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If you have been a part of a church for any length of time, then it is likely true that you have had to endure a song or two for which you didn’t care.  Sometimes these “bad songs” have more to do with style than substance, wording, or simple preference.  If you are a theology lover like me, it often has to do with some small nuance of doctrine rather than drum-beats or some skinny-jean wearing guy firing off some minute-long guitar solo.  The question is, when these songs are inevitably sung at your church or a conference, how are you going to react?  What should your response be?  Many people simply sit down, or even cross their arms with their apparent displeasure.  I have even seen some that simply stand with a sour look on their face.  As Christians however, how should we respond?  If everyone else is standing as a corporate body and singing, how should we respond so as to not draw attention to ourselves, and allow the Lord to still be worshiped by those around us?  How can you still worship, but yet not be coerced into worthless worship because your heart is not right?  Here are a few ideas to consider.

Pray About Your Attitude:

You see in the bulletin that song that you just hate to sing…  Your soul groans. You are thinking to yourself, “I think I am going to need to go to the bathroom about that time during the service.” You simply have a bad disposition about it before it ever starts. Sadly, I must admit that I have been there, and I didn’t mind showing my displeasure. It was written all over my face when the song was sung. However, I finally came to the point when I realized that singing to God should have a lot more to do with Him than my personal desires. I was coming into the service wanting to feel God and feel the music, instead of having Him be the object of my praise; the object of my worship.  I needed an attitude (and a heart) change. When I finally came to this point, it made worshiping God through a song that was not my preference a lot easier. He was the one that I needed to be aiming to please, not myself. So, this is the first place we need to look when that song is going to be sung. We need to check our attitudes. Check and make sure that your heart is right before you seek to cast stones at the music minister or praise team leader.

Find the Biblical Truth in the Song:

            We all have desires and preferences in our musical choices. I love songs with rich and theologically sound words.  However, I work with students and go to a lot of youth conferences.  There, one is more likely to find a loud and more contemporary style of music. At times there is less of an emphasis on biblical orthodoxy in the words and more emphasis on the quality of the music.  Not everyone enjoys the same style of music.  Nevertheless, we need to always look for the biblical truth in the songs that we sing (John 4:24).  Biblical truth is what separates Christian music from every other type of music in the world.  It is part of the formula of true praise or worship. Ultimately, the words must be right and our hearts as well, for our song to be acceptable to the Lord.  While the song might be light (or very heavy) on biblical truth, as long as it is biblical truth, you can still sing.  Even if you don’t like the beat of the drum or the sound of the organ, if the words are right, then put aside your preference and sing not just unto the Lord but also for the benefit of those standing next to you as well (Colossians 3:16).

Change The Words:

            Every once in a while you run across a great song that might have a single line with some troubling lyric. This is common, not just in new songs but some of the old great hymns as well.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot sing the song.  When I have been at a conference or a church and one of these songs are sung, I simply either stop singing during that particular line or I make up a new line that fits the song better and then sing it. We must remember that all Christian songs (unless they are a Psalm from scripture) are man-made and not inspired by God in the same way scripture was inspired (I Timothy 3:16).  There is nothing wrong with changing a word or two.  But you might not choose to belt it out at the top of your lungs. That might be distracting to the person next to you, and that might end up doing more harm than good.  Changing the words so as to make much of Jesus is not wrong, in fact, it is right.

Pray Instead of Singing:

            If an attitude change has not helped, the words that are being sung cannot be found in scripture, and there is no hope to change the words, a final option is to simply stand and pray.  Paul said that we should “pray without ceasing.” If you just cannot sing a song that the church is singing, then another appropriate way to speak to the Lord is through prayer. This allows you to participate with the church body in standing and joining your heart to the Lord, but simply through a different medium. It causes no distraction and it allows you to give glory to God through your personal words instead of someone else’s. I have done this on several occasions and have found it to be very helpful in preparing me to hear from God though the preaching of the Word. It allowed me not to be frustrated over a song choice, but also not to compromise my personal conviction or preferences.

Singing unto the Lord has both a horizontal and a vertical element to it (Colossians 3:16).  It is for the benefit of others, ourselves, and the Lord as well. As you grow as a Christian, you will find that we should want to be with the corporate body and sing songs of praise, adoration, and worship to the Lord. As you do this more, you are bound to run across a song or two that just doesn’t fit in to the “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs being sung in spirit and the truth” model.  When you do, I hope you will think about these things that I have mentioned. We don’t want singing to be about us. We never want to draw attention to ourselves instead of God, and if we sit, cross our arms, and sulk, that is exactly what we are doing. We should always seek unity when possible. My encouragement to you (from a person who has had to learn this) is when you run across one of these songs, check your attitude, and then sing. Look for the words that glorify God, and then sing. Change the words if need be, and then sing. If you exhaust these options, then stand with your brother and sister in Christ and give glory to Him through your prayers.  Join with your fellow brother and give Jesus the honor and praise that He deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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For most, the upcoming weeks signals the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sharpening of pencils, the children groaning, and the parents celebrating as D-Day quickly approaches. No matter what school option (private, public, or home) you have chosen for your family, one thing rings true for all Christians. We need to be a people of prayer if we are going to get through this year usefully. Below I have 4 areas that I believe we would all do well to pray for before school ever starts this year. This has been adapted from a prayer guide that Prayer Closet Ministry provided several years ago. There are sample prayers that are given for each area that you can use, if you so choose to us them, but my encouragement to you today is that you take a few minutes to pray over each area before your children start to hit the books for another year.

Prayer for the Students

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray that the Lord will save the lost children in this school.

            Father, I pray that the lost students of __________will surrender to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives. Show them their lostness and their need of Jesus. Have mercy on them
                        and saved them through Your Son, Jesus Christ ( John 6:44; Matthew 11:28).                     

    2.  For the Saved

We want to pray for a faithful witness and boldness in believing students

            Father, I ask that the Christian students of __________will have a powerful and righteous influence in the school for your glory. Empower them to live holy and obedient lives before their friends and teachers. Sanctify anything in their lives that might hinder their testimony
(Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:15-16).

            Father, have these students of __________be powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. Fill them with the Holy Spirit so that they can speak boldly about who You and what
You have done (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

 Prayer for the Administration and Teachers   

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray the Lord will save all lost teachers and administration

            Father, I plead that the unsaved teachers of __________would graciously draw them all into a personal relationship with You through the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that they would turn from their sin to Christ with a genuine faith (John 3:15-18, 6:44; Acts 4:12, 17:30-31).

      2.  For the Saved

We pray for a willingness to share their faith within the authoritative structure that they are under.

            Father, please give the teachers and administration at __________would exercise a righteous influence among the students and other teachers. Empower them to live holy lives and minister to the students and other teachers (Proverbs 28:1; Matthew 5:13-16).

            Father, I pray that grant them the wisdom to know how and when to share their faith with all they are around..  (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8, 4:31).

Prayer for the Parents

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray for parents who do not know the Lord, to come to know Him this year. 

            Father, I pray in the name of Jesus that the unsaved parents of __________would surrender their lives to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I ask that the Spirit would convict them and draw them to Jesus by his grace to faith
and repentance for Your name sake (John 3:15-18).

     2.  For the Saved

We want to pray for believing parents to live out their faith in a way that brings glory to God.

            Father, I ask that the believing parents of __________will continue to grow in their relationship to God .That they will take the lead as an example of godly living. Do this so that they can train godly children,  and to be an example to others as well (John 8:31-32; 1 Peter 3:1-2).

             Father, grant the believing parents of __________a spirit of prayer for the administrators, teachers, and students. I pray that they will cover and saturate __________with prayers of supplication and intercession (Colossians 4:2).

      3For all Parents

We want to pray for all parents to be faithful and good parents to their children.

            Father, I ask that you give all parents a burden to be involved in all areas of their children’s lives.  I pray that parents here will be sensitive and wise concerning the needs of their children. Help them to recognize their needs and problems and grant them the wisdom, patience,
and love to deal with these things (Ephesians 6:4).

Prayer for  Protection

  1. For the Students

We want to pray for all students to be safe from all harm while in school.

            Father, protect the students at __________from anything or anyone that would choose to hurt them.  Give them an environment where they can learn and have no fear of being bullied, looked down upon, or injured them from anyone.  Make this school a place where they can be educated safely so as to be able to glorify you in their life with their education (Psalm 11:4-7).

     2.  For Teachers and Administrators

We want to pray that all teachers and administrators will be safe from any possible harm.             

            Father, we ask that you protect all of those who have chosen to help educate the children
at ________________.  Protect them from harm.  Give them the ability to teach each child in a way that they can understand.  Protect their minds so that they can be free to teach.  Protect the sanctity of their marriage as the pour much time and effort into these jobs.  Protect the believing ones from spiritual attack, and those who do not believe from believing
Satanic lies about you (I Timothy 2:1-3.)

            We are told to be a people of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  We are told to not just think about ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) but others as well. We are also told to educate our children (Deuteronomy 6:5-7, Proverbs 1:8-9, Proverbs 22:6). If we want to do this in a way that honors the Lord, brings glory to Him, and be a kingdom people, I can think of few better ways than to pray for our children and schools as we start a new year of educating our children for the glory of God.  I hope that you will consider these 4 areas in your own children’s lives, and pray for them diligently.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

For the Christian, Sunday should be the most anticipated day of the week.  It is a day where we gather with people that we love to be encouraged, edified, and engaged, not just with each other, but with our Lord.  It is a place where we get to go before the throne room of God and worship Him.  It is the Lord’s Day.  What a blessing it is that He would give us a whole day just to be with Him apart from our normal labor.  However, for many, it can be the most stressful day of the week.  Besides the spiritual battle that is raged that day, just the plain affairs of the world can weigh heavy on us and rob us of this wonderful blessing of gathering with the corporate body.  We are told to “not forsake the assembling together of the saints.”  It is a command of God, but it is also for our benefit.  So, how can we make sure that it is a blessing to us without all the hustle of the Sunday morning rush and frustrations?   Below are 4 ways to “be” prepared, and I hope can help us be ready to worship.

Be Prayed Up: 

Do you pray for your pastor and elders each week?  What a blessing this can be.  If you really want to help your pastor, be praying for him that the Lord will give him the time to rightly divide the Word of truth.  However, don’t just stop at praying for him.  Be in prayer for yourself as well.  Pray that the Lord will give you a clear conscience.  Pray that the Lord will rid you from all distraction.  Pray that the Lord will give you a yielding Spirit to what He has to say to you through the teaching and preaching of the Word.  Do not neglect this aspect of preparation.  This can start as early as Monday morning the week prior. Prayer is powerful, and it sets your spirit in a posture of submission to the Lord, instead of having yourself on the throne of your desires.

Be Fed Up:

Have you ever been sitting in church and your stomach starts to make all sorts of crazy sounds because you have not fed it enough and it longs for a mile long bar of food?  Hunger pains can be real distracters.  When we are hungry it is hard to focus on almost anything else.  It is hard to be listening to how Jesus is the Bread of Life when all you can think about is getting to the local hamburger joint after services.  You don’t want to be stealing a few extra communion wafers during the Lord’s Supper because you forgot to eat toast that morning.  Make sure that you have eaten a good breakfast that will sustain your hunger so that your spiritual hunger can fully feast on the Word.

Be Slept Up:

Is there anything more embarrassing than falling asleep in church?  I once watched a grown man fall asleep and slowly fall into the lap of the person sitting next to me in the pew.  It is one of the funniest things that I have ever experienced in my life.  However, if he would have had a proper night’s sleep the evening before, it never would have happened.  We have all experienced it.  Our eyes get heavy.  Our head starts to nod.  When this happens, we cannot comprehend anything that anyone is saying.  All of our energy and might is focused on not causing “an incident.”  It can be a miserable feeling.  If you have an important meeting at work, a project at school, or simply a full day ahead of you, do you not try to get to bed early to make sure that your body is prepared and you mind is sharp for the next day?  How much more so should this be true if we are planning on going to visit with the one who died in our stead so that we can worship Him?  Get a good night’s sleep so that you can be awake and not miss the Son the next day.

Be Read Up:

If you have Sunday School or small group materials, or if you know the passage that your pastor will be preaching from on the Lord’s Day, be prepared ahead of time by reading through it prior to the services.  It is amazing the difference it can make when you have a basic understanding of a subject or specific text in the way of comprehension and personal application.  Bible reading and study is not just for the teacher and preacher, but for all of us so that we can KNOW and worship God.  It is a blessing to have God’s Word in a language that we can understand.  Do not neglect this gift that the Lord has given us.  I have never heard anyone ever say, “I really wish that I had not read the Bible before coming to church today.”  On the other hand, I know many who have said the opposite.  So, read before hand and be prepared.

These are 4 helpful and just plain practical ways that I hope will enhance your Lord’s Day worship if you have found yourself struggling with it as of late.  Before you get up Sunday morning, and you’re running late and frustrated with everyone in your house, prepare yourself to “Be.”  Pray before you hit the pew.  Eat before you enter.  Sleep before you sing, and if you want to fully experience what God has for you in the corporate gathering of believers, read before you ride.  Do these things, and see if you do not come away more refreshed and ready to seek His Kingdom for the sake of His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Mother’s Day is just one of those man-made holidays that seem hard to just pass over.  I mean, who does not love their mother, right?  God really gave you a great gift if you had a godly mother.  As I was trying to think through what I could do to honor my mother this year I started thinking about all the things she passed on to me.  While I could name a myriad of godly qualities, there are five lessons that I learned by example through her life that stick out more than others.

Have a Love for the Lord:

There is nothing more important in my mother’s life than her relationship with the Lord.  She loves Him so.  She would often speak of Him, when I was a child, with such reverence but also intimacy.  She loves him so much, that she knew it to be her chief duty to pass it on to her children.  No matter what has happened in her life, even in great tragedy, her resolve and love for the Lord has never waned.  This is the most important lesson she passed on to my brother and I; to always love the Lord and have Him preeminent in our lives.

Have a Love for Your Family:

Second only to her love for the Lord is her love for her family.  She and my father decided it was best for her to stay home with my brother and me until we were old enough to go to school.  After we started our formal education she went to work so as to help provide for the family economy.  No matter how hard she worked, she (and my father) was always there for all of me and my brother’s sporting events, which were many since I played 3 sports.  Not only was she there for sporting events, but for everything else in my life as well.  She always took a deep interest in the things of my life.  She would deny things that she might want to do so as to be able to provide for my brother, father, and I.  She loves her family, and she would do anything for us.  She is a beautiful example of what it means to love your family.

Have a Love for Your Local Church:

I cannot remember a time in my life when my parents were not active in serving within the church.  My mother taught Sunday school, directed the youth, taught the youngest of children in Mission Friends class, and as a family we would clean the church each week.  She believes in serving the Lord through serving the church.  Any time the doors of the church were open, our family was there.  This is something that she and my father have passed down to me as well.  I don’t just love the church because I am paid by it, but because it was instilled into me at a young age that if I was part of the bride of Christ, then I was to also serve her.  To this day my Mom serves her church faithfully, and I thank her for helping to place that desire in me.

Have a Sacrificial Heart:

As is true for many godly women, my mother is one who is willing to sacrifice her time, talent, and treasures for the sake of the Lord and her family.  Almost to a fault at times, my mother didn’t (and still does not) know how to say “no” when it came to helping others.  I have seen her out to all hours of the night preparing the church for a special service, or helping a person who was in need.  While she never neglected my father or us boys, she was always willing to sacrifice whatever was needed to bring glory to God and build the Kingdom.  Her sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed.  It is like her heart is simply shaped with this disposition, and for that I am grateful.

Have a Love for Godly Music:

The Lord blessed my family with a love for music.  All four of us enjoy(ed) singing and playing instruments.  Now while The Eagles or the Credence Clearwater Revival could sometimes be heard blaring from our windows, more often than not it was some type of Christian music.  One of my earliest memories is traveling with my parents and their Christian quartet, The Woodlandairs, to different churches on the weekends playing Southern Gospel Music.  While my taste for Southern Gospel Music has never been too great, singing some of the great hymns of our faith that my mother would often sing around the house and at church is deeply rooted in my being.  Both my father and my mother established in me a love for godly music, and while I strayed from it through much of my teen years, the memories of it never left me, and would once again captivate me in my 20’s and do still today.  A love for music, but more importantly music that honored God, is a gift and a life lesson my mother passed on to me that is invaluable.

While Mother’s Day is a special day when we remember our Moms, it is also a day to look back on the lessons that they have taught us.  I hope the Lord blesses me with another 30 years with my mother, however, if the Lord was to take her home today, she would leave me with enough of a legacy to last two life-times.  This list of lessons is not unique to my mother only I am sure, but how thankful I am that it is true of this woman that I will always simply just call “Mom”.  I thank the Lord for mothers who love the Lord so much that they have no greater job on earth than to pass that love on to their children.  Thank you mom for doing so with your children.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Yesterday I wrote a blog asking the question “Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol.”  I had no clue that it would be shared and read by so many people.  What an honor that so many would read it.  Due some godly feedback, however, I would like to shed some light on my personal preferences and convictions on the matter.

As I wrote yesterday, I am not a drinker.  I really never have been and I do not ever see a time in the future where I ever will be.  It is possible that if you read my blog yesterday without knowing me that it would have been easy to walk away from it thinking that the only reason that I have chosen not to drink alcohol is because I do not like the taste.  However, there are many other and more important reasons than that.  I would like to share four of them with you, and if you are a Christian, I would ask for you to think through some of these reasons with me.

  1. I do not want to offend my brother (I Corinthians 8:13):

Paul told the believers in Corinth “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful . . .” While drinking alcohol may be lawful for me, in the context in which I live, I know how divisive it can be.  I would rather not drink and cause no one to stumble than to drink and cause someone to stumble in their faith because of my freedom.  The fact is: we live in a different culture and context than 1st century Jerusalem. We must be sensitive to the climate in which we live.  My brothers are too important to me.  My witness is too important to me.  I would never want to be one that causes disunity within the body.  Drinking may cause disunity, but I have never known abstinence to cause it.  I prefer to err on the side of the latter.

  1.  I have seen the destruction it can cause on families (Proverbs 20:1):

My mother grew up in a home where her father was a drunk.  He abused not only his own body, but also my grandmother’s.  This is an all too familiar story for many.  In nearly 14 years of ministry I have seen it first hand as well.  While people can be abusive without drinking, the fuel of alcohol has often aided in abuse and complete dismantling of households.  It is a horrible sight to see.  If there was no alcohol, I believe there would be less abuse and less family problems.  People are still going to be people, but I do not see any reason to add fuel to the fire.  There are few things worse in ministry than having to deal with the devastation that can be left because of the abuse of alcohol in a family.

  1. Being an elder, I have been called to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:1-7):

As a pastor, two of the qualifications for the position are to be, “above reproach” and “not addicted to wine.”  Being an elder is a high calling; there are higher standards.  For me part of being above reproach is not only not drinking alcohol but not even having any in my home.  I would hate for a member of the church to come to my home and see that I have a wine cellar stocked to the brim.  To be above reproach means that there should be no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made.  A person in my position must take this into account.  The reality is that there are often assumptions made about a person (whether those assumptions are right or wrong) when you see them with alcohol.  I must be above reproach, and one way that I can do that is by not drinking alcohol.  To “not be addicted to wine” is not just simply another prohibition either.  An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker.  He must always be ready to make clear judgment, and drinking alcohol can easily impair that judgment if one is not careful.

  1. I believe there is wisdom in creating safeguards:

There is a well known proverbial saying that states, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.”  For my family one safeguard that we have to help prevent drunkenness is to not drink at all.  When Lot set his tents close to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, this was his first step toward his later downfall.  Was it wrong for him to put his tents there?  No, but the next time we hear from him he is in the town enjoying all that the cities had to offer.  This is my point about alcohol.  While the Bible does not prohibit all alcohol consumption, wisdom tells me to create safeguards.  I believe it would simply be better to create the safeguard of abstinence than to end up looking up one day from a bar stool, hammered, and wondering what happened.  This is not to say that everyone who has a sip now and then is a dunk, but for me wisdom says do not give Satan even a foothold to take me there.  For the same reason that I would not take another woman out for dinner (because of what it would look like or possibly lead to), I choose not to drink.  There would be nothing more enjoyable for Satan than to see a godly man fall into sin.  The Lord gives us freedom for sure, but he also gives us wisdom.  For me, wisdom, preference, and personal conviction say to abstain.

While I may not be a teetotaler by name, I certainly am in practice.  I see the practical benefits of it for me and my witness.  I would rather not offend anyone by possibly drinking.  I know the harm that alcohol can cause . . . and it is deplorable.  I must remember my calling, and that calling sometimes means suppressing your personal freedom for the sake of others, and I am happy to do so.  I believe there is wisdom in abstaining from alcohol in this day and age. While not everyone has to agree, for me, this is what I believe is right and best.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Sunday night over 114 million people watched the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in the 50th Annual Super Bowl.  After the fairy tale ending, the Denver Broncos future Hall of Fame quarterback Payton Manning (a self-proclaimed Christian) was interviewed.  When asked what was next for him he responded, “I’m going to kiss my wife, hug my family and drink a lot of Budweiser tonight. I promise you that.”  This comment took many by surprise and set off a social media firestorm among Christians.  Some were laughing at his comment (those who really don’t care).  Some were renouncing his faith because of it (the teetotaler crowd), while others were praising him (those who are Christians and like to take a drink now and then).  His comments were being talked about all over the internet and news stations across the world.  If there is this much diversity when it comes to drinking alcohol within Christianity, I think it may be wise to look at what Scripture says and not just what grandma Susie thinks.

First I would like to say that I am not a drinker.  To be fair, you might want to know that I grew up in a culture where if you accidentally made a wrong turn and ended up on the beer isle in the supermarket and were seen, at the next church business meeting you may very well be called upon for excommunication (maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you get the point).  Nevertheless, I have tasted a variety of different types of alcohol and it does not agree with my pallet.  I do not see the purpose in drinking personally.  I have been told that it is an “acquired taste” but I have no desire to acquire it.  However, I know plenty of Christians that drink (some to excess, but most in moderation).  Christians have agreed and disagreed about this issue for centuries, but if we want to end up on the right side of the argument we must agree with the Lord.  What does Scripture actually say about it?  Is it wrong to drink, or just get drunk?  Should it be avoided at all times, or can it be done in moderation?  Is it wrong for some and not for others, or is there a set standard found in Scripture across the board?  I believe we can find all of these answer in God’s Word.  Here are three things to consider before inviting your pastor over for some fresh brew or disowning and disfellowshiping your friends because they have a glass of wine at their anniversary dinner.

Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol? 

Sometimes, yes.

There are certainly times when it is sinful to drink alcohol.

  1. If you have taken a vow not to drink for a certain period of time or in certain places, then it is sinful to drink during those times. The Lord told Aaron and his sons not to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9).  If a person was to take a Nazarite vow, they were forbidden from drinking any type of intoxicating drink (Numbers 6:1-3, 20; Judges 13:4-7).
  1. The idea of abstaining from intoxicating drinks is not just an Old Testament concept. Paul warned believers against getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18) and wrote that deacons should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8).  He instructed Titus that the older women should not be “slaves to drink” (Titus 2:3).  It seems that Scripture does forbid consumption at certain times; but whatever the case, drunkenness is always forbidden.
  1. Today these things still apply.  The truth of the matter is, if you are under the age of 21 in the United States it is illegal to drink (most state have small exceptions).  It is illegal, and thus sinful, to violate the laws of the land (Romans 13).  It is a governmental right to forbid anything that doesn’t promote human flourishing.
  1. If drinking alcohol goes against your conscience, then it is wrong and sinful as well (Romans 14:14).  For some people, drinking is simply unacceptable.  If you have a deep personal conviction, then to go against that conviction would be sinful.
  1. Likewise, if you know a weaker brother that you are around has a problem with drinking and you do it in front of them just to spite them, then it is you who are in sin.  (Romans 14:13-23).

In summary, if you have made a vow not to drink and you drink, it is sin (James 5:12).  If you drink to the point of drunkenness, it is sin.  If you are not of age according to the governmental authority and you drink, it is sin.  If you drink and it is not in good conscience, it is sin.  Finally, if you drink to spite your weaker brother, this too is sinful.  In these cases, yes, drinking alcohol is absolutely sinful.

Sometimes, no.

Drinking alcohol itself is not sinful according to Scripture.  Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (the good stuff nonetheless – John 2:10).  Paul told Timothy (an elder) to “take a little wine for your stomach sake” (I Timothy 5:23).   Melchizedek drank alcohol and it was blessed (Genesis 14:8).  The clearest prohibition in Scripture is that a person is to NEVER get drunk on it (and I would add that being “tipsy” is stage one of drunkenness).  Scripture says that wine is good (Psalm 104:15), but all too often people take what is good and turn it bad and into something sinful.  It appears that Scripture is okay with the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done in moderation and with respect for others.  So, is it okay to burst out that bottle of champaign to celebrate your wedding nuptials?  As long as it meets the scriptural criteria, it appears to be permissible.

Using Discernment:

Now, before you go and crack open that long-neck bottle, I would like to offer a few caveats.

  1. Just because you can, does not mean that you should (I Corinthians 6:12). You may have the freedom in Christ and by the government to drink but you should first ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”, “Can this bring glory to God?”  If you cannot come up with a good answer, then maybe you should put the top back on the bottle.
  1. If you know you have a tendency to take things to excess, then you should simply stay away. Paul says that he will not let anything master him.  If you have had a problem with alcohol in the past, wisdom would say to stay away from it altogether (Proverbs 20:1).
  1. Will this help or hinder your witness? Your personal witness is a big deal.  It has been said that it takes years to build your witness, and only seconds to ruin it.  Is taking a drink of that beer going to aid in your witness to others or will it make you lose your credibility?  Unless it helps, or at least makes it remain neutral, then my advice would be to just leave it on the table.
  1. Remember your brothers in Christ. We live in a land where not everyone agrees on this issue, so please use discernment for the sake of your fellow Christian if you decide to take a drink.  Ask yourself, “Will this hurt my brother?  And if so, would it be better to forgo it for something else?”  While your brother may be wrong in their stance, it is not worth stirring up dissention because of your personal freedom.

Personally, I don’t care for alcohol, however that is simply my personal preference.  At the same time, I do not believe it to be sinful for someone within the church to have a glass of wine for a special occasion.  While I don’t drink, there are others whom I consider close brothers who have no issue with it at all.  So, is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol . . . in some cases yes, but for a person to make the blanket statement that “all drinking is sinful,” is a sin within itself.  For that is calling something that God has called good, evil, and that is a dangerous place to be.  My advice to you . . . whatever you decide to drink, drink it in such a way that it honors the Lord.

To read more on my personal conviction feel free to check out my blog “4 Reasons I Abstain from Drinking Alcohol.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a conference called G3.  Each year there is a different theological theme that is focused on over the 3 days of the conference.  This year the focus was on the doctrine of the Trinity.  For much of Christendom the doctrine, at least by name, is settled.  Most believe in it, even if they cannot explain it fully.  If the truth be told, almost every analogy falls short of actually explaining it, and some are just flat out heretical.  The reason is . . . we really don’t have much of anything to compare it to.

I believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be a foundational doctrine, and one that must be held to, for a person to truly be counted as one of the redeemed.  It is interesting to think that all of the major heretical religious perversions of Christianity (Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and you could count Oneness Pentecostals) agree on one thing: they all discard the doctrine of the Trinity.  While it may be hard to describe, the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial.  All the speakers at the conference did a superb job pointing out the importance of it in our daily life.  I was extremely refreshed, encouraged, and convicted over it all this weekend.

I believe that we can all do a better job of being more Trinitarian in our daily walk.  It is easy sometimes to polarize ourselves to one person in the God head.  However, we would be wise to make sure that we keep a balance in our thinking on God, and not drift off to one third of the God pie (wait…that’s heresy as well). Below are a few ways I think we can do a better job of worshiping and living out this Trinitarian belief.

In The Way We Pray:

Do you know that all three persons of the Godhead are involved in our prayers?  When we pray, the general process is that we pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9), in the name of the Son (John 14:14), in the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).  This does not mean from time to time that we cannot pray to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to come.  They are all equally God, but the general process is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is part of the reason we say what we do at the end of our prayers, “In Jesus’ name we pray . . .” They all have different roles to fill, and if we want to get the Trinity right, our prayer life is one of the best ways to do it.

In The Way We Sing:

Theology matters.  R.C. Sproul once said, “Everyone is a theologian.”  Oh how true this is.  The problem is that often many are not good theologians, and bad theology leads to a wrong understanding of God and can easily lead to wrongful living.  Music and songs are such wonderful things.  It is in song that we can so easily be taught.  It is in song that so many people get their theology, because it is often easier to remember a song than it is to remember a passage of Scripture.  If the song is not written with a proper view of the Trinity, it can easily lead us to a wrong view as well.  For example, the Holy Spirit is God.  God is worthy to be praised.  How grateful we are for the Holy Spirit, but we should be careful how much we sing praise to Him, for in His role, He does not draw attention to Himself.  His role is to point glory to Jesus and to the Father.  We would be wise not to focus much of our words directed at Him, but instead to worship through Him (John 4:24).  When we sing, let’s make sure we do it in a way that honors the Trinity, which leads to true worship.

In The Way We Teach:

For those of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to teach or preach it is imperative that we do so with a right view of the Trinity in mind.  When the proper noun “He” is invoked in our English Bibles, let’s make sure that we point out who that “He” is referring to (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit).  Good doctrine should start with us.  Our people often get their doctrine from how we teach and preach.  We would be wise not to overlook these opportunities to teach about the Trinity.  After all, it is one of our responsibilities and privileges (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Trinity is a bit mysterious I know, but I believe the words of the Athanasian Creed best describe it.  It reads,

we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit, but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, coequal in glory, and coeternal in majesty.”

We owe our life to the Trinity.  We owe our worship to the Trinity and because of this I was so encouraged this past weekend.  I hope maybe we can all be encouraged to pray better, sing better, and teach better to the glory of God in a Trinitarian way.  I believe that this is what we need, and I know that is what God desires.  So, does the Trinity matter?  Your life actually depends on the answer.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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. “Boy Meets Girl” By Joshua Harris
  2. “What He Must Be” – Voddie Baucham  
  3. “The Purity Principle” – By Randy Alcorn
  4. “50 Crucial Questions” – John Piper and Wayne Grudem
  5. “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” – 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. “The Five Love Languages” – By Gary Chapman

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. Fitzpatrickand 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 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

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