“Where He Leads”
Pastor Tom Millner
Luke 15:8-10; Acts 26:16-18
We’ve just celebrated twelve years as a congregation known as Church of the Holy SpiritSong. This church started meeting for Bible study in a living room of an apartment in Palm Beach, in 1999. In 2000, the meetings moved to Sundays and a hotel in Boca Raton. The congregation grew and more and more people were attending and joining from Fort Lauderdale. About 2003 the worship services moved south to Fort Lauderdale, near Tamarac. In 2005, we purchased a warehouse space in Tamarac to be home for years to come. At that time we were being led to initiate a community wide effort in Wilton Manors around The Purpose Driven Life. We rented space on Sunday morning from the GLCC of South Florida on Andrews Avenue and after five weeks had grown to a congregational size that rendered the warehouse space obsolete. We had undertaken a capital campaign for acquiring space as God was leading us to a more permanent location. We continued to grow and in 2006, our beloved founding Pastor announced her calling to a new location in New Jersey. Amidst the grieving at our loss, Deacon Suzanne, Deacon Leslie, and I (Elder Tom) were being prepared as best we could to assume the Pastoral positions as Associate, Associate, and Senior Pastor, respectively. In May 0f 2007, the three of us were ordained into the pastoral role for Church of the Holy SpiritSong. Shortly after ordination, the GLCC announced the sale of the property we were meeting in which made it necessary to begin the quest for a new location. We looked for places to buy. We looked for bargain places and we looked at many different possibilities. Purchase was beyond our means as the market for commercial properties seemed to be escalating. After praying over several scenarios, we felt led to negotiate an agreement for the space we are currently worshipping in that would give us a home base and room to grow for the following ten years. We will be completing three years here in this Worship Center in October. We had finances to complete the shared costs of renovations and enough to pay the lease for three years, trusting God to provide through His people the resources for the remaining seven years. We all enjoy the convenience of not having to set up chairs and sound equipment every Sunday morning. The worship leaders can arrive and rehearse without waiting for the speakers to be mounted on their stands. This space is available all week for meetings, study and prayer. People walk in on any given day to ask for prayer, to share a burden, to get some help with a specific issue, or to just sit quietly before the cross. This place is a blessing! This place is a burden! The blessing comes in positive experiences and worship that is centered on the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The burden is the financial cost associated with having the convenience of being established in the midst of the community here at this center. Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, however, that when we share the yoke with Him, our burden is lightened. We need more necks in the yoke turning the burden into a blessing! This is for the encouragement of those who are already yoked to the fullest commitment and for challenge to those who are standing on the sidelines watching the herd go by! We exist for His purpose, Church: “To ignite the world for Christ, one life at a time.” This place, this service, these services, and those yoked together here are simply instruments of His purpose to ignite! What does it mean to “ignite the world for Christ, one life at a time”?
You might have wondered how the two scriptures; depicting two separate stories could be tied together in any way. They are each different, yet they share a common thread – God’s passion for His people.
The parable of the woman who lost one of the ten silver coins she possessed is one amongst several parables Jesus used to teach about the love of God. It’s comforting to know that if we were the lost coin that God would metaphorically sweep the corners of the earth to retrieve us and then rejoice that we had been found. Jesus demonstrated that depth of love when He submitted to the human authorities to be crucified in our place, for our self-centeredness, for our redemption and salvation. He’s done His part and now He asks that we do our part in His grand plan of shining the light and sweeping the corners. This story is not only about God, but also about the woman. She had a passion for all she was given. Having lost one of the ten pieces of silver, she passionately went after the one that was lost, so that her collection could be whole again. She could have been thankful for the nine she retained and gone about her merry way, but that would have not satiated her desire to regain her whole collection. Her heart was focused on the whole of her collection and her heart’s desire would not be met until the one that was lost was returned. Before she started the quest to retrieve the lost coin, she must have recognized it was missing. What have you been missing that will make you whole? The woman didn’t go to find a replacement; she was only satisfied with the real thing. God created us to reflect His image of love, mercy, grace, peace, and patience. We miss the mark when we seek to replace that image with substitutes. Ego centered rants, cravings for attention, insisting it be “my way or the highway,” relationship roulette, gratuitous sex, the quest for acknowledgement through gossip, the insistence that church leaders be perfect in order to be for His good, or the belief that all my needs must be met or God must hate me, are all faulty replacements in our quest to restore the genuine treasure. Only one thing will do; the real thing which is the restored and whole relationship with Him. This story reminds us to stop looking passionately to that which is not real, lasting, or completing and to return to the passion for which we were created and by which we are made whole – the relationship that ignites our hearts anew with Jesus Christ.
What about our second scripture today? The Acts of the Apostles as this scripture is referred describes Saul’s conversion (before he became the Apostle Paul). Paul was a passionate man about his religion. He was a Pharisee, having been taught by the best theologians of the time, and he was zealous about maintaining the integrity of the Law upon which the Jewish religion was founded. He had been present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. So here’s Saul (Paul), going after his passion for religious righteousness as he saw it to be and suddenly he’s blinded by the light of Christ. Not only is he stopped in his tracks, but also he’s re-directed. His passion is not wrong, his direction and focus is wrong. You see he thought he was to save the Jews from the ravages of those pesky Jesus followers, and God intervened in a way that got Paul’s attention and redirected him toward igniting the world outside of Judaism for Christ, with the same zeal and passion Paul had been using to persecute. God didn’t take away Paul’s passion, He redirected it for God’s glory, which brought Paul into a deeper relationship with God and led others in that direction as well. Paul had to be blinded to his current direction to receive vision for his new direction. We also get caught up in our own sights trying to do what we think is going to make the difference in our lives when suddenly blindness sets in. We can’t see where it’s all going; people seem to not be doing what we think they need to be doing, and we’re included. In his blindness, Paul received a new vision from God; a new direction. Instead of destroying the blight of Christ, he was being led to ignite for Christ. God used Paul’s passion. He just changed its focus.
What is God doing in your life that is calling you to sweep every corner and to look differently in a new direction? What coin in the collection that God has given you do you need restored to make the collection whole again? What new direction is God telling you to move with a changed mind and a new vision? As the body of Christ here, each of us is a part that serves a function in the call to “ignite the world for Christ, one life at a time.” What is your call in being united as one body to ignite? Are you being a part of the ignition or are you removing the battery cable? The engine is ready; the fuel tank of God’s Spirit is waiting to be used. Each of us has a key in hand. Are you willing to insert it in the ignition and turn the lever for the relation of a lifetime with Him who made you to have a relationship with you?