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When you hear the names King David, Alexander the Great, Caesar, or even President Trump, there is one word that could describe them all: power!  Just hearing their names denotes power.  There is power in a name.  There is one name that stands above them all.  It is not just a name, but also a title.  We find it given some 700 years before Jesus was ever born.  Isaiah wrote,

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child
and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

And they shall call him Immanuel . . . Isaiah explains that Immanuel means “God with us” a few verses later (Isaiah 8:10).  Just stop and think about that for a moment.  This means that God would be with us not just in spirit, but in body as well.  This is the same God that created the world (John 1:3).  This God would humble himself to become a human and dwell with us. This is a mind-blowing theological truth.  He didn’t have to come, but out of His love for the Father and the love for His creation, He came to live with us.

Before Isaiah knew all the details, he was looking forward to God’s presence, and in Matthew’s Gospel we find it coming to fruition.  Matthew is not looking forward to God’s presence, but he is presenting it.  Notice what he says,

“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’” – Matthew 2:22-23

Matthew is recording one of the most important (if not the most important) events in human history.  This is where we see God coming to dwell with us.  If He does not come to us, there is no going to Him.  If He does not come to us, there is no cross.  Without the cross, there is no salvation.

So what kind of power is in a name?  A lot; there is a lot of power in this name.  Immanuel is not just another name, but it is the greatest of names.  It tells us who Jesus was, and what He was going to do.  This Christmas season, when you sing the old 18th century hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” remember just what it is that you are singing.  You are singing about the advent of Jesus . . . you are singing about the Immanuel who literally came as a child but would go on to be our King, our Shepherd, our substitute, our portion, our God.  That is what is in a name.

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

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

Some times in life things just simply get frustrating and discouraging.  This is true for the newborn Christians as much as it is for the seasoned saint.  It can affect anyone from the average layperson to the experienced minister of the Word.  What do you do to get out of this spiritual valley?  I believe one of the best ways to come out of this season in your life and keep up the good fight for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of God is to remember . . .

Remember Your Salvation:

Remember that the Lord saved you when you did not deserve to be saved.  However, because of His love for you, he called you out of your sinful life to make you an instrument for him and give you a fully abundant life.  Remember that you are saved by God’s grace.  You were not just saved from something (yourself, and God’s wrath) but to something (good works).  When life gets frustrating, remember the sweet feeling of freedom the day the Lord called you to himself and you responded by faith.

Remember Your Calling:

God has not told you to bring great results, but to be faithful to the calling that he has given you (2 Thess. 1:11).  Results are his part of the deal.  Great numbers of salvation and disciples are great, but Jesus was still faithful in his calling even when all his disciples left him, Peter denied him, and his Father turned from him.  There are seasons when our life seems to flourish, and other times when it seems, in our eyes, to fail.  Nevertheless, if you are being faithful to God and allowing his Word to guide you in your decisions, then “do not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Remember Your First Love:

It is so easy to get so caught up in the small details that we forget the big ones.  Even if everything else in your life fails you, the Lord never will.  During a season of life when things are hard, press closer to the Lord.  Be in his Word.  Worship him in song.  Surround yourself with those who love you, but love the Lord even more.  Love your spouse well (if you have one).  Love your children well (if the Lord has blessed you with any), and rest in the fact that the Lord chose you for something.   He didn’t just save you and leave you alone, but he saved you and desires an ongoing relationship with you.  He is your first love . . . and the one that will never disappoint you (when you delight in him first and die to yourself).

So brothers and sisters, I hope that when you look back and remember that you can find rest in the Lord, but also be rejuvenated to take a fresh look at what the Lord is trying to tell you in the midst of your frustration.  Often the Lord uses these things in our lives to grow the fruits of the Spirit in us and conform us to his image.  Don’t fight that . . . just pray for wisdom and wait upon the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Homeschooling–what could be more challenging, more enjoyable, or more intimidating to a parent? It is a road of tremendous blessing but also of great sanctification for a family. In reflecting on 30 years of teaching my children I have seen many successes and failures, joys and sorrows, satisfactions and regrets. As I consider how to encourage the next generation of homeschoolers, there are two primary areas that come to mind that I feel are essential to your homeschooling success.

Refine Your Vision:

Why are you educating your children? What is your goal? What are you hoping to accomplish and instill in them?  Are we trying to turn out the most academically impressive young adults, or are we looking for children that are wise in the the things of God? I would submit to you that homeschooling is nothing less than the Christian discipleship of your children. It is your response to the command given to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord so that the future generation will declare His praises. It is essential to be continually evaluating to be sure that we stay on the right track. In a culture that exalts the wisdom of man, it is easy to stray off course and miss the training of our children in Godliness. Of course we all want our children to succeed academically, but that does not go far enough. God calls us to disciple our children in the fear of the Lord, for that is where true wisdom is found. We can instill much academic knowledge and miss the fear of God, with the results being disastrous for the next generation. No amount of academic achievement will comfort a parent if their child does not walk in the fear of the Lord.

Keeping your vision in view is what will sustain you on those wonderful days when children are sick, dishes are undone, the housework has fallen by the wayside, math has been bypassed, the mama is frazzled and your life seems like the aftermath of a hurricane. Those are the times you must be able to see that in all the chaos the most needful lessons were still taught, i.e., how to respond to every situation biblically with love, patience and grace, how to lean on the everlasting arms for strength, how to be an example to our children of peace in the chaos, and when we fail at that, we have the opportunity to display a heart of humble repentance before them. It is easy to become discouraged after days like this, but if you are instilling those spiritual lessons in your children, then that was a very profitable homeschool day! The math will come in time, but the character of the child is where the vision must be.

Keep Focused:

The second priority I want to emphasize is keeping focused. That is making sure we are aiming at the target we had in mind. Once you have your vision clearly before you it is a constant battle to refine and refocus your efforts to achieve it. It is so easy to get side tracked, and if we don’t check our trajectory we may well miss the mark we were hoping to hit. There are so many paths and detours along the way, so many different curricula, co-ops, conferences, and activities that it can be hard to discern where to spend your time, money and energy. We must be careful not to let the fun, the interesting or the latest homeschool craze pull us off track. We may often have to refuse things that may be good in order to reach for the best. Keep in mind how you will define whether you have been a successful homeschool parent or not. Will your success be defined by test scores or by whether your children are conformed to the image of Christ? Do you desire most for them to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

These words are not meant to negate the importance of striving for academic mastery, but we must keep first things first and the other things will follow. As your children grow in Godliness they will also grow in the pursuit of doing all for His glory, leading to applying themselves to do their best in every area of life. This is certainly the best road to their academic success as well as success in all other areas.

Final Thoughts:

Always remember where true wisdom is found. “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Philippians 3:8).

Homeschooling is definitely not an easy road, but the rewards are innumerable. Keep in mind the admonition of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Homeschooling can be a difficult and daunting task, but keep the words of the Psalmist before you continually, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6). Your children’s relationship with their Lord is worth every sacrifice! Do not grow weary in doing good.  Rest in God, teach the best, and continually reevaluate your trajectory and refine or pull back to improve your aim so you may hit the target. Always remember that you “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:14.)

Sincerely,

Desiree Sheats

Forty-two years ago when our first child entered the first grade, I was elated that finally he would be with us all day, since his dad and I were both public school teachers teaching at the same school that he attended.  Five years later another child began Kindergarten, and then yet another five years passed and our last child entered Kindergarten.  All of our children began and graduated from a public school.  They were all leaders and well- grounded in their faith in Jesus.  They made good friends with those who had similar morals, and they reached out to those who were not Christians.  Being followers of Christ, we talked about the things going on at school, and thought about the response we should have.  We were so grateful that our children took a stand against drugs, drinking, and pre-marital sex.  We prayed for them every day asking God to protect their minds and hearts from the evil one who desired to kill, steal, and destroy their faith in Christ.  They were able to be witnesses to students and staff by the way they lived their lives, and some lives have been changed forever, praise the Lord!

Today, however, the enemy seems to have a larger toe-hold in the world, and many of the children of Christian parents are turning from their belief in Jesus.  They are followers, not leaders, and their desire to “fit in” is the driving factor of their lives, not being obedient to Christ.  What their peers say is more important to them than what their parents say.  But, if a child is grounded in his/her faith, strong willed enough to take a stand for what is right and pleasing to God regardless of what stand others take, then that child would be a light in the public school and would probably thrive in that setting.  I believe that there are three areas that must be cultivated if you want your child thrive in a public school setting.       

Parents Must Pray:

Parents should pray, pray, pray for their children, asking the Lord to reveal His will for each of them.  Eventually all children must live in the real world, but they must be grounded sufficiently to withstand the devil.

Parent’s must Educated Their Children in God’s Word:

We must make sure that they have God’s word hidden in their hearts and that they understand how to use the Word to stand firm. That education comes from talks around the dinner table, talks while traveling, talks while taking a walk, talks when doing the dishes, etc (Deuteronomy 6:7) .

Parents Must Live-out Their Faith:

The parents must live their faith day in and day out in front of the children.  The children must see how knowing God is a vital part of their parent’s lives.  One child may need to be home schooled for a few years to get that solid foundation, while another child may be ready to attend public school at Kindergarten age, but the parents living out their faith is a vital part of their children’s preparation.

Our public schools need students and staff who are a light for Jesus.  They need to see Christians who are sold out for Jesus and live their lives everyday depending on Him.  They must see the difference in Christians, so their hearts will long for the peace and joy that knowing Christ brings.  Our job is to make sure our children and grandchildren understand and practice God’s Word.  We must be an example that they can follow since they are watching our lives and picking up our habits.

Sincerely,

Dale Slater

As most of you know, The Supreme Court recently made a ruling allowing gay couples to “marry” all across America.  To many of us, we believe that this was unwise and more importantly, an unbiblical stance.  Marriage has already been defined by the One who created it in the first place.  He is the supreme Judge who is over the Supreme Court.  However, we as Christians need to realize that the country that we live in is much more akin to Babylon than that of ancient Israel.  Our neighbors are no longer the Brady Bunch, and we no longer live in Mayberry.  So, we need to know how to live and what to say in the present day.  We need to act as Christ to a people who are by and large Christless.  If Jesus was here physically, I believe there are 5 things He would say to the LGBT community.

  1. You matter to Me, because I created you in My image.

According to John 3:16, Jesus came to die for a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  No doubt, there are gays who exist within this spectrum.  We know that God has extended some portion of grace to all (although not specifically saving grace) for scripture says that “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,”(Matthew 5:45).  Every person is created in God’s image.  He loves His creation. Those who are homosexuals matter to God in the sense that He extended love to His whole creation. It is not a complete effectual love, but it is love nonetheless.  You matter in His big picture.

  1. I can sympathize with your temptation, for I was also tempted.

Jesus was tempted. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” says the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4:15-16.  Jesus hungered, thirsted, slept, and wept.  Satan even tempted Jesus.  However, in this temptation, He was yet without sin.  Temptation is not sin, but acting upon it is. There are those who have homosexual temptations, but those temptations do not become sin until it is acted upon either through lust or a physical action.  They need to realize that Jesus understands temptation, and through Him, they can have the power to overcome that temptation.  While that thorn in their flesh may never be completely taken away, the Lord can give them the power that they need to overcome temptation (I Corinthians 10:13).

  1. I want you to have true joy, not just temporary satisfaction.

Sin can be enjoyable for a season (Hebrews 11:25).  Why else would people do it if it was not enjoyable? It is desirous for their flesh.  An adulterer must enjoy a one-night stand.  A glutton must enjoy the over eating, otherwise they would stop on their 2nd helping.  But Jesus desires your holiness more than your happiness.  To be holy, one must be redeemed by the Lord.  This happens through recognition of sin, a repentance of that sin, and regeneration for the sinner by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.  Happiness is fleeting, but the state of joy is eternal.  The only way to have eternal joy and not just temporary satisfaction is through Jesus.

  1. I want you to know that you are destroying your body and damning your soul

It is just a simple fact that STDs are rampant among those in this lifestyle.  Statistically, 70-78% of the LGBT community has reported to have had an STD.  Roughly 50% for all people, both gay and straight, who engage in premarital sex are said to have an STD as well.  Homosexual males are 116 times more likely to be murdered and 24 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight male counter-parts.  The decision to be gay often has lasting physical consequences.  But, more importantly than the body’s destruction, is the damning of your soul. It is true that we are ALL born into sin and choose to sin. This sin separates us from God.  The Old Testament law condemned homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22).  Jesus condemned it by alluding to the Old Testament sexual laws as perverse in Matthew 19 and Mark 7.  Paul condemns it by saying “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals . . .” in I Corinthians 6:9-10.  This practice, if unrepented of, will lead you to hell – because it is sin.

  1. I love to save those who are lost.  

Jesus loves to save sinners.  He loves to draw to Himself, gossips, idol worshipers, womanizers, and yes even homosexuals.  In writing to the Roman church Paul said, Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance,” (Romans 2:4).  You cannot remain in your sin and be saved.  It would not be loving to allow a sinner to keep sinning.  It would not be loving to remain silent about the truth.  However, it is loving to warn of the coming destruction for those who refuse to acknowledge the Lord.  To do this there must be a willingness to acknowledge sin, to turn from that sin, and accept Jesus as the Lord, Savior, and Master of your life.  He loves to save those who are perishing, and is willing to save all who call upon His name.

I believe if Jesus was still physically present here on earth, this is what He might say.  However, we as His representatives need to be willing to pass this message on to our neighbor, family, and co-worker.  Yes, this lifestyle is a sin, and because of that, it is not one that is simply an “alternative.”  However, we must recognize our own lostness, sinfulness, and inability to save ourselves as well.  We need to remember that the homosexual community is not our enemy . . . Satan is.  They need Jesus just as much as us.  We must be willing to engage them in a respectful manner and lovingly have this dialog with them.  Jesus will sort out their sin in the end.  Do we let them become a member in the church while practicing this lifestyle?  No, God forbid!  But, the church is a good place for them to be to hear God’s truth and either deny Him or be convicted by His Word.  So, let’s be sure that when we are talking to our LGBT neighbor that we do it in a way that honors God.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Last week I wrote about some of the foundational movements in American Christianity and how they still influence the church in the U.S. even today.  The landscape of American Christianity can look bleak at times if we get caught up in all of the changes that are going on according to certain media outlets.  Recent research has shown a near 10% drop in those who claim to be Christians here in America over the past 7 years.  Churches, schools, business, and entire Christian denominations that once believed in and taught orthodoxy are now not only accepting gay marriage, but pushing to have it completely normalized and legalized.  Because of this diversion from our Christian moorings, some are looking for the stars to starting falling from the sky as is described in Revelation because of the seeming turn of America toward humanism, or at least major liberalism.  While a quick glimpse at American Christianity might seem scary to some, I see reason for much hope.  Here are a few.

The Millennial Generation:

This is my generation (those born in the 1980’s – 1990’s).  My generation is generally considered lazy, self-absorbed, and whiney.  There is some truth to this I must admit, however, there is so much more to us than selfies on social media, job hopping, and being restless.  Many in the millennial generation long for authenticity.  We can see though all the smoke and lights to see the heart of the matter.  I have seen many people in this generation going back to a stripped down version, simple church model, of Christianity.  They want in-depth Bible study, biblical preaching, authentic Christ-centered worship, genuine fellowship, and missions within the community.  For the millennial generation this is often done by having a mix of both hymnody and modern songs in worship, doing small group studies, and living missionally while doing it all.  These ideas were part of the original Reformation.  The Reformers wanted to be guided only by what Scripture taught, and not all of this man made stuff.  I see the heart of reformation within many of the millennial generation.  I see them leading their families in worship and discipleship. I see them seeking churches that teach scripture instead of drama.  I see them have a love for theology.  For this reason, I have hope for the state of the church in America.

The Great Pruning of the Church:

With every day that passes it seems that there is some new objection to Christian thinking and Christian living in our country.  Many have predicted that within the next 10 years the American church will look vastly different that it did 10 years ago.  Within the next decade we will know where most every Christian in the U.S. stands on the issue of gay “marriage.”  This issue will most likely drive those of the normative variety away from the church.  The church attendance may get small.  Church buildings may have to be sold.  There may be less money to hire staff, but this is not necessarily a bad thing in the long run.  For the church of America to grow it must be pruned.  Jesus said in John 15, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  For the church to grow, the dead leaves of nominal Christianity must be cut off.  While it may not appear to be pretty to begin with, the lasting results will beautify the bride in a way that is unimaginable to us.

The Accessibility to Biblical Teaching:

With all that is being said (by the media) in favor of liberalizing Christianity, there are still MAJOR voices crying out from the wilderness preparing the way, teaching with a prophetic voice, and a shepherding heart.  At no other time in history has the world been able to hear such great men of God proclaim God’s word.  At your fingertips you can hear John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, Steve Lawson, Matt Chandler, Alistair Begg, Kevin Swanson and a million other preachers.  These, along with many other less well known men, are standing on the truths of God and proclaiming it to the world.  Thousands upon Thousands of people gather each year to hear men like this herald God’s Word.  While the media may want us to think that men like this are in the minority, it simply is not so.  Because of the Roman Road of our day (the internet), sound teaching can be heard in this nation and all around the world.  One thing I know from scripture, God’s Word never returns void, and these mean are proclaiming it to the thousands.

God’s Will Cannot be Thwarted: 

God has promised to build His church.  We see this in Matthew 16 when  Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  No matter what our government may try to do, even it is under God’s authority.  Christianity is still spreading in places like China and North Korea.  While our culture and government may try to change the church, the true church will survive and thrive.  Denominations may die.  Church attendance may drop, but the true church will go on and grow.  It cannot be stopped.  Now that is hope.

The American Church situation is by no means all doom and gloom.  There is so much to love about Christ’s bride.  There are many things that are beautiful and right.  However, you would have to have your proverbial head in the sand to say that things have not changed over the past 50 or 75 years.  While the changes may seem scary when we think of the immediate future, it should motivate us to practice our faith all the more.  It should motivate us to share the gospel openly while we still have such tremendous freedoms to do so.  Yes, there are some things that desperately need to change in our church, but praise be to God, I can see Him doing it on the horizon.  I love the church, and I have great hope for its future here in America.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Before you reach for a pen, or steady your fingers to type a response to the suggestive title, I need you to know that it is not what you think.  I am completely against the idea of murder.  I do not worship Molech, nor do I support any idea of sacrificing people and or animals to appease a god.  It is a horrible and sinful thing when people do this type of occultic worship. However, I am talking about a spiritual human sacrifice of sorts.  We find this concept in Matthew’s gospel.  He writes,

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’” – Matthew 16:24-26  

To be a true follower of Christ, we must first die to ourselves.  This is why I not only support, but constantly try to live, this human sacrificing lifestyle.  How do we do this?  How do you live a life as a follower of Christ in light of these radical commands?  These verses describe three ways we must die to self; I would like to briefly unpack them in hopes that you too will choose to live a life of continual self-sacrifice.

Deny Yourself:

To deny yourself means to put your desires second to God’s.  We are all selfish by nature.  We want what we want.  However, what we want is not always what God wants.  Before Christ, we wanted to be our own god in a way.  We wanted complete control of our lives.  But, to follow Jesus, we must first deny our sinful desires through faith and repentance by relying on His grace for our salvation.  It is no different once we are saved.  We must still deny our fleshly desires if they do not line up with God’s.  This is a daily task.  We must die to ourselves.  We must deny our flesh, and submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  The glorious thing about this is, eventually it gets easier.  When we deny ourselves, we start to take delight in the Lord as the Psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  To deny yourself is to commit human sacrifice (the sacrifice of your oneself),  which is a requirement of the Lord.

Take up Your Cross:

The cross was a gruesome instrument of death.  Jesus was telling His disciples that if they were to follow Him that meant they had to surrender their lives to live obediently to Him.  It would identify them with Jesus . . . even unto death, to which 10 of the 11 true disciples would eventually succumb, through martyrdom.  This is evidence that they fully surrendered to Jesus.  The same type of surrender is required of Christians today.  We should expect persecution.  We should be willing to bear it, knowing that He is with us though it all and that He can sympathize with us.  Taking up your cross says that you have a life-or-death devotion to Christ.  I will live for Him with eternity in view.  I will die for Him for the glory of the King.  To take up your cross is to sentence yourself to death, but in doing so it identifies you with the One who overcame death in our place.

Follow Him:

Following Jesus is not just saying a prayer, going to church, and giving financially to a church or other Christian organization.  This type of Christianity would have been a foreign concept to first century Christians.  Jesus said for a person to count the cost before following Him.  To follow Him means to follow His teachings, and His example.  It means swapping your sin for His perfect righteousness.  Once His deposit has been made into your account, you are no longer your own.  You have been bought with a price.  You were once a slave to sin, but now have been made a slave to righteousness.  To follow Jesus means that you have submitted to His Lordship and live as a citizen of the Kingdom, but also as an heir to the throne. He said that following Him would cost you something.  In essence, it cost you everything.  So, to follow Him is spiritual human sacrifice.  You must die so that you can be raised up to walk in the newness of life in Him.

“Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  This is the cycle of the daily life of a Christian.  This is the sequence of a disciple of Jesus.  If we want to follow the Lord, we must first die to ourselves.  This is why I believe in human sacrifice, and as a Christian you should too.   If you have never experienced this type of life, then I hope you die today . . . so that you can truly live in the grace that abides only in Christ, who died in the place of all who would ever call upon His name.  Human sacrifice is not only desired by God, but is necessary to know Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Bible, Uncategorized
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Let’s face it: tattoos are more popular now than they have ever been. Roughly 21% of all adults in America are said to have at least one tattoo. In the last 30 years they have become more culturally accepted than at any other time in history. At one time they were considered to be a sign of rebellion, but now they are seen as more of a sign of self-expression. Formerly, they were only for sailors and ruffians, but now doctors, lawyers, and even pastors are frequenting tattoo shops to get inked. The question is, while it may be more popular and more accepted now than ever, is it something that Christians should participate in? To be upfront, I have 4 tattoos myself.  I got them all before the age of 21, and now that I am older and more mature in my faith I wish I had not gotten them. While I am not ashamed of the content of the tattoos, I simply wish I had not done it.  This does not expressly mean it is wrong for everyone, especially the Christian. In short, scripture is not clear-cut on the issue of Tattooing, but the Bible does say some things that may guide you in a better understanding of tattoos for yourself.

The Leviticus Argument:

There is only one place that the word tattoo is used in scripture. We find it in Leviticus 19:28. Most English translations render it this way, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.”  While the word tattoo is not in the original language (“mark your body” is the best translation) the idea of it certainly is.  So, shouldn’t this be enough to end the argument? Scripture says it right? To understand this scripture it must be put into its context. According to your view of Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT law, a different argument could be made here. I (along with most of the Church over the past 500 years) hold to a moral law perspective: Only the moral laws still apply from the OT. I believe scripture supports that Jesus fulfilled this temporary law that was given specifically to the nation of Israel for a specific time. Leviticus 19:28 was a specific law for a specific people with a specific purpose. The law was intended to set Israel apart from cultural Egypt that was known for tattooing themselves for their dead. Tattoos were seen as an offering to the gods who ruled the dead. Thus, when the Lord brought his people out of the land, he told them not to tattoo. If in Christ the law has already been paid for and no longer binding on Christians, then Leviticus 19:28 does not seem to aid in the discussion on modern tattooing for the Christian. The Levitical argument used by some to forbid tattooing does not seem to hold much weight.

The I Corinthians 6 Argument:

Once we become Christians, we give ourselves over to the Lord including our bodies. Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” The context of this has to do with joining oneself to a prostitute; however, there seems to be many implications for this truth as well. Every act of fornication, or any other sin committed by the believer in the “temple” was/is a very big deal. In the Old Testament, the High Priest would enter only once a year, and only after extensive cleansing, or he would be struck down by the Lord.  A case could be made to say that tattooing your body is a defilement of the temple. But if you go down that road too far, you could make that argument for eating unhealthy food, for piercing your ears, for smoking, and so on. The list is endless. Therefore, we need not make fast and overarching laws based on 1 Corinthians 6.  Nevertheless, the “temple” mandate of this text is enough for me personally to never get another tattoo.  I don’t believe this Scripture can be made into a mandated law for all Christians. While it does aid in the narrative, the argument from 1 Corinthians 6 is not an end-all on the discussion of Christians and tattoos.

Discernment in Tattooing: 

Since scripture does not have a clear stance on the subject, how then are we to discern whether it is lawful for a Christian to get a tattoo?  I would suggest asking a few questions before you ever get stuck with the needle.

1.  What is your motive? If it is to “stick it” to your parents or another authority (pun intended), then Ephesians 6 would forbid it. If you are trying to draw attention to yourself (pun intended), then James 4:6 does not seem to support that view either. If there is a way to draw attention to Jesus and him alone, then this is the only motive I can see that the Lord would accept.

2.  Have you prayed about it? There is much that can be discerned through prayer. God has told us to commit all things unto him (Psalm 37:5). Before you do something as permanent as a tattoo, it would be wise to seek the Lord’s blessing on it.

 3.  Is this going to glorify God? The content of your tattoo is very important if you decide the Lord has permitted you to get one. It should be something that is glorifying God.  After all, I Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you don’t know the answer to that, then let me suggest you wait until you have a definitive answer. Remember, “DO ALL THINGS,” this includes tattoos.

4.  Will 45 year old you regret this Tattoo? – Many regret ever getting them.  Will you?

5.  Money, Message, Placement – these are all practical things you need to consider as well.  Is it good stewardship? What does it say to others about you? Will I be able to get a job if I am showing this tattoo off?

Does the Bible have a clear answer on the subject of tattoos?  No, but there does seem to be some good guidelines in Scripture. Ultimately, the decision is up to the person getting one. It does need to be an informed decision not one made out of ignorance. Finally, the law of liberty (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8) must be applied I believe. Nevertheless Paul’s words, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” should ring in our ears when searching through this subject. For myself, my conscience would never allow me to get another one. If you are considering getting one and you are a Christian, I would suggest doing your research . . . and more importantly seeking the Lord for your answer.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell