Join me on the Janet Mefferd Show Monday, Dec 22

Jane Mefferd will be interviewing me about our new book, “A Theology of the Family.” Join us at 3:00 Eastern time and click here to listen.

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Super Sale! In Your Hands Before Christmas – Guaranteed

We are offering three incredible deals in the NCFIC store you do not want to miss!

First, we have “The Theology of the Family Super Bundle,” which includes our newest groundbreaking book A Theology of the Family¸ as well as Family Reformation, Feminine by Design, and all three volumes of the Building a Godly Home series by William Gouge (edited and modernized by Scott Brown and Joel Beeke) for 40% off plus FREE shipping. If you were to purchase all six of these helpful books on the family, it would normally cost you $109.05; but for a limited time, you can get all six of these books for one low price of $54.13! That is over $50.00 in savings!

Next, we have a sale on our newest book A Theology of the Family. You can get this fabulous compilation of articles on the family written by godly men over the last 500 years for one low price of $24.57! That is 30% off plus FREE shipping!

Thirdly, we have the Building a Godly Home bundle. The third and final volume of this fantastic series on the family has been released. For a limited time, we want to offer you the complete Building a Godly Home series for one low price of $25.90! Normally, you would have to pay $53.15 for all three of these volumes; which means you save over $25.00! These books will also be shipped to you FREE!

Don’t wait, because these deals will not last long. You must order by Friday December 19th to receive these great deals! Finally, while supplies last, we will ship these books out in time for you to receive them by Christmas!

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Gen2 Leadership Conference – Jan. 30-31

Please consider joining me at Gen2.  It will be an excellent time to look at the past and consider the future. Before the conference, there will be two meetings with pastors and church leaders I will be part of.

First on Thursday January 29, from noon to 4:00pm, the NCFIC will be meeting with local leaders for an NCFIC specific lunch gathering. Kirk Smith, the NCFIC Regional Facilitator for the Midwest and myself, will be hosting a lunch meeting with pastors. At that meeting we will eat lunch together, consider some important matters of church life, share with one another, and have some time to pray together. This meeting will take place at the Comfort Suites, 775 Petersburg Rd, Hebron, KY. The cost will be 20.00. Click here to sign up for the Church Leaders Luncheon

Then, that evening, in the same location, there will be another pastors meeting that Kevin Swanson is leading that is part of the Gen2 conference. Click here to register.  For a complete schedule of the conference, click here.

 

The Gen2 Conference – Revealing the Results from the Largest Spiritual Study Done on Christian Millennials!

Every once in a while, it’s good to step back and look at the big picture. The last 40 years have seen unparalleled growth in the amount of money spent on reaching young people — Christian education, homeschooling, summer camps, youth groups, Sunday School — the list goes on. Yet many Christian studies have shown that between 60-90% of American Christian youth leave the faith. Is this the future of our children?

As parents, leaders, elders, and pastors who love our children and want to pass our faith to them, we want to see something better for the next generation. So we had to roll up our sleeves and ask the hard questions. Why do Millennials seem to have so little interest in Christianity? Do homeschooled young people do any better? Is there any encouraging news?

The Gen2 Survey conducted in 2013 and 2014 is the largest Christian study conducted on the Millennial generation. We asked questions about what they believe, why, and what influenced them as they were growing up. We looked at worldview issues, types of churches they were part of, method of education, commitment to church, parent-child relationships, cultural input, and commitment to the Christian faith.

Now, for the first time, the results from this landmark survey will be released at the Gen2 Conference on Jan 30-31, 2015, where we will carefully review the input of over 10,000 Millennials from a variety of church and educational backgrounds.  Who did well?  Where did we go wrong? 

Invitation: Special Dinner for Pastors

Scott Brown and Kevin Swanson

If you are a church pastor, elder, deacon, or leader – we want to invite you to a special dinner on Thursday, January 28th with discussion from Kevin Swanson (Producer of the survey), Scott Brown, and other pastors to focus on the specific results from the Gen2 Survey which provide significant insight into the way we approach church ministry. The dinner discussion will answer the questions leaders are asking:

- Has the “Family-Integrated” church helped or hurt the faith of the next generation?

– Do some kinds or denominations of churches do better than others?

– Are families able to raise faithful children while not being part of a church?

– How influential is church preaching on the faith of the next generation?

There are still some that are interested in salvaging the faith during the secularization of the last bastion of Christianity. Join many of the nation’s most noted Christian leaders to examine the failures and successes of 40 years of church youth ministry, family ministry, and home education. We are delighted to have Al Mohler, Jeff Myers, Ken Ham, and many other leaders join us. The administer of the study, Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI, will be sharing the first public presentation of the full study results.

 

The conference will be held at the beautiful Creation Museum. Conference attendees and their families will be able to attend the Creation Museum for only $10 per person for a 2-day pass! Enjoy all the features of the museum including the planetarium, the zip line, the numerous exhibits and dioramas, the Dragon Legends exhibit, the Facing the Allosaurus skeleton display, the botanical gardens, the theater shows, the rare Bible manuscripts exhibit, Dr. Crawley’s insect collection, the petting zoo, and the camel rides. There’s more to do here than you and your family can fit into one literal day!
Gen 2 Leadership Conference
January 30-31, 2015

Full Price $99 –  Only $50 with Coupon until Dec 31!

Coupon: NCFIC

(Email info@gen2conference.com for special discounted rates for large families!)

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Nine Marks of the Sovereignty of God

As I am preaching through Isaiah now in our church, we are continually being faced with the language of the Sovereignty of God. In chapter 37:21-32, there is astonishing language used that depicts the magnificence of God’s sovereignty. In this text we are exposed to what is perhaps the most comforting message of the Bible – It is a branch of the message of the love of God. That message can be summed up in the phrase in v32,  “The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.” This is THE great cause of everything. God is superintending all of history in order to prove Himself zealous to rescue His people. What we learn from Isaiah, is that it’s not our zeal for God that Isaiah is concerned about, but rather His zeal for us. During this sermon, I mentioned nine marks of the sovereignty of God. Here they are:

Nine marks of the sovereignty of God

1. Everything  you have received is determined by a sovereign God, 1 Cor 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive.”

2. He is the ONLY potentate and the king of kings, 1 Timothy 6:15-16, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen

3. He will capture His enemies and no one can stop it, Isaiah 43:13, Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?

4. Nothing is outside His will for He works all things by the counsel of His will,  Eph 1:11, In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

5. His dominion is unstoppable and unending and nothing can resist it, Daniel 4:34-35, And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” (more…)

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Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker?

John Piper responds to a question with alarming clarity for why our affections for holy and beautiful things must be nurtured – for the sake of genuine love and truly satisfying pleasure:

Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker? 

Porn is destructive to a man’s capacities to love a woman purely for herself. He is training his body to need increasingly different, strange, erotic situations and bodies, and he is making it harder to be content with the real body of the woman that is going to be offered to him as his wife. And her body, as it is, at its best, is not going to be the airbrushed body of pornographic sites. And when she is 50 it isn’t going to be that either. And if he hasn’t cultivated a kind of pure love for his wife, for herself, as she is, then his eyes are going to be cruising continually beyond what she has to offer him at age 40 and 50 and 60. A woman needs to be able to trust a man. A woman feels profoundly compromised when a man says to her, “No, I really need more than you can offer me.” That is tragic for a man to say that to a woman. So porn is destructive to his capacity to love her for who she is.

And here is the fourth and the last thing I will say about why it is so wrong for a man to do this. Porn is destructive to a man’s soul. His capacity to see God in the purity and the greatness of his glory is shriveled. It is compromised. The soul shrinks to the size and the quality of its pleasures.

John Piper. Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker? DesiringGod.com

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Thirteen Thanksgiving Celebration Tips

It has always amazed me that we live in a nation where a holiday is given to the people for the purpose of thanksgiving. Let’s seize the day! It is a marvelous opportunity for us to lead our families in thanksgiving, building cultures of happiness and gratitude in our families that spill over into the church and the society at large. If there ever was a truly biblical holiday in America, Thanksgiving would top the list.

What follows are THIRTEEN Thanksgiving Celebration Tips.  I write this that we “may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,” and to tell of His “wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:7), and to declare the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ across the land. In it you will find encouragement to read the scripture, sing the songs, recount the history and dedicate your family to building a culture of thankfulness.

1. Do what a fun family in our church does…

We have a family in our church that has a large and fantastic Thanksgiving celebration that engages all ages in the pilgrim story. It is educational and engaging for all. Anyone who comes must be dressed as a character of someone on the Mayflower, and ready to tell the story of their lives, reciting a speech to all – from the littlest to the oldest.

2. Read Psalm 136 

A couple of years ago, our family read Psalm 136 and each person gave a personal testimony of thanksgiving between each verse. Ezra 3:11 gives the basic idea for this, “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

3. Capture the opportunity to teach the sufficiency of Christ

Thanksgiving offers fathers a wonderful opportunity to intentionally use an entire day to teach your family and friends about the importance of giving thanks. Families need leaders who will establish and undergird and constantly reinforce a culture of joy in a family. Thanksgiving offers a brilliant opportunity for leaders to lead their tribes in thanksgiving and drive a stake in the ground to say, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57), and to declare, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor 2:14).

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Why the Concordance Method Falls Short

57565328-300x200We often fall into the trap of thinking that understanding the will of God can only come if we find the exact word in scripture to guide us on it. Albert Mohler brings this out in a recent article, “Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis.”

Mohler notes the good reason that use our concordances, “Proof-texting is the first reflex of conservative Protestants seeking a strategy of theological retrieval and restatement. This hermeneutical reflex comes naturally to evangelical Christians because we believe the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible word of God.”

Yet he sounds a warning about the limitations of this methodology:

“There are, however, obvious limitations to this type of theological method—what I like to call the “concordance reflex.” What happens when you are wrestling with a theological issue for which no corresponding word appears in the concordance? Many of the most important theological issues cannot be reduced to merely finding relevant words and their corresponding verses in a concordance. Try looking up “transgender” in your concordance. How about “lesbian”? Or “in vitro fertilization”? They’re certainly not in the back of my Bible.”

It’s not that Scripture is insufficient. The problem is not a failure of Scripture but a failure of our approach to Scripture. The concordance approach to theology produces a flat Bible without context, covenant, or master-narrative—three hermeneutical foundations that are essential to understand Scripture rightly.”

As we try to understand the will of the Lord as we are beset with constant critical culture shifts, it is important that we study the Bible correctly. Here is the whole article:

In his recent Blog Essay, “Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis,” Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. writes about the importance of having a robust biblical theology as Christians engage with the sexual revolution. He writes:

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Music, Family, and the Text of Scripture – Three Subjects from This Weekend’s Conference

We spent the weekend withJeff Pollard at Mt. Zion Bible church’s Family Conference. Jeff Pollard leads Chapel Library which is a marvelous worldwide literature distribution ministry. I gave four different messages dealing with different aspects of the family, such as raising children, the responsibilities of fathers and husbands, the gift of singleness, and the Christian family in corporate worship.

You can listen to the messages from this year’s family conference for free here on Sermon Audio. The messages delivered were a great blessing to me and my family and I encourage you to listen to them as well.

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Anatomy of a Conflict

Mike Mckinley over at 9Marks offers this list from Mike Minter and his one day course for pastors:

1. An offense occurs.
2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
3. Friends take up the offense.
4. Sides begin to form.
5. Suspicion on both sides develops.
6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
7. Exaggerated statements are made.
8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
11. Integrity is challenged.
12. People call each other liars.
13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
14. Many are hurt.

Mckinley offers three observations:

• First, that is pretty much spot-on with what I’ve observed in a number of churches. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s the truth.
• Second, it seems that once you get to step #5, it’s pretty hard to pull out of the nose-dive.
• Third, conflict in the church makes me long for Jesus to come back soon.

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Twenty Two Problems with Multi Site Churches

Here Jonathan Leeman over at 9 Marks speaks of the issues that need to be considered with multi site churches. His first point is very significant and it begins a helpful and thoughtful analysis:

I love my gospel-loving friends in multi-site churches—both leaders and members! But as Christians we work continually to reform our churches in light of Scripture. So I trust a little push back on the multi-site structure serves everyone, assuming my concerns turn out to be valid. Below are 22 misgivings I have about the multi-site model. All of these apply to churches that use a video preacher. Over half apply to churches who employ a preacher on every campus.* Some of these are grounded in biblical or theological principles; some are matters of prudence.

1. There’s no clear example of a multi-site church in the New Testament, only supposition. “Well, surely, the Christians in a city could not have all met…” (but see Acts 2:465:126:2).

2. If a church is constituted by the preaching of the Word and the distribution of the ordinances under the binding authority of the keys, every “campus” where those activities transpire is actually a church. “Multi-site church” is a misnomer. It’s a collection of churches under one administration.

3. For every additional multi-site campus out there, there’s one less preaching pastor being raised up for the next generation.

4. What effectively unites the churches (campuses) of a multi-site church are a budget, a pastor’s charisma, and brand identity. Nowhere does the Bible speak of building church unity in budgets, charisma, and brand.

5. To say that the unity of the church (i.e. the unity of the campuses) depends on the leaders is to say that that the life and work of the church depends that much more on the leaders. Members, in comparison to a single-site model, are demoted.

6. To the extent that a multi-site church relies on brand identity to reach unbelievers, to that same extent they are building Christianity on their brand identity.

7. Multi-site churches which use video preaching unwittingly communicate that singing is more significant for Christian growth and closer to the heart of worship than hearing God’s preached Word. After all, how many multi-site churches stream their music over video from a central location? A church wouldn’t dare import the music, it’s thought. People need to engage with a live band. People need their music authentic, personal, enfleshed. But preaching? Apparently, it can be imported from afar.

8. When a multi-site pastor implodes, dies, or retires, all the churches that constitute that “church” are put at risk, including all the smaller once-independent congregations that the multi-site franchise took over.

9. A multi-site church formally removes the concept of “assembly” from the definition of “church” since it’s a “church” that never actually assembles (but see 1 Cor. 11:18). This is what it means to be multi-site. As such, members of a multi-site church never need to gather in order to be a church. One might say they should gather for reasons of prudence. But it’s not a formal requirement of being a “church.” A multi-site church could spread its 97 members (for example) across 2 sites or 97 sites. Further…

10. Wise and sensible pastors of multi-site churches will not follow the logic of a multi-site model to its rational conclusion, but will continue to insist on some gathering for reasons of prudence and even biblical obedience (though doing so contradicts their formal definition of “church”). Unwise pastors and members, however, willfollow the multi-site logic to this conclusion by creating the opportunity for “Internet churches,” unchurched “fellowship,” and other forms of churchless Christianity.

11. A multi-site church separates authority from the people with whom you gather. Authority and relationships are pulled apart. So a multi-site church involves exercising oversight and discipline over people with whom you never gather.

12. A multi-site church makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a congregation to fulfill its obligation to exercise the keys over the whole “church.”

13. Insofar as the main teacher belongs to a different gathering, a multi-site church separates the ministry of the word from the ministry of deeds.

14. Not only does a multi-site pastor possess all the administrative power that a bishop possesses over churches in his region, he possess even more power than a bishop because he’s doing all the preaching in all those churches.

15. The multi-site church model depends upon extending the reach of “my” church rather than partnering with and aiding other congregations. That is, it’s built on a competitive model of franchise extension, rather than a partnering model of mutual aid that we see in the New Testament. All this can foment “turfyness” and competition between churches. At the very least, every additional campus is a missed opportunity for helping another ministry.

16. The pastor of a large church has difficulty knowing all his members, but he can at least have some sense of the room in which he’s preaching. Both of these are impossible by definition in a multi-site church that employs video preaching.

17. Multi-site churches make it easier to be an anonymous Christian/church member, and perhaps easier for wolves to hide. Yes, this is true of larger churches also, but now the anonymity is built into the very structures. A person can bounce between campuses—church hop!—all in the same “church.”

18. Multi-site churches make church discipline at best more difficult and at worst impossible, as an excommunicated member could easily just switch “campuses” without anyone noticing.

19. Multi-site pours gas on the fire of “theotainment,” as members receive the Word of God from a disembodied man on a screen.

20. In an age which wants authenticity and reality, multi-site is ironically anti-incarnational: it divides Word from flesh.

21. If every local church is to be a presentation or expression or picture of the universal church, that unbelievably wonderful end-time assembly of all God’s people, the multi-site church pictures a divided end-time assembly.

22. Multi-site churches are the current trend in evangelicalism. The great question is, will they be able to make a generational transition? Will they be able to hold together when the main preaching pastor—who is usually in himself the center of gravity for the whole enterprise—goes off the scene? And how much institutional and spiritual fall-out will occur when he does? The only examples of “multi-site churches” that have survived trans-generationally are those which invest a particular office with theological significance, as in, “The man who holds this office is the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff of the Church, and you owe him your allegiance regardless of whether or not you like his preaching.” Whether our own evangelical brand of “multi-site churches” can make this transition without that kind of absolute claim seems unlikely.

*Multi-site “churches” that employ preaching pastors at every site or campus are in fact a type of presbytery: a group of churches united under one elder board (and for those multi-siters who call themselves “congregational,” it might be worth recalling that presbyterians vote on their pastors and, in some cases, discipline, too). Not all the points above apply to this species of the multi-site animal. I would say that points 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, and 21 apply, though shades of a few others may apply as well. My misgivings with presbyterianism would require another list.

Author’s note: Several of the points above were provided by Alex Duke, Jamie Dunlop, Grant Gaines, and Greg Gilbert.

Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director for 9Marks. You can follow him on Twitter.

John Leeman. Twenty Two Problems with Multi Site Churches. 9marks.org

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The Martyr Who First Denied the Faith

Nathan Busenitz has provided a short, surprising, but very moving account of the burning of Thomas Cranmer:

In a moment of weakness, in order to prolong his life, Cranmer denied the truths he had defended throughout his ministry, the very principles upon which the Reformation itself was based.

Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, known to church history as “Bloody Mary,” viewed Cranmer’s retractions as a mighty trophy in her violent campaign against the Protestant cause. But Cranmer’s enemies wanted more than just a written recantation. They wanted him to declare it publicly.

And so, on March 21, 1556, Thomas Cranmer was taken from prison and brought to University Church. Dressed in tattered clothing, the weary, broken, and degraded Reformer took his place at the pulpit. A script of his public recantation had already been approved; and his enemies sat expectantly in the audience, eager to hear his clear denunciation of the evangelical faith.

But then the unexpected happened. In the middle of his speech, Thomas Cranmer deviated from his script. To the shock and dismay of his enemies, he refused to recant the true gospel. Instead, he bravely recanted his earlier recantations.

Finding the courage he had lacked over those previous months, the emboldened Reformer announced to the crowd of shocked onlookers:

“I come to the great thing that troubles my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth, which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand [which were] contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, [being] written for fear of death, and to save my life.”

Cranmer went on to say that if he should be burned at the stake, his right hand would be the first to be destroyed, since it had signed those recantations. And then, just to make sure no one misunderstood him, Cranmer added this: “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.”

Nathan Busenitz. The Death of Thomas Cranmer. TheCripplegate.com

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Where Was My Father Shot Down?

On May 29th, 1945, my father, William E. Brown, was shot down while flying from Iwo Jima to mainland Japan. We recently stumbled upon a document which revealed some more information concerning the incident. This included the exact latitude and longitude coordinates where he was shot down and forced to eject his P-51 Mustang. The map below pinpoints the location.

Here is the communication coming from the submarine “Pipefish” which found and rescued him.

Bill Brown Resuce

 

To read more about my father and other WWII heroes, check out Preparing Boys for Battle, and Moment of Courage.

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Free from What?

When we were at the Founders National Conference  last week we heard a message delivered by Andy Davis commenting on those who have a problem with the idea that God is sovereign over everything and much prefer to think that man is perfectly free to do what he wishes. He said: 

“Free from what? People who emphasize free will act as though the human will is a “holy of holies” into which God Himself is not allowed to enter.” 

We were all grateful to be reminded that God is good, His will is good, and how thankful we were that our will does not rule and reign, lest we be so free that we would be ruined by our fallen and corrupt will. 

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When You Don’t Feel Connected at Church

People sometimes go through periods where they feel low about their church life. Here is a good article by Erik Raymond, that provides helpful advice if you are in one of those seasons:

“It is a common phrase spoken by Christians and wrestled with by pastors, “I don’t feel connected at church.” The pastoral burden is for all Christians to be thriving in and through the ministry. When we hear something like this we immediately go into “fix-it” mode. Often times we even attempt to construct some structure around the person to help them feel connected.

But what if this didn’t help anyone? What if the problem wasn’t the ministry but the individual? What if the disconnection we feel is actually the consequence of selfishness?*

Catering to selfishness will never cure selfishness, it only fortifies it.

I find it fascinating that the church, on every level, as she applies the gospel, is self-denying. In fact, the lion’s share of the NT imperatives (commands) are calling us away from serving ourselves by serving others (i.e. Eph. 4-6).

What follows is a list, some help for those who are aiming to feel connected at church.**

  1. Pray to be impressed with God’s design in the church.
  2. Go to church on Sundays.
  3. Talk to 3 people that you do not know at church.
  4. Open up your home to have someone over (hospitality).
  5. Find opportunities to serve in ministry.
  6. Pray for your pastors, deacons and fellow church family.
  7. Talk to people about Jesus and invite them to church.
  8. Be content with the ordinary means of grace.
  9. Restart process.

As you read this list you no doubt noticed that in each case the problem is countered by self-denying service. Instead of catering to ourselves (consumeranity) believers are called to serve others (Christianity). While this may not be comfortable it is certainly biblical, and therefore, sanctifying.

Can I confess something to you? Sometimes don’t feel very connected at church. And I’m the pastor! But, guess what I do? I get to work on myself because nine times out of ten, the problem is with me. I need to get to work with the simple, ordinary means of grace. This always gets my focus off of myself and on to Christ. It helps me to remember that while the church is full of sinners, I myself am also a sinner.

The way ahead is always service through humility. God knows what he is doing with and through the church. We need to trust him, and, most often, get to work. If you are feeling disconnected or counseling those who are feeling this way, I challenge you to take an honest crack at this list. I think it will do the trick.

*I realize there can be legitimate problems in churches that could cause faithful Christians to feel disconnected. And I don’t discount that pastors can lead people into meaningful community. This posts aims to focus on the individual. 

**This list assumes that there is theological and philosophical agreement with the church.

Erik Raymond. “Help for those who feel ‘Disconnected’ at Church.” OrdinaryPastor.com

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Everlasting Joy on Their Heads

I am preaching through Isaiah on Sunday mornings at our church, and we are now in Isaiah 35, which speaks of the everlasting joy that God gives His people. Here is John Calvin’s commentary on the final words of chapter 35:

And they shall obtain joy and gladness. By the words “joy and gladness,” he means that there will be so great happiness under the reign of Christ, that we shall have abundant reason to rejoice. And indeed the true and only ground of rejoicing is, to know that we are reconciled to God, whose favour is sufficient for our perfect happiness, “so that we may glory even in tribulation,” (Rom. 5:3;) and, on the other hand, when Christ does not enlighten us, we must be darkened by sorrow. Besides, it is certain that the godly do not rejoice in a proper manner without also expressing gratitude to God; and therefore this spiritual joy must be distinguished from that ordinary joy in which irreligious men indulge; for the reprobate also rejoice, but their end at length shews how pernicious is the wantonness of the flesh, which leads them to take delight in despising God. This kind of “joy” Paul justly (Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22) calls spiritual; for it does not depend on fading things, such as honour, property, riches, and other things of that nature which quickly perish; but this joy is secret and has its seat in the hearts, from which it cannot be shaken or torn away in any manner, though Satan endeavours by every method to disturb and afflict us; and therefore the Prophet justly adds—
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The joy is everlasting, and all “sadness flees away;” for although many bitter griefs are daily endured by the children of God, yet so great is the power and strength of their consolation, that it swallows up all sorrow. “We glory,” says Paul, “in our tribulations,” (Rom. 5:3;) and this glorying cannot be without joy. The Apostles “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy of suffering dishonour for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41.) Yet the godly often suffer heavy distresses, and are not exempt from grief. This is undoubtedly true, but they are not overwhelmed; for they look straight towards God, by whose power they become victorious, just as if a person, elevated on a lofty mountain, looking at the sun, and enjoying his brightness, beheld others in a low valley, surrounded by clouds and darkness, whom that brightness could not reach.

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