Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

The Bible is the bestselling book of all time.  Year after year, it is always at the top of the list.  We are blessed to live in a day and age when we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history.  If you have a smart phone, you can even download a free app that will allow you to have multiple verses at your fingertips and in the palm or your hand.  For this, I am thankful.  I am thankful that we have so many tools that will allow us to get the Bible into our hearts and heads due to technology.   Technology can be a beautiful thing.  However, such great advancements in technology can also come with a cost.  I am just on the outside of the millennial bubble.  I believe my unofficial title is an “Xennials” since I was born in 1981.  I have been in church for the 36 years.  I have seen all sorts of fads come and go (WWJD bracelets and all).  One that I have noticed an increase of more in the last 6 or 7 years is that of people leaving their old bound copies of their Bibles at home and replacing them with a digital device, which is most often their phone.  I get the allure of having everything so accessible and it all fit in your pocket.  However, I believe we are missing out on something if we dump our leather bound Bibles for a sleek pocket sized digital one.  Here are a few reasons I prefer a hard copy of my Bible over a digital one.

The Distraction:

When I was a child I would often get into trouble for being distracted or being a distraction to others in church.  Now, we hold in our hands the ultimate distraction: the smart phone.  So much of our lives are on the little hand-held computer.  Any information we could ever possibly want to know is there.  When someone likes our Facebook post, we get an alert.  When someone retweets you, there is a notification.  An early morning e-mail finds its way into your inbox, and you get the little shake of you phone.  Most of us are drawn to those notifications like a moth to a flame.  We just have to see what is going on in the world and what someone has said about us.  When you use your phone as your Bible (or any device that is connected to the internet) there is always a great temptation to quickly check that alert.  If you are not disciplined, the next thing you know, you are replying to that e-mail and all of the sudden you don’t even know what the pastor is saying.  You have gotten sucked in by the digital vortex.  This is one of the blessings of using a physical copy of the Bible.  You can set your phone on silent, and never get those distracting buzzes and pop-ups.  You can just enjoy and engage in the Bible, the worship of God, and the sermon.

The Sound:

This may just be me, but one of my favorite sounds in the world is to hear those thin pieces of paper in your Bible flip from one page to the next.  It sends off a sound that people are looking, listening, and engaging.  The sound of screen tapping just simply isn’t the same.  While there is nothing biblical or theological about the rustling of paper over the sound of a finger tapping, it is just a simple pleasure that is missed when we use our little computers over a bound copy of scripture.

The Feel:

Much like the sound of pages turning in the Bible, another simple pleasure that is missed on our smart phones is the feel of the Bible in your hands.  There is just no other book quite like it.  One of the benefits of having that physical copy is the ability to take notes in it.  While there are certainly ways of taking notes digitally, the reality is often we do not get around to looking at them later.  Just like we never print all of those HD photos that we take on our phones and loose when the phone breaks, the same is often true about our notes.    However, any time I flip open my Bible I can see notes that were taken 8 or 10 years ago, and that is an encouragement to me.  I don’t get the same familiarity with “My Bible” when I use a digital version.  It just isn’t the same.  It just feels different.

The History:

Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439 people have been printing the Bible for public use.  During the time of the Reformation we saw an explosion of different translations.  Primarily before the press was made the Latin Bible of the Catholic Church was virtually the only Bible in use, but after the press was invented it was not long before the Lord used it to start printing modern translations for a modern vernacular for the common people.  For the past 600 years we have had hard copies of the Bible.  Before then, there were scrolls, codex, and a variety of other types of materials used for holy writ.  This is what people like Augustine, Tyndale, Calvin, Zwingli, Spurgeon, and D.L. Moody used.  If a digital copy had been available for them to use, I am sure that they would have taken advantage of it, but the hard copy of scripture has a long history.  It is my hope that we never lose it in place of pixels, glass, and hard plastic.

The invention of the digital Bible has been a marvel and a blessing for this age.  In closed countries, the digital Bible may very well be all a person may own.  For this fact alone, we should give praise for it.  If a computerized version of the Bible allows you to read more, meditate often, and memorize scriptures, by all means . . . use it.  I use it almost on a daily basis.  However, when I walk thought the doors of my local church I prefer the feel of a heavy leather book filled with 1000 pages of God’s holy Word over the smooth and shinny glimmer of high definition pixels on my phone.  Is a person more holy for having their big ESV Study Bible in hand over the person carrying 20 versions with Logos Bible Software in the palm of their hand?  By no means, but I do think there is something special about the old book.  So, next Sunday before you walk out of the house let me encourage you to think about taking that beautiful, sometimes cumbersome, book with you and not just your phone for worship.  You might be surprised how much you enjoy hearing those pages turn, feeling that old familiar book that is filled with such history, and being less distracted all the while.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

When you hear the word “mentor” what comes to mind?  Maybe it brings to mind a school teacher who stayed after school with you to help you learn your math.  Maybe it is a coach who spent countless hours with you perfecting your curve ball in high school.  Maybe, like me, you think of a man or woman from you church who you simply liked spending time with and watching how they did life.  I think too often we look at a mentoring relationship as some big glorified thing that we wish we had with someone but don’t really know how it works . . . so we never end up doing it.  I had a professor in Bible College one time say that “everyone needs a Timothy, Barnabas, and Paul in their life.”  A Timothy is someone who you are usually older than (for sure more spiritually mature) that you are purposefully investing in.  A Barnabas is someone who is more along the same spiritual maturity level who you walk with, try to encourage, and hold each other accountable (Proverbs 27:17).  A spiritual Paul is someone who is older and wiser than you who is, in essence, mentoring you.  Paul writes about this very type of relationship in his letter to Titus.  He writes in the second chapter that older men are to teach younger men . . . and older women are to teach younger women . . . “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,  sound in speech which is beyond reproach . . .

There is so much value in having and being a mentor.  There is no exact science to it.  It is not laid out in scripture like the 10 commandments, but the foundation is there for us to build upon.  If you are already mentoring someone, praise the Lord; maybe this will encourage you to keep on.  If you are not mentoring or being mentored by someone, maybe this will encourage you to consider the great value in it.  Here are four areas to consider as you mentor someone or are being mentored.

Meeting with them:

This may seem obvious, but if you do not plan to meet, you will not.  We are all very busy in life and planning a set time allows for putting it down on a calendar.   Set a time to meet (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and make every effort to be there.  This can be in a formal setting where you meet at church or a more informal time where you meet at a coffee shop, or your own home.  The point is this . . . that you are face-to-face.  There is no real substitute for the physical face-to-face meeting.  Plan a time.  Get together.

Read with them:

Before you meet for the first time you should discuss what you would like to study together.  If you mentor someone for more than a year I suggest mixing it up between a book (or theme) of scripture and a good practical book on theology.  It is God’s word (through the power of the Holy Spirit, mind you) that changes people.  Choose a verse to memorize together over a week or month.  Read and discuss a chapter of scripture each week (or when you gather).  Keep this part short (10-20 min).  You can also get a great book that is applicable to where they are.  Read a chapter, hit the highlights, and discuss how it can be applied.  The point is that you are mining the depth of God together, and you are helping them to understand how it works in their daily life.

Pray with them:

D. L. Moody was making a visit to Scotland in the 1800’s and he opened one of his talks at a local grade school with the rhetorical question, “What is prayer?” Hundreds of children raised their hands. He decided to call on one of the young men to answer.  The young boy said, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”  This was the answer to question #98 in the Westminster Catechism.  Moody responded by saying, “Be thankful, son, that you were born in Scotland.”  Prayer is something that is so simple, yet so profound and powerful.  Every time you meet, you should start and end in prayer.  Jesus prayed for and with his disciples.  Paul prayed with the groups of people that he mentored and taught.  Pray through scripture.  Pray for each other.  Make it a priority.  Make it genuine.

Enjoy life with them:

            One of the best, and informal, parts of being a mentor is simply doing life together.  By this I mean just hanging out and/or having fun.  Going fishing together or going on a hike together can bring wonderful bonding time.  There is so much to be taught and learned simply by living life together.  Some of the most important lessons I have learned have come from this type of informal setting.  When a person is a Christian, it should come out in every area of their life.   I am sure that John and the other disciples learned much from Jesus that was never written down (John 21:25).  Part of being a mentor is simply spending time, asking questions, and investing in someone’s daily life.  The formal is needed (Bible study and prayer), but do not neglect the informal.  This is where real life application of scripture is shown and not just the passing of knowledge.

Mentor-ship comes in a variety of different ways.  Young children need mentors.  Teens need mentors.  Your 20-somethings need mentors.  New Christians need mentors.  Newly married couples need mentoring couples.  So, here is the question: where are you on this list?  Are you in need of a mentor?  If so, then pray about finding an older man or woman in your church to walk with you.  Are you retired and looking for a place to invest in the kingdom?  Find a younger man or woman . . . or even young married couple and invest in their lives.  Find your spiritual Timothy, Barnabas, and Paul and get to work for the glory and honor of God.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The word advent literally means “arrival”, and it refers to the arrival of Jesus into the world.  It is this time of the year where people all over the world celebrate Christmas.  For the Christian, it has a particularly special meaning.  This is the time that we get to celebrate our Lord’s birth.  According to what tradition you come from there are different ways to anticipate and celebrate this special day.  Whatever tradition you observe as a Christian, I hope you use it as a time to look to scripture and be filled with the joy that Jesus brings us.

Over the next month I would like to share a weekly thought or devotion to keep us looking forward to that special day.  Today, I would like to help us to remember His name and just who it is that came on that not so silent night.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on
His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

He Would Be Called Wonderful Counselor:

During Jesus’ 33 plus years here on earth he did many wonderful things.  He cast out demons.  He made the mute to speak.  He made the lame to walk.  He caused the blind to see.  He feed thousands with just a few fish and a couple loaves of bread.  He was full of mercy and awe.  He would not only instill awe because of his deeds but his teaching as well.  Even those who did not follow him understood his great council.  “The officers answered, ‘Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks’” (John 7:46).  Jesus truly was the Wonderful Counselor.

He Would Be Called Mighty God:   

Jesus is the God-man.  He is both 100% God and 100% man at the same time.  Claiming to be God caused others to want to kill him at times.  But there was no doubt that Jesus understood who he was and who the prophet Isaiah was pointing to when he said that he would be called “Mighty God.”  It was none other than Jesus himself.  There is no way of getting around it when Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:40).  What an excellent way of anticipating Jesus this season . . . knowing that He was fully divine.  What joy that should bring us.

He Would Be Called Eternal Father:

Jesus would be the eternal father to his people.  As the king from the line of David, he would care for and discipline his children.  To think of Jesus as our father is a glorious thought. Just as a father was to provide, protect, and instruct his children, Jesus would do the same for his people.

He Would Be Called Prince of Peace:

While there is not complete peace on earth today, we anticipate that one day when there will be peace on earth.  The Prince of Peace will come to make all things new.  He is the one that comes to bring peace within the soul of man.  None could have real peace apart from Him.  Paul said it right when writing to the Colossians, “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).  Jesus would come into this world to be king of it, and though him peace would eventually reign.

This week, let’s remember who it is that we say we worship.  Let’s remember that Jesus was indeed born a baby, but that was just the starting point.  He was born with a purpose.  As we anticipate the celebration of his arrival, let’s remember all of his glorious attributes, and not just the baby in the lowly manger.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

On Monday, August 21st many people in North America will get to experience the rare phenomenon of a complete solar eclipse.  They are rare indeed and if you are fortunate enough to be within the path of totality you are sure to be in for an unforgettable experience.  The last time it happened in North America was in 1979.  For many, this is a very big deal.  People from all around the world are flocking to towns all over the U.S. to enjoy these minutes of darkness and everything that surrounds it.  It is sure to be spectacular as long as the clouds cooperate.  However, for the Christian this eclipse can be seen from a much different and much brighter light.  It is not just an event that is seen in light of astronomy, but one that screams the glory of God and His great Gospel.  The psalmist David wrote in Psalm 19:1-6 about how the heavens declare the glories of God.  I believe the king’s psalm perfectly expresses the coming events that will be seen in the eclipse.  As you prepare to watch this great heavenly appearance, I would encourage you watch it in all of its wonder in the light of God’s Word.

The Great Event:

From start to finish there will be something just a little different about your surroundings for roughly 3 hours if you are close to the sun’s path.  It will be noticeable, but subtle to begin with.  Notice what David said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge,”(1-3).  During the few minutes of totality something amazing will happen.  The temperature will fall.  The sun will be hidden.  The stars will shine as bright as they do in the dead of night.  For those few minutes, everything will seem as if it was midnight.  After those momentary seconds have passed, the sun will once again begin to shine, and the eclipse will wane.  During this spectacular event, watch and see how God’s glory is pronounced.  Watch and see the sun, the moon, and the stars all in the matter of just a few minutes.  His sky, which the Father spoke into existence, and the Son holds together (Colossians 1:17) will be shouting the glory of His name.  His handiwork will be seen by millions upon millions of on-lookers.  Without words, both the day and the night will scream that this is the work of our mighty Creator.  The event that many are coming to see started in eternity past. . . yet we get to be the beneficiaries of seeing His glory on display in a special way.

The Great Distance:

Around 9:00 AM residents on the coast line of Oregon will be the first to see this great wonder.  Over the next several hours the sun will span the distance of more than 2500 miles to the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina.  During its travel it will pass through major cities, small towns, and everything in between.  We travel around the sun once every 365 days, but in this Psalm, David reminds us that the message goes beyond the direct path of the Eclipse.  The message of God’s created world extends to every part of the world,  “ . . . their line has gone out through all the earth and their utterances to the end of the world.  In them He has placed a tent for the sun,”(4).  People are traveling from every part of the world great distances to partake in this celestial occurrence.  Although not everyone will be able to see it personally, it will be seen from every part of the world due to modern technology.  While most are focusing on the sun and the rarity of this heavenly event, let us remember the great distance the Lord came to reveal Himself not just through nature, but through the true Son.  Getting to see the sun and moon in all of its glory is a wonderful thing, but the Lord will be using it in every part of the world to ultimately magnify Himself.

The Great Picture: 

The Psalmist writes in verse 5-6, “ . . . which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”  Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is often pictured as the bridegroom.  Here, David makes the same illusion to the sun.  It “runs his course” and “its rising is from one end . . . to the other . . . nothing is hidden from its heat.” The same can be seen in the S-O-N.  During the eclipse the earth will go dark.  The sun will be hidden, almost as if it has been defeated and swallowed up by darkness, if only for 3 minutes.  When Jesus came, and died it was indeed a dark moment for the followers of the great Rabbi of Nazareth, but 3 days later the Son broke through.  The Son rose from the darkness of sin and the grave.  With Him, He brought victory for all of His people.  Now, He calls His own out of darkness and into marvelous light (I Peter 2:9).  This is the Gospel, and it will be on full display if we are truly looking on Monday.  It will be a wonderful picture of creation, the fall, redemption, and the consummation.

Monday’s event will surely be something to behold.  It will indeed be a special event to witness.  It’s worthy of pulling your kids out of school, and even taking off work if possible to go and participate in a near once-in-a-lifetime event.  However, if you go and see it just for the wonder of creation, you could miss an opportunity to truly glory in the wonder of the Creator.  God’s glory and His gospel will be on full display for the world to see as the sun and the moon do their dance, but while you’re watching from Anderson, South Carolina or your computer screen, be sure to take a moment and take the Gospel in while listening to the voice of David making melody in your soul.  Take a moment to worship the Lord . . . because if the sun is truly something to marvel at, just imagine what the S-O-N is like.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell

If you have been a part of a church for any length of time, then it is likely true that you have had to endure a song or two for which you didn’t care.  Sometimes these “bad songs” have more to do with style than substance, wording, or simple preference.  If you are a theology lover like me, it often has to do with some small nuance of doctrine rather than drum-beats or some skinny-jean wearing guy firing off some minute-long guitar solo.  The question is, when these songs are inevitably sung at your church or a conference, how are you going to react?  What should your response be?  Many people simply sit down, or even cross their arms with their apparent displeasure.  I have even seen some that simply stand with a sour look on their face.  As Christians however, how should we respond?  If everyone else is standing as a corporate body and singing, how should we respond so as to not draw attention to ourselves, and allow the Lord to still be worshiped by those around us?  How can you still worship, but yet not be coerced into worthless worship because your heart is not right?  Here are a few ideas to consider.

Pray About Your Attitude:

You see in the bulletin that song that you just hate to sing…  Your soul groans. You are thinking to yourself, “I think I am going to need to go to the bathroom about that time during the service.” You simply have a bad disposition about it before it ever starts. Sadly, I must admit that I have been there, and I didn’t mind showing my displeasure. It was written all over my face when the song was sung. However, I finally came to the point when I realized that singing to God should have a lot more to do with Him than my personal desires. I was coming into the service wanting to feel God and feel the music, instead of having Him be the object of my praise; the object of my worship.  I needed an attitude (and a heart) change. When I finally came to this point, it made worshiping God through a song that was not my preference a lot easier. He was the one that I needed to be aiming to please, not myself. So, this is the first place we need to look when that song is going to be sung. We need to check our attitudes. Check and make sure that your heart is right before you seek to cast stones at the music minister or praise team leader.

Find the Biblical Truth in the Song:

            We all have desires and preferences in our musical choices. I love songs with rich and theologically sound words.  However, I work with students and go to a lot of youth conferences.  There, one is more likely to find a loud and more contemporary style of music. At times there is less of an emphasis on biblical orthodoxy in the words and more emphasis on the quality of the music.  Not everyone enjoys the same style of music.  Nevertheless, we need to always look for the biblical truth in the songs that we sing (John 4:24).  Biblical truth is what separates Christian music from every other type of music in the world.  It is part of the formula of true praise or worship. Ultimately, the words must be right and our hearts as well, for our song to be acceptable to the Lord.  While the song might be light (or very heavy) on biblical truth, as long as it is biblical truth, you can still sing.  Even if you don’t like the beat of the drum or the sound of the organ, if the words are right, then put aside your preference and sing not just unto the Lord but also for the benefit of those standing next to you as well (Colossians 3:16).

Change The Words:

            Every once in a while you run across a great song that might have a single line with some troubling lyric. This is common, not just in new songs but some of the old great hymns as well.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot sing the song.  When I have been at a conference or a church and one of these songs are sung, I simply either stop singing during that particular line or I make up a new line that fits the song better and then sing it. We must remember that all Christian songs (unless they are a Psalm from scripture) are man-made and not inspired by God in the same way scripture was inspired (I Timothy 3:16).  There is nothing wrong with changing a word or two.  But you might not choose to belt it out at the top of your lungs. That might be distracting to the person next to you, and that might end up doing more harm than good.  Changing the words so as to make much of Jesus is not wrong, in fact, it is right.

Pray Instead of Singing:

            If an attitude change has not helped, the words that are being sung cannot be found in scripture, and there is no hope to change the words, a final option is to simply stand and pray.  Paul said that we should “pray without ceasing.” If you just cannot sing a song that the church is singing, then another appropriate way to speak to the Lord is through prayer. This allows you to participate with the church body in standing and joining your heart to the Lord, but simply through a different medium. It causes no distraction and it allows you to give glory to God through your personal words instead of someone else’s. I have done this on several occasions and have found it to be very helpful in preparing me to hear from God though the preaching of the Word. It allowed me not to be frustrated over a song choice, but also not to compromise my personal conviction or preferences.

Singing unto the Lord has both a horizontal and a vertical element to it (Colossians 3:16).  It is for the benefit of others, ourselves, and the Lord as well. As you grow as a Christian, you will find that we should want to be with the corporate body and sing songs of praise, adoration, and worship to the Lord. As you do this more, you are bound to run across a song or two that just doesn’t fit in to the “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs being sung in spirit and the truth” model.  When you do, I hope you will think about these things that I have mentioned. We don’t want singing to be about us. We never want to draw attention to ourselves instead of God, and if we sit, cross our arms, and sulk, that is exactly what we are doing. We should always seek unity when possible. My encouragement to you (from a person who has had to learn this) is when you run across one of these songs, check your attitude, and then sing. Look for the words that glorify God, and then sing. Change the words if need be, and then sing. If you exhaust these options, then stand with your brother and sister in Christ and give glory to Him through your prayers.  Join with your fellow brother and give Jesus the honor and praise that He deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

I have to admit, this is one of those questions that I have struggled with myself.  I am a strong proponent of Lordship Salvation, but at the same time must balance that with the belief that children can come to the Lord at a young age as well.  Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not writing this to pit Paedobaptism (the baptism of infants) vs Credobaptism (the baptism of believers only).  I am a Credobaptist and I am coming from that theological vantage point.  The question that I have struggled with really is “At what time should my 7 year old (or any young child) who has professed faith take the next step of baptism?”  In a land filled with easy believism, “just say a sinner’s prayer”, and “take Jesus into your heart” mentality, I believe we must preach and teach true conversion to our children.  That is not to say that they will get it all at once, but sin, faith, repentance, the cross, and counting the cost of following Jesus are all necessary components of the gospel.  If your child has a grasp on these things (both mentally and seemingly spiritually), how do you know when it is time for them to get baptized?  Since the Bible does not give a complete guideline for this situation, I believe these are some helpful questions to ask before we agree to let them take of this holy ordinance.

Why Baptism?

What really saves us any way?  According to Ephesians we are “saved by grace through faith and not that of ourselves. It is a gift from God.”  We are saved by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10).  So, if we are saved by grace through faith apart from works, what is the big deal about Baptism?  First, we get baptized because we are commanded to (Matthew 28).  Secondly because it is an outward sign of the inward change that Christ has done for us.  Next, we get baptized to make a public profession that we are not ashamed to be called and Christian.  It is a sign that we are a part of the church universal (I Corinthians 12:13).  Baptism does not save us, but it does identify who we are and to whom we belong.  Why be baptized?  Because the Lord said to, and we want to be obedient.

Do they understand the gospel?

By this I mean can they tell you that God is Holy, and that they are not?  That God has every right to condemn them for their sins.  That Jesus came, was born perfect, and lived a perfect and holy life.  That Jesus died on the cross, the Just for the unjust, and that if they truly believe in Him alone for forgiveness and salvation that they can be saved.  That they must repent and turn from their sin, and if they do so, that the Lord will keep them and seal them until the day of redemption.  If they understand their sin, and Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension then you can trust that they know the gospel in the most basic form.

Have you seen fruit?

When the child is young, grows up in a Christian home where the Bible is being taught, and makes a profession of faith, it may be hard to discern genuine fruit from simple “good raising.”  Some of the best advice I have been given is to give this area time.  Ask yourself, can you see your child growing to hate their sin more?  Do they come to you and acknowledge wrong doing before you ever knew of the offense?  Do they seem to be more loving, joyful, acting more kindly to their siblings, and more respectful to you as parent?  These are some good indications that the Holy Spirit is at work in their life, but it takes time to see if this is a genuine pattern of Spirit wrought fruit, or just good behavior modification.  Look for lasting fruit, not just low hanging ones that can make us hopeful but leave us disappointed when we find out it is bad.

Have others seen fruit?

It can be easy to fool Mommy and Daddy sometimes.  If your child has made a profession of faith, tell others that are often around them about it.  Let them observe as well to see if they can see a spiritual change in their lives.  Don‘t overlook the blessing that comes from seeking input from those who are spiritually mature around you.

Are you putting words in their mouths?

It is easy for us as parents to put words in the mouths of our children because we want them to be saved.  This is understandable because all Christian parents want their children to be in the faith, but this can be dangerous.  Let them in their own words tell their grandparents, friends, and other family members, and even church leadership about their profession.  It does no good to feed them the words if they have not truly come to the conviction of them themselves.  Believe in the sovereignty of God.  Believe that if this is not the right time, that the Lord will awaken their spirit when it is.  Pray for their brokenness and their understanding . . . but please do not put words in their mouth just so as to pacify your anxiety about their salvation.

Do your elders/pastors agree it is time?   

Baptism is an important step in a person’s faith.  It should not be taken lightly.  There should be a time of testing by those who are spiritually mature that are in their lives (II Corinthians 13:5).  Let the pastor or elders from your church test them (without you giving them the answers for them).  If all are in agreement, then it may very well be time for the baptismal waters to be stirred.  If all are not, then it is okay to allow some time to marinate and keep looking for sign of regeneration.  While salvation is an individual decision initiated and completed by God, when your child is young, it would be wise to make baptism a group decision.  We want them to be sure of their faith.  Having them baptized is a parent’s, pastor’s, and church’s acknowledgment that they see saving faith in them.  It’s a big deal and pastors should always be involved in the process.

I write this not as someone who has all the answers.  I write this as a parent and a pastor who is in the middle of it himself with 4 young kids.  Ten months ago my oldest made such a wonderful profession.  It has been almost a year since she did . . . and we are still in the “have you seen their fruit” stage.  While we believe her profession was sincere, we are still waiting a little while longer to make sure.  These are 6 questions my wife and I keep asking each other as we seek others to help us in the process.  So, should your child be baptized?  The answer is an astounding yes if they have truly professed faith, but I would caution you not to rush it and rest in the goodness of God to reveal when it is the right time.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Which Bible Translation is the Best?

Posted: March 15, 2016 in Bible
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In fourteen years of ministry, I’ve noticed that the question, “Which English Translation is the best?” is one of those questions that seems to get asked more than most others.  It is a great question.  We are blessed to live in a time when we have more Bible versions than any other time in church history.  But, BUYER BEWARE!  Not all translations are created equal!  Every translation has a different approach to getting God’s word from the Greek and Hebrew into English.  Some translations have better scholarship than others.  Some translations have an agenda behind them.  Others simply set out to give an exact as possible English language rendering of the original languages.  Every translation is a bit different than the other because of philosophical differences in the human translators.  You will get different answers to the question, “Which is Best?” according to whom you ask.  Without singling out a single superior translation, here are four guidelines to consider before you go and pick your next copy of the all-time best seller – the Bible.

Guideline of Scholarship:

Start your journey with this thought: wouldn’t it be logical that the translation of the Bible that starts with the best and most accurate original language documents would have the best chance of being the most accurate?  Ask about any Bible in English, have the best Greek and Hebrew texts been used to translate this work?  Here’s one example of what I mean, the KJV is a beautiful word for word translation.  It has been used by God for more than 400 years.  However, the KJV (and NKJV) used a specific type of younger manuscripts (Byzantine) rather than the oldest manuscripts (Alexandrian) which are also used by modern translations.  It may surprise you to learn that we don’t have any copies of the Bible written by the Apostles themselves, but we do not.  We have copies of copies of copies, and it is important that we start with the oldest ones we have so we can minimize any translation errors.  If you want the best translation, you want to make sure that the texts used by the translators and editors are the best available.

Guideline of Readability:

Next consider how easy the translation is to understand.  Can you easily understand the words that you are reading?  Many men and women gave their lives to put God’s Word into plain language, whether that be German or English.  While there may not be many people dying for translating God’s Word into their native tongue today, the understanding that we need God’s Word in our own language is still prevalent.  We live in the 21st century and English words change over time.  This is part of the reason we need to have newer translations.  As words change, there is a need for a new translation so as to make it accessible to the people.  I am not meaning to pick on the big brother of the English translation too much, the KJV, but the reality is that many words and phrases have changed over the past several hundred years.  The word gay no longer means happy (James 2:3), the word ass (II Peter 2:16) in American culture does not mean donkey.  These words mean something very different today than they once did.  These redefined words can easily be a distraction to those who are reading a text.  So you need to think through the idea of the translation’s readability before we deem the translation as best.

Guideline of Teachability:

Keep it simple!  That is one of the things that I have always been told when trying to teach scripture.  This does not mean watered down, but rather easy to understand.  When choosing a Bible translation it is important to consider this.  Are you going to have to explain a text twice because of antiquated language like the Geneva Bible or because a translation has been too culturalized like the Cotton Patch Version?  When you have to explain the English rendering of the text before you can even get to its meaning, I believe it to be a hindrance.  Teachability also falls on the shoulder of reliability.  Translations such as the gender-neutral NIV 2011 have deeper problems that could obstruct a faithful teaching from scripture due to the philosophy behind its translation.  Part of the purpose of a good translation is so it can be taught and understood by the people.  If it is not easily taught from, it probably isn’t the best.

Guideline of Preference:

            We all have preferences; however, these preferences should always be guided by a love for the Apostles’ Doctrine.  Do you want to get to the very heart of God and His exact words that He inspired the Apostles and Prophets to write?  Then I would say the NASB, ESV, HSCB, or even NKJV are these best.  Do you simply want a more devotional (thought for thought) translation?  Then you might steer toward the NLT or NIV 1984 (but stay away from the NIV 2011).  Preferences do matter when it comes to choosing a Bible, but remember that just because it is your preference does not make it the best.  Ultimately, we want to hear from God, and if a paraphrase or translation veers from this, then it cannot be considered the best.

When I die I could not think of anything more beautiful than to have the 23rd Psalm read in the poetic King James Version.  There is just something comfortable and nostalgic about it.  However, it is not the best English translation, I believe.  The best in my opinion that fit all these criteria are the ESV and NASB (the best word for word translation we have in English as most scholars will tell you).  Both of these translations capture the very Word of God and not just His voice, which I believe is of utmost importance.  This does not mean that I do not read from other versions from time to time.  Since I have very young children we will often read from the NIV 1984 during family worship.  Other translations can help to shed light on a difficult passage at times, but as for me I tend always read, study, teach and preach from these two translations.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Yesterday I wrote a blog asking the question “Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol.”  I had no clue that it would be shared and read by so many people.  What an honor that so many would read it.  Due some godly feedback, however, I would like to shed some light on my personal preferences and convictions on the matter.

As I wrote yesterday, I am not a drinker.  I really never have been and I do not ever see a time in the future where I ever will be.  It is possible that if you read my blog yesterday without knowing me that it would have been easy to walk away from it thinking that the only reason that I have chosen not to drink alcohol is because I do not like the taste.  However, there are many other and more important reasons than that.  I would like to share four of them with you, and if you are a Christian, I would ask for you to think through some of these reasons with me.

  1. I do not want to offend my brother (I Corinthians 8:13):

Paul told the believers in Corinth “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful . . .” While drinking alcohol may be lawful for me, in the context in which I live, I know how divisive it can be.  I would rather not drink and cause no one to stumble than to drink and cause someone to stumble in their faith because of my freedom.  The fact is: we live in a different culture and context than 1st century Jerusalem. We must be sensitive to the climate in which we live.  My brothers are too important to me.  My witness is too important to me.  I would never want to be one that causes disunity within the body.  Drinking may cause disunity, but I have never known abstinence to cause it.  I prefer to err on the side of the latter.

  1.  I have seen the destruction it can cause on families (Proverbs 20:1):

My mother grew up in a home where her father was a drunk.  He abused not only his own body, but also my grandmother’s.  This is an all too familiar story for many.  In nearly 14 years of ministry I have seen it first hand as well.  While people can be abusive without drinking, the fuel of alcohol has often aided in abuse and complete dismantling of households.  It is a horrible sight to see.  If there was no alcohol, I believe there would be less abuse and less family problems.  People are still going to be people, but I do not see any reason to add fuel to the fire.  There are few things worse in ministry than having to deal with the devastation that can be left because of the abuse of alcohol in a family.

  1. Being an elder, I have been called to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:1-7):

As a pastor, two of the qualifications for the position are to be, “above reproach” and “not addicted to wine.”  Being an elder is a high calling; there are higher standards.  For me part of being above reproach is not only not drinking alcohol but not even having any in my home.  I would hate for a member of the church to come to my home and see that I have a wine cellar stocked to the brim.  To be above reproach means that there should be no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made.  A person in my position must take this into account.  The reality is that there are often assumptions made about a person (whether those assumptions are right or wrong) when you see them with alcohol.  I must be above reproach, and one way that I can do that is by not drinking alcohol.  To “not be addicted to wine” is not just simply another prohibition either.  An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker.  He must always be ready to make clear judgment, and drinking alcohol can easily impair that judgment if one is not careful.

  1. I believe there is wisdom in creating safeguards:

There is a well known proverbial saying that states, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.”  For my family one safeguard that we have to help prevent drunkenness is to not drink at all.  When Lot set his tents close to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, this was his first step toward his later downfall.  Was it wrong for him to put his tents there?  No, but the next time we hear from him he is in the town enjoying all that the cities had to offer.  This is my point about alcohol.  While the Bible does not prohibit all alcohol consumption, wisdom tells me to create safeguards.  I believe it would simply be better to create the safeguard of abstinence than to end up looking up one day from a bar stool, hammered, and wondering what happened.  This is not to say that everyone who has a sip now and then is a dunk, but for me wisdom says do not give Satan even a foothold to take me there.  For the same reason that I would not take another woman out for dinner (because of what it would look like or possibly lead to), I choose not to drink.  There would be nothing more enjoyable for Satan than to see a godly man fall into sin.  The Lord gives us freedom for sure, but he also gives us wisdom.  For me, wisdom, preference, and personal conviction say to abstain.

While I may not be a teetotaler by name, I certainly am in practice.  I see the practical benefits of it for me and my witness.  I would rather not offend anyone by possibly drinking.  I know the harm that alcohol can cause . . . and it is deplorable.  I must remember my calling, and that calling sometimes means suppressing your personal freedom for the sake of others, and I am happy to do so.  I believe there is wisdom in abstaining from alcohol in this day and age. While not everyone has to agree, for me, this is what I believe is right and best.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament can be tricky to some, but for others they can seem to find Him everywhere.  It is certainly not a game of Where’s Waldo, but finding Jesus is not always the easiest thing.  There are varying philosophies to seeing Jesus in the Old Testament text.  Some want to see him as a type in every narrative account.  Others want to only say He is there if there is a direct prophecy about him fulfilled in the New Testament.  I believe the best and most accurate way of seeing Jesus in these texts is to find a balance of both . . . that is to say to find Him in both portraits and  prophecies.

Jesus in portraits:

It can be a dangerous and unhelpful thing to allegorize every Old Testament text to find Jesus in it, but there are certainly many accounts that seem to picture Jesus clearly.  When you look at the sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, one would be hard pressed not to see Jesus there, since Paul says Jesus is that Lamb in I Corinthians 5:7.  We also can see Jesus in the prophet Moses when in Acts 7 Stephen makes the connection between the two.  When Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, according to John (John 3:14), that pointed to what Jesus was going to do on the cross.  David was clearly a type of Jesus as the king of his people. Jesus is the water that came from the rock in the wilderness (John 4:14). Just as it saved the people in the wilderness, it saves his people now.  But, not only was he the water, he too was the manna that fell from the sky.  In John 6:35 Jesus is said to be the bread of life.  This is the logical connection.  Typology has its weaknesses, but there are clear places in scripture where the text nearly demands it.

Jesus in prophecies:

According to what number of prophecies you believe in, Jesus fulfilled somewhere between 100-300 prophecies in his 33 plus years on earth.  There is no doubt where we find Jesus in these text.

  1. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was fulfilled in Luke 2.
  2. The Messiah will have a forerunner. (Malachi 3:1). This is fulfilled in John the Baptist which can be found in Matthew 3:1-3.
  3. The Messiah would make His triumphant entry riding on a donkey from Zechariah 9:9. This comes to fruition in Matthew 21:7, John 12:14-16.
  4. The Messiah would die by crucifixion. (Psalm 22, especially vv. 11-18). We see this fulfilled in Luke 23:33, Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, John 19:23.
  5. Those who arrested Him would cast lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18). This was fulfilled in Luke 23:34.

So, weather in portrait or in prophecy, there is no mistaking that Jesus is most certainly in the Old Testament.  It just takes a carful exegete to find where.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

There is an old adage that goes like this, “I don’t need the Old Testament, just give me Jesus.”  Now, I must say, I am all about Jesus.  I want Jesus in every aspect of my life.  However, if truth be told, if you really want Jesus, then you need the Old Testament.  Over the next couple of posts I would like to give you some reasons why we as Christians should not just read the texts of the Old Testament, but love them as well.  I want us to find Jesus in these texts and see how to apply them in our own lives.  But today I would like to answer the question, why should Christians study the Old Testament.  There are many valid reasons for Christians to study the Old Testament, but I would like to give you just three.

Because you need it to understand the New Testament:

The reality is the whole Bible is one continuous story.  One does not pick up The Lord of the Rings and start reading two-thirds of the way through it.  No, if you want to understand the whole story you start in the Shire, not Mordor.  It is the same thing with the Bible.  One could not properly understand Jesus dying as the sacrificial Lamb without having a good understanding of Leviticus.  Jesus being King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes much more sense when you understand I Samuel – II Chronicles.  One reason that Christians should study the Old Testament is so that they can understand the whole story, and not just parts of it.

Because all of it is God-breathed scripture, not just the New Testament:

II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  The scripture that Paul was alluding to was actually the Old Testament canon.  While it is true that Paul says that Peter is writing scripture, and Peter says the same of Paul, the reality is all New Testament Christians primarily read the Old Testament as their Bible.  While some of the nuances of the books of Numbers or Daniel may be hard to apply for those standing on this side of the cross, the fact remains that all 39 books of the Old Testament are still “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  And for this reason, we should read it.

Because Jesus and the Apostles read it:

When Jesus quoted scripture, what did He use?  When the Ethiopian eunuch was looking for answers to who Jesus was, what was he reading?  When Paul was standing before King Agrippa explaining what Jesus had done for him, what did he quote?  When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, what text was he reading from?  The answer to all four of these questions is the Old Testament.  This was still the Bible of the day for these men.  Yes, Paul, Peter, John, Luke and others were in the process of being inspired themselves to write holy writ; but they primarily read, studied, and taught from the Old Testament.  If this was their primary text, doesn’t it stand to reason that we too should be reading it as well?

There are so many good reasons for us to both read and study the Old Testament.  We should not just look at it to learn lessons on how to have the faith of Abraham or how to be a Daniel in our generation in modern Babylon.  We have the law to point us to a Holy God.  We have poetry to teach us what to sing in worship.  And we have the prophets that give us a glimpse at how God progressively revealed himself.  So, if you have not read those glorious old accounts of how God dealt with his people (our people) in the pages of the Old Testament in a while, I encourage you to visit with God in the Garden . . . wrestle with the Angle of the Lord with Jacob . . . sing a song with David.  Why should we as New Testament believers read about the God that is on the other side of the cross?  Simply, He is the same God of the New Testament, and you don’t want to miss out on the whole story.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell