Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Banquet

“The Christmas Banquet”

Pastor Tom Millner

December 19, 2010

Isaiah 25:6, Luke 14:15-17


Each Sunday, promptly at 10:00AM, we begin a process of worship here at this place known as the SpiritSong Worship Center. We notify, we advertise, we list, and you who are here found your way despite those things that might have lured you away. Christmas shopping; recovery from a late Saturday night; any number of excuses could have kept you from the invitation to feast at God’s table of grace this day.  Last week we talked briefly about living out our faith, rather than our unbelief. The source of the healing and the nourishment of our souls is here (in the Bible) for the taking. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Let’s read the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14 verse 15. “When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

In our scripture reading today we see that Jesus has just been visiting in the home of a Pharisee, one of the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community.  Jesus had instructed them on protocol of not placing self in the seat of honor lest we be uprooted from that seat by someone of greater stature. He had even gone so far as to assert that the honored among them should not be on the preferred list, but rather the lowly, the outcast and the shunned. To borrow from C.S. Lewis, we are called here to not “think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less”!

This guy at the table didn’t get it. He was associating what was a commonly held notion that at the coming of the Messianic Kingdom, there would be a great feast of celebration for all the pious and righteous.  Jesus replied here with a different message.

Luke 14:17 “At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.”

Jesus is speaking here in a parable. Now a parable is a rather succinct story that has a setting, describes an action, and a subsequent result.  Parables can be prose or poetry. Within them, as Jesus used them, there is a lesson that is both moral and spiritual.

The Jews had been given the promise of the Kingdom since the time of Abraham. All of their history had been a part of the birthing pains for the Kingdom to come. John the Baptist had proclaimed the coming of the One whose truth provides the substance upon which we may spiritually feast. Jesus is here telling those who hear that the banquet is set for those for whom the feast was prepared.

The folks of that day were busy with the things of life and so the response to the invitation was less than stellar. Luke 14:18-19 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.  Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'” Now in Jesus’ parable, He’s pegging those who were so about their own agendas that they missed the invitation of eternity. The first – bought a field – a piece of property sight unseen? It was dark by the time the banquet was being held… how could he see his field?  Could there have been something else going on? The other bought oxen (new machine for the business)… have to try it out. The last just got married and the sensual pleasures that await me are far more important to me now than this invitation. What was the master’s response? Anger! We don’t often like to think of an angry God, but here we see the illustration – anger with just cause. Scripture tells us to be angry and sin not! (Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26) What was the Master’s response here? Anger is a normal response; it’s what we do with it that matters!

Luke 14: 21-24 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'  'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "

The Master then invited all those who were “sinners” in the eyes of the pious…  Those deemed not worthy by the standards of the day. The result of the master’s anger was loving inclusion for all except those who chose not to participate in the feast.

In what ways are we like the ones on the invitation list and in what ways are we like the others who were invited in for the feast?

In today’s world, even with the economic downturn and worldwide economic distress, we are among the most affluent and privileged people in the world. Even our homeless brothers and sisters here have it better than those living on the streets of Ahmadabad, India, or Nairobi, Kenya. What do we hold to be so important in our fast paced world today? If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s the quest for significance at the core of our being. Where do we go for significance? Sometimes it’s about whatever strikes our fancy – whether it’s rational or not – buying the lie that this that or the other will satisfy the longing – so we go to check it out and ignore the invitation to the greatest opportunity of a lifetime. Or, we’re so engaged with the work we have to do, the tasks we have at hand, that we seem not to have the time to participate in the feast that is the source of our significance. Or we get so excited about satisfying our sensual pleasures (as the newlywed) that we exclude the possibility of something more substantive!  Sounds to me like the American way! Self, self, and self – and if there’s any of self left over, well, God can have it! The moral of the parable is that God can’t have it (self) because it’s already consumed. Therefore, it can’t be included in the broader banquet. Excluded not by God’s exclusionary action, but by our lack of response that consequently excludes us! To feast, one has to come to the table!

What about those on the outside, as described in this scripture? How might that apply to us? Have any of you felt excluded from the “acceptable” place in other churches? Have any of us been labeled “sinners” for being who God created us to be? Jesus ate, associated with, and was entertained by the “sinner” of His day. If you haven’t identified with any of these scenarios, please have someone check your pulse. We can call 911 immediately!


What we need to remember about God’s banquet invitation:

  1. The most convenient time to feast is when the invitation arrives! God’s grace is always available, but we often trade second fiddle for first string. What’s the difference in a life with or without Christ? Many people look at us and say, “Exactly”! That’s not intended to be a club over your head, just a gentle buzz of the alarm clock to say “it’s time to wake up.” The true difference between a life with Christ or without Christ is the living hope that is eternal and the knowledge 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.” (Romans 8:38)
  2. You don’t have to dress up for the best meal. You can’t get a better meal wearing your metaphorical tux, tails, or gown. So many people make the assumption that they will only truly be welcomed at God’s table when they’ve cleaned up their act. That’s a major misconception! Cleaning up your act simply makes it easier for other folks to be around you, but God’s desire is that you come to Him as you are. He’s got a great bubble bath waiting just for you and a fancy new outfit that fits perfectly with His grace and mercy. He’s already tailor made your outfit and He’s even tried it on for you. The absolute perfect model was Jesus Himself! The best outfit you can wear to the banquet is nothing…that’s just how He made you.
  3. The fight for first place is won by surrendering the position. In our rule book the winner of the first place position has to beat out all the others to receive it. In God’s rule book, surrender is the key to getting first prize. That’s one of the reasons folks find it so hard to come to Christ; they can’t believe it’s as easy as just plain surrender. Perhaps that’s why surrender isn’t so easy! We build a lifetime into being competitive and we’re asked to drop it at the foot of the cross. The more competitive you are, the greater the challenge! Not to worry, however, the victory is winnable by the presence of a really big sidekick – His Holy Spirit! The competitor is not your neighbor, nor is it your enemy – the competitor is yourself. You win the prize by letting go all that you have grown to prize in yourself. That includes all your excuses, all your defenses, all your moments of glory, all your wounds of defeat, all your prized memories of pity parties past – all that you think constitutes the deepest and truest YOU! Lay it down and step into the banquet hall! Christ has the table set.


The banquet is prepared every day. The Word of God is here for us to feast upon. The table is set for us to fellowship with the Master (prayer). What will be your response today, tomorrow, the day after? Will you respond to the love that invited you in though not worthy, or are you too busy with “to do’s” of your own self significance that you choose to not feast at the only table that can ever give you significance?


Isn’t it time to feast at the table of Grace?














Saturday, December 11, 2010

Help My Unbelief

“Yes, I Believe”

Pastor Tom Millner

August 24, 2008

Isaiah 7:9b; Mark 9:21-24; Romans 4:1-5


Henry Ford once said: “If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you’re right.”

Our core beliefs drive us!  Many of our core beliefs come from our experience. Because we have experienced the sunrise each day, we believe it will rise tomorrow. We believe that the sky is above and the earth is below – that’s our experience. What shall we say then about our Christian beliefs? How are our beliefs and our faith intertwined?

John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Now this is foundational to our Christian faith. The fundamental truth here is that God, being love, acted in love toward those whom He loved, in a way that benefits the beloved forever, if the beloved sees its way clear to believe that the gift is for real. Believing it or not believing it does not change the fundamental truth of the gift or the Giver. What it changes is the life of the one who believes!

If you recall a couple of years ago we attended the musical Les Miserable.  In the play Jean Val Jean was being chased by the determined and non-sympathetic Inspector Javier. Val jean was the recipient of grace through a priest who saved him from the arms of certain imprisonment. Grateful, Val jean, under an assumed name from that day forward, went about multiplying the grace he had freely received. This grace ultimately found its way to the determined Javier. Javier, in an attempt to entrap Val jean, portrayed himself sympathetic to the cause of the revolution. Upon discovery, Javier was sentenced to death by the resistance. Val jean volunteered to be the executioner. In a moving scene, Val jean shot into the air and charged Javier to depart and cease his quest for revenge and his view of justice. Javier departs, but cannot accept that his life has been spared by the one whom he had been so ardently seeking to destroy. Fraught with anguish, Javier throws himself from the bridge into the river, ending his life in the tragic rejection of grace for himself. When faced with the reality of grace, Val jean accepted the goodness thereof and went about multiplying it for others. Javier, unable to accept grace from one above whom he placed himself, bitterly and remorsefully orchestrated his own demise.

What about us. Are we a Val jean or a Javier? Are we living out our faith in gratitude, multiplying for others the grace that has been given us, or are we engaging the internal struggle that says “I cannot accept that I have been saved by one above whom I have placed myself?”

Oh, well I know which one I am – I don’t place myself above Christ! Oh yeah? When was the last time you spent more than 3 minutes in prayer? When was the last time you genuinely listened to another person? When was the last time you looked lustfully at another human? When was the last time you felt less than? When the last time you felt like all was worthless? When was the last time you feared that giving of your tithe would seriously hamper you lifestyle? When was the last time you felt left out or slighted?  Any one of these represents an attitude that places self above Christ; above His grace that is sufficient in all things, in all ways. His grace calls us to commune with Him, to be the whole person He has restored us to by grace – who is secure enough to listen to another sister or brother in need – to be fulfilled enough to recognize the face of Christ in the one for whom we might otherwise lust – to be secure enough in His promise to care for us that we can give generously to His work – that I am secure enough in His promise that I don’t have to read someone else’s short coming as a direct reflection of me.

In today’s scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark, we heard the story of a father bringing a demon possessed child to Jesus for healing. The father approaches with the belief that this man, Jesus, might be able to help his son. “Help him, if you can,” the father says to Jesus. “If I can,” Jesus responds! “Everything is possible for him who believes” says Jesus – to whom the father of the possessed child responds; “I do believe – help my unbelief.” From that moment forward, that father and child were forever changed. This man’s faith was tested by being challenged on his belief. Honestly stating his belief and the sincere request to have his belief strengthened, demonstrated an act of faith in the man, Jesus.  So often we don’t even ask for what we desire because we think we don’t deserve it; or are worthy of it; or have enough faith to see it fulfill. We often have the faith that God CAN answer our prayers, but for some reason He won’t answer MY prayer. What is holding us back?

Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” By faith, Abraham believed God’s promise and birthed a great nation. By faith Abraham obeyed God and offered his son as a sacrifice to the living God – his son, his most prized possession, his heir, his flesh and blood, his hope for generations to come, yet by faith he surrendered all to  God’s calling on him – and that was considered to be Abraham’s righteousness. It was not the sacrifice (Isaac), but the very heart of Abraham who acted in faith and believed the God who had promised to provide that was counted as his righteousness.

What is it you hope for this Christmas season? If we believe what scripture says then we need to exercise some faith in the certainty of that for which we hope. And even though we may not see the material evidence of that for which we hope, we have no less faith in its substance!  Hope is an expectation and is integrally wound in faith. I hope to see tomorrow (expectation) so I close my eyes for sleep (faith that I will wake to a new tomorrow). On what is your hope based? If you’re experiencing anxiety and or fear that something dire or negative might happen today or tomorrow, your hope is being dashed toward the doom and your anxious actions amount to your faith focus toward the doom as well. Psychologically, spiritually, and physically, we suffer great loss when our faith and hope are bound in the bosom of doubt and worry. As often as we’ve said here that fortune telling is not one of the spiritual gifts, we see the evidence of anxiety and depression often. God calls us to a different reality in the light of His grace. He calls us to a place of hope that is founded and bound tightly in His Word.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul wrote this without a concordance to reference Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34 where He states: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And that statement followed a very significant (understatement) assertion by Jesus in verse 33; “But seeks first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What shall we place first, then? His kingdom and His righteousness: could that be the key to better mental, physical and spiritual health? When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he urged them; “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."(Philippians 4:8) Let me share some true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to think about and act in faith toward,


  1. God loves you so much He gave His Son to die for you. Yes, even in your worst moments, Jesus died for you. He didn’t die for you because you’re perfect. He didn’t die to make you better than anyone else. He didn’t die for you to prove that your orientation is OK. He didn’t die for you to give you financial blessings. He didn’t die for you to be justified to your parents or neighbors. He died because He loves you! He loves you as though you were the only one and he loves your neighbor as if she or he were the only one.
  2. Jesus lived and died for you so that you might have life to the fullest extent. You don’t have to worry about that job, just do the best job you can with that job or with finding the next one, trusting that God is in control.
  3. Putting God first in your thoughts and actions all day in everything you do, in everything you say is not only your “spiritual act of worship” but also an exercise of love in action that will facilitate an outpouring of love on others.
  4. The next time you look at another person with lust, or possessive thoughts, or in anger, or in judgment, remember that God loves that person so much that Christ died for that person.

Do we believe that Jesus Christ died once for all? Do we believe that Love gave of itself unto death so that we do not have to experience eternal death and separation from Love? Do we believe that God’s love is sufficient to meet all our needs? Do we believe that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose? If we do, then it’s time to come home to Him. Home where He dwells, home where he takes us to a deeper place – within! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all other things will be added. First His Kingdom – that which is within – his righteousness – living out our faith – all other things – the promise of the joy of our salvation. When we do believe and ask that He help our unbelief, we place our trust in Him who is the author and finisher of our faith!


If you believe – come home!









Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perfect Love

“Perfect Love”

1 John 4:15-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 21, 2010


I read a story this week about a Zoologist who was amazed at an exhibit at a local zoo. There was a monkey in the cage with a lion. The Zoologist inquired from the Zoo Keeper how he managed that seemingly impossible feat. The Zoo Keeper responded: “Well, they get along most of the time reasonably well. Sometimes the monkey upsets the lion and they get into it. Then we have to find another monkey.” Seems animals eventually act out of their nature. That’s why we’re surprised when God acts out of His nature (which is love) and not out of ours!

There are two key verses from today’s reading that we will focus on this morning: 1John 4:18, and 1 Corinthians 13:6. 1John 4:18 reads “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  Then 1 Corinthians 13:6 reads “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

“There is no fear in love.” “Perfect love drives out fear.” “[Love] rejoices in the truth.” Fear can drive away perfect love.  God is love, but we need to be reminded that all love is NOT God. God defines love, not the other way around. We are so bombarded with images of love that we confuse ourselves into believing that all we love is Godly. We may make those feelings our god, but they are more often than not ungodly.  We have a plethora of recovery groups (thank God) dedicated to recovering from the ravaging effects of love out of focus. Think about it!

So much of what we see today regarding love is nothing more than ego driven trivia that lays bare the heart and mind to more hurt and disappointment. The ego is fundamentally fear based. Fear of being discovered to be less than the individual deems acceptable, the ego drives behavior that draws attention to itself in an effort to prove to the outside world that it is not as unacceptable as it believes itself to be. Generally speaking, the so called “big ego” is nothing more than a puffed up version of a poor self-image. In some individuals the expression of the so called “weak ego” is manifest by behavior that quietly hides behind a shroud of self-effacement or false humility. Both expressions fear being disclosed and thus create defenses around possible disclosure points. Some attribute these kinds of behaviors to self-esteem, or lack thereof. Books are written on how to improve one’s self esteem. They all come down to manipulating ways to FEEL better about one’s self. We hear that to love another we have to love ourselves. In other words, before I can care about you, I have to take care of number one! Some folks take the care for others before self to be a means of survival in a harsh and difficult world. It’s still “me” focused because it is driven out of self-preservation.  More self-love may sell books, but it’s not what scripture talks about as perfect love. All of these actions we’ve described come not from self-loathing, but self-love that will go to any length to self-preserve…sometimes even to suicide! Best not place our acts of fantasy in the position reserved for God alone. That translates to idolatry!  What, then, is perfect love?

Perfect love is broad and personally directed. John 3:16 states; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He loves this world so much that He gave up His only Son for each who will believe. As Augustine said “He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.” The creator and giver of all life loves us with a love that is self-giving and eternal. How much more esteem does one need? What I need to do is forget about what I think is important for my own esteem and focus on what God has already done for me! I already have all I need. That, my friends is a lifetime of discipleship that transforms my obsession with self into a oneness with Him who is perfect love! One human was born with it, and He died an agonizing death, not to satisfy His ego, but to sanctify our relationship that with His and our Father. Because God so loves us that He gave His all for us, we need not live in fear of rejection, of not measuring up, of not being more…perfect love is sufficient! Think on this thing.

Perfect love is permanent! Human love is more often than not conditional. You love me? Oh well, then you have my attention – let me see how I can love you. Or, if I love you hard and strong enough, then you’ll reciprocate. That’s not love, it’s a form of lust to possess. Perfect love existed before we were born and will be with us through eternity. Perfect love is patient with us; does not puff itself up; it is not seeking for its own good; it is not making a list of wrongs. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. In fact, Romans 8:38-39 states” 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.” Does this help our understanding that “perfect love drives out fear”? If the love that spans and commands the universe can never be separated from us, what do we have to fear? What other esteem do we need? What other ego satisfaction or gratification do we need? NONE! We are currently being perfected in His love, therefore we need to drop the façade, let go the false halo or the belief that we need one and pick up the chip that says “safe in the arms of perfect love” to remind us of our living in sober love!

Perfect love can’t be improved upon! The Gospel is full of meaningful assertions as to our being accepted by God, secure in His cross, and significant in His grace and mercy. There is no greater love, no greater expression, no greater heights to gain, and no bigger mountains to climb. We already are all the things we would ever aspire. It’s time to live in the moment; in the reality of who we are by the manifestation of perfect love on our behalf. Living like that means emulating the character of Christ. Loving like that means giving to God first in our lives, our attention, our talents, our income, our day, and letting go of “our way.”

God has laid before us a bountiful table of grace. He calls us to come and dine on His provision. His mercy says it’s OK that you’ve soiled your hands; you won’t be rejected. His grace says the cost of admission to the table, which is more than you can afford, has been paid in full. Just come and feast upon His provisions and nourish yourself with the food of life!












Monday, November 15, 2010

The Truth about Love

“The Truth about Love”

1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 14, 2010



Love is something we all seek. Songs, sonnets, and swoons fill us with messages about love sought, love gained and often love lost. I had someone say to me once; “enough about this love stuff. What I really need is some practical principles for living through this miserable life I have.” No matter what this man had done in his life (he had seen the world, lived as and where he chose) he always came back to a place that could only be described as lonely. He knew Christ. He had heard the good news over and over. He declared his detest for people and places. His anger often boiled to rage that he had to deal with the ravages of aging and the consequences of having not taken care of himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to grasp that he was only seeing coming back to him what he was dishing out. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is trying to help them to see that at the core of the character that lives, gives, and has been given is the love that translates into action.

What random acts of love have you engaged this week? How have you actively pursued patience this week; patience with others; patience with yourself? Likewise, what acts of kindness have you engaged this week? Warning here; this is a reflective question intended to inspire us to more active deeds that share the love that is God in our lives. If we become list makers of our kind deeds, we fall prey to not love at all, but keeping lists of our wrongs. That occurs when we don’t fulfill what we think should be our quota or becoming full of pride about how kind we are. We read in these verses by Paul that love is NOT a keeper of wrongs nor prideful. Boy, this love thing is tough stuff! It sure is tough to accomplish, but we are called to engage it with patience and kindness, toward self and others. The best advice we can give ourselves is to forget about our “selves” and focus on the ONE who died to make a way for a relationship with us.

Verse 5 in today’s scripture tells us that love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, and that love keeps no record of wrongs. For illustration purposes today, let’s put in another word (name) for love. God is not rude nor is He self-seeking. God is not easily angered and He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus told the crowd around him that if they have seen Him, then they have seen the Father. Therefore Jesus and God are one. If God’s call to us is to live in the character of Christ, then our call is to a Godly character. Instead of striving for the character of God, we more often than not superimpose our character traits on God and call them holy. They are neither Godly nor holy! Let’s look at self-seeking, anger, and keeping record of wrongs as examples.

We’ve heard that the God of Israel was a jealous God. The inference is that He wanted them all to Himself (that He was self-seeking) and did not wish to share them with other gods. I think that an improbable scenario because God is the only God and therefore cannot be jealous of what doesn’t exist. God created us to have a relationship with him because to do so is for the greater good of us. When we create other things that take His place, we are on the losing end of the relationship, not getting the fullness of our purpose for being. When we see a jealous God, we are projecting our selfish traits onto the god of our creation. Jealousy is our trait; love, relationship, and our best interest are God’s traits. 

We’ve heard that God is an angry God. I think most of human societies have historically bought that idea hook, line, and sinker. Much of the religious community today operates out of this premise and unfortunately brings devastation to the very lives that Christ died to redeem. What is described as the wrath (anger) of God in scripture is the consequence that is wrought upon self when not living in the light and character for which we were created. If I perch myself on the precipice of the Grand Canyon and take a dive off as though I were a soaring eagle, I will die. That is not the wrath of God on me; it is rather the consequence of not being created with wings for flight! Some of the things that come out of so called Christian mouths today are simply appalling! God hates fags; Haiti’s earthquake is the result of disobedience, 9/11 was God’s retribution on a sinful nation. Humans who don’t get that God’s nature is love superimpose their own evil natures on a god of their self-design, thus justifying for themselves the right to do evil to others. God’s greatest command is that we love Him first and others likewise. Every unloving act toward another of God’s creations is a stab in the heart of God. There are consequences to that, but the consequences are no more at God’s hands than my plunge into the canyon. We were not created to be GOD; we were created to reflect God’ image, which is love. If what you see coming out of yourself is not looking like love, you’re not living to your highest calling in creation! Even our greatest enemy is to be the object of our loving nature, as much for our benefit as for the enemy.

So what about keeping no record of wrongs? Doesn’t the Bible say we will all have to be accountable on judgment day? Doesn’t God keep a record of wrongs then? Turn with me to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter24, verses 46-48. Jesus is appearing to His disciples after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension. Let’s look at what He says: “He told them, this is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.’”  Repentance is the act of turning away from self-seeking, self-gratifying, self-worship! Forgiveness of sins is the act of holding one not guilty in the face of repentance, having the consequences of that debt removed from the record. The day of judgment is the day we stand before God, recognizing with clear vision the very nature of our own actions and fully understand the depth of God’s love for us by the act of love through Jesus Christ who by His grace and mercy, covered us with His own sinless nature. Judgment day is for our relational benefit, not God’s. In the Lord’s Prayer we sing or say each week: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We cannot yet fathom the depth of His wiping our list clean. We are justified before Him by the action of Christ on our behalf. We have taken the plunge and we see certain death at the bottom, but because of Christ’s love and our recognition of the need and desire to turn the other way, the hand of God reaches out and scoops us back to a place of safety from the consequence of our fall. We can only approximate that by the grace and mercy we experience with each other. Your action may be the only scripture another person reads or hears. Friday night we heard someone reference Saint Francis of Assisi as having said “witness with all you have, and even use words if you must.”


If there is to be a love revolution, it must begin with our recognition that we have not been as loving as God has created us to be, and then to make an about face from our former action and begin acting in His direction. Let go of the lists of wrongs you and others have done to one another and patiently pursue the consequences of grace and mercy into and out of yourself. Discover the truth about love. You were created in its image and made whole again in Love by Jesus Christ. Let’s live like it! 



Monday, November 8, 2010

The Act of Love

The Act of Love



“The Act of Love”

John 15:17; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 7, 2010




If God created us in His image and our greatest purpose is to reflect that image back to Him, the task of the Christian is to reflect less of self and more of God. God desires relationship with us. That is the reason He created us – relationship. The foundation of that relationship today is our restoration to wholeness in His sight by the act of love that is grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. God is love and the very nature of Jesus Christ is love. We are charged with responding to God’s love by loving Him back through living in the character of Christ. The character of Christ is written all over the New Testament. It isn’t exclusionary, dispensational, full of damnation, legalistic, or religious; His character is the very nature of love. We’ve heard it said that life is a stage, we are the actors on that stage, and Jesus is the play. That play was written before recorded time and shall remain when time is no more. If we are to truly live, we perfect our role in the drama that is love. If we’re living to promote something other than the love described by, to, and for Him in scripture, we’re acting out the wrong drama!

The apostle Paul was not the paragon of Godly love throughout his life, yet he knew the character of Christ for which to strive. In his letter to the Corinthians he was attempting to intervene in their rude and unloving actions toward one another that is the culmination of “me” first thinking. In chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians Paul lays out the foundation upon which all relationship is built – demonstrated by God himself. This chapter gives us a glimpse of what the Corinthians were like. While instructive as to what love looks like, Paul was casting an indictment on the Corinthian behavior that did not measure up. Let’s look at how The Message translates 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn’t have a swelled head.” So Paul is saying that the Corinthians were impatient with each other, self-centered, always seeking something more than they thought they had, showing off what they did have, and let their egos be at the center of their actions. Could that be our community? Could it be our city, State, or perhaps our nation? Before we look out there, let’s begin to look in here…(our own hearts). You and God can do the examining; I’ve got my hands full right here. However, His call to us is not in condemnation, but in the power of grace and mercy to act out of the love He so freely lavishes on each of us, no matter how many times we take it upon ourselves to do it all ourselves. That’s God’s demonstration of love’s patience with us.

I have struggled my entire life with the notion of patience. When I wanted something, I went after it. I think with the end in mind; that is, the destination becomes first. By doing that, however, I’ve learned that the greatest lessons are not at the destination, but within the journey. This doesn’t mean that having a destination in mind is not a good thing; it just means that the destination doesn’t justify every unkind behavior to get there. To strive for what we want at the sake of everyone else demonstrates what Paul states in verse 5 as “self-seeking.” To understand the depths of this notion of patience, let’s look at how God has demonstrated His patience with us.


The Old Testament is a chronology of God’s patient acts toward His creation. You see, He desires a relationship with us. That relationship is based on His very nature – love. He created Adam for relationship. He created Eve for relationship. He blessed Abraham for relationship. He brought Israel out of bondage for relationship. He gave us commands out of His desire for us to have loving relationship. He sent His very own Son that we might have life in relationship with Him. Throughout the history of mankind we see God’s loving action towards us and His enduring patience, waiting for us to get the picture. God has the destination in mind and He has it secure…He calls us to the journey. That journey is living the character of Christ. Thankfully He patiently abides our very own impatience with ourselves, each other, and even Him! The greatest witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ is the love and grace we demonstrate in our own lives. We witness less with flowery words than with actions that show the love of God.

Romans 5:8 tells us “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s patience! John 15:9 records the words of Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.Be patient with yourself and therefore with others! See what a revolution it will create in your life and in this community! The act of love is the act of God in your life. Want more of Him? Let Him in to act through you! You can’t out love Him but you can act out in Him!

God has called out a group of folks from this Body to become even greater servants than they have been in the past. God doesn’t call the perfect – He has no need of them. He calls the moldable, the gifted, the not so gifted, the well-equipped and the not so well-equipped. He calls and says “follow me.” Today we are ordaining into the service of our Lord, Jesus Christ, five who are to be called Deacon, or servant.





Sister Carol Watson

Brother Marc Beard

Brother Joe Caliri

Brother Alberto Cobos

Brother Joe Talluto


1 Timothy 3:1-8 outlines Paul’s Pastoral instruction to Timothy concerning Elders/Overseers and Deacons within the church. Today, we ordain five humble servants of our Lord to the lowly position of Elder or Deacon. I say lowly because each position is a call to serve the greater needs of this Body of Christ, sacrificing self interest and concern to the greater good of His Kingdom. The office is not one of convenience or of glory. Rather it is one of great joy in service to others through the sacrifice of self and the giving back of gifts the Father has bestowed upon you. This call and appointment should be entered into solemnly and with great faith. We are not sufficient of ourselves for such a responsibility. But God, who has called you “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8.

It is imperative that you guard your behavior and your words. In a special sense, you are examples and models. The measure of your godliness and your enthusiasm for Christ will be copied by others. Your back will be a clear target for all who are disgruntled or take issue with your direction. However, do not cause others to stumble – ever!

Be concerned for the needs of the church family. Be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Be versed in the scriptures and ready to witness for your savior. Give careful attention to the office entrusted to you. Fulfill all its functions as unto the Lord. By accepting this trust, you indicate without reservation your commitment and loyalty to the message, doctrine, constitution, leadership and worldwide program of your church.

Charge to Deacons:

Having prayerfully considered the nature and purpose of the work for which you have been chosen, will you consider your appointment a call from God? Are you willing to accept the duties of your office as responsibilities committed to you by the Lord of the Church? Will you seek to fulfill your responsibilities in the power of the Holy Spirit, and as unto the Lord Jesus Christ?

The medallion being placed around your neck… “This is the symbol of the fish, or the cross, or the Holy Spirit (as the dove)…is to remind you of His commission to spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness to a world hungry for Him. It is to remind you of the awesome responsibility placed upon your shoulders and that your yoke with Him accomplishes magnitudes more than you alone.”

Elders, Deacons and Pastors anoint and lay hands upon the new Deacons.

Charge to congregation:

Brothers and Sisters; these women and men have been called from among us as the carriers of extra burden of service to this Body. Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive these servants entering with them into the spirit of the vows they have just made to God and this church? Do you promise to honor them, encourage them, as the Word of God admonishes?


I present to you:

Deacon Carol Watson

Deacon Marc Beard

Deacon Joe Caliri

Deacon Alberto Cobos

Deacon Joe Talluto





Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Living The Love You Seek

Living in Love Series

Living the Love You Seek

Pastor Tom Millner

1 Chronicles 16:34; 1 John 4:10-11


God’s love is a boundless gift and for our reflecting that love to others, we are rewarded with even more of His love. His love is a bottomless well from which we draw the substance of life.

Within God’s Love dwell both the gift we need and the reward we seek!

God is Love – I John 4:16

The One in whose image we are created is the embodiment of love – LOVE is who He is. Let the reflection SHINE! It’s been said that we resemble what we love! So let us…

Imitate His Example – Matthew 5:43-48 (Message)

 "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.'  I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best--the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. "In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Forget Yourself – Matthew 10:38-39 (Message)

"If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.

The irony here is that in forgetting about ourselves, we actually find our true selves. Now that’s a GIFT.  We’ll learn more about this in July.

Take Ownership of Your Kinship – Galatians 4:6-7 (Message)

You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

There’s great reward in this kinship.

John 13:35 “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other." (Message) Do you see how this is so foundational to our future?

            Living the love that we seek requires that we…

Realize the love God has for us.

John 3:16 – God so loved – that He acted – at His own expense – so that – The ones He created who wanted to have it their way – could have a choice to walk in the knowledge of what God had done out of love – that would result in a life for eternity – with God.  --- We always have a choice. We can choose to believe the lie that we can do it all on our own – or we can choose to act out of the truth that the means of our measuring up has already been accomplished through God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ, and in so doing ---

Experience the joy of God’s love

John 15:9-12 (Message) "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done--kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. "I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” The joy comes in the execution of His command that we love one another. Be the love toward others you seek for yourself. In doing that, you’ll come to a greater understanding of what your love needs really are. God loves us even when we’re not very Love-Able. Recognizing His love and beginning the process of exercising it, brings the joy of His love in us. Loving others (and thus ourselves) is our worship of Him.

Worshiping God in love

We generally think that worshiping God is done in a place – like a church – where we come together to sing and shout praises to God. We’re in a “worship” service now. We’re worshiping God by listening to His word of truth being exhorted. The Apostle Paul asserted to the Romans that worship is a lot more than what we’re doing here.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

When we love others we worship God. When we love ourselves enough to recognize the temple of God in which we live – we worship God. When you leave here today – may your worship begin anew!!  Amen…


Apply the healing power of love!

AGAPE Love looks out for the best interest of the other – Look at what God demonstrated through Jesus Christ – in our best interest. That’s love applied that heals a hurting soul, a lost sheep, a dejected child. When He commands us to love one another, He does so because the act of love heals us from the hurt that our self-centered, self-serving, self-deceiving, selfish acts bring about. Healing in our lives comes when we recognize the depth and breadth of His love for us.

Because we are so loved, we are then free to freely love others as we have been loved. – share the healing!

2 John 6 reads: “ And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Reach out to others with love

Mother Teresa said “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

John 15:12-13 states “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

If we live the love we seek, we’re accepting others as God accepts them and loving them accordingly. It’s been said that “the desire of love is to give – the desire of lust is to get.” Let’s seek to give from the bounty of love we are receiving.


Daily walk the path of love!

The first step of the daily walk in love is time in His Word! It is from there that our path is lighted with the truth that only comes from Him. Remember, the destination to which the path leads is already secure. It is the walk to which He calls us – along a path that is filled with opportunity to grow in the likeness of Christ – to be the light of love to a world of darkness and in need. In John 13:35, God did not say people will know you are followers of His if you spout theological truths or speak in the tongues of angels… He said “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples – if you love one another.”

Live the love you seek!

Open your GIFT (God is love, Imitate His example, Forget yourself, Take ownership of your kinship)

Exercise you REWARD ( Realize the love God has for you, Experience the joy of God’s love, Worship God in love, Apply the healing power of love, Reach out to other with love, and Daily walk the path of love.)




Monday, October 18, 2010

The Face in the Mirror

The Face in the Mirror



“The Face in the Mirror”

Psalm 100:5; Luke 6:41-42; 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Pastor Tom Millner

October 17, 2010


We’re told clearly in scripture that we’re the object of God’s affection. God finds us “to die for”! Yet, when we look in the mirror, we fail to recognize that loved, justified, redeemed, made whole object of God’s affection. We were created in His image – God is love…

What prevents our reflecting God’s love?

The wildfires a couple of years ago in the Everglades shut down long stretches of I-75 across the Alligator Alley. Visibility was virtually zero, so drivers could not even see the road, much less where they were going. In similar fashion, our vision of God’s love is often obstructed by the smoke around us. The good news is that the smoke comes from us and can therefore be cleared by us. Let’s look at the S.M.O.K.E. that hampers the reflection of God’s love as we were created for and commanded to put into action.

Self absorption –

“I Got to be Me,” “I Did it My Way,” – and loads of other popular songs reflect the degree to which we as a society are so absorbed with self. We are so absorbed with self, in fact, that thousands of people are dying of starvation as we now speak. In case you haven’t noticed, self is our favorite subject. “Well, I’ve talked enough about myself, now tell me what you think of me.” It’s nothing new. Even those closest to Jesus did it. Mark 10:35-37 “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."  What do you want me to do for you? he asked.  They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." When was the last time you prayed exclusively for someone else and not your own need? How many of you just went to a place of self-condemnation or deprecation over what I said? Get my point? We’re grossly self-absorbed and God is calling us to “surrender, Dorothy…” He’ got you covered! Not only are we self-absorbed, but we also experience…  

Momentary distractions

Often we allow the smallest thing to distract us from the purpose of our mission. It takes a conscious effort to keep ourselves focused on the task at hand. Different personalities react in different ways to events or things that cause distraction – a phone call that can wait - a flattering or not so flattering comment – a person who catches your attention – a perceived need to do something right now! Two weeks ago I was discussing my neurological symptoms with a Neurologist and research director at Duke University when I paused, noticing that he was marking off different blood tests to be performed by the lab. I stopped describing some experiences and said; “I apologize for going on… I’ll wait till you’ve finished what you’re focused on.” Without missing a beat, he continued to check things on his sheet and said; “Oh that’s OK, when I was younger they told me I had A.D.D., now I call it multitasking.”   Luke 10:40 “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’”

Other competing demands

Work, tasks, even ministries, may be the instrument that competes for our attention and thus takes us away from being the reflection of love that God calls us to express. When we re-order our priorities we see more clearly.

Luke 9:59-60 “He said to another man, ‘follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’" First things first! When we read “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” we think it so simple. Yet we fail at it miserably. God simply desires to be first in our lives. It is so easy for us to place Him second, third, or tenth in our list of priorities for the moment. It takes effort to make that happen… However, we often see no issue with…

Keeping up with the crowd

Heard the statement – “Just trying to get ahead?” – Some would settle for just keeping up! Keeping up with what? Keeping up with what we think is required to appear as measuring up? Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  We can’t serve God and everything else that we think makes us measure up. There’s a term I use to describe what goes on in our community. I call it “homosexism.” It’s the belief that everyone has to fit a particular image or persona in order to be acceptable or to measure up. It’s just as damaging as the heterosexism and homophobia that has led to the years of what is now being seen as bullying. It’s a thought process that leads to actions that are lethal for people. We’re better off spending time affirming who Christ says we are in His love than trying to measure up to the faulty and reactionary God of prejudice!!!! Another smoke screen is our…

Ego driven ambition

Ever heard people being described as having a big ego? Can’t confront them, can’t discuss with them – have to have it their way. This is not big ego – its WEAK ego that has to puff itself up in defense of its weakness. It gives way to all kinds of distractions from what God calls us to in love. James 3:16  “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Getting rid of the smoke allows us to live in God’s reflection more C.L.E.A.R.L.Y. Want to see a different face in the mirror…the real one as Christ sees?

Commit to His will.

Commitment to do God’s will is not always easy nor is it popular. We pray the prayer that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do we know what that entails? It means an alignment of our will to the will of the one who is love. Jesus said to His disciples that if they loved him, they would obey His command… that command was to love one another. If you seek to follow God’s will for your life, see first the love opportunities set before you each day, each moment. That’s what Jesus did even to the end.  Mark 14:35-36 “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’" We do a great job living to try to make God’s will conform to our desires and wishes as we see them for our benefit. When we strive to understand and live out His will for our lives, we’re pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Had Christ not submitted to the Father’s will, there would have been no propitiation for our sin, no resurrection life…no life in grace and mercy. God has something good for all as the outcome of living in His will.

Look out for love’s opportunities.

We are so consumed by our own important agendas that we often fail to see what is right in front of us.  What to some may seem a bothersome distraction, may well be the opportunity to show God’s love to another person. Our tendency to judge another person by the situation can blind us from the opportunity to love as well. Take for instance the story of the woman caught in adultery. The crowd was eager to condemn and stone her. Jesus, however, saw the opportunity to share God’s love for her. 

John 8:7  “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’" 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter, tells us what love looks like. Let’s begin a love revolution…being the love we seek! We so long to be loved with the passion and compassion of our dreams. God gave us each other to be His face to one another!

Establish a daily pattern of love.

Agape love is love that demands an action. Ever notice how we become creatures of habit, going through the same routines each day, week, or month? Exercising our love of God and for others is best expressed through making it a habit, establishing a pattern of love behaviors. Expressions of love don’t have to be grandiose acts that are noticed. These expressions can be made in the form of prayer. Creating a list of those for whom you will pray each day for a specified period of time – or the ministry you desire to pray for during a specified time frame. A daily pattern of phone calls with a prayer buddy, etc., can go a long way to fulfill the love that someone for whom you are praying desires.

Hebrews 3:12-13 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Apply the temple principle.

I Corinthians 3:16 “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?”  The Temple in ancient times was where the Holy of Holies dwelled. Only the High Priest who had offered an acceptable sin offering was allowed into that most holy of places. If God were dwelling now is room 2 over here, how would you approach that room? Remember, in the Tabernacle/Temple, the High Priest went in with a rope tied around his garment that trailed behind him so that if his sacrifice had been unacceptable, the other priests could pull his body out from behind the curtain… Fortunately, God does not dwell in room 2 any more than He dwells in the auditorium. Because of Christ and His atoning love, God now dwells in another holy of holies – our hearts. Our bodies, friends, are the temple of God. Knowing that God now dwells within, how do you think His temple should be cared for?

Respond to God’s calling.

You’ve heard each of us Pastors talk about the calling on our lives to Pastor.  What you haven’t heard a lot about in these words is the calling of God on your life. Did you know that God has a calling on your life? His calling is to be His and His alone. His calling is to love Him and love your neighbor as yourself. His calling came at the time of your acceptance of Him as your Lord and Savior. When you accepted that call, you were the recipient of a guarantee of no separation from His love, an inheritance of eternal life, the right to be called the child of God, saints in Him! Amen? Amen! Now, the challenge we face is living in the light of the love that came when the call was answered. Why place the most precious gift ever received on a shelf to gather dust. Use it!

Ephesians 1:18-19  “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength”  Use it by -

Leaning on His promises.

As responders to God’s calling, we are the recipients of a magnificent GIFT… a new creation in Christ Jesus! As a new creation, we have the promise that our destination is secure, our eternity sealed, our life is everlasting. Yet, we as a people are often filled with anxiety and or depression. We worry about measuring up to a standard that only we have set. Even when things happen that are out of our control, we react as though it has something to do with us personally and tell ourselves it’s a result of not measuring up. Enough is enough! Stop dreaming and start leaning – on the One whose promises are for sure.

Matthew 6:31,33 “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Yield to the Master’s plan

God’s plan is not just for us as individuals, but for His body of believers as a whole. To be the best body builder He created us to be, we have to individually yield to His plan for our lives – loving Him, loving each other… so that we can indeed ignite the world for Christ, one life at a time! His plan is not for our glory, but for His, and His a lone.

Ephesians 4:1-6 “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Living love’s reflection requires the elimination of all the SMOKE so that we can reflect CLEARLY His love in our lives. We are called to be the love of Christ. Let’s start the revolution! Let’s be the face of Christ first to each other and then to this community. That action alone goes further than any advertising, door to door canvassing or community outreach alone. God calls us to love Him above all else…with our hearts, minds, souls, and that translates to loving each other with the same loving acts we would welcome from others. In the words of that famous and popular theologian, Larry the Cable Guy… “Gitter done.”