Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

I have been blessed to be in ministry for over 14 years. Most of those years have been working with teens and their parents. Over that amount of time, one of the themes that I have noticed is that many who grew up in the church have a very weak understanding of the gospel.  There are a range of reasons to why this is, but if we are going to take the Deuteronomy 6 mandate seriously to “teach them diligently. . .”, then maybe we need a better and more structured plan. As a parent, there is nothing that I want more than for my children to be counted as one of the redeemed and walk faithfully with Him. This is by no means a promise simply because my wife and I are saved. So, how can we help our kids to really get a grasp of the gospel message that we hope leads them to salvation? Below are 5 ways that, if done regularly, will almost guarantee your child will have a working knowledge of the Gospel.

The Gospel in Your Prayers:

When you pray with your children before bed, or whenever you pray with them, make sure that often you pray the gospel. While it may be cute to say the “now I lay me done to sleep” bedtime prayer, it may be more beneficial to say a more meaningful prayer. Let your children hear you plead with God for their souls. You could pray something like this, “Lord, I pray that you will let my children come to a place where they recognize their sin before you and their need for forgiveness for them. Let them seek forgiveness, dear God. Lord, open their hearts. Give them the faith to believe and call upon your name so that they can know how wonderful you are oh Lord.” Let them hear this kind of prayer regularly. While hearing it often, they will get the concept of God, man, sin, and Jesus. They will hear the gospel message that God is good, man has sinned, and Jesus is the only way to fix their problem. Let them hear the gospel in your prayers.

The Gospel in Your Family Worship:

I have written about family worship on several occasions, so I will not go into great detail about it now, but if (and hopefully when) you gather your family to worship together in your home, make sure you are pointing it all to Christ. Don’t just read Christian books and let that be your family worship. Christian book reading is good, but they do not always point to the gospel. Read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible together. Let the gospel be the center of it all. If you do not get to the gospel in your family worship time, then can you really call it worship? Make sure that every chapter you read is read and explained through the lens of Christ and Him being crucified. Give your children the gospel when you meet to worship.

The Gospel in Your Church of Choice:

A bible-believing, gospel-shaped, and gospel-sharing church is so essential. If all your kids ever get is a moral and therapeutic Sunday school lesson on how to slay their personal Goliaths in their lives, it is actually going to be counteracting the true gospel. They need to hear not that the story of David and Goliath is their fear of singing or fear of being in front of people, and that all they need to do is pick up some spiritual stone and say “No, I can do this.”  Instead, they need to hear that they are not David, but in reality the scared and unprepared Israelites who were helpless against the mighty Philistine. They need to hear that David in this story actually points to Christ as our substitute and King. He defeated Goliath (Satan, Sin, and Death) because we could not do it. That is the gospel. Children need to hear this message at church. They need to hear it preached. Thus, a Christ-centered church is near essential for them to get a good grasp of the gospel.

The Gospel in Your Daily Walk:

If your children always hear you talk about the gospel, but in turn see you worry, curse, and watch things on TV that are not appropriate, then the gospel may very well fall on deaf ears.  If you are not trying to live it out in front of them as if you truly believe it, in their eyes they may not see the Gospel’s power. Preacher Joel Beeke once said, “other than the Bible, you are the best or worst book your children will ever read.” Let them see you rejoice in the Lord.  But, let them see you ask for forgiveness when it is needed as well. Let them see the gospel not just on pages in a book, but in the life of their mom and dad as well.

The Gospel in Your Music:

Music is good. We have music going on at our house most of the day. Great music is a salve for the soul, while bad music can be damning to it. I love most any song that points to the gospel. What I love even more is to hear my children sing it. This is not because we have a family of musical protégés in our home. They do not even, or often, sing on key. However, what they miss in their pitch, they get in their minds. If you are going to listen to, and learn the lyrics of a song, it should be one with a good theology of the cross and the gospel. This is not to say you cannot listen to and sing “the wheels on the bus” or something else, but a good way to get the gospel into the minds and hearts of your children is by giving them a steady diet of Gospel songs.

In a day and age when our kids have a million things pulling at them and vying for their attention it would be easy to just let the gospel part of their lives be left up to the Sunday School hour. Over the last 14 years, I have seen where this mentality has gotten many in the church . . . and it was not a good place to be. If you are a Christian parent, and you want your children to know, understand, and love the gospel, make sure you are being diligent to give it to them as often as you can. While it will not guarantee them salvation, you can rest knowing that you have done all that you could to point them to the Gospel, and that is what God asks of us, as parents.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Advertisements

Everyone enjoys a great family vacation.  When I was young, we often went on one vacation a year.  Sometimes we would head south to the beaches of Florida.  Other times we would break out our tomahawk chop and catch an Atlanta Braves games while enjoying the city of Atlanta for a few days.  Most often however, we headed to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, to the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area.  I have memories of driving through Cades Cove looking for bears, ridding go-carts with my dad and brother, and playing putt-putt golf.  This place holds a very special place in my life.  So much so, that I take my family there as well when we want to spend a few days in the mountains.  There is just something special about those mountains and the rivers that run through them.  Monday night the landscape of this great destination drastically changed as wild fires ripped though much of the drought-stricken area.

When I first heard of the events going on in East Tennessee I simply assumed that they would put the fires out, and it wouldn’t approach this much-beloved city.  However, as the night moved on and reports were coming out about parts of this city going up in flames I found my stomach in knots and my prayers coming more rapidly.  I knew the rain was coming, but it simply didn’t seem like it was getting there fast enough.  It was a perfect storm, and if something didn’t change quickly, there would be no more family town to go to . . . at least not the one that I remembered as a child.  I tossed and turned all night thinking about the people that might be stuck in their homes, and thinking of those great landmarks being consumed by the thirsty fires.  Finally, in the early hours of the morning, I was able to go to sleep having nothing more that I could do but simply trust in the Sovereign King of the universe and resting in Isaiah 45:7, which says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

When I woke up Tuesday morning the first thing I did was check the news outlets to see how things were.  To my delight, God was gracious to this city that I love.  Some may not see His grace among some 2400 of homes and businesses being destroyed, resorts being demolished, and hundreds of acres of land decimated.  However, from an outsider’s perspective, I see the Lord’s gracious hand at work and I would like to share just a few of my thoughts.

The Lord Sent Rain:

The Southeastern part of the United States has been in a major drought.  It has been more than 3 months since much of the south has seen any significant rainfall.  The Lord is in control of this.  Jesus said in Matthew 5, “. . .  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  If he makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust, the opposite is true as well.  He withholds rain on the just and the unjust, and for His good pleasure and the renown of His name He has withheld rain from this region for months.  However, at just the right time, He sent it as well.  Why He sent it to help protect this city and not others, we may never know, but He did.  Dave Martin, a fire and aviation management with the southern region of the U.S. Forest Service said that the rain forecast “puts the bull’s-eye of the greatest amounts right at the bull’s-eye of where we’ve been having our greatest activity . . .”  This was just a few hours before the rains would come bringing relief, and come they did.  Imagine if this great fire had started even 2 days prior.  There would have been no rain to help stop the blazing inferno.  At just the right time, the Lord sent rain.  He was indeed gracious to orchestrate this at just the right time.

There Were Few Casualties:

All reports are saying that the loss of life is very minimal.  While any loss of life is tragic, the fact there has only been less than 15 confirmed up to this point  is near incredible news compared to what it could have been.  After seeing videos of people being stuck on fiery mountain roads, and hotels that seemed to be engulfed in flames it appeared inevitable last night that there would be many who would have lost their lives.  But, here the Lord was gracious again.  There could have been hundreds dead after such a great disaster, but there are only a few. And while we need to keep these families in our prayers, it is truly a blessing that there are not dozens more.

Limited Commercial Damage:

The Lord didn’t have to save these cities.  He didn’t owe Sevier County salvation, yet He saved much of it.  The main street of Gatlinburg, economically speaking, is Gatlinburg.  The same is true of its neighbor, Pigeon Forge, as well.  If these parts of the city had gone up in flames, so would the livelihood of most of those who live there and call it home, but most of it was saved.  This was a gracious act of God.  Why did the Lord choose to destroy some resorts, and leave others unscathed?  We cannot know, but that He left any businesses there is simply a gift to these cities and to those who love visiting them.

God was gracious to Gatlinburg.  The Smoky Mountains will always hold a very special place in my heart.  I simply see the Lord’s creative handy work with every turn in the road, peak of a mountain, and cascading white water falling over the rocks.  It is a place of peace and rest for me.  My heart is broken for the people there who have lost their homes, businesses, and way of life.  But even in the midst of such a tragedy we can see the Lord’s gracious hand of protection and providence in it.  I hope you will join me in praying for the people of these towns, and all across the Southeast who have been affected by drought, fires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and all other sorts of natural disasters that have hit our region over the past 6 months.  Pray those things will be restored, but pray even more that all who are affected will see the loving hand of the Lord who is there, full of mercy and full of grace, who desires to bring peace to His afflicted people.  Pray that the church will do the work of being good neighbors and that the Lord’s name is magnified through it all.  To God be the glory . . . even in the midst of fires and storms.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

I know you must think you are important.  You seem to have so much power.  While yes there are times that you lose a battle, it seems so often that you are still winning the war.  You claim the lives of both princes and paupers, young and old, white, black, olive, human, and animal.  You leave behind a wake of hurt and pain for the loved ones, and I think I speak for all when I say, “I really hate you.”  My family has not escaped your grasp either, and I do not assume you are finished with my loved ones, or even me for that matter.  You are good at what you do, but I wanted to write and let you know a few things, at least from a Christian’s perspective.

Cancer, your pain is only temporary:

There is, no doubt, a lot of pain involved in trying to beat you.  There is often associated with this battle treatments like chemo, radiation, surgery, and other uncomfortable and hurtful procedures that we do to combat you, but this pain is only short lived.  Sometimes we beat you, and you never return.  Yes, scars may stay, but you are not the giver and taker of life, Cancer . . . there is Someone higher than you.  Even if this life on earth ends for the Christian, eternity in Heaven where there is no more cancer is just beginning.  You see, the pain you give is only temporary, and there is really nothing you can do to change that.  Temporary pain is real pain no doubt, but it is not eternal.

Cancer, you have no real power:

Oh yes, you may believe yourself to be a powerful foe, but just like Pontius Pilate, 2000 years ago, you have no power unless it be given to you (John 19:11).  You didn’t start the process of pain, hurt, or power over people.  You are simply a bi-product of sin, Cancer.  You have no power except that which is allowed for you to have through our good and gracious sovereign Lord.  Does the Lord take delight in the death of someone though your diseased tentacles?  No, but He is sovereign over it.  For in His book it is written, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).  While it may seem as if you are omnipotent in your spreading of such a dreadful illness, you have no real power except what the Lord allows for His own glory through it.

Cancer, your ultimate defeat is imminent:

Lastly, I would like you to know that your day is coming.  You have done some great damage in your time here.  You have no doubt won some battles, but the end of you and the end of this sinful and disease filled life is coming to an end very soon.  Your ultimate defeat has already been accomplished.  When Jesus came and lived a perfect life, and went to the cross to satisfy the rightful wrath from the Father . . . this is when you died.  He defeated death on the cross.  He defeated sin there, and He defeated you there as well.  See, there is coming a day where all will be made right.  All will be made new.  Yes, you can take a life, but through Christ there can be new life.  There can be eternal life.  You sir, are only temporary.  You will be no more.  You will cause no more tears, no more pain, no more feelings of “they are gone to soon.”  You will be swallowed up in victory because of what Christ has done.  You are done, Cancer. You are done.

Yes, you may very well take from us those we love.  You may very well continue for a short time to ravage our bodies and those whom we care so dearly for, but you will not have the last word.  The last Word comes from The Word made flesh, and He said “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).  Cancer, you cannot take that away.  So, while you may devastate us and try to stomp us out, I want you to remember that I very much do hate you, and while you may rob me or my loved one of life here on earth, you will never be able to rob us of our eternal life.  Your time is coming, Cancer.  There is nothing you can do to stop it.  Oh, and in case you have not heard our mantra, just let these words echo in your ears, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  Death may come to us, but our life will be eternal.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol? 

Sometimes, yes.

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

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

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

Sometimes, no.

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

Using Discernment:

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

2016 is shaping up to be one of the wildest election years in American history.  I also believe it may very well be the most important one as well.  Our country is at a tipping point morally, spiritually, and financially.  We have not reached the point of no return, but with another 4 to 8 years with a bad president we may well be heading that direction.  The truth is no single man (or woman) will be able to pull the country back or topple it forward.  The president is simply the face of the majority of Americans who decide to vote.  The president’s policies come from the heart and outpouring of those who voted for him.  This is one of the reasons this election matters so much.  It will be a litmus test to see where we really are as a country.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a very political person.  I do my part and vote each election year, but I leave it in the Lord’s hands.  The writer of Proverbs says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).  We are blessed to live in a country where we are offered the liberty to vote for who will rule us.  This is truly a blessing.  Many people in the world do not have this right or ability, and I believe we as Christians should be some of the first ones in the voting lines.  However, we must not simply go there and vote party lines, or vote because Fox News or CNN has told us who a good candidate is.  We need to be informed . . . not just on the person but on what they believe as well.  When we go into the booth we go in as citizens of a kingdom first, and not a nation.  While we are citizens in the United States, we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God, and if we are going to honor that citizenship, we must vote with that in mind first.  Since we have been given such a great responsibility I think we need to be sure to remember what is most important before we punch a chad, pull a lever, or push a button.  Here are 3 words to remember before you vote.

Integrity

Integrity has been defined as what you do when no one else is looking.  So many politicians have made promises just simply to get a vote, only to later renege on that promise; it is almost cliché to even talk about it.  The epistle writer James said “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation”  (James 5:12).  Integrity is a quality that we should be looking for in a presidential candidate . . . even if the person is saying something that we disagree with, we should at least be able to trust what they are saying.  There are many candidates out there that have flipped and flopped on issues more than an Olympic high-diver trying to win a gold medal.  While we are not voting for a pastor and chief, the person we vote for should be a man of integrity.

Morality

There are some who want to say that morality is fluid (always changing) or is up for every individual to decide.  As Christians, we know where morality comes from.  It is not made or legislated on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Morality is something that a moral God has given us in His divine Word.  Murder is always immoral (abortion or an unjust war for example).  Racism is always immoral.  Stealing is always immoral.  Lying is always immoral.  Now, it is true that we can all fall into the trap of these sins from time to time if we are not careful, but when you recognize it as sin, it must be repented of.  However, there are some candidates that have a pattern of these immoral acts, or at least support them positionally.  If a candidate supports immorality or has a pattern of it themselves, should we really cast our vote for them?  I don’t believe Jesus would vote for a grossly immoral candidate.

Wisdom

If a person is to be the President of the United States they need to be wise.  This does not mean they have to have all the answers themselves.  A wise person understands their short comings (Proverbs 11:14), and surrounds themselves with wise council (Proverbs 15:22).  As Christians we do not need to vote for someone just because they speak well, or look good in a suit.  We see where that got Israel when it came to King Saul (I Samuel 9:2).  No, we need to look for someone who is wise, and for us we know that the beginning of wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.  Again, we are not voting for a pastor and chief, but a commander and chief . . . so they do not have to agree with every theological doctrine that we do, but for them to be a good president, wisdom must be applied.

There are many different factors that should be considered when casting our vote this coming March and November.  However, when you go into your voting booth I hope that you will remember these three words; Integrity, Morality, and Wisdom.  I believe this to be the most important election we have seen in our lifetime (and possibly ever).  Please go out and vote.  Please vote with conviction.  Vote as a citizen of heaven before voting as one from the U.S.  For our kingdom is not of this world . . . but while we are here let’s vote in a way that would honor our true King.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell