Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perfect Love

“Perfect Love”

1 John 4:15-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 21, 2010


I read a story this week about a Zoologist who was amazed at an exhibit at a local zoo. There was a monkey in the cage with a lion. The Zoologist inquired from the Zoo Keeper how he managed that seemingly impossible feat. The Zoo Keeper responded: “Well, they get along most of the time reasonably well. Sometimes the monkey upsets the lion and they get into it. Then we have to find another monkey.” Seems animals eventually act out of their nature. That’s why we’re surprised when God acts out of His nature (which is love) and not out of ours!

There are two key verses from today’s reading that we will focus on this morning: 1John 4:18, and 1 Corinthians 13:6. 1John 4:18 reads “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  Then 1 Corinthians 13:6 reads “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

“There is no fear in love.” “Perfect love drives out fear.” “[Love] rejoices in the truth.” Fear can drive away perfect love.  God is love, but we need to be reminded that all love is NOT God. God defines love, not the other way around. We are so bombarded with images of love that we confuse ourselves into believing that all we love is Godly. We may make those feelings our god, but they are more often than not ungodly.  We have a plethora of recovery groups (thank God) dedicated to recovering from the ravaging effects of love out of focus. Think about it!

So much of what we see today regarding love is nothing more than ego driven trivia that lays bare the heart and mind to more hurt and disappointment. The ego is fundamentally fear based. Fear of being discovered to be less than the individual deems acceptable, the ego drives behavior that draws attention to itself in an effort to prove to the outside world that it is not as unacceptable as it believes itself to be. Generally speaking, the so called “big ego” is nothing more than a puffed up version of a poor self-image. In some individuals the expression of the so called “weak ego” is manifest by behavior that quietly hides behind a shroud of self-effacement or false humility. Both expressions fear being disclosed and thus create defenses around possible disclosure points. Some attribute these kinds of behaviors to self-esteem, or lack thereof. Books are written on how to improve one’s self esteem. They all come down to manipulating ways to FEEL better about one’s self. We hear that to love another we have to love ourselves. In other words, before I can care about you, I have to take care of number one! Some folks take the care for others before self to be a means of survival in a harsh and difficult world. It’s still “me” focused because it is driven out of self-preservation.  More self-love may sell books, but it’s not what scripture talks about as perfect love. All of these actions we’ve described come not from self-loathing, but self-love that will go to any length to self-preserve…sometimes even to suicide! Best not place our acts of fantasy in the position reserved for God alone. That translates to idolatry!  What, then, is perfect love?

Perfect love is broad and personally directed. John 3:16 states; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He loves this world so much that He gave up His only Son for each who will believe. As Augustine said “He loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.” The creator and giver of all life loves us with a love that is self-giving and eternal. How much more esteem does one need? What I need to do is forget about what I think is important for my own esteem and focus on what God has already done for me! I already have all I need. That, my friends is a lifetime of discipleship that transforms my obsession with self into a oneness with Him who is perfect love! One human was born with it, and He died an agonizing death, not to satisfy His ego, but to sanctify our relationship that with His and our Father. Because God so loves us that He gave His all for us, we need not live in fear of rejection, of not measuring up, of not being more…perfect love is sufficient! Think on this thing.

Perfect love is permanent! Human love is more often than not conditional. You love me? Oh well, then you have my attention – let me see how I can love you. Or, if I love you hard and strong enough, then you’ll reciprocate. That’s not love, it’s a form of lust to possess. Perfect love existed before we were born and will be with us through eternity. Perfect love is patient with us; does not puff itself up; it is not seeking for its own good; it is not making a list of wrongs. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. In fact, Romans 8:38-39 states” For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Does this help our understanding that “perfect love drives out fear”? If the love that spans and commands the universe can never be separated from us, what do we have to fear? What other esteem do we need? What other ego satisfaction or gratification do we need? NONE! We are currently being perfected in His love, therefore we need to drop the façade, let go the false halo or the belief that we need one and pick up the chip that says “safe in the arms of perfect love” to remind us of our living in sober love!

Perfect love can’t be improved upon! The Gospel is full of meaningful assertions as to our being accepted by God, secure in His cross, and significant in His grace and mercy. There is no greater love, no greater expression, no greater heights to gain, and no bigger mountains to climb. We already are all the things we would ever aspire. It’s time to live in the moment; in the reality of who we are by the manifestation of perfect love on our behalf. Living like that means emulating the character of Christ. Loving like that means giving to God first in our lives, our attention, our talents, our income, our day, and letting go of “our way.”

God has laid before us a bountiful table of grace. He calls us to come and dine on His provision. His mercy says it’s OK that you’ve soiled your hands; you won’t be rejected. His grace says the cost of admission to the table, which is more than you can afford, has been paid in full. Just come and feast upon His provisions and nourish yourself with the food of life!












Monday, November 15, 2010

The Truth about Love

“The Truth about Love”

1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 14, 2010



Love is something we all seek. Songs, sonnets, and swoons fill us with messages about love sought, love gained and often love lost. I had someone say to me once; “enough about this love stuff. What I really need is some practical principles for living through this miserable life I have.” No matter what this man had done in his life (he had seen the world, lived as and where he chose) he always came back to a place that could only be described as lonely. He knew Christ. He had heard the good news over and over. He declared his detest for people and places. His anger often boiled to rage that he had to deal with the ravages of aging and the consequences of having not taken care of himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to grasp that he was only seeing coming back to him what he was dishing out. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is trying to help them to see that at the core of the character that lives, gives, and has been given is the love that translates into action.

What random acts of love have you engaged this week? How have you actively pursued patience this week; patience with others; patience with yourself? Likewise, what acts of kindness have you engaged this week? Warning here; this is a reflective question intended to inspire us to more active deeds that share the love that is God in our lives. If we become list makers of our kind deeds, we fall prey to not love at all, but keeping lists of our wrongs. That occurs when we don’t fulfill what we think should be our quota or becoming full of pride about how kind we are. We read in these verses by Paul that love is NOT a keeper of wrongs nor prideful. Boy, this love thing is tough stuff! It sure is tough to accomplish, but we are called to engage it with patience and kindness, toward self and others. The best advice we can give ourselves is to forget about our “selves” and focus on the ONE who died to make a way for a relationship with us.

Verse 5 in today’s scripture tells us that love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, and that love keeps no record of wrongs. For illustration purposes today, let’s put in another word (name) for love. God is not rude nor is He self-seeking. God is not easily angered and He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus told the crowd around him that if they have seen Him, then they have seen the Father. Therefore Jesus and God are one. If God’s call to us is to live in the character of Christ, then our call is to a Godly character. Instead of striving for the character of God, we more often than not superimpose our character traits on God and call them holy. They are neither Godly nor holy! Let’s look at self-seeking, anger, and keeping record of wrongs as examples.

We’ve heard that the God of Israel was a jealous God. The inference is that He wanted them all to Himself (that He was self-seeking) and did not wish to share them with other gods. I think that an improbable scenario because God is the only God and therefore cannot be jealous of what doesn’t exist. God created us to have a relationship with him because to do so is for the greater good of us. When we create other things that take His place, we are on the losing end of the relationship, not getting the fullness of our purpose for being. When we see a jealous God, we are projecting our selfish traits onto the god of our creation. Jealousy is our trait; love, relationship, and our best interest are God’s traits. 

We’ve heard that God is an angry God. I think most of human societies have historically bought that idea hook, line, and sinker. Much of the religious community today operates out of this premise and unfortunately brings devastation to the very lives that Christ died to redeem. What is described as the wrath (anger) of God in scripture is the consequence that is wrought upon self when not living in the light and character for which we were created. If I perch myself on the precipice of the Grand Canyon and take a dive off as though I were a soaring eagle, I will die. That is not the wrath of God on me; it is rather the consequence of not being created with wings for flight! Some of the things that come out of so called Christian mouths today are simply appalling! God hates fags; Haiti’s earthquake is the result of disobedience, 9/11 was God’s retribution on a sinful nation. Humans who don’t get that God’s nature is love superimpose their own evil natures on a god of their self-design, thus justifying for themselves the right to do evil to others. God’s greatest command is that we love Him first and others likewise. Every unloving act toward another of God’s creations is a stab in the heart of God. There are consequences to that, but the consequences are no more at God’s hands than my plunge into the canyon. We were not created to be GOD; we were created to reflect God’ image, which is love. If what you see coming out of yourself is not looking like love, you’re not living to your highest calling in creation! Even our greatest enemy is to be the object of our loving nature, as much for our benefit as for the enemy.

So what about keeping no record of wrongs? Doesn’t the Bible say we will all have to be accountable on judgment day? Doesn’t God keep a record of wrongs then? Turn with me to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter24, verses 46-48. Jesus is appearing to His disciples after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension. Let’s look at what He says: “He told them, this is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.’”  Repentance is the act of turning away from self-seeking, self-gratifying, self-worship! Forgiveness of sins is the act of holding one not guilty in the face of repentance, having the consequences of that debt removed from the record. The day of judgment is the day we stand before God, recognizing with clear vision the very nature of our own actions and fully understand the depth of God’s love for us by the act of love through Jesus Christ who by His grace and mercy, covered us with His own sinless nature. Judgment day is for our relational benefit, not God’s. In the Lord’s Prayer we sing or say each week: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We cannot yet fathom the depth of His wiping our list clean. We are justified before Him by the action of Christ on our behalf. We have taken the plunge and we see certain death at the bottom, but because of Christ’s love and our recognition of the need and desire to turn the other way, the hand of God reaches out and scoops us back to a place of safety from the consequence of our fall. We can only approximate that by the grace and mercy we experience with each other. Your action may be the only scripture another person reads or hears. Friday night we heard someone reference Saint Francis of Assisi as having said “witness with all you have, and even use words if you must.”


If there is to be a love revolution, it must begin with our recognition that we have not been as loving as God has created us to be, and then to make an about face from our former action and begin acting in His direction. Let go of the lists of wrongs you and others have done to one another and patiently pursue the consequences of grace and mercy into and out of yourself. Discover the truth about love. You were created in its image and made whole again in Love by Jesus Christ. Let’s live like it! 



Monday, November 8, 2010

The Act of Love

The Act of Love



“The Act of Love”

John 15:17; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Pastor Tom Millner

November 7, 2010




If God created us in His image and our greatest purpose is to reflect that image back to Him, the task of the Christian is to reflect less of self and more of God. God desires relationship with us. That is the reason He created us – relationship. The foundation of that relationship today is our restoration to wholeness in His sight by the act of love that is grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. God is love and the very nature of Jesus Christ is love. We are charged with responding to God’s love by loving Him back through living in the character of Christ. The character of Christ is written all over the New Testament. It isn’t exclusionary, dispensational, full of damnation, legalistic, or religious; His character is the very nature of love. We’ve heard it said that life is a stage, we are the actors on that stage, and Jesus is the play. That play was written before recorded time and shall remain when time is no more. If we are to truly live, we perfect our role in the drama that is love. If we’re living to promote something other than the love described by, to, and for Him in scripture, we’re acting out the wrong drama!

The apostle Paul was not the paragon of Godly love throughout his life, yet he knew the character of Christ for which to strive. In his letter to the Corinthians he was attempting to intervene in their rude and unloving actions toward one another that is the culmination of “me” first thinking. In chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians Paul lays out the foundation upon which all relationship is built – demonstrated by God himself. This chapter gives us a glimpse of what the Corinthians were like. While instructive as to what love looks like, Paul was casting an indictment on the Corinthian behavior that did not measure up. Let’s look at how The Message translates 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn’t have a swelled head.” So Paul is saying that the Corinthians were impatient with each other, self-centered, always seeking something more than they thought they had, showing off what they did have, and let their egos be at the center of their actions. Could that be our community? Could it be our city, State, or perhaps our nation? Before we look out there, let’s begin to look in here…(our own hearts). You and God can do the examining; I’ve got my hands full right here. However, His call to us is not in condemnation, but in the power of grace and mercy to act out of the love He so freely lavishes on each of us, no matter how many times we take it upon ourselves to do it all ourselves. That’s God’s demonstration of love’s patience with us.

I have struggled my entire life with the notion of patience. When I wanted something, I went after it. I think with the end in mind; that is, the destination becomes first. By doing that, however, I’ve learned that the greatest lessons are not at the destination, but within the journey. This doesn’t mean that having a destination in mind is not a good thing; it just means that the destination doesn’t justify every unkind behavior to get there. To strive for what we want at the sake of everyone else demonstrates what Paul states in verse 5 as “self-seeking.” To understand the depths of this notion of patience, let’s look at how God has demonstrated His patience with us.


The Old Testament is a chronology of God’s patient acts toward His creation. You see, He desires a relationship with us. That relationship is based on His very nature – love. He created Adam for relationship. He created Eve for relationship. He blessed Abraham for relationship. He brought Israel out of bondage for relationship. He gave us commands out of His desire for us to have loving relationship. He sent His very own Son that we might have life in relationship with Him. Throughout the history of mankind we see God’s loving action towards us and His enduring patience, waiting for us to get the picture. God has the destination in mind and He has it secure…He calls us to the journey. That journey is living the character of Christ. Thankfully He patiently abides our very own impatience with ourselves, each other, and even Him! The greatest witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ is the love and grace we demonstrate in our own lives. We witness less with flowery words than with actions that show the love of God.

Romans 5:8 tells us “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s patience! John 15:9 records the words of Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.Be patient with yourself and therefore with others! See what a revolution it will create in your life and in this community! The act of love is the act of God in your life. Want more of Him? Let Him in to act through you! You can’t out love Him but you can act out in Him!

God has called out a group of folks from this Body to become even greater servants than they have been in the past. God doesn’t call the perfect – He has no need of them. He calls the moldable, the gifted, the not so gifted, the well-equipped and the not so well-equipped. He calls and says “follow me.” Today we are ordaining into the service of our Lord, Jesus Christ, five who are to be called Deacon, or servant.





Sister Carol Watson

Brother Marc Beard

Brother Joe Caliri

Brother Alberto Cobos

Brother Joe Talluto


1 Timothy 3:1-8 outlines Paul’s Pastoral instruction to Timothy concerning Elders/Overseers and Deacons within the church. Today, we ordain five humble servants of our Lord to the lowly position of Elder or Deacon. I say lowly because each position is a call to serve the greater needs of this Body of Christ, sacrificing self interest and concern to the greater good of His Kingdom. The office is not one of convenience or of glory. Rather it is one of great joy in service to others through the sacrifice of self and the giving back of gifts the Father has bestowed upon you. This call and appointment should be entered into solemnly and with great faith. We are not sufficient of ourselves for such a responsibility. But God, who has called you “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8.

It is imperative that you guard your behavior and your words. In a special sense, you are examples and models. The measure of your godliness and your enthusiasm for Christ will be copied by others. Your back will be a clear target for all who are disgruntled or take issue with your direction. However, do not cause others to stumble – ever!

Be concerned for the needs of the church family. Be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Be versed in the scriptures and ready to witness for your savior. Give careful attention to the office entrusted to you. Fulfill all its functions as unto the Lord. By accepting this trust, you indicate without reservation your commitment and loyalty to the message, doctrine, constitution, leadership and worldwide program of your church.

Charge to Deacons:

Having prayerfully considered the nature and purpose of the work for which you have been chosen, will you consider your appointment a call from God? Are you willing to accept the duties of your office as responsibilities committed to you by the Lord of the Church? Will you seek to fulfill your responsibilities in the power of the Holy Spirit, and as unto the Lord Jesus Christ?

The medallion being placed around your neck… “This is the symbol of the fish, or the cross, or the Holy Spirit (as the dove)…is to remind you of His commission to spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness to a world hungry for Him. It is to remind you of the awesome responsibility placed upon your shoulders and that your yoke with Him accomplishes magnitudes more than you alone.”

Elders, Deacons and Pastors anoint and lay hands upon the new Deacons.

Charge to congregation:

Brothers and Sisters; these women and men have been called from among us as the carriers of extra burden of service to this Body. Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive these servants entering with them into the spirit of the vows they have just made to God and this church? Do you promise to honor them, encourage them, as the Word of God admonishes?


I present to you:

Deacon Carol Watson

Deacon Marc Beard

Deacon Joe Caliri

Deacon Alberto Cobos

Deacon Joe Talluto