Monday, September 30, 2013


I put a quote on my Facebook page the other day from Scott Saul, a Pastor in Nashville Tenn. He said.....

"The more you mature, the more flexible you become ABOUT non-essentials, not less."

What does he mean non-essentials? Does this mean there are some things that don't matter in scripture? Are we to have a correct understanding of everything talked about in the bible? Is that even possible?

I remember hearing a pastor once say concerning doctrine, “You are either one-hundred percent right or one-hundred percent wrong on what you believe about something the bible says. There is no in-between and there are no gray areas. God is not confused or unsure. Why should we be?”

I think the guy was correct concerning God not being confused or unsure. But for the rest of us, well, things are a bit different as far as Paul the Apostle was concerned.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12 he clearly asserts, under inspiration I believe, that we see things [things he's writing that we now call scripture] through a glass that's rather dim at times. Peter even confessed that Paul said some things hard to understand. [11Peter 3:15-16 is in the context of Escatology and the phrase "hard to understand" is better understood "not easily grasped" I believe.]

So we wind up with people often having two extremes on some things in scripture that are, admittedly "not easily grasped" and we only know partially because of being this side of eternity.[ In eternity we WILL know as we are known, but we're not there yet are we!]

One extreme view of understanding things scriptural is held by the Fundamentalists who often draw more lines than you can count in the sand of theology all in the name of their perception of "Doctrinal Truth." Too often if you disagree with them on ANY issue of doctrine, your belief is called "sin" and you a "sinner" for holding to it. Every truth talked about in the bible is a "hill to die on."

Then there is the extreme position of the Liberals, [about scripture] who are bound and determined to erase as many lines in the sand of theology as possible in the name of their perception of "grace and love." They get just as angry as the fundamentalists only they are at the opposite extreme doctrinally. As usual, reality is somewhere in between those two extreme mindsets.

But there are some legitimate essentials that relate to "Salvation" that I believe, by their very nature, are a "hill to die on." Thus, the need for some things to be called "essentials." This means that in this context only, all other things could legitimately be called "non-essentials." So a doctrine being called a "non-essential' relates ONLY to the weightier doctrines that deal with salvation or eternal life. It DOES NOT mean "non-essentials" are unimportant or less true, when correctly understood, or are not needed for knowledge and Christian living. They are important. Just not essential for the reason stated.

 What might the essentials for salvation be? In essence, if someone does not believe these things that are “essential for salvation,” they simply cannot be Christian in the true sense of the word. Here are what I see as the things I would call the "essentials."

A belief that God is real. [Hebrews 11:6]    (There is no such thing as an atheistic Christian)

A belief that mankind is lost and each person is a sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy and that includes me. [1 John 1:10] ( God and man are separated)

A belief in Christ’s deity and humanity as a Person sent from God. [1 John 4:2-3: Romans 10:9]  (Christ is fully God and fully man without sin.)

A belief that Christ died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave for our sins. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]  (He bridged the gap between God and man whatever one's view of the atonement)

A belief that faith in Christ and His life and death is necessary for a relationship with God. [John 3:16]   (He alone is the object of our faith)

As I see it, these are the key doctrines. Without these, you simply don’t have any sense of what it means to be Christian. This is where the "exclusivity" of the gospel message cuts across the ideology of the rest of humanity and creates quite a backlash for us. But that is as it MUST be for us to present Christ for WHO He is and WHAT He has really done.

All other doctrines or beliefs can be called "non-essentials" which only means they do not relate to matters of salvation or eternal life. That doesn't mean they are unimportant. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be studied and taught as one sees and understands them. But it does mean people can understand them differently and be Christian.

Now read Scott Saul's quote again.  "The more you mature, the more flexible you become ABOUT non-essentials, not less."

Paul B.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Worship is more than singing and preaching. It is ascribing the correct worth to God that is subsequently expressed in ALL ASPECTS of our life. In simple terms, it could be called obedience. Abraham, when ready to offer Isaac in obedience to what he thought was the will of God, said he and the lad would go yonder and WORSHIP. [Genesis 22:5] You know what he meant by that. He was just going to obey God in his actions of sacrifice. [Not knowing, of course, God had other things in mind, including a ram in the thicket.]

In the same way, there is no such thing as a differentiation between the secular and the spiritual in the life of a believer. ALL THINGS are sacred and we worship God in the process of ALL of life's activities by seeing them as gifts from our Father, whatever their particular nature. Yes, even football games qualify. [See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23]

That is not to say that in the biblical narrative, God's people didn't come together and worship God corporately. They did. And they used music and speaking the Word of God in the process. So worship isn't an either/or at all. It is intended to be both individual and corporate as well.

I would like to share a simple concept concerning the flow of corporate [congregational] worship that I've taught through the years which I gleaned from Psalm 95. It has an emphasis on three things that I believe will assist in making corporate worship result in our experiencing the presence of the Father, which is the point of it as I'm sure you know. The sequence is VERY important as you will see.

One is CELEBRATION____[See Psalm 95:1-2] These are songs and choruses where we sing to one another in joy about coming together. It is testimonial in nature. "I'm standing on the promises of God" illustrates this. "I will enter His courts with praise" does as well. These are usually very robust, even loud, and exciting in nature. Hands clapping, hands raised, and shaking hands all around, if not hugging. It  is just part of the experience. When this is at the beginning of a service, it makes for a joyous atmosphere indeed. You get the idea. 

Please don't say, "Oh we should enter His presence in reverence," meaning quietness is reverence. If that were true, a cemetery would be the most reverent place on earth. I don't think so! Reverence is simply recognizing and esteeming the worthiness of God and is almost a synonym for worship. it is to be experienced in everything in life as already pointed out, but in every kind of emotional moment corporately as well. That means in celebration [noise] as well as adoration. [Quietness]

Two is CONTEMPLATION___[See Psalm 95:3-5] These are songs and choruses where we sing about God, His nature, work, character, and such. "How Great Thou Art" is one that does this. "Majesty" is another. "The Old Rugged Cross." Hundreds of hymns and choruses I can think about. These are thoughtful and reflective in nature and would probably see a diminishing of things loud into things profound. Again, you see where I'm going.

Three is ADORATION___songs and choruses sung to God. I love you Lord, Open My Eyes, I want to see Jesus, is another. Holy Spirit breath On Me another. Here, it is quiet, broken, open, eyes focused on Him alone. Just you and Papa. It's like crawling up into His lap and speaking of hurts, fears, joys, whatever the case may be. 

The flow is for the purpose of bringing you ultimately to have eyes only and ears only for the Father as He speaks His Word through His messenger.You're never more ready to hear His Word, as Psalm 95 suggests, than at the end of that kind of experience. What's been described is a good and helpful tool for corporate/congregational worship where God's presence is desired to be experienced.

There is nothing magic or settled about this flow at all. It can come and go in moments without violating anything commanded or desired. But it does assist in those times when the corporate body is together ready to encounter, through the Holy Spirit, the living God, who is our heavenly Papa. I call it THE FLOW OF WORSHIP. 

Paul B. 

Friday, September 20, 2013


No one will ever find a fellowship where everyone agrees on the non- essentials doctrinally, meaning those things unessential for salvation. There are some foundational/core beliefs that any local fellowship would need to agree upon, obviously. Things such as the nature of the scriptures, the nature of Christ, the character of God and a few others. But there are many things, called lesser doctrines, for the above mentioned reason, about which they would have to agree to disagree agreeably to maintain real fellowship. Is that even possible? How do you live together in church life with those lesser differences of beliefs since we all know some churches and people make issues over any difference?

I love finding people who do it. I'm posting some information I've discovered about a Church that has, I believe, produced a great example of how to do it. I've deleted any chance of identifying the Church so there will be no bias because of denomination or lack thereof.

I'll begin by showing you what they call their "Policy On Controversial Issues." It simply states......

"The people who make up__________ Church have various theological perspectives and diverse backgrounds. As ________ (our Senior Pastor) says, “We agree on enough to get the job done.” That's our policy. We do not exclude anyone on the basis of a different view on baptism, gifts of the spirit, predestination vs. freewill, or any other matter of honest theological disagreement among members of the Church. The people of___________Church are not connected because we all dot our i's and cross our t's the same theologically, but because we align ourselves with a common vision and mission as Jesus’ disciples in the city of________."

[Paul speaking]...Neat huh!! The question is, how do they pull this off? I've decided to post only one of several statements they have adopted about controversial issues that can often divide friendships if not congregations. It is a statement about the differing views of marriage generally called complementarianism and egalitarianism. Their policy says.......

"What are the appropriate roles of husband and wife in a Christian marriage? We affirm that biblical paradigm of a God-centered, agape-oriented covenant marriage relationship. We also recognize the disagreement among evangelical Christians regarding the nature of gender roles within marriage. Some believe the Bible teaches a timeless principle of male headship, where headship is defined as the model of servant-leadership exemplified by Jesus Christ. Others believe that the idea of male headship expressed in Scripture is a culturally-conditioned teaching, and that the ideal model of marriage is that of mutual submission and leadership by gifting, within an egalitarian relationship. We believe that, when guided by the principles of agape-love and servant-leadership, either model of gender roles in marriage can serve to foster God-glorifying covenant-marriages."

"To that end, we offer the following biblical challenge and encouragement."

(1) "To those couples who follow the model of male headship: Husbands strive to avoid both self-centered control and worldly authoritarianism, and seek to exemplify the self-sacrificial servant-leadership demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ toward his bride, the church. Wives, strive to avoid both selfish independence or passive apathy in the marriage, and seek to exemplify the active, passionate submission that characterizes the church's love for its eternal groom, Jesus Christ."

(2) "To those couples who follow the egalitarian model: Strive to avoid a marriage characterized by indecision, and seek to lead and/or follow in the various areas of your marriage as God has gifted each of you. In all things, exemplify a heart-attitude of submission toward each other, after the pattern of self-sacrificial servanthood demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ toward our heavenly Father."

[Paul again] Well what do you know!!. Here are some Christians who have banded together in fellowship around a person, the Lord Jesus, and the sharing of His message, instead of a set of rules or set positions on every imaginable difference of opinion theologically. Maybe koinonia IS possible in the twenty-first century Church made up of people who differ some even theologically. Just maybe! I hope so!

Paul B.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


"Respect" is often hard to define. I think the best relational working definition I've read is something along the lines that identify respect as simply the ability to appreciate the separateness of the other person and the ways in which they are unique, even with differing presented views on an issue, with an inherent right to those views. I like that working definition.

The sad fact is the closest many in today's society get to even thinking about respect is when they use that word in a polite [they think] spoken formula, preceding an expression of disagreement or criticism. This is probably said with the hope that it will to some degree mitigate the effect of the words of criticism about to be spoken. "With all due respect, I think you've totally missed the point." illustrates that quite well.  [No one for a moment believes respect is foremost on the speaker's mind.]

It is important to remember that respect is more of an attitude than an action and certain actions or words spoken may only REVEAL whether respect is present or absent in the person doing the actions or saying the words.

For example, if someone uses disrespectful language such as verbal stereotyping, ["Your kind always____"] or verbal taunting, [You wouldn't/couldn't____ if your life depended on it."]  or verbal absolutes, [You ALWAYS/you NEVER_____]  or any other word that is accusing, shaming or humiliating, they probably have little knowledge of the relational devastation in process at that moment. And the tragedy is, a single act or word of disrespect can have consequences that not only are immediate, but have the potential of lasting a life time as well.

The reason for the destructive nature of a failure to respect is because disrespect is the opposite of trust. To respect someone is to built trust in the relationship, while the reverse is just as true. Disrespect tears down trust.

May I add, as my son recently said in a blog post, comedy or jokes at the expense of others fits into the category of disrespect.  A joke that is told with the punch line revolving around someone else's ethnicity, personal appearance, or physical deformity is a total lack of respect. or one told with the punch line revolving around someone else's misfortune or problems in life, Jokes with punchlines around someone else's perceived stupidity or foolishness fits into the disrespect category as well.

Preachers are notorious for using humor in this fashion to make a point. Did I mention that trust of preachers is at an all-time low in the present day?

Someone may be thinking, "Well, what does respect look and sound like?" Each to his/her own, but I think respect looks like good manners; being courteous and polite in actions and words, speaking to others in a kind [as opposed to harsh] voice, adding to that voice, polite body language especially when in the presence of on-lookers. And if I use humor I will always try to make myself the brunt of it with rare exceptions.

It could be as simple as when Scripture says this,

"Everything, therefore, be what it may, that you would have men do to you, do you also the same to them;"  [Weymouth New Testament]

Albert Einstein said it simply and well when he said, "Let every person be respected as an individual and no person be idolized."

Paul B.

Monday, September 09, 2013


I have two fundamental reasons why I'm so personally opposed to racial profiling in particular, and racial bias or bigotry in general. My conscience will not permit me to say, as so many do that, because African-Americans  [Or Asians, or Jews, or Hispanics] are guilty of high drug use, high unwanted pregnancies, high abandonment rate of children, or any other thing that could be named, that that's reason enough to profile them or treat them differently. That kind of illogical thinking is inherently wrong and doesn't pass the smell test at all. That's like saying a person has to earn their value and significance as a human being by being in a group that is low in categories such as those mentioned. Good luck with that kind of pragmatic thinking as a way of life. 

But my problem with bigotry and racism is founded on two basic premises or reasons. One is personal and the other is Constitutional.

The personal reason is because of my Christian faith. I now hold to a moral standard that is informed by my seeing life through Christ-colored glasses. Remember that to Him there was/is no Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free, as Paul ultimate made clear to the Galatians. That isn't speaking of biology of course, but it IS speaking about seeing all people as Jesus saw them then and sees them now. That is as being equal in value and significance because of the stamp of God's image upon them, which will not permit us to make judgments based on skin color, gender, nationality or even some behavior that is frowned upon by our culture.

The Christian brand of morality sees such JUDGMENTS based on skin-color or ethnicity as immoral and beneath the standard of behavior for Kingdom kids. It's the "Sheet" principle Peter had to learn when he came to know that God's view of people was different than was Peter's own. This "sheet" was necessary to open him up to the gospel being given to the gentiles. [Acts 10:11-16] This is reason enough for me to question the actions of anyone who would profile, devalue, or despise a person based on skin color, religion or ethnicity. 

But I have another reason too.

I'm thinking that racial bigotry or profiling won't stand the test of our Constitution. I know all about how it was written originally viewing the African American population as less than human and how the Bill or Rights [the first 10 amendments] and the some 27 total amendments were needed to correct those kinds of things.

The Constitution wound up being finally crafted on the principle of treating all American citizens as equals in their standing before the law. This embodies the right of all American citizens to a presumption of innocent, rather than guilt, in that standing. This is our bedrock of constitutionalism. With this bedrock our system protects, to the chagrin of many, the interests of even the most vile of offenders and affords them due process. How, then, could we condone anyone’s rights being violated MERELY BECAUSE of a racial, religious or ethnic group affiliation or behavior less than acceptable?

It must not happen! 

We may have to sometimes sacrifice SOME of our cherished civil liberties as Americans in the name of security, [think security checks at airports]  but such times of sacrifice should treat all of us as equals. A system which would allow or condone an active discrimination against some of its citizens, or even non-residents within her borders, because of a profiling as a group, fails in the goal of an equal society. Worse, it promotes group identity, singling out some merely because of a particular identifying mark as, say, skin color or ethnicity. According to our Constitution, that is un-American.

So, as a Christian, I'm unable to allow for racial bigotry in any way to be a part of my lifestyle. The gospel of Christ is still the greatest weapon for the solving of the racial bias that is so rampant, it seems to me. My primary goal then, as a member of the Kingdom of Christ, is the presenting of that gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, to all men everywhere with the clear knowledge that His Kingdom is NOT of this world and transcends all national borders and citizenships. I must not lose this primary focus. 

But, I'm thinking, as an American citizen, a continual awareness that discrimination in any fashion is contrary to our Constitution as well, and to be willing as an American citizen to get involved in correcting it when and where it is found, especially on the part of the privileged whites, which includes me, could be a blessing in the making of our American society a better place to live for all peoples within our borders. 

I like the way John Fogerty's new song says it, "Don't You Wish It Were True."