Sunday, March 14, 2010

Words to the Wise

"Words to the Wise"

Scripture: James 3:13-18

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center

March 14, 2010


Today's scripture challenges us to put into action wisdom that is from God. As I was reading this week I ran across some wisdom statements from kids.

  • Justin, age 10: "Never trust a dog to watch your food."
  • David, age 14: "When your dad is mad at you and asks you, 'Do I look stupid?' don't answer him." AND "Never tell your mom her diet's not working."
  • Louise, age 9: "Felt markers are not good to us as lipstick"
  • Ryan, age 10: "Don't pick on your sister when she's holding a baseball bat."
  • Patricia, 8: "Never try to baptize a cat."

Our Revival Services start in two days. For three weeks now we've been focusing on the imperative that if revival is to occur in this community, it begins right here in the hearts of each of us. Revival begins with a relationship – a one on one relationship with the man –Jesus – who was not conquered by the wisdom of this world, but lived, died, and overcame by the wisdom that is from heaven! That relationship, while personally gratifying and eternally satisfying is not intended to pour exclusively into the trough of self-interest. As an American society we have become so self-focused that a whole generation has been dubbed as the "me generation." There's nothing new here; it's always been around; we've just taken it to an art form! James, considered to be the brother of Jesus, reminds his readers that the deeds of the heaven bound are done in the wisdom that is in heaven found! James, if translated in today's expressions, is telling us to "walk the talk" of the Christian faith. If we were doing that I wouldn't be preaching this sermon, our tithes and offerings would be sufficient to meet the needs of this ministry, and folks would be as loving toward each other as our greeting hugs would imply. We're still hanging onto the wisdom of this world and its resulting consequences, however, and it's time we truly engage the "heavenly wisdom" that comes from time before the Lord!

Let's look more closely to the guidance that James is giving us in verses 13 – 15; "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil." Those who are wise demonstrate that wisdom by acting in the humility that comes from wisdom. In other words, the wisdom that comes from God is without self pride. This doesn't mean self-effacing as in false humility, but true and genuine humbleness before God and those whom He has placed in authority. Modern thinking would rail against humility – it surely negatively impacts self-esteem, we're chastised! Folks, in the Christian realm the only esteem that is of value is that which we possess by virtue of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. We who have died to self now live as one with Christ – being true heirs to the kingdom. No other esteem is needed!!! James is in some ways saying: "You got it, now live it!"

James goes on: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil." These are pretty strong words here. Envy occurs when we believe that someone else possesses something that we think we are lacking in or that we somehow should possess to the same degree. Psychologists would tell us that this comes from a low self-esteem. Often we over compensate for what we think we're lacking in an effort to cover up before others so they won't see our deficiency. What we wind up doing is building walls and rendering ourselves victims of our own deceit. James says basically that this is not spiritual, it's not heavenly – it's actually of the devil! Often what we blame the devil for however is the product of our own making. James says that "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." The world around us is full of examples of these consequences to behavior. The evangelist D.L. Moody once told the story of an eagle that was envious of another who could fly better and higher than he could. One day the bird saw a hunter with a bow and arrow and said to him; "I wish you would bring down that eagle up there." The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the envious eagle pulled out some feathers. The arrow was shot, but missed the soaring bird above. The first eagle pulled out more feathers for the hunter until he had lost the ability to fly. The hunter then turned around and killed the helpless bird. The one we hurt the most by envy is oneself. James gives us examples, however, of what wisdom from above looks like.

Verse 17: "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." The message translates it this way: "Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced." We don't naturally like to act this way. Of course, we'd love it if everyone else acted toward us in this way! We're called to act with pure motives – not tinged with selfish ambition. Purity then translates as peace-loving (seeking), being considerate of others, submissive to authority and to truth. Attributes humans are not noted for often! What does it mean to be full of mercy? God's love for us is full of mercy and grace. Mercy means we don't get what we truly deserve! Conventional wisdom says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, you do me wrong and I wrong you right back. Godly wisdom has no part in it since God in His love has extended mercy to all of us. Extending this mercy not only to ourselves but also to others bears fruit of the spirit – (Galatians 5) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control."

The wisdom that God is calling us to live out is the gift He gives by the mercy and grace of Christ. Revival is not an event, a place, an emotion – it begins with a person – Jesus Christ and it lives within us as we live out the character to which we've been called – Jesus!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adults Only

"Adults Only"

Colossians 3:1-17

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center

March 7, 2010


A thief entered the apartment of a famous French novelist in the dead of the night. The thief was ever so quiet as he wrestled with the key to the novelist's desk. Suddenly, silence was broken by the sarcastic laugh of the novelist who lay nearby in his bed. The thief asked; "why do you laugh?" "I laugh" said the novelist, "because of the risks you take to find money in a desk by night when the legal owner can find none during the daylight."

The title of this sermon is intentional. In today's world such a title conjures up in many the thoughts of the forbidden, what's done in secret, in the dark. We see marquees along Federal Highway or Wilton Drive notifying the passer-by that the establishment is for "Adults Only." Recently a man was driving by one of these places when his eight year old niece asked; "what does the sign adults only mean?" The man paused as he thought of how he was going to respond. Then the man decided to tell his niece the truth: "That's a place where grownups go to behave like children." Isn't it interesting that children like to pretend to act grown up while grownups tend to act like children? Paul's letter to the Colossians, written while he was imprisoned in Rome, was addressing many of the foolish ways humans, when seeking their own way, miss the point of Christ's love.

Last week we addressed the issue of preparation for REVIVAL; becoming alive again in the knowledge and power of Jesus Christ in our lives. If REVIVAL is to happen in this community, it must begin in me and you. In many public places today we see what I call electronic defibrillating devices. If someone drops unconscious with no pulse, these devices can be used to "shock" the heart back into action. The person is thus revived. It's time we got a little stimulus to get us back to life – our REAL life in Christ!

When Jesus was questioned (being given what they thought was a trick question) by the Pharisees as to what was the greatest commandment, He responded by stating (Matthew 22:37-40) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Paul in his letter to the Colossians spelled out in chapters one and two what Christ has accomplished for our sakes and WHO he is as Lord and Savior. It's no coincidence that Paul would emphasize the heart and the mind when challenging the believers in chapter three. Listen to what he says; "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." When Paul says "set" here, the word means our every intention – effort, energy. Paul is not saying here (any more than Jesus was saying) to attend to God when you remember or when you are feeling in the mood from something that may have touched your emotions. Love of God demands our full attention – mind and heart – set on the man, Jesus! And in so doing, we "put to death" whatever belongs to our earthly nature. Paul spelled out what some of those earthly nature things were during his time – "sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." How many of you got stuck on "sexual immorality" and "lust"? They are not the point – idolatry is the point - it is the evil from which all sin arises. Idolatry is anything we place before God. Want to see where your god lives in your life? Look at your calendar; look at your checkbook. Listen to your brain now trying to rationalize and dispose of the discomfort that comes from a sense of guilt –something that is not accepted in today's world of self-actualizers. If your god is freedom from guilt, it can't be the God who took on our guilt so that we don't have to eternally suffer the consequences of our own selfish acts for which we are truly guilty! The answer to our problems today is not less guilt by reason of rationalization, but owning our bad and selfish behavior, resolve to turn away from it (by the grace of God) (it's called repentance) and turn our intent toward Him! Get it? Putting our minds and hearts on things above – the glory, majesty, righteousness, grace, and mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, yields the consequence of freely loving others. In Paul's words "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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. 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."

Becoming alive in Christ is not easy. It's hard work that requires discipline – discipleship. It's not something we can do on our own – in fact, if we're trying to do it on our own; we're not worshipping Him, but rather our own desires and goals. Becoming alive in Christ is not about what we accomplish, it's about what we let go! Our very nature (the old one that Paul admonishes to put away) would have us set up rules, regulations, stipulations and conditions that would proscribe "becoming alive in Christ." By the very act of engaging them the "natural" bent is to make them the goal and Christ then becomes secondary. Paul's assertion in Colossians to such behavioral distinctions is "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Revival is not about a religion, a process, an experience, a set of behaviors – revival is about a man. His name is Jesus Christ. He is as much man as if not God at all and as much God as if not man at all. He, being God, humbled Himself to take on the form and very nature of His created being, was conceived out of wedlock, born in a barn, hob-knobbed with the rejected and outcast, was rejected by the establishment, surrendered to beatings and ultimately death on a cross, taking upon himself what is justly our pain and suffering, overcame that death to live back from where He came, thus covering every self-seeking, self-absorbed action on our part – so that we can be free to pursue living a life in His character! Revival is not about me – it is about He who is the Savior of the world. He who laid down His life for us and who asks us to lay down ours daily to discover the newness of life in Him.

Revival is not just for adults only. It's for those who want to grow up in the Lord and also for those who are willing to go to that place where they can empty themselves and be like little children before the Lord – humble, teachable, obedient and trusting. Revival is a person – Jesus Christ!!


Don't you think it's time to grow up?


Monday, March 1, 2010

Bright Is The Light

"Bright is the Light"

Scripture: Micah 6:6-8, Mark 4:21-25

Pastor Tom Millner

February 28, 2010



In the words of Plato; "We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."


We have a revival meeting coming up in a little over two weeks. We're bringing a seasoned teaching preacher who is nationally known to this pulpit. We will have a Dove Award winning singer and songwriter in our midst to bless the Lord and us in this place. We're stepping out in faith to pay for advertising for this event, believing that God will inspire those at whose hearts He is tugging to cover these costs. Never in the history of this South Florida community, fraught with feelings of disdain of religion that feeds exclusionism and blatant discrimination, has there ever been such an outpouring of effort for revival and renewal. God has planted us here, squarely in the midst of the harvest. God has given us His very presence through His Holy Spirit. He is calling this community to revival like never seen before. He is calling us; who is hearing?


Igniting the world for Christ, one life at a time is our mission. The world about which this speaks is not some foreign and distant place – it is right here in Wilton Manors, in the midst of what has been named Equality Park. That one life at a time is the one closest to you, listening to your words, hearing your tone, your heart. What are they hearing? We need not look any further than our mouths that spit forth the condition of our hearts.


In today's reading from Mark's Gospel we hear Jesus explaining to the disciples the importance of the Kingdom of God in the light of the Gospel. He had already clarified to them the meaning of the seeds falling on various soils with emphasis that they (and subsequently we) become fertile soil from which the Gospel may grow. Christ is depicted numerous occasions in scripture as "light" that has come into the world. Often, the Kingdom of God is referenced as "light." Jesus is saying to them that just as you would not bring a lighted lamp into a darkened room and hide it under a bowl where it would eventually be extinguished or under a bed where the light is obscured, so then we are not to obscure or hide the light of Christ that is to shine in us, but rather bring it out in the open. When was the last time the light of Christ shown from you? This sermon is not intended to be a guilt trip. It's intended to be a wakeup call! It's time for many of us to get past the baby food and get to the adult substance. It's time we stopped dilly dallying around with gossip and complaints about the perpetual injustice done to us by those who aren't doing things MY WAY and get to what's really going on – self-seeking, self-indulgent, self-serving sin in our own lives that we're too much baby to own up to! If my light is not shining with the love of Christ, it's not anyone else who has hidden it or caused it to dim…it's my sin – the holy trinity of me, myself, and I. If you're hearing this still as a guilt trip, it's only proof of your own self-worship! You, I, or the greatest Saint – will never measure up – accept it, give up the trying - accept the mercy that has already been given by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live in the grace that He affords. In the words of another preacher I've heard – "repent from trying and all the mess it causes, accept His forgiveness and let His light shine in you." And if you don't – don't worry, you'll continue to get what you've always gotten because that's what you've always been so consumed by. In the economics of God's kingdom, less is more! Less self gives room for more of Him.


We seek to have our own way – manifest our own destiny – pull all our own strings and wonder why we feel angry, alienated, frustrated, and alone. If it is to be, it is up to me! Want to know by what measure you'll be judged on the next side of eternity? The measure you're using on this side is the one by which you'll be measured. The prophet Micah wrote: "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." To act justly – to love mercy – and walk with God as His humble creation. Then His light can shine; then Christ can be seen as you stroll the aisles of the supermarket, sip a latte with friends at the bucks, do the next bench press or deep knee bend at the gym; then Christ can be seen as you peruse the Drive, commit the commute, or tweet with your peeps.


Revival, folks is not an event, a meeting, a service, a glory hallelujah –praise the Lord. Revival is a person - Jesus Christ allowed either for the first time or again as central to your life. Revival doesn't happen out there someplace – He happens right here in our heart. It is we who have been called to be His Body – a shining light, a beacon in this stormy sea –right here in the Island City. So I'm saying today; stop the bellyaching, backbiting, bickering about what's not important and start letting Him take first place in your life. If you can't, you're looking for love in all the wrong places here. If you're not supporting His church with all you can give, you're fooling yourself into believing it's everyone else's responsibility. Get real, get serious about the Man – Jesus who is here to take way the self-centeredness of the world and teach us from within; "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."


Got light? Let him shine!