Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Imagine the scene at Thanksgiving.  You have the table set just perfectly.  You have the adults’ table, and the kids’ table with everyone’s plates, cutlery, and origami folded napkins prepared for your family to enjoy a wonderful meal together.  You have your spot for the turkey, your spot for the ham, and all the other fixings for your meal.  You know exactly where everything goes to make your Thanksgiving experience optimal.  Now picture something different: plates just tossed everywhere, no napkins, there is a fork here or there, and the spoons are actually dirty . . . oh, and the kids’ table has been completely forgotten.  Is this a picture of Thanksgiving bliss, or a recipe for disaster?  Any mother that saw this second scene would immediately rush to reset the table(s).

While most of us would like to think our homes function more like the hallmark picture that was painted first, the reality is, sometimes in our day to day family life we find ourselves at the second table and we just want to throw up our hands and throw in the towel.  Life gets hectic.  Children get disrespectful.  It can seem like everything is just flipped upside-down.  If this is the case in your home, as it is in mine at times, let me suggest something . . . it may be time to reset the table.

Resetting our Roles

Scripture clearly identifies the roles of all family members in the home.  God is the supreme authority in any Christian home.  Everyone must submit to Him and His Word.  If things seem to be flipped upside-down in your home, chances are the Lord is not looked at as the supreme authority there.  Next, we find the father is called to be the spiritual leader in the home.  He is to be the head of the house (Ephesians 5:23).  If things at home have gotten unruly, how is the father helping to straighten it up?  Since he is the head, he must be involved in the fix.  Next, we find the role of wife and mother.  While she is to be submissive to her husband, she also has been given the responsibility to be the keeper of the home (Titus 2:4-5).  In this role, she has authority over the children just as the father does.  And when we come to the children, their role is to be submissive to both mom and dad as they submit to the Lord.  This is the structure that the Lord expects in an orderly home.  And if your family table has dirty and broken dishes lying around, chances are, the roles have been subverted in some way.  It may be time for a reset.

Resetting our Responsibilities

Thinking through the roles in the home should allow us to see our responsibilities clearly.  When a child expresses their desire to “not eat their vegetables” with a loud but silent eye role of disgust . . . they need to remember their role.  A child is responsible to obey his or her father and mother (Ephesians 6:1).  Their responsibility is to eat that vegetable out of honor and appreciation (Philippians 2:14).  Their responsibility is not to offer an opinion (unless allowed by the parents), but to remember their role and respond appropriately. A mother has authority over the child and is to assist her husband in carrying out his responsibilities (Ephesians 5:22, Titus 2:4).  A father is charged with teaching, encouraging, and disciplining his child as well as loving and leading his wife (Ephesians 5:25-29, Ephesians 6:1).  In the home, everyone has responsibilities.  When spaghetti starts flying, or voices get raised in disagreement, chances are the responsibilities have been tossed aside.  This is when everything becomes a mess.  It is time for a reset.

Resetting our Relationships 

In many homes in America, the children rule the house.  While they do not pay the mortgage, the car payment, provide food to eat, shelter, or clothing . . . many children think that the home revolves around them and their needs.  And unfortunately, many parents allow this to happen.  At first, it is innocent and can even seem funny when your 4-year old says, “Mommy, get me some milk” while playing with her toys.  Yet, it isn’t nearly as funny, when your 16-year-old starts to tell you when and where they are going on Friday instead of asking permission to do so.  It can be easy to let their schedules rule us.  Many of us want them to be well-rounded and involved in a variety of things that stimulate personal growth.  So, we run them from the ball field to piano practice.  Then there are church functions and other school activities.  We become slaves to their schedule.  Then it happens.  The children become the center of all that is done.  The mother becomes the taxi driver.  The father . . .the fan.  The relationship that God designed for the good of the home has become a chaotic blur instead of a blessing.  If this routine has distorted the relationships in your home, it may well be time for a reset.

Joel Beeke has said, “You are either the best or worst book that your children will ever read.”  This is a profound statement.  The way our children see us live out the truth of scriptures will either shape them for the good, or the bad.   When we think about our homes, most of us, I imagine, want it to be a place of fond memories, love, and encouragement.  But, to do this, there has to be order.  If there is no order at dinner time, there can be no dinner time.  Without order, there will be little fond memories, a lack of love, and frustration more than encouragement.  Just like the dinner table, our homes need order.  God has set the order for our homes.  Husbands, love your wife well.  Fathers, be active in the training of your children.  Wives, respect and love your husbands.  Mom, love your children enough to teach and require order.  Children, obey and honor your parents.  It is required by God.  Children will be accountable to God for this.

The family table is a wonderful place.  It is here where we can often see it as a metaphor for life in the home.  So, if your family table looks like something that Joanna Gains has staged, that is a blessing.  But don’t let it become an issue of pride.  Praise the Lord for His blessings in it, but continue to pursue a godly home humbly.  But, if it looks a little more like the dinner scene from the 1991 classic “Hook” movie, it may be time to start afresh and reset that table.  The Lord has provided the way to do so.  It may take some time and some work, but it will be well worth the effort.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Are Sundays Good for Babies?

The quick answer to the question is, Yes!  Megan Hill reminds us that, “ . . . The disruption of Sunday is a chance to remember that even our schedules are under the Lord’s authority. Once a week, the Lord breaks into our routine and reminds us that naptimes and snacktimes are not ultimate, nor are they determined by our own desires. In all things, we serve the Lord.”

Does Your Schedule Know You’re a Christian Dad?

“We probably won’t see an app come along anytime soon that informs us how our schedule lines up with our responsibilities as Christian dads. But we can pray that the Holy Spirit will grow our love for the gospel and our desire to faithfully instruct our children from that love with as much of our schedule as we can within the limited years in which God places them in our care.”

Five Lessons Learned from Twenty Years of Marriage

These are 5 timeless lessons that we can all learn from, whether you are a newlywed or you have been married for 40 years.  Divito says, “ . . .We still have many struggles. We argue, we can become cold and distant toward one another, and we don’t always see things eye-to-eye. But because of God’s love for us, with Christ’s grace toward us, and by the Holy Spirit’s strength in us, our marriage is like a beautiful flower that continues to flourish with age.” This is a refreshing reminder to all would be married couples or seasoned couples alike.

How to Have Assurance of Your Salvation

“Are you plagued with fears and doubts regarding your salvation? Ask yourself a couple of very important questions as you examine your own soul. Do you have evidence that the Spirit of God is causing you to hate sin and to fight against it? Do you have a love for the church of Jesus Christ? If this is not true of you—you may simply have religion, but your religion apart from genuine faith in Jesus Christ is empty and vain.”

How to Teach Kids to Tell the Truth

“If you’re going to use words—and you are—mean them. Mean what you say, and say what you mean. If you say, “Turn off the video game”—and they ignore you, and you do nothing—then not only does “turn off the video game” come to mean nothing, but all your words lose value. You make your words into a kind of lie, for “turn off the video game” apparently doesn’t mean what it seems to say.”

Young Children are Tricking Parents and Viewing Porn at Alarming Rates

Do you really know what your teens have on their phones?  In this piece we find, “The devastating effects of porn are widely known within the scientific community today, but what many don’t consider is how exposure to porn at an early age can lead to long-term negative social, emotional and cognitive effects.”  This is pretty eye-opening.  I would encourage every parent who allows their youth to have a smart phone to check this out.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

As your children start to grow older one of the best gifts that you can give them is good theology. This should come in the way of good preaching, and teaching within the local church and the home of course. Yet one of the most helpful and lasting ways of doing this is by helping them to start building a good theological library. The idea would be to start purchasing 2-3 books a year, from the time they are 12 until about the age of 21, so that by the time they are an adult they have many wonderful theological resources at their fingertips to help them grow in grace and maturity. Below is a list of the top 25/26 book suggestion to start your young adult’s theological library.

Basic Theology:

  1. Systematic Theology”- Wayne Grudem

This is a monster of a book. It isn’t one that you simply sit down to read from cover to cover, but more of a theological encyclopedia. It hits on every major theme and doctrine of scripture and provides a thorough Biblical explanation of each.

  1. Christian Beliefs” –    Wayne Grudem

This is the small and more digestible companion to Wayne Grudem’s larger Systematic Theology books. It is a palatable book that is meant to explain the 20 basic doctrines that every Christian should know.

  1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” –Donald Whitney

This is one of the most helpful books written within the last 50 years. It will help in building lifelong spiritual habits and disciplines.

  1. Just Do Something” – Kevin DeYoung

As the book title says, it is “a liberating approach to finding God’s will.” It is simple, conscience, and practical, yet straight from scripture.

  1. Knowing God” – J.I. Packer

We are told to “renew our minds” in Romans 12. One of the best ways to do this is by getting to know God more personally. This is what Packer’s book does . . . he helps the readers to know God on an extremely intimate level.

  1. What is the Gospel?” – Greg Gilbert

Knowing the gospel and understanding the gospel is key for the people of God. It is a doctrine that we never graduate from. This little book explains the big truths of the gospel in a bit size way. It is wonderful recourse to read over and over again.

  1. Father, Son, Holy Spirit” – Bruce Ware

This is the best and most practical treatment of the trinity written this decade. It is written from a pastoral perspective, and is invaluable in it’s applications.

  1. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church” – Mark Dever

Where a person attends church matters deeply. In this book Dever explains what a healthy church should look like. There are many “churches” out there, but this is a guide that will help your young adult to find a healthy one as they grow into adulthood.

  1. The Holiness of God” – R.C.Sproul

This is the single greatest work that the late Dr. Sproul ever wrote. It is here where R.C. explains the true nature of God. You will not be able to walk away from this unchanged.

  1. Chosen by God” – R.C. Sproul

The balance between man’s responsibility and God’s sovereign choice of sinners unto salvation has been a topic of debate for millennia. In this book Dr. Sproul explains the doctrine of predestination in a simple but biblical way.

 

Apologetics:

  1. Expository Apologetics” – Voddie Baucham

Expository Apologetics is written with the conviction that apologetics should be both biblical and accessible for the normal layman.  This book is filled with real-world examples and practical advice.  It will equip your young adult with the tools they need to think biblically and to give an answer for the “reason for the hope that is in you.”

  1. Reason to Believe” – R.C. Sproul

R.C. works though 10 of the most common objections to the Christian faith.  It is a short book (160 pages) but rather full when it comes to its content and helpful in cementing our belief in the Christian faith.

  1. Scripture Alone” – James White

James White provides a thorough explanation of why the Bible is true, faithful, and completely trustworthy.

 

Bible Helps:

  1. ESV Study Bible

The English Standard Version is a faithful word for word translation. This Study Bible has over 12,000 helpful study notes for the reader’s enjoyment and study. It is good for every believer to have a robust study Bible.

  1. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

This is a helpful resource that can really make scripture come alive. It has more than 700 full color graphics, archaeological research, and canonical book summaries and outlines that will enhance the study of God’s Word.

  1.   “Hymns of Grace

This is the best hymn book on the market that provides both Christ-centered new hymns mixed with the older and traditional sacred hymnody. The songs have deep and rich theology put to music. It is a wonderful resource to just read at times and soak in the glories of our God and King through its wealth of truths.

 

General Reading:

  1. The Valley of Vision

This is a wonderful book to read devotionally.  It is a book made up of Puritan prayers. Besides its poetic beauty, it also provides a peek into the prayer life of some our heroes of the past. Its aim is to cause us to worship and praise our Lord as we read and meditate on the words and even recite the heartfelt prayers as our own.

  1. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” – John Foxe

In 1563, John Foxe published an account of the life of Christian martyrs, beginning with Stephen and ending with the most recent martyrs of his day. This book is a faithful reminder of how God used figures such as John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and so many others has given us our rich Christian heritage. It’s a book every Christian should own.

  1. Pilgrim’s Progress” – John Bunyan

This is simply the greatest work of fiction ever written. It is an allegorical work that explains the pilgrimage from spiritual death unto spiritual life. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”  It is a classic that believers everywhere need to read at least once.

  1. Shadow of the Almighty” – Elizabeth Elliot

This is a wonderfully moving biography of the life and ultimate martyrdom of Jim Elliot (and four other missionaries) at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador, 1958. Elisabeth Elliot uses her late husband’s diaries to paint the full picture of Jim’s devotion to the Lord, his mission, and points to the complete majesty of the Almighty.

  1. Through Gates of Splendor” – Elizabeth Elliot

This is the follow up book to Shadow of the Almighty. This details the events that occurred after the missionaries’ death. It shows how the sovereign hand of God would eventually save almost the entire village.

  1. Don’t Waste Your Life” – John Piper

John Piper packs a real punch in this book.  He challenges an entire generation to let their life count for something. He dares them not to live for themselves but to take godly risk for the sake of the Kingdom. It’s a convicting and possibly life changing book.

  1. 50 Critical Questions” – John Piper & Wayne Grudum

Piper and Grudum set out to answer 50 questions about the roles and responsibilities in both men and woman in light of a complementarian view of men/woman. It is a good book to read cover to cover, but it can also be used as a reference book like an encyclopedia as well.

  1. 50 People Every Christian Should Know” – Warren Wiersbe

This gives a basic overview of 50 different Christians throughout church history that have had major impacts on Christendom. Every biographical sketch is only about 5 pages long and is easily digestible.

  1. Screwtape Letters” – C.S. Lewis

This is one of Lewis’ best and most unique works in my opinion. It is written from the perspective between an experienced demon and a demon apprentice. Wormwood (the apprentice) seeks help in securing the damnation of a young “believer.” Their correspondence offers interesting insights on temptation, pride, and the ultimate victory of faith over evil forces.

  1. Radical Womanhood” –  Carolyn McCulley (For Woman)

This is a book about learning to have genuine feminine faith in a feminist world.  It is both scripturally sound and extremely practical. It speaks to everyone Christian woman at any age.

27.  “Thoughts for Young Men” –  J.C. Ryle  (For Guys)

This is biblical, timeless and practical advice for all young men. What if we knew the solution to most of the problems within the church and the world — but did little to nothing about it? Pastor and author J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) asked a similar question more than a century ago in Thoughts for Young Men as he observed the spiritual condition of young men in the culture.

There are so many other books that could have been put on this list.  The thing about growing in grace and having wonderful resources is that it is a lifelong endeavor. It doesn’t start when you are 25, and this list doesn’t have to stop when a person reaches the age of 22. It is my hope that we will all want to be like Paul as we grow old, who in his last few years wanted his “books, and above all the parchments” (II Timothy 4:13). He wanted to study and write. He didn’t just want to live out his life and grow no longer. No, he wanted to “finish the race.” He wanted to keep the faith and finish well. The fact is, most teens are just starting their race. We should want to help them get a good start, and building their theological library is a good and proper way to start. It is a worthy investment. And parents, I hope that it is one that you will consider. You will not regret it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Encouragement For Parents Raising Teens

In this short video, Andrew Peterson offers some words of encouragement for raising teenagers as a Christian while living in this modern culture. He says, “When they were first born, my wife and I dedicated them to the Lord. So, in one since they have never belonged to me . . . so we live in the tension of that right now.” The tension that he details is the fact that they belong to him and his wife, yet they also belong to God. If you have 90 seconds, give it a listen.

Family Worship Bible Guide

Joel Beeke and Reformation Heritage have teamed up to produce a wonderful resource for family worship. It is “comprised of family worship thoughts extracted from the Reformation Heritage Study Bible and presenting rich devotional thoughts on all 1,189 chapters of Scripture, this Family Worship Bible Guide may go hand in hand with your Bible to help you lead and nurture your family’s worship and spiritual growth. Use this resource every day alongside Scripture to read each chapter’s major takeaways aloud and then discuss them with your family. With the Holy Spirit’s blessing, this book will transform you and your family!”

Five Thoughts on Training Boys to Be Godly Men

This is an article that I wrote 4 years ago that I believe still rings true today. Maybe it can be of some help to young fathers today.  It may help you understand that “while we cannot make our children trust in the Lord, we can certainly train them up in a way that is biblical and practical at the same time.” I have observed (both from other godly fathers and from scripture) at least 5 ways that I believe can do just that.

It’s Never ‘Just Business’ at Work

Sometime people get the idea that our work is “just work.”  Some believe that it is only a means to provide for yourself or your family. In this article, Brad Larson, challenges that idea and shows what your work is really about. He writes, “’It’s just business,’ they say. But it’s not. When we’re dealing with immortal beings made in the image of a beautiful God, it’s never just business. It’s a divinely appointed opportunity to showcase him and share his love.”

Teens and Body Image

If you have a teen you may know that many today struggle with their self image. They struggle with how they appear before others. They struggle with not having the body of some airbrushed model on the cover page of a magazine. Much of this is misplaced, but it is a real struggle nonetheless. Julie Lowe helps parents think through this issue from a Biblical perspective.  She writes, “This creates a unique challenge, but also opportunities, for parents to minister to their kids. We are all easily consumed and influenced by the world around us. Yet, this is not how God calls his people to live. Instead of taking our cues and standards from the world, it is our Creator who gives us meaning and identity.”

 Wait to Date Until You Can Marry

Casual dating is to modern culture as riding a horse was to a cowboy back in the 1800’s . . . “it is just what you do.” However, this hasn’t always been so. In this article Marshall Segal explains why young people should wait to date and 4 things they can do to prepare for marriage while they wait.  I enjoyed his final charge: “Surprise your friends (and everyone else) by being content to wait to date until you can marry, because you already have everything you need in God.”  I believe this a great article on the subject for both parents and teens to both read.

When Every Kid has a Smartphone, Odds are they aren’t Doing Smart Things with it

Dr. Albert Mohler on his daily briefing a few weeks back hit on some new information that was in an article from the USA today.  Feel free to listen to his entire daily briefing, but if you only want this clip you can fast forward to the 16:45 minute mark.  He provides some excellent commentary and some parental challenges as well.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell

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