Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Life is filled with questions.  As a teenager you might have asked the question, “Should I go to college or go straight into the workforce after high school?”  As a young married couple the question could arise, “shall my wife (or I – if a woman) stay at home with my children or work to help provide a more stable income for the family economy?”  As a weary college football fan, “Should I still pull for the University of Georgia and have my heart torn out each year when they will inevitably make a foolish mistake and loose the championship?”  No doubt, some questions are more important than others.  Some will have greater consequences than others.  Some will provide a higher risk than others.  In all questions, as a Christian, we should seek wisdom and find our answers from the Scriptures and the godly council of others.  However, among all the questions that we face in life, I believe that there are three that stand above them all.  I believe how you answer these 3 questions will determine not just the joy that you have in life, but the eternity in which you will spend it.  Let’s take a look at these questions.

  1. What Shall I do with Jesus?

This is by far the most important question that everyone must answer in life.  Your eternity hinges on how you answer this question.  In Matthew 16 Jesus asks a similar question when He asks the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  The disciples then explain, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  These were honorable answers.  These were all godly men.  But, the problem with their answers is that they were all wrong.  They had mistaken Jesus as a good man instead of the GOD-man.  There is an eternal and astronomical difference here.  He is God in the flesh, not just flesh who was godly.  Then Jesus turns to them and asks the more personal question, “But who do you say that I am?”  It is there where Peter gives the great confession that Jesus was indeed the long awaited Messiah.  Peter, as the representative of the disciples, got it right.

What you do with Jesus will determine every other thing about you and your life.  When it comes to the judgment day, God will not grade on a curve.  The question is a one question test.  It is pass or fail.  It will not be good enough to say simply that Jesus was a good man.  No, He must be acknowledged as sovereign Lord.  This is evidenced by personal faith and repentance that produces spiritual fruit in one’s life.

What shall I do with Jesus?  All other questions pale in comparison to this one.  Whether you are a 12 year old who has grown up in church, or a tribesman in Africa, the question demands an answer.  This is why it is at the top of the list.

  1. Who shall I marry?

The Proverbs are filled with exhortation about choosing a spouse wisely (Proverbs 5:15, 12:4, 21:9, 27:15).   One of my favorites comes from Proverbs 31:10 which says, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”  Here we are reminded that the value of a godly wife is of eminent value.  Husbands are instructed to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  This means a good and godly husband is to love absolutely, and lead sacrificially, just as Jesus did.  When you get married, you are committing to love this person, and live with this person until “death do us part.”  This is part of our vows.  You are meant to complement each other.  The Lord has created you both uniquely for these roles.  However, if you choose your spouse in an unwise manner, it can make for a not so joyous life.

Scripture is clear on the matter.  The Proverbs talk about the quarrelsome woman that is in the home as a constant frustration, like a leaky roof that does not stop dripping (Proverbs 19:13; cf. 25:51). In fact, it says that it would be better to live in the desert or on the corner of a roof than to share a home with a woman of such character (Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24).  Ungodly men are no better.  We see the outcome of these types of men displayed in the husbandry of the likes of Achan (Joshua 7), Nabal (I Samuel 25), and Ahab (II Kings 9-10).   Husbands are to love their wives and be the spiritual leaders of their homes.  Wives are to submit to, respect, and be a helping compliment to their husband.  If you choose poorly and without biblical wisdom there is still no out for you when things get hard.  Unless there is a divorceable offense, (which there are only two) you are in it for life.  This is why getting the answer to this question right on the front end makes life much more joyful and livable.  When both parties go into the marriage with God as the anchor, and scripture as their guide, the answer becomes all the more clear.  For it would be better to remain single, than to marry an unbeliever or to marry someone that is not a good fit.  50 or 60 years is a long time to be married.  It would be wise to get this one right.

      3.  Where will I attend church?

You may think that this is an odd question to be on the list of the top 3 most important questions that you will ever answer, but it is here for a reason.  Living in the Southeastern part of the United States, it seems like there is a church on every coroner.  Many falsely believe that most all churches are the same.  In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There is a reason there are so many denominations.  There is a reason that some families are willing to drive an hour, and past 30 churches, to get to one good solid church.  Not all churches preach the same gospel, or teach about the same Jesus.  The fact is, there is only one Gospel, and only one Jesus that is recorded in Holy Scripture.  You wouldn’t just allow any mechanic to work on your car.  You wouldn’t just let any surgeon to do a life threatening surgery on you.  No, you would want them to be been trained, and know what they are doing.  With this being true, how much more important is choosing a church when it is such a major part of your spiritual life?

It is in the church where you exalt the Lord, receive exposition, get equipped, are edified, exhorted, encouraged, and your family is evangelized.  Just because a church has a beautiful building, a big children’s program, or a hip pastor is no reason to choose to covenant with them in membership.  You want a church that is going to preach and teach the Word faithfully . . .a church that takes the great commission seriously . . . a church that is orthodox in its theology . . . which believes in (and practices) the sufficiency of Scripture.  The sad truth is, there are many churches that are very attractive, yet not very substantive.  There are some who have their orthodoxy right, but their orthopraxy wrong.  There are some who love the old reformers, but seem to hate people.  Solomon wrote, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 3:10).  If you replaced the word “wife” with the words “local church” I believe it would be a fitting proverb as well.

