Friday, January 27, 2012


Have you ever noticed that sometimes, not all the time by any means, but sometimes, the longer a person is a Christian and the more bible knowledge they accumulate, the more they tend to get cold, cranky, crabby, and even critical, which is the exact opposite of what one would think would happen?

On the other hand......

Have you ever noticed that some young believers, even brand new Christians, who don't know ANY bible really, have little or no experience in church life and have no clue as to what they believe doctrinally speaking,  exhibit a life of graciousness, excitement, and love for people that is hard to believe much less describe?

What is all this?

Would it be wiser to just shoot Christians new in the faith and be done with them rather than allowing time to mess things up?

Just kidding!!

I think all of you would recognize, I'm not discounting knowing doctrine or experiencing church life at all. But something strange does seem to happen the longer some people go to church and the more bible knowledge they accumulate and the end result is, all too often, not appealing. Again, what is all this?

I've got a suggestion as to what happens or what goes wrong. This is just my observation of course, but it is birthed out of years of experience with Christians in a gathered church experience and a systematic approach to teaching/studying the bible and, unfortunately, reflecting somewhat on my own journey and struggles as a believer.

My suggestion is simply that I believe we often misinterpret that wonderful verse in John 8:32 that says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." All too often this verse is read as if it is saying that when we study His word faithfully the knowledge we gain of that truth doctrinally will set us free. 

But I've already stated that my conviction is too many who do just that very thing wind up cold and cranky, among a few other things like being unloving and judgmental.

I said that such a view of that verse IS a misinterpretation. Well, is it? And, if so, what IS the verse really saying?

IMHO the verse is really saying...

"You shall KNOW the truth..." That word 'know' means to have an INTIMATE relationship with or to know intimately." [As, physically, Adam KNEW his wife and she conceived.] 

"You shall KNOW  [have an intimate relationship with]  THE TRUTH..." Jesus said "I AM the truth." So it is speaking of having an intimate ongoing relationship with the reality of Jesus Himself." And the truth [Jesus Himself] will set you FREE...

At this point it might be wise to get familiar with what Stephen Olford once said. In a chapel service at Wheaton College where he was speaking he made this statement,... "Freedom is not the right to do what you want, but it is the power to be what you ought." 

Bill Gothard picked that definition up and made it famous but it was Olford who first said it. I think it translates quite well what the freedom mentioned in John 8:32 is all about.  It is speaking of the power for BE not the right to DO.

So, to have an intimate and on-going relationship with the reality of who Jesus is as a person, will set us free to be the person we are to be with God, others, and even ourselves. That's a far cry from becoming crabby, cranky, unloving and judgmental because we know doctrine. And it can be a real thing early in your Christian experience OR, if willing, late in life. But, as you can see, it's clearly referring to something far different than many Christians understand it to mean.

It is THIS that I think gets lost along the way for many of us as we go to church, learn bible truth, and get older in the doing of it all. Sometimes young Christians have ONLY the reality of that kind of relationship albeit not accompanied at the moment with a lot of doctrinal knowledge.

But the answer is NOT in shooting young Christians, thus saving them from the kind of fate older Christians seem to often have. [Again, just kidding remember.] The answer may simply lie in reminding all of us older more mature Christians [biologically if nothing else]  we are to major on regaining, if not retaining, the experience of that kind of ongoing grace relationship with Christ. 

That, it seems to me, is the very basis for life and is far more essential than head knowledge about doctrine. That can come but must never replace the reality of our grace relationship. My how we then would/could experience growing old as a Christian... gracefully. 

You think?

Paul B.


Monday, January 23, 2012


When I concluded my thirty-eight year career of pastoring in 1996, [1958-1996] I did so by teaching through the book of Acts verse by verse for over a year on Wednesday nights to some Adults and young people who were ready to learn. I must say, it was an exciting biblical journey and no one learned as much as did I.

Since that journey through the book of Acts, I've said many times that one of the things that amazed me was how simple those early christians were in their grasp of the christian experience. There were no seminars, workshops, revivals, retreats, or bookstores to feed them information on how to study their bibles, pray, witness, grow a marriage, raise children, or effectively live the christian life. Yet they were characterized by the POWER of God in all they did even in the midst of struggles, failures, persecution, and the reaction of their culture around them because their message seemed so offensive to so many in that culture.

It could very well be that the problem with modern day christianity, when compared to that of the book of Acts, is not the LOSS of their POWER but the LOSS of their SIMPLICITY. They seemed to have such a simple confidence in who Jesus really is and in what He really did in His life and in His death for them that they viewed HIM as being genuinely sufficient for the living of life to its very fullest. In other words, they seemed to live believing Jesus was ENOUGH.

Did they know something we don't? Have we lost something they had?

It's almost as if they somehow saw Jesus as the SOURCE of what real life was all about. It would be good for us to remember that I'm using the word "source" as the word that refers to "A spring or fountainhead from which something comes or flows that is essential." The "source" differs from "resource" because the latter means "An asset that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function more effectively." I'm thinking the average person who calls themselves a christian in our present day really views Jesus Christ as a "resource" for making things better. He can help make a marriage, a family, a church, even a life, function more effectively. 

But for those in Acts it was something more. It was true for them that He was the "source" OF life, He didn't make their lives BETTER. He WAS the fountain head of their life. He didn't make their marriage, family or even their church better. He made their marriage, family, church, even their life itself.. POSSIBLE. So for someone to threaten to take their life if they didn't recant their faith in Him was ridiculous. He was, in fact, their very LIFE. Who He was/is in His life and what he did at the cross in His death is the very thing needed for life to be life as God intended it. That was why it was called "gospel" or "good news."

So today we find ourselves with a bunch of religious resources for making things [life] function a bit better. Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, revivals, conferences, denominations, conventions, all of which can make us better people religiously if we would just do them faithfully. In fact, they have come to DEFINE our christianity. 

Add to those the resources that should/could be ours if people would think and vote correctly, [sarcasm alert] prayer in school, freedom to read the bible in class, freedom to thank Jesus Christ for letting us win, [whatever we're competing in] and we would have what it takes for living life the very best way possible, especially in America. So we spend our time talking about the "resources" instead of the "source" and we find ourselves living life accordingly.

As I said..."Did they know something we don't? Have we lost something they had?"

Me thinks the answer might be.."Well, yes!"

Paul B.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I've just concluded a bible conference where I taught the letter authored by Paul commonly called First Corinthians. It was interesting in my preparation to discover that, in fact, First Corinthians may have really been a second letter since a first one hinted at was probably lost. [1st Corinth. 5:9] Then there is perhaps evidence that a third letter was lost also, so a fourth one was written. If this is historically correct,  then 1st Corinthians is really 2nd Corinthian and 2nd corinthians is really 4th Corinthians. Maybe I should have called this post "Inane Random Thoughts" think!

Well, I'll randomly continue. 

Have you ever noticed that Paul NEVER mentions the Law of Moses in this letter we call 1st Corinthians? He's certainly having to deal with problems in the church that are grievous in nature such as drunkenness, arguing over who had been the greatest pastor, [ Paul, Peter, or Apollos] suing one another in courts of law and then there was that immoral situation they were not dealing with at all, and proud they were not as if it were a badge of honor that they were permissive.

In fact, the ONLY time Paul used the Law of Moses in his arguments for pure living was when he challenged the legalists who needed to be shown that even the law itself could not be kept in an effort to be holy. He NEVER used the law of Moses, even the ten commandments, as a standard to hold up for New Covenant behavior.

He did use the wisdom of God in the mystery of the gospel to show how shallow and foolish the wisdom of man was in dealing with real life. Paul seemed to have recognized that the Corinthians, who were basically Gentiles with only a few Jewish people, were more philosophers than anything else. Phileo means "love" and "Sophia" means wisdom in Greek, so he recognized they were lovers of wisdom in their culture and he moved right into their way of thinking to challenge them with the gospel which they considered to be foolish of course.

This shows me two things immediately.

One is that Paul was willing to engage the culture of his day and wasn't angry toward it or did not rail against it as if it were some kind of witchcraft at work against the gospel. He recognized its weaknesses and its inability to speak to the deepest problems and need of the human race, namely dealing with the fallen and hopeless nature of the human condition, but had no real answers. The wisdom of God seen in the gospel does have answers, however. Paul thought so at least. I do too.

The second thing I see is that Paul had a CONFIDENCE in the ability of the gospel to "cut to the heart" and to make true believers out of foolish and lost people without the law of Moses being the basis for bringing conviction. He thought there was something REALLY powerful in the gospel message itself. 

Maybe we need to trust the Holy Spirit's power and ability to take in His hands the foolishness of sharing the true gospel of Christ as the tool for bringing conviction, light and understanding to the people of any culture who have no reference to the religious background of the Old Testament most of us have.

Do you suppose Paul had it right when he said, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified....My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power..." [The gospel]

May we go and do likewise. Just some random thoughts.

Paul B.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012


First Corinthians is a great book to me. I kind of think Paul has read my mail in the writing of it. Different failures in my life to be sure, but my list of things that need to be confronted would find him writing the same way to me personally, no doubt about that. So I'm wide open to hearing what he said to the Corinthian believers.

For example, in chapter 1 verse 10 he says that we, as christians, are not to be "divided" or "separated" from one another. [That word "divided" is used of the veil in the Temple being ripped apart.] But, rather, he advocates, we are to think the same thing, even having the same opinion about things. Well, I don't know how that could be true of me and ANYBODY. That isn't even true in my marriage. What's going on here? I need some help with this. You think!!

I realize that when I became a christian, that I, who had been separated from God, have now entered into a real, personal and close relationship with Him that is both lasting and genuine. All by His grace. I also realize that when THAT happened, I ALSO entered into a a real, personal and close relationship with everyone else that ALSO knows Him. That's by His grace too. I had been separated from Him, but now am tight with Him. I had been fragmented from them, but now am tight with them. And that's a fact of His grace, not just wishful thinking.

So it is no surprise that in Ephesians 4:3 Paul tells us to "preserve" or "maintain" the unity that ALREADY exists with all other believers by virtue of our grace relationship with Him. We are not called upon to CREATE unity with other christians, but "preserve" what has already been created by His grace.

So, knowing this, how AM I to do it? How do I do my part in maintaining unity? How DO I learn to "Be of the same mind"? What's that all about?

Well, it will certainly take understanding the ground or basis of our unity. And that basis of unity isn't found in our system of beliefs or our particular set of doctrines. It isn't thinking the same thing about THOSE kinds of things. It is, rather, in what is found described by Paul in chapter 1 verse 17, "For Christ sent me NOT to baptize, [There has to be a doctrine in there somewhere.] but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, [There has to be a system of beliefs in there somewhere.] lest THE CROSS OF CHRIST should be made of none effect." There IS a REAL basis of unity already established in that alone. So we are to endeavor to keep HIM and the message of the cross as our ground or basis for unity.

The thing that makes me one with other christians is not anything other than the person of Christ Himself and His work on the Cross on our behalf.

Why is this so important? Because whatever unites us will ultimate divide us. If we're united around who baptized us, [or maybe even how] we will separate from those who were baptized by someone else. [That was the Corinthian problem that Paul was confronting you see.]

You name anything that people can unite around today.

Type of praise
Style of preaching
View of inerrancy
Women in ministry
Name of denomination
Gifts of the Spirit
Views on Eschatology
Wearing ties in the pulpit
Use of tobacco or alcohol
Being bald headed. [I just slipped that one in for fun.]

Take any single one of these and form a group around it and relate/fellowship ONLY with those who are in agreement with you about it and you will find unity destroyed.

But can we think differently about such things in the above list or believe differently and love each other even while disagreeing? Of Course we can!! My wife and I have been doing it for over fifty years. Even in matters theological. She is a theologian in her own right and we don't agree on all things theological. It's called being yourself and requiring nothing but loving respect and acceptance without judgment or condemnation about where you are in your thinking. All this is because of and based on how we are loved and accepted by the Father because of Christ. This, while in a covenant commitment called marriage. It's WONDERFUL.

The New Covenant relationship all true believers have to Christ and each other can be lived out with differences also. Maybe meeting differently, sharing differently, enjoying different styles of music, different kinds of preaching, whatever. Being different in so many areas, but REFUSING to CUT OFF relationally from any other christian BECAUSE we have our differences.

You know what "cutting off" looks like! Cutting off is EVIDENCED by disrespect, hatred, self centeredness, judgment, condemnation and shaming. [All the things NOT found present in the love that Christ has for us.]

Maybe we've forgotten what "Unity" looks like!  [That's the point of this particular post remember.] Unity is EVIDENCED by genuine love where there is a lack of judgment or condemnation or hatefulness or shaming regardless of our differences and an acceptance of any believer as a valued person[All of those negative things are obviously NOT FOUND present in the love that Christ has for us] It is THAT kind of love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

OK...I admit...I'm a dreamer. But I'll dream on if you don't mind.

Paul B.

Saturday, January 07, 2012


Exodus 28:8 has a strange reference in it. It refers to a girdle which is called the "curious" girdle. "Curious" is precisely the word to be used as it is difficult to know what the girdle is for as part of the High Priest's garments. It was attached [woven in] to the front and the back of the ephod and the breastplate worn by the High Priest during his ministry.

The ephod was a robe and not a coat. Were it simply a coat it would have been for a covering for protection. But a robe in scripture indicates dignity in character, even royalty. As we are familiar with a Judge being in a flowing black robe, just so the High Priest was robed with the ephod. You recall Matthew 27:28 says.."And they stripped Him, and put on Him [robed Him] a scarlet robe...and mocked Him, saying, Hail King of the Jews." The colors of the robe [ephod] for the High Priest explain the character or nature of the coming final High Priest, the Lord Jesus, but that's for another day.

The Breastplate had the twelves precious stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel attached to it and speaks of judgment as the High Priest was their stand in before Holy God on the day of Atonement while offering the blood sacrifice. The High Priest of the Old Covenant offered that sacrifice annually. His job was never done. There was no chair in the holy of holies in the tabernacle and none in the H of H in the Temple later.

Our Lord, however, is the final High Priest. He is the High Priest of the New Covenant and is truly the One who, with dignity and royalty, has become the sin bearer for the people of the New Covenant, having offered His blood as the blood of the New Covenant "once" according to Hebrews 10:10. Then He "sat down" on the right hand of God. His sacrificial work finished, He awaits the end of the age. [Hebrews 10:12-13]

But that girdle. It is truly "curious." The word 'girdle' comes from a word which means 'device.' It was often viewed as a device that somehow strengthened one for a task. You recall in Exodus 12:11 the people of Israel were told to eat with their loins 'girded' [there's that root word] and shoes on their feet. It was to give them strength for walking. Then there is the very familiar warring passage in Ephesians 6 where we are told to gird our loins with truth. That the girdle, in scripture, represents strength for walking and warfare, is obvious. 

But this girdle business we're presently talking about is picturing the work of the High Priest. So we have to find the picture being fulfilled in our Lord Himself to be contextual consistent.

Jesus did the task of washing the disciples feet AFTER 'girding' himself with a towel.  So there it is, a work of serving is being pictured. His final act of serving on this earth was, of course, at Calvary. It was there that His atonement work and His greatest act of service on our behalf was once and for all done as indicated earlier. The Father showed His approval and acceptance of it all with an empty tomb. Jesus was an acceptable and accepted stand in SERVANT. [On our behalf.] 

The ancient High Priest of Israel is only a type of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ we said repeatedly. But do please remember that the scriptures are also clear that there is none like the Son of God nor will there EVER be. He ALONE is the High Priest of the New covenant. So, as all of the robes, colors and articles of the High Priest are symbolic of our Lord's character, nature and work, it would not be a complete picture without the strength for the work of SERVANTHOOD being seen. 

Thus, that "curious" girdle begins to make a little sense. Mark 10:45 says.."For even the Son of Man came NOT to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. It takes real strength to really serve.

All this from that "curious" girdle. What's even "curiouser" [I know there is no such word] is that if we truly reflect the life of Christ to a lost world, or even to the body of Christ, it will have to be as one girded [strengthened] for true service, NOT as one being the boss or in control of things as modern pastors are so prone to do. Otherwise it isn't His life we're reflecting. It would be our own ego. There is no other kind. He is our serving Lord. We are to be His serving body members regardless of race, gender, or age. That's Christ. That's Christianity. 

Servanthood really is the badge of true Christianity.

Paul B.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I've mentioned the two words function and form before in a passing way, but in this post I want to consider them in a more complete fashion. The understanding of these two words and their impact on my belief system have been monumental to say the least. My desire here is to give a little bit of a handle that, when grasped, could help deliver someone from legalism as I have been.

Let's consider function first. By definition function, according to Webster's dictionary, means..."The particular purpose for which a thing exists." The illustration mentioned in Webster's is a hammer. But it also mentions another kind of illustration with this statement, "A natural or proper action of a bodily part as a living thing." I'll use the second illustration and use my hand as the body part to illustrate.

The function of my hand is to perform according to design whatever is requested by my brain. Suppose, for example, I have an itch somewhere on my body. My brain tells my hand to scratch it. It does. My hand goes to the location, takes an appropriate shape to itself perhaps using the nails and the job is done. That's function. That's the purpose for which the hand exists.

Now let's consider form. Its definition, according to the same dictionary, is "To give shape or structure" or "an established way of doing something." Take my hand again. Remember that itch? My brain says to my hand, "Scratch it." Only this time things have changed. The itch is so deep the nails won't do the job, so a new method is needed. It takes rubbing with the palm. Have you ever had a scratch that deep? That's form. That's the way something is done.

You can see that function has to do with the purpose for being and form has to with a pattern for doing. It is that critical difference that clarifies so much. I'm convinced the Bible is a book of purpose or function and is not a book that delivers the specific patterns or forms for doing.

Our purpose as the people of God, which is what the message of the New Testament is all about when it speaks of the Church, is usually stated as things we are to "be." We are to be..the body of Christ. We are to be..servants to one another. We are to be..a minister to the whole body according to our gifts. We are to be..forgiving, loving, faithful, and merciful. And on and on I could go. I could write dozens of pages and not list all the functions we have for being the created and redeemed people of God. Those functions remain the same through all of time for all of the body of Christ as the New Covenant is the final one.

The forms we use to fulfill those functions can and do change over the years as the culture we live in changes and our desire to reach that culture with the gospel continues. We are to be salt and light, but the delivery of that Salt and Light will take on different patterns as time goes on and things change.

An illustration might help. Take the early Ekklesia. [Called out Ones.] One could say that at least a portion of the purpose of the Church can be stated this way,"We are to be Christian in our living and sometimes we are to be that together."[ Hebrews 10:35] It's called, "Being the Church scattered and gathered." That purpose was true for the New Testament Church and is true for the Church of 2012. Whatever the Church was to be then, we are to be now. The function or purpose has not and will not ever change as I've mentioned. It is our reason for being in time and on this earth.

But the forms used by the early Ekklesia to fulfill that purpose have changed across the years. They used homes and upper rooms to meet in and we use buildings built for that purpose. They used people standing in their midst and we use people standing behind pulpits. They used water pots inside the door to wash the feet of those who came and we use greeters to shake the hands of those who come. Again, pages could be written to list the differing methods. But you see the point I'm sure.

Now here is the deal. How the Church is to be [function] is a sacred [biblical, holy, sanctified] thing. It never changes and should not. But the methods the Church uses for doing [form] things that enable Her to be what God intends are not sacred. It is the methodology of church life that causes us to stumble. We make our traditions and techniques sacred meaning biblical, holy, sanctified, in nature and they are not.

The greatest need of the modern Church may be the ability to know what is truly sacred and what is simply a way of doing things. This knowledge would lead one out of legalism [doing certain things a certain way] to a gracious way of living. [Being a certain kind of person to all people however they do things.]

Paul B.