Thursday, December 27, 2007


Some may question the wisdom of doing what I'm about to do. They may be right. It may be fool-hardy...even silly...but it is/will be the expression of my feelings and thoughts at the moment about the past three days and three nights the Burlesons have been together for Christmas 2007. Whether those feelings and thoughts ought to be made public, [other than to family] especially on a blog, is up for grabs. But..shoot..I'm not known for thoughtful and careful actions anyway. Mine are usually done and then I realize the magnitude of the error of my ways. So here goes. [Besides..anyone who has sat under my pulpit ministy knows I usually am guilty of TMI anyway.]

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, [17] their children's spouses and children. [4] 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 [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'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.

Paul B.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I've posted nearly two hundred times on my VTM blog. Some have been pretty good and others have been otherwise. Some might be my favorites and I'm going to repost a few for the next couple of weeks. What do you think? Here's the first one.....

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 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 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.

Paul B.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


The difference between performance and relational is huge. I'm talking about worship. I know to worship God is basically to obey Him as Abraham understood when he said in that mountain experience "the lad and I will go yonder and worship." He was simply correctly saying to obey what God commands is itself worship.

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.]

Paul B.