Thursday, December 27, 2007
This was the BEST TIME THE BURLESONS have ever had at CHRISTMAS from my perspective...... A little background will help you see why I think so.
The Burlesons are made up of Mom and Dad, [Paul and Mary] four grown children, their spouses, their children,  their children's spouses and children.  So you can see the potential of a grand total of 31 counting the newest two little guys, less than a year old, being together.
We have only one planned time a year where we all attempt to be together in some fashion or other. It is an alternating of Christmas and Thanksgiving. We call it our noisy Christmas or Thanksgiving and our quiet Christmas or Thanksgiving. You figure out which is which. Use your imagination. This was our noisy Christmas. It lasted three days and three nights. [I reminded all that even the fish couldn't stomach Jonah any longer than that.]
Mary and I opted to build a 2000 sq. ft. home which would never hold the full complement of Burlesons at any one time..so..we [Mary and I pay for it since it's a lot cheaper than building a 4000 sq. ft. house.] rent a GREAT facility out of town where all the couples have a private bedroom. The older kids share a room or two and the younger ones do too. In fact, any way you slice it, it's great since there is also a meeting/dining room about 75 ft. by 50 ft, a full kitchen, game room, piano, Christmas tree, dessert table, candy table, and WII. [That's not World War Two..it's the latest video game the likes of which you've perhaps never seen.] You name it, we had it because we brought it, as you can see.
But...why would I say this was the best time we have ever had from my perspective?
It wasn't because everyone is healthy though they are. It wasn't because all are on their journey of faith and growing in it though they are, [all who have entered into it as of now] It wasn't because all were there since a few were not. One grandchild and her new husband were on honeymoon in California and Wade and Rachelle had to miss a small portion on Christmas eve and Christmas day as he's stated in his blog. One or two others could not be there either and all were missed. And, remember, it wasn't short. :)
Then why would I say this was the best? What I want to do is be specific about what I believe has created this thing inside me that says this year's Christmas family time was..out of our 17 in a row at this facility..the very best we've had.
It has to do with baggage. Not the kind you carry into an airport on a trip. I'm speaking of the kind you carry into any relationship. The kind that must be worked through to have good relationships.. but is generally even denied as existing. It is the baggage that results from your family of origin and that you carry over into the new family unit you are now establishing which you will, unfortunately, pass along to your kids in the early stages of their growth. [It is this that must be faced later, for good relationships to happen but is usually denied as even existing unfortunately by many parents.] It is, in other words, your environment early on, personalities, hurts, failures as parents, as siblings, and the generally tuff stuff you have from being a fallen human being, albeit in the process of being redeemed ,and part of a family unit that is fallen and being redeemed also.
Because this is my blog and the other Burlesons have no say in what I write here...I am ONLY going to expose my baggage and how I've had to learn the process of working through it. It will, however, serve as an example. All the Burlesons have their baggage as all have so freely admitted in years past in our sessions together at our gatherings. That's what made this year the best. We joined each other in making that journey through the baggage. We reaped the harvest this year in such a vivid way it has caused these feelings/thoughts I have. I'm going to talk about it. Respect demands I use mine as the example. The other Burlesons could and, perhaps at their appropriate times, will speak of their own journey. You would be blessed out of your boots to hear what they have to say.
Whether anyone understands what I will be saying or not, I may never know. Whether some will think it is too personal, I'm sure they will. Whether it should be done in a public forum, especially the Internet, who knows?
But that it is [facing and working through personal baggage] the single biggest factor that has made this 2007 Christmas the best the Burlesons have ever had, from my perspective, is unquestioned.
So...I'm going to briefly, in the next couple of posts, share what all this looks like, costs, feels like and why many will perhaps never be willing to pay the price. I would understand what's behind such a decision and respect their choice. But I also want to expose the treasure that will never be enjoyed if it is not done.
Until the next post...Happy New Year. May it be, in the Providence of God, your best year ever.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I'm not into name dropping...but here I go.
T.W. Hunt. That name is well known in Baptist life. I know that name. I know the man who wears that name. He wears it well. Laverne. That's the woman married to the man who wears the name T.W. Hunt. She's as fine a human being as he is...maybe better...as most husbands in saner moments will confess of their own wife. T.W. does. So do I.
The reason I know T.W. and Laverne is because I was privilaged to be their pastor for several years of his tenure as a Professor at SWBTS when they were members of and I was Pastor of the Southcliff Baptist Church in Ft. Worth. Laverne still calls me "Pastor." She always told me she thought I was the best Preacher she had ever heard. I told her I thought she was the smartest person I had ever met. Just kidding. [She said that..but I think she says it to all her Pastors.]
The purpose of my dropping T.W.'s name today is to give a final small follow-up on the post addressing worship. But before I do, I want to press the envelope personally and tell you of one of the more significant spiritual moments in my life that involves T.W. Hunt. It really is personal and I do not wish to diminish it for anything....in fact....I've just changed my mind..... Maybe some other time.
But the follow-up has to do with a morning I sat with T.W. in a Dairy Queen in Ft. Worth. He and I were eating ice-cream and talking. Before long I was writing on a napkin. It usually wound up that way. Something he would be saying was always of the nature that I must not forget it. So....write it down I did.
T.W. said that he was a student of revival. He had, in fact, studied every known revival in history beginning with the Old Testament events and right through Acts and into the Awakenings to the "Charismatic revival, as it was being called, of that day in which we were living and conversing.
T.W. said that every genuine move of God that he had studied had produced it's own music. The new music of those moves of God were new, not just in lyrics, but in meter, rythmn, notations, and a whole bunch of other stuff that didn't then and doesn't now mean much to me. But I kept listening.
He said that those involved in the revival usually wrote and produced this "new music". His example was Charles and John Wesley. He reminded me of the many songs written by the Wesleys during that Great Awakening of which they were such a major part. "The Church's One Foundation" was one of those.
T.W. said there were several odd things about the music being produced during each revival. For one thing, it was not only different, it was rejected by the religious establishment. Wesley sang his songs with the crowds on hillsides but was not permitted to do so in the churches. He was shunned.
Then, he said, after a while, the religious powers that were, gradually accepted the music by now being sung by the masses. Finally, that music was "the music" and was until another revival came along producing it's own music which was rejected as ungodly by those singing "The Church's One Foundation" and not permitted in the churches. So, again, the masses had to sing in isolation from the religious establishment. You see the pattern I'm sure.
That's why, according to T.W. Hunt, the Charismatic movement was, while not agreeing with it's theological excesses at all, a real movement of God, in his opinion. The music evidenced it.
I finished writing. He'd finished talking. We finished our ice-cream. But I've never forgotten it. I wrote it down remember. I think time has shown the validity of that view of the history of revival. Look at the music we're singing now. I wonder where revival will happen next? I know it will have it's own music. I know some won't like it. For a while anyway.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
But to worship corporately as a Body is what I'm refering to here. It is what is meant by the writer of that Hebrews passage where it is said "forsake NOT the assembling of yourselves together.." This is the only time that word for "assemble" [it isn't ekklesia] is used in the NT. It is a word that refers to the place of gathering wherever that might be. [They got the word synogogue from it.] This is the only time that.. where the Ekklesia gathers.. is even talked about. They didn't talk much about going to church. They were the Church. It is this Body experience that I am addressing in this post. It can be a performance thing or it can be a relational thing and the difference between the two is, as I said, huge.
An emphasis on performance in our gathered times is the norm. God is the audience. [So to speak] Let's be careful to do what we do right. He's watching. We want Him to be pleased with what we're doing. If He is pleased no doubt He'll bless us.
When you think about it, that really sounds more tribal than Christian. If we appease the gods our grass will grow, the cattle will be fat, our wives will bear children and, generally, things will be on the up and up. But if we fail to worship correctly [or often] drought, barrenness and sickness will come and, boy, will we be in trouble. In fact, let's establish a whole different order of religious leaders to help us worship and do it right. We'll call them witch-doctors. [Or clergy depending on the culture.] They can dress, sound, perform, and just be different than the rest of us so we will get it right. They will even have greater persuasive powers over the gods because they will know all kinds of religious stuff the rest of us regular guys/gals [or laity depending on the culture] don't know. Sound familiar? It's a system. It's performance and it's religion but it's not Christian at all.
Relational worship is experiencing the reality of the presence of the one being worshipped and hearing from Him and each other. It is always a work of His Holy Spirit. We have to know that "worship" is basically, as any good dictionary will tell you, "paying homage." It is to "recognize the worthiness of" or to "regard with reverential respect" or to "express and admiration or devotion to." It is an attitude that is to be reflected in all of life, to be sure. That's why all our living is an expression of worship. But when we gather corporately we are to share that attitude as a whole Body in a relational manner. [And will when His Spirit is at work among the people.] This means we are to be real with each other as we talk, share, sing, and He is to be real to us as we do so.
A whole lot stands out here to me. [Apart from it being a work of the Spirit which is a given,] One thing is that all who choose to do so should participate. All have been gifted to do just that. There is an orderliness about it all to be sure, but, that said, it is not restrictive except where confusion or disrespect would result. Anything done by anyone would have as it's goal, it seems to me, an edifying of the Body and.. a recognition of HIS PRESENCE..right now. It may have many moods like celebration or contemplation or adoration to it, but those things that are done are only valid as tools to experience HIM and each other relationally.
This sounds like a family reunion to me. Maybe that's more what a NT worship service is suppose to reflect. Maybe if we examine a real family reunion and learn to create that environment each Lord's day when we gather, we will be closer to a true biblical worship experience than what we often experience at the present time. In fact, it could be, the use of liturgy, hymns, choruses, choirs, drama, sermons, and a host of other things, are valid, not in and of themselves, but as opportunities for His reality being experienced by all. Even sermons would have as their goal the reality of Christ and His Word being heard and understood relationally. Wouldn't that kind of experience shake up a typical Sunday morning crowd. This would mean the question is NEVER what kind of things are we doing in a worship service but WHY is anything we do being done? The answer to that question is, to me at least, to make Him real to all in that moment. If what I'm saying is correct, much of what is being done in modern Church-life worship is not biblical worship at all. We've got our work cut out for us as worship leaders don't we. And, it may be, the question of each worship experience is not,"how did I do?" but "did we meet and experience Him and others as well?"
I realize I've addressed what the target of worship is in this post and not the instructions for hitting it. That will probably vary from group to group. But I'm wondering if maybe we've forgotten what we're shooting at in worship. [So to speak.]
Monday, November 26, 2007
When labels are given to other people it may tell you as much about the one giving them as it does about the one to whom one is given. For me to call someone a liberal may reveal that I'm far to the right of where I percieve them to be in some area of thought. If someone were to call me a fundamentalist it may show they are far to the left of wherever they think I am in reference to whatever area they are talking about. On rare occasions labels may actually reflect reality about someone. But those occasions are probably few and far between if the truth were to be known.
Labels can be healthy or unhealthy in relationships depending, by and large, on the motivation of the label giver. For me to determine, in my own mind, someone is a racist because of their hatred for one 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.
If I call another who disagrees with me a trouble maker [a label] because I don't like being disagreed with or I am fearful of rocking the boat of an appearance of unity [which isn't true unity at all] because of what someone on the outside looking in will think, it is an unfortunate, if not unfair, label I've assigned to another. That's REALLY unhealthy.
If I label one a friend because I have a warm relationship with them that is characterized by mutual respect it says a lot also. As I said, labels are telling. It is whatever they actually tell us that we have to eventually get to if we're going to be wise people in relationships.
With all this in mind, following the excellent post of Emily Hunter McGowin titled "Claiming the F-Word", dated November 24th, seen here, I want to tell you of a series of messages I've considered putting together for a return visit to some Church where I've been enough times that they are not afraid of me but, in fact, trust me to speak the truth about things. I call it a high trust/low fear factor instead of a high fear/lowtrust one. It would take high trust to anticipate this series I would entitle.."I Am...All Because of Him."
The series would include at least these messages------
"I Am...A Feminist"
"I Am...An Environmentalist"
"I Am...A communist" [notice the little c]
"I Am...A Hedonist"
"I Am...A Non-conformist"
The labels would need defining wouldn't they. They sure would be telling. I'll leave it to you to draw conclusions about what truth and passages of scripture each would be telling about. They might also draw a crowd. :)
What do you think? Just for fun.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
It would seem to me if one were to agree to abide by the first part of the rule but later come to realize that to do so violates a higher principle of one's life namely, that it makes one hypocritical, or worse a liar, [not every trustee would share this personal conviction obviously] such an one would then have two choices. First, to resign and effectively lose any ability to change a bad policy or, second, to graciously accept the censure which is in fact, in keeping with the policy after all. [Just the last part instead of the first part. No trustee could keep both parts unless they are voting on a censure.]
It would certainly not be the way those who passed it expected anyone to be willing to keep it. But were one to choose to violate the first part out of a desire for keeping that greater principle they would be choosing to keep the second part. [Or resign, as I said.]
Let me pause here... and offer a scenario. Suppose an embattled trustee [from here on known as ET] is
told to write out a
proposal which he has suggested to end the conflict.
It would include, among other things, a
statement of a potential of
resigning by the end of the year. Then, suppose that that
ET were asked
to meet with a small group to discuss it. So the small
group interupts him
in the writing of it but he tells them what is in the
proposal and they write it down for themselves. [Remember, this group is
supposed to report their findings.] Then suppose that small group
leader is asked by the ET if
a censure is forthcoming and he says, while he can't
predict the future, he
didn't think so, which means the ET enters a meeting thinking he will do as he has proposed but has
no need to finish writing the
proposal that day because One..they wrote it down..Two..they will present it as
stated to them. But, suppose it is in THAT meeting that the censure is
presented and voted on. Then that ET later discovers
that the censure had
been drafted the night before in the presence
of the one who said "I don't
think so" when asked if a censure was coming.
Who would you say withdrew the
proposal that included the resignation? The three man group? The Executive group? [IF the Executive group was, in fact, reported to.] Or, the ET?Finally, what if there were circumstances that had been
revealed to both the
Executive committee AND the small three-man group that
would cause any
person to know the proposal would be fulfilled
by the ET. Say an
Church sincerely wanting the ET to be
their Pastor was a looming possibility. [From
another State no less,
requiring the ET to resign
from the board.] But ,
because of the censure surprisingly
being voted on, the ET, having no desire to spread the pain, chooses to
refuse to consider
any thing but to be
faithful to his being an elected
Trustee of the IMB
and Pastor of the great
Church who stands with him and has for many years. In this scenario--I again ask--who
failed to present the proposal?What you would have is a trustee who decided too much attention is being focused on him instead of the mission field, particularly at the Christmas Lottie Moon offering time, hence the offer to resign. This, instead of the censure that would create turmoil even further for all. But it doesn't play out that way. What a scenario that would be. Take it to the bank.
But, the real problem we have is A BAD POLICY. This has been true from it's inception as are the policies of private prayer language and baptism wrongly defined by the IMB/BOT which are also CENSURING prospective missionaries.
No matter one's personal view of Wade as an individual or the IMB, would you not agree that he has chosen within the frame-work of the adopted policy and is only illustrating the terrible nature of such a bad policy? Far from not abiding by the policy...he has been faithful to the policy, albeit, the concluding aspect instead of the prohibition in it which would be a violation of his conscience. By the way, we might be wise to not focus on the BOT for the censure. They were only following policy. So was Wade. Let's focus on the wrongness of the establishment of such a policy in the first place.
So the point we must ponder is the policy itself. What it boils down to is that we have a policy adopted by one of our entities that is bad and has been from it's birth. Why? because it violates a Baptist principle that MUST NEVER BE LOST, namely, the right to dissent in Baptist life whether it be the people on boards, agencies, or even missionaries on the field.
There must be freedom to register a disagreement over policies and even share differing views of lesser doctrines without fear of loss of job, reputation or assignment. It must also be the job of those in charge to show the biblical basis or at least the wisdom involved in decisions being made by the directing body. Any wise Pastor would. I think any wise CEO of a company would. Even a husband/father giving leadership to a family had better be this wise.
When true Christian character is displayed unity will not be lost just because of differences. Someone says "you know human nature..it will never work." I know we possess a Divine nature and the power of the Holy Spirit and..yes..it will take a miracle for it to happen. But that is what HE'S ABOUT after all. We are not pragmatists. We are to be principled people.
The only other way to function is BEHIND CLOSED DOORS in an attempt to control things...but in our day those doors don't remain closed and I, for one, don't believe as Christians or Baptists they ought to ever be. Let's open our doors to the LIGHT and let's speak the truth IN LOVE over every issue and every disagreement.
Let's be Christian.... Let's be what Baptists have been historically.
As I stated at the beginning of my last post, I'm a member of both families in the dispute. That post spoke of my thoughts about the Burleson family..this one speaks of my Southern Baptist family.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I've had several [and I mean several] friends ask me how Mary and I feel about the thing that has happened to Wade. I don't speak for Mary but told her what I was basically going to say and she gave me permission to speak for her on this issue. So I can, with due respect, now say "Mary and I" and really mean both of us.
For obvious reasons I'm going to be very personal here. It really is a family matter. But remember I'm part of the two families in this dispute, the Burleson one and the Baptist [SBC] one. I trust I will also be honest and factual without judgment on anyone's character as that is never a legitimate option for one wanting to share with others the same Grace God has shared with us. I'm also going to approach it from a three-fold aspect. You will see what I mean as I go along.
The first thing... is the path that led to the censure itself. Wade has done a masterful job of giving the chronology of the events and issues on his blog. Read his blog entitled "Stifling Dissent is not Baptist and is not Good" dated Monday, November 12 here. You will be blessed and enlightened.
I will only say that, as one who walked with him through those events as they happened, I can attest to the veracity of everything written on his post. It happened as you read it there. I'll leave it at that.
A second thing...is the major point of the controversy that resulted in the censure. It must not be forgotten that the policies presented at his first IMB meeting were that major point. Those policies forbade a candidate or spouse having a private prayer language being appointed. Then baptism... defined in a way that elevates the IMB's view of baptismal correctness theologically above that of the local churches that have sent the candidates in the first place and... even beyond the BF@M itself... became grounds for denied appointment also. That was the launching pad for what ultimately resulted in censure. Wade's question at that meeting, as he describes it was, "what policies?" He asked because he was told that day the new policies described above would prevent those people from being appointed. Remember, the two policies were being presented for the first time that day to all the trustees for approval.
Wade began a journey of questioning the biblical basis for those particular doctrinal policies being a hinderance to appointment. Bloggers have questioned those policies since. I question those policies too. In fact, the 2007 Convention [perhaps the 2006 Convention as well with the election of Frank Page] questioned those policies. Wade has been the only one censured. The rest of us were just ignored.
But in my opinion the questioning of policies should not be offensive nor should a trustee questioning those policies be. It is THAT questioning that led ultimately to a policy adopted in March of 2006 that forbade a trustee to speak against a policy once it has been adopted by the Board which has, in fact, wound up being the stated grounds for censure. [The policies were officially adopted in November of 2005.] Wade reveals on his blog the struggle he went through with the ethical dilemma he faced because of that muzzling of dissent policy adopted after the fact. At first he was willing to live by the policy and stated so, but came to see ethically he could not. As he says on his blog, he would be either pretending at best or lying at worse.
Someone in a comment on Wade's blog asked..."Don't you require deacons to present a united front when your Church is voting on something?" My answer to that question, as a former Pastor for forty years, is "absolutely not." The only thing our deacon policies DID require was that no deacon could speak against it at the adoption meeting of the Church if he wasn't there to speak against it at the deacon's meeting when it was discussed. After the adoption meeting was over and the Church decision was made anyone could speak about their like or dislike of it. We certain didn't force them into a position of pretending to NOT be opposed by remaining silent.
We did, however, require in our by-laws ALL MEMBERS refrain from being strife genderers by being obnoxious about anyone's character in disagreements or differing opinions of a direction taken. But that is another thing entirely from dissenting graciously. Obnoxiousness was not defined as refusing to be quiet about the issue afterwards. It was refusing to be gracious about it afterward. You could violate our Church policy by being obnoxious even if you had WON the vote and we would have dealt with that obnoxious spirit as well.
To make a policy that one cannot speak what they believe about anything accepted by the Church but must, instead, pretend they are in agreement with it is beyond me as a Pastor. I know the IMB BOT is not a Church as the Denomination is not, but certain principles should guide all Christians in any work we do. Muzzling dissent is not one of those principles. Speaking the truth in love is one of them however.
From my perspective of walking with Wade through this whole thing, he did not ring the obnoxious bell at all. He certainly didn't attack anyone's character which any fair reading of ALL his blogs will evidence. [Though for some he rang the irritation bell frequently.] To define disagreement with a policy and asking questions about it... then refusing to pretend to be in unity over it... as an obnoxious person or lack of character... would be unthinkable to me. There IS a higher principle at play here and Wade kept it in his mind and heart. He has chosen to accept the consequences of that choice and has done exactly that. So be it.
Finally...a word about the person who was censured. Mary and I could fill volumns about all four of our kids and bore everyone to death... as truthful as we would be in the telling of it all. When it is about someone else's kids, it's boring or borders on the boring for most people. I'll spare you that and stick to the one censured.
In context, I must speak to the thoughts Mary and I have in seeing Wade face this kind of unprecendented historical event in Southern Baptist life. It has never been done to a sitting trustee before in our 150 or so years of existence as a Convention that I know of.
We've known since Wade was a child that he was a crusader. You violate someone's person or rights' or integrity... and Wade was around... you had a tiger by the tail. He has always been willing to stand alone when necessary on important issues. He won the Scholar-Athlete award his senior year in high-school as well as being on the scholastic honor roll and was asked to pray at the opening of his graduation excercises. Dr. Roy Fish, Professor of Evangelism at SWBTS in Ft. Worth, who was there, told me it was as fine a presentation of the gospel [in a prayer remember] as he had ever heard. Wade knew it would not be well received. You can tell the fear of rejection keeps him from doing what he believes he's suppose to...right? :)
In Tulsa, his Minister of Music told me of the time the Street Department of Tulsa paved the parking lot of a tavern for free after paving the entire street in front and Wade, after going in to talk to the owner to get his facts straight, appeared before the City Commission appealing for fair and equitable treatment of the other businesses along that road.
As President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma he faced some activities that were, in his mind, unethical if not deceptive, that will remain unnamed. [I walked with him there too.] The outcome is also unnecessary to articulate but, suffice it to say, those in leadership in the BGCO love him.
Mary and I are satisfied that it is a calling on his life and the end results of being faithful to that calling are in the hands of a Sovereign God. It is enough for us to know that his family, Church family and friends are all better because of who he is in character and ministry. And I believe ultimately the Southern Baptist Convention will be better also.
What do I think about his reputation being lost in the minds of some, or opportunities to pastor some churches being lost as I was asked by one? Someone has said..."Reputation is what people think about you..character is what God knows about you." Mary and I will rest in the knowledge of God.
As to pastoring other churches...he's at the best one now. Besides that, a Church that wouldn't call him because of what he has been faithful in doing on principle were they to know the facts, is not one that would match his gifts and calling anyway. We'll just leave all that, as well as the controversy in the SBC, in the hands of the One who in in charge of it all. I have a sneaking suspicion the outcome of ALL things will be a surprise to most of us as it is.
So...that's our story...and we're sticking to it. A bit personal, but thanks for asking. We'll admit to the normal prejudices but I would suggest you read ALL his post when time permits so you can judge for yourself. I will simply say that what I've given is just my humble... but accurate opinion... :)
Monday, November 05, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Yesterday Wade, our oldest son and Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid Oklahoma, preached a message from his series in Genesis and the failure of Abraham to speak the truth about his wife, calling her his sister, out of fear for his own life. His son later did the same thing. So Wade addressed "generational sins." [With a distinction between sins and curses.] It was a superb message and one every Christian should hear. You can... by going to the Emmanuel web-site. His Mom and I listened by web-cast in live time after attending the early service at our own fellowship.
In the course of the message Wade told the story, with my blessing, of MY failure as a father when anger was a besetting sin in my life. It was of an incident when I, while Pastor of a large Church in Texas, got out of the car on I-35 driving back to Texas from Oklahoma with Mary, my wife and Wade's mother, because she and I were arguing and I was not controlling my temper, as was the case much of the time in those days.
She drove off [wise decision and completely biblical since we are commanded to not keep company with an angry man] and I was left to hitch-hike home, and did. Not the stuff great biographies of godly men are made of, but the truth nonetheless.
It was at that time and because of that incident I got serious about God working in my life and started the painful process of facing, repenting [genuinely] and removing that particular besetting sin from my life. I'm grateful, as are all the Burlesons, including Wade and his three siblings, that God has worked. Wade told that story with correct details, a forgiving spirit, while taking responsibility for his own besetting sin and showing they CAN be generational unless one chooses to stop them with honesty, repentance,and removal. As I said, a superb and needed message by all.
Now, as Paul Harvey says, "for the rest of the story." Even Wade doesn't know what I'm about to reveal.
I was broken-hearted during that trip home hitch-hiking. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the sin and utter stupidity of what I had done and was doing. But it does take the Grace of God to genuinely grieve over it. I've come to see the presence of Grace in one's life is not evidenced by no longer failing/sinning but , rather, being broken over it. Much as Lot was "vexed in his righteous soul" by the deeds of those around him [and his own later. 2 peter 2] so will a Christian be "vexed." I was. So much so that when I got home later and found Mary gone doing errands I hid in the garage until she returned so the kids would not know we didn't come home together. [It wasn't godly repentance yet as you can see] It was sometime later I got honest and then even later that I related it to Wade as he told it correctly in his message. The cloak of secrecy still prevailed. Someone has said you are only as healthy as you are commited to keeping no secrets. I think they are right. I wasn't healthy quite yet.
Now for more of the Grace part. While hitch-hiking home that day, I was picked up by a business man. We started conversing and he realized I was not a bum hitch-hiking across country but was, in fact, educated and knowledgeable. [Though far more stupid than he knew.] I did not reveal I was a Pastor for obviously shameful and self-protecting reasons. We talked. One thing led to another. Before much time went by we were pulled over to the side of the road and, with my hand on his shoulder, he wept his way into repentance and faith gifted to him of God in that providential moment. he took me to my home and went on his way rejoicing.
I tell you this NOT to take away the sting of my own failure and sin. The Cross has done that. But to remind all of us, as I was reminded that day, that our God isn't waiting until we have it all together before He pours His Grace through us, but in fact, shows us that where sin abounds Grace DOES much more abound.
Some might think this being said might take away from the responsibility of wrong/sinful actions on my part. My thinking is that it only reminds us of "why" we can be honest, repentant, and broken over our sins. There IS no reason to fear His anger. That was poured out on Jesus. Grace is poured out on us. You can trust Him enough to be honest about yourself. In context, "she is my wife, not my sister, but I lied about it and am ashamed of that fact," can be shared with a son, daughter, spouse, friend, BECAUSE His love DOES cover a multitude of sins and those sons/daughters can hear one generation speak to another generation of their own failures/sins against the backdrop of His work on the Cross. "Freedom" is what that really amounts to. It's like coming out of the bushes [Adam] and saying the truth about whose fault it really was. [What if Adam had said 'mine'?] God works in that context Graciously. Thanks Wade for a great message and a great reminder for all of us.
Friday, October 12, 2007
That said..I now cautiously address the question before us. Is the Church being feminized today? I would answer that with a "No..Yes..Maybe."
First the "no" part of my answer. "No" the Church is not BEING feminized. The Church is genderless in nature. "In Christ there is neither male or female."[ Gal.3:28] We know that statement is NOT speaking of the physical fact of creation but of the spiritual nature of the Church or all people "in Christ." The Church is a living genderless organism. Gender language has to be used to convey thoughts to be sure, but that Galatians verse is showing that no gender language can be used as fully descriptive or Her [there it is] nature. To exclusively use masculine language OR feminine language as an adjective in an attempt to speak of the Church would be a great disservice to the Ekklesia. It is because the Church is an organism and not an organization that language such as "attend church" or "going to church" or the "the Church is being feminized" fails to take into consideration the biblical nature of the Church and is a major problem in my mind.
One might say.."Yes, but we're just using cultural language to communicate." No problem there unless that cultural language destroys/dismisses the true biblical nature of a topic and here, IMHO, it does. As one deacon said to a young man wearing a baseball cap on Sunday morning "son take your cap of while you are in the church." The young man answered "sir, this cap is ON the church." Manners and cultural niceties notwithstanding, the boy was correct theologically.
It may be, as one said in the comment section of my last post, that the statements of the Church being feminized are referencing the methodologies and practices of the gathered Church. I think that is true. But it is at this point one would wish those methods and practices would not be identified as the Church. The Church is people whether gathered, scattered, failing, or succeeding in their behavior. So a campaign that says..."Sunday night church, the place to be," misses the theological point a mile and fosters a cultural concept of the Church that is damaging.
It is true Paul addressed himself to the "Church of God in Corinth." It is also true he was speaking to the people who belonged to God ["of God" is possessive] who were present in Corinth. [Gathered or scattered at the moment] But for him to have said to that body of people "you are being masculinized [new word] or feminized would have been unthinkable. He certainly could/would/did say they were acting a certain way in their behavior, [carnal] but they were Saints acting wrongly not becoming something other than Saints because of their behavior. Your actions do not determine your nature but your nature produces actions that can be a reflection of who you are by God's Grace..or a reflection of less than who you are by His Grace. [Flesh] But the Church is not being feminized. The Ekklesia is the Ekklesia by His Grace and will not change in nature.
Now to the charge of..are you not making a mountain out of a molehill here?" I would simply say that, quite to the contrary, this is foundational to the Church being the Church in a biblical way in any given culture. It also gives an ability to relate to people who differ on non-salvation issues theological. Theological precision is not the basis of relationships first and foremost but being the Ekklesia is. All duties enjoined upon a believer in scripture, whether it is to love one another, forgive one another, pray for one another, or whatever is NEVER because one is a member of a denominatin OR even a local church, much less whether they are male or female, but on the basis of being "in Christ." That's the nature of the Church. That's what binds us together. That's why the true Church must never be defined by denomination, gender, culture, or any behavior. The Ekklesia is being built and no cultural idea or even hell itself can change that reality in this world.
Now as to the Church gathered and performing certain things like study, sharing, praise, preaching, there are some legitimate gender issues that we must face to be effective. I will address these next time. But even here it is not to be out of fear or prejudice which I hear in a lot of the discussion of this topic. It reminds me of a little kid saying to one of his friends.."you're just acting like a girl" with a smirk on his face as if he's just rendered an adolescent cuss word. That isn't necessary and isn't helpful to the Body being the Body and certainly isn't Christian.
That's my bottomline on a "no" answer. As I said, I'll address my "yes" answer next time.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Is the Church being "feminized" resulting in men having little to do with Church life? Like most issues, there is no simple or easy answer to that question at all from my perspective. I do have to say, however, that in discussing subjects such as this... definitions are everything.
I remember witnessing to a teenager one time years ago and asked him a simple [to me] question. I asked him, "have you ever been saved?" His answer was "oh yes." I was pleased. So I asked him to tell me about it. His response was "I was going under the third time in a river and my brother pulled me out." [He was dead serious...excuse the pun.] Needless to say a few definitions were in order and promptly delivered with a wonderful result when those definitions were properly understood. That may be as much the problem in our question on the "feminization" of the Church as anything else. It's definition.
For example, if by "feminization" one means you find more women involved in Church life than you do men, one would have to agree, I would think, that such a thing has been true all along. Even in the NT the women were involved with the person of Jesus, in many more ways than were men. [The tomb situation.. the Cross moment.. the teaching and washing of feet..no record the guys, other than Jesus, ever did.. to mention a few.] That may be a testimony to the courage of women as a gender and their ability to face the prospect of pain. Following Jesus brings us pain often and women may be more adept at this as evidenced by their going to perhaps the highest pain level in life in child bearing. Men will never experience that , for obvious reasons, and will, if wise, concede the point that women may be stronger than are men, where pain is concerned. That is just a thought.
If by "feminization" of the Church it is meant that men, as a gender, are less likely to be involved where relationships are concerned or small groups are being created because men don't talk as much or show emotions/feelings as do women, I'm wondering if that isn't an unhealthy generalization on false premises. [Perhaps even as my own generalization in the preceeding paragraph about pain might be if taken as a fact.]
I've always been suspicious of categorizing men and women with certain assumed gender characteristics as if they were absolutes. Women love to shop. Men hunt. The difference? Women look and look and love the looking. With men it is..I see..I shoot..]buy] I go home. At the risk of destroying any perceptions about Mary and me, [those who know us know this] Mary is the one who sees..shoots..[and would rather see and order off the Internet] and goes home. I, on the other hand, love to look and look whether I buy or not.. be it cars.. clothes..or garage sales.
Another characteristic I've heard is women are more emotional and men are more intellectual. So the movers and shakers must be male in gender if things ever get done. [Forgetting, I guess, a Margaret Thatcher and her husband whoever he was.] But, again, at the risk of alienating many, Mary is the factual, intellectual, analyzing one and I'm the one who feels the moment, acts, and thoughtfully works through the consequences later. Of course, she has helped me to measure the cost and look ahead and I've assisted her with being spontaneous and seizing the moment. It works for us. Just don't call me a "girly man" because, emotional or not, I'll bust your chops. ;)
It is obvious to all, I'm hoping, that the reverse may be true also. A woman MAY look and look and love the looking. A man MAY see, buy, and be on his way. The point is simply that the characterizations don't always hold water and, in my judgment, may be more a cultural bias, [which in and of itself is not an evil thing] than a biblical reality. But this could be a detriment to the Church if completely accepted as fact.
Do you see that definitions are important?
Then there is the possibility that by "feminization" of the Church is meant a diluting of the message of Christ. In other words, the message of commitment and sacrifice is lost and a "feel good" message is being presented and accepted. This is sometimes identified as "psycho-babble" which is a Siamese twin to "feminization" in the minds of many. The assumption here is that women will fall for this [as evidenced, I guess, by Eve's proneness to deception] but men don't/won't. But I would like to ask someone, if this is a fact, why the meetings of so many TV preachers that I believe have diluted the message are being attended by multitudes of people which, if my TV shows a correct picture, [ it's a new hi-def digital 44 inch] includes tons of men in those multitudes. Am I to assume those guys are ONLY "girly men" [there may be a half a ton of those but who really knows for sure?] and no real men are there?
I think it is part of our fallen nature and flesh to be drawn to the big.. sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice.. kind of thing that I see happening all over in Church life today. I think most of us may be falling into that trap if we examine closely. We CAN get men together if we want. We can do it by emphasizing real "manly things" like hunting.. fishing.. [though I know women who love those things and men who don't] and sing triumphant songs with soldier lyrics. But we still wind up with a big, sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice kind of thing. We've just changed the content.
I'm not discounting the diluting of our message that may have taken place. I think it has happened. It is damaging. I hope to address this later. But the real problem with this "feminization" of the Church thing is perhaps far beyond all these things mentioned so far. What is that problem? I think we have no genuine, satisfactory, biblical idea of what the Church and her life really is about...so we see something that appears to attract women and repel men and call it the Church and assume we've "feminized" the Church. It well may be that were we to "masculinize" [made up word] the Church we haven't solved our real problem either. So, again, what is our problem? One more time...
I don't think we adequately... biblically... understand in our day... what Church life really is at all.
What do I mean? Next time I'll say.
Monday, September 24, 2007
When I'm personally offended by a comment or post on a blog I write a personal E-mail which I've done on a few, very few occasions. But what I wish to say now is not an offense as much as a deep burden for us all as Christians.
We are to never forget, I would think, that we are going to face in some fashion some day--our words. The "give account for every idle word" is of enough significance that perhaps a guard is needed for us all in our present day more than anytime I can remember. Words are to be used to speak the truth and are always to be spoken in love. That is a given. And-- we have problems that do need to be corrected--we have people who need to be confronted--that is a given also. The Scriptures themselves give us guidance and even illustrations that these things are sometimes needed.
It goes without saying that when correcting a problem the personal views that contradict those of another are necessary and will be spoken--or written--if a blog is used. That's using language properly. It may not be pleasant but it is certainly biblical to do so.
When confronting a person facts are essential and will only be said publicly after a private word has been given if it's a personal offense with which one is dealing. If not, at the very least--keeping it to public things said or done that are on record--is necessary. That too may not be pleasant but is also biblical as Paul and Peter illustrate.
But what I'm concerned about is the use of language/words to asperse one another. To use our words in such a way is a serious matter it would seem to me. A word shows expressive value in what it refers to but can take on deeper meanings if we're not careful. It can show our emotion, judgment, or a predisposition toward putting a person down with ridicule or shame. It is the put down remarks that I believe are clogging the Internet--especially on blogs--and will cause us to reap a whirlwind of coarseness that could spill over into our pulpits and churches and may already be doing so. I may be refering to a tone as much as words--but the end result is we can become Calumniators--which is an oxymoron when used with the word Christian--or even minister.
May God deliver us from this devastating atmosphere and restore us to being people of the Spirit who is Himself confrontive--even corrective-- but always gentle and gracious. Just my thoughts on what I perceive to be a very present danger.
"Asperse" is used as a verb and means to slander or defame one's character.
"Calumniator" is used as a noun and refers to the person who makes false and malicious statements.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Our modern day concept of sermons comes from the Latin word "sermo" which meant "conversations" and originally indicated a question and answer time. There has been a later metamorphic process resulting in a monologue style. In modern times it is certainly more the monologue, often harranging in style, rather than the conversation of early on.
I suspect that early use of the word would come nearer capturing what happened when believers gathered and worshipped as described in 1 Corinthians 14:26 where they all came together and all participated. [I'm assuming women participated as well since it could be, as Ray Steadman said, "Too many people, especially women, were praising God in tongues and it became overloaded on emotion and the women were told to be silent for a while.".] One man's view of it.
However, I'm not going to fight against what we are doing in our modern churches on Sunday mornings for reasons that will be seen in a moment. I've participated. I still do. What I am going to do is assist us in our modern times in the delivery of our message. This will be done by helping the messenger see what is needed in order to not personally get in the way of communicating that message. Before I do this I do want to offer a couple of slight caveats on the way we__ do church__ on Sunday mornings. [Or any other time when there is a Body assemblage.]
When referring to the Old and New Covenants, Jesus spoke of a need for new wineskins. What was needed was simply to move from one Covenant to the other. New wineskins were definitely needed for that transition. I think it wise for us to be reminded of our need to rethink carefully the way we worship and new wineskins that will help from time to time also.
I read one fellow who said the characteristics of wineskins are important to know. So he listed them. His list included....
They__ [the wineskins]__ are constantly changing shapes and forms.
They age and must eventually be replaced.
They are to be filled...then emptied...then filled...then...[you get the picture]
Their value is ONLY in reference to their content. Wineskins were not valuable alone.
Their shape is changed by the amount of wine they contain and they are seamless.
"As God pours Himself into a gathered Body in new and fresh ways...some changes had better take place and those changes are to reflect better ways of getting our message across." I don't think it can be said better than that.
A second caveat is that the text of the scripture DOES NOT reveal the form that a gathered Body is to take. What is revealed is that all are to be benefited by everyone's spiritual gift when excercised therein. So there is a real need to be careful of saying someone CANNOT minister when the Body gathers. That's a serious restriction. It better be one based on what the text says/means for a person to be told they can't excercise their giftedness in the Body.
Now if we say the restrictions given to the Corinthian Church [1 Corinthians 14] and the Ephesian Church [1 timothy 2] are literal in meaning and are eternal principles for church-life for all time, we better make sure we stay with the whole of the passage. This means everyone is to come with a psalm or speaking in tongues or teaching a doctrine or interpreting tongues. The guys had better raise holy hands and the gals had better not braid their hair or wear gold or pearls, and, at every gathering, the Body had better pray for all the leaders in power. [1Timothy 2:1-2] Wow.
But if we believe those verses are correcting problems in those places and would be good/right/biblical for us to practice were those same or similar problems to ever arise in our congregations, then we really can create new wineskins. No forms are explicitlity commanded for the gathered Body times in this view. You can choose which view you accept. I've chosen my view.
Now to my point. When I speak/preach, as I will be doing at a church in Little Rock this next Sunday, I always pray over my part of the work to be done. That's probably a good thing to do, don't you think? My prayer for myself, has a two-fold emphasis. One is that I, the messenger, will deliver the message I'm preaching, [which I've sometimes preached before as a traveling speaker] with the Holy Spirit making it so fresh to me that it will be as if it's the first time I've ever shared it. I want this for any message at any time__ as do you I'm sure. What isn't fresh and real to me will not speak life/freshness to the listener. But that freshness, I've found, is in direct proportion to how that message is being built into my own life. In other words, the messenger is NEVER off the hook of practicing what is being preached.
The other part of my prayer for myself is that I will be committed to bringing the message as one of hope and not one of judgment and criticism. Even as Jeremiah had to deliver a tough message of rebuke, my prayer is that I, like him, will deliver my message, whatever its' content, weeping the whole time, pointing people to the finished work of Christ on our behalf. [If not literally weeping, at least metaphorically in my heart.] My identification is to be clearly with the people as a hearer from God NOT as the Lord of the message. The people are not stupid. They know if a message is real to the speaker and whether or not that speaker is longing to build it into the fiber of his/her own life or is just delighting in telling others what to do.
People will join you on a journey of life, but if you're not a sojourner with them, the authority of the message is lost. I personally believe this is why the early church was told to not suffer a novice to teach. [And neither should we.] In the heat of a brand new conversion experience, the new believer often thinks, "Sins forgiven, heaven is my home, Jesus is coming__man...this is easy." Later they discover "Jesus is delaying his coming, I'm to pray, study scripture, witness, pay tithes and offerings__boy...this is hard." Later they find out "Jesus said love as you are loved, even love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you and forgive as you've been forgiven__ oh my...this is impossible."
Now they have it right and are ready for the message of Christ BEING [not just IS] their salvation, forgiveness, sanctification, righteousness. There is now hope that their life can really change. That Christ is our hope. But that message being real to the messenger doesn't come without failure, trials, pain and struggle and folks, that takes time. See why ultimately the Truth of__" With God__All things are possible"__brings such confidence? [It would need to bring confidence because there is none in oneself, for good reason.]
Finally, after I have delivered any message, I like to ask myself "was I conversational?" [By this I mean did I talk TO people and not AT people.] If that little boy had been there, would he be able to ask a different question at the back door? Better yet, would adults have heard a message from God not having to wade through a personality gone wild?
I think a simple summary would perhaps help us remember any salient thoughts that might be in this rather long post.. These are things I've picked up along the way from others and bottomline what preaching is to me.
#1--The emphasis on real preaching is on the message. He IS the message as revealed in the text. The text carries the authoritative message for us and can be life changing for all__ speaker included.
#2--The messenger does not proclaim his/her own grievances, applications, opinions, or interpretations of private issues where the text is silent but faithfully delivers a message from the text as he/she sees it. It isn't the time to ride my favorite hobby horse application and ways to do something in the Christian life. If I DO talk about a way of doing something__I carefully show__that's just my way and not a divine way.
#3--The messenger confines himself/herself to the message and does not unduly influence the listeners to accept or agree with the message by loudness, anger, emotional appeals, personality dynamics or bullying techniques, but leaves the hearer in the capable hands of the Holy Spirit and the hearer is then free to wrestle with the acceptance or rejection or even understanding of the message as shown from the text. Manley Beasley used to say, "Good preaching raises as many questions as it answers." I think he was correct.
And last but really foremost...
#4--There is only One Lord__and He isn't Paul Burleson. [Or any other messenger.] So I will misunderstand what the text means on occasion. I will not hear Him correctly on occasion. I will present my bias and see through my filters on occasion. But that isn't devastating since He's the perfect Lord, not me. I'm a fallible messenger who is still growing, learning, and ever increasing in my ability to hear from Him and presenting to others what I'm hearing.
Monday, September 03, 2007
The first way the messenger can get in the way of the message is by changing the message with a dogmatic declaration of meaning where there may be some ambiguity within the text of scripture itself. The emphasis of real Keirugma [preaching] is on the message as stated in my previous post. Someone in authority has given another [the preacher/speaker] a message to deliver and the speaker does not proclaim his/her own grievances or opinions or viewpoints on private matters as authorative, 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.] This must be done with humility because it is not the messengers prerogative to declare absolute meanings when there may be ambiguity
This is where I came to in 1980 in my own preaching when I determined to not preach anything as absolute except what I personally saw as clearly presented in the text. My message changed beyond anything I could have imagined. I came to grips with the fact that much/most of the things I was saying in the pulpit was coming from what I'd heard others, whom I admired, say was in the text or was generally Baptist held viewpoints because of traditions that were baptistic in reputation but had no real foundation in the text itself.
I also began to see that what Peter said of some of the things Paul the Apostle preached was correct. [This is also true of several matters in the text of scripture.] Some of the things he delivered WERE hard to understand and those that were the most difficult I decided I'd better hold my personal view as to their meaning lightly because the correct meaning was more important than my interpretation.
This is not out of a lack of confidence in the integrity or authority of the text but 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 I won't be dogmatic as to it's meaning. 1Timothy 2:15 and the "she shall be saved in child-bearing" is an example. From my present 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.
Since the true biblical messenger is to be careful of proclaiming his/her own viewpoint, opinions or grievances, I tread lightly on some passages and some theological positions that others seem to state the meaning of with great personal conviction. More power to them. 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 a possible meaning of any given text.
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 will 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___"And, with that in mind, I think we can be more confident about our reliance on probabilistic reasoning, for if God has 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 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. But that's just me.
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 assume 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 to fully understand or it would have been given through a glass not quite so dark. [But that would have ruined our need to search the scriptures diligently and be open to each other wouldn't it.] 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 with these words..."[W]e should never take the fatal step of identifying our interpretations (however careful they may be) with the text itself, or with “the meaning of the text itself.” To do so is 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, therefore, this is a strategy which effectively overthrows it, and enthrones 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 the Doctor's full theology, I sure like his humble approach to hammering out his 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.
Next will come an inner examination the messenger/preacher must be honest with in order to not hinder the message. I know this is long and wordy but__ after all__God took an extra forty years with Moses because He is ALWAYS concerned with getting the messenger out of the way before that messenger is sent on the way to deliver "Thus saith the Lord.". Many of us as preachers/speakers are, in fact, our own worst enemy.
Monday, August 27, 2007
This is the biblical picture of what we do on any given Sunday in our churches. We preach. It isn't our message. It isn't our authority. It isn't our results. It 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 crucufied as clearly shown in 1 Corinthians 1:23. In a broader context of that gospel message it is all of scripture since all scripture is profitible for people to understand that gospel message. [11Tim 3:16]
I just finished reading an article that dealt with the "theraputic" 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 theraputic because biblical preaching delivers a healing message to hurting people. While the hurt is not in the disease category [with repects to the health and wealth folks] it is certainly in the disaster category. The problems our hearers on any given Sunday are facing are myriad and devastating to say the least. Most of our 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 that repentence 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, Peter Lord used to say quite often in his teaching that little statement that carries so much validity "hurt people hurt people." So we wind up addressing folks who are hurt and, in the process, wind up hurting others.
The key to any real healing according to one medical report I recently read is the word "hope." Since the words "health and healing" come from the same root words as do "whole and holy" you would know whatever gives a person some sense of hope that things can be made whole 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, remember, 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. Why? Why is it that those who hurt 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] who moved multitudes to repentence because it was their only "hope" and why is there so little healing happening in the lives of our hearers in that Sunday moment when we have their 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 another word for another day.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Also, since I'm not into a linking mode [ability not aptitude] and since the article was given in a "print or send by e-mail" form, I don't THINK I'm in any ethical violation to do so. Enjoy this on this "nothing to say" Friday.
August 17, 2007
The Natural Returns to St. Louis
By Charles Krauthammer
In the fable, the farm boy phenom makes his way to the big city to amaze the world with his arm. At a stop at a fair on the train ride to Chicago, he strikes out the Babe Ruth of his time on three blazing pitches. Enter the Dark Lady. Before he can reach the stadium for his tryout, she shoots him and leaves him for dead.
It is 16 years later and Roy Hobbs returns, but now as a hitter and outfielder. (He can never pitch again because of the wound.) He leads his team to improbable glory, ending the tale with a titanic home run that, in the now-iconic movie image, explodes the stadium lights in a dazzling cascade of white.
In real life, the kid doesn't look like Robert Redford, but he throws like Roy Hobbs: unhittable, unstoppable. In his rookie year, appropriately the millennial year 2000, he throws it by everyone. He pitches the St. Louis Cardinals to a division title, playing so well that his manager anoints him starter for the opening game of the playoffs, a position of honor and -- for 21-year-old Rick Ankiel -- fatal exposure.
His collapse is epic. He can't find the plate. In the third inning he walks four batters and throws five wild pitches (something not seen since 1890) before Manager Tony La Russa mercifully takes him out of the game.
The kid is never the same. He never recovers his control. Five miserable years in the minors trying to come back. Injuries. Operations. In 2005, he gives up pitching forever.
Then last week, on Aug. 9, he is called up from Triple-A. Same team. Same manager. Rick Ankiel is introduced to a roaring Busch Stadium crowd as the Cardinals' starting right fielder.
In the seventh inning, with two outs, he hits a three-run home run to seal the game for the Cardinals. Two days later, he hits two home runs and makes one of the great catches of the year -- over the shoulder, back to the plate, full speed.
But the play is more than spectacular. It is poignant. It was an amateur's catch. Ankiel ran a slightly incorrect route to the ball. A veteran outfielder would have seen the ball tailing to the right. But pitchers aren't trained to track down screaming line drives over their heads. Ankiel was running away from home plate but slightly to his left. Realizing at the last second that he had run up the wrong prong of a Y, he veered sharply to the right, falling and sliding into the wall as he reached for the ball over the wrong shoulder.
He made the catch. The crowd, already delirious over the two home runs, came to its feet. If this had been a fable, Ankiel would have picked himself up and walked out of the stadium into the waiting arms of the lady in white -- Glenn Close in a halo of light -- never to return.
But this is real life. Ankiel is only 28 and will continue to play. The magic cannot continue. If he is lucky, he'll have the career of an average right fielder. But it doesn't matter. His return after seven years -- if only three days long -- is the stuff of legend. Made even more perfect by the timing: Just two days after Barry Bonds sets a synthetic home run record in San Francisco, the Natural returns to St. Louis.
Right after that first game, La Russa called Ankiel's return the Cardinals' greatest joy in baseball "short of winning the World Series." This, from a manager (as chronicled in George Will's classic "Men at Work") not given to happy talk. La Russa is the ultimate baseball logician, driven by numbers and stats. He may be more machine than man, but he confessed at the postgame news conference: "I'm fighting my butt off to keep it together."
Translation: I'm trying like hell to keep from bursting into tears at the resurrection of a young man who seven years ago dissolved in front of my eyes. La Russa was required to "keep it together" because, as codified most succinctly by Tom Hanks (in "A League of Their Own"), "There's no crying in baseball."
But there can be redemption. And a touch of glory.
Ronald Reagan, I was once told, said he liked "The Natural" except that he didn't understand why the Dark Lady shoots Roy Hobbs. Reagan, the preternatural optimist, may have had difficulty fathoming tragedy, but no one knows why Hobbs is shot. It is fate, destiny, nemesis. Perhaps the dawning of knowledge, the coming of sin. Or more prosaically, the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether -- and how -- we ever come back.
Monday, August 06, 2007
I mention only a couple of things out of necessity, One is you will have to overlook the references to Mary and me. We did not know it would be said this way with personal remarks about us, but will leave it as Steve wrote it. Second, I thought of breaking it into two installments but decided that the whole is better when read in one setting. I'm aware it will take a few minutes but it will be well worth the time taken. Finally, take special note of his truly biblical understanding eventually of ministry being all of life. So I introduce to you Steve Miller.
A Journey of Faithfulness
Reunions are blessed events; present and future. It is a thrilling moment to join in fellowship with special ones who have made an eternal impact in your life. Regardless of the passing years, in this case nearly thirty years, the impact is still real, evident and bearing fruit. My wife (KaJean) and I rejoiced in a time of sharing with Paul and Mary Burleson recently at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio Texas. Since we live in San Antonio, all the more reason to get together and share, even for just a few hours. Nearly thirty years earlier Paul served as our pastor at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas, while we were brand new students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. How we got to Southwestern is in itself an enduring testimony but not the focus of this writing. It is important to note that we had just made the decision to leave the Air Force, where I had completed my officer commitment as an aviator in flying the F-4, after some life changing events involving tragedy, repentance, forgiveness and surrendering to His will no matter where it led. In this case, it led us to Fort Worth, with a young daughter, a 70% pay cut and the certainty of His leading but an uncertainty of where and when.
Nothing is so uplifting as to share with ones who took time to invest in your life and yet be real in the course of their mentorship. Over the years we have thanked Paul and Mary with an unwavering gratefulness of the truths they instilled in us and to report these truths are active and effective. Hearing Paul and Mary share their journey over the years, Paul asked if I would share likewise about our journey of faithfulness. Without question, and unashamedly I speak of the faithfulness of God in our lives since arriving and leaving Fort Worth nearly thirty years ago. I at times wonder why Paul asked me to share since so many have crossed their paths and his impact on so many active and faithful ministers today is staggering. I can only share from a perspective of knowing that God called me individually and yet He leads me uniquely. This perspective is riveted within me and I share it with those who earnestly and whole heartedly seek Him.
When I recreate the memory of Fort Worth, two life changing realities unhesitantly emerge in my mind: the sweetness of academia at Southwestern and the spiritual application at Southcliff. I have no doubt there are those who would challenge my sweetness of academia, but for me this is an accurate description. Yes, it was difficult, challenging with men like Dr Corley, Dr Fish, Dr Bush and Dr Tolar to name just a few. But the challenge became even sweeter under the direction of men like Dr T. W. Hunt and my favorite, my mentor, Dr Oscar Thompson. When a seminary professor challenges you academically, then encourages you prayerfully, for me this was sweet. No flying instructor of mine
ever approached me in this matter and yet both engaged me in life altering issues. Dr Thompson, a wonderful student and practitioner of evangelism, was writing his book, Concentric Circles. After his death it would later be completed by his wife. I would later read his book and relive the events he shared because they occurred in my classes with him. Many don’t know that Dr Thompson was a private pilot and we would talk about flying principles and procedures. Later, he would be a faithful encourager, like Barnabas, when I would make a decision about life after seminary. His faithfulness to the Father was a blueprint for me, a pattern to emulate, all the while battling with the struggles of cancer. He would say, “You can’t have dying grace on non dying days.” This of course was not in relation to his cancer but in dying to self in order to fully live in His grace.
Attending Southcliff under the leadership of Paul Burleson was like icing on the cake. To have the academic foundation laid at Southwestern and then see the application in ministry was indeed the reward. And yet, Brother Paul never challenged me to seek a ministry. So many came to Southwestern with only ministry as their motivation. Like cookie cutter Christians with only one pattern coming out of seminary and that of a stereotypical ministry. It has to be a certain way or God is not in it. No yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, nor an understanding of His spiritual gifts and totally forgetting the sovereignty of God. Brother Paul provided me a principle I have never forgotten. It was simply an application of Matthew 6:33 and Proverbs 3: 5-6. The principle: Seek a life with Christ not a ministry. Nothing should ever compete with my relationship with my Savior. When this is settled, then the ministry will take care of itself, in time, and in the right priority. I would come to grasp for the first time the power of the sovereignty of God and an understanding of spiritual gifts that would be life changing. I now saw myself as a person, a partner, and a parent in the way Christ sees me. I would later live this affirmation in the military, the church, and even the corporate world. I lived under the ministry of vital truths before it became the Vital Truths Ministry of today. My wife and I are eternally grateful to Paul and Mary for their faithfulness.
I love to play basketball. I played it competitively in high school and went to college on a basketball scholarship. While at Southwestern, several of us formed a basketball team to travel to Brazil and serve as sports evangelists. Southcliff supported me in this endeavor, prayerfully and financially. God did a wonderful work with our team and those we shared with in Brazil. He also did a work on me. While in Brazil I could not get the impression of military personnel out of my mind. One of the reasons I left the military was to get away from a certain life style and yet I began to see how judgmental I was because their worldview was not mine nor did I want to enter their world and offer to them the life changing power of Jesus Christ. All because He loved them just as He loves me. I could not and would not accept the idea that God would be calling me back to the military. I did not want to be a chaplain nor ever felt that calling. How did I know He was calling me to return to exactly where I just left several years earlier, to a vocation that I excelled in, yet this time, this time with a different outlook, motivation, and seeing people now with the soft eyes of Jesus and not my flawed critical vision. I also did not know that at the same time God was touching my wife with the same sensitivity of His leading, yet neither one of us was strong enough to share with the other. In the midst of all of this, God proved faithful. We as a family learned dependence upon God that has never wavered. He literally met every need and supplied abundantly. There was no way I would doubt His leading; I was just scared to face my wife. But He amazingly worked through this that we became convinced together in our leaving Fort Worth as clearly as were in our coming several years earlier. This is so like God.
Many would think we missed Him and some would give me a look of there goes another who could not cut it in the ministry. You see, they were focused on the ministry. I was focused on Him and the desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection wherever it took me and my family. I shared this with Brother Paul and the affirmation was overwhelming. Upon sharing with Dr Thompson he simply stated you have to go where the fields are ripe for harvest; no matter the location. God calls personally and He leads uniquely.
Reflecting back today I see four stabilizing principles for our journey of faithfulness: the ample portion in His provision, the preparation in His plan, His protection through the process, and the promise of His presence. Seminary was a training ground for dependence upon God. He met every need and what He provided was more than enough. God gave me the wonderful opportunity to fly again, literally all over the world. We went to Germany with a new focus and expecting God’s affirmation. I actually flew in a squadron with men that knew me before and now saw the difference. One of these men I shared Jesus with and years before he would not listen. This time the field was ripe for the harvest. This time I was ready. He was the first person I shared the gospel to after seminary. He accepted Christ in a swimming pool of all places; what an affirmation of all the earlier preparations. God’s plan is perfect and eternal. Sadly, this young man would die in an auto crash six months later.
Our time in Germany would begin the journey of twenty four years of seeing God’s preparing hand work in our lives in the military to a degree I could not imagine. He prepared me to pastor in Germany, Japan, and Alaska while on active duty in the Air Force. The joy of sharing the vital truths of Christ as a flyer, a commander and later a senior officer in the midst of the Persian Gulf War, 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is overwhelming because He and He alone gets the glory. I daily seek to correctly understand the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life and desire the ability to faithfully explain the purposes of God to others. This is the overruling passion in my life.
An understanding of the sovereign hand of God would give us His peace in the midst of His protection. My wife would face a surgery immediately after seminary requiring a large tumor to be removed. We were told the surgery would be invasive and we’d never have children again. God’s peace overrides any medical evaluation. His peace is a certainty. The evaluation is an opinion. Not only did God protect us but we now have two more of what we were never supposed to have any more of. As a father I had the joy of leading these two, as well as our older daughter to Christ. All while stationed over seas. The assurance of His sovereign protective hand was a comfort to my wife as I flew jets very fast and very low in combat situations. While flying, I am having the time of my life. At the same time, she is needing and experiencing the comfort of His peace.
Our journey of faithfulness has led me to retire after thirty years in the Air Force and I am now engaged in the corporate world as a consultant to the government and industry. A different environment but still the best place to invest in those things that are eternal: people and His Word. I have had desires to achieve, desires to share, desires for people to get well, desires for a peaceful nation in the midst of war. I have prayed for these desires with a humble heart. These are desires, not guarantees. The promise of His presence is a certainty despite my desires. Even at this writing, we are facing once again the same tumor we experienced nearly twenty seven years ago. I pray for her healing. I am confident of His presence. One is a desire; the other is a fact. Jesus has promised in Philippians 1:6 to complete my journey because He’s the one that set me out on this work. The endearing words of a faithful and loving pastor and the challenge of a mentor encouraging me to seek a life and not a ministry I offer as a testimony of His faithfulness and that the vital truths of Christ are real and work. I close with the Psalmist in 71:17-18 who writes:
O, God, thou has taught me from my youth; and I still declare thy wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come.
God is faithful.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Ambience----"A pervading atmosphere."
I read where John MacArthur once said were he able to parent his children over again he would put a major emphasis on teaching them to embrace the need for ambivalence. As seen above in the definition from Webster’s New American Dictionary a good dose of understanding about ambivalence is really needed for the living of life in general and dealing with some people specifically.
For example, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about autobiographies. A life story undoubtedly has, it seems to me, the exaggeration part of it [if not out and out lies] buried somewhere in the telling of the tale. How could we be the hero of our life if all we told was the truth? [The point of biographies is to present the main character/hero is it not?] So we shade an incident here, invent a rationale there, leave out a telling detail that changes everything were we to state it, all presenting our truth about us. As someone I read said---“Is there anything less reliable than a memoir? Eichmann was following orders. Clinton did nothing wrong. Our life story written by us is our greatest fiction so we learn to take memoirs with a bucket of salt.”
While that statement may be a little over the top and, perhaps, smacks of cynicism, I have to confess, my ambivalence about it all causes me to be drawn to the grain of truth in it while, at the same time, being attracted to the inside scoop a person gives in those type of works. I really am ambivalent about autobiographies as you can see. It is that kind of ambivalence that is the pervading atmosphere of my mind and heart when I read many of the blogs on line, especially the comment sections.
No one appreciates the biblical materials more than I do. I’ve spent my life studying them, developing my understanding of them, systematizing them for the instruction of others, proclaiming them, and even defending them. I believe doctrine is terribly important.
I’m drawn to people also. In fact, if I understand things correctly, it is ONLY His Eternal Word and people from this earth that will grace us with their presence in heaven. Nothing else--- that is here---will be there. Again, if I understand things correctly, my relationships with people IS the treasure I am to lay up in heaven. The sadness I see in the story of the Rich Fool who had barns and bunches of crops, is that NOTHING is said about his marriage, children, co-workers, or friendships. How poor he really was because people were NOT as important as anything else. You can see--- I’m drawn to the Truth of Scripture and people---even those who write blogs defending that Truth.
It is exactly at this point that ambivalence must be learned in my life. How bloggers can defend the “Truth” and, at the same time often have, it seems to me, a total disregard for the feelings of those spoken/written about and those that love them, is a mystery.
I’m drawn, as I said, to one side or other of doctrinal issue whether it is concerning Calvinism’s TULIP or the Free-will of others, women preachers, or praying in tongues, whether baptism can be performed by any christian or only an authorized minister or representative or a myriad of other issues that can be debated doctrinally. Yet, while drawn to one side or other on any issue, I've confessed to being just as repulsed at the attitude often exhibited toward people by advocates of those issues.
I’ve seen what seems to me to be anger, resentment, jealously, or maybe it is simply personalities void of tenderness with a total lack of training. Then again, perhaps it is just a lack of conscience in regards to relating to people in genuine love and respect, all the while appearing to admire their own stand for the “Truth.” [The fact that the “Truth” is another name for a Person and that His Person is to be the heart and soul of our relating to people seems to be lost on some.] Whatever the driving force behind their disregard for people, I find that dubious sense of unsettledness playing out in the recesses of my own being when I read many blogs and especially the comment sections.
So, I wind up battling my own demons of wanting to judge, correct, fix, confront those very people I’m drawn to and would do so except I check my own motives. There I find another mixed bag. So I’m back to being ambivalent---about myself. So I sit down to think about it all---and write---and a post pops out--- about this need for ambivalence in life---for what it’s worth.
Maybe MacArthur was on to something. Maybe it will take the BEMA, where all hidden motives and purposes are brought to light, that the ability to love someone and yet be repulsed by that same someone will be brought into correct eternal balance. Maybe until then I’ll just have to learn to live with…ambivalence... loving people where they are...where ever that is.