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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

Courtship! This is an old term that in the last 10-15 years has had a bit of a revival in certain circles in the Christian community.  I believe courtship comes with some positives and negatives.  It is an old term, but the problem is that there is not an exact definition for it.  Some have a very strict view of what it looks like, while others have a bit more liberal understanding of the term.  In short, courtship has been defined as a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the safety, supervision, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)  It does away with casual dating, and bears in mind dating with a purpose.

So, how did I come (eventually) to the conviction of Christian courtship over the ever popular, and almost completely accepted, view of casual dating? I grew up in a culture that knew no alternative than to have girlfriends from the time I was in 1st or 2nd grade and “date them” or “make them your girlfriend” (insert George Strait’s song “Check Yes or No”).  It is all I knew, and I took full advantage of it.  I cannot think of going more than a month without a “girlfriend” from the time I was in 3rd grade until I graduated high school.  It was all I knew, and it was actually encouraged by not just my culture, but also my church and even my family.  Why?  It is because in the last 50 years, that is all that has been known as normal.  However, I eventually became convicted that there was something wrong with this system and decided that I wanted something more.  After searching the scriptures, praying, and talking to older godly couples, the Lord had changed my mind on this cultural dating scene.  Then came “Christian Courtship” that had been made popular by pastor/author Joshua Harris in books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (which has some flaws) and “Boy Meets Girl” (which corrected the earlier flaws and gave some practical ways to date in a more purposeful and biblical way).  I did not know what it would look like completely, but I knew that I was convinced it seemed to be the most Christian and biblical way of dating.  And here are a few reasons why . . .

1. What Casual Dating Got Me:

While I enjoyed many of the momentary pleasures of having a girl friend and going on dates, what it often ended with was heart break. Either the girl would leave me for another boy, or I would lose interest and want to move on to someone else.  Either way, heart break would often ensue, thus, not taking Solomon’s advice when he wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “above all else, guard your heart.”  Casual dating also gave me a loss of innocence.  Put a young man and woman in a situation where they are spending a lot of time alone with each other, let their sinful nature take over, and see what happens.  Often that leads to many regrets.  While this does not have to be the case for everyone, it is an all too familiar scene for many that I know who grew up in the dating culture.  Physical and even sexual temptation is hard to overcome when your body is geared toward it.  I also got a loss of friendships from dating so casually.  Often, when you date someone seriously you invest much time end emotion into that relationship.  That is time and energy that you are giving to someone different than your future spouse, and even God.  Frequently when the relationship ends, so does the friendship.  Even if things end amiably, your future spouse may not like having that old flame around to bring back memories.  Thus, a friendship that could have been great is dissolved

2.  What Courting Did For Me:

Courtship was a breath of fresh air for me. Over a period of about 2 years I sought the Lord in trying to figure out how to date in Christian way. I knew it would be counter-cultural, but I desired to honor God in my dating life.  God sent me the opportunity to practice some of these new (yet old) principles.  Jessica (now my wife) met, and then practices these principles of courtship.  After 14 months, I somehow convinced her dad to let her marry me . . . and she said yes!  So, what did courtship get me?  First, it gave me a clear conscience.  We were purposeful about keeping our relationship pure.  We set up rules for accountability; one of which meant we would refrain from being behind any closed doors.  We chose not to kiss until the day of our marriage.  We asked others to hold us accountable to these rules.  Secondly, it gave us a firm foundation.  Jessica and I entered into this relationship with a purpose.  The purpose was not just to have fun and see if we were “soul mates.”  Our purpose was to see if we were compatible for the purpose of marriage.   If we had not been, then it would not have been a failed courtship, it wold have only meant that we were not good for each other in that way.  Fortunately for me, God had providently brought us together for the purpose of marriage.  Finally, what courtship got me was a wife.  That is the end goal of courting right.  This is precisely the difference between courtship and dating: the end goal of courting is to see if you both are compatible for marriage.  If you are, there is no reason for anything other than marriage.  That is where courting is different than just casual dating.  While you may end up getting married after dating, that is not necessarily the understood “point” of dating in our (secular and Christian) culture.

Whether you call it courtship or dating, it does not really matter. What does matter is that you have a plan.  If you are a Christian then you have no other choice than to seek scripture when it comes to your dating life, or that of your children.  I am not saying everyone has to do it the way my wife and I did, but what I am saying is that we need to rethink how we do dating.  Let’s make sure that we do it in a way that most honors God and His word.  As for my family, we plan to teach our children the principle of courtship. While we may not do it the same way with our children that we did it, we want them to always think biblically and I believe courtship gives us the best understanding of what that looks like.  Whatever it looks like, let’s make sure it looks the way God would want it to; the way that would bring Him the most glory!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

The last few weeks I have had the privilege of leading a small group study at the church in which I serve called “Sacred Marriage.” This past week while studying, a few thoughts occurred to me. My first thought was, “Am I still dazzled by Christ?” After thinking through reasons why the Lord still amazes me, my second thought was, “Does Christ still dazzle His Bride?”  It did not take long to answer that question, seeing as how I am part of his Bride. Yes, He still dazzles His Bride. Since Ephesians 5:1 says that we are to “Imitate God” and Ephesians 5:25 says that I am to “love my wife as Christ loves the church,” it seems like there could be some implications (albeit loose ones) that we should continue to pursue and even date our spouses, even after they have been married for 50 or 60 years.

How Christ still dazzles His Bride:

  1. He still woos people to be His bride. The bride of Christ, the church, still continues to grow to this day. While it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the drawing or wooing, the Spirit still draws people to Christ. If Christ is still adding people to His bride, doesn’t it make sence that He still actively loves her? He is still active in the process of wooing. The full number of saints has not yet come to the saving knowledge of Him. Until that time comes, He will continue to seek and dazzle His Bride. Since this is true, shouldn’t we continue to seek and dazzle OUR bride?
  2. He sanctifies His Bride. For those of us that are already followers of Christ, we know that we are being sanctified. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. This does not happen overnight. This is a lifelong process. However, it is a process that He has committed to make. He has promised to ultimately glorify us one day (Romans 8:29-30), but until that day we will continue in this process of sanctification. During this time, He is with us, making himself known to us . . . making himself more and more beautiful. If He continues to make himself beautiful to us in our sanctification, shouldn’t we do the same for our spouse?
  3. He still wows His Bride. Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset or roaring ocean tide and been taken aback by the beauty of God? Has your spirit ever been lifted into what seems like the third heaven while praising God? Have you ever been overcome by the holiness of God and hit your face to the floor in awe of who God is? When that happens, we truly begin to worship Him. The Lord still wows His Bride every day. This is true for the believer that has only recently come to know the Lord as well as the one that has been walking faithful with Him for 60 years. Christ is still in the process of wowing His Bride. If He still dazzles and wows His Bride, shouldn’t we continue to do that for our spouse?

Why we should still dazzle our spouse:

When we are going through the early years of dating, our relationship can be so exciting. It makes romance, dating, and doing special things easy, because it is part of the early process.  The problem I see with so many is that after we get married we see our spouse as already being “caught” and there being no need to continue to try to catch them. For some it is easy to think “why do I need to continue to be romantic, or date after I have already caught the person?” I believe that this is a foolish way of thinking. We all desire to be pursued in one way or another.  We are built that way. Most of us enjoy being made much of, in one way or another. Why should that stop after we are married? Shouldn’t marriage just be the beginning point? Does Christ not still woo, make beautiful, and WOW his Bride? It is easy to stop dating each other once you get married, become comfortable with, and just start living life with your spouse. Your spouse is more than just a buddy and friend . . . they are the person that you covenanted together with for life.

Men: If you do not regularly take your wife on dates (my wife and I shoot for once a month at least), then it is time to ask her out. Buy her flowers. Write her a letter expressing what she means to you and your family. A date does not have to cost much money. It can simply be going on a hike, or playing a game together at Starbucks. Men, you are the spiritual leader in your home, so if you are not doing a good job of making this happen, I believe the buck stops with you. Make it enjoyable. Make it regular. Make much for your bride.  Make much of her, because Christ still does for His.

Woman: God has made you all beautiful in your own way. Your husband once (and hopefully still does) thought you are beautiful. Allow him to lead. Make yourself attractive to him. You know what he likes and does not like. Make yourself available to him. Express your desires in the things that you like and don’t like so that he does not have to guess. Go and do things that he enjoys as well. While the buck stops with the husband when it comes to making these things a priority and finding time to do them, you have a big role to play as well. So ladies, dress up, make your husband feel important, and be the bride of Christ to your husbands. Enjoy a time away from the kids, or just time away from normal life.

Dating is a wonderful part of the beginning part of courtship. The culmination of courtship is marriage. It only makes sense that we should continue in that wonderful process of dating after marriage as well. While dating is not the chief end of marriage (the glory of God is), it certainly is one of the ways to continue to cultivate it. Christ loved, and still loves the church. He still makes much of her. If we want to have a healthy marriage that bears the image of Christ and the church, I believe a good date once or twice a month will help keep you in that process.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

One of my favorite acts of worship is to hear a great exposition of scripture.  It can fill me, and break me at the same time.  I love good preaching.  However, it is not the only act of worship that I love.  A carefully crafted, theologically sound song can make my spirit leap for joy and my heart and mouth sing praises to the Lord.  I love to hear a congregation of believers sing worship and praise to the Lord.  Not every song that we sing in our corporate worship fits the “carefully crafted theologically sound” criteria.  It is true that we all have different theological bents that come out in the songs that we sing.  This is understandable.  Nevertheless, there are some songs that transcend denominational loyalties and should call for all Christians to lift their hands (although they may just be a mental hand lifting if you are more conservative,) and hearts in praise, or bow low in worship to the King.

Over the past year, I have been compiling a list of songs that I feel fit well into the above mentioned category.  Some are very old, and some are very new.  Scripture does tell us to “sing a new song” but it also implores us to sing “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”  So, the list below will be made up of songs that span different centuries, different continents, and different theological leanings.  This list is not exhaustive, but here are 50 songs that we would do well to sing unto the Lord with a grateful heart and attitude.  If you click on the song, it will direct you to a site where you can listen to it. You may have a song that I have missed that would fit well. If so, feel free to leave a comment with a name of the song.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

10,000 Reasons

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Alas and did my Savior Bleed
All creatures of our God and King
All I Have is Christ
All I once held dear (Knowing You)
And Can It Be That I Should Gain
Be unto Your name
Be thou my vision
Before, the throne of God above
Behold Our God
Blessed Be Your Name
Creation Song
Come, Praise and Glorify
Come, Thou Almighty King
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Days of Elijah
Hail the Day
Hallelujah What a Savior (Man of Sorrow)
He Knows My Name
He Leadeth Me
Hide Away In the Love of Jesus
Holy, Holy, Holy
How Deep The Father’s Love for Us
How Great Thou Art
In Christ Alone
It is Well 
Glory To God
Grace Greater than all our sins
Jesus, Lover of my Soul
Jesus Paid it All
Lamb of God
Name above all names
Nothing That my hands can do
Now why this Fear
The Love of God
The Wonderful Cross
There is a Fountin Filled With Blood
O’ The Deep Deep Love of Jesus
O How Marvelous (I Stand Amazed) 
Our Great God
Our Song From Age to Age
Praise to the Lord, The Almighty
Revelation Song
Salvation Belongs to our God
See the Conquer
Sing To Jesus
Song of Moses
Speak Oh Lord
What a Wonderus Love is This
Your Name

One of the best parts about being a pastor is having the privilege of baptizing a person.   It is such a beautiful illustration of what God in Christ has done for the believer.  I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home and going to church no less than 3 times a week for most of my life.  During this time I noticed a trend.   Many people have some type of encounter with God (thinking they were saved) as a child, and have a public baptism.  However, later in life they come to a fuller understanding about salvation and realize that they were never truly saved as a child; then they repent and become a believer as a youth or adult.  This story is not just a common one, but it is a personal one as well.  It was true for me.  I thought I was saved at the age of 7 only to come to find out that I was actually 21 before the Lord truly saved me.  So the question that I, and so many others, struggle(d) with is, “Do I need to be re-baptized since true salvation came after my first baptism?”

Baptism is a tricky subject among different Christian groups.  I will not get into the differences in this post, but would like to suggest a few thoughts on the subject from a “believer’s baptisms” perspective.  Ultimately, I believe a person should be baptized after their conversion, even if a person had made some type of confession when they were younger.  If a person was “baptized” before conversion, I believe that to be no more than a public bath . . . since that is not biblical baptism.

A Rightful Order:

God has declared that all of his children are to be baptized.  Since this is so, I believe that it is important that we do it in the order that scripture prescribes.  Every example in Scripture puts the act of baptism after conversion (sorry, extreme paedobaptists friends).  Even the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized after conversion.   God is a God of order.  God is also a precise God.   While in no way does the act of baptism save you, it is still something that is important to do and something that God even commands us to do.  The order, as seen in scripture, is first conversion and then water baptism.  The right order is important.

A Rightful Obedience:

Matthew 28:19-20 is a very well known passage.  It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  The Lord has commanded that everyone who has professed faith in Him is to be baptized.  Baptism should be one of the first steps in obedience for a new believer.  The Ethiopian eunuch certainly understood this in Acts 8:36 when he asked, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  There are circumstances that sometimes make baptism after conversion more difficult, but the point is that in obedience to the Lord’s command, a person should be baptized.  For the baptism to be the most biblical, this means post conversion.

A Rightful Celebration:     

One of the most beautiful parts of baptism is that it identifies you with the bride of Christ.  It marks you as a member of the church.  In all honestly, this happens at the moment of conversion.  However, baptism (from a believer’s baptism stand point) is a public display of your salvation (Romans 6:5).  It marks you as a child of God and a member of the church universal.  It is a way to show your public commitment to the Lord and His church.  When done right, it is a celebration where the church welcomes a new brother or sister in Christ to the family.  There is no specific proof text for this but I believe that if a person does not get baptized after their conversion, they miss out on a wonderful celebration . . . a once-in-a-lifetime type of celebration.

There are varying opinions on the subject of the mode of baptism, the time of baptism, and even the purpose of baptism.  Those are all things to consider when studying scripture.  Nevertheless, the issue of “re-baptism” is not often discussed.  It seems to me that if we want to do things in an orderly manner and to do it the way scripture seems to describe, baptism should come after a person’s genuine conversion.   It took me 10 years to finally come to the conclusion that I needed to get the order right.  Was I saved 10 years prior upon the confessions of my sins and placing my faith in the Lord?  Absolutely! But, it was not until I went under that water and came up again that I felt the issue of my baptism was finally settled.

If you have a story similar to mine, and millions of others, you may be asking yourself “Do I need to be re-baptized?”  That is something that you will have to decide through prayer, but maybe this post will help you make the rightful decision.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

I have been blessed to be the father of 4 very unique (and sometimes rowdy) young children.  My oldest, and only girl, is five.    I also have a 4 year old son, 20 month old son, and 5 month old little guy.  It is a wonderful and most rewarding thing being a father.  However, after 5 years of this gig I have come to a realization.  This realization is that my children are used, more than anyone or anything else, as a tool for my sanctification.  That is, the Lord uses them to shape me and mold me (and my wife as well) into the image of Christ through learning patience, love, sacrifice, time management, discipline, faith, hope, trust, and a myriad of other Christ like features.  I am blessed to be called a father; though I do not always recognize the blessing in the middle of frustrating times of teaching, molding, (and dare a say, spanking) my children.  Here are three ways the Lord uses my children as a lightning rod for my sanctification.

When they obey:

One of the greatest joys in my life is to see my children obey their mother and I out of love and respect for us.  I believe this is also true of the Lord when we trust and obey him in our life.  Scripture tells us in I Samuel 15:22b “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”  The Lord loves an obedient child.  I cannot help to think that is part of the reason that we see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father in Acts 7, when Stephen is being stoned, because of His love for his obedient children.  It is easy to love someone when they are obedient, but often before a person obeys it takes a period of training.  This is where the real sanctifying work begins.  Obedience is really an Ebenezer stone for sanctification.  It is evidence that work has been done.  This is when a person can sit back and see what progressive sanctification really looks like.  That is what brings me ultimate joy.  It is not the one time act of obedience (as great as that is) that has brought us as parents to a higher level of sanctification, but the continued act of obedience on our part to help our children get there.  While we are still working on this ourselves, it is very rewarding (and sanctifying) to see them obey.

When they disobey:

Obedience is wonderful, but what I believe is more sanctifying is our children’s disobedience.  I am continually amazed as I look at scripture at the long-suffering of the Lord with His children.   The Lord waited some 700 years to finally scatter the nations of Israel into exile for their disobedience to Him.  Something He promised he would do in Deuteronomy 28:64.  I must admit, it is hard for me to wait 8.2 seconds at times to intact discipline on my children when they are blatantly disobedient, especially toward their mother.  However, when I sit back and think about how patient the Lord is with me in my disobedience (me being a child of God, and my children still being unregenerate) it humbles me.  I believe the Lord uses my children’s depravity to sharpen and mold me so that I can in turn be more Christ-like to them.  It is not easy when my oldest son puts his foot in the ground and decides he is not moving to remember that this is a sanctification test, but as I think of myself doing this to the Lord, even now, it helps me to remember the importance of long-suffering and having a Christ-like attitude (still working on this one) towards him.  Yes, we are to train them and teach them to obey, but even during their disobedience the Lord is training us.

When we discipline:

This is my least favorite part of parenting.  However, since I love my children, it must be done.  Proverbs is riddled with verses like the one in Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  I am so grateful for the Lord’s discipline in my own life.  While we do not like it in the middle of the process, after we look back on His loving hand we can see His purpose and be appreciative for it.  As any loving father, I never want to see my children hurt, but some temporary discomfort is better than a lifetime of heartache.  I really do believe it hurts the parent more than it does the child when disciplining them.  However, the parent knows that it is best and does it out of love.  The Lord is no different.  When He corrects us, it is not to hurt us, but to mold us into the likeness of Christ.  We as parents need to always be consistent in our discipline or else we risk the sin of “frustrating our children” by requiring obedience at one time, and then not enforcing it another time.  The Lord is consistent with us, thus we need to be consistent with our children.  Herein lays the process of sanctification.

I love my children second only to my wife.  They bring me much laughter, smiles, tears, and every other emotion possible.  I now see why those older in their faith are so far along in their sanctification . . . they have already raised their children.  Gray hair is a sign of wisdom…it seems it is also a sign of raising children (or I am just getting this parenting thing all wrong).  We need to teach our children to obey, but in their disobedience we need to remember that the Lord is teaching us something as well.  The Lord knows what He is doing.  Children are not born good (Romans 3:10, Psalm 51:5).  He has given parents a great responsibility to train their kids up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  The beautiful thing about it is that at the same time, He is training us up in the fear and admonition of Himself through them.  What an amazing God He is.

Soli Deo Gloria

Adam B. Burrell