Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

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

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

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

Meeting with them:

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

Read with them:

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

Pray with them:

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

Enjoy life with them:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

When you hear the names King David, Alexander the Great, Caesar, or even President Trump, there is one word that could describe them all: power!  Just hearing their names denotes power.  There is power in a name.  There is one name that stands above them all.  It is not just a name, but also a title.  We find it given some 700 years before Jesus was ever born.  Isaiah wrote,

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child
and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

And they shall call him Immanuel . . . Isaiah explains that Immanuel means “God with us” a few verses later (Isaiah 8:10).  Just stop and think about that for a moment.  This means that God would be with us not just in spirit, but in body as well.  This is the same God that created the world (John 1:3).  This God would humble himself to become a human and dwell with us. This is a mind-blowing theological truth.  He didn’t have to come, but out of His love for the Father and the love for His creation, He came to live with us.

Before Isaiah knew all the details, he was looking forward to God’s presence, and in Matthew’s Gospel we find it coming to fruition.  Matthew is not looking forward to God’s presence, but he is presenting it.  Notice what he says,

“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’” – Matthew 2:22-23

Matthew is recording one of the most important (if not the most important) events in human history.  This is where we see God coming to dwell with us.  If He does not come to us, there is no going to Him.  If He does not come to us, there is no cross.  Without the cross, there is no salvation.

So what kind of power is in a name?  A lot; there is a lot of power in this name.  Immanuel is not just another name, but it is the greatest of names.  It tells us who Jesus was, and what He was going to do.  This Christmas season, when you sing the old 18th century hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” remember just what it is that you are singing.  You are singing about the advent of Jesus . . . you are singing about the Immanuel who literally came as a child but would go on to be our King, our Shepherd, our substitute, our portion, our God.  That is what is in a name.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

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

He Would Be Called Wonderful Counselor:

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

He Would Be Called Mighty God:   

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

He Would Be Called Eternal Father:

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

He Would Be Called Prince of Peace:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

We have all said it.  We have all heard it said.  There is a difficult situation going on and every effort has been made to fix said situation.  We are at a loss, so now, “all we can do is pray.”  In my 15 years of ministry, I have said it dozens of times.  However, recently when I said it, I had a revelation of sorts.  Not the kind my Pentecostal friends might think of here, but more of illumination.  Saying “All I can do is pray” is to pray from a posture of defeat instead of a posture of strength.  When we pray we must remember who we are praying to and who we get to make our petition to.  This is no small thing.  We get to pray to the Sovereign of the universe who controls all things (Isaiah 45:7).  So, when we pray, even when it seems like we have exhausted all other resources, consider these few things first.

Remember the Place of Prayer

Paul wrote these three simple commands to the church in Thessalonica, “Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Paul does not tack prayer on at the end of the list of things for us to do.  He exhorts us to make it a place of primacy in our lives.  Prayer should be a part of our daily life, not just something we do when all else fails.  I know that is not what most people mean when “All we can do is pray” is said, but prayer is not just something that we should be doing when a situation gets bad, but something that should be done before, during, and after every circumstances in life.  Prayer is our primary way of communication with the Lord.  Go to him consistently and constantly.  Don’t wait until things get bad.  Go to him when they are good as well.  Rejoice . . . pray . . . give thanks.  This is our rightful place before God.

Remember the Power of Prayer

Scripture is filled with examples of what the Lord does though prayer.  By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Exodus 7-12).  By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored and he pushed down the pagan temple to kill his enemy (Judges 16:28).  By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men that were encamped around His people that were going to attack Israel (II Kings 19:35).  The Lord give His people two offensive weapons when fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:10-18). The first is scripture, which is primary.  The second is prayer, which is our second most powerful tool in our arsenal.  He has given us only two, because those are all that we need.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asked in his letter to the Romans.  The Lord is for us, and nothing or no one can separate us from His love.  Prayer is how we speak to the Lord.  He answers the pray of the righteous.  He fights our battles for us.  We stand in a place of victory because our Warrior King was victorious for us as our substitute and head.  Prayer is not our final weapon in battle that we toss out on the battle field like our last grenade hoping it finds the target.  No, it is more like the mighty trebuchet of old.  When it was employed in battle, the enemies tremble.  When we employ prayer, our enemy – our adversary – hates it.  He trembles at it (Luke 18:7).  So again, pray with power.

When we pray we can pray with confidence (Ephesians 3:12-13) that our Lord will hear us and answer us.  When we pray, let us remember to pray before, during, and after all situations in our life.  Don’t leave it until the end and start praying.  Next time you are at the end of your rope or you are trying to encourage a brother or sister in Christ with words consider reminding them that, “We still have prayer,” instead of “All we can do is pray.” I believe it is a different and helpful perspective.  I believe it is praying from a posture of strength and victory, instead of one of timid hope.  Pray continuously.  Pray confidently.  Pray as if you are armed with the powerful trebuchet, and leave the results to the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell