Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seeing the Best in People: An Illustration From Baylor Unversity's Diamond Jubilee

There are some hidden, historical gems available to all Southern Baptists on the Internet. A Record of the Diamond Jubilee (75th Anniversary) of the Founding of Baylor University makes for some very interesting reading. It is one of the first occasions among Southern Baptists where proceedings were recorded by a modern stenoytpe machine (patented in Ireland in 1913).

During June of 1920, educators from around the country (Yale, Harvard, etc...), national and state politicans, and Southern Baptist leaders gathered on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas to celebrate the school's Diamond Jubilee. Among the speakers at this event were the iconic George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas; my distant cousin Sydney Albert Burleson, the Postmaster General of the United States and special envoy from President Woodrow Wilson; and Dr. George McDaniel, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia. All three men were graduates of Baylor University. The event also happened to be one of the last major public appearances of Georgia Burleson, affectionately called in the proceedings "Aunt Georgia" by Dr. Truett. Georgia was the elderly wife of educator and former Baylor President Rufus S. Burleson (1823-1901), and the woman for whom Burleson Dormitory is named. The proceedings make for some great historical reading. I will highlight one anecdote which will of benefit to all of us who teach or lead others.

Dr. George W. McDaniel, D.D., LL.D. the eloquent and the beloved pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia spoke on the opening day of the Diamond Jubilee. Dr. McDaniel's text was from the gospel of John where Jesus said of Nathaniel, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." Dr. McDaniel points out that these words of Jesus come immediately after Nathaniel had prejudicely said, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" McDaniel says that some people can never think well, nor speak kindly, of one who has ventured to criticise them adversely. Yet Jesus, even after hearing the words of Nathaniel about people from Jesus' hometown, speaks kindly of Nathaniel. Dr. McDaniel encouraged his listeners to model the character of Christ and see the best in people. He then tells the following story to illustrate how this kind of character applies itself in real life.

"Several years ago a young man whose class standing was high went on his final examination in history. His distinguished father was to deliver the commencement address four days later. Just before entering the examination room the son received a telegram:

"Wire me result of your last examination. Should you fail I shall not fill my engagement. Your Father."

The telegram unnerved the splendid student. His father's apprehension seized him. For the first time in four years he was "rattled" on examination. For one hour his mind was blank. For the second hour it was a confused mass of incoherent, unrelated knowledge. Two hours and a half passed before he began to write. One hour remained for the long examination. Time was up.

Most of his classmates had handed in their papers and gone. He asked for more time. The considerate professor granted thirty minutes. As his less accurate and less scholarly roommate handed in his paper and left the room the professor followed him out.

"What is the trouble with M — ? He knows this subject and should have no difficulty with this examination."

The young man replied, "Yes, he knows it better than any man in the class," and then told the professor about the telegram.

Five minutes before the extra time had expired the professor stepped to M — 's desk. "Mr. M — , wire your father that you have made this subject with distinction."

"No, Professor, I have made a wretched failure and you will never pass me on this paper."

"Pass you! You have already passed. I tell you, wire your father."

We all should be like that teacher. He had a heart and he knew. A few years later the brilliant young man died of tuberculosis in the mountains of the West. He had broken his health in the pursuit of knowledge. But for the intervention of a Christ-like teacher he would have died sooner of a broken heart."

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Stated Reason for the Closing the Counseling Program at SWBTS Is Finances

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recently announced the cancellation of the licensure program for counseling. The stated reason for the closure of this educational program is finances, or more precisely, a shortfall of budget funds. Many Southern Baptist counselors have been trained in counseling through this popular and effective program, and many men and women are currently enrolled in the licensure program--and they were shocked when the announcement was made. I have heard from several of them. Some of the concerns expressed by these Southern Baptists include the following:

(1). Acceptance of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments seems to be an unwise decision on the part of trustees when programs like the counseling licensure program, the Children’s Center, and other ministries are being closed because of finances. Though the fragments were gifted by a trustee, the cost of proper care, public display, and other associated expenses related to "the hundreds of thousands" who will come to Fort Worth to see the fragments will be great. It seems to many that the seminary should function as an educational institution first, a cultural museum second. In times of financial crises, educational programs should have priority. Someone should politely tell the trustee "Thanks, but no thanks."

(2). The fact that the seminary has broken ground for a new chapel when the current one is not full during seminary assemblies is also troubling the counseling students. "Could this money have been used more effectively for educational needs of the students rather than capital needs proposed by the administration?”

(3). I do not know SWBTS trustee Gary Loveless. He is the trustee who made the "large financial gift to the SWBTS" to allow the SWBTS administration to obtain the Dead Sea Scroll fragments. I'm sure he is a fine man, and obviously a successful businessman and oil man. I heard Gary in an interview with CBS, and he revealed his motive for giving the money to purchase the Dead Sea scroll fragments (quote): "One day, when we are all standing before Him (Jesus Christ), and we got millions of people out there, when I hold my hand up, He will know who I am. That's really, for me, you know, what it is all about."

What? Did he mean what he said? I thought I might have misunderstood him, so I listened to the interview an additional three times. No. I understood correctly. Gary believes that the reason Christ will recognize him at the judgement is because he purchased the Dead Sea scrolls for SWBTS. That kind of thinking has more in common with Tetsel and the sale of indulgences than biblical, or even Baptist, theology.

(3). Once the licensure program for counseling is removed at SWBTS, it will be very difficult to start it up again. Further, with a desire to increase enrollment, not decrease it, the removal of this popular ministry program guarantees fewer enrolled ministerial students this next fall.

(4). Who is leading SWBTS? Are trustees actually governing and supervising the direction the seminary is taking, or are those who are serving as trustees of SWBTS doing so at the will of administrators? It seems to me that the Southern Baptist Convention had better wake up or SWBTS will soon be just a shell of her former self. Provided below are an additional two links about the changing of the counseling program and the Dead Sea Scrolls acquisitions.

(5). (Update) Another reason for concern, given in a crystal clear comment from my father within the comment section of this post, is as follows:

"With regards to the closing of one and the beginning of another counseling program whose purpose is, and I quote the President of SWBTS..."The program will emphasize biblical principles set in the context of developing a biblical worldview and perspective on life.”

I have to say that--having been pastor to many involved in leading and teaching in the soon to be former program, including Dr. Ted Dowell and his wife Omalee, while I pastored Southcliff in Ft. Worth--that WAS their goal, objective and desire also.

Just for the record."
My response to Paul Burleson's comment: "One wishes to accept the stated reason for abandonment of the progam (finances), but could it in reality be ideological?

In other words, could it be a statement that administration believes "licensed" counseling is wrong because it is not "biblical" or lacks a "biblical worldview?"

Just asking."

For futher reading, see:

SWBTS Press Release about the Dead Sea Scrolls Acquisition.

SWBTS Press Release about the Closing of the Counseling Licensure Program.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pride Leads to a Fall Because God Ensures It Will

Last week I read about the fears that some political liberals were having because of Obama's recent attempt to nationalize health care. Their fears revolved around the possibility that Obama will ultimately fail, and that people would draw comparisons to Bill Clinton's failed attempt at health care reform in the early 1990's. Clinton's health care reform attempt led to sweeping success at the polls for Republicans during mid-term elections in 1994. To calm his liberal friends fears, Obama responded to their concerns by saying "2010 is different from 1994 because you have me."


When I read that quote I was startled at what seemed like personal arrogance from our President. I was reminded of a similar attitude displayed by a man named Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. The Scripture declare that as Nebuchadnezzar admired all that "my hands" had gotten, all that "my power" had gleaned, and all that "my reign" had produced, God took it all from him. Nebuchadnezzar was humbled through being stricken with temporary insanity. He eventually was restored to health, but only after he was broken of his sense of personal power and invincibility.

It seems to be a universal principle that God will ultimately bring down anyone who attributes success to his (or her) own abilities and powers rather than God's. All of us should realize that none of us is indispensable, and none of us can take ultimate credit for anything good that comes about. God is the difference maker. Personal pride and arrogance in our abilities is the beginning of a gigantic fall because God ultimately honors only those who acknowledge and trust Him.

I am praying for our President. Specifically, I am praying that he will look to God for His ultimate source of strength and not himself.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pursue the Greater Graces and the Greatest Gifts

Dr. Molly Marshall, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and former professor at Southern Theological Seminary, is now the President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas. Dr. Marshall has a blog entitled Trinitarian Soundings. Recently, Dr. Marshall wrote the following insightful blog:

"The Apostle ends 1 Corinthians 12 with the following exhortation: “But strive for the greater gifts.” As summation of his discussion of how the many members of the Body of Christ can work together and as prelude to the beloved next chapter on love, St. Paul knows that sustained unity amidst diversity taxes even the best among us. At the first hint of conflict persons nervously move away from one another, fearful of what might damage the relationship. Yet they ensure that the relationship will be damaged by refusing to enter into transformative conflict. The most mature relationships are characterized by conflict, not forced unanimity which subjugates one party to another.

Richard P. Olson, Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Theology at Central, has recently published Love Letter to a Conflicted Church. He offers distilled wisdom from over 40 years in pastoral ministry on how to engage conflict constructively. He writes: “…there are redemptive and transforming possibilities in conflict. Through conflict a person can become more self aware, articulate, and personally empowered. Not only that—one can learn to see the other as a human being, a child of God, one with struggles and needs much like one’s own. Indeed, redemption can happen in conflict when one obeys Jesus to love both neighbor and self” (p. 21). These are words to live by, indeed to “fight” by. I commend his insightful work.

Another scholar I respect, Mitch Carnell, a Baptist layperson in Charleston, S.C., has issues a clarion call for a different kind of discourse than what populates the varied radio and cable news talk shows. In his book Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, he suggests that a challenge greater than the political arena may be in bringing people of faith together to practice the way of civility. The purpose of his book is “to explore ways for people of faith to talk to and about each other in a way that glorifies God and advances God’s kingdom” (p.14). Our stewardship of words matters.

While I am not sure what all the Apostle had in mind when he referred to the “greater gifts,” surely he was urging the Corinthians (and those who listen to the epistle today) to learn how to live with others respectfully. In Pauline theology, one of the functions of the Spirit of God is to assist persons in bearing the strains of their differences in a constructive way. Learning to “speak the truth in love” and not “to think too highly of oneself” are grace gifts worth striving for in our day."

Excellent article! I long for the day when we conservative inerrantists, particularly those in positions of strategic leadership in the SBC, will write similar articles.

Nobody is saying we shouldn't take strong stands for truth. We should. But we should pursue the greater graces and the greatest gifts more than any other.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are We Southern Baptist Leaders Indirect Accomplices to Matt Baker's Murder of His Wife?

I know the question which forms the title of this post is not a pleasant one, particularly for those of us who have experienced positions of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. However, I feel we must ask this tough question because of the nauseating truth uncovered in the murder trial, and ultimate conviction, of Matt Baker. Last week a Waco jury found the former Southern Baptist pastor guilty of murdering his wife. Details of the case are gruesome. Testimony during the trial was sickening. This man deserves death, not 65 years in prison (which is what he received). I will not rehash the case, you may go to Christa Brown's website for a comprehensive synopsis, but I will simply point out some of the sickening known facts about Mr. Baker's past--events that occurred prior to Baker murdering his wife.

(1). Matt Baker attempted to rape an athletic trainer while at a Southern Baptist school. The attempted rape was reported, but school authorities did nothing to inform others of Mr. Baker's perverse actions, including the police. They simply placed the incident in the confidential file of Matt Baker.

(2). Matt Baker sexually accosted several young ladies while working in Southern Baptist churches. One pastor who had been received information about the incidents from a victim herself, kept it all quiet--not wanting to be the person responsible for ruining Mr. Baker's ministerial career.

(3). Even after Matt Baker's wife was murdered and questions were being raised about Mr. Baker's illicit affair with a woman in his congregation who had come to him for "counseling," Mr. Baker was recommended, and hired, to a position working with college students within the Baptist Convention of Texas.

(4). The Southern Baptist Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted down my recommendation in 2008 that we keep a data base of ministers "credibly accused or convicted of sexual misconduct." The church that Matt Baker pastored in Waco, Texas at the time he murdered his wife is listed in the Southern Baptist catalogue of churches on the SBC's own database (see Crossroads Baptist Church). May the pastor search committee of Crossroads benefited from a data base kept at SBC headquarters? If our Convention leadership took seriously any allegations of sexual misconduct by ministers been the impetus needed for others to report Baker's misconduct to them?

(5). If we as Southern Baptists don't do something to track sexual predators in our pulpits, how can we not be held responsible when one of those predators winds up killing his wife?

My question is a sincere one.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Launching of David Sander's Political Career Is Good for Us All

Recently I wrote about my friend David Sanders leaving his highly popular television and newspaper media positions to become the campaign manager for Stanley Reed in Reed's attempt to defeat incumbent Arkansas U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Unfortunately, due to a deteriorating prognosis from doctors regarding Stanley Reed's physical health, Mr. Reed had to pull out of the U.S. Senate race shortly after hiring David. But the turn of events has led David Sanders to run for office himself--the beginning of what I believe will lead this young, conservative Christian to the governor's mansion of Arkansas and beyond. He's that good.

My wife and I sent a contribution to David's campaign today. Though we live in Oklahoma, and David is running for a house position in Arkanas, we contributed to help David in his campaign. I'm a firm believer that Christians everywhere should support people who have similar moral and ethical values. Let me encourage those of you who either know David through his writings, or are interested in helping a wonderful Christian young man launch his political career, to visit David's campaign website at and make a donation or sign up to help his campaign team.

David J. Sanders, 35, is a Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives in District 31, which covers portions of West Little Rock and Hot Springs Village as well as western Pulaski and Saline Counties. Sanders began working in politics in the early 1990s. While a college student pursuing a political science and communications degree at Ouachita Baptist University, he was a member of then-Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee's 1996 gubernatorial transition team. After graduating from Ouachita, Gov. Huckabee selected Sanders to serve as a policy and communications aide on his staff. He left the governor’s office to serve as press secretary to the late-Dr. Fay Boozman on his 1998 U.S. Senate campaign. During 1999 Legislative Session, he worked with the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives and Paschall Strategic Communications.

From September 2000 until December of last year, David served as columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. During that time, his twice-weekly column appeared in more than 25 newspapers in Arkansas. In 2002, at the age of 27, Arkansas Business named Sanders to its annual "40 under 40" list. In addition to weighing in on Arkansas and national politics, as well as a myriad of policy debates, Sanders was a tireless advocate for lower taxes, limited government, protection of the unborn and property rights. A recognized conservative voice, his work has been featured nationally in The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online and World Magazine. Last year, he began writing a nationally syndicated, bi-monthly column for the Associated Baptist Press in Washington.

