Monday, June 27, 2011


I recently delivered a message at the Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond Oklahoma, our home Church, on the water to wine miracle in John 2. In the introduction I gave a brief word about Acts 2:22 and Peters' use of the phrase "miracles, wonders and signs" that God did through Jesus. In that introduction I mentioned that each of those words had a unique meaning in the realm of miracles. Let me explain.

"Miracles" is dunamis [GK] which means 'power' and refers to the actions of God in the natural realm. When God acts it is a miraculous thing and perfectly normal for Him because He is God.

"Wonders" is Teras [GK] which means a marvel or wonder and refers to the awesomeness of God when He acts in the natural realm. When God acts it is a mind-boggling thing and perfectly normal for Him because He is God.

"Signs" is Semeion [GK] which means a token or to make known and refers to the authentication of God in the natural realm. When God acts [miracle] it is mind blowing [wonder] and it is often a making known [sign] of His presence in what is transpiring or being said. [The Gospel of John records seven miracles and calls all of them signs.]

Generally speaking, this just about covers what the scriptures say about God and miracles. [A further word "works" is another study.] He acts, [miracle] it is awesome, and many times it authenticates His presence. 

Miracles are relatively rare and are not for the removal of difficult or discomforting situations. [As the water to wine is said to be for the announcement that He was God present NOT to cover the shame of the lack of wine. John 2:11]  In fact, difficult and discomforting circumstances are not generally removed by God but allowed by God for the purpose of character development, particularly for the development of patience in believers.

All this brings me to some thoughts about the miraculous acts of God. [Miracles] Some of these thoughts are what I call bible driven speculation. By this I mean it isn't made clear in scripture, so one has to be honest about a bit of speculation. But there seems to be plenty of inference in certain passages or events as we will see.

One, is the thought that if we believe Jesus is God, and we do as Christians, we're not surprised by the miracles He did. [God did through Him.] He was fully man and He was also fully God. But living as man He was fully and truly submitted to the Father and miraculous things were bound to happen. That's just the way God acts.

Two,  I don't think we are to view miracles as God suspending or violating natural law at all. He just introduces a new cause and effect. As I would do if I held a book in my right hand, dropped it, and, as it fell, [natural law of gravity] with my left hand catch and raise it up. New cause, [left hand] and new effect. [Raising it.] God simply injects Himself into the natural realm, [From the Supernatural realm remember as He is Spirit after all, and Lord of all.] and causes something to result. [effect]
Peter walking on the water illustrates this. He stepped out of that boat and walked and did not go under water. He did begin sinking momentarily in doubt but was picked up by Jesus and continued walking. But if any other of those guys had stepped out, or if a guy on a boat watching in the distance had assumed he could do the same, he and they would have sunk immediately I would think. This because God, as the new cause for Peter not sinking and the new effect of his walking on water, was not setting aside natural law to do it. It was a new cause and effect for Peter alone. It was a miracle but that's just normal for God.

This shows, to my way of thinking, that there is no lock on a miracle being done for me or anyone else just because God has done it before for someone else. But when He has a specific purpose in mind, He may act in His normal way for anyone He chooses for whatever purpose He might have and we will be caught up in the wonder of it all. If He doesn't act,  [miracle] that's OK too since that's His business. Ours is to trust His person and obey His Word while living in this natural realm.

Besides...He has ALREADY performed the greatest of all miracles for us in the giving of His Son as our Salvation. Then He miraculously regenerated us, [quickened us] miraculously gifted us with faith, and miraculously birthed us into His family. ALL OTHER MIRACLES He might ever do on our behalf pale in comparison. If He NEVER does another it matters not. 

We believe Him, trust Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him in a supernatural relationship while in this natural world which is also His gift to us. [As Paul said in 1 Corinthians "All things are ours."]

Third, I also see something else that is a bit of speculation on my part, I admit, but I believe it is informed speculation, as I said. That is that it could be that the DIFFERENCE in the natural realm [where we live and breath] and the supernatural realm [where God's throne is] is not one of distance but dimension. 

When God sent Gabriel to Mary I don't think it was past the galaxies, stars, sun and moon to earth. I think God pulled back a veil and Gabriel stepped from the supernatural to the natural in an instant. As when Stephen was stoned he saw Jesus standing at the Throne and that without a telescope. A new realm [Dimension] was revealed to him.

Finally, remember the servant of the Old Testament prophet who was fearful of the enemy surrounding them and the prophet asked God to show him something. The veil was drawn and angels in the supernatural realm were stationed all around in the natural realm.

If departed believers are truly aware and in God's presence after death, their natural body awaiting the resurrection but their spirit with Him, they may not be way up there... but right here... though in a totally different dimension. I'm thinking the reason we can't see or communicate with them is we just don't have the equipment. [Natural people as we are.] Nor do they have the equipment  [supernatural/spirit people as they are]  to communicate or interact with us, unless God acts miraculously in an unveiling moment as the Mount of Transfiguration. And don't be fooled by any deceiving spirit of our enemy.

But one day when Jesus returns to this natural realm [earth] in full Glory, [manifested presence] from the supernatural realm [heaven] where He is now, this natural realm will pass away and a new heaven and new earth will appear and we will, with resurrected bodies made of heavenly material, in other words new equipment, live in the presence of God in a miraculous fashion that has become the norm.  

Man...that will be the final miracle, wonder and sign. From then on that kind of thing will be the norm for all believers. What a day that will be.

Paul B.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Here is an article my good friend Bill Gillham wrote awhile back. He has now graduated as did his wife, Anabel, a few months ago. Bill has had a tremendous impact on countless people including me. I was privileged to be the Gillhams Pastor for several years in the late seventies and early eighties at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas and was always blessed when they were in the congregation as I would preach. They would both be enraptured as they would listen and follow the message in scripture. No one has ever been better fellow saints or pastor encouragers than were they to me.
As I said, Bill has graduated and joined Anabel and Mason, their son, to await family and friends left behind. Look over your shoulder Bill, I'm not too far behind.  

God says in His Love Letter to us:
“You know that if the earthly tent which was our [To make it personal, substitute the pronouns with your name. I'll use my name “Bill.”] house is torn down, Bill has a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 

For indeed in this house Bill groaned, longing to be clothed with his dwelling from heaven; 

For indeed while Bill was in this tent, he groaned, being burdened, because he did not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 

II Corinthians 5:1-2,4
God separates Bill's “earthly tent” (or earthsuit) from the real Bill—Bill, the personality and spirit—who formerly indwelled it. Does God say Bill's earthsuit “groaned” or that “Bill groaned” inside his body? It's the latter. The true Bill is the saint who indwelled that old earthsuit that wore out like an old car.
Sometimes earthsuits, like cars, may look fine on the outside, but have vital parts that go awry. The earthsuit is somewhat similar to the booster rocket on the shuttle. When it's completed its work, it falls to the earth while the payload soars on to the target it was aimed for. The payload is the real Bill, the true Bill, the spirit-soul person who formerly indwelled the earthsuit. God uses physical death to peel away the physical husk enabling the inner spirit-critter to enjoy heaven to its fullest. I believe Bill now moves with the speed of thought, that he's no longer limited by time and space.
You and I do not fear death. We know what awaits us. We know that we have a glorious future, a glorious eternity. The thing that may bother us is the dying part, the event or perhaps the long, sometimes painful process by which we enter into God's presence. Being left behind as a loved one dies doubtless looks difficult or even frightening as is the case with any dramatically new experience. Being left behind is very unsettling. But He promises you that He will take good care of you. In fact, it is He who has been taking good care of you for all these years, even throughBill. He is faithful. He will come through on His promises to you and yours.
C.S. Lovett said that physical death is the saint's “graduation day”. Just as you and I experienced numerous emotions as we marched into the auditorium to graduate from school, we're now marching toward the halls of glory. Paul said to us, “To be absent from the [earthsuit] is to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). Jesus is beckoning; He and “Bill” are both saying, “You'll never believe how great this is! This is really living for the very first time!” Jesus is saying, “You've got it made. You're going to cross that stage to get your diploma, even if I have to carryyou across, but you will graduate (Philippians 1:6). Trust Me. And when you have your diploma in hand, Bill and I are going to begin explaining the glorious, active, eternity I have planned for you both” (Jeremiah 29:11, LB). On that day more than ever, we'll be dying to live.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Charles Colton said..."True friendship is like good health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost."  I love pithy sayings...especially when they are true. This one is.

I've thought a lot about friendships through the years. This is partly because as a pastor I was always finding people [sometimes it seemed like most of them] in the churches I pastored who wanted to be my best friend. How in the world can anyone be a best friend to everyone? In fact, can a pastor have a best friend in a congregation? Or even a real friend? These are not questions with easy answers as I found out in my own journey as a pastor.

I've come to see, in my simple way of thinking, that there may be several levels to friendships. People can be found on every level but all people WILL NEVER be found on any one level in my opinion. I want to name and describe those levels as I see them. Some are just fun and light while some are serious. All are just my simple way of thinking about the subject with no research involved. 

There is the Face Book/blog level. This is where you communicate with someone you have perhaps never met but have befriended on FB or a blog. You enjoy their comments and even occasionally you enjoy writing on their Wall or blog as you follow their journey of life in writing. It's fun, informative, safe [generally] and you really do get to know a lot about some people and can count them as friends to a small degree. 

I've also found that when an occasion presents itself where you meet them personally there can be an instant bond. Rex Ray and Rodney Sprayberry are two of my now personal friendships that came about in this fashion. Some people discount this level as totally unimportant, but, for me, it has been a good experience.

There is also a personal acquaintance level. This is made up of people you've met before and maybe even recognize their face when you see them again, but are unsure where you met them or how you know them or even what their name might be. You usually ask your wife, as I have on many occasions when I walk away, "Who are they?" Unfortunately, many people I pastored in forty years of pastoring fall into this category. But... they don't know it...and I don't want to tell them either. I'm too chicken to do that.

Then there IS the real friendship level. This is where you know them, relate to them, hear from them, see them occasionally, and are, generally, glad to be with them when those occasions do happen. 

I say "generally" because there are exceptions. Not everyone on this level is the kind of person you completely enjoy as a friend. There are a couple of types that find their way to this level and one of those types can give you some problems. But the other is a delight. 

The delightful one first. They see themselves on a level ground with you and require little maintenance. They are enjoyable, interesting, a fun person to be around and you smile big when you see them and love to catch up. This type you really view as a friend. You're there if they need you and they are there for you on occasion as well. A lot of the people in any congregation can be found here.

The other person on this level is a different story. They are high maintenance. They are always needy and looking for something that will fix their particular situation whatever that may be. It seems to always be a broken situation. They "pick your brain," so to speak, about what you think they should do about life, kids, job, health, ministry, whatever that broken situation is at the time. 

This is not the kind of friend that you talk to about YOUR struggles as that would only add to their list of broken things and they would feel abandoned by the loss of your help. [We weren't really talking about your problems!!]  So there is, of course,  little or no regard for your struggles. There can't be. Their list is long enough already.

This person drains you quickly. You don't mind helping WHEN you can because of a desire to help WHERE you can, but, you have to guard against an unhealthy dependency that can occur and sometimes can even masquerade as Christian ministry because it makes you feel good to be someone's source for the answers to life. 

But, since there is no reciprocity, you will always be the one giving to the relationship and never being replenished by it. Thus, creating an unhealthy and unwise relationship. When you are totally honest you have to admit this person wears you out and is not one you relish being around for any extended length of time if you don't play that masquerade Christianity game.  Unfortunately, I've found that many church members can be found in this category particularly where a Pastor is concerned.

My final category is made up of people who are friends in the truest sense of the word. They are on the life long friendship level. This is the person who is on an equal basis with you and there is total reciprocity in the relationship. 

Here is what that reciprocity looks like. You love them and they love you. You're there for them when they need you, and they for you when needed. When they fail, you don't abandon them, nor they you. You know their weaknesses and strengths and cherish both because it's who they are in their journey and you're with them in it all, and they with you. 

When you are not together for some time, but then you see them, it is as though no time has gone by and there is no distance to make up in the relationship because no gap has arisen. There are no expectations about writing, calling, or a list kept of who communicated last and waiting until it's your turn. 

If you want to talk you call. If you don't call they may. But no record is kept of who has or hasn't called or written. No feelings are hurt because you didn't acknowledge them in some way or think about some situation the same way as they do. You're friends and you love each other and love doesn't keep records.  

You find yourself experiencing, when with them, being happy, angry, laughing, crying, agreeing, disagreeing, and a ton of other authentic emotions all with the relationship intact. In them you really have found someone who sticks "closer than a brother." They are your life long friend and will be until the day you or they die. [There may even be family members who are on this level.] 

You know...while writing this I realized why my wife is my best friend and I also realized that there are a few others I count can as being life long friends.They are, indeed,  a treasure.

"True friendship is like good health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost" My wish for you is that your true friendships will prosper as does your health. Mine are and I'm thankful for His grace that allows it to be so. 

Paul B. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Three Hebrew words are found to be translated 'pardon' or 'forgive' in the KJV of of the Old Testament. Those words are 'kipper,' [which means to cover] 'nasa,' [which means to lift up or to take away] and 'salach.' [Which means to let go.]  These three words all have reference in some fashion to the mercy seat of the Tabernacle and to the idea of the atonement. 

They are all three a metaphorical reference to the removal of sin. Sin is seen to be 'covered' [mercy seat] so that there is no longer a barrier to sinful man approaching and relating to holy God. Then it is seen to be 'carried away' [The Scape-Goat] so that there is no hindering offense that separates the offender from the offended One. Finally, it is 'forgiven' [The Lord's goat] so that there is no longer any wrath and death awaiting sinful man.  All of these together create a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work in picture form in the Old Testament as declared in Hebrews 9. What a picture it is.
Leviticus 16:7-10 is where the scape goat and the Lord's goat show vividly that picture just referenced. Aaron was to take a bullock and kill it to sprinkle blood for his and his sons purification. That was a personal thing for Aaron. But then there was the taking of two goats and a lot was cast making one the scape goat, to carry away the sins of the people, and the other was the Lord's goat, to die for the people. It is good to remember, however, that both were to be seen as ONE offering. 

This is important to understand as some have tried to identify the scape goat as Satan and the sacrificed goat as the Lord. It is true the Lord's goat was slain and it's blood sprinkled on the mercy seat for the sins of the people and then the scape goat had hands laid on it as the sins of the people were confessed and the animal was released in the wilderness. But the scape goat pictures our Lord as our sins were IMPUTED to Him and were "carried away" from us as He bore them on our behalf. Our sin has been lifted from us and carried away to be remembered against us no more.
Remember that the first goat had already been killed and it's blood had been taken and sprinkled upon the mercy seat for the sins of the people. Thus the penalty was paid. After all, the wages of sin IS death. God cannot simply send our sins away without a just consequence being seen. Death. 

It is a double picture then as the scape goat reveals that the Lord Jesus carried our sin away but the Lord's goat pictures the Lord Jesus dying on our behalf. Sin IS removed from us but it is at a high cost to Someone and we know who that Someone is don't we!!

 So the blood, having been sprinkled on the mercy seat enabled sinful man to approach holy God because their sins have been covered, [kipper] and the scape goat shows that any barrier those sins might have created had been taken away. [nasa]  On top of all that their failure was not remembered against them any more.  [salach]  That is to be REALLY forgiven.
Paul B. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The promise of a coming Savior was given early on in the drama of the temptation and sin thing that happened with Adam and Eve. Interestingly, the first promise of help was given in the context of a curse being put upon the offending serpent. It reads this way..."And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between her seed and thy seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." [ Genesis 3:14-15]  

This is not simply a statement of some kind of hostility that would exist between snakes and people but does, albeit in cryptic language, speak of a strife that will be between Christ and Satan and a final triumph of the former over the latter.

How much Adam and Eve understood of it all may be up for discussion to be sure, but that there was a measure of comprehension is clear from the language in the following verses. It is pointed out by James P. Boyce in his work entitled "Abstract of Systematic Theology" that Eve, at least, associated Jehovah and His promise with the birth of Cain. Boyce says this, "Now the record taken in it's strictest grammatical interpretation teaches not only that the promised seed had become a ground of hope for the woman, but that she had learned to associate with him who was to be the antagonist of the serpent the name of Jehovah Himself." [P-260] 

 Boice then gives an elaborate and interesting word study that winds up with his showing that Eve thought Cain was, in fact, that Jehovah man-child as he gives a well researched documentation of the language that shows her statement was a statement that said, "I have obtained a man JEHOVAH." In other words, she thought her child Cain was Jehovah come in human form. He wasn't. But that child did ultimately come and the heel-bruising of the seed of woman and head-crushing of the seed of the serpent did occur. We know it as the work of the Cross on our behalf.

I think interpretive honesty and our knowledge of Christ allows us to admit that Eve was incorrect in her assumption that Cain WAS that seed promised. But nothing in the language of scripture ever states that she was correct in that assumption either. Her belief that the promised seed would be Jehovah in human form doing battle on her behalf against sin and it's sources and consequences was ultimately brought to pass however. As stated before, it is the work of the Christ of the Cross and that is the message of the gospel.

This is another simple view of Christ presented in the Old Testament much as we saw last time that He can be seen in the garments worn by the High Priest, Aaron, and his sons, the priests. 

I love to reflect on how the whole of scripture is a tale of Christ and His accomplishing the work of redemption.

Paul B.

Monday, June 06, 2011


When Adam and Eve sinned God did a gracious thing for them immediately.  Genesis 3:21 says it this way, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." The word 'coats' is "Kethoneths" which has a double meaning of "to cover or to hide." Adam had already tried to do both on his own when he and Eve sewed fig leaves together and hid from God in the bushes. You see, Adam and Eve had a duel problem of guilt and shame but couldn't take care of their problem by self effort any more than can we.

 But God graciously did the necessary hiding and covering of their guilt and shame with the "coats of skins" according to Gen. 3:21. It is significant to remember that the word "skins" in the KJV is plural, but in the original it was singular. This is important, perhaps, because, as C. W. Slemming says, "This suggests that one sacrifice was sufficient for both." 

It is also significant to remember that this is the first example of a" Kethoneth" needed to cover man's sin and to hide man's shame. It wasn't a Botany 500 [the best suit back in my day of buying suits] that Adam now wore, but it sure was a fine garment of a totally different nature for both he and his wife.

The first High Priest for Israel was another example of wearing a wonderful garment. It was a "coat" [there's that word kethoneth again] made of "fine linen" according to Exodus 18:39. Aaron, the High Priest, wore it as an inner garment but his sons, the Priests, wore it as their only garment. [Plus the Priestly girdle, bonnet etc.]  

With this coat the High Priest and the Priests were sufficiently covered so they could minister in the Tabernacle itself. Then, on that wonderful day of Atonement, the High Priest would by himself, take in the blood of the lamb, sprinkle it on the mercy seat, which covered the law that was in the Ark of the covenant, and sinful man had an audience with God. More than an had relationship with God.

We know the blood speaks of His sacrifice for us on the Cross. He gave His life on our behalf. But often forgotten is the righteousness that is His which is imputed to us by Grace. You see that "coat of linen" speaks of our guilt and shame being hidden once and for all. Isaiah foretold of it with these words, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness..." [Isaiah 61:10] 

I'm sure we all agree that Righteousness was the foundation of everything Christ was and did. But our claim to being righteous is of a different nature. It is not our own. It is a righteousness given to us by Him. So our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is righteous in His very character, [As shown by the inner garment of the High Priest]  is willing that His righteousness become imputed to us. [As shown by the outer garment of the Priests.]  All this so that we are, in fact, clothed with His Righteousness, because we are washed in His blood, and as Adam pictured, we are free from EVER being seen in our guilt and shame. 

Not a botany 500 by any means. Far better than that. Our garment is a permanent covering. THAT, my friend, is GRACE.

Paul B.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Without question, every believer, regardless of age or gender, is a priest and has something to offer in service to our Lord.

F.F. Bruce says it this way...“Christianity is sacrificial through and through; it is founded on the one self-offering of Christ, and the offering of His people’s praise and property, of their service and their lives, and all are caught up into the perfection of His acceptable sacrifice, and are accepted in Him.” 

So no one has any reason to doubt that they have been called to a ministry in the body of Christ. To every believer grace has been given for service to the Lord. The scripture says it this way, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Eph. 4:7)

In Christ, every Christian is a son or daughter of God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and all Christians come to God the Father directly. As a royal priesthood, we then serve God in gratitude for our salvation all of our life. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit and we are to function in the body under Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King. 

This means that all Christians are free from any tyranny or bondage of any mediating priest, minister, pastor, reverend, bishop, or spouse.  We are to recognize Jesus Christ alone as our Mediator and High Priest whose sacrifice alone has ushered us into God’s presence. 

Sacrificial service to God then comes from an enlightenment we get from a studied Scripture and we all are empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister within and for the good of the whole of Christ’s Church. Such is the great ministry of every believer within the Church.

I think it may be time that we admit as Baptists that the ministry of the church is not a "one-man ministry" or even a "man" ministry. Everyone is a priest. Everyone is graced. Everyone is gifted. And  everyone is to serve out of that gifting and grace. 

A New Testament congregation may be like the orchestras Mary and I saw this past year in the Edmond Culture Center that made such beautiful music. Each orchestra was made up of many instruments and in the warmups when each was warming up with little or no regard for the others and it was a cacophony of confusion and disorder. But let the Conductor step to the podium and raise his baton and begin his leading and what beautiful music was heard.

Similarly, a local congregation can be one characterized by confusion and disorder when left to each one with no regard for the others. Our mistake, however, is in thinking order comes by elevating one man [a pastor] or one group [deacons or men only] into the conducting of affairs of the church with no real regard for all the others. 

The resulting tragedy is that the typical congregation finds itself robbed of "each one ministering" as they are gifted to help build up the body and the majority of the members wind up being spectators. Or...they are consigned to working in an organization with little or no ability to impact anyone other than an assigned small group based on age and gender. 

Don't hear me knocking present day Christianity with a negative spirit or condescending attitude. You would be mistaken on both counts. I love and appreciate people where they are and I also minister among those people that I love and appreciate multiple times a year in conferences and meetings as well as in my own local fellowship.

My words here are not the ravings of an angry and frustrated preacher or Christian. They are the honest words of evaluation about us all and a stated longing for what could be in the Body of Christ if we were willing and able to yield to the Holy Spirit in fresh ways with a greater desire for something that cannot be explained in terms of human control, manipulation, or methods born out of pragmatism. 

Think about what would happen if the Holy Spirit were really free to raise His baton and make music through any person He chose to in harmony with all the others in a congregation. 

I think the resulting spiritual music would likely be far from the institutional and organizational chaos and deadness that we wind up with generally because of our fear of being "out of control" of where things might go if no one person or group is in charge. 

It is this loss of the reality of the Spirit's life and direction that plagues us in the modern day church IMHO. The ultimate result is the loss of the giftedness of men and women from whom the whole body would benefit. 

As a royal priesthood, then, it is my fervent prayer that we will learn to live and serve together with no regard to age or gender under the true leadership of the Spirit. What music we could make together

Paul B.