Sunday, July 25, 2010

Giving Responsibly

"Giving Responsibly"

Proverbs 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center

July 25, 2010


A scientist approached God and said, "Listen, we've decided we no longer need you. Nowadays, we can clone people, transplant hearts and do all kinds of things that were once considered miraculous."God patiently heard him out, and then said, "All right. To see whether or not you still need me, why don't we have a man making contest?" "Okay, great!" the scientist said. "Now we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam," God said. "That's fine," replied the scientist, and bent to scoop up a handful of dirt. "Whoa," God said, shaking his head. "Not so fast, pal. You get your own dirt."

Two weeks ago we established that God owns everything. He never transferred title to any of His creation. If God owns everything, He's also in control. If He is in control, then His promise to provide for our needs is true. Last week we established that God expects us to manage what He has given us as good stewards. Being a good steward of His blessing is managing in a way that does not put us in the debt of others to the degree that God cannot come first. Today we learn about giving responsibly; our investment for eternity.

I was reading this week where the Bible contains about 500 verses relating to faith, about 500 relating to prayer and about 2000 relating to money. I wondered why; then I paused to remember the words of Jesus to "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." (Matthew 22:37-39) Why wouldn't scripture speak more to that which so easily gets in the way of putting God first? In all those verses about money or wealth, or possessions and the management thereof, there are common themes from which we can learn.


  1. Attitude is at the heart of giving! If giving is out of duty or in any way causes a grudge, it will be used to His glory, but your gift is only a wound to you. We're instructed to give out of a heart of love. A young mother, desiring to teach her five year old daughter the virtue of giving, handed her daughter a one dollar bill and a quarter. She instructed her to give at offering time from her heart. After service, the mother eager to hear her child's story asked; "well, did you give the dollar or the quarter for offering?" The child responded: "I was going to give the dollar, but then the man in the pulpit said God loves a cheerful giver and I just knew I'd be more cheerful with a dollar than a quarter, so I gave the quarter." This is not the attitude the scripture describes, however. God instructs us on two points of attitude about giving.
  • Giving with a heart of love! John 3:16 tells us "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…" God's greatest gift to us, forgiveness, redemption, life eternal with the Divine- given from a heart of love. It is with that same motivated heart that God asks us to give back to Him. Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 13:3 "If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing." The way of this world would have us to believe that we need to get some return on our giving. Look at the "Founders Circle" next door. It's on the wall for all to see – those who contribute at a certain level to the work of the center. Praise God they are able to operate because of donations! Placing our name on a plaque does not put God first. Scripture speaks to this from Jesus' words in Matthew 23:23. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
  • Give with a cheerful heart! Paul instructed the believers at the church in Corinth in this way: "Each man should give what he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."(2 Corinthians 9:7) Reluctantly means with a heart of loss, sorrow, grief, even grudgingly. If you've given with these on your heart, or if you've avoided giving to avoid these feelings, take that to God and ask Him to reveal to you a better way. He knows the condition of your heart even better than you do. Invest your time with him. You'll get a heavenly return!
  1. Put God first in your giving! The pastor of a small church in Africa answered the knock on his door to see a young boy who was attending his church standing before him with a large flapping fish and a big healthy smile. "What's this?" the pastor asked. The young lad said "the Bible teaches us that we are to bring the first fruits of our labor – out tithe to the church. This is my tithe." The pastor inquired; "where are the other nine fish?" The boy responded; "they're in the lake waiting for me to catch them." Proverbs 3:9 tells us "Honor the Lord from your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops." We know that God doesn't exist because of our money, but God exists BEFORE our money and He provides far beyond our money. Giving to Him the first portion of our earnings is putting our money where our heart truly lies.
  2. Tithing is the Biblical standard! There are those who argue against such a standard, but scripture always takes us back to the tithe or 10% being the foundation, not the limit! In the Old Testament, tithes and additional offerings were common. The New Testament expounds on the foundation of tithes and offerings by instructing us to give in proportion to what we have received. Jesus took it a step further as He praised sacrificial giving in Mark 12:42-44. "A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny…Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.'" Remember the story of the African widow who had not a penny to her name? She sat by each week as folks brought the tithe of crops and offering as the Lord led. One day the widow came forward a laid four gold coins on the altar and went back to her seat with a gleaming smile. The Pastor, knowing she was destitute feared she had stolen the coins, so he asked her; "where did you get the offering you made this morning?" She responded that she so much wanted to give back to God her gratitude for having saved her soul that she had sold herself into slavery to a local farmer and had given the whole amount to the Lord! God gave His all for us…He asks that we honor Him with our first 10%!
  3. Giving is a blessing! Not only are all the things we own, we earn, we share, we breathe a blessing from God, He exalts the blessing we express when we give back. Acts 20:35 tells us: "…Remember the words of the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" This would indicate that the greater blessing lies not in what we have received, but in what we are giving. This is not to diminish the importance of the blessings received. So, how does giving deliver blessings to us?
  • Our hearts are drawn toward Christ! Remember the scripture "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."? (Matthew 6:21) When we're instructed to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…our giving is directed toward Him. When we give to Him, our hearts are drawn to Him.
  • Our character is transformed to His! The purpose of our Christian walk is to develop our character like that of Christ. The character of Christ is not selfish, nitpicking, and self-centered. His character is one founded in giving totally of self for the sake of the Kingdom. Giving helps Him to transform our character.
  • We build eternal treasures! You've heard me quote our former Pastor who said; "life here is just the kindergarten for eternity." How we deal with life this side of eternity is the proving ground for how we face life on the other side. Matthew 6:20 tells us, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
  • He gives us greater return! Remember from our scripture reading this morning? 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11 "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."Now he who supplies seed to the sewer and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." Paul wasn't just whistling Dixie with these words! God returns to us an increase not so we can gloat over what a great return for our giving, but rather a return so that we may give even more! Giving to receive is watering the wrong seed.


Our giving is toward the work of Christ in this community and beyond. This Body of Christ reaches far beyond the walls of this building. Through the technology afforded through the gifts of money and skills, we reach globally with the message of grace and mercy for all. Our messages are viewed not only by those here in South Florida, but also in other parts of this country, in UK, in France, in Russia, in Italy, in Poland, in India, Australia, and even Kosovo. We got an email this week from brothers in Kosovo asking if we had missions there. They are hungry for the fellowship of like believers. The Bible is clear that we are to support the work of our local church with our tithes and offerings. What you give is between you and God, and God has placed all of us here to be a part of His body, giving from our hearts overflowing with gratitude for everything we receive. What is standing in your way of putting Him first in all of your life?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Slave No Longer

"A Slave No Longer"

(Freedom from Debt)

Psalm 37:21; Romans 13:8-14

Pastor Tom Millner

SpiritSong Worship Center

July 18, 2010


Last week we established that God owns everything. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and never transferred title! If God created and owns everything, He controls everything as well. Since God owns and controls everything, He will provide for our needs. Because He provides for our needs, our response back to Him in love is to be good stewards of what He gives us to manage. Today we talk about managing debt.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say it's a sin to have debt. Having debt is not a sin. The Bible does discourage debt, however, often because debt can be the consequence of sin. We're indebted to someone when we have borrowed money or possessions that have an agreed upon value. In ancient times, debt was literally a form of slavery. One person was enslaved to the other for a specified period of time until the agreed upon debt had been repaid. We're appalled at such an idea today, but just look at how many of us have lost the freedom to spend and save what we earn because we are enslaved to the bills for debts past. Proverbs 22: 7 reaffirms this notion; "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

Debt in the Old Testament was often described as the consequence of disobedience. As Moses was instructing the Israelites as to keeping the Law in the new land, he speaks in Deuteronomy 28 of the multiples of "curses" that would be the consequence of disobedience to the Law of God. Deuteronomy 28:15 opens the assertion with "If you do not obey the Lord your God…." Then verse 43 picks up "The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher…he will lend to you, but you will not lend to him…" Conversely, freedom from debt was described as the "reward" for obedience. Looking again at Deuteronomy 28, verses 1-2 begin; "If you fully obey the Lord your God…all these blessings will come upon you…" The verse 12 states: "You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none." What is significant here in both instances is not so much the debt, but the importance of commitment to obedience to God's Law of love.

Furthermore, debt presumes on the future! The last time I checked, fortune telling is not one of the spiritual gifts! Getting into debt presumes that we will be in a financial situation that will afford the payback. James 4:13-15 states: "You who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and also do this or that.'"

The Bible instructs us to pay back our debt. Romans 13:8 states "Let no debt remain outstanding…" Psalm 37:21 states: "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.


Why is it so easy for us to get into debt?

  • Ignorance: We lack the knowledge to handle money God's way. This is not a sin, it's simply ignorance. I've often stated that ignorance does not have to be terminal…it's curable.
  • Poor planning and discipline: In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Alice was asked where she was going by the Mad Hatter. "I don't know," she replied. He responded; "That's OK if you don't know where you're going – you'll wind up somewhere!" Without a budget or plan for spending and saving, many people go beyond their income and have more month than the end of their money. James 4:13 tells us "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."
  • Self-Gratification: We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want when we want it. We believe the lie that "if only this, that, or the other possession, experience, event could happen for me, then my life would be more complete, whole, sound." Peace and satisfaction cannot be found in earthly possessions or experiences. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." Scripture tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the "things" we need will be added.
  • Unexpected events in our lives: In the event of job loss, death, unexpected emergencies and the like, are often reasons why we incur debt. Debt may be considered a necessity to get through the event.


Let's look at some ways we can get out of debt! (Psalm 37:21 says "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously."

  1. Go to God in prayer, seeking His help and guidance. This step is vital to keep us out of debt as well. If God owns everything, is in control of everything and will provide for our needs, why wouldn't we seek His guidance with everything? 2 Kings 4:1-7 tells of a widow who was threatened with losing her children to her deceased husband's creditor. She asked Elisha for help. Elisha asks her what she owns now. She said "only a little oil." Then Elisha told her to go a borrow empty jars from her friends and neighbors, close herself in her house with her sons and begin to pour oil into the jars. She did as she was told and there was enough oil to fill all of the empty jars. She then went and sold the oil and satisfied her dead husband's debt. You see, God has ways beyond our means and He means for us to access them!
  2. Start giving routinely! This sounds counter intuitive, but scripture tells us to honor God first with what we have. In Malachi 3:8-10 we read where putting God first is full of rewards. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 'In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'"
  3. Don't acquire new debt! Stop borrowing money. Every time you swipe that credit card, you are borrowing from someone else!
  4. Establish a budget. Make a plan and work the plan.
  5. Make a list of your assets. Proverbs 27:23 tells us "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds…" Within some of your assets may be resources that you could sell that would reduce your debt.
  6. List everything that you owe. Having a written figure in front of you gives hard evidence for you to work with.
  7. Create a debt repayment schedule. Again, Psalm 37:21 reads "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously." Contact your creditors if you payments are higher than your income after tithing and saving. Most of them are willing to work with you as long as you communicate and follow through. A good strategy is to pay off the smallest debts with the highest interest rates first. Once that dept is paid off, take that payment and add it to another one to pay it off faster.
  8. Investigate ways to earn extra income. Getting a second job (part time) may be an option for getting out and staying out of debt.
  9. Live radically – reduce spending! Think and act differently about your way of living. Romans 12:1-2 reminds 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."
  10. Keep the faith – don't give up. Stay faithful to Him…He has been faithful to you!


Remember, debt is not a sin. The Bible doesn't speak to when debt is acceptable, however. Home mortgages, business loans, education loans (all which promise to give a return) are within the realm of reason. Just remember three rules:


  • Make debt the exception rather than the rule.
  • Repay as soon as possible.
  • Create a plan.


Matthew 6:33 tells us from the words of Jesus: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." God wants us to honor Him first and foremost – with our time, talent and tithes –not because of what we will get back, but because we have already been given!

A tax assessor came one day to a poor Christian to determine the amount of taxes he would have to pay. The following conversation took place:
"What property do you possess?" asked the assessor.
"I am a very wealthy man," replied the Christian.
"List your possessions, please," the assessor instructed.
The Christian said:
"First, I have everlasting life, John 3:16
Second, I have a mansion in heaven, John 14:2
Third, I have peace that passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7
Fourth, I have joy unspeakable, 1 Peter 1:8
Fifth, I have divine love which never fails, 1 Corinthians 13:8
Sixth, I have a faithful spouse, Proverbs 31:10
Seventh, I have healthy, happy obedient children, Exodus 20:12
Eighth, I have true, loyal friends, Proverbs 18:24
Ninth, I have songs in the night, Psalms 42:8
Tenth, I have a crown of life, James 1:12
The tax assessor closed his book, and said, "Truly you are a very rich man, but your property is not subject to taxation."


Real treasure is found in the debt that has been paid through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Living Responsibly

Living Responsibly

Luke 16:1-15

Pastor Tom Millner

July 11, 2010

SpiritSong Worship Center



I read this week that the Bible contains more than 2,350 verses dealing with money and possessions. Why would God's WORD contain so many references to what we work for, save for, look for, yearn for, and often live for? The answer is both in the question and in his Word; "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3) And when Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees as to which was the greatest of the commandments He replied: "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." (Matthew 22: 37-40)

Knowing that money, our possessions or what we desire to possess is at the heart of competition for Christ's lordship in our lives, God has given us guidelines on handling these competitors. Most of the time when we hear sermons about wealth or money, they are focused toward tithing or giving, but the bulk of scriptural instruction is around earning, spending and managing money in a way that honors God.

Let's look at who is responsible for what! (God and us)

  1. God owns everything! Psalm 24:1 reads "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Genesis 1:1 reminds us "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." He never transferred that ownership to anyone else, but He did give us the task of caretaking! We treat our income, or job, our home, our car, our credit line, as though it were ours and ours alone, seldom if ever giving recognition to God who is the supplier of all. Yet when we are threatened with the loss of any of it out of economic downturns or poor management on our part, we cry out "oh God; help me!"
  2. God is in control! Roman's 8:28 reminds us that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Psalm 135:6 tells us "The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth. We can be assured that whatever pleases Him will be for ultimate good. We often waste our time asking "why," when a much more productive question would be; "How can I honor Him in this?" Joseph, when sold into slavery must have asked himself why this was happening to him. Later he realized "It was not you (brothers) who sent me here, but God…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 45:5,8; 50:20)
  3. God will provide for our needs! Matthew 6:33 reminds us to "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all the things (food, clothing, shelter) will be given to you as well." Paul asserts to the believers in Philippi that "My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."(Philippians 4:19). God doesn't specify HOW He's going to meet all our needs, He just affirms that He will meet all our needs. We get lost in our wants and lose sight of the need that underpins them. The true value of a ¼ inch drill, for instance, is not the battery life, the torque, the versatility of the fittings, or the utility of its storage; the value is in the hole it makes!


Where does our responsibility lie?

  1. God made us stewards over His creation! In Genesis 1 we are told of God's intent for mankind as ruler over what had been created. A more precise translation or interpretation is to be manager or steward over what has been given. When we as a people are not good stewards of the land, air, water, and animals that He has trusted to our care, we fail to live up to the call He's made for all of us.
  2. He asks us to be faithful to Him! Just as God is faithful to supply our needs according to His riches in heaven, He asks us to be faithful with what He supplies. We are not faithful so that we can measure up to His standard and therefore be justified before Him. We are justified by the blood of Christ only. So we are faithful to give back good management of that to which we have been entrusted. This means being faithful stewards of all we have! Not only are we to be faithful with our 10% tithe, but also with the 90% over which He has given us reign. He wants us to manage in a way that is honoring and pleasing to Him. Managing in such a way that distracts us constantly because of worry about dept, poor investments, or more month than money, keeps us from putting Him first in our thoughts and actions. Luke 16:10 from today's reading reminds us that "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
  3. It is to our benefit to be faithful! Jesus said in John 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Being faithful to Him with what He has entrusted us brings us close to Him, provides us opportunities to grow our character more like His. How we handle money and possessions reveals much about our character. That's an indicator of our spiritual condition. I hear people say all the time "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual." Yet, those same people fudge, maneuver, connive, and indulge their own whims at the expense of others. What's "spiritual" about that? They're really about as "spiritual" as a hangnail! God calls us in virtually every circumstance to seek the opportunity to find the opportunity to grow in the character of Christ. Salvation is more than a fire insurance policy – it's a lifelong commitment to build and eternal character. This life is the kindergarten to eternity. What we learn here will sustain us! Learning to live response-ably with what He has entrusted us reaps blessings.


Whether God has entrusted you with two cents or millions of assets, His desire for you is to honor Him with all He has entrusted. Today's world is fraught with extremes of thinking. One extreme is that godliness can only occur in poverty. It is not the condition of your wallet that matters to God, it is the condition of your heart. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 reads; "I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and keep His commands… and the Lord your God will bless you…" The Bible does not say that a godly person must live in poverty. Conversely, there is the extreme thought that ever Christian who TRULY has faith will always prosper financially. This is also false. Look at the life of Joseph. From a family of wealth, sold into slavery (impoverished) to grow to a rank of wealth and influence, but chose not to commit adultery and then cast back into poverty, to rise again to be mastermind to the saving of a nation from poverty. God was glorified in the end, not Joseph. Whether rich or poor, in need or holding your own, God desires your heart be on Him and that the management of your life be a reflection of Him. He calls us not to the doing of "Christian" but rather to the being Christ like.







Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Declaration of Interdependence

"The Declaration of Interdependence"

Pastor Tom Millner

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:17-32


The human body is so amazing, so magnificent, and so complex and interconnected that modern science has yet to completely understand it. Each of us is a living, breathing miracle! From the fusion of two tiny germ cells (an egg and a sperm), grows a totally unique individual human being, unlike any other that has ever existed before, yet genetically tied to all others of its species. So unique, so different are we; yet so alike in so many ways. We are designed by the master artist as a divine reflection of the Creator in whose presence we walk, eat, drink, love, battle, surrender, sleep, wrestle, destroy and build.

We Americans like our independence. Still considered the most powerful nation in the world, we have built a society that values individual freedom and expression, yet relies upon cooperation and collaboration to maintain that freedom. Sometimes we have to be reminded that our individual freedoms come at a cost and cannot supersede what is good for the whole of the nation. We recite the pledge that we are "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Yet we battle one another verbally and sometimes physically over ideologies or ways of thinking that are at odds with one another. We have grown to understand this as the American way! Some even embrace it as God's way, that in that way majority rules. Political strategists reason that as opinion is swayed so is the action of the vote and one candidate wins over another. As the head is bent, so goes the body. We pride ourselves on our individuality yet live our lives under the influence of the latest fashion, progressive idea, perceived thrill, or distractive opportunity. We seek intimacy with another because the creator saw our need to not be alone. Two people filled with the thrill of how "I" feel in the presence of the other come together with two "I's" that often never seem to see the value in "one" body (the unit). Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (the yearnings of our heart) will be given to you as well." We're all seeing one another with a blurred vision, obscured by a self-view that is far from accurate. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our redeemer and friend, we are saying that we are now making Him the Lord of our life which means the Lord of our life who ruled before must be put away. That lord that is rejected is the one that has ruled self to its destructive end, who has never seen self clearly, understood the value of self fully, nor worked truly for self-good! Many of us miss the true nature of our salvation experience when we perceive it only as "fire insurance." We act like we're telling ourselves that "now eternity is secure so I'll just go about this life living it the way I think best and expect that in every way I'll be blessed! The first time we hit a rough spot (I have a problem or some other Christian doesn't affirm me) we blame them for not being the light of Christ to us.

Accepting Christ into our lives is more than the purchase of fire insurance. It is the act of dying to the old warped, distorted view of self; letting go of the need to be the prosecutor, judge and jury, and allowing our minds, thoughts, and actions to be molded into the very character of the one whose perfect sacrifice for us made it possible to gain back our eternal divine image! I am not who I think I am; I am not who you say I am; I am who He says I am. Romans 12:1-2 reads; "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." Can it be His perfect will that we seek anything that comes before our honor and worship of Him? NO! Want insight on your next decision, next interaction, next interpretation of circumstances? Seek Him first. Get in His presence; get in His WORD! And remember, you're not alone!

We are as tied to each other in this Body of Christ as hair is to skin, as pigment is to color or as vein is to heart. Our individual identity is divinely connected by the One who lives within us, comforting us, shepherding us toward the shelter that is the very character of Christ. Our human, genetic nature wants to fly in the face of our divine identity. That divine identity supersedes our own flight pattern and seeks to elevate us to a place where we soar to far greater heights than we ever imagined possible. As individuals, we constantly thwart the soaring path by inserting our own flight plan that is tainted with our limited vision of the entire terrain. Do you know what's in store for you tomorrow? Neither do I; but I know the One who does and I'll trust His flight plan over mine. And, His flight plan includes all of us flying in formation; as one flock; interdependent upon the position and movement of each other. Every movement we make affects the others in the flock. We either lift them up or tear them down; but whether lifting or tearing down we are still a part of His divine plan and a part of His divine flock, soaring in His direction. That's one of the miracles we experience in Him.

A miracle is something that happens that seems to have had no other explanation. The very fact that we live and breathe and are here to see, listen to, and experience one another is a miracle. Each time we surrender to the sound of His voice and not the beating of our own rants, we experience a miracle of grace in our lives. I've witnessed several miracles just this week and I'm ever so grateful for each of them. Miracles happen all the time; we don't always look for them or seek them because we're too tied up in our own flight plan.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus instructs them in the better way, being one in the body of Christ, led by His Spirit. He said: "22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood (false perception of self) and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body."
26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

I read a story this week about the life God calls us to live. There was an evangelistic crusade happening in an African nation. A Zulu woman attended and accepted Christ as her savior. She knew her life would forever be changed because her husband had forbid her from even associating with the likes of those Christians. She couldn't get enough of fellowship and study in His WORD. One day, suspicious that something was going on, her husband followed her to witness her meeting with other Christians and learning from the Bible being shared. As she was on her way home, he jumped her along the path and beat her to the point of near death. He left her there on the path to die. Later, he had second thoughts about losing her so he went to find her where he had left her. She wasn't there, but he noticed a blood stained new path made by his wife who had crawled through the brush to a shade tree. He followed the path to find her beaten and broken body near a shade tree. He reached down, turned her over and looked into her eyes as he said; "so what is your Jesus doing for you now?" She replied through swollen lips "He's helping me to forgive you." She was being freed from the version of old self and being transformed into the new member of Christ's body!

So today we declare our independence from the tyranny of the old self; full of false perceptions of who we are, who we need to be, and who we feel we must be. And having done so, we declare our interdependence upon each other for the miracle of living out the grace and mercy that each of us has been given. In so doing, we clothe ourselves in the garments of truth before our Lord and each other, fulfilling the purpose of our creation and the desires of our hearts!