Today, December 27, 2006 I am celebrating my forty-fifth birthday. Rachelle and I will probably head to the Bricktown in Oklahoma City and eat at our favorite restaurant, Nona's, and spend a few hours shopping and watching a movie. There won't be any gifts since my plasma television for Christmas shot my personal gift budget for the next five years -- but it's worth it all as I watch Sportscenter in HDTV as I type this post.
Birthdays are not usually a big deal for me, but this particular one has caused me to reflect a moment or two on year forty-five of my life.
One of the first books I read as a Christian was Henry Bullinger's "Numerology in Scripture." It made a deep impression when I read it many years ago, and though I would not press too hard on insisting that each number in Scripture always holds a specific spiritual meaning, it is fun to notice the significance of numbers in Scripture. The meaning of the first ten numbers, according to Bullinger, are as follows:
One -- God
Two -- Division
Three --- The Trinity
Four --- Creation
Five --- Grace
Six --- Sin or Evil
Seven --- Divine Completion
Eight --- Superabundance
Nine --- Judgment
Ten --- Government
There are several larger numbers in Scripture with significant meanings including Twelve, Twenty-Four, Forty, Seventy, One Hundred Twenty, One Thousand, etc . . .
But the number that catches my attention today is the number forty-five. Forty-five is significant, writes Bullinger, because it is an emblem of 'grace without measure.' It is a multiple of three (God in His Triune Nature) and five (Grace), three times over.
Breaking my life down into three segments would look like this:
Fifteen years ago today --- December 27, 1991 --- I celebrated my thirtieth birthday and my wife and I made our first trip to Enid, Oklahoma to visit with the pulpit committee of Emmanuel Baptist Church at a local hotel. I was only twenty-nine when they began visiting with me in November of 1991 about becoming their pastor. I had just turned thirty when they issued the official call for me to come 'in view of a call' on February 2, 1992. In reviewing the last fifteen years at Emmanuel, Enid some really incredible things have happened in both ministry and family. We cannot fathom finer people than those at Emmanuel, and though it often sounds trite, I can honestly say it still feels to Rachelle and me that we are in a ministry 'honeymoon' our church. This city is considered 'home' to our children, and the church will always be considered by us as 'family.' God has truly been extraordinarily gracious to the Burlesons -- one might even say He has given us 'grace without measure.'
Thirty years ago today --- December 27, 1976 --- I celebrated my fifteenth birthday. My brother, two sisters, and my mom and dad had just moved to Fort Worth, Texas where my father accepted the pastorate of Southcliff Baptist Church, just a few miles from Southwestern Theological Seminary. For the next several years my father, Paul Burleson, had a tremendous ministry to hundreds of seminary students who are now scattered all over the world serving Christ. I graduated from high school in Forth Worth in 1980, attended Baylor University and was called my sophomore year to became the summer youth intern at First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma.
Over the next two and one half years I served as the summer youth intern, full time youth minister, associate pastor, interim pastor and then was ultimately called to be the full time teaching pastor of First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma at the tender age of twenty two -- a progression from summer youth intern to pastor in a little under two years. I stayed at First Baptist, Holdenville, Oklahoma for a total of five wonderful years and was eventually called to Sheridan Road Baptist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma in June, 1987 at the age of twenty five. Our ministry at Sheridan Road, Tulsa also lasted five years, and it was while serving as pastor in Tulsa that I first became involved in police chaplaincy work. Those initial ten years of pastoral ministry, first at FBC Holdenville and then later at Sheridan Road Baptist Church, Tulsa, were just as fulfilling and wonderful to us as the last fifteen.
It was, of course, during this fifteen year time period that I met my beautiful wife Rachelle at Baylor University and we eventually married on August 6, 1983. God gave us during three wonderful children during this time (our caboose, Logan, was born in 1993), and our formative years as a family were definitely years of grace.' The relationships we developed during this time at our two places of ministry carry with us even to this day --- it has truly been 'grace without measure.'
Forty-five years ago today --- December 27, 1961 --- I came into this world at Edmond Municipal Hospital in Edmond, Oklahoma. I had been due the week of Thanksgiving, so by the time I was born two days after Christmas I came out reading the newspaper.
I was the second of what would eventually be four Burleson kids. During my first fifteen years of life, my father completed his seminary degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastored at a very small church near Hugo, Oklahoma; Trinity Baptist Church, Seminole, Oklahoma, First Baptist Church, St. Joe, Texas; Fairway Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas; and First Baptist Church, Borger, Texas.
My most vivid memories of childhood come from St. Joe, Texas where I attended kindergarten, Wichita Falls, Texas where I attended first grade through fifth grade from 1967 to 1972, and Borger, Texas where I attended middle school, moving to Fort Worth, Texas, my freshman year of high school.
I thank the Lord for my family, and can truly say that I am who I am today because of the influence my family had on me during my formative years of life.
My wife, Rachelle, told me today that nobody else but us would be interested in reading about the previous forty-five years of my life, and she very well may be right!
However, I could not let this day pass without remarking upon the fact that I truly believe I have received from God 'grace without measure' because of the wonderful places God has allowed us to minister.
Tomorrow I will be posting on the three major things God has taught me during the three different fifteen year time periods of my life.
Friday, as promised, Rachelle will be posting on her personal reflections regarding this past year.
Well, enough reflections on being forty-five. If the time passes as quickly as the last fifteen years it won't be long until I will post about what it feels to turn sixty!
God's richest blessings to you today!
In His Grace,