Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I make no distinction between sacred "things" and secular "things." ALL "things" ARE finite and only God is infinite. I view God as the "SOURCE" of all THINGS [The One from Whom all things come into being or are derived or obtained. See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23] ! And, I view all "things" as simply RESOURCES for life. [Things that are available for use or can be used for GOOD or BAD].

Romans 8:5 says this, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the THINGS OF THE FLESH, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the THINGS OF THE SPIRIT." [ESV]

"Walking after the "things" of the flesh" [ a no-no] is simply using or seeing "THINGS" as the SOURCE for making life worth living. Any THING. American citizenship, family, appearance, relationships, job, recreation, preaching, church attendance, bible reading, giving, you name it, can be seen as the SOURCE for what makes life worth living and, thus, become an idol. That THING is then taking the place of God in life.

"Walking after the "things" of the Spirit" [a yes-yes] is simply using or seeing "THINGS" as a RESOURCE for making life a little better, but, all the while, seeing God as the SOURCE of it all. ANY thing, such as my American citizenship, family, appearance, relationships, job, recreation, preaching, church attendance, bible reading, giving, you name it. can be correctly seen as a RESOURCE for making life a little better or more enjoyable and, thus, would NOT be an idol. God Himself is correctly seen as the SOURCE for all of life!

All finite "things" will pass away. Only Infinite God will not pass away. Nor shall we, once our mortality [finite] has one day at the resurrection put on immortality [Infinite].

So the living of life ISN'T a list of things TO DO or NOT DO in terms of priorities. It is, however, experiencing and celebrating God in ALL THINGS in life and enjoying all those things as resources He has delivered to you in your particular realm of existence on planet earth.

[1 Corinthians 3:21-23]

AND, it is being a RESOURCE yourself for others along the journey choosing to introducing them to your SOURCE with the gospel message when possible. [Christ IS after all, the answer for life and life ABUNDANTLY.]

Thus, I make no distinction between SACRED "things" and SECULAR "things." All of LIFE is sacred and seeing Him as the SOURCE and enjoying HIM is the purpose for any THING!

Paul B.

Monday, December 05, 2016


It would do me well to ALWAYS remember these two little facts.

One___Every coin has two sides.

Two___There were two brothers in the story of the prodigal son.

So, "What's the deal with those two statements?" you ask.

FIRST the two brothers thing.

When I discovered the "far country" brother in the story of the prodigal son, I was ELATED because I could see myself in him. Grace IS wonderful, is it not!

Then I discovered the "In the field" brother and I saw how he condemned the "far country" sibling and I got ANGRY at the "In the field" guy and all those like him who condemn those who had been in the "Far country."

And to this day many Christians often condemn other Christians who may find themselves acting like the "Far country" guy, in their opinion.

"Boy, those 'In the field' people [elder brother] are REALLY filled with pride and they don't even see it, shame on those 'in the field' characters." I have said or thought judgmentally MANY TIMES.

But as I said that or thought that it was OBVIOUS I had failed to notice that the Father LOVED THEM BOTH. How novel is THAT!

NOW the coin thing.

It's amazing how so many so-called "Christians" can often be downright hateful and condemning in their words about the behavior of others, especially sexual behavior or divorce, and then excuse it with, "Oh I'm just expressing tough love by telling them the truth about their sin."

Can I say it? Baloney.

If we Christians REALLY want to tell the truth about SIN, let's deal with the pride, gluttony, selfishness, egotism, lying, hatred and anger, found in our own lives. Oh, wait, we can't go there, that’s our stuff!

I believe “tough love” REALLY means doing just that. Actually going there. Going down deep in our OWN life to do battle with the reality of our OWN garbage. Especially the stuff like our OWN temptation to be MORE concerned about being RIGHT than being GRACIOUS. Deep enough to face our OWN twisted need to have the LAST WORD and to WIN an ARGUMENT even if we have to be ARGUMENTATIVE and ANGRY to do it. In other words, facing our OWN propensity for winning at any cost.

Tough love means the love of Christ in us is tough enough to help us see the TRUTH [log] about ourselves before looking at the SIN [splinter] in someone else. The funny thing is, I think we’ll find REALLY ourselves being able to be far more gracious once we’ve seen our OWN “log.”

That’s having tough love.

That's what I would call side "A" of the coin.

But the flip side [B] of that coin is important too and it is being willing to know that our opinion on ANY ISSUE is NOT the last word. We would ALL do well to ALWAYS remember that our opinion is NOT the most important thing in any conversation whether in person or on the Internet.

When I remember this, I WON'T get caught up in thinking my opinion NEEDS to be heard. I think it MAY WELL BE that the ability to know what I say ISN'T the most important thing in any REAL conversation, is ALMOST as important as being willing to stand for truth. That's side "B" of the coin.

I guess you could call that the heads AND tails of the coin of sharing ideas and learning to do so with genuine humility. I need both sides of that coin in my life.

It may be good at this point to be reminded that TRUE HUMILITY, at least according to a friend of mine, isn't thinking LESS of yourself. It's thinking of yourself LESS. When my friend said that, he was paraphrasing what C.S. Lewis said with this, "An humble person will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can tell him the first step is to realize that one really does suffer from PRIDE, and that really is a problem."

What both my friend and C.S.Lewis said points out to me that WHEN I think that WHAT I think about other people's OPINIONS or BEHAVIOR is the FINAL WORD and MUST be heard, I've really got a pride problem.

My love for them and grace shown to them SHOULD be my final focus. When that's true of me, THEN I'll leave the "JUDGMENT" of their opinions AND behavior to the One Who knows the HEART of the matter! [Owe NO person ANYTHING except to love that person.The rest we can work out in a true relationship.

Paul B.

Friday, October 07, 2016


Here is the opinion of one Minister I find interesting. I thought you might also.

I respect pastors who have been willing to wrestle with contemporary issues as they relate them to theology even if they wind up with a view differing from my particular view, ESPECIALLY when they are being open and honest about it all. For too long pastors have ONLY been willing to focus on things that are mostly practical in nature, such as budgets, membership, and facilities. Areas like theology and even spirituality have taken a back seat for too long. I don't know why this has happened. It may be that the issues that threatened to disturb or divide people were seen to be of no value spiritually or there was a fear of the consequences of dealing with them. As a result, many preachers have gotten better and better at saying less and less of significance. 

I do however, sympathize greatly with the cost paid by the above mentioned pastors. Many of whom, when they really DO wrestle with issues and wind up with a theology position that AFFIRMS or DENIES what is generally held by the present culture or even many other Christians, find that it has cost them some church members, if not personal relationships of friends and even family. 

Few people seem capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with anyone with whom they disagree about things in the area of RELIGION or POLITICS. Declaring one’s position about controversial matters, even if done respectfully, nearly always results in a loss of relationship with someone. 

I’ve certainly experienced that, and I know it to be painful.

I'm also thinking that many pastors see themselves as "theologically conservative" simply because they tend to be "socially conservative."  Those Pastors seem to fail to recognize that much of their belief system is really based on cultural habit, political orientation, tradition, personal preference, or just plain old pragmatic utilitarianism. They do what works because that’s what most people around them want. 

Furthermore, it is just simply a fact that in certain areas of the United States people like “the old time religion” and do NOT wish it to be changed in any fashion. Some churches DO break out of that mentality — seeker churches, for example —but they all too often do NOT think much about the undergirding theology that may or may NOT support their work. 

To put it bluntly, we have for years now been doing church business without paying much attention to cultural changes except perhaps for the occasional angry sermon on "becoming cultural" now and then. So I say "blessings" on pastors who do the wrestling with cultural issues AND theology AND pay the price for it! 

It was in the early seventies that I was challenged to explore Who Christ is to me personally and whether His Word, the Bible, was an authoritative word for me personally, as well. I was making my living off of it pastoring churches, presenting the message of Christ to people along the way, and I hope doing a fairly good job at it. But I had to decide back then if I could really trust the book I was preaching [the Bible] every Sunday to congregations. Was it just a human word about God or the Word of God? I came to a deep conviction on that point. The Bible is, in fact, the Word of GOD!  It left me with a further conviction that no individual gets to decide the validity of whether Jesus was the Christ, the One who brings us to God, and whether the Christian faith is legitimately for him or her as presented in scripture. 

THAT is settled for me because of my seeing the scriptures as a “faith once and for all delivered to the saints.” 

Spurgeon once proposed seven eternal and unalterable truths that are to be believed and shared:

The Bible - God's inspired word which will never lead one astray (e.g. it is infallible).

The Triune God - God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is three Persons, but one God.

Christ's Atonement - the only hope for sinners to be right with God is through Christ's sacrifice.

The New Birth - moral reformation is not enough; God's deliverance is a new birth within.

The Evil of Sin -  God will judge the wicked for their sins against Him and their fellow man.

Salvation by Grace - Christ has done for sinners what sinners cannot do for themselves.

Justification by Faith - Being right with God involves looking to Christ by faith; not one's own works.

These are the things that are the foundation of the "Faith once delivered." If we erode that common witness in ANY fashion, we will ultimately destroy the faith we claim to represent. 

Now, I see my job is one of thinking seriously about issues that we face in our culture. It is spiritually irresponsible and cowardly for me to ignore them. At the same time, I have a responsibility, even a calling, to make decisions about these controversial issues by honoring my present understanding of the boundaries identified in the scriptures, especially as the New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant, about how some cultural issues are to be viewed. 

Same sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, divorce and remarriage are a few of those tough cultural issues faced today. Orientation, one way or the other, is a big issue today. But from a Christian's point of view, “orientation” may not that important. I'm thinking that from a biblical perspective, one’s natural inclination toward any behavior is not very important. The important thing in biblical living is whether we intend to govern and manage our natural inclinations by the light of God’s Word instead of by natural instinct. Other issues like women in ministry, roles in marriage, divorced men and women serving in a fellowship, local church membership, and authority over believers, to name a few, beg for a clarity of understanding as well. 

Christians have, and will continue to have, differences of opinions about what some passages mean. Those differences will continue to give rise to groups known as Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists and a ton of others with their particular expressions of our common faith. But underneath all of these various expressions is a faith concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus that is common to all of them. If we erode that common witness in ANY fashion, we will ultimately destroy the faith we claim to represent.

I often struggle with my views of scriptures concerning the above mentioned social issues and my responsibility to clearly communicate that understanding in the Bible Belt culture I serve. I DO hope when I have declared my views on such subjects I've NOT done so with an ax to grind of any sort. My sincerest desire is to present the Biblical revelation that is graceful, merciful, and correct and desperately needed for the living of healthy and wholesome lives. 

There is (and has always been) a sizable group of gay and lesbian people in our cities in middle Oklahoma. We have always known this, even when we found ways to ignore that reality. I confess I have often enjoyed the gifts and talents of some of those who struggle with homosexual attraction while forcing them to experience that struggle as something far too shameful to be mentioned.  Shame on me for forcing that kind of silence. Worse__We have sometimes yawned at heterosexual offenses as minor or something to be laughed at__ all the while demonizing homosexual ones. In our culture all that is now ended and I, for one, am glad.

My desire for any local fellowship I'm a member of is that we all understand that we're a community of imperfect people. We ALL struggle with various sorts of addictions, sins, past failures, and present dysfunctions. Nevertheless, I'm trusting we ALL will be committed to walking together in our journey with Jesus. And as we do, we must neither rewrite scripture to excuse our sins nor demonize ourselves if we fall into them. Confessing out faults to one another, we know that we may individually fall down, but we will get back up, helping and loving each other, all the way home.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Many times I've heard the statement that if WE don't deliver the gospel God can raise up STONES to do it. That of course is a possibility I guess. But two things I would say about that. One is that what Matthew 3:9 [the stones passage] is referencing is NOT that a failure to preach the gospel would cause God to raise up stones to do it! It is speaking about stones being raised up to produce children to Abraham, which would demand a completely different metaphor than preaching. 

The other is that, while God could use stones to cry out a message,  He HAS chosen to use people to do just that. It is also true that, as usual, the very people he uses can/do often GET IN THE WAY of what God is doing. In other words, the MESSENGER [Preacher/proclaimer] CAN get in the way of the MESSAGE. I'm going to address a few of those ways in this post. 

The first way the MESSENGER can get in the way of the MESSAGE is by stating the intended message of any text found in scripture with a dogmatic declaration of a MEANING of that text where there may be some AMBIGUITY within that text itself. The emphasis of real Keirugma [preaching] is to be on the MESSAGE intended in the TEXT and THAT'S not always as clear as we pretend.

The idea here is someone in authority [God] has given another [the preacher] a message to deliver and the speaker is NOT to proclaim his/her own grievances or opinions or viewpoints on those matters instead, but must faithfully find and deliver the meaning of the text as he/she sees it. [I'm using both genders here as the women prophesying in the NT were delivering a message from God and, it seems to me,  it can happen under His assigment today.]

So, preaching must be done with HUMILITY because it is not the messenger's prerogative to declare ABSOLUTE MEANINGS when and where there may be some AMBIGUITY in the text. Sometimes honesty DEMANDS that we as Preachers admit there is some room for continued research in the meaning.

This is where I came to in 1980 in my own preaching when I determined to NOT preach anything as a message EXCEPT what I personally could find clearly PRESENTED in the text. My theology changed beyond anything I could have imagined. I came to grips with the fact that much of what I was saying in the pulpit was coming from what I'd heard other preachers, whom I admired greatly of course, say was in the text or was generally a Baptist [I WAS Baptist you see] viewpoint about the text because of traditions, some of which I began to discover really had no real textual foundation at all. [Cessationism for example.]

That's when I also began to see that what Peter said concerning some of the things Paul the Apostle wrote was correct.  Some of the things he delivered WERE REALLY hard to understand and those that were the most difficult to understand, I decided I'd better hold my personal view about them fairly lightly because the CORRECT meaning IS more important than my having a dogmatic personal interpretation.

This is not out of a lack of confidence in the integrity, inspiration, or authority of the text. Not at all!  But it is based on a true awareness of my own inadequacy to hear God accurately on occasion. Some things are clear. Some things are not that clear. When the text isn't totally clear, my listeners are better served by my NOT being quite so dogmatic as to it's meaning. 1Timothy 2:15 and the "she shall be saved in child-bearing" is a GREAT example. From my personal perspective the whole of that chapter may have been delivered through a glass a little darker than some are willing to admit. But that's another post for another day.

Since the true biblical MESSENGER is to be careful of proclaiming his/her own viewpoint or opinions as absolutes, I tread lightly on those "darker" passages and am more careful about taking some ABSOLUTE theological position on a subject that others seem to be willing to state as their "humble but correct" position, with great conviction. More power to them. [I guess!] All I'm saying is the messenger CAN get in the way of the message if we declare as ABSOLUTE our personal views on some issues where there are good people on both sides of those issues found in some difficult passages.

I'm not sure but what God may have left some of His TOTAL message a little LESS clear than, say, THE GOSPEL, so we can make clear with conviction that gospel and keep trusting Him for greater understanding of other theological areas. I love what Gene Bridges said, and I quote, [Read it carefully.]

"With that in mind, [what I've just stated as he said the same thing] I think we can be more confident about our reliance on probabilistic reasoning, for if God had wanted us to have more evidence or better evidence, then it was within his power to do so. Hence we are judging certain questions on the basis of the evidence which he has left at our disposal. Therefore, we shouldn't be plagued by nagging, gnawing doubts about the possibility of being wrong. Even if I were wrong some of the time, it's out of my hands, and I'm in his hands. As a Christian, I don't require a godlike control over the evidence. I can go with what I've got because it's what God has given me to go by." 

I have to say "amen" to that statement. I can give my UNDERSTANDING of difficult passages [or theological subjects]  but respect others who differ with me trusting the God who gave it in the first place to be able to make clear His message ultimately. My goodness, no human father I know would give ALL information to his children as soon as they are born. Even Jesus increased in WISDOM, stature, and favor as time went along. The messenger of God's Word is still going along and had better be open to greater light if the true message is to, in fact, be ultimately delivered.

Someone may object and say "But don't you believe the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of giving you the true meaning of any passage including the difficult ones?" My answer is__"absolutely." My only PROBLEM would be to have a prideful assumption that I'm the one He's given the true meaning to. This, especially, if there are OTHERS who genuinely love Jesus and His Word, but are on the other side of my interpretation of a difficult to understand text. It could be that I'm the one in the dark or the one with baggage or filters that hinder my being granted understanding by the Holy Spirit. It sure helps me to know of my need for COMMUNITY. Body life is helpful even to the messenger. 

You can see why I'm one who believes there ARE some ESSENTIALS that must be clearly understood and declared by all the Body and other things less clear and less essential can be understood but the glass we see them through is a little darker. [This keeps our need of searching the scriptures intact and our need for being open to each other intact as well.] All this comes from my deep conviction that the MESSENGER can, in fact, hinder the TRUE MESSAGE which I DO NOT want to do.

I like what Trevor Hart, Professor of systematic theology in at St Mary's School of Divinity in Scotland said..."We should never take the fatal step of identifying our interpretations (however careful they may be) with “the meaning of the text itself” so as to bestow upon them a finality, a sufficiency, which lifts them above the text and out of reach of criticism. Far from establishing the text’s authority, this strategy would effectively overthrow it, and enthrone our interpretation in its place. . . . [We] are no longer genuinely open, therefore, to consider it afresh, or to hear it speaking in any other voice than the one which [we] have now trapped, tamed, and packaged for observation."  

Apply this to difficult texts [or lesser doctrines] about which good people disagree and, while I don't know Doctor Trevor Hart's full theology, I sure like his humble approach to hammering out his honest theology.

You can see I believe any messenger must be more concerned with the message getting delivered than whether or not they are the one who has the correct view of difficult things or whether they are the one who is delivering it. Our desire that the message be delivered is to take precedence over our concern for being right in our interpretation or being the one people look to as the preacher who says it well. The messenger is not the focus in New Testament proclamation. It MAY BE this is the primary problem in our current mega-church mentality and our creedal mentality.

Many of us as preachers/speakers/proclaimers are, in fact, our own worst enemy.

Paul B.

Monday, August 01, 2016


The word "preach" may be one simple word in English but that one word from the Greek word translated "Preach" sure has a variety of endings in the Greek. But for my purpose in this post the one word in the Greek is basic and it is the word "kerux." It was used several ways in Ancient times. The "kerux" was a "bearer of a message that originated from someone with authority and that authoritative message was to be taken to others." Say this was done on a battlefield. The messenger was the "kerux" [preacher] and the "kerugma" was the message. The hearers of the message would then accept or reject the message based on personal responsibility within military protocol.

This is the biblical picture of what we do on any given Sunday in our churches. The messenger PREACHES!  But it isn't HIS message. It isn't HIS AUTHORITY! It isn't even HIS results. He is simply the "kerux" [preacher] delivering the "kerugma" [message] through the act of "kerusa." [the verb for the act of preaching] 

Sounds simple enough right?

There is nothing simple about it. All three aspects are of vital importance. In the next few posts I'm going to address each aspect separately for brevity and emphasis.

Today our message.

Our message is certainly Christ and Him crucified as clearly shown in 1 Corinthians 1:23. In a broader context of that gospel message it is all of the scripture, being rightly divided, since all scripture is profitible for people to understand that gospel message. [11Tim 3:16]

A while back I read an article that dealt with the "therapeutic" nature of our "preaching." It didn't fit my taste buds at first but, I have to admit, the more I read and thought, the more I had to say..."There is something here!"

Biblical preaching IS therapeutic because biblical preaching delivers a HEALING message to HURTING people. While the hurt is not in the DISEASE category, it IS certainly in the DISASTER category. The problems the hearers [congregation] on any given Sunday are facing are diverse and devastating to say the least. Most of the hearers are broken over those problems. Whether it is a loved one just lost to death, a teen lost to rebellion, a spouse lost to another person, health lost to a cancer cell, or the "run of the mill" person who happened in to hear us and is still in the grip of the sin nature and has not as yet found the brokenness of repentance that is so necessary to the opening of the doors of help, the hearers of the message we deliver are HURTING people. To top it off, as Peter Lord used to say quite often in his teaching, "hurt people hurt people." So we wind up addressing folks who are HURT and, in the process of BEING HURT, wind up HURTING OTHERS as well. Talk about a vicious cycle!

The key to any real healing in the realm of the physical, according to one medical report I recently read, is the word "hope." Since the words "health and healing" come from the same root words in Greek, as do "whole and holy," you would know that whatever gives a person some sense of hope that things can be made whole or better, would be a welcome message. It is certainly true that we preachers [kerux] have the message [kerugma] that is the only "hope" for the bringing to healthiness ANYONE in the "dark night of the soul" and it is these very people whose attention we have for those precious few moments on any given Sunday. Our message, then, must never fail to deliver the goods on that thing called "hope." That is the essence of what has been given to us to be delivered to others.

Sad to say, the preaching done in our modern times seems to fall way short of that. My question is, Why? Why is it that those who are really HURTING sometimes go away from hearing us preach with a greater sense of PAIN? Why is our preaching so inept and powerless today in bringing hope? Why is it that so many hearers of preaching today have such a small desire to return the next Sunday for more? Why has preaching taken on such a derisive shade of color that the phrase "don't preach at me" is the greatest insult you can deliver to one attempting to communicate to you. Where have all the preachers gone? [Sounds like a song] Where are those preachers of the past who moved multitudes to repentance because Christ was their only "hope" and why is there so little healing happening in the lives of our hearers on any given Sunday morning when we have their full and undivided attention?

That will lead us into our next time when we deal with the messenger. You see...I'm convinced the messenger is often getting in the way of the message and may be our biggest problem. Preaching has always been recognized as a foolish thing as seen in 1 Corinthians 1:18. But history is filled with occasions when those who declare it to be a foolish thing were nonetheless in awe of real preaching of the real message and were moved to hopefulness concerning the devastation of their own lives. What has become of those days?

That's a word for next time.

Paul Burleson

Sunday, July 03, 2016


Because tomorrow is the 4th of July and means a celebration of our Nation's birthday, today will see much made in local gatherings [churches] about God AND Country. But as one I read said, "We must be sure that while we are able to love BOTH, only the FORMER [God] is to be worshipped." That is a sentiment with which I could not agree more.

That said, I've found that a mistake is often made when people talk about the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. That historic document DOES declare that all Americans have certain UNALIENABLE rights among which are listed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the word often used when people quote it is the word INALIENABLE, which is incorrect, but seldom realized as so.

Before someone says they mean the same thing and so the using of one or the other is insignificant, I would like to point out that the difference that may seem ever so slight is actually essential for an understanding of what the Framers of that Declaration intended for our nation.

The word "unalienable" refers to rights that are inherent in man and are rights that CANNOT be surrendered, bought, or transferred. "Unalienable" rights are a gift from the Creator to each individual and, as such, cannot be taken away for any reason. The government cannot TAKE them as the government did not PROVIDE them. In fact, the only responsibility the government has toward "unalienable" rights is to SECURE them or to create an environment that PROTECTS them.

This point was clearly stated in a court ruling in 1892 entitled Budd vs People of the State of New York. That ruling said, "Men are endowed by their Creator with certain "unalienable" rights, 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;' and it is to 'secure,' not grant or create these rights, for which governments are instituted."

 The list in the Declaration of Independence can be expanded since it says "among which are" and then lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could add such things as self-government, self defense, nature's necessities of air, food, water, clothing and shelter as well as worship. Such rights are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, privately or by implication or operation of law.

That which is your "unalienable" right is a part of you in an absolute sense and could no more be removed from you than could your blood be removed and you live without it.

INALIENABLE [notice the change only in the beginning letter] rights, on the other hand, CAN be surrendered, sold, or transferred with the consent of the individual because they are NOT inherent [unalienable] and the government CAN alienate these from an individual, if a person consents, either actually or constructively, since the government may be seen as the source of these individual rights.

Most State Constitutions refer to only inalienable rights. But it is our UNALIENABLE RIGHTS to which our Declaration of Independence addresses itself and recognizes them as given to us by our Creator.

It could be that the loss of recognition of our Creator is what is leading to the mistaken general use of these two words in our modern day language. There may also be other factors involved. But the point of this post is simply that people do have both, but they are not the same at all. So, clearly, the words are not to be used as synonyms though often is done so among otherwise intelligent people.

This 4th of July, 2016, we are celebrating our Nation and her Declaration of Independence which declares and her Constitution which preserves those UNALIENABLE rights! And I say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY America! We love you!

But on this Lord's Day, July 3rd, 2016, we are celebrating our Living Lord Jesus, as we do EVERY DAY of our lives as Kingdom Kids, and I say, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY Lord Jesus, on this day and every other day of our lives! We LOVE YOU AND WORSHIP YOU!!

Paul B.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016



There is a paradox seen in the Colossians 1: 26-29 passage of scripture that a lot of Christians just don't get. That paradox is simply that on the one hand, Paul says that he [personally] CONTENDS strenuously, to present the Colossians mature in Christ. [That's a lot of work.] By using these words he is saying that he is exerting all his energy to do this. The word that he uses for CONTENDS is “agonizomai” in the Greek. We get the word AGONY or AGONIZE from it. It denotes an intense exertion of emotional and/or physical energy; an agonizing if you will. He's laboring. He's working at it. He's putting forth all this energy on behalf of the Colossians and to do the work God has for him to do. 

But on the other hand, while he is putting forth this energy to further the Kingdom and the spiritual growth of those Colossians, he says he's able to do it ONLY BECAUSE Christ is in him exerting a supernatural energy and power that is almost like the force of dynamite. [We get the word dynamite from the Greek word dunamis used here!]  Paul IS doing it and yet Paul IS NOT doing it. How paradoxical is that! 

Paul was acutely aware of this paradox as he talks of exerting all his energy knowing the ONLY reason he could do it was because Christ was dynamically working in him. Paul is sharing here the revelation of what he calls a mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but has now been revealed to God's people. It's the mystery of Christ in you, the HOPE OF GLORY. For Paul this wasn't just a nice new revelation, it wasn't just some great new information, it wasn't a theoretical, theological thing at all. It was an EXPERIENCED REALITY. 

Someone will legitimately ask,"But I thought He finished the work of Christ and we are to rest in that!" Truer words were never spoken. We DO rest in His finished work! But rest is NOT inactivity in scripture. God is ALWAYS active on our behalf [think present intercession of Christ] and we have a rest of faith that produces our activity of obedience as well. [Though His yoke is easy and His burden is light!] This is the Christ in you in reality.

"Christ in you, the hope of glory" was something that Paul just didn't think or converse about, though I'm guessing he might have done that, but it was more fundamentally a REALITY he lived in. Christ was in him, and Christ was exerting this dynamic dynamite force that was EMPOWERING him to exert effort to accomplish God's will on earth as it is in heaven. He was aware that Christ in him was moving him towards what he called under inspiration, GLORY. 

The HOPE OF GLORY was a driving force that moved him towards experiencing GLORY. What is GLORY? I read someone who said it this way, "GLORY is the MANIFESTATION of God’s kind of beautiful, other‐oriented, self-sacrificial love being put on display."  [This is sure foreign to our self-effort, is it not!] This is NOT to be experienced just when you GO TO CHURCH, but it is to be the every day living experience of every believer. So Paul was aware that Christ was IN HIM moving him in a direction where he was increasingly putting Christ on display, where he was being transformed into the likeness of Christ, where he was being used by God to help others be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Christ in him was moving him to LOVE more like Christ, SERVE more like Christ, SHARE more like Christ, to THINK more like Christ and to FEEL more like Christ. Christ was in him to put His character and HIS KINGDOM on display. 

Paul is ALSO making it clear in this passage that God is not a coercive God. God will never coerce us. God never MAKES us do anything. God wants a really personal relationship with us, which means He doesn't want a relationship with a marionette. We're NOT puppets! He wants a genuine love relationship with personal beings that CHOOSE that relationship, not one that LOOKS loving but is, in fact, only God controlling EVERYTHING with NO responsibility on the part of His followers. God isn't that way. God doesn't pull strings on puppets. 

Paul is showing that while a paradox, the Christian has to take into account the exercising of his will, effort, and choices on the part of the believer, but it is WHEN those choices are made and that effort is given that the dynamic powerful force of the Holy Spirit will be, in fact, released by faith. Paul realizes that there is his part in it; he has to trust and obey. But God's part is to both to will and to do in him, AND HE WILL. 

IT'S A PARADOX! [a statement or proposition that, sounds quite unreasonable and leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory:] So Paul puts forth the energy and yet, the only reason he can do that is because Christ is empowering him to do it. The world doesn't get it but WE DO! 

So as Paul it and is saying it, his role was to trust/believe/faith that Christ IS his LIFE and STRENGTH. His role was to submit to Christ in him and to trust Christ in him. He wasn't just cranking this out on his own. He wasn’t just a Christian who needed to go to church every Sunday or he wouldn’t be able to function in life properly. There is NO inherent power in attending church. If you doubt that statement just talk to people who lose ALL their spirituality when something happens to them, a tragedy or where they really are wronged or hurt, and they revert to a mean-spirited reaction because of that circumstance. It may be that they SELDOM miss attending church, but it takes more than ATTENDING church for life to be GLORY as defined above. 

For Paul it was that Christ NOW lives in him. It was this experiential dimension of the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is NOW revealed to God's people so the WHOLE of their life would be different REGARDLESS of the circumstances. 

THAT'S the mystery of Christ in you and THAT'S the paradox of CHRISTIAN LIVING. Forget EITHER to our own regret. BELIEVE and BEHAVE with both in mind and the HOPE OF GLORY will be realized in our EVERY DAY LIVING!

The answer to the question found in the title of this post is__ YES!

Paul B.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016


How we view God is terribly significant. That we view God a certain way is the result of many things is a factual statement but, basically, all of our experiences of life, good and bad, lead us AWAY from a biblical view of God which I believe is the correct one.

But, unfortunately, we can even come away from scriptures with a twisted view of God if we allow human philosophies and human reason to give impetus as to how we interpret the meaning of the scriptures rather than just what the scriptures themselves say.

Take the idea of God being "Judge." [Hence, the post title made famous by comedian Flip Wilson.] God is the judge you know. The bible says so. In Psalm 9:8 the Psalmist says this.. "He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice." In Acts 17:31 it says He has appointed a day in which Jesus will judge the world in righteousness. Notice both verses speak of God being judge and connects it to His Righteousness and His desire for justice.

But when we say the word "judge" what do we usually mean? We generally mean someone who impartially views all evidence and pronounces us guilty so we can be punished or innocent so we can be set free. The key word here in our thinking is "impartially."

The reason we think this is because our Western Civilization is built on a view of law and order that is based on a legal standard that measures us and clinically [think scales] assesses our guilt or innocence to be adjudicated by that Judge who had better remain detached if he is to be fair. Our entire system of justice depends on that viewpoint of an impartial and objective judge with no stake in our case.

But the God of the bible, who is our Judge, is far from "detached" or "impartial." He doesn't think objectively with no stake in the case before Him. He's on our side and love is His character even His very nature and mercy is in His heart toward us.

It is true that you may not be fully cognizant of this as you read the Old Testament. But you will when you see the Old Testament as preparing for the New Testament and see Jesus as the full picture of who our God__ who judges__ really is. In scripture God as Judge brings justice and don't forget that biblical justice is not basically "punishment" but "SETTING THINGS RIGHT."

This is clearly seen in Isaiah 1:17 where it says... "Learn to do right! SEEK JUSTICE, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow". Notice the context of setting things as they OUGHT to be rather than the idea of punishment.

I'm not saying that punishment isn't part of the process, just that it isn't the MAJOR part as most modern Christians seem to think. Which, by the way, leads invariably to a concept that God the Father is cold, calculating, angry and, while detached from us, gleefully punishes us for our sin because He's our JUDGE. But that's our western mind at work, as I've said earlier, and NOT the declaration of the bible.

In scripture the justice that God desires is one that brings healing and restoration to broken relationships. It is His__ The God of the Old and New Testament__ seeking to relieve the pain and suffering our sin has created that is what the Cross is all about. So biblical justice is to be seen in the work of the Cross as much as biblical Love is. GOD is at work in Christ bringing justice and love together in a fashion that denies Him EVER being impartial or detached from those who have to suffer the consequences of our choices that started with Adam in the garden and continues to our own day and our own choices.

So we see that love and justice are not mutually exclusive. You don't find the God of the Old Testament as a Judge angry and wanting nothing to do with mankind and the God of the New Testament appeased. Justice and love are both the very nature of God demonstrated on the Cross. Jesus died BECAUSE He loves and desires justice. The Father planned BECAUSE He loves and desires justice. The Spirit gives life BECAUSE He loves and desire justice.

What this means is the Cross is the expression of the very heart of GOD in both justice AND love. So the Cross deals with our sin [Our missing the mark] and it's consequences which are death. [Separation in more ways than one.] Now in justice AND mercy the God who loves can lavish that love on us because the wrong has been righted to all who turn to that Cross. It is truly a work of GRACE from the heart of a GRACIOUS and LOVING God who is our judge AND Redeemer.

The Cross is to be seen as a RELATIONAL move on God's part as much as it is a judicial move. His heart for us is never removed from us even because of sin. He loves. He made a way for us to be back in a personal relationship with Him. He is just. [Makes things right.] He is God. We can trust Him and learn to love Him back all because of that Cross.

 "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice".( Isaiah 30:18)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life."

WOW. When I read back what has just been written I recognize the implications to me personally. Not just in a personal redemptive way but as way of life. In other words, if I truly reflect and reveal the God of the bible I will do so in love AND justice. Racial, gender, class, social, along with every other kind of injustice, will have my full attention.

I will NOT be overcome with a desire to punish people for wrongs done, though wrongs do have consequences even legally, but I WILL be overcome with a driving desire to make right those wrongs.

On top of that, I will be more concerned with my relationship with people and loving them than I will be their correctness in understanding any system of belief. To those people I will present the One who even used the Cross personally to gain a relationship with them and I won't forget that. Ever.

Paul B.