Saturday, November 07, 2015


After my first article on worship someone asked the logical question, "How do you [asking about me personally] define worship?" Great question! let me introduce some of you for the first time, to the two words that are most often used to describe the methods/modes of worship and their content, in the present day. 

The REGULATIVE view of worship states [found in the Westminster Confession, chapter 21, paragraph 1] that ONLY those elements that are commanded or depicted in scripture are acceptable in worship. Some refer to this as an EXCLUSIVE view of worship because it EXCLUDES anything that is not directly instructed or at least pictured in the pages of Scripture. This view is generally found in the more Reformed or Calvinistic version of the theological spectrum.

The NORMATIVE view of worship teaches that whatever is not EXPRESSLY prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship. Many people refer to this as an INCLUSIVE view of worship because it can INCLUDE things that are not directly banned by the Bible. This view is most often found in the less Calvinistic versions of the theological spectrum. 

These two views have been created basically by theologians [neither word appears in the Bible] to discuss the way worship services can/are to be done. As you can imagine, there is a rising theological argument as to which is correct view of worship for congregations in Southern Baptist life. 

My contention is that NEITHER view says it the way it needs to be said or understood. For example, sound systems are not mentioned or pictured in scripture, so having those would violate the first, I'm assuming. [Not to mention pipe organs or praise bands.] The second could have a visiting circus on any given Sunday, since those are not expressly condemned by scripture. If it would build a crowd some folks probably WOULD have a circus. [Just remember that whatever it takes to GET them there it will take to KEEP them coming.]  You see how we could parse the rules laid down by both systems of thought.

I believe there is ordered in the New Testament a "True Throne Room Christian Experience"  [my coined phrase]  of worship that is to be ours both individually AND collectively. You could call it "Relational Worship" or simply "enjoying Him!" This concept would have to be characterized by the word OBEDIENCE since that's the basic meaning of worship in scripture. [Abraham said, "The lad [Isaac] and I will go yonder and worship" meaning "obey!" Genesis 22]  The highest form of praise and worship in the Scriptures is obedience to Him and to His Word. This obedience is whether we are walking in life personally, or gathering together corporately, and that worship experience [privately/or corporately] will be NEITHER by rules NOR unruly as we engage in true worship. [The two-sided coin of true worship is obedience and enjoyment because He's truly worthy.]   

Here's how I would explain what true worship is all about. 

I'm afraid that most Christians do not realize that in the New Covenant [Testament] worship is NOT AN ACTIVITY like seen in the Old Covenant [Testament] with its Temple and feast days celebrations. [ALL of which Jesus fulfilled and accomplished] But rather, true worship is a way of life as we are "being" the LIVING TEMPLE in-dwelt by God and "experiencing" His very life. [Romans 12:1-2]  [Someone has called this "inside out" living, and I think that's a great way to say it.]

For the Church, whether individually [scattered] or collectively, [gathered] there are certain instructions made clear in the text of the New Testament, to be sure. But, those instructions are about "BEING" rather than "DOING."  [Think Be-Attitudes] As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, BEING forgiving, BEING one who walks in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses]  When the scriptures DO speak of "doing" as in Lord's Supper, it's "as often as you do." 

But the WHEN or WHERE or HOW we are to worship assembled [gathered] ARE NOT things articulated in the text of the New Testament itself. The New Testament is NOT a book of regulations or rules that we are to "follow" by "doing" certain things a certain way. It is, rather, a book of guiding principles for us to "internalize"  [feed on the Word of God] for "being" the Living Body of Christ whether "scattered" or "gathered," BY FAITH!  So, to have organs OR Praise bands, or to have sermons OR testimonies are all valid tools, to be sure. But how you DO things [The tools you use] as the people of God is NEVER SACRED in the New Testament, It is how we are BEING/LIVING all of life, by faith, that counts as His people, THAT is what is the SACRED thing. 

The FORMS [tools for doing things] our living takes, whether individually or corporately, will certainly vary. Those tools will even ebb and flow and change WITH THE CULTURE. Church buildings are a cultural concept and may vary according to the culture in which we are living. All of our life reflects this variation of tools of course. Driving cars, owning houses in neighborhoods, having air conditioning in homes and cars and church buildings, pulpits, choir robes, lights, drama, short sermons, long sermons, overhead projectors, multiple screens, are all examples. These FORMS [tools for doing things] are NOT DEVELOPED in the New Testament materials  themselves, even the tools used in worship. 

But our FUNCTION [how we're to BE] as Christians individually or corporately is certainly DECLARED in the scriptures.

I read someone who said this, "Evangelicals tend to reduce the Corporate experience of worship [the WAY or TOOL used to do worship services] to certain styles:  1)__ Worship becomes a classroom for learning [Maybe Bible churches]; 2)__ Worship becomes a family reunion for mutual encouragement [Maybe congregational churches]; 3)__ Worship becomes a welcome wagon for visitors and seekers [Maybe Seeker churches]; 4)__ Worship becomes a hospital room for spiritual, psychological, and even emotional healing [Maybe Recovery churches]:  5)__ Worship becomes even an experience that is highly entertaining." [Maybe Modern churches]  I've experienced all of them. And, as you can see, I believe NO ONE of these modes or methods of doing church services is totally inappropriate nor does any one of these necessarily rule out the others as legitimate.  

But, here's the deal!!  I AM thinking that when ANY ONE OF THESE  is championed as the ONLY one or RIGHT one ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, there is something wrong with our understanding of scripture itself. 

On top of that, I believe any one of these forms can BECOME an IDOL in a Christian's life! You might ask, "What are the indicators that it has become an idol?" My thinking is when someone DEMANDS all others fall down before and AGREE with a certain way of doing things they've overstepped SOME kind of line. But If they then get ANGRY when someone disagrees with them about it, you might want to assume they have taken it WAY too far, if not made it an idol. As I said, no one of these models is entirely wrong, but when any one of these is declared to be the ONLY model for corporate worship, it's dangerously close to becoming idolatrous,

New Testament instructions for individual OR gathered Christians are instructions about "BEING" rather than "DOING." As we're living/worshipping individually, we are to BE people who are BEING loving, forgiving, BEING people who walk in the Spirit, witnesses, etc,. Then, collectively,[gathered] as we're living/worshipping, we will BE people who are provoking each other to love, prayer, encouragement, sharing the Word, singing or making melody, instructing the saints, baptizing or sharing the table of the Lord. [All the "One Another" verses] Worship will be this kind of experience for us all!

Paul B.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I'M THINKING____There is not A SINGLE verse in the New Testament that even hints that the PURPOSE of the gathering of the church is for worship. The New Testament text shows that the purpose of the gathering is all of the "One Another" verses. In other words, it is for the horizontal relationships [plural] and NOT the vertical relationship [singular] that the Church gathers on any given occasion. I'm NOT saying to worship as a gathered congregation is WRONG. I'm just saying it is NOT the PRIMARY purpose for the gathered Body of Christ in the New Testament. I'm thinking that's where we are to be today as well. John Piper said this, "The very epistles that are written to help the church be what it ought to be in this age [are] almost totally devoid of…explicit teaching on the specifics of corporate worship" There are some things that I disagree with John Piper about theologically, but NOT this.

I'M THINKING____Many churches today may be reflecting an "Old Covenant" way of thinking about worship rather than a "New Covenant" way of thinking? To "go to" a place and "to do" certain things a certain way, misses the boat on worship entirely as seen in the New Testament. In the Old Testament people DID COME to the Tabernacle/Temple [House of God] to meet with and worship Jehovah a certain way. They did bring such things such as sacrifices and offerings all the while performing their rituals regularly that led eventually to the High Priest entering into His Presence in the Tabernacle or Temple on that one occasion called the Day of Atonement.  

But to see the Church in the New Testament trying to gather IN THAT WAY would be missing the point of the CROSS. Jesus Christ IS HIMSELF our sacrifice, our offering, our feast days, our cleansing, our sanctification, and all the rest that's pictured in the Old Testament Tabernacle OR Temple. Jesus IS our very life! We live DAILY in the presence of God and are to worship DAILY the One Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Worship for us is a life of obedience as we're recognizing His presence and enjoying HIM as being our source for All OF LIFE. Then there is a gathering occasionally to encourage and provoke one another.  [See Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 10:25]

I'M THINKING____A debate about “music in worship” is a bit silly, if not totally futile. From" no instruments" on one side of the argument [Church of Christ], to those who enjoy what SOME MIGHT CALL "entertainment,” [Lights and Sound, drums and guitars, such as we have in my church called HHBC which they would say qualifies it as entertainment, an assessment with which I disagree] you have a raging debate about which is RIGHT

But my question is WHY does the way someone musically worships matter to us AT ALL?  

In the New Testament music itself is simply NOT addressed, except being seen as a result of the Holy Spirit doing His infilling work. But things like washing feet, serving in love, sharing the Lord's table, teaching the saints and praying for others are addressed as a congregation. We call them the "one-another" verses mentioned in the first paragraph. Even were one to hold to the Old Testament as an example for worship, [I don't, as you can tell] it needs to be remembered that the Israelites many times used drums, trumpet blasts, silence, repetitions, singing, shouting, and numerous other interesting displays to glorify God. Nothing calm, cool or collected about that.

I'M THINKING____Jesus REALLY DID mean something special when He announced that the day has come when those who worship will do so in Spirit and Truth? NO LONGER is worship to be based on doing it a certain way, a certain time or at a certain place. Nor is it supposed to be based on one generation’s “form” of musical worship compared to another. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!

So, as I read someone say and I paraphrase, whether in a room alone, or with others shouting and jumping with joy, or sitting in silence, or clapping to an electronic synthesizer, or with an organ or piano singing hymns, or just being intoxicated by his love as the Song of Solomon describes it, or even further, when we are reading aloud the Word, or feeding the poor, proclaiming the Good News to  the broken hearted in His name, laughing together, or giving our finances, LET IT ALL BE DONE to the glory of Jesus. We worship because we are reveling in His Grace and enjoying Him and wish to celebrate His matchless GLORY  [Greek "Doxa" meaning His "manifested Presence."]  whether gathered or scattered!

I'M THINKING____Wade Burleson got it right when he said this...

""Worship in many churches is either on life support or is dead. But it has nothing to do with whether saints play guitars versus Steinway pianos, or videos versus violins, or any other differences in style. Though many call the disagreements over 'contemporary' and 'traditional' styles of worship 'wars,' in reality, the REAL war in worship is the "internal battle in me." [All of us!] God calls me to rest in Him, to enjoy Him, TO BE SO captivated and enraptured by His love and grace for me, that I will burst unless I  actively worship God and give expression to what's happening in my soul." 

Wade goes on to say...

"Worship is an inner [spiritual] health made audible. If there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming enjoyment of God, then there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming worship of God! Worship of God is non-existent when enjoyment of God is non-existent. Sure, I can sing songs, play music, and 'do church,' but if there is no understanding of what it means to be fully satisfied in God, then there will be no desire on my part to publicly express my praise and gratitude in real worship of God." [Privately OR Corporately!]

Paul here...

I'M THINKING____I'll just quit typing and have a moment of worship myself.


Paul B.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


The Blackness Within: Piercing the Veil of Shame
The Law is summed up in this saying: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Romans 13:9

Last night I was at a marriage conference when the speaker said something that made both my and my wife's backs tighten and our shoulder muscles spasm. He said, "Ladies and gentleman, the reason you don't love your spouse is because you don't love God with all your heart. If you loved God more, you'd love your spouse more."


Anytime I hear someone say "Just love God more -- with all your heart, soul, and mind -- and all your problems will be solved," I want to stand up and shout, "You don't get it! The Law is never summarized or fulfilled by loving God more. The Law is summarized and fulfilled "by loving your neighbor as yourself."

If you are struggling right now in any human relationship - be it marriage, paternal, sibling, neighbor, church member, or work - you might want think carefully about why Paul never summarizes the Law with an encouragement to "love God more."

What is the Law?

When the Bible speaks of "the Law" it references all that is contained in the Five Books of the Law - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In the Bible "the Law" is sometimes called "Moses" because the first five books are attributed to Moses.

When Jesus walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognize Him. Listen to what Jesus did:

"And beginning with Moses (the Law) and the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).It drives me bananas when Christians try to artificially separate "the Law" into moral (the 10 Commandments), ceremonial (the Feasts and the sacrifices) and civil (the yearly calendar, the new moon festivals, etc...) portions, urging Christians to keep "certain parts of the Law" - depending on denominational affiliation - to show their "love for God."

The Law is not about anyone's love for God. The Law is about God's love for us in Jesus Christ. The Law - all of it - concerns Jesus Christ. In Genesis Jesus is the lamb slain for Adam and Eve to cover their sins as well as the ram at Abraham's altar. In Exodus, He's the Passover lamb and the Ark that leads God's children to the Promised Land. In Leviticus, Jesus is the High Priest and the Sacrifices that make at-one-ment for the people of God. In Numbers, He's the Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by night and the Living Water that comes from the Rock. In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the City of our REFUGE and the Law itself. I could go on, and on, and on.... The Law is about Christ.

Since the Law is about Jesus Christ and God's love for us, when the Apostle Paul "summarizes" the Law - or declares the Law is fulfilled - it is always a reference to the love of God for us in Christ. This is really good news for people who struggle with shame.

The Blackness Within

A person filled with shame constantly feels and hears the message "I can't..." or "I'll never..." or "I'm incapable..." or "It's hopeless..." A shame filled person is one who feels helpless to change. The best way I've ever heard it described is "a blackness within." Once a person filled with shame begins to spiral downward in relationships, there's no way out - it's all black. It's either "fight" or "flight." A shame-filled person must either control or run.

To tell a person who is filled with shame and who is struggling in his or her human relationships to simply "love God more" only drives that person deeper into darkness. They can't. "To love God more' is an encouragement that only deepens the hearers' descent into darkness. Even worse, to tell others they should "love God more" in order to repair their broken human relationships is an absolute misunderstanding of how the Bible summarizes the Law and calls our attention to how the Law is fulfilled.

Listen to the Apostle Paul again: "The Law is summed up in this saying: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Romans 13:9). Paul does not "sum up" (Gk. ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται) the Law by saying, "Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself." Nope. He skips "loving God" completely and says the Law is "summed up" in "love your neighbor as yourself."

He makes his argument even stronger in Galatians 5:14 when he says "the entire Law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself." The word "fulfilled" (Gk. πεπλήρωται) is much stronger than "sum up." The verb "fulfilled" is in the past perfect tense which literally makes the verse say "When you love your neighbor as yourself"the Law" has already been fulfilled.

Lifting the Veil of Shame

If the Law is all about Jesus Christ and God's love for us (and it is), then the only way we'll ever find healing in our human relationships is not to love God more, but to learn to rest in God's love for us through Jesus Christ (the Law).

Someone has said there are five languages of love. Stop thinking about how much you love God, and start thinking about how much He loves you. Think about God's love for you in Christ according to the five languages. STOP! Change the tape playing in your mind right now. Don't even dare think about how much you love God in these next few moments and contemplate in the following verses how much God loves you!

(1). Words of affection: God says to you "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). He declares "You are the apple of my eye" (Zechariah 2:8). God encourages us with "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous (Isaiah 41:10). John reminds us that true love is from God, not us for "In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent us His Son" (I John 4:8).

(2). Quality time: "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you, for He says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'" (Deut. 31:8) }Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). This verse from Hebrews contains five negatives - "I will never, no never, no never leave you or forsake you." That's quality time.

(3). Acts of service: "God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. God is not served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24-25). There's nothing God needs from you. There's no act of service or devotion you can give that pleases God, for He is pleased with Himself. He "gives to you life, breath, and all things." He works all things "for your good" (Romans 8:28).

(4). Physical touch: "But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God really dwells in you" (Romans 8:9). It is "the life of God in the soul of man" that is your hope. He who is "in you is greater than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4). He numbers the very hairs on your head, and knows you intimately. As for us, "we now see Him only as a reflection in a mirror; but there's coming a Day when we shall see Him face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known now (I Corinthians 13:12).

(5). Special gifts: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). "God will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ" (Phil. 4:19). It's amazing that all the promises of God are "a resounding Yes!" in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20), so I never have to work for the blessings, favor and pleasure of God, but simply must learn to rest in the fulfillment of the Law (Jesus Christ).

A Loved Me Begins Leaking Love

When you begin to understand how much God loves you, you begin to love yourself. When you begin resting in God's love - instead of constantly measuring your love for God - you begin to understand just how much you really count in this universe. God didn't die for worms. He died for those He chose from eternity to redeem, those He's making co-heirs with Christ. God has loved you with an everlasting love, and it is this love of God for you in Christ that is the fulfillment of the Law. It is the essence of the Law, for the Law is all about Jesus Christ.

So, when you begin to understand the Law (Christ), you begin to rest in God's love. And when you become so saturated with the love of God for you - and not so doggone consumed with your puny attempts to love God - you can't help but love others.

Jesus said, "It is by your love for one another that all will know you know Me" (John 13:35). Unfortunately, many Christians don't love one another because we get in a measuring contest about how much we love God rather than teaching people to rest in God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

For those who wish to argue, "But wait a minute! Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). How can you say it's not about our love for God?"

Answer: Nobody loves God like that - but Christ. Nobody will ever love God like that - but Christ. This is why Christ fulfilled the Law; this is why Christ earned all the blessings due full obedience to the Law. In the new agreement with God under which we now abide (the New Covenant), God's blessings are given to us via our union with Christ, and the only way we'll ever come to the place of even beginning to learn what it means to love God is to focus on the fulfillment of the Law (Jesus Christ) and God's incredible, eternal, unconditional, and supremely personal love for us in Christ!

The fulfillment of the Law is that we love others - our love for God is not even mentioned - because the Law is about us coming to an understanding of God's love for us in Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law!


If you are filled with shame and experiencing broken relationships, I hope that this little blog entry helps lift the veil of darkness. The Law (God's love for you in Christ) has been fulfilled when you love others as much as you love yourself, but you can't begin to love your shame-filled self until you know how much God loves you! However, once saturated and wet with an understanding and enjoyment of God's love for you, you can't help but get others wet with love when they rub up next to you because you are leaking the only real Love that lasts - God's love for you!

Next time you feel tempted to focus on yours or another's love for God, why don't you give it a rest and give this shame-filled world some really good news. Why don't you help pierce the veil of shame and move people out of darkness and help them discover the incredible riches of God's love for us in Christ!

Wade Burleson

Paul here...

As I said, it can't be said any better than this.

Paul B.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." Hebrews 10:16-17]

There is a basic difference between the covenant God had with Israel, [the Old Covenant] which was founded upon the Law of Moses as the standard of behavior, and the New Covenant Jesus has established and ratified with His blood, which is our standard of behavior. The Old has been fulfilled in the New as it was Christocentric in its ultimate purpose from the beginning. As a result, all that is about Christ, His obedience, His death, His resurrection, His life, is accredited to our account and is our spiritual portfolio.

This is what it means when it says, "In Christ we HAVE ALREADY been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings....". Being Christocentric also shows the New Covenant is Grace centered rather than Law centered. [read rules here] Don't hear me say grace wasn't existent in the Old, but it WAS revealed in picture form [Sacrifices, feast days etc.] with all the pictures fulfilled in Christ Himself.

Some people try to make the ten commandments applicable to the New Covenant by dividing the Law of Moses into three parts, Thus they wind up with the ceremonial, the civil, and the moral law, [made up of the ten commandments] and they say the moral law extends to the New Covenant since it is descriptive of the character of God. That makes for easy remembering, but the problem is the Jews would never recognize such a division. The law was "one Body" of law and could not be broken into parts. Whatever happened to the Law of Moses happened to all of it. It was, as I said, entirely fulfilled in Christ.

That is not to say the New Covenant is antinomian. [Without law.] In the New Covenant we are "in-lawed" to Christ as I Corthians 9 says. We are to "hear ye Him" as admonished by the Father at the baptism of Jesus. And, by the way, nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Covenant scriptures, with only the "Sabbath" commandment not being repeated. This is because the "sabbath' was a unique sign given to Israel in their covenant with God. As New Covenant people our "Sabbath" is an "Eternal Sabbath," according to Hebrews, and we New Covenant people rest every day of our lives in the Grace of God. [Hebrews 4:9-10]

Welcome to the New Covenant! And, since our relationship with God is based on it, maybe our lifestyles should reflect it as well. What would this look like? Someone simply put it this way. "Under the Old Covenant of law, OBEDIENCE was the ROOT of all God’s blessings. But under the New Covenant of GRACE God blesses us first IN CHRIST, and OBEDIENCE is the FRUIT of having been blessed."

You can see our obedience is a "THANK YOU FOR" rather than a "BLESS ME BECAUSE kind of thing." The blessings of the New Covenant are quite revealing of GRACE, are they not!

Paul B.