Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I'm sure most of you have seen or heard of the Clint Eastwood movie by the above title. I'm sure you also know that 2008 is coming to an end and 2009 is upon us. Finally, I'm sure most of you haven't a clue as to why I put the two together in this post. I'll try to answer that in the following several parts to this post celebrating the new year.

For many, the end of 2008 will bring a reflection upon the "what was" of that year and some of the "what was" wasn't too good. For many others, the coming of 2009 will bring a resolution of the "what will be" for the new year and many will have a sense of frustration because of the promises past that never came to pass and the "what will be" wound up being the old "what was."

I'm convinced that BOTH reflecting on the old and resolutions for the new CAN be dangerous to our emotional and spiritual health if we're not careful.

I have also personally found that when both are looked at honestly [the past year and the prospective year] we will find a little of the good, the bad, and the ugly mentioned in the title of Eastwood's movie and without that genuine honesty there will be no possibility of a "happy New Year." [Or a living with the old one in peace for that matter.]

I'm aware that only one out of the ten readers of this post may understand or need what I will ultimately say here, [that may be overly optimistic about total readership :)] but it is for that one I will write.

The next segment will come in a couple of days. Then the next.....until I've said it all. I tried to put it in one post and quickly realized I would lose everyone including me in the length of it. So in parts it will come. But it will come.

Next Part 11. Until then.....

Happy New Year

Paul B.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Mary's friend and highschool classmate and my good friend T. D. Webb has written an exceptional poem that was posted on another blog. I've chosen to post it here. Read it and you will understand why. As I said Tommy, exceptional. Way to go.


It’s Christmas time in this mired land,
Bone chilling cold the season,
The Son of God became a man
Beyond all human reason.

It’s in the record of His Book,
In pages old and worn,
Announcing news for those who look,
A baby Savior born.

How could you, Lord, demean Yourself,
To this rebellious earth,
Put judgement power upon the shelf,
In ignominious birth.

Yet, You saved us lovingly
Beyond the scope of time,
With grace incomprehensive be
To a merely mortal mind.

From eternal to eternity,
You planned this to instill,
From predetermined destiny,
Accomplished perfect will.

Reacting, man predictably,
Received the news eschewed,
No faith, but doubt indubitably,
In crazed thoughts misconstrued.

So to this day the minds of men,
Are lead in grand deception,
Allowing many to descend
To utter desolation.

But for the remnant God did choose,
To save from dread despair,
He from the start deemed not to lose
Them to the Prince of Air.

It’s Christmas time in this mired land,
He came to save His own,
Great Sacrifice, He lives to stand,
Our sin He did atone.

In His Grace and Peace.

T.D. Webb

Friday, December 19, 2008


I've recently read that there is a protest being orchestrated against Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in California who has been invited to pray the benediction at the inauguration of President-elect Obama. The protest strategy is that the participants are to "boo" from the beginning of Pastor Rick's prayer to the end. Have you ever wanted to protest something that way? I have. Maybe even long and meaningless prayers. Just kidding.

I've often wondered if during the sixties and seventies, which are often referred to as the decades of protest, I was not too blase' with regards to the gender and racial inequalities that were so prevelant in America along with some other issues worth protesting. I'm not speaking of using the pulpit in dealing with social issues, but as a citizen I have some personal responsibility in such matters. I know there is a fine line to be walked in being a preacher of the gospel and becoming nothing more than a social voice in the pulpit rather than the gospel voice announcing the need for a new birth, the One who provides that birth and the coming of a new Kingdom. I NEVER want to loose that voice in order to correct ANY social wrong.

That said, some wrongs are worth protesting. Without a doubt it requires courage to stand for the truth of the gospel and share it as christians. It requires that same kind of courage as a citizen to affirm standards that exist that are worth preserving as a society and to propose and defend any laws that make possible the order and justice and freedom of all our citizens. It could even take the form of "civil disobedience," I think with an emphasis on civil.

The protest decades that I mentioned earlier sometimes took an angry and even illegal tone to them. [Much as the booing protest which, it seems to me, is more out of anger than anything else.] It was an illegal and deadly protest that the man associated with President-Elect Barack Obama was involved in that created a pause inside me during the campaign me as to the qualifications of our new President to-be. But I digress.

However, to throw out protest altogether because some do it with anger or illegally would do great damage to our nation in my judgment. There does exist a form of protest worthy of praise; and it is that protest to which I'm drawing attention. To protest civilly against whatever would bring about the destruction of the moral order and the social order is an act of courage and piety I believe. That sort of protest against the enemies of order and justice and freedom will be heard far better than will violence or anger in the name of protest.

Those who see our protest when it's that kind may not agree with what we say but will more likely give our issue position a hearing. So I'm going to share some remarks I read concerning rightful protest in this age of ours when often it seems as if the bottom has dropped out of what we hold dear. The following is adapted from a source I found that was delivered long ago [30 years] but still meaningful to me.


"If we protest, it ought to be a protest arising out of love, and not out of hatred;

that protest ought to be an affirmation that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the dignity of man, not an appeal to primitive impulse.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the ties of family and community, not an enthusiasm for centralized power or for the overthrow of private and public affections.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the goodness of God's creation, not a denunciation of the life-impulse.

That protest ought to be temperate and patient, not an inciting to violence.

That protest ought to be undertaken in humility, not in the self-righteousness of the Pharisee.

That protest ought to reunite the generations and the classes, rather than becoming a declaration of war with sword in hand.

That protest ought to ask for the recognition of moral authority, and not for the casting of every person upon his private petty resources of intellect and appetite.

And that protest ought to be promulgated in the name of the permanent things, rather than being a shriek amidst the winds of doctrine.

Protest which ignores these aims and limits is no better than the howl of the fanatic. That howl echoes through the world today; it has been raised recently upon some campuses, in crazy protest against the President's visit to a German graveyard, in frantic demand that South Africa be reduced to the happy condition of Uganda or Chad. Before the stony idols of Unreason and Devastation, the modern mob bows down. Unreason often seems fashionably clever, and Devastation has its charms for the bored and the hopeless. But it requires courage to speak up for the truth with character in this time of troubles which is our age."

My final words of this post ...

I believe there is wisdom in these words for christians also who disagree and debate one another theologically. Or those who protest the actions of leaders or governing bodies in a denomination. This is one of the reasons I have supported and admired the actions of Wade Burleson the past three years. NOT because he is my son. But because he is a civil protestor as a christian in Southern Baptist life. May his tribe increase.

Paul B.

Civility isn't weakness..Anger isn't strength.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I thought I would write a Christmas greeting and some thoughts for the season. Then I read what my friend, Rick Anthony, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Norman Oklahoma had written to his fellowship and decided it needed to be heard by anyone passing by my blog. Great thoughts Rick...thanks.


After the most recent election I made the personal commitment to pray for our new president. I committed to pray for this man even if I find myself in disagreement with his decisions or direction. I also have committed to pray for those who serve as leaders with him. This has really created an interesting challenge as he has begun announcing his choices for his cabinet. There are some chosen by him that I didn’t expect and some that I feel are wrong for the job. There are some that I think are perfectly suited while others have been chosen who were not even in my top twenty-five. Basically, I am finding that it is somewhat tougher to pray for something or someone when it not my choice or the decision that I would make. It is tough to maintain my prayer support when I am having to pray outside of my box, my box that defines how I have decided this should happen.

The people in Isaiah’s day had this same problem thinking outside of the box. Read Isaiah 9:6-7. Who is the ultimate person this passage is talking about?

It is ultimately speaking of Christ and it clearly explains that He will be coming as a child, yet when that happened almost no one expected that the Savior was a little baby. The result of this inability to think outside the box resulted in most of the people missing the opportunity to sit at the feet of Christ.

What areas of life do you miss out on due to the fact that you have allowed yourself to be boxed in?

Pastor Rick Anthony

From the Burlesons to all of you....
Merry Christmas--2008

Paul B.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I have read much of late about how America needs to repent over the abortions that are taking place and the movement toward legitimizing homosexuality and if she doesn't God will judge her and may be doing that now through the economic and political difficulties presently being faced by all Americans. But if America were to repent of doing those kinds of things she would be blessed because God blesses a nation that is righteous.

I certainly respect all believers and others who have a passion for protecting the unborn. I abhor abortion as do many of you I'm confident. I reject homosexuality as a legitimate action as I do adultery and fornication. I also abhor racial and gender hatred that is often seen in America. I also believe certain other things are true were one to think biblical.

One....No nation will be blessed because of righteous acts or judged for unrighteous acts in the present day since all acts outside of Christ are as filthy rags.... [Unrighteous]...and... judgment on that unrighteousness has been taken by Him on the Cross. THAT IS OUR MESSAGE. Blessings flow from having a relationship with the One who did that Cross work on our behalf. For God to bless a nation BECAUSE of righteous deeds would violate what He says about the need of the work of the Cross.

There are natural consequences of good actions for any nation [or bad actions] but that is reaping what is sown. That is the normal process of natural/common law which, partially at least, reflects the nature of God. There is also a common grace He has for the unrighteous. But to define any good deeds as RIGHTEOUS, as I said, and to think of God blessing BECAUSE of performing those deeds is beyond the scripture.

Two....If that Cross event and what was accomplished there is rejected then there has been appointed a day in eternity for judgment and the One has been announced who will do the work of judging all men in that day as He alone can know their heart. [Acts 17:31] So our message is that judgment has ALREADY come [the Cross] and will come in eternity if that Cross message is rejected.

America, Russia, Korea, China, [any nation] will not find favor with God by actions good or bad. It is the gospel message alone that announces from where His Grace and Mercy flow and a revival in the hearts of God's people to share that message is needed, and is, in my opinion, the only TRUE hope of any person on this earth today.

Three....Because I am an American citizen AND I am a believer in that message referenced above, I will work to get civil laws passed that would reflect the sacredness of life and protect the innocent which is what God has established governments to do. [1 Peter 2:12-14] I will work to make as law the natural order of things that make for life as God created it to be in areas like family life, among other areas, for the general well being of the citizens of our nation. Such laws would make for a safe, [punishment of evildoers and protection of the innocent] sane, and free society politically. It would be for the good of the people and the best possible life in a lost and unregenerate world from my perspective. Those are my political goals as a citizen and a believer.

I will also pray for our leaders whomever they might be and I join you, I'm sure, in longing for their hearts to be opened to the Christ of the gospel who WOULD enable a sacredness of life to reign in their minds and hearts as they govern. I know I will also work for the election of those TO govern who share the values by which I live.

Four.... But I will NOT allow my message to become less than the gospel no matter the importance of the wrongs that need to be righted done by nations and their rulers. I will work as a citizen, who is a christian, for fair and just laws with the purpose of making our nation a safe and just place, as I said, for every person, race, gender, and the unborn and elderly. But I will not lose my focus on the fact that our only real hope is in God's ability to change hearts through His Son.

Finally.. This is a difficult balance for me to achieve and a narrow line for me to walk but walk it I must. There is only one holy nation today and only one blessed people today and that is the holy blessed body of believers worldwide [The Church/Body/Bride] many of whom find themselves in difficult national circumstances that demand heartfelt action as a citizen, if there is the freedom to do so. But that action MUST be done without losing the message of hope for all people including leaders. My message must NEVER become an American righteousness instead of Kingdom righteousness. Nor should christians in other nations have a nationalistic message either. What a mess we would create.

May God grant revival to His people, salvation to the lost, and courage to those of us who know Him, that we may love the lost and work against their actions when necessary politically yet all the while presenting them with the Grace of the Cross that has captured us and set us free to love them as we would never be able to do otherwise.

I WILL pray for the President-Elect and I will continue to pray for all elected leaders as well. I will then work, as a citizen, to replace those, by vote, that I believe would not advance what I hold to as the best way of natural life for all American people, even the unborn. But I will not close the door on bringing to them the message that is THEIR only hope by demonstrating a spirit of hatred BECAUSE of their sinful [By my standards as a christian] actions and beliefs. As I said...this is difficult to walk... but our Lord did. He did it in a culture that reflected ALL the biases, hatred, violence, and general disregard for life one can ever imagine. He led the way in personally reflecting the sacredness and value of people regardless of national origin, gender or race, all without losing His focus on the message. Are His servants called on for anything less?

Paul Burleson

Friday, November 07, 2008


I couldn't resist reprinting a portion and linking to the entire article by Michael Gerson, Washington Post group writer, on a side of our present President that some may tend to forget.

By Michael GersonFriday, November 7, 2008

Election Day 2008 must have been filled with rueful paradoxes for the sitting president. Iraq -- the issue that dominated George W. Bush's presidency for 5 1/2 bitter, controversial years -- is on the verge of a miraculous peace. And yet this accomplishment did little to revive Bush's political standing -- or to prevent his party from relegating him to a silent role.

The achievement is historic. In 2006, Iraq had descended into a sectarian killing spree that seemed likely to stop only when the supply of victims was exhausted. Showing Truman-like stubbornness, Bush pushed to escalate a war that most Americans -- and some at the Pentagon -- had already mentally abandoned.

The result? A Sunni tribal revolt against their al-Qaeda oppressors, an effective campaign against Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra, and the flight of jihadists from Iraq to less deadly battlefields. In a more stable atmosphere, Iraq's politicians have made dramatic political progress. Iraqi military and police forces have grown in size and effectiveness and now fully control 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces. And in the month before Election Day, American combat deaths matched the lowest monthly total of the entire war.

For years, critics of the Iraq war asked the mocking question: "What would victory look like?" If progress continues, it might look something like what we've seen.

But Air Force One -- normally seen swooping into battleground states for rallies during presidential elections -- was mainly parked during this campaign. President Bush appeared with John McCain in public a total of three times -- and appeared in McCain's rhetoric as a foil far more often than that.

This seems to be Bush's current fate: Even success brings no praise. And the reasons probably concern Iraq. The absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of the war was a massive blow. The early conduct of the Iraq occupation was terribly ineffective. Hopes that the war had turned a corner -- repeatedly raised by Iraqis voting with purple fingers and approving a constitution -- were dashed too many times, until many Americans became unwilling to believe anymore.
Initial failures in Iraq acted like a solar eclipse, blocking the light on every other achievement. But those achievements, with the eclipse finally passing, are considerable by the measure of any presidency. Because of the passage of Medicare Part D, nearly 10 million low-income seniors are receiving prescription drugs at little or no cost. No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped provide treatment for more than 1.7 million people and compassionate care for at least 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. And the decision to pursue the surge in Iraq will be studied as a model of presidential leadership.

These achievements, it is true, have limited constituencies to praise them. Many conservatives view Medicare, education reform and foreign assistance as heresies. Many liberals refuse to concede Bush's humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency -- a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

Before the Group of Eight summit in 2005, the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology -- a measure designed to save hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly of children under 5. In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident....."

See the rest of the article here...

As the title of this post says...there are two sides to every story.

Paul B.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I've noticed something. People are people. It generally doesn't matter if they call themselves Christians or atheists or Democrats or Republicans or ministers or Americans. They still act like people.

Case in point. [Actually three points hereafter called "snapshots."] One is when I see people angrily react to what they perceive as failure and go to the opposite end of the spectrum to correct it. [Snapshot One.]

I've seen it in church life. A pastor is perceived as not a good people person [though he is a great bible teacher] and, upon his leaving, the people go to a people guy with a winsome personality whose preaching is geared to feeding the children biologically and spiritually. No ability in the pulpit but all the kids of both kind love him. It's wonderful. For a while. Then he's in trouble [the attention span of children being what it is] having never changed from who he was at the beginning of his local ministry. He's just himself. But now he's not enough for them.

Or a pastor is a great person but is as weak as motel coffee in those two cup packets, in the pulpit. That's weak, trust me. He leaves and and the people go after a thunder and lightning orator who disappears from Monday to Saturday except for those chosen few who are admitted into his presence. It's wonderful. For a while. They are, after all, hearing real preaching [since a sane conversation by the man in the pulpit with the people in the pew doesn't qualify as preaching] for the first time in a long time. The T@L guy has arrived. Then he's in trouble too, though he hasn't changed since his loud arrival. It's human nature. [Though redeemed human nature has the wherewithall to change behavior to relfect the Life of the Redeemer.]

But it's not just churches and church people. Observe the current political landscape as evidence. If Bush said it, did it, thought it, people want it different this time round. Those running run on not being Bushlike in anything. Trust them. They will be different. We will get it different, human nature being what it is, I promise.

The second "snapshot" is when things don't cost you something they wind up being under-appreciated and abused. It's just human nature.

I remember when I believed I had to begin charging a non-refundable registration fee for the couples attending a pastors and wives seminar Mary and I taught in the eighties and nineties. Fifty couples invited, planned for, registered, expected, but half didn't show up. This was when there was no charge. So charge we did. Non-refundable pre-registration fee of twenty-five dollars a couple. We charged. They paid. They showed up. That simple. [They didn't know that they had a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to the then Baptist Book store waiting for them upon arrival.] It's just human nature.

The political/social realm is no different. Remember the apartments of the Johnson "Great Society" era? Built and given free of charge to many in the inner cities which became a nightmare to the people living there because there was no sense of responsibility by many for what cost them nothing. Those apartments are now desolate, deserted and dangerous to all who have to remain. Some have been able to move to homes they own but whose mortgages were given with no requirement of ability to pay or policies that forbade such loans being given to non-qualified persons. Human nature being what it is, I see no sense in making sure a free ride is given to anyone. But that's just me. I had a problem with those pastors mentioned above.

The final "snapshot" is when people, who disagree with you on a point politically, philosophically, or theologically, and they can't persuade you otherwise, begin to assign to you motives that, to them, proves their argument on the point being discussed should be accepted.

I have come to a position of seeing the scriptures differently in meaning than I once did concerning women in ministry. My change is because of a new understanding of the text, historical context, and intention of the authors I hadn't seen before.

But upon writing or talking of it with some, I'm said, by some of those some, to be fearful of not being accepted by my culture and with that overshadowing desire in my heart, I will certainly one day wind up not calling homosexual actions sinful because of my fear of not being culturally relevant. I think they have revealed human nature again. Assigning a motive for a new position when the argument can't be won on the basis of the text alone.

Of course, these folks probably believe I said what I said in snapshot two because I'm racially prejudiced. My motive had to be that. [In their eyes.] The fact that my heart is known only to God and is often unknown to even me and must be challenged by me regularly doesn't matter. They know.

Politically I see the same thing. The presidential debates illustrate that sufficiently.

Snapshots of fallen nature.

People angry and going to the other extreme of what they perceive to be bad actions.

People accepting what costs them nothing and under-appreciating it ultimately.

People who are sure they know why someone holds a different view than do they and trumpet the motive they are sure they know as evidence of the reason to trust their opinion on the issue

I can let it go in politics. I really expect little else. But I'm thinking that judgment may need to really begin in the House of God.

I realize I'm drawing attention to the problem of human nature. The curing of the problem of housing, the poor, pastoral needs of a church, a political race running from the last eight years are all issues that need thoughtful and deliberate actions. But human nature needs the gospel. Let's leave the other things as secondary and stay primary on the gospel.

Paul B.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Remember the bracelet? It caught on at least in the christian world. It sure sounds spiritual enough. [What Would Jesus Do?] Even if it is perhaps true that concerning some [if not a lot] of the modern situations we face today the scriptures seem to be vague, if not silent, on giving specific directions as to what to do in those situations. ["What to do"--is different than-- "How to do" in my judgment.]

What has caught my attention, however, as reported to me by Mary my wife, is the use of the "WWJD" concept on a blog in regards to our presidential race. It seems a young woman [whom we know personally] reported on a blog that she had decided to vote for Obama. That is interesting to me because she is a bible believing christian who is quite intelligent as well as committed as she evidenced with a recent extended time working in Africa with people in dire need of everything including the gospel.

The "WWJD" comment came in a response to her announcement. The responder took her to task and ended by saying something to the effect that one should "think seriously about it and consider...what would Jesus do?

That might be an enlightening thing to discover. In fact, a better approach might be to discover what Jesus DID do since He did not live in a vacuum those thirty-three years here on planet earth two thousand years ago but in the context of a very political and vicious culture of His own time and place. What DID He do?

If He does become our guide for choices we make in facing a culture that is the antithesis of our gospel, as is every culture anywhere today since there is no favored nation status anywhere, we might be shocked at what His example really is. It is true that Israel was on a favored nation status historically but remember it was not because they were righteous. Rather He sovereignly chose her to become the conduit of the coming Messiah. After that Messiah's arrival, the reality of "an holy nation" was reserved for those who participate in the community of people out of every tongue and tribe/nation who call Him Lord. That doesn't fit any present geopolitical entity that I know of including the United States of America of which I am proudly a citizen.

So...what DID He do? Rome was ruling. Slavery was rampant. [Both race and gender] The poor were repulsive to all. If ever there was a corrupt and degenerate society that needed altering His did. I ask again...what did He do?

When political parties were formed and attempted to change things did He join? When laws were passed that denied His own values what court did He file His grievance in? When a Mayor or Governor or leader was selected by whatever process might have been then, what were the guiding principles He used for His own choice of a candidate? In fact, did He ever vote in any election at all? It surely would be helpful as a guide for us in choosing between Oboma and McCain as President if we could see what it was that He used to select a governmental leader in His day. Then "What would Jesus do?" would take on new meaning.

The answer is obvious. We don't know because He didn't make ANY known choices in a geopolitical sense at all. If we were to do what we know Jesus would do by observing His example, we would do NOTHING.

Now...does this mean we shouldn't vote or participate? Does this mean we should do nothing during our election for President? Well..I would absolutely have to say it means I can't announce my choice as His choice and yours as not being His choice. I sure can't say you're sinning [missing the mark] if I don't know what the mark is because it isn't stated in scripture even in example. I can't say without some pause that I know categorically "WJWD."

I can say I believe it means I'm to use every principle that I've found for me in the New Covenant that pertains to life in general and relationships in particular and make use of those principles in coming to my choice. It does mean I not to forget to have confidence that the ultimate results of all issues are genuinely in His hands for purposes I may not know as of yet. It does mean I'm to submit to every ordinance of man with rare exceptions and even then ready to pay the price willingly for not doing so in those rare occasions, whomever is elected to lead.

Does this mean it's better to not participate? That's not the point I'm making at all. The right or the wrong would not be in voting or not voting. The wrong would be to announce one vote as christian and the other as not. One has said it better than I can when he said, "Nowhere in the NT is there even a hint of a command for us to participate in the human political election processes, nor do we find it a forbidden activity." It is obvious to me that this quote isn't saying it's evil to vote or not to vote. What it's saying is each believer is free as a citizen of both countries [heaven and earth] to use his or her judgment in such matters.

Any vote a believer casts, however, must be done as an act of faith or it is sin no matter what candidate one votes for as Romans 14 clearly points out. So to vote for a person out of fear or anger or judgment [condemnation] or any other reason, except faith, puts us in jeopardy of missing God in it.

So..for whom am I voting? I don't know yet. But whatever my choice as a citizen of America, my confidence is not in that person or that party or those promises made.

What would Jesus do? He would/did do the work of the Cross and has left us [believers] with that message which far transcends any geopolitical message or situation and is needed by every person of every nation and is/should be our greatest concern and must never be mixed with or confused with any political party. Let me say it clearly for myself at least.

God isn't white or black. God isn't a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

God isn't even an American.

Paul B.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This has been a difficult three month period of time. Surgery led the way. My recovery from this occasion of cutting has been more bothersome for me personally than was triple by-pass twenty two years ago. Major construction in our back yard continued the trend. Mud, men and mess were the order of the day for weeks and so continued the days of difficulty.

The death of my ninety year old mother on the 4th of October began a three week period of family ministry for all of us that continues to this day. While it was a joy to celebrate her home going for a number of reasons, not the least of which was her bad health coupled with a sharp mind to the end which made for her having tears daily wondering why her Lord hadn't taken her home during the night, there is still the void faced and the emptied emotional capacity that always follows the death of a loved one. But His Grace is sufficient for it all and we have found that to be specifically true in these difficult days.

All of that to simply say...I haven't been around the blog world for a while. I haven't wanted to be around. It may even be...that I wasn't missed, but, be that as it may, you're stuck with me being back. :)

Seriously, I am ready [I think] to try to put some thoughts in print. We shall see. This is just fair warning. [You can tell I'm trying to be light about it all. It's been heavy for a while and, while that's OK, I'm ready for some lightness.] So a post will be forth coming that will assist in the clearing of the fog in my brain. Maybe even this week-end.

I must say, however, I "read" much....just have not "said "much. That's about to change. Fair warning as I indicated.

Paul B.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I was afraid you might not see this.

September 10, 2008

The Importance of Trig Being-- By Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON -- In addition to Barack Obama making history as the first African-American to be nominated for president and Sarah Palin taking her shotgun to the glass ceiling, there was a third civil rights barrier broken at the political conventions this year.
Trig Paxson Van Palin -- pronounced by his mother "beautiful" and "perfect" and applauded at center stage of the Republican convention -- smashed the chromosomal barrier. And it was all the more moving for the innocence and indifference of this 4-month-old civil rights leader.

It was not always this way. When John F. Kennedy's younger sister Rosemary was born mentally disabled in 1918, it was treated as a family secret. For decades Rosemary was hidden as a "childhood victim of spinal meningitis." Joseph Kennedy subjected his daughter to a destructive lobotomy at age 23. It was the remarkable Eunice Kennedy Shriver who talked openly of her sister's condition in 1962 and went on to found the Special Olympics as a summer camp in her backyard -- part of a great social movement of compassion and inclusion.

[From me] You'll find the rest of this outstanding article here.... and what is said of Trig is true of any 'special needs' child as the Burlesons have learned.

Thank you mister Gerson.

Paul B.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008


There have been two comments made recently that have caught my attention. One was made by Jon Zens as he answered a critic of the book by Frank Viola and George Barna entitled 'Pagan Christianity.' Jon said, in effect, that the New Testament knows nothing of the primary purpose of the gathered church being one of worship. [Not an exact quote] Someone else I read said "Show me a single verse in the NT that states the purpose of the church is to worship." Well I looked. That verse is not there. In fact, worship, according to Romans 12, is the purpose of living. All of life is worship.

The gathering of the church is for "one another" according to the only passage in the NT that speaks specifically of a place where the church is gathered. That passage is Hebrews 10:24-25 where it is made clear the purpose of the church gathered has to do more with the provoking 'one another' to love, good works, and exhorting 'one another' as we approach His return than it does worship. [Not that such activity is not worship since all of life is worship.]The word 'assembling' in Hebrews 10:25 is not ekklesia but a word that references a place. The only such reference in the NT. It is the Greek word from which we get 'synagogue.'

Certainly other passages such as in Acts speak of what is to happen when the church is gathered. Things like receiving a word from God, fellowshipping, eating, and sharing life's needs with 'one another' whether that gathered group is meeting in houses or an upper room some where. But the point of all those passages is an emphasis on our horizonal relationships far more than an experience of worship. [Not that such activity in our relationships is not worship.]

Another comment that has grabbed me is where someone stated that much of the teaching, talk, and thinking on church life in our day is falsely based on a model of the Temple and Prieshood of the Old Testament. I don't remember the exact quote but that pretty well summerizes it.

I thought about it. I concur. I DO think a false basis for church life to follow is one based on the Temple and Priesthood of the OT. But present day traditional worship experiences seem to be just that.

This is evidenced by those worship experiences being built around a special place like a church building, [the Temple] and when you are there your are "at church." [Thus able to worship] That is of course contrary to that earliest group after Pentecost who went from house to house. Then, special people become prominent [Pastors] and are the only ones qualified to lead us in worship just as the Priests of the OT were necessary for the people. "My Pastor" is the language we use to reflect that specialness. [Why we don't say "my Prophet" or "my Teacher" or "my Evangelist" may reveal more about our misunderstanding, if not our misuse of scripture, in establishing offices to be held by special people instead of experiencing Spiritually gifted people in the Body.] We don't often comprehend that the body gathered is to be ready to excercise gifts to edify all. Were we to honestly follow an Old Testament "Priests are to lead in worship" way of thinking ALL would have to lead since ALL are Priests in the New Covenant. But I digress.

Add to that special place and special person the need for special things and special days and times and you will soon get the picture. For example, the pulpit, the organ, the communion table, [special things] and a few other things become what I used to call "sacred cows." You don't touch them, move them, eliminate them, or change them in any fashion. They are not unlike the vessels in the Temple except Aunt Suzie or Uncle Charlie donated or made them thus making them as sacred as the vessels King David dedicated and were used in Solomon's Temple upon completion.

Special days and times? Sunday at 11:00 am and Sunday evening at 6:00 pm IS the day and time of worship. Monday through Saturday are days of work. [The six days shalt thou labor thing] But come Sunday, that special day, and we go to our special place to be led by a special man who uses special things all to bring us into the the special presence of God for a special event. Worship. [Forgotten is the fact that Sunday isn't the sabbath or a day of rest or worship for that matter but, for believers, every day is a Sabbath in Christ for all of us rest in Him.]

May I say it? Somehow I think we've missed the New Testament concept of church life and particularly the worship aspect of it. I'm not saying anything I've listed is, in and of itself, evil or wrong. But if we make an idol of any one of the things mentioned it becomes wrong if not evil. No standard or procedure was given in the text of the scriptures that would guide the methods we use in church life but what is fulfilled in ANY method is mandated scripturally.

We're wrong to make worship a Sunday thing only because we're mandated in scripture to present our bodies [all of our life] a living sacrifice which is the beginning of real worship.

We're NOT wrong in worshipping on Sunday at 11:00 am unless it becomes an idol we bow down to and refuse to let anyone touch or change.

We're wrong to make one man the center of all that is spoken or done in a gathering of believers because we are mandated scripturally that it is to be a "one another" time.

We're NOT wrong in hearing a message on Sunday morning unless it becomes an idol and we bow down to it and refuse to let anyone touch or change it.

We're wrong in making the pulpit, the hymnal, the organ, the choir loft, or anything else a sacred thing because we are mandated by scripture that people are sacred and any tool can be legitimate as it aids in building relationships.

We're NOT wrong in using any tool that enhances body life unless they become idols and we bow down to them and refuse to let anyone touch or remove them.

We're wrong to think of the church building as sacred because we're mandated in scripture to see our physical bodies as the true Temple of God.

We're NOT wrong to take care of any property we, as a church gathered, might own or use unless it becomes an idol and we bow down to it by refusing to use it for ministry and instead protect it from damage.

It seems to me we may be at a time in history where new wine skins are needed for the fresh wine of the Spirit to flow through the Body of Christ and the need is bigger than just adapting to a new style of worship. It may be that some of our old school thinking about a lot of things biblical may need investigating afresh. This will not mean the text has changed but our understanding of that text is an ever deepening and comprehending thing.
That's my thinking at least.

Paul B.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I'm still delayed from having much time at the computer. I'm not sure when it will change. But til then there is no sense in the two or three [:)] who stop in here occasionally not being able to see something worth reading. You will today. I'm sure Molly won't mind my posting the whole thing since my abilities at linking are atrocious and she's such a nice person. If I'm wrong on this Molly let me know.

You can catch other things Molly says here.

Paul B.

The Upside Down God (An Egalitarian Muses)

The complementarian John Piper says (in his book, What's the Difference) that the essence of femininity is to affirm, respect and follow the leadership of a man. This means that as a female, Piper believes I find my femininity only in so far as I affirm that godly men, as opposed to godly women, are my leaders---and that I encourage and support them as such. Another way to think about it might be to say that because I do not affirm Piper's model, Piper does not believe I am feminine. If Piper's opinion mattered to me, I might find that a bit offensive. Ha.

The egalitarian model rightly affirms that men and women are complementary, yet also, and rightly (in my opinion), does not spend a lot of time laying out how and when and where those complementary features lie. This is because men and women are firstly humans, a name for creatures infinitely diverse and unique in and of themselves, gender notwithstanding.But women are certainly different from men, even if only in terms of body parts. Women have sexual organs that men don't have, and vice versa. Most of us believe there are more differences between the sexes than merely uterus and testes, but this student would like to know how to tell which differences are culturally derived definitions of "true" manhood and womanhood and which differences are actually hard-wired traits?

Many historically American held "gender differences," for example, have proven to have more basis in popular stereotype than fact. The idea that women talk more than men do, for example, has been proven inaccurate. The Victorians accepted the "fact" that women were easily frightened creatures and wont to fainting spells, but that had everything to do with tight corsets restricting airways than it did women actually fainting due to legitimate female gender differences. (This article from the BBC news scientifically explains the 78 genetic differences---funny).

Perhaps another top reason that egalitarians tend to shy away from forming a checklist of gender differences is because we've seen differences between the sexes used to bolster the idea that men should be in charge of women. One recent blog post seemed to suggest that because a husband was more likely than a wife to fend off a burglar, the husband is obviously designed to be in charge of the wife. Yet these reasons often fall flat, because the same sort of reasoning can be used to shoot male leadership in the foot.My husband, who has plenty of hair on his chest, fights residence and forest fires with the Emergency Services team, and who's known for his throaty male cries at sporting events, shrieked like a baby last week when a bat flew overhead in our living room. While he cowered in a doorway, I jumped up with glee (having always wanted to see a live bat up close) trapped the bat in a glass dish and expressed true sorrow that the children were asleep and therefore missing such a rich opportunity to observe a wild Alaskan bat.Does this prove that I was designed by God to lead our home? Or does it just prove that Jeff and I are human beings, having both innate and environmentally derived differences, unique yet also complementary to each other, as all humans are? Does being different prove authority? Or does being different just prove that...well, we're different.

Consider the fact that women tend to be more global thinkers, generally able to consider multiple sources of information at once and to think and reason from a broader interconnected place than most men. This fact clearly proves that women should lead men. Or perhaps the fact that girls tend to speak earlier than little boys do. Aha. Another proof that women were designed to rule. No? Seems silly, doesn't it---almost embarrassing for me to type. Stating one way that men and women often differ is simply stating a generality---in no way does it "prove" that anyone should rule over anyone else.

For those scratching their heads, let me try and explain. This egalitarian tends to think that in the community of God, everything gets turned on it's head. For many who view the Scriptures like me, it's those who walk in the fruit of the Spirit who are spiritual "leaders," for in God's economy, rank, social status, appearance, education and other worldly avenues of authority aren't acceptable tokens for true spiritual leadership. Some egalitarians, myself included, feel that the males in New Testament times, having much more power than the females, were being instructed by Paul to love their wives as their own selves: ie, even though your social structure gives you the power to command obedience, consider whether or not you would want to be in her shoes and how you would want to be treated, and then love her accordingly. This is the way of Christ. The world's strong stood on the backs of the weak and still do to this day. Christ, the strongest of all, went straight for the weak and lifted them up, despite the horrified gasps of those in power around Him. Just as Paul didn't command Philemon to release Onesimus, but hinted rather strongly that Onesimus was now Philemon's brother and a co-equal heir in God's sight (See Philemon), so Paul did not command husbands to release wives from their legal position of submission. But he did command husbands to think of their wives in the same way that they think of themselves, "as your own body." Paul commanded Christian husbands to love their wives in the way that the Jesus he describes (in that same letter to the Ephesians) loves His bride: giving all for her, giving her His identity, raising her up to His level to rule with Him.

Who is this Jesus who turns everything upside down? In the worldly system, leaders lead in order to lead. Those in power like to stay in power, because that means they get what they want, they get to do things their way, get to be on top. But in God's economy, those in power use their power to come under. The biggest leader is the biggest server, and vice versa. Leaders lead that they might help others become leaders.The complementarian Piper appears to define the feminine women as those happily under the authority, in one way or another, of masculine men. In other words, from birth all the way to death. She will never mature out of that place, by virtue of her gender. But for most egalitarians, spiritual authority exists that those being led might be brought into maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). Those who have power are to use their power to bring others up to where they are. Yes, this is upside-down thinking, compared to what goes on in the world. But that is what the One we follow has done.

"But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life withChrist even when we were dead in our sins; it is by His grace you aresaved. And in union with Christ Jesus He raised us up and enthroned uswith Him in the heavenly realms, so that He might display in the ages to comehow immense are the resources of His grace..." ---Ephesians 2:4-7a TNEB

Monday, August 11, 2008


It's been far too long since I've put something up on this blog site. I realize that all too well. I will get the Old School/New School thoughts completed eventually. But this summer has been as eventful as any I can remember for the Burleson household. Writing a blog post has really taken a back seat to other things, especially of late.

It all started with surgery in June. I thought I would be up and going in two or three days. It has been two months or more and I'm still struggling with the aftermath of it all.

Without going into the gory details just know that the lower part of both jaws down to the base of my neck is an area that feels exactly like your mouth feels after two or three hours in the dentist chair. It doesn't feel at all. It's as dead as a hammer. My speaking ability has been affected though my awareness of it is more than the awareness of those who hear me speak. I did have to cancel a final Sunday at Wade's fellowship and a pastor's conference in Portland Oregon in July. Suffice it to say it has not been a pleasant ordeal and I've discovered I've a long ways to go in the development of patience.

You can add to all that the construction that has gone on because of a dream coming to fruition. With our home paid for, we decided to put in a small pool and patio area in our back yard. Our pool builder told us to remember that to get an omelet you have to break some eggs. I thought at the time that it was a cute statement but discovered it wasn't cute at all. Broken eggs are not cute. But the omelet is done. It includes a small pool, a fire-pit on the north end of the pool, a rather large concrete patio area as well as a brick retaining wall because we're in a flood plane area. It is beautiful. But the eggs breaking to make it all included dust, dirt, people by the dozens around all day long, heat, problems, personal involvement, [I made several trips to the grocery store for ice, chips, coke and water for all the workers because of record breaking heat of 107 degrees for one thing] dealing with the city on codes, and, generally, a mess of a time. But it was well worth it all as the pool builder said it would be. Mary and I swam yesterday afternoon. We hosted friends last night. Our married kids [those who can] and our grand kids will be coming labor day for my famous hamburgers and a day in the pool. What more could you want?

I'm not ready to write a post yet that takes concentration but soon will be, I promise. Thanks for being more patient than am I.

Paul B.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Definitions are completely necessary and constantly dangerous. Necessary because to talk and act on a level playing field with each other we have to define things. Dangerous because--well let me say it in a quote--"Every definition is dangerous because when you give a simple and precise one you often end up missing significant aspects of the word defined." This is certainly true of the word 'worship.' So now we are thinking about worship and if the before mentioned danger does apply here, and it does, I want to tread softly.

What is worship? That's difficult to answer. One person said in his book entitled "Worship is a Verb" that true worshippers are never spectators in the scriptures for they are either hearing Him with the rapt attention He deserves or they are speaking to Him with the reverence, gratitude, and joy He deserves. That is certainly food for thought.

Major Ian Thomas said in a message I heard him deliver that worship is simply obedience. His statement was taken from the Abraham/Isaac incident where Abraham, speaking to his servants telling them to wait as he was going to slay his son, used the words "the lad and I will go yonder and worship" [He did not know of the ram] Abraham and Ian Thomas were right. Worship is obedience. There is no greater worship than living a life of loving obedience. This is what Paul was referencing perhaps when he called it "our reasonable service" [the word is worship] in Romans speaking of presenting our bodies a living sacrifice.

The word 'worship' as a verb means to treat or show the worth or value of someone. As a noun is speaks of the ways that reverence is shown. The Hebrew word for worship emphasizes bowing down or to do homage to God while the Greek words emphasize kissing the hand of or to serve. Putting it all together you have worship involving all that we are--our attitudes--our emotions--our actions--our mind--and our will responding to all He is and does. In worship we are occupied with God not ourselves.

The way we worship is a different thing. Moving from recognizing that life itself is to be lived as worship and we are to live it in loving obedience thereby truly worshipping Him, we are now going to discuss the ways and means used to express that worship of Him. More than that, we are moving to look at the ways and means of worshipping Him together or corporately as the people of God. You could even call it 'styles' of worship or the 'manner' in which we do worship corporately. How do we do worship?

But first I want to address the two basic, it even seems to me , intrinsic modes that people follow in corporate worship. [Or private too for that matter.] The first is what I call a 'performance' mode. We perform assuming God is the audience and as He observes us He desires we do what we are doing right and well. Then there is the 'relational' mode. We relate to Him and each other as persons present and involved in the moment. One lends itself to doing things correctly. [As if there were a standard] The other lends itself to relating to Him and others with relational authenticity. I opt for the second as you can tell based on Jesus saying that the hour is coming and now is that they that truly worship will not worry about where [this mountain or Jerusalem] or even what you are doing [sacrifices and feast days] but it will be in spirit and truth or relating in intimacy and truthfulness with God and each other. [John 4]

Now with the grunt work done, maybe we can address the Old School/New School view of this thing called 'Worship.'

Old School thinking first. Who says we have to gather at 11:oo am on Sunday? Someone will remind me I'm sure that in the NT they gathered on the first day of the week. That's true. But where is it illustrated much less commanded that it be on Sunday morning? You do realize that is a cultural concept..right? The early American culture, following the European cultures, were basically rural and had to milk and feed cows, chickens and pigs, [feed that is :)] or do chores generally so they set a time well into the morning that allowed for such. In the NT culturally they undoubtedly met in the evening since Paul preached one his longer sermons and that tired young man fell asleep and fell out the window. Sunday was a work day in the Roman Empire.

Also, Sunday gatherings, for them, had nothing to do with keeping the Sabbath in my understanding as Sunday was never the 'Sabbath day' in the Jewish calendar but their gathering was rather a celebration of the living Lord. In fact, in the New Covenant every day is the Sabbath for all who are in Christ as we are resting in an Eternal Sabbath. [Hebrews]

The where and when of corporate worship is left unstated in the NT entirely. The only reference to a 'where' is Hebrews 10:25 where the 'do not forsake the assembling' speaks of it. This 'assembling' is NOT ekklesia. It is a word from which 'synagogue' is derived. It's the only reference to a place we have in the NT since 'ekklesia' does not speak of a place but people and their purpose. In effect, it means wherever you gather [the where is not stated] and whenever you gather [the when is not stated either] don't neglect it. [Whatever neglect means in terms of attendance is not stated either] You see, there is not much emphasis on 'going' to church in the NT. It's all about 'being' the church in a worshipful manner even when you do it together.

But it's good and needed and fun to gather somewhere at sometime and even with some regularity on the first day of the week. [Or on a lot of other days to if the NT illustrates anything about it.] But the question is when you do---what do you do? That may be the easy part. A quick study of the biblical materials shows that all [men and women] are to participate, share [prophecy/prayers/gifts/etc.] for the edification of all. The hard part is deciding 'how' you do it all.

Old school thinking says you preach and do it with the pulpit in the center of the stage area. But that's cultural. Congregationalists believe the Word is to be central and a central pulpit reminds all of us of that. I would agree. Just don't say it the right way or the biblical way. It is one good cultural way of doing it.

Others [liturgical adherents] would make the communion elements central with pulpits a side issue. Literally. Fine. Just don't say it's biblical. It's a way and maybe an OK way, but a cultural way nonetheless.

Do I need to go further to show where I'm going? I could speak of wearing ties and coats, dresses , sitting in pews, choirs in lofts, using hymnals, certain musical instruments, or even one man one sermon for that matter. All these things are but cultural methods and means of doing corporate worship in in a cultural context. Old school thinking is that they are more sacred than they really are in truth. Old school says "Don't touch these things. They're good and godly and essential and if you dare change them it is obvious you've gone liberal in your christianity. Don't hear me say these things are wrong. If you do you've missed my point entirely. It is the refusal to see them as ONLY cultural but rather to view them as sacred and godly that creates a major problem. I will say the same about the New School thinking on worship.

Well, I've moved from the Old School way of thinking to the New School way of thinking about this thing of the ways and means of corporate worship in my own personal tastes. But what does that mean? It will take another post and I can hear you say "amen, this one's long enough. I agree. Next time the New School of thinking on worship.

Paul B.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've been quite surprised by how several blogs have picked up my previous post about my changed views on women in life and ministry and linked their readers to the original. I've also been appreciative of the comments I've received on my own blog. It is obvious with my being a baptist that my view is a little different than some other baptists hold to. That may be a slight understatement. :)

Someone genuinely inquired of me how could anyone pastor a baptist church today and hold this view. Thanks for asking. My answer to that question is simple. The same way I've always pastored churches. That is, at least, for the past forty years of a fifty year ministry. [It took me a little while to move out of Fundamentalism.] In the fundamentalism I practiced during my first ten years of ministry what I said 'went' BECAUSE I was the pastor. [Positional authority you home like church unfortunately. But that only lasted for about ten years thank the Lord.]

There have been several theological issues through the years that I've held to that were a bit different than the congregation that I pastored. Some of those differences were even written into the by-laws of some of those congregations. For example baptism. Several years ago I came to see that baptism, in my personal understanding, was an ordinance that testified a person had been identified/baptized by the Spirit into Christ __His life, death and resurrection__ and__ having experienced God's Grace in Christ__ was announcing/picturing that fact through water baptism [ immersion], whether done in a church, creek, by a Baptist, AG, Campus Crusade, or whomever. Having done so, they were now ready for local church membership if the congregation accepted their testimony. Were I the one to baptize them, I would do so, and I then asked all who wanted to receive them as members to shout 'amen.' [I called it 'greeting' them] You can see I came to believe that baptism IS NOT the door into local church membership. So I accepted one's testimony of their conversion and immersion [if mode and meaning were as I've stated] whether it was done in a church or by a baptist or not.

Not every church I pastored agreed with my interpretation of baptism. A couple of them had by-laws that stated otherwise. A large church I pastored in the eighties was one of those. With such churches I followed what had been accepted by the congregation as a whole and had been formulated into a guiding document of practice. I was able to lead some of them to change that document after a few years of teaching and building what I call high trust low fear with them. A couple I didn't even try to bring about a change of the by-laws for various reasons. In none was there a congregational split or a "my way or the highway" mentality on either side. For crying out loud we were all adults generally and certainly, beyond that, christian. We recognized there is only one Lord and His name was/is Jesus... not Paul Burleson. [Or theirs for that matter.]

There were some other theological issues in this category. For example....

Multiple Elders/Pastors
Divorced deacons/elders,
Gifts of the Spirit,
Ordination of men and women to ministries,
The Lord's supper and it's participants,
The five points of Calvinism

Several others could be named.

Those issues that became important enough, for whatever reasons, and needed to be decided on as a church body, we prayed, studied, debated, and came to a position and accepted it. If one or another of the staff held a different view than had been agreed upon, which happened occasionally, that person was able, in fact expected, to present their particular position when they taught on a passage or a subject but were always required to show the church had taken a position a bit different than theirs and that our congregational voice would be followed because the people believed they had heard from the Lord as a body about that particular truth.

This happened to me more than once. Divorce automatically disqualifying one for ordination is an example. I submitted to the congregation which had an adopted document stating a position other than mine but showed why I had a different personal view of the scriptures on it. Were it to ever have become too big a point of conviction for me I would have either asked the church to reconsider our official position [I did this a couple of times] or I would find another place to serve. [In all my years I never had to leave.] Sometimes I was able to live with it and sometimes they were willing to hear me. Remember that what the church decided as a position on a matter and wrote into a guiding document NEVER assumed the authority of scripture. It could be reconsidered. It was this Lordship thing. We had settled that. It was also this autonomy thing. We had settled that too.

You might be interested to know Mary and I finished a ten year ministry with a new start church [as members not pastor] a couple of years ago and were in the process of finding where we were to be in local church life. We heard of Henderson Hills in Edmond Oklahoma and their decision to examine scripture about this issue of baptism being the door into membership or not. We knew immediately they were courageous and were desiring to be biblical in whatever they practiced. The outcry from a few other baptist congregations and leaders was ferocious. We loved the spirit of HHBC as they responded and decided to visit. The worship, word and spirit blew us away and we had found our place of service. We're still there.

With due respect to any who hold a position one way or another on that issue of the door to church membership it is for a congregation to search the scriptures and make such decisions. That's being baptist as well as biblical.

A decision about that issue has unofficially been made at HHBC. You may ask whether I agree with it or not. It doesn't matter. When I speak, and I have, I teach what I believe about whatever text I'm dealing with at the time and abide with the congregation on any positions [official or unofficial] that have been taken for whatever reasons they've been taken. get the picture. I love it.

By the way, my present fellowhip [HHBC] does NOT hold to the position on women in ministry I hold to. But that's OK on both sides. I''ll bet, if I were a betting baptist, we differ on several of those ever present truths that are non-salvific. But we love studying the text and finding the meaning together. It's called "koinonia" and it's great.

I'm presenting this because there is abroad in the SBC, of which I'm a part, a mentality that seems to be saying you have to agree on all issues to truly be a baptist. I think being a baptist is tied as much to the spirit I saw in the local churches I pastored and in my present fellowship as it is in creating a catalogue of things that must be believed in order to be a baptist in good standing. Then we can cooperate with other baptist churches in a missionary endeavor and a convention experience annually if we choose.

Being a baptist is fine. I am one as I've labored to show. Being a New Testament christian and a Kingdom person by loving anyone who names the name of Jesus as Lord and discussing different views of non-salvific matters with grace, is more than fine. It may be as/more important than being a baptist. I am the former by personal choice and conviction. I am the latter by personal conversion and want to show it by character and koinonia as well as belief and behavior.

Nuff said. Back to the drawing board on what we're presently looking at next time.

[Next time Old School/New School thinking on worship.... the Lord willing.]

Paul B.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Most of my ministry life has been lived in what today is called 'complementarianism' with regards to women in life and ministry. This simply means I lived, believed and taught that women were to submit to their husband's leadership in the home and were to do the same in church life. Men ruled. Women submitted. As men we had our place and women had theirs. [Complementary] But ours was at the front of the line. We were to love and provide, to be sure, but always from our place at the front of that line. For years of marriage and ministry I never questioned the biblical basis for this nor did I question the rightness of it in a practical way. How could it be otherwise? The bible said it and that settled it. I was old-school in this you see.

When I faced those situations where it was abused either by a man controlling a wife and robbing her of her person, choices and input [or a pastor robbing people of the same] or a wife refusing to obey a husband by attempting to be herself uniquely by exercising her mind or will on issues I passed it off as them being people who generally messed life up because of strong personality [his] or rebellion. [hers] If they would simply calm down and obey the bible all would be well was my mantra.

There were three basic shifts in my understanding along the way that shook my life and forged a new direction for me that resulted in my now belonging to the new school of thought on this issue. The newness is not that the scriptures or my culture or my convictions about scriptural authority have changed. But my understanding of things as they really are in the purposes of God has changed. What follows is a bit of that journey.

Shift number one was in my own life. I view my marriage as a gift from God as I'm sure most of you do. My marriage partner is a gifted and capable woman who is unique in her person. Her discovery of her giftedness and uniqueness was what caused me to look again at women NOT being able to lead or teach men [or anyone for that matter] as I saw in her one who knew more bible than most preachers [she memorized and quoted over 5oo verses at camp one year] and knew theology [still does] better than most of my bible college buddies.

Our relationship clashed with my old-school thinking as she awakened to her uniqueness and personhood in Christ and I began to see her gifts and abilities as from God for me AND the church. [This was not without it's painful times of struggle for both of us.] It also gave us pause because neither she nor I was willing to violate the scripture because of our experience. So what did this mean for us? The old-school way of thinking wouldn't do. That was a given. But something had to give.

Shift two came as a result of studying the scriptures afresh. Laying aside culture, preconceptions, teachers and theological systems I'd learned, I began searching the text anew for myself. For starters, in 1 Timothy 2:12 I began to see the text is less clear than most complementarians see it and that lack of clarity was NOT there because of our culture imposed on it but because of Paul's language used in the text to address HIS culture. It was understanding his culture that came into play for me as I began to grasp what he was saying.

To take that verse as an absolute universal principle for all women of all times and to impose a standard of silence and no authority over men flew into the face of so many other portions of the text of the New Testament. The Samaritan woman of John 4, Lydia of Acts 16, and Mary of Matthew 28 who seemed to speak the Word of God to all including men seemed contrary to 1 Timothy 2:12 being a principle for all time and places.

The ministry of Jesus seemed to do the same. He taught, commissioned and sent out women as well as men as indicated in the gospels. Add to that others like Phoebe who was a deacon, [there is no Greek word deaconess] Junia whom Paul said was outstanding among the apostles in Romans 16:7 [there are many more that could be given] and I saw there was something about 1 Timothy 2:12 that I needed to examine anew. So I did.

Another passage that gave me pause was the declaration of Peter that the New Covenant era would see our "sons and daughters" and "young men and old men" ministering. This means at least that New Covenant relationships were not based on age, gender or race but on the gifting and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Add to that the Galatians 3:28-29 reference to neither male nor female nor bond nor free and you have a whole different thing in Christianity. I know it refers to salvation but the rest of the book refers to all no longer being slaves but sons [generic] with full rights of sonship with no distinction made to gender or race.

Is New covenant relationships to be based on gender or race or not? If not, then why make it so in the home or the church? Unless Paul said to in 1 Timothy 2:12. Did he? I don't think so.

In short, I now saw Paul referring to "a man and a woman" in 1 Timothy 2:10-12 [language is singular] and I saw the word "authority" as a word that meant disruption and using gender means [sexual]to take control and referring to a specific church situation in Ephesus. In other words, I saw it not as a universal principle for all time in all places but a specific event in that time.

I also had to examine 1 Corinthians 11 and began to see it differently. My final opinion is as I've read one person say, " that Paul was telling women to not flaunt their freedom in Christ to dishonor men." That's spot on in my judgement. A fresh look at the word "Kephale" [head] caused me to question the definition of it being "authority." I began to see it as referring to something totally foreign to that meaning for their culture. My purpose here is not giving the results of my research but my journey. Check out the lexicons up to 1950 and you will see what I mean. If you get bogged down in the "head" thing it would be good to remember [as I read someone say] "that certainly the Son has chosen to submit to the Father but don't forget the Father has put everything under the Son's personal Lordship." [Phil. 2:9] That's interdependence instead of competition and control for sure. What a novel idea for the home and church were we to be Christlike as believers.

The final shift in my thinking came as I examined our culture. There was no problem seeing the cultural standard of man/woman relationships being one of a struggle for control. It was there in Paul the Apostle's day and it is in our day. It is the history of the human race. But from where did it come? My conclusion became that the text of Genesis 3 [the fall]introduced a corrupted male/female control issue that was not in the original created order. It resulted from the fall not creation. God wasn't in to creating a "whose the boss" mentality but a "how can I serve you" way of thinking.

Grace is a recovery of God's purpose in all things and I have concluded that, while we live in a fallen world, the redeemed people of God are to manifest a gracious, helping, mutual submitting and leading way of life that only grace can produce in our families and churches. It would be a shock to our culture and religion in general and it takes the Holy Spirit's empowering to accomplish it but that is ours to experience as believers.

I was old-school in this issue but I'm now of the new-school of thought and, by the grace of God, I wish to live that new school thinking out. It's basis is not my experience, culture or theological systems, but the authoritative text of scripture when properly understood in my humble, personal opinion.

Next time the old-school/new-school styles of worship.

Paul Burleson

Monday, June 30, 2008


I still experience tears often at the singing of the National anthem. That is,when it's done right which is seldom at athletic events. I despise the new, generally silly, way of singing it. However, I remove my cap and put it over my heart even at those same athletic events.

The people of the armed services are heroes to me along with law enforcement and firefighters. The loyalty expressed by the Marine Corp, especially, causes admiration to well up inside me when I see it played out in movies or on television. The decorum at a military funeral brings lumps to my throat every time. I'm an American. I resent the shabby treatment given to the Vietnam veterans early on and still do resent any less than honorable treatment of any veteran. I'm an American. I'm grateful for and faithful to my country. As I said...several times...I'm an American.

I'm a christian. My sovereign allegiance is to my Lord. I believe in the exclusivity of the gospel., There is only one way to have a relationship with the God of this universe. He made that way in the giving of His Son. The gospel is my message and I believe is the only hope for any person or nation of people including America.

I don't believe America is a christian nation any more than I believe music, businesses, organizations or companies can be christian. Only people can be christian. It takes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith for that to happen. It isn't going to happen to a nation, company or song for obvious reasons.

It is true that our nation was founded upon some solid Judeo/christian principles that gave birth to a unique form of government. In fact, America is the only nation in history to be founded on the combination of Judeo AND Christian principles.

This basically means the God of the Hebrew scriptures as well as the Christian scriptures is the God they looked to in drawing up our Declaration of Indepence and Constitution. Our founding fathers hammered those principles out using a belief in the God of the bible AND from natural law which does a pretty fair job of reflecting the character of God since He spoke it into reality in the first place. This led to an obvious belief in values based on absolutes instead of a changing variety. But that's different than being a christian.

The bible only reveals the full story of God's character [Christ Himself] but many of our founding fathers were not christian in that sense. [Believers in Christ] They did, however, [those who weren't christian] have a healthy respect for the God of law and nature and even the God of the bible, as I said, and I'm glad.

You can see I do NOT believe America and Christian are synonyms. When I gather to worship with others on the Lord's day I celebrate Jesus and His doing and dying accomplishments of Grace. I'm celebrating with any person who names Jesus as Lord regardless of their nationality or present national citizenship. We are, together, citizens of another country.

All that thank God for my nation, those who have sacrificed for her liberty, for her leaders and to pray for them as an act of worship to my living God, is for me, a legitimate expression for the gathered Body of Christ on the right occasions. The fourth of July would be one of those for me. Were I to lead a congregation on a Sunday before or after the fourth of July to do so, I would want to make very clear what I've said in this post thus far. To do that I probably would list my top "ten points to remember" and place it in the hands of all worshippers that Sunday. Those ten points to remember are.......

One---We worship the Living God through Christ today.

Two---We are citizens of two countries today whatever your earthly citizenship might be.

Three-Our ultimate allegiance is to our heavenly country and her King.

Four--We are, most of us, citizens of America also.

Five---We honor that citizenship with obedience to her laws where it is possible to do so without violation of the scriptures as we understand them.

Six---We can pledge allegiance to the American flag holding an ultimate allegiance to our heavenly country and her King.

Seven-We honor those who have paid the price for this blending of freedom in America and the freedom to serve our Lord supremely.

Eight- We celebrate our nation's birthday.

Nine--We pray for our nation, her leaders, and her problems.

Ten---We do not believe the gospel has anything to do with being an American.

This is my personal effort to be true to the gospel and celebrate my American citizenship. I rejoice in both but do not mistake them for each other.


Paul B.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Country singer John Conlee has produced some great songs. I don't like all country music just like I don't like all gospel music. The lyrics and beat have a lot to do with whether I like a song regardless of the genre.

"The Old School" is a Conlee song that tells the story of high school love that is lost as she goes for a career after graduation and marries for money while he drives a truck and raises a family. Her marriage fails. His thrives. Reunion time comes. She asks for a dance. As they glide across the floor an exchange is sung this way by Conlee...

"It could be like old ask if I understand you..well yes, I'm afraid I say everyone does it. I don't care if they do.
I'm of the ..old school."

In that sense the "old school" is the old-fashioned way of viewing immorality and the keeping of marriage vows. I say 'hooray' for the old school and for John Conley. [Although he's just singing about it at the moment.]

But if you move the "old school" idea out of the realm of morality and placed it along side the "new school" comparing it to new ways of thinking about things that are merely cultural or things the bible doesn't speak with total clarity on, it isn't that simple. The "old school" isn't always right because it's old and the "new school" isn't always wrong because it's new.

Also, in the issues where the scriptures do speak, often new insight into the meaning of Greek words, a better understanding of the context of a passage or better understanding of the historical situation may enable one to move from an old school of thought and embrace a new school of thought and be honest, biblical and correct in doing so. [And it not be heretical at all]

With that in mind, I want to look at what I perceive to be "old school" "new school" ways of thinking about several issues and try to track why I personally may have moved from one school to the other or, in fact, stayed with the "old school."

Take a simple thing like manners. The "old school" of thought has caused me to open doors for women, rise when a woman joins us at a table or our group and remove my baseball cap inside a building such a restaurant or church facility.

The "new school" of thought is different. At a Starbucks recently I held the door open for a young woman and she glared at me as she said "I can do it for myself." It was obvious to me she had felt the indignity of inequality heaped upon her by our culture in the home or workplace and certain actions shouted out to her that she was considered less as a person, helpless and feminine in gender to boot.

Add it all together and the sweet little helpless thing needed a man albeit momentarily. [And don't forget it was a male who was saying it by this door action. But she was not having any of that.] My response to her was literally an embarrassed 'sorry, I'm of the old school.' I don't think she cared where I went to school or how long ago it was.

The fact that my gesture had a different purpose and intention behind it was fine for me to know.. but it didn't help my moment of interaction with her.

Now. I could say that I was right [old school] and her new way of thinking [new school] was destroying manners in our society. The truth is it was a cultural moment and no right or wrong way of doing or thinking was involved at all. Just different ways of doing and thinking.

If I had gotten angry or had shown my displeasure with her or projected myself to the head of the table [above her] in my assessment of character based on that exchange, I would have effectively declared war on her and her culture of new thought and that declaration of war would be known by all because my attitude would leak...profusely. For me to ever impact her and her culture with the gospel would be practically impossible were I to persist in that attitude of war.

One more example. Removing your baseball cap. I'm of the "old school." I still find it difficult to wear one inside a cafe, I do...but it has taken a while to experience freedom in doing so. I still can't keep it on in a church building. I think it shows respect to remove it in a church gathering and there may even be some sense of a scriptural atmosphere in it's removal although no clearly stated command to do so can I find. But it feels right to me. It's my generation I'm sure. We're "old school" you see.

Young people today are of a "new school" of thinking. A baseball cap is like their pants, no matter how dirty, they are never to be removed except at night to stand them in the corner til the next day. When a young man leaves his cap on in church I can tell him to "take it off in the house of God" as one deacon did to one teen-ager who responded, "sir, this cap is ON the House of God." [Better theology than the deacon's don't you think?]

In elevating an "old school" of thought on manners as that deacon did to an ought/should/must, it may be that another declaration of war is sounded on the enemy [new school/cultural thinking] and a door is heard slamming shut to the gospel being effectively shared with a young man and much of his generation.

I'm not saying we can't establish boundaries and even request young men to remove their hats in church, but it might be wise to do so on a cultural or personal basis rather than a right/wrong moral basis. If we're angry, judgmental, or condemning of their I said.

I might request that for the worship hour hats be removed out of respect for our gathering unless there is a personal reason or conviction against removing it which would be understood and respected as well. In such a case, feel free to not remove it.

Were I to do this, I probably would do it regularly as a teaching moment when someone's hat isn't an issue much as I do my statement "crying babies are like good intentions, it would be a help to everyone if they are carried out immediately." Or I might choose to not make a big deal about it at all. But, as I say, it's hard for me not to. "Old school" remember.

Someone may be wondering why I even mention such mundane matters as manners. It is to establish a principle of relating to people who are different in cultural attitudes. They are not the enemy. If I consider them to be, that carries over into major things rather quickly. People are important and my view of a lot of things is not the right view because it's mine and is of the "old school." It has to pass muster with whether or not my view is, in fact, something clearly biblical or whether it is my "old school" cultural thinking and is still just that.. cultural. If just cultural...things have a way of changing and it may be legitimate to move from the "old school" to the "new school" of thought and not bankrupt your christianity.

Caps on in church is mundane perhaps. But styles of worship? Marriage? The pulpit and politics? Preaching exegetically or topically? Do we tend toward making sacred certain things that are not.. in fact.. and may even be just cultural? [Just a different one than the present.] We may be unnecessarily declaring war on our culture if we are not careful and hinder the gospel because we wind up being more committed to an old school of thought than we are to Jesus and His message.

In other words, I could be baptist in a certain view of things and think of it as christianity and it not be biblical at all. Just some of my "old school" baptist thinking that is, in fact, only cultural. Old culture.

Bottomline? I would say.......

People are important. Maybe more important than old baptist culture even.

We're not at war with people and their ideas automatically even if they aren't christian and we are or they aren't baptist and I am.

It is possible to be "old school' and more cultural than christian and not even know it.

While accusing others [splinter in the eye] of embracing culture into their christianity, some of us may have a 2by4 in ours. More later..

Paul B.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.......... a comedy written by William Shakespeare around 1600 a.d. [First performed in 1598-99] The title's meaning has been debated for years. Some say, as did George Bernard Shaw, that Shakespeare used short, casual titles for his comedies as a marketing tool for devaluing them to the tastes of the low-brow portion of the general public. In other words, it was a money making tool to sell to the multitudes.

Others believe his comedy titles were a serious attempt at a new didactic tool where Renaissance literature could be a "teaching through delight." As one said "Shakespeare was saying 'sorry about all the poetry and the shouting, but I thought it might amuse you'."

As in any age there was the possible sexual innuendo. In Elizabethan English "nothing" was slang for the female sex organs, so calling the play by this name was, perhaps, a way of advertizing a saucy romantic comedy.

I'm not sure of shakespeare's intention in using his title for this comedy play but it has come to mean "a lot said about things of little consequence." That's the meaning I'm giving it for this particular post.

That's a long way of saying I'm going to talk about some random things that may be of no consequence and meaningless to most people, but are part of my present day life and I want to talk about them. "Much ado about nothing" I'm sure.. but it's my nothing and so I will make much ado about it.

Carotid artery surgery is not minor..for anyone. You've heard the old saying 'any minor surgery is major when it's on me.' That recognized, carotid surgery is major. Period. It's amazing how they cut the artery, affix a temporary by-pass tube, clear out the plaque by stripping it away, and patch the split artery with a patch from the sac that protects a cow's stomach. [They've got four so maybe they can spare one.] Then, remove the by-pass, re-attach the artery, close up and go home after about two hours of work. Simply amazing.

I had one of these done on Monday..waited a day..another done on Wenesday and wound up looking like I had a size 22 neck and have permant scars, one about seven inches and the other about five inches, down the side of my neck.

But I'm sixty-eight years old and have had a sense of living on borrowed time for twenty-two years anyway with triple by-pass back in 1986 and living through it when a sister just older, a dad, his five brothers, my uncles, all died in their forties and fifties from what I survived. It appeared to me I was given an extension of life. I know this thing of death is an appointment thing and I know Jesus inserts the key to 'unlock death' for every believer. It is that belief and scriptural confidence that enables me to face the possibility of my life perhaps ending in a surgery as I've described and being perfectly alright with it. But it is also true that life can be seen from the human side [sense of living on borrowed time] which is what I'm addressing here because I am...human.

Add to that the fact that I've lived with the woman of my dreams for forty-nine years and we're already planning our fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration which will include dining, dancing, and a champagne fountain with an invitation list which will include a ton of family and friends [those who won't be offended by such goings on] and you can see surgery is major for me at this time in my life. [Thoughts like 'I may not make it this time' are there for good reason.]

By the way, this girl of my dreams with whom I live, has a little bit of a strange personality. She doesn't like surprises. She doesn't like making decisions spontaneously. Me? I love things spontaneous. I love surprises. Take away my spontaneity and you will rob me of half my joy in life. As I said...she's weird.[I think anyone who isn't like me is a bit weird :)]

So, to help, we spent several days working out what would be an adequate memorial service and what would be the best pictures, speakers, burial procedures, [before or after the memorial service] and things of that nature were I to run out of borrowed time. We did it for both of us so we wouldn't lock in on me. Thanks babe..that helped and I'm serious.

This was necessary, as I said, to eliminate any pressured decisions were they to be needed and, because we both have personal problems with the typical memorial service of our day. Even christian memorial services. You may think I'm the weird one but I wanted Mary to be in charge of the service on the platform. This is basically because she is the least pretentous person I know and knows me better than anyone else on this earth. Put together that spells REAL. I will admit there might be a bit of a last ditch effort to make all extreme Fundmentalists uncomfortable [a woman in charge?] in my death as they have been with my life. But that was minor.

I also wanted no message. But all four kids were to speak and anyone else Mary chose. The singing would feature some anniversary songs I put on tape for Mary over the years and included some fifties, some Merle Haggard love songs, Lee Greenwood love songs, [Mary swoons at his voice] and my favorite gospel and praise choruses. Music of all kinds has been used to celebrate my life in Christ and being in love with that dream woman.

You can see as we talked we were reminded anew that, while we would grieve and hurt were the other to die, we would not be paralyzed by grief because our marriage is not our source of life for us..He is. Our marriage has been a great resource for making life better but, no question, He is our source. We would draw from that source at that time and celebrate the other in music, words, and people. A reception would follow for all to enjoy the moment and one another because the burial will have already been accompished that morning with the family only present.

As I write this I'm impressed again with what we decided. But it will have to wait. That key was not inserted into the lock of death...for this time. [We'll put our plans in a folder for later, much later perhaps, who knows.]

I'm aware some people don't think death is a joking matter. But I tend to lighten moments that are heavy.. with humor. It may be an escape avenue or a pop off valve but it is real for me. I'm not sure but what it is good for us to be reminded that life is a journey through stages and included in that journey is this stage called death. So like Shakespeare, I want to give some comedy to that stage. When mine comes I do want it to be a laughing matter to some degree. Much ado about nothing. I'll sure be celebrating there. Why not those who are here?

Paul B.