A reason to sing and shout Hallelujah, in a new way.

For 14 years, a song entitled “Hallelujah” that was made famous by Jeff Buckley has captured the hearts of millions of people.  It is simple, yet mesmerizing; many people have cherished and sung this melody.  It has been beloved by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  With just a brief listen to the lyrics, however, anyone who knows anything about the Bible may be confused by its story.  It does little for painting an accurate picture of the biblical narrative, and the “Hallelujahs” being sung do not seem to be pointed at the God of the Bible. The music for the song is beautiful, but the lyrics leave believers wanting more.

A few months back, videos of people singing this song were popping up all over social media.  On a challenge from a pastor, Heath Walton (a singer/songwriter from Roopville, Georgia) wrote some theologically sound lyrics to this ever so popular song.  He wrote the song in a few hours.  The new lyrics lay out the gospel message in a powerful way.  The first time I heard it, I wept with both joy and humility.  I wept because it was my story. If you are a Christian, it is your story too.  Jesus is firmly standing at the center of the song; the hero of it all.  In only 3 minutes, Heath writes about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.  He also writes of God’s wrath and how He merits grace upon all who believe.  It is a song that should cause the Christian to worship.

Today, I have put this song on YouTube with added visuals in hopes that during this Easter season you can be reminded of the Gospel both in song, in your ears, and through the pathway of your eyes.  I am not a video editor by trade, but I hope this is something that you can watch and enjoy while you think about Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection this Easter season.

If you like the song as much as I do, and would like to hear more from Heath, you can check out his music HERE

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Why I Almost Left Contemporary Christian Music Behind

Have you ever had an old friend who was once a best friend to you, but now it just seems like you have simply grown apart and hardly even know each other?  This is the best way to describe my relationship with much of the Christian music that we find on the radio today.  When I first started listening to Christian music 13 years ago, I fell in love with it.  When the Lord saved me, I knew that I needed to change the music I listened to.  Before I came to know the Lord, my CD changer (this was before the days that 2,000 songs fit in your pocket) was filled with bands like Nirvana and Led Zeppelin.  While these musicians had some talent, their music would often influence me in ways that would not be pleasing to the Lord.  I knew that after becoming a child of God, I needed to change the music I listened to.  Music was such a big part of my life; the Lord filled that desire with a better option . . . Christian music.  I was introduced to bands like Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Newsboys and a variety of others.   Over the years I continued to love those bands and came to love the music of many other contemporary Christian artists.  However, things are rather different today than they were 13 years ago.  I find myself listening to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) much less than ever before, and have even contemplated (though just briefly) leaving it behind for good.  I’ve had a few realizations that have caused me to rarely talk to that old friend anymore; but when we do get together, it is still a pleasant conversation.

  The Realization that they are artists, and not theologians:

R.A. Sheats, author and friend, once made a very interesting observation that has stuck with me for years.  She said, “Today, Christian music is written by artists, while it was once written by theologians.”  There can be a pretty large gap between the two.  This is not to say that all writers of Christian music today have weak or bad theology; some certainly are sound (Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin, for the most part, to name a few).  But when we look at it as a whole, I believe my friend had a good point.  Most songs written in church history were written by pastors and theologians, where today many of the songs you will hear on the radio are written by 25-35 year-olds who are not even involved in a local church.  Being in the Word and under sound teaching consistently matters when it comes to the songs that are written.  Today, it seems like the music is more important than the words, which make sense if you are making art.  However, God has called us to make more than just art when we make music.  The words mean something and it tells us something.  For me, so many of the words in much of modern CCM music tells me little.  It tells me little of the vileness of my sin.  It tells me little of His substitutionary act of atonement on the cross.  It boasts much of God’s love, but little of His wrath.  Not all artists have bad or watered down theology, but it seems to me that many do . . . and it comes out in their music.  When I listen to or sing a song, I want it to paint an accurate picture of God, and not a light (often feminized) version of Him.

  The Realization that many love the world more than the Word:

There is no more hot button topic today than that of homosexual marriage.  Everywhere you look it seems to be talked about.  Some in the CCM world are even chiming in on the subject.  In the past year we have seen people/groups like Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and even Carrie Underwood voicing their support of same-sex marriage.  Vicky Beeching (Brittan’s female version of Chris Tomlin), just this year came out to reveal that she is a lesbian as well, while people like Jenifer Knapp and Ray Boltz “came out of the closet” a few years back.  Just recently Derek Webb (once one of my musical heros) toured with Knapp in an apparent support of her lifestyle.  Sadly, the love for the world over the Word does not stop at the same-sex-marriage debate for some in the CCM world.  Musical artist Gunger (writer of “Beautiful Things”) made waves a few months back when he denied the validity of the Bible and said that Jesus “was probably just wrong” when He was quoting Moses’ account of the flood.  Even sadder is the fact that Tim Lambesis, the front man for As I Lay Dying, was sentenced to six years in prison for conspiring to kill his estranged wife this past August.  He stated that he and others in the band had become atheists 2 or 3 years back, but it was just easier to keep playing their music than it would have been to come out and say that they no longer believed in the God they were singing about.

It simply breaks my heart to hear these stories.  I know that one cannot toss a whole bag of fruit out because of a few bad apples, but I am afraid that this may very well be only the tip of the iceberg.  I pray that I am wrong, but I believe as times get harder on the Christians in this country who oppose these social issues, we are going to see more artists come out with similar weak-convictions.  It scares me to think that it seems like a shift is coming where people are being conformed to the patterns of this world instead of being transformed by the renewing of their minds.  How I hope I am wrong.

My journey has by no means come full circle.  I am not reverting back to my secular music days.  However, on my music journey I have learned that I need to be careful about what I listen to.  The belief system of the singers matters.  That is why I said I’ve almost left contemporary Christian music.  I have not given up on it completely.  There are still some great songs being written by orthodox Christian artists.  I love singing songs of worship to God like “Glory to God” by Fee or “10,000 Reason” by Matt Redman.  They fill my heart with worship and praise to God.  Nowadays I find myself pulled more to the old hymns, but also to the newer songs of The Getty’s, Jenny and Tyler, Sovereign Grace Music, Red Mountain Church, Andrew Peterson, Rend Collective, and Fernando Ortega.  I love a new Christ-centered hymn or chorus.  It just seems like the theologically sound ones are few and far between in the Contemporary Christian Music world.  While I almost left the CCM world completely because of my frustrations with it, I am glad to still be able to hang out with my old friend at times.  I hope you will join me in trying to practice good discernment when it comes to the Christian music we listen to, and the people we follow who make it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

12 Reflections on 12 Years of Youth Ministry

I have been blessed over the last 12 years with the opportunity to work with youth and their parents in some capacityeither vocationally or as a volunteer.  I have had the privilege to work with so many great and godly young people during this time.  I have seen a lot of families get youth ministry right, and I have seen a lot of families get it wrong.  Through the grace of God I believe He has allowed me to get some things right, while other times I have failed.  But I am always trying to do a better job.  After 12 years of ministry with youth and their families, these are 12 reflections (in no order but the last one) I have on that time.

1.  Children often reflect their parent’s level of commitment to the church.

            It is pretty simple.  If parents aren’t making a commitment to reading their Bible, praying, and serving the church, most often neither will their children.  This is not always true.  I have seen plenty of teens who are greatly committed to the Lord, and their parents are not.  I have also seen parents who are godly saints and their children dreadful delinquents.  However, in general children mirror their parent’s level of commitment to the church and to the Lord.

2. More Bible and less fun.

            Our world, at least in America, is filled with entertainment.  Even the church sometimes feels the need to compete with it.  I know that I have felt that pressure during my years of working with youth.  While there is nothing wrong with good wholesome fun and entertainment it should not be what Youth Ministry is built on.  At the end of the day, we need to be spending more time in Bible study than we do in organizing and playing the latest games.  Entertainment and games have their place, but woe unto us if that is what the Christian kids are coming to church for.  We need to spend more time properly understanding and teaching a passage, than preparing a game night.

3. Investment into the parents life is vital . . . they are their kids primary youth pastor.

            Let’s be honest, the youth pastor (and even the church) only gets about 100 hours a year with your teen.  It is near impossible to properly disciple a group of youth in 1-2 hours a week.  Parents, however, get a few thousand hours a year to spend with their children.  If a youth pastor wants to impact a kid, they need to impact and invest in their parents.  The parent is ultimately the primary discipler of their children.  The parents are the youth’s primary youth pastor.  By spending time with their parents and helping to equip the parents to disciple their children will greatly increase the discipleship of the youth.  Yes, the youth pastor has a huge responsibility, but parent have even more.

4.  Quality over Quantity.

            It is so easy to get caught up in the numbers game in the typical American church.  One thing I have seen in my past 12 years is that high numbers do not always equate to a high view of God for the students in that ministry.  While it is great to have a large amount of youth in your ministry, I believe the emphasis needs to be more on the quality of the ministry than the quantity of it.  Are the kids that you are teaching growing to hate sin more . . . love God more . . . serve God more?   If the answer is yes, then I would say the quality of your ministry is good.  Numbers are great, but don’t sell yourself short and feel that you are not having an effective ministry if you only have a small group.  Jesus took a small group and turned the world upside down.

5.  The Youth are the church today, not just the church of tomorrow.

            I am sure you have heard some older saint say, completely well-meaning, that “The youth are the church of tomorrow.”  I know what they are saying, but anyone that is a repentant follower of Christ is a part of the bride today.  There is so much that youth can do for the Kingdom that many adults would have a hard time doing.  The youth will be the elders, deacons, pianist, and Sunday school teachers of tomorrow, but they are the evangelists and “foot washers” of today.  Get them involved (if you they are not already) and let them BE the church.

6.  Youth ministry is still a valid ministry . . . if done right.

            The biblical way is the only way.  There is a biblical way to do youth ministry.  There is a movement today that teaches that youth ministry is not biblical and should be done away with.  I have heard the arguments and have gleaned much from listening to those who lovingly teach this.  Nevertheless, I do see a biblical purpose in youth ministry (Titus 2, Gal. 3:24, etc). I agree that so much of how we do Youth Ministry today is foreign to scripture, but I am not ready to give up on it.  There is a biblical frame work that can be constructed (i.e. “The family equipping model” of youth ministry).  We just need to make sure that all that we do in youth ministry has a biblical foundation, not just a pragmatic one.

7.  One-on-One investment is invaluable.

            Teenagers value honesty and relationships.  One of the best ways for them to see you and trust you is one-on-one.  Jesus spent a lot of time with his 12.  He also spent a lot of time with just 3.  He invested in them.  Some of the most meaningful times I have had in my ministry have been through one-on-one discipleship (both formal and informal) with different students.  You cannot do this with all of them. Nonetheless, when it is possible, do it.  It will be a worthwhile investment.

8.  Give them SOME ownership.

            Teens have some great ideas on how to reach their own.  Yes, it is true that many are not fully developed spiritually yet, thus the need for adult guidance; but I have seen wonderful growth in the lives of teens when you give them biblical guidelines and allow them to take some ownership in what they are doing.  None of us simply like to be lectured.  Most of us, I think, want to be told what to do . . . and then go and apply it.  Teens are no different.  Give them direction and give them guidelines, but give them some ownership in the ministry and see if the ministry and the youth do not grow spiritually.

9.  Service projects are good, but Gospel-living is better.

            Over the past 10 years or so I have seen so many youth groups start to do service projects in their communities.  There are even entire summer and winter camps that are built around doing service projects.  I rejoice in the fact that youth ministry is striving to put feet to their faith in DOING something for the Kingdom and not just expecting to be served.  However, my fear is that so many leave their “Jesus” behind when they leave the service project.  God has called us to live a gospel life, not just a gospel moment.  Let’s not get so caught up in the moment of serving someone in the name of Jesus that we hold that on a higher pedestal than the everyday life where we are supposed to be living for Jesus.  Let your whole life be a project for God, and not just a few hours on Saturday.

10. Conferences/Camp can be dangerous, but can also be delightful.

            I have been to my share of summer camps and winter retreats.  Some have been great, while others have been . . . uh, not so great.  I will be honest: sometimes I dread going to these types of things.  Often, a partial gospel message is presented and an alter call extended.  So often it is the same youth who are making the same decisions year after year.  I get frustrated at times because I feel the people on stage are playing with people’s emotions.  Often 2 weeks later, nothing has really changed in the life of that person.  The gospel did not capture them . . . emotion did.  For this reason, I think these types of things can be dangerous.  On the other hand, I have seen the Lord use these camps in a mighty way for His glory.  It is an awesome thing to see the Lord bring someone to their knees and witness their life changed forever.  This is delightful.  So my conclusion is that we simply need to be discerning what camp/conference we choose and try to make sure that it is one that is gospel-centered and God exalting.

11. More of a mentor and less of a “friend.”

            When I first started youth ministry I was 21 years old.  What I wanted was for these youth to see me as a cool older brother.  I enjoyed being that guy for several years.  That is until I started to see my role in light of Scripture.  When I started to see myself as a mentor who would speak truth even if it hurt in a loving way, rather than a “friend” shying away from truth because I didn’t want to lose their friendship, my approach to ministry really changed.  Ultimately a youth pastor is an elder, biblically.  There is a long list of things an elder is supposed to be . . . and a buddy who just wants your love is not on that list.  Friendship is great, but in youth ministry it MUST come second to the elder/mentor role.

12. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Youth Ministry.  

            When all is said and done we are called to fear the Lord.  “What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  What is the chief end of youth ministry?  It is the same as the chief end of man.  You glorify God by first fearing him.  Making much of Christ must be the starting point and finishing point to any youth ministry.  There are a wide variety of ways to do this within the youth ministry context.  No matter what we do, let us all make sure that the fear of the Lord is in view.  Let’s make sure that Christ is the hero in our ministry.  Let’s make sure the He is the one getting the glory, and not our cool little group.

I have greatly enjoyed my 12 years of ministering to/with youth and their families.  I pray that as long as the Lord desires to use me in this capacity that I will continue to reflect and move on those things that honor God the most, and put to death those things that elevate us and diminish Him.


Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

Gentlemen, Have You Washed Your Wife Lately . . . Spiritually Speaking

I was recently talking with a friend of mine about the husband and wife roles and relationship.  In passing, he made the statement: “I wash my wife in the word.”  I thought that was an interesting choice of words, until I was reading Ephesians 5 (a chapter that I have read many times) and saw it in its beautiful context.  Ephesians 5 is probably the best selection of scripture on the role of wives and husbands in marriage.  Most of you likely know that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does His church.  Most of you are also likely aware, as the complementarian view so greatly articulates, that husbands are the heads of the home and wives are to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord ( Eph 5:22).  It is interesting to see that Paul uses twice as many words telling husbands to love their wives as he does for a wife to submit to her husband.  If we take the picture of Christ and the church we can see that a husband should be willing to sacrifice everything for her.  He should make her well-being of utmost importance.  He should treat her as he does his own body.  This is what Christ did for the church, thus, this is what a man should do for his wife.  But what of “Washing her by the water through the word” (Eph 5:26)?  The reason you do this is to make her holy.  This is what Christ did for the church, and this is what we need to do for her to help her along in her own personal sanctification.  Can she grow alone (apart from her husband)?  Yes!  But, it is a privilege and responsibility of the husband to do this for his bride.  So, just what does it look like to wash your wife in the word?

Washing Her By Reading Scripture With Her

            We should be reading scripture together.  This can simply be during a formal family worship setting, or in a more private time that you both have together.   Many make the mistake and think that family worship ends when your children leave the home.  However, as the spiritual leader of your home, men, you need to make sure that you are leading the way in reading scripture together.  You can read through scripture together.  You can pick a topic and study it together.  The point is that you pour scripture into your wife.  Scripture guides us.  It convicts us.  It shows us how to love.  It shows us what to love.  It shows us how to be more like Christ.  We do not just want our children to act and look like Jesus, do we?  That is not the sole purpose of reading scripture in the home.  We should want our wives (and ourselves) to be as conformed to His image as possible, as well.  One way of doing this is by reading and absorbing God’s word.  Husbands . . . read!

Washing Her By Praying Scripture With Her

            Have you ever prayed through scripture?  It is something that I was taught to do by one of my professors, Donald Whitney.   It is of great benefit.   Basically, it is simply taking the scripture that you have read, applying to your life and praying it back to God.  It is a beautiful and beneficial way to pray.  We are commanded to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16).  What better person is there to pray for and with than the person that you are supposed to love more than any other on earth?  If you don’t already pray with your spouse, then this is the first place to start.  Learn to pray with each other regularly.  However, when you read scripture together, find time to pray through it once you have finished.  You may be amazed at how often the Lord providentially reveals a need that is going on in your life as you read through and pray through scripture.  She will be blessed, and the Lord will be honored.   Husbands . . . pray!

Washing Her By Giving Scripture To Her

            Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”  Each Monday morning my family gathers before I leave for the office to read, sing, and pray God’s word.  After we read though a chapter of the Bible, I try to pick out a verse from that chapter we read that I think will encourage my wife for that week.  I write it on an index card and put it on the refrigerator.  I think it is important to always have the Lord’s word in front of us.   This is also a way to let my wife know that I care for her by giving her something as precious as God‘s word.  This is just one example of how I try to apply this principle for my wife.  For you it may be sending your wife a daily text with a verse that reminds you of her.  It may be highlighting something in her Bible for her to read.  It does not matter how you do it, but simply that you do it.  Husbands . . . give!

Gentlemen, have you given your wife a bath lately?  I must admit, this is something that I have been greatly convicted of lately.  I want to wash my wife with the water of the Word.  I want to help make her holy, as Christ made the church holy.  It is my duty, but it is also my privilege.  I am grateful that my friend shared that little phrase with me that day.  So guys, if you are not washing her, you might want to run some water and get a towel.  Husbands . . . read.  Husbands . . . pray.  Husbands . . . give, and enjoy while doing it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Celebrating Diversity: Why “Denomination” is not a bad word.

Have you ever stepped back and thought about just how many different types of Protestant Christian church denominations there are?   Most all of them stem off of the 6 major denominational heads: Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, (Reformed) Presbyterian, and Pentecostal.  Then if you break these denominational heads down into sub-groups, you will find some 30,000 different types of Protestant churches.  For example, take the Baptist denomination.  Within that denominational head you have Southern Baptist, Reformed Baptist, General Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Free Will Baptist . . . need  I go on?   If we are all supposed to be one, it does not seem like having all of this diversity can be a good thing.  There is no doubt that there are some serious doctrinal differences between these groups.  Some denominational groups would say that other entire denominational groups are apostate due to certain views that they hold.  I am not here to argue about doctrinal differences (although they matter greatly), but rather, I want to show that for true believers this diversity can actually be a good thing for the Kingdom of God.

We Are All Actually One:

                It is important to realize that all who have called on the named of the Lord by faith are all part of the same “denomination.”  This denomination is “The Church” (since we are separated from the rest of the world).  Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Contrary to what our Catholic neighbors say, Peter is not the centerpiece to this story . . . Jesus is.   The Lord has promised that He will build His church, and no one will stop that.  This means that all who have been redeemed are a part of one family . . . the family of God.  We do not all live under the same roof, but we do all have the same Father and Spiritual head.  He is the same Shepherd for all true believers whether you are convicted to pitch your tent within the Church of God camp or the Reformed Baptist.  This does not make us all right on those things we disagree on, but if the foundation is correct (salvation being by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone) we are all one.

Strength in Division:

                Looking at and working with different denominations over the years, I have seen an interesting trend within the groups.  Each church seems to polarize themselves to one of the different parts of the God-head.  When you think of the Presbyterians, for instance, you might think of a group that is very knowledge based.  They desire to KNOW the scriptures and to search the scriptures above all things.  They are a very educated people in general (again, please note that these are general observations).  They love books.  They tend to polarize themselves toward God the Father.  God the Father was the “master mind” behind all of creation in the God-head.  He is the One who speaks forth.  On the other hand, when you think of most Pentecostal groups you think about their tendency to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit.  They often lean toward the more spiritual things and desire the experience of the Holy Spirit.  When you think of Baptists, at least more modern day ones, you think of their desire for evangelism and trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  As you would guess, they tend to focus mostly on Jesus.  If we are to be well balanced in our walk, we need to have an equal balance of all three parts of the God-head and not always attach ourselves to just one person of the God-head.  When we do that, I think we miss out on the fullness of walking with God.

When you look at the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of Israel, I think we can find a good picture of what different denominations should look like.  The tribes were given specific portions of land.  In general, they always lived within that allotted land plot.  However, when they were getting ready for battle, they would all gather in their groups and march out together (1 Chronicles 27).  I see this as a great picture of what denominations should be today.  There is place for genuine debate within the fellowship of believers.  There are even times when it is wise to disfellowship (although only over matters of clear sin) from each other.  However, for those who are truly unified under the banner of the Kingdom’s cause, we need to be strong and band together when we go out to battle.  The cost is too high not to be joined together for the gospel.  There is strength in diversity (since working that way allows us to reach different types of people), but let us not become too divided that we lose that unified strength.

A Word of Warning:    

We must not let our guard down so much that we allow sin into the camp.  When we do this, it weakens the whole camp.  There is forgiveness for those who are willing to repent, but one who is in open sin must not be allowed to stay there without correction (I Corinthians 5).  As stated before, there is a place for genuine disagreement and debate within the church; however, we as a church can never compromise on issues of clear sin.  We can agree to disagree on secondary issues, but we can never compromise on primary issues of the gospel.  Yes, let’s work together in every area that we can for the sake of the Kingdom.  We do not have to lay aside the things that make us distinctive, but let’s never lose focus on our commission: Go, make disciples, and do it for the glory and honor of God.   Denominations are not a bad thing if understood in the broader context of the Kingdom.  We can celebrate our diversity.  Let’s just make sure when we celebrate, that we are celebrating the Lord first, and not our particular flavor (denomination) of the Church.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

Convenience or Conviction: Why Timeliness is a Godly Characteristic.

Have you ever been around someone who is perpetually late?  I am not talking about someone who runs late every once in a while, but someone who you can depend on to be late almost every time there is a time set for something to happen.  I admit that it is a pet peeve of mine when people are always late, but I believe it is so because of my Christian convictions.  I see being on time as a godly characteristic.  If we are to “be holy as I am holy” and be “conformed into the image of Jesus,” I think we would do well to be conscience of our timeliness.  There are a variety of reasons why I see this to be true, but I want to give you three to think about today.

God is the God of Truth

            Jesus made many statements about truth.  In John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  In John 8:32 He said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  On the flip side, the adversary of Christ and every Christian is Satan.  Satan is called a “liar” and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  This shows us that he who is not a truth-teller is acting unholy.  A passage that my father repeated to me as a child was James 5:12.  James writes: “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.”  Being on time is a matter of truth and of keeping one’s word.  As the Bible teaches compressively, the Lord is the Lord of all truth.  The Lord is the Lord of honesty.  If we are being conformed to His image, then our word about timeliness matters.  It matters to God, and thus should matter to you.

God is the God of Time

             Time, and timing, matters to God.  Jesus repeatedly said in His ministry “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4, John 4:23, John 5:28, John 7:6).  Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4, “In the fullness of time He came.”  Even when Mary and Martha thought Jesus was late because of their brother’s death, He was still on time (John 11).  God is a God or precision.  He is sovereign and providential and has all things planned to the exact second.  R.C. Sproul says, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.”  Because God is sovereign, He is always on time, even if we don’t see it that way.  If God is always on time, we too should strive for this.         

God is the God of Love

            Ultimately, the reason I see timeliness as a characteristic of God is because of His selfless love.  While the first and primary reason Christ died was out of obedience in fulfilling His Father’s will, closely tied to it was His sacrifice for His people.  When we are continually late it communicates to others that your time is more important than theirs.  It says that you are more important than others.  Paul writes in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”  Since Jesus loved us so much, He put our desperate eternal need above His temporary agonizing pain.  In this sense (although we need to be careful taking this thought too far), He put our needs above His own desires.  This is what we do when we make sure that we are on time.  We put others before ourselves.  There is no mistaking that this type of living is a godly quality.

If you struggle to always be on time then I hope that you consider these things in light of your relationship with God.  God is truth, so we need to always be truthful.  God is timely in all that He does . . . as should we be.  God is love.  Being on time is a way of showing our love toward another.  So, if you need to get out of bed 15 minutes early to make sure that you are prompt in your arrival time to work or church, change your alarm clock.  If stopping at the drive-thru is going to make you late for your meeting, consider which is worth more: that cup of coffee, or keeping your word.  Take the words of Solomon in Proverbs 22:1 to heart: “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth . . .”  If you are habitually late, it is affecting your name, and your name is tied to the Lord.  Live up to it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

Who Do You Love More Anyway, Your Children or Your Spouse?

I have been blessed to become a father to four wonderful children (one girl, followed by three rambunctious boys).  I remember wondering when my wife got pregnant with our second child if I would be able to love him as much as my first.  A very wise person told me once that love does not divide, but multiplies.  After having my fourth child just months ago, I can testify that this adage most definitely rings true.  I have had the privilege of working with youth and their families for more than a decade now, and in that time I have noticed a disturbing trend that I don’t think most parents see as that troublesome.  This trend, I believe, is a tool that is used be “the deceiver.” This trend is putting the love for your children above the love you have for your spouse.  I have seen it more times than I can count.  It seems like a reasonable thing: to love your children more than anything else on earth.  It is a very good thing to love our children.  They need our love, and they need to be shown our love.  However, far too many parents make near idols of their children, leaving their spouse in the distance.  This is not wise, healthy, or biblical.  Yes, you are commanded to train and love your children (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 29:15, the book of Proverbs), but one of the best ways to love your children well is to love your spouse well . . . even more than your own children.

Here are two reasons why I see this is true . . .

You Made a Covenant With Your Spouse, Not Your Children

In the 5th chapter of Ephesians you read about the husband and wife relationship.  Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  This is a huge statement when you start to understand the ramification and practical application of it.  One of the major reasons for Christ coming to earth was to redeem and rescue His bride from the punishment she so justly deserved.  Jesus loves His bride above all others on earth.  This is supposed to be true of all husbands as well.  When you made a covenant with each other in marriage, and joined yourselves together, you then became one flesh (Ephesians 5:31).  You became united.  This is a special relationship that you only ever enter into with one person (until death, or a biblical divorce happens).  This is a covenant that is made with your spouse, not your children.

You Will Live With Your Spouse Forever, Your Children Only Temporarily

            On your wedding day you most likely said something in your vows to this effect: “Till death do us part.”  My wife and I have made it a priority to try to go on at least one date a month to help continue to foster a great relationship together.  I have heard so many parents say that they have not gone on a date alone since they had kids.  One of the things that worries me about this is that after you spend 18-20 years pouring into your children (which you should), are you even going to know your spouse if you do not continue to grow your relationship together?  God has given each parent a great responsibility in raising their children, but one day they too will “leave and cleave,” Lord willing.  You will always have a certain responsibility toward your children, as they do to you, but the relationship you have to your spouse never changes or goes away.  By God’s design you will, or should, live with your spouse until death separates you.  However, you only have a temporary time with your children.  In one way, our children are only ours to borrow, whereas our spouse we have full ownership of (I Corinthians 7:4).

Children are a blessing.  Children are a gift from God.  We are to love them.  We are to train them.  We are to thank God for them.  However, they should never consistently come before your spouse.  Marriage, not parenthood, is a picture of Christ and the Church.  Marriage is a life-long covenant by design.  While parenthood is life-long as well, the meat of it is only brief.  For those of us who still have children in our home, let’s be sure that we are spending much time in developing our relationship with our spouse and not just our children.  Let’s be sure that when our children leave our home, we still have a thriving marriage with our spouse.  Let’s make sure that when we think through these things we think with our Bible open, and not just our hearts, which so easily can lead us astray.  Love your children well . . . but love your spouse even more.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

A Good Beat . . . Bad Lyrics: Why Theology Matters in Music

Have you ever been riding down the road scanning through the radio and you happen upon a song that you have not heard in 10 or 15 years?  If you are anything like me, (or most people, I assume) the lyrics that you have not sung in over a decade somehow find their way, almost without error, to the tip of your tongue.  It is amazing how we can store that type of information in our minds for such a long period of time, when at other times it is hard to even bring to mind a single verse of scripture that we have been trying to memorize.  Recently I had the privilege of attending a conference in Douglasville, Georgia, called G3.  One of the preachers there, Dr. Steve Lawson, told a story where John and Charles Wesley were arguing over who would be the preacher and who would be the hymn writer of their movement.  After arguing back and forth for a while Charles finally relented and told his brother John that he could be the preacher, but said in 100 years more people would remember his hymns and be more shaped by his words than John’s preaching.  These words, I believe, most certainly came true.

Music matters to God.  If you are much of a student of God’s word it would not take you long to see this as true.  The longest book in the Bible (Psalms) is mostly dedicated to written songs about Him.  Many instruments are listed in scripture.  There is singing in heaven.  Music matters to God.   If this is true, I think it would be wise of us to try to be more discerning in the music that we sing.  Today, you can find literally any type of genre of music that has been “Christianized.”  We have Christian Hip-Hop, Rock, Country, and even Hard-core.  This blog in no way is trying to single out a genre of music, but to try to bring to mind what matters most to God in the music.  I have heard so many “good beats” in Christian music that is moving by themselves, but when you add the watered down (sometimes  heretical) lyrics to that song, it just make me shake my head in disbelief.

Music matters to God . . . and so does the theology in it.  If a song has bad theology, it does not matter how good the music is that goes along with it.  If the words do not accurately describe the Lord and His word, I believe it would be wise for us to stay away from singing these types of songs in corporate worship.

There are three reasons why I believe theology matters in music and why I believe we should have good discernment in the songs that we sing in our corporate services (or even at home for that matter).

Music is for the Lord

                God ordained music to be played and sung for His glory.  “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2). “Sing aloud to God our strength” (Ps. 81:1). “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1).  He gave many different people, from kings, to shepherds, to priests the ability to sing, play musical instruments, and write songs of worship and praise to Him.  The distinguishing factor in almost every song recorded in scripture is that it focuses on the Lord, rather than man.  God is the hero worthy of praise and worship.  Godly music is to focus on Him, and not us.   This is why good theology is so important in songs.  If it is not about Him, it is not worth singing in church.

Music is for the Church

                The primary reason for music is to glorify God (as is every aspect of life, actually), but he also gives it as a gift to the church as a way to express our praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to Him.  The first thing the Israelites did when they came out from the Red Sea was to sing a song of praise to the Lord (Exodus 15).  Paul instructs us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19.  It seems that godly music should be a part of our daily life.  The early church, when they gathered, would almost always sing to the Lord.  The church has been worshiping and praising the Lord for thousands of years.  It is a gift, but it is also a command.  If we are commanded to do so, I believe it is imperative that we do so “in Spirit and in Truth.”  That means that our heart needs to be right before the Lord to be singing to Him; but it also means that our words need to be accurately portraying who He is, and what He has done.  Taking your focus off of him and putting it on you (or us) is dangerous, and not honoring.

Music Teaches Us

                One of the reasons the church has written songs throughout the years is to help teach biblical truths.  When something is put to music or rhyme it is often easier to remember.  The truth is, a lot of people get their theology from the music that they sing.  When a song gets stuck in your head, the words can easily come up at any moment.  If you get your theology from a county song you might believe that when you die you will become an angel or that when you die everyone goes to heaven (even if they lived a life full of sin like drunkenness and continual one-night stands).  These types of songs may be entertaining to some, but the reality is that many buy into their theology without ever looking into the truth of the Word.  Music teaches us because it is an easy way to remember large amounts of words in a coherent consecutive way.  Knowing this to be true, would it not be wise to make sure that the songs we are singing line up completely with scripture?  This is why, again, theology matters in music.

Music is a wonderful gift from God.  It moves us, shapes us, and teaches us about life.  So, if you are preparing music for your service next Sunday, or in your home for family worship, or just scanning the radio in your car, be sure to think about the words that are being sung.  Are they glorifying to God?  Are they making much of God?  Are they putting Him at the forefront of the story…or someone else?  There is certainly a place for love songs, and simply just fun songs about life, but when we gather to worship the Lord . . . we need to make sure we are truly worshiping in Spirit and IN TRUTH.  This is why theology in music matters.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Student Minister Adam B. Burrell