“How I trained my little ones to sit still and quiet” (by Jessica Burrell)

This is a follow-up post to my previous post Help, The Church Nursery is Closed! in which I reference training your children at home to be content to sit quietly.  Once you are out in public, it is too late to ask them to behave in some new way that you have never taught them.  This post is an effort to convey how I trained my little ones in the peace and comfort of our home.  The Lord says to train up our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6), to train them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4), and to teach them to have a quiet and gentle spirit, which the Scriptures say is “precious in God’s sight” (1 Pet. 3:4).  I have tried to apply these Scriptures in some practical ways at home while teaching my children to sit quietly and respectfully.

So how do you start? Start slowly.  Start with 5 minutes, maybe less.  Sit on the couch with Mommy and children together reading a book or singing a hymn, all engaged in the same activity.  The purpose is to stay in the designated place for the duration of the time.  Most children love this quality time of having Mommy’s attention to themselves, and they rarely have any trouble complying.  The next step is to tell the child that they must read (or look at) their own book while Mommy reads a book separate from the child or works on something independent from the children, while still sitting on the couch right beside them.  In the first step, the child is the central focus.  In this second phase, the child will begin to realize that the point of being on the couch is not for Mommy to cater to their wishes, but rather for them to find contentment on their own.  While you need to be instructing the child in step one, this second step is more where reinforcing and teaching the child your expectations really comes in.  Tell the child “you may not squirm around and climb down to the floor.” And “Mommy has a timer set for 5 minutes. When it beeps, we will be all done.  Then you may get down and play.”  The child may not ask “how much longer” or similar questions.  The child must learn to be content to wait patiently until the time is done and Mommy says that it is time to get down.

I should clarify that “Still and quiet” time in our home meant no talking or moving around.  You stay in your place and entertain yourself with one quiet toy or book.  If this object was used to harass a sibling, it would be taken away, and the remainder of the time would be spent with hands folded neatly in the lap.  I do not exaggerate when I say that I can count on one hand how many times objects had to be taken away from my children in public.  They learned this lesson very well at home!  Consider anything a small child will normally do when they do not want to be still…roll around on the seat, scoot down to the floor, then they end up under the seat, or army-crawling to a nearby location.  Their innate intent is to push the limits and see how far is too far.  You as the mother need to decide what will be acceptable for your children while in public.  Are you okay with them sitting on the floor at the doctor’s office or crawling on the floor down to the end of the pew at church?  If not, be sure that you are firm in your training at home.  For us, no arm waving, clapping, or moving off the seat was permitted.  Depending on age, lying down quietly in one’s spot (not rolling) was permitted.

After the children have gotten the hang of a 5-minute interval of being quiet and occupying themselves with Mommy on the couch, the next step is to have Mommy get off the couch and do something else nearby, while leaving the children on the couch having their “still and quiet” time.  For example, I will tell the children to come and sit. Then, once they have been reminded of the rules of “still and quiet” time, I will step away while warning the children that I will be watching to make sure they do a good job.  I might sit in another area of the same room and make a call to schedule dental cleanings, while maintaining frequent eye contact with the children so they know I am paying attention to their behavior.  If a little one decides they aren’t interested in the training session, their behavior is quickly dealt with and they resume their time on the couch.  Quick and consistent discipline is necessary in this training time.  You will be training your children regardless of how you handle the situation.  While they are in the living room, it might be easy to warn them, “Mommy said get back on the couch… I mean it!”  But consider if this method will be an option in church or in the doctor’s office.  You want to train them to listen the first time, not the second or third.  They must learn to obey immediately and to realize that there will be swift consequences when they do not.  There will be no “easy out” if they disobey.  The training session will continue on after discipline has been handed out.

Once the children are able to sit quietly while you perform other tasks in the same room, the real test comes.  “Still and quiet” while Mommy leaves the room!  This was always our children’s favorite part of the training times.  I would have the children sit (they were permitted one quiet toy) while I left the room to set a timer and then come back in to check on them and see if they were still in the same place and quiet.  I might go put a letter in the mailbox but quickly return and pop in the room to surprise the children.  This can be a very fun activity.  The children never know what corner you might pop out around or what you might be wearing on your head when you return.  The “away” might be anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 seconds to begin with.  You want to help them keep their attention on the task at hand.  Don’t make this sitting session a miserable thing for them.  My children would often forget the toy they had in their lap and prefer to watch out for when I would pop my head back in the room to see how well they were doing.  I would give silent accolades whenever I peeked in and saw that the children were still doing as I had asked.

You may notice a natural progression in this: very small and familiar steps to begin with, then moving up to bigger steps.  This will not happen overnight.  I would recommend having a practice session every day, or a five-minute session in the morning and another one in the afternoon, depending on the age and personality of your child.

After the children can manage a 5-minute segment of time on the couch on their own with Mommy in and out of the room, it is time to add more time to the clock.  I would graduate them to 10-15 minutes on the couch with one quiet activity of their choice, whether it is a toy, a reading book, or a notebook with a pencil or crayon.  If the children are misbehaving or not obeying the way they should, the offending child must be removed and disciplined and brought back to resume their sitting time.  Meanwhile, the other children are expected to continue sitting quietly.  This has helped immensely during the years that my husband has been in a pastoral position and has been unable to assist me in the pew with the children.  I have been able to take the rowdy child out of the service to address behavior while leaving all of the other children (yes, even a two-year-old) sitting quietly in the pew without me in the room, knowing that they would sit still because they dare not be the next one leaving the sanctuary with me.

I have one last comment on praising your little ones for doing well.  Rewarding our children when they do well is not the same as bribery.  Bribery is a parent’s last attempt at getting what they want from their child.  It is a negotiation that puts the child in control of the situation and puts the parent at their mercy.  Rewards and positive affirmation for good behavior are very different than that.  When I ask my child to do something and they do it right away and with a cheerful heart, rewarding them in some way is a great way to help encourage and motivate the child to do it again.  They have honored me, and I want to bless them because of it.  This is a good and wholesome way to encourage good behavior in our children.

In my other post, “Help, The Church Nursery is Closed!” I talk about preparing for Sunday morning by starting on Saturday.  I mention that “less is more” when packing activity bags for kids in church or the doctor’s office, and I give a few other ideas like finding a seat near the exits and arriving early to claim it.

I hope this post has been an encouragement to you!  It is not always easy, and it is never a fast process to train up our little ones in the way they should go.  But, as the Lord commands us to do it, I hope this will be of some small encouragement to you as we strive to please Him!

Jessica E. Burrell

“Help! The Church Nursery is Closed!” (by Jessica Burrell)

Today has brought about many changes in our culture: schools shutting down and mask-wearing becoming a requirement in most establishments, to name a few.  Many of these changes in recent days affect our everyday life, even for the stay-at-home mom.  While we may be inconvenienced by some of the new CDC requirements, like trying to keep masks on our squirming children while in public, there are some challenges that prove more difficult than others.  As Christian mothers, one of the greatest difficulties we face may be that of the closing of the church nurseries.  Due to the light-speed way that children can transfer germs from one person or surface to another, most churches have closed down their nurseries for the time being.  This leaves parents with younger children only two options: stay home and live-stream the service from the living room, or attend church as a family, all in one pew, squirming children and all.  I will be approaching this issue as a sister in Christ, loving mother, and wife of a pastor.  This is a difficulty facing many young families today, and there is no easy answer.

Don’t Stop Going To Church

As hard as it may seem to take your family to church and sit in the pew with the entire family while you try to keep the young children quiet as the pastor preaches, this is your calling from the Lord.  Whether you are a pastor’s wife and your husband has to sit on the front row or stand in the pulpit while you try to manage the children in the pew alone, or whether you have two parents with grandparents able to help share the load, whether you are a single mom or dad bringing your children to church who have never once sat through a church service because they always go to nursery or children’s church, your God-given calling and obligation is to have your family in church – assembling together with the saints.  We might think that live-stream is an easy “out,” or a suitable alternative, but I would suggest that this is not the case.

Many churches are re-assembling with caution and are keeping live-stream available for those who are at risk and for those who are maintaining a “shelter-in-place” lifestyle.  For the rest of us, families included, we are in some part back to the grocery stores, vacations and outings.  If this is the case for your family, it stands to reason that you should be back to church as a family, as well.  There are many factors that could cause difficulties with bringing children into the church who are not used to sitting in the pews.  Regardless of the factors involved, this is no excuse to forsake God’s commands (Heb 10:25); this is simply a new growth opportunity that the Lord has placed in your path.  There is nowhere in the Scriptures that makes provision for the church to forsake the assembling together until nursery or children’s church is available.  No matter the age of your child or children, you need to be in church, and so do they.  As much as it is difficult to adjust to this (whether by choice or for lack of any other options), many of us are being required to turn “family integrated” for a time.  I know these are not easy words to speak, and I can say from experience that it is even harder to live out.  It can be a very difficult thing to adjust to, but just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t make skipping church an option.

How I Got Started on this Journey

For me, this journey started when I had four young children.  Our oldest was 6 years old (a girl). After her, we had three boys in a row (5, 3, and 16 months).  Our youngest son had seriously injured his hand and was in need of multiple surgeries and frequent doctors visits.  It was an hour drive to the Pediatric Hand Specialist’s office, and after having four young children strapped in their car seats for an hour, they were then expected to wait in a waiting room and accompany me into the patient room where the three oldest would have to be left without my watchful eye as I took their little brother to a nearby room for x-rays.  After we returned to the patient room, we would wait until the doctor arrived to discuss this very serious situation with me.  All the while, there were four children, 6 and younger, going completely stir-crazy and one frazzled Mommy trying to control the situation and have a coherent conversation with the doctor.  This was a very rude wake-up call for me when I realized that I had no choice but to somehow survive this situation again and again at every doctor’s visit, every x-ray, and every consultation.  It was impossible for my husband to take more time off work to help me after he had already taken time for two hospitalizations and hand surgeries for our little guy.  My only option was to train my children at home to behave the way I needed them to so that we could make it through all of these trips without chaos and tears for all five of us!

It may sound crazy to expect so much from a little one who many say can’t even reason yet, but there is nothing ridiculous at all about teaching your child to sit relatively still and occupy himself quietly for a little while.  As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that the parent who never trains their child to be still for a length of time is actually depriving their child of learning self-control at a younger age when it comes a little easier.  The practice of sitting “still and quiet,” or whatever you will call it, will be a blessing to you as the parent, as well as anyone you encounter.  You will also find that God rewards your child with a more content spirit when they are taught to be still for short periods of time.

Trust me when I say, “You can do this.”  But while you are sitting in a church service with 100 other people trying to listening to a 30-45 minute sermon, you will realize that this is NOT the time to teach your child how you expect them to behave.  This will only frustrate you and your child (Eph. 6:4).  You must work on training your child to sit quietly while in the comfort and safety of your own home.  If you are interested in the way I trained my children at home, please look for my follow-up post.  “How I trained my little ones to sit still and quiet”

Keeping Your Kids in the Pew Begins At Home

I would like to give a few practical pointers to help you wrap your mind around this concept.  From the early infancy age through toddlers and preschoolers with the wiggles, it is not easy to ask children to sit “still and quiet,” as we say in my home, for an hour-long service.  But they can do it.  It is also important to be considerate of those around you and not insist on keeping a screaming toddler in the service during his entire tantrum.  My first suggestion would be to find an area in the church that has easy access to one of the exits.  Next, plan to arrive at church early enough to claim this area for your family so that you ensure an easy exit if someone gets too rowdy or disruptive.

Next, you must plan for Sunday morning the night before.  You don’t want to show up to church frazzled and frustrated before the service has even started.  This will not help you to have the patience and grace needed to guide your children through the worship service.   Saturday night, be sure that all baths are taken care of, clothes are picked out and ironed if needed, shoes are found and matched, hair bows are selected, etc.  In our home, everyone must have Mommy approve their outfit before dinnertime on Saturday so that there is not “whoops” on Sunday morning.  Sunday morning your only goal should be to make sure everyone is clothed, fed, and ready to leave.  Once in the pew, I have found that less is more as far as busy activities go.  I used to pack a full bag of books, toys, snacks and crayons, only to find that at the end of the service I had an entire half-acre of mess to clean up.  Not to mention needing to offer apologies for the new “art” on the underside of the pews.

When thinking about your child’s needs for the service, pack appropriately according to their age.  If your child is able to write, give them a few writing tools and a notebook.  You can draw a word, for example: “God,” and your child can copy it.  Then you can draw a picture on one side of the page and your child can write it on the other side.  At this point their imagination usually takes over and they will doodle quite happily for a while.  If you have a young child, be sure that you pack pacifiers, quiet (and not messy) snacks, and a select few books and toys in a small bag that the child can access easily on their own to play with quietly.  As you make all of these preparations on Saturday night, remember that your training begins at home.  Be sure that your children understand your expectations before you get to the church.  We now have seven children in our home and can easily fill an entire pew.  There was a season when we had to assign each child their “spot” and tell them which siblings would be sitting on either side of them so that we would not have any arguments or disruptions in the pew.

Don’t Grow Weary – You Can Do This

Last of all: do not grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9).  There have been Sundays in church or weekdays in a doctor’s office that I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “I’m done training today!  We’ll be waiting in the car!”  We have had a few days when I had to abandon the grocery cart in the middle of the store and head to the van to deal with behavior that couldn’t wait.  What I came to realize was that the grocery shopping was not my highest priority.  Taking that moment to train my child would last a lot longer than those groceries did.  I would encourage you to keep the same perspective when sitting through worship.  Is it fun to take a child out and deal with behavior, walk back into church, only to have to leave and deal with them again?  No.  But what you are doing is training your child that this behavior is not an option.  No matter how many tantrums he throws, the result will be the same: correction and re-entering the service.  I would caution against staying in the foyer to allow the disruptive child to play for the rest of the service.  If your child is having a day where he is completely uncooperative and is a distraction to everyone else in the sanctuary, look for a bench in the foyer to sit on.  But still practice sitting quietly during this time so he sees that his defiant behavior is not rewarded with playtime.  If this level of disobedience in public is common, maybe this is a sign that more time needs to be dedicated to training at home.

Although this task seems at times insurmountable, it is doable!  Trust me; I didn’t start until I already had four children.  Talk about challenging!  There were many times I wanted to give up.  I often felt as though there would never be a break and that I could never get a thing out of the worship service unless all of my children were tucked away in their classes and I could just focus on the pastor alone.  This is not true, though.  And as soon as we thinking that “just one thing” will make it all better, we need to make sure we aren’t manufacturing an idol in our hearts.  God didn’t give you a quiet pew without children.  God gave you those adorable rowdy children to love and care for, and He still requires you to come and worship Him.

I know that this may only be a short-term goal for you.  Perhaps you are only going to keep your children in the service until nursery becomes available again.  You must understand that this is a worth-while effort and a God-required effort you must make to bring your children to church.  We have to expel the notion that we are coming to church for our own selfish good.  First, we do this because the Lord commands it (John 14:15).  He gives us the desire for it, which is a blessing, but more than that, He requires it.  If it’s “no fun,” or “I don’t get anything out of it right now,” that’s okay.  You are honoring the Lord with your self-sacrifice.  Just remember that it’s not all about you.  It’s hard to live this out, but it’s true.  And for most of us, this season will get easier.  Our children don’t stay little forever.

We don’t have it all figured out.  And if you come to the church where we worship, you will see squirming kids, hear rustling papers, and probably even see a little one being taken out for a “talk.” And that’s a good thing.  Actually, if you were to come to church this week, you wouldn’t even see our whole family in the pew.  One of my children has a medical condition that has prevented her and me from returning to church yet. It is at this time more than ever I am so grateful for the Providential situation all those years ago when I was forced to teach my children how to be content to be still.  My husband is a pastor and elder in our church and cannot sit with our children during the entire service.  When he is on the platform, it is such a blessing to us both to know that our children have been trained to obey us and sit still and respectfully while he does what he needs to do.  That little 16-month-old with the hand injury is now six years old and sits quietly, taking what notes he is able to, or drawing a picture of his Daddy reading Scripture from the pulpit.  We don’t have it all together, and we never will.  But God has been faithful to do a work in our children, little by little.  We are weak vessels through whom the Lord has been pleased to exhibit His strength.

I hope this article has encouraged you and caused you to consider your responsibility for raising your children before the Lord.  If you are interested in a more how-to based article where I describe how I practically trained my children in these concepts at home, please look for my follow-up post.

Jessica E. Burrell

The Family Toolbox (March 2020)

A Theology of the Family  By Scott Brown and Jeff Pollard

“This book presents a perspective on the family largely forgotten by the modern church. There are fifty-six authors featured in this volume; authors such as: John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, William Gouge, Matthew Henry, Martin Luther, A.W. Pink, J. C. Ryle, R. C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon, and Thomas Watson. Each of them give a powerful testimony that the twenty-first-century church needs to be reminded of what she used to believe about family life. These authors bring a measure of the correction and the balm necessary to heal our amnesia and return us to biblical order.”

The Best Parental Control Software for 2020  by Protect Young Eyes

“We tried really hard to beat them. Thinking like a motivated, hormonal, tech-savvy, social media addicted, a 13-year-old teen who wants to evade all blockades that “the parentals” have put in place. Keyword searches. Circumvention. Backdoors. Even though we believe that 90% of kids aren’t like this, we know that “10% kid” pretty well.”

How Do I Bless My Children Before Bed?  by John Piper

” . . . look your children in the eye, and speak grace and peace into their lives based on the gift of God in the death of Jesus. And make plain the central blessings that Christ has purchased for his children: freedom from sin, everlasting life, everlasting joy, the personal presence of God — of Jesus — keeping them through all the hardships of life and suffering.”

Is Secondhand Screen Time the New Secondhand Smoking?  By Joelle Renstrom

” . . . I began researching screen addiction and conducting my own surveys. Roughly 20% of my students have used the word “addiction” when describing their phone habits, and many more have expressed misgivings about their phone use. While I encourage them to examine their habits, I blame students less for their tech addiction than I did a decade ago. They’ve learned this behavior from adults – in many cases since the moment they were born.”*

            Here is a book suggestion, and a review of the book, that may be helpful when thinking about our smartphone habits.

 Teens Need to Know They Can Make Money in Trade Careers  by Katie Bingham-Smith

“The trades are such a wonderful option for our kids. They are needed, they pay well, and the skills learned will be carried throughout a lifetime. The facts should be presented to them earlier in their life so it at least gets their brains wrapped around what a great way the trades can be to make a living.”

When Church Is Optional, You Set up Your Kids to Fail   by Blake Laberee

“It is a sad day when spiritual care of kids is pawned off onto the church, who having them for an hour or two each week is supposed to make up for the lack of spiritual vitality and leadership at home. Is it any wonder that kids get “bored” and fall away? It is even less of a wonder that upon the child falling away the blame is often placed directly on the lap of the church. Imagine if parents took to regularly praying with, studying with, and investing spiritually into their kids!”

Wise Counsel for Parents & Teens Mini-Conference  by Faith Bible Church

Faith Bible Church is pleased to host this one-day seminar Saturday, April 25, 2020, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM on “Wise Counsel for Parents and Teens” with Lou Priolo.  Topics that will be discussed: 1) What Does It Mean to Be a Teen, 2) Helping Provocative Parents, 3) Bitterness: The Root That Polutes, 4) Danger Signs of an Unhealthy Dating Relationship.”

 Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

 

*While I do not agree with every philosophy found in this research, this is a lot of good data that should help us to think about how much screen time we have and how much we allow our children to participate in.  

The Family Toolbox (September 2019)

 

12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child by Abraham Piper

“Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.”

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray

“Introduce your 6 to 12-year-olds to the most important passages and big-picture story line of the Bible! Each of the 365 entries includes a brief Scripture passage and space to write a daily prayer, along with either a question to answer or a verse to write out.”

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

Hope and Help for Parents (A Sermon) by Randy Patton

Pastor and Nouthetic counselor, Randy Patton, preaches a very helpful sermon on raising and rearing children from Ephesians 6:4.  It is both deeply biblical and practical at the same time.  I would encourage you to set aside an hour to listen to this sermon.

Risen Motherhood (A Book Review) by Tim Challies

“Risen Motherhood is a strong work and one that nicely fits a niche. Where so many books on mothering are essentially legalistic and offer news no better than ‘you need to try harder,’ this one grounds mothers in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It aptly shows that the gospel really does make every bit of difference not only in eternity but in everyday life as well.”

Dating Principles by Voddie Baucham

During a Q&A at the “Abide Faith, Hope, Love” conference Dr. Baucham answers the question, “What are biblical principles for Christian dating?”  He provides some very helpful and biblical principles for what Christian dating should look like.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Family Toolbox (December 2018)

Encouragement For Parents Raising Teens

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

Family Worship Bible Guide

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

Five Thoughts on Training Boys to Be Godly Men

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

It’s Never ‘Just Business’ at Work

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

Teens and Body Image

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

 Wait to Date Until You Can Marry

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell

The 3 Most Important Questions That you Will Ever Answer

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

  1. What Shall I do with Jesus?

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

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

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

  1. Who shall I marry?

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

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

      3.  Where will I attend church?

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Family Toolbox (November 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Profile of an Evangelistic Home” – Joel Beeke

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

The Torchlighters Heroes of the Faith – DVD Set” 

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The Family Toolbox (October 2018)

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

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

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

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

  1. Getty Kids Hymnal – Family Hymn Sing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Don’t Waste Your Church Discipline

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

It’s an opportunity to express the gospel.

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

It’s an opportunity for self-examination.

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

It’s an opportunity to strengthen your church. 

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Christian, You Need a Man in Your Life . . . and so do I.

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

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

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

You needed one when you were young:

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

You need one now:

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

You will need one when you are old:

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell