Monday, August 27, 2007


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

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.

Paul Burleson

Friday, August 17, 2007


This is a Friday "much to say about nothing" kind of day. So, since I like- feel good- stories, I'm putting you in touch with this in case you missed it. Whether you like Krauthammer personally or politially is not my concern at the moment. This is good.

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.

Paul B.

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 want you to know Steve Miller, Retired Airforce, and his wife Ka Jean. Steve and Kajean are one of the many couples we knew as seminary students several years age. Mary and I renewed our relationship this year at the Convention in San Antonio. What we heard prompted me to ask him to let you hear it too.

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


Ambivalence----“Simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from a person, object, or action.”
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.

Paul Burleson