Saturday, July 24, 2010


How we view God is terribly significant. That we view God a certain way is the result of many things is a factual statement but, basically, all of our experiences of life, good and bad, lead us AWAY from a biblical view of God which I believe is the correct one.

But, unfortunately, we can even come away from scriptures with a twisted view of God if we allow human philosophies and human reason to give impetus as to how we view the God of the scriptures rather than just what the scriptures themselves say.

Take the idea of God being "Judge." [Hence, the post title made famous by comedian Flip Wilson.] God is the judge you know. The bible says so. In Psalm 9:8 the Psalmist says this.. "He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice." In Acts 17:31 it says He has appointed a day in which Jesus will judge the world in righteousness. Notice both verses speak of God being judge and connects it to His Righteousness and His desire for justice.

But when we say the word "judge" what do we usually mean? We generally mean someone who impartially views all evidence and pronounces us guilty so we can be punished or innocent so we can be set free. The key word here in our thinking is "impartially."

The reason we think this is because our Western Civilization is built on a view of law and order that is based on a legal standard that measures us and clinically [think scales] assesses our guilt or innocence to be adjudicated by that Judge who had better remain detached if he is to be fair. Our entire system of justice depends on that viewpoint of an impartial and objective judge with no stake in our case.

But the God of the bible, who is our Judge, is far from "detached" or "impartial." He doesn't think objectively with no stake in the case before Him. He's on our side and love is His character even His very nature and mercy is in His heart toward us.

It is true that you may not be fully cognizant of this as you read the Old Testament. But you will when you see the Old Testament as preparing for the New Testament and see Jesus as the full picture of who our God__ who judges__ really is. In scripture God as Judge brings justice and don't forget that biblical justice is not basically "punishment" but "SETTING THINGS RIGHT."

This is clearly seen in Isaiah 1:17 where it says... "Learn to do right! SEEK JUSTICE, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow". Notice the context of setting things as they OUGHT to be rather than the idea of punishment.

I'm not saying that punishment isn't part of the process, just that it isn't the MAJOR part as most modern Christians seem to think. Which, by the way, leads invariably to a concept that God the Father is cold, calculating, angry and, while detached from us, gleefully punishes us for our sin because He's our JUDGE. But that's our western mind at work, as I've said earlier, and NOT the declaration of the bible.

In scripture the justice that God desires is one that brings healing and restoration to broken relationships. It is His__ The God of the Old and New Testament__ seeking to relieve the pain and suffering our sin has created that is what the Cross is all about. So biblical justice is to be seen in the work of the Cross as much as biblical Love is. GOD is at work in Christ bringing justice and love together in a fashion that denies Him EVER being impartial or detached from those who have to suffer the consequences of our choices that started with Adam in the garden and continues to our own day and our own choices.

So we see that love and justice are not mutually exclusive. You don't find the God of the Old Testament as a Judge angry and wanting nothing to do with mankind and the God of the New Testament appeased. Justice and love are both the very nature of God demonstrated on the Cross. Jesus died BECAUSE He loves and desires justice. The Father planned BECAUSE He loves and desires justice. The Spirit gives life BECAUSE He loves and desire justice.

What this means is the Cross is the expression of the very heart of GOD in both justice AND love. So the Cross deals with our sin [Our missing the mark] and it's consequences which are death. [Separation in more ways than one.] Now in justice AND mercy the God who loves can lavish that love on us because the wrong has been righted to all who turn to that Cross. It is truly a work of GRACE from the heart of a GRACIOUS and LOVING God who is our judge AND Redeemer.

The Cross is to be seen as a RELATIONAL move on God's part as much as it is a judicial move. His heart for us is never removed from us even because of sin. He loves. He made a way for us to be back in a personal relationship with Him. He is just. [Makes things right.] He is God. We can trust Him and learn to love Him back all because of that Cross.

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice".( Isaiah 30:18)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life."

WOW. When I read back what has just been written I recognize the implications to me personally. Not just in a personal redemptive way but as way of life. In other words, if I truly reflect and reveal the God of the bible I will do so in love AND justice. Racial, gender, class, social, along with every other kind of injustice, will have my full attention.

I will NOT be overcome with a desire to punish people for wrongs done, though wrongs do have consequences even legally, but I WILL be overcome with a driving desire to make right those wrongs.

On top of that, I will be more concerned with my relationship with people and loving them than I will be their correctness in understanding any system of belief. To those people I will present the One who even used the Cross personally to gain a relationship with them and I won't forget that. Ever.

Paul B.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The seventh lie is..."They preach only doctrinal truth and it is without love and that will always lead to legalism." No.. wait, I mean the seventh lie is..."They preach only love and it is without doctrinal truth and that will always lead to heresy."

Well which is the lie here? Neither. Both are true. The lie is the idea that either one of these [Revelational truth or relational love] could really be experienced to the exclusion of the other. That's impossible.

Belief [Revelational truth] always leads to behavior [Relational love] and behavior [Relational love] is to always be based on legitimate belief. [Revelational truth] To preach doctrine afraid of or divorced from loving relationships IS legalism and to preach love afraid of or divorced from doctrinal truth IS heresy.

This argument is sometimes crouched in terms of "relational truth" and "propositional truth" and can cause some divisive attitudes among Kingdom people particularly those of the Emerging Church group and others that are a more fundamentalist kind of folks.

In one of Chuck Colsons articles he referenced a young theologian from the Emerging Church crowd who challenged him about propositional truth. Colson had said.."Emerging church leaders are trying to translate the gospel for a postmodern generation. That's a commendable goal, I agree. Though in their effort to reach postmoderns—who question the existence and knowability of truth—I expressed fear that they are coming dangerously close to teaching that objective truth does not exist."

That young theologian then said to Colson, "Truth is paradoxical, simultaneously personal and propositional. It is objectively true that Jesus Christ is Lord no matter what anyone thinks about it. But, Propositional truth is not the highest truth. Indeed, the highest truth is personal."

So the arument can become not so much which is true truth but which is the highest true truth.

My experience has been that this particular argument has been seen before. Granted, it was using different words but the argument was the same to a great degree. It was the Charismatic use of "Rhema" and the Fundamentalist use of "Logos." The former was viewed as an utterance that the Spirit gives to a person [Charismatics say] and the latter is viewed as the Word given whether in Jesus Himself or the scriptures or preaching about the text of scripture. [The Fundamentalists say.]

Charismatics often trusted what their belief system said the Spirit had given them as a personal word [Rhema] so much that it was seen by them to be of greater authority than was the written word. THAT is heresy in my books.

Fundamentalists trusted their knowledge of and exegesis of the Bible [Logos] with such abandonment that it gave them a personal authority so as to almost bring about the elimination of any need of futher personal enlightenment and anointing of the Spirit for a better understanding of the text. THAT is legalism in my books.

There has to be a marriage of both the personal and propositional it seems to me for there to be real truth. It is true that God exists and has spoken [Logos] in both the living Word [Logos] and the written Word. [Bible] But that is meaningless to us UNLESS there is a word [Rhema] spoken unmistakeably to us by the Holy Spirit revealing the meaning of the logos that brings conviction, insight, faith, etc., and results in a real relationship with the God who made us and has spoken to us.

There is little doubt then, that from the beginning of our relationship with God, as we read God's Word, which is referred to as the "logos," the Spirit will give us a greater knowledge of the God we love and serve. We WILL, then, begin to be able to offer to non-believers the truth that we now know.

But we must not fall into the trap of believing that the truth they need is believing right doctrine. They need to see the truth of God's love for them and how He has expressed that by being willing to relate to them through the reality of the person of Jesus Christ. [The gospel] I'm not saying TRUTH is a relative [conditional] thing here. I'm saying WE, as Christians, are the relative [conditional] thing here.

So I do not deny the reality of absolute truth. But I do believe that Absolute Truth is first of all a Person who desires relationship with others. As I see Him in scriptures, walk this earth for those thirty-three years, I see Him doing so with a heart for relationships, NOT for the setting down of a system of rules and regulations to perform. He is Himself love and truth. Or we could say He is Himself truth and love.

This is what I'm to be expressing in my preaching and living. A life that manifests love in relationships and one that is certainly guided by the Word of God. [Jesus] [Bible] [Logos] But my purpose is not to present to unbelievers a standard of right and wrong in belief but of a life of love and grace in relationships. Thus, knowing truth takes on a whole new biblical relational sense for me personally: knowing means loving. You can't have one without the other.

You've heard many many times the statement that says 'people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.' I wanted us to hear it one more time because knowing [propositional truth] is reality and loving/caring [relational truth] is also reality. And it would be a lie to believe one without the other.

Monday, July 12, 2010



Pedestals create problems. There is no doubt about that. The dictionary definition for 'Pedestal" the way I'm using it is.."A position of high regard." Granted, this is somewhat connected to my first article that talked about having heroes. But here I'm looking at a different sort of lie that people and pastor may believe that can effectively ruin a ministry if not addressed.

I'm fully aware that people in a church may put a pastor on a pedestal and that's very unfortunate. But my issue is more with the pastor who tries to place himself there or tries to maintain that position if others have put him there.

Pedestals are not the best position for real people and to be on one takes too much hiding or being secret about ones self to effectively remain in that exalted position. When a fall comes, and it will, the pain is great and often disillusioning.

I know there are those who don't like knowing of the struggles of ministers because, their argument goes, if THEY [ministers] don't have it together how are we to trust ANYTHING they say? It's almost as if they [ministers] are that person's last bastion of hope for everything to be as it should be in somebody's christian life.

It might should be mentioned at this point that only our Lord deserves to be on a pedestal anyway because He is the only one who has it all together in terms of life.

In fact, to look at a pastor in this manner could make an idol of him were one not careful. [Or maybe just the pulpit or position of pastor is the idol in that person's mind. Who knows!!]

Those who do wish preachers would remain silent about their own struggles sometimes use Ephesians 5:12 as a biblical basis for their objection. This is a verse that says it is a shame to speak of those things done in secret. So, their argument goes, preachers should keep their mouths shut about their own secret struggles or failures. It's a shame for them to mention them from the pulpit the bible says.

It would be good for those folks to actually understand that verse in context I would think. It's speaking of the secret things unbelievers [those in darkness] are presently [present tense] doing and how those things should not be spoken about with affirmation but confronted with light [as children of light] giving direction out of such things.

So unless you believe your pastor to be an unbeliever, the things he might share about his struggles and how God has given grace in them are not the subject of that passage at all.

I believe a major weakness of the modern pulpit is the LACK of identification of the one in the pulpit with those in the pew anyway. [This is that pedestal thing] This weakness may be the single greatest failure of the pulpit. The only greater failure would be to NOT preach the text of scripture itself. was this pedestal thing corrected in my own pulpit through forty years of pastoring? Whether I was successful in correcting it may be for others to say, of course, but I can give you what I used in my attempt to correct it. Several things were involved and this isn't a complete list at all.

One...I made a commitment within myself to be truthful and express what I really was, not what people wanted to think I was. An example is when I would preach/teach on having intimate time with the Lord, I would be honest about my own struggles and failures in doing so with any solid regularity. This was before I realized the truth that every moment of every day I'm in union and fellowship with Him and special times are good but not essential for fellowship. That is an atmosphere not an activity.

In the same manner when teaching on not letting the sun go down on anger in James, I would honestly confess that anger was a problem area in my own life. My control struggles were in that category as well. So when I would teach about God being the blessed contoller of every event, I would use my own struggle with a need to control as an illustration of the battle that often takes place in a believer.

Earlier in my ministry I was honest with struggles about impure thoughts or actions that were debilitation to my walk with the Lord and I shared how I learned, as a result, ways of focusing my attention on Him during those struggles that led to cleansing and even hope.

So you can see that, in my ministry at least, the people were aware that their pastor was, in reality, a fellow struggler, as evidenced by control issues, anger issues, impure thought issues and a general inability to practice ALL I preach about what a Christian should be and do.

You say, "But doesn't Paul say that the Corinthians should imitate him? Doesn't that mean Paul HAD to live what he preached if he said such a thing?" No , it doesn't have to mean that at all. In fact, remember that Paul regularly told of his struggles personally [Romans 7-8] but always found in the Lord what was needed and we ARE to imitate him in that. I say the same to those I pastor. Follow me as I deal with my issues of the flesh and learn to see the work of the Cross of Christ as it does it's true work in deliverance and victory. That's the ONLY way any person other than the Lord can ever recommend himself as one to be followed.

Remember, no one is speaking about details that are salacious in nature. I've found that is really more a matter of a choice of words and an overall willingness to recognize the nature of an audience. On the other hand some people think the word "sex" IS salacious and should never be spoken in public. You can have peculiar people both in the pulpit AND pew remember.

Two...I made a commitment to drop the pomposity and self-righteousness that can come from thinking I'm better or even different than the people served. So I quit using the personal pronoun "you" and replaced it with the word "we." Too much preaching/teaching, IMHO, is crouched in words like...God wants you to know you will have no victory over sin if you play games with it privately... instead of...God wants us to know we will have no victory over sin if we play games with it privately. [If you don't believe the first is often used listen to sermons on the Internet.]

Let's face it, preachers are ordinary people and face the ordinary problems and challenges that other people face. I haven’t “arrived”; I don’t have an exclusive path to God; I am a student of life and not a graduate of life, just like other ordinary people. To pretend otherwise by leaving myself out of the pulpit language used is unworthy and simply the height of spiritual arrogance it seems to me.

Three...I made a commitment to practice what I preached. It was my desire to convey to the people my own hope of BEING what was taught scripturally about behavior. This is NOT a retraction of what was previously stated but a companion to it. I would often end messages with the prayer that God would deliver me from preaching to others what I refused to have built in my own life.

The key here is "presently being built." No one of us has arrived at what the Christian life is all about and we're on that journey together. Let's just be honest about that and people will not likely be as tempted to place a minister on a pedestal or a minister will not be as likely to try to climb up there himself.

Besides..spiritual "Acrophobia" [ἄκρον φόβος meaning fear of heights] might be a good phobia to have for any Christian leader.

Monday, July 05, 2010


LIE NUMBER FIVE..They are difficult people..I would be better off if they were gone.

Someone has said "I'd love pastoring a church if it were not for the human beings in it." I know and understand the sentiments. There have been times when I thought pastoring would be a snap without other people involved.

Just re-reading what I've just written with mild sarcasm reminds me how utterly silly those statements, in fact, are. But, let's just be honest here. Some times my pastoring seemed to have had more than it's share of obnoxious people. I'll bet yours has also if truth be known. Let me describe some of those difficult people I've pastored.

The Mean-spirited Christian.

Have you noticed that some people seem to take delight in demeaning others, especially leaders? Why are they so mean? Who knows!! I don't.

It could be someone like this is a frustrated pastor wanta-be who never got the call/chance. Sometimes they were viewed as a called minister early on. Maybe even licensed [so they could get a Baptist discount on college costs] but were never ordained or trained for pastoring ultimately.

It could also be that they were hurt early on in their church-life experience and "hurt people hurt people" is a cliche for a reason. Or sometimes even something as simple as not liking leaders because of a parent that was controlling and domineering can be the cause. And now they can make sure that never happens again. To them at least.

The reason people often hesitate to confront this kind of mean person is that most church folks desire to be agreeable and are totally intimidated by the prospect of confrontation anyway. Besides that a biblical approach to such confrontation has NEVER been talked about by anyone. So it seems to just be, unfortunately, normal.

The divisive-spirited Christian.

The basic difference in the divisive person and the mean person is that the former can actually be a charming individual with a perennial smile on their face and have a soft comforting tone to their voice, while the latter is recognized because of a pervasive anger. But the divisive individual will, through comments usually spoken softly and out of the presence of all others, as someone said, "fan the flames of hurt and jealousy between people for the very purpose of creating factions."

In some ways the divisive person is far more dangerous than the obviously mean person. He or she can cause extensive damage to a church or organization through gossip and suspicion before anyone in leadership is aware that a situation exists. But you WILL find these folks in any fellowship anytime, anywhere, trust me here.

The righteous-remnant Christian.

Oh these wonderful folks CAN be problematic. Many of them ARE dedicated to a study of the Word and have a desire to please Him in ALL they do. No one, least of all this writer, would fault their desire. But they can create problems nonetheless. Being so set on wanting to do what's right they will take a position on minor doctrines [Those having nothing to do with salvific issues.] and fight someone to the death as to the correct [In their opinion.] meaning of EVERY verse that says anything about such doctrines. Forget about being agreeable in disagreeing, that would deny the faith once delivered to the Saints.

Now remember, we're not talking about the deity of Christ here or the nature of Grace. We're talking about who should take the Lord's supper or whether a woman should work outside the home or not. You know, things like that which will sink the church unless answered accurately.

I could mention others. The Annoying Christian. the Clueless Christian, get the idea. I have pastored ALL these people..sometimes all at once.

[I got this list from somewhere I cannot recall which I've adapted to name these certain kinds of Christians but all were in my pastorates. So it's MY list.] :)

Well. Maybe it isn't a lie to believe that I'd be better off as a pastor if these difficult people were gone. Maybe we'd ALL be better off if they just disappeared.

Maybe not. It could be there are purposes that exist that we need to be alerted to in the Providence of God. So you would ask a question I'm sure. Like what purposes?

This story appeared in Leadership Journal way back in 1993. It says a mouthful

"Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit."

"In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse, dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone-fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash."

"Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence, and severity. And such was Pachomius's early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors."

"How can you learn to love if no one else is around?

How can you learn humility living alone?

How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?

How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?"

In short, what he concluded I've also concluded and that is that the development of spiritual fruit [Love, joy, peace, longsuffering...the stuff the Spirit Himself produces in us.] requires being around people. Ordinary people. Even ornery people.

Such fruit is not produced in a vacuum but in the heat of handling difficult people. That's what pastoring is all about.

There is no denying the scriptures give some guidelines to facing say a divisive person and confronting such an one for the health and safety of the body. Finding those procedures is for another post. This one is to dispel the lie that difficult people make my pastoring impossible. Quite to the contrary, it is, in fact, what real pastoring is all about.

No one is saying "grin and bear it." No one is saying "just be a martyr." No one is saying there won't come a time for the "shaking of the dust." But I am saying if you face difficult people where you pastor, don't waste your sorrows. Learn to love. Learn to be courageous spiritually. Learn to apply scriptural principles when possible.

Can there come a time when, for the sake of sanity and the family I leave. Of course there can come that time. There will perhaps come a time when God removes you from that difficult pastorate in His timing. He has even removed difficult people on occasion. Some difficult people have changed along the way. But so can we as Pastors and that's the point. But, above all, learn that we are not greater than our Master.

Paul B.