Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Family worship is a concept that has long been forgotten for many through the years of church history. It is a concept that can be both exhilarating, but also paralyzing. Family worship at its most basic level, is simply taking time to gather the family to read the Bible, pray, and worship the Lord on a regular basis in your home. It is true that there is no direct command found in scripture imploring fathers and families to do family worship, but it is a great application to direct commands found all over the canon of scripture.  Here are just a few examples:

            Deuteronomy 6:4-7: This text implores parents to “Teach them diligently to your children . . .” Telling them that the Lord is One, and that they should love the Lord with all that they are.

            Psalm 78: This Psalm has some strong commandments to fathers to teach their children about the things of God, and for this to continue on, not just to your children, but to your children’s children. This was a command to tell the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord.

           Ephesians 5:25-26:  Here we find husbands are told to “Wash them (their wives) in the Word.”  It also explained that children are to be brought “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

            I Timothy 3:4-5 we find the qualifications of being an elder. He “must manage his house well.”

One of the best and easiest ways to apply these commands is to have regular family worship in your home. After looking over these verses you may be convinced that this is a good idea, but what does it actually look like? Since that vast majority of people didn’t grow up in a home where this was practiced, what should it look like? Here are a few points to consider if you want family worship to be a profitable and successful experience in your home.

Consider the Elements:

Generally speaking, there are three parts to family worship. You read the Bible, pray the Bible, and sing the Bible. They are much like the same elements that you find in a typical corporate worship setting. However, there is no preacher (other than the parents), and there is no choir or worship team, other than those sitting in your home. There is no need to hire someone to come in and do these things for you. God has actually equipped you the parent (practically the father), to lead in this manner. All it takes is having everyone sit quietly (or mostly quiet if you have small ones) and read a portion of scripture. Then you explain it to the best of your ability.  You pick a song that the family knows and sing it (if you can play an instrument that is even better).  It can be something as simple as the Doxology with no music, but I would encourage you not to skip this part if possible. Finally, close in prayer. That is it. Simple and easy, but it can have eternal significance.

Consider the Brevity:

Your average church service lasts about an hour. You may think of your family worship like a small church service on Sunday, however much shorter. You should want family worship to be a delight and not a drudgery. Ephesians 6:4 gives warning to fathers not to “provoke your children to wrath.” If you are just starting family worship and it is a new concept to your family, please remember that it is new to your family as well. If you try to make it too long, you may be provoking your children. You may very well work up to a 30-minute family devotion, but brevity is key here. It is good to start off with no more than 10-15 minutes. Read 15 – 20 verses in the Bible. Take 3 or 4 minutes to explain it and to ask questions. Spend 2 or 3 minutes in prayer and sing a quick song. Try to set a regular time that you plan to do this and try to stick to it most days. Remember, it does not have to be anything super formal, but there does need to be a sense of reverence. You are worshiping and honoring God after all, even if it is in your pajamas.

Consider the Content: 

When your children are small, you may not want to go straight to Song of Solomon or Revelation. It may not be helpful. Consider reading Proverbs, the book of James, or even some of the narrative portions in the Old Testament. There are some great stories there that will allow you as a parent to point to the gospel and give just simple and practical advice. If you feel like you don’t know the Bible well enough to teach, invest in a good study Bible. Take 10 minutes to read the passage before-hand with the notes so you can explain it. You only need to be one step ahead to teach. As the children get older have them get involved. Fathers, have your wife be a regular part of worship. She is gifted in ways that you are not. Have your children read the scripture. Have them pray. Have them help lead the song(s). This is part of training and teaching them not just the things of God, but also how to lead their families when they get older.

John Piper emphasizes the commitment to family worship by saying, “You have to decide how important you think these family moments are. It is possible for little ones, teenagers, and parents. You may have to work at it, but it can be done.” Family worship has been a blessing to my family. I love hearing my children sing praise to God at the top of their little lungs. I love hearing them answer and ask great questions that come from our Bible reading. I love having them repeat prayers after their mother and I. It is a commitment that my wife and I made that we would do on a regular basis early on in our marriage. While it is true that this is just one way to apply the clear commands of God to teach, train, and lead our homes, I believe it to be the best one. I don’t think when you get older and you look back on your time as a parent, that you will ever regret the time you spent around the dinner or coffee table worshiping the Lord together.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

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

You needed one when you were young:

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

You need one now:

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

You will need one when you are old:

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

I was recently asked the question “Is having different theological convictions as Christians a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing a mate for marriage?”  This is not the first time this type of question has come up, and I am sure it won’t be the last.  This is an interesting question that actually has a two part answer.  Here are a few things to think about if you, or someone you love, find yourself in this predicament.

What the Bible Says:

When it comes to marriage, the biblical model is between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:3-6).  Not only is it supposed to be between one man and one woman but it is also supposed to be between two people who are not “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  There have been a variety of interpretations about this verse in years past.  But one clear implication is that marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is strictly forbidden.  Some have tried to make this verse mean that two people from different ethnicities should not get married based off this command from Paul.  Some have even tried to make it mean (by implication) that two people from different denominational backgrounds should not wed.  However, these interpretations are clearly not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church 2000 years ago.  He vividly makes the distinction between those who know Jesus, and those who do not, and that is it.  He writes in Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”  It is pretty plain when he writes “Do not be unequally yoked” that he is making only one command; no interfaith relationships for Christians . . . and that is it here.  Black and White, Presbyterian and Baptist, if they are Christians they can be married.  However, is that the whole story?  As long as the two are Christians, then it is okay to marry?

There are other things to consider (like has a person been divorced before?) for sure, but scripturally speaking, the only requirement is for the two people to be equally yoked together.  If they are not, then the Lord forbids it.  But, before you go and marry the first Christian you come to, there are some areas of wisdom that you need to consider as well.

What Wisdom Says:

The Bible speaks highly of marriage and even encourages Christians to get married (Proverbs 18:22).  Nevertheless, it is important that you think through the process before making a binding marriage covenant.  The question that we are trying to answer is not “Should Christians get married?”, but rather, “Should people of different theological convictions get married?”  Here is where wisdom kicks in with biblical truth.  When two people get married, they bring with them their theology.  If one person wants kids, and the other does not, wisdom would say, you need to work through that before ever giving the other person a ring.  If the woman is a complete egalitarian (women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household) and the man a complementarian (men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage) then this could bring all sorts of problems when talking about spiritual leadership and authority in the home.  That could be a recipe for disaster.  If one is Arminian and one a Calvinist, how do they deal with the sin of a young child?  Holding these different views may well play a role in discipline of children of how you share the gospel even.  These are questions that need to be hammered out before any nuptials.  Wisdom would also say, how convicted am I of certain doctrines?  If one is completely convinced of infant baptism, and the other of believer’s baptism, it may be hard to work through this one . . . and it may be best to find someone else with similar convictions if a consensus is not found.  Theology matters and it will order how a home and family is run.

So, should people of different theological convictions get married?  Considering all of this, the main thing that binds a couple together is the Lord.  As long as the basics of the Christian faith are agreed upon (in the minds, hearts, and the lives) then the secondary stuff can be worked through, but do not make the mistake in thinking that they do not matter, because they do.  There may be some theological beliefs that simply do not compute with each other.  There are different denominations because of doctrinal differences.  This does not mean that all true Christians, no matter the church, are not still brothers in Christ.  However, wisdom says that to covenant together in church membership, everyone should hold closely to the same views so as to be able to hold each other accountable (Galatians 6:1-2).  The same is true in marriage; while it could be lawful for two to be married, will it be profitable for the sake of the kingdom?  Will your marriage be able to be a picture of the love between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32)?  If theological convictions run deep and they cannot be agreed up, then maybe it would be best to find another to yoke yourself with.

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

One of the highlights of my day is sitting around the family table with my wife and children for family worship.  Inevitably, something comes up two or three times a week and we miss it, but we have been in the practice since my wife and I have been married.  This last year we have started doing just a little something different that has seemed to enhance our worship time tremendously.  It is so simple, yet it has been revolutionary for our family.

I am a Bible teacher at heart.  I have often dreamt of teaching my children about theology, church history, and the wonders of our great God.  However, in my dreaming stage it is often geared toward the future and not the present.  All four of my children are under the age of seven and I have often thought that they are not ready for a study on hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible) or systematic theology.  Yet, this last year, without even realizing we were doing it at first, that is exactly what has happened.  We have always asked questions at the end of the Bible reading, but we now ask three simple questions before we ever start reading the Bible.  These questions are the same questions every time.  They are so easy to answer that even my 2-year-old can answer them (after he has heard his older siblings answer them 50 times).

Here are the three questions that my wife and I ask my children, and I would like to encourage you to do the same and just see how the Lord uses it.

Who wrote this book of the Bible?

We have been reading through the gospel of Mark for the past couple of months.  So, each day I ask the same question, “Who wrote the Gospel of Mark”?  I try to ask a different child this question each day so that all of them get a chance through the week to answer different questions.  Of course, the answer is Mark.  Now, this does take a little work from the parents on the front end to know who wrote the book of the Bible you are studying, but any good study Bible can provide this answer for you with a little reading.  By the end of the first week, usually all of the children have this one down.

Who was the book written to?

This piggybacks on the back of the first question.  It goes like this for us . . . “Who did Mark write his gospel to?”  To which they answer, “to the Christians in Rome.”  Of the 66 books of the Bible, only 40 of the human authors have been identified.  For some books the author is anonymous.  If that is true of the book of the Bible you are reading, just be honest about it.  The truth is, there is one divine Author (II Timothy 3:16).  While it is often helpful to know the human author, it is not necessary.  Nonetheless, it is a basic Bible study question, and one that will help lead you, and your children, to get the truth and application of a text.

Why was the book written?

This is the third and last question that we ask.  This  question, like the two above, is linked to the others.  We will say, “Why did Mark write his gospel?”  See how they continue to build on each other?  Repetition is key for most people when learning.  They will then eagerly (most of the time) respond, “To tell the Christians in Rome that Jesus was the Messiah.”  It is amazing to see the children start to get into the reading more since they know these truths about it.  Often we point out or have the child tell us how Mark shows that Jesus is the Messiah from a particular passage.  This just continues to reiterate that which they have already learned.  It is remarkable.

There are the three easy and simple questions.  It is amazing to see how much better our family worship time is now because of getting the kids more involved.  These are the same three questions that we, as students of the Bible, should be asking ourselves every time we pick up the Word to better help us truly hear from God.  It is Jessica’s and my hope that we will ingrain this type of Bible study into the minds of our children so that it becomes common place for them as they start to read and study the Bible more when they get older.  To be honest though, it has even helped my wife and me as much as the children when we are reminded of these things every time we read with them.  It just makes Scripture come alive.  So, if you would really like to help your kids become better students of God’s Word, just ask these three little questions . . . over and over and over again.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

The Blessing of Family

Posted: September 28, 2015 in family
Tags: , , ,

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote in his epistle, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above . . .” (James 1:17a).  Some of those gifts are: salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Holy Scripture.  It truly is amazing to think about all the good gifts that we as Christian people have been given by our Lord.  Recently, I was overwhelmed by the thought of my family.  I believe that having a godly family would have to be in my top 5 list of “good gifts from above.”  Not everyone has a godly family.  For that sake, not everyone has been given the gift of a spouse or children.  When I started thinking about the blessing that the Lord had given me, it caused me to just stop and thank the Lord.

That same morning the kids and I were playing around after breakfast and family devotions.  I was playing the guitar, which is common in the Burrell home.  While watching the children running around and squealing with joy while playing with each other I started fooling around with my guitar and a few lines of a song started coming out.  It had been nearly a decade since I had written a song, but after just 30 short minutes I plucked my way through a melody and had written out some words to a song that I have now named “The Family Song” (pretty ingenious title I know). I also put a video together to go along with the song.

If you have any interest, this is a little brief history of my family by the way of a song.  The Lord has abundantly blessed me with the gift of family.  We are by no means perfect.  We are by no means a perfect model family.  I still get angry with my children when they do not obey.  I don’t always act like Christ to my wife.  I still struggle with issues of pride and selfishness from time to time.  However, the Lord who is both gracious and full of mercy has chosen to give me a family.  For that, I am eternally grateful . . . and because of that I sing.

We got married back in 2008
We said our vows and then set off to celebrate . . .  We made a covenant.
Then we had a girl, and we named her Belle
It means beautiful, and I think it fits her well . . . She means the world to me.
Then came our son, we named him Corban Blake
He’s just like his dad in every single way  . . . He was a gift from God.

We were just a happy family.
Trying to be what God wanted us to be.
We were just a happy family.
Trying to be what God wanted us to be.

But we weren’t done.  He gave us Gideon.
A silent warrior from the very beginning . . . He has his mother’s smile.
Josiah was named after the mighty king.
Oh what a joy that little rowdy boy brings . . . But he’ll be big someday.

Now we’re just one big happy family.
Trying to bring glory to our King.
Now we’re just one big happy family.
Trying to point all the glory to our King.

God has been so kind to bless us now.
We need to praise Him each day somehow.
His mercies are fresh and new each morn.
But there are some days that we need more.

Now we’re just one big happy family.
Trying to bring glory to our King.
Now we’re just one big happy family.
Trying to point all the glory to our King.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

While Courting /Dating or Preparing:

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

While Engaged or Just Beginning Your Marriage:

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

To Read to Refresh Your Marriage:

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

To Read If You Have Children:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks we will be trading in swimsuits for school clothes and beach time for books.  Summer seems to go by quicker now than it ever has before.  For some parents the return to school cannot come soon enough, but for others it brings anxiety.  This is the first (official) year that my wife and I will start schooling, and I must admit that it is a little scary to think about my children’s education.  I want them to get the best education that they can get while being in an environment that fosters godliness.  For our family, we have chosen to homeschool.  I know that this is not the best choice for everyone; but no matter your schooling choice, we can all use some encouragement as the new school year starts back.  Over the next several weeks I am going to be publishing a series of blogs aimed to do just that . . . encourage the parent on the upcoming school year.

I have asked three guests to write on their preferred schooling option (Public School, Homesschool, Private Christian School) and give we parents some hopeful words on the upcoming school year.  Each one has sent their children through all 12/13 years of schooling with great success.  Among those now adult children are doctors, teachers, nurses, authors, computer-techs, farmers, actuaries, musicians, and a whole host of other things.  More importantly than their vocational success is that almost across the board, they all have grown to be godly men and women.  This is ultimately what we as Christian parents are striving for.  A good job is great, but a godly heart is what we all desire.  They get there not just through reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also by knowing and serving God.  That may seem daunting, but I believe we can be encouraged by those who have walked through it before and have come out on the other side.

For your benefit, here is a quick bio on the guest writers so that you can have a little info on the people who are writing.

Dale Slater (Public School):

Mrs. Dale Slater taught in the public school system for more than 30 years.  She and her husband were blessed to have 3 children who all went though this school system.  Dale was the single most influential teachers for me during my schooling years.  While she taught me much about math, she taught me much more about the Lord.  She was a daily godly example to her students and anyone that was around her.  Both she and her husband did not just teach their children at school, but more importantly, at home.  There is no one else I can think of who would be better able to encourage families who have chosen this option to school their children.

Desiree Sheats (Homeschool):

Desiree is one of the godliest and humble women I have ever known.  She and her husband were blessed with 12 children of their own plus one that they adopted.  She has just recently graduated, after 30 years of homeschooling, her last of 13 children.  When my wife and I need direction or affirmation on our choice of education for our children, this is who we run to.  The Lord has given her a heart for the homeschool community and the wisdom to encourage many generations to come.  While never formally obtaining more than a high-school diploma herself, with the Lord’s guidance she and her husband educated their children in not just math, science, and English, but also in the things of God, which has had the most lasting impact on her children.

William “Bill” Butt (Christian School):

Dr. Butt saw fit to send all 3 of his children through 12 impressionable years of Christian education.  Not only did he send his children through a top-notch Christian school but he also taught at this school part-time in subjects such as systematic theology and apologetics in order to prepare the future generation to be able to defend their faith.  Dr. Butt is a doctor of medicine, but his heart is geared toward teaching the things of God.  This is most evident for anyone that has ever been around him for very long.  All of his children were the benefactors of such a school system, and I believe his words will be an encouragement to families who have chosen this avenue of education for their children.

No matter what educational choice you make for your children, we all need encouragement to press on.  I hope this series of blogs will help you to do just that.  It is not meant to be a debate on which system is better, but rather to encourage you as a parent where you are.  If you are still struggling through this decision for your children, let me suggest this little book called Perspectives on Your Child’s Education” which gives a very well balanced view on the four potential types of education choices that parents face.

I pray as school starts back soon, you will find comfort in these words and any anxiety that you may have will be placed at the foot of the cross.  We are all commanded to educate our children, whether we delegate that responsibility or not.  So in doing so, pray for them, play with them, and participate in that education process for the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

In 2012, the average American making 50k a year spent over $2600 on entertainment.  That is about $200 a month.  That is more than the average person gives to charity annually.  We are entertained in many different ways; movies, music, games, sports, etc.   Americans spend more time and money on entertainment today than any other nation in the history or the world.  We like to be entertained.  There is nothing wrong with being entertained.   In fact, if the Westminster Catechism is correct stating that man’s chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” then good godly entertainment is certainly one way we can enjoy Him.  However, not all (or even most) entertainment that we spend money on today falls under the “godly entertainment” category.  Let us not say, on the other hand, that all entertainment must be inherently Christian for Christians to partake in and enjoy.

Is it okay to watch and enjoy a football, soccer, or baseball game without feeling sinful?  Most certainly!  Nevertheless, there is also a way to watch these things and it be sinful, depending on your motive.  How are we to discern what to watch and listen to in the way of entertainment?  I believe the Philippians 4:8 test is the best way to do this.  Paul wrote,

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Before you turn on The Game of Thorns or Downton Abby, and before you download that new Taylor Swift album, take this test and hopefully you will be able to see if you should be spending your time, money, and energy on it.  Before you do anything, ask yourself these questions.

Is it True?

Can this (movie, book, TV program, etc.) be found in God’s Word as something that is true?  For example, can you listen to a love song not written by a Christian? I would say yes, as long as it is something that lines up with the truth of God, and is not distorting it.  If it lines up with the truth that is found in scripture and your conscience allows . . why not?  Remember that all truth is ultimately God’s truth.

Is it Honorable?

This is to say, is it something that is honorable to God?  Is it something where people are making light of sex? Then no, this is not honorable. Is it a game that glorifies violence? Again, I would say no, that is not honorable. What about a book that makes you lust after its character?  Is that honorable? NO!  You get the point.

Is it Just?

Is this something that is in harmony with God’s Word?  What about music that is glorifying getting drunk or songs where the singer is bragging about themselves?  I don’t think these are things that are justifiable to the Lord.  And what about watching some kid being beat up on YouTube?  Sorry, I don’t think that is justifiable entertainment either.

Is it Pure?

Is this promoting good or godly morals?  Is the music video, TV show, or movie that is showing people making out in a provocative way okay?  The question is, how is watching this going to make you more pure?  Peering through a window watching a couple make out would be a good way to have yourself arrested wouldn’t it?  There is not much difference in watching it on TV.  If it is not pure, you do not need to be entertained by it.

Is it Lovely?

Is this pleasing, kind, or gracious?  Is it okay to read a good hearted story about someone overcoming adversity?  Sure, we all love to hear these kinds of stories.  Actually, it often points us to the gospel.  There are plenty of feel good movies and books that are not overtly Christian that fall into this category.  However, if it is not pleasing, kind, or gracious, then the Philippians 4:8 test would say to “not think on these things.”  It is inevitable that you will have to face things that are not lovely in your life, but to openly be entertained by them is a different matter.

Is it Commendable?

Is it respectful?  Is it of high character?  Is this something that you could recommend to your friends or a Christian family?  I love war movies.  My all time favorite is Braveheart (but only the edited version).  I have recommended it to many people over the years.  However, there are some songs, articles, TV shows, and movies that could never fall under this category that I have been sinfully amused by in the past.  If you would not be willing tore commend it to your pastor, there is a great chance the Lord would not want you to participate in being entertained by it either.

These seven questions have helped guide me into making better choices in entertainment for my family.  They apply to movies, music, books, and even sporting events.  I love all sorts of entertainment. So, if Paul can quote a pagan poet (Acts 17:28) and it become part of the canon, it seems to be okay to be entertained by things that are not distinctly Christian as well as long as they fall into the above listed guidelines.  The next time you want to run to the theater to watch the newest flick, or click to download the newest album on iTunes . . . take the Philippians 4:8 test first and see if it is something the Lord would be okay with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell