In the sermon, Kevin Swanson speaks about the need for a Reformation in the Church of Christ, focusing on the aspects of truth and relationships. Swanson emphasizes the importance of love in relationships, particularly in the context of courtship and marriage. He discusses the many challenges faced by young men and women in today's society, including the influence of peer-driven youth culture, the effects of the Industrial Revolution on family structure, and the economic and political obstacles to raising children in a healthy environment. Swanson shares four principles to establish healthy courtships: recognizing courtship as covenantal work, prioritizing love, practicing honesty, and fostering discipleship. He concludes by acknowledging the glimpses of light and hope that can be seen in some successful courtship stories and encourages listeners to continue working towards a Reformation based on truth and love.

Good afternoon. It's great to be here out of North Carolina addressing the National Center for Family Integrated Church audience. And we've been plugged into this organization, this movement, for the last seven or eight years ourselves. We planted a church about 11 years ago. We didn't have a title for it back then, but later on we found out from Doug Phillips it was a family integrated church.

So it's good we got a title, a label for what we were. But I struggle with what we're doing. Who are we? I think we're all interested in reforming the Church of Christ, amen. We wanna see some vitality.

We wanna see some life to it. We want to see some progress for the Kingdom of God during the greatest apostasy in the history of the Christian church. We're talking about hundreds of millions of people walking away from the faith right now, somewhere around Europe, America, Canada. The West is dying in terms of the the church the life Of the church now the Spirit of God is working all over the world right now I believe he's doing something though here in America because this is where I am and I have a passion for the kingdom of God. I cry out for a visitation of the Spirit of God upon the work that we're doing, and I try to identify what we're all about.

And I do believe it's the sufficiency of Scripture. We're bringing the truth of God's Word in its relevant impact upon every aspect of our lives. Yes, truth is important, but so are relationships. I believe we are trying to bring truth and godly relationships, love-based, agape-based relationships, back to a lost and lonely world. Our world is without truth.

We've abandoned the Bible as a source of truth and ethics. We'd much rather go to humanism, but we've also abandoned relationships. Don't forget it. Now, there are those out there with worldview and ministries and they want to bring a biblical worldview to bear. Not enough, I say.

Not enough. We need to bring back healthy, warm, biblical conflict resolution-based, loving, agape-loving relationships to a lost and lonely world. This is important for a Reformation. Why? Because God is a God of truth and relationship himself.

God is truth. God is love. What we need is 180 proof truth and 180 proof relationship. If we're going to see a real explosion, we're going to see critical mass develop in this fission bomb we're bringing down upon the West to hopefully advance the kingdom of God in the next century. Amen?

OK, good. There's four or five of you with me. Good. I'm ready to go. How about a louder amen for that?

OK. Thank you. That's great. Well, my topic is really to bring both of these together. I'm going to do the best that I can in this message.

And I will tell you that we leave the city of destruction. How many of you know about Pilgrim's Progress? We leave the city of destruction, the city of all the dating and the 95% of Americans that confessed to premarital sex on their wedding day. By the way, up from 1% in Plymouth Colony in the 1600s, they recorded each instance of premarital sex as far as the church was able to identify when it was going on. But it was somewhere around 1%.

Now up to 95% among evangelicals, young people, it's 80%, at least those that confess to having committed premarital sex. Well, that's where we are today and we're leaving the city of destruction. And what happens when people leave the city of destruction, In other words, they hear that there's a problem with the world out there. There's a problem with the peer-driven youth culture. There's a problem with the standard way that we do church, the standard way we do education and culture.

They leave all of that and they embrace homeschooling. And they go to the next workshop and it's courtship and they're so excited, they've got the label, they've got the t-shirt, because they bought the t-shirt on the way out and they go home and they do it and the whole thing implodes on them. It's not unusual when this kind of thing happens. What's the problem? Where are we today?

It's a problem with all of us. What have we become? About 18 months ago, I covered a story on my radio program. I tried to monitor the culture to kind of understand who we are and where we are. And 18 months ago or so, a story came out somewhere around Richmond, California.

A father was sending his 15-year-old daughter to the most dangerous high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. He dropped her off on homecoming weekend at the dance without a chaperone. He left her there that night and America's Gibeah occurred that night. I'm not going to get into details on it, but you need to read Judges 19 and 20 to understand what happened. Now, understand, this was a Christian family.

They were faithful, church-attending, more than once a week. Christians And the father sent his daughter to the most dangerous school in the San Francisco Bay area and left her at the homecoming dance without a chaperone. And America's Gibeah occurred that night. Now, these things happen for the same reason they happen to Israel. Because brothers, from time to time you need to wake up.

You need to know what's going on to us as a nation. We are losing basic love for sons and daughters. That's why the Bible records Gibeah. That's why the Bible records what happens with Lot in threatening to toss his daughters out to the raging Sodomite mob in Sodom. Because God wants us to see a picture of ourselves, of what we have become.

You understand that people send their daughters to high schools where there are more arrests happening in a given day than would happen in the corporations in which the fathers work. Now why would they do that? I ask that question often. Why would a father, we're talking about a standard evangelical father attending a Southern Baptist Church or a PCA church, meaning a fairly conservative church, they send their daughters off to a school in which there are more arrests going on than arrests that are happening in the corporation in which they work. Why would a father do that?

Because we have lost the idea of love. Because this is who we have become. See, one of the questions that people ask, they ask a lot of questions. Is it wrong to send your daughter to work? We grapple with these questions all the time, don't we?

You've got an 18-year-old daughter, and you're sending her off to work, and you ask a father, is that an appropriate thing to do? Well, the father comes back and says in Exodus 21 and verse 7, it's obvious legitimate for a father to send his daughter into slavery because the Bible regulates it and allows the regulation for a father who apparently by reason of economics has to do it. Of course in Nehemiah chapter 5, you have Nehemiah correcting the fathers for doing exactly that, enslaving their sons and daughters to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem at that time. So the problem is love. Brothers and sisters, there's nowhere in the Bible that says it's wrong to send your daughter off to work.

But what does the Bible say? The Bible says love your neighbor as yourself, and your daughter is a neighbor. That's what the Bible has to say for us. Second question people ask is how much should a father be involved in a courtship, in the courtship of his daughter? Well, what does the Bible say?

Immediately, we go to Numbers 30 and verse 4. And what does Numbers 30 and verse 4 say? It says, if a daughter makes a vow and the father hears of it, he has the right to veto that vow on the day he hears of it. And he can also hold his peace and allow the vow to stand. Now what does the Bible say about the involvement of a father in the courtship of his daughter?

It doesn't have all that much to say about it. It offers him valvito power, but it doesn't tell him when to use it, how to use it, and how often to use it. Why? Because the operating principle is love your neighbor as yourself. The operating principle is seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.

What does the Bible say about dating? The Bible says, love your neighbor as yourself. No fornicator shall enter the kingdom of God. Now What if you have some Joe dad who says, now there's nothing in the Bible that says, my daughter cannot hang out in her boyfriend's basement all evening. I can't find anything in the Bible about it.

There's something about fornication there, something about loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with your heart, soul, mind and strength, but I see nothing in the Bible about your daughter hanging out in her boyfriend's basement all evening, all by themselves. Well, see Now we have to have Joe Dad step up to the microphone. We would like an honest minute with him. Does he love his God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength? He says, I love my daughter.

I gave her $30, 000 to get her out of the house, get her career, and get her out of my life. Of course I love my daughter. We would like an honest moment with him. What would be the best way in which to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? How would you best seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness?

You see, at some point, would the man confess up to the fact that he is after his own interests. I'm more interested in me than anything else. And the reason why I would put 30 hours a week into politics, more than 14 hours a week to my daughter, who obviously needs the emotional support, she obviously needs the discipleship, but I want to get out there and change the world is because he's more interested in his own career than seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. What we need is honesty. Does the man really love God with his heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Maybe he doesn't have a whole lot of passion for God and His Kingdom. Maybe he just says in an honest moment, my children can go to hell, somebody get me a beer. I've got to watch this game. See, the hard part is honesty. The hard part is honesty.

How much do you love your daughter? How much do you love your God? And the tough thing about this is there are a thousand counterfeits out there. Do you understand that man who sent his daughter to homecoming dance and she became the victim of the Gibeah moment in Richmond, California, would probably tell you that of course he loves his daughter. He might say it with as much sincerity as you can say that today.

That's because our hearts deceive ourselves all the time. And when the matter is pressed, and life is made up of 10, 000 decisions. And when you have a decision, brother, whether to sacrifice something, to lay something on the altar for the sake of the love of God and the love of your daughter or some self-pleasing moment, where do you go with that? How do you make the decision? Do you love your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

You see, oftentimes people do homeschool. They show up at homeschooling conferences. They engage in their courtships. They wind up doing everything we're doing because they're caught up in all the peer pressure, perhaps a positive peer pressure of sorts. But there's really not a whole lot of substance in their own hearts as they engage these courtships, as they do the homeschooling.

They've got the label, but it's just another cheap facade in a society where we're nothing but cheap facades. This is who we've become. Brothers, this is who we are. The love of many has grown stark cold in the present day. That's Matthew chapter 24.

I believe it has some prophetic reference to our day today. Love of many has grown cold. You say, well, That applies to the 60 million people who have aborted their children in abortuaries and the 60 million who have aborted their children by means of the abortifacient birth control pill since 1960. That it's 120 million that kill their children, That's the tip of the iceberg. What have we become?

Self-consumed, narcissistic materialists that are not seeking the Kingdom of God first. This is who we are. And of course, we're going to see the quivering daughters. How many of you know what I reference to? Quivering daughters are books and websites out there of daughters who hate what we're speaking of today.

They've heard it all. They've been to the conferences. They've heard the biblical principles, and their relationship with their fathers stinks. Now I have no idea why the relationship's imploded, but my guess is it has something to do with 120 million dead bodies of children that represent our culture. The death culture of a self-consumed, materialist society of which we have all played a part to one extent or another.

No question in my mind why some of the most important pro-life activists who've run for President of the United States, some of the very most important pro-life activists, I mean, A number of them, multiple instances, where they were pro-life. They were out there trying to change the world, and their sons and daughters are homosexuals and lesbians. No question in my mind why the love of many has grown cold. No question in my mind why there are imploding courtships in churches where at the end of it, we all say they should have dated. They should have dated if the goal was more love, There's less love now between fathers and daughters, less love now between sons and laws and their fathers, less love now within the Church of Jesus Christ because some family hates another family now and they use the opportunity to gossip and to blog and to ruin 140 relationships and to just drive a wedge to the Christ body in the church of Jesus Christ.

I tell you what, there's less love because we are a loveless bunch. 1 Corinthians 13, though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I'm nothing but a clanging cymbal and a sounding drum. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, though I have 100 THDs, and have not love, I am nothing! Nothing! And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, I am nothing.

Nothing! Love suffers long and is kind. Love envies not. Love vanteth not itself, is not puffed up. Bears all things.

Believes all things. Hopes all things. Endures all things. Love. Love is what we need.

We don't need another label. We don't need another courtship. We need love. Love. We need love.

Love. I've been a homeschool leader for some 13 years, spoken at homeschool conferences for 25 years. I've become a little skeptical with what it is we're actually producing. Homeschooling is not a panacea, and neither is another label. When you have somebody homeschooling, but no father's discipling, their children engaged in the household where you have peers in pop culture influencing the children, where you have an absence of family worship, you might as well send your kids back to the public schools.

You might as well. You take one demon out, and you don't fill it with Christ, you'll get seven more. And they'll be worse than the first one. And brothers, as a pastor of a church that deals with homeschoolers, I've seen a lot of demons in my time. A lot of demons.

You say, but they were homeschooled. Not enough. Not enough. There's got to be love for God. Just blazes in your heart.

Love for God. You know, I tell everybody, we just want more people in North Carolina loving God, More people in Colorado loving God. That's it. That's the agenda. It's why I crisscrossed the state and the nation.

Why? I want to see more fathers loving God so much they love their own children. You say love their own children? They say they do. But I talked to a father, a homeschool father, who had problems with multiple courtships amongst his children.

And I asked him, did you do family worship? And he said, no. No. Now there's room to repent. Praise be to God.

We can turn. We can love our God anew in the present day. We don't live lives of regret. We live lives of repentance. We don't live lives in the future.

In the past, we live lives for the future. But brothers, I just want more men loving God. They love God. They would disciple their children to the God they love. Because He was the one to love them first.

And if they can catch that vision of the cross, they would love. I know they would love. If they had the vision, they would love. And then they would disciple their children to the God they love. We still have the same problems the world around us have.

I don't think it's changed all that much from this group to any other group. 70 percent of young men aren't grown up by 30 years of age, up to 30 percent in 1970. It's an indication of the fall of character in the nation, and it's hurting everybody. Most controversial question I ask in homeschooling conferences is why do homeschooling moms come home to raise their daughters to leave home? That interesting?

A lot of people find that question interesting. Why would they do that? They do come home to raise their daughters to leave home. Here's why. It's because 70% of young men aren't grown up by 30 years of age, up to 30% in 1970.

They read the Newsweek article. And the article from Bill Bennett came out two weeks ago in CNN News. Bill Bennett said, it's never been a time where women have been so successful and men have been so unmotivated and so unsuccessful in what they do. Men are unemployed to the rate of 20% up from 5% in 1950. There are twice as many women ready for their career, ready for work, graduated from college at 23 years of age than men.

Twice as many. And that's up from a mere 5%, 10% back in 1970. Guys, this is the largest social change that has happened to a nation in our history. And everybody's talking about it. So why do homeschooling moms come home to raise their daughters to leave home?

What else can they do? They want to get their daughters out there so that their daughters survive. They're not going to be married at 22 to a 24 year old who's got his fields ready to plow in a cabin like Almanzo when he was 21 or 22 years of age? No, that's not going to happen anymore. Why?

Because of the way we've done education but also because fathers have left the home. And I'm not sure we have been able to solve this problem. So the moms are doing what they can do, dads are doing what they can do, they give a little bit of money to the household so that moms can homeschool the girls and hopefully they'll have jobs, but here's the problem. One of the reasons why young boys aren't grown up is because you got 64% of young boys who are Latsky under six years of age, and you know that number's going to go to 80-90% with our homeschooling Christian population sending their daughters off to work at 26, 28, 30, 35 years of age. Well, this is the milieu that we're in today, And it's extremely difficult because here's why.

The economic situation, the educational situation, and the ecclesiastic situation is all focused against our success in raising our own children and preparing them for their marriages. You see, the problem is broader than you can think. And yes, the problem is our young men. Our young men make up a huge part of this issue, but the reason is because they're not able to be mentored by their fathers as they were for generations upon generations until the Industrial Revolution took that out of the home. So you're up against the Industrial Revolution now.

You're up against your economic systems. You're up against debt systems. Men are in debt. They have mortgages. Seven times more mortgage than they had adjusted for inflation than they had in 1900.

We're in far more bondage today. We're in bondage to the banks. Politics make it even more difficult with the tax structures. You've got everything against you. What do you do?

We need multiple levels of reformation on every level, because here it is. We have multiple failure points to make it practically impossible for your children to be in halfway decent homes and families in the year 2030. Now I'm here to tell you that we can solve this problem by the grace of God. But you've got to understand the magnitude of it. Some of our young men are getting married.

But I tell you what, a lot of them expect their wives to work. And they're planning on having 0.8 kids by the time they're 39 years of age, so that they can keep their 80K a year flowing in. Well, you've got so many challenges. As I said, overbearing, angry, faithless, patriarchs produce faithless, quivering daughters. You've got that problem.

You've got courtships going awry because of unforgiving, bitter relationships within the church. But you also have some successes. And praise be to God, I just want to mitigate the whole message for a moment, because we're starting to see glimpses of light. How many of you have seen glimpses of light? Raise your hand really high to give us all some hope.

Amen? Yes. God is doing something in our midst. God is bringing some wonderful marriages together within our own church families. I have personally participated in probably 10 or 12 weddings over the last four to five years.

And they've come together in beautiful courtships. There's purity all the way to the altar. There's been honor of mothers and fathers. There's been a good coordination between in-laws. There has been some wonderful stories.

We've had what we call our singles group. Two times we've had ladies show up who had a fairly dysfunctional situation on their hands. One was a mind-blowingly, unbelievably difficult situation, but families in the church virtually adopted these ladies. They brought them into their homes, they discipled them, They prepared them for courtship, and they walked through that courtship with them, and now they're married, and they're raising up a household for the sake of the kingdom of God. Guys, that's our singles ministry at Reformation Church.

That's how we do it. I tell you, there is so much God is doing in our midst. It just blows my mind. But I want to give you four principles whereby we establish healthy courtships and hopefully mitigate some of the horrible situations that some churches are seeing, including ours, from time to time. Number one, number one is courtship is covenantal work.

And this is something that's really important in our day. And part of the reason this is important is because America, for the most part, has not been founded on covenantal thinking. America today has the highest divorce rate of any major country in the world. In fact, if you want to find a country with better foundations, if marriage is the foundation of the family, and if the family is the foundation of a social order, I would suggest that you move to Portugal to have a better country. Because Portugal has a far, far lower divorce rate than America.

America, our foundations are destroyed as a nation. That's one reason I'm not believing that America is very salvageable right now unless there's a massive reformation across this country, I think what God is doing is preparing us for a massive decentralization. Because he is doing something in small islands, what we call islands of freedom, islands of righteousness, islands of covenantal communities, all across the nation. And it's happening with tens of thousands of people all over this country, I don't think God is abandoning us. But, he may be abandoning the nation as a nation because the foundations are destroyed, and you know some hockey mom from Alaska isn't going to salvage that with another kid, with another kid born out of wedlock.

It's just not going to happen. You know the nation is in serious, serious trouble on the macro level, but God is doing something on the micro. Now the highest divorce rate in America happens to be in the western states where I live. The highest divorce rate in Colorado is Colorado Springs. Now that's really important to know that because Colorado Springs is the mecca of evangelicalism at least out west.

Anywhere west of the Mississippi, if you want to find a city that represents the very essence of what we evangelicals are all about, it would be where focus on the family is found, that is Colorado Springs, Colorado. Okay? That's the highest divorce rate. They have the highest divorce rate in Colorado. And the Colorado Springs Gazette started interviewing churches in the area saying, now why the high divorce rate?

And they interviewed a friend of mine, Steve, who pastors a mega church down there. And Steve said, I'll never forget what he said, He said, yeah, just trying to keep all these marriages together is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. And the reason, of course, is because The church is in as bad of a shape as the family, as an institution in this country. Now, it's really hard to find pastors on their knees, sackcloth and ashes, crying out to God for deliverance for where we are today. That's because they can't see it.

Now that's the absolute worst position you could be in. You follow me? If you're in a bad situation and you can't see it, you're in trouble. The church in America is in shambles. And the reason is because they're not covenantal churches.

They don't teach covenant theology. By the way, George Barna has done some studies on this. Twice he's done studies. The recent one was about two years ago. And he has determined on several different occasions, at least two different occasions, that The churches, the denominations that have the highest divorce rates are typically evangelicals and those that have a weak doctrine of covenant theology.

The best are the Lutherans. Now I know this is a shock to many of you, but my guess is many of you have not been taught Covenant Theology. This is a major gap in your understanding of marriage. A major gap in your understanding of the church. You have got to study covenant theology in the scriptures because our relationship with God is based upon covenant.

All the way from the beginning it's based upon covenant. In fact in Romans 11 and verse 19 the Gentile is quoted as saying I was grafted into the tree. Now what is the tree? The tree is the Old Testament church. One church, one Savior that is God, and I as a Gentile am grafted into the church.

Now does anybody know how grafting works? The scion is grafted into the root, the root stalk, by means of a process where they take a rubber band and they wrap the rubber band around the scion and the root stock and they watch it for 40 days. Now let me ask you this. Once the rubber band is on the graft, is the graft complete? Does a farmer walk into the house and say, honey, I grafted 40 plants.

She says, now wait a minute. You just put the rubber band on it. It hasn't grown together yet. He'll say, you got me, hon. You're right.

You see, covenant theology involves a grafting. And the grafting has something objective, and that is the rubber band. We can all look and say, there's a rubber band on the root stock, and we can all say, I believe it's taking root, but you've got to wait the 40 days for the relationship to form. Everybody understand? This is basic covenant theology.

This is what is known as getting saved. You say, how does the relationship form? By faith. By faith. There is something objective.

Now you can call it whatever you will. You can call it a confession with the mouth. You can call it baptism. Whatever you want, there's something objective. There is something subjective.

The relationship also has to form. Covenants are intense. The word covenant, you'll read the word covenant in Malachi 2.14, she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant. So there it is, The word is barit and it means cut. It's very intense.

Have you ever cut a body in true and tried to sew it back together? There is something permanent about cutting and that's the idea. It's very intense and of course When God established the first marriage, what did He do? He took one man, He cut him in two, grabbed the rib, and formed the second. Then He brought the two back together and formed the one.

That was the original covenant. And he says, through the words of Christ, what God has brought together, let no man put asunder. Why? Because the covenant is intense. There are two parts to the covenant.

There's the objective, there are the vows in the ring. That's the objective, that's the rubber band, that's the external aspect of it. But there is also the reality or the relationship that forms. And the way I put it is, the couple come into a room, we lock the door, we barricade it, there's no way they can get out of that room, and they're stuck together for the rest of their lives, till death do they part. Now the locking of the door are the vows they take, Okay?

But now the scion is up against the root stalk. Now you've got to develop the relationship. You have to create the oneness in the relationship. It's of course like putting two pieces of cardboard together, gluing them together. There's no way to pull them apart except to get pieces off from one or the other as you do so.

Covenants are intense. There's only one way to go on them and you can't do it halfway. Of course engagements are halfway covenants. We're good on halfway covenants, halfway commitments. Little nine year olds do it, you know, and they promise themselves to each other and they give them a little fake ring out in the playground.

They do their little dating thing and promise their hearts to each other. We do the same thing with engagements. They're just man-made halfway covenants. Betrovals are the only way the Word of God presents it, because once you're ready to leap, you make the leap, and you adjust covenant till life ends on one side or the other. That's why in Deuteronomy 22, 23 through 29, you don't have a halfway engagement there, you've got the betrothal.

And if a man fornicates with a betrothed woman, he is put to death. And if she consented to it, she is put to death as well. In the case of a young woman or young man who fornicates outside of the bounds of marriage without the betrothal, the fine is about a three year salary for the young man. Which by the way, if we did that in our present systems, you'd have far far less fornications going on. If a guy had to fork up $150, 000 or work 7, 8, 9 years in order to pay off the fine for fornicating one night with some girl, there'd be a lot less fornication in America, you would think.

You would think. God's law has a lot of wisdom to it, don't throw it away. Good stuff. But what I'm after here is a sense of marriage covenant within the minds of our own children. We've got to raise children who are covenant minded.

They understand covenant theology. They understand the importance of making covenant. And the curse and the horror involved with breaking covenants. They've got to understand covenant theology and we raise them with a strong sense of this covenant. So if we have what we would call visible marriages, we should also have visible churches because the visible churches are covenanted to Christ as the visible marriages are covenanted to each other.

2 Thessalonians 1.1 speaks of the church of Thessalonica which is in Christ. 1 Corinthians 5 speaks of the guy who has to be excommunicated from the church because he is leavened within the lump. What does this mean? What this means is God looks at even the excommunicates as part and parcel of the body. Because the body is visible.

And this idea that there is no covenant with God, the visible church has no covenant with God, undermines the unity of the visible church and the cultivation of that oneness within the visible church. Therefore, the highest risk, for those of you looking for a prospective mate for your son or daughter, are those who are not connected covenantally to the visible body. Are you all with me here? So important, friends, that your children marry into people who understand covenant. What do you mean by covenant?

Covenant with God. Covenant with His church. The highest risk in marriage are those who have never really committed to a true covenant community. They're the non-committals. The church hoppers.

Maybe they do the home church for a while where there's really no opportunity to love brothers in Christ. No opportunity to work through conflicts within the body. No opportunity to fly above the altercations and the potential conflicts that are in the body, as our brother Scott Brown was mentioning this morning. Oh, we've got to have biblical conflict resolution going within the churches. And I know people want to hide out in the mega churches.

Please understand that we've got so much transience in our society today that we've got vagabonds everywhere. We have people who are moving over here and moving over there. You have no real sense that these people are anything but gypsies and that they really understand covenant. They've lived in covenant community, they've got a pretty good resume for that covenant community. People have really gotten to know them, they've really gotten to work through conflicts with them and they've proven themselves in the covenant community of the church.

You see, these are the people you need to marry into. Generally speaking, it's safer to marry the devil you know than the devil you don't know. That's kind of just general horse sense for most people. That's Rudyard Kipling, who talks about that in his Gods of the Coffee Book headings. But it's important to marry within the community of those that you know, those with whom you are familiar, those with whom you are in some form of relationship, and you understand who they are, that's why Abraham would send his servant all the way to his family, where there's some safety there.

I understand the background of some of these people, and I believe there was some measure of godliness there, but he had records of that. He understood who these people were. Now we gotta be careful not to be looking out for strangers in the night, exchanging glances, strangers in the night, over on Facebook. You know, forget that. That's dangerous.

Now it's not to say we can't marry into other covenant communities. We had a wonderful marriage. Peter Servin came and married one of our gals out from a beautiful covenant community in Troy, Missouri. It was two weeks ago. It was a wonderful time.

And I was just so convinced that this was wonderful, this is from God, and we have these long-term covenant communities, we've known each other, we have some sense of background, the pastors are in community with each other, we love each other, We give our lives for each other, I know. And here you have a member of his congregation marrying a member of my congregation. And it was just beautiful where you've got a context wherein this Marriage is going to come together. Brothers, as I said at the beginning, it's important for us to be committed to truth, but also to the love of the brothers. Jesus said if you can't love the brothers, you see.

Which by the way is the visible church. So if you ever wonder if the Bible ever speaks about a visible church, there are brothers who you see, eyes, body. I see the brother with my eyes. The brother I see, that's called a visible church. If you can't see and you can't love the brother you see, Jesus says you're not going to love God who you cannot see.

So it begins... The whole Christian experience begins with the love of the brethren. It isn't there. If the past of your life has been filled up with breaking of relationship over here, breaking of relationship over there, breaking of church relationship here and there, and you just have this pattern of transience in your life, Let me tell you this, your family is a dangerous family. I wouldn't recommend people marry into your family, at least for now, until there's some repentance on the part of your family in building relationships with the Church of Jesus Christ.

How are we going to restore our present situation? I think we've got to bring truth to bear, yes. We have to be willing to die for the truth, but we also have to be willing to die for love of brother. And ask yourself that if you ever get into a disagreement with brothers and sisters, are you willing to die for that brother? You say, man alive, I am willing to die for the amount of water that the Bible says we're supposed to use in a baptism.

I will go to the stake for that! While you brave man, praise God you got some conviction. Humility is good too, just on the side there. But would you die for this brother who disagrees with you? Would you die for him?

Yes, I know you would die for the truth, but would you die for your brother? You say, what does this have to do with courtship? Everything. When you have brothers not willing to lay their lives down for their fellow elders. And I speak to family integrated churches, which by the way have the same problems that all the other churches have out there.

I mean the last five years I think I've almost every other family integrated church I know of has had a church split of some sort. And the majority of them have involved the elders. And when the elders can't get along within a church. I mean, you're talking the core of the church is unable to function. That is dysfunctionality.

You still haven't gotten the first base on doing church. You're still playing in the basement. Men be men. Elders be men. Learn to strive for the unity of the church.

Jesus gave his life for it. And four times in John 17, he says that they would be one, that they would be one, that they would be one, that they would be one. And if you can't share that commitment, you're not to be a leader or an elder in the church. Brothers, we've got work to do here. Why am I talking about the church for the same reason Scott Brown brought it up?

Because we're going to fail with our daughters and our sons. We are going to have some terrible courtships and some bad marriages in the years to come. Why? Because the health of the church will determine the health of our future families. Some of you don't have a commitment to the church.

Oh man, you're going to destroy your families. No, no, no. It's a package deal here. If the church isn't healthy, your families won't be healthy. If your families aren't healthy, of course your church won't be healthy either.

They play off on each other. And families are flaky in the present day because churches are so flaky. God help us. God help us. Guys, we have the highest divorce rate in the world.

And Evangelical Colorado Springs is leading the pack. God have mercy on us. God have mercy on us! Oh God, we're in shambles! God help us!

Help our future churches! Help our future families! For the sake of our children and grandchildren. Brothers, we need to fight for the vitality of the unity of the Church in the present day. We need to be cultivating relationships within the Church.

I would recommend Ken Sande's peacemaking materials. We like to get the children's version of it out there because it was interesting in the last several courtship opportunities we've had in our church, the elders have said, you know what's interesting? These people coming out of our wonderful Christian families, they don't understand Christianity 101. They said, Christianity 101, what is that, Bob? He said, they don't understand peacemaking.

You can't do church. You can't do family if you don't understand the basic of biblical conflict resolution. And our courtships are gonna be bad. Our churches are gonna come apart. If we don't give our children the basics, you say, why is this the basics?

Because it made it into the Lord's Prayer. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. I mean, that's like 20% of the Lord's Prayer. It's one little practical statement that Jesus puts in there because it's really, really important. That is, the Christian life has got to be swimming in forgiveness all the time.

And it says, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. It doesn't say, forgiving our debtors is the basis for, it is just sticking them together and showing us that they're distinct, but not separate. And if you have somebody out there who cannot forgive, then neither shall he be forgiven. He was not forgiven. He was never forgiven because he won't forgive.

Jesus makes that point again and again. Guys, when we get into courtship, it's got to be, as I said, covenantal work, but it also has to be here, number two, cross work. It's got to be cross work. We can't do this outside of the cross of Jesus Christ. That is, You've got to be standing under the cross.

All the time, you need to understand who you are, dads. Dad, if you know the sinner you are, would you be judgmental for some young man who can't quite do what you did, or can't achieve your standards, when you can't even achieve those standards yourself and certainly couldn't achieve those standards when you were 22 years old. That the cross is where we're broken. The cross is where we know who we are. Reality concerning ourselves becomes obvious to us.

We can see ourselves! We can see that the eternal, infinite blood of Jesus Christ was shed because of who we are. Now we can interrelate to more sinners. Now if you have a sinner who's going to come court your daughter, you're standing in a really good place to make that happen. And if you're going to engage in this courtship, count on somebody offending you.

I mean, I've had people come to me and say, yeah, they looked at my daughter the wrong way. He gave a gift to my daughter without my consent. Usually they come back and say, did he rape her? Did he rape her? Well, no!

Okay, let's get this in perspective. So, you're coming unglued because he sinned against you. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what about you, big guy?

Have you ever offended the Lord of Heaven, the God of the universe? What do you owe Him? Oh, I don't know. $170 billion dollars. And this kid owes you 40 bucks?

And you're going to throw the book at him? You want to hear those words? Or you want to receive the forgiveness of Christ under the cross of Jesus Christ. And guys, the peace, the unity, the love, it's going to work out. Under that cross, you're going to be offended.

The courtship's not going to go perfect. It's going to be sin all the way! But man, you're a sinner and God has forgiven you $140 billion, and you can hardly wait to forgive somebody else, right? You can hardly wait. Here, you've sinned against me.

You're forgiven. You've sinned. Hey, you've sinned, didn't you? You're forgiven. You're forgiven.

Hey, come on, come on. Yeah, you're forgiven too. Everybody's forgiven. I forgive all of you because I'm forgiven. You see, that's the attitude a guy's got to have if he enters into this kind of work.

You've got to be ready to forgive. Bus drivers drive buses. If I ever ran into a bus driver and didn't drive a bus, I'd say you're not a bus driver. You know? You say you drive a bus, but you're not a bus driver.

Somebody says I'm a Christian, I just don't forgive people. You say you're not a Christian. Christians forgive people. It's what they do. Like every day?

Yeah! About 490 times a day somewhere, give or take. Okay, number three. We talked about courtship being covenantal work. Number two, it's cross work.

Here, number three, it's faith work. It's faith work. The just shall live by faith. If you've got the configuration of faith as being some little tiny moment of confession or some emotional experience you had at 17 years of age at family camp and you threw a little pine cone into the fire and you gave your little heart to Jesus, I'm sorry. Faith is more than that.

Guys, faith is to use when the tough gets going and the going gets tough. And it's hard. And when you meet the challenges that God will inevitably bring your way, Romans 14, 23 tells us, He that doubts is damned if he eats because he eats not of faith, or whatever is not of faith. This is in the context here. It's really just every ordinary day stuff.

It's like, you know, whether you're going to eat at McDonald's or not. You know, you've watched Super Size Me and you know it's a risk to eat at McDonald's. But you know, you're going through a little town in Kansas and that's it. That's all there is. And everybody's starving so You've got to stop.

Paul says, eat in faith. Eat in faith. Drive into McDonald's, grab the Big Mac, take a Coke, and just faith, man. Well, the same thing applies to everything else in life. Whatever you do, guys, you've got to do it in faith.

That's too many wobbly men. They're unsure of themselves. Davy Crockett used to say, always be sure you're right, then go ahead. I don't think Paul is saying that here. Paul is saying always be sure you have faith, then go ahead.

Always be sure you have faith, then go ahead. You know, I was talking to Scott Brown in my radio interview a couple of weeks ago, and I said, Scott, man, your father-in-law let you marry his daughter. Wow! He says, yeah, it took a lot of faith. I said, not in you.

Took a lot of faith in God in order for that to happen. And he said, Amen, brother. Amen, Amen, Amen. Three questions to ask yourself, men. Am I doing this in faith?

It's the first question. Am I doing this in faith? This is more important than is this wise? Or what will be the effects of my actions? I have no idea what the effects of your actions will be.

The effects of your actions may be somewhat negative in some of the things you do in life, including the courtship of your daughter to marriage. It could be negative. I don't know what the effects of your actions will be. But one question you absolutely must ask yourself is Am I doing this in faith? Second question.

What am I doing to be sure my faith grows? Is your faith growing? Is your raising your children? Are you in the Word of God? Are you teaching the Word of God to your children?

Are you watering yourself with the Word are you in the Word enough you ought to know whether you're in the Word enough if you're not in the Word enough and that ground is a little dry the plants not growing you better know it every plant needs X amount of water how much water do you need How's it been going for the last two, three months? Are you spiritually drying up? You have them feeding the plant. Water the plant. You're the man.

Is your faith growing? Thirdly, what is it in my life that creates doubts and double-mindedness? You know, David Crockett said, always be sure you're right, then go ahead. There's guys that go halfway across the street, they go, oh, should I be doing this? Not sure, not sure, not sure, smoosh.

Hey, I run over by the semi. What creates that double-mindedness? Are you flirting with sin yourself? Maybe a little pornography here, maybe a little bit of the kingdom of flesh and lust and pride, And that's drawing you, sucking you in, and you're halfway committed here, halfway committed to the kingdom of God. Is there sin in your life that is causing you major problems?

Well, you've got to confess that. You've got to get that out. You've got to Mortify that in order for your faith to grow. Don't look for the sure deal. Don't look for the sure deal.

No way. No way. If you're getting into that courtship saying, I'm going to make sure I've got 600 pages of questions for this young man. I am going to make sure he's the man. I'm going to know his heart inside and out in order for this to happen.

Are you trying to put together a sure deal, or are you willing to walk off a cliff believing that God will be there? Friends, you've got to act with deliberate action. When you engage in that courtship, you act in deliberate action. You be ready to step off that cliff, but you be looking into the eyes of Almighty God while you do it. I mean, you look in faith to God.

You say, God, I'm making the most difficult decision of my life, but I'm doing it with deliberate action and I'm doing it with faith in You because, God, it is only by Your grace this is going to turn into anything. Amen? Okay, finally. Finally, it is kingdom work. I've said it is covenantal work, it is cross work, it is faith work, And it is kingdom work.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Let me ask you this, men. Again, I'm looking mainly at fathers right now because I think God calls fathers to really engage in this area. If you love God, if you love His Kingdom, you have got to engage His Kingdom work in the discipleship of your sons and daughters. Why?

For you know, for your daughters know, for your sons know, it is for God. It is for your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You ought to be willing to lay your life down. If you have to go through that courtship and you have to forgive that young man 79 times or 4, 767 times, it is for the sake of the kingdom of God. There were martyrs who had their skin taken off and they were dipped in boiling oil for their love for Christ.

Can you make it through this courtship, through the love that you have for Christ and His kingdom? Do you have that kind of commitment? Let me tell you this. If we're going to make it through some of these difficult challenges ahead, it has to be because there are men who are willing to lay their lives down for the kingdom of God. I was faced with an inevitable conclusion about four years ago and that is if we don't mentor, if I don't do a shepherd's center and bring seven, eight, ten young men into my basement, we're not going to have young men to marry my daughters, to marry the daughters in the church, and to see the kingdom of God prosper in the years to come.

So I bought an expensive home with a big old basement. I gave everything I could possibly give in order to do the mentorship for young men because they are crying out for it, they need it. If we don't do this, we're going to have 20, 30, 40% of the young ladies in this group not married in the next 15, 20 years. We have got to do what it takes, brothers. We've got to sacrifice our time, our energy, our resources.

We've got to sacrifice maybe even a more expensive job in order to do the mentorship. God is calling us to sacrifice. And this kingdom is not going to move ahead without some kind of sacrifice. The violent will take it by force. The kingdom of God has got to be preeminent.

If the kingdom of God is going to move forward and new households form to his glory, that that we would have much godly seed for our Lord. And He wants that. He wants that. As I end, I would just encourage you to teach the book of Proverbs to your children as you sit in the house as you walk by the way. This is the basics on marriage, economies, young men.

It is the book for young men. We've done 850 pages of study guide on the book of Proverbs. It's the most important project I've ever done in my life. And I would encourage you to take a look at some of those resources. Also the Peacemaker, very important, basic stuff, Christianity 101 for our children.

Thanks so much. We're out of time. God bless you all.