Tuesday, August 25, 2015


The following is a blog post by Wade Burleson that deserves a wide audience. I don't write on many current events, especially those dealing with moral failure, but this is of such a nature I believe it needs a wide reading. You may not agree with all the conclusions of Wade, or anyone else for that matter, but you'll be blest by his understanding of grace and law. I'll post it for the few who choose to come this way on blogs.

"I have been the biggest hypocrite ever." Those were the first public words from Josh Duggar after hackers released information that Mr. Duggar spent hundreds of dollars at Ashley Madison, a website designed for married people who desire to have extra-marital sexual affairs. Mr. Duggar, the former Vice-President of theFamily Research Council, had worked tirelessly in opposition to gay marriage, internet pornography, and other moral and social issues. All the while, Mr. Duggar lived a secret life of "pornography addiction...and marital infidelity." The public exposure of Mr. Duggar's duplicity - or to use his word, hypocrisy - has set Twitter and social media on fire.

Hackers released the email addresses and credit card usage of 32 million users of Ashley Madison - but the media is focusing like a laser beam on Josh Duggar. Why is there a media and cultural infatuation with a twenty-seven-year old Christian whose singular claim to fame is being the eldest son of a family featured on a second-rate reality television show? The Advocate, an online news organization promoting gay, lesbian and transgender lifestyles writes that the Duggars have "a long history of anti-LGBT" rhetoric and actions. The Duggars have promoted "family values" and have called homosexuality a sin. It seems that The Advocate and other media have the rationale that, "if readers can see the lies and hypocrisy of Josh Duggar's life, then surely they'll understand the lies and deception of Josh Duggar's words,"

That's why Josh Duggar has been singled out among 32 million Ashley Madison users. Those who don't like the idea that moral law actually comes from our Creator will seize on anything to convince themselves and others that there is actually no moral law from God. Promoting hypocrisy in the life of one who speaks freely of Divine law makes those who despise the concept of moral law feel better about the possibility that God's law doesn't even exist. It's not news when an atheist has an affair.

However, those who have singled out Josh Duggar from among the 32 million Ashley Madison users are probably ignorant of the fact that God's law was only designed to expose the problem within us and never designed to expunge the problem from us. I'm an evangelical preacher of the gospel. I'm not surprised by any moral failure in the life of any Christian who publicly, repeatedly and consistently promotes God's laws to the world. Not only am I not surprised; I expect it. No matter how loudly, boldly and publicly one proclaims that adultery and homosexuality is a violation of God's moral law, Divine law has no power to remove desires for adultery or homosexuality from within the heart.

God's Law Changes Nobody, It Only Scars

God declares adultery to be a violation of His moral standard. "You shall not commit adultery," God says (Exodus 20:14). Solomon wrote, "the person who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does it destroys his or her own life" (Proverbs 6:32). Likewise God calls homosexuality "an abomination," a violation of His intention for the world (Leviticus 18:22). Paul says those who commit homosexuality have "taken the truth of God and exchanged it for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25).

God's law was given to expose corruption in the heart and to restrain actions by the sinner; but it was never designed to expunge corruption from the heart or to reverse actions by the sinner. The law is powerless to change us. "But we know that the law is good, if one uses it the way it was intended, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:8–11).

The law scars. It might restrain, but the person restrained by law is scarred by the battle to throw it off. Sadness, unhappiness, despair, depression and all other emotions that bubble up when being held or restrained from obtaining the very thing the heart wants will lead the sinner to fight against God's restraints (the law). Let me illustrate this principle.

Odysseus, the great captain of the seas in ancient Greece, knew that the island of the Sirens was an island to be avoided. The beautiful half-naked, woman-like creatures who inhabited the island would sing their beautiful songs to entice sailors to enter their port. The Sirens would then attack the sailors, maiming and killing them before consuming their bodies. To avoid this sensuous but deadly island, Odysseus ordered his men to bind him with ropes, to put wax in their own ears, and then ordered the sailors to tighten the ropes when they saw their captain fighting against them. As Odysseus and his men sailed by the island of the Sirens, Odysseus heard the beautiful music and wanted with all his might to swim to the Sirens. He fought against the ropes. The sailors, with wax in their ears, tightened the ropes. Odysseus fought harder. He would later say,

"I became desperate to plunge into the sea." The sailors used the ropes to restrain Odysseus, and the ship eventually sailed by the island of the Sirens, avoiding certain destruction and death of Odysseus and his men.

But Odysseus was scarred for life. The ropes couldn't change his desires; they only prevented him from obtaining them. The legacy of fighting against the restraints could be seen on the physical scars he bore.

God's law is like the ropes that constrained Odysseus. It may be used to bind others, as a civil society may choose restraints in the form of laws that prohibit adultery and homosexuality (as America once did), but those others will fight against those laws until they are thrown off, because law cannot change the heart.

This is why it should never be surprising to any of us when those who advocate tightening the ropes wind up falling into the sea themselves.

God's Riches in Christ Is Beautiful Music Indeed

So how do we actually change? How do we avoid the Ashley Madison websites of this world? How do we say no to our addictions? How do we sail by the island of the Sirens? What has the power to change us?

According to the New Testament, the only thing powerful enough to change us from the inside/out is the riches of God's grace toward us in Jesus Christ. It's never the law of God that convinces a man to change his life; it's the grace and goodness of God in Christ that has the power to change the human heart.

We must become captivated by a sweeter, more beautiful song.

Going back to Greek mythology, Jason was another captain who sailed the Aegean sea. He and his men, the Argonauts, had also heard that the island of the Sirens was beautiful but deadly. Unlike Odysseus, Jason didn't sail by the island bound by ropes and with wax in his men's ears. Jason asked Orpheus, the greatest musician in the world, to sail with him and his men. When they came near to the island of the Sirens, Orpheus began playing his music. Jason and his men were so captivated by what they heard from Orpheus that when the Sirens began singing their songs, they sailed right on by because their hearts were captured by more beautiful music.

This is what the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ does for us. It's a sweeter song. The problem is that many who name Christ as Lord often seemed more concerned with tightening the ropes than creating beautiful music.

Yesterday I performed a funeral service for an elderly woman who died of Alzheimer's disease. I chose as my text God's incredible promise to those who trust His Son: "I will remember your sins and iniquities no more" (Hebrews 8:12). I explained that God's forgetfulness, unlike Alzheimer's, is intentional, personal, and eternal. When you begin to live in the knowledge of God's forgetfulness of all those times you "missed the mark" (sin) as a spouse, person, parent, etc... then you can relate to God not out of fear nor "obedience to any law," but in the knowledge of His great grace for you in Jesus Christ. After the message, a couple unfamiliar with true Christianity, told me that the message had "changed their lives." God's grace is the only thing powerful enough to change lives.

Life lived to its fullest comes from listening to the beautiful music that is struck by the chords of God's riches in Christ. Even when we screw up intentionally and wickedly (i.e.. "iniquity"), God forgets it because Jesus died for it. That's rich grace; and it alone will change our hearts, The music of grace causes us to lose desire for the lesser pleasures of sin and iniquity. Our lives change when we begin to feel that God's grace for us is more beautiful, more pleasurable, more captivating, and more enticing than our sin.

When I come to realize that I can jump into the sea and He'll never hold it against me, and when I come to understand that if I jump for a lesser pleasure I'm acting senselessly by abandoning my only real Treasure, and when I find myself swimming to a lesser pleasure that will ultimately only destroy me, then maybe it's time for me to ask why I'm not being captivated by the beautiful music of God's grace in Jesus Christ?

If, however, I hear the beautiful music of grace, and if I begin to walk in the deep and unconditional love of God for me, then I indeed discover that I need no illicit love to fill my heart. And if I come to revel in the sweetness of God's intentional and personal forgiveness of me, then I find the power to throw off any addiction that helped me deal with the pain and guilt of my failures. And if I come to understand that God, who spared not His own Son for me, will freely, daily and cheerfully give me everything I need, then I will be unable to find any reason to spend time worrying about tomorrow.

I have Him.

The Beautiful Music of God's Grace in Christ Changes the Heart

Ephesians 2:7 ... God sent His Son so "that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Romans 9:23... God gave us His Son "make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy..."

Ephesians 1:7... "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace."
I Timothy 1:14... "and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus."

John 10:10...Jesus said, "the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and that you might have life at its fullest."

If you've understood what I've written above, you understand my life's message. I'm not sure if it's clear to you or not, but after reading about Josh Duggar this morning, I felt compelled to write for those Duggars out there not yet caught.

Real change comes from rich grace.

Wade Burleson

Wade's words are not easily understood on this. Read it again if you must. But my hope is the song of true grace will be truly understood.

Paul B.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Country singer John Conlee has produced some great songs. I don't like all country music just like I don't like all gospel music. The lyrics and beat have a lot to do with whether I like a song regardless of the genre.

"The Old School" is a Conlee song that tells the story of high school love that is lost as she goes for a career after graduation and marries for money while he drives a truck and raises a family. Her marriage fails. His thrives. Reunion time comes. She asks for a dance. As they glide across the floor an exchange is sung this way by Conlee...

"It could be like old times__
you ask if I understand you__
well yes__ I'm afraid I do__
you say everyone does it__ 
I don't care if they do__
"I'm of the old school."

In that sense the "old school" is the old-fashioned way of viewing immorality and the keeping of marriage vows. I say 'hooray' for the old school and for John Conley. [Although he's just singing about it at the moment.]

But if you move the "old school" idea out of the realm of morality and placed it along side the "new school" comparing it to new ways of thinking about things that are merely cultural or things the bible doesn't speak with total clarity on, it isn't that simple. The "old school" isn't always right because it's old and the "new school" isn't always wrong because it's new.

Also, in the issues where the scriptures do speak, often new insight into the meaning of Greek words, a better understanding of the context of a passage or better understanding of the historical situation may enable one to move from an old school of thought and embrace a new school of thought and be honest, biblical and correct in doing so. [And it not be heretical at all]

With that in mind, I want to look at what I perceive to be "old school" "new school" ways of thinking about several issues and try to track why I personally may have moved from one school to the other or, in fact, stayed with the "old school." It's a given for me! The "old school" is not always right because it's old and the "new school" is not always wrong because it's new. And vice-versa!

Take a simple thing like manners. The "old school" of thought has caused me to open doors for women, rise when a woman joins us at a table or our group and remove my baseball cap inside a building such a restaurant or church facility.

The "new school" of thought is different. At a Starbucks recently I held the door open for a young woman and she glared at me as she said "I can do it for myself." It was obvious to me she had felt the indignity of in-equality heaped upon her by our culture in the home or workplace and certain actions shouted out to her that she was considered less as a person, helpless and feminine in gender to boot.

Add it all together and what she was hearing me say by what I was doing was, "That sweet little helpless thing needs a man to help her." But she was not having any of that. My response to her was literally an embarrassed "Sorry, I'm of the old school." I don't think she cared where I went to school or how long ago it might have been, she neither needed nor wanted my help. The fact that my gesture had a different purpose and intention behind it was fine for me to know, but it didn't help my moment of interaction with her.

Now. I could argue that I was right [old school] and her new way of thinking was wrong [new school] and her thinking was destroying manners in our society. The truth is, it was a cultural moment and no right or wrong way of doing or thinking was involved at all. Just different ways of doing and thinking. If I had gotten angry or had shown my displeasure with her or projected myself to the head of the table [above her] in my assessment of character based on that exchange, I would have effectively declared war on her and her culture of new thought and that declaration of war would be known by all because my attitude would leak...profusely. For me to ever impact her and her culture with the gospel would be practically impossible were I to persist in that attitude of war.

One more example. Removing your baseball cap. I'm of the "old school." I still find it difficult to wear one inside a cafe, I do...but it has taken a while to experience freedom in doing so. I still can't keep it on in a church building. I think it shows respect to remove it in a church gathering and there may even be some sense of a respectful atmosphere in it's removal although there is certainly no clearly stated command to do so that I can find. But it just feels right to me. It's my generation I'm sure. We're "old school" you see.

Young people today are of a "new school" of thinking. A baseball cap to a young man today is a bit like his pants, no matter how dirty, they are NEVER to be removed except at night in order to stand them in the corner until the next day. When a young man leaves his cap on in church I could tell him to "take it off in the house of God," as one deacon did that I heard about. But it's said that the teen-ager responded, "Sir, this cap is ON the House of God." [While hoping he didn't mean to be disrespectful, I'm thinking the kid had better theology than the deacon don't you?]

In elevating an "old school" of thought on manners as that deacon did about the hat on in church to an ought/should/must, may be seen as another declaration of war to our culture [new school/cultural thinking] and a door can be heard slamming shut to the gospel being effectively shared with a young man and much of his generation.

Don't hear me saying we can't establish boundaries and even request young men to remove their hats in church, but it might be wise to do so on a cultural or personal basis rather than a right/wrong moral basis. If we're angry, judgmental, or condemning of their actions...it leaks...as I said.

I might request that for the worship hour hats be removed out of respect for our gathering unless there is a personal reason or conviction against removing it which would be understood and respected as well. In such a case, feel free to not remove it.

Were I to do this, I probably would do it regularly as a teaching moment when someone's hat isn't an issue, much as I do with my statement "crying babies are like good intentions, it would be a help to everyone if they are carried out immediately." I DON'T declare that in the middle of a crying session. Or I might choose to NOT make a big deal about it at all. But, as I say, it's hard for me not to. "Old school" remember.

Someone may be wondering why I even mention such mundane matters as manners. It is to establish a principle of relating to people who are different in cultural attitudes. They are not the enemy. If I consider them to be, that carries over into major things rather quickly.

People are important and my view of a lot of things is not the right view because it's mine and is of the "old school." It has to pass muster with whether or not my view is, in fact, something clearly biblical or whether it is my "old school" cultural thinking and is still just that.. cultural.

If it is JUST cultural, things have a way of changing culturally and it may be legitimate to move from the "old school" to the "new school" of thought and know you would NOT be bankrupting your Christianity at all.

Baseball caps on in church is mundane perhaps. But styles of worship? Marriage? The pulpit and politics? Preaching exegetically or topically? Do we tend toward making sacred certain things that are not__in fact__sacred at all? May it not be just cultural? [Just a different one than the present.]

We may be unnecessarily declaring war on our culture if we are not careful and hinder the gospel because we wind up being more committed to an old school of thought than we are to Jesus and His message.

In other words, I could be Baptist with a certain view of things and think of it as Christianity and it not be biblical at all. Just some of my "old school" Baptist thinking that is, in fact, only cultural. Old culture. MY old culture.

Bottomline? I would say this.......

One__People are important. Maybe MORE important than my old Baptist culture even.

Two__We're NOT at war with people and their ideas automatically even if they AREN'T Christian.

Three__It is POSSIBLE to be "old school' and more cultural than Christian and not even know it.

While accusing others [splinter in the eye] of embracing culture into their Christianity, some of us may have a 2 by 4 in ours. More later..

Paul B.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


When something is characterized with the phrase "that's a given" or "it's a given" it means that whatever the something is, it's so "obvious" that no one really needs to point it out. It's already "accepted as fact."

I'm going to mention over the next few posts some things that are "a given" for me personally. Let's see if you agree!

It's a given for me that there is a difference between "discrimination" and "differentiation."

To differentiate between male and female, for example, as to public restrooms with certain products and equipment [I'm sure you understand what I mean here] would NOT be a diminishing of one or the other at all. Thus, no discrimination is involved. [Assuming the restrooms of both are equal in NEEDED facilities and necessities.] THAT is just recognizing differences.

There ARE differences between a male person and a female person after all. 

I AM glad, I might add, that diaper changing stations having been added to men's facilities in our present day, since we are fathers to our children and need to know how to do our share of parenting to them, is a welcome thing. [Every dad needs to know how to change his kid's dirty.] I'm even glad birthing rooms in hospitals now permit fathers [if they can handle it] to be present and wish it had been so in our day. It wasn't!

That said, as an aside here, to make ARTIFICIAL differences between men and women with statements like "a women shops but a man hunts when in a department store," is to make a general statement that may not be true at all. Another stated difference often made as an absolute is "Men are logical and women are emotional." It is, frankly, the opposite with Mary [my wife for those who don't know] and me. As to the first, I'm the shopper while she's the hunter. As to the second, I'm more emotional while she's more logical. [Though she is quite emotional at times and I'm even logical at times..but we're both a little bit surprised and are likely to call attention to it when either happens. :)] 

But I'll stop there before someone thinks she's Paul and I'm Mary. 

So there certainly are basic differences, particularly biological, between men and women, but to teach in marriage seminars that in some artificial way things are "always" this way or that way may do a great disservice to some couples and their marriages. 

But that's DIFFERENTIATION and, while acknowledging the biological differences, it would be helpful for artificial ones to NOT to be pressed as absolutes.

However, DISCRIMINATION is a horse of a different color entirely. THAT is more of a judgment made on the bases of some difference that produces the demeaning of someone BECAUSE of those differences and would be robbing them of some of their value as a human being because of that judgment. That, my friend, is discrimination.

[I'm not addressing the legal aspect of discrimination that is regulated by law of Supreme Court decisions which is a post for another day.] 

Racial and gender discrimination are the two classic examples. Others could be mentioned such as age, ethnic origin or even social and economic discrimination as well. [James mentions giving the preferred seat to one of wealth as opposed to the poor as a no-no.] But it is in the first two areas that such discrimination is blatantly unchristian and anti-scriptural to the core. Jesus certainly refuted and laid to rest ANY such discrimination as this in His life and ministry where men as well as women, bond as well as free followed and served with Him. It was even stated in Acts that the New Kingdom would find "Jews and Gentiles" and "sons and daughters" sharing equally in Kingdom stuff.

I'm thinking that when taking our relationship to Christ seriously, it's a given that to be discriminatory as to race, gender or even social status wouldn't be permitted. In other words, all those differences about which we tend to be so discriminatory in our culture just wouldn't matter when we properly understand the grace that brings us into the Kingdom.

Paul B.