Category Archive

Preaching The Glory of the Kingdom of God

God is all good things, and every good thing. 

He is self-sufficient, alone-sufficient, and all-sufficient. 

Nothing is lacking in him–either for the soul’s protection from all evil, or for the soul’s perfection with all good. 

If God were your portion, you would find in him whatever your heart could desire and whatever could lead you to happiness. 

Are you ambitious? God is a crown of glory. 

Are you covetous? God is unsearchable riches. 

Are you lustful? God is rivers of pleasure and fulness of joy. 

Are you hungry? God is a feast. 

Are you weary? God is rest–a shadow from the heat and a shelter from the storm. 

Are you weak? God is everlasting strength. 

Are you in doubt? God is marvelous in counsel. 

Are you in darkness? God is the Sun of righteousness, an eternal life. 

Are you sick? He is the God of your health. 

Are you sorrowful? He is the God of all comfort. 

Are you dying? He is the fountain of life. 

Are you in distress? His name is a strong tower, to which you may run to find safety. 

He is a universal remedy against all sorts of misery. Whatever your calamity, he can remove it. Whatever your necessity, he can relieve it. He is silver, gold, honor, delight, food, clothing, house, land, peace, wisdom, power, beauty, father, mother, wife, husband, mercy, love, grace, glory, and infinitely more than all these.1

1. The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith, George Swinnock

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The Fear of God is a Promised Blessing

It is not enough simply to know that you must have the fear of God and the things that constitute that fear. You must know where to get it. Crippling harm can come to you if you don’t know where to get the fear of God. This is a matter of great spiritual concern. What is the origin or source of the fear of God? First we will see that the fear of God implanted in the heart is a promised blessing of the new covenant. Second, we will note from Scripture how the fear of God is planted in the heart by the work of God’s grace.

– Al Martin – The Forgotten Fear, 90

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Love and Loyalty Conference Date Change

The upcomming conference titled Love and Loyalty to Christ and His Church has been moved from the March 25th-26th to April 1st-2nd. The conference is bing held in Plant City, FL, where Grace & Truth Family Baptist Church and the NCFIC will be teaming up to furnish a regional conference for churches and families in the area. The focus of the conference will be on the doctrine of the church and how we can adorn the doctrine in our love and devotion for local churches. The conference will be taking place from 7:00pm-9:30pm Friday the 1st, and from 9:00am-3:30pm on Saturday the 2nd. Lunch on Saturday is included in the registration fee.

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The Iniquity of Us All

With Isaiah 53:4-6, we find ourselves in the centerpiece of the doctrine of salvation. This is the whole heart of Christianity. It assumes several things: the hopelessness of sinners to bear their own sins; the justice of a righteous God, who must appease His wrath; In that justice and mercy of God, the penalty is paid, but it is paid by a substitute. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. It shows us the sinfulness of our sin and the greatness of the suffering that Christ endured for repentant sinners. God vindicated His just wrath for rebellion against His law. He vindicates His justice against them through the suffering (v4-6).

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Returning to God’s Design for Communicating the Gospel in the Church

The Mission of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches:

1. Proclaim the sufficiency of scripture for church and family life
2. Promote the centrality of the church in God’s plan for families
3. Recover the biblical doctrines of manhood and womanhood in church and family life
4. Explain the complementary roles of church and family
5. Facilitate church planting and relationship building
6. Communicate the biblical doctrines of the church and family
7. Restore the biblical pattern of age integrated worship, discipleship and evangelism

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Showing the Love of Christ for People in Our Neighborhoods

Here is a succinct – around 3 min – about how we can show Christ’s love in our neighborhoods

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The Law Should Not be Central in Your Preaching

Evangelist Tony Miano has written a very helpful article regarding the message of street preachers. He says,

The law of God should not be central in your open-air preaching or in your one-to-one communication of the Gospel. The phrase and evangelistic philosophy of “90% law and 10% grace” is widely attributed to John Wesley. The thought behind this sentiment and philosophy is well-intended.”

You can read the whole article by clicking here

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Why is Everything in Vain Without the Gospel

John Calvin wrote a preface for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534). 

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe …” (66)

Calvin closes this preface with words for preachers:

“It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death. This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.” (69-70) 

It has been said that the English translation of this preface is found only in Joseph Haroutunian’s work, Calvin: Commentaries he writes.

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Is Age-Integrated Worship a Historical Norm?

Aaron Denlinger posted an article on Reformation21, “Is Family-Integrated Worship the Historical Norm?”  In the article, he identified a time in the sixteenth-century Church of Scotland in which children were excluded from worship services.

I’m still chuckling at the YouTube video satire he included on how children’s church started… “Mr. Thompson and the Vicar Invent Children’s Church.”

I don’t disagree with his content in terms of his source documentation of a historical fact in the history of the church of Scotland. Further, I did appreciate that he believes there are advantages to age-integrated worship. 

He quotes from Margo Todd’s book, “The Culture of Protestantism in Modern Scotland” where children were excluded from hearing sermons in order not to interrupt the more mature parishioners. This is neither old or new. Jesus encountered it when his disciples wanted to whisk the children away from him and he said, “suffer the little children…”  It is clear that our Lord Jesus Christ did not believe his teaching was hampered by the presence of children.

The question Mr. Denlinger poses is historical – not biblical. Is the historical pattern age-segregated or not? While Aaron Denlinger is correct that the church in Scotland did in fact practice this form of age segregation, I would like to offer four considerations.

First, our argument has always been that age integration has been the norm in the church, while there have been exceptions and different expressions of it throughout history. We have crafted an extensive document to explain the nuances, “A Declaration for the Complementary Roles of Church and Family.” 

Here is how I describe history on the matter in my book, “A Weed in the Church”:

“for most of Christian history, children were present in the meetings of God’s people.”1

I would have preferred that Mr. Denlinger provide some positive proof that excluding children in the services of the worship of God has been the norm. He is correct if he is saying that there are examples which are exceptions, where age segregation was practiced.

Second, exceptions don’t invalidate the norm. Various exceptions in church history do not invalidate the idea that age integration in worship has been the dominant practice. We maintain that until you get to the latter half of the 20th century, including children in the worship of God was the dominant practice – but not the exclusive practice. Isolated examples do not prove the point.

Third, what happened in those churches in sixteenth century Scotland, as well as with other examples in history like it, was a far cry from what happened in the latter part of the twentieth century. I was surprised that he did not recognize the radicalized forms of youth ministry and children’s church that are very common in our current context that never existed in Scotland at the time of his historical example.

Here is how I described it in my book, “A Weed in the Church.”

Today’s church life is highly fragmented into age and life-stage discipleship opportunities. There is a ministry niche for everyone, including infants, toddlers, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders; junior high, senior high, college, singles, young marrieds, marrieds, senior adults, and the divorced. Thirteen-year-olds hang out with thirteen-year-olds; twenties with twenties, marrieds with marrieds, and seniors with seniors.  

At a time in history when nearly every social opportunity the secular world offers separates the generations and the family, the church has followed suit. We seem to have fallen in love with popular educational philosophy and target marketing. The church has joined ranks with an age-segregated world.2

“… this practice actually came about as a result of easily identifiable forces at work in the culture at large. Various modern movements, which I too had embraced, are the driving factors of the age-segregated world we have created; specifically, the coupling of two major forces apply―the rise of youth culture (something that did not exist in past generations) and the modern public school movement. The church copied the public school model of age segregation and embraced the rising of youth culture.3

In the last 150 years a massive shift occurred in church and family life, completely changing the sociology of the church. This resulted in shifting the discipleship methodology from a biblical model to a secular model patterned after public education and youth culture. This was unprecedented in the history of the church.4

Our argument has always turned on the massive shifts that took place at the end of the twentieth century,

However, it was not until the second half of the twentieth century that age-segregated youth ministry became a behemoth. It rapidly gained speed and increased in reach during this period. What was once informal and inconsistent became more and more formal, systematic, and formulaic until it reached industrial strength during the last quarter of the century. I, myself, sponsored a Campus Life group and held Child Evangelism’s 5-Day Clubs. In towns all across America, churches were offering a variety of youth-oriented clubs: Pioneer Girls, Christian Service Brigade, Young Life, AWANA, Boys Brigade, and Royal Ambassadors.

A new kind of church leader

In the middle of the hubbub and clamor surrounding youth ministry, a new category of church leader emerged: the youth minister. Never before had anything like this existed. Youth ministers became program administrators whose job requirement was to deliver whatever would get kids interested in God. 

Modern youth ministry burgeoned and became a big time consumer with high budget facilities, technology, and advertising. Inside the church, it meant doling out significant dollars for youth centers, concerts, and professional stage rigging and lighting. 

I was a youth pastor and a senior pastor during this period of expansion in youth ministry. Even I understood how changeable and experimental it was. We were always tweaking in order to make the ministry more “effective.” We introduced one innovation after another to give it more crank.

While I understood the principle of experimentation, I did not fully realize at the time that this new kind of ministry represented a major shift in church life. What I was doing was a historical aberration in terms of church life.

From novelty to fixed practice

It was the age of creative, pragmatic Christianity. During the last half of the twentieth century, the spirit of the age exalted creativity and experimentation. In Bible colleges and seminaries, the common evaluation grid included: “If it works, it must be good.” Growth was king, and we told ourselves, “If it’s growing, we must be doing something right.” That was how we approached youth ministry. 

These new methods were conceived to reach young people more effectively and grow churches. Because of the initial increase in church attendance, the widespread reception, and the years of practice, these methods are now accepted as a necessary part of church life. This happened in spite of the evidence of the inability of youth ministry to provide the soil to grow committed, mature believers in Christ.

The massive investment of the modern church in this system of youth ministry and the long acceptance of the philosophy, practices, and institutions that promote it, have led many to believe that this kind of ministry is authorized by Scripture. Furthermore, Christian leaders and parents believe that if we abandon modern youth ministry, we abandon youth. They feel it is the best way to teach and evangelize youth. 

A new soil

Modern youth ministry has risen out of a soil composed of many different elements. For over two hundred years, the soil in which the weed of age segregation grew was incrementally prepared with the lofty deposits of platonic philosophy, the loamy organics of rationalism, the ethereal waters of evolutionism, and the breathable but allergenic air of pragmatism. These diverse elements, which created a context for this growth, took time to accumulate; but by the end of the twentieth century, they had produced a new plant that had never been seen before.5

While there are some examples in history before the twentieth century of age segregation , the primary point that we have always made is that near the end of the twentieth century, age segregation in the church reached proportions never seen before.

Historical arguments from silence?

Denlinger states that the historical argument “seems to be one from silence more than anything else.” My reply is that silence is not and never has been part of our argument. The focus of the argument is that it is a historical fact that as the church in America entered the last quarter of the twentieth century, she saw a version of age segregation that was never seen before where nearly everything in church life became age-segregated in most churches in America. Here is how we described it in “A Weed in the Church.”

Historical precedent

Throughout history, godly leaders have mirrored this same pattern of including all ages and life stages in the meetings of the church. For example, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and Matthew Henry explicitly expressed their passionate desire to have the Word of God preached to the youngest child. 

Martin Luther understood how important it was to minister to youth during the meetings of the church: 

When I preach, I sink myself deep down. I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom are here in this church above forty; but I have an eye to the multitude of young people, children, and servants, of whom are more than two thousand. I preach to those, directing myself to them that have need thereof. Will not the rest hear me? The door stands open unto them; they may be gone.

John Bunyan, the tinker-turned-preacher who gave us Pilgrim’s Progress, spoke of the importance of having children in the church meeting:

You should also labor to draw them out to God’s public worship, if perhaps God may convert their souls. Said Jacob to his household, and to all that were about him, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress” (Genesis 35:3). Hannah would carry Samuel to Shiloh, that he might abide with God forever (1 Sam. 1:22). . . .

If they are obstinate, and will not go with you, then bring godly and sound men to your house, and there let the word of God be preached, when you have, as Cornelius, gathered your family and friends together (Acts 10).

Matthew Henry, one of the most popular Bible expositors in all of history, sat as a boy under the meaty expositions of his father, Pastor Phillip Henry, and then followed in his footsteps. He would later write: “Little children should learn betimes to worship God. Their parents should instruct them in his worship and bring them to it, put them upon engaging in it as well as they can, and God will graciously accept them and teach them to do better.”

He carried this conviction all his life, as seen in this statement from his well-known biblical commentary: “It is for the honour of Christ that children should attend on public worship, and he is pleased with their hosannas.”

Even though the biblical record is clear that children were included in the gatherings of God’s people, and that for most of Christian history, children were present in the meetings of God’s people, most people still wonder, what can children really get out of Church?6

Fourth, those of us who reject comprehensive age segregation have always maintained that church history is not our authority. The Word of God alone is our final authority. It is not the pattern of the Jewish Rabbis during the time of Christ or the Church of Scotland that gives us our patterns for church life, but rather this:  “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving Knowledge, Faith and Obedience.”7

Here is how we state it in Article XII in “The Declaration for the Complementary Role of Church and Family”:

Article XII – The Biblical Revelation Is Sufficient for Worship and Discipleship

We affirm that the biblical doctrine, principles and precepts that God has revealed in His Word for corporate, family, and individual worship and discipleship are sufficient for knowing how to worship God in a manner acceptable to Him and for the effective edification of the saints. (1 Cor. 11:1-12; 14:34; Gal. 1:8-9; Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4;).

We deny/reject that the church should invent and institute her own principles and methods for corporate worship and discipleship that disregard or replace the explicit teaching of Scripture.

It’s not enough to point to isolated examples to define church life. This is and always has been the wrong direction for both the church and the family.

  1. Brown, Scott T. A Weed in the Church: How a Culture of Age Segregation Is Harming the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family, and Dividing the Church. Wake Forest, NC: National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. p. 63
2. Ibid. p. 25
3. Ibid. p. 26
4. Ibid. p. 35
5. Ibid. p. 48-51
6. Ibid. p. 61-63
7. Second London Baptist Confession 1.1

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What Is the Most Important Issue in Worship?

What is the most pressing issue to you from the time you walk through the church doors – and even before you actually walk through the doors? If you are walking in the fear of God, if you are coming to worship in the fear of God, then you will be overcome with a constraining awareness of your obligations to God.

– Al Martin – The Forgotten Fear, 75

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Preaching in Washington State This Weekend

This weekend I will be preaching at Cornerstone Bible Church in Lake Stevens, Washington, directly following the Christian Heritage Marriage Retreat. I will be preaching at 9:00am, during the Family Bible Hour, followed by the main service at 10:30am. Click here for the address.

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Isaiah 66:7-14 – The Church is Your Mother

In these verses Isaiah communicates one of the most gripping metaphors of the church.  He declares that the church is your mother who feeds you. Yes, each member is responsible to nourish one another as a mother does her suckling babes. Isaiah 65 and 66 hold together to present the final picture in the prophesy. In these chapters, God is crying out to those who find no delight in Him and encourages those who do delight and tremble. Now the Lord turns to a picture of a mother giving birth and how the child who is born nourishes the others. Isaiah continues to make the distinction between those who tremble at His word (who are deeply affected by it) in contrast to those who outwardly testify to it but are not inwardly moved. 

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Manhood On Sale Here

Because of the anniversary of Iwo Jima, I am offering three books on sale: Preparing Boys for Battle, Moment of Courage, and Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer. Normally, these three books are 37.85, but for today and tomorrow, you can purchase all three for $25 in the NCFIC store.



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Lessons of Manhood from Iwo Jima

February 19th is the anniversary of the World War II Pacific battle of Iwo Jima. It is important that we remember this historic battle and draw lessons from it for our sons to teach them about manhood. In a society where manhood is so broken, we need tools to help us find our way. Check out these we are offering at a steep discount:span>

Because of the anniversary of Iwo Jima, I am offering three books on sale: Preparing Boys for Battle, Moment of Courage, and Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer. Normally, these three books are 37.85, but for today and tomorrow, you can purchase all three for $25 in the NCFIC store. Preparing Boys for Battle and Moment of Courage tell the story of Iwo Jima and teach lessons that our generations of boys must know. In Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer, my daughter Kelly, granddaughter of a Second Lt. Bill Brown, remembers her hero’s story. She writes a letter to the next generation, inspiring them through her grandfather’s story to think beyond themselves and towards having a multi-generational mindset–not living for the moment, but for the lives of their children, and their children’s children.

Here are twelve lessons of manhood that I wrote about in a book called Preparing Boys for Battle:

1. Quiet fathers impoverish their children. (Psalm 78:1-9).

The experiences on Iwo Jima should warn us about the effect of clamming up. The common story of the Iwo Jima veterans is that they kept silent about their experiences and denied their children an understanding of their heritage. This pattern, which was almost comprehensively followed by Iwo veterans, is a warning to fathers about the consequences of clamming up and keeping stories of God’s faithfulness inside by not telling their children the praises of the Lord.

2. The knowledge of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is the most important knowledge one can have (Daniel 4:34, Psalm 103:19).

The stories of Iwo Jima teach me that the knowledge of the sovereignty of God in history is empowering. A providential view of history is critical for perspective in the midst of difficult moments in history. My experience with hearing the stories of Iwo Jima is that confidence fills the hearts of children who understand how God has worked in history. I also observed that the sons and daughters we met on Iwo Jima were strengthened by their understanding of what their fathers went through.

3. We should spend our time strategically and be involved in important efforts (Ephesians 5:16, Matthew 16:26).

Iwo Jima was an island of strategic importance, showing us the need for carefully planning our time and efforts in order to be prepared for the major events which God brings to our lives.

4. Be aware of the unseen forces working in your heart (Ephesians 6:11, 1 Peter 5:8).

Iwo Jima was a place where there was an unseen enemy, and we also have an unseen enemy, prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.

5. Friendship includes defending your friend even when it might cost you everything (John 15:13).

It was a place where friendships were tested by mortal danger which illustrates Jesus’ words, “Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friends.”

6. Manhood is tested by pressure–don’t despise or fail the tests (1 Kings 2:2).

Iwo Jima’s challenges put manhood on display. Even though war is a terrible reality, the way it is played out profiles many important qualities of manhood that need to be passed on from one generation to the next.

7. A godly response to authority is one of the most important factors for success in life (Ephesians 6:1-4).

The fierceness of the battle and the demands of the terrain made Iwo a place where honor and obedience in the face of conflicting emotions were required to accomplish the mission. This is the foundation of strength that is necessary for success in every workplace, marriage, and church.

8. Giving honor where honor is due secures success (Exodus 20:12).

With the passing of a generation, I am confronted with the proposition that fathers should be honored. It is a duty for sons and daughters to honor their fathers, and it has tremendous leverage for good for many generations. Scripture commands it and God makes specific promises to children who honor their parents. Not only do I want to honor my own father, I want to have an influence on my friends that might have the effect of getting them to ask, “How will I honor my father?”

9. A heritage will fall into oblivion if you don’t ask about it (Deuteronomy 32:7).

We see the importance of the principle that children should ask their fathers to tell them the stories of God’s faithfulness towards them. In this way, children demonstrate that they care about their heritage. It is to their benefit to ask questions of those who went before so that they will be able to stand on the shoulders of the previous generation instead of starting from scratch. Nobody has perfect parents, but most parents have something to give that will make us wiser and more effective in life. The answers to the questions you ask can serve as teaching tools for bringing glory to God.

10. Powerful legacies are activated through allocation of time, a listening ear, and an active pen (Psalm 71:17-18).

Children should work to exert energy to collect the stories of their fathers, and they should glory in God’s faithfulness to their fathers. They should take time to sit at their feet and listen and diligently glean the best lessons. This takes a listening ear, an active pen to record the memories, and time for reflection to crystalize the critical messages. We hereby declare that fathers have something to say. Yes, everything in our fathers’ lives is not praiseworthy, but we should just grow up and take the best we can find. As I have said too many times: no one ever got a perfect father. This is just the way it is.

11. Communicating a providential view of history will be for the joy and encouragement of the next generation (Psalm 71:17-18).

Because of hearing the stories of Iwo Jima, I am more aware of my responsibility to tell my own children about the great deeds of God in our own family history.

12. There are no little islands, attitudes, actions, or sins (Zechariah 4:10, James 3:5).

I am more aware of how little things have a big impact for good or evil depending on who governs them. Iwo Jima was a little island only 2.5 miles wide and 5.5 miles long, in the midst of a vast ocean, yet it had a big impact.

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How to Act Around a Courtship

Jonathan Sides, a member of Hope Baptist Church, recently gave this message discussing the proper reaction of the congregation in response to a courtship within the church.

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