Saturday, December 27, 2014

ENDING THE YEAR WITH A STRONG SUGGESTION

I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.

Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty or what carnal means for that matter!]

My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.

One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.

In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advice was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [14:5b] He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ.." [1 Corinth. 2:16] which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional and NOT intellectual.

A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth. I've met new believers who sometimes wind up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.

The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord," at every opportunity, may sound as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact may be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity. I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.

But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely.

It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which model
s the Pharisees rather than the Messiah.

Therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.

Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.

1__"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______" Which being interpreted is... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

2__"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors." Which being interpreted is... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

3__"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it." Which being interpreted is... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

4__"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me." Which being interpreted is..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."

I'm wondering why we can't simply say what we mean and mean what we say?

Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord.

I think that is what could be called...Christianity.

Paul B.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

FALSE TEACHERS AND A FALSE GOSPEL


Titus 3:19

“Warn a divisive [hairetikos which means “heretic” in Greek.] person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” [NIV]

It seems to me that there a divisive attitude, maybe even anger, among Christians in our day about doctrinal issues that are not the gospel at all. Truth perhaps, but secondary truth to what is our basis of unity which is the gospel of Christ alone. 

I want to make some simple statements that I believe contain a few things that are often forgotten under the disguise of theological correctness.


1___We do not find anything in the text of scripture that allows for division or separation among believers over matters of general theology by charging them with being a heretic.

The word heresy, comes from the Greek hairesis, which means "division." This means that the noun, hairetikos refers to a "divisive person." [See text above]

So when Paul instructed Titus to reject a “heretic,” he meant to reject anyone set on creating disunity. Even then, the heretic was to be given two chances to repent from his divisive ways. [See text]

Heresy then, as biblically defined, is not a matter of wrong theology. Even what might be considered correct theology in the hands of a “divisive person” would cause the person to be deemed heretical biblically speaking. "Division" itself is the "heresy" warned about in the Bible.


This means that we must always remember that regardless of what we believe about…Scripture, creation, salvation, justification, baptism, spiritual gifts, God’s sovereignty, man’s free will, five points of Calvinism, the Church Universal or local…we have been commanded to remain united as believers. Our unity is around the gospel of Christ alone.


I repeat… The Bible never allows for division among believers over matters of theology.

2__The true gospel can be said to be certain things concerning Jesus Christ. 

If we look carefully those things that make up the gospel could be compiled into these five statements about Christ...


a_Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16–18; John 20:31; 1 John 2:22–24; 5:1).

b_Jesus came to earth in the flesh (1 John 4:1–3).


c_Jesus is a descendant of David (2 Timothy 2:8).


d-Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).


e_Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11).


All five of these statements are presented multiple times throughout the New Testament, but are clearly summarized and labeled as the “gospel” in the beginning of Paul’s epistle to the Romans seen here...

“This gospel (1)he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son (2)who was a descendant of David (3)with reference to the flesh, (4)who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, (5)Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:2–4, NET)


I repeat… The true gospel can be said to be certain things concerning Jesus Christ

3__The Bible does encourage ultimate separation from false teachers who preach another gospel.

Paul wrote that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8–9, ESV).

To be thoroughly biblical, we must limit our criteria for separating from people to be false teachers who teach a false gospel. While it is true that they can be identified primarily by their lifestyles, (see Matthew 7:15–20 and 2 Peter 2:14–19) they are also revealed as false teachers by their message of proclaiming a different Jesus. It is their different message about Jesus that makes for a false gospel and a false teacher.

Ray Stedman said it this way,  “The true gospel calls us back from following men to the Person of Christ and His cross. The cross of Christ cuts across all human value systems. It wipes out all the petty theological distinctions that men make among themselves. The cross strips away our illusions and brings the pride of men tumbling down from that high place where it exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”

This all makes me wonder if ‘Statements of Faith” might not do more harm than good seeing that so many people choose to dis-fellowship with others over ever imaginable doctrine. It isn’t “theological correctness” that is to unify us but “gospel correctness.”

I repeat… The Bible does encourage ultimate separation from false teachers who preach another gospel. 

Perhaps we should learn to say as Paul did, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it [and it alone] is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.” [NIV] 

If we fellowship around this message then we can enjoy each other’s company even if we disagree on___well__you get the picture I’m sure.

Paul B. 


Friday, December 05, 2014

MINISTERIAL MISTAKES


What follows is a profound statement by an unknown author.

Ministers are leaders in whatever their gifted areas might be. Leadership leads. But where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion and I want to gently point out a few that I believe need to be examined carefully. 

Were someone to ask how huge I believe these mistakes are, My answer is...big enough to write about them and that may be because I think too many leaders seem to be followed without question with too many people following without asking those questions.

The first huge mistake ministers AND  congregations are making is viewing the role of the pastor as all important. The word "Pastor" only appears once [as a noun] in the scriptures [Elder and Bishop however appear over forty times each.] and out of all the letters written to churches none were addressed to the Pastor. They were generally addressed to the people as the church. 

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find group of people in the New Testament who would think of a single person as pastor [local fellowships had a plurality of shepherds] and they certainly would never make the mistake of thinking of a single person, including a pastor, as the head of the church. That place was reserved for the Lord Jesus Himself. 

No one is disputing the need or purpose for having in the body some who shepherd the flock, but in the New Testament it was never to the point of one man/one teacher/one preacher in any gathered group. [Local Church]. That's a modern day mistake made by modern day pastors and the churches that follow them.

Where it has disastrously led us is to a completely unbiblical stance where a local body [church] is handicapped when they are "without a pastor" and cannot function in worship or training until one is "called" and sets out his "vision" for the church.

Do you see where this is going? We may not want to call a pastor the head of the church in Baptist theology, but we Baptists sure live like he is the head.

A second huge mistake made by modern day ministers and congregations is to think of political processes as the way to change people into what they ought to be. No one would disagree that things in America are in a mess socially. But attempting to change society into what it ought to be by legislating their particular Christian values and ethics through the legal processes is a colossal mistake.

In doing what I just described, Ministers/congregations are forgetting at best or even possibly purposefully ignoring the fact that New Testament believers lived under some horrible and oppressive political systems and yet never attempted to shame, condemn, change, or force their society to become what it ought to be by their Christian definition. 

They spent their time in obedience to their Lord, in loving their enemies, doing good to those who used them and, rather than attacking their enemies verbally, with grace, they presented the message of redemption that can be found in the person and work of Christ who is Himself God's Son and who came for fallen human beings. Yet, by any way you choose to measure it, they turned the world upside down with that simple methodology.

I think the simple reason is they never thought of the church as a business to be developed. To them, they were the Church, and the scriptures always spoke of them as a Body, a Bride, a Temple, a Holy Nation, a peculiar people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Word of God, belonging to God and strangers to this earth and any era of time.

There simply was no sense in forming protest groups or establishing lobbying groups to propagate biblical truth in order to change culture or society. That lay in the realm of a returning Lord who will make right all things in its time.

Paul B.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A GUEST POST FROM CHERRI MOXLEY [My Daughter]

There is something about being around someone who LOVES what they are doing - at that moment - whatever it is. I love the following illustration of Sharing the Joy in whatever you choose to do - from SIMPLE TRUTHS:

Barbara Glanz is a speaker and author. After speaking to 3,000 employees of a grocery chain on customer service and creating memories, Barbara heard from a manager on how his store employees began putting their own stamp on their departments. The manager of the flower department began cutting off her broken flowers and finding an elderly lady to pin it on. The meat dept manager loved Snoopy and would bring in his favorite Snoopy stickers to stick on the packages. He would then go out and laugh with the customers. It seemed people were finding ways to become personally involved with customers instead of just doing the expected or the "asked".

How did this begin? It all started when Johnny, a bagger at the store, called Barbara after her talk and said, "Barbara, my name is Johnny and I'm a bagger at the grocery store and I have Down syndrome. I heard what you had to say about service and I liked it! But I thought - what can I do since I'm just a bagger? Then I got an idea!

I love sayings and thought that each day I could pick out my favorite saying and my dad and I could print it out on the computer. I could cut out the strips and sign the back of each one. Then, I'd fold each one up, and the next day, I'd drop it right in the customer's bag and say "I hope you enjoy my quote for the day. What do you think, Barbara?"

Barbara told Johnny she thought it was a great idea and just a few weeks later the manager called back and reported that after seeing the line in Johnny's lane being three times longer than anyone else's and the customers wouldn't budge even when prompted to go to a shorter line. One lady said she used to come to the store once a week but now finds herself stopping in 2 or 3 times a week just to see Johnny's quote for that day.

When we bring our heart to the task, not only will those around us feel special and served, but they may pass it on too!


May we SHARE THE JOY in all we do!


In Joy,

Cherri

Monday, November 17, 2014

THE THINGS OF THE WORLD VERSES THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT









"Love not the world, neither the...things...that are in the world." 1 Jn 2:15
"Know His will and approve the...things...that are more excellent. Rom 2:18 
"But the natural man receiveth not the...things...of the Spirit." 1 Corth, 2:14 
"Set your affections on...things...above not on the...things of the earth. Col. 3:2 
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the...things...of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the...things...of the Spirit." Rom. 8:5
"Let no man glory in man, for all...things...are yours," 1 Corth. 3:21 

After writing the last verse mentioned above Paul made a partial list of the things that were theirs. [The Corinthian Christians]  Paul/ Apollos/ Cephas/ World/ Life/ Death/ All things present/ All things to come..were on the list.

But I'm a little bit confused. What are the "things" of the world/earth/flesh as opposed to the "things" of the Spirit? Where do I get my list of each? And if "all things" are presently mine as a gift from God, to which list is that referring. What are we to make of all this?

I did a study of the "things" of the world and the "things of the Spirit one time and found something that was a bit surprising to me. It appears to me at least that they are ALL THE SAME THINGS.

During my study I remembered a couple of facts from scripture. One is that the word "world" and the word "flesh" both had a neutral and an evil meaning when used in scripture. The neutral use of words like world/flesh is seen when it is  referring to creation and people. "God so loved the world..." But both can refer to evil as well. "Love not the world..." shows this. 

However, that was not a "thing" in scripture but an "attitude about things." John referred to it as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life." The key word here is "lust". It is taking some "thing" and using it for an illegitimate purpose. "Self" is that illegitimate purpose.

That brings me to the second point I had to bear in mind and that is "self" is simply independence from God. So any "thing" I use or view independent of who God is, as He reveals Himself to be, is a "thing" of the flesh. But any "thing" I use or view dependent on who God is, as He reveals Himself to be, is a "thing" of the Spirit.

So, here are some lists of mine that illustrate the point I saw in scripture. [A partial list only.]

The "things" of the world list.

My Job
My Marriage
My Recreation
My Food
My Church attendance
My Bible reading

The "things of the Spirit list

My Job
My Marriage
My Recreation
My Food
My Church Attendance
My Bible Reading

Let me explain if I can. My Job, be it law, medicine, home making, or ministry is a thing of the flesh/world OR a thing of the Spirit/heaven DEPENDING ON MY MOTIVE. If it is a way to make money for things I want only or to get my strokes from people if I do well, or to show how good I am at what I do, it is a "thing" of the world/flesh. But, if it is, to me, a way of providing for my own and extending the Kingdom of God and enjoying that Kingdom reality, it is a "thing" of the Spirit/heaven.

My marriage. If it is a "thing" that gets me sex, or security, or love, or comfort, it is a "thing" of the world/flesh. But, if it is to me, a "thing" that pictures Christ and His Church relationship, or a way to be a loving and gracious resource to another person, or a way of enjoying Kingdom reality, it is a "thing" of the Spirit/heaven.

My recreation. If it is a "thing" that shows off my abilities, or to get the praise of men, or to prove I'm better than anyone else, it is a "thing" of the world/flesh. But, if it is a "thing" that enables me to keep the Temple of God fit, or to accomplish personal/team goals that are healthy, or to enjoy a respite from work, it is a "thing" of the Spirit/heaven.

My Church attendance. If it is a way for me to get acceptance from people or God, or a way to check off a list that shows I'm better than those who don't attend, it is a "thing" of the flesh/world___you see the point___don't you?

So in reality, every "thing" I do whether attending church, preaching sermons, motorcycle riding, making money, reading my bible, eating with friends, has the potential of being a "thing of the Spirit" or a "thing of the world." Since "all things" are mine according to Paul the Apostle maybe the only question is why I'm doing it, not what I'm doing. That's the determining factor of its nature whether good or evil, flesh or Spirit, earthy or heavenly. 

So I'm just celebrating the reality of God as He has revealed Himself to be in every "thing" in life.

WOW, that means the lists can be forgotten as a standard of behavior and all of life is spiritual. It's my motive/heart in what I do that makes it evil or good [the issues of life thing].......I wonder if this applies to blogging??


Paul B.

Monday, November 10, 2014

PILLOW TALK

This is an illustration someone else used with which I agree and have adapted and adjusted to my lingo and would like to now share with my blog friends.

Imagine three large pillows all in a straight line on the floor. Imagine you standing on the one on the far right and ________[any person with whom you desire to have a real relationship] standing on the one on the far left. This leaves A THIRD PILLOW empty in the middle.

The pillow you stand on is yours, the one the other person is on is his/hers. The third pillow in the middle is the one that will hold your relationship. This pictures your life [or pillow] and their life [or pillow.] The middle one pictures your relationship together. [Or our Pillow.]

You have total responsible for the pillow your standing on and they are totally responsible for the pillow they're standing on. But you are both responsible, together, for standing, together, on the middle pillow.

Remember, at no point are you to be stepping on their pillow or are they to be stepping on your pillow. But you can step together onto the one in the middle.

Now____Big-time Lesson___You're not to be stepping on their pillow in an effort to CHANGE them nor are they to step on your pillow to change you. Neither one of you are to try to force or guilt or shame the other into changing as that is "STEPPING ON THE WRONG PILLOW."

In a healthy relationship all one can legitimately do is stay on one's own pillow and ask the other the question, "Do we like the relationship we are building together on that middle pillow?" If the answer is "no" then the two of you together can suggest to one another what you [both] would like in the relationship and see if you can agree on wanting the same things.

But this takes mutually agreeing to hear what the other really desires and both weighing what is needed by each to adapt in order to make that third pillow a great one. After all, it's a MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP PILLOW we're talking about here.

In marriage, of course, it’s a lot harder because there isn't any easy walking away. In business, friendships and even dating relationships, you CAN just walk away when appropriate.

However, in marriage there is a covenant agreement. But that covenant DOES NOT RULE OUT this kind of respectful, difference sharing, and mutual personal adjustment and growing to make THAT THIRD PILLOW the very best it can be.

Be responsible for your pillow and "go for it." You might even call this "PILLOW TALK."

It's those THIRD PILLOWS that I believe Jesus was calling treasure when He spoke of LAYING UP TREASURE OF HEAVEN.

[Always remember that NO ONE can have a third pillow with EVERYONE. Even Jesus wasn't able to have one with Jerusalem for example. THEY would not. Even His Covenant relationship with Israel ended in divorce. If you say He didn't divorce Israel as His people, but did as a nation, I say the hair-splitting is unsatisfactory. A divorce happened.]

Paul B.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HUMAN NATURE BEING WHAT IT IS.

I've noticed something. People are people. It generally doesn't matter if they call themselves Christians or atheists or Democrats or Republicans or ministers or Americans. They still act like people and with human nature being what it is, that's quite a story.

Case in point. Watch people angrily react to what they perceive as failure and go to the opposite end of the spectrum in order to correct it. Talk about overkill.

I've seen it in church life. A pastor is perceived as not a good people person [though he is a great bible teacher] and upon his leaving the church, the people go for a "people guy" with a winsome personality whose preaching is geared to feeding children, both biological and spiritual. No ability in the pulpit, but all the kids of both kind love him. It's wonderful. For a while. Then he's in trouble. [The attention span of children being what it is.]  He, of course, hasn't changed at all from what he always has been. He's just himself. But now he's not enough for the people. Overkill with it's harvest.

Or, take a pastor who is a great person but is as weak as motel coffee in those two cup packets in the pulpit. [That's weak, trust me.] He leaves and the people go after a "thunder and lightning" orator who disappears from Monday to Saturday except for those chosen few who are admitted into his presence. But it's wonderful. For a while. They are, after all, hearing real preaching now. [In their estimation at least, since a sane conversation by the man in the pulpit with the people in the pew on a Sunday morning doesn't qualify as preaching in their eyes.]  The T&L [tThunder and Lightning] guy has arrived. Then he's in trouble too, though he hasn't changed since his loud arrival. It's human nature being what it is.

[Though redeemed human nature does have the wherewithal to change behavior to reflect the Life of the Redeemer.]

But it's not just churches and church people. Observe the current political landscape as evidence. If Bush said it, did it, thought it, people wanted it different this time round with Obama. Now politicians of his party are running for office on the premise of being different than Obama. Trust them. [They say.] They will be different. They will be, human nature being what it is, I promise.

Then there is human nature being what it is with things that don't cost you something. Those no-cost things wind up being under-appreciated and abused. It's just human nature being what it is.

I remember when I first realized I had to begin charging a non-refundable registration fee for the couples attending a pastors and wives seminar that Mary and I taught in the eighties and nineties. On our first one we invited fifty couples who had responded to our invitation. We planned for them, registered them,  expected them, but half of the registrants didn't show up. This was when there was no charge for the conference at all.

So charge we did. The cost was a non-refundable pre-registration fee of twenty-five dollars a couple. We charged them. They paid it. They showed up. It was that simple. [They didn't know that we would be giving a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to the Baptist Book store waiting for them upon arrival.] It was just human nature being what it is.

The political/social realm is no different. Remember the apartments of the Johnson "Great Society" era? Built and given free of charge to many in the inner cities which became a nightmare to the people living there because there was no sense of responsibility in those receiving them for nothing. Those very apartments are now desolate, deserted and dangerous to all who have to remain.

Some were able to move to homes that they began to own courtesy of a low bar for borrowing.  But, knowing human nature as I do, I wasn't shocked when the bubble burst on those mortgages and the banks eventually had to repossess those homes. [With a resulting economic recession that lasts to the present] I see no sense in making sure a free ride is available to anyone. But that's just me. If you'll remember as mentioned above, I had a problem with pastors having free rides as well.

No one is saying the requirement should be large or poverty creating. It is wise however to recognize that human nature, being what it is, there doesn't seem to be an automatic appreciation or respect for what costs nothing. In fact, the reverse seems to be more the truth.

Finally, human nature being what it is, have you noticed that when people disagree with you on a point politically, philosophically, or theologically, and they can't persuade you otherwise, they begin to assign to you motives that, to them at least, justifies their argument on the issue being discussed.

Let me illustrate. I have come to a position of seeing the scriptures differently than I once did concerning women in ministry. My change is because of a new understanding of the text, historical context, and intention of the authors that I hadn't seen before.

But upon writing or talking of it with some people, I'm told that the reason I've changed my view is because of my being fearful of not being accepted by my culture. And, with that overshadowing desire in my heart, I will certainly one day wind up not calling homosexual actions sinful as well.

I think they have revealed human nature being what it is, again. Assigning a motive when the argument can't be won on the basis of thought or when theological in nature, the text of scripture alone. The fact that my heart is known only to God and is often unknown to even me and must be challenged by me regularly, doesn't matter. They just know what's in my heart.

Politically I see the same thing. The mid-term elections illustrate that quite well, human nature being what it is.

People seem angry and are going to the other extreme of what they perceive to be bad actions.

People are accepting what costs them nothing and will under-appreciate it ultimately.

People who are sure they know why someone holds a different view than do they and trumpet the motive of the one with whom they disagree as evidence for the reason to trust their own opinion on said issue.

I can let it go in politics. I really expect little else. But I'm thinking that judgment may need to really begin in the House of God.

I realize I'm drawing attention to the problem of human nature. The curing of the problem of housing and feeding the poor along with the pastoral needs of a church and a political race running from the last six years are all issues that need thoughtful and deliberate actions. But it's human nature that is the real problem.

So, while we work on all the issues I've mentioned above, whether that issue is religious, politically or philosophical, I'm not going to forget that human nature needs redeeming and that's the business of the gospel and whatever I do with respect to those other issues, while NOT insignificant, is secondary at best.

Those are my thoughts my human nature being what it is.


Paul B.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SOME PERSONAL PECULIARITIES

I’ve got a couple of peculiarities about me. Some people may think that’s too small an estimate of things peculiar about me and some people may be correct about that. Regardless, I will speak to the two I see to be prominent at least.

One is I’m willing to hold to a position on an issue that goes against what our culture thinks about that issue. An example of this is seen in what our culture says about any sincere religious belief system being as good for people in the long run as any other religious belief system. So, Muslim, Christian, Shinto, it doesn't matter our culture says. Being sincere is what matters. I'm sorry, but for me the scriptures speak clearly here. Jesus said, " I am the way, the Truth, the light, no man comes to the Father but by me." [John 14]

I believe that and my culture cannot/will not be able to set my standard there. So, if I hold to a view of women in ministry or marriage or anything else in a different way than some Baptists do, it won’t be because I fear being different than my culture and am trying to be like them.

The other peculiarity is that I’m also willing [hinted at already] to rest in a position I think correct that even goes against what Southern Baptist tradition generally holds to. For example historically, Southern Baptists have been what would be termed "cessationists," by and large, in regards to some  of the lesser spiritual gifts believing them to have have ceased. I do not now see the scriptures forbidding those gifts or declaring that they have ceased. [I once held that view]  I do see a regulation and warning about their use/misuse in the First Corinthian letter but the validity for them is there IMHO.

Since I see that textually, [in scripture] Baptist history/tradition cannot/ will not set my standard on that theological issue. There you have a couple of my personal peculiarities.

So, how do we get along with people with whom we differ in our culture or even in our religious organization?  Let me make a few suggestions for us all.

#1—LET’S BE OPEN--to people who think differently than do we about issues. This is especially true when studying the scriptures. I'm not suggesting that we are to assume unbelievers would understand scripture. But being "wise as serpents" indicates that wisdom CAN come from peculiar places.

I love this quote..."Since no one of us, [ as Christians] affected as we are by original sin, is perfectly pure in our desire for truth, no one of us is exempt from some degree of closed-mindedness." [Searching Together Winter 1985]  "I think this means we must be open to at least 'listen' to multiple sources, in the Body of Christ at least, if we are really going to have the thoughts of Christ on lesser issues." [Same Publication]


No better statement can be found in my judgment.

I’m thinking it might even be wise to be open to the fact that people outside the Church in our culture will likely have SOME truth about SOME issues worth hearing as well. Not every unbeliever is automatically a dummy intellectually. [Neither is a believer automatically an Einstein.]



#2—LET’S BE READY--to change your view of theological matters if the evidence from the text begins to be seen in a new/different light. Things can/do escape our attention and, for us to grow, we must be ready to admit that fact. This means it is not a crime to continue to examine the text with new light and understanding. And if a person sees that new light and is helped by it, that is not weakness on his/her part, but just genuine humility. it isn’t “caving to the culture” either.

This change because of new light does not rob one of being Southern Baptist either. But it does verify and demonstrate the uniqueness that is Baptist, namely, we're free to grow in our knowledge of the Word.


#3—LET’S BE WILLING--to grow in truth when presented with new light regardless of the source. If it comes from one who is insignificant in the Body, so be it. [Or if it comes from someone outside the Body of Christ for that matter.] There is no such thing as an “insignificant person” where the Body is concerned anyway is there!

In fact, to a PROUD individual others may be seen as insignificant and the proud don't take what anyone else says seriously. To an humble person, because he/she loves people AND the truth, an ear will be given to insignificant voices in the Body or otherwise.

What I've said here, were I willing to practice what I write, will not, in my opinion, ruin my confidence in the integrity/nature of the scriptures or make me a "liberal". AND it will not diminish my appreciation for Baptists either.

It will simply enable me to be truly Christian and relate to others in the Body with deep respect. I don't have to get angry at someone who sees a lesser point of theology differently than do I and I don't have to be closed to what they are saying about it. I don't have to agree, but I certainly don't have to believe they/I are/am no longer truly Southern Baptist BECAUSE WE DISAGREE

Paul B.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LOVING ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE THE KINGDOM WAY

I've NEVER attempted to counsel people who are guilty of sexual sins in the pastoral counseling I've done, and I've done a ton of it, 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 sexual activity outside of marriage which I believe to be between a man and a woman in a covenant type of relationship. Anything other than this is missing the mark which is the biblical definition of sin as I understand scripture. That's what I believe. 

But what I've ALSO found to be true is that people whom I counsel that are guilty of what I may call sexual sins don't need me to convince them of my view of their behavior BEFORE I love them as persons with MORE THAN WORDS. What  they need is for me to be open to THEM emotionally, graciously, and embracing THEM as a person worth respecting.

Now reread the opening sentence of the first paragraph if you will and notice the operative word, "appropriate." 

I'm convinced that they, maybe homosexuals more than others, need someone to give respectful acceptance of their personhood which, if my personal observation is correct, they DON'T find in many Christians. So most of them wind up questioning the genuineness of Christians and Christianity totally. That's because their personhood has been violated for such a long time by some so-called Christians who have obviously been more concerned with condemning a certain kind of behavior than they have been in expressing love to them as a person

Unfortunately, those same so-called Christians exhibit a double standard by NOT demonstrating that condemning attitude of toward fornicators, adulterers, gluttons, drug addicts, alcoholics or even the worse kind of people which is those filled with PRIDE over the fact they HAVEN'T committed ANY of those kinds of things.

I'm sure not saying so-called Christians SHOULD have the same attitude toward the latter. I'm saying so-called Christians SHOULD NOT have that attitude toward the former.

I believe it to be essential for a Christian to respectfully accept the personhood of people guilty of ALL MANNER of "missing the mark" behavior in ALL categories by seeing ALL as sinners, including themselves, and as being created in the image of God originally, albeit fallen now, and objects of our love and not our wrath. I can do THAT without violating my personal view of their actions at all. So I think I'll leave wrath against their personhood to God Who, were it ever to be expressed, will always express it lovingly. That's Who He is.

If someone says to me, "But Paul, homosexuals DEFINE themselves by their homosexuality and expect us to do so as well by demanding that we not call it wrong behavior." My answer is I don't generally do what people expect of me, even the expectations of those so-called Christians who expect me to show my disdain toward homosexuals because of their activity. But I DO want to act on the basis of what I believe to be the Kingdom principle of REAL relationships.

That Kingdom principle is basically treating and viewing ANY person as an image reflector of God and object of my love, but more importantly, HIS love. That principle includes mutual respect, love and forgiveness. In other words, treating THEM as I'M being treated by the Father because I'm "IN CHRIST."  Because I'm a Kingdom kid, the expectation someone might have of me is never to rise above the Kingdom expectation of my loving and accepting people where they are, not based on behavior, PERIOD. Otherwise, loving even our enemies, which we're commanded to do, would not be possible. 

Things like gender, race, ethnic group, age, one holding a differing opinion of theology than mine or any defined behavior found in categories like homosexuality or heterosexuality, simply DO NOT define any person to me as a Kingdom kid. That just isn't the way of Kingdom living. Loving people where they are is the Kingdom way.

Paul B.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A ZEAL FOR THE IDEAL

There is a great danger created by those who have a zeal for the ideal in whatever venue that zeal shows itself. Take for example the Church. There are those who would try to bring into reality, in the here and now, what some would call "The Ideal Church." This Ideal Church would, of course, be made up of Ideal Christians, whether that idealism is stated in terms like true masculinity, purity of doctrine, everyone tithing, all being regular attenders, all having marriage vows that have never been broken, or a host of other concepts that are used to describe the ideal. It is expected, of course, that the constituency reach that pinnacle of idealism and only then can they be counted as genuine.  So, "what's the problem?" you ask!

Apart from it being historically proven that such utopianism in thinking tends to create tyrannical leadership gripped by a specific ideologue that they believe to be "THE TRUTH" which they fully understand [and few others do] and their "TRUTH" is used, all too often, to control the members of that particular group... no problem at all.

Except that the scriptures seem to indicate something totally different than that kind of idealism. You can't read passages like 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 and come away with a concept that the ideal spoken of by the above mentioned utopian thinkers will be found in reality in the Church today or was ever intended to be. It may very well be that the ability to lovingly, with grace, RELATE to those who ARE broken and flawed in some fashion and ARE far less than ANY ideal relating to humankind, is more what God is about in growing the Church today than many seem to understand. 

The Church is NOT in the consummation stage at present. It's still in the construction stage and things tend to get dirty, broken, sweaty and painful often times in the construction of anything worthwhile. Besides, the people being redeemed and brought in by the Holy Spirit completely baptized [identified] by Him into the ever growing Body of Christ called the Church are people that ARE broken, dirty and in need of a whole lot.

Someone has said that we all are on a continuum of His construction in grace anyway.  [Consisting of a sequence of variations] Think of a line starting with 0 and continuing to the end seen as 10. Some are just past the starting point 0, some are well past 0, some are very close to 8 or 9, but no one is at 10 and no one is at the same point as some or all others. But your point on the continuum does not measure your spirituality. It only measures your experience and understanding of the relational grace you live in with the God of Grace. The EVIDENCE you are AWARE of what true grace IS may very well be your ability and willingness to bestow grace rather than judgment upon people REGARDLESS of their place on the continuum. 

As you can guess the last paragraph of this essay makes null and void any supposed legitimacy of the first paragraph of this essay.

I rest my case.

Paul B

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

PREACHING A NON-OFFENSIVE GOSPEL

I recently read a blog written to show that no one should be surprised when non-believers dislike us as believers. It went on to point out the danger some mega-church pastors face in the watering down of the teaching of the gospel and even some standards of behavior in the scriptures because of a desire that non-believers not be offended and thus closed to the gospel or refuse to come to their church services.

The comment section of that blog also spoke about Christians who often disagree with the teaching being done and the problems it can cause. I didn't comment on that blog. But if I had, here's what I would have wanted to say.

I believe that I, as a preacher or pastor, am NOT to compromise or water down the gospel at all. It is by its own nature offensive to the lost. Nor am I to alter out of any kind of fear what I see or believe is being said in any biblical passage when I speak or teach on that passage.

But, I AM to be careful to do two things. One is to remember that I am just as human as my audience and can err in my conclusions about revealed truth on occasion. Two is to remember is that whatever truth I think I'm delivering is to be delivered in a loving and gracious way, without shaming or condemning those who might differ with me. 

If some Christian does disagree with me about what I'm teaching and talks to me about it afterward, I would want to listen to that person and clarify if possible what I'm saying, all the while checking the validity my own conclusion. Then if that person still takes issue with what I believe I can and will need to learn to live with that difference. They're not my servant after all

Further, if some non-believer gets annoyed or even offended at a standard of behavior I hold to and am teaching, that is an issue between their conscience and God with any eternal ramifications out of my hands entirely. My responsibility is to love them where they are.  Only the Holy Spirit can convict or convince someone of truth. That convicting or even convincing job is not mine to do.

But, for me to be offended, much less shocked, by either a disagreeing Christian or an offended non-believer, or even surprised by either, is a little silly, if not a bit naive. And, for me to COMDEMN either of them is just wrong and for me to get ANGRY at either is beyond the pale.

Finally, whether someone chooses to agree or disagree, returns to another service of the fellowship I'm pastoring [remember that I am, in fact, no longer pastoring] or does not return, likes me or chooses to despise me, while not unimportant to be sure, is FAR DOWN on the list of concerns I might have when I stand to preach or teach the truth as I see it as the pastor of a fellowship.

It seems fairly simple to me. Am I missing something here?

Paul B.

Friday, August 29, 2014

THE TELLING OF A TALE WITH LABELS

Labels are telling. They can tell us the amount of cotton to lycra ratio in a garment. They tell us how long we can trust the milk to last. They tell us what symptoms to watch for when taking a medicine. All this is good. Thank God for labels.

When we use labels for people however, it tells a different story. It may tell us as much about the one using the label as it does about the one who is the  subject of the label. For me to call someone a liberal, politically or theologically, may reveal that I'm a bit [I wonder where "a bit" is located on the continuum?] to the right of where I perceive them to be in whatever subject is being addressed. If someone were to call me a fundamentalist [which is absurd by the way] it may show they are a bit to the left of wherever they think I am in reference to whatever area of theology we are talking about. It is a rare occasion when labels actually reflect reality about someone. 

It could be that labels are good or bad depending on the motivation of the label giver. For me to determine in my own mind that someone is a bigot/racist because of their hatred for a person of another ethnic, religious, or societal group, can be a healthy thing if my motivation is to help protect the one/ones judged or to avoid being like the one judging. That label gives me fair warning, as I said, in my own mind. 

But if I call someone who disagrees with me a trouble maker [a label] because I don't like being disagreed with or am fearful of rocking the boat of an appearance of unity [which isn't true unity at all] because of what I think someone on the outside looking might think, it is an unfortunate, if not unfair label I've assigned to another person. That's REALLY unhealthy.

To feel the need to label someone publicly, with condemnation, because of a position or thought they hold on some issue may mean that I have a problem no matter the subject being debated. That kind of public use of labels with a condemning attitude seems to me to be just cause to challenge any person's motivation.

As I said, labels are telling. It is what they actually tell us about ourselves that we have to eventually get to if we're going to be effective in building communication. 

It may be wise to limit labels to products entirely and just flat out eliminate public use of them in our communication and conversations.  


That's my thought about it anyway.

Paul B.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A SIMPLE WORD ON A SERIOUS SUBJECT.

Our culture does not like much of what we Christians hold to as revealed truth in scripture. [Even Christians disagree among themselves on the meaning of many passages and truths.] That's a given and it's OK.

But for PASTORS to be surprised, shocked or offended by this is a bit naive. To condemn our culture [or Christians with differing views of some things in scripture] for this is just flat out wrong. To get angry at them for it is beyond the pale. [Which often leads to the characterization in the picture on the left of this post.]

For pastors to try to convince others of their rightness or to try to bring conviction on others for their wrongness [according to our view] would be an attempt at playing the Holy Spirit. That's as big a no-no as could be committed by Kingdom kids. 

So what are pastors to do? I don't think any pastor should compromise or water down what they believe the Bible says in any passage they truly study and share. [Even for other Christians who might disagree.] 

But ALL pastors DO need to be careful of a couple of things when disagreeing with culture OR with other Christians. One is to remember that we're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. and the other is to make sure whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is done so in a loving and gracious way, NEVER lording it over others with an interpretation. [Per the finger-pointing picture to the left.]

As I said above and it bears repeating, to be shocked by either a disagreeing Christian or an offended non-believer, or even surprised by either, is a bit naive. But to CONDEMN either is just wrong and to get angry at EITHER is beyond the pale. [Again, see the picture.]

Then there is this thing of always wanting to get people to return to our services whether they are Christian or not. [ Seeker friendly] If anyone chooses to return to another service or not return, agrees with our interpretation or not, likes us or chooses to despise us is, while not unimportant to be sure, far down on the list of concerns we might have when we attempt to share or teach as a pastor what we believe to be the truth of any given passage with which we're dealing. 

[You can see my assumption is we really do buy into the two things to be remembered. 1__We're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. 2__Whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is to be done so in a loving and gracious way with no lording over others, This is because delivering truth is NEVER more of a priority than is loving people.]

Paul B.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

ON BEING A RELIGION-LESS CHRISTIAN ___PART 1

Religion is a much misunderstood word. It is even the cause of real debate on occasion. [Not to mention wars.] The New International Version of the scripture says it quite well when speaking about religion that could be considered real and valid in James 1:27 when it says this, "Religion___[A derivative of threskos; meaning a ceremonial observance__religion__ worshipping__with emphasis on the external, says Strong’s Word Studies]___that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Across the years I've been asked many, many times, "What religion are you?" I've always answered that question this way, "I don't have a religion. In fact, I may be the most non-religious person you're likely to meet." The person asking the question usually looks at me as if I'm a little odd. [Correctly so, perhaps!] Were they to then go on and ask me, [they usually don't] "Aren’t you part of the Christian religion?" My answer would still be No!  The "Christian Religion" can be totally different than having a relationship with Jesus Christ."

All of this is meant in a very serious and respectful manner, I assure you. But it is a simple statement of truth as I see it, and my purpose is NOT to try to get anyone to see it my way at all. I have some very good friends, even blog friends, who would disagree with my assertion and view of this. You know what? That’s OK! Our fellowship is not based on a certain view of a certain topic. 

I hold to my view because of my understanding of what I see as a biblically based principle that says being a Christian is more than simply saying one believes in Christ. [The devils believe that way too, and tremble, scripture says.] Christians are people [This rules out there being Christian literature, songs, schools, nations, etc.] who share His life. Our privilege is to say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ."

For the Christ followers seen in the New Testament, Christianity was not a sales pitch to get people to make a decision about belief. [Though no one doubts that the will and even a belief system is involved.] They had no desire to share a carefully worked-out gimmick that would manipulate an on-the-spot decision to "get somebody saved." For them, witnessing was a spontaneous enthusiasm for a way of life, that was inexplicable except for the One Who is Himself the Source of that life, that on occasion brought about questions asked by others which allowed for the truth of the gospel of Christ to be shared and, hopefully, heard and accepted.
Someone I admire and deeply appreciate said it this way....

"The first century Christians were people who knew Jesus in a unique way. They were in love with Him. They were filled with His Spirit. Because He was their very life, His fruit [The Fruit of the Spirit] was evident in the way they lived. Peter tells us that as we live out that fruit as we're doing good to others, it will attract their attention and they will want to know and ask, 'why are you living life the way you do?' It is then that we can speak up and tell them as explained in this verse, 'Always with the utmost courtesy, be ready to give an answer.'  (1 Pet. 3:14-15 The Message) When this happens, God has placed the opportunity in our laps to share the Good News of the Gospel gently and respectfully."

So, witnessing is more than a "sales pitch" to get people to change their belief or their behavior by deciding in the moment that they accept certain thoughts about Jesus and are willing to do certain things for Him.  [Be baptized, go to church, say a prayer, tithe, etc.]  Christianity is simply not a life filled with doing certain religious things. [Even Southern Baptist things.]

So you see, Christianity is not a religion at all.

It is a new life shared with the One Who is Himself... Life.

Next time in Part 11, I will show the biblical illustration of this. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SOME WORDS ON A WORRISOME ISSUE [From my often not-so-wise, in the opinion of many, point of view on things political.]

There are scores of present-day stories that could be told of people who have immigrated to the shores of America and who, through legal means and in a lawful manner, have become a productive and proud segment of our society. Their work ethic is often second to none and match the work habits of the hard working immigrants, turned citizens, of our past. Many present day legal immigrants and many who have already become Naturalized Citizens live next door to us and are productive, proud, tax paying citizens who LOVE America and put forth an effort to raise families and build a value system that does America, their new home, proud.

So, I believe it is "nigh on to impossible to paint with a broad brush" any conversation about our immigration problems and be accurate in the doing of it. The Conservative who loudly and angrily cries, "close the border, and if you don't, you're giving away American jobs," is shouting an over-statement to a serious problem. The Liberal who shouts just as angrily and just as loudly, "Open the border," and if you don't, the 'send me your huddled masses yearning to be free' statement, is a total lie,  is shouting an over-statement as well, IMHO. 

Both groups and statements may, in fact, be evidencing that ideology at least APPEARS to mean more to the adherents of those two positions than does solving the problem. Our immigration issue at present CANNOT be limited to such "broad strokes" that make it a one-dimensional idealogical issue. No one denies that the present chaos on the border, which may have come about because of ambiguous language being used by American politicians, has to be solved with some impunity involved for those who can be accurately defined as children. ["Impunity__exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action."]

It is also evident to me that Faith-based groups need to jump in with both feet to assist these children with little thought given to the politics of it all seeing it as a Kingdom opportunity for some real Kingdom ministry. But, just as I believe it would be a Constitutional violation for Conservatives to demand that our government declare that "Jesus is the only way" of salvation, I see it just as much a Constitutional violation for liberals to try to get the government to do "what Jesus would do" with regards to this issue, since not all Americans are Christians and our Constitution forbids the establishment of any religion. All this is a given, it seems to me.

But I also think we all would have to agree that there are legal aspects of immigration that stare us in the face on both the side of the nation FROM WHICH the immigrants [Emigration] are coming and the nation TO WHICH they are coming. [Immigration] Those legal aspects have to be noted and honored ON BOTH SIDES. [On our side Constitutionally.] If an immigrant kills a person in the country from which they come, and steals their money IN ORDER TO COME, [or a ton of lesser crimes] there is a problem. It needs to be handled legally. If they come as an immigrant to a nation and establish themselves as continual welfare recipients of the nation to which they've come, [or a ton of lesser issues] with no effort to be productive, there is a problem. It needs to be handled legally and constitutionally. 

You can see that there are more issues than sometimes meet the eye which simply do not lend themselves to simple black and white answers such as opening OR closing the border, period! And we simply cannot IGNORE the consequences of our actions pertaining to our borders by FAILING to build a LEGAL safety net.

So, Congress must be wise in passing new laws and regulations dealing with comprehensive immigration guidelines that can be consistently and constitutionally applied in every state of the union. The outcome of ANY AND ALL new immigration laws or rules must incorporate a sensible, yet expeditious, period of transition with a clear goal of how ANY new immigrant who is legally qualified, can become a new American citizen.  

“Amnesty for all” MAY NOT BE the best approach as we face the future of immigration reform.  However, amnesty "for those who have lived and worked" a significant part of their lives in the communities of America may be a sound approach given certain sound and sensible limitations. Selected amnesty may be a necessary part of the equation.


I don't know all the answers. I don't even know how to ask all the right questions yet. But I do know loud, angry, mean-spirited arguments on EITHER SIDE of the issue exacerbates the problem rather than moves toward solving it. [I'm assuming Christians would want to refrain from this kind of rhetoric regardless of political views.]

Paul B.