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

A Plentiful Harvest

Luke 10.1-24

News of the kingdom spreads through the missionary efforts of the 70. While the threat of rejection is very real, still the harvest is plentiful. We need more workers for the harvest.

Not only were these disciples to be workers in the harvest, they were to pray that God would raise up more workers…folks who, having responded to the message of the kingdom, would themselves become workers reaching out to others. That process continues today. If you are a believer, then you are one of the workers that someone else prayed for. Who are you praying for? Who do you have on your impact list? Who can you bring one step closer to Jesus?

You see workers in the harvest are not a special class of believer…discipleship is what we are all called to. Jesus doesn’t make a distinction between different categories of believers…we do. So everyone who trusts in Jesus is to be about the harvest…sharing the message of the gospel and helping others grow in their faith. Christianity is not a spectator sport…it’s full contact. It’s down in the trenches. It’s reflecting Jesus to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teammates, or anyone else that God brings across your path. Some will accept and some will reject. The kingdom is coming…those who accept will be citizens of the kingdom. Those who reject will be with those who oppose the kingdom and will not escape judgment.

The time is short. If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, today is the day. Now is the opportunity. Don’t wait. Come to Jesus as a child…simply trusting in Him to rescue you. Then you too can rejoice that your name is recorded in heaven.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we rejoice that our names are recorded 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 Is the Greatest?

Luke 9.46-62

Who is the greatest? What makes a person great? Is it power or prestige? Is it wealth or influence? Is it strength of mind or body? Jesus’ answer is not only countercultural…it’s otherworldly. The truly great welcome the least…the poor, the outcast, the disenfranchised, the discarded, etc. for Jesus’ sake and with His love. The truly great are rarely honored. They are rarely noticed. They are among the anonymous, and they stand with the weak. The truly great rejoice in the good of others, delighting in their growth and success.

It’s a reminder that the kingdom that Jesus brings is unlike any other kingdom on the planet. Those of us who are kingdom citizens will likewise live lives that are unlike the citizens of this world. Mercy rather than judgment, suffering rather than glory, the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of me. Tender mercy and steely commitment.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, then we have to live as sojourners in this world, following in the footsteps of the King. We have to live with a sense of urgency…proclaiming the kingdom everywhere. Who on your impact list can you talk to this week? Finally we have to focus on our pursuit of Jesus. The weeds are everywhere…worries and riches and pleasure of life…and they choke out the seed so that it does not bear fruit to maturity. Like seed in the good soil, we have to hear the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

I want to close with this story…“William W. Borden was the heir of a wealthy Chicago family. In 1904 and 1905, at the age of eighteen, he traveled around the world. This was followed by a brilliant education at Yale and then Princeton Seminary, where he committed his life to seek to win the Muslims in China to Christ. Before he left, Borden gave away some $500,000 (equivalent to $15,000,000 today) and served at the age of twenty-three as a trustee of Moody Bible Institute. In 1913, in his twenty-sixth year, he left for Egypt and never looked back. It was the final year of his life, because in Cairo he contracted cerebral meningitis. As he lay dying, he scribbled this note: ‘No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.'” Pretty good description of the commitment Jesus demands of His disciples.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live lives of greatness in the eyes of 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

Suffering Before Glory

Luke 9.28-45

When we began the Luke series last fall, one of the things we talked about…what Luke wanted us to do as we read through his Gospel…is to examine the evidence so that we might be able to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

We’ve come a long ways since then, and no doubt we still have a ways to go. Now we’ve reached a pivotal point in Luke’s story. Last week Peter rightly answered our question for us…“Who is Jesus?” He is the Christ of God. But what does that mean? The disciples thought that they knew what it meant…a Conquering King bringing in a glorious kingdom. The overthrow of Rome and Israel once again in a place of prominence on the world stage. And while Isaiah talked about a Suffering Servant and there were hints of adversity to come (Genesis 3.15), still Jewish folks living in the 1st century were expecting a fierce Warrior-Messiah like David.

While there were plenty of OT prophesies to justify their expectations, there were also personal reasons why folks would want a Conquering King…we all want to be on the winning side. Their expectations weren’t wrong, just mistimed. Jesus will come back as Conquering King. Everyone who is on His side will win with Him. But first He would be the Suffering Servant. Suffering before glory.

I think sometimes we have a similar timing problem. We like the glory part. We like the kingdom part. But we don’t like the suffering part. And if we are honest with ourselves, many times we do anything we can to avoid it. We want to follow Jesus without cost or consequence. And yet the constant testimony of Jesus and the rest of the NT is that suffering is a fundamental part of the Christian life. But the good news is…we are never alone in suffering for Jesus. Somehow Paul says that we can experience the perfect peace of God in the midst of chaos, joy in the midst of pain, hope in the deepest darkness. We don’t have to give up or give in because Jesus wins. And we have a heavenly Father who delights in us and desires our good, who loves us so completely that we will spend an eternity trying to comprehend it.

Sometimes ours isn’t a timing problem, but a “Who is Jesus?” problem. We are looking for a Jesus who meets our expectations. We want Jesus to rescue us from our sins, but we don’t want Him to change us too much. We want Him to heal us or fix our marriage or solve our financial problems…we want Him to be Savior in lots of ways, but we don’t really want to listen to Him. We don’t want His words sinking into our ears. We don’t want Him to be Lord of our lives. We want Him to make much of us…we don’t want to make much of Him.

But Jesus is both Savior and Lord. He is Suffering Servant and Conquering King. He is both Lamb and Lion.

Maybe today is the day that you need to let Jesus’ words sink into your ears. Maybe today is the day that you need to see Him in all His glory as both Suffering Servant and Conquering King. Maybe today is the day that you need to recommit to following Jesus, no matter what the cost. Maybe today is the day that you need to be reminded that suffering comes before glory.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be willing to follow Jesus in both the good and the hard times 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 Say that I Am?

Luke 9.12-27

Feeding the 5,000…Peter’s confession…Jesus’ call to discipleship. We turn a corner in Luke’s Gospel as Jesus begins to prepare the disciples for His departure and the awesome task of carrying forward the message of the kingdom in His absence.

“Who do you say that I am?” The most important question that any of us will ever answer. Who is Jesus to you? The world has lots of different answers. C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” There is only one answer that’s true…only one that has the power to give life. Jesus is the Christ of God.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, we must walk the path that He walked. The cross that He calls us to bear is not simply a trial or hardship…it’s not your boss whose a jerk or an unfair teacher or coach or an impossible mother-in-law. It’s not an illness or any other physical challenge. That’s part of living in a broken world.

The cross Jesus calls us to bear is a direct result of walking in His steps, embracing His way of life. It comes from bearing “the jeers of the crowd” because we are following the narrow way of Jesus, “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It comes from living and loving like Jesus in the marketplace, in the schoolyard, on the ball field, at home, in the community, in the world. It comes from persevering in the midst of life’s storms for the sake of the gospel.

The crosses that we bear are proportionate to our dedication to Jesus. Storms in our lives do not indicate cross-bearing, but the storms we endure for Jesus’ sake do.

Every day, the first question that we should ask ourselves, in the quiet morning hours, “Who is Jesus to me?” He is either King or He’s not. If He’s King, how will that impact the way I live my life today? How will it impact my decisions and my interactions? How will it change my relationships?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we choose the path that leads to life with 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

Next Generation Ministry

Luke 9.1-11

First solo mission for the 12. The first opportunity to flex their ministry muscles. The first time to cast out the net for a catch. Jesus gives them the ability and right to do what He does, then He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, giving them works to back up their words. Travelling light, they depend on God for their needs and bring the good news to all who will hear.

When was your first solo mission? Have you begun to flex your ministry muscles yet? Who have you told about Jesus? Just as Jesus empowered the disciples before sending them out on mission, He has also empowered us by giving us His Spirit and fellow believers to equip us and prepare us to accomplish His mission…making disciples. We call it transforming families to live and love like Jesus.

If you haven’t taken your first spin, don’t wait. There are lots of opportunities to serve. By now, hopefully you have put together an impact list…folks that God’s placed in your sphere of influence whom you can help take one step closer to Jesus. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom to them. Take a risk. You may not do it perfectly…that’s ok. God uses regular folks like us to accomplish His mission.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve been serving and sharing the gospel for a while now, maybe it’s time for you to take someone else under your wing and bring them along. Show them the ropes and then turn them loose.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s join Jesus on His mission this week of transforming families to live and love like 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

Ministry Interrupted

Luke 8.40-56

In this story we have 2 narratives intertwined…2 desperate but very different life situations: 1 well-off, the other poor; 1 highly respected, the other rejected; 1 a part of a family, the other alone. But both are seemingly beyond help. For 12 years the girl and the woman have lived such different lives, but now tragedy has put them on a collision course, and they both experience God’s life-giving power.

This is a story of fear and faith. Fear of the circumstances of life that Jairus and the woman find themselves in. Faith in Jesus’ ability to rescue them in those same circumstances of life. Calming the storm…casting out demons…healing disease…raising the dead…Jesus has power over creation, demons, uncleanness and death. No doubt Jesus can rescue them. His compassionate words and compassionate touch are proof of His willingness to rescue them.

The woman’s faith is pretty straight forward…she believes that if she can only touch Jesus’ cloak, she will be healed. And she is…immediately. No delay. Instant satisfaction.

But what about Jairus? He too believes that Jesus can heal his daughter. However, the interruption and subsequent delay seemingly result in all being lost. Yet Jesus still asks Jairus to trust Him. The timing is not what Jairus would have chosen…Jesus has His own timing (rarely early, but always on time)…but God is still in control. Do you believe that? In the circumstances of your life, do you believe that God is in control, and that His timing is always the right timing? Are you willing to patiently wait on Him? The seed planted in good soil holds fast to the Word and bears fruit with perseverance.

The guy from Jairus’ house thinks that all hope for Jairus’ daughter is lost…and by all appearances it is. But Jesus uses the delay to do something even bigger than healing a sick girl…He raises her from the dead.

We learn something important from this story about living and loving like Jesus…Jesus is busy, but not rushed. He sees interruptions as opportunities to minister grace to others. He’s very interruptible. I’m afraid I for one am both busy and rushed. That many, if not most, times I see people as distractions or as problems to be dealt with. I often overlook or miss opportunities to minister grace to others. I have to protect my routine. Interruptible? Are you kidding me? I have a schedule to keep. But if we want to live and love like Jesus, we have to be willing to slow down, trust God’s timing, and embrace interruptiblity.

So I don’t know where you are…maybe you are like the woman in desperate need of Jesus to rescue you…physically, emotionally, spiritually…maybe you’ve tried everything else. Just reach out to Him.

Maybe you are like Jairus…needing God to act right now! Maybe you need to be reminded that His timing is always perfect and to see the bigger thing that God may be doing in the delay. Maybe it’s a time to exercise a patient faith.

Maybe you need to be reminded that Ministry Interrupted is really a Ministry Opportunity.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we see interruptions as opportunities to be wholesalers of God’s grace.”

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

Setting the Captive Free

Luke 8.22-39

Having just calmed a violent storm at sea, Jesus meets a man with an equally violent storm raging within him. In both cases Jesus is able to squash the chaos with a word. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Luke is showcasing Jesus’ power and authority over both the natural and supernatural worlds. And he does that, but I think Luke is driving us to something even more powerful…Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! Did you get that? Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! And having rescued him, He sends him on mission to share his story – of “what great things God had done for him.”

This is a story for those who, like the disciples, are followers of Jesus, but now are in need of hope in a time of difficulty, disaster or discipline…in the midst of the storm. It is also a story for those who, like the demoniac, find themselves lost and as far from God as they can possibly imagine. But I also believe that Luke includes this story for a third group.

The townsfolk are unbelievers…but is there a rebuke there for us when we see a problem instead of a person? When we value possessions over people?

Where do you fit in the story? Which one are you? Frightened disciple needing Jesus to bring peace into the midst of the storm? Frightful demoniac needing Jesus to rescue you from the kingdom of darkness and to bring you into His kingdom? Maybe you’ve been rescued and need to share your story? Fearful townsperson valuing your stuff over other folks, wishing Jesus would leave because He changes things too much?

Jesus wants to rescue us…

Crossed the sea (calmed the storm, etc.)

Faced off with the hosts of hell

Braved the potential backlash of a frightened mob

For one man

Jesus is still on a rescue mission, pulling folks out of the fires of hell. Setting the captives free.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Like the former demoniac, may we gladly brag on what great things God has done for us 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 Parable of the Soils

Luke 8.1-21

Plants reflect the soil they are planted in. If there is something wrong with the soil, then it’s reflected in the crop. A tree is known by its fruit…

What soil best represents you? Hard…shallow…distracted…good. The goal of the Christian life is fruitfulness…the seed planted is intended to produce a bumper crop. If you are not seeing the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…if you’re not growing in your love for God and others…if you identified with any other than the good soil, that’s not good news. The word is not having its intended effect on your life. You are not experiencing the abundant life Jesus intended you to have.

The devil, persecution, wealth and the cares of this world all can and do get in the way of our experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus wants for us…the fruitfulness that the word is intended to produce. The good news is…the hard soil can be broken up, rocks can be removed, weeds can be pulled…the good soil, that receives the word and perseveres producing a great harvest, can be cultivated.

So how do you cultivate good soil? Jesus says it’s the right kind of heart that holds fast to the word and perseveres…steadfast endurance over time. We have to hear what Jesus says and then do it. Fundamentally, we have to believe that God really does love us and desires our good. Until we believe that, we will never really trust Him enough to do what He says. Obedience should follow trust which follows love. Obedience that comes from fear is feigned obedience…I obey because I don’t want to face the consequences of not obeying. But when I obey because I trust the One I’m obeying, there’s a freedom to risks and to live life boldly that cannot be experienced any other way. To get to that point, we have to spend time with the Father…in His Word and in prayer, asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to instruct us and guide us, to reveal to us more of Jesus…then we will be able to overcome trials, worries about wealth, and the pursuit of pleasures because we have found the greatest of all pleasures…God Himself. [I read a great quote this week…”Live your life in such a way that it only make sense if God exists”]

The different soils reflect differing responses to Jesus. How will you respond to Him?

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May Jesus’ word fall on the good soil of our hearts, producing much fruit in our lives.”

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

Forgiven Much

Luke 7.36-50

Folks of Jesus’ day would have assumed that the religious elite…the pious Pharisees, the lawyers, the priests, etc. loved God most. Yet Jesus here praises not a religiously astute Pharisee but a notorious sinner for her great love. The story reminds us that loving God is not self-righteous acts done to earn His favor, but gratefully accepting the free gift of salvation available through Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinful women, but He also came to save sinful Pharisees…unfortunately the Pharisees were too blind to see their need for saving. We all have a spiritual debt that we cannot pay. It doesn’t matter how long or short our list of sins, or how great or small we perceive them…what matters is that we realize we have a debt we cannot pay. No amount of “doing good things” will satisfy it, but only God’s gracious offer to forgive our debt…our sin. The good news is…Jesus has already paid our debt in full. We simply have to receive His gracious gift by faith.

So what keeps us from coming to Jesus? Sometimes it’s our labels that keep us from Jesus. As “sinner” we might feel like we are too far gone for Jesus to rescue us. But no one is so bad that Jesus can’t forgive them. Just ask folks like Paul (worst of sinners), Augustine of Hippo, John Newton…me.

As “Pharisee” we might assume we don’t need Jesus. We’re good enough. I hate to break it to you…you’re not that good.

Simon wondered if Jesus knew who and what sort of woman this is…He does. She is a woman who loves, who serves, who surrenders, who humbles herself, who worships, whose forgiven…a child of King. Her faith expressed itself in love, gratitude and devotion…how is your faith expressed?

Repentance/faith leads to forgiveness from God, which leads to affection for Jesus. No repentance/faith leads to no forgiveness, which leads to no affection for Jesus. So if you have no affection for Jesus, something’s wrong…maybe you’ve forgotten the huge debt that you’ve been forgiven. Maybe you’ve yet accepted God’s gracious offer.

Are you one who loves much or little? Do you recognize the tremendous debt you’ve been forgiven in Jesus? Is it obvious to others?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show how much we’ve been forgiven by our great love for God and others this week.”

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

Failed Expectations

Luke 7.11-35

Jesus said, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Three groups are represented in our passage today…John, the people and tax collectors (those who had been baptized by John), and the Pharisees and lawyers.

John had expectations of Jesus…right expectations, but mistimed. John wrestled with seeing God’s kingdom coming through Jesus in physical/political ways (conquering the Romans) versus spiritual ways (conquering sin and Satan). And while you can’t separate the spiritual from the physical when it comes to the kingdom, the present form of the kingdom is mostly spiritual with some physical aspects. But one day, the kingdom will be both fully physical and spiritual (God’s kingdom will come and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven)…politically Jesus will come as conquering King…but not yet. We’re not told for sure, but we presume that John accepted Jesus’ message from the messengers.

The people and the tax collectors seemed to have come to Jesus with the only expectation of being rescued by Him. They weren’t looking for a political agenda…they were just sinners in need of repentance, and in Jesus they found the Physician who could heal them. They see Jesus for who He is.

The Pharisees and the lawyers also had expectations of Jesus…they wanted Him to conform to their rules. They wanted Him to look and act like them. They wanted Him to validate their self-righteousness. When He didn’t, they rejected Him.

Which of the 3 groups do you find yourself in? Are you like John, wrestling with your expectations of Jesus or what the Christian life is supposed to be like? Are doubts creating a crisis of faith? Do you feel like John…like you’re sitting alone in prison wondering if God even cares? Do you need to be reminded of who Jesus is and that He hasn’t forgotten you? That although it may feel like you’re losing, Jesus has already won the victory? Or are you like the Pharisees and lawyers, wanting Jesus to conform to your image rather than the other way around? Now’s the time to see Jesus for who He is…the only One who can rescue you, the only Physician who can heal you. Don’t wait…today’s the day.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show forth the wisdom of God as we rejoice in His salvation through faith in Jesus.”

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

Unshaken Faith

Luke 7.1-10

I wonder what Jesus thinks about our faith…do we have a faith that would cause Him to marvel, or would He say, “O you of little faith”? And if our faith is small, how do we grow it? How do we develop a faith that causes Jesus to marvel?

The centurion had a proper estimation of himself. Even though the Jewish elders promoted him as a big deal…as one who was worthy for Jesus to do a miracle for…he recognized that he wasn’t a big deal and had no right to demand or presume that Jesus owed him anything. His “I’m not worthy” didn’t come from poor self-esteem, but from a proper evaluation of who he was before God. We have to do the same. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” We have to recognize that God doesn’t owe us anything but judgment…it’s by His grace that we can become His sons and daughters, it’s by His grace that He acts benevolently toward us, it’s by His grace He gives us good gifts…

The centurion also had a correct view of who Jesus was. He knew that Jesus could help…that with a word his servant could be healed. He didn’t doubt Jesus’ power or willingness to help. He simply had to ask. I think this is where we sometimes get stuck…either doubting Jesus’ ability or His willingness to help in our situation. We wouldn’t say it out loud, but many times we show by our actions or attitudes that we don’t really think that Jesus can help us…oh, sure maybe for the whole “heaven-thing” but not in our day-to-day life. And even if He could, why would He?

To have a faith that causes Jesus to marvel means that we have to believe at the most fundamental levels of our being that He can and will help us. That only comes from the Spirit’s work in our lives as we spend time with God in His Word and in prayer…that’s how He renews our hearts and minds, so that we can begin to see ourselves for who we really are and Jesus for who He really is. Only then can we come to know God as Father…a Father who delights in and gives good gifts to His children.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we exercise a faith that makes Jesus marvel this week.”

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

Judge Not

Luke 6.37-49

If we want to be merciful just as the Father is merciful, then we must reject condemning judgment and instead forgive freely and give generously, knowing that we will reap what we sow.

We have to be careful who we follow…and how we lead. We must first recognize our own need for a Physician, that we are sinners in need of repentance, before we will be able to lead others to Jesus. If we fail to recognize our own need first, then we become hypocritical and judgmental Pharisees puffed up on self-righteousness.

We become like those we follow…if we follow the world, we will look like the world, talk the world, act like the world. But if we want to live and love like Jesus, then we have to listen to His words and act on them. We must become doers of the Word, as James calls it. Our fruit…our words and our actions flow out of who we are. What does your fruit tell you about you?

It’s good to be reminded that the ability to reflect Jesus and obey even in the smallest matters is a work of the Spirit in our lives. We have to be willing to partner with Him and submit to His leading, but He is the One who transforms us.

Only two houses being built…those with a foundation and those without, there is no middle ground…which one is yours?

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we, out of the good treasure of our heart, bring forth what is good this week.”

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

True Blessedness

Luke 6.20-36

If you are like me, the first question that comes to mind is “How?” How do I love my enemy? How do I do good to those who hate me? How do I bless those who curse me? How do I pray for those who mistreat me? Especially when my natural inclination is revenge, self-preservation, protecting my stuff? How can I live and love like Jesus?

Dallas Willard in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines said, “It’s not just turning the other cheek, but becoming the kind of person who would turn the other cheek.” It’s not just a sheer act of will in the moment, but the cultivation of a lifestyle. It’s our daily practice of turning the other cheek…of loving our enemies, which is only possible by the power of the Spirit. The good news…the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to love His enemies wants to empower those who follow Him to do the same.

I read an article about a missionary who returned home after years of service. She moved into an apartment and was excited about having her own space to fix up and enjoy, especially the patio where she anticipated making her place of solace. But shortly after she moved in and decorated her patio and got everything just right, a family moved in next door…obnoxious neighbors who played loud music at all hours of the night, whose kids ran wild around the neighborhood, who seemed to have little or no respect for others. The final straw came when the kids spray painted her beautiful patio and wrecked everything on it. She tried praying to love them anyway, but only felt hatred. So she kept praying and got the image of love as a garment (Paul in Colossians 4) that she needed to put on. So she prayed that God would help her put on love. Then she began to list all the things she would do for this family if she truly loved them…bake cookies, babysit the kids, coffee with the mom…she began working the list. She chose to show them love (agape…act of the will) even though they surely didn’t deserve it, and before long she found herself truly loving them (her emotions caught up). So much so that she was sad when they moved.

You or I might think…yeah, but Jesus doesn’t know my enemy! They deserve everything they get. You don’t know my family…they’ll just take advantage of me. Poor people buy alcohol. Whatever. Jesus really meant what He said. This is what the church in Acts actually did. This isn’t hyperbole or just making a point. When Jesus said, “love your enemies”, He meant, “love your enemies.” When He said, “give to anyone who asks”, He meant, “give to anyone who asks.” He even told us not to demand back things that are stolen! Speaking for myself, it’s too easy to rationalize away that Jesus didn’t really mean to give to the people in my life. Forget tithing, Jesus is talking about renouncing a hold on every convenience and every dime for the sake of love…. and the person who does that is blessed.

Living and loving like Jesus is a moment-by-moment decision, leaning into the Spirit, praying for God’s help, and finding practical ways to love…even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. That’s when we begin to reflect the Father’s character…that’s when we are most like Jesus who loved folks like you and me who didn’t deserve it.

Jesus invites us to experience the abundant life…the blessed life…a life that looks beyond present circumstances to the ultimate reality of an eternal life with Jesus. The invitation is open to all who will follow Him. So how about you? Will you choose to follow Him today?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live and love like Jesus, loving our enemies and treating others the way we want to be treated.”

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

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Luke 6.12-19

Abraham Lincoln once said, “God must have liked ordinary people because he made so many of them!”

Just as Jesus called 12 ordinary men to do the extraordinary…to change the world with the gospel of the kingdom…so Jesus still calls ordinary folks like you and me to do the extraordinary. And not only does He call us, but He gives us His Spirit so that we can carry out the mission. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 12, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It’s in our ordinariness, our weakness, that God’s power shines the most brightly. Again, Paul says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” Oswald Chambers once said, “God can achieve His purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on Him made possible the unique display of His power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.” God doesn’t call somebodies…Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Somebodies fail to see their need to be rescued. Instead God calls anybodies and nobodies…and then He makes them somebodies and invites them into the incredible journey and adventure of following Him, and carrying forth the message of the gospel of the kingdom.

Church history is littered with stories of ordinary folks whom God used to do extraordinary things. Folks like Jim Elliot, Martin Luther, Augustine, Mary, AW Tozer, Oswald Chambers, Hudson Taylor, Thomas a Kempis, Brother Lawerence, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King, Jr., Billy Graham…but my favorite stories are folks whom God is using in extraordinary ways that only a few may see…who are faithfully following Jesus in the ordinary and mundane, but who are also making an impact on the folks God has placed around them.

For the moms…hope you had a fantastic Mother’s Day. For all of us, I hope you appreciated your momma.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we take seriously our call to be the ordinary who do the extraordinary this week.”

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

 

Attack of the Pharisees

Luke 6.1-11

Both of these Sabbath encounters, picking the grain and healing the man with the withered hand, remind us of what God intended for the Sabbath, foreshadowing the coming kingdom when all sorrow and illness will be healed for His people for all time. It’s a reminder of what we lost in the garden but also of where we are headed as sons and daughters of the King. Through Jesus, the kingdom of God invades this fallen world with a glimpse of what it will be like when Jesus returns.

As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus has the ultimate authority to restore what God intended for the Sabbath. Because of His intimate relationship with the Father, He gives us God’s perspective. The conflicts with the Pharisees highlight the conflict between man’s authority and God’s authority. Rules are not a bad thing…in fact, many times they can be helpful…but when following the rules takes the place of loving people, it’s no longer pleasing to God…even if they are followed with good intentions. The Pharisees designed rules to help folks know how to keep the Sabbath. They thought their rules clarified what God intended. Before long their rules became the authority instead of God’s Word. Self-righteousness had set in. The self-righteous mind is not interested in mercy or truth…just following the rules. Their traditions became like old wine skins that could not contain the message of the gospel that Jesus brings…a gospel of compassion of mercy, a gospel of God’s love for all of us.

So who has the authority over your life? Is it the rules that you have set up or is it God’s Word?

What pleases God is a heart devoted to Him and a life characterized, that’s deeply marked, by compassion and mercy. Faith produces a merciful heart…and whenever we show mercy it reflects the life of Jesus in us. When we see someone showing mercy to others, we recognize, “There’s someone who has experienced mercy”. But if we have not experienced mercy ourselves, then, chances are, we will not show mercy to others. And religion…faith without of mercy does not please God (Micah 6.8 “What does the LORD require from you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”)

So what characterizes your life? What are you deeply marked by? Would others describe you as compassionate or merciful? If compassion and mercy don’t mark your walk with Jesus, what does? Pursuing God is not a matter of meticulously following rules but learning more and more how to love God with all that we are and learning more and more to love others selflessly. That’s what it means to follow Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May our lives be marked by the compassion of Jesus as we seek to follow Him this week.”

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

Get In the Game

Luke 5.27-39

It is not the healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Jesus is still in the business of restoring social outcasts to community and forgiving notorious sinners. He did it for Levi. He wants to do the same for you. He sees you and me…all that we’ve done and will do, and still He calls us. Levi is a reminder that no one is so far gone that Jesus can’t rescue him/her. He wants to ruin you and remake you…to wreck your self-righteousness and give you His true righteousness. And not only does Jesus want to rescue you, He wants to put you to work. Like Levi, He wants you to be a part of His rescue mission…fishing for men. Robert Munger once said, “The church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate.” How about you? Do you recognize your need for Jesus? Jesus’ invitation is for everyone who will respond, “Come, follow Me,” anytime, anyplace…today is the day of salvation. Is Jesus calling you today?

Maybe you’ve already trusted in Jesus…if so, are you a fisher of men…are you seeking the lost and relating to them in such a way that they can see God’s grace at work in your life? Jesus spent time with people like Levi. Levi and his friends could have ruined a man’s reputation. Who do you spend time with? Who is on your impact list? Who are you intentionally building relationships with? Are you having any risky conversations? Are you willing to put your reputation on the line to reach the notorious for Jesus? Are you willing to love the unlovable? Many times when we trust in Jesus, He not only changes us; but we begin to make some changes ourselves. We find new set of friends (all Christian of course), maybe get a new job (in a Christian environment), start listening to new music (of course Christian)…we so surround ourselves with other believers that we become irrelevant to a lost world. Not only do we no longer have friends who are lost…we have a hard time thinking of anyone in our normal routine who’s lost. Maybe it’s time to take a risk. Maybe it’s time for some dangerous conversations. Maybe it’s time to ruin your reputation by hanging out with some nefarious characters, looking for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus and invite them to the never-ending party of knowing Jesus…experiencing the joy that can only be found in Him. Maybe it’s time to get in the game.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we, like Levi, let go of our old life and lay hold of the new life we have in Jesus, and may we, like Jesus, have some dangerous conversations this week.”

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

Be Clean!

Luke 5.12-26

We all need Jesus. Only He can rescue us. That’s true for both the believer and unbeliever. Unfortunately we don’t always recognize that. Sometimes as believers we forget our dire need for Him. We forget that without Him, we are outcasts…on the outside desperately wanting in. Without Him we are spiritual lepers in dire need of healing. Daily we need to throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet, not looking to be saved again (once a child of the King, always a child of the King), but acknowledging our dependence on Him. In what circumstance, relationship, addiction, personality flaw or personal challenge do you need to say to Jesus, “Lord, if You are willing You can…” and to hear Him say, “I am willing.”

If you don’t know Jesus, the first step is to become aware of your desperate need (to be made clean), then approach Him in humble submission (Jesus is the only way) and finally believe that Jesus can save you. Sins 2 opposing lies…the lie of the Pharisee: “I am not a sinner, there’s nothing wrong with me” We are all spiritual lepers apart from Jesus…only He can make us clean. Or the opposite extreme: “I am a sinner, but I’m so beyond help that no one can save me.” No one is untouchable for Jesus. No one is beyond His reach.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, we have to be willing to go to the outcasts, to love the unlovable and bring them to Jesus. It starts with loving them…loving them enough to make the effort, to be persistent and creative. We have to be convinced that Jesus is their only hope and believe that He wants to rescue them. Then tear down some roofs. Have a conversation. Invite them to church or to your community group. Tell them your story, how Jesus ruined you and remade you, how He rescued you and invited you into the greatest fishing expedition ever.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we recognize our desperate need for Jesus and seek Him often this week.”

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

The Divine Invitation

Luke 5.1-11

Simon is initially willing to obey Jesus out of a sense of obligation…he had seen what Jesus had done for others, he knew that God was at work in Him, but until now, he really hadn’t had an encounter with Jesus. But when he does, he responds in awe, humility, and then total surrender…he’s all in. He went from being a fan to a being a part of Jesus’ team, a part of Jesus’ rescue mission…saving folks from death to life. Jesus changed everything for him. Jesus ruined Simon, so that He could remake him.

Jesus is still in the business of turning sinners into servants. Have you been wrecked by Jesus? Have you recognized your sinfulness in the presence of His righteousness? Has is undone you and cause you to fall down before Him? Have you been rescued by Him? If so, what impact has that had on your life? Have you left all to follow Him? Are you following Jesus because you’ve experienced His grace at such a profound level that there really is no other option for you, or are you following Him begrudgingly, more out of a sense of obligation or duty, than joy? It starts with that personal encounter with Jesus…realizing His grace that invades and impacts your world…that ruins you and remakes you.

If you have been rescued, have you joined Jesus’ rescue mission? Have you become a fisher of men? Are you spending time daily with Him, so that you can recognize His voice? Take a look at your impact list…who can you help bring one step closer to Jesus. Ask God for a divine appointment this week. Be intentional. Have a conversation. Invite folks to come to church with you and whatever group you are a part of (Community group, young adults, students, MOPs, women’s Bible study, a men’s group, Saints Alive, STOP, etc). While God gives us various jobs…student, teacher, business person, etc, our main task whatever our job is catching folks for the kingdom. We are all called to the same mission…we are all a part of the same team.

But maybe you haven’t had a personal encounter with Jesus yet. Maybe you are still a part of the crowd considering who Jesus is. He wants to rescue you today. He wants you to be on His team. The great news about Jesus…the invitation is open to all, but we do have to accept it. And when we do, we are off on the greatest adventure of our lives.

Are you going to be a fisherman or a fisher of men?

Until next time, stay salty…

“May we be fishers of people who have given up all to follow Jesus.”

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

A Resurrected Jesus

John 20

The resurrection proves not only that everything Jesus said and did was absolutely true, but that He “crushed sin and death for all eternity.” Jesus’ death pays the penalty for sin. However, if we stopped there, we might be forgiven; but where’s the empowerment for life? It is the life of Jesus that allows us to experience life today…real, abundant life.

John says that he wrote “these things that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life in His name.” While Mary and the disciples had believed in Jesus…their experience of a crucified Jesus hadn’t brought life (fear, doubt, distress, confusion). Although Jesus was alive and although He had crushed sin and death, they were not experiencing the victory.

And while I would say “yes” to those truths today, many times I practically live like Jesus remained in the tomb…I know I’m forgiven, but I still tend to be totally consumed by my circumstances – distraught, confused, fearful, and even doubting that Jesus can/will bring me out of the current situation. My guess is, I’m not alone.

Some of us today are believers…we’ve believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, but we are not experiencing the life of Jesus that is ours through His resurrection. Maybe we are like Mary…distraught and grieving, focused on our circumstances and having a hard time seeing Jesus. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Mary, Jesus patiently waits for us to recognize Him, wanting to turn our mourning into joy. Maybe we are like the disciples…fearful, betting on Jesus but feeling like we are on the losing side. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like the disciples, Jesus speaks peace over us, wanting to transform us from being fearful to being fearless. Maybe we are like Thomas…doubting, needing evidence that Jesus can help us in our present predicament. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Thomas, Jesus meets us in that place of unbelief and wants to turn our doubting to believing. Whatever character you most resonate with, we all need to be reminded of the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. He died and rose again to give us life.

Some of us today would not put ourselves in the believing category at all. We may be somewhere on the road of our spiritual journey, but we are definitely not there. That’s ok. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus changes everything. He wants to meet us right where we are. He knows us…He knows our name, our doubts and fears, our circumstances. He’s not afraid of our questions, but is patient with us.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience the uncontainable joy and unquenchable hope in knowing that Jesus is alive today!”

This post is based on our Easter sermon, A Resurrected Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Generosity

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Two characters in the Gospel of Luke highlight for me two approaches to generosity…the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). The Rich Young Ruler was well respected and generally a good guy. Zacchaeus was not…not either of them. While the Rich Young Ruler was likely a much loved leader in religious circles, Zacchaeus was a despised tax collector…and not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Both had an encounter with Jesus…one became a generous giver and the other left very sad. Jesus changed everything. For Zacchaeus, Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation was Good News indeed, and he went from being a taker to a giver, from greedy to generous… But the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t stand to part with his stuff. His selfishness and greed just became more pronounced.

Generosity isn’t something we should shy away from…it’s actually one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

So whose kingdom are you building? Whose stuff are you protecting? Yours or Jesus’? We cannot enjoy the kingdom unless we are submitted to the King, and we cannot submit to the King if we are still hanging on to our stuff. Are you mastered by the desire to get or give (Acts 20.35)? Do you trust God’s generosity enough to be generous?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we reflect the generous character of Jesus this week in any and every circumstance.”

This post is based on the sermon, Generosity. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Setting the Captives Free

Luke 4.31-44

Luke shows us examples of how Jesus fulfills His ministry (Isaiah 61)…He preaches the good news to the poor (4.31-32, 43-44), frees prisoners oppressed by the devil (4.33-37, 41) and heals the sick (4.38-40), demonstrating His authority and power over demonic forces and physical infirmities, in both the spiritual and physical realms. These miracles prove that His message is Good News for All!

Are you being held captive by the enemy today? Then Jesus is good news for you. Are you suffering today? Then Jesus is good news for you. Jesus came to seek and save the lost…to set the captives free, to rescue the oppressed, to give sight to the blind, to bring good news to the poor. Jesus wants to rescue you today. Will you let Him?

Just like Jesus, we also have mission. We are to show the same compassion and love that He did for each person. No one should be left behind. Every single person is worth the investment of our time. Jesus spent the entire night making sure that each person received a touch from His hand. We should do the same, running into enemy territory and setting free the captives. Out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, we too should joyfully look for ways to serve Him by serving others. Who can you intentionally serve this week? Who Can you intentionally share the Good News with? The King is here! Like Jesus, we do that by leaning into the Spirit and allowing God’s Word to dwell in us richly, as Paul puts it.

Have you ever officially given everything over to Jesus…given Him full administrative rights to your life? Your relationships…spouse, children, parents, teachers, coaches, classmates, teammates, co-workers, etc.? How about your hopes and dreams, your fears and anxieties, your future, your ambitions and longings, your job, your independence, your heart? Why not do it now? Maybe the reason we don’t experience the abundant life that Jesus promises is that we are holding out. We’re building a rival kingdom…because you cannot enjoy the kingdom Jesus brings unless you are submitted to the King.

“What would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would your church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?” (Francis Chan)

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we join Jesus on His mission this week to share the good news of the kingdom with a lost and dying world in dire need of rescue.”

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