Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gift

"The Gift"

Scripture: Isaiah 9: 6-7a; John 1:1-5; Luke 2:4-7

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center


What an exciting time of the year! Christmas parties, beautiful music, delicious treats, spectacular trees, decorations galore, and gifts wrapped neatly under the tree. The excitement on Christmas Eve is palpable; shopping all done, travel plans complete, worship service inspired, and now it's the joy of anticipation. Will they like the gifts? What will I get? Did he/she remember what I asked for? Did I spend too much; too little? How many remember what you got for Christmas in 2002? How many of you remember what you gave to whom in 1999? Don't remember? Wow! Must have been awesome, huh? From "black Friday" till Christmas day is about 30 days – days focused toward preparation for the Christmas celebration – giving, getting, decorating, entertaining, begrudging, lamenting, over-spending, rehearsing, and planning! Think about it, since 1997, we've spent a full year in the Christmas season! My, oh my, how time flies.


In today's world we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ. In the early church the birth of Christ was commemorated. To commemorate means to observe; to give special recognition. The celebration of Christmas today is like a commemoration on SPEED; Glitz, glamour, and all that glitters. It's done with such speed that we call it X-mas. The word means Christ's Mass – the commemoration of the gift of Christ to the world. The commemoration reminds us of what we've been given. The celebration today centers around what we're giving and getting. The former focuses on the given, the latter on the gifting. What, then, is Christmas really about? Is it a commemoration or a celebration? The answer is YES!


We commemorate the birth of Christ to remind us of God's greatest gift to mankind – the person, Jesus. You see, without Him, why would we celebrate? What would we commemorate? At the birth of Jesus was the greatest occurrence in the history of the universe. God came to us as one of us – but in the most unlikely fashion; an infant born to an unwed mother, in a barn full of manure and animals, without social status, totally dependant upon the good graces of a step-father and an immature young mother. The genetic makeup of a perfect creator mingled with created makeup fraught with a lineage of self-centeredness inherited from the Garden of Eden. The stuff of science fiction movies – manifest in flesh thousands of years before the invention of movie projectors.


Why would there have been such an unlikely occurrence? Because we have a creator so crazy in love with His greatest creation, that He desires it to be brought back to its original intent as a divine reflection of His own perfect love. You see, the reflector had become so tarnished by turning its reflection into itself, that the Creator could no longer be seen in His creation. The reflector kept trying to repair the tarnish, but every time it did, it laid down even more tarnish as it failed to clean itself. It somehow knew that it wasn't living its full potential and created for itself all sorts of objects and intentions crafted to fulfill its original design. So, the Creator inserted Himself into the reflective mix, giving a shining example of reflection to perfection. So distraught by its own dullness, the reflector put to death the Perfect Reflector. The Perfect Reflector, at His death, took upon himself all the tarnish that was and would ever be. Then upon His overcoming death, He left the tarnish in the grave forever. Though we still tarnish, the living, Perfect Reflector, burns through that tarnish giving us the light of His eternal perfection. The "GIFT" that we've been given is the presence of the Reflector's polish, ever polishing us to the Creator's original reflection. The gift we are called to give in return is our tarnished selves to be polished to the day of perfect reflection. He can't use our self-polished effort because that only adds more tarnish. In this life we will offer no more than a poor reflection of the true Image in whose likeness we are made. The greatest gift we can give this Christmas is our tarnished, poor reflective, selves to the polishing hands of the Savior, who covering us with His perfect reflection, sooths our imperfection. So the focus today, tomorrow, and every day is NOT the Gift we get, but the gift of self back to the perfect Giver for the perfect Gift already given!


"You shall have no other gods before Me."

Monday, December 14, 2009

The First and the Last

"The First and the Last"

Jeremiah 10:11-16; Galatians 5:19-21

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center

December 13, 2009



A professor stood in front of his classroom and declared; "there is no God." Even more boldly he said; "if there is a God in heaven, let him strike me down." Nothing happened. The professor shook his head and a few moments later repeated; "if there is a God in heaven, let him strike me down." He stood there with fists and teeth clenched. A young ex-marine in the back got to his feet, went forward to the professor and knocked him squarely off his podium. Startled and smarting from the blow the professor stood and said; "I said that if there really is a God that HE knock me down." The young man replied; "He was busy so He sent me!"


In describing ancient idolatry, William Barclay made this declaration (from Barclay, The Letter to the Colossians, p.182) "The essence of idolatry is the desire to get. A man sets up an idol and worships it because he desires to get something out of God. To put it bluntly, he believes that by his sacrifices and his gifts and his worship, he can persuade, or even bribe God into giving him what he desires." This is not just ancient idolatry; it is current and modern idolatry as well. "The essence of idolatry is the desire to get." This elevates the royal ME above the holy HE in our lives. Let's look at some subtle (and not so subtle) ways in which we succumb to idolatry in our lives today.


  1. "Going for the feeling." God is not found in the way I feel Him. How many times have you heard someone say; "I'm just not feeling it?" I don't "feel" the presence of His Spirit now. Or I don't "feel" the love for you anymore. I don't feel like going to that event this evening. I don't feel like going to worship today. I don't feel the music today. I don't feel like you respect me. I don't feel like I measure up. I don't feel like I'm loved. What happens when we have a feeling gap? We think there's something wrong – something missing. We don't like this emotional dissonance because we've been taught that feelings are related to safety and security – so if there's something off, we need to make it different. I don't feel the excitement, I don't feel the joy…therefore, I must seek to fill the feeling. When we seek to fill the feeling, we seek the god of our feelings while ignoring the feelings of the God who has already given us everything we need and could ever hope for – the mercy to spare us from what we really deserve and the grace to receive what we really don't deserve. Our feelings can present us with the greatest source of deceit. Why? – Because they give us our greatest moments of satisfaction. Therein lays the rub. We tend to believe that faith, worship, and hope are contingent upon our own satisfaction. NOT the case. Do you believe that Christ was more than our great example; that Christ was the great exception to our very nature? Recall the account in scripture when Jesus was in the garden the evening before his crucifixion – do you think he was "feeling" the love as He looked toward the morning and the pain He was about to suffer? All feelings aside were placed as He asserted "Not my will but thine be done." Therein lay His satisfaction – not the feeling – that He had surrendered self-interest to the greater interest of the Father – the greater good of all human-kind!


  1. Obsession with having things our way. When I was in India, after having found my beautiful daughter as an infant, I had the occasion to visit Mother Theresa's Ashram in the depths of the slums of Ahmadabad. Stepping from the street into the compound was like stepping from the cesspool into the palace. It was the place I wanted my future daughter to be while I waited for the court process to be completed. Three of the Sisters came to visit with the family with which I was staying there. We had a wonderful time sharing jokes and stories and some tasty Indian treats. When it was time for them to leave, recalling the pristine appearance of their abode, I stated that I would pay for a rickshaw to return them safely. "No thank you," they stated; "we'll take the bus." The thought horrified me. The buses were overcrowded and people were literally hanging out the windows. "I insist," I responded; "you'll be much more comfortable in a rickshaw." "You don't understand," they replied; "we don't know who God will put in our path that needs the care He has called us to bring." I was obsessed with their comfort – they were resolved to His calling. How often do we overlook the purpose of our God by obsessing about our way of thinking? We should even listen to our prayers some times. We pray as though a few special words, a quote of scripture out of its context, and a firm demand, will somehow put the creator of the universe in a place to do our bidding. We disregard His divine purpose and plan that is far greater and more expansive than our limited minds can comprehend. We walk all over those who dare not do things our way, ignore the blessing of discovering the heart's desire of the other, then dare to ask God "WHY" when things don't' go our way. That leads us to the third way we succumb to idolatry in our lives.


  1. Demanding that God follow our will. This can be a subtle one! You see, from the earliest times in our childhood, we hear the positive message that "if you can dream it, you can be it." Mega churches are built on the notion of positive affirmations that render God obliged to return the blessings we do deeply desire. After all, doesn't scripture state "you have not because you ask not?" "All things are possible!" How many times have we heard from the electronic pulpit "God desires you to be successful in fulfilling your dreams?" The God of our dreams who gives me everything my heart desires – now that's the god for me! Give more and receive more. What a return on my investment! Jesus patently resisted these temptations when in the desert after His baptism. Matthew 4:3-11 "The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."(In other words, "you're in control here; you're hungry; take what you need to satisfy your hunger – you have the right – God will follow your will!" ) Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' (In other words, "show everyone how great you are, after all, God's not going to let His main man be hurt. God desires you to be successful in all you do!") Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."(In other words – carpe diem – cease the day, Jesus! Why put off till tomorrow what can be in your grasp today! After all, it's all about you, Jesus!) Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him." So the three main areas that we can fall victim to the temptation to demand God to meet our will are: 1. Our physical needs, 2. Our ego needs – prove He's on our side, and 3. Our greed – give me more and give me now! God gives the antidote, however – 1, God's word supersedes even our physical urges; 2, God is not our personal little god to put to the test; 3, Worship Him only!


  1. Self interest superseding service! The Boy Scout was 35 minutes late for the troop meeting. The meeting last month was about offering service to others and at the beginning of every meeting; each individual had the opportunity to share ways in which they had been of service to someone in the community. When young Bobby arrived, his uniform was torn, his hair was disheveled, his face was scratched and bleeding and he was sporting a fresh black eye. "What happened to you, Bobby?" the Scout Master asked. "I stopped to help a little old lady across the street," Bobby responded with a proud smile. "How noble of you, Bobby – what an act of service," the Scout Master retorted. Tell me, how do you come by that torn uniform, the scratched face and the black eye?" "She didn't want to go," responded Bobby! It's funny, but it's tragically human. We want to serve God in our way whether He wants our service in that way or not. Then we wonder why we wind up wounded in frustrated because after all, I did my utmost for you God! We think that because we have a desire and a little bit of information, we can shower God with the blessing of our service that makes us feel like we've accomplished so much. "O God, if others could just see what a humble hero I really am!" Let's get it clear, honey – the heart God seeks is not the hero, it's not the self-willed one, it's not the self-obsessed one, nor the glory to the feeling one; it's the broken one! The one that says –"not my will but thine be done;" the one that is becoming self-less, obsessed less, demand-less, and feel-less.


My friend Jack says everything is cause and effect. I think of it as behavior and consequence. The consequence of our demanding things our way: Galatians 5:19-21 "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." The consequences of giving first place to God: Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. Against such things there is no law." Who wants to be first? Then take the position that is last. In that position you'll find the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that you've always sought. There and only there will you find these things that are the free gift of the FIRST and only GOD in your life!










Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What’s Your Isaac?

"What's Your Isaac?"

Scripture: Genesis 22:2-18, John 3:16-17

Pastor Tom

December 6, 2009

SpiritSong Worship Center

When I was eight years old I asked Santa for a Mickey Mouse watch. I daydreamed about wearing that watch; how it would look on my wrist, how wonderful and special I would feel that Santa had honored my request. I remember the anticipation of going to bed on Christmas Eve with the hope that Santa would think me "good" enough to gift me that watch. Just a tinge of doubt crept into my mind as I recalled having had "bad" thoughts the past year and setting traps for my rival on the school playground. I prayed that wouldn't be counted against me. You can imagine my glee as I entered the living room that Christmas morning to seek a cylindrical box wrapped in gold colored tissue with a beautiful bow on top. I grabbed the package and held it up for my Sister to take a picture. Mom and Dad were looking on with grins as wide as the windows as I opened that package to remove my heart's desire – that Mickey Mouse watch! "Look what Santa left me," I cried to my family. "Let me see it," said my Dad. He took it in his hands, looked it over and then looked at me with loving eyes and said; "Santa must think you're a very special boy to have left you this kind of present." "Yes, he must," I thought to myself. He must see something more than I see. That was many years ago. Mom, Dad, and my Sister are all with the Lord, and I have no clue where the Mickey Mouse watch is, but something very special remains: "God must think you're a very special man to have left you that kind of present." The feeling of being loved beyond my judgment, beyond my doubts, beyond my fears- that remains with me eternally!

There's something special about receiving gifts, isn't there? They make us feel special – set apart. And, there is nothing more disappointing than to receive a shoddy substitute that misses the mark of expectation! When we don't get what we want and or think we need, we either turn it inward to say "I must not be worthy," or spew anger towards God and or others for being so cruel as to deny our request. Acts 20:35 attributes Jesus as having said "It is more blessed to give than to receive." What's the blessing in giving?

Abraham was old and feeble. Sarah was well beyond child bearing age. Abraham's whole legacy, purpose, meaning in life had been focused around a lineage that would live on beyond him. God had promised him a son by Sarah, yet no son had arrived. You can imagine the delight he experienced when Sarah announced her pregnancy. Even greater must have been the absolute wonder and glee when Abraham held his very own Isaac in his arms for the first time. God had fulfilled His promise and had given Abraham a son. Abraham must have felt special and yet humbled that God had indeed fulfilled His promise in spite of Abraham's known shortcomings. God must have seen beyond what Abraham saw. Isaac was the hope of Abraham's lineage – the source of the great nation that God had promised through him. Abraham almost worshipped the ground upon which Isaac walked – he was so thankful to God for his son! Isaac represented for Abraham the manifestation of his personhood; the significance of a life worth living; the hope of a legacy after his death. Isaac meant just about everything to Abraham.

Then one day, God told Abraham to take his beloved son to a place up the mountain, and then to sacrifice him as an offering to God. Abraham could have said; "right, God, sure thing…I'll get back to you in a few years." Or he could have debated whether he had actually heard from God! Could the God who had promised this son, this heir, and delivered such a spectacular specimen be the same God who was now requesting the "giving back" of that promise? What kind of God would do that? (We'll come back to that!) Abraham, however, packed up the wood, gathered his servants to help carry the load up the hill, and prepared Isaac for the journey. Once there, Isaac astutely noticed the presence of the wood, the frame for the altar, but the absence of the lamb for sacrifice. Abraham, whose old and worn heart must have been beating out of his chest, took his prize possession, secured him to the altar, told his son that God would provide and raised the knife to plunge into his son. Just at that moment, we know, the Lord intervened and provided a lamb as a substitute for Isaac. Abraham had proven his faith in and love for God. God must have known at the point of Abraham raising the blade how special and set apart He was in Abraham's heart!

