Saturday, July 30, 2011


On May 23rd of 2006 I started this blog. I had some hopes and desires for the blog that I expressed back then and thought it might be good in the summer of 2011 to stop and see how we stack up against my original wishes. I would be interested in any response you would give and any suggestion you might have for what you would like addressed in the future. What follows is my first ever blog post. [With some cleaning up of language, paragraphs and punctuation.]

This blog site is part of and connected to VTM ministries. Our homepage is and all things relative to our ministry such as schedule, types of meetings, etc., can be found there.

Someone may ask why a blog? My answer is... so I can address issues theological and ministerial in a conversational way. I will, of course, be giving my view on the issues and will do so with the knowledge that my grasp of truth is finite and growing. I completely trust the Spirit to give understanding, as do all Christians, and am confident that He does and will. My confidence, however, in my ability to hear Him and to grasp the truth is not as strong. I've lived with the power of flesh and self too long to have much confidence there. I will attempt to be open, honest, and careful in what I post so at least you will know where I stand.

I do wish to express that I believe strongly our ground of unity is not in agreement on the issues or even the nuances of minor doctrines. I'm using the word minor here not meaning unimportant but related to essentials of salvation/eternity which are the majors. Our ground of unity, which by the way we are never told in scripture to create, but are told to maintain because the Spirit HAS ALREADY CREATED OUR UNITY IN CHRIST, is on the basis of Christ and His work on the Cross, as Paul said to the Corinthians in the first three chapters of that First Corinthian letter. 

If a person says Christ was human only and not the divine Son of God who died on the Cross for us that person is not my brother. I will love them and share my life with them but they are in need of the gospel. My brothers/sisters are those who name Jesus as Lord. We may be as different as daylight and dark in understanding of doctrine, associating with various denominations, having differing views on issues and the embracing of a multitude of methods in mission and evangelism, but we are brothers/sisters because of who Christ is to/in us and our acceptance of what He accomplished on the Cross. This obviously presupposes a confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures.

This blog will address those issues, differences, and nuances. But as a brother in Christ I hope to do what my son and others have been doing for several months and quite successfully. I also hope I can be as gracious and gentle as they have been. If I can, then perhaps this little personal word will be of some help and will be enjoyed by a few.

Paul Burleson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I thought a reminder via a post written originally five years ago might be in order.

What do you do when there is disagreement in doctrine between people on the same staff?

I'm not speaking of disagreement over essentials that have to do with those things necessary for salvation or eternity to be assured. These certainly include things like knowing how sinful I am [repentance] and resting in how much Jesus loves me and was willing to die in my place and, in light of who He is, believing that completed what was necessary to deal with my sin as evidenced by an empty tomb. [Faith] Things like this are essential for redemption and eternity and are not up for rejection.

I'm speaking of the non-essentials. By using 'non-essentials' I'm not saying unimportant things, just things not necessary for salvation to be experienced. These might include whether Adam was Federal head and I was present in him when the fall happened or whether I'm lost by my own choice or any combination thereof. Whether Jesus was Impeccable or could have sinned when tempted. Whether election is God choosing me before time because He determined to, or, seeing I would choose Him, chose me because of that foreknowledge. Whether repentance and faith are my responses alone or whether I can repent and believe only because the Holy Spirit has worked regeneration already in me and repentance and faith are the evidences of new birth rather than the causes of new birth.

I have my own understanding of all these. I lean toward [in fact I embrace] God having worked by His Grace and any abilities toward spiritual things are the result of His Grace being experienced not the cause. But my point is...I came to all this understanding after I became a believer... not before.

However, the unique situation of which I speak is when there are two guys/gals on the same staff who disagree over those non-essentials. How do you work together with integrity with differences? It has happened me...several times on several staffs. I developed a certain way [method] of handling it. My way is not sacred and maybe not even the best way. But it is my way and I'll share it for what it's worth.

Two things, I believe, are important to remember. 

One is each staff person must be free to investigate and research scripture to grow personally in their understanding of the nuances of doctrine without fear AND to teach their understanding. 

An Education minister on my staff had a different view of divorce and remarriage than mine. I asked him to preach in my absence. We were at a particular place in Matthew where divorce was being addressed. So I asked him to deal with that passage if he would. He was perplexed and even concerned. He saw it differently than did I. "How can I do the that? " was his question. I said, "You teach how you see it and be honest enough to mention that I [Bro. Paul] sees it a bit differently, but we respect each other as brothers in the Lord." Then I suggested he encourage the people to search on their own. He did and they did.

Interestingly, twenty-five years later, I hold now the position he held then, not because the text has changed, but because my understanding has changed as I've studied. That's one of the two important things I wish to mention. We were both free to search and share our understanding of truth without fear.

The second is when, for whatever reason, it is good to agree as a staff on a non-essential as a standard for the staff, knowing some one will have to adjust to something he/she doesn't hold to personally, be willing to do it for practical reasons.

 An example...I pastored a church near a University where drinking was a problem on campus. We chose as a staff to agree that abstinence would be our [the staff] standard. This was not based on agreement on the text of scripture because there were differences of opinion about that. 

[I don't personally hold to the view that total abstinence is taught in the text of scripture as the biblical standard by the way. However, drunkenness IS forbidden in scripture.] 

But by mutual consent we felt it was best for us as a staff to practice abstinence while on that staff in order to more effectively minister to those students. [It was the Romans 14:13-15 principle.] A couple of people had to defer [myself included] and abstinence was our practical policy while on staff there. 

This was shared with our church. We had no established church policy in regards to abstinence as we had developed our own church covenant and that particular non-essential was not an issue. It was shared for information only. But the congregation learned and was encouraged as they saw the method we followed to come to our agreement on what was best when good people stood on different sides of theological issues that are not essential to salvation and eternity.

I could give a multitude of other examples but post length will not permit.

My bottomline in all this is multiple...

1. People differ on non-essentials.
2. People who differ can work together.
3. No one should have to be quiet about their differences.
4. Respect for another's position is important.
5. When a policy is decided upon because it is best for the work... don't make the basis for it scriptural if there are good people on both sides of the issue theologically. Make it what it is...practical and good for the work.
6. Real unity is based on at least these factors...
      a) Agreement on the essentials...
      b) A right spirit/attitude toward people who differ on everything else...
      c) A willingness to have ALL share their views and, when necessary, choose a path that is best for the work by mutual agreement with all being heard and respected.

I think this might be good for a family or a congregation as well as a staff.

I also do not believe this negates teaching the whole counsel of God authoritatively. I happen to believe in authority coming from the annointing of the Holy Spirit rather than a position because I take seriously the command to not Lord it over the flock. 

But, as I said, this practical approach is not sacred [though undergirded by biblical principles] nor perhaps even the best way, but it is mine...and God has, by His grace, blessed it.

Paul B

Monday, July 18, 2011


Giving credit where credit is due...Mary gave me this illustration of our marriage as we drove home from church yesterday morning. I liked it. It now belongs to me. It will belong to you if you like it as much as I did. It certainly does the job of speaking to the 52 years Mary and I have spent in our marriage. [We knew one another two years before our marriage, thus, fifty-four total years in a relationship.] The illustration is of how a house can be a picture of relationships. Obviously,  it needs a little explanation.

Think of a house with it's rooms and in your thinking include a front porch, a yard and a cyclone fence around it all. Each area is observable and separate, yet each is connected to the whole. You live there. You relate to others from there. It can become an apt illustration of the kind of relationships one may have at different levels.

There are people who may walk by your fence. You see them, you wave to them, you are cordial with them and yet you don't really have a relationship at all other than the one that is shared by being human and a part of whatever culture [neighborhood] you might share.

But there are those who share your yard. This is more personal. They are your neighbors who may stop by and talk a while. You know their names, their work perhaps, and even some of the bare facts about their life. You would even interject yourself into their lives in ways that would be of benefit to both of you__say you saw their papers lying in the driveway collecting and you pick them up to cover the fact that they are away__ and you would do it gladly. You can figure out what is meant here.

But some people come to your door. They are on the porch. They are not going to enter unless invited and would not be invited to enter unless you wish to share something deeper with them than you share with those walking by your fence. When invited in they don't have free run of your house at all. They respect you too much for that. They might even ask permission to use the restroom before assuming they are free to do so.

A marriage relationship is different. It's inviting someone to share a house in ways no one else EVER will. [Children are a category of relationships for another post.] The marriage bed, the breakfast nook, the master bathroom, every nook and cranny becomes a shared experience. That relationship exceeds every other one and is to be characterized by things like respect, trust, honesty, and openness. All others are secondary to that relationship, even the children. That, because one day they will establish another relationship which will be their own house to share.

But problems come in a marriage. A couple can find themselves living in the same house but not be able to share it very well. They may find themselves going to separate rooms because of hurts or harsh words between them. It takes work to face and solve what problems they can in order to REALLY share the whole house.

How all this applies to Mary and me is that we've found ourselves with a SAFE ROOM built. All who live in Oklahoma, tornado country, know what that room represents. It is the place where you go to avoid storms that can do great damage and are a threat to you personally. There you will be truly safe from any danger.

We've spent our lives working on problems that caused us to sometimes choose to go to separate rooms. There has been a time or two where we wondered if one or the other would not walk out the door and end the relationship. But that did not happen. The value of so many years invested in a marriage is having faced so many problems that you find yourselves sharing rooms comfortably. If one happens to need some space occasionally, one may ask for some space and get it.

But the safe room is there so that no problem, storm, or situation will ever keep the two of us from going TOGETHER to that room when threats come. The safe room that has been created gives both in the relationship a sense of safety and freedom. Nothing will destroy it except death.

Permit me a couple of final thoughts.

One is about the matter of love. Love is to be present in all the relationships. But it is expressed within the boundaries that are apparent in the illustration and doesn't look the same in each at all. When Jesus expressed Himself to Jerusalem He did so recognizing "they would not." The Rich Young Ruler said "no thanks" to a relationship. But Jesus loved him. So love is not lost when you recognize where relationships are. [Abusers having to remain on the porch is an example.] It is simply living by what the scripture describes as being "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

This is truly loving people where they are. Some don't know of your love. Some choose to know of your love in a casual way. Some choose to share it deeply. But no one lives with you in a love relationship without some reciprocity as Jerusalem proved. If you love but they don't it may indicate where the relationship is in the house illustration in reality.

A second thought is that people who have suffered sexual abuse in their past or have family members who might be a perpetrator of such abuse might have to choose to keep those family members on the porch [no close relationship] protecting the children inside the house. That's not only legitimate in my opinion, but it may be necessary.

If abuse happens in a marriage, this could be physical, emotional or sexual, it could force the abused one to expel the abuser until a willingness develops for the establishing of the relationship again which includes mutual trust and respect. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a partner can choose to walk out the door of a relationship. It is over.

But after 54 years Mary and I are finally enjoying the whole of the house...together. We have our problems. We sometimes need our space. We even on rare occasion request our privacy. We mutually agree to those when necessary. But the construction of that safe room is what makes our relationship function at a level we never dreamed possible before. It is there. It is for us both. We share it in times of threat. We are committed to that reality.

That's why I've called this post "AN APT ILLUSTRATION OF A FIFTY-FOUR YEAR RELATIONSHIP. You may not like the illustration. You are obviously free to reject or argue as to its' validity. You may wish to expand, or correct it. But somehow it speaks to me. If it says something to you, I'm glad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It is really difficult to talk about Christianity and culture. This is because there is such diversity of thought about how they are to relate if, in fact, they are to relate at all. There are those who see the culture in which we live as the enemy of Christianity and so have nothing but disdain when addressing the subject. 

Others see no problem with adapting to the culture when speaking of methods and believe to do so makes for giving our gospel message a better hearing. The consequence has been an introduction of media, atmosphere, entertainment, facilities and a myriad of other cultural tools that are an attempt to draw people to the gathering of the Church for that hearing of the gospel. 

Whether or not the final verdict is in on the effect all this is having on Christianity is also debatable perhaps. But one person has offered his opinion on that effect. I'm speaking of Ken Meyers of Mars Hill Audio and author of the book entitled "All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes"  

One of the best quotes in that book is this,  .."I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. . . Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. . . But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened."

If you think Myers has joined the 'abandon culture because it's the enemy' Christian group, you would be mistaken. He ALSO said this in speaking about Fundamentalists of the past...."Rather than attempting to understand what was happening in modern culture, they retreated to a cultural ghetto." Meyers did not mean that as a compliment by the way. 

What Meyers did do rather effectively is to show that culture is complex. In his book he divides culture into three categories. Those categories are Folk culture, High culture, and a somewhat new phenomenon he calls Pop culture.

According to Meyers, High culture is generally a society attempting to elevate the thoughts and emotions of the people and has as its' goal an ability to reflect seriously on things that transcends the present and bringing people along in that thinking. 

He sees Folk culture as a unique worldview of a particular place, community, or group of people. It is the communal sharing of traditions and values. Folk culture holds the people accountable to the community for those traditions and values..

Pop culture, however, is the leveling out of the High and expanding of the Folk in an attempt to appeal to all peoples. It winds up being an attempt to appeal to the masses by taking on a marketing style approach and becomes, as a result, strongly individualistic rather than community. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that when Meyers criticizes the Church for embracing it's culture it is the Pop culture that he is referring to. A quote from one who critiqued his book says this..."One of the key issues that Meyer is seeking to address is the wholesale embrace of the methodology of pop culture by the church under the banner of contextualization. He points out that the church has long been the bastion of High culture, elevating minds and hearts and focusing people’s attention to the transcendent, and folk culture, instilling communal values and cultural heritage. Now, however, the church is often simply imitating the worst of pop culture and mixing in a little Jesus."

Now reread the quote from the opening of this post and it will make a little more sense I think. 

"I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. . . Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. . . But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened."

Maybe the book might be worth the reading! What do you think?

Paul B.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


A mistake is often made when people quote the Constitution of the United States of America. That historic document declares that all Americans have certain UNALIENABLE rights among which are listed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the word often used when people quote the Constitution is the word INALIENABLE, which is incorrect but seldom realized as so.

Before someone says they mean the same thing and so the using of one or the other is insignificant, I would like to point out the difference that is ever so slight but essential to language being used correctly. 

The word "unalienable" refers to rights that are inherent in man and are not rights that can be surrendered, bought, or transferred. Unalienable rights are a gift from the Creator to each individual and as such, cannot be taken away for any reason. 

The government cannot take them as the government did not provide them. In fact, the only responsibility the government has toward unalienable rights is to secure them or to create an environment that protects them. 

This point was clearly stated in a court ruling in 1892 entitled Budd vs People of the State of New York. That ruling said,  " Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;'  and it is to 'secure,'  not grant or create these rights, for which governments are instituted."

The list in the Constitution can be expanded since it says "among which are" and then lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could add such things as self-government, self defense, nature's necessities of air, food, water, clothing and shelter as well as worship. Such rights are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, privately or by implication or operation of law.

That which is your unalienable right is a part of you in an absolute sense and could no more be removed from you than could your blood be removed and you live without it. 

INALIENABLE rights, on the other hand, can be surrendered, sold, or transferred with the consent of the individual because they are NOT inherent [unalienable] and the government CAN alienate these from an individual, if a person consents, either actually or constructively, since the government may be the source of these individual rights.

Most State Constitutions refer to only inalienable rights it is true. But it is our UNALIENABLE RIGHTS to which our Constitution addresses itself and recognizes them as given to us by our Creator. It could be the loss of recognition of our Creator is what is leading to the mistaken general use of these two words in our modern day language.

People do have both but they are not the same at allSo, clearly, the words are not to be used as synonyms though often are among otherwise intelligent people.

Paul B.