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February 14, 2014 / brockbruce

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


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

May 28, 2013 / brockbruce

Rob Bell, The Bible & Homosexuality

Two completely different positions on God & Homosexuality. It all boils down to who is your highest authority, scripture or culture?
One man argues for scripture. The other argues for the world. One is good at answering honestly. One is good at dodging the question. The final exchange really gets to the heart of the matter. Well said, indeed.

May 2, 2013 / brockbruce

Strong Godly Women and a Weak Man

Sunday’s sermon from Judges 4 on Deborah, Barak and Jael got us thinking about how God desires to use both men & women. Here’s the big idea.
1. Men rise up & lead (women want it).
2. Women be who God has called and equipped you to be.
3. Men, don’t quench the Spirit’s work in the women of God.
4. Women, recognize godly authority, scriptural authority and biblical submission.
5. Men, understand what spiritual authority is, don’t abuse your authority, lead like Jesus.

For the basic sermon transcript, with more talk of what biblical submission is and is not and what a godly woman is, click here.