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!