Sunday, January 31, 2010

Loving God and Each Other

"What About This Love Stuff"

Exodus 20:1-6; Matthew 22:34-40; John 15:5-13

Pastor Tom Millner



In 1912 there was a little seven year old boy in New York who declared to his teacher that he loved his mother with all his strength. "How is that, Son?" the teacher asked. "Well," said the boy, "my mother is unable to lift the coal scuttle. We live on the third floor apartment and the coal bin is in the basement. Three times a day I take the bucket to the basement, fill it to the brim with coal, and then I take it up the four flights of stairs. It takes all my strength, but I love my mother. So that's how I love my mother with all my strength!"


Last week I asked you who were here to go home, look at yourself in the mirror and say; "I am one with Christ." I won't ask how many actually did that. However, I'm asking you again to do it and to keep doing it (perhaps first thing in the morning) until you begin to see how you are one with Christ – how He is manifesting himself in you and you begin to see more of him in others. The ultimate purpose of this simple act is to help us understand more concretely the love that God has for us.


In today's scripture reading, love is what God does to us and the response He longs to get from us. The Bible contains the greatest love story ever told; that of God who loved us into being, sought us through rejection, and bought us with perfection. We're told to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. What does that mean? What does that look like? Let's take a closer look at each one.


Love with all your heart.

The heart is thought of as the center of our passion. When we give someone our heart, we mean we direct our passion for life, wholeness and well being in that person's direction. In seeking to understand our SHAPE for service, we identify in what direction lays our heart. It may be for music, for drama, for other arts; or, it may be for problem solving, visitation, serving. You name it! Our hearts are as unique as our finger prints, yet divinely crafted to touch the heart of God! Loving with all our heart means passionately acting in God's direction. What that looks like is revealed in the character of Christ. Living in the loving character of Christ is a vital part of our Christian walk, one minute at a time.


Love with all your soul.

The soul is referred to as the sum total of our being, our psyche, our spirit, our eternal existence. The soul transcends the worldly, the physical. Our soul is the part that longs for eternity, longs for completion. Our soul is the part of us that is not complete without God. Loving Him with all our soul is giving witness to our wholeness in Him. These acts of wholeness emerge as we commune with Him in prayer, in worship, and in meditation on His forgiving, loving, and completing grace. These acts forgive; have patience, show mercy, self-control, etc. They are rooted in the presence of His Spirit!


Love with all of your mind.

Knowledge is powerful. Christ grew in knowledge of the scriptures and in the knowledge of His Father. You've heard the statement that we can do anything we put our mind to? That's not true, but it gives a glimpse of the power of the mind to do marvelous things. These things can be for good or evil. To love God with all our mind is to have a mind set on Him as we go about our daily lives. To nurture a mind that thinks of His glory before it engages our tongue, completes a thought, or draws a conclusion is one that loves the Lord. The mind is the seat of the will; it determines the direction of concepts that lead to deeds. Loving God with all our mind infers deeds of grace and mercy
– the product of God's love for us.


Loving others with the same degree of passionate regard we have for how God has loved us, loving them with an unending desire for their eternal destiny and loving them with the knowledge that the possibilities for the Kingdom are limitless, is our ultimate expression of love to God! We demonstrate our love for Him by loving one another. When I speak of loving one another, I don't mean the enabling that often goes on between us nor the kind of manipulation to get attention that is so prevalent these days. The "if you loved me you'd" stuff is not an act of loving as God loves. Love that brings another closer to a love relationship to our Savior and multiplies the content of His character is the love that is of God.


God's perfect plan for us was that we would live in perfect harmony with Him experiencing the joy of fellowship, the rewards of kinship, and the outpouring of a loving relationship. To the cynic it sounds like pie in the sky bye and bye! To the hopeful it sounds like heaven. To the redeemed, it sounds like home!








Monday, January 25, 2010

All in the Family

"All in the Family"

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Galatians 3:26-28

Pastor Tom Millner

January 24, 2010



Johnny, the seven year old, was fascinated by the tour guide's demonstrations and knowledge as his class was being guided through the local museum of natural history. At the exhibit of the human heart the guide showed each part of the human heart, taking special care to point out the atria, ventricles, valves, veins and arteries as well as the unique function of each as an essential part of human life. Johnny had a puzzled look on his face as he raised his hand. "Yes, young man," the guide said, acknowledging Johnny's quest. "Where's the love?" Johnny asked!


Many years ago there was a situation comedy on television titled "All in the Family." Each character in the comedy was an exaggeration of what was then (and is perhaps now) commonly held notions of what was expressed as societies norms. An unlikely assortment of extreme personalities held together by a common thread of familiarity and habit. Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Meathead had their own notions of how the other "ought to be." Each character reveled in his or her own well crafted identity and unique world view. Conflict was the norm, but there were also touching times when everyone pulled together for the good of the whole because they recognized the value of the family unit. Even in the uniqueness of their individuality, they recognized kinship. We've seen that to a degree as diverse nations and cultures have rallied around the hurt nation of Haiti to give help and hope (often mixed with a tinge of hindrance) to fellow humans ravaged by destruction all around. Sometimes it takes a catastrophe, a common foe, to remind us that in Paul's words "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [or any other differentiation] for you are all one in Christ Jesus."


Paul was emphatic in his assertion to the Christians in Galatia; "for all are one in Christ Jesus." What does that mean? What does that look like? We are such creatures of habit and familiarity that we often fail to recognize that the comfort we feel from the habitual and familiar is an illusion. Solomon wisely noted that "Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever." When I first read those words many years ago I felt a sense of concern that he must have written it during a time of deep depression and despair. I have grown to realize that it is wise counsel. Solomon did not mean that we should not be about the things that our hearts can imagine or that it is futile to try to make things different or better for ourselves and/or others. Rather, Solomon's wise counsel to us is to not put all our eggs in the temporal basket, for it will pass away, but the love of the Lord shall endure forever. This is wisdom that underpins the assertion of Jesus to place God above all in our lives and act that out in a way that promotes the other's positioning of God first in their lives at the same level as we do our own! That bit of insight should change for us the emphasis we place on those things that we insist be of greatest importance. We get so tied up in our trappings of life and love that we fail to identify the essence of the cord that binds us together. That cord is the person Jesus, who loved the Father so much that He gave Himself as a sin sacrifice so that each of us could be brought into the family of perfection – all in the family of God! He loved God first and laid down His life in an act of love that gave us what He had!


I read this week about a study that is posted in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine wherein it was shown that children overwhelmingly prefer the taste of food that comes in McDonald's wrappers. Preschoolers sampled identical foods in packages from McDonald's wrappers and equally from unbranded packaging. The kids were asked if the food tasted the same or if one was better than the other. The unbranded foods failed the test every time. Even foods like apple juice, carrots, and milk in packaging with the McDonalds branding won out. A Yale University physician noted that "This study demonstrates simply and elegantly that advertising literally brainwashes young children into a baseless preference for certain food products." "Children, it seems, literally do judge a food by its cover. And they prefer the cover they know." (1)


As adults we know enough to recognize a carrot as being a carrot, no matter the packaging. I submit that every day, however, we are bamboozled by the trappings of the unique group we hang with, the credentials we gather around us, finer clothing, tighter bodies, or the holy expressions that at the end of the day lead us away from the fact that we are underneath, all the same. Hopeless to save ourselves, unable to redeem one follicle from the ravages of sin, yet made whole and complete through the act of one man – Jesus – whose sacrifice of self and rightly owned position of royalty and perfection – became the ultimately imperfect for our sake. What is justly due us (the ultimate consequence of sin) His mercy redeems and His grace grants us the "packaging" (the clothes of Christ) we have never deserved. No matter what packaging we try to put on or hide behind, God sees through to who we really are.


Paul said to us through his writing to the church in Galatia "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." We need no other trappings. We need no title, we need no status, we need no point of influence, and we need no stage. We are clothed with Christ! In fact, he goes on to say (translated) that we are not defined by our religious protocols, our modern day indebtedness or lack thereof, our gender, our orientation, our complexion, our position of influence or recognition, our talents or lack thereof; but rather, we are rendered as one in Christ who now clothes us. Now, look at the person beside you – say "we are one in Christ Jesus." Now turn to the other side and repeat it. When you leave here today go to your mirror and look at yourself and say "I am one with Christ Jesus." If you can't see Him, start looking for ways to dismantle the packaging you've hidden yourself behind. As you seek Him, the packaging will fall away, and the sight of Him will become clearer. You'll know that's happening when you see Him more clearly in others!




  1. "Foods Taste Better With McDonald's Logo, Kids Say," Forbes, August 6,2007, adapted from RIZM Slice of Infinity, January 20, 2010






Monday, January 11, 2010

Discovering the Possible

"Discovering the Possible"

Scripture: Psalms 46:1-3; 10-11, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Matthew19:6

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center



In the world of physics, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Ever traveled the tunnel through a mountain to the other side? Isn't it marvelous to think of the engineering that accomplished that task? I've never been through the "chunnel" from England to France, but what a marvel of engineering in the 20th Century that delivered a path from London to Paris in about two hours. In each of these marvels, many challenges were faced that could have rendered the task defeated. Yet, in each case, a hope for the destination and the willingness to surrender to the possibilities delivered a result greater than imagined.


This month Ray and I celebrate the milestone of thirty years of discovering the possibilities of being together on our life journey. This sermon isn't about us, but I will share with you some things we learned along the way that have been illuminated by the Word of God. I grow to appreciate more and more every day the meaning of mercy and grace in God's love and the miracle He brings in translating tat through each of us to one another through surrender to Him. In the realities of life's journey, the destination we're called to can't be a straight line.


I recall the story of Moses and his journey on the call to lead the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt, a place that had been refuge for hundreds of years, but also a place that had become one of bondage. If you look at a map of the region, the distance between Egypt and the Promised Land is a relatively short distance. Allowing for geological obstacles, the journey should have taken only a few weeks (if that). In actuality, it took 40 years. Before they even got started, the way had to be cleared for the journey. Moses interfaced with the Pharaoh on multiple occasions on behalf of God, and the people of God learned their first valuable lesson in obedience at the event of the Passover. The way made clear, the waters parted, the people embarked on the journey of infamy. There are many stories and lessons that were told and learned during this time. This is not simply a story about Moses and deliverance – it's a story about relationship and possibility. The relationship of God's people to Himself and the discovery of what's possible in that relationship is the overarching message in the story. "All things are possible" – right? – How? Through Christ who strengthens us! With God all things are possible – that demands relationship – us with Him, Him with us. How often do we demand from Him that "my will be done, my kingdom come"? Looking for the perfect partner, the prefect friendship, the perfect wife/husband, church? They don't exist except in the confines of your own imagination…and they can never exist because they are a product of your own creation. Do we give up dreams, hopes, and aspirations then, in the face of impossibilities? No, we surrender our idols of must be to the place of possibility where the God of eternity calls us to unity. While God was giving the path to relationship with Him, his partner (the Israelites) was busy trying to create the fantasy of the perfect god as they envisioned. You might say they were blinded by their own sight. Relationship requires surrender to discover the uniqueness of the "other" that is often greater than what we ever imagined. God gives us the perfect example over and over again in Scripture. He has a vision for us, a divine purpose and plan, but He doesn't punish us into submission nor browbeat us into acquiescence nor insist it is His way or the highway! He loves us patiently back to Himself…when we are willing to work on the relationship – just like He demonstrated to the ancient Israelites and then again some 2,000 years ago at Calvary. We still serve the God of miracles. Not only does He love us to Himself, but He also gives us tools for the experience.


1 Corinthians 13:4-8 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." It should be no surprise to us that the tools for love are spelled out in behaviors that are observable; patience, kindness, other focused, calm, forgiving, truthful, protective, trusting, hopeful, and persevering. That's how God loves us…the same love He asks us to pass on to each other…the same love that we cherish getting! It isn't surprising either that each of these represent the fruit of the Spirit. God knows we can't do it on our own, so He gives us Himself as example, His Spirit as comforter and guide, and each other to practice on. It is in relationship that we get to practice the love in action that has been demonstrated to us through the act of love through Jesus Christ. When we come here, we come to love practice. When we fellowship, we love practice. When we are hurting, we love practice. When we are angry and upset, we love practice. When we're ready to throw in the towel, we love practice. That's how we gain greater understanding of how to use the tools He's' given us. Love practice requires surrender…of things needing to be our way in order to find THE way.


The teaching of Jesus has an over-arching theme – surrender. Surrender does not mean being weak or losing. It takes strength to surrender one's most cherished ideas and behaviors. I takes faith to give up a notion that we've held for so long – a dream that things MUST be the way I see it, dream it, feel it, know it…to discover things more beautiful, blessed, fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. In surrender is freedom…Freedom to discover the possibilities, the beauty, the reality, the uniqueness of the other. Surrender doesn't take your identity. Christ fulfilled His identity at His surrender to the cross. The burden of His surrender birthed the blessing that you and I experience today. What blessing is He calling you to birth?







Monday, January 4, 2010

Believing Ahead

"Believing Ahead"

Genesis 12:1-2; Matthew 14:29-31; Hebrews 11:1

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center


I read a story recently about a missionary to China at the turn of the 20th century. He was traveling to China in a sailing vessel. As the ship was approaching the channel between the southern Malay Peninsula and the Island of Sumatra, the missionary heard pounding on his cabin door. As he opened his door there stood the gruff and weather worn captain spouting his request to the missionary. "I hear you are a man of faith. We have no wind and are drifting toward an Island that I understand is inhabited with cannibals." "But what can I do," said the missionary. "Pray for wind," said the captain! "Alright then," said the missionary "but first you must set your sails." "That's ridiculous," shouted the captain, "there's no wind." "If we pray for wind, we must be prepared for its arrival," said the missionary. The captain complied and set his sails. A few minutes later, as the missionary was on his knees, he heard the knock again on his door. "You can stop praying now; we have all the wind we need."


We've all, at one time or another, made resolutions for the New Year. The SpiritSounds News Letter has an account of a successful one from 2009. Many of our resolutions, however, are simply wishful thinking, lacking preparation or substance, dreaming that the fairy of future fame is somehow going to tap us with the wand of deliverance! Unfortunately, this kind of "wishful thinking" often turns to horse manure at the least and idolatry at the most. What makes for successful "resolutions?"


  1. Listen for God's direction. How many resolutions have you made that have been of your own creation, your own imagination? More often than not, we dream of changes that we think will enhance our lives, make us more appealing, better looking, self-willed, self-made, self-directed! When we read this morning the story of Abraham, did you note that Abraham resolved to leave his father's household and go to a strange land to become himself a great nation? Do you recall how Peter, when seeing Christ walking on the water, asserted "I can do that," and jumped out of the boat and onto the water? Didn't happen that way, did it? In both cases, God spoke and the servants listened. When we put our own desires (no matter how noble we think them to be) above the will of God, we have steeped ourselves in the land of idolatry – a territory so familiar to all of us – and a land far away from the God of our salvation. This is what we know to do – "if it is to be, it is up to me!" "I am my own special creation." Wow – it takes a special person to be the god of his own creation! Every time we declare, resolve, determine, to make it on our own, we've taken the God of our creation out of the equation! In Genesis, God called Abraham out to do as God directed. In Matthew, Jesus called Peter out of the boat – granted it was after Peter's request to have his own doubts calmed – nevertheless, it was Christ who did the calling. Doing things our way may be the American way, but it's the doorway opposite to His way. Paul in Romans 12, after having asserted the gracefulness of God's forgiveness and inclusion of all people in His mercy states: "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."


  1. Let go of the old. Anyone here had any problems, heartaches, disappointments or conflicts during 2009? Good to see that I'm in the perfect church, filled with imperfect people. We've all been touched by one or more of these during the past year. Today is the foundation of tomorrow. The future will smell like mold if we hang on to the things that are old! None of us can drive forward looking in the rearview mirror – that's a sure collision waiting to happen. What makes us think that life is any different? My unresolved problems, heartaches, disappointments and conflicts cloud my vision of today and unduly steer me in the wrong direction for tomorrow. Last year, we talked about the "iceberg" that we carry around with us – this was during our Soul Encounter series. If you missed these, you missed an opportunity to allow Christ to work in your life through the process of intentional love – catch them on our website! That iceberg bumps into everything in our path. Some of us have long standing bergs and some of us created new ones in 2009 (and some of us added new ice to already existing ones). God calls us to let go – when unresolved, we tend to resent – resentments lead to un-forgiveness. God calls us to forgive to the degree we have been forgiven – that translates to COMPLETELY! Un-forgiveness blocks in us the very forgiveness for which Christ died. In His forgiveness we have already received more than we could ever have achieved had things gone "our way." In fact, I submit that we often find ourselves in the midst of our proverbial pickle because things HAVE gone our way! The way of weak faith, poor vision, unforgiving decisions, and historical revisions. It's time to forgive and truly live! What's in your rear view mirror?


  1. Faith your way through each day! You've heard the old statement; "fake it till you make it"? The more accurate sentiment is; "faith it till you make it." Abraham didn't fake it away from his father's household, he "faithed" his way to the new land (which became Israel). Faith requires action. Faith without action is wishful thinking. Abraham acted on God's call to him. He let go of the old and moved forward with the faith that God was faithful when He calls. Abraham had times of wavering faith, and even doubts – but he persevered and "faithed" his way through each day. When Peter was called out of the boat, his faith was demonstrated by his act of stepping onto the water. As he kept his eyes on the Lord, he did the impossible – when he allowed the distractions around him to diminish his focus on the Lord, he sank…but, looking up to the Lord again, he cried for help and Christ was faithful to deliver! But you don't understand, Pastor Tom – my plight is REAL… I have no money, I have this that or the other ailment that needs correcting, etc., etc. Real problems take REAL faith! Surrender takes faith! Fear takes faith…that the "worst" will happen. We know that nearly 90% of what we fear never happens. The time and effort do we waste worrying about what might happen is like rocking in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but you don't get any where! In James we read that "faith without works is dead." In other words, until we put what we call our faith in God into some tangible, observable, and even measurable action, we've done nothing of substance! We can't always see where the faithing will lead, but He knows where we're being led. …. A fire one evening drove a young boy from his bedroom to the roof of his family home. The father had escaped and was stand on the ground looking up at his frightened and bewildered son. "Jump," said the father to his son. The boy ran from one section of the roof to the other as he sought to get a better glimpse of h is father – the smoke and flames growing larger by the moment. "Jump," repeated the father. "But I can't see you," responded the boy. "That's OK," said the father, "I can see you." The boy leapt in the direction of the father's voice and was rescued from harm's way. We can't see Him, but He sees us and is there to rescue us from the danger of our own doubts.


So we are called to listen to His direction, discard the old, and to faith our way through each day. How do we do that? By becoming, as one preacher put it, F.A.T. in Him.


Faithful - to read His Word, to worship Him in all we are, in all we have, to listen to his voice as we pause in prayer and test what we hear against His Word. He never contradicts Himself.


Available - to do His bidding – the work of His church – to His glory alone, and not your own. Jesus didn't feel like being crucified – but He made himself available at the call! The result changed the universe forever! Roman's 12 reminds us to be living sacrifices – available to know and do God's will.


Teachable - to be open to instruction. Ignorance is curable – it doesn't have to be terminal…but we have to want to be cured. None of us knows it all- we all need instruction. God has placed leaders in this body who have knowledge to teach others, and each of those leaders seeks to learn from each other and from His Word. When we've placed ourselves above our leadership in our own self-determination, we're no longer faithful, available, or teachable. 2 Timothy 2:15 states: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." The KJV translates this as "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."


As one who resolves to live each day anew, listening for His direction, discarding what is past, and believing ahead (faithing the future), will you do it by being F.A.T.? Faithful, Available, Teachable!