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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


All of our children are gifted. Some day I will give case and point for that statement. You would be blessed by each one's unique giftedness.

However, today I highlight one of our two daughter's gift for poetry. The poems I have selected demonstrate the reality of grace and sin that will be present in all of us until Jesus comes to finish the redemption He has begun in us. Enjoy.


You were there all along.
A song
Hidden amidst the dissonance within.
My sin
Drowning out the melody. Too many notes.
So many thoughts. So many questions.
What should I do? Why am I here?
Does anybody love me? Is anybody near?
So much noise and confusion.
And then—an intrusion
Of your love and grace.
Making space.
Cutting away the notes that were wrong.
A song
Emerging from the dark place.
Your grace
Revealing the melody pure and clear.
I can hear!
The melody of your love
Is heard above
All the other notes, now not so many.
Notes that all belong
In a simple song
That one day I will raise
As a SYMPHONY of praise.



There’s a hideous beast inside
Rage is its name
It’s dark and ferocious
Refusing efforts to tame
It rears ugly head
It’s dangerous at times
It knows no boundaries
It crosses all lines
It has to be stopped
To be dealt a death blow
If not, it destroys
All that we know
Who can stop it
This horrible beast
Of all who could do it
I am the least
There’s only one place
That can deal that death blow
To Calvary’s cross
The beast must go
The blood of Jesus
Applied within
Will wipe out the beast
The beast called sin


Paul B.