Friday, October 07, 2016


Here is the opinion of one Minister I find interesting. I thought you might also.

I respect pastors who have been willing to wrestle with contemporary issues as they relate them to theology even if they wind up with a view differing from my particular view, ESPECIALLY when they are being open and honest about it all. For too long pastors have ONLY been willing to focus on things that are mostly practical in nature, such as budgets, membership, and facilities. Areas like theology and even spirituality have taken a back seat for too long. I don't know why this has happened. It may be that the issues that threatened to disturb or divide people were seen to be of no value spiritually or there was a fear of the consequences of dealing with them. As a result, many preachers have gotten better and better at saying less and less of significance. 

I do however, sympathize greatly with the cost paid by the above mentioned pastors. Many of whom, when they really DO wrestle with issues and wind up with a theology position that AFFIRMS or DENIES what is generally held by the present culture or even many other Christians, find that it has cost them some church members, if not personal relationships of friends and even family. 

Few people seem capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with anyone with whom they disagree about things in the area of RELIGION or POLITICS. Declaring one’s position about controversial matters, even if done respectfully, nearly always results in a loss of relationship with someone. 

I’ve certainly experienced that, and I know it to be painful.

I'm also thinking that many pastors see themselves as "theologically conservative" simply because they tend to be "socially conservative."  Those Pastors seem to fail to recognize that much of their belief system is really based on cultural habit, political orientation, tradition, personal preference, or just plain old pragmatic utilitarianism. They do what works because that’s what most people around them want. 

Furthermore, it is just simply a fact that in certain areas of the United States people like “the old time religion” and do NOT wish it to be changed in any fashion. Some churches DO break out of that mentality — seeker churches, for example —but they all too often do NOT think much about the undergirding theology that may or may NOT support their work. 

To put it bluntly, we have for years now been doing church business without paying much attention to cultural changes except perhaps for the occasional angry sermon on "becoming cultural" now and then. So I say "blessings" on pastors who do the wrestling with cultural issues AND theology AND pay the price for it! 

It was in the early seventies that I was challenged to explore Who Christ is to me personally and whether His Word, the Bible, was an authoritative word for me personally, as well. I was making my living off of it pastoring churches, presenting the message of Christ to people along the way, and I hope doing a fairly good job at it. But I had to decide back then if I could really trust the book I was preaching [the Bible] every Sunday to congregations. Was it just a human word about God or the Word of God? I came to a deep conviction on that point. The Bible is, in fact, the Word of GOD!  It left me with a further conviction that no individual gets to decide the validity of whether Jesus was the Christ, the One who brings us to God, and whether the Christian faith is legitimately for him or her as presented in scripture. 

THAT is settled for me because of my seeing the scriptures as a “faith once and for all delivered to the saints.” 

Spurgeon once proposed seven eternal and unalterable truths that are to be believed and shared:

The Bible - God's inspired word which will never lead one astray (e.g. it is infallible).

The Triune God - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is three Persons, but one God.

Christ's Atonement - the only hope for sinners to be right with God is through Christ's sacrifice.

The New Birth - moral reformation is not enough; God's deliverance is a new birth within.

The Evil of Sin -  God will judge the wicked for their sins against Him and their fellow man.

Salvation by Grace - Christ has done for sinners what sinners cannot do for themselves.

Justification by Faith - Being right with God involves looking to Christ by faith; not one's own works.

These are the things that are the foundation of the "Faith once delivered." If we erode that common witness in ANY fashion, we will ultimately destroy the faith we claim to represent. 

Now, I see my job is one of thinking seriously about issues that we face in our culture. It is spiritually irresponsible and cowardly for me to ignore them. At the same time, I have a responsibility, even a calling, to make decisions about these controversial issues by honoring my present understanding of the boundaries identified in the scriptures, especially as the New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant, about how some cultural issues are to be viewed. 

Same sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, divorce and remarriage are a few of those tough cultural issues faced today. Orientation, one way or the other, is a big issue today. But from a Christian's point of view, “orientation” may not that important. I'm thinking that from a biblical perspective, one’s natural inclination toward any behavior is not very important. The important thing in biblical living is whether we intend to govern and manage our natural inclinations by the light of God’s Word instead of by natural instinct. Other issues like women in ministry, roles in marriage, divorced men and women serving in a fellowship, local church membership, and authority over believers, to name a few, beg for a clarity of understanding as well. 

Christians have, and will continue to have, differences of opinions about what some passages mean. Those differences will continue to give rise to groups known as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists and a ton of others with their particular expressions of our common faith. But underneath all of these various expressions is a faith concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus that is common to all of them. If we erode that common witness in ANY fashion, we will ultimately destroy the faith we claim to represent.

I often struggle with my views of scriptures concerning the above mentioned social issues and my responsibility to clearly communicate that understanding in the Bible Belt culture I serve. I DO hope when I have declared my views on such subjects I've NOT done so with an ax to grind of any sort. My sincerest desire is to present the Biblical revelation that is graceful, merciful, and correct and desperately needed for the living of healthy and wholesome lives. 

There is (and has always been) a sizable group of gay and lesbian people in our cities in middle Oklahoma. We have always known this, even when we found ways to ignore that reality. I confess I have often enjoyed the gifts and talents of some of those who struggle with homosexual attraction while forcing them to experience that struggle as something far too shameful to be mentioned.  Shame on me for forcing that kind of silence. Worse__We have sometimes yawned at heterosexual offenses as minor or something to be laughed at__ all the while demonizing homosexual ones. In our culture all that is now ended and I, for one, am glad.

My desire for any local fellowship I'm a member of is that we all understand that we're a community of imperfect people. We ALL struggle with various sorts of addictions, sins, past failures, and present dysfunctions. Nevertheless, I'm trusting we ALL will be committed to walking together in our journey with Jesus. And as we do, we must neither rewrite scripture to excuse our sins nor demonize ourselves if we fall into them. Confessing out faults to one another, we know that we may individually fall down, but we will get back up, helping and loving each other, all the way home.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Many times I've heard the statement that if WE don't deliver the gospel God can raise up STONES to do it. That of course is a possibility I guess. But two things I would say about that. One is that what Matthew 3:9 [the stones passage] is referencing is NOT that a failure to preach the gospel would cause God to raise up stones to do it! It is speaking about stones being raised up to produce children to Abraham, which would demand a completely different metaphor than preaching. 

The other is that, while God could use stones to cry out a message,  He HAS chosen to use people to do just that. It is also true that, as usual, the very people he uses can/do often GET IN THE WAY of what God is doing. In other words, the MESSENGER [Preacher/proclaimer] CAN get in the way of the MESSAGE. I'm going to address a few of those ways in this post. 

The first way the MESSENGER can get in the way of the MESSAGE is by stating the intended message of any text found in scripture with a dogmatic declaration of a MEANING of that text where there may be some AMBIGUITY within that text itself. The emphasis of real Keirugma [preaching] is to be on the MESSAGE intended in the TEXT and THAT'S not always as clear as we pretend.

The idea here is someone in authority [God] has given another [the preacher] a message to deliver and the speaker is NOT to proclaim his/her own grievances or opinions or viewpoints on those matters instead, but must faithfully find and deliver the meaning of the text as he/she sees it. [I'm using both genders here as the women prophesying in the NT were delivering a message from God and, it seems to me,  it can happen under His assigment today.]

So, preaching must be done with HUMILITY because it is not the messenger's prerogative to declare ABSOLUTE MEANINGS when and where there may be some AMBIGUITY in the text. Sometimes honesty DEMANDS that we as Preachers admit there is some room for continued research in the meaning.

This is where I came to in 1980 in my own preaching when I determined to NOT preach anything as a message EXCEPT what I personally could find clearly PRESENTED in the text. My theology changed beyond anything I could have imagined. I came to grips with the fact that much of what I was saying in the pulpit was coming from what I'd heard other preachers, whom I admired greatly of course, say was in the text or was generally a Baptist [I WAS Baptist you see] viewpoint about the text because of traditions, some of which I began to discover really had no real textual foundation at all. [Cessationism for example.]

That's when I also began to see that what Peter said concerning some of the things Paul the Apostle wrote was correct.  Some of the things he delivered WERE REALLY hard to understand and those that were the most difficult to understand, I decided I'd better hold my personal view about them fairly lightly because the CORRECT meaning IS more important than my having a dogmatic personal interpretation.

This is not out of a lack of confidence in the integrity, inspiration, or authority of the text. Not at all!  But it is based on a true awareness of my own inadequacy to hear God accurately on occasion. Some things are clear. Some things are not that clear. When the text isn't totally clear, my listeners are better served by my NOT being quite so dogmatic as to it's meaning. 1Timothy 2:15 and the "she shall be saved in child-bearing" is a GREAT example. From my personal perspective the whole of that chapter may have been delivered through a glass a little darker than some are willing to admit. But that's another post for another day.

Since the true biblical MESSENGER is to be careful of proclaiming his/her own viewpoint or opinions as absolutes, I tread lightly on those "darker" passages and am more careful about taking some ABSOLUTE theological position on a subject that others seem to be willing to state as their "humble but correct" position, with great conviction. More power to them. [I guess!] All I'm saying is the messenger CAN get in the way of the message if we declare as ABSOLUTE our personal views on some issues where there are good people on both sides of those issues found in some difficult passages.

I'm not sure but what God may have left some of His TOTAL message a little LESS clear than, say, THE GOSPEL, so we can make clear with conviction that gospel and keep trusting Him for greater understanding of other theological areas. I love what Gene Bridges said, and I quote, [Read it carefully.]

"With that in mind, [what I've just stated as he said the same thing] I think we can be more confident about our reliance on probabilistic reasoning, for if God had wanted us to have more evidence or better evidence, then it was within his power to do so. Hence we are judging certain questions on the basis of the evidence which he has left at our disposal. Therefore, we shouldn't be plagued by nagging, gnawing doubts about the possibility of being wrong. Even if I were wrong some of the time, it's out of my hands, and I'm in his hands. As a Christian, I don't require a godlike control over the evidence. I can go with what I've got because it's what God has given me to go by." 

I have to say "amen" to that statement. I can give my UNDERSTANDING of difficult passages [or theological subjects]  but respect others who differ with me trusting the God who gave it in the first place to be able to make clear His message ultimately. My goodness, no human father I know would give ALL information to his children as soon as they are born. Even Jesus increased in WISDOM, stature, and favor as time went along. The messenger of God's Word is still going along and had better be open to greater light if the true message is to, in fact, be ultimately delivered.

Someone may object and say "But don't you believe the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of giving you the true meaning of any passage including the difficult ones?" My answer is__"absolutely." My only PROBLEM would be to have a prideful assumption that I'm the one He's given the true meaning to. This, especially, if there are OTHERS who genuinely love Jesus and His Word, but are on the other side of my interpretation of a difficult to understand text. It could be that I'm the one in the dark or the one with baggage or filters that hinder my being granted understanding by the Holy Spirit. It sure helps me to know of my need for COMMUNITY. Body life is helpful even to the messenger. 

You can see why I'm one who believes there ARE some ESSENTIALS that must be clearly understood and declared by all the Body and other things less clear and less essential can be understood but the glass we see them through is a little darker. [This keeps our need of searching the scriptures intact and our need for being open to each other intact as well.] All this comes from my deep conviction that the MESSENGER can, in fact, hinder the TRUE MESSAGE which I DO NOT want to do.

I like what Trevor Hart, Professor of systematic theology in at St Mary's School of Divinity in Scotland said..."We should never take the fatal step of identifying our interpretations (however careful they may be) with “the meaning of the text itself” so as to bestow upon them a finality, a sufficiency, which lifts them above the text and out of reach of criticism. Far from establishing the text’s authority, this strategy would effectively overthrow it, and enthrone our interpretation in its place. . . . [We] are no longer genuinely open, therefore, to consider it afresh, or to hear it speaking in any other voice than the one which [we] have now trapped, tamed, and packaged for observation."  

Apply this to difficult texts [or lesser doctrines] about which good people disagree and, while I don't know Doctor Trevor Hart's full theology, I sure like his humble approach to hammering out his honest theology.

You can see I believe any messenger must be more concerned with the message getting delivered than whether or not they are the one who has the correct view of difficult things or whether they are the one who is delivering it. Our desire that the message be delivered is to take precedence over our concern for being right in our interpretation or being the one people look to as the preacher who says it well. The messenger is not the focus in New Testament proclamation. It MAY BE this is the primary problem in our current mega-church mentality and our creedal mentality.

Many of us as preachers/speakers/proclaimers are, in fact, our own worst enemy.

Paul B.

Monday, August 01, 2016


The word "preach" may be one simple word in English but that one word from the Greek word translated "Preach" sure has a variety of endings in the Greek. But for my purpose in this post the one word in the Greek is basic and it is the word "kerux." It was used several ways in Ancient times. The "kerux" was a "bearer of a message that originated from someone with authority and that authoritative message was to be taken to others." Say this was done on a battlefield. The messenger was the "kerux" [preacher] and the "kerugma" was the message. The hearers of the message would then accept or reject the message based on personal responsibility within military protocol.

This is the biblical picture of what we do on any given Sunday in our churches. The messenger PREACHES!  But it isn't HIS message. It isn't HIS AUTHORITY! It isn't even HIS results. He is simply the "kerux" [preacher] delivering the "kerugma" [message] through the act of "kerusa." [the verb for the act of preaching] 

Sounds simple enough right?

There is nothing simple about it. All three aspects are of vital importance. In the next few posts I'm going to address each aspect separately for brevity and emphasis.

Today our message.

Our message is certainly Christ and Him crucified as clearly shown in 1 Corinthians 1:23. In a broader context of that gospel message it is all of the scripture, being rightly divided, since all scripture is profitible for people to understand that gospel message. [11Tim 3:16]

A while back I read an article that dealt with the "therapeutic" nature of our "preaching." It didn't fit my taste buds at first but, I have to admit, the more I read and thought, the more I had to say..."There is something here!"

Biblical preaching IS therapeutic because biblical preaching delivers a HEALING message to HURTING people. While the hurt is not in the DISEASE category, it IS certainly in the DISASTER category. The problems the hearers [congregation] on any given Sunday are facing are diverse and devastating to say the least. Most of the hearers are broken over those problems. Whether it is a loved one just lost to death, a teen lost to rebellion, a spouse lost to another person, health lost to a cancer cell, or the "run of the mill" person who happened in to hear us and is still in the grip of the sin nature and has not as yet found the brokenness of repentance that is so necessary to the opening of the doors of help, the hearers of the message we deliver are HURTING people. To top it off, as Peter Lord used to say quite often in his teaching, "hurt people hurt people." So we wind up addressing folks who are HURT and, in the process of BEING HURT, wind up HURTING OTHERS as well. Talk about a vicious cycle!

The key to any real healing in the realm of the physical, according to one medical report I recently read, is the word "hope." Since the words "health and healing" come from the same root words in Greek, as do "whole and holy," you would know that whatever gives a person some sense of hope that things can be made whole or better, would be a welcome message. It is certainly true that we preachers [kerux] have the message [kerugma] that is the only "hope" for the bringing to healthiness ANYONE in the "dark night of the soul" and it is these very people whose attention we have for those precious few moments on any given Sunday. Our message, then, must never fail to deliver the goods on that thing called "hope." That is the essence of what has been given to us to be delivered to others.

Sad to say, the preaching done in our modern times seems to fall way short of that. My question is, Why? Why is it that those who are really HURTING sometimes go away from hearing us preach with a greater sense of PAIN? Why is our preaching so inept and powerless today in bringing hope? Why is it that so many hearers of preaching today have such a small desire to return the next Sunday for more? Why has preaching taken on such a derisive shade of color that the phrase "don't preach at me" is the greatest insult you can deliver to one attempting to communicate to you. Where have all the preachers gone? [Sounds like a song] Where are those preachers of the past who moved multitudes to repentance because Christ was their only "hope" and why is there so little healing happening in the lives of our hearers on any given Sunday morning when we have their full and undivided attention?

That will lead us into our next time when we deal with the messenger. You see...I'm convinced the messenger is often getting in the way of the message and may be our biggest problem. Preaching has always been recognized as a foolish thing as seen in 1 Corinthians 1:18. But history is filled with occasions when those who declare it to be a foolish thing were nonetheless in awe of real preaching of the real message and were moved to hopefulness concerning the devastation of their own lives. What has become of those days?

That's a word for next time.

Paul Burleson

Sunday, July 03, 2016


Because tomorrow is the 4th of July and means a celebration of our Nation's birthday, today will see much made in local gatherings [churches] about God AND Country. But as one I read said, "We must be sure that while we are able to love BOTH, only the FORMER [God] is to be worshipped." That is a sentiment with which I could not agree more.

That said, I've found that a mistake is often made when people talk about the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. That historic document DOES declare that all Americans have certain UNALIENABLE rights among which are listed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the word often used when people quote it is the word INALIENABLE, which is incorrect, but seldom realized as so.

Before someone says they mean the same thing and so the using of one or the other is insignificant, I would like to point out that the difference that may seem ever so slight is actually essential for an understanding of what the Framers of that Declaration intended for our nation.

The word "unalienable" refers to rights that are inherent in man and are rights that CANNOT be surrendered, bought, or transferred. "Unalienable" rights are a gift from the Creator to each individual and, as such, cannot be taken away for any reason. The government cannot TAKE them as the government did not PROVIDE them. In fact, the only responsibility the government has toward "unalienable" rights is to SECURE them or to create an environment that PROTECTS them.

This point was clearly stated in a court ruling in 1892 entitled Budd vs People of the State of New York. That ruling said, "Men are endowed by their Creator with certain "unalienable" rights, 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;' and it is to 'secure,' not grant or create these rights, for which governments are instituted."

 The list in the Declaration of Independence can be expanded since it says "among which are" and then lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could add such things as self-government, self defense, nature's necessities of air, food, water, clothing and shelter as well as worship. Such rights are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, privately or by implication or operation of law.

That which is your "unalienable" right is a part of you in an absolute sense and could no more be removed from you than could your blood be removed and you live without it.

INALIENABLE [notice the change only in the beginning letter] rights, on the other hand, CAN be surrendered, sold, or transferred with the consent of the individual because they are NOT inherent [unalienable] and the government CAN alienate these from an individual, if a person consents, either actually or constructively, since the government may be seen as the source of these individual rights.

Most State Constitutions refer to only inalienable rights. But it is our UNALIENABLE RIGHTS to which our Declaration of Independence addresses itself and recognizes them as given to us by our Creator.

It could be that the loss of recognition of our Creator is what is leading to the mistaken general use of these two words in our modern day language. There may also be other factors involved. But the point of this post is simply that people do have both, but they are not the same at all. So, clearly, the words are not to be used as synonyms though often is done so among otherwise intelligent people.

This 4th of July, 2016, we are celebrating our Nation and her Declaration of Independence which declares and her Constitution which preserves those UNALIENABLE rights! And I say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY America! We love you!

But on this Lord's Day, July 3rd, 2016, we are celebrating our Living Lord Jesus, as we do EVERY DAY of our lives as Kingdom Kids, and I say, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY Lord Jesus, on this day and every other day of our lives! We LOVE YOU AND WORSHIP YOU!!

Paul B.