Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It seems to me there is a present day proliferation of people who are creating dissension in the Body of Christ in the name of doctrinal purity and creating what they call an "identity." I believe that may be causing something more akin to the sin of gendering strife [dissension] than anything else. I also think it may eventually need to be addressed and confronted in a clear, loving, and biblical fashion.

However, I do want to make two clarifying points before I continue to say what I believe needs to be said about it all.

The first thing is...the scriptures do make it clear that the difference between truth and error does matter. John MacArthur says, and I agree with him, that DISCERNMENT is "The ability a Christian has to tell the difference between truth and error and right and wrong." He goes on to say that discernment as he's using it is synonymous with the simple ability to think correctly biblically. I agree again. That's a good ability to have.

So to be discerning about what is true and what is false according to one's belief system is very important in the Christian life and I would not desire to take away from that fact at all. I think it is safe to say that the effort to maintain a spirit of unity in the Body should never be at the expense of truth OR purity in the Church. [A Corinthian problem in the NT if you remember.]

That said, it is also true that discernment in our lives is a grace and is the work of the Holy Spirit Who has been sent to "Teach us all things concerning Christ" and He will always demonstrate His character of Grace through our lives no matter the confrontation necessary about right or wrong theologically. [Or any other issue.] Much of what passes for guarding the truth, as defined by a strife-genderer, which they always say they're doing by the way, is nothing more, in my estimation, than bad character dressed in a second rate personality trying to get their own way and is a biblical no-no.

The second thing is...REAL unity in the Body is not something we are to try and create by using a system of doctrines [Theology] that people agree to accept as a group anyway. Getting our identity or unity from a system of theology, whether Calvinism or Baptist beliefs or any other theological system, is not a concept that can be found in the bible. In fact, the creation of unity among Christians is NOT our responsibility AT ALL.

We are to endeavor to KEEP the bond of unity that ALREADY exists among believers because of the Holy Spirits work in us as Kingdom people according to the Apostle Paul as he wrote in Ephesians. That unity is not around certain doctrines but the Person of Christ and the work of His cross as explained in that same epistle. The people who cause dissension wind up making it impossible to KEEP unity and it is the actions and attitudes of those people I wish to speak about in this post.

Kenneth Haugk has written a book entitled "Antagonists in the Church" and it is well worth the read. He is a Pastor, counselor and author who has been through the fire and has come out with the savor of the Spirit about him. In that book he describes the person who causes dissension. His contention is there are some people who, he says, are "genuinely bent on a kind of behavior that is destructive to the Body" And.. he has given them a name. They are "Antagonists." He believes there is a need for them to be identified and confronted in love for the purpose of maintaining the "Unity of the Spirit." In his book you will find a wealth of information as well as a personality profile and manuel for dealing with such people.

I'm going to use major portions of his book to complete this post because what he says in that book is just too good to miss. He vividly describes the people he has researched and personally experienced in ministry who were bent on gendering strife and causing disssension, called Antagonists, and uses four descriptive terms with an explanation of each. Those terms are...[All emphasis mine.]

A... Narcissism: “Narcissism is a personality pattern in which a person displays an excessive sense of self-importance and preoccupation with eliciting the admiration and attention of others ... a narcissistic individual greedily fishes for and hungrily devours the praise and attention of others ... Narcissistic individuals who are antagonists are extremely reluctant to admit wrongdoings. They cannot conceive of being in error, because ‘right’ is what meets their needs, and ‘wrong’ is what obstructs the meeting of those needs."

B... Aggression: “Antagonists also display patterns of aggressive behavior that permeate their entire personalities. Angry at self, the world, and any convenient situation or person, antagonists seem to wander through life seeking, inviting, and collecting injustices against themselves. Every perceived or actual wrong they experience is stored in their memories and periodically replayed to supply fuel for their anger. Antagonists initiate trouble; they do not wait for trouble to come to them. This often goes hand-in-hand with hypersensitivity on their part. They often take every word and action as a personal attack and respond aggressively. Something as seemingly minor as failing to say good morning to them can cause their antagonism to flare up. Their response to such an omission would most likely be to wonder what you had against them."

"Antagonists try to build themselves up by tearing others down. They express their inner struggles with a negative self-concept by attacking people, enjoying the failures and misfortunes of others while they project their own sense of worthlessness onto them."

"The attacks of antagonists are self-serving. Often they will seize on a slogan or pick some side of a valid issue and pretend that is what they are fighting for. It rarely is. An antagonist will quickly drop a particular slogan or issue once it no longer serves his or her ambitions."

C... Rigidity: “Rigidity is characterized by inflexibility of thought, usually coupled with excessive concern for precise and accurate procedure (as defined by the rigid individual). Someone with a rigid personality sees the world as totally static; his or her explanation of events is, by definition, the unquestionably correct interpretation. Rigid individuals ridicule or ignore differing opinions and skillfully overlook contrary evidence ... Antagonists with rigid personality structures are especially jealous of leaders, because people in authority have the power to inject disturbing input. Therefore, rigid antagonists frequently employ their simplistic rules and regulations as weapons against leaders.”

D... Paranoid personality syndrome:“Marks of a paranoid personality include persistent, unwarranted guardedness and mistrust of others; delusions of grandeur; lack of genuine emotions, and hypersensitivity. Because they distrust others, paranoid persons try to find hidden meanings in words and actions, continually looking for ulterior motives behind what others say ... they commonly experience difficulty in relating to others; disagreements and arguments are commonplace. Paranoid individuals find coworkers and authority figures most difficult to get along with.

“A paranoid person often projects his or her own feelings onto others. If, in a social gathering, a leader accidentally forgets to shake a paranoid antagonist’s hand, the paranoid might blow the incident all out of proportion in his or her own mind. The wrath carried inside the antagonist will be attributed by mental sleight of hand to the leader, as if the leader were angry with the antagonist."

My assessment of all this?

I would say he has nailed the actions and attitudes of people who gender strife and cause dissension as clearly as it can be done. It would also be wise for us all to evaluate our own actions and attitudes in light of this blistering description. To be part of the problem instead of the solution is not what I desire for my own life and I'm sure you would agree.

That said, I have to admit that it would take a measure of the work of the Spirit for us to be willing to address the kind of problem people he's describing in ANY fellowship. I'm going to have to reflect on what measures I would even suggest to do so at the present time. My measures in the past did not demonstrate genuine love I'm afraid. I spoke the truth as I saw it to such people but it was often driven by much more than Kingdom concern on my part I'm convinced. [Like self-protection perhaps!!]

I would finally say...I HAVE pastored these people and have even met some on the Internet. I think that families may also suffer this kind of Uncle or Aunt around sometimes and it doesn't make for good family reunions generally speaking. But the family of God CAN be a unit that graciously celebrates the differences [Even theologically] that are present because we are at different places personally in our individual Kingdom journey. With respect, patience, and a measure of love that is spread abroad by the Spirit we can maintain a unity of the spirit while working through our beliefs to truth as much as is possible this side of glory. No one of us will have it all and no one of us needs to be rejected just because we don't have it all. Kingdom living can be different. May God make it so by His Grace.

Paul B.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Is it just me or are the days really going by quickly? My brother-in-law and I were sitting in a boat fishing yesterday and he asked a simple but I think profound question. He asked, "Does it seem to you like the days, weeks, and even years are flying by? My answer was a simple "yes." Time is fleeting in more ways than one. The end of time is coming and it's doing so very quickly. But I'm going to speak here only about the end of time with reference to one's death. We are going to die if the Lord tarries His return very long at all. That is a fact that cannot be disputed and the aging process is clearly a testimony to that.

That's part of the reason it seems rather odd to me that there is a general unwillingness in our culture to accept our own mortality and a viewing of ourselves as being in the process of dying. In some quarters it is almost offensive to speak of it. I guess the thinking is if we'll just pretend it doesn't exist.. it won't. That sounds like the attitude some of our Politicians have toward our National debt doesn't it!. Thus our ever present emphasis on youth, health, beauty, and longevity may really indicate an overwhelming cultural denial of the inevitability of death.

But as Christians we must be willing to confront this "myth of immortality" that so many seem to have regarding this present life. In fact, Christians are in the very good position of being able to, as I read one person say it, "die slowly." The idea he was expressing was one where the person who has come to really accept his or her own mortality will be far better prepared to face the inevitability of that death and all that attends it before and after the death event.

Dr. John Dunlop, a Christian Counselor, said it this way...“It is imperative that, as maturing Christians, we begin early the process of dying. We must no longer fear death; we must see it as a defeated enemy. We must begin to relinquish the material values of this life and to focus increasingly on the life of eternity that God has prepared for us. It is with these perspectives that we will be prepared to face the latter days of our lives.”

One of the things I really like in what Dr. Dunlap said is that part about relinquishing the material values of this life. Maybe it's just me, but an odd thing has happened personally in my older age. I've more material wealth than I've ever had and that has surprised me beyond measure. Of course I'm speaking in relative terms here. My wealth compared to some upper middle class folks would cause them to think of me as poverty stricken. They would be wrong. So would anyone who would think of me as wealthy. But compared to so many in the third world countries I am indeed wealthy. So it is enough for me to say, I'm one who has need of nothing and am quite happy to be at that kind of place at this time in my life.

But that being so, I am also discovering that things like money, cars, houses, and such are not of much significance to me any more. I've said this for years but I think, in many ways, I was only fooling myself. However, I've discovered my later years to be different days entirely.

I don't know what has caused it. It could be that more loved ones are dying. That is reality. Or perhaps it's just the fact that my own body is getting rather cranky about getting around. Then there is the mirror experience that always throws me for a loop where I wind up wondering who is this person looking back at me?

Add to all that what we're seeing in our nation. It seems to me that the things that we thought so secure are now being shaken apart. This may be so that only that which is truly stable is going to remain and it has little to do with possessions. But all of this is simply reminding me that we usually do not embark on the road of wisdom until we deeply experience the fact that one day all things will come to an end. Our living IS truly limited, our days ARE numbered, and I think we DO lack a proper perspective oF REAL life till we consider this.

It is this perspective about life as we now know it, ending, and on it's heels eternity is coming, that enables us to have a balanced view of the here and now and the hereafter. To lay hold on this present life as if it's the all significant issue is to fail miserably. To be taken up with eternity as if this life is insignificant is just as damaging to reality. It is the balance of the two that gives a clear vision and maintains clear headedness. It may be that as we consciously seek to not only lay less of a hold on this life but to be progressively taken up with the next, that we are able to embrace the fact of dying with grace.

I love how Robert C. Roberts said it...

“For a person whose roots have been thoroughly transplanted from the present soil into that of eternity, who dances lightly on the surface of the earth and so is ready to leave at a moment’s notice, there would be little point in dwelling on the thought of death. Sad to say, however, this mind-set is rarely to be found among those who profess Christianity. Most churchgoers are as deeply rooted in this world, and thus as deeply in despair, as those who profess no such hope. Far from being an exercise in morbidity, a deepening acquaintance with our death and with the vanity of human wishes is for our worldly hearts a needed path to perfect health” (Robert C. Roberts, Spirituality and Human Emotion).

That's what I want to do. I want to "dance lightly on the surface of the earth and be ready to leave at a moment's notice." I call it being ready for..."This thing called dying."

Scripture says it well...

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul B.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Mary and I have just concluded a five day trip to California where several events and people merged to make it one of our more memorable times traveling together. In the unlikely event that anyone is interested in things of a personal nature I thought would I put some thoughts up on my blog about it all. If personal things are anathema to you, continue your journey on the Internet to other sites more fitting for your tastes.

One thing we experienced was the renewing of the marriage vows for a couple, Russ and Stacy Ortiz, whom I was privileged to unite in marriage a few years back. He is recently retired from baseball after ten years in the major league beginning with the San Francisco Giants. In fact, he pitched in two world series games in 2003 for the Giants. [Google Russ Ortiz and read about the sixth game of the World series that year.]

Their three kids participated and it was a great testimony of the grace of family values having first place in a modern couple's lifestyle. Their parents are special people and Russ and Stacy are also a testimony to a strong Christian network alive and well in major league baseball today.

Then we stayed on an extra two days to visit some friends. First was Mike and Judy Carlisle in Oceanside Cal. They were on our staff at Southcliff Baptist in Fort Worth in the late seventies and early eighties. What an absolute delight to see them and Mike's mother Angie who is now 92 yrs of age. One of their three sons, Eric, came down to see us with his wife and two daughters. I set spellbound as I listened to two young people who know the Lord and have a worldview that is Kingdom oriented reflect on an honest hunger for reality in the Lord.

Mike is heading up VisionSanDiego, a ministry begun by NAMB, and now independent and empowered by the Spirit in fresh exciting ways. Mike and Judy are both testimonies to growing in true Grace and having a journey that reflects that grace. It was a visit that spoke to family realities [They truly are family] in the Kingdom that never are lost by the passing of time or separation by distance. We sat for over nine hours enjoying food, laughter, hugs, and reminiscing about the past and speaking of all things Kingdom. The proverbial "Come back" invitation will be one of those that will be accepted delightfully.

We got up early, hugged again, and set out to visit two nephews, [Sons of two of my favorite people, Mary's sister Jenny and her husband Tom McMonigle.] John and Mace McMonigle. We met them at Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach California and shared a breakfast and hugs. [Lots of hugging went on during those five days.] It's hard to communicate how close two young men can be to you who are not your sons, but might as well be because of how deep our love is for them. It just was a special moment for Mary and Me.

Then, to cap it all, we arrived during the conclusion of the worship hour at Conejo Church pastored by Rex and Sherry Holt in Newbury Park California. Words fail me to describe Mary and my heart for all things that have to do with Rex and Sherry Holt. We were privileged to give them their first staff position following Seminary in 1970. We traveled to two different SB conventions and still laugh at the greatest comical experiences two couples could ever have together. They have since pastored several churches, starting two, and served as missionaries appointed to Logos West Africa. Their story of bearing children is one for the ages.

Seventeen years of marriage did not see conception and trying to adopt several times never as successful and during this time they applied to the IMB of the SB. They were appointed to student work, Having no children would assist there and, in fact, was essential. But as they accepted the appointment they were called because a child had been found for them. With tears, questions, heartache, and a host of emotions, after prayer and conversations with friends, they turned down the adoption and accepted the appointment. Childless but full of Jesus they went to Africa. The ministry went beyond their wildest expectations.

One day the African members of their fellowship told them they wished to lay hands on and pray for Papa Rex and Momma Sherry, as they were called, to have a child. [They were called Papa and Momma because the students told them they were their spiritual children.] Rex and Sherry testify to their hesitancy because of the potential of damaging their faith but the church reminded them they had taught them to ask God believing for any needs. They could not be persuaded otherwise in this situation. So pray they did believing God for a child. [You need to know that every kind of birthing possibility had been explored medically in the past.] Well, God answered the prayers of that African church. Since that day Sherry has given birth to three children all of whom bear and african middle name and are now adults serving the Lord. I sit here right now in tears with a smile on my face because of the magnitude of this in the lives of all who know and love Rex and Sherry. We laughed, talked, ate, and did I mention hugged?

Mary and I woke up early Monday to a plane trip home with our minds and hearts filled with rejoicing over the Ortiz, Carlisle, McMonigle, and Holt families and the knowledge that we share a life with them. I'm tired but refreshed from being in Southern California and with people that I love deeply. I thought some of you might be interested.

All of this we experienced DURING one of the more stressful times for the Burleson family as you've probably read on wade's blog. I will conclude by thanking all of you for your notes, e-mails and comments of concern and prayer during this entire episode as described by Wade so well. The Kingdom family truly IS incredible.

Paul B.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"A Transient Abode."

I love history and was a history major in college. I also love poetry. What follows is a little of both originally posted by Wade Burleson, our son. I thought those who didn't see it on his blog would enjoy it as much as I did.

Oh! Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?

This past Monday (March 7, 2011), after making a couple of hospital visits in Oklahoma City, I ventured twenty miles south to the campus of the University of Oklahoma. My destination was Monett Hall, formerly the University's Law Library, but now the building that houses the Western Heritage Museum. The Museum is free, but my desire was to be able to see something that I knew the staff at the Western Heritage Museum kept in the vault. A poem, handwritten on both sides of a legal size piece of paper by Abraham Lincoln, was my objective. The poem, authored by William Knox (1789-1825), is a dark narrative on man’s mortality. Lincoln considered Knox's poem, entitled "Oh! Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?" to be the finest poem ever penned.

President Lincoln quoted portions of Knox's poem from memory so often that many thought he was the original author. While campaigning in Illinois in 1849, Lincoln and his associates were entertained by a trio of ladies who sang for them. Lincoln, pressed by the trio to sing something himself, politely declined but offered to quote a poem. When Lincoln finished reciting the verses of Knox’s poem, those who heard him had been moved to tears. One of the young ladies in the trio requested a written copy of the poem. During the night Lincoln wrote out the verses on a piece of parchment and gave it to the woman at breakfast the next morning. Henry Benjamin “Heine” Bass (1897-1975) from Enid, Oklahoma purchased this piece of Lincoln memorabilia in the 1930’s and he considered it the most valuable artifact in his vast Lincoln collection. It is part of the Bass Collection at the Western Heritage Museum, but is not displayed for the public. I would estimate the artifact's worth to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Museum staff pulled the poem out of its vault for me to see. There is something deeply moving when sitting at a table and reading a poem you know to be Lincoln's favorite, written with his own hand. This particular piece of Lincoln memorabilia has never been photographed, at least in terms of published photography. I was surprised by a couple of curious things regarding Lincoln's handwriting and the piece of parchment itself. But it was the somber tone of Knox's words, read slowly by me at the table out loud (on behalf of the archivist who wished to hear the poem read) that moved me the most. Below is the poem in its entirety. The book I am writing on John Wilkes Booth and Boston Corbett takes its title from one of the lines in the poem - "A Transient Abode."

by: William Knox (1789-1825)

Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,--
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure,--her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.

They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
The scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died, aye! they died; and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?


Friday, March 11, 2011


How do you find the will of God about who specifically to marry, what job to take, what career to prepare for, and a ton of other choices we have to make every day. Does God HAVE a specific person for me to marry or college to which He intends me to go? What about some of the things which happen to us that we don't understand? How do they fit in His Will? What if I miss His will? How can I know for certain I'm doing His will in all things?

Interestingly enough, I find no where in scripture where we're commanded to or instructed on how to find the right person to marry. [Except if we lack wisdom let us ask for it.] The same can be said about a job or career. What constitutes God's will anyway? Only three passages even mention what His will might be. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:18, EPHESIANS 5:17-1, and 1 THESSALONIANS 4:3. All three speak of "being" something. It seems to me we really do need to re-think this whole thing of God's will scripturally. Let's do just that!

Two words have recently come to mean a great deal to my way of thinking about biblical Truth and I've mentioned them before. One is the word 'function' which means "The particular purpose for which a thing exists." A clock is the perfect example. It exists for the specific purpose of telling time. If it fails to fulfill this purpose, it may be a lot of other things, but it is failing to truly be a clock. So one could say that function is, in fact, a matter of 'being.'

The other word is the word 'form.' Form by definition is "The way something is done or the shape something takes to fulfill a purpose." That clock mentioned before could be round or square, have big hands or little hands, be black or white. It could even stand on the floor or hang on the wall. But if it doesn't function as a teller of time it is useless no matter how it looks.

I've concluded personally that the New Covenant materials [New Testament] are materials that speak to function and not form. I would go so far as to say that the New Testament is a guidebook on function and NOT a handbook on forms. The NT tells us why and what something is to BE instead of how it is DONE. It is a book about 'being' instead of 'doing.'

Now this is pertinent to a biblical understanding of the Will of God in my judgment. So using this concept, I've come to think of the Will of God as something that can be seen functioning at four levels. These levels explain His intention and our responsibilities in the things that happen in life. I want to give all four of the levels with a brief explanation of what I mean by them and some illustrations of how I think about life as a result. What I'm saying here is not mine originally at all but has been gleaned from my research of what tons of other people have said and I've put it all together in my own way of thinking.

The first level at which I understand God's Will functioning is at a design level. This relates to, as you would imagine, the cosmos and universe in which we live. It involves all the natural sciences and the wonderful research that shows us the intricate designs and detail of the marvelous world in which we live. It all screams to me of an Author of it all with a purpose for it all. But I'll leave that for other discussions at other times. [Like the last post for example.] I'm simply stating that I see God's design functioning in this natural world. Our responsibility is to discover, examine and care for it all.

The second level of God's Will functions in what could be called a Moral level. These are the moral principles found in the NT which are to be reflected in our lives as Kingdom people. These principles concern themselves with what we are to 'be' relationally as opposed to how we are to 'do' something.

An example is the early 'Ekklesia' or Church. Believers were to be a "called out people" which is the definition of the word Ekklesia. That Ekklesia was to be together on occasion, [Hebrews 10:35] but the form their 'being together' took was not given. There is no command as to place, time, length of gathering, day of gathering, order of presentation of participation or anything of that nature.

It is true that some in the Ekklesia were to be to the gathered group as pastors, teachers, and other ministries for the perfecting or maturing of all. But that speaks to how they functioned when gathered and not the shape the meeting was to take in my opinion. Any revelation of the form that ministry took is limited if not totally non-existent in the biblical materials.

The third level of God's Will functions in what could be called a freedom level. This has to do with human choices both good and bad, right and wrong, and generally whether one chooses to obey or disobey God's biblical principles. We as humans are able to make decisions in this realm as evidenced by Jesus saying to Jerusalem "How often would I have gathered you...but you would not." Whatever these choices, there will be consequences and results will come always. But they can be made. We're even more free in Kingdom life. [We can freely choose to act holy.]

This is where I believe who to marry, what job to take, or whether to go to this college or that one are decisions that Kingdom kids are free to make without any fear of "Missing God's Will" for their lives. All those things speak to the 'form' ones life can take. [Remember the clock] But I believe God's concern is that ones' life functions and reflects His moral purposes whatever college one might choose to attend. His concern is that a person function in the reality of His being the source of all their life rather than their decisions in life. Now if you're concerned that what I'm saying seems to indicate that God doesn't have a specific college in mind for you to go to... you're right. I'm convinced He's concerned that you 'be' who you are by His grace and life "Whatever your hand finds to do." [College you choose.]

The final level that Gods's Will functions on is the Sovereign level. He has a plan and purpose for all things and that purpose WILL come to pass. This is because He really is "The blessed controller of very event" as the biblical materials declare. But this has to do with His purposes and ways that are far above ours and we see truly "see through a glass darkly." This includes things that are not understood or that might be painful, hurtful, and even evil. It is not to say He is the author of evil, but it is to say that even the evil done by evil men will ultimately be sovereignly overruled to His glory and our good. It is only here that your free decisions at the moral level find their ultimate place in God's will.

So my philosophy of Kingdom living is simply to...

Make good, thoughtful decisions about any choices you might face. This only after living your life according to His revealed moral will and principles scripturally as you understand them.

Then analyze where you are and what you're equipped for personally. For example, what do you like? If you hate dealing with messy people and relational problems, job wise, the sciences might be for you, not counseling. God never says to Christians, "Touch not the unclean microscope."

Also remember it's wise to seek what significant people with whom you're in a relationship think. But never give over the responsibility for your own choices to any other person or group.

Finally, make a decision about whatever confronts you with the understanding that behind every decision made there is to be a willingness to always remember that God's Sovereign will is at play. Much as when Peter was prayed for by the Ekklesia and was released from prison but James was not. He was beheaded. Peter stood and preached and three thousand got converted. But Stephen stood and preached and no one got converted. In fact they all got mad and stoned him to death.

So good things or bad things happening DO NOT tell the story of whether God's will is being done or not. That is all within His purposes that we can never fully understand this side of eternity. Make choices with what I've just said as a backdrop and I believe you will not miss God's will in any fashion.

Four simple guiding principles and I close.

One...Whatever you choose to do, "be" what His moral will says to be. [Loving, forgiving, honest, faithful, trustworthy, pure, caring]

Two...Whatever you choose to do "be" ready for His sovereign will to alter things however He Sovereignly chooses.

Three...Whatever you choose to do "be" honest when you make a bad choice concerning a moral biblical principle or a hurtful choice in a practical, personal way relationally. Admit it, take personal responsibility for it and repent of it. [Repentence means to change your mind and go a different way.]

Four...Whatever you choose to do "be" sure to do it AS UNTO THE LORD and not unto men.

Kingdom kids following what I've just indicated would be functioning on every level of the Will of God it seems to me and can forget being FEARFUL of His will or not FINDING His will or living OUTSIDE His will. Just enjoy all of life as a gift from Him. It is, in fact, that.

Paul B.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Someone whom I've grown to love and who sometimes comments on this blog asked if I would write about my journey to my belief in God. I'm going to but it will be without a lot of the language usually associated with a testimony. I'm afraid a lot of the Christian lingo we use today has become a coded language for many and may, in fact, hinder communication on a common level.

Koine Greek was the language chosen by God with which to communicate His word that we call the Bible. [The New Testament] Koine simply means "common." It was invented by Alexander the Great to solve a language problem among the soldiers of the various nations he had conquered. It was a single language all were taught to understand. A perfect tool with which to communicate. So I'm going to use a koine plain English to communicate my journey. I do apologize at the outset for it's length.

I remember hearing someone say [Jack Crabtree of the McKenzie Study Center] that all of us may function to some degree with what could be called a “pre-understanding." That simply means, instead of having to invent a whole new theory of reality to explain an experience every time we encounter something new, we all seem prone [Designed perhaps?] to process our knowing and understanding of all new experiences in the light of our current theory of reality whatever that may be. No matter how meager our experience may be. [One soon discovers this does not allow much ability to grasp new realities or ideas as they present themselves, but it's all we've got.]

For example, a baby can learn to swim even at only a few months old. Their pre-understanding is of water, albeit basically intuitive for obvious reasons, and it's feeling to them even if there is only a very minimal physical and psychologically understanding about it all. But it’s the only context they have for reality at the moment and no one can deny they do learn easily at a young age how to swim.

In a totally different vein by way of illustration, I know a woman who grew up in a childhood where the ridiculous concept that African-Americans [Known as Blacks or Negroes then] were not thought of as human by her grandfather. [He was a major figure in her life.] He held them to be only a higher class of animal life but something less than a human being. When she was personally first around African-Americans it was a frightful experience as you can imagine. She generally processed her experience with them from her pre-understanding and it wasn’t a pleasant or easy thing to learn to think differently about them with that kind of filter. But the true and correct understanding did ultimately come. She told me that it was when she processed the new information with an "awakening" that she says took her totally by surprise. [More on this awakening later.]

My point is simply that perhaps it is true that we all start with a pre-understanding of some kind in the processing of our reality. Which is, of course, the only basis we have for our belief system along the way. So we find ourselves with an inability to accept as real anything except what we understand within the framework of that reality unless an "awakening" really does take place. That's the concept I will use to tell my journey.

