Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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.

Have you ever wondered what the day in and day out life of a Christian is supposed to look like?  We know the big commands like “Go and make disciples,” and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”  However, we don’t have a lot of texts that show us how to do these things in the day-to-day life.  In my particular denomination (SBC) sometimes we have a tendency to elevate our foreign missionaries to a very high level.  If we are not careful, we can make them out to be “Super Christians.”  I do not want to downplay the sacrifice required of all of our missionaries, but I also want to be careful not to elevate them to a place that is not God-honoring either.  God has called every single Christian to certain standards.  He has called us all to do a certain job.  The missionary has no higher calling than the school teacher if God has called you to teach school for His glory.  So, just what does that normal Christian life look like for both the factory worker and the pastor . . . the missionary and the stay-at-home mom?

Watchman Nee, a church leader and Christian teacher who worked in China during the 20th century, wrote a book nearly 100 years ago entitled “The Normal Christian Life.”  In it he wrote, “I do not consecrate myself to be a missionary or a preacher.  I consecrate myself to God to do His will where I am, be it in school, office, or kitchen, or wherever He may, in His wisdom, send me.”  I believe there is great wisdom in this saying.  If we want to see what this looks like, what the “The Normal Christian Life” looks like, I believe we can look at Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Thessalonica in I Thessalonians 4:1-12.  He provides three commands for them that are just as applicable today as they were 2000 years ago.

Be Pure (I Thess. 4:3-8)

To be specific, he tells them and be sexually pure.  The word Paul uses here for sexual purity covers every type of sexual sin imagined (if you want a list see Deuteronomy 22).  The Christian who lived in Thessalonica lived in a very sexually perverted society, which is not that different from the world we live in today.  His instructions to them were simple . . . God has called us to remain pure, and thus you need to remain pure in this area, even if your culture does not.  Today we need to be reminded of this as well.  Recently statistics have shown that over 50% of men within the church look at pornography on a regular basis, and 30% of pastors have admitted to having an extra marital affair with someone within the church.  These statistics are scary and very disheartening.  A person cannot have a growing and thriving relationship with God while being sexually impure at the same time.  The normal everyday Christian (From John Piper to Jimmy Wright) has been called to be sexually pure . . . day in and day out.  You want to be a disciple of Jesus? . . . Be pure.

Be Loving (I Thess. 4:9-10)

The second command Paul gives is to be a person who loves much and loves well . . . specifically to his brother in Christ.  They had been taught by God through scripture and the example of Jesus, as well as the example of Paul when he lived with them.  They had already been doing a good job of this, yet Paul tells them to do it even more.  If we want to know what a disciple of Christ looks like and how one is to act . . . it must start and end with love.  Why did the Lord give the spiritual gifts?  He gave them for the outbuilding of the church.  What is the greatest commandment and the 2nd that is like it? . . . Love.  If we want to live a normal Christian life we need to be a people who are known for our love.  People should know we are Christians by our love . . . our actions toward others.  A disciple of Christ is one who loves the Lord so much that they desire to show their devotion to Him by loving others.

 Be Diligent (I Thess. 4:11-12)

The last command that we see is a call for diligence among all of God’s people.  He says that we are to be diligent in living a quiet life, minding our own business, and working hard.  There are many commands throughout scripture that go along with these charges.  One of my favorites is found in II Thessalonians 3:10.  It says, “for even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (This rule works great with children, by the way, when they don’t want to clean their room.)  Christians above all people should be a person that does not want to bring attention to themselves, but at the same time tending closely to what the Lord has given them to do as a vocation according Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When we understand that our salvation is completely from the Lord and whatever we do we should give Him glory in . . . it should make us want to be diligent in it.  This is a normal everyday thing that the Lord has called us to.

Sometimes we over spiritualize what the Lord has called us to do.  Because we still battle with our flesh at times it is easy to let a bit of pride creep up in our lives and feel like we want to be noticed.  However, I believe Tim Challies has given some good advice when he said that we need to “Be content to be unremarkable.”  In a day and age when we elevate Christian pastors and musicians to a level that many believe they will never be able to attain it seems like a good time to remind us all that God may have called us all to different vocations . . . but He has called us all too certainly live the normal Christian life.  If you want to live a life that is pleasing to God you need to be sure to Be Pure, Be Loving, and Be Diligent.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell