Transforming Marriages Part 2

Ephesians 5.22-33

The Bible begins and ends with a wedding…Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. God takes marriage seriously. So should we.

Our culture would have us believe that the goal of marriage is happily ever after. If your spouse isn’t doing that for you, then by all means, find someone who will. If the frog doesn’t turn into a prince, try another frog. If the princess stops looking like a princess, then find someone else who does. It’s about my needs and what I want. Self is king. No marriage can survive that…Christian or otherwise.

Marriages are in crisis. That’s not just out there, but right here within the body as well. There seems to be an epidemic of folks who should know better, who are making decisions that are destroying their families. Guys, you can not be complacent in your marriage…you can’t be passive. And you also can’t treat your wife like she’s your slave. God will hold you accountable for your marriage. It’s your responsibility to lead. Find out what’s causing tension in your relationship and do what you need to to fix it. Stop acting like a victim, and be a man. Be careful little eyes what you see…as guys we are captivated or captured by what our eyes see. Get a handle on it. It starts with your relationship with Jesus. Be an example to your wife of one who is pursuing a vibrant faith.

Gals, cultivate your marriage. Pay attention to your husband. Look at your own heart and not just at what’s wrong with him. Don’t try to change him…trust God to make the changes He needs to. Be prayerful, and lean into the Lord when your husband disappoints you. Treat him the way you hope your future daughter-in-law will someday treat your own son. Be careful little mouth what you say…no matter how big and strong you may think your husband is, your words hurt him. When you belittle him and criticize him, you destroy him. Use your words to build him up and encourage him, to strengthen him and respect him. Choose obedience and living in God’s will over anything else, even if that means your marriage isn’t necessarily “happily ever after”.

Divorce may seem like the only option, but the relief it gives is only temporary. In the long run it takes its toll because ultimately God designed marriage to be a covenant that lasts forever. Obedience to God despite the circumstances, part of what Peter calls, “suffering for the sake of righteousness” (1 Peter 3.14) actually leads to blessing. Why? Because doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because I feel like it or the other person deserves it…is a picture of what Jesus did for us. When I say “yes” to who God calls me to be as a husband, then I have to trust Him even if my wife is saying “no”.

But what if my spouse has been unfaithful? Infidelity in a marriage is a big deal. It violates the covenant that the husband and wife make before God… “forsaking all others, to cling only to them…” It corrupts the “oneness” that a husband and his wife are called to. And while there may be allowance for divorce in the case of unfaithfulness, the greater and higher call is to forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe that God wants to restore broken marriages…but both must be willing to walk that long and difficult road together. That begins with repentance and a real brokenness over our sinfulness and selfishness. It might mean getting help…seeing a counselor or going to a program like Celebrate Recovery.

If you have already experienced the devastating effects of divorce, don’t lose heart. God’s faithfulness never changes. Pursue your relationship with Him and make Him your first priority. He can and will use you to impact the kingdom in significant ways just has He has countless others who have experienced the painful realities of life this side of the garden.

The only hope we have for a successful marriage is Jesus…only He can transform us through the Spirit to live and love like Him. Only He can give us an eternal perspective on life and a compelling reason to invest everything in the kingdom. It’s only when I’m pursuing Him in earnest, that I will even have the desire to love my wife well. It’s only when she is pursuing Him the same way that she will have the desire to submit to me. If each of us is committed to being a godly spouse, we will have a godly marriage. Doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges…that’s part of life outside the garden, but it means that we are committed to seeing it through until death do us part.

Husbands, is your wife more like Jesus because of you? Wives, is your husband, more like Jesus because of you?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series: Transforming Marriages. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Transforming Marriages Part 1

Ephesians 5.15-21

Following Jesus is not just a one-time decision…not just the choice I make to trust in Him for eternal life. Following Jesus is a choice I have to make on a daily, even moment-by-moment, basis. It takes intentionality and a willingness to say “yes” to the Spirit as He guides and directs my steps.

When you trusted in Jesus, you were adopted into His family. Your allegiance has changed. You are now a son or daughter of the King. How has that impacted the way you live your life? Because it has to impact your life. I’ve said it before, but Jesus didn’t save you to go to heaven. If He did, you would already be there. Jesus saved you to radically transform you. To completely change you. To make you brand new. To make you like Him.

Are you still looking at the world from an earthly perspective, or are you beginning to see your life through God’s eyes? Beginning because it’s a process…it takes time to cultivate a perspective on life. Are you looking for opportunities to make kingdom investments in the lives of those around you? Are you living for the moment or for eternity?

The goal of the Christian life is conformity to the image of Jesus. So day by day, moment by moment the Spirit is at work…He’s working to transform us to live and love like Jesus. The more we say “yes” to Him, the greater the transformation. The more we tell Him “no”, the more stunted we become spiritually. With every “yes” our perspective changes…we see the world through His eyes and understand His will for us a little bit more. With every “no” we continue to focus on our circumstances and are more confused about what God wants from us and for us. “Yes” leads to an others or outward focus. “No”…it’s all about me.

So how do I start saying “yes” to the Spirit? It starts with prayer and asking for His direction. To stop in any and every circumstance and ask for wisdom. But know that it must include time spent in the Word…otherwise, how will I know if I’m the Spirit or my own selfish desires. The Spirit’s direction will never contradict God’s Word. So knowing God’s Word is imperative. We have to learn to think differently. We are influenced by what we allow in…the things we read, watch, listen to. The more we engage whatever that is, the more it influences us. How much time are you spending allowing God’s Word to influence you? Reading, meditating, memorizing, listening to, etc.? It doesn’t just happen…we have to be intentional. We have to have a plan both to pray and to spend time in the Word.

And following Jesus is not a solo gig…it’s a group project. It’s something we do together. It’s not enough for one of us to follow Jesus well. Paul says the job’s not done “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” So part of saying “yes” to the Spirit includes time spend with other believers. Being filled by the Spirit results in a lot of singing and thanksgiving and serving one another.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He invites you to be a part of His family…just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, that Jesus can save you and then trust Him to do so. Then you too can be a son or daughter of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series: Transforming Marriages. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Ascension

Luke 24.36-53

Jesus makes His final appearance to His disciples and gives them instructions on carrying His mission forward.

Like the disciples, we too can get distracted by life’s events and circumstances and forget that God is at work in our lives…that He is bringing about His purposes in and through us, that He is conforming us to the image of Jesus, transforming us to live and love like Him. So while we may not see the purpose in suffering, He ultimately uses it to bring about greater glory.

God invites us to see our lives and our circumstances through His eyes…to see the opportunities that each of us have on a daily basis to be His witnesses to those around us. To encourage, to equip, to love, to serve, to share the gospel, to point them to Jesus. And He’s given us the Spirit to help us do just that.

How do we begin to see life through God’s eyes? Time spent in His Word, time spent in prayer, and time spent with other believers. It’s only as we spend time with Him in His Word that the Spirit opens our minds to understand the Scriptures. How do we know who God is apart from His Word? Through His Word, we get to know who He is and who we are. And the latter is almost as important as the former. You see, every day in a myriad of ways this world tells us who we are…tv, social media, music, books, friends, enemies, family members, etc. Not to mention the enemy… All these other inputs judge our worth based on the value we bring to the system…by our looks or our talents or our bank accounts or our reputation or our popularity or whatever. Those voices tell us that we are never good enough or acceptable enough or worthwhile enough. But what does the Bible say? You and I are of infinite value because we are made in the image of the Creator. That would be enough. But even greater than that, if you have trusted in Jesus, then you are a son or daughter of the King.

It’s only as we spend time with Him in prayer that we share our thoughts with Him…our hopes and dreams, our fears and failures, our desires and our struggles…and hear from Him. And it’s only as we spend time with other believers that we are reminded and encouraged to pursue Jesus together. Time spent with God should be a daily habit.

The disciples struggled to believe initially, but when they became convinced, they changed the world. The only reasonable explanation for their devotion, even at the cost of their own life, is:

• They saw the empty tomb.

• They met their risen Lord.

• They came to believe the Word of God: “… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Have you trusted in Jesus? If not, today could be the day. He invites you to be a part of His kingdom. He’s already provided the way…all you have to do is recognize your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then forgiveness of sins, eternal life, peace, joy, hope…the kingdom are yours.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Emmaus Road

Luke 24.13-35

Two men on a journey struggle with what Jesus’ death means for them. Was He just a prophet, or was He in fact the Messiah that they had been so long waiting for? If He was the Messiah, how could He die? What about the kingdom He promised? Then Jesus shows up and explains using the Scriptures that suffering before glory had always been God’s plan for His Messiah. Only the Innocent could die for the guilty…only the blood of the Passover Lamb could cover the sins of the people.

Often we too can have an incomplete view of who Jesus is. We like the reigning part, we don’t like the suffering part. We’re happy for Him to be our Savior, but we don’t really want Him to tell us what to do. And we really don’t want Him to change us. If He’ll save us and let us live our lives, we’re good. But Jesus didn’t come just to save us. He came to radically transform us. He came to completely change us. He came to make us like Him. Totally brand new. If we have trusted in Jesus, Paul says we are new creations…the old is gone and the new is here. Problem is…we want to hang on to the old. We like being the main character in our story…we like things being all about us. But following Jesus means that He is the main Character in our story. He is our King, and He is the One who brings purpose and meaning to our lives. He has earned the right to tell us what to do…not only did He create us (that would be enough), but He also saved us. We owe everything to Him. Good news is: He’s a benevolent King who desires our good. But we will only know that as we get to know Him through His Word and prayer and fellowship with other believers.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He has gone to incredible lengths to rescue you and to prove His love for you. He invites you to be a part of His kingdom.

Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

The women have a front row seat to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. Though all hope seemed lost…the Hero was dead…God was not finished yet. God’s the Author of this Story, and I love when God tells the story…because when God tells the story, there’s always hope. An astounding twist to the plot…the Hero is alive. Death is conquered. Sin is atoned for. The way is made available for us to return back to God. Death is swallowed up in life, despair in hope, mourning in astounding joy. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. So no matter how much the world may shake around us…whether it’s natural disasters or the wickedness of men…God is able to bring life out of death, hope out of despair, victory out of sure defeat.

In this life, there will be suffering. Guaranteed. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices, some of it to other’s bad choices, and some of it because we live in a fallen world. Every death is a tragedy because every death is a reminder of our rebellion against God…a rebellion that broke the good world He made…a rebellion that could only be atoned for by the death of His own Son, so that while physically these bodies will die, we have the hope of new bodies that won’t…we have the hope of an eternity spent with our Hero, delighting in our Triune God, in a place where there is no more pain or sorrow, no more tears or death. Perfect peace, joy and bliss…reigning with our King forever.

The question isn’t whether or not these bodies will give out…they will…we will die someday. Death is one for one. It’s an appointment we all must keep. The question is: will we be ready when that time comes? And when it comes, Jesus will either be Savior or Judge. Which will it be for you? Life is short. Death is sure. The only hope we have is in Jesus.

Do you know Jesus as Savior today? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. You simply have to recognize your need to be rescued…that you are a sinner in need of repentance. You have to believe that Jesus can rescue you…that He can save you from your sin, that He died in your place. And then you have to trust Him to save you. When you do that, the Bible says that you are adopted into God’s family…you become a son or daughter of the King of the Universe, spending an eternity with Him in the kingdom.

Maybe you are a believer, but, like the women or the disciples, the circumstances of life have caused you to lose hope. You’re living as if Jesus is still in the tomb. Maybe you need to be reminded today that Jesus is alive, and He wants you to experience resurrection life…the abundant life that He saved you for. Now’s a good time to rededicate your life to following Him.

The resurrection changes everything! Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

The author of Hebrews writes to encourage Christians not to abandon the faith, but rather to endure persecution and draw near to God. He wants to spur them on to love and good deeds. Jesus is the Son of God. The only way to Salvation. As Hebrews shows us, Jesus is greater than anything and everything in all of creation. Jesus is the One to whom every prophecy and every symbol in the OT points. He is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Jesus reigns supreme. Problems and persecutions may come, but since we have Jesus let’s keep the faith, and draw near to God. He’s got some amazing things planned.

Twice in this passage we read “…since we have…” That’s an awesome statement…It’s what’s ours…what has already been secured for us…what is true about us…

The first “since we have” is “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Now that’s a big deal. You see the “holy place” was the room in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept, where the mercy seat was, and the place where God’s presence was said to have dwelt above the cherubim (Exodus 25.10-22, Numbers 7.89, Hebrews 9.3-5). Only the high priest could enter the holy place and that once a year to offer sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9.7). It was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge veil (Exodus 26.31-37, Hebrews 9.3). So while folks could still come to God in faith and cry out to Him in prayer like David or Daniel or Jeremiah, full access to God was limited and forgiveness was only symbolic (Hebrews 10.1-10).

But now we have full access to God and true forgiveness of sins…why? Because of Jesus. Because He died so that we might live. The Innocent for the guilty. We can gather together and celebrate our life as a church because of His work on the cross two-thousand years ago. The Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people.

In the upper room as He was celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” The new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34 (Ezekiel 36.25-27)…new heart and the Spirit dwelling in everyone who believes. But first sin had to be atoned for, the blood of the Perfect Passover Lamb had to be shed. Jesus’ death brings the new covenant in to play, allowing us to confidently approach the Father…when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two signifying that He had cleared the way (Luke 23.45), a new and living way. A way based not on bringing sacrifices for sin year after year, but a way that rests in the one perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the One who died and is now alive, has secured for us.

The second “since we have” is “…since we have a great priest over the house of God…” The high priest was kind of a go-between…representing God to the people, and the people to God. So now not only is Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, but He’s also the Great High Priest who intercedes for His people (Hebrews 5). I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me. That Jesus intercedes with the Father on my behalf… And because Jesus is both Perfect Sacrifice and Perfect High Priest, we can have confidence when we approach God, not in ourselves or in our own abilities or the things we’ve done, but in Jesus…who He is and what He’s done. In Him and in Him alone.

Because of the confidence we have in Jesus, the author of Hebrews says three times, “…let us…” The “let us” is important because following Jesus is not just an individual pursuit. We are to run after Him together. And we have a plan for doing just that. A strategy if you will. We call it Gather, Grow, Impact.  And it just so happens that each one lines up with these “let us” statements.

“…let us consider how to provoke/stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” In other words let us GATHER. The author of Hebrews says we gather to provoke each other…now not in a bad way, but in a good way. We provoke each other to love and good deeds by encouraging one another. Following Jesus is not a solo gig. It’s what we do as a tribe. We run after Him together. Our weekend services are our main opportunity to Gather. It’s a time that we sing praises to our God, we celebrate communion, we hear the Word taught, we fellowship together. Now there are all kinds of reasons and excuses to forsake the “assembling together”, but it’s hazardous to do so. It’s dangerous to your spiritual walk…you are more vulnerable alone. Paul describes the church as a body and Peter uses the imagery of a spiritual house. We need each other. Not only are you more vulnerable alone, but we are also less effective when you’re not here. There has to be an “all in-ness” to our life together. That’s not just in our worship together, but also in how we serve one another and how we invest in the kingdom together.

“…let us draw near with a true/sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Let us GROW. We are to intentionally pursue our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. We don’t just stumble into it. There has to be a turning away from sin and a turning toward Jesus . Our hearts have been cleansed…we have been set free. So we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Our mission statement is: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. We know that that is something we cannot do on our own…only the Spirit can transform us as individuals and as a church. But God invites us into that process of transformation…He invites us to draw near to Him in prayer and time spent in His Word and fellowship with each other, and as we do that, the Spirit transforms us to live and love like Jesus a little more each day.

“…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” So what is the “confession of our hope”? Our hope, as believers, is the resurrection. It’s the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the kingdom. It’s an eternity spent worshiping, celebrating and enjoying our Triune God in bodies that no longer break down or wear out, in a place where there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. Perfect peace, joy, bliss, seeing our Savior face to face and delighting in the Father. The confession is our testimony…our belief that what God has promised He will fulfill. Our belief that the Hero has come and saved the day, and that we will reign with Him forever. So let persecution come, let suffering come, let the world crumble around us…our God will not fail us. He is faithful. So let us not fail Him by doubting or allowing our confidence in Him to be shaken. No matter what happens. And because we have this hope, we should share it with others. So lets make an IMPACT.

My prayer for us as a church is that we would always provoke each other to love and good deeds, that we would continually draw near to God, intentionally pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, and that we would hold fast our confession, being a light and a beacon of hope in our community, being generous with our time and with our resources, anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Death of the King

Luke 23.44-56

How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away, As wounds which mar the Chosen One, Bring many sons to glory…Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer, But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom.” The cross shows the love of God in a way that nothing else in all of creation could. Jesus endured the worst physical torments our twisted minds could conceive…even those pale in comparison to the spiritual horrors He faces as He becomes sin. And yet He does it willingly for us, dying so that we might live… “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16)

So why wouldn’t we believe? Knowing all that Jesus endured on the cross for us…knowing that the debt has been paid in full…why wouldn’t we believe? Why wouldn’t we accept the free gift He offers? Why would we ever say, “No, thanks. I’m good. I want to bear my own sin and suffer God’s wrath for myself”? Why wouldn’t we…when God has demonstrated His deep and mysterious, overwhelming, all-consuming, never-ending and never-changing, beautiful, perfect and pure, crazy-amazing love for us in such a powerful way?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Crucified

Luke 23.26-43

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see. The cross shows the love of God in a way that nothing else in all of creation could. Jesus endures the worst physical torments our twisted minds could conceive… And yet He does it willingly for us, dying so that we might live. As The Jesus Storybook Bible says, “It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.” What a Savior!

There are a number of different reactions to Jesus…the women weep. The rulers, the soldiers and one of the criminals mocks. The other criminal believes. How will you respond to Jesus? Is He a “would-be” King, or is He the King of kings? Is He your King? And if He is your King, would that be obvious to those who are closest to you? Are you proclaiming Him as King through your actions and your words like the criminal did with his buddy on the cross?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Before the Romans

Luke 23.1-25

Three times Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent. Herod, by mocking Jesus and sending Him back to Pilate, shows His agreement with Pilate’s assessment. And yet the rulers will stop at nothing short of death, and death of the worst kind…crucifixion.

Pilate and Herod both find Jesus innocent of the charges leveled against Him. Yet neither is willing to take a stand. Pilate is afraid of the crowd; Herod is indifferent. How often do you fail to do the right thing because of fear or indifference? How often do you allow others to talk you into things you know are wrong? How often do you give in to peer pressure? At school, at home or at work…Maybe it’s cheating on a test or your taxes. But maybe it’s something much worse…

The people also fail to take a stand. Days earlier they hang on Jesus’ every word as He taught in the Temple then “Crucify, crucify Him!” Talk about jumping on the bandwagon and mob mentality. We will often do things in a group that we would never dream of doing on our own. We allow ourselves to be carried along with the current of public opinion and are afraid to break from the status quo…to stand for what’s right. But we can’t follow the crowd and follow Jesus. We have to choose, it’s one or the other. Is He the King or an imposter? Are we going to pursue His kingdom or our own?

I wonder what impact the events of that morning had on Barabbas… He fully expected to go to a cross that day. Crucifixion was the punishment that his particular brand of transgression called for. No doubt he heard from his cell the cries of the people, “Crucify, crucify Him!” How relieved he must of felt when he found out their shouts weren’t for him and that Someone else was taking his place. Did he feel guilty or even care about who the Someone was? Did he feel gratitude? Was he joyful? How about you? You see, we are all Barabbas, each and every one of us. We are all guilty of rebellion against God…we are all worthy of death. We all rightfully stand condemned. And yet the good news is…Jesus took our place. He died in our stead. He willingly accepted the punishment which our sin demands so that we could have life. That is the gospel. The innocent dying for the guilty so that we could have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with the Father. Do you believe that today?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

In the Courtyard

Luke 22.54-71

Peter denies Jesus. The guards mock Him. The council rejects Him. None of it catches Him by surprise. The cross is the only way. He loves us too much to turn back. He will die so that we can live. What a wonderful Savior!

Unfortunately failure is a reality that we must contend with as we strive to follow Jesus. It’s not something that we should accept with an “oh well” attitude, but it should lead us to godly sorrow. Big or small sins…whatever…they are a denial, a betrayal of Jesus. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. And that leads to the turning back. The Christian life is a sifting process…Jesus is committed to making us like Him, and prayer is one of the ways He does this. Is prayer a daily part of your relationship with Jesus? Is it a nice to have or a have to have for you? Learn from the Peter’s experience…prayer is not just a nice to have, but a must have in our pursuit of Jesus. Through prayer, not only are we provided with a way of escape from temptation, but we’re reminded of who Jesus is.

Much like the council who questioned who Jesus was, the world still asks the same question today. Was He just a Man who claimed to be God…because make no mistake, He did claim to be God…? And if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, was He insane or just a con-artist? Because if Jesus was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was not a very good Man. Despite how He’s portrayed in the Gospels, if He was just a Man who claimed to be God, He was a deceiver and a liar. If He was just a Man… But Jesus was not just a Man. He was and is the eternal Son of God. He is the King that we’ve long awaited, the Hero come to rescue us. He is both the Lamb and the Lion, enduring the cross to wear the crown, being sacrificed on the altar to sit on the throne. He is the forever God-Man, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Ruler of the nations, Creator of the universe, Savior of His people. Unequalled. Unmatched. Unrivaled. Unparalleled. Before whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that He is Lord. That’s who Jesus is!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

In the Garden

Luke 22.39-53

It’s interesting that Adam was first tempted in the garden, and Jesus, the last Adam, faces His greatest temptation in another garden. Two very different outcomes. As Paul writes in Romans 5.12-21, the one introduced sin, death and condemnation into the world. The Other, justification, righteousness and eternal life.

Jesus modeled dependency upon the Father throughout His greatest trial. No matter what the outcome, He trusted that His Father was for Him and never doubted His Father’s love. And in that moment, the Father strengthened Him. Sometimes the Father saves us from the storms of life, but more often than not He saves us through them, if we will let Him. He wants to take us by the hand and walk with us through the heart of the raging tempest. I say “if we will let Him” because I think often when the storm comes we dig in our heels and refuse to follow. We fail to recognize the spiritual battle being waged around us, and so instead of reaching for prayer as our greatest weapon…trusting in the Father…we attack the enemy we see with the sword at our disposal. And we wonder why we fail… have you considered that the current trial that you are facing is part of the sifting process for your good…meant to conform you to the image of Jesus.

How vital would you say prayer is to your walk with Jesus? Is prayer a daily habit with you? Is it an exercise born of necessity or convenience? Battlefield or vending machine? Could it be that we lack the strength to endure trials and to stand up to temptation or persecution because prayer isn’t that important to us?

I want challenge you to spend some time with the Father…first consider how important prayer is to you. On a scale from 1 to 10, where does prayer rate in your life (1 being not important, 10 being absolutely necessary)? Ask the Father to increase your desire/sense of need by at least 1. Next, consider…what trial or temptation are you facing that you need to bring to the Father? What struggle do you need deliverance from? What do you need to trust Him for today?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Upper Room Discussions

Luke 22.24-38

Jesus had come to the Upper Room with high hopes. Remember He said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” And that He does. He reinterprets the bread and the cup to show them that He is the ultimate Passover Lamb and that His blood would establish the new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34. Yet in the background His death is looming. Within hours…Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, the disciples arguing over who’s the greatest, and their continued misunderstanding of the coming of the kingdom…Jesus says, “Enough.” They just don’t get it.

We miss it sometimes too, don’t we? We too wrangle for position and self-promotion. Who wants to serve when you can be served? We too fail at the Christian life…probably more times than we like to admit. The “that will never happen to me” or “I would never do that” suddenly turns into major failure…being sifted like wheat. And misunderstanding? You bet. We often only hear what we want to hear.

Success in the kingdom is not about self-promotion and the accumulation of power, but about love…loving God more, and loving His people. Serving and self-denial. Even then we will fail Jesus. The question is: How will we respond? Will we run to Him or away from Him? Will we allow Him to use our failures as a means of strengthening our faith, to sift out the chaff? Will we learn to listen to Him…not just hearing what we want to hear, but hearing what He has to say?

Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53.12). The Innocent died for the guilty. The King laid down His life for those who would be His people. Jesus died in our place. Jesus died so that you and I may live. Paul says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5.21). Do you believe that? Do you know Jesus, or do you just know about Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Passover and Communion

Luke 22.1-23

With Judas’ betrayal looming, Jesus celebrates Passover with the disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

Jesus is the new Passover Lamb. He is the fulfillment of all that the Passover anticipated…the innocent dying for the guilty, forgiveness of sins, the new covenant…a new heart and the Spirit dwelling in all those who believe. If you think the Passover is a Jewish thing….you are right. If you think it’s not a Christian thing…not so much. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, too. He rescues us from sin and death. Because of His sacrifice we have true forgiveness of sins and eternal life. His Spirit dwells in us. We too celebrate Passover…we just call it Communion, and we celebrate it when we gather together.

Every time we take the bread and the cup, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us…His death and resurrection, His shed blood that covers our sins, and the gift of the Spirit. It’s a time for us to look forward to the day when we will eat with our King at the great banquet in the kingdom…a reminder that He is coming back soon. As such, communion is something we celebrate as followers of Jesus. It’s one of the hallmarks of the church.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Signs of the Times Part 2

Luke 21.20-38

Using a discussion about the temple as a starting point, Jesus foretells future events leading up to His Second Coming. While we wait, we are not to be deceived, afraid, ignorant or careless, but we are to be ready…faithfully, courageously, obediently, prayerfully and intentionally investing in the kingdom and anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

In the waiting, it’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to allow the things of this world to take priority. Like the days of Noah…eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage (Luke 17.27). Life goes on and gradually we stop thinking about the kingdom. We no longer anticipate the return of our King. Bills to pay. Errands to run. Things to do. Our own lives to live…our own kingdom to build. Instead of being faithful stewards, we treat the resources He’s entrusted to us as our own private pile of loot to do with as we please. In the parable of the soils, the third soil…thorns represent worries and riches and pleasures of this life…brings no fruit to maturity (Luke 8.14). I’m afraid most of us live in the third soil….and so miss out on the abundance of life, the fullness of joy that comes from living a kingdom-life. We live as if we have all the time in the world…then suddenly like a trap…it’s over. Don’t be careless.

There are lots of things in this life we prepare for…we study for tests; we practice for the game; as parents, we save up for our kids’ education or first car or retirement or any number of things. Why do we prepare? So that we will be ready when the moment of truth comes…the test, the game, the event, the milestone… So why wouldn’t we prepare for the most significant, the greatest event ever…the return of our King?

Reminds me of a fireman. Although a chunk of his time on the job, he might be able to shoot pool, watch TV, play basketball, sleep, etc. At any moment the alarm could sound, and he would have to be ready to go. That means his fire suit has to be prepared, his boots have to be where he can find them, and his helmet needs to be in its place. If he misses anything, the results could be disastrous, or he’s left out of the action. Jesus has given us all a job to do…we each have a mina that we are to invest. The alarm is sounding, are you ready?

As believers we are to keep looking up…“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2.11-14).

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Signs of the Times Part 1

Luke 21.5-19

Using a discussion about the temple as a starting point, Jesus foretells future events leading up to His Second Coming. While we wait, we are not to be deceived or afraid. We are to be ready…faithfully and courageously investing in the kingdom and anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

The world around us is shaking. We are experiencing major turbulence, but because of the resurrection and the hope we have in Jesus, it’s not a time to be deceived or afraid. It’s a time to be ready…a time to live on purpose. It’s a time to invest your mina in intentional, courageous and creative ways…a time to anticipate the return of the King. A time to live a life worthy of the calling with which we have been called…putting off the old self and putting on the new.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Questioning the Resurrection

Luke 20.27-21.4

The Sadducees’ question about the resurrection backfires. Jesus says there’s no doubt there will be a resurrection. God is faithful and will fulfill all that He has promised. Jesus will sit at the right hand of the Father, He will rule over the kingdom and His enemies will be crushed beneath His feet.

What the Sadducees considered a trick question because of their own doubt and misunderstanding is the central question of Christianity…is the resurrection real? The resurrection is central to our faith, and is our hope as Christians. If there is no resurrection, then eat and drink for tomorrow we die. If there is no resurrection, this life is all we have. If there is no resurrection there is no future kingdom, and our hope is only a fleeting and fading one. If there is no resurrection all the promises that God has made…are false, and frankly, we are all wasting our time here today.

Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection…first for Jesus, then for us. For Jesus to conquer sin and death, a resurrection is required. In the parable of the nobleman, Jesus says He goes away to receive His kingdom and then return, picturing His death, resurrection, ascension, and return. The promises made to the patriarchs can only be fulfilled for them if there is a resurrection. For us to live in the kingdom that both the OT and Jesus describe, there must be a resurrection. We know that God is faithful to His promises. Our hope is not in vain. We know that since Jesus was raised, we too will be raised with Him. And we will reign with Him in His kingdom. We know that there is a resurrection.

Knowing that the resurrection is real, it should affect the way live. We have a real hope in Jesus. Hope that this life is not the end. A hope that one day wrongs will be made right. No more tears or pain or sorrow. No death. Endless joy and unheard of satisfaction living life in the kingdom, serving and worshiping Jesus our King.

Knowing that the resurrection is real, we should live, not for the here and now, building our own kingdoms, selfishly grabbing all that we can get…but for the kingdom to come, willingly giving of ourselves and our resources, investing our mina in the lives of those who are around us.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life…our hope is in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Him, make today the day. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. The kingdom awaits.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Authority Questioned

Luke 20.1-18

Who’s in charge? By what authority do You do these things and who gave You the authority? The parable of the vine-growers is Jesus’ response to the question of authority. As the beloved Son of the Father, Jesus’ authority comes from God. Although He may be rejected by the religious leaders, Jesus is still the long-awaited King who brings the kingdom. And those who reject Him will face certain judgment.

The leaders didn’t want Jesus to be King. They questioned His authority. They rebelled against His sovereignty. But why? Why did they reject Jesus? If He is clearly the Hero they had been looking for all along, why didn’t they throw a big party and celebrate? Here’s my theory. Maybe they really didn’t want a King…maybe they didn’t want Someone messing with their stuff…maybe they liked being in charge. Sound familiar?

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth…the authority to forgive sins, the authority to give spiritual life, the authority to heal diseases and cast out demons and calm the storm and raise the dead. He has authority over every sphere of life. Jesus has authority, but do we recognize it? How often do you or I question Jesus’ authority in our own lives? Even though we may have made Him King, we still like to grab control at times, don’t we? When it comes to our relationships or our finances, do we really want Jesus to be King? When it comes to our careers or our popularity, do we really want to submit to His rulership? Do we really want to recognize His authority in every area of our lives? Is He really King?

Let me challenge you this week to ask yourself, have I given Jesus authority over every area of my life? If not, what areas are you holding back and why? The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. He is Creator-God, and He knows what’s best. Do you believe that? Do you believe that He loves you and cares about the things that are impacting your life? Then why not surrender those areas you’ve been holding back and trust that He has your best interest at heart?

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. The stone can be a place of refuge or source of destruction. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you, and trust Him to do so. Put Him in charge today.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Entering Jerusalem

Luke 19.28-48

Jesus enters Jerusalem, and His final week of ministry is underway. Some gladly accept Him as their King while others complain and reject Him as an imposter. The fig tree is about to be cut down.

None of the events of this final week will catch Jesus by surprise. Not one. He is in control of His destiny. He will lay down His life as a willing sacrifice. He’s not a victim. He’s not a bystander. He’s not “along for the ride.” He is the King. And He is in control. But have you given the King control of your life? Does He have final say over your relationships, your finances, your time…? Does He call the shots, or do you? Who is the King in your life? And what kind of kingdom do they bring?

I love the OT story of Joseph.Though things start out well for Joseph…his dad loves him and gives him a great coat…they take a turn when his brothers turn on him and sell him into slavery. It seems that every time he gets ahead, he gets knocked back down again until of course he is promoted to the second position in the kingdom. Joseph has an opportunity to confront his brothers who are the catalyst for the grief in his life…how does he respond to them? “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Who says that? Somehow Joseph recognized God’s fingerprints all over his experiences. He trusted God all along the way to guide his steps.

In my own life, when I’ve allowed God control, amazing things have happened that I can’t explain any other way. When I’ve tried to take the reins…well the consequences are predictable. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lead on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Do we believe that? Do you believe that your heavenly Father wants to direct your steps, or do you think He purposely keeps His desires for your life a mystery that you have to bump around in the dark to discover? Our impatience and lack of faith causes us to take matters in our hands, but I am convinced that we cannot experience the fullness of life that Jesus promised unless we stop trying to be our own king and allow Him to be our King.

Some accept Jesus as King…those who don’t will know Him as Judge. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. He is still giving you a chance to respond. Recognize your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then you too will know Jesus as your King.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Investing in the Kingdom

Luke 19.12-27

Jesus is going away to receive His kingdom which He will establish upon His return. As His followers, we are commanded to carry out Jesus’ mission until He comes back…seeking and saving the lost. For the faithful, His return will be a time of rejoicing and celebration, but for the unfaithful and for the those who reject Him it will be a time of judgment.

We’re not told, but I have to believe that the first two slaves are not surprised by the response of the King at His return. I believe they know Him to be gracious and compassionate and generous. That’s what frees them up to operate from a place of confidence and courage rather than from a place of fear. There’s an excitement on their part to serve the Master and to take huge risks for the sake of the kingdom. And just like these two slaves, Jesus invites us into an ever-deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in our everyday lives with Him. He wants us to serve Him with joy and excitement and not fear. He wants us to get to know Him better through His Word and time spent with Him in prayer and in fellowship with other believers. Each of us has been entrusted with a mina…the gospel…the word of the King. And each of us is responsible for how we invest it…boldly, courageously, fearlessly, intentionally taking big risks for the kingdom.

The third slave, the other slave, did not invest in the kingdom. Instead of seeing the King as generous and compassionate and gracious, he saw the King as stingy and selfish and greedy. He did not know the King, and he did not trust the King, so what he had was taken away. So is the third slave in the kingdom? Can you be in the kingdom if you don’t know the King? Is it possible that there are those who think they’re in the kingdom for whatever reason, but will find themselves on the outside because they didn’t know the King? Folks who are relying on their good works or church attendance or status in the community or relationships…who like Judas who was one of the twelve, but really wasn’t one of the twelve…but do not really know the King?

Do you know the King? Do you know Him as gracious and compassionate and generous? Do you believe that He cares about you and your circumstances? Do you know that He loves you? If you know the King, how are you investing in the kingdom? How are you using your resources…your time, your gifts, your finances…to further Jesus’ mission? Are you being intentional about sharing the gospel with folks on your impact list? Are you eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return? Do you know the King?

Jesus is coming back. He will either be your King or your Judge. Which will it be for you? If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then you too can hear, “Well done, good slave…” and share with Him in His kingdom reign.

Let’s pray.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Seeking and Saving the Lost

Luke 19.1-10

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Zacchaeus is as lost as they come, and yet he has a divine appointment with the Savior. No one is so far gone that Jesus cannot rescue them. And He delights to do so.

Zach had it all according to the world’s standards…or mostly all. While he may not have had the respect that the rich ruler had, he certainly had the affluence. He had power. He had influence. And even though he might not have had respect, he still was feared. He wanted for nothing materially. And yet he wasn’t satisfied. Money, power, influence, even fame (or infamy) had left him feeling empty somehow inside. Something was missing. He didn’t know Jesus, but he had heard stories. Maybe Jesus somehow could provide what was missing. So Zach went looking for Him, only to find that Jesus had been searching for him all along.

Maybe you are like Zach…you’ve tried everything and yet nothing satisfies. Something is missing…you are never really comfortable anymore, your conscience bothers you, there is no peace. If so, you’re in the sycamore tree, and Jesus is asking you to come down. He wants to dine with you. He wants you to be a part of His kingdom. No matter what you’ve done or how bad you think things are, no one is beyond His reach. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5.29-32). If that’s you today, don’t wait. Come quickly. Today is the day of salvation.

Jesus changes everything. Zach went from being a selfish taker to being a generous giver. Jesus will do that to you. Having been rescued by Jesus, Zach also had a strong desire to be reconciled and restored in his relationships with others. He wanted to make things right. Giving to the poor and repaying those you have hurt doesn’t save you, but it’s a pretty good indication that salvation has taken place. What changes has Jesus made in your life?

For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, His mission is our mission…seeking and saving the lost. It’s a rescue mission, and it’s one that requires urgency and intentionality. We are called to storm the gates of hell…to hang out with those far from God with a desire to see them come to trust in Jesus. Unfortunately that will cause some to grumble because we are hanging out with the wrong crowd. Don’t worry…you are in good company. They grumbled at Jesus too. Doesn’t mean we compromise our walk, but it does mean that we take some relationship risks for the sake of the gospel. There ought to be some dangerous folks on our Impact Lists…

“Zaccheus was a wee, little man, And a wee, little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, For the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior came that way, He looked up in the tree, And He said, ‘Zaccheus, come on down,’ For I’m coming to your house today. For I’m coming to your house today. Zacchaeus was a happy man, and a happy man was he. For he had seen the Lord that day, and a happy man was he, and a very, very happy man was he.”

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Blind Man Sees

Luke 18.31-43

The disciples are blinded to the need for Jesus to suffer even though He’s warned them on numerous occasions, predicting both His death and resurrection. The blind man sees that Jesus is much more than a prophet or miracle-worker from Nazareth…He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Son of David and promised King who brings the kingdom.

Suffering is a reality for every believer. Some suffering is the result of living in a broken world…the blind man’s physical blindness. It’s the kind of suffering that everyone who walks the planet will experience at some point and to some degree. It’s the consequences of the curse that affects all creation. But some suffering is the result of following Jesus…the crowd’s attempt to silence the blind man. That kind of suffering is unique to believers. It’s the price of our rebellion against the god of this world. What’s the blind man’s response in both cases? He cries out to the King…“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” When suffering comes, whether it’s suffering from persecution or suffering because we live in a fallen world, our response should be the same, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It’s a cry, not only for relief in the present circumstance, but it also represents our longing for one of the days of the Son of Man…our desire for the kingdom.

The blind man is a sharp contrast to the rich ruler we talked about a few weeks back. The rich ruler appeared to have everything…wealth, independence, status, power, possessions…yet he left Jesus lacking the one thing he truly desired…the kingdom. The blind man appears to have nothing…poor, dependent, powerless, having nothing…yet he receives from Jesus not only his sight, but also the kingdom. Stuff can be a trap both for the believer and the unbeliever…a snare that blinds us to our need for Jesus. As believers, it can be subtle. At one point, we recognized our need for Jesus to rescue us. But as time passes, it’s easy to become less needy…to replace our confidence in Him with our confidence in our job or our relationships or our status or our stuff or whatever. When crisis strikes…sickness, loss, relational fallout…we are quick to call out to Him, but when things are going well, we don’t need Him so much. But we never outgrow our need for Jesus. Only He can save. Only He can truly satisfy the longing of our souls. Only He can rescue us and bring us into the kingdom. If that’s you, ask the Father to rekindle that sense of daily dependence on Him. If you have not yet trusted in Him, make today the day. Don’t be like the rich man who “had it all” as far as this world goes, but had nothing of eternal value. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you, and trust Him to do so. Then you too can “see” like the blind man.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Hazards of Having It All

Luke 18.15-30

The ruler asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s the wrong question. Entrance into the kingdom cannot be earned. It can only be received with childlike faith.

The rich ruler is not unlike many of us today. He didn’t have a dark past. He had lived a admirable life. Most folks would have considered him a good guy. From the outside looking in, we might even call him blessed. He lacks for nothing. He can retire at a young age. He’s  able to travel and see the world. His kids go to all the right schools. He lives in the right neighborhood. He goes to church. He pays his taxes. He’s respected and respectable. He’s living the American Dream. And yet his so-called blessing is his curse. It’s what’s keeping him from the kingdom. Paul told Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:17). Pride, arrogance, self-reliance and a sense of entitlement can all be unwelcome side effects of having lots of stuff. Generally speaking, the more stuff we have, the more our physical and emotional needs are met…when food is on the table and relationships are going well…the harder it is to trust God and the easier it is to trust in our stuff and ourselves. Childlike faith and helpless dependence are exponentially harder to achieve when you have it all.

Jesus’ remedy? Sell everything and give it all away… Now is that what Jesus requires of everybody? Not necessarily. The women who support Jesus’ ministry back in Luke 8 have the means to do so. Zacchaeus, a rich tax-collector (Luke 19.1-10), doesn’t give it all away…but he does give a substantial amount. So why does Jesus ask the rich ruler for everything? The question isn’t the amount, but where is your treasure? In Luke 12.13-34, Jesus had said, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The rich ruler’s treasure was his stuff…if he wanted the kingdom, Jesus would have to be his treasure.

The same is true for us…we cannot serve God and wealth (Luke 16.13) or like the rich man (Luke 16.19-31) we will find out too late we chose the wrong god. The American Dream is not the gospel, and may very well be keeping you from entering the kingdom. Who or what are you trusting in? A friend of mine shared this definition with me…A god is whatever is favored or loved, feared or served, delighted in or depended on more than God. So is there anything you favor or love, fear or serve, delight in or depend on more than God? If so, how does Jesus want you to respond today? What do you need to let go of so that you can lay hold of life with Him in the kingdom?

The good news is…God makes the impossible possible. He can melt our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Only He can. And only He can cause us to love Him more. We must recognize that we are sinners in need of repentance. We must believe that Jesus can save us and then trust Him to do so.

Although Jesus is primarily addressing entrance into the kingdom, salvation for those who have not trusted in Him, there is a message as well for us that do follow Jesus. We can enter the kingdom but not experience the abundant life He offers us now here on earth. We too can get caught up in our stuff…living life, eating and drinking…without intentional living to accomplish His purposes, with no thought of the kingdom. What consumes your thoughts? What has captured your heart? Where is treasure? How do you need to respond today?

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Eliot

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Prayer, the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18.1-14

Jesus tells two parables about prayer and the kingdom. The first, the widow and the unjust judge, challenges us to consider our view of God in prayer. The second, the Pharisee and the tax-collector, challenges our view of ourselves.

Prayer is a non-negotiable for a follower of Jesus. We live in an in-between time in enemy territory, waiting for our King to come back. In the waiting, it’s easy to become discouraged, especially in a culture which is becoming increasingly hostile to the gospel. So we are to pray at all times and not lose heart.  We pray for our circumstances in light of the kingdom and the return of the King. What does that mean? It means that we put our current situation…medical diagnosis, marital problems, work/school tensions, finances, etc. in perspective. What does God want to accomplish in and through me in this situation? How can I have the greatest kingdom impact in this circumstance? How do I reflect Jesus? We have a loving heavenly Father who hears our requests and who cares about our circumstances. He’s given us the Spirit. He will provide justice…He will vindicate His children. The kingdom awaits.

As a believer, we have been forgiven our sins. We have the righteousness of Jesus. But that does not mean that we can approach God with flippancy or spiritual pride. When we pray, we are still totally dependent on Him for His mercy. So we pray humbly, bringing our petitions to God, not as a Judge waiting to punish, but as a Father who delights in His kids. When we pray with a right view of God and a right view of ourselves, we become more moldable, more pliable, better able to be shaped…to be transformed, and then are in a good place to impact the kingdom by serving others out of our love for God and people.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, the tax collector’s prayer is a great model…no matter how far you may think you are from God, no matter how bad you may be, no matter what you’ve done…cry out to Him, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” Believe that Jesus can save you from your sin and trust Him to do so. Then watch Him work in your life.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Thy Kingdom Come

Luke 17.22-37

Jesus is coming back…it will be a glorious day for those who are ready, for those who have trusted in Him. But for those who are not, then like the days of Noah and Lot, it will be a day of sudden, unexpected, final judgment.

Clearly there is a warning here for those who have not yet trusted in Jesus…do so before it’s too late. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. Then you too can have a future secured in the kingdom. No need to fear the coming judgment. Jesus will be your King, not your Judge. Strength for today, hope for tomorrow.

But I do think there is a warning here also for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. Here is where the example of Lot is instructive. Noah is clearly a righteous man…clear from the Genesis account. Lot on the other hand…not quite as clear. His choices and actions leave a big question mark…especially when he ends up in Sodom as one of the elders of the city. Even though he’s a man of influence in the city, it’s clear as the story unfolds that he’s had zero spiritual impact on folks around him, including his wife. Abraham thought for sure at least there would be 10 righteous in the city after Lot’s tenure there. When the dust settles, we only know for sure that Lot is based on what Peter has to say (2 Peter 2.6-8). Without the mention of Lot being a righteous man living in Sodom…righteous soul being tormented day after day by their lawless deeds…not sure that we could make that call.

What was the difference between Lot and his wife? What would their friends have thought of them? My guess is…there was no noticeable difference. Lot and his wife looked the same on the outside…eating and drinking…going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom, but one was saved and the other destroyed. Lot is a believer who cared more about his stuff or the things of this world than he did the kingdom…like the soil with the weeds, he bore no fruit to maturity. Don’t be like Lot. If you’ve trusted in Jesus, know that you were not saved to go to heaven. Otherwise you would already be there. You were saved to be a part of God’s rescue mission…to make an impact on the kingdom…to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with a lost and dying world…to storm the gates of hell…to live a dangerous life…a life worthy of the calling.

How do we not be like Lot? How do we avoid the trap of simply “eating and drinking”, going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom? How do we ensure that folks are not surprised when they find out we are followers of Jesus? We have to be intentional. We have to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus through time spent with Him in His Word and prayer. We have to be intentional about spending time with other believers. We have to be intentional with those who don’t know Jesus around us. This is where our impact list comes in. It’s a tool that helps us to be intentional with bringing 1 person at a time closer to Jesus. All of which is possible because of the Spirit’s work in and through us. I love this quote from Tozer, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come.” May that be true of us.

Jesus is coming back soon…are you ready?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Ten Lepers Cleansed

Luke 17.11-21

Ten lepers are miraculously healed by Jesus, but only one returns to give thanks. Ten are healed, but only one is saved. We can be beneficiaries of God’s goodness and yet still miss the bigger blessing of forgiveness of sins and entrance into the kingdom.

Where faith is present, there is also a thankful heart. One of our values is: Inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship. Those who have experienced God’s grace…the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God…can’t help but worship…glorifying God and giving thanks to Him. Is that true of you? If not, why not? If you have trusted in Jesus, He’s taken care of our big problem…sin. I think sometimes we can get so focused on our current circumstances that we make them the big problem and miss the awesome truth that God has saved us…that whatever our current circumstances are, they are only temporary. Paul calls them “momentary, light afflictions”. But we have an eternal weight of glory being produced in us…the kingdom awaits us. And we have forever to spend with our King.

But our King also cares about our circumstances. Jesus healed the lepers. What do you need to cry out to Him for today? How is He asking you to respond?

Where there is an ungrateful heart, can faith be present? Paul says in Romans 1.21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks.” And in 2 Timothy 3.1-2, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful.” We can often fall prey to a spirit of entitlement…that God owes us something. And that He does, but if He gave us what we are owed, what we deserved, none of us would be happy. Instead He offers us what we don’t deserve…His mercy.

Do you need His mercy today? If so, the King is here, and He offers the kingdom to you. The invitation is open to all. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. It’s that simple. Then you too will be a kingdom citizen, confident that the big problem of sin has been taken care of in your life.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

The women have a front row seat to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. Though all hope seemed lost…the Hero was dead…God was not finished yet. God’s the Author of this Story, and I love when God tells the story…because when God tells the story, there’s always hope. An astounding twist to the plot…the Hero is alive. Death is conquered. Sin is atoned for. The way is made available for us to return back to God. Death is swallowed up in life, despair in hope, mourning in astounding joy. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Do you know this Jesus? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. You simply have to recognize your need to be rescued…that you are a sinner in need of repentance…that your life is a mess and beyond hope of repair. You have to believe that Jesus can rescue you…that He can save you from your sin, that He died in your place. And then you have to trust Him to save you. When you do that, the Bible says that you are adopted into God’s family…you become a son or daughter of the King of the Universe, spending an eternity with Him in the kingdom.

Maybe you are a believer, but, like the women or the disciples, the circumstances of life have caused you to lose hope. You’re living as if Jesus is still in the tomb. Maybe you need to be reminded today that Jesus is alive, and He wants you to experience resurrection life…the abundant life that He saved you for. Now’s a good time to rededicate your life to following Him.

The resurrection changes everything! The disciples went from despair to radically changing the world. Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Unworthy Servants

Luke 17.1-10

Jesus warns His followers about the sad reality that there will always be those who cause others to stumble…that either by their words or actions cause others to turn away from following Jesus. Don’t let it be you. For those who do fall into sin…confront, confess, forgive, repeat is our mantra. It won’t be easy…it requires faith and obedience. Faith because forgiveness is a supernatural act; obedience because it’s not an option. We are faithful and obedient slaves doing only what the Master commands.

Where are you struggling today? Are you making lifestyle choices that may be causing others to stumble, maybe even becoming a barrier to others coming to know Jesus? We are to live lives worthy of the calling…doesn’t mean that we’re perfect, but it means that we are choosing to love God more. More than our other relationships that may not be honoring to Him. More than our careers. More than our popularity. More than our stuff. It means saying “no” to the things that might cause others to question whether or not we are a believer.

Maybe your struggle’s on the other side…forgiving those who have caused you to stumble or have wronged you in some way. That’s a tough one. It’s hard to confront those who hurt us…especially in a loving way. And it’s even harder to forgive those who hurt us, especially when we begin trying to evaluate whether or not they really mean “I’m sorry” when they say it. And when they do it over and over…forget about it. But forgiveness is not an option for those who have been forgiven by God. It’s also not something we have to do or can do in our own power. Only God can give us the ability to forgive. We are called to a radical kind of forgiveness…a lavish forgiveness that reflects the Father’s love for us. So if that’s you today, ask God to help you forgive your friend or neighbor, your classmate or teammate, your co-worker, your spouse, your parents or your children. The main issue isn’t faith but obedience.

We are all called to be faithful and obedient servants, humbly obeying the command of our Master as a willing duty of delight and not as if for a reward. The awesome thing is, when we are faithful and obedient, though we don’t deserve it, He showers His affection on us and serves us at the great banqueting table in the kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16.19-31

Our circumstances in this life do not determine our circumstances in the next. Being poor does not save us any more than being rich. The rich man is excluded from the kingdom and confined to Hades, not because he was rich, but because he disregarded God’s Word and rejected Jesus. He did not love his neighbor, refusing to show mercy to those in need around him, and so failed to love God. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t think that would land him in hell, but it did. Lazarus is in the kingdom, not because he’s poor, but because he believed God’s Word and trusted in Jesus. Our circumstances don’t determine our future, but our faith or lack thereof does.

This parable is a reminder of God’s love for the older brother…Jesus keeps pursuing the Pharisees, like the Father urging them to come in and join the celebration. He wants them to be a part of the kingdom. Otherwise, Jesus would simply say nothing and leave the Pharisees to face the rich man’s fate.

God has entrusted each one of us with a certain level of riches…that may sound weird to some of us…you may not see yourself as rich, but it’s all relative. Anyway, we’ve each been entrusted with a certain amount. And each of us is responsible for how we use those riches. The way we use our stuff is a good indication of our spiritual health. Are we faithful and generous stewards who use the resources entrusted to us for kingdom purposes, or are we like the rich man, sumptuously spending on ourselves? John says it this way, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3.17) James says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2.15-16)

Faithfulness and generosity don’t save you, but those who have experienced the faithfulness and generosity of God should show the same to others. Faithfulness and generosity are marks of kingdom citizens. Those who have experienced God’s mercy show that same mercy to others.

This parable is a warning to the five brothers…repent while there is still time. Recognize your need to be rescued, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust Him to do so. Then you too will be ushered into the kingdom. But don’t wait. The rich man realized too late that he had pursued the wrong path. Don’t be like him. Trust in Jesus today.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Crafty Steward

Luke 16.1-18

The crafty steward knows his time is limited and acts quickly to secure for himself a promising future. Like the crafty steward, we too should live in light of eternity. We should make investments today that will have eternal dividends, being both generous and faithful with the resources God has entrusted to us.

Martin Luther once wrote, Therefore we must use all these things upon earth in no other way than as a guest who travels through the land and comes to a hotel where he must lodge overnight. He takes only food and lodging from the host, and he says not that the property of the host belongs to him. Just so should we also treat our temporal possessions, as if they were not ours, and enjoy only so much of them as we need to nourish the body and then help our neighbors with the balance. Thus the life of the Christian is only a lodging for the night, since we have here no continuing city, but must journey on to heaven, where the Father is.⁠1

Not only our stuff, but also our very lives are a stewardship from God. One day we will give an account for our stewardship…how did we spend our time? How did we invest our resources? How did we leverage our relationships? Are you living today in light of eternity? Are you making intentional investments in the kingdom? Are you living like you’re on a journey, or have you put down roots?

We can either serve our stuff, or we can use our stuff to serve God. The fool has bought into the lie that he who dies with the most toys wins. All that stuff will one day be in a junkyard. Only the investments made in eternal things…the kingdom…the lives of people…will last.

What are you investing in?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

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1 Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 151). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

The Prodigal God

Luke 15

How does God feel about the lost? He loves them…both the younger son and his older brother, both the unrighteousness and the self-righteous. The real prodigal is the father who of course represents God. So we might call it the parable of the prodigal God. He waits for us expectantly…looking with anticipation. When we turn to Him, He is a God who comes running to welcome us with open arms and great affection. We become His sons and daughters. And He throws a huge party.

Maybe you are like the younger son today. No one is beyond the Father’s love…there is nothing that you can do that would keep Him from seeing you with compassion and warmly welcoming you home and totally forgiving you. In fact, total forgiveness is the only kind of forgiveness that God gives. To receive God’s forgiveness, we have to see ourselves before we can see God…we have to recognize our need for repentance. We have to see ourselves as wayward sons and daughters before we will realize His great love for us. Then we must come home.

But maybe the older brother better describes you. Your problem isn’t an overtly pagan lifestyle, but a wrong view of yourself and of God. He demands a lot, but gives very little. Righteousness is not given, it is earned. You interpret His grace in the lives of others as unfair treatment because you have never truly experienced His grace for yourself. Instead of rejoicing over the salvation of the lost, you grumble and complain. You don’t know the Father. Jesus tells this parable to the Pharisees and scribes to show them what God is like…He wants them to be the older brother who, like his Father, anxiously awaits the return of his younger brother and runs with the Father to greet him and welcome him home. But they too have to recognize their need for repentance…their need for Jesus. Only then would they share the Father’s heart and be a part of the celebration.

And while both the younger son (tax collectors and sinners) and the older son (Pharisees and scribes) represent the lost, as believers we can stray like the younger son or become self-righteous like the older son. Jesus invites us too to come home.

The love of the Father toward His sons (and daughters) is not determined by their character but His. I love the description of the greatness of God’s love by A. W. Tozer in his book Knowledge of the Holy: “… because God is self-existent, His love had no beginning; because He is eternal, His love can have no end; because He is infinite, it has no limit; because He is holy, it is the quintessence of all spotless purity; because He is immense, His love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea.”

How does God feel about those who are far from Him? He waits expectantly for us…looking with anticipation. He welcomes us with open arms and great affection. He adopts us as sons and daughters and throws a huge party. Such is the Father’s love for us.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Counting the Cost

Luke 14.25-35

Salvation is completely free, but discipleship is costly. Our allegiance to Jesus must be far greater than our allegiance to our family or to our own self-interests. We have to love God more! Therefore, each of us must count the cost carefully before choosing to follow Him. Just as unsalty salt is useless, so a disciple who isn’t all in with Jesus is useless to the kingdom of God.

Very sobering words, but Jesus doesn’t save us just so we can go to heaven. He saves us so that we can join Him in His mission to rescue a lost dying world. It reminds me of a scene from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, where Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector serving as an army medic in Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, after spending all day and most of the night single-handedly evacuating the wounded from the battlefield, prays and asks God, “Just give me one more.” And after that one, “Just give me one more.” And again, “Just give me one more…” Doss saved 75 men. That’s what we’re called to do as believers…to storm the gates of hell and ask God to help us rescue just one more. In the strongest possible terms Jesus invites us to make our lives count for eternity. He wants us to make a kingdom impact on those around us who don’t know Him.

Earlier we talked about the questions that we would ask before making an investment…What’s the cost? Do I have the resources to pull it off? Will it be worth it in the end? When it comes to discipleship…What’s the cost? Everything. Do you have the resources? Yes…the Father has given us the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who transforms us to live and love like Jesus. He empowers us to do what Jesus asks us to do. He gives us the ability and the want-to to love God more. Will it be worth it? Absolutely…the Father also gives us the kingdom. And the kingdom is everything. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” It’s about loving God more. I like that.

When we put Jesus first…when we love God more, it benefits all of our relationships…we love better, we serve better, we reflect Him better.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, let me urge you to do so today. He invites you to enjoy life with Him in His kingdom. You need only to respond…acknowledge your need to be rescued, your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust in Him to do so. Then begins the adventure of your lifetime. Don’t wait.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s love God more this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Look Who’s Coming To Dinner

Luke 14.1-24

Look who’s coming to dinner…not those who have it all together, not the popular, not the connected, not the powerful, not the elite, but the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind…the powerless, the forgotten, the overlooked, the left out and left behind…all those who recognize their need to be rescued.

Jesus offers the kingdom…a forever feast of peace, joy, love, of rest and tranquility, the absence of tears, pain and death, of hope realized and life eternal, reigning as sons and daughters of the King. No one can enter the kingdom without an invitation from the King, and no one can remain outside the kingdom except by their own deliberate choice. That’s why Jesus’ warning is so urgent. When you reject Jesus, you reject the opportunity to sit at God’s Great Banquet Table in the kingdom. The riches of the kingdom are not lost, but given to others who accept the invitation. Many of those we might least expect will be there…those rejected by men are often those who say “yes” to God.

For those of you who have said “yes” to Jesus, are you living in light of eternity? Do your actions reveal your faith?

If you have not said “yes” to Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are those possessions or affections that you love more than Him? The excuses that the folks gave in the parable seemed like good excuses to those who gave them, but at what cost. Nothing is as important as accepting Jesus’ offer of the kingdom because our eternal destiny hangs in the balance.

“Still there is room”…if you haven’t trusted in Jesus yet, today is the day. The invitation is still going out for folks to come to the Great Banquet. All you have to do is respond to His invitation…recognize your need to be rescued and trust Jesus to rescue you. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Narrow Door

Luke 13.22-35

Are just a few being saved? That’s really the wrong question. The real question is, Are you going to be among those who are saved? Jesus says the door to the kingdom is a narrow door…there’s only one way in. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s narrow door theology. Narrow because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life…the kingdom is only available through Him. But also very broad in that it’s open to anyone…anyone who recognizes their need for repentance…their need to be rescued from their sin…and who believes that Jesus can rescue them and trusts in Him to do so. Jesus says that folks from all over the place will be there. John in the book of Revelation writes that there will be folks there from every tribe and tongue and people and nation gathered around the throne worshiping God in the kingdom.

Three sobering truths…Jesus is the only way, the time to respond is short, and many who think they’re in won’t be. It’s imperative that you know that there are no back doors into the kingdom. There are not many ways to God…only one. And the time to respond to Him is now. Once the door is closed, it’s too late. Whether that door is closed because of death or Jesus’ return, there are no do-overs. You are either in or out. Jesus will either be your King who welcomes you into His kingdom with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” or Jesus will be your Judge who casts you out with the words, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you evildoer.” The time to act is now. You may think that because you are a good person, or because your parents or spouse or best friend are believers that somehow you are covered. But there are no +1’s in the kingdom, and God doesn’t have grandchildren. There are no group discounts. Each must enter through the narrow door…one at a time.

The same invitation Jesus offered to the folks in Jerusalem…to gather them like a hen gathers her brood under her wings…to rescue them and protect them, to care for them…He offers to you today. He wants to rescue you. He wants you to be at the party in the kingdom. He wants you to experience life with Him today. So strive to enter through the narrow door…recognizing your need to be rescued, believing that Jesus can rescue you, and trusting in Him to do so.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Sabbath Healing Take 2

Luke 13.10-21

Jesus had warned His listeners that the time is short…if the fig tree doesn’t start bearing fruit it will be cut down. And so we have a repeat performance by Jesus. Another Sabbath day, another synagogue, another opportunity to show compassion. Yet once again the religious leaders show their failure to love God by the way they despise people. Nothing’s changed.

While the effects of Jesus’ teaching and miracles may seem insignificant now, they are still evidences of the kingdom’s presence…the kingdom where one day God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Citizenship in the kingdom is open to all, but only those who respond to the invitation of the King will become kingdom citizens. And the only way to respond is to recognize our need to be rescued.

Rejoicing is a clear indication of those who have been rescued by Jesus. We can’t help but be excited when we pass from death to life. Unfortunately sometimes our rejoicing turns into indignation if we are not careful and allow our relationship to Jesus to become more about following rules than loving others. Pride and self-righteousness can slowly slink in, and we begin to question God’s work in other’s lives. Instead of rejoicing with them, we might even resent them because it’s not how we would have done it. But God’s will rarely comes wrapped in our preferences.

If the joy of your salvation has turned sour…if you no longer find yourself rejoicing over the work of God in your life and the lives of others, maybe you’ve become a rule-follower rather than a passionate pursuer of Jesus. Spend some focused time this week asking Jesus to rekindle that sense of wonder and excitement at what He has done for you, and then tear up that list of rules.

If you still have not trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. The time is short. Jesus is a compassionate and benevolent King who invites you to become a kingdom citizen. He wants to save you from your sin…He’s already died in your place, so that you might live. He was raised again to life conquering sin and death, so that you too might conquer sin and death through Him. He is coming back one day to set all things right.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Fig Tree

Luke 13.1-9

The message for us is pretty simple…life is fragile and unpredictable, and so we need to repent so that we are not caught off guard and perish. God is patient, but judgment is coming…it will not wait forever. Now we are in a time of pure grace and divine forbearance. Paul in Romans 2.4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…” (2 Peter 3.9-10)

We live in a broken world plagued by sin and death. Because of sin, death is the common denominator of us all. No one escapes. Death is one for one. All will die, but not all truly live…only those who have trusted in Jesus to rescue them, to forgive them of their sins, and have chosen to follow Him will experience life.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus should be obvious…the fruit of repentance should be evident in our lives. I want to ask you to reflect for a few moments…I want you to take a spiritual inventory and ask yourself the question…what evidence do I see in my life that I’ve trusted in Jesus? Do you see the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Do you have a greater desire for God and the things of God? Do you enjoy being around His people?

If the answer is “yes”, spend the next several moments thanking Jesus for rescuing you. If the answer is “no”, don’t wait. Your parents or your spouse may be believers…but there are no +1’s in the kingdom and God doesn’t have grandchildren. You may have said a prayer at some point, but when you trust in Jesus, you are not who you used to be…a fundamental change has happened at the core of who you are. If nothing has changed for you, then something’s wrong…maybe you haven’t trusted in Jesus. Maybe there is something else that’s keeping you from growing. Either way, ask God to rescue you.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Realizing Spiritual Freedom

Romans 12.1-2

We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups…those things in our lives that are stumbling blocks to us following Jesus…those sticky points that can cause us to be spiritually stuck. And though we have learned to come to church and pretend everything is ok…we’ve gotten good at wearing masks…for fear that if we are found out, folks will not like us, church is the one place it should be ok not to be ok. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” I think somehow we’ve forgotten that. We often think we can take care of our habits on our own…“It’s no big deal” “I can quit anytime I want” “I don’t need help with this hurt, I can deal with it in my own way.” But we all need help…only the Spirit can transform us to live and love like Jesus. He does that as we submit our lives to Him and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer. We also need other believers…Paul says the job’s not done until we all attain unto the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God…

As I thought about Paul’s challenge to offer myself to God as a living, holy sacrifice, something that Dallas Willard said in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, that really struck me was the idea of training vs. trying as it relates to the spiritual life.

Trying is an experiment and implies an attempt, which, if unsuccessful, constitutes the end and sum total of the experiment. Training, on the other hand, is a lifestyle, which has built into it the expectation of failure…each time you fail, you learn something different that will help you succeed in the future.

One of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time was Brett Favre. I’ve seen Brett play a lot of football games. Let’s suppose I watched every game that he ever played…just suppose. Let’s suppose I had studied every aspect of his game…from the way he grips the ball, to the way he scrambles in the backfield, even to the way he celebrates an outstanding play. (All from the comfort of my couch, of course.) If I were to go out this afternoon and play a pick-up game of football, bringing all of my Brett Favre-ishness to bear, do you think that I could play like Brett Favre? Now that hurts. Why don’t you think I could play like him? Right. If I haven’t trained like him…if I haven’t spent the hours in the gym and on the practice field that he has (talent aside), I have no shot at playing the game with the same level of excellence as he did.

The same could be said of the Christian life. Believing that I can live and love like Jesus in a moment of crisis without the necessary spiritual training is no more ridiculous than me believing that I could walk out of this auditorium and play football like Brett Favre. When Paul asks us to present ourselves as living, holy sacrifices, he’s not saying, “Give the Christian life a try and see if it works for you”, implying an experiment that may or may not be successful. But “Train for the Christian life and it will work for you”, implying a lifestyle choice. (imagery he has used elsewhere in his letters…farmer, athlete, soldier) As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.”

BTW do you know the difference between professional athletes and amateurs? Amateur athletes train until they get it right; professional athletes train until they can’t get it wrong. Paul knew this! He says in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Please understand as we talk about training vs. trying that this does not in anyway imply that a person can make progress toward spiritual maturity apart from God’s work in his or her life. Nor does it imply that this is a solo gig. We need each other in the process. Becoming more like Jesus…sanctification…is a process…a lifelong process that will not be complete until we see Jesus face-to-face.

God used this passage in Romans to pry me loose from the spiritual quicksand that I found myself in a few years ago. Every now and again I have a tendency to wander towards the sand-trap…part of being a new creation in a fallen world I suppose, but as I’ve made the effort with God’s help to passionately pursue Jesus as a lifestyle rather than an experiment, and as I’ve surrounded myself with other believers who are pursuing Jesus too, I don’t find myself getting stuck quite as often.

Every moment of every day is a choice between being conformed to this world or being transformed…start the process today. Commit to offering yourself and renewing your mind.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that you may walk in a manner worthy of Him, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Love for Christmas

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two loves. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, the true King, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s love is a very worldly love…love for his own kingdom, love of power, prestige, position, pleasure. A love that was very selfish and self-serving. A love that did not save him because it could not. Jesus was a real threat to Herod because he knew what was at stake. If Herod didn’t think Jesus might indeed be a king…the King…if he didn’t think Jesus, though now just a child, could in fact dethrone him, rule over him, take allegiance from him, he would not have felt threatened. But Jesus is a real threat to anyone who thinks seriously about Him. If Jesus is King…you’re not. It means your dethronement. It means your submission. It means you can’t lead your life any longer, as Herod did according to your worldly loves. If Jesus is who He says He is, you either love Him or you hate Him! Herod represents King Me…his response to the true King, to King Jesus is hatred and rejection.

The Magi’s love is other-worldly…it’s clear where their loyalties lie. The Magi give their allegiance to Someone far greater than any earthly king…their King’s arrival was announced by the heavens. A star pointed the way. The Magi’s love led them to go to crazy, incredible lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they couldn’t help but worship Him, expressing their love for Him for what He would do and God’s love already demonstrated in sending Him. They brought costly gifts…another natural expression of their love. In Him, they found an object worthy of great pursuit…chasing after Him with all they had…their love for Jesus is clear…Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Warrior-King from the line of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hero of the story and the only One who could rescue them, the Savior of the nations. The Magi’s recognize Jesus as King, and their response to Him is worship and adoration.

There is a third group in this story…the religious leaders. These guys are indifferent towards Jesus. They know where Jesus is to be born, but do nothing with the information even when the Magi show up. The trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was between 5-6 miles…nothing in comparison to the 900 miles the Magi had travelled… The religious leader’s indifference will turn to anger, hatred and rejection as the story unfolds because Jesus will threaten their kingdoms as well.

Where are your affections this Christmas? Who or what do you love? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is it causing you to want to protect your stuff? If so, you may be giving your affections to people or things that are destined to disappoint. Or are you loving Jesus, the only One who can save and deliver and rescue…not just in an eternal sense, but also here and now? Is He the object of your affections…your devotion every day? Do you live that way…going to crazy incredible lengths to be in His presence, to worship Him, to serve Him with the same passion and diligence that the Magi did? Are you living as one who has realized their hope in Jesus, whose experienced God’s amazing love? Are we as God’s people making much of Jesus this Christmas, or are we caught up in the hustle and bustle of building our own little kingdoms?

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior today…if He is not the King you adore, make today the day. Salvation is a free gift. Like a Christmas package under the tree with your name on it that just needs to be opened. Jesus has already secured salvation for you by dying in your place…paying the penalty that your sin deserves…so that by believing in Him you can be forgiven and can become a son or daughter of the King. But you have to make the choice to believe in Him…you have to open the package…you have to change your allegiance. I would love to talk to you about it if you have questions.

O Come All Ye Faithful…Christmas is a busy season, and we have a thousand things on our minds and a thousand things to do.  But through it all, let us remember to come and adore Jesus who loves us and proved that love by coming into the world to bring us light for our darkness …and joy…and life eternal.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May our worship this week reflect the amazing love that God has shown us in Jesus.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Home for Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Joy This Christmas

Isaiah 7.10-17

Immanuel…God with us. Comfort and joy for those who have trusted in Jesus or, as in the case of Ahaz, certain judgment for those who refuse to trust in God, but instead are trusting in themselves or in anyone or in anything else. Like Matthew 2, the gospel is good news of great joy for all people…but only those who trust in Jesus will experience that joy. For those who refuse…God’s promise is judgment. And God does what He says He will do.

Our world is not so different from Ahaz’s world. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness reigns throughout the land. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We put our trust in jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

Inevitably God brings us into crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, will He save me? Does He really love me, and does He really care about me and my circumstances? Our answer is either a confident “yes” or a wavering “I’m not sure.” And just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, they pay a price for it. But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is present in our crises. If we will trust Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But He would rather save us.

What alliances or compromises are you making to secure salvation for yourself? If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. Are you trusting God? The more we trust in Him, the more the fruits of the Spirit, of which joy is one, will abound. The more we trust ourselves…not so much. If you trusting in God, are you doing what He says? The secret to joy is resting in God, trusting in His love for us at the most fundamental level of our being, believing that He has not only saved us from condemnation, but that He is with us to save us in and through our current circumstances. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The secret to experiencing joy is not just believing that God really loves us, but also doing what He says so that we can experience life and fullness of joy as He intended for us to.

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. The music to this carol is written in a minor key…or so they tell me. Can joy be found in a minor key? Can there be joy in difficult circumstances? The answer is a resounding “yes” if we remember that God is with us and is for us, and if we remember that He has an eternal home waiting for us.

Even though Ahaz is a wicked king, God graciously invites him to trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then God offers the same gracious invitation to you. He wants you to trust Him, then you too can experience the joy that only Jesus can bring, knowing that He is with you always. But don’t wait. The time is short. Just as God is with those of us who have trusted in Him for salvation, so He is also with those who refuse Him for judgment.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience the joy of the Christmas season, knowing that God is with us and trusting Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Home for Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Hope for Christmas

Luke 2.8-20

Mary had a little Lamb…what a simple story with life-changing implications! Mary’s little Lamb is none other than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…our Savior who rescues us from sin and death. Jesus is not only the long-hoped-for Jewish Messiah who came to save His people from their enemies…both physical and spiritual, but He’s also Lord who is worthy of all worship and praise and honor…and obedience.

The heavens erupt in praise at Jesus’ coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. “Angels we have heard on high, Sweetly singing o’er the plains: And the mountains in reply, Echoing their joyous strains. Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heav’nly song? Come to Bethlehem, and see Him whose birth the angels sing; Come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King. See Him in a manger laid, Whom the choirs of angels praise; Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, While our hearts in love we raise. Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest)!”

So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the hope that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? Like the shepherds, do you have the desire to tell others the good news? If so, good. Keep proclaiming the good news. If not, why not? Have the cares of this world and your present circumstances have robbed you of your joy and excitement and left you hopeless? Is it possible that your hope is misplaced…that you’re “hoping” in the things of this world which really amounts to wishful thinking and is destined to disappoint?  Hope from a biblical perspective is so much more than wishful thinking. It’s a confident anticipation based on the truth of God’s Word. And God does what He says He will do. Our hope is in the unseen…it’s in a kingdom where we will spend eternity with Jesus…it’s home. Spend some time this week asking yourself, “where is my hope?” If it’s anywhere but in Jesus, then it’s misplaced. Be honest with yourself and ask God to help you, then make whatever course corrections you need to to get back on track.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord today, I want to invite you to take the first step. Jesus came as Savior, the Hero and only one who could rescue us. Unlike the kings of this world who may be able to save from mortal enemies, King Jesus came to save us from our real enemies, both sin and death. Jesus came to bring us home. Unlike earthly kings who promise peace through force of arms, King Jesus brings peace that invades every aspect of our being…peace with God, peace with men, peace with creation and peace with ourselves. Jesus came not just as Savior, but also as Lord. He is our Sovereign and deserves our allegiance. But unlike the kings of this world who force subjugation and seek only their own good, King Jesus is a benevolent Ruler who invites submission and seeks the good of His subjects. So will you trust in Him today?

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience afresh and anew the hope that can only be realized in Jesus, and may we share that hope with others this week as we tell them about Him.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Home for Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Whose Side Are You On?

Luke 12.49-59

Whose side are you on? Jesus says we are either for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. There is no halfway. There is no both/and. For those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom…who have recognized that they are in need of a Physician, that they are sinners in need of repentance…and who have acted on it…they’ve trusted in Him to rescue them, the kingdom of God is theirs. Their names are recorded in heaven for eternity.

But for those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom and rejected it…they’ve chosen to trust in themselves or in their stuff or in anything else but Jesus…who chose to fear men rather than fearing God…they have an eternity apart from God in a place called hell.

Whose side are you on? If I were to ask your friends or co-workers, your classmates or teammates, your family or neighbors, would they know whose side you’re on? Is it clear from the way you live your life, or would they be confused about your answer? Jesus didn’t save us just to go to heaven…if that was His sole purpose then the moment we believe we would be there. No He saved us so that we would follow Him, so that we would be faithful and wise servants, investing in the kingdom…so that we would live lives worthy of the calling with which we have been called, so that we would walk in the good works He has given us to do. We were saved so that we would live and love like Jesus and join Him on His rescue mission, crashing the gates of hell and pulling folks out of the flames.

The Bible says that we are all guilty before God. We all have a sin-debt that must be paid. In the garden, God said that disobedience/rebellion was punishable by death, and so a death is required to pay the penalty for sin. The good news is that Jesus came to pay the penalty for us…He died so that we may live. That’s the baptism He had to undergo. His death covered all our sins, so that by trusting in Him we can be sons or daughters of the King. We must all appear one day before God…it’s an appointment we will not miss. And when we appear before Him, we will either have our sins forgiven already and know Him as Father…or we pay for them ourselves and know Him as Judge.

Whose side are you on?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be clearly for Jesus this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Are You Ready?

Luke 12.35-48

Are you ready? If Jesus came back today…if He came back right now, would He find you faithful and wise? If not, why not?

Jesus told His disciples He would go away…first to a cross then He ascended into heaven. But He promised that He would return. That one day He would come back…that His kingdom would not just be a spiritual reign, but also a physical one. The end of sin and the reign of righteousness. No death. No tears. An eternity spent with our Creator and King, our Savior and Hero…forever delighting in His presence in new bodies that don’t break down or grow old or get fat. Hallelujah! That is our hope. And if that is our hope, then we must live with the end in mind.

So how do we do that? How do we live with the end in mind? By living a life worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called. Spending time in God’s Word getting to know who He is and, by the power of the Spirit, living in light of that truth. Spending time in prayer asking Him to transform us to live and love like Jesus. Acknowledging Jesus in the court here on earth. Faithfully following Him. Joyfully serving others. Loving our neighbors as ourself.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking, what’s the minimum that’s required? What’s the least I have to do and still get into the kingdom? That’s a scary question. Can you imagine standing at the altar with your future spouse asking them, “What’s the minimum you’re going to ask of me? I really don’t want to put forth that much effort.” Or if you were across the table from a potential future employer, and you asked them, “What’s the least I can do and still keep my job?” Or maybe you’re on a team and ask the coach, “I really want to be a part of a winning team, but I don’t want to have to do much. What’s the minimum requirement?” We wouldn’t do that in any other area of our lives, so why would we give Jesus anything less than everything? That’s why Jesus doesn’t clarify on the third and fourth responses. Like the parable of the soils…Jesus isn’t looking for the minimum. He wants everyone to be the faithful and wise servant…to be the good soil.

When Jesus returns, everyone will be evaluated on the lives they’ve lived…both believers and unbelievers. For believers, the evaluation covers the period of time from the moment you believed to the moment you are in Jesus’ presence. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 3…tested by fire and only what remains receives a reward, the rest is burned up. We will all smell like smoke…we all have things that we know we should do that we don’t or that we shouldn’t do that we do. It’s called sin. But as we progress in our Christian walk, we should see more and more faithfulness…we should begin to look more and more like Jesus. If not, there’s a problem.

If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Like a thief in the night, Jesus could return at anytime. And if you’re not ready, you’re fate is sealed. Now’s the time to trust in Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be faithful and wise servants this week as we anticipate Jesus’ return.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Where Is Your Treasure?

Luke 12.13-34

Where is your treasure? What captures your heart? What consumes your time? What gets you up in the morning or keeps you up at night? Is it on earth or in heaven?

If greed says, “I can never get enough”, worry says, “I’m afraid I may not have enough.” Both reveal a wrong view of God. Greed is short-sighted and makes idols out of our stuff. Always wanting more, we think our stuff will give us life. When we do that, we forget or ignore the fact that life is so much more than the things that we have or the achievements we’ve accomplished. Life, true life, can only be found in our relationship with Jesus…the way, the truth and the Life.

Worry is similar but different. It’s constantly asking, “But what if…” It’s a failure to trust God to provide. Instead of seeing Him as a loving Father who gives good gifts to His kids, He is a distant God who is unconcerned about the day-to-day of life on the earth He created. The weeds that choke out the Word in the parable of the soils are worries and riches and pleasures of this life…worry and greed. Both keep the Word from being productive in a believer’s life.

But there is an alternative…if we want to live and love like Jesus, then we need to trust God rather than our stuff. We have to believe that God is a loving Father who loves us and cares about what’s happening in our lives. We have to trust that He can and will provide as we pursue Him and look out for the needs of others. Then we can be generous rather than greedy, helping rather than hoarding. If we want to worry less,  then give more.

BTW our stuff is neutral…it can be either good or bad. It depends on how we use/invest it. If we use our stuff to promote ourselves or our own kingdoms, then it becomes either an idol or an obstacle to fully trusting God. If we use it to promote His kingdom…if we are rich toward God and generous toward others, then our stuff becomes a vehicle for building up treasure in heaven.

Don’t be a fool. One day your life will be required of you. If your life reflects greediness and selfishness, if it’s the sum total of the stuff you’ve accumulated, if you’re trusting in your stuff, then you will be sadly disappointed. But if your life is rich toward God, if you’ve invested in His kingdom and loved people, if you’ve trusted in Jesus and allowed Him to transform you from the inside out, then yours is the kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we store up treasure in heaven this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Who Do You Fear?

Luke 12.1-12

Who do you fear? Do you fear God or fear men? Is it obvious to others in the way you conduct yourself…in the way you live your life? Jesus, talking to a group of guys who would soon be facing intense persecution because of Him, calls them to trust in their heavenly Father who cares and who has the only authority that really matters and who gives His children the Spirit so that they can endure.

The disciples’ commitment to stand with Jesus depends on how much they trust the Father, both as Judge and Provider. The same is true for us. To stand up when others are walking away or bowing down, we have to trust God…and we will only trust Him if we remember that we are fully known and fully loved by Him. When we choose to follow Jesus, we kick off a chain reaction. And we have to be ready. Some will be excited for us…but most will not. The pressure to conform to this world will intensify, and we have a choice to make…follow Jesus or follow the world, acknowledge Him before men or deny Him. Life and death. But we need not fear because our names are written in heaven, and the Father has given us the Spirit…and knowing that the Father who loves us is the ultimate and final Authority, we should be fearless in our faith.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait! The Bible warns us that there is only one Judge, and only His opinion counts. You are either for Jesus or against Him. If you are for Him, an eternal kingdom awaits…and you will reign with Him forever as a son or daughter of the King. But if you are against Him, it’s a very different story. So please don’t wait…trust in Jesus today.

In honor of Reformation Day…which just happens to be October 31…I want to close with this story about Martin Luther.

When Martin Luther first stood before the Diet at Worms, John Eck, the Archbishop of Trier, asked him, “Martin Luther, do you recant of the heresies in your writings?… Do you defend them all, or do you care to reject a part?” Luther gave the quiet answer, “This touches God and His word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies me before men, him will I deny before the Father.’ To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it over.” That night Luther and his colleagues passionately called out to God in now-celebrated prayers. With the rising of the sun another, larger hall was chosen, and it was so crowded that scarcely anyone except the emperor could sit. Eck spoke long and eloquently in the flickering candlelight, concluding, “I ask you, Martin—answer candidly and without horns—do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?” He spoke first in German and then in Latin: “Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” At that towering moment Luther’s massive fear of God freed him from the smaller fear of men!

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we choose the fear of God over the fear of man this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Render to Caesar

Luke 20:19-26

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Historians universally claim that these words from Jesus have been “the single most influential political statement ever made.” They have shaped western civilization. Both Peter (1 Peter 2.13-17) and Paul (Romans 13.1-7) expand on what Jesus said, giving “shape to the political world as we know it today.” Our responsibilities to God do not negate our civic duties, neither should our civic duties negate our responsibilities to God.

Jesus avoided the trap set by the pretenders by saying that we have a duty to both the state and to God. What Caesar claims is irrelevant unless it interferes with our duty to God. Jesus doesn’t tell us what to do when the two are in direct moral conflict. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s handling of Nebuchadnezzar’s injunction against prayer (Dan. 3) and Daniel’s handling of a similar edict by Darius (Dan. 6) are great examples of what to do when the two spheres collide. When the choice is between obeying God or obeying man, we have to choose to obey God (Acts 5.28-29). If you, as a Christian, are asked to do something immoral or something that violates the Word of God, you should say “no”, but then be prepared to face the consequences. Just like Daniel and his buddies. And just like Christian martyrs have done throughout the centuries. Don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins.

Fundamentally the question is: where is our hope? Is our hope in this broken, fallen world, or in the kingdom that Jesus brings? Are we looking for a king to save us in this political circus, or are we looking for the King who has already saved us?

And as those who follow Jesus, how do we engage the culture? What does it mean to live and love like Jesus? What’s our responsibility? First and foremost we have to remember that Jesus is our only Hope and our King. So we don’t give up, we don’t give in because we know that Jesus wins. And knowing that…We as followers of Jesus are called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). We are to be markedly law-abiding, even down to the traffic laws and paying taxes. Our obedience should be careful and prayerful…As Paul said to Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, for prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2). In this country we have been given the right to vote…to let our voice be heard. We should exercise that right…prayerfully and intelligently. God is sovereign…but He chooses to use us in the process of accomplishing His purposes.

But we also need to confess our pride and our sinful attitudes…conversations, statements and responses that have reflected more fear than faith, more of my kingdom than God’s kingdom.

In a few weeks, we will have a new president…whoever that is we are called to pray for them and submit to their authority. May not be easy to do, especially if your candidate is not elected. But we have to trust God’s sovereignty. He’s still in control. Just as He was when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego went into the fiery furnace. Just as He was when Daniel went into the lions’ den. Just as He was when Jesus hung on a cross.

Jesus says we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Are we doing so? Even more importantly, are we giving to God the things that are God’s?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Danger of Hypocrisy

Luke 11.37-54

Jesus confronts a room full of religious leaders whose outward show of religiosity is masking an inward condition of spiritual uncleanness. Though the casual observer might see them as generous and pious, they are filled with greed and wickedness. Their hypocrisy and pride are keeping them from knowing God and by distorting the truth, they are leading others astray.

“You can fool some people all of the time, and all people some of the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.” You can’t hide who you are on the inside…the mask eventually comes off. Our sin finds us out. If you are trying to put on an outward show of knowing Jesus…maybe trying to do all the right things like going to church or being nice to people or giving money or whatever else it might be, but you don’t really know Him, that will become clear. The outside might be clean, but on the inside, if you are honest with yourself, you know something’s wrong. The solution is simple…trust in Jesus and let Him clean you from the inside out.

If you are a believer, does your walk match your talk? If not, then something is wrong. None of us are perfect, and none of us follow Jesus perfectly…not this side of heaven. But we should see progress. The Word planted should be bearing some fruit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. If it’s not, are you spending time with Jesus on a regular basis…time in His Word and time in prayer? Are you a part of a community of believers running after Jesus together?

If we want to live and love like Jesus, we have to allow the Spirit to renew our hearts and minds as we spend time in the Word. We have to cultivate a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship…prayer is a crucial ingredient. We have to intentionally build Christ-centered relationships. Then we can impact our world for Jesus. And we can put away our masks.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show justice and the love of God this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Jesus | Demons: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Luke 11.14-36

A battle rages between 2 kingdoms…the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of good, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. There is a clear Victor in this battle…Jesus. He has already defeated the enemy and plundered his stronghold. He invites any who are willing to join Him.

We must all make a choice…we are either for Jesus or we’re against Him. No middle ground. No compromise. So where do you stand? Where is your allegiance? Is it clear to a watching world…because the world is watching?

If we have trusted in Jesus, then the light of His truth has already shone into our hearts. But we still must be careful what goes into our eyes…what do we continue to accept as true? Are we being transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s Word, or are we being conformed to the culture? If we want to live and love like Jesus and be wholly illumined, then we must continually feast on God’s Word…reading it expectantly, allowing His truth to shine on us dispelling the darkness.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus yet…don’t wait. He invites you to be a part of His kingdom…to be on the winning side. If you are not for Him, then you are against Him. The day of reckoning is coming…

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be for Jesus this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Disciples Prayer

Luke 11.1-13

Jesus teaches His disciples to pray.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, then we have to cultivate a fervent love for Him through a lifestyle of worship. A key component of that is prayer.

So when we pray, we pray to…the Father who loves us perfectly.

We pray for…His honor, His fame.

We pray for…His kingdom to come, Jesus to return, the end of sin and righteousness to reign.

We pray for…our daily needs, both for ourselves and for other believers.

We pray for…forgiveness, both for ourselves and for the ability to forgive others.

We pray for…strength to persevere in trials and resist temptations that would take us away from our Father.

We pray…boldly, persistently, and expectantly, trusting that God is a good, good Father who delights to give us good gifts to His children.

“Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we believe that God is a good Father and that we are loved by Him.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Choosing the Good Part

Luke 10.38-42

Two women, and two ideas of what it means to welcome Jesus. Martha is busy doing while Mary sits and listens to Jesus’ word. Martha’s doing is for Jesus…she’s serving Him. So why wouldn’t that be the good part?

Didn’t Jesus say, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give My life a ransom for many?” (Mark 10.45) Isn’t that the whole point of having spiritual gifts and building up the body? Even a casual reading of the NT would indicate that serving is important. But Jesus doesn’t say that Martha’s serving is the problem…what is? She is worried and bothered by so many things. Her serving has become a distraction that has taken her away from Jesus. Ironic because she thought her serving was bringing her closer. But worship of God should come before work for God.

The same thing can happen to us…if we are not spending time “sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His word” we too can become distracted by all kinds of worries of life. Everyday there are dozens of distractions vying for our time and seeking to pull us away from Jesus if we will let them. The tyranny of the urgent often crowds out the important.

But the more time we spend listening to Jesus’ words, the more our hearts and minds are renewed. Jesus transforms everything about us when we sit at His feet. He allows us to live a life that worships Him as the one True God and King.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, then we need to follow Mary’s example and listen to Jesus’ words and glorify Him with our worship. We have to carve out time each day, creating space so that we can sit with our Savior…choosing the good part, spending time in His Word and in prayer.

When I was a kid, I remember a radio program hosted by a guy named Paul Harvey called The Rest of the Story. So here’s Martha and Mary’s rest of the story…

Well Martha took Jesus’ words to heart and got rid of her distractions. And in the end she was 1 of only 2 people to confess Jesus as the Messiah. The other person was Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples. An incredible story of how Jesus can transform us.

Mary was the only person who believed Jesus when He foretold His own death. And so she covered Him with the most extravagant, expensive perfume that was truly fit to anoint a King for burial.

Both had learned the importance of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him. It is the best thing we can do. It is the good part.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we better live and love like Jesus this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Who Is My Neighbor?

Luke 10.25-37

The 2 great commandments…love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Love God and love those made in His image. Impossible to do without God working in us to produce that kind of love…love of God produces love of others, so loving others shows our love of God. Only those who have received God’s mercy can show that same mercy to others. John says it this way, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

When the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” he is attempting to define his circle and then build fences to take care of his own. If he can identify who his neighbor is, then he can also identify who his neighbor is not. His question really is, “Who am I required to love? What’s the minimum I can do and still get by?” How often do we ask that same question? It reflects, not love for others, but love of ourselves. The kingdom of me.

Jesus transforms the lawyer’s question to a call to action…who can I be a neighbor to? The Samaritan went to great lengths to serve the man in need. Very costly…time, money, convenience, etc. How we respond to the needs of folks we come in contact with every day, our impact list, especially when those needs are unscheduled and unexpected…what we might call interruptions…is a pretty good indication of how we’re doing in loving our neighbor. Do we see those interruptions as opportunities or distractions? Do we see folks as in need or in the way? Do we show compassion toward others or indifference? Are we generous with our time and our resources? If not, why not?

Maybe it’s a lack of margin that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we’ve so packed our schedules that we simply don’t have time to help those in need, or we’ve so over-extended ourselves financially that we don’t the resources to help. Spend some time asking God to help you create some margin in your life. Ask for wisdom of what you need to say “no” to in order that you can say “yes” when needs arise.

Maybe it’s hardness of heart that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we simply lack compassion and mercy for people. We get fed up with people and their perceived lack of judgment and perpetual bad decisions. Why did the man knowingly go down a dangerous road? Hardness of heart is dangerous…we can only show mercy if we’ve received mercy. If we don’t show mercy, it could be an indication that we ourselves need God’s mercy. At a minimum we have a heart problem. Ask God to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart. Ask Him to help you show compassion.

Maybe it’s selfishness, laziness or pride that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we are too busy building our own kingdoms, focusing on our own comfort, avoiding inconvenience. Our gaze is fixed inward instead of outward. Pray that God will open your eyes to the needs around you.

The way we respond to those in need is a pretty good indication of where we are on the “loving God” scale. So how are you doing? If we want to live and love like Jesus, the question for us is not, “Who is my neighbor?” but “Am I neighbor to the person in need?”

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be neighbors to those we find in need this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster