Everything from Heaven

Before us is the longest running discourse of John the Baptist where he is commenting about losing his following. In doing so, he gives us four of the most powerful truths man can know in the phrases, “a man can receive nothing unless it is given him from heaven,” “He must increase, but I must decrease,” He “rejoices greatly because of the bridegrooms voice,” and “He who believes in the Son has life.”

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Marriage Gathering in Keokuk Iowa – You are Invited

The Kenny Hempen family is hosting a marriage seminar this Saturday, April 7th, at the Hempen Barn in Keokuk, IA. NCFIC Regional Facilitator, Kirk Smith, will be sharing on the components of a biblical marriage. There are only five couple spots left. Anyone interested should contact Kirk at [email protected] The first five couples responding will be accepted. Deadline is Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. There is no cost for this event though donations will be accepted.

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For God So Loved the World

John 3:16 has rightly been called the greatest verse in the Bible. Luther said it was, “the Bible in miniature.” It simply reveals to us how the greatness of the love of God meets the greatness of man’s need. John Flavel said that John 3:16, shows us, “the exceeding preciousness of souls…” Through John 3:16 we learn how we might be “rooted and grounded in love,” knowing more deeply what is “the width and length and depth and height…” of “the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19). 

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Government of the Tongue

“The Bible is very clear about the use of our tongues, informing us that we will be held accountable before God at the judgment for every idle word we have spoken. It is, therefore, every person‘s responsibility in the church to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and to promote love by creating a culture of blessing. 

This message speaks to the clarity of God on matters regarding the tongue.

The Bible says the tongue is a killer, having “the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). It can be used both as a love killing sin and a love building blessing. 

The English Puritan, Richard Allestree calls the tongue an “uncircumcised Philistine.” He says that only God can deal with the “massive armor” of such a formidable enemy. In his book, “The Government of the Tongue,” he uses the Word of God, “stones from the brook” as he calls them, to hurl at that Philistine to topple him. 

This message is a call to hurl stones at that Philistine. Stories of harm in the church and family from unbridled tongues are legendary. 

One such story is told of the days of Hudson Taylor who founded the China Inland Mission. His successor, D.E. Hoste was responsible for managing over 1000 missionaries all over China. As he reflected upon the most troubling issues the mission faced, he said, 

“Looking back over these fifty years, I really think that if I were asked to mention one thing which has done more harm and occasioned more sorrow and division in God’s work than anything else, I should say tale-bearing.” 

The tongue is one of the smallest members of the human body yet has the power to unravel love in a church, destroy a reputation and separate the best of friends. 

Unfortunately, private divisions carried along by talebearing often mushroom into public divisions. 

During this message, considering the government of the tongue we will cover the following six subjects: 

I. Defining the misuse of the tongue – The language of scripture 
II. A Poisonous Recipe – How to Destroy Your Church 
III. Bad excuses for talebearing 
IV. How God treats talebearers 
V. A Life-Giving Recipe – How to Build Up Your Church, Family, and Work 
VI. How to respond when you hear the talebearer

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Government of the Tongue

Could you please come up with some text for this sermon blog on None?

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Break Free

Psalm 78 is a wake up call. Asaph is bold before the fathers of Israel. He calls them to break free of old patterns… the patterns of their fathers. He commands them, do “not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

In other words,  Don’t be like your fathers.  This is the central message of Psalm 78. It is an appeal to break free from the chains of the bad patterns of the fathers of the past.

But the true beauty of Psalm 78 is not simply in the command. Asaph unfolds an alternative lifestyle. A powerful one. A happy one.

Breaking the inferior patterns of our fathers can be a challenge. Our imperfect fathers left marks on us. Sometimes, teeth marks! Scars. Even the best fathers pass on flaws to their offspring. The tough part about this is that breaking with the past and making new patterns can be a confusing, painful, slow going, and often frustrating business.

Amos reveals how devastating this problem can be. He said of the men in his day,

Their lies lead them astray,lies which their fathers followed.” Amos 2:4b

We are the walking wounded. We live with the frustrations, roadblocks, and punishments that came from trying to build a life on the lies of our fathers, as they did in the days of Amos. Zechariah cried out, “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.” Zechariah 1:4-6

Every man needs to understand for himself what it means to “not follow your father’s idols”. Simply put, he must avoid his father’s “idols”. A man must ask himself, “What bad patterns in my father’s life should I eliminate?” Yes, we must honor our fathers, but we must also be honest (and merciful) about what is not worthy in their lives. They did things that need repentance not reproduction. We need to recognize those things which were a part of our father’s lives that we don’t want in ours.

What are the bad patterns you picked up? What do you need to overcome?

Not only does the Lord encourage us to break with the bad patterns of our fathers, He also offers powerful instruction for how a father can be a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to his family.

Psalm 78 issues commands to fathers to communicate certain kinds of things to their children and their grandchildren. Asaph calls them out of an uncommunicative lifestyle, and into a life of personal discipleship.

The uncommunicative father is death to a family. Asaph’s helps fathers to break that pattern.

When you turn around, when you break free… it works. Something happens. Moses declares God’s mercy toward those who turn away from the sins of their fathers,

‘But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, 41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt– 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land. Lev 26:40-42

Men who accept their guilt and then renounce their sins are the kinds of men who can become the fathers they were meant to be.

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Life of a Shepherd Conference – Messages Now Available!

We recently concluded our Life of a Shepherd conference in Montgomery Alabama, and now have a set of over ten messages on biblical church leadership. You can listen to these messages free here:


In Titus 1:5, we learn that Titus was to “set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city.” By His perfect wisdom, God has laid out how the church is to be governed – in His Holy Word. It is such a blessing that God’s design for the leadership of His church has been revealed to us. Therefore, we must ensure that our practices and doctrine mirror with what Scripture requires for both offices in the church – Elder and Deacon.

As the shepherds go, so goes the church. One of the most dangerous things leaders can do is to appoint men who are not biblically qualified. Conversely, one of the most life-giving things leaders can do is to properly identify and present elders to the church for affirmation.

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Welcome, Pastors

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

– EPHESIANS 4:11-12

The role of leadership that you have been called to as a pastor is of significant importance in the Kingdom of God. Much like every other age of the church, the role of pastoring in the 21st century presents many unique challenges. The one which we address may seem marginal when compared to the great foundational doctrines of the faith. However, it is hard to calculate the importance of the design for discipleship. It is obvious that it is very important to know and implement the methodology God intended us to use to communicate the great foundational doctrines of the faith to the next generation in our churches. Whether you are here searching for biblical answers or are actually troubled by “family integrated church” conversations in your church, we want to help you.

At the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, we believe that God has laid out in patterns, precepts, and principles all throughout Scripture a beautiful program for the effective discipleship of the whole congregation, including children. However, these are significantly different from the approach of the modern church. In the following resources, you will find biblical solutions to the problems that exist in modern churches in the area of family discipleship. Our earnest desire is that the resources on this website would effectively and faithfully communicate what the Scripture says about building churches which reflect the beautiful design for discipleship that Christ has established.

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Scott Brown and Rob Huddleson – (Josh. 22-Jdgs. 15; Lk. 6-9)

At 3:00 pm EST, Rob Huddleson and I are going live to discuss the things we read over the past week as we are reading through the Bible. We will be on the line for 20 minutes to give some practical insights for families for the reading from the past week in Joshua-Judges and Luke.

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A Missions Conference – Every Tribe Tongue and Nation

Would you like to grow your joy and sharpen your effectiveness in cross-cultural missions? Would you like to more faithfully join in God's invincible plan to spread the gospel to all peoples of the earth by planting churches? This missions conference is designed to help churches consider how we might increase and improve our missionary outreach. And, perhaps the Lord might use this gathering to call missionaries into this great work.

At this conference, you will hear the following messages designed to further equip us for missionary outreach:

The Love of God for Every Tongue Tribe and Nation
I Will Build My Church – Status Report
Local Churches – The Factory of The Great Commission
The Place of Short-Term Missions
How Local Churches Prepare the Next Generation for Missions
Missionary Biography
The Mission-Minded Family
Evangelism and Church Planting in Muslim Countries
Stories You Will Never Hear

Click here to learn more and register.

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The Father Who Inclines His Ears in the Right Direction

“Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us” (Psalm 78:1).
The first thing we notice is that a command is issued. This is a command for men to get their ears turned around – in a different direction. This is something that all men need to do, especially in modern times, when there are a cacophony of voices vying for the attention of their ears. There are more voices calling out to men today than at any time in history. At any given moment our ears can be captured by phone, social media, computer, radio, DVD, internet sites, email, television and satellite feeds… it can be deafening.  All of this can overwhelm the sounds which are most beneficial to us and our children. Because of this cacophony, a man needs to be discriminating about what his ears hear.

We live in days like the days of Samuel, “”…the word of the Lord was rare in those days,” 1 Sam. 3:1)

He inclines his ear to The Word of God

In the midst of all the voices calling out, there are two things that a man needs to incline his ears to:
1. “My law”
2. “The words of my mouth”
In the church and the home, the Word of God is often drowned out by those voices vying for our attention. The result: meditation on Scripture is eliminated from the schedule by things that steal time. 
Men should get rid of anything that stands in the way of inclining their ears toward the Word of God. We live in a culture which presents thousands of opportunities for involvement.
For most families, time for the reading of Scripture is edged out by decent things. When this happens, the true treasure is sacrificed on the altar of entertainment, sports, games – or some other “lawful” endeavor.
On the contrary, it is the Word of God (“My law”)  that is meant to take center stage in the family. John Piper, in a sermon on Psalm 78, said:

“It means that the Bible will be the sun and solar system of all that we teach our children. It will not be one among many books. It will be the central book, the all-permeating Book. The other books are dark planets; the Bible is the light-giving sun. All other books will be read in the light of this book. All books will be judged by this book. All books will find meaning in the world view built by this book. Which means that this book must be known first and known better than all the other books.”
Richard Baxter was known in his counsels to men, to be relentlessly principled in the use of their time. He says,
 “Have you not many good works of charity to do? And will you leave the most of this undone, and waste your time in plays, and cards, and feasts, and idleness, and then say, What harm is in all this, and are they not lawful?” p1040 Of Redemption of Time, in The Reformed Pastor, Vol 4
In most families, the “lawful” thing replaces the perfect thing.
Everything in this life wages war with fathers who want to fill their homes with the reading of the Word of God.
Baxter understood the harsh reality of the consequence of this kind of indolence on the souls of the next generation. He says that it shows that “Many take more pains about their horses and cattle than they do about their children’s souls.” Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, P231 The poor Man’s Family Book. Today, it’s dogs and cats… Our world is now full of people who pay more attention to pets than children.
What are you listening to? What is filling up your time? What are you reading? What are you watching? How much of your life is devoted to passive entertainment? Remember that many things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Many lawful things are nothing more than thieves of the profitable things.
Leaders of families must be sure that their ears and the ears of family members are inclined toward the Word of God. This cannot be accomplished without reading and meditating on Scripture.

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Live Webinar with Joe Dooley – (Josh. 5-12; Lk. 3-5)

At 4:00 pm EST, Joe Dooley and I are going live to discuss the things we read over the past week as we are reading through the Bible. We will be on the line for 20 minutes to give some practical insights for families for the reading from the past week in Joshua and Luke.

You can view the webinar here.

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NCFIC Ministry Update

Right now I’m in a convoy of three vans loaded with men headed to “The Life of a Shepherd.”  in Montgomery Alabama. This is a marvelous opportunity to equip men from our local church and strengthen churches around the nation.

Our mission: We are going to state again that the Word of God alone is sufficient for the government of the church of Jesus Christ. We pray that this conviction is the legacy we will leave in the hearts of men and women.
Other matters:
Our work continues to be focused on showing how the church and the family are brought into Biblical order. Holy families and churches are vastly important. We continue to seek ways to spread the message of the sufficiency of scripture for church and family life. Here are some of the fronts we are working on this year:
1. Read 2018. We launched a new book, Journey Through the Bible  and encouraged families to read the Bible in 2018. 625 signed up and approximately 30 pastors are joining me on a webinar each Friday to discuss what we read. https://read2018.com/
2.  Life of a Shepherd Conference, Mar 15Montgomery, Ala – There will be approx. 120 in attendance. 
Topics to be addressed:
Setting Unfinished Things In Order
Elders Who Excel Still More
Defining Elder Authority
Where Are We Going To Get Future Elders?
Start To Finish Process For Nominating And Qualifying Elders
Navigating The Landmines Of Shared Leadership
How Do Elders Help A Church Not Bite And Devour
How Should Elders Deal With Pornography In The Church
The Family Life Of An Elder
The Importance Of Vocational Elders
How Deacons Can Help Their Elders
How Elders Should Care For Deacons
Question And Answer Panel
Faithful Shepherds, Ezek 34
3. Church leaders meetings 2018. So far this year, I have conducted meetings with pastors in our network in Indy, St Louis, Chicago, Calif, Montgomery. In the third quarter of this year, I plan to do the same in Colorado and Texas.
4. Website modifications – to make our website more information based – characterizing our convictions on the main page and behind it, we are improving our web presence. Here is a mock-up sample, https://neifert.xyz/ncfic-vue/ We plan to launch the new version in the next couple of months.
5. Getting the Picture Right – In the summer we are conducting a marriage conference or couples married seven years and under, June 22-23, location, Brown’s barn.
6. National Conference, The Glory of Jesus Christ. Please pray that whole churches would come to be with us at this conference.
7. Video production. We are currently producing dozens of video presentations featuring several speakers in preparation for our conference, The Glory of Jesus Christ
8. Writing
I am writing a book on fatherhood and launching portions of the book in the form of short articles on my blog… example:https://ncfic.org/blog/posts/a_man_with_a_message

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A Father as a Historian

The father that Asaph is advocating in Psalm 78 is a man of history and he tells the stories. He inclines his ears to “the things our fathers told us.”

In God’s economy, what fathers say matters. The things they say are represented in v2 as “dark sayings of old”, and “a parable”, which means, “a story from the past.” The drama of redemption in human history contained in the stories from the past are important to men who are teaching the next generation. It is not the next new thing that matters. Its not the next new movie that is important to the health of the next generation, but the stories of old.
Fathers are God’s appointed historians for the next generation. When fathers do their jobs well, their children will have a sense of their place in history.
They have two major advantages.
First, their children can look back on 6,000 years of history and see God’s power. They have dozens of real life examples in history to draw from. They are not alone in their troubles. Nor are they alone in their deliverances. One of the blessings of being “the people of God” is that we know who we are because we can recall the things our fathers told us about the past. Our faith is a historical one. Children need to learn history under the teaching of their fathers.
This is why the prophet Joel says, “Tell your children about it,, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation (Joel 1:3)
Second, their children can look back on their family history to see vivid illustrations of God’s sustaining power in times of trial. For example, when Hezekiah recovered from his sickness, (Isa 38) he reflects on it. It hits him that this sickness had a purpose. It actually had a positive purpose for children. It is a picture of an honest man before God, living according to the knowledge he has. He is in pain, interacting with God in the midst of the difficulty. This is one of the blessings of the Bible. It gives us pictures of real man real problems and real consequences of real sin. It shows them in joy and sorrow in sickness and in health and riches and property. Everyone has troubles, and everyone learns something from their troubles. Troubles always change you. There is a process that you go through in your thinking and feeling and acting. There are conclusions that you arrive at. Here is one of Hezekiah’s conclusions,

“The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children” (Isa 38:19).

It is important that we know how our troubles have changed us. Fathers should seek an understanding of history on three levels: biblical history, church history, and family history. The most important kind of history is biblical history, because it contains everything that is profitable for life and godliness, and is really the only sure basis for teaching the other two.
If men would break bad patterns from the past, they need a strong focus on communicating the ancient words to his children that God has delivered to His people.

Fathers are God’s appointed historians. A brilliant example of this is seen two years after the Exodus from Egypt, when Moses was reporting on the status of the households of Jacob in Numbers 1-3. These people were historically astute enough to recite their family history. The story shows that Moses carefully documented the numbers of fighting men over age 20 who came from each of the sons of Jacob. It is thrilling to notice that each son of Jacob had 30,000 to 75,000 fighting men alive at the time of the Exodus. This shows how powerful one household can be in future generations.
For example, He gathered the entire congregation of Israel, and they
 “recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers houses, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually” (Numbers 1:18-19).
An ancient book

It is noteworthy that God wanted His people to have an ancient book with time worn stories. God wants us to ponder lessons from the past. This history is meant to be in the mouths of our fathers. God is commanding them to use “the things our fathers told us”, to guide them in the future. He calls his people to look back to a standard. From these stories we are charged to learn lessons and bring ourselves in line with them. Some of the stories in scripture are inspiring and present wonderful patterns, while others are despicable and are there for a warning. We see an example of this in Judges 21:25 at a time when, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Many of the stories in Judges communicate the penalty for failing to pass along the knowledge of God from one generation to the next.
From the example in Numbers 1:18-19, we see a model for how to think of children and of the dynamic legacy they can leave. Two things jump out at us from this story in Numbers. First, these children were good enough historians that they were able to recite their ancestry. This is in sharp contrast to our age of extreme individualism, where most people can only think as far back as their grandparents.
This should instruct us not to be so individualistic and contemporary. We are better off if we look back to our genealogical heritage and the content that it has delivered to us in the form of “the dark sayings of old,” and the “parables of old” that “our fathers told us.”
Second, notice how this illustrates the tremendous latent power that existed in families. It is startling to read of the many thousands of warriors produced by these families – in some cases there were 30,000 -75,000 fighting men.
This is an important point, because it shows us the significance that God places on remembering family history. Ex 12;26 tells us of a time in Israel when fathers DID tell their children,

26 And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”
However, salvation is not guaranteed. A man may tell the stories of the greatness of God, but it will not guarantee that his children will turn to the Lord. That does not change the command to speak, but it should give fathers a realistic understanding of what may happen. Matthew Henry speaks of Hezekiah’s experience,
“It is the duty of parents to possess their children with a confidence in the truth of God, which will go far towards keeping them close to the ways of God. Hezekiah, doubtless, did this himself, and yet Manasseh his son walked not in his steps. Parents may give their children many good things, good instructions, good examples, good books, but they cannot give them grace.[1]

Fathers are God’s appointed historians. I was a history major in college but you don’t need a BA in History to be a historian for your family. You only need to know your Bible… and communicate the rich contours of the history of the world from God’s perspective. Don’t let your children leave home without it.

[1] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1149). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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Born from Above

John 3:1-8 brings us the central truth of the Gospel – the necessity of the new birth. When Jesus said, “You must be born again.” He was referring to a miracle in the heart that transforms everything. Jesus makes it clear to Nicodemus that his morality and his respectability were worthless – he must be born again.

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