Archive for the ‘Life’ 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

At some point in time in life you have probably had a friend or acquaintance that seemed to have no real positive value in your life.  Instead of building you up, they seem to tear down.  Instead of pushing you on toward holiness, they drag you back toward worldliness.  Instead of making your more like Christ, they end up encouraging you to make devilish decisions.  These relationships can be toxic.  Yet, even when you know they are toxic, it can still be hard to discern how to deal with them.  Do you simply cut them off?  Do you stay in the relationship (often to your detriment) in hopes of changing them?  Do you simply just deal with it and the inevitable consequences that will follow because of the relationship?  I believe Scripture provides some definitive answers when it comes to these types of toxic relationships.  Here are a few things to consider.

Consider What Bad Relationships Can do to You

Weather it be a friend, a family member, or someone that you are romantically involved with, whoever you choose to spend your time with will influence you.  Solomon reminds us that “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” in Proverbs 13:20.  This indicates that those who are influenced by fools often become foolish themselves.  Paul reminds us what bad company can do as well when he writes this warning to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (I Corinthians 15:33).   Choosing to stay close friends with bad company often leads an otherwise “good” person to do bad things.  Some of these bad things can even lead to great harm.  Look no further than Psalm 1 for this truth.  The man who doesn’t walk, stand, nor sit with the wicked in agreement is said to be “blessed.”  Yet the wicked, who do these things, their way ends poorly.  The writer simply writes that they, “will perish.”  Both Old Testament and New Testament writer provide the same warning: bad relationships can cause great harm to both the soul and body of the persons who are in them.  This is what a bad relationship can do.

Consider What you Might Need to do With These Relationships

You may know that the relationship is not positive, but what can you do about it?  Maybe you have been friends for years.  Yet, what is more important, your relationship to them or your relationship with the Lord?  If they are having a negative effect on your relationship with God, something must be done.  I would tell you to take your soul into account.  Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (II Corinthians 13:5).  If this relationship is causing you to sin and you have noticed that you are growing callused to your sin, you need to stop and examine your faith.  If your faith isn’t calling your into warrior-like action against sin, you may well not have genuine saving faith.  It is a scary thing to know that on judgment day that there will be many who cry “Lord, Lord” yet know Him not.  This is why an examination is needed.

After you examine yourself, and if you find yourself to be in the faith it may be time to take some extreme measures in this relationship.  Jesus, in the most famous sermon ever preached, uses hyperbole to express how big a deal it is to get sin under control.  While talking about lust he says, “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out . . . if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off” (Matthew 5:28-30).  He is not suggesting physical self mutilation but rather, spiritual mortification.  While this text is directly speaking to sexual sin, the principle can also be applied here by extension.  If your friendship or romantic relationship is toxic, it may be time for a complete detox so as to provide your spirit with the proper nourishment it needs.  Bad relationships most often drain spiritual nourishment, and don’t replenish. It may well be time to cut off this relationship altogether.

Consider How to Help Those Relationships

It is likely that these toxic relationships simply need to end.  The Proverbs are filled with wisdom on this topic.  However, how do you do that in a God honoring way?  The writer of Hebrews says, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Pursue peace with them.  Explain to them that your relationship with the Lord is suffering and that you need time to focus on Him.  Explain that your current relationship isn’t helping with this.  They may or may not respond to that well, but they need to see your priority is to please God rather than man.

Secondly, you should pray for your friend.  This is one of the areas where Paul commands Timothy to pray.  He writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (I Timothy 2:1).  If you are a believer, you have access to the throne room of God that allows you to intercede on their behalf.  You likely, need to have them out of your life for some time physically, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop caring for them in the way of prayer. This is a great way to show that you love them.

Finally, the best possible thing that you could do for them is to present the gospel to them.  The great commission demands us to go and make disciples.  Your friend needs more than good morals, they need the gospel.  They don’t need your friendship as much as they need the favor of the Father.  This is their only hope.  So, pursue peace though explaining your need to back away, pray for them, and if possible present the gospel to them as well.

