I was recently asked the question “Is having different theological convictions as Christians a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing a mate for marriage?”  This is not the first time this type of question has come up, and I am sure it won’t be the last.  This is an interesting question that actually has a two part answer.  Here are a few things to think about if you, or someone you love, find yourself in this predicament.

What the Bible Says:

When it comes to marriage, the biblical model is between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:3-6).  Not only is it supposed to be between one man and one woman but it is also supposed to be between two people who are not “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  There have been a variety of interpretations about this verse in years past.  But one clear implication is that marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is strictly forbidden.  Some have tried to make this verse mean that two people from different ethnicities should not get married based off this command from Paul.  Some have even tried to make it mean (by implication) that two people from different denominational backgrounds should not wed.  However, these interpretations are clearly not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church 2000 years ago.  He vividly makes the distinction between those who know Jesus, and those who do not, and that is it.  He writes in Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”  It is pretty plain when he writes “Do not be unequally yoked” that he is making only one command; no interfaith relationships for Christians . . . and that is it here.  Black and White, Presbyterian and Baptist, if they are Christians they can be married.  However, is that the whole story?  As long as the two are Christians, then it is okay to marry?

There are other things to consider (like has a person been divorced before?) for sure, but scripturally speaking, the only requirement is for the two people to be equally yoked together.  If they are not, then the Lord forbids it.  But, before you go and marry the first Christian you come to, there are some areas of wisdom that you need to consider as well.

What Wisdom Says:

The Bible speaks highly of marriage and even encourages Christians to get married (Proverbs 18:22).  Nevertheless, it is important that you think through the process before making a binding marriage covenant.  The question that we are trying to answer is not “Should Christians get married?”, but rather, “Should people of different theological convictions get married?”  Here is where wisdom kicks in with biblical truth.  When two people get married, they bring with them their theology.  If one person wants kids, and the other does not, wisdom would say, you need to work through that before ever giving the other person a ring.  If the woman is a complete egalitarian (women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household) and the man a complementarian (men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage) then this could bring all sorts of problems when talking about spiritual leadership and authority in the home.  That could be a recipe for disaster.  If one is Arminian and one a Calvinist, how do they deal with the sin of a young child?  Holding these different views may well play a role in discipline of children of how you share the gospel even.  These are questions that need to be hammered out before any nuptials.  Wisdom would also say, how convicted am I of certain doctrines?  If one is completely convinced of infant baptism, and the other of believer’s baptism, it may be hard to work through this one . . . and it may be best to find someone else with similar convictions if a consensus is not found.  Theology matters and it will order how a home and family is run.

So, should people of different theological convictions get married?  Considering all of this, the main thing that binds a couple together is the Lord.  As long as the basics of the Christian faith are agreed upon (in the minds, hearts, and the lives) then the secondary stuff can be worked through, but do not make the mistake in thinking that they do not matter, because they do.  There may be some theological beliefs that simply do not compute with each other.  There are different denominations because of doctrinal differences.  This does not mean that all true Christians, no matter the church, are not still brothers in Christ.  However, wisdom says that to covenant together in church membership, everyone should hold closely to the same views so as to be able to hold each other accountable (Galatians 6:1-2).  The same is true in marriage; while it could be lawful for two to be married, will it be profitable for the sake of the kingdom?  Will your marriage be able to be a picture of the love between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32)?  If theological convictions run deep and they cannot be agreed up, then maybe it would be best to find another to yoke yourself with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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I have to admit, this is one of those questions that I have struggled with myself.  I am a strong proponent of Lordship Salvation, but at the same time must balance that with the belief that children can come to the Lord at a young age as well.  Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not writing this to pit Paedobaptism (the baptism of infants) vs Credobaptism (the baptism of believers only).  I am a Credobaptist and I am coming from that theological vantage point.  The question that I have struggled with really is “At what time should my 7 year old (or any young child) who has professed faith take the next step of baptism?”  In a land filled with easy believism, “just say a sinner’s prayer”, and “take Jesus into your heart” mentality, I believe we must preach and teach true conversion to our children.  That is not to say that they will get it all at once, but sin, faith, repentance, the cross, and counting the cost of following Jesus are all necessary components of the gospel.  If your child has a grasp on these things (both mentally and seemingly spiritually), how do you know when it is time for them to get baptized?  Since the Bible does not give a complete guideline for this situation, I believe these are some helpful questions to ask before we agree to let them take of this holy ordinance.

Why Baptism?

What really saves us any way?  According to Ephesians we are “saved by grace through faith and not that of ourselves. It is a gift from God.”  We are saved by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10).  So, if we are saved by grace through faith apart from works, what is the big deal about Baptism?  First, we get baptized because we are commanded to (Matthew 28).  Secondly because it is an outward sign of the inward change that Christ has done for us.  Next, we get baptized to make a public profession that we are not ashamed to be called and Christian.  It is a sign that we are a part of the church universal (I Corinthians 12:13).  Baptism does not save us, but it does identify who we are and to whom we belong.  Why be baptized?  Because the Lord said to, and we want to be obedient.

Do they understand the gospel?

By this I mean can they tell you that God is Holy, and that they are not?  That God has every right to condemn them for their sins.  That Jesus came, was born perfect, and lived a perfect and holy life.  That Jesus died on the cross, the Just for the unjust, and that if they truly believe in Him alone for forgiveness and salvation that they can be saved.  That they must repent and turn from their sin, and if they do so, that the Lord will keep them and seal them until the day of redemption.  If they understand their sin, and Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension then you can trust that they know the gospel in the most basic form.

Have you seen fruit?

When the child is young, grows up in a Christian home where the Bible is being taught, and makes a profession of faith, it may be hard to discern genuine fruit from simple “good raising.”  Some of the best advice I have been given is to give this area time.  Ask yourself, can you see your child growing to hate their sin more?  Do they come to you and acknowledge wrong doing before you ever knew of the offense?  Do they seem to be more loving, joyful, acting more kindly to their siblings, and more respectful to you as parent?  These are some good indications that the Holy Spirit is at work in their life, but it takes time to see if this is a genuine pattern of Spirit wrought fruit, or just good behavior modification.  Look for lasting fruit, not just low hanging ones that can make us hopeful but leave us disappointed when we find out it is bad.

Have others seen fruit?

It can be easy to fool Mommy and Daddy sometimes.  If your child has made a profession of faith, tell others that are often around them about it.  Let them observe as well to see if they can see a spiritual change in their lives.  Don‘t overlook the blessing that comes from seeking input from those who are spiritually mature around you.

Are you putting words in their mouths?

It is easy for us as parents to put words in the mouths of our children because we want them to be saved.  This is understandable because all Christian parents want their children to be in the faith, but this can be dangerous.  Let them in their own words tell their grandparents, friends, and other family members, and even church leadership about their profession.  It does no good to feed them the words if they have not truly come to the conviction of them themselves.  Believe in the sovereignty of God.  Believe that if this is not the right time, that the Lord will awaken their spirit when it is.  Pray for their brokenness and their understanding . . . but please do not put words in their mouth just so as to pacify your anxiety about their salvation.

Do your elders/pastors agree it is time?   

Baptism is an important step in a person’s faith.  It should not be taken lightly.  There should be a time of testing by those who are spiritually mature that are in their lives (II Corinthians 13:5).  Let the pastor or elders from your church test them (without you giving them the answers for them).  If all are in agreement, then it may very well be time for the baptismal waters to be stirred.  If all are not, then it is okay to allow some time to marinate and keep looking for sign of regeneration.  While salvation is an individual decision initiated and completed by God, when your child is young, it would be wise to make baptism a group decision.  We want them to be sure of their faith.  Having them baptized is a parent’s, pastor’s, and church’s acknowledgment that they see saving faith in them.  It’s a big deal and pastors should always be involved in the process.

I write this not as someone who has all the answers.  I write this as a parent and a pastor who is in the middle of it himself with 4 young kids.  Ten months ago my oldest made such a wonderful profession.  It has been almost a year since she did . . . and we are still in the “have you seen their fruit” stage.  While we believe her profession was sincere, we are still waiting a little while longer to make sure.  These are 6 questions my wife and I keep asking each other as we seek others to help us in the process.  So, should your child be baptized?  The answer is an astounding yes if they have truly professed faith, but I would caution you not to rush it and rest in the goodness of God to reveal when it is the right time.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

For most, the upcoming weeks signals the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sharpening of pencils, the children groaning, and the parents celebrating as D-Day quickly approaches. No matter what school option (private, public, or home) you have chosen for your family, one thing rings true for all Christians. We need to be a people of prayer if we are going to get through this year usefully. Below I have 4 areas that I believe we would all do well to pray for before school ever starts this year. This has been adapted from a prayer guide that Prayer Closet Ministry provided several years ago. There are sample prayers that are given for each area that you can use, if you so choose to us them, but my encouragement to you today is that you take a few minutes to pray over each area before your children start to hit the books for another year.

Prayer for the Students

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray that the Lord will save the lost children in this school.

            Father, I pray that the lost students of __________will surrender to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives. Show them their lostness and their need of Jesus. Have mercy on them
                        and saved them through Your Son, Jesus Christ ( John 6:44; Matthew 11:28).                     

    2.  For the Saved

We want to pray for a faithful witness and boldness in believing students

            Father, I ask that the Christian students of __________will have a powerful and righteous influence in the school for your glory. Empower them to live holy and obedient lives before their friends and teachers. Sanctify anything in their lives that might hinder their testimony
(Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:15-16).

            Father, have these students of __________be powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. Fill them with the Holy Spirit so that they can speak boldly about who You and what
You have done (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

 Prayer for the Administration and Teachers   

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray the Lord will save all lost teachers and administration

            Father, I plead that the unsaved teachers of __________would graciously draw them all into a personal relationship with You through the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that they would turn from their sin to Christ with a genuine faith (John 3:15-18, 6:44; Acts 4:12, 17:30-31).

      2.  For the Saved

We pray for a willingness to share their faith within the authoritative structure that they are under.

            Father, please give the teachers and administration at __________would exercise a righteous influence among the students and other teachers. Empower them to live holy lives and minister to the students and other teachers (Proverbs 28:1; Matthew 5:13-16).

            Father, I pray that grant them the wisdom to know how and when to share their faith with all they are around..  (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8, 4:31).

Prayer for the Parents

  1. For the Lost

We want to pray for parents who do not know the Lord, to come to know Him this year. 

            Father, I pray in the name of Jesus that the unsaved parents of __________would surrender their lives to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I ask that the Spirit would convict them and draw them to Jesus by his grace to faith
and repentance for Your name sake (John 3:15-18).

     2.  For the Saved

We want to pray for believing parents to live out their faith in a way that brings glory to God.

            Father, I ask that the believing parents of __________will continue to grow in their relationship to God .That they will take the lead as an example of godly living. Do this so that they can train godly children,  and to be an example to others as well (John 8:31-32; 1 Peter 3:1-2).

             Father, grant the believing parents of __________a spirit of prayer for the administrators, teachers, and students. I pray that they will cover and saturate __________with prayers of supplication and intercession (Colossians 4:2).

      3For all Parents

We want to pray for all parents to be faithful and good parents to their children.

            Father, I ask that you give all parents a burden to be involved in all areas of their children’s lives.  I pray that parents here will be sensitive and wise concerning the needs of their children. Help them to recognize their needs and problems and grant them the wisdom, patience,
and love to deal with these things (Ephesians 6:4).

Prayer for  Protection

  1. For the Students

We want to pray for all students to be safe from all harm while in school.

            Father, protect the students at __________from anything or anyone that would choose to hurt them.  Give them an environment where they can learn and have no fear of being bullied, looked down upon, or injured them from anyone.  Make this school a place where they can be educated safely so as to be able to glorify you in their life with their education (Psalm 11:4-7).

     2.  For Teachers and Administrators

We want to pray that all teachers and administrators will be safe from any possible harm.             

            Father, we ask that you protect all of those who have chosen to help educate the children
at ________________.  Protect them from harm.  Give them the ability to teach each child in a way that they can understand.  Protect their minds so that they can be free to teach.  Protect the sanctity of their marriage as the pour much time and effort into these jobs.  Protect the believing ones from spiritual attack, and those who do not believe from believing
Satanic lies about you (I Timothy 2:1-3.)

            We are told to be a people of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  We are told to not just think about ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) but others as well. We are also told to educate our children (Deuteronomy 6:5-7, Proverbs 1:8-9, Proverbs 22:6). If we want to do this in a way that honors the Lord, brings glory to Him, and be a kingdom people, I can think of few better ways than to pray for our children and schools as we start a new year of educating our children for the glory of God.  I hope that you will consider these 4 areas in your own children’s lives, and pray for them diligently.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

For the Christian, Sunday should be the most anticipated day of the week.  It is a day where we gather with people that we love to be encouraged, edified, and engaged, not just with each other, but with our Lord.  It is a place where we get to go before the throne room of God and worship Him.  It is the Lord’s Day.  What a blessing it is that He would give us a whole day just to be with Him apart from our normal labor.  However, for many, it can be the most stressful day of the week.  Besides the spiritual battle that is raged that day, just the plain affairs of the world can weigh heavy on us and rob us of this wonderful blessing of gathering with the corporate body.  We are told to “not forsake the assembling together of the saints.”  It is a command of God, but it is also for our benefit.  So, how can we make sure that it is a blessing to us without all the hustle of the Sunday morning rush and frustrations?   Below are 4 ways to “be” prepared, and I hope can help us be ready to worship.

Be Prayed Up: 

Do you pray for your pastor and elders each week?  What a blessing this can be.  If you really want to help your pastor, be praying for him that the Lord will give him the time to rightly divide the Word of truth.  However, don’t just stop at praying for him.  Be in prayer for yourself as well.  Pray that the Lord will give you a clear conscience.  Pray that the Lord will rid you from all distraction.  Pray that the Lord will give you a yielding Spirit to what He has to say to you through the teaching and preaching of the Word.  Do not neglect this aspect of preparation.  This can start as early as Monday morning the week prior. Prayer is powerful, and it sets your spirit in a posture of submission to the Lord, instead of having yourself on the throne of your desires.

Be Fed Up:

Have you ever been sitting in church and your stomach starts to make all sorts of crazy sounds because you have not fed it enough and it longs for a mile long bar of food?  Hunger pains can be real distracters.  When we are hungry it is hard to focus on almost anything else.  It is hard to be listening to how Jesus is the Bread of Life when all you can think about is getting to the local hamburger joint after services.  You don’t want to be stealing a few extra communion wafers during the Lord’s Supper because you forgot to eat toast that morning.  Make sure that you have eaten a good breakfast that will sustain your hunger so that your spiritual hunger can fully feast on the Word.

Be Slept Up:

Is there anything more embarrassing than falling asleep in church?  I once watched a grown man fall asleep and slowly fall into the lap of the person sitting next to me in the pew.  It is one of the funniest things that I have ever experienced in my life.  However, if he would have had a proper night’s sleep the evening before, it never would have happened.  We have all experienced it.  Our eyes get heavy.  Our head starts to nod.  When this happens, we cannot comprehend anything that anyone is saying.  All of our energy and might is focused on not causing “an incident.”  It can be a miserable feeling.  If you have an important meeting at work, a project at school, or simply a full day ahead of you, do you not try to get to bed early to make sure that your body is prepared and you mind is sharp for the next day?  How much more so should this be true if we are planning on going to visit with the one who died in our stead so that we can worship Him?  Get a good night’s sleep so that you can be awake and not miss the Son the next day.

Be Read Up:

If you have Sunday School or small group materials, or if you know the passage that your pastor will be preaching from on the Lord’s Day, be prepared ahead of time by reading through it prior to the services.  It is amazing the difference it can make when you have a basic understanding of a subject or specific text in the way of comprehension and personal application.  Bible reading and study is not just for the teacher and preacher, but for all of us so that we can KNOW and worship God.  It is a blessing to have God’s Word in a language that we can understand.  Do not neglect this gift that the Lord has given us.  I have never heard anyone ever say, “I really wish that I had not read the Bible before coming to church today.”  On the other hand, I know many who have said the opposite.  So, read before hand and be prepared.

These are 4 helpful and just plain practical ways that I hope will enhance your Lord’s Day worship if you have found yourself struggling with it as of late.  Before you get up Sunday morning, and you’re running late and frustrated with everyone in your house, prepare yourself to “Be.”  Pray before you hit the pew.  Eat before you enter.  Sleep before you sing, and if you want to fully experience what God has for you in the corporate gathering of believers, read before you ride.  Do these things, and see if you do not come away more refreshed and ready to seek His Kingdom for the sake of His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

I know you must think you are important.  You seem to have so much power.  While yes there are times that you lose a battle, it seems so often that you are still winning the war.  You claim the lives of both princes and paupers, young and old, white, black, olive, human, and animal.  You leave behind a wake of hurt and pain for the loved ones, and I think I speak for all when I say, “I really hate you.”  My family has not escaped your grasp either, and I do not assume you are finished with my loved ones, or even me for that matter.  You are good at what you do, but I wanted to write and let you know a few things, at least from a Christian’s perspective.

Cancer, your pain is only temporary:

There is, no doubt, a lot of pain involved in trying to beat you.  There is often associated with this battle treatments like chemo, radiation, surgery, and other uncomfortable and hurtful procedures that we do to combat you, but this pain is only short lived.  Sometimes we beat you, and you never return.  Yes, scars may stay, but you are not the giver and taker of life, Cancer . . . there is Someone higher than you.  Even if this life on earth ends for the Christian, eternity in Heaven where there is no more cancer is just beginning.  You see, the pain you give is only temporary, and there is really nothing you can do to change that.  Temporary pain is real pain no doubt, but it is not eternal.

Cancer, you have no real power:

Oh yes, you may believe yourself to be a powerful foe, but just like Pontius Pilate, 2000 years ago, you have no power unless it be given to you (John 19:11).  You didn’t start the process of pain, hurt, or power over people.  You are simply a bi-product of sin, Cancer.  You have no power except that which is allowed for you to have through our good and gracious sovereign Lord.  Does the Lord take delight in the death of someone though your diseased tentacles?  No, but He is sovereign over it.  For in His book it is written, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).  While it may seem as if you are omnipotent in your spreading of such a dreadful illness, you have no real power except what the Lord allows for His own glory through it.

Cancer, your ultimate defeat is imminent:

Lastly, I would like you to know that your day is coming.  You have done some great damage in your time here.  You have no doubt won some battles, but the end of you and the end of this sinful and disease filled life is coming to an end very soon.  Your ultimate defeat has already been accomplished.  When Jesus came and lived a perfect life, and went to the cross to satisfy the rightful wrath from the Father . . . this is when you died.  He defeated death on the cross.  He defeated sin there, and He defeated you there as well.  See, there is coming a day where all will be made right.  All will be made new.  Yes, you can take a life, but through Christ there can be new life.  There can be eternal life.  You sir, are only temporary.  You will be no more.  You will cause no more tears, no more pain, no more feelings of “they are gone to soon.”  You will be swallowed up in victory because of what Christ has done.  You are done, Cancer. You are done.

Yes, you may very well take from us those we love.  You may very well continue for a short time to ravage our bodies and those whom we care so dearly for, but you will not have the last word.  The last Word comes from The Word made flesh, and He said “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).  Cancer, you cannot take that away.  So, while you may devastate us and try to stomp us out, I want you to remember that I very much do hate you, and while you may rob me or my loved one of life here on earth, you will never be able to rob us of our eternal life.  Your time is coming, Cancer.  There is nothing you can do to stop it.  Oh, and in case you have not heard our mantra, just let these words echo in your ears, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  Death may come to us, but our life will be eternal.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Mother’s Day is just one of those man-made holidays that seem hard to just pass over.  I mean, who does not love their mother, right?  God really gave you a great gift if you had a godly mother.  As I was trying to think through what I could do to honor my mother this year I started thinking about all the things she passed on to me.  While I could name a myriad of godly qualities, there are five lessons that I learned by example through her life that stick out more than others.

Have a Love for the Lord:

There is nothing more important in my mother’s life than her relationship with the Lord.  She loves Him so.  She would often speak of Him, when I was a child, with such reverence but also intimacy.  She loves him so much, that she knew it to be her chief duty to pass it on to her children.  No matter what has happened in her life, even in great tragedy, her resolve and love for the Lord has never waned.  This is the most important lesson she passed on to my brother and I; to always love the Lord and have Him preeminent in our lives.

Have a Love for Your Family:

Second only to her love for the Lord is her love for her family.  She and my father decided it was best for her to stay home with my brother and me until we were old enough to go to school.  After we started our formal education she went to work so as to help provide for the family economy.  No matter how hard she worked, she (and my father) was always there for all of me and my brother’s sporting events, which were many since I played 3 sports.  Not only was she there for sporting events, but for everything else in my life as well.  She always took a deep interest in the things of my life.  She would deny things that she might want to do so as to be able to provide for my brother, father, and I.  She loves her family, and she would do anything for us.  She is a beautiful example of what it means to love your family.

Have a Love for Your Local Church:

I cannot remember a time in my life when my parents were not active in serving within the church.  My mother taught Sunday school, directed the youth, taught the youngest of children in Mission Friends class, and as a family we would clean the church each week.  She believes in serving the Lord through serving the church.  Any time the doors of the church were open, our family was there.  This is something that she and my father have passed down to me as well.  I don’t just love the church because I am paid by it, but because it was instilled into me at a young age that if I was part of the bride of Christ, then I was to also serve her.  To this day my Mom serves her church faithfully, and I thank her for helping to place that desire in me.

Have a Sacrificial Heart:

As is true for many godly women, my mother is one who is willing to sacrifice her time, talent, and treasures for the sake of the Lord and her family.  Almost to a fault at times, my mother didn’t (and still does not) know how to say “no” when it came to helping others.  I have seen her out to all hours of the night preparing the church for a special service, or helping a person who was in need.  While she never neglected my father or us boys, she was always willing to sacrifice whatever was needed to bring glory to God and build the Kingdom.  Her sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed.  It is like her heart is simply shaped with this disposition, and for that I am grateful.

Have a Love for Godly Music:

The Lord blessed my family with a love for music.  All four of us enjoy(ed) singing and playing instruments.  Now while The Eagles or the Credence Clearwater Revival could sometimes be heard blaring from our windows, more often than not it was some type of Christian music.  One of my earliest memories is traveling with my parents and their Christian quartet, The Woodlandairs, to different churches on the weekends playing Southern Gospel Music.  While my taste for Southern Gospel Music has never been too great, singing some of the great hymns of our faith that my mother would often sing around the house and at church is deeply rooted in my being.  Both my father and my mother established in me a love for godly music, and while I strayed from it through much of my teen years, the memories of it never left me, and would once again captivate me in my 20’s and do still today.  A love for music, but more importantly music that honored God, is a gift and a life lesson my mother passed on to me that is invaluable.

While Mother’s Day is a special day when we remember our Moms, it is also a day to look back on the lessons that they have taught us.  I hope the Lord blesses me with another 30 years with my mother, however, if the Lord was to take her home today, she would leave me with enough of a legacy to last two life-times.  This list of lessons is not unique to my mother only I am sure, but how thankful I am that it is true of this woman that I will always simply just call “Mom”.  I thank the Lord for mothers who love the Lord so much that they have no greater job on earth than to pass that love on to their children.  Thank you mom for doing so with your children.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

One of the highlights of my day is sitting around the family table with my wife and children for family worship.  Inevitably, something comes up two or three times a week and we miss it, but we have been in the practice since my wife and I have been married.  This last year we have started doing just a little something different that has seemed to enhance our worship time tremendously.  It is so simple, yet it has been revolutionary for our family.

I am a Bible teacher at heart.  I have often dreamt of teaching my children about theology, church history, and the wonders of our great God.  However, in my dreaming stage it is often geared toward the future and not the present.  All four of my children are under the age of seven and I have often thought that they are not ready for a study on hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible) or systematic theology.  Yet, this last year, without even realizing we were doing it at first, that is exactly what has happened.  We have always asked questions at the end of the Bible reading, but we now ask three simple questions before we ever start reading the Bible.  These questions are the same questions every time.  They are so easy to answer that even my 2-year-old can answer them (after he has heard his older siblings answer them 50 times).

Here are the three questions that my wife and I ask my children, and I would like to encourage you to do the same and just see how the Lord uses it.

Who wrote this book of the Bible?

We have been reading through the gospel of Mark for the past couple of months.  So, each day I ask the same question, “Who wrote the Gospel of Mark”?  I try to ask a different child this question each day so that all of them get a chance through the week to answer different questions.  Of course, the answer is Mark.  Now, this does take a little work from the parents on the front end to know who wrote the book of the Bible you are studying, but any good study Bible can provide this answer for you with a little reading.  By the end of the first week, usually all of the children have this one down.

Who was the book written to?

This piggybacks on the back of the first question.  It goes like this for us . . . “Who did Mark write his gospel to?”  To which they answer, “to the Christians in Rome.”  Of the 66 books of the Bible, only 40 of the human authors have been identified.  For some books the author is anonymous.  If that is true of the book of the Bible you are reading, just be honest about it.  The truth is, there is one divine Author (II Timothy 3:16).  While it is often helpful to know the human author, it is not necessary.  Nonetheless, it is a basic Bible study question, and one that will help lead you, and your children, to get the truth and application of a text.

Why was the book written?

This is the third and last question that we ask.  This  question, like the two above, is linked to the others.  We will say, “Why did Mark write his gospel?”  See how they continue to build on each other?  Repetition is key for most people when learning.  They will then eagerly (most of the time) respond, “To tell the Christians in Rome that Jesus was the Messiah.”  It is amazing to see the children start to get into the reading more since they know these truths about it.  Often we point out or have the child tell us how Mark shows that Jesus is the Messiah from a particular passage.  This just continues to reiterate that which they have already learned.  It is remarkable.

There are the three easy and simple questions.  It is amazing to see how much better our family worship time is now because of getting the kids more involved.  These are the same three questions that we, as students of the Bible, should be asking ourselves every time we pick up the Word to better help us truly hear from God.  It is Jessica’s and my hope that we will ingrain this type of Bible study into the minds of our children so that it becomes common place for them as they start to read and study the Bible more when they get older.  To be honest though, it has even helped my wife and me as much as the children when we are reminded of these things every time we read with them.  It just makes Scripture come alive.  So, if you would really like to help your kids become better students of God’s Word, just ask these three little questions . . . over and over and over again.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Which Bible Translation is the Best?

Posted: March 15, 2016 in Bible
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In fourteen years of ministry, I’ve noticed that the question, “Which English Translation is the best?” is one of those questions that seems to get asked more than most others.  It is a great question.  We are blessed to live in a time when we have more Bible versions than any other time in church history.  But, BUYER BEWARE!  Not all translations are created equal!  Every translation has a different approach to getting God’s word from the Greek and Hebrew into English.  Some translations have better scholarship than others.  Some translations have an agenda behind them.  Others simply set out to give an exact as possible English language rendering of the original languages.  Every translation is a bit different than the other because of philosophical differences in the human translators.  You will get different answers to the question, “Which is Best?” according to whom you ask.  Without singling out a single superior translation, here are four guidelines to consider before you go and pick your next copy of the all-time best seller – the Bible.

Guideline of Scholarship:

Start your journey with this thought: wouldn’t it be logical that the translation of the Bible that starts with the best and most accurate original language documents would have the best chance of being the most accurate?  Ask about any Bible in English, have the best Greek and Hebrew texts been used to translate this work?  Here’s one example of what I mean, the KJV is a beautiful word for word translation.  It has been used by God for more than 400 years.  However, the KJV (and NKJV) used a specific type of younger manuscripts (Byzantine) rather than the oldest manuscripts (Alexandrian) which are also used by modern translations.  It may surprise you to learn that we don’t have any copies of the Bible written by the Apostles themselves, but we do not.  We have copies of copies of copies, and it is important that we start with the oldest ones we have so we can minimize any translation errors.  If you want the best translation, you want to make sure that the texts used by the translators and editors are the best available.

Guideline of Readability:

Next consider how easy the translation is to understand.  Can you easily understand the words that you are reading?  Many men and women gave their lives to put God’s Word into plain language, whether that be German or English.  While there may not be many people dying for translating God’s Word into their native tongue today, the understanding that we need God’s Word in our own language is still prevalent.  We live in the 21st century and English words change over time.  This is part of the reason we need to have newer translations.  As words change, there is a need for a new translation so as to make it accessible to the people.  I am not meaning to pick on the big brother of the English translation too much, the KJV, but the reality is that many words and phrases have changed over the past several hundred years.  The word gay no longer means happy (James 2:3), the word ass (II Peter 2:16) in American culture does not mean donkey.  These words mean something very different today than they once did.  These redefined words can easily be a distraction to those who are reading a text.  So you need to think through the idea of the translation’s readability before we deem the translation as best.

Guideline of Teachability:

Keep it simple!  That is one of the things that I have always been told when trying to teach scripture.  This does not mean watered down, but rather easy to understand.  When choosing a Bible translation it is important to consider this.  Are you going to have to explain a text twice because of antiquated language like the Geneva Bible or because a translation has been too culturalized like the Cotton Patch Version?  When you have to explain the English rendering of the text before you can even get to its meaning, I believe it to be a hindrance.  Teachability also falls on the shoulder of reliability.  Translations such as the gender-neutral NIV 2011 have deeper problems that could obstruct a faithful teaching from scripture due to the philosophy behind its translation.  Part of the purpose of a good translation is so it can be taught and understood by the people.  If it is not easily taught from, it probably isn’t the best.

Guideline of Preference:

            We all have preferences; however, these preferences should always be guided by a love for the Apostles’ Doctrine.  Do you want to get to the very heart of God and His exact words that He inspired the Apostles and Prophets to write?  Then I would say the NASB, ESV, HSCB, or even NKJV are these best.  Do you simply want a more devotional (thought for thought) translation?  Then you might steer toward the NLT or NIV 1984 (but stay away from the NIV 2011).  Preferences do matter when it comes to choosing a Bible, but remember that just because it is your preference does not make it the best.  Ultimately, we want to hear from God, and if a paraphrase or translation veers from this, then it cannot be considered the best.

When I die I could not think of anything more beautiful than to have the 23rd Psalm read in the poetic King James Version.  There is just something comfortable and nostalgic about it.  However, it is not the best English translation, I believe.  The best in my opinion that fit all these criteria are the ESV and NASB (the best word for word translation we have in English as most scholars will tell you).  Both of these translations capture the very Word of God and not just His voice, which I believe is of utmost importance.  This does not mean that I do not read from other versions from time to time.  Since I have very young children we will often read from the NIV 1984 during family worship.  Other translations can help to shed light on a difficult passage at times, but as for me I tend always read, study, teach and preach from these two translations.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Yesterday I wrote a blog asking the question “Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol.”  I had no clue that it would be shared and read by so many people.  What an honor that so many would read it.  Due some godly feedback, however, I would like to shed some light on my personal preferences and convictions on the matter.

As I wrote yesterday, I am not a drinker.  I really never have been and I do not ever see a time in the future where I ever will be.  It is possible that if you read my blog yesterday without knowing me that it would have been easy to walk away from it thinking that the only reason that I have chosen not to drink alcohol is because I do not like the taste.  However, there are many other and more important reasons than that.  I would like to share four of them with you, and if you are a Christian, I would ask for you to think through some of these reasons with me.

  1. I do not want to offend my brother (I Corinthians 8:13):

Paul told the believers in Corinth “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful . . .” While drinking alcohol may be lawful for me, in the context in which I live, I know how divisive it can be.  I would rather not drink and cause no one to stumble than to drink and cause someone to stumble in their faith because of my freedom.  The fact is: we live in a different culture and context than 1st century Jerusalem. We must be sensitive to the climate in which we live.  My brothers are too important to me.  My witness is too important to me.  I would never want to be one that causes disunity within the body.  Drinking may cause disunity, but I have never known abstinence to cause it.  I prefer to err on the side of the latter.

  1.  I have seen the destruction it can cause on families (Proverbs 20:1):

My mother grew up in a home where her father was a drunk.  He abused not only his own body, but also my grandmother’s.  This is an all too familiar story for many.  In nearly 14 years of ministry I have seen it first hand as well.  While people can be abusive without drinking, the fuel of alcohol has often aided in abuse and complete dismantling of households.  It is a horrible sight to see.  If there was no alcohol, I believe there would be less abuse and less family problems.  People are still going to be people, but I do not see any reason to add fuel to the fire.  There are few things worse in ministry than having to deal with the devastation that can be left because of the abuse of alcohol in a family.

  1. Being an elder, I have been called to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:1-7):

As a pastor, two of the qualifications for the position are to be, “above reproach” and “not addicted to wine.”  Being an elder is a high calling; there are higher standards.  For me part of being above reproach is not only not drinking alcohol but not even having any in my home.  I would hate for a member of the church to come to my home and see that I have a wine cellar stocked to the brim.  To be above reproach means that there should be no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made.  A person in my position must take this into account.  The reality is that there are often assumptions made about a person (whether those assumptions are right or wrong) when you see them with alcohol.  I must be above reproach, and one way that I can do that is by not drinking alcohol.  To “not be addicted to wine” is not just simply another prohibition either.  An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker.  He must always be ready to make clear judgment, and drinking alcohol can easily impair that judgment if one is not careful.

  1. I believe there is wisdom in creating safeguards:

There is a well known proverbial saying that states, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.”  For my family one safeguard that we have to help prevent drunkenness is to not drink at all.  When Lot set his tents close to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, this was his first step toward his later downfall.  Was it wrong for him to put his tents there?  No, but the next time we hear from him he is in the town enjoying all that the cities had to offer.  This is my point about alcohol.  While the Bible does not prohibit all alcohol consumption, wisdom tells me to create safeguards.  I believe it would simply be better to create the safeguard of abstinence than to end up looking up one day from a bar stool, hammered, and wondering what happened.  This is not to say that everyone who has a sip now and then is a dunk, but for me wisdom says do not give Satan even a foothold to take me there.  For the same reason that I would not take another woman out for dinner (because of what it would look like or possibly lead to), I choose not to drink.  There would be nothing more enjoyable for Satan than to see a godly man fall into sin.  The Lord gives us freedom for sure, but he also gives us wisdom.  For me, wisdom, preference, and personal conviction say to abstain.

While I may not be a teetotaler by name, I certainly am in practice.  I see the practical benefits of it for me and my witness.  I would rather not offend anyone by possibly drinking.  I know the harm that alcohol can cause . . . and it is deplorable.  I must remember my calling, and that calling sometimes means suppressing your personal freedom for the sake of others, and I am happy to do so.  I believe there is wisdom in abstaining from alcohol in this day and age. While not everyone has to agree, for me, this is what I believe is right and best.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Sunday night over 114 million people watched the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in the 50th Annual Super Bowl.  After the fairy tale ending, the Denver Broncos future Hall of Fame quarterback Payton Manning (a self-proclaimed Christian) was interviewed.  When asked what was next for him he responded, “I’m going to kiss my wife, hug my family and drink a lot of Budweiser tonight. I promise you that.”  This comment took many by surprise and set off a social media firestorm among Christians.  Some were laughing at his comment (those who really don’t care).  Some were renouncing his faith because of it (the teetotaler crowd), while others were praising him (those who are Christians and like to take a drink now and then).  His comments were being talked about all over the internet and news stations across the world.  If there is this much diversity when it comes to drinking alcohol within Christianity, I think it may be wise to look at what Scripture says and not just what grandma Susie thinks.

First I would like to say that I am not a drinker.  To be fair, you might want to know that I grew up in a culture where if you accidentally made a wrong turn and ended up on the beer isle in the supermarket and were seen, at the next church business meeting you may very well be called upon for excommunication (maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you get the point).  Nevertheless, I have tasted a variety of different types of alcohol and it does not agree with my pallet.  I do not see the purpose in drinking personally.  I have been told that it is an “acquired taste” but I have no desire to acquire it.  However, I know plenty of Christians that drink (some to excess, but most in moderation).  Christians have agreed and disagreed about this issue for centuries, but if we want to end up on the right side of the argument we must agree with the Lord.  What does Scripture actually say about it?  Is it wrong to drink, or just get drunk?  Should it be avoided at all times, or can it be done in moderation?  Is it wrong for some and not for others, or is there a set standard found in Scripture across the board?  I believe we can find all of these answer in God’s Word.  Here are three things to consider before inviting your pastor over for some fresh brew or disowning and disfellowshiping your friends because they have a glass of wine at their anniversary dinner.

Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol? 

Sometimes, yes.

There are certainly times when it is sinful to drink alcohol.

  1. If you have taken a vow not to drink for a certain period of time or in certain places, then it is sinful to drink during those times. The Lord told Aaron and his sons not to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9).  If a person was to take a Nazarite vow, they were forbidden from drinking any type of intoxicating drink (Numbers 6:1-3, 20; Judges 13:4-7).
  1. The idea of abstaining from intoxicating drinks is not just an Old Testament concept. Paul warned believers against getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18) and wrote that deacons should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8).  He instructed Titus that the older women should not be “slaves to drink” (Titus 2:3).  It seems that Scripture does forbid consumption at certain times; but whatever the case, drunkenness is always forbidden.
  1. Today these things still apply.  The truth of the matter is, if you are under the age of 21 in the United States it is illegal to drink (most state have small exceptions).  It is illegal, and thus sinful, to violate the laws of the land (Romans 13).  It is a governmental right to forbid anything that doesn’t promote human flourishing.
  1. If drinking alcohol goes against your conscience, then it is wrong and sinful as well (Romans 14:14).  For some people, drinking is simply unacceptable.  If you have a deep personal conviction, then to go against that conviction would be sinful.
  1. Likewise, if you know a weaker brother that you are around has a problem with drinking and you do it in front of them just to spite them, then it is you who are in sin.  (Romans 14:13-23).

In summary, if you have made a vow not to drink and you drink, it is sin (James 5:12).  If you drink to the point of drunkenness, it is sin.  If you are not of age according to the governmental authority and you drink, it is sin.  If you drink and it is not in good conscience, it is sin.  Finally, if you drink to spite your weaker brother, this too is sinful.  In these cases, yes, drinking alcohol is absolutely sinful.

Sometimes, no.

Drinking alcohol itself is not sinful according to Scripture.  Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (the good stuff nonetheless – John 2:10).  Paul told Timothy (an elder) to “take a little wine for your stomach sake” (I Timothy 5:23).   Melchizedek drank alcohol and it was blessed (Genesis 14:8).  The clearest prohibition in Scripture is that a person is to NEVER get drunk on it (and I would add that being “tipsy” is stage one of drunkenness).  Scripture says that wine is good (Psalm 104:15), but all too often people take what is good and turn it bad and into something sinful.  It appears that Scripture is okay with the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done in moderation and with respect for others.  So, is it okay to burst out that bottle of champaign to celebrate your wedding nuptials?  As long as it meets the scriptural criteria, it appears to be permissible.

Using Discernment:

Now, before you go and crack open that long-neck bottle, I would like to offer a few caveats.

  1. Just because you can, does not mean that you should (I Corinthians 6:12). You may have the freedom in Christ and by the government to drink but you should first ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”, “Can this bring glory to God?”  If you cannot come up with a good answer, then maybe you should put the top back on the bottle.
  1. If you know you have a tendency to take things to excess, then you should simply stay away. Paul says that he will not let anything master him.  If you have had a problem with alcohol in the past, wisdom would say to stay away from it altogether (Proverbs 20:1).
  1. Will this help or hinder your witness? Your personal witness is a big deal.  It has been said that it takes years to build your witness, and only seconds to ruin it.  Is taking a drink of that beer going to aid in your witness to others or will it make you lose your credibility?  Unless it helps, or at least makes it remain neutral, then my advice would be to just leave it on the table.
  1. Remember your brothers in Christ. We live in a land where not everyone agrees on this issue, so please use discernment for the sake of your fellow Christian if you decide to take a drink.  Ask yourself, “Will this hurt my brother?  And if so, would it be better to forgo it for something else?”  While your brother may be wrong in their stance, it is not worth stirring up dissention because of your personal freedom.

Personally, I don’t care for alcohol, however that is simply my personal preference.  At the same time, I do not believe it to be sinful for someone within the church to have a glass of wine for a special occasion.  While I don’t drink, there are others whom I consider close brothers who have no issue with it at all.  So, is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol . . . in some cases yes, but for a person to make the blanket statement that “all drinking is sinful,” is a sin within itself.  For that is calling something that God has called good, evil, and that is a dangerous place to be.  My advice to you . . . whatever you decide to drink, drink it in such a way that it honors the Lord.

To read more on my personal conviction feel free to check out my blog “4 Reasons I Abstain from Drinking Alcohol.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell