Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Calumniate"___"a verb which means to make false or malicious statements about__a synonym for defame, malign, slander."

"Calumniator"___ "a noun that refers to the person who makes false and/or malicious statements."

How we use words is a serious matter it seems to me. A word can reveal a value we are placing on whatever it is to which or to whom we are referring. It can show an emotion, judgment, or a predisposition toward putting a person down with ridicule or shame. It is this kind of put down words that I believe are unfortunately characterizing our discussion in the realm of theology, politics or even our society itself. We are reaping a whirlwind of coarseness that is even spilling over into our pulpits and churches. It is certainly prevalent in the political atmosphere we are currently seeing.  I may be referring to a tone as much as words__but the end result is we are becoming "Calumniators"__which is an oxymoron when used with the word Christian.

I have thought along these lines after reading several comment sections of some blogs I've read the past several months__both theological and political__which reveal an anger and maliciousness that is disheartening. It would be wise for us as Christians to never forget that we are going to face__ in some fashion someday__ our words. The "give account for every idle word"  [Matt. 12:36]  is of enough significance that perhaps a guard is needed by all Christians in our present day more than anytime I can remember. Words for us are to be used to speak the truth and are always to be spoken in love and graciousness.

It is a given that we have problems that do need to be corrected and we have people who need to be confronted often times. The Scriptures themselves give us guidance and even illustrations that these times will present themselves. No one is denying that fact. But it is that scriptural guidance on the method of doing the confronting that is being often forgotten or disregarded it seems to me. 

But it isn't so much the idea of offense that is our problem. Matthew 18:15-17 is pretty clear as to our procedure when personal offense takes place. I'm not saying that this biblical instruction is followed as it should be, but I am saying that at least it's clear what SHOULD be done by the offended party when both are believers.

I'm speaking more of the debate about theological non-essentials [non-salvation] and even political positions on cultural and societal issues. The words we use in these areas are as important as the positions themselves. I'm concerned about the use of language/words that are used to asperse one another [ to slander or defame someone's character] because of a difference of opinion on issues. To use our words in such a way is a serious matter it would seem to me. Words spoken "with grace and seasoned with salt" seem to be far from us in the present climate both in society, which I can understand, and in the Church, which I do not understand.

It is the put down remarks and words about someone else's character that I believe are clogging the Internet__especially on blogs__and are more representative of the world system than they are the Kingdom of God. The end result is we can become Calumniators__which is an oxymoron when used with the word "Christian"__or even "minister."

May God deliver us from this devastating atmosphere and restore us to being people of the Spirit who is Himself corrective__even confrontational__but always gentle and gracious. Just my thoughts on what I perceive to be a very present danger.

Paul B.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MY PROBLEM WITH HOMOSEXUALS_____and the people who hate them!

I am something of a champion of women's issues [in my own mind] and their freedom to function in the Body of Christ. I want women to be seen as I see them by others who are, as am I, conservative and even Reformed in their Theological persuasion. But many who ARE conservative and Reformed resist gender equality and sometimes they use the "slippery slope" idea to avoid looking at it at all. "Get gender equality going and you'll wind up accepting homosexuality as not sinful" is the way they put it. That was said in a comment on one of my posts. I found myself sympathetic at first. But then I remembered something that bothered me to no end.

I remembered it was that kind of thinking that so many old time Baptist preachers had over issues 50 years ago when I was a young and wet-behind-the-ears preacher myself. Here's how they said it... "Don't dance because it will lead to sexual promiscuity," "Don't drink a glass of wine because it will lead to drunkenness." "Don't go to movies because it will take the Word of God out of your mind and replace it with trash." They even said, "Don't go to Seminary because it will pollute your theology."

Looking back, I now understand that what they were doing was operating out of a "fear" mentality and it had nothing to do with a "faith" mentality. They were just scared to death of certain outcomes. They also allowed only those who adopted their list of "don'ts" to be with them in their brand of koinonia. [Fellowship] As a young preacher, I wanted to be in their group, or at least I wanted them to like me, so I played a bit of that game myself. That is my fault I know. I blame no one for my game playing but me, certainly not them. But I now have to ask myself why I did that. The answer is I had THEM in my view. 

I'm older now. I'm more experienced now. I know some theology [not a lot]  now. I now think it unwise to do OR to refuse to do ANYTHING because someone else is operating out of fear and might think something bad will happen. I now know I don't want to do whatever I do [or don't do] with those kind of fear-mongers in my sight AT ALL. Those dang Baptist preachers who operate out of fear but who are capable of grabbing our attention, if not alliegence, just aren't worth it. 

There is another thing I've noticed about myself as I've grown older. I don't mince words when I write about those who heap ABUSE on someone else. Whether it's pastors abusing their people, or people their pastor, it rankles me and I say so. I'm bothered by that stuff. Whether it's the Patriarchal movement, which I believe is not only unbiblical but dangerous for those who are weak emotionally or otherwise, or the present emphasis on bullying, or a host of other abusive things, I'm pretty vocal against the ABUSER. I think it's good to have a healthy reaction against someone abusing another.  

But then I've noticed, I'm also usually [in my own mind at least]  soft, graceful, and healing in my tone and words to the abused ones. Whether that's wounded pastors who come to my pastor's seminars, women physically or spiritually abused, hurting children or... you get the picture. 

Now to my problem with Homosexuals... and those who hate them! What am I talking about? Let me see if I can explain.

Let's address the elephant in the room right off the bat."What they do is a sinful act," someone says. I know that. But WHY they do that sinful act may not be as simple as we tend to make it. Whether it's a genetic thing, or simply a choice, or an act of "sin," or even a mixture of all three, it isn't a simple thing. The debate may well continue between whether homosexuality is a nature and nurture thing, but I'm thinking there is far more that drives a person in that arena than just choosing something. Who knows?

But what I DO KNOW from my experience with counseling many through the years who have been homosexual, is that many of them have been ABUSED. I'm not saying that abuse is what has created their actions. Hear me here. That can continue to be a raging debate. What I'm talking about is the ABUSE that comes TO them BECAUSE of their actions. And this [abuse because of actions] has come, to a large degree, from self-proclaimed bible believing/thumping Christians who talk about grace and show little of it in tone, words or actions. [Think Westboro and their kind here and I don't say "baptist" or "church" because that group is neither.]  

I could give you a list of homosexuals I've worked with in the past, and even the present, who, after having heard their story, I'm not surprised that they are unwilling to listen to ANY Christian about ANYTHING because of the pain inflicted on them by SOME Christians. I can't say I blame them. 

Have you ever wondered WHY self-proclaimed Christians  [Think Westboro again] find them so WORTHY of any abusive action or attitude that can be perpetrated on them?

It may be because those abusive self-proclaimed "christian"s think some sexual sins [especially the homosexual kind] are in a special category in scripture. I think that might be true. But I'm afraid they label their category for homosexual sins as the "heinous" kind. That's probably because of their reading of Romans 1 where Paul addressed somebody as being given over to a reprobate mind. But that demands a real understanding of what Paul was speaking to there.

In this passage Paul says that even creation presents a NATURAL revelatory conclusion about God. He is real, creation says. [vs 20] But The Greeks [vs16] took that NATURAL revelation and changed it and perverted it into a religion that worshipped the thing created instead of the creator by [here it is] even using sexuality [male with male..woman with woman--vs23-28] as a worship tool, thus, not retaining God as the one who is to be worshipped.

In context, it is the Temple prostitutes and those who used them in worship who are given over to a reprobate mind. That is Paul's declaration to the Roman Church. 

I think it wise to see THAT can happen ANYTIME someone begins to worship the thing created instead of the Creator. [Think money or sports here.] When that DOES happen [worship the thing created instead of the Creator] the end results will be verses 29-32. [A hell of a sorts in life and certainly in eternity.]  

But, Paul goes on to say that if all that's true, and it is, anyone [The Jews] who judges them [The Greeks]  and their failure because of being that way, will face judgment as well. [6:1-3]

I said that I am also convinced that, biblically speaking, sexual sins have a special category to them. I am convinced of that. And I believe how we label that category is very important. I wouldn't label it "heinous." That's reserved for perverted worshippers that are indeed heinous according to Paul. 

But I WOULD label it as a category called "difficult. Difficult because of the damaging nature of sexual sins. Their destructive/damaging nature is seen in sexual sins being able to damage one's own body as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:16..."Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."  Then there is damage to one's own family, one's own marriage, even terrible damage to the marriage covenant itself. Then there is the fact that they are difficult to break free from and any number of other issues that arise. Difficult? Absolutely! What I don't see is "heinous" which is the way many seem to approach that category of sexual sins.

I've NEVER tried to help people guilty of sexual sins, in the counseling I've done, WITHOUT my being willing to say at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner that I view their action as a sinful action. That's truth, at least for me, about ALL sex outside marriage and I don't believe help can ultimately come without an honest facing of this on their part.  That's what I believe. 

But what I've found to also be true is that they, especially homosexuals, don't need me to convince them of that BEFORE I love them with MORE THAN WORDS. They need me to be open to THEM emotionally, graciously, and embracing THEM as a person. They, more than many others, need someone to give respectful acceptance of their personhood which, if my theory is correct, has been violated for a long time by some so-called Christians. That can be done without violating my personal view of their actions at all. 

So, for me, [And I'm speaking only for me here] I need to see them as people more akin to how I see people whose sin is gluttony or pride, or lying. [That's not denying the special category thing either.] I just don't want their sin to identify who they are as a person TO ME. So that when I DO speak about their actions, if I am given that privilege in counseling or even in dialogue, I can do so with a tone that says love rather a tone that for me is reserved for a perpetrator of abuse on another.

Maybe THEN I can help them get their identity from the same Christ my identity comes from and work through whatever their unique struggles are.  I'm not saying there aren't exceptions to all this. Of course there may be, but as a general approach to people who struggle with homosexuality, what I'm saying is a help to me personally.

 So I think my personal problem with homosexuals, in simple terms, has more to do with my desire to see THEM as the ABUSED as opposed to the ABUSER. [Maybe as demonstrated in Jesus with the woman at the well of Sychar__the abused one__ and the religious guys who followed Him and marveled that He even talked with her much less loved her, because of their prejudice.__The abusers__.]  

It may be as simple a thing as my wanting to learn to address them as people WITHOUT reminding them of what I see as their sinful act every time I'm with them. I don't want to address a gluttonous person on the basis of their EATING or an adulterer on the basis of their ADULTERY or a prideful person on the basis of their PRIDE either. [And don't try to think I'm making all these equal in nature. I've already spoken to that.]  

There may be a time and a place for addressing their actions but none of them have to FIRST admit my view of their behavior is the CORRECT view for me to express my love to them. I just want to love them as people. 

 So what's my REAL problem? I don't know for sure! Unless I'm wondering if I might not still be haunted by that eye I had on the Fundys those years ago. [The slippery slope accusation guys you remember.]  I'm beginning to wonder if present day, my wanting to show them that someone CAN be conservative theologically and hold to gender equality and NOT go down a slippery slope of not believing homosexual acts are sinful is really worth it. 

I know the slippery slope idea is NOT true, [even though my love for homosexuals will look like compromise to them]  but the Fundys will NEVER know that and really don't care. So I'm wondering if they're really worth the emphasis I've placed on proving it to them!  I'm afraid my efforts to show them has a cost to it that I may not desire to wind up paying. [When you lose the ability to express genuine heart-felt love to any person abused by another it's a real loss.] 

I think I've concluded that I'd rather go on loving sinners as just people where they are and helping them, as I can and if I can, to ultimately find their identity in Christ and not in any particular brand of sin with which they might personally struggle.  I'm thinking that IS real Christianity and living out the gospel. I could, of course, be wrong in my conclusion. But I don't think I am.

I'm sure that not all, maybe even few, will agree with much I've said. But I'm trying to come to some kind of biblical understanding clothed in civility about issues that we face as believers and discuss them with that civility uppermost in our minds. Comments are welcome but, do me a favor, read the guidelines above the comment section before you do. 

Paul B. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012


A few years ago,Wade, our oldest son and Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid Oklahoma, preached a message from his series in Genesis dealing with the failure of Abraham to speak the truth about his wife, calling her his sister out of fear for his own life. His son later did the same thing. So Wade addressed "generational sins." [With a distinction between sins and curses.] It was a superb message and one every Christian should hear. You can__ by going to the Emmanuel web-site and checking the archives of the Genesis series__and I hope you do. 

In the course of the message, Wade told a story, with my blessing, that caught vividly MY struggle with anger as a besetting sin in my life as it had been in my fathers. It was of an incident when I, while pastoring a large Church in Texas over thirty years ago, got out of the car on I-35 while driving back to Texas from Oklahoma with Mary, my wife and Wade's mother, because she and I were arguing. [We were alone in the car that trip.] I was not controlling my temper, as was the case too much of the time in those days. 

So she drove off__wise decision and completely biblical since we are commanded to not keep company with an angry man__and I was left to hitch-hike home alone. And I did. Not the stuff from which biographies of great and godly men are made, but the truth nonetheless.

It was at that time and because of that incident that I knew I had to get serious, again, about God working in my life and started the painful process of facing, repenting [genuinely] and removing the particular besetting sin of anger from my life. I'm grateful, as are all the Burlesons, including Wade and his three siblings, that God has worked. But the process came neither quickly nor easily. 

Wade told that story and did so with a forgiving spirit, while taking responsibility for his own besetting sin and showing sins CAN be generational unless one chooses to stop them with honesty, repentance,and removal. As I said, a superb and needed message by all.

Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, I'll tell you "The rest of the story."  Even Wade doesn't know what I'm about to reveal. But it's true as well.

I was broken-hearted during that trip home hitch-hiking. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know the sin and utter stupidity of what I had done and was doing. But it did take the Grace of God to genuinely grieve over it. I've come to see the presence of God's Grace in one's life is not evidenced by no longer failing/sinning but, rather by being broken over it. Much as Lot was "vexed in his righteous soul" by the deeds of those around him. [And his own later. 2 peter 2] In that manner will a true believer be "vexed." I was. 

So much so that when I got home later and found Mary gone doing errands, I hid in the garage until she returned so the kids would not know we didn't come home together. [It wasn't godly repentance yet as you can see by my actions.]  It was sometime later I got honest and then even later that I related it to Wade as he told it correctly in his message. The cloak of secrecy still prevailed for awhile unfortunately. Someone has said you are as unhealthy as you are secretive. I think they are right. I wasn't healthy quite yet.

Now for more of the Grace part. While hitch-hiking home that day, I was picked up by a business man. We started conversing and he realized I was not a bum hitch-hiking across country but was, in fact, educated and knowledgeable. [Though far more stupid than he knew.] I did not reveal that I was a Pastor for obvious shameful and self-protecting reasons. We talked. One thing led to another. Before much time went by we were pulled over to the side of the road and, with my hand on his shoulder, he wept his way into repentance and faith gifted to him of God in that providential moment. he took me to my home and went on his way rejoicing.

I tell you this NOT to take away the sting of my own failure and sin. The Cross has done that. But to remind all of us, as I was reminded that day, that our God isn't waiting until we have it all together before He pours His Grace through us. But has stated and shows us in His providence the reality that where sin abounds, Grace DOES much more abound.

Some may think this being said might take away from the responsibility of wrong/sinful actions on my part. Not at all! But my thinking is that it does remind us of "why" we can be honest, repentant, and broken over our sins. There IS no reason to fear His anger. That was poured out on Jesus. Grace is poured out on us. You can trust Him enough to be honest about yourself. 

In the context of Wade's sermon on Abraham that day, "she is my wife, not my sister, but I lied about it and am ashamed of that fact," can be shared with a son, daughter, spouse, friend, BECAUSE God's love DOES cover a multitude of sins. So those sons/daughters can hear one generation speak to another generation of their own failures/sins against the backdrop of His work on the Cross. "Freedom" is what that really amounts to. It's like coming out of the bushes [Adam] and saying the truth about whose fault it really was. [What if Adam had said 'mine'?] God works in that context, Graciously. 

Thanks Wade for a great message and a great reminder for all of us, and to me personally, why His Grace truly is "amazing."


Saturday, August 18, 2012


There is abroad in our land a struggle with the idea of gender, even in the Church. In fact, some have gone so far as to declare that "complementarianism" [Men have roles and women have different roles and they complement each other, but men are at the front of the line in all things concerning authority.] is part of the gospel itself. So if you aren't complementarian in your view of gender you've lost the gospel. What follows will explain why this is so important to me. I cherish the gospel and, if they are correct, I'm guilty of losing the gospel itself, as you will see.

Most of my ministry life has been lived in that 'complementarianism' concerning women in life and ministry mentioned above. This simply means I lived, believed and taught that women were to submit to their husband's leadership in the home and were to do the same in church life. Men ruled. Women submitted. As men, we had our place and women certainly had theirs, [Complementary] but ours was at the front of the line. We were to love and provide, to be sure, but always from our place at the front of that line. For years of marriage and ministry I never questioned the biblical basis for this nor did I question the rightness of it in a practical way. How could it be otherwise? The bible said it and that settled it. I was old-school in this you see.

When I faced those situations where it was abused either by a man controlling a wife and robbing her of her person, choices and input [or a pastor robbing people of the same] or a wife refusing to obey a husband by attempting to be herself uniquely by exercising her mind or will on issues, I passed it off as them probably being people who generally messed life up because of a strong personality [his] or rebellion. [hers] If they would simply "calm down and obey the bible all will be well." That became my mantra for most struggles in marriage.

There were three basic shifts in my understanding along the way that shook my life and forged a new direction for me that resulted in my now belonging to a new school of thought on this issue. The newness is not that the scriptures or my culture or my convictions about scriptural authority have changed. Not at all! But my understanding of things as they really are in the purposes of God has changed. What follows is a bit of that journey.

Shift number one was in my own life. I view my marriage as a gift from God, as I'm sure most of you do. My marriage partner is a gifted and capable woman who is unique in her person. Her giftedness and uniqueness was what caused me to look again at women NOT being able to lead or teach men [or anyone except children and other women] as I saw in her one who knew more bible than most preachers [she memorized and quoted over 500 verses at camp one year] and knew theology [still does] better than most of my Seminary buddies.

Our relationship clashed with my old-school thinking as she awakened to her uniqueness and person hood in Christ and I began to see her gifts and abilities as from God for me AND the church. [This was not without some painful times of struggle for both of us.] It also gave us pause because neither she nor I were willing to violate the scripture because of our experience. So what did this mean for us? The old-school way of thinking wouldn't do. That was a given. But something had to give.

Shift two came as a result of studying the scriptures afresh. Laying aside culture, preconceptions, teachers and theological systems I'd bought into rather easily, I began searching the text anew for myself. For starters, in 1 Timothy 2:12 I began to see the text as less clear than most complementarians saw it and that lack of clarity was NOT there because of what our culture imposed on i,t but because of Paul's language used in the text to address HIS culture. It was understanding his culture that came into play for me as I began to grasp what he was saying.

To take that verse as an absolute universal principle for all women of all times and to impose a standard of silence and no authority over men flew into the face of so many other portions of the text of the New Testament. The Samaritan woman of John 4, Lydia of Acts 16, and Mary of Matthew 28 who seemed to speak the Word of God to all, including men, seemed contrary to 1 Timothy 2:12 being a principle for all time and places. 

The ministry of Jesus seemed to do the same. He taught, commissioned and sent out women, as well as men, as indicated in the gospels. Add to that others like Phoebe who was called a deacon, [there is no Greek word deaconess and where this word is used of men KJV translates it "deacon," but when used of women, KJV translates it "helper."] Junia, whom Paul said was outstanding among the apostles in Romans 16:7, [there are many more that could be given] and I saw there was something about 1 Timothy 2:12 that I needed to examine anew. So I did.

Another passage that gave me pause was the declaration of Peter that the New Covenant era would see our "sons and daughters" and "young men and old men" ministering thru the Spirit. This means at least that New Covenant relationships were not based on age, gender or race but on the gifting and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Add to that the Galatians 3:28-29 reference to neither male nor female nor bond nor free and you have a whole different thing in Christianity. I know it refers to salvation but the rest of the book refers to all no longer being slaves but sons [generic] with full rights of son-ship with no distinction made to gender or race.

Is New covenant relationships to be based on gender or race or not? Did God change His mind since the ascension of Jesus. If not, then why make it so in the home or the local church? Unless Paul said to in 1 Timothy 2:12. Did he? I don't think so.

In short, I now saw Paul referring to "a man and a woman" in 1 Timothy 2:10-12 [language is singular] and I saw the word "authority" as a word that meant disruption and using gender means [sexual perhaps] to take control and it is, thus, referring to a specific church situation in Ephesus. In other words, I saw it not as a universal principle for all time in all places but a specific event in that time.

I also had to examine 1 Corinthians 11 and began to see it differently. My final opinion is as I've read one person say, "Paul was telling women to not flaunt their freedom in Christ to dishonor men." That's spot on in my judgement. A fresh look at the word "Kephale" [head] caused me to question the definition of it being "authority." I began to see it as referring to something totally foreign to that meaning in the time of their culture. Not that it couldn't mean leading, but didn't in a normal use at all.

My purpose here is not to give the results of my research as much as it is to state my journey. Check out the lexicons up to 1950 and you will see what I mean. If you get bogged down in the "head" thing it would be good to remember [as I read someone say] "that certainly the Son has chosen to submit to the Father in the incarnation, but don't forget the Father has put everything under the Son's personal Lordship." [Phil. 2:9] That's interdependence instead of competition and control for sure. What a novel idea for the home and church were we to be Christlike as believers.

The final shift in my thinking came as I examined our culture. There was no problem seeing the cultural standard of man/woman relationships being one of a struggle for control. It was there in Paul the Apostle's day and it is in our day. It is the history of the human race. But from where did it come? 

My answer to that question came from, you guessed it, a fresh study of a passage of scripture. It was after a new look at the text in Genesis 3. [The fall]  There I found introduced a corrupted male/female control issue that was not in the original created order. It resulted from the fall, not creation. God wasn't in to creating a "whose the boss" mentality but a "how can I serve you" way of thinking. It started as a mutual sharing relationship in Genesis 1&2 that became a curseful control issue in Genesis 3. But a graceful [mutually sharing] relationship is re-established in Ephesians 5 by the Holy Spirit.

Grace is a recovery system for God's purpose in all things and I have concluded that, while we live in a fallen world, the redeemed people of God are to manifest a gracious, helping, mutual submitting and leading where they're gifted way of life that only grace can produce in our families and churches. It would be a shock to our culture and religion in general and it takes the Holy Spirit's empowering to accomplish it, but that is ours to experience as believers.

I was old-school in this issue but I'm now of a new-school of thought and, by the grace of God, I wish to live out that new school thinking out. It's basis is not my experience, culture or theological systems, but the authoritative text of scripture, when properly understood, in my personal opinion. But it doesn't impact my understanding of the gospel nor my belief that is the power of God unto salvation. Of that, I'm unchanged and unashamed.

Paul Burleson

Monday, August 13, 2012


[Defining that illusive "dying to self" spoken about in scripture in plain English]

Life is tough. Situations develop that are painful and create wounds emotionally, psychologically, physically, and even spiritually. When those situations are found in relationships, especially marriage and family life, it's even more painful. What do you do? How do you face difficulties of that nature? Trusting God is a given for Christians, and that is never minimized, but there are some responsibilities we carry in those kinds of situations also, it seems to me, otherwise, we're simply victims and what kind of life is that! 

I'm no expert and don't have all the answers, but, that said, I have learned some things, the hard way most of the time. It's those things I've learned I'd like to share.

When you are in a relationship that is difficult and you don't know what to do.... I suggest three things... [Remember, trusting God is a given.]

Develop a right frame of mind..

Nothing will remove the emotional pain that a person feels when things are collapsing or relationships are muddled or life seems unfair or unfulfilled. Those are what they are...painful emotions felt. They are neither right nor wrong...they just are. Recognize their existence and their grip on you in the moment. That's OK for the moment. They're yours.

But to let them control what you say or what you do is to lose your personhood and that is too high a price for anyone to be willing to pay. What you say and what you do [Be ye kind one to another] is your opportunity to be the real you. [In Christ a new creation] So when you admit to yourself your feelings about something or someone, from this point on, choose to rethink the moment  [As a person thinketh]  by honestly calculating the consequences [count the cost] of what you say or do as to whether or not it will really help your cause [God being real..that's what His "Glory" means.] or totally work against you and only make things worse. [reaping what is sown]

Develop a resistance to focusing on fault..

Assigning blame [whose fault is it?] may make you feel better in the moment, [or worse depending on whether you're a blame taker or a blame giver]  but it will never actually make things better for you, whether the assigned blame goes to yourself or to someone else. Blame is a recognizable problem with you if the conversation you have with other people degenerates within a few minutes to trying to assign responsibility to someone [even God] for the problem or situation existing. 

The key is to choose to focus in that moment on being to the other person [or to the moment/situation] something that will reflect your genuine personhood [who you are by God's grace] whether that is your ability to listen, share, explain, give or whatever portrays the real you as a person. "Who am I being right now?" is the question you need to ask yourself and answer for yourself, and focus there in the moment. 

Develop a return to teamwork..

A willingness to change, listen, compromise, be there for, is to be chosen by you and stated to yourself as a fact that is settled in your own mind. Then the other person has a choice to make. When the same choice is mutually shared it leads the way to change without blame assigned, but an acceptance of reality in both and a willingness to lay down expectations for the other because you have picked them up for yourself. 

When this is mutual, things can be worked out. If not, you are the better for the journey regardless. [It was good that it was in your heart.]

Jesus was not successful in being able to have a relationship with everyone. When others wouldn't, He respected their choices and went on being who He was in reality. They were the loser. He was never a victim. So it may be with some of our relationships, but we are never a victim. We go on with being who we are, by His grace, with or without them, sad to say, but a reality.

Always remember, where ever YOU go,  there YOU are.

Paul B.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Five years ago last month we joined the fellowship called Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond Oklahoma. There was a debate going on within the fellowship at that time about baptism and its place in baptist life as the door into local church membership. Mary and I read ALL the documents they posted and watched two messages by the senior pastor, Dennis Newkirk, as well as read every published testimony of every elder as each personally searched the scriptures for their own understanding of this issue. 

I must say we were impressed. They had done their homework. They researched every reference to baptism in scripture. They were doubting the legitimacy of the door to local membership position being bible based. They'd even researched Baptist history and the Baptist Fathers extensively. And they did so with a spirit of humility while attempting to bring their flock along to search for themselves and they hoped ultimately to have a final word spoken by the entire congregation. For some reason they never concluded with a final decision and, while disappointed with the end result, I certainly appreciated their heart and spirit in their attempt to face that particular issue of church life.

While no finalized conclusions came from them, I came away with my own view about that particular issue unchanged. I must confess I started out with a position that had, as a result of my own research, been settled years before and that personal position went unchallenged as I listened to their findings. 

From my research, particularly with the studies of Jon Zens and John Reisinger, I came away with some questions that had been posed for anyone who might hold the view that membership into a local church is tied to baptism. In fact, three questions that I believe would have to be answered.

One...Can anyone show a single instance in the N.T. where a person
is examined and then joined a local church?

Two...Can anyone show in the N.T. where a particular behavior is required of any christian because he/she has joined a local church?

Three...Is it not correct that all behavior enjoined upon any believer in the N.T. is because he/she has been joined to Christ and to every other believer? [Not my original questions but three I've been forced to ask and answer.]

My personal answers to those three questions ...NO...NO...YES 

These are my answers according to my understanding of the text of the New Testament scriptures alone. This is not taking into account Baptist history, Baptist Fathers, Baptist Tradition or Logical Thinking.

I don't think a local church is wrong or sinful for examining a person for membership or for having agreed to standards for membership, or, for that matter, choosing to respect Baptist history, traditions, or logical thinking by requiring baptism, if that's what they choose to do. Just don't call it something the bible teaches when the bible doesn't. 

Those are all pragmatic things needed, perhaps, because our modern culture demands we be organized, and researching Baptist history and the Church Fathers will always be helpful in doctrinal studies, but are never to be seen as the final word. I read someone who said, "If nothing else, reading Baptist history and the Church Fathers keeps us from the pride of our own scholarship." But the New Testament does not address such local church issues specifically nor definitively.

So let's organize, while not violating clear biblical principles to do so, and let's not make it an heretical thing if we disagree. Heresy is when clear biblical principles are misrepresented or when non-biblical principles are entrusted with the same authority as the text of the inspired scripture.

We do, however, see the text of scripture as sufficient for belief and practice, so let's be careful to give no other belief system that kind of authority, even if it is Baptist.

I'm convinced the modern church institution and organization could not possible have been envisioned by the NewTestament Church in their wildest imagination. So any effort to get back to the structure of the N.T. Church may be something of a myth anyway. Living like redeemed people are to live today and evangelizing our present day are things that are possible and essential no matter the shape our organization might take. Each culture and generation brings it's own needs organizationally anyway. We can meet that challenge together without cries of heresy.

The organism of the Church, aka the Body of Christ, The Bride of Christ, is alive and functioning in this age. [Albeit in need of a revival of Spiritual life.]  That organism has gifted servants, Spirit-led members, all empowered to serve one another, with each one unique in their giftedness. Whatever organizational form the Organism takes locally is but a tool that is very pragmatic and non-biblical. But that form is not to be endowed with any authority or to be seen as authoritative. Remember, this is simply saying that organization is not necessarily wrong or not needed in this is just not seen in the biblical materials.

My conclusion is simply this...since the scriptures do not speak to the matter of baptism and local church membership, the only reason to experience baptism in scripture is to testify of a conversion where one has been united with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. No door mentioned at all. And, it is best to not add anything further to its significance. The scriptures don't. Thus, I have for years believed that baptism is NOT the door of membership into a local church.

But my examination has and will continue. I will keep looking as I study..........[still looking]........[still looking].............[I know what biblical baptism is, a converted person, identifying with Christ in union with His death, burial, and resurrection, through immersion only.]......[still looking for this door thing]......[still looking].................................

Paul B.

Friday, August 03, 2012


Four years ago I had double carotid artery surgery. It went well, but for a few weeks I couldn't wear a tie at all. After those few weeks, I tried to wear one as I preached at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Enid Oklahoma on a Sunday morning. It bruised my neck___although the collar was quite big and the tie not very tight at all___ and I took it off between a two service set of speaking. I've not had one on since. For four years now, on all occasions, funeral, wedding, worship service, tie-lessness has been my attire.

In Matthew 23:1-7 it says that Jesus said this to the crowd and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,* and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi."

A lot that can be nuanced from this passage obviously. One thing is that the Pharisees really were a black/white kind of bad guys no doubt. This is seen in so many different ways according to this passage. First, they appeared to delight in the position of authority about religious things and the people had to take a back seat in their humble serving roll. Then, they seemed to be able to be comfortable with saying what others SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do, but they never bothered with lifting a finger to make it easier on those who bear the burden of doing what they said must be done. Finally, they just LOVED trying to LOOK different than anyone else. They loved to wear their phylacteries in plain sight and fringes [garments] long. They wouldn't be mistaken that way for one of the more common sort of people to whom they "ministered" and for whom they had quite a disdain.   

All this got me to wondering if perhaps clothing of one sort or another CAN get in the way of ministering. Maybe by giving an appearance of being a professional minister, as opposed to being a regular person, and thereby closing down accessibility to people, we miss people really. If clothes do, indeed, perpetuate the theologically flawed concept that the professional minister is the ONLY one who CAN minister the Word of God or is the ONLY one who CAN minister to any of the other needs the people might have, no doubt, those clothes ARE a stumbling block. I'm NOT saying that is is WRONG to wear a tie or any other piece of clothing. [Think suit here or jeans for that matter.] But I am saying anything can become a stumbling block to the ordinary person when we make an elevated thing out of clothing or anything else [think pulpit here] associated with the one doing the preaching of the Word and ministry. 

Someone will declare, I'm sure, that it is just trying to look your best for the Lord. I'll grant you that. Anything looks better than some of the modern garments that appear to be ten years old and dirty when brand new, or are so immodest that it causes one to look away. There is THAT. But when a minister won't mow his lawn without his tie on, [I actually knew this guy] or be seen in public, much less stand in the pulpit, without a coat on, I'm wondering if a modern day "phylactery" is not in place! 

This may be the proverbial "much ado about nothing," but, having thought it through and having spoken about it, I'll just stick to my tie-lessness thank you.

Paul B.