A New Halloween Tradition for Christians?

October 31st . . . for much of America this day means dressing up and eating candy until you literally get a cavity overnight.  This is true for both the churched and the un-churched in many places.  However, this date means something different from some Christians (such as myself).  October 31st is Reformation Day; the day that Martin Luther took his stand against the Roman Catholic Church and nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517.  It was a day that marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  This 31st day means different things for different people.  I am not setting out to argue for or against the tradition of “trick or treating.”  My family has chosen to not participate most years; however, a recent conversation with my mother has caused me to consider an alternative approach to the day.  It was such a brilliant idea that I thought I would share it with those who may decide to join in the candy grabbing tradition.

Here is the idea:  When your children go trick-or-treating (assuming they want to treat instead of trick), use it as an opportunity to have a gospel conversation.  Take a Bible tract, church information card, or even a Bible to give to each person or home that you visit.  Instead of just getting something delicious that will only last a short while, present them with the bread of life that can sustain them for eternity.  There is no doubt that this kind of thing could (and should) be done every day of the year, but I believe that this day can be used and capitalized on.  Below are three reasons why.

This is the one time a year you have an open invitation to knock on someone’s door. 

            We live in a day and time where we are more and more inclusive than ever.  We are so busy in our lives that our homes have become a place of seclusion instead of a haven for friends and family.  Front porches are smaller, man caves are more popular, and many do not even know what a welcome mat is.  However, on this day, many openly welcome you to their home.  They welcome you to ring their door bell or knock on their door.  They do not run and hide as if you are a Jehovah’s Witness.  They eagerly wait for you with an open door and an open bowl of candy.  Can you think of a better time than this to bear witness to Christ by inviting them to your church, giving them a gospel tract, or giving them a Bible?  This is an open invitation.

This is the one time a year you can talk freely to a stranger.

It goes something like this; “Ding Dong . . . oh look at you.  Let’s see, we have a princess, a construction worker (who is actually Thor from the Avengers), and a little bearLet me give you some candy.  Now, just take one each . . .”  They have engaged your children in conversation.  A perfect stranger has given you the opportunity to speak to them, in their home.  How hard would it be for your older children to say, “Oh thank you so much and we would like to give you this card that has information about our church on it.  I don’t know if you know Jesus, or attend a church, but we would love to invite you to ours.  Thanks again, and God bless.”  Do you think that would leave an impression?  You don’t often want your children talking to strangers, but this is the one time of the year that they can benefit from the opportunity.

This is the one time of the year that you actually go out as a family to specifically meet so many different people.

Let’s face it, while many people may have the intention to go door-to-door in their neighborhood to talk to their neighbors about the Lord, most of the time they never get around to it.  Here is the perfect opportunity to kill those preverbal birds with one stone.  You are already going to be taking your children door to door, use it as an opportunity to witness to your neighbor.  Let you children see you do it, so that they can in turn learn how to do it themselves.  It does not have to be a formal thing, but by at least initiating a gospel conversation you may open an opportunity for later conversation with them.  If you are going out anyway, use it for the glory of God.

Will this be a new Halloween (Reformation day) tradition for my family?  I am not sure of that yet, but I love the idea of it. So, will you join in this year?  I am sure your church would love to supply you with the needed tools if you don’t already have them yourself.  Instead of just focusing on family fun this year, use it as an opportunity to not just make memories with your kids, but make an impact for the Kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

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

Jesus in portraits:

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

Jesus in prophecies:

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Is the Old Testament Really for Christians?

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

Because you need it to understand the New Testament:

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

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

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

Because Jesus and the Apostles read it:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

From Preparing to Maintaining . . . Here Are Some Helpful Books For Every Season of Your Love Life.

One of the most rewarding things that I get to do as a pastor to families is to be a resource for them.  I have been blessed with the gift of time as a pastor.  During this time, I have been able to sort through a lot of books and studies dealing with family life.  With all of the thousands of books out there dealing with pre-marriage, young marriage, renewing and renovating one’s marriage, and child-rearing, I have gathered a list of several great books that I believe are helpful that I would like to share.  No matter where you are in your life, single or married, I believe these books may be an encouragement to you if you desire to do a little reading.  Each book is listed in order of importance in my opinion.

While Courting /Dating or Preparing:

  1. “Date Different” By Greg Gibson
  2. “What He Must Be” – By Voddie Baucham
  3. “The Purity Principle” – By Randy Alcorn
  4. “50 Crucial Questions” – By John Piper and Wayne Grudem
  5. “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” – By John Piper and Wayne Grudem

While Engaged or Just Beginning Your Marriage:

  1. “When Sinners Say I Do” – By Dave Harvey
  2. “Intended for Pleasure” – By Ed Wheat
  3. “Total Money Makeover” – By Dave Ramsey
  4. “The Intimate Marriage” – By R.C. Sproul
  5. “First 90 days of Marriage” – By Eric and Leslie Ludy
  6. “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – By Bruce Ware
  7. “Sacred Marriage” – By Gary Thomas

To Read to Refresh Your Marriage:

  1. “Sacred Marriage” – By Gary Thomas
  2. “Love and Respect” – By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
  3. “His Needs Her Needs” – By Willard F. Hardy, Jr.

To Read If You Have Children:

  1. “Give Them Grace” – By Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
  2. “Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home” – By Donald Whitney
  3. “Family Driven Faith” – Voddie Baucham

             There are many great books on these different subjects, but these are all books that have been helpful to me, and I pray will be to you as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

When The Sovereignty of God Collides With Our Happy Little Life

I believe that God is sovereign over all.  That means that He has infinite control over the smallest details of my life just as much as the big ones.  It is good to teach about this truth and it is good to believe this truth.  But when the truth of God’s sovereignty hurts us or takes us by surprise, it could cause us to bring into question the things that we once believed so strongly.

Consider these questions:

When a member of your family is tragically killed, is God still sovereign and good?

When your loved one is suffering to the point that you are praying for the Lord to just take them home, is the Lord still good?

When the sovereignty of God crashes into what would have been considered our happy Christian life, do we still see the Lord’s sovereignty as something to boast about?

Even in times of great trial, God’s control is something that we all should lean on and hold to. Below are three things to think about when dealing with God’s sovereignty and calamity:

The Lord Sympathizes With Our Pain

            We have a God that knows us perfectly, is always with us, and has created us uniquely (Psalm 139:1-18).  He is an intimate Father who cares for His children.  He sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to die in the place of murderers, God-haters, and adulterers.  His perfect Son was substituted for us, an unholy people.  Jesus not only died, He died the worst possible death, an innocent Man, crucified on the cross.  It is upon this same Jesus that we are to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).  The Lord clearly cares for His people.  Some want to say that God’s sovereignty paints a picture of a malicious dictator.  On the contrary, when you understand how intimate God really is you will find Him to be less of a tyrant and more of a loving father.  When His plans run counter to yours, just remember that His love for you has not faltered.  Most of us never doubted our earthly father’s love for us even if we didn’t always understand his ways.  It should be the same with our heavenly Father.  We can rest in the fact that He sympathizes with our pain.  He gave up His own Son to be beaten and die because that was the only way to have His people redeemed.

A Christian Gives Up Right Of Ownership

In Romans chapter 6, Paul reminds us that we were once slaves to sin, having a skewed view of personal freedom. Through Christ we have now become slaves of righteousness, owing our life to the Lord.  If you, by faith, call upon the name of the Lord for salvation, you are giving yourself over to Him and His kingdom.  The Lord sometimes deems it necessary for His glory and His plan to shake up our life with what may seem like unbelievable tragedy.  We must remember that we signed up to have His will be done before our own.  Does this mean that we do not go before Him and petition for the life of our loved one?  In no way!  But in the end, we must remember that we have no right to say when a person lives or dies.  He is the architect of all of life.  He is the giver and taker of life.  When we give up our ownership for something better, namely a relationship with God, we must understand that God’s ways are so much higher and better than our own.  We are no longer the owner of our own life.  We have sold ourselves into the service of the One who is always good and faithful.  His ways are best and can be trusted.

The Lord Works All Things For Good

In times of tragedy some well meaning person may quote Romans 8:28 to you.  Paul said, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  While it may be a true verse, it may not bring much comfort to you at the time of a death or another heartbreaking situation.  The verse is, however, key for a broad, proper understanding of God’s sovereignty.  Sometimes in God’s goodness He allows us to see His master plan during seemingly terrible events.  Other times He does not.  The one thing we can trust in is that no matter if we understand all of life or not, He does.  By His very character He is always good.  He is long-suffering.  He is the embodiment of love itself.  Tragedy is a byproduct of sin most of the time.  It is hard to see the Lord working His sovereign will through a situation when clear sin is involved (murder, abortion, unjust firing from a job), but even then God in His wisdom truly is working all things for the good of His name and His people.

The complete sovereignty of God is a wonderful biblical truth.  It has brought my family through some tough times in recent months.  Holding to it does not promise you a life of complete happiness.  What it does promise is to bring a certain amount of peace within life’s storms.  We must always remember that the Lord is in control of the hard times in life and all the good ones, as well.  If you are ever tempted to be angry with God over a terrible situation, just remember all of the wonderful times that He has blessed you with, for those times were His sovereign hands at work too.  When the sovereignty of God collides with your happy little life remember that we can go to Him . . . that we can trust Him . . . and that we can fall at His feet and know that He is with us.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Where Have All The Good Men Gone? (And How Do We Get Them Back?)

There seems to be an epidemic.  For every single godly young man (18-35 years old) that I know, it seems that there are 10 young godly women.  Most of these women desire to be married, have children, and have a family.  Their problem?  There is a massive void of spiritually sound men who are ready for marriage.  Why is this so?  Why is it so hard for godly women to find a man who is willing to play the role that God has called them to as a spiritual leader?  Here are a few thoughts:

What Are Christian Men Supposed to Look Like?

There are 4 words that best describe the role of a man in a marriage: Prophet, Priest, Provider, Protector. (If you want to know more about the 4 “P’s”, please look here)

For a man to be ready to marry, he needs to be ready to be a Prophet in his home.  This means that he is to be on the front lines of speaking God’s truth into their home.  This is what a prophet does.  He speaks to his people on behalf of God.  Men do this by knowing God’s Word, regularly reading God’s Word, and applying God’s Word in the home.  It seems that there is a lack of knowledge of God’s Word by many young men, thus making it difficult to be a mature spiritual leader.

A man is also supposed to be a Priest.  That is to say that he is supposed to be going to the Lord on behalf of his family (wife, children).  Most often this is through prayer.  This does not mean simply praying before meals, but going before God as an advocate for your family.  Since many young men have never been taught how to pray (must less intercessory prayer), it is a part of their life that seems lacking.  To be a suitable mate one must be a man of prayer, and many do not seem to fit this mold.

A man is supposed to be a Provider as well.  Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”  It appears that so many young men today have yet to truly grow up.  Again, this is not across the board, but it is generally true of many.  Countless young men desire to buy the newest toy and live the college life well into their late 20’s.  Often after college they get a job but never learn how to manage their money well.  To provide for a family does not mean that someone has to earn $100k a year, but a good provider will learn how to budget well what the Lord has given them.  This means becoming much more selfless. There is, however, more to providing than finical support.  This also includes providing time to be with your family instead of “your boys.”  It is providing energy to your family, in being there for the families needs.  If a young man wants to be a godly man . . . he must be a provider.  After all, this is what the Lord has called you to do (I Timothy 5:8).

The last characteristic of a godly man is one that is a protector.  You do not have to wield a hammer and be an Avenger to protect your family.  Yes, you should be willing to lay your life down for your wife and children if need be, but there is so much more to protection than simply shielding them from physical danger.  A spiritual leader will protect his family from spiritual danger as well.  That means not letting filth into your head or into your home.  This may mean having to rethink your entertainment choices and places of leisure.  With statistics like 50% of men within the church have admitted to looking at porn on a regular basis, it is no wonder we have a lack of young men who are willing to be protectors; many of these men are not willing to protect themselves.  It is hard, takes courage, and sadly for some men is just too much work.

What is the solution?

  1. If you are a young man that falls into these categories then the first thing that you need to do is REPENT. I know that society has failed to train you in godliness.  I am sorry that it is possible that even your church has failed to train you in biblical manhood.  You may not have had a godly example in your home, but it is time to stop and ask the Lord to forgive you.  After that I would suggest three things.  First, find a godly man who can help to teach you how to be a godly man.  Meet with him often.  Ask questions and observe.   Second, make a bond with other young men to keep each other accountable in putting aside your childish ways and growing into maturity.   Third, pray not only for wisdom in how to change, but the will to change as well.
  1. If you are a parent of young men, then start treating them less like adolescents and more like young adults. We have an epidemic on our hands.  There is a solution, however.  Teach them from God’s Word that God has given them the responsibility to be a spiritual leader.  Teach them responsibility by giving them chores and holding them accountable to doing them.  Make them get outside and sweat.  Take their video games from them and give them a weed- eater instead.  Pray, Pray, Pray.  Satan would love nothing else than to teach them to be lazy and selfish, or to consume them in their “work” that they never learn what it means to be a spiritual leader.  Either one is a victory for him.  Pray for them, but also teach them now before they are out of your home and away from your influence.
  1. If you are a woman in search of a godly man, trust in the sovereign Lord to bring one to you at the right time. Do not compromise and settle for less.  You will regret it.  Until that time comes (if it comes), remember that your identity is not found in marriage to a man, but in your marriage to the Lord.  Continue to shape yourself into the likeness of Christ.  Submit yourself to that Husband (Jesus) first, and if the Lord chooses to give you an earthly one, you will be better prepared to take on the role of a loving wife.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Some Encouraging Words for the Christian School Parent

Christian Education – Is it Worth it?

Undoubtedly the decision to place one’s kids into a private Christian school is fraught with financial angst.  The heart of the decision is clearly the desire for the spiritual well-being of our kids, but for most folks, the decision still boils down to a “cost-benefit ratio” analysis.  The “benefit” aspect of the ratio (as I hope to outline in part) is easy to determine; the “cost” aspect is a private affair since it is dependent on one’s individual monetary resources and potential life-style sacrifices. What I would like to do here is share my own personal experiences of the benefits of a Christian education, and thereby encourage those who have indeed made the necessary sacrifices to put their kids into Christian schools.

  1. A Christian education includes education in Christianity.  Again, based on my own experiences, Bible will be a required daily class for every grade.  While Sunday school is a good thing, based on recent data it has been shown to be largely irrelevant in preventing our children from abandoning the faith in their college years.  This is hardly surprising if one hour (two, including church) of biblical instruction per week is all one gets.  However, attending a Christian school will reap another 4 hours (or so) of instruction.  Also, since Bible class is in fact a class, there will be homework, reading assignments, textbooks (in addition to the Bible), and exams.  This yields a more intensive and detailed study of Scripture compared to Sunday school.  Hopefully the child will experience a deepening appreciation of the reality of God and His acts in history and thereby a deeper understanding of the basis of his/her faith.

Additionally, even if the school is identified with a particular church or denomination, the faculty and student body will likely span multiple denominations, and that experience can enrich your child’s appreciation of the diversity of Christian theological thought and biblical interpretation within orthodoxy.

  1. 2. A Christian education includes critique of secular dogmas. Government schools exist to train “New World citizens”; hence, political correctness and the doctrines that ground the secular humanist worldview must go without serious challenge in these schools.  If you believe the Christian worldview to be the one that corresponds to reality, then you will want your child to be taught the philosophical, ethical, logical, and evidential fallacies, errors, rationalizations, and canards that are at the heart of the secular agenda: atheism, Darwinism, scientism, multiculturalism, relativity of truth and morality, etc.  Hence, Bible instruction should include an introduction to apologetics by which your child will learn to appreciate the rationally demonstrable superiority of the Christian worldview over all rivals. The first item in the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17) is the belt of truth.  It is the piece upon which the rest of the armor is secured.  If the concept of truth is forsaken, then culture will necessarily spiral into chaos as each does and thinks “what is right in his own eyes.” The world will get its turn at your kids in college and/or the workplace where Christianity and truth are marginalized and denigrated respectively.  If you have put your kids into a Christian school, then take some comfort: Your kids will stand a much better chance of resisting seduction by “hollow and deceptive” philosophies and holding on to (and sharing) their Christian worldview if they have come out of high school grounded in truth.
  2. A Christian education includes a Christian environment.   The first two points lose most, if not all, of their vitality if this point is missing.  In fact, in my opinion, if a Christian school fails here, it fails, period.  After all, at the end of the day, Christianity is more than merely a philosophy or a set of metaphysical assertions.  It is more than reasons and knowledge; it is a way of life – in fact, it is life itself, life in abundance, life eternally.

My children had the privilege of being taught – at every grade – by teachers who were competent in their academic fields and who were also kind, caring, loving, Bible-believing, and God-honoring.  Undoubtedly, there are many Christian teachers in the public school system, but that system, by definition, cannot and will not encourage these teachers to share their Christian testimony – let alone pray with a student.

We meet together in church to worship and praise our Savior but also for mutual edification and encouragement. But actual church services are only a few hours a week.  A Christian school can provide this environment for your child for seven or so hours a day – even more if they participate in after school activities and sports.  Secretly held beliefs can whither when there is the threat of ridicule if spoken aloud. (And the state-sponsored and increasingly culturally-enforced secularism of modern America exploits this fact as its thought police intimidate into silence those voices who dare speak out in celebration of Christian values, Christian freedom, and the Christian founding of our nation.) On the other hand, there is something affirming in the process of freely speaking aloud one’s heartfelt beliefs to a sympathetic and encouraging audience –in this case, Christian classmates and teachers.  By putting your kids in a Christian school you have privileged them with a faith-affirming environment – and spared yourself the worry of wondering what politically correct, profane nonsense they have been subjected to on any given day.

  1. Christian education encourages a love of this country. The secular worldview adheres to three critical errors:  the nonexistence of God, the natural goodness of mankind, and an inevitable upward “evolution” of civilization.   The culmination of these errors is utopianism – the belief that mankind will eventually save itself by constructing a scientifically engineered perfect society.   Despite the plethora of genocidal failures of such attempts in history (particularly, the 20th century), the utopians of every age breathlessly anticipate – on blind faith – that utopia is just around the corner:  All we need is a little more reeducation, a little more socialization, a little more elimination of the naysayers, and, of course, a lot more centralization of power.   And if mankind is to be saved, the utopia must be world-wide; hence, the secular view is globalist in scope.  (Islam is a theistic equivalent.)

What does this have to do with love of this country? Christians reject the secularist premises.  We know that a global utopia is not remotely humanly possible, and the final attempt – that of the Antichrist — will be the worst of all.   True worldwide utopia will occur only when Christ returns. In the meanwhile, we struggle to construct civil structures that protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and, at the same time, restrain the sinful nature found in both the citizenry and the leaders.  This country was settled by Christians and our founding documents strongly reflect the Christian worldview – and this country has, by God’s grace, survived its occasional failings and prospered like none before it.  But a lone superpower that honors God, Scripture, His moral law, and the dignity of human life and freedom is a stumbling block for secularist global utopians; it must be humbled if the secularist nightmare is to be realized.  And we see their efforts every day in the news. Christians, however, knowing that God was instrumental in America’s founding, consider America worth fighting for and preserving as it was founded.  It is the world’s best hope in human governance – until Christ comes.  Hence, love of this country should come naturally to the Christian heart – and so patriotism is encouraged in Christian schools.

A Christ-based education is hardly a guarantee your children will remain true to Christ (and a public education hardly guarantees they will not – the home is still critical in both cases.)  The world system is relentless in its self-promotion in the after-school hours – in movies, TV, pop music, etc.   But if one has been able to make the necessary personal sacrifices in order to put your kids in Christian schools, take heart – you’ve made a big step in giving your kids a fighting chance. Now, pray for them . . . every day.

Sincerely,

Bill Butt

Do We Really Need The “Cursing Preacher?”

When you hear the names Alice Cooper, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, or even Lady Gaga what comes to mind?  They all made/make their claim to fame by being Shock-Rockers.  They made their millions by selling people their devilish lyrics, seductive clothing (or lack thereof), and a broken needle on their moral compass.  This type of fame should come as no real shock to anyone who has a firm understanding of the doctrine of total depravity.  People sin; it is what sinners do best.  I was recently at a church service (that was geared toward youth) where a pastor chose to use some very worldly and vulgar language to drive home his preaching point.  At one point he chose to use a widely know curse word.  I am afraid it did not have the impact that he was hoping.  Most of the audience was under the age of 18, and many of them could not move past his choice of language to actually hear what he was trying to say.  Using this type of language from the pulpit is nothing new.  Over the past 20 years it has become more prevalent because of guys like Tony Campolo and Mark Driscoll.  Although it may have gained some popularity, is it really something that is helpful to the church?  Is it something that glorifies God?  Do we really need the “Cursing Preacher?”  In short, I don’t think we do, and here are a few good reasons why I stand behind the language of God, and not the language of the world.

The Gospel is Shocking Enough:

What is more shocking than the fact that all of humanity stands before a Holy God condemned for their sins, and are helpless to do anything about it?  The sentence for those sins is an eternity separated from God in a place called hell where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,”(Luke 13:28) and “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).  Hell is shocking!  However, God because of His love for His people wrapped Himself in flesh and came to earth to die in the place of all who would follow Him and confess Him as Lord by faith.  He who was just, died for those who were unjust.  He who was holy, dieing for those who were unholy.  He who is God, dieing for vile sinners.  The King in the place of the peasant.  If this truth is digested, there can be no word or words that we could use that is more shocking than this: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”(II Corinthians 5:21).  Why use worldly words when God’s are more shocking?

The Scripture Says Enough:

There are times when Scripture uses strong language.  Jesus called the Pharisees “Whitewashed tombs,” (Matthew 23:27) and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33).  John the Baptist called them snakes as well.  However, we need to be careful that we do not use these examples to justify worldly language.  Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification . . .”  James wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26).  We are also reminded that older men are supposed to teach young men how to have “sound speech, that cannot be condemned,” in Titus 2.  While there may be times that we need to use strong language, it is clear that we are not supposed to use vulgar language.  There seems to be no room for a loose tongue in Scripture.

The Church Has Enough:

We are called to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) to the world.  We are also called to “not conform to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2).  When a preacher brings worldly language into the pulpit he brings conformity to the world’s language there as well.  There is no need to bring the world into the church, but we should be taking the Word to the world.  When we dress like the world, look like the world, and talk like the world, it is hard to be salt and light to it because the world sees no difference in themselves and the Church.  The world has enough language for itself . . . the church does not need it in an effort to make their message more palatable.

In the end, I don’t see the need or biblical support, for vulgar worldly language from the pulpit.  God has given the preacher a job to “rightly divide the word of truth,” (II Timothy 2:15) and “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).  We are to be in the world and not of it as the old adage goes.  There is most certainly a time to say hard things in a prophetic voice to a stubborn-hearted people, but that does not give the preacher the right to drag the language of the bars into the place of the Bible.  So preacher, the next time you think about dropping that four letter word from the pulpit in an attempt to shock people, make sure that word is holy.  If you preach the holiness of God before an unholy people, you will get all the shock that you were hoping for.  And if you just really feel like you want to curse . . . preach Genesis 3.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

What Happened to American Christianity?

A quick look at church history in America will allow any student to see that the Reformation and the Enlightenment have both left distinguishing marks on contemporary Christianity in the United States.  The foundation of American Christianity has for its roots people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley.  However, just a few years into the American Experiment, the teachings of people like Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and even Voltaire were permeating the shores of this new and young nation.  Today we can see the teachings of all of these men (from Calvin to Kant) all across these great lands.  To understand contemporary American Christianity one must understand the influence these two movements in church history have had on this nation.  This will be a two part blog.  The first one will give a little background on how were got to where we are.  The second will explain why I have hope in the American Church. Let’s take a moment to look at our history and how we got to where we are today.

The Reformation:

Modern America owes its life to the Reformation.  “The story of America is literally the story of the Reformation,” says Peter Lillback.  The Pilgrims desired to be able to worship freely.  This desire was derived from their understanding of Christianity based upon Reformation teachings.  The Puritans desired to have a society that was ruled solely by Scripture.  America quickly became a Protestant wonderland.  This is one of the reasons that we have so many different Protestant churches in America today.  A quick survey of Protestantism in the U.S. in the 21st century would find more than 200 different denominations.  We see hundreds of Bible Colleges and Seminaries today because of the strong push for Christian education that was brought about because of the Reformation.  We see many of our early laws in America founded on Biblical principles (“All men are created equal”, “The Church protected from state control”, warnings against kings but in favor of Godly rulers).  These were all Reformation ideas.  This is because the Bible was important to the Reformation and to American society.  This is due to the Reformation’s teaching of Sola Scriptura and the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.  Without the Reformation America would be completely different than it is today.  The Reformation’s influence was great, and it still lives on today.

The Enlightenment:

Secondly, we find the importance of the Enlightenment on American culture.  Karl Barth characterized this movement as “a system founded upon the presupposition of faith in the omnipotence of human ability.”  This is a very good description of the Enlightenment.  It was a movement with its deepest tenant being the rational mind.  It based everything on reason.  Most often it rejected both supernatural revelation and man’s sinfulness.  This way of thinking greatly influenced much of society (especially those of higher education) in America.  It influenced several of our founding documents.  The Declaration of Independence, for instance, is seen by some as an embodiment or culmination of Enlightenment ideas such as liberty, democracy, republicanism, and religious tolerance.  There are some good things (democracy, religious tolerance) that came into the political arena because of the Enlightenment; however, it did much damage to the church as well.  This period was riddled with skepticism about the reliability of the Bible, the church, and many important doctrines.  It gave rise to many liberal denominations and sects of Christianity that have done much harm to the body of Christ.  There is no doubt that the Enlightenment has had a major influence on modern American culture.  Politically, there have been some good things; religiously, you would be hard pressed to find anything positive to say about this period for the church.

There is no doubt that these two movements have had more influence than any other in American history.  In the early stages of America, the Reformation was more important when looking at its influence on the forming of our country.  However, in modern day America, I believe the ideas of the Enlightenment have had a bigger influence than that of the Reformation.  It seems that much of America has become more humanistic in their thinking and way of life.  This is a direct influence of Enlightenment thinking.  This may not have been the intention of some of our early American fathers, but when taken to its logical conclusion it is easy to see why we now have legalized abortion on demand and the Supreme Court deliberating the idea of legal gay “marriage” nationwide.  Reason from a fallen mind and fallen heart is incomplete.  Mental reason is one of the good things that was brought to light during the Enlightenment, but when it is separated from an omnipotent God who has given us a supreme authority to go by (the Bible), a person’s reason is limited and will eventually fail because of its fallen nature.  Enlightenment thinking is ruining our country, and it is ruining our church.  When God’s Word is not considered authoritative, anything can go.  It is time that we return to what made us a great country.  What made us a great country was the Source of our reasoning (i.e. a creator God who was intimately involved with His people).  The Reformation redirected our minds to God and His Word.  This is what our country was built on.  This is why, I believe, the Lord blessed our nation for so long.  While the Enlightenment may be the ruler of today in contemporary American culture, I pray one day soon the heart of the Reformation will rise again within the Church, the Lord will bless the prayers of His people, and make us a great country again for His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Gentlemen, Have You Washed Your Wife Lately . . . Spiritually Speaking

I was recently talking with a friend of mine about the husband and wife roles and relationship.  In passing, he made the statement: “I wash my wife in the word.”  I thought that was an interesting choice of words, until I was reading Ephesians 5 (a chapter that I have read many times) and saw it in its beautiful context.  Ephesians 5 is probably the best selection of scripture on the role of wives and husbands in marriage.  Most of you likely know that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does His church.  Most of you are also likely aware, as the complementarian view so greatly articulates, that husbands are the heads of the home and wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord ( Eph 5:22).  It is interesting to see that Paul uses twice as many words telling husbands to love their wives as he does for a wife to submit to her husband.  If we take the picture of Christ and the church we can see that a husband should be willing to sacrifice everything for her.  He should make her well-being of utmost importance.  He should treat her as he does his own body.  This is what Christ did for the church, thus, this is what a man should do for his wife.  But what of “Washing her by the water through the word” (Eph 5:26)?  The reason you do this is to make her holy.  This is what Christ did for the church, and this is what we need to do for her to help her along in her own personal sanctification.  Can she grow alone (apart from her husband)?  Yes!  But, it is a privilege and responsibility of the husband to do this for his bride.  So, just what does it look like to wash your wife in the word?

Washing Her By Reading Scripture With Her

            We should be reading scripture together.  This can simply be during a formal family worship setting, or in a more private time that you both have together.   Many make the mistake and think that family worship ends when your children leave the home.  However, as the spiritual leader of your home, men, you need to make sure that you are leading the way in reading scripture together.  You can read through scripture together.  You can pick a topic and study it together.  The point is that you pour scripture into your wife.  Scripture guides us.  It convicts us.  It shows us how to love.  It shows us what to love.  It shows us how to be more like Christ.  We do not just want our children to act and look like Jesus, do we?  That is not the sole purpose of reading scripture in the home.  We should want our wives (and ourselves) to be as conformed to His image as possible, as well.  One way of doing this is by reading and absorbing God’s word.  Husbands . . . read!

Washing Her By Praying Scripture With Her

            Have you ever prayed through scripture?  It is something that I was taught to do by one of my professors, Donald Whitney.   It is of great benefit.   Basically, it is simply taking the scripture that you have read, applying to your life and praying it back to God.  It is a beautiful and beneficial way to pray.  We are commanded to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16).  What better person is there to pray for and with than the person that you are supposed to love more than any other on earth?  If you don’t already pray with your spouse, then this is the first place to start.  Learn to pray with each other regularly.  However, when you read scripture together, find time to pray through it once you have finished.  You may be amazed at how often the Lord providentially reveals a need that is going on in your life as you read through and pray through scripture.  She will be blessed, and the Lord will be honored.   Husbands . . . pray!

Washing Her By Giving Scripture To Her

            Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”  Each Monday morning my family gathers before I leave for the office to read, sing, and pray God’s word.  After we read though a chapter of the Bible, I try to pick out a verse from that chapter we read that I think will encourage my wife for that week.  I write it on an index card and put it on the refrigerator.  I think it is important to always have the Lord’s word in front of us.   This is also a way to let my wife know that I care for her by giving her something as precious as God‘s word.  This is just one example of how I try to apply this principle for my wife.  For you it may be sending your wife a daily text with a verse that reminds you of her.  It may be highlighting something in her Bible for her to read.  It does not matter how you do it, but simply that you do it.  Husbands . . . give!

Gentlemen, have you given your wife a bath lately?  I must admit, this is something that I have been greatly convicted of lately.  I want to wash my wife with the water of the Word.  I want to help make her holy, as Christ made the church holy.  It is my duty, but it is also my privilege.  I am grateful that my friend shared that little phrase with me that day.  So guys, if you are not washing her, you might want to run some water and get a towel.  Husbands . . . read.  Husbands . . . pray.  Husbands . . . give, and enjoy while doing it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell