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

2016 is shaping up to be one of the wildest election years in American history.  I also believe it may very well be the most important one as well.  Our country is at a tipping point morally, spiritually, and financially.  We have not reached the point of no return, but with another 4 to 8 years with a bad president we may well be heading that direction.  The truth is no single man (or woman) will be able to pull the country back or topple it forward.  The president is simply the face of the majority of Americans who decide to vote.  The president’s policies come from the heart and outpouring of those who voted for him.  This is one of the reasons this election matters so much.  It will be a litmus test to see where we really are as a country.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a very political person.  I do my part and vote each election year, but I leave it in the Lord’s hands.  The writer of Proverbs says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).  We are blessed to live in a country where we are offered the liberty to vote for who will rule us.  This is truly a blessing.  Many people in the world do not have this right or ability, and I believe we as Christians should be some of the first ones in the voting lines.  However, we must not simply go there and vote party lines, or vote because Fox News or CNN has told us who a good candidate is.  We need to be informed . . . not just on the person but on what they believe as well.  When we go into the booth we go in as citizens of a kingdom first, and not a nation.  While we are citizens in the United States, we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God, and if we are going to honor that citizenship, we must vote with that in mind first.  Since we have been given such a great responsibility I think we need to be sure to remember what is most important before we punch a chad, pull a lever, or push a button.  Here are 3 words to remember before you vote.

Integrity

Integrity has been defined as what you do when no one else is looking.  So many politicians have made promises just simply to get a vote, only to later renege on that promise; it is almost cliché to even talk about it.  The epistle writer James said “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation”  (James 5:12).  Integrity is a quality that we should be looking for in a presidential candidate . . . even if the person is saying something that we disagree with, we should at least be able to trust what they are saying.  There are many candidates out there that have flipped and flopped on issues more than an Olympic high-diver trying to win a gold medal.  While we are not voting for a pastor and chief, the person we vote for should be a man of integrity.

Morality

There are some who want to say that morality is fluid (always changing) or is up for every individual to decide.  As Christians, we know where morality comes from.  It is not made or legislated on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Morality is something that a moral God has given us in His divine Word.  Murder is always immoral (abortion or an unjust war for example).  Racism is always immoral.  Stealing is always immoral.  Lying is always immoral.  Now, it is true that we can all fall into the trap of these sins from time to time if we are not careful, but when you recognize it as sin, it must be repented of.  However, there are some candidates that have a pattern of these immoral acts, or at least support them positionally.  If a candidate supports immorality or has a pattern of it themselves, should we really cast our vote for them?  I don’t believe Jesus would vote for a grossly immoral candidate.

Wisdom

If a person is to be the President of the United States they need to be wise.  This does not mean they have to have all the answers themselves.  A wise person understands their short comings (Proverbs 11:14), and surrounds themselves with wise council (Proverbs 15:22).  As Christians we do not need to vote for someone just because they speak well, or look good in a suit.  We see where that got Israel when it came to King Saul (I Samuel 9:2).  No, we need to look for someone who is wise, and for us we know that the beginning of wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.  Again, we are not voting for a pastor and chief, but a commander and chief . . . so they do not have to agree with every theological doctrine that we do, but for them to be a good president, wisdom must be applied.

There are many different factors that should be considered when casting our vote this coming March and November.  However, when you go into your voting booth I hope that you will remember these three words; Integrity, Morality, and Wisdom.  I believe this to be the most important election we have seen in our lifetime (and possibly ever).  Please go out and vote.  Please vote with conviction.  Vote as a citizen of heaven before voting as one from the U.S.  For our kingdom is not of this world . . . but while we are here let’s vote in a way that would honor our true King.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a conference called G3.  Each year there is a different theological theme that is focused on over the 3 days of the conference.  This year the focus was on the doctrine of the Trinity.  For much of Christendom the doctrine, at least by name, is settled.  Most believe in it, even if they cannot explain it fully.  If the truth be told, almost every analogy falls short of actually explaining it, and some are just flat out heretical.  The reason is . . . we really don’t have much of anything to compare it to.

I believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be a foundational doctrine, and one that must be held to, for a person to truly be counted as one of the redeemed.  It is interesting to think that all of the major heretical religious perversions of Christianity (Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and you could count Oneness Pentecostals) agree on one thing: they all discard the doctrine of the Trinity.  While it may be hard to describe, the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial.  All the speakers at the conference did a superb job pointing out the importance of it in our daily life.  I was extremely refreshed, encouraged, and convicted over it all this weekend.

I believe that we can all do a better job of being more Trinitarian in our daily walk.  It is easy sometimes to polarize ourselves to one person in the God head.  However, we would be wise to make sure that we keep a balance in our thinking on God, and not drift off to one third of the God pie (wait…that’s heresy as well). Below are a few ways I think we can do a better job of worshiping and living out this Trinitarian belief.

In The Way We Pray:

Do you know that all three persons of the Godhead are involved in our prayers?  When we pray, the general process is that we pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9), in the name of the Son (John 14:14), in the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).  This does not mean from time to time that we cannot pray to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to come.  They are all equally God, but the general process is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is part of the reason we say what we do at the end of our prayers, “In Jesus’ name we pray . . .” They all have different roles to fill, and if we want to get the Trinity right, our prayer life is one of the best ways to do it.

In The Way We Sing:

Theology matters.  R.C. Sproul once said, “Everyone is a theologian.”  Oh how true this is.  The problem is that often many are not good theologians, and bad theology leads to a wrong understanding of God and can easily lead to wrongful living.  Music and songs are such wonderful things.  It is in song that we can so easily be taught.  It is in song that so many people get their theology, because it is often easier to remember a song than it is to remember a passage of Scripture.  If the song is not written with a proper view of the Trinity, it can easily lead us to a wrong view as well.  For example, the Holy Spirit is God.  God is worthy to be praised.  How grateful we are for the Holy Spirit, but we should be careful how much we sing praise to Him, for in His role, He does not draw attention to Himself.  His role is to point glory to Jesus and to the Father.  We would be wise not to focus much of our words directed at Him, but instead to worship through Him (John 4:24).  When we sing, let’s make sure we do it in a way that honors the Trinity, which leads to true worship.

In The Way We Teach:

For those of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to teach or preach it is imperative that we do so with a right view of the Trinity in mind.  When the proper noun “He” is invoked in our English Bibles, let’s make sure that we point out who that “He” is referring to (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit).  Good doctrine should start with us.  Our people often get their doctrine from how we teach and preach.  We would be wise not to overlook these opportunities to teach about the Trinity.  After all, it is one of our responsibilities and privileges (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Trinity is a bit mysterious I know, but I believe the words of the Athanasian Creed best describe it.  It reads,

we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit, but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, coequal in glory, and coeternal in majesty.”

We owe our life to the Trinity.  We owe our worship to the Trinity and because of this I was so encouraged this past weekend.  I hope maybe we can all be encouraged to pray better, sing better, and teach better to the glory of God in a Trinitarian way.  I believe that this is what we need, and I know that is what God desires.  So, does the Trinity matter?  Your life actually depends on the answer.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

It is that time of the year where many people are making a new commitment to save money, get fit, or read that book that has been sitting on the shelf since Christmas of 2008.  It is funny how a single number change on a calendar can promote such anticipation for change.  What is so different about the number 2016 rather than 2015?  Desire . . . a new beginning . . . a fresh start.  There is something about the one number changing that has people running to the gym to hit the weights, waking 30 minutes earlier to get in their devotion time, and making a tighter budget to actually save for Christmas next year instead of paying on that credit card bill for 3 months.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions each year.  Statistically, these resolutions usually last about 2 weeks.  Science tells us that it takes about 4 weeks to create a new habit that sticks.  So, what are some ways that we can make it to that 4 week wall and beyond?  Like many people, I have made and failed at many resolutions, but this year I am resolved to make them work (see what I did there?).   Here are 4 ideas that I believe will help us all to achieve our targets this year.

Have Realistic Goals:

If you are planning on dieting this year, don’t plan on trying to lose 5 pounds a week.  While you may lose 5 the first week, once you get into it a month or so that is hard to maintain.  It would be better to have a plan to lose 10 pounds in a month, so that if you only lose 3 that first week instead of 5 you do not fall off the wagon.  If you decide that you want to read the Bible more, plan on reading 3-5 chapters a day instead of 10-12.  If you end up missing a couple of days because you are sick, it is a lot easier to make up 3 chapters than 12.  For many people, if they get behind on their resolution, they give up.  If you make realistic goals, it is a lot easier to actually stick to them.

Have Others Hold You Accountable:

Maybe you have struggled with pornography.  You have decided that this is the year that you put down an Ebenezer stone and look no more.  One of the tools that the Lord has given us to help defeat sin is each other.  The writer of Proverbs wrote, “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  The Lord has given you brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to bear one another’s burdens.  By having someone that is willing to ask you hard questions, pray for you, and encourage you, you can make looking at porn a thing of the past.  It is the Holy Spirit’s work to help kill the sin in you, and having good accountability with a godly friend is one of the tools He can use.

Have a Plan to Help in Your Self-discipline:

One of the biggest reasons a person stops pursuing their new resolutions is from a lack of self-discipline (I speak from experience).  One of the great things about this is that your self-discipline can grow as you grow closer to God.  Self-control, or self-discipline, is the ninth Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  If you want to grow in this area, get in the Word, and be conformed to the image of God through it.  But until you are there, you need to have a plan.  If you want to stop drinking caffeine this year and you know that you always cave when you are around it, do not buy it or have it in your home.  Bring a water bottle with you to work so you are not tempted to go to the enticement machine, I mean vending machine, at work for your afternoon pick-me-up.  If you know that you lack self-discipline, get into the Word, but also have a plan to escape temptation to begin with.

Have a Daily Prayer Time:

James told his audience, “You have not because you ask not . . .” (James 4).  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  If you want to lose weight, then pray and ask the Lord to give you strength to overcome that 2:00 PM craving for a candy bar.  Do you want to work out and get in shape?  Then pray that the Lord will help you get up when that alarm goes off at 5:30 AM and get to the gym.  We are not called to lean on ourselves in all things, but rather to take all things to the Lord in prayer (Philippians 4:6) who loves to give good gifts to His children.  If you want to keep that New Year’s resolution, one of the best ways to do that is to pray.

Change is hard.  It takes work.  It takes discipline.  However, there is something about having the new date on a new calendar that motivates us to change.  That is a good thing.  We often need motivation.  So this year, here’s hoping that the changes that we are all so excited about the first week of January will last into March, June, and eventually to a lifestyle change.  It is my plan to apply these four suggestions this year, and I hope you do as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell