A Simple and Helpful Way to Teach Your Children about God

If you are a Christian parent then you have a responsibility to “. . . bring your children up in the fear and admonition of God,” (Eph. 6:4).  With school, baseball practice, piano recitals, and a hundred other things that fill our weekly calendars, the thought of discipling our own children might seem like just one more thing on our never-ending list to get done.  After all, you take your children to Sunday school, right?  Isn’t that hour a week enough to train them in the things of God?  Taking your children to church is a wonderful thing.  It is absolutely part of the process of discipleship.  However, God is actually going to hold you as parents responsible for training your children in righteousness as well, and not just the church.  This may sound like a daunting task as a parent.  I have heard people say, “Where do I even start?  I don’t know a lot about the Bible myself.”  Rest assured, if this is you then you are not alone.  This is a common position for many parents that I have dealt with over the years, but I would like to give you a helpful tool that can aid you in this wonderful process.

One of the ways parents have taught their children about scripture throughout church history is by a process known as catechizing.  Don’t let this word scare you if you don’t know what it means.  It is simply a method of memorization.  It is a form of question and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.  The church has produced many of these different catechisms throughout the years.  We find this way of teaching all through scripture (Exodus 13:8-9, Deuteronomy 4:9).  It is especially good for young child to learn, since they have such a great mental capacity at this age.  It is amazing to see how quickly my 4 and 5 year old children memorize these great truths of God; often before I even have them down.  They may not have the full understanding of what the answers mean, but we are trusting that in time the Lord awakens them to these great realities.

Below, I have attached a link to what I believe is a great catechism for you and your family to get started with.  It was written for young children, but as a parent, it even helps me to have very precise answers without having to memorize entire paragraphs to explain what I believe.  My encouragement for you is to print off 10 of these questions at a time.  Decide, as a family, to memorize one a week.  It is easy while at breakfast or dinner to go over the questions.  Build upon them each week.  Ask the old questions, as you are leaning a new one.  If you do this, within a year’s time, you and you children can know more than 50 great doctrines of the Bible.  It will take less than 5 minutes a day to do, but the wealth of knowing these truths is invaluable.  If we can teach our children to hit a ball, or set a table, we can certainly teach them (and ourselves simultaneously) great truths of God in bite-sized and digestible chunks.

I hope you will consider using this resource with your children in the coming weeks.  You may be surprised how much they can learn in a short amount of time.  There are many wonderful catechisms out there, but I believe this is the best one to get started with.  God bless!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

A CATECHISM FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

A reason to sing and shout Hallelujah, in a new way.

For 14 years, a song entitled “Hallelujah” that was made famous by Jeff Buckley has captured the hearts of millions of people.  It is simple, yet mesmerizing; many people have cherished and sung this melody.  It has been beloved by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  With just a brief listen to the lyrics, however, anyone who knows anything about the Bible may be confused by its story.  It does little for painting an accurate picture of the biblical narrative, and the “Hallelujahs” being sung do not seem to be pointed at the God of the Bible. The music for the song is beautiful, but the lyrics leave believers wanting more.

A few months back, videos of people singing this song were popping up all over social media.  On a challenge from a pastor, Heath Walton (a singer/songwriter from Roopville, Georgia) wrote some theologically sound lyrics to this ever so popular song.  He wrote the song in a few hours.  The new lyrics lay out the gospel message in a powerful way.  The first time I heard it, I wept with both joy and humility.  I wept because it was my story. If you are a Christian, it is your story too.  Jesus is firmly standing at the center of the song; the hero of it all.  In only 3 minutes, Heath writes about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.  He also writes of God’s wrath and how He merits grace upon all who believe.  It is a song that should cause the Christian to worship.

Today, I have put this song on YouTube with added visuals in hopes that during this Easter season you can be reminded of the Gospel both in song, in your ears, and through the pathway of your eyes.  I am not a video editor by trade, but I hope this is something that you can watch and enjoy while you think about Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection this Easter season.

If you like the song as much as I do, and would like to hear more from Heath, you can check out his music HERE

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Enough with the African Tribesman Already! What happens when he dies?

If you have been serious about your faith for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the old argument that goes something like this: “You claim that hearing about Jesus and believing in Him is the only way of salvation.  But if the spoken word of the Gospel of Jesus is the only way to be saved, then what happens to the innocent African tribesman when he dies?  He didn’t have a chance to be saved.  That is not fair.  And God is always fair.”

On its surface the argument seems compelling.  Why would God send innocent people to hell just because they didn’t believe a Gospel that they never heard?  Wouldn’t that concept make God some kind of narcissist?  Is He creating people just for the satisfaction of destroying them without giving them a hope of salvation?  I believe there is a good and biblical answer to this “African Tribesman” argument.  Here are a few thoughts . . .

First Things First:

As we begin to think about this subject, consider this question: Is there such a thing as a poor, innocent tribesman at all?  It depends.  It is all according to what you mean when you say “innocent.”  Are you talking about innocent before man or innocent before God?  These are two different questions.  Surely by man’s standards this poor fellow may be innocent, but that is not enough.  In fact, I believe the best way to answer this question is to reply, “There is no need to worry about the “innocent” African tribesman, because if he is truly innocent he will go to heaven.”  The problem with that question is that there are no innocent tribesmen anywhere on this planet, nor has there ever been.  Romans 3:23 plainly states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Therefore, if you are talking about God’s innocent, then a better way to phrase the question is this: Can the truth about God that the tribesman has access to (nature and conscience) provide, by itself, saving truth for the tribesman?  This is a question worth asking.  When asking this question, there are a few things consider.

On one hand, one can read Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”  In this we can see that creation itself cries out that there is a God.  But is that enough?  Does that truth produce enough evidence to provide salvation?

On the other hand, Luke writes in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  Luke’s point is that salvation is found only in Christ.  These two differing perspectives have become the basis for centuries of debate.  Are the sun, moon, stars and the rest of creation that cries out that there is a Master Creator enough to bring someone salvation?  Does someone have to hear the name of Christ and profess Him as Lord for salvation?

Two Definitions of Revelation:

“General Revelation” is the teaching that God has revealed himself through natural things that people can see, touch, and feel.  A person does not have to intimately know God to see these things.  This idea seems to echo the thought of passages such as Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-2.  Certainly general revelation dictates that humans have a responsibility to this revelation and to God.

“Special Revelation” is how God has chosen to reveal Himself through extraordinary means.  Special revelation includes physical appearances of God, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:6-8, Hebrews 1:1-3).

These doctrines taken together hold that that there is at least enough revelation of God in His general revealing to condemn a person for their disbelief.  The Bible claims that it takes special revelation for faith to be produced (Romans 10:17).   For centuries, the Church has held as its teaching that general revelation is insufficient for salvation.  This is where the Reformers came down on the issue.  This is where I stand as well.  There is no one who could stand before God and claim that they are innocent apart from Jesus’ blood.  Without the message of the Gospel in special revelation, one cannot be saved.

A Common Question:

There is almost zero Biblical support for the African Tribesman argument. Rather, simply put, God saves through Jesus and we need to tell people about Jesus.  So why is this argument so popular?  It’s because it hints at the great American question.  The question is, “Is God fair?”  Many people feel that it is unfair of God to send a person to hell, especially this poor tribesman.  But in God’s economy, if everyone got what was “fair” then we would all go to hell rightfully.  We have violated a holy God and deserve nothing but His wrath.  On the contrary, the Bible’s insistence on special revelation for salvation actually provides hope rather than damnation.  It is out of the surpassing love of God that He gives anyone general revelation.  It is out of His abundance of mercy and kindness that He reveals anything of Himself to us at all.  His general love is not just given to His children alone but to all.  Matthew 5:45 says, “. . . for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  His general revelation is a marvelous gift to the world.  Then the question of fairness should be answered with a resounding “NO!  God is NOT fair with us; He is gracious!”  And I, for one, am grateful that He is this way.  It is by grace that anyone is saved.  It is by grace that anyone has general revelation.  It is astonishing that He unfairly and graciously gives us that much.

Concluding Thoughts:

Let’s answer the question then, “Can the truth about God that the tribesman has access to provide, by itself, saving truth for the tribesman?”  The answer to that question is no.  General revelation does contain within itself truth about the God of salvation; indeed general revelation points toward the truths of salvation.  Just as John the Baptist was not the Messiah, but he pointed toward the Messiah.  His message proclaimed the truth about the Messiah, but it was not enough to save apart from Christ.  The same is true about general revelation.  General revelation contains truth about God, but only enough to condemn.  It takes special revelation to reveal the complete truth of salvation.  This should invigorate us to spread God’s gospel truth to everyone.  God has given us special revelation to share and we need to share it to every person and people group around the world.

If you would like to read a more in-depth understanding of this, please feel free to see more here The African Tribesman Debate.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

What’s the Big Deal About Homosexual Marriage and the Bible?

Of all the hot button topics today, it seems none is hotter than homosexual marriage.  You can find examples of politicians, football players, actors, musicians, and even former mega church pastors (i.e. Rob Bell) chiming in with support for the normalization of homosexual marriage.  In fact, entire denominations have changed their doctrinal position to support this lifestyle.  In former days, Christians could attempt to take a neutral position on gay marriage.  However, it is so polarizing an issue today, soon (I believe within the next 5 years) we will know where everyone in the Christian community stands on this question.  I do not support the lifestyle of homosexuality for many reasons, and I am against making laws to normalize marriage between two persons of the same sex (the same goes for other marriage alternatives like a person who wants to marry multiple people or to marry an animal, etc.).  I believe the overwhelming evidence of scripture, church history, and nature is on my side.  The question I would like to answer then is: Why Does Biblical Marriage Matter To God, If It Indeed Does?

Consider these things:

Marriage is a picture of His love for us:

According to the Westminster Confession, the primary purpose of all life is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  I submit that this is also then the primary purpose of marriage, so the question becomes: What does a God-glorifying marriage look like?  The Bible has a lot to say here.  Scripture repeatedly symbolically refers to the relationship between Christ and the church as a marriage.  That relationship is seen in the Bride (The church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).  In the well-known verse Ephesians 5:25, Paul reminds us of what Jesus did for His bride: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  When dealing with a marriage, it is ALWAYS seen between one man and one woman in the Bible.  There is no counter-example.  The Word constantly shows us this picture from Genesis to Revelation.  There is a feminine person and a masculine person in this relationship.  Marriage is a picture of his covenant love for His church and that marriage is between The Man and his bride.

Marriage is part of the process of growing the kingdom:

Part of the original dominion mandate given to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)  Furthermore, we see this same mandate after the flood of Noah. (Genesis 9:7)  We see it again when the nation of Israel is born. (Genesis 35:11)  No less than 7 times this phrase “be fruitful and multiply” appears in Scripture.  Additionally, children are said to be “a blessing” in Psalm 127.  Here’s the point: part of the way of growing the kingdom of God is through procreation.  It does not take a scientist to know that it takes a male and a female for this process to happen.  If everyone decided to live the homosexual lifestyle, then we would only be one generation away from complete extinction.  How are we going to grow a kingdom if there is no one here to grow it?  Being fruitful and multiplying is a gift and a command from God.  Nature itself testifies to this.  Homosexual marriage and the homosexual lifestyle are anti-natural, and they are anti-kingdom growth.

Marriage is something that the Creator has already defined:

Are we allowed to rename the Mona Lisa, or even the iPhone if we wanted to?  No!  Why?  Because we did not create them, the naming rights belong to Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, respectively.  It makes sense that only the Creator has the right to define what something is and what something is not.  The Lord has said that the only true and biblical marriage that He recognizes is that of a marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).  Since He is the Creator of this world, He has every right to define what He created.  If I, or anyone else, tries to step in and take the place of God by calling something good that He has called evil (1 Corinthians 6:9), may they be cursed.  That seems harsh but those are not my words or my view, but God’s Words and His view.  May it be a loud warning for those who would dare do so (Isaiah 5:20).  If God has declared something holy, just, or right who are we to say otherwise?  He is the Creator and as Creator has every right to set the rules and regulations.  Hear me out, what is more amazing than the rules themselves is that He forbids things like homosexuality for the good of mankind.  He has declared marriage to be holy, good and beneficial only when it is between one man and one woman.  Anything outside of these confines is sin and is detestable to God.

Does marriage really matter to God?  I believe it most certainly does.  Do homosexuals matter to God?  They most certainly do.  They, like every other person in the world, still bear His image.  We as Christians should still love homosexuals as our neighbors.  We should still treat them with dignity, as we should every human being.  However, part of loving your neighbor is telling the truth to your neighbor.  If we really want to love our neighbor then we must love them enough to tell them that God has something to say about the matter of homosexuality.  He has offered them grace and mercy.  He has offered them salvation, but to gain these things there must be recognition of their sin.  There must be repentance of that sin.  There must be forgiveness for sin.  This is what a loving neighbor would say.  This is what a loving God has said.  This is what the God of marriage has proclaimed.  Marriage matters to God and it should matter to us as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell.

“Now that’s a good movie!” . . . or is it? How to discern what is okay in entertainment.

In 2012, the average American making 50k a year spent over $2600 on entertainment.  That is about $200 a month.  That is more than the average person gives to charity annually.  We are entertained in many different ways; movies, music, games, sports, etc.   Americans spend more time and money on entertainment today than any other nation in the history or the world.  We like to be entertained.  There is nothing wrong with being entertained.   In fact, if the Westminster Catechism is correct stating that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” then good godly entertainment is certainly one way we can enjoy Him.  However, not all (or even most) entertainment that we spend money on today falls under the “godly entertainment” category.  Let us not say, on the other hand, that all entertainment must be inherently Christian for Christians to partake in and enjoy.

Is it okay to watch and enjoy a football, soccer, or baseball game without feeling sinful?  Most certainly!  Nevertheless, there is also a way to watch these things and it be sinful, depending on your motive.  How are we to discern what to watch and listen to in the way of entertainment?  I believe the Philippians 4:8 test is the best way to do this.  Paul wrote,

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Before you turn on The Game of Thorns or Downton Abby, and before you download that new Taylor Swift album, take this test and hopefully you will be able to see if you should be spending your time, money, and energy on it.  Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions.

Is it True?

Can this (movie, book, TV program, etc.) be found in God’s Word as something that is true?  For example, can you listen to a love song not written by a Christian? I would say yes, as long as it is something that lines up with the truth of God, and is not distorting it.  If it lines up with the truth that is found in scripture and your conscience allows . . why not?  Remember that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.

Is it Honorable?

This is to say, is it something that is honorable to God?  Is it something where people are making light of sex? Then no, this is not honorable. Is it a game that glorifies violence? Again, I would say no, that is not honorable. What about a book that makes you lust after its character?  Is that honorable? NO!  You get the point.

Is it Just?

Is this something that is in harmony with God’s Word?  What about music that is glorifying getting drunk or songs where the singer is bragging about themselves?  I don’t think these are things that are justifiable to the Lord.  And what about watching some kid being beat up on YouTube?  Sorry, I don’t think that is justifiable entertainment either.

Is it Pure?

Is this promoting good or godly morals?  Is the music video, TV show, or movie that is showing people making out in a provocative way okay?  The question is, how is watching this going to make you more pure?  Peering through a window watching a couple make out would be a good way to have yourself arrested wouldn’t it?  There is not much difference in watching it on TV.  If it is not pure, you do not need to be entertained by it.

Is it Lovely?

Is this pleasing, kind, or gracious?  Is it okay to read a good hearted story about someone overcoming adversity?  Sure, we all love to hear these kinds of stories.  Actually, it often points us to the gospel.  There are plenty of feel good movies and books that are not overtly Christian that fall into this category.  However, if it is not pleasing, kind, or gracious, then the Philippians 4:8 test would say to “not think on these things.”  It is inevitable that you will have to face things that are not lovely in your life, but to openly be entertained by them is a different matter.

Is it Commendable?

Is it respectful?  Is it of high character?  Is this something that you could recommend to your friends or a Christian family?  I love war movies.  My all time favorite is Braveheart (but only the edited version).  I have recommended it to many people over the years.  However, there are some songs, articles, TV shows, and movies that could never fall under this category that I have been sinfully amused by in the past.  If you would not be willing tore commend it to your pastor, there is a great chance the Lord would not want you to participate in being entertained by it either.

These seven questions have helped guide me into making better choices in entertainment for my family.  They apply to movies, music, books, and even sporting events.  I love all sorts of entertainment. So, if Paul can quote a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) and it become part of the canon, it seems to be okay to be entertained by things that are not distinctly Christian as well as long as they fall into the above listed guidelines.  The next time you want to run to the theater to watch the newest flick, or click to download the newest album on iTunes . . . take the Philippians 4:8 test first and see if it is something the Lord would be okay with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Let’s face it: tattoos are more popular now than they have ever been. Roughly 21% of all adults in America are said to have at least one tattoo. In the last 30 years they have become more culturally accepted than at any other time in history. At one time they were considered to be a sign of rebellion, but now they are seen as more of a sign of self-expression. Formerly, they were only for sailors and ruffians, but now doctors, lawyers, and even pastors are frequenting tattoo shops to get inked. The question is, while it may be more popular and more accepted now than ever, is it something that Christians should participate in? To be upfront, I have 4 tattoos myself.  I got them all before the age of 21, and now that I am older and more mature in my faith I wish I had not gotten them. While I am not ashamed of the content of the tattoos, I simply wish I had not done it.  This does not expressly mean it is wrong for everyone, especially the Christian. In short, scripture is not clear-cut on the issue of tattooing, but the Bible does say some things that may guide you in a better understanding of tattoos for yourself.

The Leviticus Argument:

There is only one place that the word tattoo is used in scripture. We find it in Leviticus 19:28. Most English translations render it this way, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.”  While the word tattoo is not in the original language (“mark your body” is the best translation) the idea of it certainly is.  So, shouldn’t this be enough to end the argument? Scripture says it right? To understand this scripture it must be put into its context. According to your view of Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT law, a different argument could be made here. I (along with most of the Church over the past 500 years) hold to a moral law perspective: Only the moral laws still apply from the OT. I believe scripture supports that Jesus fulfilled this temporary law that was given specifically to the nation of Israel for a specific time. Leviticus 19:28 was a specific law for a specific people with a specific purpose. The law was intended to set Israel apart from cultural Egypt that was known for tattooing themselves for their dead. Tattoos were seen as an offering to the gods who ruled the dead. Thus, when the Lord brought his people out of the land, he told them not to tattoo. If in Christ the law has already been paid for and no longer binding on Christians, then Leviticus 19:28 does not seem to aid in the discussion on modern tattooing for the Christian. The Levitical argument used by some to forbid tattooing does not seem to hold much weight.

The I Corinthians 6 Argument:

Once we become Christians, we give ourselves over to the Lord, including our bodies. Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The context of this has to do with joining oneself to a prostitute; however, there seems to be many implications for this truth as well. Every act of fornication, or any other sin committed by the believer in the “temple” was/is a very big deal. In the Old Testament, the High Priest would enter only once a year, and only after extensive cleansing, or he would be struck down by the Lord.  A case could be made to say that tattooing your body is a defilement of the temple. But if you go down that road too far, you could make that argument for eating unhealthy food, for piercing your ears, for smoking, and so on. The list is endless. Therefore, we need not make fast and overarching laws based on 1 Corinthians 6.  Nevertheless, the “temple” mandate of this text is enough for me personally to never get another tattoo.  I don’t believe this Scripture can be made into a mandated law for all Christians. While it does aid in the narrative, the argument from 1 Corinthians 6 is not an end-all on the discussion of Christians and tattoos.

Discernment in Tattooing: 

Since scripture does not have a clear stance on the subject, how then are we to discern whether it is lawful for a Christian to get a tattoo?  I would suggest asking a few questions before you ever get stuck with the needle.

1.  What is your motive? If it is to “stick it” to your parents or another authority (pun intended), then Ephesians 6 would forbid it. If you are trying to draw attention to yourself (pun intended), then James 4:6 does not seem to support that view either. If there is a way to draw attention to Jesus and him alone, then this is the only motive I can see that the Lord would accept.

2.  Have you prayed about it? There is much that can be discerned through prayer. God has told us to commit all things unto him (Psalm 37:5). Before you do something as permanent as a tattoo, it would be wise to seek the Lord’s blessing on it.

 3.  Is this going to glorify God? The content of your tattoo is very important if you decide the Lord has permitted you to get one. It should be something that is glorifying God.  After all, I Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you don’t know the answer to that, then let me suggest you wait until you have a definitive answer. Remember, “DO ALL THINGS,” this includes tattoos.

4.  Will 45 year old you regret this Tattoo? – Many regret ever getting them.  Will you?

5.  Money, Message, Placement – these are all practical things you need to consider as well.  Is it good stewardship? What does it say to others about you? Will I be able to get a job if I am showing this tattoo off?

Does the Bible have a clear answer on the subject of tattoos?  No, but there does seem to be some good guidelines in Scripture. Ultimately, the decision is up to the person getting one. It does need to be an informed decision not one made out of ignorance. Finally, the law of liberty (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8) must be applied I believe. Nevertheless Paul’s words, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” should ring in our ears when searching through this subject. For myself, my conscience would never allow me to get another one. If you are considering getting one and you are a Christian, I would suggest doing your research . . . and more importantly seeking the Lord for your answer.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

Finding Hope in a Miscarriage: A Father’s Perspective

One of the worst things for a parent to go through has to be the death of a child.  I can think of few things more tragic than this.  While I have never experienced the death of a child after they have been born, I have felt the pains of death in miscarriage.  Statistics say that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.  If you have ever been a part of that 10-20 percent, you know the pain it can cause.  You know all the questions that you have asked.  Often you are left with more question than answers. Often, there are just no good answers to give for why your little child died in the womb.  For many, there seems to be no hope in the case of a miscarriage.  It felt this way for my wife and me for a while.  It seemed that few people had answers . . . and even fewer cared to talk about it.  But what we found out is that you can actually find hope in the midst of it.  I read several articles on the subject when we went though it a few years ago.  They were helpful, but I would like to offer the perspective as a husband and father who has witnessed it firsthand.

Hope in the Right Questions:

First, it is important to note that God is big enough for your questions.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  He desires for us to come to Him with our burdens.  He even asked His father if He could “take this cup” from Him before He went to the cross.  When a miscarriage happens, a part of the grieving process may be to ask God why.  That is okay; He is big enough to field that question.  But the key factor in asking that question is not to stop there, but to submit it to the Lord.  Jesus submitted to His Father’s will by saying, “not My will but Yours be done.”  Have hope that there are answers to your questions, even if you don’t find them when you are asking.  God knows.  This leads us to the second point where we can find hope.

Hope in a Sovereign God:

There are four people involved in a miscarriage: the child, the mother, the father, and the Lord.  It is not always easy to remember during time of great pain and sorrow, but according to scripture God is the giver and taker of life.  Death is ultimately a byproduct of sin.  Death hurts. There is no way around it.  But when you have an understanding that God is sovereign over both life and death, it should bring comfort to know that the death of that little child was not an accident.  We should rejoice that the Lord counted us worthy to have that blessing for even a day.  God in His highest ways knew that it was best for His purpose.  He does not say that we have to enjoy His plan (I am sure Job did not), but when we have a good understanding of who He is we can submit to it and find hope that He knows what He is doing . . . and that He loves us while doing it.

Hope That You Will See Them Again One Day:

According to where you fall in the “covenant children” spectrum, this point of hope can be controversial.  Time, and words, would fail me if I tried to give a complete biblical defense of why I think infants who die very young go to heaven when they die (look here for my defense).  However, I believe there is great biblical hope for a parent who is a believer that suffers a miscarriage that they will one day see their child in glory.  This is one of the reasons my wife and I named our child that we miscarried.  While the case for miscarried (and even young children) going to heaven when they die is not as black and white as something such as the divinity of Jesus, or the virgin birth, I still believe we can say with a high degree of confidence that if you are a believer, you will one day again be united with that unborn child.  What hope that should bring.

Hope For Healing For Your Wife:

This miscarriage was the hardest thing I have ever dealt with.  Part of the reason for the hurt was seeing the pain my wife suffered.  For weeks she cried, it seemed like non-stop.  I felt helpless to do anything for her.  It felt the pain of the loss, but not in the same way she did.  I found the best thing I could do for her was to pray constantly, have a listening ear, and be a shoulder to cry on.  While my words did not bring much comfort to her during the first few weeks, she has since told me that what spoke volumes to her was me simply showing my love in these other ways.  I must admit: that was a God thing.  I am a fixer.  But for this hurt . . . the fix was just holding her and letting her cry.  I had hope that the Lord would heal her broken spirit . . . because I knew that I could not.

Miscarriage is difficult.  It hurts.  But for the Christian, there is hope.  We have a Father who crushed His own son so that His people could have a hope.  We have a Savior who can sympathize with us in our pain.  Finding hope during the distress of a miscarriage it not always easy, but if you are willing to look . . . it is there.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

How To Live The Normal Christian Life.

Have you ever wondered what the day in and day out life of a Christian is supposed to look like?  We know the big commands like “Go and make disciples,” and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”  However, we don’t have a lot of texts that show us how to do these things in the day-to-day life.  In my particular denomination (SBC) sometimes we have a tendency to elevate our foreign missionaries to a very high level.  If we are not careful, we can make them out to be “Super Christians.”  I do not want to downplay the sacrifice required of all of our missionaries, but I also want to be careful not to elevate them to a place that is not God-honoring either.  God has called every single Christian to certain standards.  He has called us all to do a certain job.  The missionary has no higher calling than the school teacher if God has called you to teach school for His glory.  So, just what does that normal Christian life look like for both the factory worker and the pastor . . . the missionary and the stay-at-home mom?

Watchman Nee, a church leader and Christian teacher who worked in China during the 20th century, wrote a book nearly 100 years ago entitled “The Normal Christian Life.”  In it he wrote, “I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher.  I consecrate myself to God to do His will where I am, be it in school, office, or kitchen, or wherever He may, in His wisdom, send me.”  I believe there is great wisdom in this saying.  If we want to see what this looks like, what the “The Normal Christian Life” looks like, I believe we can look at Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Thessalonica in I Thessalonians 4:1-12.  He provides three commands for them that are just as applicable today as they were 2000 years ago.

Be Pure (I Thess. 4:3-8)

To be specific, he tells them and be sexually pure.  The word Paul uses here for sexual purity covers every type of sexual sin imagined (if you want a list see Deuteronomy 22).  The Christian who lived in Thessalonica lived in a very sexually perverted society, which is not that different from the world we live in today.  His instructions to them were simple . . . God has called us to remain pure, and thus you need to remain pure in this area, even if your culture does not.  Today we need to be reminded of this as well.  Recently statistics have shown that over 50% of men within the church look at pornography on a regular basis, and 30% of pastors have admitted to having an extra marital affair with someone within the church.  These statistics are scary and very disheartening.  A person cannot have a growing and thriving relationship with God while being sexually impure at the same time.  The normal everyday Christian (From John Piper to Jimmy Wright) has been called to be sexually pure . . . day in and day out.  You want to be a disciple of Jesus? . . . Be pure.

Be Loving (I Thess. 4:9-10)

The second command Paul gives is to be a person who loves much and loves well . . . specifically to his brother in Christ.  They had been taught by God through scripture and the example of Jesus, as well as the example of Paul when he lived with them.  They had already been doing a good job of this, yet Paul tells them to do it even more.  If we want to know what a disciple of Christ looks like and how one is to act . . . it must start and end with love.  Why did the Lord give the spiritual gifts?  He gave them for the outbuilding of the church.  What is the greatest commandment and the 2nd that is like it? . . . Love.  If we want to live a normal Christian life we need to be a people who are known for our love.  People should know we are Christians by our love . . . our actions toward others.  A disciple of Christ is one who loves the Lord so much that they desire to show their devotion to Him by loving others.

 Be Diligent (I Thess. 4:11-12)

The last command that we see is a call for diligence among all of God’s people.  He says that we are to be diligent in living a quiet life, minding our own business, and working hard.  There are many commands throughout scripture that go along with these charges.  One of my favorites is found in II Thessalonians 3:10.  It says, “for even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (This rule works great with children, by the way, when they don’t want to clean their room.)  Christians above all people should be a person that does not want to bring attention to themselves, but at the same time tending closely to what the Lord has given them to do as a vocation according Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When we understand that our salvation is completely from the Lord and whatever we do we should give Him glory in . . . it should make us want to be diligent in it.  This is a normal everyday thing that the Lord has called us to.

Sometimes we over spiritualize what the Lord has called us to do.  Because we still battle with our flesh at times it is easy to let a bit of pride creep up in our lives and feel like we want to be noticed.  However, I believe Tim Challies has given some good advice when he said that we need to “Be content to be unremarkable.”  In a day and age when we elevate Christian pastors and musicians to a level that many believe they will never be able to attain it seems like a good time to remind us all that God may have called us all to different vocations . . . but He has called us all too certainly live the normal Christian life.  If you want to live a life that is pleasing to God you need to be sure to Be Pure, Be Loving, and Be Diligent.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

5 Ways to Help Affair-Proof Your Marriage

It is a scary thing to see what seems to be a good and godly marriage come to an end because of an unfaithful spouse.  Most of these affairs do not happen overnight.  Most who have an affair do not just end up in the bed with a total stranger and wake up the next morning and wonder how they got there.  It started out as “innocent” conversations, but then it progressed from there.  It is hard to imagine on your wedding day that an affair could ever take place; but if we are not careful, we can let an adulterous heart slip in (which is sin in itself), which can easily lead to adulterous actions.  With so many people seemingly falling into this sin, it seems like we need to prepare ourselves against such things.  If a person wants to have an affair, they will find a way to do so, but most people that I know of do not want to have an affair.  However, it seems like many people do little preventive work to keep it from happening.  I will be the first to say that I need to apply these principles as much as anyone.  “My heart is deceitfully wicked above all things” as well.  Yet, through the strengthening of the Lord we do not have to be overcome by sin.  Here are some ways we can be proactive toward helping affair-proof our marriages.  I sincerely hope that you will consider them.

Don’t forget about your covenant:

When you got married you made a covenant with not only your spouse but also with God that you would remain faithful to each other “until death do us part.”  When you decide to go down the pathway of an affair you not only break that covenantal promise to your spouse, but you sin against, lie to, and break your covenant with God as well.  To break a covenant with your spouse is shameful, but to break it with God is fearful.  If the thought of an affair ever enters you mind, don’t forget that you are not just telling your spouse that they no longer “do it for you”, but you are telling God that your desire for that other person is more important that you desire to please Him.

Don’t be alone with a person of the opposite sex:

Before I got into ministry, a very wise pastor once told me, “You need to make it a rule to try your best to never be alone with another woman in a room (or car) that is not your direct family.”  I have found this counsel to be very wise.  I believe this is a principle that we should all take, not just pastors.  Scripture tells us that we are to “flee from the appearance of evil,” in I Thessalonians 5:22.  If you are never alone with a person of the opposite sex, it will make it hard to allow an affair to take place.  If you must ride together in a vehicle, then if they ride in the front seat, you ride in the back or vice verse.  Your marriage is worth fighting for and keeping pure.  It may seem uncomfortable to tell the person who you are riding with why you are not sitting next to them, but I promise you . . . your spouse will love you for it.  This is just another way of preparing yourself beforehand to “flee from the APPEARANCE of evil.”

Don’t have “close” friends of the opposite sex:

What I mean by “close” friends is to say an exclusive friend who your spouse is not friends with also.  I certainly have friends who are women.  However, once I got married, I gave up the right to have them as a “best friend” or exclusive “close friend” due to my special relationship with my wife.  I love her too much to allow a close relationship with another woman to possibly hinder ours.   It is not wise to have friends of the opposite sex that you have lengthy phone, e-mail, text, or even face-to-face conversations with.  If you are finding time to just “run into each other” at the store each week, or you just happen to “get coffee at the same place” together each Saturday morning after your run, then it may be time to change up your routine.  If you don’t, you might wake up one morning and find yourself on the road to an affair.

Don’t have closed social media accounts:

            If you have social media accounts then your spouse should have your passwords and have open regular access to them.  If they do not, are you trying to hide something?  Most people are not trying to hide anything, but allowing your spouse this open access to your social accounts shows transparency to them and would also help keep you from trying to do things that your spouse might not approve of (remember, you are one flesh now).  It is also not wise to be “friends” with someone on your social network that you might have once had a dating relationship with.  Why be friends with someone who you once had feelings for?  If you and your spouse are going through a hard time, then it might be easy to try to find some comfort through an old flame.  Having old girlfriends or boyfriends on Facebook, Twitter, or even in your e-mail contacts is not wise.  Avoid old flames, and enjoy your current eternal one.  It is too easy to just “check out” your old friend and see what they are up to these days.  This has led many down a road that has ended in affairs and even divorce.  Just avoid the temptation and just say no to your Ex’s friend invite.

Do have someone you are accountable to:

If you want to help affair-proof your marriage, one helpful way of doing this is by having an accountability partner who will ask you tough questions.  Find a close friend, of the same sex, that does not mind asking you about your thought life and your dealings with people of the opposite sex.  I truly believe that for a majority of people who have had affairs, if they would have had godly people speaking into their lives asking them these hard questions then it could have helped stopped the affair before it ever stated.  It is a wise thing to heed the Proverb to let “Iron sharpen Iron.”  Having someone ask you if “you have been with a person of the opposite sex in an ungodly way or a way that would offend your spouse in the last few weeks” really makes you take an inventory of your life.  Having someone there who can help you pray though your struggles is a huge blessing.  If we are honest with friends about our dealings with others, this can be one major step in helping to keep our “marriage bed pure.”

There you have it.  Here are 5 ways that if subscribed to, will help prevent an extra-marital affair.  There are a variety of others.  Do you and your spouse have any established guidelines or practices to help affair-proof your marriage?  Have you found anything specifically helpful in keeping your marriage pure?  If so, please feel free to share . . .

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

What Does Biblical Repentance Really Look Like?

In recent months there have been some pretty high profile men (Mark Driscoll, Doug Philips,Tullian Tchividjian) who have either stepped down from the pastorate, or have been asked to, due to different sins in their lives. A firestorm of opinions has since lit up the blogosphere and every form of social media. Some have said that these men have not met the biblical level of repentance while others defend these pastors by saying that they have gone over and above what scripture requires for repentance. If you have been a Christian for very long, I hope repentance is something that you seek to do regularly. If we sin much, then we need to repent much. Scripture lays out plainly what repentance looks like. We must be careful not to add to God’s Word, just like we need to be equally careful not to take away from it. Some might want to add a certain amount of works (or penance) to the biblical model, while others may try to water down the Word so much that a person does not even need to confess one’s sin to God. The Bible provides us with the right balance. There are three parts to repentance, no more . . . and certainly no less.

Repentance in the Mind:

For repentance to be a truly biblical response it must have its place in the mind.  Repentance means “a change in your mind.”  Isaiah 55:7 says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” When we sin, we must come to an understanding that this sin is a violation of God and His law. The first step of repentance is recognition in your mind that you have transgressed a holy God. However, simply acknowledging sin is not full-on repentance.

Repentance in the Heart:

For repentance to be true, one must also be convicted in their spirit (heart) that they have offended the Lord by their sin. Paul writes in II Corinthians 7:10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Unless the Holy Spirit convicts you, there can be no repentance. Confession can happen without the movement of the Spirit, but repentance that comes from a “broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” is what “God will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). When you come face to face with a Holy God in light of your sin, a broken heart is what the Lord delights in and accepts.

Repentance in your Action:

For true Biblical repentance to happen there is still a third part that must be accomplished. This is also the hardest one to accomplish (not possible apart from the Holy Spirit I might add). It is a change in your actions. One might know they have sinned in their head, and be convicted of it in their heart, but unless they physically turn away from that sin then they have not truly repented of it. Repentance is not just a change of mind, but also a change of action. It literally means turning a 180. Luke 3:8 says that we are to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.”  In Old Testament times this might look like putting ashes on your heard and wearing sackcloth. There must be an action taken to turn away from your sin. That is not to say that we need to wear ashes or sackcloth, but this action is actually a response to the first two parts of repentance (in the mind and in the heart). Unless, however, this portion of the repentant pattern happens, true biblical repentance has not occurred in the life of the sinner.

John MacArthur has rightly said, “Repentance is not just a change of mind; it is a change of heart. It is a spiritual turning, a total about-face. . . It is an inward response, not external activity, but its fruit will be evident in the true believer’s behavior.” It takes all three parts of the pattern if a person wants to truly repent of their sin. We must never forget, conversely, that all of this is done by the work of God and not done on our own. We could never repent unless the Lord showed us our sin though His word. We could never repent unless the Spirit convicted us. We could never walk away from our sin unless given the power to, through Christ’s death to that sin. When considering what repentance looks like in the life of men like the above stated (or even ourselves) we need to be careful that we do not add man-made requirements to the person in sin. God has told us what repentance looks like. He does not take lightly someone adding to his word. Yes, there needs to be fruit of repentance, but let’s let scripture define this and not try to define it ourselves. On the other hand, God does not take lightly taking away from His divine Word either. Confession is not repentance (much to the chagrin of some of my Catholic friends). Simply being convicted in ones heart that they have sinned is not repentance. It is a complete turning from it (mind, heart, and deed).  Repentance is necessary it we want to please God. So, when we sin . . . let us be quick to repent from that sin.  When a brother is in sin, let us lovingly tell them of their need for repentance. If they do repent, then praise God for it and act accordingly. Don’t add to their reproach, but certainly don’t make light of it either. Repentance is a good thing . . . so let’s make sure that we do it the biblical way.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B Burrell