Saturday, February 24, 2007


I read the following and was smitten by it so much that I wanted to put it on my blog as a post. I do so with permission from Charles Roberts who hosts the blog uniquely called "The Blog Itch." It's a play on "scratching where people itch" in discussing things and he does it well, scratching where I itch at least.

The incident was relayed to him from the father, who is a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators, of the boy who did as you're about to read. It is just some good stuff that I want to pass along. Thanks Charles for permission to do so. Enjoy.


"Last week, I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" my son asked.

"Cross my heart," the man replied.

Then, in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life.

He picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already."

I agree. Ice cream IS good for the soul. Excuse me while I go feed my soul.

Paul Burleson

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I made a comment on Wade's blog recently that defined, according to Wikipedia, what "propoganda" is and how one blog seemed to be more that... than a true sharing of "information." On another occasion I read a comment that said Wade's blog was nothing but "gossip" and the refusal on the part of a Southern Baptist leader to respond was simply refusal to indulge in "gossip."

It all got me to thinking....and that's anything on the blogs nothing more than "gossip" or "propoganda"? It also got me to researching. Here's a short, simple, and all too inconclusive bit of thinking about it all.

"Gossip" by definition, again, according to Wikipedia, is..."a casual or idle talk of any kind, sometimes slanderous and/or devoted to discussing others." Webster says..." 1. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational fact. [noun] 2. Rumor or report of an intimate nature. 3. An informal conversation. I think we can safely assume that "gossip" is capable of being viewed both positively and negatively by language and definition.

In a negative sense it is idle talk that is intimate and personal in nature with a view to harm. This is what scripture is referring to, I would think, when it refers to "backbiting" as in Romans 1:28-32. It certainly is ONLY negative there but to make "gossip" ONLY negative would be counter productive to reality as the same passage lists "debate" as evil. But there must be another side to debate that is positive or the entire SBC is in trouble with all the debate going on. But "gossip" is a very negative thing when viewed from this backbiting kind of perspective.

Its foundation is "rumor" which is purportedly true information that has no substantiating evidence. This is a greater problem when the Internet is involved as information can be given/received with such speed the substantiating evidence, if any exits, doesn't reach people with the same speed it seems. Such evidence IS essential for the information to move from the realm of "gossip." The reason is that, boiled down to it's core, "gossip" in a negative sense, has more to do with something that is of a personal, salacious, intimate nature or has a direct and obvious intent of harming a person if believed.

The Jewish view of "gossip," which carries over into the Christian view in my opinion, is that "gossip," as discussed so far, is a sin, as it negatively impacts the dignity of a person, both the speaker and the subject of the "gossip."

"Information," on the other hand, is the result of processing and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it. This is what blogs can be a great tool at doing. The "information," however, in most blogs, though certainly not all, is in "conversational" form. It takes the sharing of different views on a topic to learn from each other, hence, the comment section. When this is not allowed, for whatever reason, the blog becomes more "propoganda" in my view, or at the very least, a "speech" or "teach" situation and is not "conversation."

All of the last paragraph is the positive side of "gossip." It refers to a casual style of conversation. It has been this to which I've referred in the past many times when I referenced the "gossiping the gospel" need that we had. In other words, we need to view speaking/sharing of Christ as more a casual conversational way of life rather than a confrontive, combative, "I've got the truth and you'd better listen or else" kind of communication. This kind of "gossip" [positive] is healthy to a marriage, a friendship, and parent/child relationships. It tends to involve a great deal of transparency regarding information, events, and facts, [that are substantiated] but is not the personal, demeaning type that qualified earlier as negative "gossip." It is this "transparency" that is my final thought.

I read where someone said that participative democracies are built on "transparency." [We won't debate at this time whether a local church or the Convention are to be a democracy. Suffice it to say the BF@M speaks to democratic procedures that are to be excercised.] And the same person said that everyday participation by all in the democracy is demanded if that "transparency" is to be a reality.

"Transparent" procedures needed in a church or denomination are not that far removed from those needed in a well working national government that is democratic in nature. They might be such things as open meetings, financial disclosure, freedom of information, and always remember that "transparency" is the opposite of "privacy."

I personally believe that "radical transparency" is needed in church and denominational life. This would involve all levels of decision making being made known and published. No one would dispute that there are certain areas where safety is a required concern, but, those MUST be few and far between...much like issues of "National Security" keep some things secret in the government, but they had better be few and far between and always opt for freedom of information where there is doubt as to the need for privacy.

So, all of this is to simply say, is blogging "gossip"? My answer is..."yes" and "no." You will have to decide, as will I, which blog "is" or "isn't "gossip," which blog is or isn't real "conversation" and which is built on "transparency" with substantiation factually a priority. Add to this our need of being discerning whether one's refusal to respond as a Leader is legitimate or dodging transparency. Be discerning and communicate your opinion in some comment section and...welcome to the blogging world. [Just don't gossip negatively...:)]

Paul Burleson

Sunday, February 11, 2007


It was stated in an article I read a few years ago that the greatest "heresy' in the American form of Christianity may well be the "heresy of application." By this the author was conveying the idea that, for many, the "form" [application] became as sacred as the"function" [interpretation] of the text. The author suggested that this may be the case with many "Truths/Doctrines and their application to life. We begin to hold a "way of doing it" to be as sacred as what is "to be done." So we wind up, for example, arguing over the elements of the Lord's supper and who serves it.

Another rather simple, even shallow illustration of this is the function of prayer. To pray, by scriptural definition, is to commune with God who is Spirit with your spirit. [This is the only way to pray without ceasing makes any sense. I'm aware that the word 'ceasing' means intermittently like a hacking cough.]

But the next person teaching on prayer suggests that to bow one's head and shut one's eyes will help because you shut out distractions. Good idea. Except the next teacher says that prayer IS bowing your head and closing your eyes in order to commune with God who is Spirit with your spirit. Thus, the form my wife and I enjoy of raising our glasses of water/tea and toasting the lord while both of us are thanking him for the meal and each other with eyes on each other, is NOT real prayer. But by scriptural definitions it is. Application [form] is NOT sacred and binding. You see the problem.

Another illustration, perhaps just as shallow is the use of the Bible. God speaks through His Word. That's the function of scripture. When we read the text He speaks to us. Someone teaches this as..."God speaks through His Word [function] so when you meet Him early in the morning you are putting your focus on Him first." Nice, even a correct statement. But the next person teaches that since God speaks through His Word and since it's wise to focus on Him first, you are really spiritual when you meet Him early. NB..NB becomes their teaching. "No Bible, no breakfast" if you want to really be spiritual in your walk is their teaching. So if I read my newspaper first or get ready, go to work, and have a time in the Word at lunch, by their definition I'm not spiritual.

Of course, were this really "Truth"then no one could have been really spiritual until the invention of the printing press and the mass distribution of the Bible. The "truth" is God does speak through the text of the scripture and ANYTIME you choose to read He will speak and you ARE spiritual by the Grace of God. Different personalities will choose different times to read the bible. Prior to his home-going I heard Ron Dunn say many times that with his personality it was NEVER early in the morning. [Of course, he would then add that he was doing it another time to not be prideful since no one brags about a quiet time unless it's early. :)] Thus, the "heresy of application." The "form" [how you do it] becomes as sacred as the "function". [What the scripture says .] It must not be lost on us that much, if not most, of our debating is about the "applications" we make of the truths of scripture.

All of this to say, this very well may play out in other areas. It was stated on a blog I read recently that one who called someone an "idiot" should not have. I would agree. That is attacking a person's character if not their intellegence. But a commentor said "to call one a 'spooky fundamentalist' is no different and you did that." The response from the blogger who said the person should not have used "idiot" was..."No, the post said 'spooky fundamentalism' and was refering to a philosophy or theology that is to be avoided, not to a person or individual." I checked. He was correct. This is my point. The commentor made an application in his mind [which I've done many times] that the phrase MUST be refering to______. [You add a name of one you admire.] The commentor THEN states as truth that the admired person has been called a "spooky fundamentalist." But were I to do this, and I have, the truth is not my "application" of what/whom I thought was being referenced, but what was, in fact, said.

I guess I'm calling for all of us to be honest about our application and call it that. Our application. It is not "the truth." I may be stating what I think is a logical conclusion, but it is only my conclusion, not the statement of the one with whom I'm talking. When this simple distinction is made one will not state as facts anything about the behavior or actions of a person that cannot be factually documented and such documents would have to be in one's possession. Even then it would be a speaking of behavior, not people and their character. Maybe I'm naive, but it would seem to me that this is the decent thing to do even if a person is not a christian. But for "believers" it seems a "must" to me. But I'm just me.

Paul Burleson

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Marty Duran asked a question on his blog the other day that stirred several interesting, if not cantankerous, comments. The question he asked was..."Have we lost the gospel?" The discussion which followed was entertaining and enlightening.

There is a sense in which our message is single in it's focus. It is the "gospel.' If we do lose it we will be compromised as christians and will truly be "salt" that has lost it's savor, if not it's soul, and "light" that has been put under a bushel, if not blown out.

Of this I'm fairly sure. We have become single issue focused often and sometimes it hasn't been the "gospel" that captured that focus. Let me illustrate.

No one despises a callous, shallow approach to the issue of abortion more than do I. But in our zeal to correct the law, which needs correcting in my opinion, we have become bed-fellows with a political party. Conservative christianity, in the mind of our culture, is connected to the Republican party and it may be more than just perception. But if we were to remain biblical our concern would have as much to do with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, investing ourselves in the lives of those who are incarcerated and their families, as it does with the genuine evil of abortion. That is made clear from the text of the scripture. ["Inasmuch as you've done it to these..."] In fact, if I understand the gospel correctly, Jesus came, did what He did, and was raised from the dead to redeem us so we can do, in the power of the Spirit, what we are to do. That will always entail a strategy of redemption from, sin, hatred, prejudice, poverty, hunger, and sickness as we are able to accomplish such things. But to focus on one issue to the loss of our unique message of redemption would derail the purposes of God, from the human perspective at least. This would be so if our message were to even become clothing the naked, feeding hungry, or loving the unlovely. That's is all the result of the gospel, not the message itself.

The same might be said for correct doctrine. When we focus on the foundational truths of the gospel, the nature of Christ, the integrity of the scripture, the truth of redemption by Grace through faith in the work of Christ, we will be on track to accomplishing the Great Commission as given to the Church. But to be side-tracked into focusing on being correct/united in the truths of lesser consequence, good though they might be, we would be as the opening illustration shows. We, then, become bed-fellows with people who agree with us and enemies to those who don't. We become, as I believe the Pharisees became, a party of people who struggled with gnats while swallowing camels and was of no real value to anyone. To become a group known for a demand that "all agree" or " we're right" on every detail of doctrine is a death blow to the gospel. Ask the people who knew the Pharisees. It is the same thing as being known or inextricably linked to the Republican OR Democratic parties because of a single issue, even family values, it is a death blow to the gospel.

The "uniqueness" even "dividing" nature of our gospel message is, in and of itself, hard for this pluralistic society to stomach and we certainly must never compromise our message no matter how divisive or difficult it is for some to hear. But to "divide," with a superiority or elitist attitude, from other christians, over the lesser issues of doctrine, is the atmosphere in which that death blow to the gospel is wielded. It is the "gospel" that must be the "great divide", not PPL, baptism linked to eternal security, Calvinism, Arminianism, Eccesiology, dispensationalism,or even women teaching men. We can have our "positions" about each of these, and that's OK, but our dividing point should be the gospel message itself. Have we "lost the gospel"? you tell me.

Paul Burleson