"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Defense of the Enid News & Eagle's Endorsement of Hillary Clinton on the Basis of a Higher Principle


I voted for Donald Trump.

For many people, including some of my own family members, the fact I voted for Donald Trump is upsetting. But as an American citizen who participates in the political process, I vote for a President every four years. This year I voted for Donald Trump.

I live in Enid, Oklahoma where the editorial board of the Enid News and Eagle, Enid's city newspaper, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. In the 2012 Presidential Election, not one of Oklahoma's 77 Counties voted for Obama. Very few people in the city of Enid were going to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One would assume the newspaper's editorial would know this fact. 

I pastor a large, conservative evangelical church in Enid. I preach the good news of Jesus Christ every Sunday and dare not stain the gospel with politics. However, in our day of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, a pastor would have to be blind and deaf not to know the preferences and personal biases of church members, whether it be about politics, entertainment or religion. I'm well aware that many people in the church I serve have been upset with the Enid News and Eagle's endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times recently reported on Enid's newspaper's endorsement of Hillary Clinton with the headline "It Hasn't Been Forgiven." The Enid News and Eagle lost at least 162 annual subscriptions and nearly a dozen business advertisers over its support of Hillary Clinton. A few people angered by the endorsement are quoted in the New York Times. These offended folks may be strangers to many, but they are friends of mine. 

In the early 20th century, a young man named Marquis James left his work at the newspaper in Enid, Oklahoma and went on to become a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author, eventually moving to New York, to help establish The New Yorker magazine. Now a New York newspaper is coming back to Enid suggesting that the people of Enid "have not forgiven" its local newspaper for the endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

I suggest there is nothing to forgive.

There is a greater principle at stake for all of us.  The freedom of expression, or better known in America as "the freedom of speech," is at stake. This fundamental principle guarantees that all people live in true freedom. The First Amendment to the United States Consitution states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." 

ABC News is reporting that at least 1,656 people have been arrested in Turkey for posting on social media their support of political candidates other than those already in power. That's what happens in a country where there is no freedom to speak one's mind. 

Some might object by saying, "But we are angry at a newspaper, not a government!" Yes, but we the people are America's government. That's what our Founding Fathers made very clear in America's Constitution.

If "we the people" force a newspaper to endorse only those whom we want them to endorse, or if a newspaper writes only those articles that we the people want them to write, then that newspaper ceases to operate in perfect freedom and becomes a public relations magazine for a community. The city of Enid has a Public Relations firm. We need our newspaper operating differently than a PR firm. 

It matters not if the weapon is a bullet or billfold, for a government (people) to exert tight control over what a person or institution is allowed to write or say is a loss of freedom to any community. None of us should want a newspaper who sacrifices its institutional integrity on the altar of community comfort. There is a higher principle at stake, and that's why I will defend the Enid News and Eagle and their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. 

A few years ago our church leadership made a decision on the basis of principle. We knew that for the good news of Jesus Christ to reach more people in an ever changing world, we would have to change our methodologies. Some older methods of conveying the gospel were shut down. New methods were begun. The truth didn't change, but the manner in which it was communicated did. Our leadership knew that if our methodologies didn't change, people would wake up one day, look around, and ask "Where did everybody go?" The answer is "New people were never reached." 

So changes came to the church I pastor.  New methods meant discomfort to some. But church leadership pressed forward because there was a higher principle at stake. We exist for the purpose of reaching the most people with Good News, not for the comfort of those people who already know the news. Our church is now reaching more people with the Good News than ever before. Some members uncomfortable with the changes left, taking their money with them. The cost of living by principle is sometimes steep. Yet, in the end, all of us must respect any institution which places higher regard on fundamental principles than community comfort.  

So, Enid News and Eagle, this subscriber who voted for Trump will keep my subscription out of respect for the higher principle of freedom of speech.

POST PUBLISHING EDIT (Again): Jeff Funk, Publisher of the Enid News and Eagle called me and told me that the editorial endorsement for Hillary Clinton was written by him using bullet points from CNHI, and after discussing the issue with Jeff (who was very gracious), I believe Jeff and Rob wrote the editorial reflecting their personal beliefs. Without the encouragement of CNHI, Jeff Funk would have most likely not endorsed anyone, but any implication that the editorial was not Jeff's opinion and expressed his personal beliefs is off-base. I stand by this article that we should defend freedom of speech. 

The Greatest Gifts Are Those I Receive from God


Merry Christmas! 

As we open our Christmas presents, we would do well to pause and consider that the Bible teaches the greatest gifts we'll ever receive are the gifts given to us from God. A general meditation on these unique gifts will bring some real Christmas cheer.

1. "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!" (II Corinthians 9:15).

This inexpressible gift from God is His Son Jesus Christ. Understanding when God gave us His Son ("while we were still sinners" - Romans 5:8), how God gave us His Son ("freely and graciously" - Romans 8:32), and why God gave us His Son ("for God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son" - John 3:16) becomes our incentive to love freely and give generously to someone unworthy. Until I find my soul's satisfaction in God's inexpressible gift, I'll never never be able to give my soul to someone else in unconditional love. Talking about this inexpressible gift on Facebook is not the evidence I have it, for it is inexpressible.  Jesus gives us the evidence we truly have received Him as a gift when He said,  "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, when you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).

2. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

When is the last time we've heard a sermon on "life eternal," or immortality? Some of the best Hollywood movies are about man's search for immortality, but for whatever reason, Christians wrongly assume that all men are inherently immortal. Not so, according to the Bible. Immortality is a gift. As Martin Luther put it, "We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, "Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment and be with Him forever." (The Christian Hope, 1594, p. 37). Immortality is a gift to those with faith in Christ. The wicked will be raised, judged for their sins, and then handed over to "the second death" (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14). "Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." (C.T. Studd). Thinking about my life for eternity puts into perspective some of my low points in history.

3. "For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).

R.C. Sproul tells the story of walking the streets of Philadelphia and being stopped by a young man who asked, "Sir, tell me, are you saved?" Sproul, realizing the young man was a Christian street evangelist, asked him "Saved from what?" The young evangelist stammered and stuttered, not quite sure how to answer. Let's be clear about it.  God told His people in Leviticus 26:27-28 - "But if you walk contrary to Me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury." Let's be very clear. We all need deliverance from God's righteous fury against our selfish sins. We have it. It's a gift. Deliverance from God's righteous fury for walking contrary to God's will in this world is a gift of grace through faith in Christ's work, not my own works. The greatest evidence that I have received this gift is that I continually give this same grace of forgiveness to others who walk contrary to me (Matthew 6:15).

4. "...you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God is indeed a great gift. At salvation, God grants His Spirit to abide in me, for I become "the Temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit's indwelling presence in me brings forth "the fruit of the Spirit," which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Notice, this gift of the Spirit brings the "fruit" (singular) of the Spirit. I can't be good without love; I can't be gentle without self-control, I can't be patient without kindness. In other words, I can't pick and choose among "nine fruits," for it is but one "fruit of the Spirit." The fruit becomes my character. The evidence I've received this great gift is in the fruit-pudding (pardon the pun).

5. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). 

All the good things in my life come from God. The difference between good and perfect is important. Good means "that which is benevolent in its character." Perfect means "something which is complete, or whole." Here is the remarkable thing "good and perfect gifts" in my life. Some things that come my way that are not good. They are evil and painful, not good and comforting. Yet, my Father is able "to work all things for my good" (Romans 8:28), In times of seemingly awful problems and unbearable pain, I need to remember that the complete story of my life has not yet been written by my Father. Everything that comes my way (even the evil that does not originate from Him),  God perfectly orchestrates (that's the Greek word for "works" in Romans 8:28) for my ultimate good.

These five gifts from God are the greatest gifts I'll ever receive. 

And they make for a Merry Christmas indeed.

The God Who Blinds Works Within Human Minds

"The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see 
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 4:4)




Orthodox Jews call the fallen angel who deceived Adam and Eve by the name "Samael" - a compound name which means "the god who blinds." Paul, a teacher of the Jewish Law, may very well be referring to Samael in his second letter to Christians living in the city of Corinth when he mentions "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving" (II Corinthians 4:4).

We may think we understand physical blindness, but what does it mean for someone to be "blind in the mind"? 

If a physically blind person has never experienced the ability to see, he's hard-pressed to describe the pain of his blindness. Those who've first tasted of sight before going blind can easily describe their pain over the absence of light. 

So too, the person blind in the mind from birth has little ability to understand "the light of the glorious good news in Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:4). He can't describe what he doesn't have because he doesn't know what it is he's missed.

So how does the "god who blinds" keep a person from seeing the beauty of this life through receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?

A blind mind remains blind through a shared apathy. When blind people get together, they help and encourage one another, and convince themselves nothing else is needed, particularly any talk about a cure. Life is what it is. Those apathetic about Christ often gravitate toward others apathetic about Him. The blind in the mind don't care about any alleged good news. They're blind. They don't know they are, and the last thing they want is for someone to feel sorrow for them.

Then a blind mind continues in blindness through a strong enmity. When the good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned to one "blind in the mind," apathy turns  quickly to enmity. Anger toward the message of Christ is only secondary to animosity toward the person sharing the good news of Christ. Blind in the mind people don't like it pointed out they're blind and need the Light.

Finally, a blind mind remains blind through a substitute ecstasy. This, to me, is the most tell-tale sign of blindness. When I get my joy, my happiness,  my purpose,  my identity, or my hope in something other than Jesus Christ and the love of God for me in Christ, then I am "blind in the mind." However, when the anchor of hope for my life is Jesus Christ, I see this life the way it's meant to be seen, for I have found my source of contentment from the One thing I will never lose - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius had a servant follow him around and whisper in his ear, "Remember yourself mortal," when people became effusive in their praise of the emperor.

I wonder if every time we have apathy toward the Person and work of Jesus Christ, or when we find ourselves angry over the teachings of Christ, or during those times we lose ourselves in the idolatry of finding our happiness and security in things other than Christ, if God might send someone to whisper in our ears, "Remember yourself blind."

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel - Jacob

Someone recently pointed out to me that years ago in small groups, whether it be Sunday School or independent Bible studies, Christians would talk openly about the dangers of living like a Pharisee. It seems, however, that many of us in evangelical churches struggle with a subtle rise of Pharisaical feelings toward sinners who cry for mercy from God. Jesus taught on this subject very clearly in Luke 18:9-14
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Some might ask, "But is not the shame and guilt of sinners such that God would want us not associate with them, even if they cry out for mercy from God?"

I am reminded of the story of Jacob. He lied and deceived the people closest to him. He sought instant gratification instead of patiently finding contentment in his relationship with God. He failed his family, including his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. He was by adulthood, in almost every sense of the word, a failure. 

Yet God loved him, and God pursued him.

In a wrestling match with God, Jacob found the very thing upon which he relied (his own strength), God broke. God crushed Jacob's hip. Literally, Jacob became a cripple. Yet, it was in his brokenness and through the crippling process that an utterly crushed Jacob "met God face to face." So it is that often in our brokenness and pain caused by sin we really meet our God. 

Interestingly, after the breaking, God changed Jacob's name to Israel. The lying, deceiving, and self-absorbed man God pursued became the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel, the chosen people of God in the Old Covenant.

Yet, throughout the Old Testament, when the prophets would urge the nation of Israel to repent, they never identified God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Why? It seems God Himself wished to be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Listen to how God revealed Himself to Moses and the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai - at the very moment of entering into a covenant with them.
"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Exodus 3:6
Israel is who Jacob became, but God kept Jacob's name before His people to remind them that He loves and pursues sinners. I believe it is always helpful for us to remember that God identifies as the God of sinners who cry for mercy.

He is the God of Jacob.

Giving Others Endless Mercy and Unrelenting Love

We sing a song in REFUGE written by our friend Lauren Daigle. It's entitled Dry Bones, and it's much easier to vocalize with our singing mouths than it is to actualize in our sinful lives.

God of endless mercy,
God of unrelenting love.
Rescue every daughter,
Bring us back the wayward sons.


God of endless mercy. "The Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10), and therefore, "We approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we will receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of our need" (Hebrews 4:16).

God of unrelenting love. Unrelenting is defined as "never softening, or never letting up in vigor." The Scripture tells us God demonstrates His unrelenting love for us "In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). We who are wayward sons and reckless daughters (Dry Bones) are made alive "...because of His great unrelenting love for us and His rich mercy" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

We will often hear the word "godly" at church. "He's such a godly man," or "She's such a godly woman," or "They live such godly lives." We use the word, but I'm not sure we understand it. A godly person is one whose life mirrors God's endless mercy and unrelenting love. That's godliness. The Apostle Paul begs us in Ephesians 4:1 "to live a life consistent with our calling." Paul has spent the first three chapters of Ephesians describing God's endless mercy and unrelenting love toward us while we were yet still sinners.  Paul then begs us to live our lives consistent with (Greek: axios) our calling.

A few years ago a young man in our church left his wife. For a few weeks he pointed his finger at his wife as the cause for the break-up of their marriage, but he hid the fact that he had a secret girlfriend. When he finally revealed to me that there was another woman in his life, we asked him to step down from his leadership position at Emmanuel. He totally stopped coming. His shame was intense.

In a few months his divorce was finalized. This young man moved in with his girlfriend. His weight ballooned. He was in hiding from his former friends and from his former life. By his own admission, he was severely depressed. He eventually married his girlfriend, and he became the topic of conversation around many dinner tables, coffee shops, and community groups. People talked about him, but not to him.

I disciplined him.

The word discipline is rooted in the word disciple. For a year I discipled this young man. I texted him words of encouragement. I sent emails letting him know I missed him in church. Monthly I would ask him to lunch. Over barbeque sandwiches I would talk with him about his sin and how to reconcile with those he'd harmed. I was unrelenting in my love and endless in my mercy toward him. Discipline is not punishment; it's the same word used by the Greeks when mending a broken limb. After the mending, the broken bone is stronger than before it's brokenness.  

People might ask, "But did you disciple the people he'd harmed?"

People in pain don't need discipline, they need healing. Unrelenting love and endless mercy is for sinners. Those who see themselves as innocent victims and believe that the source of their pain and trouble is the sin of others need "the balm in Gilead" and "the leaves of the Tree of Life" (Jesus Christ) to bring healing.  So, the answer to the question is "Yes," I encouraged those wounded by the actions of this young man to find their security, identity and happiness in Christ alone. I desire always to be compassionate, patient and encouraging during the process of their healing. When life brings a left-hook that knocks us flat, the process of getting back up is seldom easy.

God seems to allow hurtful and painful events to bring me to the place of finding my personal security, identity and happiness solely in Him. When people I love, material possessions, or possibly even my stellar reputation is lost, I am forced to find my source in Christ.  The good news is that after Christ brings me healing, His power begins to flow through me. When my cups is truly filled up by Him, I find His endless mercy and unrelenting love for me beginning to spill out from me toward others.

When I am in pain, I will sometimes mistakenly attribute my healing to the actions of another person (e.g. the sinner).  "If he would only truly repent..." or "If she would only change her ways." For this reason, unrelenting love and endless mercy toward sinners sometimes will sometimes offend me, particularly if it is toward someone whose hurt me. It feels right (and natural) to run and shun. But God's ways are different than my ways. He's a God of endless mercy and unrelenting love.

My father recently shared with me that he tells people that "we should say what needs said, do what needs done, and live the way we ought to live with our focus "Never About The Outcome" (NATO)."  If we focus on the outcome - for example, whether other people are really changing, or whether my terrible circumstances are improving, or whether the sinner is sincerely repenting - then our focus is misplaced. Our gaze should always be inward, looking to see if we have within us  "His divine power that has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). If I can't give unrelenting love and endless mercy to sinners, as well as patience and compassion to the wounded, then somethings out of kilter within me.

One year ago, over lunch at a restaurant in North Enid, I asked this young man where he and his new wife were attending worship. He told me that recently they'd begun praying together, but they weren't attending corporate worship anywhere. I invited him to Emmanuel.

He looked at me intently and said, "Wade, if I walk in those doors, people will be offended. I've caused a lot of hurt."

I told him that worrying about the reactions of others is to ignore what is needed in his own life. Then I suggested, "When you come, walk down to the front of the church and you and your wife sit in the first three rows of the center section."

He looked at me incredulously. "Wade, people will be upset that we are even in church, not to mention we have the gall to walk to the front and sit."

I responded, "We bring prisoners to church every Sunday - we call them offenders. They sit on the first three rows. If anyone says anything to you about where you are sitting, just tell them, 'Wade invited us to come and we are sitting where the offenders sit.'"

Last Christmas this young man and his wife came - and sat where the offenders sat.

The process of bringing this man to repentance has been long and arduous. I have encouraged him to take ownership of his sin - quit blaming others for it - and seek forgiveness, resting in God's forgiveness of Him.  He has, but of course, there will be some who question whether his repentance is real or sincere. We can only live our lives consistent with our calling. God is responsible for the outcomes.

At least from my observation, through endless mercy and unrelenting love, this wayward son's dry bones have come alive.

Dry Bones should be more than just a song we sing on Sunday.


Christmas, the Trinity, Husbands and Wives

I have written before on the doctrinal error of the eternal subordination of the Son, but my father (Paul Burleson) has recently written an excellent post that shows how one's view of the Trinity affects your understanding of both Christmas and marriage! Read ... and enjoy!

Image result for Christmas garland

Christmas, the Trinity, Husbands and Wives
Paul Burleson

Christmas is coming. It's a celebration of Jesus coming to do a redemptive work. It's a mystery, but some things can be ruled in OR out of that mystery.

Some Christians have mistakenly applied a subordinate relationship to the persons of the Trinity in their eternal nature. I.e., even before the Logos became incarnate as Jesus born in Bethlehem, He was subordinate [they say] to God the Father, though the Persons of the Godhead were equal in essence or nature. Thus, [they say] a relationship of authority and submission, a kind of chain of command if you will, is present within the Trinity by nature. If the Son IS eternally begotten by the Father, then, they would say, His very existence in some way depends on the Father, thus the submission.

So the concept of eternal subordination would seem to be a natural corollary with this kind of thinking. And, for them, this leads to an interpretation of marriage that would make the husband LIKE the Father, ruling, and wives LIKE the Son, in submission, because [they say] the Son's submission is an ETERNAL thing. [But they're also forgetting that marriage has no eternality about it as there is no marriage in heaven.]

In my judgment this is NOT a correct understanding of the Incarnation. The many passages that could be cited that certainly do show the subordination of Christ to the Father are to be understood as a reference to the role of SERVANT which the Logos VOLUNTARILY assumed as a result of the incarnation. [Which, by the way, is to be the role of BOTH husband and wife to each other, SERVING one another. See Ephesians 5:21 resulting from the imperative in 5:18] There is no relationship of subordination among the three Persons of the Trinity before the Incarnation to be found in the scripture. It has to be ASSUMED because of our human view of Parent/Child relationships transferred on to an eternal level.

Assumptions cannot be allowed that would present a Son or Spirit with anything LESS [even authority] than the Father. Thus, the subordination of the Son to the Father is to be seen as FUNCTIONAL ONLY and ONLY for His earthly sojourn and not ONTOLOGICAL at all. [Within the nature of the Trinity] It has to do with the Son’s office and work on EARTH and not his PERSON in pre-time or post-time. [Eternity]

What we have in scripture is an Eternal-Sonship that is totally UNLIKE any sonship we have on planet earth. So whatever "submission" Jesus experienced on this earth to the Father was assumed and limited to His earthly sojourn. Jesus Christ the God-man, as the Son of Man, is the Father’s servant, and he does the will of the Father; but this is an aspect of the humiliation that he freely chose to endure for the sake of our salvation. It is NOT a testimony to His Eternal Nature OR FUNCTION as there is Eternal Equality in the Three Persons of the Godhead.