Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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

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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

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

I believe that God is sovereign over all.  That means that He has infinite control over the smallest details of my life just as much as the big ones.  It is good to teach about this truth and it is good to believe this truth.  But when the truth of God’s sovereignty hurts us or takes us by surprise, it could cause us to bring into question the things that we once believed so strongly.

Consider these questions:

When a member of your family is tragically killed, is God still sovereign and good?

When your loved one is suffering to the point that you are praying for the Lord to just take them home, is the Lord still good?

When the sovereignty of God crashes into what would have been considered our happy Christian life, do we still see the Lord’s sovereignty as something to boast about?

Even in times of great trial, God’s control is something that we all should lean on and hold to. Below are three things to think about when dealing with God’s sovereignty and calamity:

The Lord Sympathizes With Our Pain

            We have a God that knows us perfectly, is always with us, and has created us uniquely (Psalm 139:1-18).  He is an intimate Father who cares for His children.  He sent His only begotten son, Jesus, to die in the place of murderers, God-haters, and adulterers.  His perfect Son was substituted for us, an unholy people.  Jesus not only died, He died the worst possible death, an innocent Man, crucified on the cross.  It is upon this same Jesus that we are to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).  The Lord clearly cares for His people.  Some want to say that God’s sovereignty paints a picture of a malicious dictator.  On the contrary, when you understand how intimate God really is you will find Him to be less of a tyrant and more of a loving father.  When His plans run counter to yours, just remember that His love for you has not faltered.  Most of us never doubted our earthly father’s love for us even if we didn’t always understand his ways.  It should be the same with our heavenly Father.  We can rest in the fact that He sympathizes with our pain.  He gave up His own Son to be beaten and die because that was the only way to have His people redeemed.

A Christian Gives Up Right Of Ownership

In Romans chapter 6, Paul reminds us that we were once slaves to sin, having a skewed view of personal freedom. Through Christ we have now become slaves of righteousness, owing our life to the Lord.  If you, by faith, call upon the name of the Lord for salvation, you are giving yourself over to Him and His kingdom.  The Lord sometimes deems it necessary for His glory and His plan to shake up our life with what may seem like unbelievable tragedy.  We must remember that we signed up to have His will be done before our own.  Does this mean that we do not go before Him and petition for the life of our loved one?  In no way!  But in the end, we must remember that we have no right to say when a person lives or dies.  He is the architect of all of life.  He is the giver and taker of life.  When we give up our ownership for something better, namely a relationship with God, we must understand that God’s ways are so much higher and better than our own.  We are no longer the owner of our own life.  We have sold ourselves into the service of the One who is always good and faithful.  His ways are best and can be trusted.

The Lord Works All Things For Good

In times of tragedy some well meaning person may quote Romans 8:28 to you.  Paul said, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  While it may be a true verse, it may not bring much comfort to you at the time of a death or another heartbreaking situation.  The verse is, however, key for a broad, proper understanding of God’s sovereignty.  Sometimes in God’s goodness He allows us to see His master plan during seemingly terrible events.  Other times He does not.  The one thing we can trust in is that no matter if we understand all of life or not, He does.  By His very character He is always good.  He is long-suffering.  He is the embodiment of love itself.  Tragedy is a byproduct of sin most of the time.  It is hard to see the Lord working His sovereign will through a situation when clear sin is involved (murder, abortion, unjust firing from a job), but even then God in His wisdom truly is working all things for the good of His name and His people.

The complete sovereignty of God is a wonderful biblical truth.  It has brought my family through some tough times in recent months.  Holding to it does not promise you a life of complete happiness.  What it does promise is to bring a certain amount of peace within life’s storms.  We must always remember that the Lord is in control of the hard times in life and all the good ones, as well.  If you are ever tempted to be angry with God over a terrible situation, just remember all of the wonderful times that He has blessed you with, for those times were His sovereign hands at work too.  When the sovereignty of God collides with your happy little life remember that we can go to Him . . . that we can trust Him . . . and that we can fall at His feet and know that He is with us.

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

Recently I was watching one of those home buying shows with my wife.  We enjoy sitting at night and watching a show like that on Netflix to just wind down from the day.  In several episodes of late I have noticed a trend; many young families looking to buy a new home do not see a need for having a formal dining room.  Not that there is anything special about a formal dining room.  We in America like our houses big in comparison to most homes in the world.  I am not advocating the need for a big home, but rather, seeing this pattern made me think about what a dining room symbolizes.  To me, it symbolizes family.  I can count on one hand how many times my family growing up ate around the dining room table.  We would sometimes eat together, but it was always on TV trays in front of some show.  I remember once I was grown thinking that if the Lord allowed me to have a family, I wanted to make it a regular routine to eat as a family around the dinner table.  It seems that for many, the family table has gone the way of the dinosaurs.  I believe there is still great value in having a family table and using it often.  Here are a few reasons why I believe we should still be eating our meals around the table.

It is a place of teaching:

            There are many valuable lessons that can be taught at the family table.  The children learn to allow adults to have conversation without them having to be the center of attention.  The children learn to interact with adults in a proper way.  It allows the children to see how grownups interact with each other.  It also allows the children to learn to sit still . . . which is not always an easy lesson with three boys under the age of five in the Burrell home.  Finally, it is a good place for the children to learn how to pray.  We pray before each meal, and the child often get a turn in repeating after my wife or me when we pray.  It is a great place for teaching.

It is a place to show appreciation: 

Growing up, I remember my little family often going to four different rooms of the house to eat.  We would just grab our food and go our own ways, never really giving thought to the time and effort my mother put into cooking the meal.  One tradition we have in our home is that we try to show the cook our appreciations by giving them “Harrumphs” (saying harrumph and softly hitting the table at the same time) to show our appreciation for the good food.  This is not always the most elegant thing, but we want the cook (most often my wife) to know that we are grateful she has taken the time to prepare such a wonderful meal for the family.  We want the cook to know that their work is appreciated.

It is a place that shows time with family has value:

            We live in a very busy world.  Most parents get less than 15 minutes of meaningful conversation each week with their children.  The family is pulled in a million different directions.  My wife and I decided before we ever wed that we wanted to put a high priority on family life.  We are selfish, and fail at it often, but we believe that having our meals together each day should be a priority.  We believe that family time is valuable.  We believe that it should be fought for, because so often it is fought against.  We are blessed to be able to have 2 or 3 half hour meals together each day (my job affords that luxury).  This helps us to keep our family as a priority but it also shows our children that time with them matters. Time with the family is valuable.

It is a place for family worship:

            There are many places a family can choose to do their devotion together.  There is no one place better than another, but for us it works out to do it at the dinner table.  We often do it either after breakfast, or after our dinner.  The most important thing is that you do.  The dining room table works well for us.  It allows the little ones to have a place to put their hands.  It provides the older ones with fewer distractions (no toys or electronics at the table).  It allows us to just focus on the Lord and enjoy time with Him and each other while worshiping Him.  The dinner table is, for us, a place of worship.

We love the family table.  We laugh there.  We cry there.  We pray there.  We sing there.  We learn there.  We play games there.  We make messes there.  We do a lot there.  It is a wonderful place that I think way too many people are missing out on.  It is after all just a table, but what it represents for my family is so much more.  Where do you eat as a family?  Where do you worship as a family?  I encourage you to think about gathering your family around the dinner table, if you do not already, and just see what kind of memories you can make there.  I hope you don’t let your family table go the ways of the dinosaurs.  I hope you make memories, and not fossils of that old piece of wood.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell.