Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Do You Say He Is?

"Who Do You Say He Is?"

Psalms 145:8-13; Mark 8:27-30

Pastor Tom Millner

August 29, 2010


I recall stories about my Grandfather on my mother's side who died decades before I was born. The stories came from two sources; my mother and my grandmother. Grandpa Davis was born in Virginia in the late 1800's to a family of farmers and landowners in an area known as Sutherlin. He became a bit too amorous with a young lady who was not of the family's liking and was sent away to boarding school in Fort Scott Kansas. I still have a letter written to him from my great grandfather while Grandpa was still in Kansas. He returned from Kansas, met my Grandmother Lena, from a more "acceptable" family, got married, purchased a large farm in Caswell County, NC, had six daughters, and played beautiful music on his violin. (I still have that violin) Having a penchant for corn liquor, he visited some neighbors one winter night, imbibed a bit too much, lost his way in the woods coming home, passed out in the frigid cold, caught pneumonia and subsequently died, leaving a wife with six kids, the oldest 15 and the youngest 1. My mother, age 14 at the time of her father's death, recounted her version of him as one to be adored. My grandmother spoke of him lovingly as a distant memory. I judged him as being careless and stupid for drinking his life away and leaving his defenseless family in a world dominated by males. Neither of our versions constitutes the true man who was Walter Keeling Davis.

Likewise, when faced with stating who Jesus is in today's world, we are bombarded with images and phrases and words that carry meanings that are far from the truth of the Man – Jesus.

This week I did a workshop at the Gay Men's Summit. The title of the workshop was "Reconciling Orientation and Christianity." I asked the participants to give a one word response to a term that was presented; such as the word "Christianity." No less than 20 words were then associated with the target term. Many of the words had nothing to do with the true definition of the term "Christianity" but rather were steeped in the layers of personal experiences that each person related to the term. Only when we spelled out the definition of the term being used was the audience then able to see the "baggage" each was carrying that really had nothing to do with the meaning of the term.

We see this unfolding somewhat is today's scripture reading. Jesus and the twelve were traveling in an area about 25 miles northeast of Nazareth (Jesus' home turf). Caesarea Philippi was fraught with temples to other gods, even one atop the mountain to Caesar himself. So, the influence around them was neither Jewish nor Christian, but pagan. Yet, Jesus was preaching to the masses that surrounded Him. When He asked "who do people say I am" He was gathering information about the crowds. When He asks the question; "Who do you say that I am?"He is narrowing in on our personal belief and acknowledgement of His very essence. As evidenced by the historical record and the Gospel accounts, Peter's statement "you are the Christ" was not the end of the declaration, it was just the beginning! Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension revealed even more about WHO He is. Even during His lifetime, people were recognizing Jesus through their own baggage and not through the clarity of His being.


We live in a community here that is hurting – no doubt. BUT we live in a community that keeps on hurting itself by the lies it buys about who Jesus really is! We have so many versions of Jesus floating around that it chokes the waters much like pond scum!


There's the Jesus of judgment – damnation and condemnation!

There's the Jesus of legalism – you "must" do this, that, the other or straight to hell you go.

There's the Santa and Tooth Fairy Jesus – Grant me my wish! Give me, get me!

There's the mythical Jesus – man made stories about a good man who was a loving teacher.

There's the "I got a feeling" Jesus – An experience of euphoria and wonder that confirms in me His presence.

There's the warrior Jesus – set loose to battle the enemy of darkness and death.

There's the "crackpot" Jesus – send me you money and I'll share with you the secret!

There's the "elite" Jesus – He's known only to a select few and we're it.

Then there's the "He's too good for me" Jesus – diminishes the essence of grace and mercy.


I believe that if people saw the Jesus I see, this place would be overflowing! The economy would not be malnourished, the rejected and scorned by the broader Church would be brought center stage into the fold, joining hands with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. There would be no divisions around non essential matters, but rather unity around one central figure – Jesus. But none of that can truly happen, you see, because the Jesus I see is too steeped in the Jesus of me. The identity of Jesus is not found in the follower, but rather the one Who is followed. AND, the identity of Jesus for me is not yet completely revealed – that's the place where I get real before Him, the place where I drop all my barriers, my preconceived ideas and notions of what I need Him to be for me and go to His Word, go to His feet in prayer and supplication and listen and look for what He reveals. Then I can continue to live out my yet to be completed version of the Man who thought I was to die for, the God who graces me with a love that cannot be earned. So who is this man, Jesus?

The Gospel of John is choked full of descriptors of Who Jesus is. As one author says; "as much man as if not God at all and as much God as if not man at all." When John describes the Word, he is appealing to the gentile population who understood the Greek term "logos" from the writings of Aristotle, signifying wisdom and knowledge that exceeds the grasp of the human mind. John boldly declares Jesus' oneness with God.

When we first come to Jesus we do so with a limited version of the real Person. We create our own little "Jesus in a box" which we put on a shelf and take out to play with when the road of life gets too tough to navigate. The key to Christian growth is not in the box on the shelf, but in releasing the boxed in self that limits the power of He who lives in us.

In the world of physics we understand that what we see is nothing more than the shadow or shell of what lies beneath. We know that atoms are made up of sub-atomic particles that can be broken down into even smaller particles. As I look out at you I cannot see the quarks and electrons that constitute your physical structure. What I see is the shadow of what's beneath. I don't have to see them, I know they are there! When we seek to find Christ in our lives, we begin to see the shadow of His presence. The true identity is manifest over time as we let die the version of our self-made Jesus and stay living in the truth of who He is!


Who do you say He is?




Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Soldier, Slave, Savior

Soldier, Slave, Savior

Pastor Leslie Tipton

Luke 7:1-10

August 22, 2010

Today we're going to talk about breaking down some boundaries. Today we're going to talk about crossing over the line. Today…..we're going to talk about making a difference in this world one life at a time. Today we're going to see that the limitations the world puts on us AND the limitations we put on ourselves can be busted through!

The account which we have just read in Luke 7 is really a remarkable account of the great faith of a Gentile soldier, the amazing grace of our Savior, and of the great lengths the characters in this story went to achieve the final results. Luke records that after Jesus wrapped up his Sermon on the Mount, he entered Capernaum. It wasn't as though Jesus taught in the morning and then entered town that afternoon. Capernaum was many miles from where Jesus had been teaching, so this would have been days later. 
We are told about a centurion, a professional officer in the Roman army who would have commanded a unit of about 100 men. The Roman centurion was the equivalent of today's Army Captain, and senior centurion's equivalent to our Majors. This man had probably been charged to keep peace in Capernaum and the surrounding area, had probably lived there for several years and had developed a good relationship with the people. At any rate, our centurion wanted his slave to live, thus the delegation to Jesus for help.


Boundary break number one:
The centurion was a Gentile – an outsider, and while he may have enjoyed a good relationship with the local Jews, he would always be considered an outsider. In fact, while the Jews may have been courteous to him, they despised the Gentiles. They despised anyone who wasn't a Jew and considered them to be outside the grace of God. He could come to the synagogue, but not in it. He could provide food for the Jews, but couldn't eat it with them. He could provide them the freedom to celebrate their feasts, but could not celebrate with them. He was a Gentile: a dog and an enemy of Israel. Not only was he a gentile, he was part of the occupation troops in their nation. A Roman citizen, an enemy of the state, a force not to be reckoned with. And here he is asking Jewish elders to go and get Jesus to heal his servant.


Boundary break number two:

We're also told that he had a slave that was terminally ill, but that this slave was very special to him. Slaves that became too sick to serve their purpose were usually kicked to the curb and left for dead, but those who were especially good would have been hard to replace. But rather than send this servant out into the streets to die, the centurion, in his act of faith, sends a delegation to Jesus to ask for a healing touch. Unheard of!

Boundary break number three:
So this centurion calls in a favor and sends some town elders to meet with Jesus, the great Jew with whom he has no access. But these Jews – they can go and talk with Jesus for him – could they get Jesus to come?

Boundary break number three:
Verse 6 says that Jesus went with them. Major boundary here. It was one thing for the centurion to ask Jesus to come to his home, but now Jesus is actually going. For Jesus to go into that home would be a major societal violation, but yet he is going. We got to be willing to breakdown those societal fences that are put up for no other reason than to deny access to all.

Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball's color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Players would stomp on his feet and kick him. 

While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Jesus was on His way….but as He was going the centurion sent a second delegation, this time with a different message. "Lord, don't trouble yourself because I'm not worthy to have you in my home." He then explains just how well he understands authority and Christ's ability to say the word for a thing to be done.

When Jesus heard all this the Bible says He marveled, then turned to the crowd that was following Him and told them, "I have not found so great faith, no, nowhere in all Israel." When both delegations returned to the centurion's home they found that the slave had been made whole.

This is a remarkable account of the amazing grace of our Savior, the great faith of a Gentile soldier, and of the common misconceptions of the religious people of the day, but understanding the message running through this text and why it's even included here is found in the sermon Jesus preached in chapter 6. 

In Luke 6:27, Jesus said, "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them which curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…" He continues along this same thread, but I want you to drop down to verse 33.

"And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."

Boundary break number four:
Consider Jesus – He gives us a great example of what grace and love ought to look like. He didn't care about social boundaries. This man was a Gentile. He started heading for his house anyway. The man was a Roman soldier, an enemy of Israel. Jesus intended to help him anyway. The centurion was an unwelcome outsider – a stranger to the grace of God. Jesus treated him with grace and compassion. The man was unworthy – but Jesus didn't work on the basis of merit.

Listen; if you've ever doubted the love and grace of God, you ought to reconsider this morning. Jesus doesn't care who you are or where you've been or what you've done. He doesn't care what color you are, how much money you have, whether you grew up in church or not, if you smoke, drink or cuss. It doesn't matter if you're a great big sinner or if you're just getting started – His love for you is the same. He loves His enemies and those who call Him friend. If Jesus were among us today He'd have the same love for Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Hugo Chavez, Ted Bundy or any of the worst people you know that He has for you and me. 

I work for the church, preach and teach through the week, visit the sick, bury the dead, comfort the grieving and tell people about Him, but that doesn't make me any more deserving of His goodness than the guy under the bridge. Do you know why? Because God doesn't operate that way! Why does Jesus do good for His enemies? Why does Jesus love those who hate Him? Why can He bless those who curse Him? How can He love people when He'll get nothing in return? 

I'll tell you why – because He is good. Chapter 6:43 – a good tree can only bear good fruit. He healed this centurion's servant, not because the man was worthy, but because Jesus is inherently good. This man happened to be a pretty good guy, but think of all the others in Scripture who were not good: the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, Saul of Tarsus and more!

Answer this: according to Jesus' sermon, if love is to be extended even to enemies, are there any boundaries limiting the goodness and grace of Jesus' ministry? In other words, is there any boundary that would stop Jesus from doing good in your life or in the life of anyone else? If the answer is no, and it is, then how in the world can we set up boundaries unless we are not being the imitators of Christ we have been called to be? 

The truth of the matter is that you and I, Church of the Holy SpiritSong, have been called to reach our community for Christ. We've been called to be salt and light. We've been called to share the good news. We've been called to do good to others, period. If you've found yourself struggling to do good to those around you…if you've been prompted by God to do good to others but ran up against a wall – some boundary that kept you from ministering to them, then you need to recognize that you're guilty of the same sins the Jewish leaders were guilty of. You need to repent of it and surrender those boundaries to Christ. He tore the veil in two when He died on Calvary. Everyone has free and open access to Him. If you've erected another veil that's keeping someone from coming to Christ then my friend you need to tear it down, get it out of the way before God gets you out of the way. 

I believe every one of you has at least some desire to be like Christ. You want to follow Him. I also recognize that while each of you has at least some desire to be like Him and follow Him, you're all at different places in that desire. Some are on fire for God and would storm the gates of hell with a bucket of ice water. Others of you are more hesitant – more reluctant – and like Peter would prefer to follow from afar. Regardless of where you are – this much is true: that if the Holy Spirit lives within you He is calling to you today to become like Christ – the Christ who knew no boundaries, the Christ who could love even the most undeserving of people. The Holy Spirit calls to you today to be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful. 


Doug Nichols, said that "While serving with Operation Mobilization in India in 1967, I spent several months in a TB sanitarium with tuberculosis. After finally being admitted into the sanitarium, I tried to give tracts to the patients, doctors, and nurses, but no one would take them. You could tell that they weren't really happy with me, a rich American (to them all Americans were rich), being in a government sanitarium. They didn't know that serving with O.M., I was just as broke as they were!

I was quite discouraged with being sick, having everyone angry at me, not being able to witness because of the language barrier, and no one even bothering to take a tract or Gospel of John. The first few nights, I would wake around 2:00 a.m. coughing. One morning as I was going through my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older (and certainly sicker) patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but because of weakness would fall back into bed. I really didn't understand what was happening or what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed exhausted. I then heard him begin to cry softly.

The next morning I realized what the man was trying to do. He was simply trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! Because of his sickness and extreme weakness he was not able to do this, and being so ill he simply went to the toilet in the bed.

The next morning the stench in our ward was awful. Most of the other patients yelled insults at the man because of the smell. 

The nurses were extremely agitated and angry because they had to clean up the mess, and moved him roughly from side to side to take care of the problem. One of the nurses in her anger even slapped him. The man, terribly embarrassed, just curled up into a ball and wept.

The next night, also around 2:00 a.m., I again awoke coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up to again try to make his way to the washroom. However, still being so weak, he fell back whimpering as the night before. I'm just like most of you. I don't like bad smells. I didn't want to become involved. I was sick myself but before I realized what had happened, not knowing why I did it, I got out of my bed and went over to the old man. He was still crying and did not hear me approach. As I reached down and touched his shoulder, his eyes opened with a fearful questioning look. I simply smiled, put my arm under his head and neck, and my other arm under his legs, and picked him up.

Even though I was sick and weak, I was certainly stronger than he was. He was extremely light because of his old age and advanced TB. I walked down the hall to the washroom, which was really just a smelly, filthy small room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his arms, holding him so he could take care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up and carried him back to his bed. As I began to lay him down, with my head next to his, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something which I suppose was "thank you."

It was amazing what happened the next morning. One of the other patients whom I didn't know woke me around 4:00 with a steaming cup of delicious Indian tea. He then made motions with his hands (he knew no English) indicating he wanted a tract. As the sun came up, some of the other patients began to approach, motioning that they would also like one of the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day people came to me, asking for the Gospel booklets. This included the nurses, the hospital interns, the doctors, until everybody in the hospital had a tract, booklet, or Gospel of John. Over the next few days, several indicated they trusted Christ as Savior as a result of reading the Good News!

What did it take to reach these people with the Good News of salvation in Christ? It certainly wasn't health. It definitely wasn't the ability to speak or to give an intellectually moving discourse. (Health, and the ability to communicate sensitively to other cultures and peoples are all very important), but what did God use to open their hearts to the Gospel? I simply took an old man to the bathroom. Anyone could have done that! -
As He calls to you today, can you say with integrity before God that your desire is to be that? To get to the place in your life where you do good to others, not because they're worthy, but simply because as Christ lives in and through you, you too are good? If we are not reaching our community, there is a reason. Could it be this one? Let us turn our hearts to God so He might tell us.
Today you might find yourself in the position of the centurion. You have some problem that's beyond your ability to handle. You've done everything you know to do, and now you're only left with that hopeless, helpless feeling that comes from not knowing where to turn. 
The answer is Jesus! Just like this man did, you need to call to Jesus for help. Just come to Him today in a humble recognition of your need. Admit to Him that you can't handle your problem anymore. Admit to Him that He alone is able, and while you're not worthy of His goodness, you appeal to Him on the basis of His goodness. 
Will you put your faith in Him today? Will you recognize the absolute authority of Jesus Christ and His ability to handle your problem? Will you call to Him for help? Will your faith cause Him to marvel? To drop His jaw with wonder?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Life Through The Lens of Love

"Life Through The Lens Of Love"

Psalms 25:4-5; Matthew 16:21-27; 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Pastor Tom Millner

August 15, 2010


How we see things can make a world of difference in how we approach life. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, spent a lifetime spreading the idea that how we see conceptualize the world around us indicates the actions we will take.

A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon and asked a young boy what the score was. "It's 18 to nothing – we're behind." The man said, "I'll bet you're discouraged, aren't you?" "Why should I be discouraged?" the little boy said "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!"

In our scripture today from the Gospel of Matthew we see the evidence of one of Jesus' closest followers not seeing through the eyes of love. Peter, the ROCK, the "foundation" for the building of His Church wasn't seeing what was happening before him with clear vision. Jesus told His disciples clearly what must happen ahead so that salvation would be brought to all, but Peter didn't see God's perspective. Peter was fixated on his own way; not THE WAY. When Jesus said to Peter "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men," He wasn't calling Peter Satan, but rather He was speaking to the tempter working through Peter. The human part of Jesus did not want to endure what was ahead, but His divine part knew He must endure. Peter was seeing things through a different lens. He saw a new King who was to build a kingdom greater than any before –on earth! After all, old Pete was to be the Kings right hand man! There wasn't room for another story to unfold. Of course, we wouldn't fall for Peter's reasoning - right? Old Pete was expecting things to be as he had always heard them predicted to be. There are three ways in which we today do the same thing.


  1. We believe things must be a certain way! Peter had always been taught as a good Jew that the messiah was coming in a way that would restore them to their previous glory; make things right again. That's what Jesus ultimately did, but not the way old Pete was expecting it. We also expect that things have to happen or be a certain way in order to be true or good. For instance; I use to believe that for my life to be good and acceptable in God's eyes that I MUST be heterosexual. Ignoring the fact that I was unintentionally homosexual, involuntarily homosexual and by all evidence created homosexual, I sought to have it my way and be heterosexual. My obsession became my belief that I needed to be different, resulting in idolatrously pursuing that which I am not. How many times have we told ourselves that in order to be a Christian we need to be A, B, or C? John 3:16 is explicit; "Whosoever believes!" It doesn't say anything more or less, yet our belief that there has to be more to it leads us down the path of WORKS! The work we do the walk we take is because of the belief we express. It is not the works we do or the walk we engage that justify us into belief! Peter believed Jesus' life had to be lived out a certain way. So did Jesus – but it wasn't His way either, it was God's way – to His glory and our benefit!

  2. We project! Because Peter believed things needed to be a certain way, he "projected" that others believed the same. "Now, now, Jesus, I know that you know that things aren't supposed to go that way, so I'm going to be your protector." We also are guilty of projection. It's easy for us to believe that if we see things a certain way, then others do or at least "ought to" see things that way also. Take the works argument again: If I work hard and measure up to a particular standard that I think is acceptable, then you will see me as acceptable also. We do that to God and we do that to one another. Likewise, we're constantly reading other's actions as if they relate to us (when most of the time we aren't entering the equation of the other). Other's actions are rarely about us, even if they're directed at us! And this leads us to the third.
  3. We act in our own interests! You've seen the t-shirt "It's all about me"? Of course it isn't; it's all about me! Peter wasn't taking the time to discover what Jesus' statement was all about; he acted out as it related to his own story. Have you ever been with someone who equates everything to his or her self? Jacko ran into Clarence whom he had not seen in several months. Clarence asks Jacko how he's doing. He responds; "my mother just passed away." Clarence says "I'm sorry to hear that Jacko; I remember when my mother died. She was 93 you know…bless her heart! She went peacefully in her sleep – never moment of pain or sickness, as far as we could tell. In fact I don't remember any prolonged period of illness the old lady suffered…… You get the point? We think such illustrations are amusing, but we do the same thing every day. We hear something from someone else and then take off on our own runway with our flight plan for the journey to Me-ville…e.t.a…instantaneously! We miss the richness of seeing the landscape from another viewpoint…from the eyes of the other. We do this with conversations and we do this with scripture reading. We read a couple of verses and determine how they are all about ME! The Bible is not the story of we; it is the story of He who made us, loves us, and draws us into Himself. There's a remedy to these pitiful action that we take.
  • Seek God first! From our scripture reading today in Matthew 25 ""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The directive here is toward the denying of self; the cross is an illustrative way to death. Have you ever heard someone say "this is just my cross to bear"? I heard a woman say once with regard to her gay son that he was just her cross to bear. I thought to myself; "honey, you just expressed the opposite of what that scripture means!" You just made your son's orientation all about you as though it were a medal to which you have attached yourself, when in fact Christ is telling us to forget about our agenda, our self, and die to that, focusing instead on following the lead of love as He demonstrated through His acts of grace and mercy. That leads us to the second remedy:
  • View each situation through the eyes of grace and mercy. We are told to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and to then with the heart, mind and soul that loves God, to love each other as we would have ourselves be loved. Loving God means accepting that His grace and mercy are sufficient for all our needs, wants, and desires. His grace says we get a crown of glory that we haven't worked for, can't earn and don't even deserve. And it means accepting from God that we have been spared what we really do deserve for our continued self-absorption. When I view you as recipient of God's grace and mercy just as I am, how can I then judge you less or more worthy of God's love than I? I don't understand all the intricacies of how that happens, but I am called nail my poor vision of that to a cross and let it die there! I can do that because I know that …Our vision is not yet complete! Paul used the illustration of a mirror as he experienced it in the first century Roman Empire. It is a good one! Mirrors, as they were manufactured in Corinth and other parts of the ancient world, were crafted out of crudely polished metal. They reflected poorly the image of the one standing before them. Paul is saying that even though we can't clearly see the fine details of God's love for us and the resulting love for one another we are called to act out, that ultimately we will see clearly what God is calling us to in love, even as we clearly see how perfectly He loves us now. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." He is saying to us that it is time to grow up in Christ's love, stop acting like needy children and live as the whole and accepted adults that we are through God's grace and mercy. It's OK if we don't understand every nuance; that will be revealed in His time. We are called to act in unity and love, even if it interferes with our own agenda! Take heart; no one is doing it perfectly! But we are not left to our own devices. We have each other from whom we can learn and most importantly, we have the Comforter, the Counselor, almighty God – His Holy Spirit.


Psalms 25:4-5 "Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."



Sunday, August 8, 2010

When My Prayers Aren’t Answered

"When My Prayers Aren't Answered"

Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; John 14:15-27

Pastor Tom Millner

August 8, 2010


In my reading this week I came across an interesting story. A woman named Barbara was reflecting on the time when her father was teaching her to drive. On this particular day, her father took her to the school parking lot for her lesson and her three year old sister was in the back seat for the ride. As Barbara rounded a curve, she cut too short and ran over the curb. From the back seat she heard; "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food." Barbara slammed on her brakes and glared at her sister in the back to say; "what are you talking about?" The three year old replied; "Your driving is scaring me and that's the only prayer I know!"

When we read scriptures like those for today from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we can see the enthusiastic genesis of the "name it and claim it" movement. After all, isn't that scripture clear in its assertion? "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." We hear preachers proclaim in prayerful words; "Lord, we know that you love us and want what's best for us, so we ask you in the name of Jesus to give us this day what we ask for." Not only are we setting the trap for God (Lord, we know you love us), but we're using our presumed magic potion (the name of Jesus) to hedge our bets! This prayer neither honors God nor petitions Him for the kind of response that deserves any acknowledgment from Him! Wish granting has become a national pass time for many. Let me drop a coin in the fountain of the Lord and watch the miracle unfold! Folks, these kinds of prayers are not what the scripture talks about, yet it is so easy to be deceived because we seek so desperately to rise above our current state.

This week I caught a portion of an interview with an author who is undergoing chemo for cancer treatment and who tragically lost his mother some years ago. He has written a book that basically asserts that God is a myth and doesn't answer prayers. The evidence; all the suffering in the world, past and present! It's easy to follow that reasoning. When I was growing up, the most influential person in my life was my Grandma Davis. She always encouraged me, always listened intently to me and always lovingly guided me. Her stated prayer to me was that God would take her quickly so as not to linger and be a burden to any of her seven daughters. She suffered a massive stroke and was bedridden for three years, unable to care for herself and unable to talk. Her mind was clear and perfect. She was trapped inside that body, subjected to the bickering, but caring daughters who nursed her round the clock. I remember seeing her for the first time after her stroke and as I approached her bed, her facial expression changed to excitement, but tears rolled down her cheeks. I held her as she moaned to express herself and I responded "I know, Grandma…I'm praying you won't have to suffer." She did suffer for over three years and I was angry with God for what I considered neglect for the fervent prayers of a faithful servant (Grandma). Likewise, I prayed that God would deliver me from the persistent desires that crept into my psyche each time I saw a handsome man. After all, I was married to a loving wife, living the American dream, with no room for what I perceived to be a queer existence. I prayed and prayed, but God didn't answer my prayer – or so I thought! I felt God had given me a snake instead of the fish for which I had asked. I held onto my bitterness toward God and became even hostile toward the Church. I decided to give church another chance and became involved with a large Baptist church in West Palm Beach. It was there that I began to learn that God's love was not all about me, but all about Him loving we who are created in His divine image. It was during that time that I read a book about the Christian walk being one of becoming more like the image of Christ and accepting that God accepts us as we are where we are, for who we are. If that's true, I read, then how dare we not accept ourselves. From that point on, my prayers began to change – and so did my life. Instead of praying for things to change to suit my desires and perceived needs I began to pray for understanding of how God wanted me to live in the presence of His love. As I began to surrender my agenda to His whatsoever, I began to understand more and more the meaning of whosoever! God's not answering my prayers in the way I desired did not prove His non-existence; it just proved I wasn't the god in charge of the heavenly vending machine! The God who created the universe and all its contents, past, present, and future, is far more magnificent than the god of my universe. When I accept that, my prayers change, the answers to my prayers become more evident, and the peace that passes all human reasoning takes hold. The purpose of prayer is NOT to align His will with our desires, but that my surrender is to His will.

Let's go back to today's Gospel reading from John 14 beginning at verse 15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live."

What is this "Spirit of truth"? No, let me rephrase; who is this Spirit of Truth? He is the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, the Counselor promised by Jesus! The focus of our prayers is to be on and in Him. Jesus tells us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all you mind. When we are aligned with Him (His Holy Spirit) our heart's desire is changed, our minds are cleared toward Him, and our soul's are united beyond this temporal existence! Our love then for others changes because our love for self has taken on a more self-less understanding.

Turn with me to Matthew, chapter 6, verse nine. Jesus is instructing here how to pray: 6:9) "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (6:10) your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Let's break this down a bit

  1. "Our Father" – acknowledges the kinship with God, the divine relationship restored by the act of Christ on the cross.
  2. "In heaven" – acknowledges His divine place, superior to our own!
  3. "Hallowed be your name" – Holy is His existence, His being.
  4. "Your Kingdom come" – His kingdom is now and not yet. That Kingdom exists in the presence of His Holy Spirit! COME, HOLY SPIRIT!
  5. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" – my desire to be aligned through the presence of His Holy Spirit in the earthly realm to the divine nature and direction of His eternal existence.


As we go further, we can interpret the format of the prayer in light of the presence and indwelling of His Spirit. Our "bread of life" is being met through and in the presence of His Holy Spirit. Unforgiveness in our hearts is like a blocked artery, choking life giving oxygen to that vital organ. We cannot experience the fullness of His Spirit who is forgiveness in the presence of our grudge, resentment, hatred, and their resulting unforgiveness in our heart. How can God dwell in a place of unforgiveness when His very essence embodies forgiveness that restores relationship with Him? He can't! That's why extending forgiveness to others, no matter how deep the wound or trauma is so vital. Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting and it doesn't mean condoning; but it does mean letting go of the judgment and leaving it in the hands of God. That's not a human trait – that's a God thing!!

I've heard it said that God always answers prayer. He says yes; no; or not now! I think there are other times when He just doesn't answer because we're not praying to God, but to the god of our own desires. That god can't answer a prayer! That god has only self interest at heart –and its dead beating!

It's OK to pray from our heart's desire; for ourselves or for others. The scriptures we read today invite that. Where we falter is in not understanding that prayer is not intended to change God's mind and will, but ours! Prayer is intended to build His Kingdom, aligning earth to Him, not Him to earth. Jesus gives us the perfect model in the "Lord's Prayer" and also in the garden before His arrest. Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father, he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" What's in your prayer?






Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Who’s Your Real Boss?

Who's Your Real Boss?

Pastor Leslie Tipton


Today, we're gonna talk about something that some of us love, some of us hate, and some of us have at least at times some disliking of. It's something we do a lot of, and I do mean a lot. What am I talking about? WORK! Yep, work! Ooo, even just that word for some of us is enough to make us a little anxious, a little yucky in the tummy. I'll prove it to ya. Now don't raise you hands, but answer this question to yourself. Do you ever get the Monday morning blues on Sunday evening?

What about this thing called work? Does anybody know how many hours the average person spends working in his or her lifetime? Any guesses? Come on, take a guess! 100,000 hours! That's how many hours the average person spends working in their lifetime. Now you may sat that sounds like a lot, and you may say there's no way, you'll work way more than that in your lifetime….for some of you, you may already have!

And, as we were saying earlier, often our work brings some dissatisfaction with it. It's ok to admit you're not totally in love with your job. Today we're going to take a good look at the Scriptural principles that relate to work, in an effort to help us find satisfaction (or more satisfaction) in our work.

So let's dig in!

God created work for our benefit

Can anyone tell me the name of the place where life was perfect. Where everything was beautiful and wonderful, where there was no enmity, no strife, none of life's problems. No I'm not talking about when you were single. Come on, name that place. That's right, the Garden of Eden. And it was in this place that the first thing God did with Adam was to assign him work. What, there was WORK in the Garden. Yes, of course. We see it in Genesis 2:15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." God created work for our benefit in this sinless environment of the Garden of Eden. Right there we should be rethinking our opinion about having to go to work. If they had to work in the Garden, and life was the best it could ever have been, then it should be a joy and a privilege for us to work.

Buttttt, there's another component to this story. Things didn't stay all shiny and pretty in

The Garden, did they? No, they didn't. After the Fall, when sin entered the world, work was made more difficult. We see in Genesis 3:17-19 where it says, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Ti will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food." No more shiny and pretty, eh? No, not so much. Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Eve and Adam, and for that there were consequences. So work got harder.

And the fact that work is hard to do at times gives us a certain perspective when it comes to our jobs, our places of work, our bosses, our coworkers, etc. And by perspective I mean attitude. Anybody here ever have an attitude about work, bosses, coworkers? Not I, Pastor Les.

Tell me this, Church of the Holy SpiritSong, if you could have something help you with these attitudes or perspectives, would you want to hear it? Yes?


Well then let's take a look at:


God's perspective of work – If we are going to get help in this area, we're going to get our best advice from the Bible, our spiritual guidebook for our life here on earth. The answers to living a life are all here for the taking.

Work is necessary - please allow me to make a clarification here. There are some of us who are unable to work due to a disability, or perhaps we can only work part time. Please do not mistake me for saying that you should be working. Our references here apply to those who are able to work.

Now there's a revalation for you! In fact, work is so important that God gives us this command in Exodus 34:21 "Six days you shall labor…

And the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "If a man will nto work he shall not eat." Some pretty tough words there. There's a saying that goes like this. "God gives the birds their food, but He doesn't throw it into their nests."

We need to work to earn a living; To provide our basic necessities in life…food, shelter, water, clothing. We can't expect our parents to take care of us for the rest of our lives while we squander away our time playing video games and listening to Lady Gaga. Work is necessary


The second perspective God has of work is:


Work develops character

One of the primary purposes of work is to develop character. While the plumber is building the water system in a building, the water system is also building the plumber. Her skill, diligence, manual dexterity, and judgment are refined. A job is not just a task designed to earn money; it's also intended to produce godly character in the life of the worker. Proverbs 12:24 says "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor."

I've been the recipient of many the training program in my careers. A ten week school in aircraft maintenance management, a five year stint as a pastoral candidate….but the real learning happens on the job. You can learn all you want about a particular way to do something, but until you are in the middle of doing that thing, and the "unknown factors" creep in, you don't really know how you are going to handle that task. Can you relate? How many of us have grown stronger and developed more character in these situations?


The third of God's perspectives on work is:


We work for Christ

Scripture reveals that we are actually serving the Lord as we work, and that means NO MATTER where you work. Colossians 3:23-24 says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

I challenge you to consider your attitude toward work. If you could see Jesus Christ as your boss, would you try to be more faithful in your job?/ The most important question you need to answer every day as you begin your work is this: "For whom do I work?"


You work for Christ.

Now that we've taken some time to learn about God's perspectives of work,, let's take a look at:


God's work responsibilities

It is God who gives us our job skills

Exodus 36:1 says "And every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work." Let me ask you…who gave you those hands? Who fashioned your brain? Whose masterful and skilled hands gave you the imagination and creativity you possess? It is God who has made us and not we ourselves. God has given us, each of us, our unique skills and talents. There are a wide variety of jobs represented in the Bible. There were tentmakers, shepherds, kings, prophets, doctors, retailers, government workers. Even Jesus had a job before he set out on his three year journey. Jesus was a carpenter.

So because He has given us our skills and abilities, we are not to take them for granted or be disrespectful of them. They were given to you for a purpose, just as you have a purpose. Your skills, your heart or emotions, your abilities, your talents, your personality were all given to you to fulfill the purpose for which God has created you. I know you've heard it before here at COHSS, and I'm going to emphasize it again.

Each of us was made for a purpose - Each and every one of us.


God gives us our success and our promotion

An example of God helping a person to succeed…Joseph. Genesis 39:2-3 says "The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered…his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did…"All week long here at COHSS we had vacation bible school, during which we went back to Egypt. (Talk about teaching)

The Lord also gives us our promotions. Psalm 75:6-7 says "No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt (promote) a man. But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another." Ever wondered why it is taking you so long to be promoted? Ever wonder why other people get opportunities before you, even if you've been on that job longer. There may be a variety of reasons. I can share some of the reasons those things have happened in my life.


I simply wasn't ready

There was more for me to learn before being promoted

There was someone else more qualified (we don't like to admit that one, do we)

Someone that worked with me or for me needed for me to be there, or I needed to be with them


Now that we've studied God's work responsibilities, lets take a peek at OUR work responsibilities:


Our Work Responsibilities

We are to work hard; not hardly work

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" says Ecclesiastes 9:10. And Proverbs 12:27 tells us "The precious possession of a man is diligence." The Bible encourages diligence and hard work.Throughout Scripture, we see examples of people hard at work. Paul was one of those people. After his conversion, it seemed as though Paul worked tirelessly to spread the Word of the Lord, not only into his local town, but all over the


We are not to overwork

There is no doubt some of us are soooo guilty of this. Overworking not only keeps you from other priorities in your life, but it can cause all sorts of health issues. Depression, anxiety, ulcers, high blood pressure…and the list goes on. We need to balance our work with other priotities in life.What other priorities in life? Here are some questions for us to ask ourselves to see if we overwork:


Is your relationship with Christ suffering?

Is your relationship with your spouse and or children waning?

Do you find yourself with no time to exercise?

When you come home at night, does the dog look at you and then put his head back down on her pillow?

What about your spouse?

Did you just notice the leak in the roof due to the huge water spot on the ceiling because you just happened to be home during daylight hours the other day?

    Yes, some of these are silly questions, but it is a serious issue. Exodus 34:21 tells us "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest." Rest becomes a faith issue for us. Is God able to make our six day work week just as productive as a seven day work week? Of course he is. He's the one that put it in place. Even God rested after creating the world and all that's in it. Jesus rested too.


We are to be honest and faithful

We don't want to be cheating our companies by taking supplies to use for our own purposes, We don't want to lie about our time card. Scripture says "Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another."


We are to pray

I know you know this! If anyone has ever had trouble at work with a coworker or the owner of the company, you've spent some serious hours petitioning God to remove them. No, seriously, we are to pray. But don't pray for them to change, pray for you to change. In fact, I think every time I've prayed for someone else to change, in the end, it was me and my behavior that changed more. Why? Because God uses those people to build character in our lives.

You may say "But this so and so person has been a thorn in my flesh for five years in that company." And what's your point? Guess what….God's getting you ready for another assignment in the future where you're going to have to deal with even more difficult people! So get through this assignment with prayer and petition, and learn how to deal with this ONE person before you have to go and deal with the TEN.

Here's another thing. People say "I can't work there anymore…I'm the ONLY Christian on the staff." Hello!! You're the only Christian, and you want to leave? The Lord places us around people to help them get to know Him. Who is going to be there to help them with a Christ like example if you leave?


We are to honor our employers

Godly people always honor their superiors. Why? First, Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:18 "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable." Ever had an unreasonable master, or boss? I have…but they, through God's provision, hired me there. And you too! How dare we start to be snarky, sassy, and disrespectful. It's not Christ like, it's not loving, and it's certainly not what Jesus would do.

And lastly:


We are to honor fellow employees and never slander them

Quickly…don't get involved in the office gossip. It's unscriptural, it's unloving, and it always ends in some type of harm to someone.


Let's go to work!!