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October 10, 2017 / brockbruce

Longing for Kingdom Rightness (excerpt from my sermon on Matthew 5:6)

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is about more than just hungering for an answer to prayer, it’s about hungering for God’s character, his nature.God is holy, righteous.

Everything he does is just and true.

Hungering for righteousness is about hungering for God to move and renew us according to his character, his nature.

It’s about longing for the Rightness of the Kingdom to be experienced in and thru us, Kingdom People.

There is so much wrong in our world, in our nation, even in our homes, and our churches.

I hunger for Kingdom Rightness. I long for all the wrongs to be made right.

I long for divisions to be reconciled.

I long for unity in the church.

I long for repentant righteousness.

I long for holy healing.

I long for justice, mercy, humility to be the marks of the Church.

I long for Kingdom Rightness.

I long for every tear to wiped away. No more sickness, sin, or death.

I long for the bound to be set free.

I long for the addict to find strength to be clean.

I long for families to whole.

I long for economic systems to equitable.

I long for wars to end.

I long for swords to be beaten into plowshares.

I long for mass murders, terrorist attacks, and crime rates to be a thing of the past, remembered no more.

I long for peace.

I long for creation to be restored, no longer under the effects of man’s sin.

I long for hurricanes, wild-fires, earthquakes, and storms to no longer bring destruction and death.

I Long for Kingdom Rightness. 

I long for a consistent pro-life ethic in the church.

I long for the day when the life of the unborn is not choice.

I long for the day when the refugee is welcomed.

I long for the day when gender dysphoria disappears under the beauty of the creative order.

I long for the day when misogyny is oppressed.

I long for the end of sexual abuse.

I long for the day when innocence is restored.

I long for the day when children never fear what happens when their dad has had too much to drink.

I long for the day when a child never goes hungry.

I long for the day when poverty is powerless.

I long for Kingdom Rightness.

I long for us to see humanity as image bearers of God, even if we are different colors, genders, nationalities.

I long for racial reconciliation and reparation.

I long for every tribe and tongue to join hands and hearts in worship.

I long for the day when words are used to build up and not tear down.

I long for a day when politics crumble under the weight of King Jesus.

I long for the globalism of the new heavens and new earth under the rule of King Jesus.

I long for Kingdom Rightness. 

I long for our world redeemed. 

I long for, I hunger and thirst for Kingdom Rightness!

So as we pray maybe even fast this week, I want us to not just hunger for God to do great things, which we do, I want us to hunger for Kingdom Rightness; for his character, his nature, to be seen in our lives, in our choices, in our words, in our church, in our homes.

God promises to hear the cries of a people who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

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June 9, 2017 / brockbruce

Mowing Album of the Week

When I get on the mower I put on my headphones and enjoy the music. My mower album of the week this week is the new HILLSONG UNITED album, Wonder. 

MY MOWING ALBUM OF THE WEEK: HILLSONG UNITED, WONDER

Such a good, meditative, worshipful album from Hillsong United. Lyrics are some of their most contemplative, encouraging, and challenging. Something they really do well – challenge the worshipper to move beyond the worship experience toward obedience to the One we are worshipping. 
Of course their music is as good as ever. Bridging the arena style rock of their early stuff with the more beat heavy synth pop of their more recent studio albums. And they pull it off. Give a listen. 

https://itun.es/us/4r-Rjb

I’ll post some lyrics below.

WONDER
POST-CHORUS

I see the world in grace

I see the world in gospel

I see the world Your way

And I’m walking in the light

I’m walking in the wonder

You’re the wonder in the wild

Turning wilderness to wonder
If You have so say

I see the world in love

I see the world in freedom

I see the Jesus way

You’re the wonder in the wild
SO WILL I (100 BILLION X’S)

If creation still obeys You so will I
If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I

If the rocks cry out in silence so will I

If the sum of all our praises still falls shy

Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
NOT TODAY

VERSE 2

Tell me did the enemy panic

As You took up that cross

Tell me did the darkness cry mercy

As You rolled back that rock
PRE-CHORUS 2

‘Cause I know Your life is the life in mine

I know Your love is the reason why
CHORUS 2

I’ll sing the night into the morning

I’ll sing the fear into Your praise

I’ll sing my soul into Your presence

Whenever I say Your Name

Let the devil know not today

Whenever I say Your Name Jesus

Let the devil know not today

Not now not ever again
BRIDGE

Your love stood down death

Crushed the devil’s head

Fear is just a liar

Running out of breath

The fight beneath Your feet

I’m standing on Jesus’ Name

So let the devil know not today

Let the devil know not today No no

Not now not ever again Jesus

Let the devil know not today
WATER TO WINE

VERSE 3

Take this wineskin

My spirit bursts for something new

There’s nothing I want more than You

Only You can satisfy
CHORUS 2

So I’ll stay

I’ll stay in Your love

As long as life within me

I’ll remain

In who You are Lord
So I’ll stay

Stay in Your love

In the vintage of Your heart

Lord only You could satisfy me
So I’ll stay

Fixed within Your life

A branch within Your vine

Apart from You Lord I’ve got nothing

So I’ll stay

I will stay within Your hold

I know You’ll never let me go

And my soul it runs with mercy

June 4, 2017 / brockbruce

Pentecost Sunday is My Second Favorite Sunday

Church today was powerful. Jesus was exalted. 

Songs were sung. 

Gifts were given. 

Communion was taken. 

The Word was preached. 

Prayers were offered. 

The Spirit was encountered. 

Pentecost was celebrated. 

The alter was full. 

Teaching was engaging. 

The gospel was proclaimed. 

Spiritual gifts were in operation. 

The church was edified. 

The Spirit pointed us to Christ. 

The sick were prayed for. 

Miracles happened. 

People responded to the Word. 

Confession was made. 

The mission was given. 

People served.

Pentecost Sunday is one of my favorites Sunday’s on the church calendar. Not because we do anything unusual on it, but because of it we exist and gather empowered and equipped as the Church. 

Church today was powerful!

May 31, 2017 / brockbruce

The Mission of The Faithful

***Below are my sermon notes for week 4 of our series “Now What?” The sermon audio contains more preaching. But this is the idea behind the sermon.***
We’re continuing our Now What series this week.
So far we’ve looked at the broken, the doubter, and the seeker.
This morning we want to look at another group.
The Faithful.
One of the things that is amazing about this group is that it’s made up of the folks we’ve already looked at.
The Faithful was made up of the Broken, like Peter, who had been restored.
The Faithful was made up of the Doubter, the Thomas, who had been set at peace.
The Faithful was made up of the Seeker, like Cleopas, who had been pursued by Jesus and brought near.
Listen church, The Faithful isn’t made up of perfect people.
The Faithful is made up of folks like you and me, folks who were broken, doubting, seeking, confused, hurt, lost, bound, sinful.
The Faithful has always been a people redeemed, forgiven, made new.
Listen to Paul’s description of The Faithful in the church in the city of Corinth:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
[9] Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [10] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
The Faithful always have a ungodly past, but The Faithful always have a renewed present and a promised future.
Jesus isn’t put off by our sin.
It’s our sin that brought him to us.
His love for us that while we were sinner Christ died for us.
The Faithful is a people who have been washed, sanctified, justified by Christ.
Washed – cleansed of sin.
Sanctified – set apart from sin, set unto God.
Justified – declared free from the penalty of sin.
The Faithful are not people without a past.
But The Faithful are a people who have been made new and are living in the freedom of Christ.
The Faithful don’t turn back.
The Faithful follow even when it’s difficult.
The Faithful believe even when the lies of the enemy seem more true.
The Faithful obey even when it costs them something.
The Faithful receive all that God has promised.
The Faithful walk by faith.
The Faithful have been transformed by Jesus.
So theres a group of people who while the doubted at first, while they were broken, the were transformed by the risen Christ and became The Faithful.
Jesus spent 40 days after His resurrection appearing The Faithful – to the disciples, to the 12, to 500, at various times and to various groups of his followers.
These forty days his faithful believed and followed him.
They listened to his teaching.
They ate with him.
He showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.
He gave them instruction.
He breathed on them and said “be Filled with the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus had a faithful group of followers.
Jesus had The Faithful.
I want us to take a few minutes and see Jesus instruction to The Faithful before his ascension.
These are the final teachings and instructions of Jesus.
If you were about to leave your family, you would make sure they knew exactly what you believed they needed to know.
You would make sure they knew where the will was.
You’d make sure they knew what you wanted done.
You’d make sure they knew you loved them.
You’d make sure they knew how to live.
Jesus last words is him making sure they understood the mission, His mission – now their mission.
Not only their mission, but our mission.
The mission of The Faithful.
We are going to look at 4 appearing of Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension.
Here we go.
John 20:20-23
[20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (ESV)
JESUS WANTS THEM TO KNOW THEY HAVE A MISSION.
JESUS HAS A MISSION FOR THE FAITHFUL.
He is sending them.
This mission requires the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:16-20
The Great Commission
[16] Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. [17] And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. [18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
JESUS HAS ALL AUTHORITY AND COMMISSIONS US AS HIS AMBASSADORS.
Make disciples
Baptize
Teach
He is with us as we go.
Mark 16:14-20
The Great Commission
[14] Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. [15] And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
[19] So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] (ESV)
SUPERNATURAL SIGNS WILL BE A REALITY FOR THOSE WHO LIVE ON MISSION.
Believers baptism
Authority over demons
Speaking in tongues
Miracles
Healing 
Luke 24:45-49
[45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47] and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things. [49] And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (ESV)
THE FAITHFUL ARE WITNESSES OF CHRIST.
The Holy Spirit is the Promise of the Father
The Holy Spirit empowers you to Live on Mission
The final words of Jesus to The Faithful are summed up in this
Live Out The Mission of Jesus
That’s what Jesus wants us to know – our mission is His mission.
It the gospel of the Kingdom.
Living the Kingdom Life.
Preaching the Kingdom of Christ.
Experiencing the blessings of the Kingdom.
Our Mission is advancing His Mission.
It’s not about us.
It’s not about signs.
It’s not about Jesus.
It’s about His mission.
The Great Commission.
Go.
Tell.
Make Disciples.
Sometime we have to fight demons to Go.
Sometimes we have to fight demons to Tell.
Sometimes we have to fight demons to Make Disciples.
But Jesus sent the promise of the Father so that we are equipped for the Mission.
The Faithful are the ones living out The Mission.
Are you one of The Faithful?
Are you living out The Mission?
June 7 & 14, evangelism training to help you share your faith.
June 11, outreach team meeting to develop an outreach strategy to create opportunities to live out The Mission.
The Faithful are on The Mission of Jesus.
Next week we look at The Hopeful.
We will look at what the Promise of the Father means.
Not coincidentally, but by God providence, next weeks sermon lands on Pentecost Sunday.
The Faithful become the Hopeful.
May 15, 2017 / brockbruce

The Remedy For My Doubts

***This is originally the sermon notes for a sermon from a series titled “Now What.” You can hear the sermon audio here.***

Confession. I doubt.
Like the disciples in the storm. I doubt.
Like Peter when he stepped out of the boat. I doubt.
Like Andrew looking at the hungry crowds and all they had to feed them were five loaves and two fish. I doubt.
Like the virgin Mary when the angel first told her that she was pregnant. I doubt.
Like Thomas after the death of Jesus. I doubt.
I doubt.
Sometimes I doubt my calling.
Sometimes I doubt that God is really there.
Sometimes I doubt that God cares.
Sometimes I doubt God will do what He has promised.
Sometimes I doubt.
I know I’m not the only one who doubts.
When you hurt. You doubt.
When you sin. You doubt.
When a prayer isn’t answered the way you want it to be. You doubt.
I’m the same.
Sometimes I doubt.
So what do I do?
I do the only thing that makes any sense in the middle of my doubts.
I look to Jesus.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I wouldn’t be a Christian.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I wouldn’t believe in a good God.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would be miserable.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would question everything.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I wouldn’t believe in truth.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, doubt would dictate my worldview.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would be hopeless.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would be lost.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would be empty.
If I didn’t believe in the resurrected Christ, I would be a broken mess.
If I didn’t believe.
Often I’m like the father needing Jesus to perform a miracle for his son, I cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief”.
Sometimes I doubt.
 
But It’s in those moments that I look again at Jesus.
I look at the resurrected Christ.
 
I look at the resurrected Christ historically.
 
I look at the resurrected Christ personally.
What do I mean by I look at the resurrected Christ historically?
Firstly, I look at the story of scripture.
I look at the promise made in Genesis 3 and fulfilled on the cross, guaranteed at the empty tomb, and pictured in The Revelation.
I look at the beauty of the covenants that started with Adam, was renewed with Moses, was expanded with Abraham, was clarified with David, and was fulfilled and made new with Jesus.
I look at the life and teachings of Jesus.
I look at the prophecies concerning his death and resurrection.
I look at the biblical evidence of his resurrection.
     That Jesus resurrection was prophecies in advance, by prophets hundreds of years before.
     That Jesus predicted his resurrection.
     That Jesus died.
     That Jesus was buried in a tomb that was easy to find.
     That Jesus appeared physically alive three days after his death.
     That Jesus had a resurrected body.
     That Jesus resurrection was recorded as Scripture within just a few years after it occurred.
     That Jesus resurrection was celebrated in the earliest church creeds as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
     That Jesus resurrection convinced his family to worship him as God.
     That Jesus resurrection was confirmed by even his enemies.
Secondly, I look at the circumstantial evidence of his resurrection.
     That Jesus disciples were transformed.
     That Jesus disciples were willing to die for this fact.
     That the disciples were people of integrity.
     That worship changed. Saturday to Sunday. Jesus as God.
     That women discover the empty tomb.
     That the basis of the early church’s teaching was based on the fact of the resurrection.
     That Jesus tomb was not enshrined.
     That Christianity exploded because of this fact.
Thirdly, I look at the historical evidence for his resurrection.
     That the Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived from A.D. 37-100 wrote that Jesus was crucified but was appeared to them alive three days later.
     That Roman historian, Suetonius wrote about the resurrection of Jesus.
     That Pliny the Younger wrote about the resurrection of Jesus as the basis for a new religious movement.
So when I doubt, I look at the historical evidence of Jesus.
 
But I don’t only look at the historical evidence of Jesus.
I look at the personal evidence of Jesus.
What do I mean that I look at the resurrected Christ personally?
     I look at his intervention in my birth. I should have been still-born or in a vegetative state. But Jesus intervened.
     I look at his personal Spirit-endwelling, baptism when I was only eight years old.
     I look at encounters I’ve had with him. Real, tangible, God-moving, God-speaking encounters.
     I look at how he has met me in scripture every time I open up the word.
     I look at the wife God gave me and that he has preserved our marriage.
     I look at the miracles that are my children.
          That Elleson was healed of epilepsy. That recently the doc was amazed at her back. That the brace she wears fro scoliosis doesn’t straighten out your spine, but at the last x-ray he said one of the curves was practically nonexistent.
          That Carter was raised from death as a one month old. No heart-beat. Not breathing. Indications of spinal meningitis. But after week in the hospital, a miracle happened. Doctors had not explanation. Buy Carter was healed.
     I look at how Jesus has constantly provided for us financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually.
When I doubt, I look at the reality of the resurrection of Christ historically as well as the reality of the resurrection personally.
Sometimes I doubt.
But Jesus never lets me go.
Sometimes I doubt.
But Jesus never doubts his ability to keep me.
Jesus never waivers in his love for me.
Jesus never gets angry at me.
Sometimes he tells me to stop doubting.
Sometimes he has to shake me to wake me.
Sometimes he has to hold me.
But he never gives up.
Sometimes I doubt.
But he never gives up.
I’m not alone in my doubts. 
I’ve got pretty famous company.
Let’s look at John 20:19-29
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
[19] On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” [20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. [21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus shows up the very Sunday of his resurrection to the disciples.
He immediately showed them his hands and his side.
He knew they wouldn’t believe.
He knew they would doubt.
So before he asks them to follow him, or gives them the next instructions, he calms their fear and removes their doubts.
I love that Jesus understands our frailty.
That Jesus understands our weakness, our mortality.
Jesus has so much for us, but he knows that before we follow him, we must trust him.
He gives us reason to trust him.
The story doesn’t end there.
Because there was one disciple who missed the Sunday night gathering.
If you miss gathering with believers you just might miss something huge.
Jesus and Thomas
[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (ESV)
I love that Thomas is so honest.
He’s not going to take the disciples word for it.
I mean, Thomas saw the crucifixion with his own eyes.
He saw the nails.
The beating.
The sword.
The crown of thorns.
He saw the death of Christ.
If he wasn’t going to follow a dead man.
I don’t blame him.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.
Jesus claimed to the only way to the Father.
Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd.
Jesus claimed that he would be killed but that on the third day he would be raised.
Jesus claimed to be God.
Thomas wasn’t going to follow a liar.
They only way Thomas would believe is if he saw Jesus just as alive as he was dead.
Unless I see, I will never believe.
Never.
So Jesus goes to Thomas.
He offers his hands, his side. 
He says believe.
And Thomas cries out one of the most important statement in all of Scripture.
“My Lord and my God!”
He believes.
But he doesn’t just believe that Jesus is alive.
He doesn’t believe only that Jesus has been resurrected.
He believes and confesses that Jesus is both LORD and GOD.
That’s the confession that saves.
That’s the belief that causes life transformation.
It’s the only proper response to the resurrection Christ showing up in your life.
I love that Jesus shows up.
I love that he isn’t put off that Thomas has doubts.
I love that Jesus is big enough, good enough, loving enough to prove himself in spite of our doubts.
Jesus is alive.
Sometimes I doubt. But then I look at Jesus.
Or more accurately, Jesus looks at me, and says I’m right here.
Jesus also understands that we don’t have the experiences of seeing Jesus one week after his physical resurrection.
So Jesus offers us a greater blessing that just being him.
He offers us the blessing of His Spirit living within us, empowering us, indwelling us, equipping us, adopting us, keeping us, comforting us.
Jesus isn’t offended by our doubting.
Jesus offers us himself.
Won’t you believe?
November 9, 2016 / brockbruce

Seeking The King. Praying For The President.

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Yesterday on Facebook I shared that regardless of the outcome that I was committed to praying for our newly elected president. This morning, with my family huddled around me, I lifted up Donald Trump in prayer.

If you didn’t stay up into the wee hours of the morning, chances are you were a bit surprised, shocked, perplexed, bewildered, saddened, or exuberant at the news that America had elected as it’s 45th President, Donald Trump.

Truth be told I wasn’t a fan of Trump. I didn’t even vote for him.

Truth be told I wasn’t a fan of Hillary. I didn’t even vote for her.

I voted my conscience. I committed it to the LORD. I trusted Him. I still trust Him.

I don’t rejoice this morning in the election of Donald Trump. But I wouldn’t have rejoiced in the election Hillary Clinton either. I’m not satisfied. Not because we didn’t elect the president I hoped, or the one I voted for in the primary. I’m not satisfied because I’m longing for a King and a Kingdom to whom I belong but don’t yet experience in fullness. That longing makes me restless. It makes me uncomfortable in the constrains of political party affiliation. Kingdom restlessness. I long for that city whose builder and maker is God. I long to see that city come down. I pray Thy Kingdom come. But I don’t just pray. I participate but fall far short, of living Kingdom priorities in the earth as it is in heaven. John the Revelator tells me I’m a king and a priest. But I’m a broken one at best. As an active citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom I don’t find much comfort here. I don’t find solace in the systems of this world. In the systems of the nation. America isn’t the Church. America isn’t the Kingdom. I often feel out of place. I’m not the only one. Every Kingdom citizen feels like a refugee. At least we should. We can’t get too comfortable here. Comfort in this world’s system causes us to stop longing for the Kingdom. We can’t stop longing.

Often I fear that many Christians in America have stopped longing. We still long for the blessings of the Kingdom, but we’ve stopped longing for the Kingdom. We want all the blessings without submission to the King. We place American Rights above Kingdom Priorities. But we are Kingdom people first.

Peter reminds us that judgement begins with the house of God. A time of purifying. A time of shaking the things we cling to that must be released for the church to be a spotless bride. We belong to Kingdom that cannot be shaken. But every thing that can be shaken will be shaken. And we must see the shaking out as mercy even in the judgement.

So I pray.

I pray first for the Church. I pray that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to become enslaved to a political party. I pray we wouldn’t see ourselves as Americans before we see ourselves as Kingdom citizens. I pray that we wouldn’t give up Kingdom principles for political agendas and power. I pray that we wouldn’t be a divided church. But that we would be a unified Church, neither male nor female, slave nor free, not divided by color, or politics, but one as the Father and the Son are one. I pray that we would be known by our love – love for one another and love for the lost. I pray that a great Spiritual Awakening would occur in the Church and pour out into the streets. I pray that laborers would go out into the harvest. I pray that the church would do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. I pray that we wouldn’t allow fear to determine how we live. I pray we would resist evil and stand for righteousness. I pray that Jesus would be exalted. For anything less will leave the church powerless and marginalized, unable to be a voice crying in the wilderness. I pray that the church would let the mind that was in Christ Jesus be our mind. His perspective our perspective. His agenda our agenda. I pray that the church would lead from a posture of humility not a posture of power. It’s in humility that we have authority. It’s in the authoritative humility of Christ that the sick touched his garments, that the demonized were delivered, that the hungry were fed, that the poor were set free, that the captive was loosed, that the sinner was forgiven, that the Kingdom was proclaimed. I pray for the church.

I pray for America.

I seek the welfare of the nation as an exiled Israel sought the welfare of the city. That God’s people would live peaceable, godly lives in the nation in which we live. I pray that a Spiritual Awakening, an Awakening that only comes through prayer and faithful gospel proclamation,  would bring in a harvest of souls. I pray that America would be a land of missionaries, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. I pray that a new culture of Life would take root. From the unborn baby to the criminal. From the black youth to the immigrant. From the police officer to the social worker. From the middle-class worker addicted to prescription drugs to the factory worker who feels abandoned and doesn’t know how to keep going. I pray a culture of Life would be resurrected in America. I pray that righteousness would be exalted in our nation. That America would come to its senses on issues of moral consequence. I pray that the Church would lead the way in truth and love. I pray that America would be healed. I pray for racial healing. I pray for those affected by gentrification. I pray for the unemployed and under-employed. I pray for the rich and I pray for the poor. I pray that America would live up to her greatest potential. I pray for America.

I pray for President-Elect Donald Trump.

Understanding that governments are ordained by You and that all nations are ultimately under Your rule, I pray that Donald Trump would be a faithful witness and walk in disciplined obedience to Your Word. I pray that he would humble himself and seek the face of God. I pray He would lead from a posture of humility. I pray that he would lead with wisdom that only comes from the hand of the Almighty. I pray that he would see that all lives are image-bearers of our Creator. I pray that he would surround himself with godly counsel and faithful witnesses of the gospel. I pray that he would lead the nation to repentance from a posture of repentance. I pray that the words of his mouth and the mediation of his heart would be acceptable and pleasing to You, oh God. I pray that he would take steps to bring racial healing to our nation. I pray that he would fulfill his promise to be a pro-life president. I pray that the culture that he has benefited from in the past, a culture that devalues and degrades women, would be transformed as he is transformed by the renewing of his mind. I pray for his security. I pray that his policies would be just and equitable. I pray for Donald Trump.

I pray that the Spirit of God would blow from the Church House through the White House. From the Appalachian  Mountains to the Midwestern Plains. From the Pacific Coast to the Florida Keys. From New England to the Puget Sound. Let Your Spirit blow through the trees and rustle the leaves of our hearts, removing any dead branches and making room for fresh growth. And may Your Spirit stir the heart of our President, our Nation, Your Church and me.

I also pray for myself. I pray that I would be convicted when I criticize before I’m consecrated. I pray that I would be humble as I speak to issues of Kingdom importance. I pray that I would represent the King and the Kingdom well. I pray I wouldn’t vilify or demonize those with whom I disagree but would disagree with civility and grace. I pray that I would live out the gospel that I say I believe. I pray for myself.

In Jesus Name.

I seek the King. I pray for the President.

 

 

 

 

 

February 14, 2014 / brockbruce

Buildings & Bodies (I Am A Church Member Part 2 Sermon Notes)

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Anybody like to play Jenga? 
You try to build the tower as high as possible without it falling over. Eventually there becomes empty space, weak areas. You may even  begin to remove the foundation. Stress is placed on other areas of the tower. The more the blocks are moved and not stacked tightly the more stress is put on the building and ultimately it wobbles, and eventually it crashes to the ground.
 
Buildings don’t stand unless all the blocks are strong, steadfast and working in unison. One block cracks, more stress is placed on the other block. But when they stay together the building stands.
 
Peter describes the church as a building. A building with a solid foundation. Christ is the foundation.
 
In 1 Peter, the Apostle is writing to the believes in what is now Turkey. They were Gentiles, that means that they weren’t Jews. They din’t grow up under the rules and laws of the Old Testament, they were superstitious, they worshiped false deities, and they were learning how to live in the Light and Truth of Christ. They’d accepted his teachings, his miracles and his death and resurrection. They were followers of Christ. But they were still learning how to be disciples and how to be the Church.
 
So Peter writes them a letter.
 
1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
 
Wow. So this church, these people have a few issues.
They hold grudges.
They are deceitful.
They act phony.
They are jealous and envious of others.
There talk bad about each other.
 
This church, these people, these church are in trouble.
A church can’t stand, it will crash down like a Jenga tower when these 5 sins run rampant in the church.
 
Look at these churches whose member didn’t function as a building or a body.
August 1999 Landover, Maryland
100 years of Christian fellowship, unity, and community outreach ended last Tuesday in an act of congregational discord. Holy Creek Baptist Church was split into multiple factions.
The source of dissension is a piano bench which still sits behind the 1923 Steinway piano to the left of the pulpit. Members and friends at Holy Creek Baptist say that the old bench was always a source of hostility. People should have seen this coming.
At present, Holy Creek Congregation will be having four services each Sunday. There has been an agreement mediated by an outside pastor so that each faction will have it’s own separate service with it’s own separate pastor. Since the head pastor is not speaking to the associate pastors, each will have their own service, which will be attended by factioned members. The services are far enough apart that neither group will come into contact with the other. An outside party will be moving the piano bench to different locations and appropriate positions, between services, so as to please both sides, and avoid any further conflict that could result in violence.
 
In Dwight Pentecost’s commentary on the book of Philippians he refers to an occurrence of a church split in Dallas Texas. The church split was so bad that it involved a legal suit of one side of the church against the other over who had the right of owner ship of the church property. The case went all the way to the State Supreme Court. It was dismissed on the grounds that the State Supreme Court was not going to deal with inner church issues but they would have to be dealt with by the denominational church governing body. The matter was finally settled with one side being given the ownership rights to the property. During this period of time a local news paper reporter did some investigating on the cause of this church split. He discovered that it all started during a church dinner. Apparently one of the church elders was offended when the portion of food given to him was not as large as the young person next to him. This whole church split started because someone was offended over such a petty thing.
 
Grudges, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander. It kills the church. 
And when the church is broken down, evangelism suffers, sin spreads, repentance slows and salvations stop.
Why is it that people don’t except Christ. It’s not Jesus, it’s the Church.
But the answer isn’t less church, it good church. Righteous church. Holy church. Loving church. Forgiving church. Merciful church. The church needs the foundation of Christ to be the church that wins souls.
 
People slandering one another, holding grudges, being jealous of each other, being envious of even the Pastor. It will destroy the church and it will undermine the gospel of Jesus!
 
So what is Peter’s solution?
Grow Up! Grow in your salvation. Get into the word. Grow spiritually.
 kLike newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual lmilk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have mtasted that the Lord is good.
 
Basically he says, I’m not even sure you are Christians by the way you are behaving. But if you really have known and experienced Christ, live like it and Grow Up. Not just for yourself, but for the church and for the gospel.
 
Now we get to Peter’s analogy of the building.
 
As you come to him, a living stone nrejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, oyou yourselves like living stones are being built up as pa spiritual house, to be qa holy priesthood, rto offer spiritual sacrifices sacceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
 
Peter says we are part of a Building whose foundation was rejected, but the foundation is our only hope. 
The foundation, the cornerstone, the thing that keeps up square and solid and upright, and strong is Jesus.
And we are part of the Building. We are being built into a house. The purpose of the house reflect the goodness of God to the world.
 
For it stands in Scripture:
 
t“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, uand whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who vbelieve, but for those who vdo not believe,
w“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”1 and
x“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, yas they were destined to do.
 
But you are za chosen race, aa royal bpriesthood, ca holy nation, da people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you eout of darkness into fhis marvelous light. 10 gOnce you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
 
The mission of the Church, the building, as Peter puts it for the Church to proclaim the excellencies of the one who called us out of Darkness and into Marvelous light.
 
And Peter doesn’t make it individualistic. 
It’s not, that the world would only see you shining light, but that the world would see the Church shining light.
Notice the community he is talking about.
a Preisthood, not a Preist.
A Nation, not an individual.
A People, not a person.
God’s people. The church. We are a building and group who rely on the strength and the perseverence of those beside us.
 
But Scripture doesn’t stop the theme of interconnectivity, it actually goes even deeper into the theme.
 
Look at 1 Corinthians 12. Look at what Paul says about the church.
 
1 Corinthians 12:1 For just as ithe body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, jso it is with Christ. 13 For kin one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—lJews or Greeks, slaves4 or free—and mall were made to drink of one Spirit.
 
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, nGod arranged the members in the body, each one of them, oas he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,5 yet one body.
 
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, pall rejoice together.
 
Paul is saying 3 basic things
1- that every member of the church is important, 
2- and every member of the church has a Spiritual gift 
3- and every member of the church should use that gift for the other ember of the body.
 
I believe Paul would lay down some groundwork though on who can be a member.
 
Firstly, a member must be a Christian. No one that hasn’t been born again can be a member because member of the body have Spiritual gifts. You only have Spiritual gifts is you are a Christian. And every Christian has a Spiritual gift.
 
Secondly, a member should adhere to the basic doctrines of the church.
 
Thirdly, a member will respect godly Shepherds.
 
Fourthly, a member will support his local church. Time. Talent. Tithe.
 
27 Now qyou are the body of Christ and individually rmembers of it.28 And sGod has appointed in the church first tapostles, second uprophets, third teachers, then vmiracles, then wgifts of healing, xhelping, yadministrating, and vvarious kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But zearnestly desire the higher gifts.
 
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
 
So Paul says You are a body. 
You need the other Body Parts.
 The eye needs the ear, the ear needs the hand, the hand needs the foot. Paul is emphatic that we need each other. 
And he’s talking about local churches here, not the universal church. 
He’s saying that each member of the local church is important to the work of the gospel, the work of the church and the edification of the body.
 
The work of the Gospel: evangelism, discipleship and prayer
The work of the organizational church: greeting, cleaning, administrating, clerical work, maintenance work.
The edification of the body: Helping the hurting, praying for the sick, word of wisdom or knowledge, hospitality, preaching, worship…
 
Each member in a local body is equipped to do something the local church. 
And some are equipped to to help the universal church. 
But it all starts local. You’ve heard “politics is local”, well church is local. 
And the only way the church functions the way it is intended to function is found in the next chapter. 
The end of Chapter 12 Paul says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” 
He’s talking about the church. A more excellent way then the church at Corinth was operating, they were envious, sexually twisted, hypocrites and slanderers. Paul said there’s a more excellent way. Church is supposed to be better than this.
 
I agree with Paul. Church is supposed to be better than this. 
Church is supposed to be better than world. 
Church is supposed to be different than the world. 
Church is supposed to be a taste of the Kingdom of God. 
There’s a more excellent way.
 
Chapter 13 tells us the more excellent way. The way church should be better.
 
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have aprophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, bso as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. cIf I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not love, I gain nothing.
 
eLove is patient and fkind; love gdoes not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It idoes not insist on its own way; it jis not irritable or resentful;2 it kdoes not rejoice at wrongdoing, but lrejoices with the truth.mLove bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, eendures all things.
 
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For nwe know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but owhen the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 Forpnow we see in a mirror dimly, but qthen face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as rI have been fully known.
 
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
 
We read this at weddings, we put it on greeting cards, we put it on pictures and hang it our homes, we read it on Valentine’s day. But the passage is for the church. It’s for the local church. The church should be loving.
I want to read it again with that in mind,
 
eThe Church should be patient and fkind; the church should not envy or boast; it should not be arrogant or rude. Members of the church should not insist on their own way; The church should not be irritable or resentful;2 6  k the church should not rejoice at wrongdoing, but lrejoice with the truth.mMembers of the church should bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, eendures all things. Because the church has the love of God.
 
See the church isn’t supposed to be individualistic. The church is supposed to be a building with many stones, a body with many parts. All coming together for each other and for the cause of the gospel of the kingdom.
 
King David, a man who understood the power of unity and the severe cost of malice, sums it up beautifully when he writes,
 
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
 
when ebrothers dwell in unity!1
 
It is like the precious foil on gthe head,
 
running down on the beard,
 
on the beard of Aaron,
 
running down on hthe collar of his robes!
 
It is like ithe dew of jHermon,
 
which falls on kthe mountains of Zion!
 
For there the Lord lhas commanded the blessing,
 
life forevermore.
 
There is anointing is unity of the church.
There is God’s favor.
There is blessing.
There is life abundant.
The unity of believers.