Sunday, May 29, 2011


I, and I'm sure you are with me on this, hate war. There are those who cause it, debate it, declare it, and struggle with making sure we are as a nation are in just wars. But the fact is, it is the heroes of the Armed services who have to fight it. They ultimately pay the price for our freedom as a nation.

As an American citizen I have my personal opinion about the wars we fight and whether they are being fought for the right reasons or not and even whether they are being fought in the right way. But those who are responsible for doing the fighting are to be appreciated and honored, in my humble opinion, by all of us who stay behind and argue the justice or the rightness of war. 

I want to use one such warrior as a point of reference for this particular Memorial Day. I do not know him, nor do I know the older veteran who embraced him that day in Dallas when this picture was taken, but it is now one of my favorite pictures of all time.  

Marine Staff Sargent Mark Graunke Jr. was a member of an EOD team  [ Explosive Ordinance Disposal]  in the summer of 2003 in Karbala. He, another Marine, and an Iraqi EOD team member were piling up some mines for disposal. It was later recorded that as the EOD team was prepping the pile one of the mines detonated. It killed the Iraqi and the other Marine and severely wounded Staff sargent Graunke.  He lost a hand, a leg and an eye. Graunke later said after arriving to a hero's welcome at home,  “Although my Marine Corps career as an EOD technician is over, I am ready and willing to confront the challenges that civilian life has to offer.  We say in the Marine Corps, ‘Improvise, Adapt and Overcome,’ and that is what I will do."  

As I said, this picture is one of my very favorites. The older man is Houston James, a Pearl Harbor Survivor from Dallas, who spontaneously embraced Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during a past Veterans Day commemoration in Dallas. This picture was taken by the Dallas Morning News and shows the span of time and conflicts that as a Nation we have had to endure. These two men, and those who DID NOT come home, show us freedom is not free. It has a price someone pays. Let's remember them on this Memorial Day 2011.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It was on May 28th  in 1959, fifty-two years ago this coming Saturday, that Mary Cherry was willing to become my wife. We have spent the years learning to be what we had been declared to be on that day. it has been quite a journey. The learning isn't over yet because the journey isn't. I wouldn't trade these years or the learning for anything in this world. I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures of the two of us together in celebration..

This first picture is when it all started. The second one just below is one of the resulting four kids and their spouses at our 50th anniversary which they put together for us. Left to right you can see Wade & Rachelle, Cherri & Mike, M&P, Melody & Tony,and Brett & Kelly.

The final picture below is simply my favorite picture taken in my favorite place with my favorite person showing us as our older, casual, temerarious, fun-loving selves in the present day.

So I will simply wish another "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY" to my wife, Mary. [AKA 'beautiful.]

What follows is a poem I wrote a while back celebrating our years together. I tried to be real, truthful, and celebratory of all the good and the bad because I wouldn't have missed either. Mary and I recognize both are part of any relationship and we've learned from both together. But that's just us, isn't it beautiful!!

       But that's just us isn't it!!

We've had so many times that were good
And some that we'd have to call bad.
Sometimes we've been very happy
And sometimes we've been somewhat sad.

But that's just us isn't it!!

We've shared life's deeper joys
Mixing love and care in special ways.
At times we saw our world fall apart
then find each other anew in those painful days.

But that's just us isn't it!!

We learned some new ways to care
Such as hearing each other's deepest dreams.
And hearing the sad, tearful crying of one of us
When no one else was listening it seems.

But that's just us isn't it!!

There were shadows as black as night
That sometimes blocked my view.
But a gentle light would often disperse them
And that light seemed to come from inside you

But that's just us isn't it!!

Strength we'd find and we'd give to each other
When we knew that brave we'd have to be.
It took it all plus the Grace of God
To face some moments that came to you and me.

But that's just us isn't!!

So joys and struggles were friends it seems
As we've lived out our years of marriage.
It was always the two of them
And neither would we dare disparage.

But that's just us isn't it!!

Now we see it was a truly precious gift 
When He merged our roads making one from two.
So these words are a way of my saying to Him
A sincere, heartfelt and simple, "thank You."

But that's just us isn't it!!

Monday, May 23, 2011


We have had a lot of discussion about the law in our last post. I thought I would give you an outline of a message I brought to Wade's fellowship over four years ago in a series of messages he asked me to do in conference style entitled..."What I wish I'd known forty years ago." This particular message was entitled, "The New Covenant." It is ONLY an outline but presents my thinking on the subject. Enjoy it, use it, reject it, whatever you choose. It's my studied opinion only.

“I Believe in the New Covenant”

Texts:“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:15
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14

I. The Covenant of “the Law”

Exodus 34:27-28 - 
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” 

The Covenant of “the Law” . . . 

1. Was made with Israel specifically, and 
2. It was based on law or performance

What does the Covenant of 'the Law' say?
“If you” keep the Law, “then I, the Lord, will bless you.”
“If you don’t” keep the Law, “then I, the Lord, won’t or can’t bless you.”

Israel failed to keep the law. The sacrificial system was established, including the Temple and the sacrifices and the priesthood to point Israel, in picture form, to a coming Messiah/Redeemer.

This first covenant, or Covenant of 'the Law' has been viewed.....

1. By Dispensationalists: As set aside for the church age, but there is coming for Israel in the future a new land, and a new Temple, and a new peacel.
By Reformed Covenant Theologians: As part of the one Covenant of Grace -- the only eternal covenant. The covenant of 'law,' and all other covenants, are simply different administrations of this one, eternal Covenant of Grace.

I disagree with both Dispensationists and Reformed Covenant Theologians. Here's why.....

II. The New Covenant

2 Corinthians 3:6 - 
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 
2 Corinthians 3:14-16 - 
“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”
Hebrews 10:9 - 
“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” 

The Old Covenant 
had a Mediator - Moses.
The New Covenant 
has a NEW Mediator - Christ.

The Old Covenant had a High Priest -Aaron.
The New Covenent 
has a NEW High Priest - Christ

The Old Covenant had a sacrifice of goats & calves.
The New Covenant 
has a NEW sacrifice - Christ

The Old Covenant had a Temple - in Jerusalem.
The New Covenant 
has a NEW Temple - Christ in me.

The Old Covenant had a Law Giver - Moses. "If you obey..then I am free to bless.."
The New Covenant 
has a NEW Law Giver - Christ“Hear ye Him” "I're free to obey.."

The New Covenant is Christocentric:

“Love”- “as I have loved you” and “Forgive”- “as you have been forgiven”

1 Corinthians 9:20-21 
-“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” 

I do not hold to a Reformed Covental Theology because: 

1. There is no mention of a covenant as pre-existing; covenants relate to time only, and 
2. Covenants are also plural in Scripture, not singular.

Romans 9:4 - 
“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the COVENANTS, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” 
Ephesians 2:12 - 
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the COVENANTS of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” 

"Why is this so important that I wish I had known it 40 years ago?

1. It completely changes my view of the cross

The cross did…redeem me
The cross did…sanctify me
The cross did…glorify me

All the lambs of the Old Covenant were a picture leading to the final Lamb of God.
There are no lists needed to perform in order to get His blessings... 
"We have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus."

2. It completely changes my view of the law

The Law [Ten Commandments] was a “school teacher” to bring Israel to the need of a Messiah. 
When the Messiah came He fulfilled the law of Moses which had brought condemnation not life.

We, the church, have a new Law-giver -- Christ Himself." Hear ye Him."  
He has established His own Law which is the expression of new life in Him.

We would no more go back to living by the 10 commandments than we would go back to offering lambs once a year. 
Their purpose and need have been fulfilled "in Christ." 

 3. It completely changes my view of living

All of life is … now a gift … and is sacred … and is to be lived ... as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving … because of His grace given in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Every day is truly a Sabbath day as we rest in His grace and live by His law written in our
 hearts FROM a place of acceptance rather than FOR a place of acceptance.

Paul B.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm sometimes accused of being antinomian. 
The word antinomian is not generally used outside theological circles and would not find much interest in theological circles were it not for some, myself included, who do not believe that the law of Moses found in the Old Testament does NOT retain any definitive purpose or delivering power in the life of a New Covenant believer. 

In simple language, the Law of Moses is not the tool used by the Holy Spirit to bring about practical sanctification in the life of a Christian. At least so believes those who are often, as I said, labeled antinomian. [Meaning no law or against the law.]
Someone will perhaps ask.."Brother Paul, are you saying that you believe the ten commandments are no longer binding on Christians today?" 

My answer to that question is yes. That's exactly what I believe. I hold to the view that a Christians sanctification or growth in grace is brought about by the direct work of the Holy Spirit and His tool is simply the Gospel of Justification by Grace through faith in Christ and an ever increasing knowledge of Christ as our life. ["You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free."] 
My word that this is so will not be, nor should it be, sufficient for anyone. That will take your own study. So the point of this post is a simple statement as to what I believe about the Law of Moses and its' relationship to the present day believer with a small amount of why this is so. The full why I believe this would take many words and will have to come later.
I believe the ten commandments are not binding on believers today because...
One...The law of Moses is unique to the covenant God established with Israel. That law cannot legitimately be divided biblically into three parts, Civil, ceremonial and moral, which has to be done if you try to make the ten commandments continue to have authority. You can't pick and choose which parts of the law continue. It's all the law or none of the law.
Two...I don't hold to a one covenant of Grace concept with two administrations made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament which most Reformed theologians try to do. My personal understanding of the covenant concept is, since Romans 9:4 speaks of several covenants that pertain to Israel and, since I believe all the covenants are fulfilled in Christ, I hold to a New Covenant that has been established based on who Christ is as the new Prophet, Priest, King, Covenant ratifier and Law giver. 
So, in my view, there was never just two covenants nor was there ever just one covenant with two administrations. [The Old and the New] There were, in fact, many covenants made with Israel with all of them being fulfilled through the establishment of the New Covenant made by Christ and ratified by His blood. This is the clear message of the book of Hebrews. 
Three...There are familiar ideas, concepts and even words used in the New Covenant that sound something like what can be found in the other covenants but their value is not because they were in the Old and carry over, but because they are, in fact, part of the New covenant given by the New covenant maker and law giver, Christ Jesus. ["This is my beloved Son..hear ye Him."]
It would be a lot like a Church developing a new constitution and by-laws. Some of the language of the old constitution and it's by-laws might re-appear in the new but it is valid because it is in the new, not because it's in the old, since the old constitution no longer applies.  [I read that illustration somewhere and really liked it.]
But does this mean there is no law in the New Covenant?  Hardly! As I said, He is the new Law-giver and whatever He says goes. I'll close with a quote from Wade Burleson in a thing he said about this subject which makes it quite clear...

"The Apostle Paul was often accused of being antinomian. Some in Rome called him this. A few in Galatia did also. In Acts 21:21 James tells Paul that the Jerusalem church leaders "have been told that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake the law of Moses, and that you tell them to not circumcise their children or observe other laws." Then, some leaders in Corinth were alarmed by Paul's teaching that led people away from observing rituals [feasts, new moon celebrations, Sabbath observance, etc...] and other Mosaic laws."

"In response to their charge of antinomianism Paul writes, "To those not having the law [Gentiles] I became like one not having the law [though I am not free from God's law but under Christ's law], so as to win those not having the law."  The expression translated "I am not free from god's law but am under Christ's law" is a peculiar phrase in the original Greek and can be literally rendered, "I am not lawless toward God, but I am inlawed to Christ."

"Inlawed to Christ." Wow. That is a powerful phrase. It means you [as a christian] are wed to Christ and all the benefits and protection of perfect obedience and righteousness are yours because of Christ's obedience. You reap what you have not sown; you reap what HE has sown. You are a co-heir with Christ, a child of God, and forever blessed because you are 'inlawed to Him' "

Hear what Wade is saying. Whatever we have, it is His that becomes ours. He is our righteousness, our sanctification, our life. Nothing pertaining to Moses is our standard for performance. Not the feast days, the offerings, or even the law. We have a new relationship. We have a new Prophet, Priest and King, and even a new law-giver. In Christ the Old IS gone and the NEW has arrived. Our law is given by Him, written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit and the New Testament is the record of what He has said.

We are NOT under the Law of Moses in ANY fashion. We truly are under grace.

Am I antinomian? By no means. By His Grace, I have a new law-giver and a new law.

Paul B. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


My wife Mary has a blog. I would like to share her post about a friend with you. Enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Immaturity can be a major problem in life no matter one's age. An immature individual has a great deal of trouble accepting personal responsibility for any situation or the development of any relationship. This is generally because of their tendency to think that the whole world revolves around their desires and needs. Immaturity is the present day plague of marriages, churches, politics and our culture in general, IMHO. 

I think the overriding characteristic of immaturity very well may be the often accepted, albeit naive, idea that life is intended to be an experience of unending happiness. Unless our circumstances and relationships in life produce that happiness, we assume they are defective and must be changed. [The reverse is also immaturity, namely, that life is never to be happy and there is always only pain and suffering. But that's another blog post.]

We have, as a culture, even bought into the idea that growing old must be pleasant and produce happiness or somehow we have missed out on life as it was intended to be. So sometimes people place unrealistic expectations on themselves as they grow older that leave them searching for people, things, and experiences that they think will somehow help attain their goal of happiness . It doesn't happen, but they keep trying. 

They can become obsessed with a hunger for looks and a body that may indicate, more than anything else, a vain effort to hide from the inevitability of age. This can even lead to multiple surgeries for some because they believe by doing so, they can hold back the aging process. That self centered searching renders them incapable of real life at all. No one is more miserable than an older person who believes happiness has passed them by and refuses to look or act their age. 

So may I say it? If personal happiness is your goal in life, I think it is time to grow up and leave such immaturity far behind... whatever your age. Happiness is, in fact, a by-product of what real life is all about and in some strange way, if personal happiness becomes one's primary focus in life, it becomes so elusive it may never be experienced at all. 

This is nowhere more obvious than when happiness is associated with "being in love."  Marriages suffer greatly unless those involved realize that true marriage is not about "being in love." [happy] It is learning to love one another. Love is an active, transitive verb. An active transitive verb simply means that the word expresses a doable activity and has a direct object that receives the action of that verb. I paint a picture. That sentence shows the meaning well.

So, to say a man loves his wife means he is committed to being involved in some healthy expression towards her in their marriage relationship. His goal in life isn't her making him happy or even him making her happy. It is his being something to her. Love is something mature grownups do no matter the inconvenience of things, the failure of people or the feelings that often have to be fought through. Truly loving others defines and illustrates true maturity.

Don't for a minute think I'm advocating a philosophy that produces a skepticism of pleasure and enjoyment that ultimately creates a stoic realist about life. And I'm certainly far from being cynical about growing older. Not at all. What I am doing however, is attempting to remind us all that true pleasure comes from a refusal to treat one's personal needs and one's own happiness as the highest priority in life

It is a fact that the fallen world is often difficult  and life doesn't always leave us with a lightheartedness that produces giggles like those coming from a little school girl or boy. It can be hard and burdensome even discouraging.

That being so, to enjoy the true pleasure of life, we must view it with maturity. We must grow up. Selfishness always strips life of any true pleasure unless there is an absence of pain which, unfortunately, never happens. But self-giving love always enriches a life no matter circumstances that can sometimes produce an onslaught of pain or heartache for any one of us. 

Jesus is our Pioneer in this kind of life and, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul the Apostle tells us of our guide to Christlikeness. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you must not look only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"  [Philippians 2:3-5]

My personal prayer for us all echos the words of the writer of Hebrews..."May we all go on to maturity."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have a question. 

Do you believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have repented of... or celebrated over... his action of killing Hitler had it really been successful? You recall he was part of the planning of an assassination of Adolph Hitler, along with the members of the Abwehr, [The German Military Intelligence Office] and was arrested and ultimately executed for his part in the unsucessful plan. My question is an attempt to see if there is a valid reason ethically or morally for a Christian to ever celebrate the death of anyone no matter the seriousness or savagery of their actions.

The story of Bonhoeffer is fascinating. In the late Nineteen thirties Germany was under the control of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party and war was imminent. A movement had arisen in Germany among some Christians called the "Confessing Church" and, though not large, the group was opposed to Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a part of that movement.  He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who had graduated summa cum laude from the University of Berlin in 1927 and had earned his doctorate in theology at the age of 21.  He had then come to America and studied some at the Union Seminary in New York but wasn't impressed with it and returned to Germany for his ministry.

In June of 1939 Bonhoeffer was invited by Union Seminary to return to New York to lecture. The situation in Germany was already intolerable however, and it was not an easy decision for him to make. He finally accepted and came to the States and was encouraged to remain, but quickly regretted his decision to come at all.  This is clearly seen in his letter to Reinhold Niebuhr on faculty at Union Seminary where he said, "I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany...I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with her people.."  So he returned to his homeland on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic to Germany prior to the war.  

Four years later he was executed, as I said, for his participation in the failed attempt on Hitler's assassination.

Bonhoeffer himself, apparently, did not think killing Hitler was an altogether righteous thing to do. There is some question among historians about how much Bonhoeffer actually participated, but he obviously thought of himself as a participant, and struggled with some sense of guilt over it.  He did not justify whatever part he played as evidenced by what he wrote when he said this, "When a man takes guilt upon himself [Referring to his part in the plot] in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. he answers for it. Before other men he may be justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he can only hope for grace."  So Bonhoeffer did not think of the planned attempt on Hitler's life as a "righteous" thing at all, but he did view it as a "right" thing. He saw a difference in the two. He believed them to be two separate things and I'm thinking he may have been right.

In simple terms, Bonhoeffer saw a difference between something as "just" and something that could be said to be "Justified." His view of the difference would be based on the idea that while fallen creation demands sometimes a person doing the "lesser of two evils," one could never honestly equate any human action as a "righteous action" unless it was from pure love or the character of God. [It is that which would also qualify any anger as a righteous anger.]  Bonhoeffer believed that since our actions as human beings can never have that as the basis for them, we are fallen creatures after all and are not God, we may, therefore, perform only justifiable actions, but not just ones. 

This could potentially leave us as Christians with a sense of relief or satisfaction or even joy at something accomplished justifiably, like the carrying out of a punishment decided upon by a jury or the personal protection of our loved ones or our nation when at war.  The joy we experienced at the ending of the second world war would be in this category. But this is also why we often struggle and disagree with one another when attempting to define a "Justifiable war."  This struggle is because we are never completely sure of our justification for an action.

So it could even be that the justifiable death, as Bonhoeffer believed, of an evil perpetrator of crimes as a Hitler might bring great relief or satisfaction.  [Or an Osama Ben Laden?] But for Bonhoeffer it would bring a lingering sense of guilt as well.  

But in no case, for Bonhoeffer, could there be a celebratory attitude at someone dying. This, because there would always be a sense of moral loss in the action no matter how evil the behavior of the one upon whom death was inflicted. In his mind we may perform "justifiable retribution" upon a person, but never "Just retribution" as that is the preogative of God alone.

Some of you may see this as a minor thing or even a play on words. Perhaps! But, like some other issues that could give us a sense of being godlike in our behavior, unless addressed and even checked,  [Abortion for example] this difference may keep us clear minded on things with eternal ends in view. We fallen human beings often must choose between the lesser of two evils but also face our responsibility in bringing about something "justifiable."  

But something defined as "Just" would be best left in the hands of the One who knows enough to make the call. Bonhoeffer may have taught us as Christians some valuable lessons whether we agree with all his positions theologically or not.

So, the killing of Osama Ben Laden...relief, gratitude, satisfaction, justifiable end? Perhaps! But celebration? Perhaps Not!

Paul B.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Things are a bit hectic and time short so here is a word that might suffice for a weekend. This is from four years ago.

I've always been amazed at that verse in Luke 4 where Jesus encountered Satan in that temptation experience. You remember Jesus had been forty days without food. There is no doubt that hunger was very real at the moment. You recall Satan said "Since you're the Son of God [no doubt in his mind about that fact] command this stone that it be made bread."

I think we are all honest enough to admit that wouldn't be a temptation to us because we couldn't have accomplished that if our very life had depended on it. But He could. After all He is the Son Of God. It would be important for us to remember at this point that Jesus DID NOT do anything during those thirty-three years on earth in the power/authority of His Divine nature. He willingly laid aside that authority and lived as man submitted to the will/ purpose of the Father. He was truly our stand-in. This is why He responded in verse 4 that "it is written that MAN shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God." He was man submitted to doing the will of the Father.

My point is that the temptation came at the very point of the greatest strength in the life of Jesus. Temptation comes at our point of strength...not our weakness...who would have thought? 

I've aways been so sold on the idea that I've got to strengthen/guard where I'm weak because, if I don't, I'll wind up failing/falling in that area. Satan attacks me where I'm weak. Oh really? If pride comes before a fall then I must be proud of where I'm weak. 

No wait...pride is a possibility where I think I'm pretty good. Do you suppose we completely misunderstand this thing of temptation so that we guard our weaknesses but are vulnerable at our strength for the very fact that we don't think we'll fall there?

Add to this equation the seemingly overwhelming numbers of failures of ministers today at the points where they are teaching the most, as a Jim Baker who could raise money out of scarecrows, and fall because of greed. Or a Jimmy Swaggert who was strong in condemning those who are immoral. Enough said. Or a Gordan MacDonald who wrote the finest book on marriage I have in my library and failed in his marriage vow. 

By the way, I wouldn't even mention these men were their failure not public in nature. And even with that said...I do not in any way judge/condemn them at all. They are not my servants after all. They are my brothers.

We certainly could go to those in scripture who failed too. Peter, a man of extreme courage, remember how he charged that large group at the arrest of Jesus sword in hand, failed hours later fearful of being identified as a follower. 

Or Moses who was obedient enough, after being taught by his mother of God's plan for him, to choose to suffer the reproach of Israel rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. Yet disobediently struck that rock the second time rather than speaking to it as commanded. 

Or David, a man whose heart was after God, in a moment of passion, gave his heart to another.

Add all this to that Luke 4 passage and we may be getting a picture that one would be wise to ask a friend this question. "What is my greatest strength?" Then, be open to the fact it could be at this point the enemy will gain a foothold in my life.

The answer to that question may be..."You're strong in doctrinal purity and Truth" or "You're strong in mercy" or " You're strong in the family" or "You're strong in honesty" get the idea. 

For the first, they may fail because someone disagrees with a minor doctrine or not say a Truth the same way [inerrancy] and the doctrinally strong one will separate because of pride in a position. 

For the second, they may need to stand for a truth at some point but for fear of hurting someone they capitulate. 

For the third, they maybe see a son or daughter divorce or a daughter get pregnant and cannot find it in them to embrace those/ that one in love and acceptance for the life of them. It would be [in their minds at least] a capitulation in standards for family life. 

For the last one, they may fail to report a gift to the government or twist a word or phrase to cover a mistake. 

The whole point is that failure comes because our eyes are tightly shut to our vulnerability at the point of strengths. We would never fail BECAUSE of our strength there...but we do. 

It is, after all, His strength that is made real in our weakness but, in Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength, we just don't seem to get that fact down well.

May God never allow me to write something to anyone else without applying it to my own life first. I think I'll ask Mary, my wife, what she thinks my strengths are. She knows me better than anyone else and loves me enough to tell me the truth.

Paul Burleson

Monday, May 02, 2011


11 Corinthians 3:18 is undoubtedly a tremendous verse with much meaning." But we all, with open face beholding in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." I think I'm safe in saying that, among others things, this verse is saying...

1--We all  [All Christians]
2--Are right now  [Present tense]
3--enabled to look upon  [No veil covering us as Moses had to be covered]
4--The Lord  [Clearly and distinctly seen present in the gospel]
5--And we all  [All Christians]
6--Are being changed  [Present tense..right now]
7--To mirror or reflect Him   [His reality expressed in us]
8--All is His work in us through His Spirit.

Locke says this...

"By contemplating the resplendent face of the blessed Redeemer, [Seen present in the gospel] we are changed into something of the same image. It is a law of our nature that we are moulded, in our moral feelings, by the persons with whom we associate, and by the objects which we contemplate. Thus, we are changed into His very image by a continued succession of glory, as it were, streaming upon us from the Lord."

The idea is, according to Locke and others, by contemplating or seeing Him afresh , we become changed into the likeness of that same One we are seeing and we are conformed to that which is revealed there. In simple language, we become like Him and it is obvious to others.

My question is, how does this take place? I want to share something I heard years ago from someone, and I cannot remember who it was,  [Jim Hylton I think]  that I've never forgotten and has been a help many times in my own personal life and growth.

Let's suppose this verse really is saying as we see Him more and more clearly, we become like Him more and more. [I think it is saying that]  So, the question might be,  when do we generally see Him more clearly? For me, it has been when I've been hurting or facing failure in my own life that He graciously reveals Himself anew in His love and faithfulness. Then is when I hit myself on the forehead in recognition that I'd forgotten Him, but He, thankfully, hadn't forgotten me.

This verse may be revealing to us a cycle of experiencing God in this way...

You hit bottom, with failure, or pain, or tragedy, something that takes the spiritual wind out of your sails. You, then, find yourself broken, repentant, or crying out in hopelessness. It is dark and despair is lingering over you. But God breaks through with a fresh word or view of His presence and grace in some fashion. It could be from the Word, a song, a friend, a sermon, or just a contemplative thought on your part. But He's unmistakably there in a fresh way. You see Him present. You recognize His voice in your heart of hearts.

In that moment it is like a mountain top experience almost because He's so real and present with you. How could you have doubted? How could you have forgotten or failed, whatever the case may be? You're strong now. Kingdom living is renewed. Life is good. You're alive again.

But you go on to a bit of complacency because, after all, you're busy or pressed or just trying to live life that has so many demands on your time and thoughts. No doubts about Him...just...well... you know... as I said... busy and pressed. Things that are familiar are no longer seen with Him as the backdrop. After all, they are just normal, everyday things. And God distant...again.

Then it comes...again. Failure or pain or tragedy. The tears, darkness, and even doubts begin their journey across you mind and soul. Where is God in all this? You certainly need something from Him. Or maybe you've settled in your thinking that He couldn't care, forgive, or deliver this time after so many times before. You don't deserve it after all with what you did.

But He does show up. A mountain top again. Complacency...again.  Failure!! You get the picture.

The diagram below, which has been a guide to me for years and graciously put into pictorial form by my wife, might be helpful and revealing. Go through it. My conclusions will come on the other side of the diagram.

1--We will not ever... NOT fail or face pain or tragic events.
2--We will ultimately, by His Spirit, be brought to brokenness or repentance. [Or some form of crying out for help]
3--He will faithfully show Himself present and forgiving, gracious, powerful...whatever the need might be.
 4--We will inevitably get complacent or foolish...again which inevitably lead to failure.
5--We will not ever... NOT fail or face pain or tragic events,

You see the pattern. It is much as the Nation of Israel did seven times in the Book of Judges in the Old Covenant [Testament] where that cycle resulted in seven Judges being raised up to deliver His people from their troubles.

But notice,.. in our New Covenant relational experience, we have hope beyond measure. 
 1--We are never as low as we were. [The upward cycle]
 2--We will always experience Him in greater ways than before. [Higher revelation]
 3--We will always be changed to some degree with those new revelations of who He really is in our lives. [Always different and further in growth than before]

The process, my friend, is called life and growth. Such is our wonderful journey in knowing our Gracious Lord in a New Covenant relationship and will be so until, one day, the work of changing us into His Glory will be finalized as we see Him face to face.

Paul B.