It was not Isaac's life that God desired…it was Abraham's heart! You see, it would have been easy for Abraham to prance around with Isaac in hand, proudly displaying the blessing God had bestowed on him. After all, in Isaac lay the hopes of a nation…or did it? Our faith and our hope are in God…not His gifts or His blessings! When we value the gift above the Giver, we have displaced the Giver in our hearts! There can be no other gods before God! Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Is there anything else?

We each have our own Isaacs. Our Isaac can be anything we hold in esteem. The things we have been blessed with become the things we bless! Abraham trusted God enough to believe that even should Isaac be sacrificed, God would raise him to life again in fulfillment of the promise! He was willing to relinquish his gift in esteem for the giver! I've had numerous Isaacs in my life. One in particular I recall from the age of eleven.

One of my favorite TV shows was Lassie. I was infatuated with that dog that was so faithful, loyal, and smart. One day my Uncle Jimmy called the house to say that he had found a stray Collie mix dog and was holding him for me. My father hurried me into the family pickup that Saturday morning and we traveled the four mile trek to my Uncle Jimmy's house. I stepped out of the truck and into my arms jumped King, as I named him. He licked my face and whined like I was his long lost friend. We had an instant bond, King and I, – boy with his dog – best pals for life. King was with me everywhere I went on the farm. He was at the back door when I came out and guarded the entrance as I went in. We played ball together, we went fishing together – he even sat at the entrance to the stable stall as I milked the cow! I LOVED that dog. One Saturday as I was dressing for my sister to take me to town for piano and violin lessons, I looked out my window in horror as I saw my Dad quickly jump into the truck and start the engine. King was sleeping soundly under the motor of the truck. The engine startled him and he quickly jumped up as the force of the backward thrust of my Dad backing away slammed King head-on. I screamed through the window as I watched in horror the unfolding of a tragic accident. I ran from the house screaming NO, NO, NO… As I knelt over my best friend, my soul-mate, my trusted companion and gift from God, my tears fell on his golden fur. In response to my tears and moaning, his tail wagged, as to console me. King slipped away and he lay limp beneath me. My Isaac had been laid down…my first one. I had accepted Christ and been baptized a couple of years before. As I went through my grief at the loss of King, I briefly blamed my Dad…then I turned to God in anger…"Why did you let this happen?" A few weeks later, I got my answer. The dream was vivid – an opening in an otherwise dull and cloudy sky opened up and streams of bright light burst through. There before me was King, wagging his tail excitedly. I didn't say a word. King turned and started galloping up the stream of bright light toward heaven. When he reached the top, the hole closed, the light went away and I awoke from my dream. I lay there in my bed thanking God for showing me that King was safe with Him for eternity. It was at that time that I began to understand that God had not orchestrated my loss, but rather had gifted me with joy and companionship for a season and that my treasure was truly with Him.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Is there anything else?

This sermon is not about a boy and his dog…it's about having no other god's before God Himself. It's about an unconditional love and trust in the one who unconditionally laid down His very own Son for us. It's about reminding us that God's command to love him with all our heart, soul and mind is more than a "suggestion" for living the Christian life- it's as serious as life itself! We've become a society so pampered that love and sacrifice seem like aliens to each other. In the Biblical sense, however, love and sacrifice are twins. If it costs us nothing, it amounts to nothing! The laying down of Isaac cost Abraham everything. The laying down of Jesus for our sake cost God EVERYTHING!

What's your Isaac? Is it laying down two hours out of your Sunday to come to worship? Is it sitting through the distraction of the events going on around you to focus on worshipping Him? Is it the annoyance of having some "responsibilities" at service when you'd really like to just be here to "enjoy" the worship? Is it the grudge you've been carrying towards someone here that interferes with your hearing from His word? Is it your angst at having to participate in something that you don't like just to get to do something that really gives you joy? Is it the hurt you feel over not being invited to participate as you desired? Is it the fear that if you give your tithe, you won't have enough to cover your bills? What's your Isaac?

"Thou shall have no other gods before Me."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


"Thanks Living"

Psalm 100:1-5, Matthew 6:19-24, 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

Pastor Tom

SpiritSong Worship Center

November 22, 2009



One day a farmer was sitting in the local diner waiting to be served the breakfast he'd ordered. In the booth across from him sat four teenagers being loud and boisterous. When the farmer's meal arrived he gently bowed his head and clasped his hands together as he silently uttered a prayer of thanks for the meal he was about to consume. The teenagers were giggling amongst themselves about the old man praying over his meal. When the man was finished one of the kids turned to him and said; "hey old man, does everyone on the farm pray before they eat?" The man paused thoughtfully and then responded: "The pigs don't!


What has been recorded as being a celebration of the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors in the seventeenth century was declared a National Holiday by Abraham Lincoln in the 1800's – The annual observance of THANKSGIVING! One day – the opportunity for a nation to stop and give thanks for the gifts that have been given over the past year. For some, it's the opportunity to indulge in gluttonous behaviors; for others to feed the poor, to fellowship with other friends or family. For some it's the opportunity to get away for a long weekend and relax from the rigors of the workplace. For still others it's a reminder of what they don't have, what they haven't received; jobs lost, illnesses endured, relationships broken, loneliness engulfing, changes not made; addictions not defeated. Each of these is an experience steeped with deep feelings. One day set aside for thanksgiving – but Christ gave His life for us to experience an eternity of THANKS-LIVING! Thanksgiving is a day in our life; Thanks-living is His way in our life!


"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."


So, what does THANKS-LIVING look like?    


  1. Trust God for the outcome each day. Psalms 100 tells us: "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." From your waking up till your going to sleep – do everything you can to remind yourself that the God of all creation; the redeemer of our souls; the "hound" of heaven that gave His life for you is the one that is with you every moment of every day. This does not mean to act stupidly, make foolish decisions and choices and then expect to receive positive results. That's not trust, that's insanity! Trusting God means that even in the face of stupid decisions on my part or on the part of others that impact me, God is still in control of the outcome to His glory! Romans 8:28 tells us "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Trusting Him in all circumstances is Thanks-living! THE TRIP TO INDIA STORY… Trusting God is Thanks-living.
  2. Handing your life over to Him! Anyone here have plans for the rest of the day? How about for this week? Sure we do…without some sense of direction, we tend to travel in a circle, literally losing our way. We tend however to think that these plans are up to us…MY decision, My direction, My schedule, MY, MY, MY… In our reading from Matthew 6 today we hear; "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Handing our life over to Him is living in the knowledge that "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," is a surrender of self will to God's will. In so doing, I need not be anxious that the service is going on a little longer, or someone is taking too much of MY time! A young man told his partner who was preparing a loving meal for the two of them after a particularly trying day that he was going to quickly run to the post office to collect the mail. Two hours later he returned to a somewhat frustrated partner who asked; "well what on earth happened to you? I had dinner ready an hour ago!?" The man responded; "I ran into Mrs. Johnson, our former neighbor at the Post Office." "That was two hours ago," said the partner; "what took you so long?" The man replied; "I asked her how she was doing!" Funny … but the man was an act of love to Mrs. Johnson! Handing your life over to Him is Thanks-Living.
  3. Allow God to show you the blessing! We're always so focused on the way we want to see things – believing that things should go/happen/be a particular way that we miss the sight of the blessing that God has to reveal to us. The problem with living that way is that more often than not, we are disappointed with the outcome. Proverbs 14:12 states: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Each of us, if we search our hearts can find the blessings He has hidden there. A fellow from Coastal North Carolina recounted a short mission trip he participated in to the Island of Tobago. He was leading worship at the leper colony where they had gone to minister. There was time for one more song, so he asked for any special request. A woman who had been sitting in the back with her head turned away from the front of the room turned around to face the worship leader. It was the most hideous face the man had ever seen. The woman's nose and ears had been eaten away by leprosy. It was all he could do not to flinch. The woman raised her fingerless right had as she said; "Pastor, can we sing my favorite song…Count Your Many Blessings?" The man's life could never be the same after that! You see the woman looked beyond her circumstance into the blessing God was in her life! Allowing Him to show the blessing is Thanks-living.
  4. Navigate each day in His light. Jesus said, as recorded in John 8:12; "…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." When we trust God to be competent to be in control, hand our lives over to him and allow Him to show us His blessing, we're better able to navigate each day in His light. Having things our way often puts us in the dark. The Israelites had just been freed from centuries of bondage in Egypt. They had witnessed the plagues, the Passover of their homes and families after following the lead of the Lord; they had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army in hot pursuit; they had received manna from heaven to meet their needs…yet all they could see was hardship in the desert and the same old same old on the table. They even lamented leaving slavery. Think there was any blindness going on there? We're not much different most of the time. We forget what life was like before Christ delivered us and want to lay on Him the burden to "Have it my way." There was a grandmother who took her grandson to the beach for a fun sharing day together. They were frolicking merrily in the edge of the surf when suddenly a huge wave came crashing in and swept the boy from the grandmother's grip. Startled and amazed, the stunned and frightened grandmother looked to the heavens and cried; "O Lord, please bring my precious boy back to me." Another unexpected huge wave came crashing to shore and deposited the young tyke at his grandmother's feet, chocking but otherwise unscathed. The grandmother grabbed to boy, examined him well and lifted her eyes to heaven. "He had a cap on before!"… Sometimes we miss the point! Navigating in His light is Thanks-living.
  5. Keep the bucket off the lamp. Anyone here glad to be alive? Anyone here appreciative of the seat you're sitting on? Anyone here thankful for the breath you just took? If you're not, you should be…each of them is a gift, not a right! Jesus told us in Matthew 5:14-15 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a [bucket]. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." When you let your light shine, others can see Him better! 1 Peter 2:12 says; "Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." It's His light…why buck it? Letting the light shine is Thanks-living!
  6. Share the joy! We often miss the joy to share from our own lives as well as missing out on the joy that is happening in the lives of others. We're so absorbed in our own ways that we miss true opportunities of sharing in and with others. A preacher was walking down a country road when he happened upon a young boy who was struggling with a load of hay that had fallen off his wagon. The boy was hot and sweaty and seemed upset. "You look hot, young man" said the preacher. "Why don't you rest a while and then I'll give you a hand." "No thanks," he said – "my Daddy wouldn't like it." "Don't be silly," said the preacher, "everybody's entitled to a break! Sit down and have a drink of water." Again the young man refused stating that his daddy would be upset. By this time, the preacher had lost his patience… "Your Daddy must be a real slave driver…tell me where he's at so I can have a word with him!" "Well," said the boy, "he's under this load of hay." Sharing another's or our own joy is Thanks-living.



Trust His control

Hand your life to Him

Allow the blessing to be seen

Navigate the day in His light

Keep the bucket off the lamp

Share the joy














Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finding the Gold

"Finding the Gold"

Proverbs 3:13-18, John 8:31-32,36, Romans 12:9-21

Pastor Tom Millner

November 1, 2009


"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding – for it is more precious than silver or gold… more than rubies, even, and nothing we desire can compare to it… If you hold to the teachings of Jesus – you are His true disciples – who will know the truth that will set you free – and if He sets you free, you shall be free indeed." (Loosely translated – Proverbs 3:13-18 and John 8:31-32,36)


Human nature is so very interesting, don't you think? For those who believe that God is who he says he is we've received the greatest gift that we could ever receive – the gift of an everlasting kinship to the creator of the universe – and a position of living with His bounty eternally. Yet that fact we relegate to some obscure position as we cling to the snub we got this morning from this, that, or the other person. Isn't it odd that we would let another's preoccupation with themselves and their duties or obligations (about which we have no clue) cloud our whole demeanor to the point of giving up the joy of our worship experience here this morning? That doesn't describe you? Well, maybe it was the argument you had this morning with your significant other – how about the person who cut you off in traffic? Could it be too much month left at the end of the money – or concern over the illness you or a loved one is battling? I'm not trying to minimize true loss or grief – just getting your attention to the fact that He has your back covered! These are the shadow lands, folks – what is to come is the full light of His kingdom where all is clear to us! (Amen?) Grief, shame, and sorrow at our own self-destructive bent are good for our souls as they turn us toward Him who forgives and wipes those transgressions away. What is destructive is to continue to live as though nothing has changed! Satan has a field day with that! What can be just as destructive is to expect that GOD is going to change every event in our lives without our having to make a single effort to see the world through redeemed eyes.


There was once a woman who testified to the transformation that had taken place in her after her acceptance of Christ in her life. "I'm so glad I got religion!" she declared; "I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I'd never go to his funeral! But now – why, I'd be happy to go to it ANY TIME!" (From Greg Cooper)


Research tells us that it takes three to five positives to counteract one negative! No wonder we have to keep hearing the Good News over and over again! So many of us have the victim mentality, as though we're just waiting for the next shoe to drop! I'm reminded of Poo's friend Eeyore… "If it's going to happen, it'll happen to me!"


2 Corinthians 12:10 states: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong."


As gold is being refined, the cauldron is heated to a temperature high enough to melt the ore. The impurities float to the top where they can be skimmed away, ever enhancing the gold that remains. Once refined, the gold does not need further refining… it's ready to shine for its owner. The next time you feel like something burns the hell out of you – rejoice – you're being refined to shine for your Master! Only YOU can let go of the impurities – that's a choice you can make, even in the HEAT of the moment! After all, you know the outcome! Romans 8:37-39 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


A Sunday school teacher was finishing up her lesson on all things being possible with God. She asked the rhetorical question; "Is there anything God can't do?" Little Timmy, the Pastor's son raised his hand. The teacher knew he must have misunderstood the question, but indulgently she asked for his response. "Well," said Timmy, "my Daddy says even God can't make everybody in this church happy."


Even in the face of death there can be reason found to rejoice! John 15:13 states; "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." This week our Sister Carol Watson lost her God-brother to a senseless war In Afghanistan. He and another UN guard from Africa held off Taliban intruders to a "safe house" in Kabul. We're told that Jay Maxwell (Jay as the family knows him) literally threw himself on a suicide bomber, saving the lives of 17 others in the area. Twenty seven year old Jay lost his life – 17 others regained theirs. Jay knew the Lord and is now rejoicing with the Savior who gave His life for all mankind. The family will miss and mourn Jay's passing. The Kingdom rejoices that this man was obedient unto death to lay down his life for his brothers … no greater love has any man than that!


Are you willing to lay down your old life… the one that sees only the darkness and not the light?


Are you willing to see the joy that comes after the sorrow? Are you willing to look for the gold beneath the sludge that always seems to rise to the top? After the storm comes the rainbow. How often are you looking for it? Not to shame you here, but rather to remind you that God provides the positives to outweigh the negative – if only we look up to see them! That's our choice! AND…His grace is always sufficient!




Thursday, October 8, 2009

You Have to C to Gain Vision

"You Have to C to Gain Vision"

Pastor Tom Millner

Ecclesiastes 9:10, 1 Peter 4:8-13

SpiritSong Worship Center

August 2, 2009

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."

This week I read a story about a teenager who was thrown out of his own home for being gay. He wandered the streets of this "gayborhood" in search of a place for refuge. He found bars, predators, AA, NA, HIV wellness meetings and adult entertainment venues. Where was the refuge he sought? Where was the safe space where he could be accepted and loved for who he was, as he was? Where were you? Where were we? "I didn't know, you say!" Rightly so – neither did I. It doesn't change the fact that this guy had real needs – He didn't know we were here either. Why...Missed opportunity – to love as we have been loved.

This week a middle-aged man learned for the first time that scripture that had been used to clobber him and damn him eternally did not mean that at all. For the first time he learned what it meant to have been created in the image of God – to have found a place where he can finally feel safe to worship God and be who God created him to be. This church was here for him. Love was extended to him – not some mushy feeling stuff, but real words, real live concepts, real live persons, present for HIM!

This week, the partner of an HIV ravaged man needed the presence of a person of faith to share his heart with. He needed to tell his story and the story of his comatose, near death love. He needed the presence of another warm hand on his love's sweaty forehead, jaundiced and imperiled, as we prayed together for God's presence with both him and his comatose love. Someone helped him find us – we were able to be there. We are all blessed to have acted in love.

This week, a young woman discovered the richness of possibility in relationship by understanding more about how she was viewing the other through her own tainted and pained experience. She learned more about what it means to see but a poor reflection and to know that in the act called love lies clearer vision than ever before. This church was there for her. We thank God for the richness of being in service to him.

There are many more stories in this "emerald" city. Some are tragic, some are inspiring, some may be boring, but none are worth ignoring! They're the stories of real live, honest to goodness reflections of God's divine creation – human beings!

The COHSS Vision states: "COHSS is a thriving network of ministries devoted to the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ in the lives of individuals through local and virtual avenues, meeting spiritual needs while attending emotional, relational, and physical requirements, reflecting the love and grace of God to all He leads our way."That's our VISION…Something happening both now and in a future state – Much like the Kingdom of God…it's within and not yet fulfilled! The strategic planning committee will be meeting soon to nail down the final tactics for strategies that we prayerfully believe will take us to fulfilling our future state. Wonderful words, a concise pathway, doors of possibilities, stairs to new heights. All of these things will take us closer to the heart of the stories in this and other emerald cities. What's really standing in the way of getting there? COMMITMENT!

Now I'm not saying there's a lack of commitment in this Body of Christ! Everyone is committed to something here. To what is the question – better yet, to WHOM? Want to know to what you're committed? Look no further than you actions – words and deeds. Both come from the heart. We get ourselves involved and deceive ourselves into believing we're committed. Let's take ham and eggs as an example. We've got a chicken and a pig. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed! He had to give up himself to make the dish – for someone else's consumption!

In our scripture today from 1 Peter we hear these words: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." There he goes again, talking about love… love, love, love, love---we're feeling love… love you – love you- love you… NO --- it's not just words, it's hard work. The greatest act of love EVER demonstrated by to through and for mankind was the death of the man Jesus, nailed to that not so glittering and glowing cross on a hill called Calvary, over two thousand years ago. He wasn't just involved – He was committed!! NOW THAT'S LOVE! This world didn't need a soft, mambi-pambi, Sunday school Jesus – it needed the REAL THING – One willing to suffer the sins of the world, to give His very life so that you and I can live forever in the presence of our perfect Creator. And, He's now living and breathing inside each of us, ready, willing, and able, to live out His love in and through us – the only thing He requires is COMMITMENT! Some even call it "faith in action." Some call it "dying to self." Scripture is full of examples… and in the final analysis, we have to be willing (committed) to put Him first in our lives and ourselves and others in second place. Commitment is an act of will – it's born in a decision, moment by moment. Looking to other things to fulfill what is right before us can be harmful in the long run.

You've heard the story about Ferdinand the bull? No… Well, old Ferdinand was frolicking frivolously within the pasture so caringly provided for him. He happened upon a barbed wire fence separating his pasture from the field beyond. He knew enough to recognize that the master had placed the barrier there to keep the two fields separate. However, Ferdinand wanted his way and saw the grass as greener on the other side of the fence. He reasoned that if he got a long enough start and leapt high enough, he could overcome the barrier and be Ferdinand the bull over the entire domain. He trotted back what seemed to be 25 yards from the fence, kicked up the grass with his two hind feet, lowered his head with eyes toward the mark barreled toward the fence. He leapt forward, gaining greater height than ever before, but just short of the mark. Now, he's just plain Ferdinand!

Folks, the COHSS pasture is full of opportunity – God put you here for His purpose – He's given you everything you need – including each other… He isn't just involved with you, He's committed. He's not giving you a little of His grace – He's giving us ALL of His grace. How do I start –

D understand that to which you're Devoted

E look at where you spend your Energy

C are you using the example of Christ?

I are you being more than Involved?

D start with a heart that is Dedicated

E remember your actions are Eternal

Ready to be committed?

Living Like You Mean It

"Living Like You Mean It"

Pastor Tom Millner

Scripture: Zechariah 1:1-6, Luke 6:39-42, Colossians 3:1-4

SpiritSong Worship Center

September 27, 2009

Someone said; "The trouble with some of us is that we have been so inoculated with small doses of Christianity that it keeps us from catching the real thing."

C. S. Lewis wrote: "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

In our scripture lessons for today, there are three over arching facts that impact our understanding. From Zechariah we learn that our actions have lasting impact on others. Every action we take, every decision we make, results in a consequential reaction or impact on ourselves and others. God desires that we act in ways that honor Him (build up His body) which means our actions do not cause harm to ourselves and others. So, fact number one is that our actions have lasting consequences!

From Luke we read how Jesus admonishes us to set the example for others. Living with integrity means that what we say we believe, we actually live out as the example. If we're going to remove a speck from our neighbor's eye, we need to first get the log out of our own. I would guess there are a lot of loggers in here, but I find it hard to see around the telephone pole I'm carrying in my eye! You see, every day, I discover another log that I need to remove. Living with integrity demands that I don't pretend that I have no logs. So, fact number two is that I need to be more concerned about my own eye exam than I am about yours.

From Colossians, we read from the Apostle Paul's writing from prison in Rome to the relatively new Christians in Colossae, encouraging them to live a life consistent with who they are in Christ. You see, like many of us here, they came from various cultures and backgrounds. The Jews sought the experience of the ritual, the Greeks the wisdom from the teachers, from others, the ceremony that would render them acceptable. Paul says about all this; "Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God." So, fact number three is that as Christians, we no longer live as our old selves, but as the new creatures we are in Christ.

Let's summarize these three, going from last to first.

Because we are in Christ, we live a life consistent with the character of Christ.

Because I am called to live a life consistent with the character of Christ, I cannot live my life in pious judgment over how you're living your life.

If I am living that life in the Character of Christ, I need not worry about there being a negative impact to my actions.

In other words, a changed world comes about one life at a time! "Igniting the world for Christ…one life at a time" is our mission. Imagine what a light in this dark world this place would be if each of us here bore the flame of the ignited Christ in our lives!!!

Let's look deeper into what Paul is saying here.

(3:5) "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (3:6) Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (3:7) You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." I hear some squirming going on… don't worry, you're in good company. Nobody came here because they're perfect. But God calls us to that perfect place in Him. He has washed that old stuff away with His blood on the cross… so He's saying live as the cleansed person you really are! Give up that need to have it your way… after all, your way is the door way to hell.

Let's read further:

(3:8) "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (3:9) Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (3:10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (3:11) Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." Galatians 3:28 states it this way: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." We might add here – gay, straight, or any other descriptor that might be inserted as a log in anyone's eye! He's telling us we're all in the same boat by the grace of God! Let go the anger, rage, grudges, put downs and hurtful words that pass over your tongue. After all, the tongue is the only organ that can move faster than the brain! Because we let go of these things, we can be honest with ourselves and each other. After all, we are being renewed each moment in the likeness of Christ… the very character of Christ. What does that look like?

(3:12) "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.(3:13) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (3:14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Wow – how many of us put on this attire this morning? Which ones of us reflected enough on who we are in Him to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience to the degree that we bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances we may have against one another? After all, the Lord forgave each of us the greatest grievance of all!! If we are whole and free in Him, why not live like it?

(3:15) "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (3:17) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Whatever you do, exemplify the character of Christ and give thanks to God through that character.

In my tenure as Sales Trainer in the Pharmaceutical industry, we use to say; "now, WIIFM!"

Simple: You've got the greatest pedigree this side of eternity. If you believe it, live like you mean it! That's a life that can afford compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience – one that forgives grievances because you're free from the grievance against you. Live it like you mean it – see what He has in store for you and this body! A changed heart can change a whole person…a changed person can help change another heart!

Who do you need to forgive this morning? Toward whom do you need to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience? Do it today – tomorrow may be too late!

Your actions have eternal impact!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Purpose

"The Purpose"

Pastor Tom Millner

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, Philippians 4:4-8,13, James 1:22-25

SpiritSong Worship Center

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him."

Philippians 4:4-8,13 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

James 1:22-25 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does."

This is the Word of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

You've heard us say that God created us for a purpose. What purpose is that? – To be loved by Him! What does that look like? Where do we go wrong? How do we get back on track? The answer my friend is blowing in that wind Pastor Les spoke about last week… the one that wants to blow through us in this place…the one described and outlined in this Book (the Bible)!

Well, if God created us to love us, and if indeed God does love us, so what? What does that mean, what does that look like? What does God's purpose look like in the reality of this world?

The first clue of what that means comes to us from the creation story in Genesis. God who is love, who is creator of all things, created us humans as a divine reflection (in His image) of Himself. Therefore, we were created to reflect the nature of the creator. So the purpose of the creation (mankind) is to reflect the nature of the creator! That's where the "rub" begins! The created can never be more than the reflection of the creator…it can never be the creator! We humans buy the lie that there should be more. There is another creation who was made to be the lead lover in the heavens who thought himself capable of being more than the created…he was thrown out of heaven and now lives to amass his own group of followers – Satan! Scary thought, isn't it? Sometimes, the divine nature we experience is not too far removed from the one that masquerades as the divine (light). That's why we have to keep our eyes on the One who is the true source of our divinity and not look to the frequent appeal of the fake one! There was one man in antiquity who walked in obedient faith that God is Who He says He is. Abraham walked by faith (acted like he really believed God and loved others as himself), and was therefore made the "father of a great nation." Unfortunately, his descendants didn't do as good of a job reflecting the love of their Creator. They wound up in slavery in a hostile land. Even in those circumstances, however, they were given the opportunity to live out God's purpose (love), but they didn't quite make it. God (in His loving nature) showed grace and mercy by bringing them out of bondage with a promise of a better land and life. He went so far as to give them a recipe for living out the reflective image of Himself. That recipe is in the Ten Commandments. Jesus summed them up like this; "Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, and mind. The second is like that – love your neighbor as yourself." Having no other God's before Him (including self), making no graven images either material or imaginary (personal agendas included), not misusing the very character of His name (acting like He really doesn't matter), and keeping one day each week as devoted to Him is an act of love for him that engages our hearts, minds, and souls with Him! Giving honor to our parents, and to others by not murdering, adulterating them, stealing from them, lying and gossiping about them, and not being envious of what they have been gifted or earned, is loving others as we would love ourselves! This also honors and loves God because it reflects the Divine nature of the one who is the Creator. You'd think that's sufficient for us to then k now and live out our purpose?

Not quite. You see, we're slow learners when it comes to our Divine nature. You see, when it comes to making dirty pants, we've turned it into an art form! So, Love Himself went a step further. He decided to come to us as one of us, show us what it looks like to be the true reflection of His Divine nature and what did we do with that? We (humans) had to do away with Him who "showed us up." So Love being who Love is, expressed His mercy and grace by giving His perfect life as a sacrifice for our imperfection, so that even in our imperfection, we could live out the hope of our Divine reflection, with a little help from our friend, the Holy Spirit! Seems like everywhere we turn in this story, God is at work, perfecting us to do what is His purpose for us from the beginning! To Love Him and love one another! So how God's love plays out in our lives is that He gives us unconditional mercy and grace (all sufficient to meet every emotional and spiritual need we have) and all He asks in return is that we live out His reflection by shining that Light of love onto others (mercy and grace). If we're spending all our time seeking the reassurance of His love that has been given so abundantly, we're not living in the light of His love, but in the light of the great pretender!!! The measure of the faith we have that His grace is sufficient is the amount of mercy and grace we extend to others without desire for recognition! Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Workers Union said: "I only love God as much as the one whom I love the least." Think about it! How much time do we ponder how to love more dearly the one we love the least? Why don't we do that more often? It's the purpose of our existence!!! It is the true reflection of the Divine in whose image we are made.

We are called here to be the Body of Christ – the living Love of God! Christ did not live for Himself, but for the glory of the Father and the sake of His earthly brothers and sisters. And so are we too called to do the same, if we are a part of this Body of Christ.

Today, we leave here for the beach where 13 or more people will demonstrate their faith in the love of God by submitting to the water – a symbol of dying to self, and then being raised from the water symbolizing a resurrection into a new life in Him. The life in Him is a life in Love, even for those whom we like the least! Love is an action. Life that is an act of love is a life lived as witness to Love Himself.

Some years ago there was a celebration in Zaire (in Africa) of the 100th anniversary of Christianity in that theretofore pagan nation. The streets were full of those celebrating the wonders of Christ in their lives and giving glory to God for those who had sacrificed so much for the cause of Christ there. Suddenly an aged man came slowly to the center stage and approached the host, imploring him to let him speak a word of truth about the past, or it would forever be lost with him in the grave. He recounted for the crowd how when the missionaries first came, they told the story of Jesus and His self sacrifice for the sins of all. The story to them seemed so strange. They wondered to themselves how they could know to trust these stories to be true. They reasoned, the best witness to someone's story about life is how they die. So the tribal leaders undertook the systematic task of poisoning the missionary families. One by one, the Children of the missionaries began to dye off from mysterious and painful causes. A few of the adults also died. At the loss of each, the missionaries surrendered each life to the glory of God and gave thanks for the joy of having known each one. These acts of love and the never wavering mercy and grace being shown the tribe gave witness to the power of Christ in their lives. The tribal leaders believed and so a whole of a nation began to turn to God. The old man had testified as to the power of God lived out in the lives of those He redeems.

Our lives are His witness. What of Him are you allowing to be reflected in you?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Year Eleven

"Year Eleven – A Gift from Heaven"

Pastor Tom Millner

Isaiah 53:5-6, I Peter 4:8-13, Philippians 4:8

August 9, 2009

SpiritSong Worship Center

Isaiah 53:5-6 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

I Peter 4:8-13 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Last week there was a rumor flying around that actually turned into gossip. You see, it started with another minister receiving an invitation to an LBGT clergy group for a brown bag luncheon here at SpiritSong Worship Center on the 18th of August. For some reason, that minister made a comment to someone about a "pagan" group of clergy meeting here. Before long, the story became that we were renting space to a group of wiccans! If you've for some reason heard this rumor, I want to dispel any concerns. We are not and never will "rent" space to any pagan group. The truth is, I've invited the ecumenical group (Christian, Jewish, Non-Christian) here to witness the presence of Jesus Christ at work in this place. Just as we saw in the video a few weeks ago when we talked about gossip, words of hearsay or gossip are like feathers blown from a pillow. Once released, it's impossible to retrieve all of them. Where our words fall on what may be tender and impressionable ears, we may not know. The result can be deadly for the listener. Scripture equates gossip to the same level as murder and thievery. If you've been a part of it, I ask you to now rectify your conversation to the truth.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."

Is gossip sin? You bet your bippy it is. And so is envy, strife, division, being judgmental (unjustly), arrogance, insolence… in other words, just about everything human. At the end of the day, we're each wearing dirty pants. Fortunately, because of the grace of Jesus Christ, we wake every morning to a clean pair when we acknowledge the dirty ones and seek the clean. Let's remember to love one another and not quarrel about petty things in this body of Christ – this family of God. The only people who listen to both sides of a family quarrel are the next door neighbors! "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." Our words and our deeds are our witness!

God has graced us with 10 years as a Church Body. How have we gotten here? By prayer in the presence of an all loving God followed by action to honor and worship Him! This week we begin year 11. How will we make it to year 20? By prayer in the presence of an all loving God followed by action to honor and worship Him!

In our scripture today from 1 Peter 4:8 we read: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Let's look more closely at this scripture – for in these words lies the wisdom of God! "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Let's translate that a bit further. "With the love that God has given to you, give to one another, for at the end of the day, we're all in need of a pair of clean shorts!" What does God's love look like? Mercy and grace – Mercy is not getting what we really deserve – Grace is getting what we really don't deserve! We all love to receive both mercy and grace from God, but what about the giving of them? Huh? What do you mean? It's easy to offer grace and mercy (love) to those we like –right? That's not what Peter is saying here…The love (grace and mercy) of God is extended to all…the good, the bad, the ugly – each one equally. That's the love He demands back from us. We love Him by giving His love to one another! But I don't always "feel" very loving, we say… I've been hurt by these people. I've been put upon, disrespected, not honored, not esteemed…! Let me ask you – do you think the man who was nailed to the not so glittery cross on that hill called Calvary was nailed in honor, respect, and esteem? Think He "felt" like being loving? God's love is not a feeling, folks – its HARD stuff! We've got to learn to overcome our feeling addiction… we often act like a bunch of emotion junkies… we're being called to recovery, here folks! Don't get me wrong – there's nothing wrong with savoring good feelings – when we put those feelings ahead of God's command – it's Idolatry –sin in its basic form! What's the consequence of sin? … separation from God, each other, and self! What's the cure? God's love in the form of mercy and grace….. Just for me alone to receive - NO… for you and me to give away, just as Jesus did. Got your heart set on feeling loved? Try throwing a little love in the direction of someone from whom you've felt hurt… that's putting your heart in the act of forgiveness… it's living God's grace as you have received from Him. Norman Vincent Peale said once: "throw your heart over the fence and the rest of your body will go along." Throw your heart in the direction of another's best interest and see the rewards of a heart filled with joy! "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." Don't be destroyed by the sin of Sodom! – Inhospitality!

Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of the 20th century – coach of the Green Bay Packers – in their hay day – was asked what he attributed as the secret to a winning team. Without hesitation he responded that it was the positive regard each player had for the other, both on and off the field. Each one always looking out for the best interest of the other! That's the "secret" to this winning team as well – loving is looking out for the best interest of the other. The secret to getting more love is to love more!

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." Grace – giving us what we don't deserve! Each of us has received one or more loving gifts from our gracious Father, God. The gifts are not for our personal consumption, though we receive personal joy in their presence. Those gifts are given to be used for the benefit of others…to provide to others what they don't deserve, haven't worked for, have no right to receive…that's loving as God loves – that's gracing as God graces!

There was a Puerto Rican lady living in New York City who started going to a Christian Academy on the upper west side that served a destitute and needy population. The woman, in broken English, said to the head master; "I need to give love somehow." The Headmaster wasn't sure what to do and the woman kept returning saying the same thing. Finally, the Headmaster said; "start riding the one of the school busses and give your love away." She did as she was told and on each of the several busses, she would express in the few English words she knew "I love you" to the students. One day, she announced she was going to ride just the one bus for the rest of the school year. She had found a child who didn't speak, who would lay his head on her shoulder as she whispered day after day "I love you" as she held him close. Finally, one day the boy whispered back to her; "I love you too." That was 10:30 a.m. At 9:30 p.m., that boy's body was found in a garbage bag near a dumpster, the victim of his mother's abuse. We never know the impact of using the gift we have been given in administering the Grace of God to others in its many forms!

Love is given when it is abundantly received! Jesus died as an act of love – saving us from what we really deserve and giving us what we really don't deserve – absolute forgiveness and a clean pair of shorts to wear before God! How much more do we really need to give it away?

L Be quiet and Listen

O Keep your heart and mind Open

V Remember you bring Value

E God's love is for Everyone

The second decade of our existence is contingent on our living out the LOVE of Christ in and through each other – testifying to the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We're on the edge of a great revival in this community – will you LOVE it in?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

With These Lips

"With These Lips"

Pastor Tom Millner

July 12, 2009

SpiritSong Worship Center

Exodus 20:16, Matthew 15:10-11; 16 - 20, Ephesians 4:29-32

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

This statement sums up the total of the Christian's walk. There is a single message you will hear in every sermon preached in this Church: God loves us so much that He gave the life of His only Son so that we can be made whole before God when we act in that knowledge and because of that we are called to put love Him above all else and to love each other with the same degree of love we give ourselves! If you aren't hearing that in the sermons from this pulpit, ask one of us to explain where it was in the message! Today's message is no exception.

What is this thing called gossip? Why is it so inviting and easy to engage? What's the real harm in it? What do I do about it?

Wikipedia defines gossip as follows: Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.

You know its gossip when the voice lowers, the eyebrow raises! Gossip is the only sound that travels faster than sound! Seems the only time we dislike gossip is when it's about us. We have a whole society built upon gossip. What about "inquiring minds"? We've even raised it to an honorable place on line and in newsprint "The Gossip Column." There are TV shows filled with it. But, embracing gossip is like sleeping with a 30 foot python; one day you'll wake up being devoured by it!

Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, "Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess certain sins and needs. Let's do the same. Confession is good for the soul." One confessed he had a fondness for extra dry martinis. Another confessed she had a fascination with seedy movies. The third confessed that he loved placing wagers and a good game of poker. When it came time for the fourth one, he wouldn't confess. The others pressed him…. "Come on now, we confessed ours. What's your secret or vice? Finally he said, "It's gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here!"

Why is gossip so appealing? What is there about a juicy piece of information, a morsel, and a tidbit? What is there that makes us lend an ear or whisper a word? There's the complex answer and then the simple one. Let's start simple and build from there. Notice in the spelling of a word we don't like – S I N… what's in the center? "I, I, I, I, I, I" Me, me, me, me, me, and me! Life's all about ME! But of course, the "me" that I see which is the "me" I strive for you never to see, will be the source of destruction for both you and me, don't you see?

We participate in gossip because we want to be "in the know." Information is POWER! I heard that preached in corporate America over and again. Never mind that being in the know comes from ones who don't know! If you tell me all you know then I'll know what you know, plus what I know – then I'll know more than you know! So one of the reasons we engage in gossip is to make us believe we have the knowledge edge. That can feel good for a while, but it doesn't last. It's like that first hit on the crack pipe… or the first drink...If the first was so good, the second must be better. The addiction starts and the high from the first will never be reached again. Just can't get enough to get away from "me." So, let's talk about you, or you, or better still, about YOU.

We participate in gossip because it often puts others in a worse light than we see ourselves. Honey, I didn't want to say this but – you know, he's got a trail of woes that would make cow manure look like stepping stones! The worse I paint the picture of you, the less light is reflected on me. When all the buzz about you has fizzled, though, I still have to live with me… now I have to live with guilt as well. Boy, does that make me angry!

Anger – emotion: another reason why we gossip. "I've just been holding this in for too long now. I have to tell somebody… Did you know that Elmer chose that sleazy hussy's brownies over my hand made chocolate fudge?" Because we're angry, hurt, feel rejected, left out, overlooked, disregarded, neglected, or otherwise disenfranchised, we want to hurt back. As our Sister Audrey said in her sermon a few weeks ago; "Hurt people hurt people." We conveniently forget about Christ's admonition to "turn the other cheek." Instead of dealing with our own iceberg, we want to sink someone else's ship! Proverbs 26: 20-24 reads: "……

So what's so bad about a little gossip? We were just sitting around chit-chatting about this and that and about how we feel about stuff. What's wrong with that? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." How does gossip square with that?

When I was a freshman in college, the Pastor of my home church was accused of trying to kiss my childhood sweetheart. My Mother, who was faithful to write me every week until she became an invalid more than 10 years ago, penned the news to me. When I was home from college one weekend later, I said to my girlfriend (with her sister present) that I could not fathom how the Pastor could have done such a thing – I found it hard to believe. Two weeks later, my mother wrote me that the father of my childhood sweetheart (who happened to be a Deacon in the church) had called him to demand that she "shut me up" or be sued for slander. I was appalled. What on earth was going on, I thought. Here I was 120 miles from home (before cell phone days) with virtually no contact with anyone from the community, yet I was being accused of slander – for WHAT? I subsequently found out that my girlfriend's sister worked in a local factory alongside the boyfriend of my childhood sweetheart whose father had called my mother… Get the picture? My words of "disbelief" at the unfathomable happening had been translated to my calling the girl a liar. I was so traumatized by the whole incident that I allowed the enemy to turn me away from the church for many years – all because of gossip! I can still feel the pangs of grief over the whole incident. Gossip destroys – it kills – His Spirit in us!

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome, chapter 1, puts gossip right up there with murder, idolatry, sexual immorality, and stealing. I don't see the fruit of the Spirit nor loving God and others anywhere in any one of these! You don't take a gun, shoot your neighbor and say; "just a little murder." You don't stab a passer by and say; "just a little chest wound." Yet, we dare to make light of a "little gossip." What's it gonna harm? After all, I can say what's on my heart... Jeremiah 17:9 says; "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jesus said in Matthew that out of the mouth comes all sorts of evil from the heart. The Bible forbids us to both utter what is untrue and to utter what may be true but the uttering of which arises from a mood or motivation that is aimed at someone else's ruin.

Hearsay is never permitted as testimony in a court of law. In Biblical times two witnesses were required for a testimony to be valid. Both had to be of reputable character. The Mishnah (a distillation of rabbinic wisdom) stated that anyone who was commonly known to be loose-tongued or mean-spirited was disqualified as a witness – the testimony was worthless at all times and in all circumstances. Also, if the person gives false testimony and the accused is found innocent, the one giving false testimony is sentenced to the fate of the accused if he had been found guilty. Furthermore, if found guilty by virtue of one's testimony, should the penalty be death, the one giving the testimony delivers the death blow!

Something more… One would think that the best way to act sometimes is to just ignore the gossiping person and say nothing. Not good enough in ancient Israel! If you listened to gossip and did nothing to denounce it as gossip, you were deemed guilty of gossip yourself on the spot and subject to the punishment for bearing false witness!

So, if gossip is so bad for us and the Body of Christ of which we are each a part, what do we do about it?


T Is it True?

H Is it Helpful?

I Is it Inspiring?

N Is it Necessary?

K Is it King?

If what I'm about to say doesn't pass that test, I keep my mouth shut!!!

Psalm 19:14 "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock, and my Redeemer.