At best we only get 80-100 years here on earth.  That is actually a very short amount of time when you think about it.  With so little time here, why would you waste it on a toxic relationship?  The Lord has called us to be both salt and light.  We are told to engage the world, but at the same time not to be conformed to it.  So, yes, seek genuine friendships with people who may not be like you . . . who may not even be Christians.  However, do not let them influence you in an unholy way.  If you see this type of toxicity, it is time to pull back from that which is providing the poison.   In a world where we are told that everything seems to be poisoning us (from our food to our water) our relationships are something that we have control over.  Choose what is healthy . . . avoid that which is toxic.  It seems like sound advice for what we put into our body.  Yet, how much more true is it when we think about our soul?

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

My wife grew up being taught proper etiquette.  I grew up, well, not really caring about etiquette.  Early on in our marriage it caused some interesting conversations about why we do what we do.  Do we do it because it is culturally proper, or is there a deeper purpose?  When I would do something that was not considered “proper etiquette,” my wife would not always feel amused by it.  My response, more often than not, was “chapter and verse please.”  What I meant by that was, “proper etiquette” should be grounded in scripture and not just cultural acceptance.  Emily Post may have understood high class society in the early 20th century, but could she ground it in the Word?

Today, one would be hard pressed to look and see a world without cell phones.  We use them for business, for pleasure, and everything in-between.  Since this is true, shouldn’t there be some type of cell-phone etiquette?  This wonderful technology (the smart phone) has a way of connecting us to millions of people in the world at any second of the day, but it also has a way of dividing us and separating us into a type of real-life social isolation.  There is no reason to allow such a beneficial technology to cause us to lose our Christian decorum.  While Paul didn’t use an iphone, the idea of selfish desires wasn’t lost on him.  He wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).  When we decide to let face-to-screen interaction trump our face-to-face interaction we are not “counting others as more significant.”  What we really are saying is, “my need to see what this ping is telling me is more important than you.”  This is a lesson that I am still preaching to myself (I Corinthians 9:27).  I don’t have it mastered yet . . . but I am working on it.

There are three areas that I believe we can look to this text and apply it when it comes to smart-phone etiquette.

The Phone Call:

We have all been there.  We are standing talking to a friend, and we hear that familiar sound going off in our pocket.  We have no clue who it is, but we have that insatiable desire to pick it up.  That euphoric tug is so great that it causes you to pull it out, and at least glance at the caller ID.  Now, is this somehow sinful or wrong to look at the caller ID in the middle of conversation?  I would say, not always, but maybe.  Unless you are expecting an important phone call it would be wiser and more loving to wait and see who is calling you when there is a break in conversation.  The person standing in front of you is real.  They are there in the flesh, image bearers of God.  They are not made up of plastic and pixels.  If you are checking your phone out of curiosity and not necessity you may need to check your heart to see if that is a violation of the Philippians 2 teaching.  There are times when you need to be on call, but if you are just in regular conversation and you keep looking at your phone, or even worse, picking it up in the middle of the conversation, what is that saying to the person you are talking to?  Most likely, the call can wait.  Wait for a break in the conversation, and then check your phone.  It seems to be a good way to show love for your neighbor over yourself.

The Text Conversation:

Texting is one of the most convenient and often-used forms of communication today. Eighteen years ago texting was the new kid on the block and you actually had to pay for each text that was sent.  Today, the average person will send nearly 2,000 texts a month; or 66 a day in the U.S.  With that amount of texts being sent, there is always a chance for you to have your face buried in the phone sending a message.  Here is the picture again, you are talking with a close friend when the Pharaoh in your pocket comes screaming at you in the way of a vibration.  What shall you do?  Will you bow you knee to the Pharaoh’s command, or say “No, it can wait”?  Denying your inner, and near innate, desire to read your text while engaged with someone else is a real desire.  However, is it one that you should give yourself over to?  Paul reminds us that we are to “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.”  Thinking of someone else and denying your desires to check that last buzz on your phone is a godly act (I Timothy 4:7-8).  As a general rule of thumb . . . if it is that important, they will call.  If you receive a call just moments after a text, then that is a good enough reason to excuse yourself from the conversation to check and see what is needed.

The Social Media Post:

Social media can be addictive.  According to the latest research, roughly 60% of all social media is seen via your smart phone.  That is roughly an hour a day on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  Let’s set the scene: you are at a social event enjoying your time there.  The ding goes off . . . someone just shared your post.  People are starting to comment about your picture. You want to see what people are saying.  So you disengage, and find that comfortable and familiar place in front of the glow of your screen.  You don’t even realize it, but the world is spinning around right in front of you, all the while you are letting your thumb do its workout.  I have been there, I hate to admit it.  I have been there way too often.  I have fallen into the black hole of social media all while my children or my wife have been trying to get my attention.  Social media has its place, but when it causes us to count ourselves more significant than others, we have a major etiquette problem.  More than that, we have a sin problem.  If this is true, it is not something that we can agree to disagree on.  It is something that we must mortify.

Some Suggestions

  1. Recognize the problem. Seek the scriptures for answer.  Like I said, I believe Philippians 2:3-4 has the answer to most of our cell phone etiquette problems.  If we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, we need to let Scripture speak to our smart phone habits.
  1. Have a set plan.  Know what you are going to do before the phone rings, dings, or pings.  Don’t just know the plan, but stick to it.
  1. Turn off all notifications.  If you want to know who all likes your post, you can do that at a designated time.  We must always remember that we own our cell phones, they don’t own us.  Yet, when we leave on all of our notifications, it can be a real test of ownership when she comes calling.
  1. See face-to-face interaction as valuable.  Don’t let your plastic mistress rob you of the joy of being face to face with your family and friends.  No screen time will ever be able to take the place of face time.

We live in a day and age where the cell phone rules the day.  Let us never forget that Scripture has an answer for every area of our life.  If there is any advice that I could give (not just you but myself as well) in the way of cell phone etiquette, it would be from the lips of Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there.”  Don’t get sucked into your phone at the expense of the people around you.  You tell your phone what you want it to do and make sure that it listens.  Wherever you are, don’t let your smart phone take you away from there.  It isn’t proper etiquette and it really isn’t Christ-like either.

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

On Monday, August 21st many people in North America will get to experience the rare phenomenon of a complete solar eclipse.  They are rare indeed and if you are fortunate enough to be within the path of totality you are sure to be in for an unforgettable experience.  The last time it happened in North America was in 1979.  For many, this is a very big deal.  People from all around the world are flocking to towns all over the U.S. to enjoy these minutes of darkness and everything that surrounds it.  It is sure to be spectacular as long as the clouds cooperate.  However, for the Christian this eclipse can be seen from a much different and much brighter light.  It is not just an event that is seen in light of astronomy, but one that screams the glory of God and His great Gospel.  The psalmist David wrote in Psalm 19:1-6 about how the heavens declare the glories of God.  I believe the king’s psalm perfectly expresses the coming events that will be seen in the eclipse.  As you prepare to watch this great heavenly appearance, I would encourage you watch it in all of its wonder in the light of God’s Word.

The Great Event:

From start to finish there will be something just a little different about your surroundings for roughly 3 hours if you are close to the sun’s path.  It will be noticeable, but subtle to begin with.  Notice what David said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge,”(1-3).  During the few minutes of totality something amazing will happen.  The temperature will fall.  The sun will be hidden.  The stars will shine as bright as they do in the dead of night.  For those few minutes, everything will seem as if it was midnight.  After those momentary seconds have passed, the sun will once again begin to shine, and the eclipse will wane.  During this spectacular event, watch and see how God’s glory is pronounced.  Watch and see the sun, the moon, and the stars all in the matter of just a few minutes.  His sky, which the Father spoke into existence, and the Son holds together (Colossians 1:17) will be shouting the glory of His name.  His handiwork will be seen by millions upon millions of on-lookers.  Without words, both the day and the night will scream that this is the work of our mighty Creator.  The event that many are coming to see started in eternity past. . . yet we get to be the beneficiaries of seeing His glory on display in a special way.

The Great Distance:

Around 9:00 AM residents on the coast line of Oregon will be the first to see this great wonder.  Over the next several hours the sun will span the distance of more than 2500 miles to the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina.  During its travel it will pass through major cities, small towns, and everything in between.  We travel around the sun once every 365 days, but in this Psalm, David reminds us that the message goes beyond the direct path of the Eclipse.  The message of God’s created world extends to every part of the world,  “ . . . their line has gone out through all the earth and their utterances to the end of the world.  In them He has placed a tent for the sun,”(4).  People are traveling from every part of the world great distances to partake in this celestial occurrence.  Although not everyone will be able to see it personally, it will be seen from every part of the world due to modern technology.  While most are focusing on the sun and the rarity of this heavenly event, let us remember the great distance the Lord came to reveal Himself not just through nature, but through the true Son.  Getting to see the sun and moon in all of its glory is a wonderful thing, but the Lord will be using it in every part of the world to ultimately magnify Himself.

The Great Picture: 

The Psalmist writes in verse 5-6, “ . . . which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”  Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is often pictured as the bridegroom.  Here, David makes the same illusion to the sun.  It “runs his course” and “its rising is from one end . . . to the other . . . nothing is hidden from its heat.” The same can be seen in the S-O-N.  During the eclipse the earth will go dark.  The sun will be hidden, almost as if it has been defeated and swallowed up by darkness, if only for 3 minutes.  When Jesus came, and died it was indeed a dark moment for the followers of the great Rabbi of Nazareth, but 3 days later the Son broke through.  The Son rose from the darkness of sin and the grave.  With Him, He brought victory for all of His people.  Now, He calls His own out of darkness and into marvelous light (I Peter 2:9).  This is the Gospel, and it will be on full display if we are truly looking on Monday.  It will be a wonderful picture of creation, the fall, redemption, and the consummation.

Monday’s event will surely be something to behold.  It will indeed be a special event to witness.  It’s worthy of pulling your kids out of school, and even taking off work if possible to go and participate in a near once-in-a-lifetime event.  However, if you go and see it just for the wonder of creation, you could miss an opportunity to truly glory in the wonder of the Creator.  God’s glory and His gospel will be on full display for the world to see as the sun and the moon do their dance, but while you’re watching from Anderson, South Carolina or your computer screen, be sure to take a moment and take the Gospel in while listening to the voice of David making melody in your soul.  Take a moment to worship the Lord . . . because if the sun is truly something to marvel at, just imagine what the S-O-N is like.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell

Within the last few weeks there has been a new wave of social media videos that many people are talking about.  In a day and age when smart phones are more abundant than smart decisions it seems it is easy to take a video in hopes of trying to get your 15 minutes of fame.  Recently, these videos have turned from simply surprising someone on their birthday, to torturing a mentally handicap person or live-feeding your own suicide.  What often perpetuates these videos is the fact that even news stations pick up because of their popularity and show these horrific videos.  After this they are spread all over social media.  It is a horrible cycle.  One might think that Christians might be immune from such clickbait, but it seems that many Christians are watching these videos as well.  My questions are: to what end does it bring us as Christians?  Should we be entertained by such graphic scenes?  Should we willfully subject ourselves to watch one of our brothers in Christ have their head decapitated?  Should we be watching the latest high school fight video and laugh with glee when some kid is slammed to the ground whether they deserved it or not?  What should our response be to these videos?  I believe there are a few things to consider before you decide to click on that next graphic video.

Should We Thirst for Violence?

One might say that there is violence in the Bible.  Just look at Samson, or even David who was a man after God’s own heart, after all.  They were men of violence.  There is no doubt that there are violent scenes in scripture.  The Bible clearly says that there is a “Time for war” as Solomon wrote, but let us not forget that the Lord told David that he would not be the one who built God’s temple, because of so much violence (1 Chronicles 28:3).  What was one of the reasons God destroyed the world?  “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth,” said the Lord in Genesis 6.  Finally, Jesus told Peter, “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”  It is obvious that violence (even if that is violence to one’s own body), is not a Christian virtue.  There are times when it is necessary, but it is never something that we should watch with joy.  Violence should make us long for our conquering King to come and put an end to it all, not get our kicks from it.      

How is this Keeping the Second Greatest Commandment?

In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was.  He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  This is indeed a great commandment.  However, he didn’t stop there.  With the same breath he said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The question is, when we click on that “Warning! Graphic Video” link, how are we keeping this commandment of God?  By watching a despicable video of some kid getting punched, or someone walking out in front of a train . . . how is that showing love for your neighbor?  These are people who bear the image of our Maker.  Even if we are just watching this video so we can talk to others about it, in a way we are being entertained by it.  You may not laugh, or even feel good about what you are seeing, but we are putting our desire to see the latest news (gossip) first over the dignity of our neighbor.  How is this loving?  We can still be informed about events, and not partake in a worldly way.  Loving our neighbor is a command, and watching their demise is not a good way to show that love.

Is What You are Seeking Pure?   

Paul told the people of Philippi, “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,” (Philippians 4:8).  Most of these clickbait “graphic videos” do not fall into the category of true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praise worthy, do they?  One of the best ways that I have found to help me discern if I should watch something like this is to ask, “Would I watch this with Jesus?”  If the answer is no, then it is clear that it is not something you should be watching either.  If these videos are not helping you to conform to the image of Christ, it may be that they are helping you conform to the patterns of this world.  That is a step in the wrong direction.   Many of these self-exploiting videos have no purity to them at all, and if this is the case, then we should be very careful not to fill our minds and hearts with images that ultimately were the cause of Jesus’ death upon the cross.  We have enough sin in our own lives that we need forgiveness for.  Do we really need to watch others’?

Violence and graphic content either to oneself or to someone else is not something we should glorify.  In the movie Gladiator (I understand the irony), after swiftly dispatching his opponents, Maximus asks the crowd, “Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” This is the question that we need to think through today.  Are we entertained by the things that orthodox Christians have been ashamed of for centuries?  Are we entertained by watching things that Jesus had to die for?  The next time you are enticed to keep up with your friends by watching the latest explicit video, please ask yourself these questions.   Be informed yes, but be not conformed to this world.  Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”  It is not just those in these videos that will be judged, but also those getting some type of pleasure from watching them.  Be a good neighbor.  Be diligent.  Be on guard, Christian, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. I believe there is wisdom in creating safeguards:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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

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

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

In The Way We Pray:

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

In The Way We Sing:

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

In The Way We Teach:

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

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

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

It is that time of the year where many people are making a new commitment to save money, get fit, or read that book that has been sitting on the shelf since Christmas of 2008.  It is funny how a single number change on a calendar can promote such anticipation for change.  What is so different about the number 2016 rather than 2015?  Desire . . . a new beginning . . . a fresh start.  There is something about the one number changing that has people running to the gym to hit the weights, waking 30 minutes earlier to get in their devotion time, and making a tighter budget to actually save for Christmas next year instead of paying on that credit card bill for 3 months.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions each year.  Statistically, these resolutions usually last about 2 weeks.  Science tells us that it takes about 4 weeks to create a new habit that sticks.  So, what are some ways that we can make it to that 4 week wall and beyond?  Like many people, I have made and failed at many resolutions, but this year I am resolved to make them work (see what I did there?).   Here are 4 ideas that I believe will help us all to achieve our targets this year.

Have Realistic Goals:

If you are planning on dieting this year, don’t plan on trying to lose 5 pounds a week.  While you may lose 5 the first week, once you get into it a month or so that is hard to maintain.  It would be better to have a plan to lose 10 pounds in a month, so that if you only lose 3 that first week instead of 5 you do not fall off the wagon.  If you decide that you want to read the Bible more, plan on reading 3-5 chapters a day instead of 10-12.  If you end up missing a couple of days because you are sick, it is a lot easier to make up 3 chapters than 12.  For many people, if they get behind on their resolution, they give up.  If you make realistic goals, it is a lot easier to actually stick to them.

Have Others Hold You Accountable:

Maybe you have struggled with pornography.  You have decided that this is the year that you put down an Ebenezer stone and look no more.  One of the tools that the Lord has given us to help defeat sin is each other.  The writer of Proverbs wrote, “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  The Lord has given you brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to bear one another’s burdens.  By having someone that is willing to ask you hard questions, pray for you, and encourage you, you can make looking at porn a thing of the past.  It is the Holy Spirit’s work to help kill the sin in you, and having good accountability with a godly friend is one of the tools He can use.

Have a Plan to Help in Your Self-discipline:

One of the biggest reasons a person stops pursuing their new resolutions is from a lack of self-discipline (I speak from experience).  One of the great things about this is that your self-discipline can grow as you grow closer to God.  Self-control, or self-discipline, is the ninth Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  If you want to grow in this area, get in the Word, and be conformed to the image of God through it.  But until you are there, you need to have a plan.  If you want to stop drinking caffeine this year and you know that you always cave when you are around it, do not buy it or have it in your home.  Bring a water bottle with you to work so you are not tempted to go to the enticement machine, I mean vending machine, at work for your afternoon pick-me-up.  If you know that you lack self-discipline, get into the Word, but also have a plan to escape temptation to begin with.

Have a Daily Prayer Time:

James told his audience, “You have not because you ask not . . .” (James 4).  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  If you want to lose weight, then pray and ask the Lord to give you strength to overcome that 2:00 PM craving for a candy bar.  Do you want to work out and get in shape?  Then pray that the Lord will help you get up when that alarm goes off at 5:30 AM and get to the gym.  We are not called to lean on ourselves in all things, but rather to take all things to the Lord in prayer (Philippians 4:6) who loves to give good gifts to His children.  If you want to keep that New Year’s resolution, one of the best ways to do that is to pray.

Change is hard.  It takes work.  It takes discipline.  However, there is something about having the new date on a new calendar that motivates us to change.  That is a good thing.  We often need motivation.  So this year, here’s hoping that the changes that we are all so excited about the first week of January will last into March, June, and eventually to a lifestyle change.  It is my plan to apply these four suggestions this year, and I hope you do as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

October 31st . . . for much of America this day means dressing up and eating candy until you literally get a cavity overnight.  This is true for both the churched and the un-churched in many places.  However, this date means something different from some Christians (such as myself).  October 31st is Reformation Day; the day that Martin Luther took his stand against the Roman Catholic Church and nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517.  It was a day that marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  This 31st day means different things for different people.  I am not setting out to argue for or against the tradition of “trick or treating.”  My family has chosen to not participate most years; however, a recent conversation with my mother has caused me to consider an alternative approach to the day.  It was such a brilliant idea that I thought I would share it with those who may decide to join in the candy grabbing tradition.

Here is the idea:  When your children go trick-or-treating (assuming they want to treat instead of trick), use it as an opportunity to have a gospel conversation.  Take a Bible tract, church information card, or even a Bible to give to each person or home that you visit.  Instead of just getting something delicious that will only last a short while, present them with the bread of life that can sustain them for eternity.  There is no doubt that this kind of thing could (and should) be done every day of the year, but I believe that this day can be used and capitalized on.  Below are three reasons why.

This is the one time a year you have an open invitation to knock on someone’s door. 

            We live in a day and time where we are more and more inclusive than ever.  We are so busy in our lives that our homes have become a place of seclusion instead of a haven for friends and family.  Front porches are smaller, man caves are more popular, and many do not even know what a welcome mat is.  However, on this day, many openly welcome you to their home.  They welcome you to ring their door bell or knock on their door.  They do not run and hide as if you are a Jehovah’s Witness.  They eagerly wait for you with an open door and an open bowl of candy.  Can you think of a better time than this to bear witness to Christ by inviting them to your church, giving them a gospel tract, or giving them a Bible?  This is an open invitation.

This is the one time a year you can talk freely to a stranger.

It goes something like this; “Ding Dong . . . oh look at you.  Let’s see, we have a princess, a construction worker (who is actually Thor from the Avengers), and a little bearLet me give you some candy.  Now, just take one each . . .”  They have engaged your children in conversation.  A perfect stranger has given you the opportunity to speak to them, in their home.  How hard would it be for your older children to say, “Oh thank you so much and we would like to give you this card that has information about our church on it.  I don’t know if you know Jesus, or attend a church, but we would love to invite you to ours.  Thanks again, and God bless.”  Do you think that would leave an impression?  You don’t often want your children talking to strangers, but this is the one time of the year that they can benefit from the opportunity.

This is the one time of the year that you actually go out as a family to specifically meet so many different people.

Let’s face it, while many people may have the intention to go door-to-door in their neighborhood to talk to their neighbors about the Lord, most of the time they never get around to it.  Here is the perfect opportunity to kill those preverbal birds with one stone.  You are already going to be taking your children door to door, use it as an opportunity to witness to your neighbor.  Let you children see you do it, so that they can in turn learn how to do it themselves.  It does not have to be a formal thing, but by at least initiating a gospel conversation you may open an opportunity for later conversation with them.  If you are going out anyway, use it for the glory of God.

Will this be a new Halloween (Reformation day) tradition for my family?  I am not sure of that yet, but I love the idea of it. So, will you join in this year?  I am sure your church would love to supply you with the needed tools if you don’t already have them yourself.  Instead of just focusing on family fun this year, use it as an opportunity to not just make memories with your kids, but make an impact for the Kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell