Archive for the ‘The Gospel’ Category

The word advent literally means “arrival”, and it refers to the arrival of Jesus into the world.  It is this time of the year where people all over the world celebrate Christmas.  For the Christian, it has a particularly special meaning.  This is the time that we get to celebrate our Lord’s birth.  According to what tradition you come from there are different ways to anticipate and celebrate this special day.  Whatever tradition you observe as a Christian, I hope you use it as a time to look to scripture and be filled with the joy that Jesus brings us.

Over the next month I would like to share a weekly thought or devotion to keep us looking forward to that special day.  Today, I would like to help us to remember His name and just who it is that came on that not so silent night.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on
His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

He Would Be Called Wonderful Counselor:

During Jesus’ 33 plus years here on earth he did many wonderful things.  He cast out demons.  He made the mute to speak.  He made the lame to walk.  He caused the blind to see.  He feed thousands with just a few fish and a couple loaves of bread.  He was full of mercy and awe.  He would not only instill awe because of his deeds but his teaching as well.  Even those who did not follow him understood his great council.  “The officers answered, ‘Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks’” (John 7:46).  Jesus truly was the Wonderful Counselor.

He Would Be Called Mighty God:   

Jesus is the God-man.  He is both 100% God and 100% man at the same time.  Claiming to be God caused others to want to kill him at times.  But there was no doubt that Jesus understood who he was and who the prophet Isaiah was pointing to when he said that he would be called “Mighty God.”  It was none other than Jesus himself.  There is no way of getting around it when Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:40).  What an excellent way of anticipating Jesus this season . . . knowing that He was fully divine.  What joy that should bring us.

He Would Be Called Eternal Father:

Jesus would be the eternal father to his people.  As the king from the line of David, he would care for and discipline his children.  To think of Jesus as our father is a glorious thought. Just as a father was to provide, protect, and instruct his children, Jesus would do the same for his people.

He Would Be Called Prince of Peace:

While there is not complete peace on earth today, we anticipate that one day when there will be peace on earth.  The Prince of Peace will come to make all things new.  He is the one that comes to bring peace within the soul of man.  None could have real peace apart from Him.  Paul said it right when writing to the Colossians, “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).  Jesus would come into this world to be king of it, and though him peace would eventually reign.

This week, let’s remember who it is that we say we worship.  Let’s remember that Jesus was indeed born a baby, but that was just the starting point.  He was born with a purpose.  As we anticipate the celebration of his arrival, let’s remember all of his glorious attributes, and not just the baby in the lowly manger.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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We have all said it.  We have all heard it said.  There is a difficult situation going on and every effort has been made to fix said situation.  We are at a loss, so now, “all we can do is pray.”  In my 15 years of ministry, I have said it dozens of times.  However, recently when I said it, I had a revelation of sorts.  Not the kind my Pentecostal friends might think of here, but more of illumination.  Saying “All I can do is pray” is to pray from a posture of defeat instead of a posture of strength.  When we pray we must remember who we are praying to and who we get to make our petition to.  This is no small thing.  We get to pray to the Sovereign of the universe who controls all things (Isaiah 45:7).  So, when we pray, even when it seems like we have exhausted all other resources, consider these few things first.

Remember the Place of Prayer

Paul wrote these three simple commands to the church in Thessalonica, “Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Paul does not tack prayer on at the end of the list of things for us to do.  He exhorts us to make it a place of primacy in our lives.  Prayer should be a part of our daily life, not just something we do when all else fails.  I know that is not what most people mean when “All we can do is pray” is said, but prayer is not just something that we should be doing when a situation gets bad, but something that should be done before, during, and after every circumstances in life.  Prayer is our primary way of communication with the Lord.  Go to him consistently and constantly.  Don’t wait until things get bad.  Go to him when they are good as well.  Rejoice . . . pray . . . give thanks.  This is our rightful place before God.

Remember the Power of Prayer

Scripture is filled with examples of what the Lord does though prayer.  By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Exodus 7-12).  By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored and he pushed down the pagan temple to kill his enemy (Judges 16:28).  By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men that were encamped around His people that were going to attack Israel (II Kings 19:35).  The Lord give His people two offensive weapons when fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:10-18). The first is scripture, which is primary.  The second is prayer, which is our second most powerful tool in our arsenal.  He has given us only two, because those are all that we need.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asked in his letter to the Romans.  The Lord is for us, and nothing or no one can separate us from His love.  Prayer is how we speak to the Lord.  He answers the pray of the righteous.  He fights our battles for us.  We stand in a place of victory because our Warrior King was victorious for us as our substitute and head.  Prayer is not our final weapon in battle that we toss out on the battle field like our last grenade hoping it finds the target.  No, it is more like the mighty trebuchet of old.  When it was employed in battle, the enemies tremble.  When we employ prayer, our enemy – our adversary – hates it.  He trembles at it (Luke 18:7).  So again, pray with power.

When we pray we can pray with confidence (Ephesians 3:12-13) that our Lord will hear us and answer us.  When we pray, let us remember to pray before, during, and after all situations in our life.  Don’t leave it until the end and start praying.  Next time you are at the end of your rope or you are trying to encourage a brother or sister in Christ with words consider reminding them that, “We still have prayer,” instead of “All we can do is pray.” I believe it is a different and helpful perspective.  I believe it is praying from a posture of strength and victory, instead of one of timid hope.  Pray continuously.  Pray confidently.  Pray as if you are armed with the powerful trebuchet, and leave the results to the Lord.

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

Have you ever thought about how much you learn from your mother? The lessons are endless, and if you were blessed to have a godly mother, the lessons could be of eternal significance. For my children, I believe they have the best mother they could have ever asked for. I know that I am partial since their mom happens to also be my wife. I love her for so many reasons, but one of the reasons that has found its way to the top of my list is that she is a theologian, and a good one at that. She doesn’t hold the patent on this. Her mother, my mother, and many other godly mothers could have this said of them as well. Every mother is a theologian. The question is, “are you a good one?” My wife, like many other moms who are seeking to please the Lord and help lead their children to the Lord, doesn’t get it right every time. The Lord still has a Niagara Falls-like reservoir of grace, even when she gets it wrong. However, here are a few ways where my wife hits the mark.    

A Theologian in the Mundane:

​My wife is at home with our 4 rowdy kids most all of the day. She has to clean up water bottle spills, PB&J crumbs, and be a nurse when they fall off their bikes and scrape up their knees. This is just normal everyday life for a mom. However, she tries to never pass up an opportunity to interject the gospel when possible during the day in and day out routine of life. Sometimes, she doesn’t realize that I am just around the corner listening to her. I once heard her explaining the importance of a wise choice to my son, based on the Proverbs comparison of the wise and foolish man, after he had done something foolish for the 5th time in an hour. Deuteronomy 6 says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” This is taking the opportunity to be a theologian, even in the mundane things of life.          

 A Theologian in Her Teaching:

​Not everyone has the opportunity to homeschool their kids. We are blessed with the ability to do so. One of the blessings of doing this is being able to have control over what you teach. Each morning we try to open our day with breakfast as a family, and a quick time of family worship. After I rush off to the office, they start their school day. Subject one is almost always the reading of the Proverbs. She will read a chapter from Proverbs, and the children will listen and color a coloring sheet that corresponds to the chapter. My children love it. What they don’t realize is that they are getting a steady diet of God’s Word while they enjoy coloring their sheet of paper. It is amazing to hear them talk about a verse in the Proverbs that stood out to them. Often my sons like the ones like Proverbs 30:17, “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.” That usually lends access to a fun conversation, but when they have eyes that are filled with anger they have often reminded us of this proverb. Why do they know this proverb, and other scripture? It’s because their mother is a theologian in her teaching.

A Theologian in Her Prayers:

If you have children, you know prayer is something that should be done often. How else do you expect to get through the 10th fight of the day over the same toy, or that crayon that was “accidently” drawn all over your new freshly painted wall? Parenting is not easy, but it is a blessing and a work of sanctification. One of the ways our children learn to pray is by example. Hearing the gospel in our prayers is a wonderful way to lead our children to know the gospel. However, it is not just the words that they hear; they also hear the heart behind it. Good theology is of little use if it is only of the mind and is not fleshed out in the heart and life of a person. My children not only hear scripture when their mother prays, but they see it portrayed as well. Often when they have had to be disciplined for something, she will stop and pray with them in a kind and loving way. This shows them that not only does she know about God, but her love for God is shown to them and is heard in her general prayers and petitions for them. She is a theologian in her prayers, and they hear it.      

A Theologian in Her Love:

​Good theology is best shown by the love it exhibits. Does having a proper understanding of grace help you to forgive quickly? Does it allow you to discipline your children when they have done wrong, but yet be followed by a long hug and kiss on the cheek? Does your doctrinal stance on the fall help you to love your unsaved children by pointing them to the gospel instead of just saying “oh, they are just kids, you know”? Does your knowledge of God being our father who loves to give great gifts to his children afford you the opportunity to get on the floor and play with your kids instead of folding that 5th load of laundry because your children just want some attention from you? A good theologian knows that the greatest commandment in scripture is to “love the Lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself.” Can you get a closer neighbor than your own child? I have seen it time and time again. My wife is tired, worn out, and still has house work to do, yet takes time to love on the kids. Love . . . that is good theology.

My wife is not perfect. She is born into sin like the rest of us. She struggles with fleshly desires and frustrations just like all other Christians. I do not wish to paint a fanciful picture of our home or my wife that is untrue. She has not “arrived” yet as a mother. She would tell you the same with much humility. However, there is no one else on the planet that I would rather have to be the mother to my kids. I never have to fear if she is leading them astray with some errant wind of doctrine. I know she is striving to live out her faith in the mundane, in the education of our children, in her prayers, and just in her general love for our young ones. It is evident in her walk as I watch as an on-looker. I am blessed, as are my children. If you are a mother, please remember that you are a theologian as well. I pray that you will take this aspect of your job seriously. After all, your children need good theology too. So, don’t just show them the love of God, teach it to them with words and actions as well. “. . . Teach them diligently to your children, . . . when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up . . .”

 Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell          

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Gospel in Your Prayers:

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

The Gospel in Your Family Worship:

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

The Gospel in Your Church of Choice:

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

The Gospel in Your Daily Walk:

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

The Gospel in Your Music:

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

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

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell