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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.
January 31, 2014 / brockbruce

Tongues and Interpretation

An understanding of 1 Cor 14 that I think makes a lot of sense…

Adrian Birks over at Think Theology blog tackles the “controversial” subject of tongues and interpretation. I want to share some here in hopes that you will click on over to his post and read it.

“Firstly, we should remind ourselves that spiritual gifts are given to the ‘the body of Christ’ for the building up of the church (12:12-20). Speaking in tongues is a God-ward and therefore prayer-like activity for the building up only of the individual since it is unintelligible to others (14:2), whereas the interpretation of a tongue is, like prophecy, for the building up of the church (14:4-19). There are then two assumptions behind this passage, namely that spiritual gifts will operate in church gatherings, and unbelievers will be present in at least some of these meetings…

So far so good, but how should this be applied? What kind of prophecy and tongues is Paul referring to? Is he referring to what we call ‘singing in the Spirit’ or something else? Furthermore, some seem to say something that Paul does not say in restricting these gifts to believers meetings alone…”

Please check it out. I think he makes some good points about what tongues being a sign for unbelievers means. It’s something that many people try to make sense of but really don’t. He does. 

Again, let me encourage you to let the Spirit help you pray. You don’t need the “Gift of Tongues” to pray in the Spirit. The “Gift of Tongues” is for the church and requires an interpretation for the church to be edified. Praying in the Spirit is for personal edification. It builds up the person praying. Doesn’t require an interpretation. And Paul wishes everyone would do it. Let the Spirit help you pray.

January 27, 2014 / brockbruce

Tongues and the New York Times

This week I’m going to be posting some articles and resources that I hope encourage you to be open to letting the Spirit help you pray. Paul says in Romans 8 that “the Spirit helps us pray”. He prays with us. We pray with Him. 

In my sermon yesterday I quoted from two New York Times articles on speaking in tongues. Portions of the articles are shared below with links to the original posts.

T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford (NY TIMES) 
LAST month I was in Accra, Ghana, to learn more about the African version of the new charismatic Christian churches that have become so popular in the United States and are now proliferating in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria. What struck me was how much people spoke in tongues: language-like sounds (usually, repeated phonemes from the speaker’s own language) thought by those who use them to be a language God knows but the speaker does not.
I went to services that lasted three hours and for most of which people prayed in tongues. People I interviewed spoke about praying by themselves in tongues for similar stretches of time. They said they did so because it was the one language the devil could not understand, but what I found so striking was how happy it seemed to make them. “We love to speak in tongues,” one young Ghanaian woman told me with a laugh.Some of the early Christians spoke in tongues. At least, the Apostle Paul writes about them in his first letter to the Corinthians.
 
(She goes on to talk about TYPES OF PRAYER)
The apophatic method is probably more effective in shifting attention from the everyday, but harder to achieve. That seems to be what the fifth-century monk Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite meant when he described kataphatic prayer as a steppingstone for those who could not pray in other ways. Many of us know people who have tried to meditate and failed, defeated by thoughts that refused to stay put — what skilled practitioners call “monkey mind.” In an experiment, I assigned participants for one month to meditation, to imagination-rich prayer or to lectures on the gospels. Many who meditated didn’t like it; those who did reported deep spiritual experiences, like the expert meditators studied by the neurologist James H. Austin (“Zen and the Brain”) and other scientists.
 
As a technique, tongues capture the attention but focus it on something meaningless (but understood by the speaker to be divine). So it is like meditation — but without the monkey mind. And the practice changes people. They report that as their prayer continues, they feel increasingly more involved. They feel lighter, freer and better. The scientific data suggest that tongue speakers enter a different mental state. (Why We Talk In Tongues)
 
Mrs Luhrmann Thens goes on to talk about research included in another NY TIMES article.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior.
 
Ms. Morgan, a co-author of the study, was also a research subject. She is a born-again Christian who says she considers the ability to speak in tongues a gift. “You’re aware of your surroundings,” she said. “You’re not really out of control. But you have no control over what’s happening. You’re just flowing. You’re in a realm of peace and comfort, and it’s a fantastic feeling.”
 
Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not. Researchers have identified at least two forms of the practice, one ecstatic and frenzied, the other subdued and nearly silent.
 
The new findings contrasted sharply with images taken of other spiritually inspired mental states like meditation, which is often a highly focused mental exercise, activating the frontal lobes.
The scans also showed a dip in the activity of a region called the left caudate. “The findings from the frontal lobes are very clear, and make sense, but the caudate is usually active when you have positive affect, pleasure, positive emotions,” said Dr. James A. Coan, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.
The caudate area is also involved in motor and emotional control, Dr. Newberg said, so it may be that practitioners, while mindful of their circumstances, nonetheless cede some control over their bodies and emotions. (A Neuroscientific Look At Tongues)
 
Probably my favorite part of that research is the study that showed that those who pray in tongues are more likely to be emotionally stable that those who don’t. I bet many of you never thought you see that scientific data.
 
As someone who prays in tongues as part of my regular prayer life, I can say the findings are accurate. There is such joy and peace when praying in a heavenly language. Science hasn’t proven this to me anymore than science has proven anything else that is already true. It’s just interesting that they are reporting on the truth that those who regularly pray in tongues know. That pray in tongues edifies the pray-er as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:14.
 
Wayne Grudem, in his book Systematic Theology, says the about praying in tongues, 

“…Paul … certainly views it (tongues) positively and encourages it in private. He says, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself but he who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:4). What is his conclusion? It is not (as some would argue) that Christians should decide not to use the gift or decide that it has no value when used privately. Rather he says, “What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also” (v. 15). And he says, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all” (v. 18), and “Now I want you all to speak in tongues but even more to prophesy” (v. 5), and “Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (v. 39). If our previous understanding of tongues as prayer or praise to God is correct, then we would certainly expect that edification would follow, even though the speaker’s mind does not understand what is being said, but his or her own human spirit is communicating directly with God. Just as prayer and worship in general edify us as we engage in them, so this kind of prayer and worship edifies us too, according to Paul.”
 
The point of these post is to encourage you to be open to letting the Spirit help you pray.
September 27, 2013 / brockbruce

Preach Jesus, Preacher!

Colossians 1:28 Him (Jesus) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

July 11, 2013 / brockbruce

Brains and Bikini’s

My wife posted this on her Facebook and I thought I’d share. It’s less about swimsuits and more about how Christian’s should think through what we wear. The research on men’s brains is worth thinking through.
And as a dad, I don’t want any boy losing his mind over my daughter. And I don’t want my son losing his mind over some girl. They can lose there minds when they are married.
Also, think through this about your own attire. Does what you wear illicit a dead brain in others? Seriously. I know that you can’t control every thought that a man thinks, but you can make him think real hard to imagine what you look like under your clothes. And most men don’t want to have to think that hard.
I’m not saying don’t dress pretty or attractively, I’m saying save some things for your husband.

Men, don’t lust.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Jesus

Women, don’t entice men to lust.
Likewise, women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control… -Paul