Not all churches are the same.  Where you choose to be fed and serve, matters.  What doctrine and practice the church has matters.  You want to be fed from the Word, not man’s opinions.  You want to be equipped biblically in how to live holy, love your spouse, and train your children.  You want your children to be grounded in the Scriptures.  You want them to be around godly men and women who will provide good and godly examples.  The church that you attend has a major role to play in your life.  I believe Tim Challies has it right when he says, The local church exists to glorify God through worshipping him, edifying his people, and evangelizing the world.  If this is the purpose of the church, which it is, then where you choose to covenant yourself and family truly matters.  It really, really matters.   If you have to drive an hour to get to a good one . . . drive.  If you have to take a different job to allow yourself to be involved in one, I would encourage you to sharpen your resume.  The church you become a member of will have a major effect on you and your whole family . . . not just now, but for eternity as well.

There they are.  In my opinion, these are the three most important questions that you will ever need to answer.  Every other question in life can be answered with wisdom and a high degree of confidence if you get these 3 right.  With many questions to answer in life, I hope you will put great a priority on these 3 if you haven’t already.  It will be well worth the investment.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

“Are We Really in Danger of Making an Idol of the Family?”Kevin DeYoung

I love everything about family ministry.  I have been doing it for over 16 years, and Lord willing will do it for the rest of my life.  The spiritual growth of our families should be of utmost importance to us all.  However, there is a real danger when we put too high a priority on family that it will undermine what God has said that He desires for us.  DeYoung writes, “In a world hellbent on redefining marriage and undermining the fundamental importance of the family, Christians would do well to honor and support all those trying to nurture healthy families. And yet, virtually every pastor in America can tell you stories of churchgoers who have functionally displaced God in favor of the family.”

Husbands, We’re Called to Help Our Wives Grow in Christ” – Randy Alcorn

This is a subject that I have written on many times, but Randy Alcorn really writes a helpful article on the subject on the husband’s responsibility in helping his wife grow in grace as well.  He writes, “There’s a lot of stuff out there that isn’t going to draw you or your wife’s mind and heart toward God. Part of loving and leading her is pointing her toward things that will. The payoff is huge for her, you, your kids, and everyone her life touches.”

“Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults” – Trevin Wax

As Christian parents, we all want to see our children come to faith and flourish in their Christian walk.  Trevin Wax has provided 5 common practices that will, by God’s grace, help in your children’s spiritual progress in their faith.  “The research indicated that children who remained faithful as young adults  . . . grew up in homes where certain practices were present.”

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song” – Sovereign Grace Music

If you are looking for some newer Christmas music for this holiday season, this is a wonderful album that your family would enjoy.  This came out a few years back, but if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it, I would encourage you to do so.  “The reality of the incarnation, the Son of God taking on our flesh and bones to save us, will be an eternal source of wonder, gratefulness, and joy. These fourteen songs are our attempt to capture that mystery in song. The long night is over and the light of the world has come. Prepare Him room.”

Profile of an Evangelistic Home” – Joel Beeke

Have you ever wondered what an evangelistic home might look like?  Here is a sermon that gives a glimpse into what it could look like in your home.  Dr. Beeke gives this chilling reminder in his sermon, “Other than the Bible, you are the best or worst book your children will ever read.”  He lays out what the gospel-centered home looked like in the past, and what it might look like today based off of biblical principles.

The Torchlighters Heroes of the Faith – DVD Set” 

If you have ever wanted your children to know more about some of the heroes of the faith, then here you can find the animated, true-life stories of Christian heroes retold for young people. In each 30 minute video you can lean about people such as Augustine, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Jim Elliot, Eric Liddell, and Samuel Morris.  These are wonderfully made DVDs that will allow your children to see God through the lives of great men and women of old.  You can buy all 17 episodes at a discounted price for a limited time.

 Why My Family Doesn’t Do Santa” – Josh Buice

It is an age old debate within Christian circles. . . Santa or no Santa.  I believe Dr. Buice provides pastoral and fatherly insight on why his family doesn’t do Santa.  He writes, “We want our children to look at the story of a jolly old man who visits us on a red sleigh behind Rudolph and a host of other flying reindeer and find no comparison to the story of the second Person of the Trinity leaving heaven’s throne to be born into poverty as he clothed himself in human flesh—entering the world through the womb of a virgin girl—in order to save his people from their sins.” As you prepare for the Christmas season, maybe this will spark a healthy discussion within your family.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

At some point in time in life you have probably had a friend or acquaintance that seemed to have no real positive value in your life.  Instead of building you up, they seem to tear down.  Instead of pushing you on toward holiness, they drag you back toward worldliness.  Instead of making your more like Christ, they end up encouraging you to make devilish decisions.  These relationships can be toxic.  Yet, even when you know they are toxic, it can still be hard to discern how to deal with them.  Do you simply cut them off?  Do you stay in the relationship (often to your detriment) in hopes of changing them?  Do you simply just deal with it and the inevitable consequences that will follow because of the relationship?  I believe Scripture provides some definitive answers when it comes to these types of toxic relationships.  Here are a few things to consider.

Consider What Bad Relationships Can do to You

Weather it be a friend, a family member, or someone that you are romantically involved with, whoever you choose to spend your time with will influence you.  Solomon reminds us that “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” in Proverbs 13:20.  This indicates that those who are influenced by fools often become foolish themselves.  Paul reminds us what bad company can do as well when he writes this warning to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (I Corinthians 15:33).   Choosing to stay close friends with bad company often leads an otherwise “good” person to do bad things.  Some of these bad things can even lead to great harm.  Look no further than Psalm 1 for this truth.  The man who doesn’t walk, stand, nor sit with the wicked in agreement is said to be “blessed.”  Yet the wicked, who do these things, their way ends poorly.  The writer simply writes that they, “will perish.”  Both Old Testament and New Testament writer provide the same warning: bad relationships can cause great harm to both the soul and body of the persons who are in them.  This is what a bad relationship can do.

Consider What you Might Need to do With These Relationships

You may know that the relationship is not positive, but what can you do about it?  Maybe you have been friends for years.  Yet, what is more important, your relationship to them or your relationship with the Lord?  If they are having a negative effect on your relationship with God, something must be done.  I would tell you to take your soul into account.  Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (II Corinthians 13:5).  If this relationship is causing you to sin and you have noticed that you are growing callused to your sin, you need to stop and examine your faith.  If your faith isn’t calling your into warrior-like action against sin, you may well not have genuine saving faith.  It is a scary thing to know that on judgment day that there will be many who cry “Lord, Lord” yet know Him not.  This is why an examination is needed.

After you examine yourself, and if you find yourself to be in the faith it may be time to take some extreme measures in this relationship.  Jesus, in the most famous sermon ever preached, uses hyperbole to express how big a deal it is to get sin under control.  While talking about lust he says, “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out . . . if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off” (Matthew 5:28-30).  He is not suggesting physical self mutilation but rather, spiritual mortification.  While this text is directly speaking to sexual sin, the principle can also be applied here by extension.  If your friendship or romantic relationship is toxic, it may be time for a complete detox so as to provide your spirit with the proper nourishment it needs.  Bad relationships most often drain spiritual nourishment, and don’t replenish. It may well be time to cut off this relationship altogether.

Consider How to Help Those Relationships

It is likely that these toxic relationships simply need to end.  The Proverbs are filled with wisdom on this topic.  However, how do you do that in a God honoring way?  The writer of Hebrews says, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Pursue peace with them.  Explain to them that your relationship with the Lord is suffering and that you need time to focus on Him.  Explain that your current relationship isn’t helping with this.  They may or may not respond to that well, but they need to see your priority is to please God rather than man.

Secondly, you should pray for your friend.  This is one of the areas where Paul commands Timothy to pray.  He writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (I Timothy 2:1).  If you are a believer, you have access to the throne room of God that allows you to intercede on their behalf.  You likely, need to have them out of your life for some time physically, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop caring for them in the way of prayer. This is a great way to show that you love them.

Finally, the best possible thing that you could do for them is to present the gospel to them.  The great commission demands us to go and make disciples.  Your friend needs more than good morals, they need the gospel.  They don’t need your friendship as much as they need the favor of the Father.  This is their only hope.  So, pursue peace though explaining your need to back away, pray for them, and if possible present the gospel to them as well.

At best we only get 80-100 years here on earth.  That is actually a very short amount of time when you think about it.  With so little time here, why would you waste it on a toxic relationship?  The Lord has called us to be both salt and light.  We are told to engage the world, but at the same time not to be conformed to it.  So, yes, seek genuine friendships with people who may not be like you . . . who may not even be Christians.  However, do not let them influence you in an unholy way.  If you see this type of toxicity, it is time to pull back from that which is providing the poison.   In a world where we are told that everything seems to be poisoning us (from our food to our water) our relationships are something that we have control over.  Choose what is healthy . . . avoid that which is toxic.  It seems like sound advice for what we put into our body.  Yet, how much more true is it when we think about our soul?

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

  1. A Warning for Parents: Instagram is Full of Porn.

Jonathon Van Maren provides an eye opening warning for all users of the ever so popular social media platform, Instagram.  He writes, “Searching for terms like “nude,” “babes” or “sexy” or variations thereof or the name of any porn star in the site’s search bar will quickly uncover accounts that flout the site’s ban on nudity and aren’t filtered to prevent minors from seeing them. #Sexy has more than 57 million posts, many of which are clips from porn videos while #porngirls has more than 300,000 of them.”  This is a helpful article that sounds a warning when trying to help our youth (and ourselves) sort though a world that is saturated with sexual bear traps.

  1. Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions

David Platt will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming G3 Conference on the Mission of God.  Pastor Platt delivered a soul stirring sermon on missions at the T4G Conference in 2012 that has had a lasting impact on many.  He starts out by making this statement, “I have one overarching truth . . . A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotions to global missions.”  For the next hour he lays out the truth with passion and scripture.  It is the best sermon that I have ever heard on missions, and one that I believe would benefit your soul when thinking about the mission of God for His church.  I would encourage you to take the time to soak it in and worship our sovereign Lord through it.

  1. Getty Kids Hymnal – Family Hymn Sing

The Getty’s have released the newest children’s CD, and it is excellent.  This time they have recorded many of the churches most cherished hymns sung by children.  If you would like to have your children learn some of the hymns of the faith in a fun way, I would encourage you to check out this new album.  They have recorded songs such as, “All Creatures of our God and King,” “Jesus Paid it All,” and “Power in the Blood.” They have also added some newer hymns as well like, “His Mercy is More,” “In Christ Alone,” and “He Will Hold Me Fast.”  It would be a great album to own as a family and enjoy these hymns of the faith playing in your home and car.

  1. Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional

Would you like to do something special for the up and coming Christmas season with your family?  This is a way to “share God’s best gift with your family this year and start a lifetime of traditions with this gospel-focused . . . family devotional. Each week includes Bible readings, fun Christmas activities, songs, and an original Christmas story.”  This is set up to start on the Monday after Thanksgiving, so secure your copy now.  I truly believe it will be a blessing to your family as it will point all the fun of Christmas to our wonderful and sovereign Savior.

  1. “Who Do You Love More Anyway, Your Children or Your Spouse?”

A few years back I asked the question of where we place our love when it comes to our family.  Do you love your spouse more or your child?  I wrote that,“Children are a blessing.  Children are a gift from God.  We are to love them.  We are to train them.  We are to thank God for them.  However, they should never consistently come before your spouse.  Marriage, not parenthood, is a picture of Christ and the Church.  Marriage is a life-long covenant by design.  While parenthood is life-long as well, the meat of it is only brief.”  It is a question that I challenge you to ponder on today.  I hope this article will help you to think through this question.

  1. “12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.”

This is one of the more challenging books that I have read in the past several years.  It was both extremely convicting, yet extremely practical. “Drawing from the insights of numerous thinkers, published studies, and his own research, writer Tony Reinke identifies twelve potent ways our smartphones have changed us — for good and bad. Reinke calls us to cultivate wise thinking and healthy habits in the digital age, encouraging us to maximize the many blessings, to avoid the various pitfalls, and to wisely wield the most powerful gadget of human connection ever unleashed.”  If you want to be challenged in your daily Smartphone habits, this is the book to do it.  If you would like listen to a 30 minute podcast with an interview with Tony Reinke on the book, you can also check that out here.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

My wife grew up being taught proper etiquette.  I grew up, well, not really caring about etiquette.  Early on in our marriage it caused some interesting conversations about why we do what we do.  Do we do it because it is culturally proper, or is there a deeper purpose?  When I would do something that was not considered “proper etiquette,” my wife would not always feel amused by it.  My response, more often than not, was “chapter and verse please.”  What I meant by that was, “proper etiquette” should be grounded in scripture and not just cultural acceptance.  Emily Post may have understood high class society in the early 20th century, but could she ground it in the Word?

Today, one would be hard pressed to look and see a world without cell phones.  We use them for business, for pleasure, and everything in-between.  Since this is true, shouldn’t there be some type of cell-phone etiquette?  This wonderful technology (the smart phone) has a way of connecting us to millions of people in the world at any second of the day, but it also has a way of dividing us and separating us into a type of real-life social isolation.  There is no reason to allow such a beneficial technology to cause us to lose our Christian decorum.  While Paul didn’t use an iphone, the idea of selfish desires wasn’t lost on him.  He wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).  When we decide to let face-to-screen interaction trump our face-to-face interaction we are not “counting others as more significant.”  What we really are saying is, “my need to see what this ping is telling me is more important than you.”  This is a lesson that I am still preaching to myself (I Corinthians 9:27).  I don’t have it mastered yet . . . but I am working on it.

There are three areas that I believe we can look to this text and apply it when it comes to smart-phone etiquette.

The Phone Call:

We have all been there.  We are standing talking to a friend, and we hear that familiar sound going off in our pocket.  We have no clue who it is, but we have that insatiable desire to pick it up.  That euphoric tug is so great that it causes you to pull it out, and at least glance at the caller ID.  Now, is this somehow sinful or wrong to look at the caller ID in the middle of conversation?  I would say, not always, but maybe.  Unless you are expecting an important phone call it would be wiser and more loving to wait and see who is calling you when there is a break in conversation.  The person standing in front of you is real.  They are there in the flesh, image bearers of God.  They are not made up of plastic and pixels.  If you are checking your phone out of curiosity and not necessity you may need to check your heart to see if that is a violation of the Philippians 2 teaching.  There are times when you need to be on call, but if you are just in regular conversation and you keep looking at your phone, or even worse, picking it up in the middle of the conversation, what is that saying to the person you are talking to?  Most likely, the call can wait.  Wait for a break in the conversation, and then check your phone.  It seems to be a good way to show love for your neighbor over yourself.

The Text Conversation:

Texting is one of the most convenient and often-used forms of communication today. Eighteen years ago texting was the new kid on the block and you actually had to pay for each text that was sent.  Today, the average person will send nearly 2,000 texts a month; or 66 a day in the U.S.  With that amount of texts being sent, there is always a chance for you to have your face buried in the phone sending a message.  Here is the picture again, you are talking with a close friend when the Pharaoh in your pocket comes screaming at you in the way of a vibration.  What shall you do?  Will you bow you knee to the Pharaoh’s command, or say “No, it can wait”?  Denying your inner, and near innate, desire to read your text while engaged with someone else is a real desire.  However, is it one that you should give yourself over to?  Paul reminds us that we are to “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.”  Thinking of someone else and denying your desires to check that last buzz on your phone is a godly act (I Timothy 4:7-8).  As a general rule of thumb . . . if it is that important, they will call.  If you receive a call just moments after a text, then that is a good enough reason to excuse yourself from the conversation to check and see what is needed.

The Social Media Post:

Social media can be addictive.  According to the latest research, roughly 60% of all social media is seen via your smart phone.  That is roughly an hour a day on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  Let’s set the scene: you are at a social event enjoying your time there.  The ding goes off . . . someone just shared your post.  People are starting to comment about your picture. You want to see what people are saying.  So you disengage, and find that comfortable and familiar place in front of the glow of your screen.  You don’t even realize it, but the world is spinning around right in front of you, all the while you are letting your thumb do its workout.  I have been there, I hate to admit it.  I have been there way too often.  I have fallen into the black hole of social media all while my children or my wife have been trying to get my attention.  Social media has its place, but when it causes us to count ourselves more significant than others, we have a major etiquette problem.  More than that, we have a sin problem.  If this is true, it is not something that we can agree to disagree on.  It is something that we must mortify.

Some Suggestions

  1. Recognize the problem. Seek the scriptures for answer.  Like I said, I believe Philippians 2:3-4 has the answer to most of our cell phone etiquette problems.  If we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, we need to let Scripture speak to our smart phone habits.
  1. Have a set plan.  Know what you are going to do before the phone rings, dings, or pings.  Don’t just know the plan, but stick to it.
  1. Turn off all notifications.  If you want to know who all likes your post, you can do that at a designated time.  We must always remember that we own our cell phones, they don’t own us.  Yet, when we leave on all of our notifications, it can be a real test of ownership when she comes calling.
  1. See face-to-face interaction as valuable.  Don’t let your plastic mistress rob you of the joy of being face to face with your family and friends.  No screen time will ever be able to take the place of face time.

We live in a day and age where the cell phone rules the day.  Let us never forget that Scripture has an answer for every area of our life.  If there is any advice that I could give (not just you but myself as well) in the way of cell phone etiquette, it would be from the lips of Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there.”  Don’t get sucked into your phone at the expense of the people around you.  You tell your phone what you want it to do and make sure that it listens.  Wherever you are, don’t let your smart phone take you away from there.  It isn’t proper etiquette and it really isn’t Christ-like either.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The termination of someone’s membership is the final step of church discipline.  It is undeniably one of the hardest things a church will ever go through.  It can be messy, have mixed feelings, and even divide families.  The pain inflicted is probably why so many churches will never do it.  Furthermore, it can be looked at as unloving or even mean-spirited from those on the outside the church looking in.  And if the truth be told, if church discipline is not handled correctly, it can indeed be both unloving and mean-spirited.   Nonetheless, it is something that is commanded by our Lord (Matthew 18) as well as Paul (I Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3).  Church discipline is a safeguard that the Lord has put in place to protect the church from those who are not willing to repent of sin.  The Lord wants a pure bride; a pure church.  Church discipline is always both sad and difficult.  It is not something done quickly, but over time, has multiple steps, and always done after a period of attempts of reproof and correction.  The hopeful result at all levels of church discipline is correction and restoration of the member.  Yet, if the person is unwilling to submit and repent, the final step is, sadly, the excommunication of membership.  As difficult as this is, I believe the Lord can use it for His glory and the building up of the church.  It should be used as an opportunity for all within the church.

It’s an opportunity to express the gospel.

When something like church discipline is brought before the church it no doubt will invoke conversations.  At the end of these discussions we should all at least agree that sin is a big deal.  A person being excommunicated from the local body is the visible representation of what the Lord does to those who do not place their faith in Him.  To not believe and repent of one’s sins will rightfully send that person to hell.  When the final step is made for a person’s membership to be terminated it should allow for a great opportunity to share the gospel with your children.  It is a perfect opportunity to express what the wages of sin leads to (Romans 6:23).  A great opportunity to explain what real love is (I Corinthians 13).  Use it as an example of the comparison of the righteous man and those who are unrighteous (Psalm 1).  It is an opportunity to explain what the wrath of God looks like (Romans 1).  Something as somber as church discipline can be used as an excellent tool for sharing the gospel.

It’s an opportunity for self-examination.

Upon looking at the seriousness of sin, it should cause us all to examine ourselves.  Jesus has much to say about judging others unbiblically in the Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 7, Jesus declares these famous words, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Before we call someone else on the carpet for their sin, we must examine where we might be in error.  It is only after this, that we tell the other person that they have a spec in their eye.  However, we must note that Jesus doesn’t want us to leave the spec in our brother’s eye.  We must simply first examine our own selves.  When we as a church take the difficult step to terminating someones membership it should cause us all to shutter.  It should cause us all to weep.  It should cause us all to ask of the Lord what David did in Psalm 139:  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Do not allow such a paramount occasion to come and go without it causing you to examine yourself.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen your church. 

When church discipline occurs, it can become very divisive.  As Christians pursuing unity, it is important to try to lay friendship and loyalties aside to side with truth and scripture.  If the leadership of the church has articulately laid out the charges to the church and the unrepentant sin of the party, then it should be used as an opportunity for the church to be strengthened. What brings unity to the church?  What is the bonding agent?  Is it not the Holy Spirit that is dwelling inside of every believer?  Paul, again, exhorts the Corinthians, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).  All true believers should desire a pure church; one that most accurately reflects the commands of God for the church.  When a church is going through this uneasy process, all should be united in prayer.  All should be united in seeking resolution.  All should be seeking the face of God.  If all the church is doing this together, it allows for an excellent opportunity to strengthen the church.

To put it bluntly, if you are doing church discipline with a smile on your face, then you are doing it all wrong.  It should be with much pain that a church would discipline one of their own.  We are putting someone out of the sweet fellowship of the family of God at our local church.  While it is a difficult process to walk through, I would encourage you not to waste it.  Use it.  Don’t just cast your vote “Yes” or “No” and be done with it.  Use it as an opportunity for gospel conversations, for self examination, and the building up the church.  Don’t allow the church to be tore down because it.   Don’t waste your church discipline, but bring glory to God through it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Family worship is a concept that has long been forgotten for many through the years of church history. It is a concept that can be both exhilarating, but also paralyzing. Family worship at its most basic level, is simply taking time to gather the family to read the Bible, pray, and worship the Lord on a regular basis in your home. It is true that there is no direct command found in scripture imploring fathers and families to do family worship, but it is a great application to direct commands found all over the canon of scripture.  Here are just a few examples:

            Deuteronomy 6:4-7: This text implores parents to “Teach them diligently to your children . . .” Telling them that the Lord is One, and that they should love the Lord with all that they are.

            Psalm 78: This Psalm has some strong commandments to fathers to teach their children about the things of God, and for this to continue on, not just to your children, but to your children’s children. This was a command to tell the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord.

           Ephesians 5:25-26:  Here we find husbands are told to “Wash them (their wives) in the Word.”  It also explained that children are to be brought “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

            I Timothy 3:4-5 we find the qualifications of being an elder. He “must manage his house well.”

One of the best and easiest ways to apply these commands is to have regular family worship in your home. After looking over these verses you may be convinced that this is a good idea, but what does it actually look like? Since that vast majority of people didn’t grow up in a home where this was practiced, what should it look like? Here are a few points to consider if you want family worship to be a profitable and successful experience in your home.

Consider the Elements:

Generally speaking, there are three parts to family worship. You read the Bible, pray the Bible, and sing the Bible. They are much like the same elements that you find in a typical corporate worship setting. However, there is no preacher (other than the parents), and there is no choir or worship team, other than those sitting in your home. There is no need to hire someone to come in and do these things for you. God has actually equipped you the parent (practically the father), to lead in this manner. All it takes is having everyone sit quietly (or mostly quiet if you have small ones) and read a portion of scripture. Then you explain it to the best of your ability.  You pick a song that the family knows and sing it (if you can play an instrument that is even better).  It can be something as simple as the Doxology with no music, but I would encourage you not to skip this part if possible. Finally, close in prayer. That is it. Simple and easy, but it can have eternal significance.

Consider the Brevity:

Your average church service lasts about an hour. You may think of your family worship like a small church service on Sunday, however much shorter. You should want family worship to be a delight and not a drudgery. Ephesians 6:4 gives warning to fathers not to “provoke your children to wrath.” If you are just starting family worship and it is a new concept to your family, please remember that it is new to your family as well. If you try to make it too long, you may be provoking your children. You may very well work up to a 30-minute family devotion, but brevity is key here. It is good to start off with no more than 10-15 minutes. Read 15 – 20 verses in the Bible. Take 3 or 4 minutes to explain it and to ask questions. Spend 2 or 3 minutes in prayer and sing a quick song. Try to set a regular time that you plan to do this and try to stick to it most days. Remember, it does not have to be anything super formal, but there does need to be a sense of reverence. You are worshiping and honoring God after all, even if it is in your pajamas.

Consider the Content: 

When your children are small, you may not want to go straight to Song of Solomon or Revelation. It may not be helpful. Consider reading Proverbs, the book of James, or even some of the narrative portions in the Old Testament. There are some great stories there that will allow you as a parent to point to the gospel and give just simple and practical advice. If you feel like you don’t know the Bible well enough to teach, invest in a good study Bible. Take 10 minutes to read the passage before-hand with the notes so you can explain it. You only need to be one step ahead to teach. As the children get older have them get involved. Fathers, have your wife be a regular part of worship. She is gifted in ways that you are not. Have your children read the scripture. Have them pray. Have them help lead the song(s). This is part of training and teaching them not just the things of God, but also how to lead their families when they get older.

John Piper emphasizes the commitment to family worship by saying, “You have to decide how important you think these family moments are. It is possible for little ones, teenagers, and parents. You may have to work at it, but it can be done.” Family worship has been a blessing to my family. I love hearing my children sing praise to God at the top of their little lungs. I love hearing them answer and ask great questions that come from our Bible reading. I love having them repeat prayers after their mother and I. It is a commitment that my wife and I made that we would do on a regular basis early on in our marriage. While it is true that this is just one way to apply the clear commands of God to teach, train, and lead our homes, I believe it to be the best one. I don’t think when you get older and you look back on your time as a parent, that you will ever regret the time you spent around the dinner or coffee table worshiping the Lord together.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

God has created the church to function as the primary disciple making mechanism.  One of the ways the Lord has structured this is for older men to teach the younger men how to live a godly life.  Some of this teaching, of course, is formal.  Maybe this comes in the form of a 40 year old man teaching a Sunday School class to a bunch of middle school boys.  Formal teaching is needed; however, much of what is taught comes in the form of the informal.  This may look like a faithful deacon cleaning the church grounds each week that is noticed by the young boy walking home from school, or the quiet man in the balcony running the sound board week after week.  Paul instructed Titus about the roles of men as far as discipleship in a letter written to him.  There he wrote,

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness . . . Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”(Titus 2:1-6)

As I reflect on these words, I am humbled and encouraged at the same time.  I am humbled because the Lord has blessed me with so many Titus 2 men over the different seasons of my life.  I am encouraged because as I strive to be a Titus 2 man for younger men, I still look to and have older men pouring into me.  This is the natural process that God intended.  Truly, all men need Titus 2 men in every time of life.  Here are just a few times and season when this is true.

You needed one when you were young:

Growing up in a conservative Baptist church in the Bible-belt afforded me an embarrassment of riches when it came to godly men in my life.   I had my family, neighbors, and many church members that filled this Titus 2 man role well.  I saw them serving their families, serving their church, and their communities, and even taking time to disciple me in a variety of ways.  God used both the formal instruction (Sunday school, Wednesday night classes, etc.) and the informal “God talks” to help shape me spiritually.  After my salvation at the age of 21, I could look back and see how each had a hand in my spiritual formation.  As a young man, I needed them to not just share the gospel, but I needed to be shown as well.  I needed a Titus 2 man when I was young.

You need one now:

Now that I am in my mid-30’s, a staff member at a church, and a seminary graduate, one might think that there would be no need to have these types of men around to help any longer.  Yet, God in his infinite wisdom knew that I would still need council and wisdom from those in their 40’s, 60’s, and 80’s.  While I have some wisdom built up, I by no means have all the wisdom I need.  I still need to know how to love my wife better, raise children when they are being difficult, and sort through other various life issues in a biblical way.  I need the 55 year old man to take me out to lunch and give me a loving word of exhortation that I am working too much and need to spend more time with God and my family.  This is part of his role in being “sober-minded.”  I need this man in my life now, and so does every Christian man.

You will need one when you are old:

Once I get into my golden years, the need for Titus 2 men will not change.  I hope one day to be the 60-year-old man that has taken a 25 year old newly married man under my wing for a year and poured into him about how to live out the gospel in his home.  I hope to be a man that is teaching his grandchildren about the majesty of God.  However, just because the roles shift and your primary role is to be that of Paul instead of Timothy doesn’t mean that you do not still need wisdom and guidance from another older and more seasoned man than you.  That might come in the way of reading books from men of old.  It may come in the way of digging up old sermons from people like Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, or reading commentaries from Matthew Henry.  When a man makes it to this point in his life, he should relish in the opportunity to fulfill this role, yet he should not stop learning.  Even in his old age, Paul never stopped (II Timothy 4:13).  This is what a Titus 2 man does.  He is “self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”  I am in need of that kind of man now, and will always been in need of one.

             I am so thankful for the Titus 2 men in my life, both in my past, and the ones that I have today.  I am thankful that they have taught me to pass it on.  I pray that it is a pattern that is carried on as long as the Lord gives me life.  However, it is not just something for the super spiritual.  It is not just something for the “professional.”  God has given us all the ability to do this.  He has made us all competent to council (Romans 15:14).  The reality is, we are all mentoring or discipling others by how we live our lives.  Scripture describes what it should look like in Titus 2.  Here is my question to you who are reading this: where are you in the process?  Here are a few questions to consider.

  1. Are you purposefully discipling someone?
  2. Are you a young man who is seeking someone to guide you?
  3. If you are not currently doing so, would you be willing to purposefully step into this role of being an older man training a young man?
  4. Would you, young man, be willing to have an older godly man speak into your life?

God has given us the great gift of each other to help train each other in godliness.  Take advantage of this time.  We need each other.  Through it, you may be surprised at what it does both in you and the one that you are with as well.  To all the Titus 2 men out there . . . I admire you.  Keep it up.  It is worth the investment.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

This past fall my Mother-in-law sent around her annual “I need Christmas list ideas” email to the family.  Being in my mid-30’s, I have a hard time finding something to put on that list most years.  I love to open gifts, like any other person, but I just have a hard time thinking of ideas.  This year it was different.  I knew exactly what I wanted to ask for.  I quickly respond with a link to the Hymns of Grace website.  “Four pew editions, please.” was my response.  I already own a copy personally, but I wanted 4 copies for my children to use during our family worship time.  Over the past 10 years we have enjoyed a regular diet of family worship in my home.  Usually, it is only about 15 minutes in length.  We pray, read scriptures, discuss it, pray again, and then sing a song.  Until recently the singing part was either an acapella rendition of The Doxology or another favorite hymn or chorus with a guitar.  It’s very informal, yet a special time for our family.  My older children are just now starting to read well.  My wife and I wanted to get them more involved in the family worship time . . . this is where the hymn books have aided.  There are at least 3 areas of benefit I see in using them as a tool for discipling our children.

It Aids in Participation:

            With young children, family worship can be challenging.  At times, it is hard just to get them to sit still and listen.  However, over time through regular worship and training, this aspect becomes much easier.  Once they can read it really adds to the family table each night.  When we broke out the hymn books for the first time and told them that they could all have one, they were so excited.  Now they race each time to see who can find the song the fastest.  They look at each word with vigorous intensity and sing even louder than before.  Now, they have some ownership in worship.  Now it is not just Dad and Mom leading them, but they really get to participate.  It has added a level of excitement.  When they participate, they glean more.  We are praying that as they glean, the Lord will use it to mold and shape them into the image of Jesus.  Paul instructed the church at Colossi to, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God,” (Colossians 3:16).  Thus we sing.  Worshipers are participators.  Having a hymn book in front of them has helped them to participate even more.

It Aids in Theology:

            Theology matters.  It matters in the study of God’s Word, but it also matters in the words that we sing to God.  The hymn book that we chose is the best hymn book that I have ever seen.  It is rich in theology.  However, it is not just rich but it’s theology is singable.  This particular hymn book has a wide array of both old sacred hymnody (All creatures of our God and King) as well as new modern ones (Come, behold the wondrous mystery).  Singing lines like “And when before the throne I stand in him complete, ‘Jesus died my soul to save’ my lips shall still repeat,” will help remind us of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. When we sing the Getty’s words, “O church arise, and put your armor on; hear the call of Christ our captain,”  I pray that it strikes a chord in my children to live out the command that is given to “put on the full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Having a book that has compiled all of these great songs into a single volume is amazing.  Even more amazing, is being able to hide the truths of these words in our children’s heart (and ours for that matter) to help them in their pursuit of holy living.

It Aids in Learning New Words:

Let’s face it.  Most of us do not speak the King’s English.  I for one am very thankful for sound modern translations of the Bible.  Yet, some of the older hymns that we sing were written during the time when most people used the KJV Bible.  Thus, their wording is a bit different than what we use today.  Sometimes there are odd phrasings as well.  Take the great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  This is a song that is often sung in churches.  However, how many people really understand the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come”?  The word Ebenezer means “stone of help”.  We see it used in the Old Testament often (I Samuel 7).  So when we sing this line, it is a reminder to the church of how God delivers his people from danger.  Old hymns (and some new ones) are filled with this type of biblical illustration.    Using them during a time of family worship allows for conversation after the song is over.  It will allow you to teach biblical concepts and truths, but also for your children to learn some new (old) words as well.

             I cannot express more my pleasure of having a hymn book like the Hymns of Grace.  It is masterful in its composition.  I look forward to using it for years to come, and passing each hymn book off to my children when they leave our home.  Do you have a favorite hymn book?   Let me encourage you to purchase some for your entire family.  Let them use it as you conduct family worship.  Let them pick the songs from time to time.  Allow them to participate, to grow in their theology, and their literature.  It is a worthwhile investment, one that I believe you will find to be profitable and enjoyable as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell