Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Kingdom Life

"Kingdom Life"

Scripture: Jeremiah 17:7-10; Luke 17:20-21

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center


Adam and Steve longed for a place to worship as a couple. They decided they would check out the First Self Righteous Church on Main Street. On Sunday morning they got dressed with the anticipation of worship. When they arrived the greeter welcomed them with a tentative eye and seated them three rows from the front. Pastor Cornelius was strolling down the aisle scanning the pews when he noticed Steve clasping warmly to the hand of Adam. The service was about to begin so he hurried to the pew where the young men sat. He asked them to kindly follow him as he led them directly to the front steps of the church. "We do not welcome your kind here," he said, and turned to swiftly assume his position at the pulpit. Adam and Steve sat on the front steps of that church and wept in each other's arms. Suddenly, they each felt a hand on one shoulder. They looked up and there was the face of Jesus staring back at them. "I know just how you feel" Jesus said; "I've been trying to get into that church for years."

Today's sermon is about life in the Kingdom. One writer explained that the Kingdom of God is right now and not yet. In our scripture today, we read about Jesus describing the Kingdom as within us – not out there somewhere or someplace obscure. If the Kingdom of God is within, why are so many living without?

John 3:16-18 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." So, when is that eternal life? NOW! Where does it begin? WITHIN! The moment one believes and trusts that God's WORD is true regarding Jesus and His purpose, one then steps into the Kingdom eternally. And all is bliss and peace and void of all suffering from that point on, right? WRONG! That mustard seed of faith, that kernel of the Kingdom does not bring the world's version of bliss to unfurl before us. In fact, the Kingdom never unfolds to be like our world view. You see, our trust in God has nothing to do with our circumstances here. If our trust in God were contingent upon our circumstances, then our trust would only be present when times were good. Hmmm; sounds familiar, doesn't it? Living the Kingdom life transcends the circumstance of this physical world. It sustains us in the face of trials, heartaches, disappointments, grief, suffering and pleasures. It is the substance of things not seen; it is our hope in the face of hopelessness. When Jesus asserts in Matthew to "…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well," He wasn't whistling "Dixie." He had the Kingdom life in mind.

The "Kingdom Life" is so vastly different from the life we know. We strive to climb the corporate ladder in this world – in the Kingdom life; we fall to the servant's quarters. In this world, we expect to be rewarded and or acknowledged for the service we give; in the Kingdom Life we serve the One who has acknowledged us by His blood and rewarded us with life eternal in His presence! In this world, we seek to live an adult and independent life. In the Kingdom Life we become like little children, not seeking "rights" but the joy of fellowship in family, knowing that our parent has everything under control. In this world, we invest to see our fortunes grow (or so we hope). In the Kingdom Life we relinquish any right to earthly fortune with recognition that His kingdom first is sufficient to sustain for all eternity. If all I have and all I've gained amounts to nothing in the Kingdom; why seek the Kingdom?

Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world during his time. Where is his gain today? Howard Hughes was considered the father of modern aviation and was the world's wealthiest man at one time. Where is his wealth today? Marilyn Monroe was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time. Where is her beauty today? Why seek the Kingdom? Because that Kingdom is eternal! For the Christian, today is the day of eternity. Today has everlasting and ever after consequences. God calls us to seek Him today; call upon Him today, and today's needs will be met for eternity!

I often hear complaints of how this, that, or the other isn't "moving me" or encouraging me, or inspiring me. Complaints of not getting out of service what has been put in – not up to a certain standard of perfection in that person's perception. The task to which we are called in the Kingdom life is that of sustaining our rigor in the quest of living in the character of Christ. Paul stated it brilliantly in his letter to the Philippians where he states: "(2:1) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,(2:2) then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.(2:3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.(2:4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.(2:5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:(2:6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,(2:7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.(2:8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!(2:9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,(2:10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,(2:11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

One cannot sustain the Kingdom life and complain about the condition of one's circumstances. One cannot complain about what one hasn't and sustain a presence that seeks Him first.

The Kingdom Life is not some obscure thing; it is right here, right now, and yet to come. We are called to sustain our vigilance in seeking our presence therein.


Are you and complainer or a sustainer?










Monday, April 12, 2010

Life Among The Living

"Life Among The Living"

John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; Philippians 4:4-8

Pastor Tom Millner



Last week we challenged our thinking about seeking life among the dead. We challenged the false hopes that if we just had enough love (as we believe we need to see love) or if we can just create ourselves to reflect all the goodness of our expressions, we'd have a rich and full life. We concluded; "that dog don't hunt!"

So if life is not to be found among the dead promises of love lost and regained, and a world self-created, where are we to look? Today we'll explore not only where to look but also where to live. In John's Gospel today we read; John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." The thief, folks, is the illusion that we are always (or need to be) in control, have everything be beautiful in its own way, or that if it makes me feel good (even if for a moment), then do it! It's the same thief that said to Eve; "You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:4-5. So then, Adam and Eve and all generations since have believed the lie that there are no consequences to doing our own thing and being our own creation (our own god). We don't even like hearing these words because we feel we've been so suppressed and beaten down by the legalist of the so called evangelical right. So the thief would have us believe that the baby is just a part of the bathwater that needs to be thrown out, poured down the drain, or otherwise discarded. So we toast with our apple martini as we hum the tune "I Did It My Way." We repeat the garden scenario and blame an oppressive world, government, religion, each other, and even God for the consequences of our choices. Time to get out of that grave, folks! The new Adam has arrived who bore all the consequences of everyone's poor choices, rectified the rebellion against what is pure and holy, and was re-birthed after dying to those things. When we accept that, folks, the new Adam lives in us, crafting a new creation in His image – the image of Christ. What do we do with this?

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Paul goes on to say in verse 19 "that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." Folks, this IS the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Christ didn't come to make us rich and famous, (He's not concerned with possessions or human recognitions – neither for nor against) nor did He come to make us like the rest of the world (He's perfectly satisfied with how He created us); He came to restore the relationship with God that has been broken by our own self will. New creation – created anew- recreated!

In the original creation account God created humans in His own image. God's perfect plan for us was to always be reflecting that divine image. When mankind decided we could do it like God, that image was forever broken. You see, the created can never be the creator – there's only room for one creator. This act of human rebellion still goes on today. It's rampant even in churches! We rebel against the Word of God and we put Him second, third, or fourth in our lives – wherever we can fit Him in. We create all sorts of idols that take our full attention – we call it self-esteem, relationship, obligation, survival – whatever we choose to name that which comes before Him in our lives. God knew we would never get it on our own, so He devised a plan that would give us a chance at new life. So, God sent the second Adam – Christ, who did it the divine way. His character was like His heavenly Father. He took upon Himself the weight of selfishness of all humanity – past, present, and future. He was crushed under its weight, but He was not destroyed. He overcame the grave and lives victorious today – not in some remote and obscure village in Tibet, but in the hearts and lives of every single one of us who believes in Him. Because of Him we are new creations – in His image… When God looks at us, He sees Christ. What Paul is reminding us in His writing today is that when we acknowledge that we are new creations in Him (being created anew) we act out of the new creation that we are, not out of that to which we have died. I dare say there are few of us who can honestly profess that we do even a fair job of living out of the new creations we are each day. It's against our old nature and it's a battle. We, folks, are not defeated in this battle. It has already been won for us!! We are called to seek the victory each and every moment of each and every day. We are called to conform to the image of Christ – His character. (Romans 12:12) So often, however, we seek to recreate Him in our own image. That's playing in the graveyard again.

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



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Empty Search

"The Empty Search"

Scripture: Luke 24:1-12

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center



I came across a story this week as I was reading. A teacher in a children's Sunday school class asked the meaning of Easter. Little Amy raised her hand in excitement. "OK Amy," said the teacher; "What is the meaning of Easter?" Amy replied; "Easter is when Jesus came forth from the grave –AND IF HE SEES HIS SHADOW, HE WILL HAVE TO GO BACK IN FOR 7 WEEKS!" Little Amy was confused, but so are many others who look for life where there is none!

In today's scripture we read "4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" The significance of this day that we celebrate is that of new life – life that is new from the one gone before – a new life without the confines of keeping score, of living up to a standard unreachable, unattainable on our own. The followers of Jesus thought He was going to deliver them from the tyranny of Rome and establish a Kingdom on earth in which they could serve in positions as the "elect." Not only were they grieving the loss of their friend and teacher – the man Jesus, but they were also grieving the loss of a dream they had maintained. They did not know at that time that the law of sin and death has been superseded by the act of grace and mercy that the resurrection embodies. As human beings, however, we gravitate back to the empty tomb and look for life among the dead. Here are some ways we look for life where there is none.


  1. "All You Need Is LOVE." Words to the song made popular 43 years ago by the Beattles holds no more truth today than it did when it was first penned. I've heard it said that a partial truth is still a lie. You see, the part that is true is that all we really need is the love of God – but the song never goes to Him, it stays in the temporal, the human, as the world sees it. There are volumes of lyrics about love and the promises it holds for peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy. No wonder when we're feeling ill at ease, dissatisfied, unfulfilled and joyless; we blame it on the lack of love. "I wasn't loved enough as a child; the Church rejects me; my partner left me; if I could just get enough love, I'd be alright." So we seek after that lost love by chasing after anything or anyone that holds the promise (fantasy) of fulfillment. We're often so love starved, we tell ourselves, that instead of seeking out Mr. or Ms. Right, we settle for Mr. or Ms. Will-do for the moment – even for the night – opening the door to even greater loneliness and need for fulfillment in the next moment. That's seeking life among the dead –not that those in whom we come in contact are dead – but that which we seek is ultimately not to be found there. In other terms; "that dog don't hunt." Because we believe the lie that we're unlovable, even by God, we can so easily try to drown our desperation in mind altering substances and experiences. The level of drug, alcohol, and sex use in our community to escape what is perceived to be reality is mind boggling. Again, so many are looking for life among the dead! Empty promises, false hopes, broken dreams among the dead. The Good News is that what we seek is to be found among the living! Jesus is quoted in John 10:10; "…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus came; He saved us from our own imperfection, and by virtue of His victory over sin and death, gave us a position of kinship in the family of God that we don't really deserve! For many of us, that just seems too good to be true, so we go back to the place of the dead expecting to find life.
  2. "I am my own special creation." Many of us remember these words from La Cage and smile at the parody of one man's quest to create his own reality. Comedy is funny because it allows us to approach aspects of our lives that we otherwise gloss over. Each of us believes on some level that we can be our own creation. We seek control over our circumstances, over our finances, over our activities, so that we will be fulfilled; at peace; "actualized." We seek self-help books and gurus who lure us with the promises of the perfectly kept life. We even follow TV preachers who insist that God wants all his people to be wealthy and prosperous. They use scripture out of context to support their assertions. Those who don't readily participate in the bounty of wealth and health, however, ask themselves what they've done wrong to bring about God's disfavor. The message of grace is displaced by the condition of disgrace that is experienced by the less than successful in the world view. Don't get me wrong; God is not against health or wealth. What Jesus railed against was the placing of one's significance or value either in one's own eyes or in the superimposed eyes of God on one's condition of health, wealth, control, position, gender, orientation, political affiliation, place of origin or racial identity as the measure of one's value. Even John 10:10 is misused here; "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." In Matthew when the "rich young ruler" came to Jesus and asked him what he must do to inherit the eternal life, Jesus responded to him by asserting that first he must live the commandments. The man responded that he had lived up to the legal requirements of the Law. Knowing his heart, Jesus said to the man; "…go, sell your possessions and give to the poor…" The young man left sad because he had great wealth. God's not interested in our wallets, but He is interested in the hand that's connected to the heart that controls it! Jesus lauded the widow who gave the mite (the only two nickels she had to rub together) and chastised the giving with fanfare – not because of the sum of the giving but because of the portion that was from the heart! The widow gave her all – the giver with fanfare gave only a dramatic enactment. The new life is born in the heart. As the old heart dies, the new one emerges from that place of the dead – to let it grow is our choice!

Today (as with every new day) we celebrate Jesus' victory over the grave – and thus our victory over sin and death because of Him. Where we've looked for security, love, affirmation, or worth outside of Him is an empty grave. Even if we've done magnificent things for the Church, the community, the world – if we've not done them in the joy of His grace and mercy, the works are among the dead.

The Apostle Paul, in his encouragement to the Church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) said: "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We are not to be found among the dead, but rather among the living BECAUSE of Christ and Christ alone! Life among the living is far more rewarding than that among the dead.

In another of Paul's letters to the Church in Philippi (Philippians 4:4-8) he reminds us: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

The empty tomb is God's response to our greatest need! It defines who we are; His; bought with a price, but not possessed against our will; clothed in His righteousness, seen by God as pure and holy – fully measured up before Him. That is the place of the living – how will you continue living there for the joy of your life?