In addition to writing, Sanders created, produced and hosted "Unconventional Wisdom," an award- winning public affairs program carried by the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). He served as an essayist for public radio in Little Rock, frequent contributor to AETN’s "Arkansas Week" and as a regular political commentator for Arkansas television stations. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Robert D. Novak Journalism Fellowship by the Washington-based Phillips Foundation to begin work on a project entitled: "The Reluctant Convert: Why Arkansas Has Not Joined the South's Republican Realignment."

David and his wife, Rebecca, have five children: Abigail, 10, Noah, 9, Isaac, 7, Elijah, 2.5 and Levi who was born last October. He is an ordained deacon at Little Rock’s First Baptist Church.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Give a Benjamin to an Atheist and Have Your Pets Cared for After the Rapture

Wondering what to do with your pet after the rapture? A couple of atheists have established two companies, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA and JesusPets, where they offer their services to those Christians who will be leaving their pets behind at the rapture. The atheists, knowing that they will still be here, are willing to take your pet when you are gone for a fee of $110. The homepage of Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA makes the following pitch:

You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each
Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.
So I guess the pre-tribulational rapture dispensationalists--for just ten bucks more than a Benjamin--can sleep well at night knowing that "Fido,” though left behind, will be in good hands. I'm sure the atheists will gladly take Christians' money, but I'm not too convinced they would enjoy their riches if they ever had to make good on the contract and collect the pets.



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Break the Chains of Bondage Requires an Understanding of the Real Problem

Over the course of the past four years I have written a few posts about significant leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, including Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, Al Mohler and others. Recently I spoke at a funeral where a friend of Dr. Patterson's told me he was asked by Paige himself, "Why does Wade Burleson dislike me so much?" This gentleman suggested to me that if I would just spend a little time with Dr. Patterson I would find him a very pleasant person.

I was genuinely puzzled. Anyone who knows me understands that I can get along with anyone personally, and I truly enjoy people of all stripes. Ironically, I've written and phoned Dr. Patterson a handful of times over the years inviting him to lunch (on my dime), but have not had my messages returned. I even drove to Fort Worth to personally meet with him two years ago, but was told his schedule was too busy. I left another handwritten note asking him call me on my personal cell, but he never called. Of course, Dr. Patterson is a busy man, and its his perogative to not call me or meet with me. But since Dr. Patterson feels the freedom to speculate to others regarding my feelings toward him, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer a gentle correction.

I like Dr. Patterson. I think he is a man of integrity. In fact, I admire the way he lives his life based upon what he believes. I know the testimony of hundreds of people is that Dr. Patterson is personal, affable, self-deprecating, and generous. He is a brother in Christ, and I look forward to eternal fellowship with him in heaven. If there is a problem with Dr. Patterson, it is NOT a lack of personality, winsomeness or integrity--it is the radical, Fundamentalist ideology that leads to separation, a lack of cooperation, and a strident "you are wrong and will answer to God" attitude. It's an ideology that hampers a willingness to share a cup of coffee with someone who disagrees.

An Illustration of Ideological Decisions

When Dr. Patterson fired Sheri Klouda from her Hebrew teaching position at Southwestern, it was ideology that drove him. He truly wishes to be "right before God," and he believes a woman teaching Hebrew to "preacher boys" brings God's judgment upon the seminary. The problem with Dr. Patterson is not his character; the problem is his non-biblical, archaic, Old Covenant ideology regarding women. Paige Patterson views women in a completely opposite manner than Jesus views women. That doesn't mean Paige is a bad guy; it just means his ideology is warped. I admire the fact he lives consistent with his ideology, but it would be disturbing to me if Southern Baptists didn't challenge his ideology as the antithesis of the New Covenant. But my feelings about Dr. Patterson's ideology would NEVER preclude me from sharing a meal with him, or having fellowship with him. I love him for who he is, and that love is not thwarted by his interpretive errors regarding women. I am currently writing a forward to Jon Zens new book What's With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background on I Timothy 2. Zen's book is a brilliant display of sound exegesis by a conservative inerrantist who understands the equality of men and women in the New Covenant, and it is written as a corrective to conservative evangelicals (like Dr. Patterson) who err in their views of women. The real problem in the SBC is not divergent views on tertiary issues; it is the unwillingness to fellowship brothers in Christ who disagree.

I recently received a call from a pastor of a Southern Baptist church where a couple of members are really upset. This married couple holds to a similar ideology to that of Dr. Patterson. They believe the Lord's Supper is being served in an inappropriate manner in their church--it is not a closed Lord's Supper at the church (for church members only), and it is not being served by "ordained" men only (people receive it by coming forward and taking the bread and wine from the table)--and this couple wants to correct the problem in order for their church to be "right with God." Further, this husband and wife is deeply disturbed that the Children's Pastor (a female) is baptizing converts upon their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The only ones that should be "baptizing," in their minds, are those men with "ordination" credentials from a Southern Baptist church. Their Landmark ideology, prominent among Fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention, is leading them to draw a line in the sand. They wish to either remove current church leadership who view these matters differently than them or change the existing church bylaws to reflect their own ideology. Ironically, the spokesperson for this couple before the pastors was the wife (not the husband), so like many Fundamentalists I've met in the SBC, there is an espousing of an ideology that is not abided by in reality.

But I'm sure this couple is a wonderful, winsome couple. I also am quite confident they are a brother and sister in Christ. The issue that is causing the problem in their church is not one of personality, but one of ideology. Again, that's the problem right now in the SBC. Someone might ask, "Then what is the appropriate ideology for Southern Baptists in this day and age." I will let Jesus Christ answer:

"A new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another, eve as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

If your love for any particular ideology blocks your ability to love another follower of Jesus Christ who disagrees with it, then your ideology is faulty. If you cannot sit down and fellowship with someone who disagrees with you, share a supper with them, and love them in spite of their differing views on tertiery matters, then your ideology is not the ideology of Christ. If you cannot cooperate with people who believe the Bible, but believe you to be in error when it comes to the Lord's Supper, the status of women in the New Covenant, and other tertiery matters, then you need to realize your ideology is hindering you from fulfilling the New Covenant commandment of Christ. Every other grace that God gives is insignificant to the grace of loving His people. Love never fails; it endures forever.

The problem in our SBC churches is not the lack of integrity or character of its people; the problem is an ideology that does not allow you to return phone calls and sit down at supper with those who disagree with you.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Escaped World War II POW's Owe a Great Deal to Monopoly

The following information was forwarded to me by my mother Mary Burleson and her brother Ronnie Cherry. Being a history buff myself, and having two grandfathers who served in World War II, I found the information (declassified in 2007) very interesting. Read on ...

"Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape… Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map, one showing not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of 'safe houses' where a POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush.

Someone in MI-5 (similar to America's OSS) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It's durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and pastimes' was a category of item qualified for insertion into CARE
packages, dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were in a regional system. When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's also managed to add:

1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass

2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together

3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets.

Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war. The story wasn't declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were finally honoured in a public ceremony.

It's always nice when you can play that 'Get Out of Jail' free card!

I realize most of you are (probably) too young to have any personal connection to WWII (Dec. '41 to Aug. '45), but this is still interesting."

Story verification:

The Informated Reader

ABC News

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Ten Commandments for Christian Civility on the Internet

Today I came across an interview with the editor of a new book to which I have contributed as an author. Christian Civility in an Uncivil World is a book that is needed in our day. The chapter I contributed contains what I call "The Ten Commandments for Christian Civility on the Internet." Periodically I check up on how I'm doing in relation to the principles put forth in that chapter. Not all of you may agree with what I've written, but I would be interested in your comments or opinion about the necessity or beneficiality of the commandments as listed in the book. I might also encourage you to purchase the book for the writings of other fine evangelical Christian men and women, including Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary and Jimmy Allen, former President of the SBC (1977-1979).

The Ten Commandments for Christian Civility on the Internet

1. We will seek to glorify God in all we write. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Nothing we write, no matter the content, can be called good without God’s glory as the ultimate aim. If a person seeks recognition, his or her own praise, the applause of people, or any other selfish end through what he or she writes on the Internet, it should not be written, nor will it be accounted by God to be a good thing. There are no restrictions upon Paul’s command, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). The best way to determine if God is glorified is to ask ourselves what God thinks about what we write. Is it God’s will? Does it display God’s attributes? Is it consistent with God’s desires as expressed in the Bible? Does it honor God and God’s people? Whether our words are formed for praise and prayers, concern and correction, exhortation and encouragement, they should glorify God first and foremost.

(2). We will refuse to post anything online that we wouldn’t say face to face. “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks” (Prov 25:23).

Unless we are in physical danger for what we would write or say, we will never write anonymously. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are both human rights, and in those instances where governments, societies, or men seek to remove that right by force, we reserve the right to post anonymously. Otherwise, we must be as responsible and civil on the Internet as we are in person. To hide behind anonymity on the Internet is similar to backbiting and gossiping, two serious sins. We will post it, claim it, and stand by it.

3. When we are offended, we will connect privately before we respond publicly. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt 18:15).

There are times when posting differing philosophies, opinions, and thoughts will cause emotions to escalate. During these times, when offenses between brothers and sisters might occur, we will connect privately with the person with whom we have an offense before we write anything publicly. And we will keep in mind that Christian love covers a multitude of offenses.

4. We will think carefully and pray sincerely, before we post. “Let every person . . . be slow to speak” (Jas 1:19). Before we hit the submit button to publish our post, we will think twice about what we are trying to say and will ask ourselves “Is this how and what I really want to be conveyed?” Next, we will pause and ask God to give us wisdom and discernment, and reread the post for a final time. We will then ask if our words stand the test of eternity, when we shall give an account to God of everything we have said or written. If we prayerfully come to peace that what we have written honors God and advances God’s kingdom, we will hit the submit button and publish our words. We will not allow others to corrupt our writing efforts. “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil” (Prov 14:16). We are committed to enforce civility.

5. We will not allow others to corrupt our writing efforts. “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil” (Prov 14:16).

We will strive for only acceptable content on our website, and we will delete all writing and comments that are unacceptable. We will refrain from allowing to stand (a) comments that are abusive, harassing, or threatening to others. (b) comments we know are libelous and/or false. (c) comments that infringe upon any copyright or trademark. (d) comments that violate any obligation for confidentiality. Though the above guidelines are often subjective, we determine what is unacceptable on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to the above, but could grow as our knowledge and understanding of unacceptable content matures. When a comment or guest post is deleted, a clear explanation will always be given.

6. We will not allow others to comment anonymously. Jesus said, “I have spoken openly. I have said nothing in secret” (John 18:20).

We will require commenters to follow the example of Jesus and supply their real first and last names, or if an alias or pseudonym is used, the commenter will supply to us a valid e-mail address with information about themselves before they can post. The necessity of an alias is only in rare circumstances (safety or security of the commenter), but we will always be able to trace the pseudonym to a real person.

7. We will do no one any intentional harm.Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).

We will intentionally seek to make the people around us better by writing things that encourage and build up. When times come that call for what we feel to be correction, we will speak the truth in love. We will never seek to destroy a reputation, harm a person’s good name, or disparage a person’s character. Our focus in writing will be on a person’s conduct or actions, thinking or philosophy, but not character. The Spirit of God is able to change the heart, not us, and we will accept our brother or sister in Christ where the Lord has them in life.

8. We will be decisive over what we delete. “Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time? Our word to you has not been Yes and No” (2 Cor 1:17-18).

We have already stated the importance of taking responsibility for removing unacceptable material from our website. We retain the right to decide what is unacceptable and will not vacillate back and forth as those whose comments have been deleted argue and debate our decision.

9. We will personally rebuke those who post unacceptable content. “But when Peter came to Antioch, I rebuked him to his face” (Gal 2:11).

When someone is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive in nature, we will tell them privately if at all possible and prove, in writing, the unacceptability of what has been written. We will then ask them to make amends publicly, unless it is considered that doing so will only worsen the situation. Where published comments are considered threatening or libelous, we will involve local law enforcement. If the offensive material breaks no laws, and a private rebuke is not received, we will inform the public of the offense in order to create a civil online society where people feel the uncivilized are called out, just as they are in the real world. Of course, it is of highest importance that we safeguard the ability for people to feel safe in disagreement, and that rebukes never be used to silence dissent. Rebukes are used as a last resort only for those who are uncivilized in their writing.

10. We will promote these commandments for increased online Christian civility. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught” (Rom 16:17).

We appeal to all our Christian brothers who write or read published Internet postings to distribute and promote these commandments for Christian civility on the Internet. Through raising awareness of particular actions that can be taken to ensure civility, we “watch out for those who cause divisions.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's Not Goodbye, Just "See You Soon!" -- A Tribute to My Friend Rick Talley


This morning I received a call at 4:00 a.m. that one of our church members who had been in the hospital since Wednesday had taken a turn for the worse, and the family was requesting my presence. Upon arrival, I discovered our 83 year old member was alert, but family around him were concerned over his congestive heart failure and pneumonia. After a time of prayer with our church member, asking the Lord for grace to either die with dignity or be healed by sovereignty, I sat down to visit with the family. We spent a couple of hours visiting, telling stories about their loved (who was now asleep), and reflecting on the goodness of God to his family.

During the conversation, the family spoke highly of our church's hospital chaplain Rick Talley. Rick, pictured to the left, had faithfully visited other members of this family during their hospital stays within the last several years. Rick had not yet been to see this particular church member since his admission to the hospital Wednesday because Rick had called us on that day to let us know he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be making his hospital rounds. As I sat with family members in the hospital room, they testified how much Rick's ministry meant to them, and expressed their hope that Rick would be feeling better soon. I told the family how much the pastoral staff also appreciated Rick's ministry. He loved people so much that he insisted he be given as many church ministry assignments as possible, even though he was a part-time ministering pastor in terms of pay. He joined with all the full-time ministering pastors in our efforts to personally contact every single member (4,598) during the course of a year. This past Monday, I wrote about our church member ministry and Rick commented on this blog:
This is a very special ministry for our church. It's like three of my assigned contacts this week were waiting for someone to call. All three were weeping and sharing their heart and heartaches, just waiting for an encouraging word. God is truly an amazing God and He is smack dab in the middle of this ministry!!!
That's Rick's heart. Upon leaving the hospital at 6:30 a.m. I gave Rick a call to check on him and see how he was doing. Rick always rises very early (5:30 a.m.), eats a small breakfast, and then makes his hospital rounds. By 8:30 a.m. every morning he gives me a fresh hospital report on my blackberry. Rick, 62 years of age, is a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, and has served previously at Wedgewood Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. Ten years ago, Rick's daughter, Mary Beth, was shot through the back in the horrible and senseless shooting that occurred at Wedgewood Baptist Church. Seven people died that Wednesday night, and seven people who were shot survived. Mary Beth was one of the seven who survived. Years ago Rick's wife divorced him. Rick never, however, got bitter with God over those events in his life. Rather, Rick's compassion for people in the hospitals seemed to have been shaped by some of his own painful experiences.

I didn't receive a response from Rick to my text this morning, which was unusual, so I went by his apartment to check on him. His car was in the carport, so I knew he was home. Rick didn't come to the door when I rang the doorbell. Concerned, I called the manager of the apartment complex, obtained a key, and I and the police entered Rick's apartment in what is called a "well-being entry."

Rick had died during the night.

He died in his sleep on the sofa. Frankly, when the Lord calls me home, I hope he takes me in the same manner. Rick died of what the coroner calls "natural causes." He was a diabetic, suffered from hypertension, and had not been feeling well. We all know, though, that he died at the precise time appointed by His Lord.

Rick's death is a loss for our church. We will miss his enthusiasm in ministry. We will miss the way he truly cared for the people whom he visited. I will miss the friend who would often join me at Thunder basketball games, or OU football games, or Enid High School athletic events. Rick would join my daughter and me in visiting homebound members on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Our entire pastoral staff and our spouses will miss the person who stood up at last December's Christmas party and thanked everyone, with tears in his eyes, for being his family.

Rick, we aren't saying "Goodbye" to you. We simply offer "We'll see you soon."

The Lord works in mysterious ways,

Wade Burleson

A Lesson Learned from the New York Knicks and Fearing Ghosts

My wife and I attended the New York Knicks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game last Saturday night at the Ford Center. Oklahoma City won in a blowout--106-88. Really, the game wasn't even that close. The Thunder had a 29 point lead in the fourth quarter before exlusively playing their reserves the final six minutes. The OKC Thunder are young, athletic, and really good.

But what is fascinating about this game is the storyline afterwards. It seems that some of the Knick players blamed the loss on "ghosts" in the hotel where they slept the two nights before the game. That hotel, the Oklahoma City Skirvin, is a historic, recently renovated, five star hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. U.S. Presidents, Hollywood stars, international royalty and thousands of others have stayed at the Skirvin since its opening in the early 1900's. I love the Skirvin because OKC's history resonates in the lobby and halls. One of our church members was the night manager of the hotel when the Skirvin re-opened in 2007, and Rachelle and I were able to enjoy a few nights in the Skirvin at the "family and friends" rate. Last time we stayed there, I ran into my friend Chief Justice Robert Henry, who told me that the Skirvin had literally been his home while he attended law school at Oklahoma City University. He lived in the hotel, prior to its renovation, for over two years. Everyone in OKC who knows a little history of the Skirvin is familiar with the "ghost stories" about the hotel. We locals laugh about it.

But the Knicks weren't laughing. It seems that at least some of them were genuinely scared; to the point of not sleeping well. They blamed their lack of rest for the loss to the Thunder. Those of us watching the game knew the Knicks shot a great deal more poorly and rebounded far worse than the Thunder players. But if you had asked me after the game why this was so, I would have simply said, "OKC is a better basketball team." The ghost story, however, is a sure fire more interesting explanation than the straight forward one.

One of the traits of human behavior I've observed over the years is that when things don't go well for us, we have a tendency to blame other individuals, other circumstances, and other events for our failure, rather than taking responsibility and identifying the problem within us. There's something refreshing about a person or an organization that is performing poorly and simply says, "We are not very good right now. That doesn't mean we can't get better. It just means that unless things change, we will never fulfill our mission."

Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while each time expecting different results.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the Knicks/Skirvin ghost story its that when we struggle in our endeavors, we should ask God to keep us from seeing the kind of ghosts that drive us to insanity.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, January 14, 2010

See Jesus in the Feasts of the Jews this Easter

Years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma I ministered to a group of people who taught me a great deal about one's love for Christ. On the podium where I taught every Sunday was a plaque with these words enscribed on it: "Sir, we would see Jesus."

Few western evangelicals realize that time (from a human perspective) is measured differently in the Bible than the way we measure it today. When the One who transcends time establishes a calendar for man's sake, He does so according to the moon, not the sun. The biblical was a lunar calendar, whereas our calendar in the United States is a solar calendar. The Jews measured months by the moon's rotation around the earth. Today, we measure time by the earth's rotation around the sun. Until you have a basic understanding of the biblical lunar calendar, it will be easy to miss some wonderful truths regarding the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ. This post, modified and reprinted from three years ago, fulfills for the Easter season of 2013 the injuction: "Sir, we would see Jesus."

The Biblical Calendar and the Moon

A calendar is a system of organizing units of time for the purpose of measuring time over extended periods. The word "calendar" is from the Latin and means, “to call attention to the new moon.” The Biblical calendar revolved around the people of God eyeballing the moon as it rotated around the earth and keeping track of the four seasons on earth (spring, summer, fall, winter). We know that the seasons are the result of the effects of the sun upon the earth--hot, cold and mild--but the Jews only measured "days" by the sun (from sunset to sunset). Their months and seasons, prescribed by God, were counted off by eyeballing the moon.

The Biblical months began with the new moon, and there were "new moon festivals" to celebrate the dawning of a new month. The Jews worshipped God in a prescribed way during these new moons. "Whenever burnt offerings are presented to the Lord at the new moon.... the people are to serve the Lord in the proper way prescribed for them" (I Chronicles 23:31). The worship of God by the Jews was prescribed for them by God because everything they did pointed to Jesus Christ, as we shall see.

Since it takes 29 ½ days for the moon to complete her cycle around the earth the Biblical calendar consisted of 12 or 13 lunar months in a year, with the odd number months consisting of 30 days and the even number months consisting of 29 days. The years that have an additional month, the thirteenth month, are the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 in a nineteen-year cycle. The reason a thirteenth month had to be added to the biblical calendar seven times during a nineteen year span is because the lunar year is shorter than the solar year by 11 days. If the Hebrews had not added a thirteenth month every few years, the winter season would eventually move on the calendar and occur in the summer months, and vice versa! Though this all may sound complicated, to the Jewish priests, it was as simple as waching the sky for a "new moon" (i.e. the time the moon disappears in darkness),  knowing the agricultural seasons, and blowing the trumpets to mark the beginning of a new month.

God told Moses to Alter the Lunar Calendar

When God delivered His people Israel from Egyptian bondage, He told Moses to make the month in which the Passover occurred (the Abib) "the beginning of months" (Exodus 12:2). This one verse alone should indicate to you that God has a purpose for "the lunar calendar." Every act of worship in the Old Covenant was a type or shadow of the reality to be fulfilled in the coming Anointed One. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4), but the One to whom the bulls and goats point in picture form does precisely this--He takes away our sin. The feasts of Israel, the animal sacrifices of the Jews, and the ritualistic worship of God's people all point to what Jesus did on our behalf.

There were seven major feasts prescribed by God in the Old Testament. Each of these Seven Feasts of Israel (sometimes called Festivals) were celebrated at God prescribed times according to the lunar calendar. When God incarnated Himself and walked among us His birth, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His gift of the Holy Spirit all occurred precisely the same time as the Feasts that foreshadowed Christ. The type (a particular Feast) was fulfilled in the anti-type (Jesus Christ).

In other words, the God who transcends time, keeps time for us, in order that as we measure time, He comes to us precisely "in the fulness of time." History is His Story. Let me show you.

The Feasts of Israel

The seven biblical Feasts or Festivals prescribed by God for the nation of Israel can be broken down into three major groupings.

(Grouping Number 1) --- The Three Spring Festivals
The Feast of Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits.

These three Feasts took place all within a few days of each other and occurred in the first month of the Biblical lunar (Nissan, also called "The Abib"), which corresponds to our March and April. These feasts were often lumped together as “Passover” or “The Feast of Unleavened Bread.”

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). The Hebrew phrase “Passover” is in the Greek “pascha” thus the Passover lamb is the Paschal lamb, and all that pertains to the appointed lamb (a lamb without blemish, in the prime of its life, its blood shed for the family, etc...) pertains to the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb of God. We know this to be true because of several events prophesied by the prophets regarding the Messiah’s death:

(1). Genesis 49:10 describes the precise age in which the Messiah would come.
(2). Daniel 9:26 describes the precise year in which the Messiah would die.
(3). Amos 8:9-10 describes the exact day on which the Messiah would die.

These three prophecies point us directly to the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners as our Paschal Lamb. Jesus died precisely at the time the Jews were slaying their lambs for the celebration of The Feast of Passover, on the 14th day of the Abib  (also called Nissan).  The Abib (notice the definitive article 'the') in Hebrew means "the act of parching by burning" and is it any wonder that when Jesus Christ died on the cross on the 14th day of the Abib, the fires of God's holiness and righteous judgment parched the life of His Son, the very One who became sin for us? The Passover was established and prescribed by God for Israel 1400 years before the death of Christ. In the fulness of time, Jesus fulfilled what the Passover represented. The Lamb was slain that the righteous judgment of God might pass over those who trust Him. Jesus could not have died at any other time, during any other day, for His death was prescribed by God and pictured in the Feast of Passover. When people sought to kill Jesus earlier in His ministry, He simply walked through them saying, "My time has not yet come" (John 7:30). A person may think he escapes God's judgment apart from the cross, but that kind of thinking is foolish and contrary to the explicit teaching of Scripture.

In love for sinners, God swept away the sin of His people through the death of His Son. This sweeping away of sin is pictured in the second feast of the Jews called The Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was observed for centuries the seven days after Passover. The Jews were to sweep out all leaven in their homes. This typifies all our sins being carried away by the Lamb of God. In the fulfillment of The Feast of Unleavened Bread, God does the sweeping. He removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west." It is an act of grace, a work of God, and it is accomplished by removing our sin from us, placing it on Christ, and pouring out righteous judgment on the Son for us.

The wages of sin is death. Every person, even believers in Christ, will one day die! Every person, even believers in Christ, still struggle with personal sins. What is our assurance that God, from His perspective, has removed judgment from us for our sins, and we have His unconditional love, favor and acceptance? The answer is found in The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of Firstfruits. Jesus Christ rose from the grave on the very day the Jews were celebrating this feast. This feast was prescribed by God to be celebrated "on the morrow after the Sabbath" during the week of Passover (Lev. 23:9-14). The Jews were told by God to go to the Temple on the "morning after the Sabbath" (Sunday morning) during the week of Passover and wave a "sheaf" of the first fruits of their grain harvest before the Lord. As they waved their first fruits of grain before God and gave it to the priests, they were told that God would prosper and bless "their entire harvest" in the same manner He had blessed the "firstfruits."

When Paul writes of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15:20 he calls Christ "the firstfruits" of the resurrection--pointing out that God accepts and blesses all those whom Christ represents in His death and resurrection. In other words, your life--your eternal life--of blessing, favor, and prosperity from God is based upon the blessings of the firstfruits--Jesus Christ. You are guaranteed God's favor because Christ rose from the dead and you wave His life, His death, His resurrection before God by faith and acknowledge that any blessings you receive from your Creator are due to His obedience on your behalf. The death of Christ would have no meaning if it were not for the resurrection of Christ. God raised “His cursed son” (Galatians 3:13) from the dead as proof of His pleasure in His Son’s sacrifice! (Eph. 1:15-23). Those who trust in Christ will be raised to eternal life in the same manner.

(Grouping Number 2) --- The One Summer Festival
Pentecost -- the Greek name for "The Feast of Weeks"

It is known by various other names including “The Feast of Harvest” and most commonly as The Feast of Weeks "(or Pentecost) A week in Scripture represents the number seven (either days or years). In the case of this feast it represents days. Seven weeks (49 days) from the “Festival of the Sheaf of the Firstfruits” (on a Sunday) with Sunday being day one. When you get to the 49th day you arrive at a Saturday (The Jewish Sabbath). On the “morrow after the sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-21) you arrive at “The Fiftieth Day” (thus the Greek “Pente” meaning 5). Just like the day of Resurrection (The Festival of the Sheaf of Firstfuits) the fourth major Jewish festival occurs on a Sunday (the morrow after the Sabbath)

The number 50 is used throughout Scripture to represent liberty, freedom or deliverance. Every 50th year was the year of Jubilee for the nation of Israel. When Christ died in 30 A.D. the people of Israel were celebrating a year of Jubilee; 50 days after Christ died the disciples were in the upper room when the Spirit of God fell and empowered them. This day of Pentecost is the anti-type of the Old Testament Pentecost -- 50 days after Passover.

*Compare the differences between the Old Covenant Pentecost vs. New Covenant Pentecost. On the 50th day after Passover and leaving Egypt (Old Covenant), God gave Israel the law written on stone. On the 50th after the Passover of Christ’s death (New Covenant) God gave His people the law written on their hearts. On the day of Old Covenant Pentecost--recording in the Old Testament as the fiftieth day after leaving Egypt--3,000 people died at the giving of the Law, for the Law the law condemns. However, on the day of Pentecost in the New Testament--fifty days after the resurrection of Christ--3,000 people were saved, for the Spirit gives life. The glory of God shone on the face of Moses in the Old Covenant, but the glory of God lives in the hearts of His people through the Spirit in the New Covenant. The Old is the letter of the law, but the New is life in the Spirit. It is a tragedy when God's people seek to live by the letter of the Law when Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law  and abolished it. The church that acts like it is a Temple, the pastor who acts like he is a priest, the people who act like they owe God a tithe and sacrifices, and the kind of Christianity that emphasis the Law more than the Spirit is more suited to the Old Covenant order. When the Spirit fills Christ followers with the power of God, then God's people begin to focus their lives on fulfilling the Royal Law of God - loving others as Christ has loved us--and pay scant attention to little else.

(Grouping Number 3) --- The Three Fall Festivals
The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles.

These three feasts took place within the seventh month of the lunar calendar (Ethanim or also called Tisri). This month corresponds to our September/October. It was this month in which the fruit harvest (mostly grapes) occurred.

These Fall festivals correspond to the two "comings" of Christ to earth--His first coming (Bethlehem) and His Second Coming (to establish His eternal kingdom). His birth in Bethlehem is pictured in The Feast of Tabernacles, when God came to earth and tabernacled among men (John 1:1). The intercession of Jesus as the High Priest for His people is pictured in the Feast of Atonement. His Second Coming is pictured in The Feast of Trumpets. Time does not permit to show the signficance of these three Jewish feasts, but needless to say, all three of them, like the other four feasts, all point to Jesus Christ and were fulfilled by Him precisely.

So, in summary, Jesus Christ came to earth during the Feast of Taberacles. He died on the Feast of Passover and was buried in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus rose on the day of the Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf, and He sent His Spirit as a gift on the Feast of Pentecost. He now intercedes on our behalf as our Great High Priest in fulfillment of the Feast of Atonement, and He will one day come to establish His eternal kingdom and judge the world in fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.

Next time you read the Bible, remember that is is not written as a self-help manual. It is the meta-narrative of the only Savior this world will ever see. This Easter 2013, take a little time to thank God that time is measured in terms of His Son, and when you do, you will never waste a day by neglecting to think of and praise your Savior.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Way a Preacher/Teacher Dresses Doesn't Necessarily Communicate Authenticity or Transparency

Rick Warren has been used by God as a messenger of the good news to tens of thousands of people in need of a Savior. The work being done by Pastor Warren is, without question, a work bringing about the transformation of lives for the glory of God. Our church has been training a hundred leaders in preparation for the launch of Celebrate Recovery, a ministry to help people to find recovery from chemical and non-chemical addictions through Jesus Christ. This ministry was begun by Pastor Warren's church and is being used by churches and pastors nation wide. Rick has been a family friend since the days he was a seminary student at Southwestern Theological Seminary and attended Southcliff Baptist Church, a church pastored by my father from 1976 to 1982. Rick would sometimes lead Sunday night worship sitting on a stool playing his guitar, wearing jeans and sandals. Little has changed over the years. Most of the time when Rick speaks to his church (see picture) he does so in casual dress. His influence is so vast, many young pastors imitate his style, including dressing casual when they teach/preach on Sundays.

Some, including John Piper (see picture below), will rarely speak to their congregation without a suit and tie. It's been my practice over the years to also always wear a suit and tie when I teach from the Word of God. I don't think my example (or Piper's) is necessarily one that other pastors should be required to imitate. Personally, I think there are many factors that come into play when it comes to the pastor/teacher's dress on Sundays including culture, climate, tradition, etc... There seems to be no hard and fast rule on the subject found in Scripture. Why do I wear a suit and tie? Well, I never see a professional comedian (think Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, etc...) or a professional broadcaster (think Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, etc...) in the United States do their thing on television without a suit and tie. My personal feeling is that what I'm delivering is more important than either comedy or news, so I'm going to deliver it in an even better style than the the comedian or the broadcaster. BUT, (and this is a huge conjuction), in no form or fashion am I saying that someone else who does NOT wear a suit and tie is being unprofessional when they teach the gospel. I believe that Christians in churches should accept the decision of their pastor in this matter--even if the pastor's decision is different than your personal taste. Some of our members in the contemporary worship service (REFUGE) come very casual. Others in our two more traditional Sunday morning worship services come casual as well. I wear a suit and tie no matter which service I am speaking and trust that the people of Emmanuel accept my decision.

But the reason for this post is the attitude I've noticed among some (not all) of the emergent, contemporary or younger pastors. There is a sense that if a pastor does not dress casual, he is communicating to the congregation that he is not "authentic," "approachable" and "transparent." It's almost as if there is an unwritten rule among some pastors that "casual dress equals Christian authenticity." I don't think the way a preacher/teacher dresses on Sunday morning necessarily communicates authenticity or transparency. It's the way he lives his life, not the way he dresses himself, that communicates these important character qualities.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Good for GOOGLE; Shame on CHINA

SAN FRANCISCO (Michael Liedtke AP)- Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country after discovering that computers hackers had tricked human rights activists into opening their e-mail accounts to outsiders.

The change-of-heart announced Tuesday heralds a major shift for Google, which has repeatedly said it will obey Chinese laws that require some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from search results that are available in other countries

Google disclosed in a blog post that it had detected a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China." Further investigation revealed that "a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists," Google said in the post written by Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. {End of AP's Report}

Wade Burleson's question is simple: "What did China intend to do to the human rights activitists after the Chinese government cracked their Google email accounts?" It doesn't take much of an imagination to know it wouldn't have been pretty. The only way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Most Important Room at Emmanuel

All of us know that "the church" is not an institution or a building, but a people called out by God's grace to reflect the image of Christ in this world. I am thankful that God has His people in every nation, every tongue, every tribe of earth, not to mention people in every denomination, every assembly and every institution who names Christ as Lord. For the past eighteen years God has allowed me to be a part of a wonderful group of Christians at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma. Being a pastor necessitates regular contact and ministry with these members through hospital visits, small groups, counseling sessions, funerals, weddings, etc..., but the pastors of Emmanuel do something very intentional that goes beyond regular pastoral ministry.

Every Tuesday morning we gather in the room pictured here and we pray for our members. There is a roster of 4,598 names of people who have an affiliation with Emmanuel. Each week I will assign ministry contacts to individual pastors, ranging in number from as few as four to as many as fifteen, depending on the pastor's schedule that week. I make sure no pastor has more ministry assignments than I. Our job is to personally visit with our assigned members that week and find out how things are going for them and their family members in every facet of their lives, particularly spiritually. We let them know up front that the following Tuesday the staff will be praying for them, and our task is to find out how we can more be specific in our prayers on their behalf.

The pastors know that nothing can be brought up during a prayer time that has not already been discussed with the person for whom we are praying. Too often, we Christians use "prayer request" time as an opportunity to talk about others and say things we would not say to them personally. Our pastoral rule is that our prayer times will only encompass those things which we have already discussed with our members. This precludes gossip. We also require each pastor to write down a report with the results his ministry contact, a copy of which will be attached to our member's profile. It's our desire, for instance, to follow through with our members in the months to come, covering those areas of prayer concerns from previous months to see how the Lord has graciously provided in their time of need. In addition, within a year's time, we will have completed our member ministry and will be starting over again. The reports provide a record of the previous contact.

Our support staff joins us for these hour and a half prayer and ministry times every Tuesday morning (8:30 to 10:00 am). It is absolutely amazing the amount of effective ministry that take places when we pastors see ourselves as spiritual shepherds and not spiritual overlords. The Chief Shepherd tells us that He knows His sheep by name, and it is my desire that every undershepherd at Emmanuel know every member, attender and prospect of Emmanuel by name--to know them with the same kind of loving, merciful knowledge that Jesus has for His people. These ministry and prayer times each Tuesday, the culmination of intentional ministry to approximately 75 to 100 family units by our pastoral staff during the previous week, makes this room the most important room at Emmanuel.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Word of Caution from the Prince of Preachers

"Watch and pray, as a Christian church, each one of you as members of it, that we may not be allowed to flatter ourselves with a nominal increase, unless it be a real increase from God, for ‘what is the chaff to the wheat?’ Suppose the report should be that there are so many added to the church, but suppose that they are not added to the Lord now, nor found in Christ hereafter? We have done these people serious damage by, as it were, endorsing their pretensions to Christianity when they have no real claim to it. We may have helped their delusion, we may have rocked the cradle of delusive slumber into which they have fallen, and out of which they will never wake until they open their eyes in hell. ‘What is the chaff to the wheat?’ I wish that such a text as this would go whistling through some of the churches! I would like to hear of its being preached from every pulpit in London, and I would pray the Holy Spirit to apply it to the conscience of every hearer. Your admission into the church by infant sprinkling, or by confirmation, or by the right hand of fellowship, or by believers’ immersion, all go for nothing unless you have been admitted into union with Christ. Your sitting at the Lord’s table; coming often to holy communion; being found regularly occupying your place in public worship; joining in the solemn hymn; bending with others in earnest prayers—these things are all nothing, and less than nothing and mockery, unless your heart has been renewed. Unless you have the Spirit of Christ you are none of his. ‘Ye must be born again.’"

C.H. Spurgeon
January 17, 1867, Sermon No. 862

Thursday, January 07, 2010

When an Atheist Makes More Sense than Louie Giglio


Louie Giglio is a wonderful man, a great evangelical speaker, and is doing a fabulous work among the youth of our nation. Louie spoke at Emmanuel years ago, long before he became well-known in our evangelical community. Louie is a captivating speaker and we sincerely desire the Lord's continued blessing upon his life and ministry. This post is not intended to be critical of either Louie or his ministry; it is written as an encouragement for Christians, particularly young ones, to be cautious about swallowing what you hear from great, evangelical speakers "hook, line and sinker." For those of you love to fish, you know that if the hook, line and sinker are all swallowed, the fish is often unintentionally gutted and killed trying to retrieve the items.

The embedded video above is Louie speaking to thousands of young people on the subject of laminin. Laminin, in essence, is the "glue" that holds the biological universe together, including your body. Louie has toured the United States and spoken to thousands of young people, telling them that laminin is designed by God as a molecular cross--meaning the cross of Christ holds everything together. The best way to get an understanding of his concept is to watch the video.

Recently, I came across another video, produced by an atheist who, unlike me, is mocking Louie for his laminin speech. Normally, I would never agree with an atheist bent on minimizing the influence of an evangelical brother, but frankly, the atheist makes a good point. He posits that laminin has a closer resemblance to a cadeceus. The atheist suggests that flashing a photograph of a double helix laminin in front of thousands of young people should remind them of the magic wand of Hermes, not the cross of Jesus Christ.

The atheist rightly concludes that someone could just as easily point to laminin and urge people to follow the Greek gods. Ironically, it was through closely observing nature and the heavens that the Greeks created their list of multiple gods. The atheist's/humanist's video can be seen below.

One of the reasons I believe Bill Gothard got way off track is because he began pointing people to "nature" and left off the sound expositional/exegetical teaching of God's word. When an evangelical points people to the animal kingdom and deduces Christian "principles" by which they are to live, rather than pointing them to the simple (yet profound) teaching of the sacred text, there will soon be trouble within the hearts of the hearers. When an evangelical begins to point people to look within the toilet to see whether or not excrement "floats or sinks," rather than pointing people to the inspired and living Word of God, there will soon be cracks within Christendom. Likewise, when one of the more prominent evangelicals among us begins pointing impressionable young people to pictures of nature for "confirmation" of their faith, rather than directing them to be "workmen rightly dividing the word of truth," we might discover a generation arises that is unable to give an answer for the hope that is within them.

There is no understanding of the gospel of God apart from divine verbal or written revelation. Nature does not reveal the God who saves sinners. The holy Scriptures alone reveal for us the nature of a gracious God. Further, confirmation of our faith in this gracious God comes from our understanding of His specific revelation (the written word of God), not our understanding of His general revelation (nature).

"The New Testament emphasizes God's redemptive grace as decisively manifest in Christ, that Jesus was "put to death for our sins" and was raised to put us right with God (Rom. 4:25; cf. 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18). Forgiveness of sins without substitution and satisfaction is biblically inconceivable for it would impugn God's justice (Rom. 3:21-26)." --- Carl Henry (See God, Revelation, and Authority Vol. 6: The God Who Stands and Stays, Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1983 p. 364)
Because biblical understanding is far more important to our faith, I hope and pray this generation of young people becomes more inspired by an excellent exposition of God's Word than an inspirational talk on laminin.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

100 Years Since the Death of U.S. Deputy Bass Reeves: The Real True Grit

On Christmas Eve I had the privilege of visiting with, and praying for, my friend Harold T. Holden in his sculpting studio north of Enid. H., as Harold is known by his family and friends, is a a nationally acclaimed sculptor. When I arrived at his studio, I found H. hard at work on his latest project, a bronze of Bass Reeves. The Bass Reeve's Legacy Initiative selected H. to create a monument commemorating U.S. Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves (1838-1910). The monument will be placed in Pendergraft Park in Fort Smith, Arkansas, not far from the soon to be built $50 million Federal U.S. Marshal Museum The statue will be Arkansas' first equestrian bronze.

As I watched H. working on the Reeve's monument I couldn't help but recall the incredible and colorful life of this evangelical Christian who was once a slave but became the most famous U.S. Deputy Marshal in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). He was the first black lawman west of the Mississippi River, appointed just a dozen years after he had been freed from slavery by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Bass was sworn in as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in 1875 by Judge Isaac Parker ("The Hanging Judge) in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Most people over forty years of age have seen the movie True Grit, starring John Wayne, but few realize that Wayne's role was that of a Deputy Marshall in Indian Territory, one of "Parker's Men." Bass Reeves was the real "True Grit."

Reeves served thirty-two years as a United States Marshall, and rode horseback approximately 75,000 miles throughout the twin territories, Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory. During his tenure, Marshal Reeves arrested and transported to Fort Smith over 3,000 fugitives, some of whom included the most wanted and colorful outlaws in the United States. In 1907 the twin territories became the state of Oklahoma, and Federal Deputy Marshalls gave way to county sheriffs and municipal police departments in Oklahoma. Bass Reeves retired from the Marshal's service and became a police officer in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he died exactly 100 years ago, January 12, 1910.

Bass Reeves career in law enforcement has not received the same acclaim as that of Marshals Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. Reeves stood 6'2" and weighed 180 pounds. He was ambidextrous, able to shoot a pistol or rifle accurately with his right or left hand. Settlers in Indian Territory said Reeves could take two men with his bare hands, but always was a gentleman unless provoked. Some of the stories of how Deputy Marshall Reeves apprehended criminals defy reason. He brought fugitives by the hundreds into the Fort Smith federal prison to stand trial before Judge Parker. His peers revered him, and criminals feared him. The noted female outlaw Belle Starr turned herself in at Fort Smith when she found out Reeves had the warrant for her arrest. In 1902, Reeves arrested his own son, Bennie, for domestic murder in Muskogee after the other Deputy Marshals in the area refused to serve the warrant out of respect for Bass.

Rather than writing a detailed history of Bass Reeves for this post, I thought I would point out just one detail of his life that related to his Christian faith. Reeve's great nephew, Federal Judge Paul Brady had this to say about Marshal Reeves and why he took up a career in law enforcement with Judge Isaac Parker:

They developed a very close working relationship. In spite of the widely diverse backgrounds, one a slave, one a former congressman, one educated, one who was not. Bass had no semblance of any formal education. They developed a very deep respect for each other. I think that perhaps this was based upon their overriding sense of duty and responsibility that they had learned from their Christian backgrounds and Christian teachings. They were both very versed in the scriptures from their early learning, and Judge Parker convinced Bass to join him in helping to establish the rule of law over the rule of men, and to bring law where there had never been any law before. Parker reminded Bass, that he would be in a position to serve as a deputy to show the lawful as well as the lawless that a black man was the equal of any other law enforcement officer on the frontier.

Bass Reeves reminds us that we would be unwise to stereotype Christians. A Christian is one with faith in Jesus Christ, but some Christians can be really tough hombres when need be.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson