Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THE RACE OF GRACE

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Hebrews 12:1-3 which shows how we're to run the race [marathon maybe] of the Christian life. This is also the season for races as my wife is at present preparing for the Oklahoma City Marathon which will take place next Sunday. So, I got to thinking about marathons and the Hebrews passage came to mind.

It's interesting to me that marathon races, like Boston and other places, are 26.2 miles in length. But they were not always that distance. Before the 1900s they were approximately 25 miles in length [the location made for some variation] which originally was, as legend has it, the distance a messenger named Pheidippides ran from Marathon Greece to Athens to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. Having delivered the news, the story tells us he immediately fell dead from exhaustion.

It wasn't until in 1896 that the Modern Olympic games came into being and the marathon was re-instituted as a major event. Then in 1908 the Olympics were held in London. The reason? They were to be in Rome that year but Mount Vesuvius erupted and for obvious economic reasons Rome could not prepare and so they were switched to London which caused King Richard V11 and Queen Alexandra to become de facto advisors to the games. It was decided the marathon event would start at Windsor Castle and end at White City Stadium 26 miles away. So far so good. But you and I know the Brits.  

Princess Mary and her children couldn't see the marathon begin from her room in the Castle and she so wanted to see that start. To accommodate her desires the race was lengthened by moving it to begin under her window which added 385 yards making the distance 26.2 miles. So now, with her wish the Empire's command, the Brits had effectively changed the marathon to start in the presence of Royalty, the children of Princess Mary, with the finish set to end in the presence of Royalty, in front of the King of England, a capricious egocentric, sitting on his throne inside the White House Stadium. So the 26.2 marathon was introduced to the world. In 1924 this 26.2 became the official distance for all marathons.

An interesting historical note that adds flavor to the whole thing was that the flag of the United States had not been allowed to be displayed above the stadium [with the flag of Ireland not flown as well] during the opening ceremonies and this, with the added length of the race at the whim of that King already described, did not sit well with the American flag bearer, Ralph Rose. It was he who then subsequently refused to dip the American flag to the King at the opening ceremonies.

It is reported that fellow American Marin Sheridan supported Rose in this act of defiance and showed it by stating to all,"This flag dips for no earthly King." That statement was reported long after Sheridan's death so some believe it to be untrue. Regardless, what ensued was the most debated and hated Olympiad perhaps ever. Time doesn't permit the telling of more ridiculous events that transpired.

Regardless, the end of the marathon was a moment to be remembered you can be sure. I'm fairly certain the runners were not thinking so much about themselves, as much as having to look at the one who was to greet them upon their finish, the English King whom they seriously disliked. One can assume their minds were not fixed on themselves as much as one would expect a runner to normally be doing. They were "looking off"  [At the despised King] as they reached the finish line.


Hebrews 12:1-3 says we will be greeted at the finish line of our marathon race as well, and it will NOT be by someone who is capricious or controlling as was the earthly King, Richard the Seventh, but by One Who loves us and endured the Cross, despising the shame, and having set down at the right hand of the Throne of God has, by His Grace, made it possible for us to be entered in the race and gives us His very life and strength to finish the race. [Hebrews 12 :2]

So what we're told in Hebrews is to not be entangled with sin as we run the race with endurance, but we are to be wise enough to legitimately be "looking off unto Jesus." This can mean nothing less than having eyes fixed on our Lord instead of keeping our eyes on ourselves, even if it is just to be checking to see how well we are doing spiritually.

He IS OUR LIFE and He did it perfectly. So, let's run our marathon of life with our eyes fixed on Him alone and not with any emphasis on our sins, failures, successes, our ANYTHING. We do sin. We do fail. And once in a while, we do succeed. But none of that really matters. Our mind and our focus is on someone else, the King of Kings, who really IS worthy of our attention. He is to be our focus while we're running the race.

By the way, the end of the race is approaching. What a difference our mind-set is from those who ran in that 1908 Olympic Marathon. What a different kind of King awaits our finish at the end of our race. It is truly a GRACE RACE.

Paul B. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

A RARE [AND FINAL] POLITICAL STATEMENT FROM ME AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN____PART TWO

I'm aware of my political filter where government is concerned and I realize there are good people who will disagree with my filter, some of whom are my friends and even some who are family. But I love them and they love me although we differ. Disagreeing's without being disagreeable is OK. It's called respect. 

I also know that political views are SECONDARY to Kingdom living for me and always will be and I personally will never allow Americanism to be synonymous with the gospel of the Kingdom either.


That said, this IS my political view about present matters, so let's begin. 


The Israel/Palestinian conflict has LITTLE to do with 
what is an obvious disaster and failure of the Arab Spring, President Manduro and the Venezuelan crises, Iran's BOMB capabilities, Benghazi, The Ukraine crises with Crimea and Russia and the failure to settle the Syrian civil war. Not to mention America's spying on all her European allies with illegal tactics. [I have to say this because so many seem to blame EVERYTHING on that Jewish/Palestinian conflict]  

It certainly has NOTHING to do with our nation's poor domestic economic condition and the magnitude of the failures with the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" [admirable in it's desire to get the poor covered] and other things taking place politically in our nation. Again, not to mention a national surveillance 
that goes way beyond the Constitution.

All of these failures DO exist however because of the ineptness of the people in power, [White House and Congress] past and present, and the seemingly naive policies in foreign affairs that presently prevail and the over-extended regulations in domestic matters. This ineptness has led to disengagement and failures in most foreign matters and the loss of jobs on the domestic front. A leadership vacuum has been created.

I'm thinking we could very well [and I say this kindly] give that ignominious "Participant Trophy," [
where every one's a winner] that is so popular with so many in our present day, to our President [for whom I pray often] and his Administration. But that kind of award signifies very little really about the actual achievements, or lack thereof, of the person to whom it is given.

By the way, it seems to me as a student of history that President Franklin Pierce, the 14th President (1853–1857) and his administration might also have won that dubious trophy. What do I mean by this?

President Franklin Pierce was a really nice guy by all accounts. But historians will remember that he and Buchanan, our 15th President were criticized as being unsure as to how to govern a changing America and completely incapable of finding the much needed right answers for her in the decade that preceded the Civil war. 

Pierce's major problem was one of having committed himself to several ill-considered positions on the domestic front and 
staying the course on these bad positions despite valid opposition.

One such position, for example, was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It was his major piece of legislation and one can argue that this Act helped lead directly to the civil war. It is true his personal tragedies in his family may have been partially to blame for his lack of good judgment. But lacking in judgment, whatever the reason, he was lacking.  

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, if you recall your history, created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and opened them to white settlers and left it to them to determine whether slavery would be allowed. It was called "popular sovereignty" and basically repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which had forbidden slavery in the then territories.

Anti-slavery elements immediately declared as one person said, "This Act is a triumph for the hated slave power advocates [that is the political power of the rich slave owners] who will buy up the best lands in Kansas, and will leave ordinary men with the very little left." And that's the way things turned out. As I said, this Act played a large role in the start of a bloody civil war that split a nation a few years later.

Interestingly, it was DEMOCRATIC Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois who designed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It was the same Senator Douglas who had defeated Abe Lincoln for the Senatorial office earlier in Illinois and who then, as 
the Democratic standard-bearer, in a total turn-about of popularity, lost the1860 Presidential election to Lincoln.

Mary and I just recently had bit parts [Extras I think they call it.] in a movie being filmed in Guthrie Oklahoma, which is coming out July of 2014, that portrays those Senatorial debates between Douglas and Lincoln. The movie is entitled AMERICA and is directed by the same guys who directed Schindler's List and The God-father. [But I digress. Sorry!]

Senator Douglas declared he hoped that building "popular sovereignty" into the Kansas-Nebraska Act would ease national tensions over the issue of slavery. He probably hoped [who can know another's mind?] that it would keep him from having to take a side on the divisive issue as well. But, as usual, the real reason was big business was calling. The Railroad needed the territories.

However, with it's passage a wave of indignation erupted across the North in 1854 and the anti-slavery elements in the young nation cried betrayal. What did they do?


They formed the Republican Party in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. That original GOP began gearing up to stop the expansion of slavery and soon emerged as the dominant political party in the North and with it's anti-slavery platform was successful in electing its first president, Abraham Lincoln in the year of our Lord, 1860. [The GOP has not always stayed true to it's roots, by the way.] 

Back to President Pierce.

It could be argued that Franklin Pierce had little business being President in those years immediately before the civil war. [Along with his successor James Buchanan.] But in a nation fragmenting over slavery, too many believed only the kind of politician who was as someone described, "A
 nice, likable, affable political lightweight would be palatable to the electorate," and could carry the day. Whatever else he might have been, Pierce was that. Lightweight!

But how wrong could the Democrats and the electorate be! Both men were disastrous for not being able to take positions on a moral front and the changing economic conditions that cost our nation dearly.

But the HUGE irony of the Franklin Pierce administration was that a man who was really less than qualified to be President was behind one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.

["Deja vu, all over again," as Jon Fogerty says in his new song?]


Once buying into the ill-advised Kansas-Nebraska Act, against the wishes of one side of the Legislature however, President Pierce only accelerated the course towards that inconceivable result of an horrendous civil war. Then followed Buchanan who was simply a repeat of Pierce. Both qualified for the "Participant trophy" mentioned above. But were qualified for little else.

Back to the present day. 


I think history DOES repeat itself and, apart from the production of another civil war, which is highly unlikely and will not happen, I'm left with the growing feeling that history very well could be repeating itself before our very eyes.

Our President and other politicians along with him are promoting some battles on the moral front that would have been thought totally inconceivable a few years ago. The horrible abortion atmosphere we're continuing to cultivated as a nation is an example. He didn't start it, but he has exploded it.

That's not to mention the shredding of the Constitutional guarantee of privacy and protection from government itself. And, sadly, he seems to know little of creating a business atmosphere where citizens feel safe to achieve what their dreams tell them can be done. Achievement is giving way to entitlement.

Have I mentioned the use of words that are oblique, over-stated and less than exact?

I am saddened as a citizen by it all.

Now, I close with these final thoughts.

My prayer for peace, honesty and godliness in government hasn't always been granted the way I had hoped under President Bush OR President Obama. Nonetheless, I offer respect, prayer and service to my Presidents past and present.

But since my confidence is in the One who knows the end from the beginning and who understands real peace and godliness, I will trust that in His time, He will have both His will and way with regards to such things and I'll keep trying to vote people into office I think can help.

Paul B.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A RARE POLITICAL STATEMENT FROM ME AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN___PART ONE

A few years back I joined and continue to be a member of a group on Facebook named  "Stop the hate directed at President Obama and his family." Why would I join this group?

It's true that as a citizen of this country I exercised my right/privilege to vote for the candidate of my choice on November 7th 2008 and again on November 7th, 2012 and on neither election day did I vote for President Obama. The simple reason was I disagreed with some of his major policy proposals.

Were someone to even hint that it was because of race that I did not vote for him they would be showing total ignorance of knowing anything about me personally, besides showing by their accusations their own prejudices. In fact, my personal choice both election cycles would have been Condoleesa Rice. I think she has more character, political savvy and perception of proper diplomacy than anyone I have seen in many a year, Democrat or Republican.


I expressed my views prior to both elections which is the right/responsibility of every citizen regardless of political party, particular race or religious creed. It is the American thing to do. It's called being a good citizen. I lost my vote both times, but found who my President was going to be each time. My President became Barack Hussain Obama. Both times. His wife is Michelle Obama and their daughters are Sasha and Malia Obama. Some of those same policies with which I disagreed back then are now being debated and some even passed. It's called political life in America.

Now I'm speaking as a Christian and not just as an American citizen. Being a Christian gives me a personal perspective that not all citizens of this country share. That is that even during, and certainly since those days of election frenzy, I have been more concerned with the people involved as people, rather than as politicians or office holders or even their policies. Why I have since the elections viewed my President with a different perspective than some citizens is because of my allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord of my life. This places President Obama, the man and his family, as someone for whom I will genuinely express my love and continue to pray.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 records Paul telling Timothy [under inspiration] to pray for.."all men; for Kings [Presidents] and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Earlier he had said the "end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart," so if I understand what Paul is saying correctly, my life [As Timothy's] is to reflect genuine love that results in real prayer for people, including, in context, those who are leaders in the government over us.

My allegiance To Jesus as Lord of my life has, therefore, mandated that my attitude toward the President for whom I did NOT vote be one of love and prayer regularly. So be it. Besides, I've found a couple of things to be true. Love and hate CANNOT flow from the same heart and I've also found that you will love, not hate, ANYONE for whom you genuinely pray with regularity.

Then is when I joined the "Stop the hate directed at President Obama and his family" group. I joined this kind of group when George Bush was President too, by the way. I loved/love President Bush, his wife Laura and his daughters. I prayed/pray for him in the same fashion.

My prayer for peace, honesty and godliness hasn't always been granted the way I had hoped under Presidents Bush OR President Obama. But since my confidence is in the One who knows the end from the beginning and who understands real peace and godliness, I will trust that in His time, He will do His will with regards to such things. I DO know, however, His will for me is that I not only JOIN a group to "Stop the hate toward President Obama and his family," but that I be sure I STOP it in my heart first, whether the person is a President or any other person.

Here is the prayer I adapted from someone else and have used since those elections.

Dear Lord Jesus,

"I pray for Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha Obama to come to know you if they don’t already. I pray that President Obama would become the best President this nation has ever known. Guide him, protect him and help him to seek your wisdom and guidance as he faces difficult issues. I pray for his cabinet and administration and for every decision he will make for our country in these days. My confidence, however, remains not in Presidents or leaders, but in you alone.

In the Name of Jesus I ask this.  Amen."

Someone may be rightly ask, "Why are you posting this now?" My answer is simple. I'm going to post next time my evaluation of how President Obama has done and where our nation is "politically" from my perspective as an American citizen. You will need to remember this post for context.

Paul B.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

AUTHORITY AND CHURCH LIFE _____PART FOUR

Authority is to be experienced in the assembly, I believe, because of the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit becoming obvious through people as they serve the whole of the body. In a real sense, the entire body shares authority. [Eph. 5:21, 1Peter 5:5] What this means is we recognize one another's gifts, knowledge, or experience in the Lord and we choose to serve/submit because we know the Holy Spirit has placed some as gifts and has anointed the ministries of those gifts. We follow and are instructed and encouraged.

That is the key to understanding Bishops/Pastors/Elders/Deacons and their function. No one has authority BECAUSE they hold an office. Authority certainly doesn't come because someone has a stronger personality, knows more Bible, or is held in higher esteem personally than is anyone else. That is foreign to the New Testament.

Paul the Apostle himself, had to defend his Apostleship by showing it  to be the work of the Spirit having set him aside for his ministry. 1Tim. 5:17 does speak of those Elders that "give oversight well,"as being "worthy of double honor." But it is the recognition of that "give oversight well" that is the reason for authority. Evaluating well those who say they are of the Lord is always the correct thing to do, and when found to be true, it was defined as the Holy Spirit's anointing upon them. 


In other words, the anointing of the Spirit makes clear the authority that rests on a ministry done well, not an office that is held by someone. So what we have in the text is an authority that is to be experienced in the assembly because of the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit made obvious through people.

As I've already said, in one sense the entire body shares authority.  [Eph. 5:21, 1Peter 5:5]  This means we recognize one another's gifts, knowledge, or experience in the Lord and we choose to serve/submit and follow one another because the Holy Spirit has placed us all as gifts to the body, in some fashion, and we all are to experience His anointing on our ministries and gifts.


What a tragedy that we have accepted a hierarchy of rulers in the local Church which ends up limiting the freedom of so many members of the Church. Then, to add insult to injury, the ruled ones have their spirituality measured by their "submission" to the "authority" of those "rulers." This, instead of measuring the "authority" of leaders by their "submission" to the Lord


This is I think primarily the case because of the present day view of the Church which sees the church as being an institution or organization run by leaders who are of a corporate C.E.O. mentality which is, as has been shown, completely foreign to the scriptures.

Now I want to give my ABCs for authority in the Church. 

You've heard the phrase "simply as the ABCs I'm sure. Well, this may be simple but it isn't easy as evidenced by so many who don't practice them. This failure may be because of the dreaded three "Ps," POSITION/PERSONALITY/POWER!

Regardless, my ABCs are...


A__ There is only one head of the Church and all authority has been given to Him. If anyone ever assumes authority because of their person or position they are usurping the authority of the Head. [Eph. 4:5,15]


B__Believers have been given an authoritative Word which carries with it His direction for all who make up the Body. [Universal or local] The Old Testament began that authoritative Word with Israel as the unique people receiving it and New Testament fulfills that Old covenant and a fresh Word is given to a new entity made up of Jews and Gentiles, The Church.

When He said, "Hear ye Him," the Father gave clear direction as to the source for what He says and it is found in the New Covenant record of the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ and He is our new lawgiver. [Heb. 1:2, Acts 18:28]



C__All believers are priests and are gifted with equal responsibility to the Head of the Church [Christ] individually, regardless of race, gender or age and all believers also have a responsibility to fulfill the "one anothers" of the New Testament. There is no exception. [Rom. 14:4, Eph. 5:21, 1 Corinthians 12-14]


D__There are certain ones [without regard to gender] who are gifted, as all members are remember, and become a gift to the body in a unique way. Whether pastor/elder/bishop/
deacon/ hospitality/ evangelist/ and many more could be mentioned, with the purpose of these persons/gifts serving the whole body by equipping all for ministry. [Eph. 4:11-12]


E__There is no emphasis in the New Testament on "authority" that is derived from an "office." The King James version uses the word "office" but it is not in the best texts, and it would be better to NOT use it when interpreting the verses in which is is found in the KJV.


So the rule of church life is really to be the Headship of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, and each member contributing with giftedness and ministry and edifying each other in the process. This is with no regards to station, race, or gender. 

It is legitimate to set up any system, any format, any procedure a local fellowship desires to carry out business, but to function under the anointing of the Spirit. and serve one another is real body-life, which then moves into a community for the sharing of the gospel. 


This must not be simply theory but practice if we are to reflect the reality of Christ to a lost world in need of the gospel. Check any leadership by this standard if you want to be biblical in church life.

There is no way I could tell you how many and who are the people that have assisted my understanding with their outstanding work in this area. I've used much of what I've read, researched, and recorded along the way the last several years sometimes without even noting where I got it. But when I write it here, it is my responsibility and my personal belief system fleshed out in my words. I hope it has helped.


Paul B.