Monday, May 15, 2017

THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT THE LIFE OF FAITH WILL BE EASY!

For as long as I can remember some Christians, especially television preachers, have emphasized "victory, success, healing, and material blessings" as the path for EVERY believer who truly lives "by faith!" The only problem is that not only misses reality, it misses the emphasis of the scripture entirely. According to the Biblical materials the ONLY guarantee any of us have IN THIS LIFE is that God LOVES us and He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us. A Christian may be healed, but they might NOT be. A Christian may be materially blessed, but they might NOT be. A Christian may have a successful marriage, but they might NOT have one, because they have a partner that chooses, for whatever reason, to leave the union. Christians suffer at the hands of a brutal criminals. They sometimes find out they have a disease for which there is NO CURE or one that IS NOT cured. It isn't that God can't or even doesn't heal some, but, the point is that He doesn't do so EVERY TIME, even for those living by faith. They may receive bad news about their children. And on and on I could go.

But here's the deal, our lives "in Christ" are built upon a much more solid rock than any circumstance that makes us comfortable with health, wealth and happiness being undisturbed. That rock is CHRIST HIMSELF and He will NEVER LEAVE US nor FORSAKE us and is coming to establish His Eternal Kingdom with a New Heavens and a New Earth!
What an eye-opener it would be for ANY of us as American Christians to be magically transported overseas to live among radical Islamists, massive poverty, and barren wastelands of dry, dusty earth. It might help us realize that when our Christian message of comfort revolves around material things as evidence of God's blessings and favor, the way we're thinking has been "materially" corrupted and no longer represents the true message of the Bible. [We have been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings IN CHRIST JESUS!] Just remember that if a message or truth any preacher brings CANNOT be lived out in ANY nation on earth, it isn't scripturally true for this nation either.
A few years ago our son, Wade Burleson, wrote a poem and sent it to a family in the fellowship he pastors that was facing some horrible circumstances at the time. I found it yesterday and thought you might enjoy it as well. As Wade said back then,"Maybe God can use this poem to encourage you as these things happen in your life, or worse, as the answer to your prayers is exactly opposite of what you have requested."



My Lord's Guarantee
There are days you’ll hear news that burdens your soul.
Words will come that cause you to feel less than whole.
Those times are planned by Me for a special reason,
To give you My comfort in your particularly dark season.
I may not always make things perfect and secure,
But I will show you two things that are absolutely sure.
My unconditional love for you will never change or abate.
And your life is not in the hands of earthly chance or fate.
I have taken hold of you and supported you by My hand,
To ensure the evil around you will not forever stand.
Assurance of My love is found not in what you can see.
It is established in the personal faith you have in Me.
It may be that I designed this affliction to end with death.
For this reason you must trust Me with your every breath.
You came to this world with nothing but My love for you,
And it is this unfailing love that will see you through.

Thanks Wade!

Paul B.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

WAS AND WILL JESUS BE ETERNALLY SUBORDINATE TO THE FATHER IN ETERNITY PAST AND FUTURE?

Warning...heavy reading. Not for children or for those who like to read only children's stories. It is for those willing to put away childish things. For a moment anyway. :)

Does 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says, "But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." actually say and mean that Christ is eternally subordinate to God the Father because "head" means subordination? Is the Son's will to be OBEDIENT to the Father's will in eternity to come? Was it SUBORDINATE in eternity PAST? Is the Eternal Father over the Eternal Son in eternity future OR past in terms of authority? Some say yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But I don't think so! I believe to be TEXTUALLY true and correct about this verse you would have to SEE what the meaning of the word 'head' really had for the generation that received it and that is a different thing than for us today. The word "head" "Kephale" in 1 Cor. 11:3 really had for them the idea of referring to the origins or source of something and didn't refer to authority at all. If I'm correct on this, then it does NOT say what our present culture might think it says.

You see there are some perfectly good words in Greek [kuriotes, exousia, epitage] for authority but 'kephale' isn't one of them. I've examined every verse where Paul is speaking of "authority" or "rule" in scripture and a word other than 'kephale' is used. Add to that the Middle Eastern thought in the biblical culture of putting someone under your FEET as being a symbol of authority over another in value or position [Still present in the Middle East if you'll remember the people beating the fallen statue of Saddam Hussain with THEIR SHOES.] and you would have good reasons for believing the idea the Greek word for "head" [Kephale] does NOT mean authority here or other places in scripture. Here is one of the BEST articles on "head' or "kephale" that you'll ever find.

In fact, the word 'head' [Kephale] in Greek culture was often times thought to be the souce of life. Just as the loins were thought of as the seat of emotions and the heart was the center or essence of being. So what we have in this verse is a word used that might SEEMS to make perfect sense to those of us living in the American culture who think of it as meaning "boss,"but THAT wasn't the sense of the word in that day at all.

This is NOT to say that in the INCARNATION moment there was not a submission of Jesus to the express will of the Father. There was and He did. But always remember even then the word used for "obey" when referring to Christ to the Father is a Greek word "Hupo tasso" meaning one of equal value and voice choosing [middle voice] to serve another. That was, after all, the express PURPOSE of the incarnation [to live with perfect obedience to God as man] which culminated in the Cross where He became our substitute as the sinless Lamb of God.

That idea of submission is CERTAINLY not the natural flow of this passage at all. Source is the natural flow. And, by the way, do you realize that no where in scripture is a husband told to LEAD his wife? [He is told to serve her.] The words lead, leader, servant-leader, spiritual leader are NEVER used at all. Paul doesn't use them. Peter doesn't use them, and most of all Jesus never does. These words are only DERIVED logically from the word "head" used here and in Eph 5 when it is interpreted with the meaning our culture has for it. So what Paul wished to convey to that culture we will COMPLETELY miss when thinking of "head" the way we do in our culture.

Now, back to our word "kephale." [Head] My favorite illustration of the natural meaning of this word to that culture is, as many of you who have heard me teach know, that of a river. When we speak of the 'head' waters of a river, we mean its "source" with no idea of authority at all bearing in mind what they thought "head" meant. That's the intention of Paul here I believe.

So what is being said is that we have God's only begotten Son coming from God who is the "source" referring to the incarnation. This verse was never intended to be a statement of JESUS ontologically [nature] or functionally [subordination] to God the Father in either eternity past OR future. It was only speaking INCARNATIONALLY as the Son takes on a human nature in which He ASSUMES a subordinate relationship to God the Father as a fully human person. So 1 Cor. 11:3 is referring to God [ The Father] who is the SOURCE of Jesus coming incarnately to accomplish His purpose and not the One who is 'BOSS' over Jesus pre-incarnation or post-incarnation.

Phil. 2.5-11 helps clarify this when it shows that the pre-existent Son of God had the condition and status of being equal to God. This means Jesus WAS God in pre-time eternity one in nature or essence, mind, will, and purpose and being with the Father who is God and the Spirit who is God. One God----not three gods with three wills or three minds but One God with one will or one mind---- who is expressed in three unique persons. Relationally, I suppose you could say, as did Erick Sauer: "Father-is the Lover, Son-is the Beloved, Spirit-is the Spirit of love" because God IS love. But there is no HIERARCHY here as to authority. THAT"S read INTO the text.

But God the Son CHOSE to not abide in that condition of equality, but rather humbled himself [REMEMBER..involving a choice, not an inherent condition or state being as the divine Son] and took upon Himself human nature with a human body. Doing this, while never less than God in His nature. He, thus, became the unique God-man and, while living as man, He was submitted to God the Father as the Second Man or Last Adam, all the way to the Cross. Remember, He said he COULD have called for angels and be released. The question I ask is simply, COULD HE HAVE? As God He could have and NEVER been disobedient in doing so. As Man He DID NOT and obeyed God's will.

Now the rest of the verse makes sense as this whole idea of 'kephale' in 1 Cor. 11:3 continues to substantiate the 'source' of the woman being the man and Christ being the 'source' of the man?

The man as"head" [Kephale-source] of the woman can certainly be seen by going back to the Genesis story in which the woman is literally brought out of man. [The rib thing.] But someone might ask "how does the 'man' have his source in Christ?" I'm glad you asked. I read one person who said it well when he said there are perhaps two possible answers to this. One is when we remember that Paul stated that Christ pre-existed and was involved in the creation of the first human-kind [Adam] in the beginning. Col. 1.16 is quite clear about that as is John 1.

But also, we should remember that Paul is the one who articulated the Adam Christology as it applied to Jesus and that he said in a biblical reality Jesus is to be seen as comparable to the historical Adam and who, as such, is the founder/source of a whole new kind of human beings [redeemed] made up of all those who are in Christ, both men and also women out of every nation, tribe, and race on earth. [Whew, long sentence read it again.]

Which one of these is correct? I lean toward the first but maybe both are true. Either one would cause the words in 1 Cor. 11:3 to make good sense. Verse 12 seems to pronounce a benediction on the source idea as well.
So I don't see how 1 Cor. 11.3 can be used as a proof at all for the idea that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father. I don't see it as providing any proof for the idea that men are perpetually in authority over women either. That's not what "kephale" means in this verse from my understanding. I have the same view of the language when interpreting Eph. 5 as well.


My conclusion then, is that in eternity there are not three gods with three different wills and minds but one God Who has one will and one mind expressed in three persons of equal nature or essence. The INCARNATION had a purpose of its own to be sure. Beyond this I have little understanding of the Trinity which is FAR beyond understanding with our finite minds anyway. So much more could be said but I had promised to give my two-cents and I wanted to do just that.

Paul B.

Monday, February 20, 2017

SOME THOUGHTS OF A PERSONAL NATURE ABOUT RELATING TO OTHER PEOPLE!

In churches I've pastored for over forty years I've had a standard for my life while in that ministry and I truly hope I've carried it over to the present day. That standard is, to the best of my ability, I tried to learn to evaluate people based on my first-hand experience with them and NOT on what someone else told me about them. This was because second-hand information can be very misleading and inaccurate to say the least. It COULD even have an agenda about which one might be unaware.

Case in point is the day I moved onto the field as pastor of a church in Texas a few decades ago. There was a letter from a former pastor in the middle drawer of the pastor's desk addressed to "The Next Pastor." What I read was a warning which encouraged me to be sure and watch my back where certain people in the fellowship were concerned. [in other words, DON'T TRUST them!] It honestly scared me to death. He had left me a list of people that I obviously did not know personally, including a deacon who lived across the street from the parsonage and the pastor's personal secretary. [That certainly caused me some concern.] I promptly put the letter in a bottom drawer and, surprisingly, soon forgot about it.

A couple of years later I came upon that letter. I read the forgotten list again. Much to my surprise, the named deacon had become like a GRANDFATHER to our kids and the secretary was a JEWEL...from my perspective. Lesson learned. One person's evaluation of another MAY NOT wind up being the definition of your relationship with that same person. Thus, my suggestion is to start fresh with your evaluation of ANY individual no matter WHAT is told you about them. Beware of TRIANGULATION in ANY relationship. [Triangulation__ "a manipulative device to engineer a negative opinion between two people, known as playing one (person) against another."]

This lesson is proving even more important in this internet era when statements and charges can be made about someone with little ability to REALLY know the truth. Josh McDowell once said something like this, 'The abundance of information [on the internet] will NOT lead to CERTAINTY; it WILL lead to pervasive skepticism.' [BINGO!] He went on to say,'The Internet has leveled the playing field. TRUTH has now taken a back seat [Devaluing truth__a deliberate downward adjustment] as SKEPTICS and MIS-INFORMATION [and sometimes even lies] are given equal access and validity.'

I regret to say, I haven't always lived up to the standard of NON-TRIANGULATION learned early on, but when I find I'm not, I repent as quickly as I realize the failure. It is a lesson I don't want to forget which is a challenge with the use of the Internet.

Paul B.

Monday, January 09, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF CORPORATE WORSHIP AND HOW IT CAN BE MISSED!

One of these days VERY SOON I'm going to post a lengthy study and research paper I've done on the biblical materials about the subject of WORSHIP, particularly as it relates to what is commonly called the Regulative Principle and the Normative Principle. Put in simple terms those principles are respectively, “One can ONLY do things in worship services that the Scriptures give clear warrant to do," [Regulative] or, "One can DO anything they please in worship services as long as it is not condemned in scripture." [Normative]


I believe BOTH are aiming for something good. The Regulatives [Reformed folks basically] don’t want Scripture to be silenced. They want to take textual authority seriously. They don’t want Scripture to be a dusty set of standing orders that only functions to rule out certain things. I understand that and applaud them for it!


While the Normatives [Congregationalists basically] don't want to tie the hands of the Holy Spirit in leading us into new expressions of worship that can produce a legitimate hearing from the culture and might even give means to the Body of Christ expressing their giftedness. My understanding and applause continues!


But, as you can imagine if you know me at all, I think BOTH may be missing it a bit, and as a result congregations are being led into methods and means that may very well ROB them of adequately FULFILLING the scriptures themselves AND/OR manipulating them to have an experience that is just a bit short of being entertained. [Maybe not short of it at all!]


I'm convinced BOTH the Regulative AND the Normative may very well be MISSING what I see as the most important New Testament principle of worship which, for the lack of a better term, [I actually read it somewhere] I would call the EDIFYING PRINCIPLE of worship. This Principle is introduced to us from the text and gives us a freedom to be both creative AND discerning and would MAXIMIZE the gifts, talents and abilities of MEN AND WOMEN who are in the fellowship. Now I'm REALLY APPLAUDING!


This would allow us to get back to the textual guidance for the original purpose of corporate worship which is, as I see the text, NOT for a vertical emphasis, where it's all about FORGETTING each other and focusing on GOD ALONE, but , as the text shows, IS for a horizontal emphasis, [still talking about Corporate Worship here] where we focus on all the "ONE ANOTHER'S" of the scriptures and God is GLORIFIED [honored, experienced and seen to be present] in it all. You can see I believe that the "worship hour" may wind up having very little difference from "small groups," whether they're called community groups or flocks or___whatever! Corporate Worship is to be a congregational experience and NOT an Old Testament High-Priest experience! 


More to come later.

Monday, January 02, 2017

SOME THOUGHTS ON APPLICATION FOR 2017

I've been busy with the holidays and have had little time to write. So here is a somewhat short, maybe even a bit simple but I trust an on target statement, about application of the scripture when it is being taught.
I like real application of scripture when it is taught. I am NOT talking about the kind of application that most Christians think of, as in "What should I DO for God?" I mean the APPLICATION that leads one to say, "I hear and am OVERWHELMED by what GOD HAS DONE FOR ME and will respond!"

This is because,

UNTIL__ a Christian realizes they don't HAVE to do ONE thing for God, OR try to change themselves to obtain the FAVOR of God, OR make any commitment, promise or vow to God to earn that favor, and UNTIL__ a Christian knows GOD ACCEPTS THEM and LOVES THEM just as they are because HE HAS ALREADY DONE FOR THEM WHAT THEY CANNOT DO themselves, namely, forgiven and cleansed them, is present within them to progressively empower and change them, given them every spiritual blessing they will ever need to live life which has come by Grace through Christ__their FOCUS will be on the WRONG place [their sins] instead of the RIGHT PLACE which is their spiritual portfolio IN CHRIST! THAT'S where you START with application!

[THAT is a long sentence and may well need reading AGAIN!]

Most people read the Bible as if it is a rule book for behavior, when in reality God gave us the Bible as a love letter declaring the good news that He requires NOTHING of sinners and describing in that love letter what has ALREADY been provided sinners precisely and completely, IN CHRIST JESUS! [Remember, the Old Testament is the ROOT and New Testament is the FLOWER both pointing to the ONE PERSON of CHRIST]

If we don't understand this, when we fail, and we will, we would simply grit our teeth and try harder to DO good and NOT DO bad and would wind up being discouraged, defeated, and maybe even disillusioned.

Whereas, when TRUE APPLICATION [What He's ALREADY done on our behalf] is made when the scriptures are taught, we then can FAITH IT TO BE SO and we then can choose to do or live IN RESPONSE to His Grace and Mercy. That's obedience [serving] birthed out of faith and love BECAUSE we know He FIRST LOVED US!

Paul B.