I was born into a family of origin where alcohol was the drug of choice. It ruled in more ways than I can explain. My parents were poor people who met and married in a cotton patch [literally] in Southwestern Oklahoma when she was fourteen and he was seventeen. To that union came the birth of four children. Two girls and two boys. I was the third with the two girls older by five and seven years and a brother two years younger. My oldest sister is fifteen years younger than my mother.

My earliest memories of our family were of quarrels and anger from the top down. This is not to say there were no good times. It is simply an admission that the bad times hurt so deeply that the memory of the good ones had to be drudged up in my later life to balance out my own anger and bring some personal stability to life as I know it. Will it surprise anyone to find out that my personal anger dominated my life early on to a degree that most people would not believe. I, to this day, choose to not relate to angry people because of that early childhood and my own struggles with it.

In this context [Which was my own pre-understanding.] I often heard of God and read the things in the bible and when I did they were understood in a manner unsuited for reality much as that earlier illustration of the girl and her thinking of African-Americans. “Jesus Christ” was the favorite phrase of profanity used not by my parents as much as by the extended family of origin members. I heard of “God” often but it was usually immediately followed with a “damn.” "Christian" was defined as a goody two-shoes kind of acting that was far from where we were as a family.

I had heard and read many fairy tales at the time as do all kids I’m sure. Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and her dopy dwarfs. [Or maybe one was just named dopy!] So when I heard of a guy named Jonah and a big fish that swallowed him I had no problem with it. Fairy tales happen. The rest of the bible was to me at the time not much more than a “spook book” because it talked about “ghosts” and one of them was even named “holy.” Well, you see my pre-understanding filter.

Then there came to be, for the lack of a better term for the purpose of this writing, an “awakening” in my life. I’m not sure how to describe it otherwise without some “christianese” language that I’m trying hard to avoid using at the moment. [That's synonymous with “legalese” which is defined as “the formal and technical language of legal documents that is often hard to understand.”] It might be best to associate "awakening" with another word, namely, epiphany. [A sudden striking understanding of something] But it truly was an "awakening" for me personally.

I’ve often thought how we all come to those awakenings or epiphanies at various times in our lives. It may be much as a girl who thinks of a boy as someone who pulls her hair and disgustingly picks his nose until one day she “awakens” to boys in a new way. The same is true of boys discovering girls of course. Who can honestly say when or how it arrives or happens? But "awakenings" do come.

What precipitated this awakening in me, as I think about it, was perhaps the marriage of my older sister at age seventeen to a young man who was unlike anyone I'd ever known. He was manly but different. He was intelligent, kind, and even thoughtful of others. He was nobody's fool and...he believed that God was real. What happened to me perhaps started as hero worship, but it quickly went far beyond that.

It was at that time that I began to discover something of God in a way that was new information to me which I could not fully understand. Yet I could not just dismiss it by interpreting it with my pre-understanding filter. There was no way that what I was hearing about faith and trust could be understood and accepted by a young angry thirteen year old who was sure everyone was going to wind up hurting him eventually. Everybody always had. But something was happening to me that was new, real, personal, and totally inexplicable and it was in regard to this God who was more than a "damn" and it included the message of the bible. It truly was an"awakening" moment for me.

At the time, I didn’t want and refused to think of God as a Father. I had one that I struggled with and I didn’t need or want another. But somehow I began to think of Him as real. Don’t ask me how!! I don’t know. I awakened to it. I can now years later give some answers as to how it happened, [Theologically] but it would involve language [That legalese] about things that most people wouldn’t relate to and which is not necessary for a true awakening towards God to take place in anyone. I’ll leave it there for the moment.

I even had an awakening toward Jesus Christ. He became something more than just a profane word. I’d always thought of Him as a nice guy who really liked doing good but tragically wound up killed between two guys who must have been messed up bad. But He was nothing more than that to me. That there was more to it than that had not occurred to me and wouldn’t have with my pre-understanding.

When this awakening first came I began to see that there was something at work in what He did on that Cross that involved me and how He felt about me. Call it silly, childish, infantile or whatever you choose. I called it that too for a long time. But I truly had an awakening to Him. Those encounters had to be examined and thought about with some kind of understanding for me to be honest and real about myself and my pre-understanding just didn't seem to do it. But I was seeing things differently.

I even began to understand some parts of the bible [Not all of it] in a way I hadn’t before. I saw something wrong in people that went beyond the anger and alcohol that had characterized my family of origin. I intuitively knew I was part of the problem as well. I didn't know or understand what I read in the bible about the word "sin" theologically then, but somehow it was known to me in a fashion I'd not experienced before and it was personal in nature.

I saw Jesus as God’s Son who was dealing with this human problem I'd come to recognize as real and that blew my mind. No way. Boy did it seem screwy at the time. It still does to some degree but my later experiences and understanding have helped me overcome my pre-understanding reality and a whole new way of seeing things has developed. My reality was truly expanded in ways that were beyond my experience and even my full understanding.

To bottom line it, a new kind of relationship had come about when I admitted my acceptance of that reality that was as strange as anything I’d ever known. Remember, this was all contrary to my pre-understanding and was not simply a logical process. It was truly the result of some kind of awakening for me that seemed incomprehensible at first. I didn’t even think it was real at the time. I laughed and told myself I’d get over it. I didn’t.

Amazingly, my understanding has grown to some degree. I still enjoy a good fairy tale [fiction] and love science, Biology, astronomy, history, all of which hold a fascination for me and even politics is a hoot. But none of it discourages or disqualifies the information and that experience I now have come to with regards to the scripture and the Author of it all and have been able to process to an extent.

I am quite happy to admit that I lack understanding in every arena of life whether it is the physical, psychological, emotional, or even the spiritual dimension. But my understanding is growing. I’m even convinced my present understanding will be stretched with more awakenings that could involve the nature of the eternal before it is all over and done.

Right now some people may have a pre-understanding that will only permit them to say, “no way.” My pre-understanding was that too. But this "awakening" has brought a new reality that has been enlarged considerably and will not allow me to write off the possibility there will be more.

I’ve simply had too many awakenings to doubt there are more to come.

Paul B.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


My wife and I watched a movie one time starring Michael Keeton where he was diagnosed with terminal cancer as his wife was carrying their first child. Told he would die before the birth of the baby, he began video taping himself telling of his childhood, explaining how to shave the proper way, reading some bedtime stories, and a host of other little things, all so his child one day would be able to know his daddy. He lived to hold his child, while bringing some healing to the bad relationships of his family of origin, and, all in all, it was a good movie with a worthwhile message.

Mary and I also recently attended the funeral of our son-in-law's Mom. Yesterday we delivered our family memorial gift to him. It was an 11x16 picture of him and his Mom put together digitally by Mary's sister and was as great a picture as I've seen in some time. He was overwhelmed by it. It really was a special moment for a special guy.

So I got to thinking about life and death...

We read in Psalm 91:13.. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." I know this is a psalm with specific reference to the Messiah's victory over evil because the devil quoted verses 11 and 12 to our Lord in the middle of the temptation experience. "For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands lest you dash your foot against a stone." [Or as one translation says..'so you won't even stub your toe.'] But it sure does give us some insight to this whole thing of bad things happening to good people.

In putting together some thoughts about it all here's what came out.

The lion, the adder, the dragon, as one writer I read said, "Remind us of certain kinds of dreadful events that happen to people." He went on to point out that the lion could be seen as those undisguised and obviously bad things that happen like disease or death. The adder could be understood to be the unexpected things such as accidents, and the dragon, the unfounded and foolish things that are feared so much which never come to pass. [Dragons aren't suppose to exist.]

All of the Psalm speaks of painful, hurtful, even tragic things that can happen to people for sure. But this Psalm is spoken specifically to the Messiah, as I said, and is in the context of why He didn't need to fear any of those possibilities. It follows verse 12 which the devil tried to use to get Jesus to operate in the power of His Divine nature to no avail. So the whole thing is personal to Him.

But the thing that intrigues me the most right now is that while Jesus was promised that the Angels were assigned to protect Him from all this so that He had no reason to fear what He saw, couldn't see, or the worst thing He could imagine, He still endured rejection, severe beatings, family abandonment, and finally the crucifixion.

Did the Angels forget to bear Him up and over those hurtful things? He said He could have called and they would have. But He didn't call and they didn't bear Him up over them. He thus attested to the fact that the lion, adder, and dragon things can happen to Him and to us and these identifiable, unexpected, and sometimes, self imposed painful things happen simply because there is no badge of exclusion for any person on this fallen earth. [He was here to share fully in our kind of journey in this fallen world.]

So, MAYBE the goal in life is not the escaping of the lion, the adder, or the dragon. It can certainly be concluded that their presence in His life is no indication that He was bad and was being punished. MAYBE we have no reason to fear them because MAYBE they are not the real issue at all. MAYBE the purpose of God is. Jesus fulfilled His purpose while in the midst of things like that and we certainly know what that purpose was and we are eternally grateful. MAYBE we should just fulfill our purpose too. When that's done, whatever the doctor says, however long we last in life, whatever pleasant or unpleasant things happen to transpire while we're here, MAYBE life is real life because it is measured in terms of PURPOSE more than in length of days or absence of pain or the presence of discomfort. MAYBE that's what "well done" is all about.

That's what I was thinking. I thought I'd tell you about it.

Paul B.