Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

“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

  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

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

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

This past fall my Mother-in-law sent around her annual “I need Christmas list ideas” email to the family.  Being in my mid-30’s, I have a hard time finding something to put on that list most years.  I love to open gifts, like any other person, but I just have a hard time thinking of ideas.  This year it was different.  I knew exactly what I wanted to ask for.  I quickly respond with a link to the Hymns of Grace website.  “Four pew editions, please.” was my response.  I already own a copy personally, but I wanted 4 copies for my children to use during our family worship time.  Over the past 10 years we have enjoyed a regular diet of family worship in my home.  Usually, it is only about 15 minutes in length.  We pray, read scriptures, discuss it, pray again, and then sing a song.  Until recently the singing part was either an acapella rendition of The Doxology or another favorite hymn or chorus with a guitar.  It’s very informal, yet a special time for our family.  My older children are just now starting to read well.  My wife and I wanted to get them more involved in the family worship time . . . this is where the hymn books have aided.  There are at least 3 areas of benefit I see in using them as a tool for discipling our children.

It Aids in Participation:

            With young children, family worship can be challenging.  At times, it is hard just to get them to sit still and listen.  However, over time through regular worship and training, this aspect becomes much easier.  Once they can read it really adds to the family table each night.  When we broke out the hymn books for the first time and told them that they could all have one, they were so excited.  Now they race each time to see who can find the song the fastest.  They look at each word with vigorous intensity and sing even louder than before.  Now, they have some ownership in worship.  Now it is not just Dad and Mom leading them, but they really get to participate.  It has added a level of excitement.  When they participate, they glean more.  We are praying that as they glean, the Lord will use it to mold and shape them into the image of Jesus.  Paul instructed the church at Colossi to, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God,” (Colossians 3:16).  Thus we sing.  Worshipers are participators.  Having a hymn book in front of them has helped them to participate even more.

It Aids in Theology:

            Theology matters.  It matters in the study of God’s Word, but it also matters in the words that we sing to God.  The hymn book that we chose is the best hymn book that I have ever seen.  It is rich in theology.  However, it is not just rich but it’s theology is singable.  This particular hymn book has a wide array of both old sacred hymnody (All creatures of our God and King) as well as new modern ones (Come, behold the wondrous mystery).  Singing lines like “And when before the throne I stand in him complete, ‘Jesus died my soul to save’ my lips shall still repeat,” will help remind us of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. When we sing the Getty’s words, “O church arise, and put your armor on; hear the call of Christ our captain,”  I pray that it strikes a chord in my children to live out the command that is given to “put on the full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18.  Having a book that has compiled all of these great songs into a single volume is amazing.  Even more amazing, is being able to hide the truths of these words in our children’s heart (and ours for that matter) to help them in their pursuit of holy living.

It Aids in Learning New Words:

Let’s face it.  Most of us do not speak the King’s English.  I for one am very thankful for sound modern translations of the Bible.  Yet, some of the older hymns that we sing were written during the time when most people used the KJV Bible.  Thus, their wording is a bit different than what we use today.  Sometimes there are odd phrasings as well.  Take the great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  This is a song that is often sung in churches.  However, how many people really understand the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come”?  The word Ebenezer means “stone of help”.  We see it used in the Old Testament often (I Samuel 7).  So when we sing this line, it is a reminder to the church of how God delivers his people from danger.  Old hymns (and some new ones) are filled with this type of biblical illustration.    Using them during a time of family worship allows for conversation after the song is over.  It will allow you to teach biblical concepts and truths, but also for your children to learn some new (old) words as well.

             I cannot express more my pleasure of having a hymn book like the Hymns of Grace.  It is masterful in its composition.  I look forward to using it for years to come, and passing each hymn book off to my children when they leave our home.  Do you have a favorite hymn book?   Let me encourage you to purchase some for your entire family.  Let them use it as you conduct family worship.  Let them pick the songs from time to time.  Allow them to participate, to grow in their theology, and their literature.  It is a worthwhile investment, one that I believe you will find to be profitable and enjoyable as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

Meeting with them:

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

Read with them:

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

Pray with them:

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

Enjoy life with them:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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