loves to hate such disciples (John 15:18-25). So loving them comes at a cost: Guilt by association. Loss of social capital and cultural respectability. Someday, perhaps even your livelihood.

So when you see the world heap shame on a faithful believer, enraged, shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”, rise up.

Sacrifice your cultural respectability. Despise the praise of man. Embrace the “shame” of being Christian. Give the drink of water to the untouchable brother.

Train your eyes to look for the believers that the world hates, and throw in your lot with them. And hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34).

But if you find yourself joining the dog pile of disdain on believers, be warned: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

The term “least” of these (25: 40, 45) uses the superlative form of the adjective “little one,” which is one of Matthew’s unique ways of referring to Christians (10: 42; 18: 6, 10, 14; cf. 5: 19; 11: 11). Matthew 10:40-42 offers a close parallel with its promise of reward for those who offer even small acts of kindness to itinerant disciples. So it seems most likely that Jesus is referring to deeds of compassion done for suffering, persecuted Christian emissaries. Because one has accepted the message of the gospel, one is concerned to care for its messenger. Moreover, these “sheep” are not, as it is sometimes alleged, surprised that they are accepted as Christ’s followers (the “anonymous Christian” theory); they are surprised only when they are told that they ministered directly to Jesus, since he no longer lives on earth in incarnate form. But Jesus assures them that he is present in every one of his followers to whom they have ministered. None of this absolves us of the responsibility to care for the non-Christian needy of our world; we simply have to turn to other texts for that teaching.

Blomberg, Craig L. (2009-08-01). Jesus and the Gospels (p. 380). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

See also: