Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thoughts on Biblical Numerology at Age Forty-Five

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,

Wade Burleson


Jonathan K. said...

Happy Birthday, Wade. And many more, as well. :)

Alyce Lee said...

Happy B-day Wade. I've learned so much from you and I thank you. I know God is going to continue to bless your ministry in 2007.
I also look forward to hearing Rachelle post about her take on 2006. Press (post) on!

Bob Cleveland said...

Being the twisted soul that I am, I'm sending you a birthday present. It's the 1/21/06 issue of The Alabama Baptist. It features the biggest article I'd ever seen in it, 3 whole columns. It's about a certain IMB Trustee from Oklahoma.

That article lured me into the Wunnaful Wunnaful Woild of Blogging, and is therefore responsible for my introduction into All Things SBC.

So Happy Birthday.

Paul/Mary Burleson said...

As the person present at your birth forty-five years ago (and you're right, you were due November 15 and were born December 27), I was glad you finally decided to "leave your Mom" and come into the world. ;-)

You were a pleasure to raise, albeit you survived your upbringing and our mistakes. One of the most difficult things for me as a perfectionistic performer parent (now cured) was that you never had to study. Back then we were not as aware of gifted children as we are today. You were always smarter than your teachers, and it caused us some grief as we tried to deal with that. (Wish we had been smarter about your giftedness.)

Do you remember all through high school I would warn you that you weren't going to get away without studying in college. You would just laugh and tell me not to worry. Sure enough, you received the Scholar-Athlete award at the largest high school in Fort Worth.

And, you proved me wrong. You never had to study in college. It all came easily to you.

You have a brilliant mind and I'm proud of you the way you are using your whole being to honor God, to love and sojourn with Rachelle, to love and raise your children, and to pastor.

One final thought: One of the fun things about you, as we discussed last night, is your sense of humor and love of practical jokes. We have many fun memories of all the pranks you've pulled on your siblings, sometimes on your parents, and often on your friends.

One of my goals in life is to "get you" just once as good as you've gotten me too many times. Heads-up!!

Love you, and Happy Birthday!

Mike & Cherri said...

Happy Birthday, Wade!!! I sure enjoy being your older sister and LOVED reading your reflections of being 45. Hard to believe we are coming up on 50!!! Thank you for being a support these years even though I've made some choices that you may not have made - I know I am loved and appreciated by you and Rachelle and THAT has been a lifeline through some difficult times.

Sure enjoy you and your family and missed our time together this Thanksgiving. Heard reports that you kept it lively!!! And can't wait to play games with ya'll next year.

Thank you, too, for blogging. Mike & I love keeping up with you and yours through your blog. We have some GREAT discussions that stem from reading wadeburleson.com.

Love ya -
Proud to be your sister!!!


Nomad said...

Bro Wade,

God bless you on your birthday and for another year of serving Him!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy and profit from your blog because you share yourself as well as your ideas.

Thank you for this resource which means much to me, and Happy Birthday!

jasonk said...

I hear they still sing folk songs about you in the hills outside Holdenville. "He rose from intern to senior pastor in two years."

Bless you on your birthday.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! God bless your day and every day as you continue to serve Him. Thank you for keeping our Convention open and accountable for all Southern Baptists. God bless you!!!

volfan007 said...

hey wade, guess what? i turned 45 this month as well. my birthday was dec. 12. wow, we have so much in common. i too married a lovely woman that i met in college. i too have three wonderful children. we have so much in common its scary.

but, i would never listen to classical music....unless i had to. i prefer bluegrass, or southern rock. and, my favorite of course, is praise and worship music.

anyways, happy birthday.

from irenic volfan007

ps. i aint mad at nobody. not right now.

Pastor Steve said...

Happy Birthday Wade! I hope you have a great day

Scotte Hodel said...

Happy birthday! I'm a year behind ya. Congratulations, also, that your father enjoys your sense of humor! Most of my family just groans. Of course, the difference there may be that you're actually funny. :-)

Congratulations, and may God bless you in your year of "unlimited grace."

John Moeller said...


I'm just a few weeks older than you.... Have a great day, a wonderful dinner, and remember to; Work like you don't need money, Love like you've never been hurt, And dance like no one's watching.

Life is short, continue making a difference!

Debbie Kaufman said...

The happiest of birthdays Wade. I hope you and Rachelle do celebrate your 60th birthday and more as minister of Emmanuel Baptist.

Larry Thompson said...

When your father was at Southcliff in the late '70s, we used to teach our college class and sneak out periodically to hear your father preach. We usually had to sit in a folding chair in the aisle. It's funny to think you were probably there. I am 10 years older and still in Fort Worth. Enjoy your birthday and blessings on your continued ministry.

Paul/Mary Burleson said...


I try not to give my "two-cents" on your blog very often but feel I may be more than qualified here since I've been with you from the beginning of these 45 years as Mom mentioned above.

I could rave about each of you four Burleson kids since each one of you is my hero in a unique and special way, but this is your day.

I think "Grace" is the appropriate word to give to your first 45 years. You've not only biblically defined it with your words and theology, but you demonstrated in your life and relationships.

Several years ago I wrote the following in the fly-leaf of my Bible and I think it says it best.

"it is impossible and wrong to compile a manuel that can give "advance decisions" for all cases and issues that may arise in life. Such "decisions" are possible only within a "legalistic" framework rather than a "graceful " framework. Man is to be the acting subject rather than the object/agent/executor of a decision already made by others. It is characteristic of "legalism" that it impells from without thus making one perform rather than from within where the person is propelled by and wholly committed to the Law of Love written in the heart." Helmut Thielicke

You are driven by a love for the Lord and His Word, your family, your congregation, and your friends. That's God's Grace we see in you.

By the way, what John M. said above about Work, Loving, and Dancing...I say..."Amen."


Anonymous said...

It is nice to read such words from parents. To read Paul Burleson on this, or his, blog is to witness the pride of a loving father. Mrs. Mary, if you had written your post last year, some of the men who have filled their days by plotting against Wade may have realized that they were going up against mind that is as sharp as any razor.

Happy Birthday Brother Wade...may your next 45 years be full of God's grace.

OC Hands said...

Happy Birthday!!!
May this day and all your other days be filled with the joy of the Lord and may you continue to be a chosen vessel in his kingdom.
Our granddaughter Sara was born on Christmas Day 4 years ago, while I was in Shanghai

wadeburleson.org said...

Thanks to one and all for the birthday wishes!



Chuck Andrews said...

Happy Birthday, Wade.

May God bless you with health, wealth, and an abundance of joy to enjoy it all.


hopelesslyhuman said...

Happy Birthday, Wade. You are a gift of grace from the Lord!

Glen Alan Woods said...

Happy Birthday Wade! May your time with family and friends be full of laughter and blessings.


Glen Woods

Anonymous said...

45? I suppose that day will come for me. In a while...

Happy Birthday. Do you have your mom's password so that you could post under her name? :)

We are all very thankful for God's gifts manifested in you. Keep seeking the Kingdom first and know that there are many who read today's post with great interest and great admiration.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Wade,

Not only do I rejoice in the celebration of your 45 years on this Earth, but also I rejoice in the fact that you have joined the ranks of the high definition viewers. You're right Sportscenter is great. HD is so wonderful. Watching Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee battle it out in the Motor City Bowl is actually entertaining in HD. Try watching the Sun Belt and the MAC champions on a conventional television -- boring! Heck, I've watched water boil in HD. I can’t wait to see the Trinity Broadcasting Network in high definition; can you imagine what Paul and Jan Crouch will look like in 1080i?

Here's to many more birthdays, larger plasma screens and elderly women with rosy cheeks and white hair extensions in HD.

RKSOKC66 said...


Happy birthday. You mention that you got a new HDTV.

I am not caught up in consumer electronics too much but I FINALLY did go out and get a 42" HDTV.

I have to confess that my wife and I put in our Christmas letter -- that we send out to many in our church -- that we were NOT going to get an HDTV. We said that we instead were giving the money we had saved for the HDTV to the church building fund so we could complete the payment of our pledged amount. Well, we did in fact, give the full amount we had saved for the HDTV to the church. But we had some unexpected income so we got the new HDTV anyway.

My daughter sent us the video "Cars" for Christmas. It looks great on the HDTV. That "HERE IT IS" sign reminds me of my trip from Chicago to Santa Monica in my Corvette in October 2004.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City

Rex Ray said...

So you’re half way through that ‘second’ dangerous period of a man’s life. At least that’s what my father taught me…teenager and 40 to 50.

Sometimes his ‘thinking’ caused me to ‘choose’ to be angry—like saying, “Rex, what sin have you done that caused God to punish you like this?”

When I was around 40, two hospitals had given up relieving pain in my leg. I crawled around in the house. My voice was loud as I replied, “Nothing, Daddy! Nothing!”

I felt more righteous than Job, but there was sin. The sin of my back deteriorating because I had filled my body with sugar instead of vitamins and minerals. Today at 74, my back is ten times less troublesome than then.

My father (preacher, school teacher, chaplain, and farmer) said he felt sorry for a good looking preacher. Its funny how you can remember some things—I never knew who ‘Robert’ was, but my father quoted someone writing, “Sex was the rock that Robert wrecked.”

In the Bible, so many good men obeyed God in their youth but drifted away in their older years. And the older men left first when asked to cast the first stone. Age does not make us bullet proof, but seems our shields grow heavy.

Some advice on the lighter side: don’t tell your wife you’ll live till 120, or she may say as mine, “I’m not living that long—who’s going to be your next wife?”
I told her to forget it, but she would not. Week after week…till I told her, “You know how these old guys marry these sweet young girls?”
“Well, my next wife probably hasn’t been born yet.”
I laughed my head off, but she retaliated, “That won’t happen because you don’t have that much money.”
Our three children were born in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Texas. This year will be our 50th anniversary.

Oh, I almost forgot, happy birthday.
Rex Ray