Sunday, May 22, 2011

Building on Faith

“Building on Faith”

Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalms 25:14; Matthew 7:24-27

Pastor Tom Millner


I hear from folks fairly often that they feel their faith is wavering. A little probing and I find that what is lacking is the “feeling” of God’s presence in their life at that or recent moments. We all, to some degree or another, equate our faith with our feeling. It’s especially true in our modern culture where feelings are held up as the ultimate test of reality in social media and other forms of communications. “I’m not feeling it” is a common expression denoting the absence of something that is at other times professed, or it may simply be a denial that another’s expression is valid. It’s time we let go of the “feeling” god and grab hold of the faith in God! Feelings are the result of thoughts, conscious or unconscious and thoughts can be true or false. Faith in God is a conscious choice! We are faced with making that choice every moment of every day.

Everyone has faith. Even the atheist has faith that his reasoning is superior to any potential evidence that God is the author of the universe. Those who are worshipping here stand on the faith that God loves us so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes (has faith is this truth) in Him will have eternal life with Him. That eternal life is not some distant thing, by the way; eternal life is now and forever! Faith abounds in all of us. The challenge is not only related to the degree of faith, but also to the object of our faith.  Our reading from Proverbs today reminds us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Let’s translate that for today’s living: “Steadfastly trust (maintain your faith) that God is who He says He is and don’t be distracted by your momentary feelings or experiences and the result will be a deepened walk and relationship with Him, no matter what is going on around you.” Faith is the rock upon which we lay the foundation of our beliefs. Our beliefs drive our actions. Therefore, faith is the fuel for our journey!

Matthew 7:24-27 quotes Jesus telling those whom He was teaching that putting into action His instructions is like the wise builder who constructed his house on a rock. When storms of life come, the house built on the word of Christ is steadfast and unmovable. In contrast, the houses constructed on the sands of the times, the whim of the movement, will be swept away in the storm. The rock on which He calls us to build is the one that puts God first in all things and places others in a position equal to self. Jesus had been talking to the crowd about things prevalent to them in their experience. Things like standing up for what you believe is God’s way, grace as the fulfillment of what the Law can’t accomplish, not taking the life of someone else either literally or figuratively, staying true to your relationship commitment, letting your word be your testimony, not giving tit for tat, loving our enemies, caring for the needy, praying and fasting, not worrying, not judging others, and going to God with our requests for everything by asking, seeking, and knocking. So the foundation of faith is relationship; relationship with Him and relationship with others lived out through Him. In the words of Hebrews 12:2 “2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He is the beginning, the middle and the end. Relationship requires our attention, time, and energy. We can’t build where we are ignoring! We so desperately need that relationship with Him but we look for its substitute around every corner.  What we desire is Him, what we often seek is His substitute that looks like satisfaction. Matthew 6:33 reminds us “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All these things” is not the cheap substitute, but the “real thing” in relationship. Faith in Him is our foundation! When we build our lives on Him, we’re not moved by the rising waters of doubt around us or the mighty force of the winds of change. We are firmly standing on the only rock that will never be moved!

Faith not only serves as our foundation, but it also serves as the path upon which we are to walk. Paul asserts to the church in Corinth that even though we are bound to this world in these bodies, our residence is permanently in eternity. He says; “We live (walk) by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) I’ve heard so many people express their doubts about God really loving them. They look at how others who they have believed have judged them, how their families have judged them for being who they are, and how repulsed they believe God must be by their own desires and they conclude that there is no way God could love them. We know that the Gospel of John says, however that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We know there is no exclusion clause in the fine print. There is also no expiration date or “best bought by” date!  1 Peter 3:18 reminds us “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” How many times would He need to die for you to believe that you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God? For you to believe that He died for everyone else, but somehow for you that seems so unlikely, is to place yourself as a far superior judge to God Himself. When you choose that path, you are walking in faith not of God, but of His enemy. Faith in God is the walk that starts the day with thanks to God for the gift of another day in His loving grace. Faith walked during the day is each step being taken in the knowledge of His grace and the promise that “… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) That includes all of us “who so evers.” This doesn’t mean everyone is going to like me, move over for me, show deference to me, be nice to me, or even look out for my best interest. It doesn’t mean that all Christians are going to acknowledge me as God’s very own or that all of the peeps in the local peepdom are going to affirm me. Armed with the knowledge of His grace and mercy being sufficient, I can walk each day in the faith that “… 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.” Not a single person in here or anyone listening in on video is perfect. To try to be perfect is perfectly sinful! Walking by faith in Christ as the perfector of our faith makes us perfectly lovable in the eyes of God! So faith in your daily walk means you are grounded in your knowledge of who you are in Him. Your daily walk with Him keeps you there!

Not only can we walk daily on the foundation of faith, but we can also soar to new heights on faith. Isaiah 40:31 tells us “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Sometimes we limit ourselves to a crawl in faith when we are called to soar in faith! God gives us spiritual gifts, hearts (passion) for certain things, abilities that are unique to us, personalities that are differentiated to glorify Him, and He allows us to have experiences that when reflected upon in light of His grace and mercy, provide us with a SHAPE to fly for Him. I know some folks who don’t like the spotlight. They are reluctant to be out front, yet they have a passion to witness and share the Good News of God’s grace and mercy with others as a testimony of what He has done in their lives. God has given them gifts and abilities that He desires to be used to His glory. If we believe that everyone should take the same flight path, we’d have Saints crashing all around us! (Sounds like some of our peeps, but I digress). When God gives, He desires that we use those gifts of Spirit, heart, ability, personality, and experience to soar for Him. The outcome from your soar is like no other! The ostrich cannot flit like a hummingbird! But the hummingbird can’t fight off the predator like the might legs of the ostrich. Both are beautiful in God’s eyes. Knowing what God has given, we are called by faith to boldly soar in our uniquely created way for Him. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” With His spirit of power, love, and self-discipline we have the resource to spread our wings before Him and soar to new heights for His glory. The beauty of spreading our wings in Him is in our knowing that every time there is a wind blowing against us, we are able to soar to new heights because of Him. Romans 8:37-39 reminds us: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.”

God created you to be uniquely His. No one else can fulfill that role. He calls you by faith to build, walk, and soar each day in the knowledge of who you are because of Him. He calls you to be the you He has created. Everyone you’ve tried to be has been taken already!










Sunday, May 15, 2011

Living Response-Ably...STEWARDSHIP

“Living Response-Ably…STEWARDSHIP”

Pastor Tom Millner

Malachi 3:8-12; John 10:7-10


I’ll venture to say that most of you think of stewardship as tithing. Whereas tithing is an element of good stewardship, stewardship is much more than tithing. In the second chapter of Genesis, God placed mankind in the position of being the stewards of all that was created. The steward does not own. The steward does not rule. The steward handles for the owner those things entrusted in a way that is in the best interest of the owner. The steward furthermore enjoys the benefits of that for which he or she is given oversight. From the time of the “fall” in the Garden that resulted from “having it my way,” we live in a world set on false assumptions about purpose and ownership. We say; “I did it my way.” Jesus says; “I am the way.” We say; “this is my life!” He says; “I have bought you with a price.”We are not our own! As ones who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; as Redeemer and our friend, we have been placed into a newly restored position in Christ – the position of trusted steward of all God has given us.  I think we are not very good stewards because we don’t understand what stewardship really means. How, then, are we to learn what good stewardship is about? Let’s look to God’s Word for wisdom and guidance!

In today’s reading of Malachi we hear of the prophet’s chastisement of the people of Israel for not being good stewards of what God had given them. They had been delivered from captivity by the Babylonians and had returned to their land without due regard for the One who had delivered them. God had been faithful to deliver them; He was expecting that they be faithful in giving back to Him as good stewards. God reminds them that He is the giver of all blessings and that when honored as such by their stewardship; He is faithful to deliver more as a testimony to others. He says “Test me in this.” Now let’s get something clear. This is not an “I give and I’ll get” scripture. In our greed, we may be tempted to tithe so that we will be blessed with more; as though putting our money into the vending machine to push the button for something we desire. This is not what Malachi is trying to convey. God is saying that He is faithful to provide and that we are to be the good stewards He has created us to be and give back for the good of all. In being good stewards or stewardship is multiplied as a witness to living as God created us to live. We are so accustomed to look for “what’s in it for me,” that we lose sight of being the steward He created us to be! The blessing is tied to the stewardship. The stewardship is not the ticket to the blessing. Stewardship is honoring God for who God is and what He has done; it is not the manipulation of God’s grace and blessings in order to get more! We too often use the broken model of human relationships as the model for relationship to God. In our human relationships we more often than not give to get, rather than give for the joy of giving because that’s what we have to give. When we model our human relationships after the Godly model, our human relationships will be healed from their brokenness as well. 

            We’re not only to be good stewards of our money but also of all He has given us. When asked by the Pharisees in Matthew 22 about the greatest of the commandments, Jesus responded “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He went on to express that loving your neighbor as yourself was the fulfillment of the expression of love to God. God desires that we be good stewards of our hearts. He has given us hearts filled with desires that honor His presence and His leadings. When we nurture (as good stewards) those things which build up our heart towards Him, we experience even more of His heart in us. R.G Le Tourneau was a passionate inventor of earth moving machinery. He was at my home church once when I was just a young lad to give his testimony. He told the story of how he turned the stewardship of his heart into a mighty force for this nation. As his business began to grow, he grew his contribution to God’s work (His Church) proportionately. Beginning with 10% of his earnings, he grew his contributions to 20%, then 30%, then 40%, and so on until the time of his testimony he was giving back to God 90% of his income. I didn’t realize at the time that I was hearing the testimony that the man speaking was the inventing father of one of the biggest earth moving business in the world. Le Tourneau earth moving equipment were the major instruments in the building of the interstate highway system in the US. Le Tourneau gave his testimony not to encourage more people to get rich, but rather to share the joy of how God had inspired and multiplied his heart for building in a way that built greater things than his heart could ever have imagined. God has given you a heart for something as well. How is He calling you in stewardship there? He has given you a heart for that special something for a reason and it is not for you to hide it firmly in your own control but rather to be His steward in multiplying it for His kingdom. When we are good stewards of what He has given us in our hearts and give back to him in greater and greater proportion, we discover the multitude of ways others are blessed by our heart expressions.  

Romans 12:1-2 reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.” Not only are we called to love God with all our heart, but also with our entire mind. If we are too busy indulging our mind in all sorts of ways in which we can maneuver measuring up or getting out of having to measure up, we haven’t much time left to be good mind stewards for God. I venture to say that if we were better stewards of our thoughts, we’d experience greater joy in our hearts and more love in our relationships. Instead of offering Him the best of our thoughts, we more often than not offer Him the brunt of our thoughts. Some of that brunt is anger, hurt, and insistence in having it all our way – that is not having to suffer any bad consequences for any of the bad choices we’ve made. At other times we give Him the brunt by turning away from Him and not being obedient to His commands because it’s more convenient than giving Him thanks in the midst of life’s struggles. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This requires good stewardship of the mind we have been given. Paul encouraged the folks in Thessalonica to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In the midst of your turmoil or strife, just as within the midst of your joy and gladness, stewardship of your mind renders thankful thoughts and acknowledgement of His gift of life and love. Cluttering our minds with gossip, selfishness, revenge, ego fulfillment or self-elevation at the sacrifice of others is not good stewardship of our minds. 

Going back to Romans 12:1 again we hear Paul asserting that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We seldom think of our bodies as gifts for which we are to be good stewards, but they are an essential part of the stewardship mix. Who gives you the capacity to breathe every breath? Who provides you with life itself? Who has gifted you with the body you have that is inhabited as the very temple of God? The answer is not YOU. Yet YOU are called to be the steward of that body. How many of you would upon receipt of a priceless masterpiece of art begin to daily slap permanent ink all over the canvass? Pretty soon, that priceless piece of art would be rendered a worthless unrecognizable object. I venture to say that we wouldn’t do that, yet we think nothing of polluting one of the greatest and priceless gifts we have been given with toxins, infections, bad thoughts and bad habits. That masterpiece you’ve been given is priceless in the eyes of God. He even gave His life so that you may have your to the full. Why do we insist upon turning his priceless tart into a mud pie? It’s poor stewardship!!! We’re all guilty, to one degree or another. God calls us to be good stewards of what He has given us. How are we answering that call?

All of us have fallen short of His call. That doesn’t mean we are forever failures at the task. His grace is sufficient in all situations. He doesn’t ask us to be good stewards in order to measure up; He asks us to be good stewards because He has already done the measuring up for us. We can thus be stewards in gratitude rather than slaves to an unrelenting master. We can be good stewards of our wealth (or seeming lack thereof). We can be better stewards of our hearts, of our minds, and of our bodies. He does not leave us alone in our tasks. He has given us the fellowship of other believers here in this church family. He has given us the comfort of His Holy Spirit presence in our lives. He has given us the benefit of His WORD. From our scripture reading today in John 10:10 we can be assured – “the thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”




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Pastor Tom Millner, Sr. Pastor  (Sister church in NJ)



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Living Response-Ably; RELATIONSHIP

“Living Response-Ably…RELATIONSHIPS”

Pastor Tom Millner

John 15:12-17; Ephesians 2:4-10



“The ultimate calling upon the follower of Christ is to live a life that reflects the essence of Christ.” This is the statement that was used two years ago as the foundational truth for a series of lessons on loving intentionally. Love is a verb which demands action. We confuse hormonal changes that are triggered by psychological and emotional imprinting (sometimes known as lust) with love. Love is greater than our feelings; it lives before, during, and after our good or bad feelings have subsided. Every relationship is not intended to be intimate, but every relationship is made whole in the presence of love. Not only does Jesus assert the imperative to “love each other,” but He also summed up the whole of the commandments in loving God with all we have in us and loving others as we would ourselves as being the fulfillment of those commands. Armed with this truth, how do we live our lives response-ably (able to respond to love’s call) in relationships? What do we do when relationships go sour? How do we respond when someone offends us? How do we nurture and value our relationships?

The offense: In every relationship there is the potential for one or the other of the parties to be offended by something the other says or does. I’m sure that’s never happened here (not), but we’ll go there just in case it ever happens to you. We teach the Biblical principle from Matthew 18:15 that states; “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” I have seen folks quick to jump on this and confront someone in a way that was itself offensive to the one being confronted. That winds up being a defensive tactic, rather than a loving act of reconciliation seeking to dissolve offenses. If you want to understand what are the true “sin” offenses to which this scripture refers, look at the list of the Ten Commandments as a guide. Failing to say hello at the grocery store is not a sin offense worthy of confrontation that requires forgiveness. It is a good idea, however, to disclose to someone our intent to acknowledge each other where time, focus on the task, or distraction may have been the impediment. We are such creatures of the habit of walking around with the belief that someone will see us for who we believe we truly are (less than they or others), or that they will not see us for who we try to project (our contrived self). Don’t fret, it’s a human condition. Everyone does it to one degree or another. That’s why Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” That scripture followed a discourse on not worrying about what you eat or wear; common concerns during the time of Jesus. Today, we worry about what we eat or wear for very different reasons than folks back then. Today our major concern is how we appear. The Biblical truth still applies; But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Seeking His kingdom first is acknowledging and living in the truth of who we are because of who He is. He has redeemed us, justified us, made us His friend, united us in one Spirit with Him, made us next of kin, opened a direct pathway to God, made us whole before God, freed us from condemnation, assured us that God’s got our back eternally, we’ve been given the spirit of power and love, appointed to produce good fruit for Him, made into God’s holy temple, and we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. What more need I seek? About what more do I need to worry? Seeking the kingdom of God is engaging the process of living in the reality of who we are in Christ. Living in the light of this truth, brightens our path and helps to ensure that we do not so easily give or take offense. Dialogue with one another is in the essence of relationship. Often we confuse our monologue with dialogue. The former takes only one and renders only one. Dialogue takes two and renders the possibility for more to be multiplied. Dialogue begins with God, and is multiplied with others.

The sour one: Sometimes relationships grow sour. Misunderstandings, misgivings, and or miscommunications may be the culprit. It may even be theological or philosophical differences that bear heavily upon relationship. What do you do when there seems to be such a strong and deep divide between you and another? Maybe it’s a parent, a child, a brother, sister, other relative or friend that stands firmly at odds with your personal convictions. More times than not there is something on a deeper level going on than is apparent. It could be deep seated fear (of any number of consequences), pride, or just plain ignorance that is at the center of the divide. Without dialogue and self-awareness, however, the chances of resolving these issues are slim. Ignorance doesn’t have to be terminal; it is curable, but one has to want to be cured. It is unlikely that one who is not willing to probe deeper than the surface will find the true source of the discord. If you’re the one holding the affront and position of rejection, you can probe more deeply within yourself in prayer and supplication to God. We are told that He is faithful to deliver us into the light of truth if only we ask and remain open to His prompting. Often it is not sufficient to listen in a vacuum. God places us in fellowship so that we may seek counsel among the wise and thus grow stronger in our faith. If you are on the rejection end of the sour relationship and the other seems not willing to discuss or be open to finding a common ground for the good of the relationship, you cannot force the resolution. What you can do is to continue to seek God first in your own life, pray fervently for the person with whom the relationship has been lost (pray for that person’s well being, not that person’s demise), and allow yourself the space and time to grieve the loss of a dream of a relationship that was not possible. We are called to trust God for the outcome and not insist upon things being “our way.” Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28 “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” We don’t know the end of the story…God does! Let’s trust Him with the outcome rather than trying to force it to be our way.

The Nurture: God gave us the example of how to engage a nurturing relationship. He gave of Himself, came to live within our world, rejoicing and hurting just as we experience. To nurture our relationships, we are called to follow Christ’s example. In a world filled with timelines, meeting schedules, more yet to do at the end of “to do” lists, we find it hard to allow ourselves to glimpse at what it must be like to experience life as the other does. The Christian is called to be the face of Christ to an un-Christian world. So what does that mean? What does that look like? The Bible gives us a clear picture of the nurturing relationship. In the New Testament Jesus is seen as the Good Shepherd, always looking out for the best interest of others, even if it cost His life. Seldom does the care of our relationships literally cost us our physical lives, but we have much to learn about relinquishing our possessive notions and behaviors when it comes to nurturing relationships. We could even say that we are even metaphorically called to surrender our agendas to God for sake of the greater good. That’s how we find truth in our reading from Romans Chapter 8. But let’s look deeper at relationship nurturing as Paul was teaching in Romans 12 (pg 788). Romans 12:1-3 “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. 2 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. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” The good rule of thumb here is to spend time with God each day as you reinforce who you are because of Him, not because of you. We are neither as great nor as minor as we would think. When Paul encourages us to be transformed by the renewing off our minds, he’s speaking to each of us here. Begin your day in the renewing mode and you’ll see the disappearance of the “chewing” mode! Let’s see what else Paul is sharing with us as food for renewal. Romans 12:9-21 “9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”


How are your relationships faring? How are you living out the character of Christ in your relationships? What place is the Kingdom playing as you seek out relationship with one another? 







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Pastor Tom Millner, Sr. Pastor  (Sister church in NJ)