The First Missionary Journey: First Encounter

Acts 13.1-12

Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the Spirit from Antioch on their first missionary journey. Their excitement is tempered when they have their first encounter of spiritual opposition from a guy named Bar-Jesus.

The sad irony in this story…a Jew attempts to block a Gentile from coming to faith. You see, through Abraham all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The Jews were to be a blessing to the nations, leading them to God and not barring the way. Bar-Jesus openly opposed Paul and Barnabas. I would hope that none of us openly oppose the gospel…that none of us would willingly stand in the way of someone trusting in Jesus. But even if it’s not openly, can’t we subtly become stumbling blocks? Maybe by the way we fail to follow Jesus…the way we fail to point others to Him?

God’s fingerprints are all over this story, just as they have been throughout the book of Acts. The Spirit is actively leading, guiding, empowering, acting, choosing, sending, moving…it’s His church. The danger is when we attempt to hijack the Spirit’s job and make it our own. And then we wonder why nothing spiritually significant happens. It’s a reminder for us…the battle belongs to the Lord. Transforming families to live and love like Jesus is not about a program…it’s the work of the Spirit. It happens as we submit to Him…as we worship and serve, engaging in the work He’s given each one of us to do.

Each of us has been gifted and called and equipped for a purpose…something that, when lived out, amazing things happen. A few weeks ago, Ricky talked about living with a heavenly perspective. It’s living a life of consequence, a life of deep kingdom impact. Each of us has a part to play…a role, if you will, in the kingdom drama. What would it look like if we were all pursuing that together? How would it impact our church? How might it impact this valley and beyond? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said to seek the kingdom and live according to God’s righteousness. How’s that going for you? Are you being led by the Spirit to say yes to kingdom things? BTW when we follow the Spirit’s leading that doesn’t mean its an easy journey…that the Enemy’s going to give us a free pass…on the contrary we need to expect opposition. But, like Paul and Barnabas, we need to do it anyway.

Where are you saying yes to serving God and his Church? Are you sharing your story with others, are you involved in a ministry, are you giving financially to the mission? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

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

Who’s the Boss?

Acts 12.1-25

The story begins and ends with a man named Herod. At the outset he kills one of the Apostles and arrests a second, but in the end he is killed by an angel of the Lord for his arrogance. Herod thought that he was the one who was in control…that he was the boss. He found out he was wrong. Dead wrong.

Once again we see the importance of prayer in the early church, and the importance of prayer in moving the mission forward. They prayed collectively, and they prayed fervently. They knew that prayer was their primary weapon in the war against the forces of darkness. I wonder if we know the same? Is prayer our primary go-to…our first response, or is it something we try when all else fails? When we pray, we recognize our dependence on God…He’s in control…He’s the Boss (Philippians 4.8). When we don’t pray, who are we depending on?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize who’s the boss…who’s in control, especially when we are focused on our circumstances. When we see the world from a circumstantial point of view, it sure looks like we’re losing. Just watch the news. Take a look at social media. Hatred, hostility and violence are up, kindness, patience, decency are down…forget about love. Christianity is reviled and mocked, and those who hold to biblical values are called “haters” or “bigots” or “backwards”. It’s all the more reason to pray. Because we need an eternal perspective. The folks who attack us are not our enemy…they are held captive by our Enemy. Just like we were. Our job is not to rage against them, but to love them. To serve them. To share our story with them. To tell them about Jesus. That’s not easy. Again we need to pray! So this week, I challenge you to get down on your knees and pray…whatever the chaos in your life, whatever chains are binding you…make prayer your first response and watch what God does.

There’s only One who’s the Boss. Only One qualified for that job description. Only One King of kings and Lord of lords. Our Creator. Our Savior. Our Redeemer. And though the world around us is shaking, He can never be shaken. He is never caught off guard…never says, “Whoops”. We can therefore have confidence because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

pro rege

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

What Are You Known For?

Acts 11.19-30

What are you known for? How would folks who know you best describe you? What about your enemies? For the believers there in Antioch, it was simply “Christian”. Because of their devotion to Him and time spent learning about Him, they were beginning to look a lot like Jesus…to live and love like Him. So much so that they were called “little christs” or followers of Christ.

And while “Christian” had a very distinct meaning then, today I’m not so sure. Two thousand years of baggage has blurred the distinction of what a Christian is supposed to be to the point that it really is unrecognizable. Does Christian mean…a good person? a church-goer? a conservative? a Republican? an American? Maybe it is used to identify a person as a believer, but do we mean a believer whose heart intent remains with the Lord? A believer whose intentional about his or her pursuit of Jesus…spending regular, daily time with Him? Is that what we mean when we say we are a “Christian” church?

I think it’s time to reclaim the name “Christian.” It’s time for us to stop pursuing the things of this world and turn our hearts to pursue the Lord. It’s time for us to fix the intent of our heart on Him. It’s time for us to devote ourselves to the teaching of the Word (Matthew 28.18-20). We kicked off this year with our When You…series (when you read, pray, give, fast), spiritual disciplines designed to deepen our faith and result in the Spirit’s work in our lives becoming more evident to others. That’s when we begin to have an impact on the world around us, and folks begin to notice the difference.

I can’t leave off here without saying one more word about giving. Giving is a very Christian thing to do. You don’t have to be a Christian to give, but if you are a Christian you should give. Giving…of our time, our resources, ourselves…is probably the most self-less thing we can do. It reflects faith in God to provide and love toward others who are in need. It’s a great way to silence the “what about me?” tendency that causes us to clench our fists rather than open our hands. It’s also a great way to invest in the kingdom.

pro rege

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

A Level Playing Field

Acts 11.1-18

Jewish believers are questioning Peter’s reasoning, not for preaching to Cornelius and his household, but for eating with them. They struggle to understand how Peter, an Apostle and their fearless leader, being a Jew could have fellowship with the Gentiles.

Buried in their criticism there seems to be this underlying assumption that will become more clear later on that before the Gentiles can be welcomed into the church, they must first become Jews. After all, the OT covenants with Abraham and David and even the New Covenant were all made by God with the Jewish people. The nations could be blessed through Abraham, but even then they weren’t on the same footing. The Jews were God’s chosen people.

The scandal of the gospel is that Gentiles too could enter into the kingdom simply by believing in Jesus without first becoming Jews (Colossians 1.21-27). The gospel + anything is legalism. It’s what Paul rails against in Galatians. Salvation is by grace through faith alone… In other words, the Jews and the Gentiles are on equal footing. There is now one people of God…doesn’t mean that God is done with the Jews as a people (stay tuned for Romans and Revelation), but it means that we have equal access to the Father through Jesus, that we have the same Spirit living in us. I think it’s hard for us to understand how big a deal this is. We who were the furthest from God and least deserving of His mercy…that He could love even us, that He would welcome us into His kingdom. We of all people should be the most thankful. There’s this awesome picture in Revelation 7.9-10…“a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” 

And while we may think this was just their problem aka this group of Jewish believers, how often do we in the church look at others and jump to conclusions because they don’t do things the way we would like for them to? We say that we want unbelievers coming to church, but the reality is that it’s messy. It’s much easier if someone becomes a Christian before they start attending church. How often do we miss what God is up to because we are caught up in our own agenda?

Often we’ve said we should expect persecution…following Jesus is counter-cultural and revolutionary…it’s treason against the god of this world and an affront to those living according to this world’s values…so we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a predictable outcome. They persecuted Jesus, and they will persecute us. So far so good. But what happens when the persecution comes from inside the church…so-called friendly fire or team kills? We expect it out there, but when it happens in here? It just shouldn’t be. We’re all on a level playing field because of Jesus. Just Jesus. Because Jesus + ______= Legalism. Is there a + _____ in your life? If so, what is it? And what are you going to do about it?

One day we will be gathered around a throne worshiping God, not worried about what divides us, but celebrating the One who unites us. Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

pro rege

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

Cornelius’ Story Part 2

Acts 10.23b-48

Peter shares the gospel with Cornelius and his household, and they believe in Jesus and are saved. They receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized into the church. Jesus said to the Apostles, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The stage is now set for the final act of the mission to begin. The final kingdom key has been used and the door is now open. The gospel will soon spread to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? We will all one day stand before Jesus. And when we do, He will either be our King or our Judge. At that point it will be too late to change your mind. What will it profit a person to gain the whole world and then at the end to find out that all you once held dear and built your life upon, all this world reveres and wars to own, all you once thought gain…comes crashing down. Why not trust in Jesus today? He will not only forgive your sins and give you eternal life, but He will also give your life purpose and meaning today. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved, and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

If you have trusted in Jesus, it’s your turn to pass the baton of faith on. Like Cornelius, we have become unlikely citizens of God’s kingdom. The faith that we have has been passed down from those who went before. I know it seems like we spend a lot of time talking about sharing your story. Maybe you think…yeah, I got it, I got it. But do you? Have you shared your story? If not, why not? Somebody shared their story with you…when will you share yours with someone else? When will you pass the baton? Who in your life needs to hear your story…how Jesus brought you from death to life and gave you new purpose and meaning, how He’s changed everything?

Let me challenge you this week to identify one person you can share your story with. And then do it. Just do it. I dare ya. And see what God does with it.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Cornelius’ Story Part 1

Acts 10.1-23a

Cornelius has a vision, Peter goes into a trance…little did these men know that God is in the midst of fulfilling His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The first Gentile is about to be symbolically welcomed into the kingdom in the book of Acts, opening the floodgates for the rapid expansion of the church to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

Once again we see God’s hand at work through the story. An angel appears to Cornelius saying send for Peter. After a perplexing vision, the Spirit tells Peter to go without misgivings. Just like with Ananias and Saul, another divine meet-and-great that will have monumental implications for the history of the church.

Jesus had proclaimed to the Apostles that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. And now approximately ten years later, the gospel has yet to break beyond the second level…Judea and Samaria. Up to now an almost entirely Jewish thing. But God’s putting the pieces in place. He’s working on a guy named Peter to turn his “By no means Lord” into welcoming the men from Cornelius in and giving them lodging…and eventually having fellowship with them in Cornelius’ house. He’s preparing a guy named Saul. The gates of hell stand no chance.

Peter doesn’t know yet what God is up to when He calls him to action, but just like Abraham, he has been chosen for a unique purpose. Just like Saul. Just like you and me.

But even then, Peter has to be pried away from looking at his circumstances from a how-does this-impact-me mindset…a mindset that leads him and us invariably to respond selfishly, even if, like Peter, we really want to please the Lord. We often fail to grasp the bigger picture and instead of trusting and obeying…simply saying “yes”, we say, “what about me?” or worse, “by no means Lord.”

We need to learn to resist resistance to respond to God with an open and willing heart. When we choose to follow Jesus we become part of the rebellion…an other worldly kingdom…whose mission it is to storm the gates of hell and crush the power of Satan, setting the captives free into the abundant life that God intends for them. It is not always about us. When we trust God, our agenda, purpose and motivation changes. And when we realize it is not about us, it frees us up to do His work. And when we know God because we have spent time with Him, we have the confidence to turn a prompting of the Lord into action for Him and His people. And when we do it again and again and again a warrior of faith emerges. His Spirit transforms us a little bit more to live and love like Jesus. One step at a time…from Lydda to Joppa, from Joppa to a tanner’s house, from a tanner’s house to Cornelius’ house. Each time Peter said yes, he looked more like Jesus. You will too. But we have to turn our “by no means Lord” into “yes Lord.”

You are here today because Peter unlocked the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. It all started because Peter welcomed a couple of “unclean” guys into his home. He trusted the Lord. He dropped his agenda. He opened his mind to the possibility that God could use him in that moment to transform lives. He extended his hand to simply turn the knob and open the door. You are also here today because someone else said “yes” to the Lord and shared the gospel with you. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you are here seeking, like Cornelius, start knocking. Talk to a friend about Jesus. And if you have already walked through that door and are following Jesus, say “yes” to Him…open your ears, open your heart and be ready and willing to be the one God uses to open the door for the next guy. Who is that for you? Is there someone in your life about whom you are saying, “by no means Lord”? God has chosen you for such a time as this. Pray, think, then act…try saying “yes” to the Lord instead.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Back to Peter

Acts 9.32-43

Peter performs two miracles reminiscent of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels…the healing of a paralytic and the raising of the dead. Both demonstrate the Spirit’s work through Peter and are confirmation to a watching world that his witness is true. Jesus is alive! Both miracles result in lots of folks coming to faith.

What started in Jerusalem has reached the boundaries of Judea and Samaria and will soon break through to the uttermost parts of the world. What started as a Jewish thing is soon to become an all-people’s thing…fulfilling what God had promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The gospel is spreading and crashing through barriers of all kinds.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? Jesus will not only forgive your sins and give you eternal life, but He will also give your life purpose and meaning. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, we are beneficiaries of the gospel’s spread…ours is a faith that has been passed down through the ages. Faithful men and women…beginning with the Apostles…who bore witness to a resurrected Jesus, proclaiming the good news of the gospel…forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for everyone who will believe…a message they shared with friends and family, with co-workers and neighbors, with crowds and individuals, with anyone who would listen.

Now it’s our turn to pass the baton of faith to a new generation of believers. It’s our turn to share the gospel with those in our lives who so desperately need it. It’s our turn to bear witness to the resurrected Jesus. And it’s nothing less than an all-out assault on the kingdom of darkness…a bum rush, if you will, on the gates of hell. It’s not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and boldness…a willingness to face opposition and even persecution…knowing that it’s worth it. Life in the kingdom is worth it. Following Jesus is worth it. So are you ready? Have you written out your story? Are you on the hunt for opportunities to share it?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

From Persecutor to Preacher

Acts 9.19.b-31

Saul goes from being a persecutor to a preacher. Jesus has changed everything. He has passed from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son…his sins have been forgiven and his destiny will never be the same. Good news, right? Right?

And yet for Saul the good news is met with disdain by his one-time-friends turned enemies and doubt by his one-time-enemies turned friends. Except for Barnabas. He recognizes Saul’s sincere belief and welcomes him into the fold.

Saul is excited about his new-found faith. He can’t wait to tell others about Jesus. That’s a good thing. His excitement is not quenched even when met with hostility and the threat of death. Still he will preach the gospel and face whatever trial may come. Saul’s time alone with the Lord…in His Word and in prayer…fuels his fire and prepares him for what inevitably will come.

Are you like Saul, maybe new to the faith, excited about the road ahead, anticipating the impact that you will have for the kingdom? Realize that challenges will come. Some of those challenges will come from unbelieving friends who feel like you’ve walked away from them. Some of those challenges will come from other believers who can’t believe you trusted in Jesus. Take courage. Either way, you have to be faithful to what God has called you to do…tell people about Jesus…share your story. Spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer and time fellowshipping with other believers, allowing your faith to grow and deepen and mature. And be patient. Saul’s greatest impact will come years later…

Are you like Barnabas, an encourager who comes alongside, a welcomer-in of those on the fringes? Some definitely have the gift of encouragement…you know who you are and so do the folks who know you well. Keep doing it. We need you. But I think all of us can be a Barnabas to an extent. All of us can come alongside another. You see, discipleship is not just me, my Bible and a cup of coffee. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. God never intended us to walk the path alone. We need each other. Paul uses both the analogy of a body and of a house to describe our interconnectedness…our interdependence on one another. The person you may be encouraging may be the one God wants to use to turn this world upside down. Like Saul.

Maybe you haven’t yet had an encounter with Jesus. Maybe you think you are too far gone to be saved. You’re not. Saul wasn’t. Neither are you. God wants to work a miracle in your life…to bring you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son…to give your life purpose and meaning and to use you to impact the lives of those around you for His kingdom. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

For the rest of us, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What impact will you have on the kingdom?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Saul’s Story

Acts 9.1-19a

Saul has an encounter with Jesus, and his life is forever changed. And not just his life. God will use him to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth…planting churches and writing letters which will make up a majority of the NT. Saul’s encounter with Jesus is so significant not only to the book of Acts, but also in the history of the church that this is the first of three times that his conversion is talked about in the story.

Saul was chosen for a purpose…God would use him to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Ananias was chosen for a purpose…he will be the one to commission Saul. God has also chosen you for a purpose…He wants to use you to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Do you realize that? Maybe you’ve never heard that before, but God chose you for a purpose…and the purpose isn’t so that you could go to heaven. If that were the case, you would already be there. No, He chose you so that you would have a kingdom impact on the folks around you. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2.8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Jesus calls it “bearing fruit”. You have been chosen for a purpose.

Ananias was surprised that the Lord would have him go and find Saul…probably even more surprised that the church’s greatest enemy would become its greatest ally. Who is it in your life that God may be calling you to share your story with? Who is it that you think is beyond reach? Saul’s story is a reminder and an encouragement that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel. No one is so lost that they cannot be found, so blind that they cannot see, so dead that they cannot be made alive. Do you believe that today? Do you believe that there is nothing you could have ever done that could keep you from Jesus?

We see God’s fingerprints all over this story. It’s no accident that Saul comes to faith. Not only does Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus, He also appears to Saul a second time and to Ananias to arrange a meet and greet. God is in control. He’s in control of the events of this story, and He’s in control of the events in your story.

Maybe you haven’t yet had an encounter with Jesus. Maybe you think you are too far gone to be saved. You’re not. Saul wasn’t. Neither are you. God wants to work a miracle in your life…to bring you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son…to give your life new purpose and meaning and to use you to impact the lives of those around you for His kingdom. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

If you have had an encounter with Jesus, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What kind of impact are you going to have on the kingdom?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Three Marriage Assassins

Ephesians 4.29, Genesis 2.22-25, Matthew 6.9-15

Unwholesome communication. Unfaithfulness. Unforgiveness. Three assassins that can kill your marriage if left unattended.

Jesus can and does heal and restore broken marriages. He is the only hope we have for a successful marriage…only He can transform us through the Spirit to live and love like Him. But we have to put Him first…in our individual lives and in our marriage. Doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges…that these assassins won’t be lurking, but it means that we are committed to seeing our marriage through for the glory of God until death do us part.

Earlier I said, “No wonder for the average church attender the divorce rate within the church is about the same as that outside the church.” That may be true for the average church attender, but according to Focus on the Family (Divorce Rate in the Church – As High as the World? by Glenn Stanton), those who take their faith seriously, those pursuing their relationship with Jesus wholeheartedly, are 35% less likely to divorce than those outside the church. That’s way better, but still too high.

When you said “I do”, you entered into a covenant with God that is to remain unbroken. The two of you became one. Physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. That’s why sex outside of marriage is so dangerous…it pollutes the oneness of your relationship. So what happens when the one tries to become two again? Both are destroyed. Not to mention the collateral damage to your kids. It’s not what God intended. There’s no such thing as a good divorce. It’s not too late, and you are not too far gone…there is help and hope for your marriage.

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

If you are single, one of the best things you can do to prepare for marriage, if that’s the route you feel God calling you to, is to pursue your relationship with Jesus and make Him your highest priority…don’t wait until you’re married. Become the kind of spouse God wants you to be today.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

God’s Design for Marriage

Genesis 2.18-25, Ephesians 5.22-33

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

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

But the goal of marriage isn’t happily ever after. The goal of marriage is what the Bible calls oneness…a husband and wife who are pursuing their lives together in Jesus as one. Marriage is not an agreement or a contract. Marriage is a covenant. A sacred covenant that we make before God that is to remain unbroken. That’s why we make our vows publicly…to be loyal in adversity, patient in sickness, encouraging in affliction, comforting in sorrow, and forsaking all others, keeping ourselves only unto our spouse, so long as we both shall live. That’s why we say things like…“I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others to cleave only to you till death do us part. This is my solemn vow.” That’s why we exchange rings. It’s why we say, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

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

If you are married today, I want to ask you to do something this week. Think about your marriage. Would you say that you are on track, pursuing oneness with each other as you pursue your relationship with Jesus? Wives, are you submitting to your husband? Husbands are you loving and leading your wife well? Is Jesus your first love? Once you’ve had time to think about it, why not talk to your spouse about it.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Prayer

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is often the first bit of Bible that folks commit to memory. And rightly so. It’s brought comfort to countless numbers of folks throughout the ages.

When I was a new believer, I didn’t really know how to pray or what to pray for. In fact, I struggled with prayer for years…because I didn’t know what to say and my prayers always seemed to be the same. I figured that until I had something new to tell God or something new to ask from Him, we were good. I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but my attitude toward God in prayer was I ask and You give. I should apologize when I mess up, but I mess up a lot…and let’s be honest, most of my mess ups are the same. That way of thinking crippled my prayer life for years.

It really wasn’t until I graduated from seminary and landed my first job in ministry that I felt like I learned to pray. I was preparing to teach a class on the spiritual life, and I realized that I had no idea what I would say about it. I was spending time in the Word. I was spending time with other believers. But I wasn’t really spending time in prayer, and I felt kind of far from God. And so I went on a quest to find out what the spiritual life, what the abundant life, was all about. Prayer was a huge part of that.

The more I read about prayer and intentionally began to practice praying, the more I enjoyed it. And the more easily it came. I started with praying Scripture. I would use the language that the Bible used when I talked to God. I asked Him for the things that the Bible said He wanted for me…to be more like Jesus. I began to pray the Bible for my family and friends. And I freed myself up from whatever preconceived expectations I might have had about what prayer was supposed to be.

One of the books that I read on prayer was by a monk named Brother Lawerence called Practicing the Presence of God. What a great book! His goal was to figure out how to pray without ceasing. If the Bible calls us to that, surely there must be a way. Anyway, that book helped me see that prayer can happen at anytime…when I’m on the step mill at the gym, when I’m driving my car (eyes open please!), when sitting in my office or wherever I am. I am always in God’s presence. Prayer reminds me of that. It also redeems the mundane moments in my life. “He who has learned to pray, has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.” (William Law (1686-1761), Christian Perfection [1726], London: W. Baynes, 1807, p. 290)

Someone asked me, “Is prayer for us or for God?” Interesting question, isn’t it? When you have a conversation with your spouse or your kids, with your parents, or friends, or co-workers, or neighbors…who is the conversation for? When we pray, we share our hopes and dreams, our fears and concerns, our failures…our lives with our Father who cares about all of those things and who walks with us, leading and guiding us through both the good and bad times, if we will let Him. It’s not that He needs us to tell Him those things…He already knows, but we need to tell Him.

But what if prayer doesn’t work? Still sick. Still in pain. Loved one still hasn’t accepted Jesus. Another interesting question. God is not a divine Vending Machine. He’s a Person. Better yet He’s our Father. We won’t always know the why of the things that happen to us…we live in a fallen world where my sin and/or the sin of others and/or the cosmic effects of the fall can combine to create some pretty nasty circumstances…, but if we believe that the LORD is our Shepherd…then we know that He that He is leading us and never leaves us alone in the midst of our darkest times. He will see us through, whatever the storm.

Another interesting question that I was asked, “Does it matter what I ask God? Isn’t He going to do what He wants anyway?” What I appreciate about all of these questions is that they reflected my own thinking at some point in time. I do think what we ask God is important, but primarily for this reason…it reveals where we are with Him, where we are on our spiritual journey. God wants to conform us to the image of His Son. He wants to make us like Jesus. The more we grow spiritually, the more we will want the same things He does. The details of our circumstances begin to become less important…it’s how can I best represent Jesus in this particular circumstance. That takes time and time spent in prayer just talking to your Father.

Psalm 23 reminds me of who God is. So when I come to Him in prayer, I can thank Him for taking care of me…guiding me, directing me, providing for my needs, protecting me, His presence with me.

I want us to practice praying. We’re going to use Psalm 23 as a guide. You can pray right where you are. Start with… “The LORD is my shepherd…” Take each part of that statement and emphasize a different word. Thank Him for being your Shepherd. 

Ask God to provide for your needs.

Ask God to direct your paths.

Thank God for being with you in both green pastures and dark valleys, in both good and bad times. If you are in a bad time right now, ask Him to remind you often of His presence with you and for His help to weather the storm.

Thank God for His goodness and His lovingkindness that pursues you…for His abundant grace in your life.

Thank God for the promise of the kingdom and eternal life that is yours.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Gift of Giving

1 Chronicles 29.1-20

Giving is easily overlooked as a spiritual discipline. You have heard me say often…pray every day, spend time in the Word every day, and fellowship with other believers as often as you can, but giving is another one of those disciplines that’s at the core of what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t know how we can express love…for God or for our neighbor…without giving. Giving of our time. Giving of our abilities. Giving of our resources. Giving of ourselves. Giving reflects the love that God so generously has shown toward us in Jesus.

When I was growing up, giving was not a practice my parents modeled. With eight kids…money was always tight. So giving wasn’t something I was used to…and putting myself through college, I never had two nickels to rub together as my dad would say. I didn’t think I could afford to give. So it wasn’t until I met my wife Wendy that I even considered giving as a spiritual discipline. And even then, I wasn’t sure how the giving thing would work out. But we did it anyway, and we haven’t looked back since.

If giving is new to you, I know what it feels like to look at your finances and wonder, “how?” Let me just challenge you to try it. Pick an amount and begin to give regularly. Set a goal…maybe ten percent, and build those giving muscles until you reach it. Taste and see that the LORD is good. When we’ve given, God’s always been faithful to meet our needs. But a word of caution…it’s not just something to do to check a box or somehow promote yourself. God cares about our hearts when we give…what’s our motivation? Is it to please Him? Is it to further His kingdom work? Make sure He has you first…all of you. Then the right motivation and the want-to for giving will be there.

Everything that we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of what He’s entrusted to us. Whether He’s entrusted us with little like the widow or much like King David, it’s all His. We have to keep that in mind. Sometime it’s harder to give when you have more…our stuff tends to capture our hearts and cause us to want more. Many times it’s those who have the least who give the most…who are the most generous. The amount may not be as much, but the sacrifice is greater and the joy of giving more abundant.

For some of us, giving is a discipline that we’ve practiced for awhile. Somewhere along your spiritual journey, someone challenged you to make giving a regular practice, and so you’ve done it for years. Thank you for your faithfulness. My question for you is…is giving a duty or a delight? Have you passed from giving to giving generously?

This is one area that I wanted to challenge myself in this year, so I came up with a simple plan that you are free to steal. Whenever I’m in line, I will offer to pay for the person behind me. Not every time, but every time the Spirit brings it to mind. It creates the opportunity for some great conversation, and it’s helping me stretch from giving to giving generously.

Giving isn’t just a resource thing…one of the most valuable commodities we have is time. It may also be the thing we are least likely to give up. So maybe exercising your giving muscles with your time looks like making “yes” your default answer instead of “no”. Seeing interruptions as opportunities to minister instead of distractions to be avoided.

So why not give giving a try, and you too can experience what a gift it really is.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8.26-40

Philip shares his story and the good news of the gospel with both the crowds and with an individual. He is a faithful servant who obeys the will of His Master. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and invites us to join Him in that mission.

This story is a reminder that God cares about each one of us individually. Here He orchestrates events and circumstances so that both the eunuch and Philip are in the right place at the right time. He even provides the water so that the eunuch could be baptized…on a desert road.

Just as God orchestrated events in the eunuch’s life to bring him to faith, He has also worked in each one of us who have trusted in Him, orchestrating events, bringing the right person or persons at the right time to share with us the life-giving message of salvation in Jesus. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, this is one of those orchestrating events. It’s no accident or coincidence that you are reading this blog post…

And if you have trusted in Jesus, God wants to use you to impact the lives of those around you for the kingdom. Are you ready? Do you believe that the gospel is good news? That’s foundational. We have to believe that the gospel really is good news. If that’s true for you, have you taken the time to write down your story? Start there. Then ask God for opportunities to share your faith. But be warned…if you ask, He will give them to you. You don’t have to force it…you just have to be sensitive to what God is doing in the moment, and then be courageous in sharing your story.

I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel in large settings and one-on-one. Both are awesome, but I can tell you that the one-on-one settings are more challenging, yet more rewarding in a lot of ways. One-on-one I still get scared and have to pray for boldness…even as a pastor…but I’ve found that when I’m obedient and just say “yes” in the moment, that God is faithful to give me courage, and it ends up being an easy conversation…I don’t even feel like I have to drive. I’m just along for the ride. Sometimes when I’m talking to folks it’s a “no” when it comes to Jesus, sometimes I’ve found out later my conversation was one along the way that led to their trusting in Jesus, and sometimes I’ve gotten the awesome privilege of seeing someone trust in Jesus. My job is simply to be obedient.

How about you? Are you ready? Are you available? Will you be obedient?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Gospel Spreads to Samaria

Acts 8.1-25

Don’t do what Simon says…don’t be like Simon, seeing the gospel as a means of promoting your own agenda…of promoting yourself. Instead be like Philip, who believed in Jesus and promoted His kingdom, and who also, in a time of persecution, was faithful and obedient to proclaim the gospel and point others to Jesus. 

What Saul and his buddies meant for evil, God will use to grow His church. In Philip’s case it’s persecution, for you God may be using your current circumstances to lead you to your next kingdom assignment. Will you, like Philip, be obedient and faithful?

Do you recognize the opportunities that God is giving you to tell your story? Do you notice them in your workplace, with your friends and family, with your neighbors, or wherever God has you? Whether it’s in a time of relative calm or chaos, the gospel should be part of the luggage we take with us wherever we go.

Finally, are you pointing others to Jesus and pursuing His kingdom like Philip, or are you still living according to this world’s values like Simon, pursuing your own kingdom? Are you living for this world or the one to come? One path leads to abundant life in the kingdom, the other…a scathing rebuke.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

A Fierce Faith

1 Samuel 17

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. The story of David and Goliath is the story of a fierce faith that conquers not only fear, but also an enemy of such gigantic proportions that he seems impossible to defeat. So let me ask you again, what is the goliath in your life? Do you believe that God is bigger?

Two men have the same problem. A giant of a man, an overpowered killing machine, a fierce warrior named Goliath. Saul, seeing only the man, looking only at his circumstances, considering only the outward appearance of things is dismayed and greatly afraid. He relied on his armor and his abilities, his natural strength and charisma to face his problems. But when the problem was bigger and stronger and fiercer and scarier than him, he was paralyzed with fear. It’s easy to be like Saul. Just look at your circumstances, see life from a pedestrian vantage point, live life in your own strength and eventually your goliath will come and stop you in your tracks.

David reminds us what it means to be a “man after God’s own heart”…a man who is brave and bold…a man of faith and conviction…a man willing to step onto the battlefield and face down his enemies, who knows that the battle belongs to the LORD, and who is trusting in Him to fight for him and with him. A man who looks not at the outward appearance of things…whatever the circumstances…but who sees the world from God’s perspective. A man of fierce faith.

So Dad’s, what does it look like to have a fierce faith? Let me give you a few thoughts. First, it involves spending time in the Word, time in prayer, time with other men…remembering who God is. David was able to be such a man because he knew the LORD. Not just as a passing acquaintance. But he had been to battle with Him before. David had spent time with Him and tested Him. Unlike Saul, David hadn’t forgotten who God is. Second, it’s shepherding your family well, providing for them, protecting and serving them. Leading them and guiding them. Nurturing them. Fighting for them. You see a fierce faith isn’t just for you…but according to Deuteronomy 6, it’s for you to pass on to your sons. To do that, you have to teach it to them and model it for them. But you can you can only do that if you have a fierce faith yourself. Finally, it’s acknowledging that sometimes life is hard, and also acknowledging that God is greater. And Dad’s for those of you who are here today let me just tell you that I’m proud of you. For many men it’s not easy going to church. But by being here today you’re showing your family what it looks like to follow Jesus in the day to day. Sometimes in our walk with God we just need to show up. 

As we end today I want to ask you one last question. Do you know the LORD? Years later One of David’s descendants, Jesus, will face down an even greater enemy, Satan, and having secured victory through His own death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus gives the spoils of His triumph to those of us who believe…forgiveness of sins, life eternal, a kingdom. Do you know the LORD?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Stephen’s Arrest

Acts 6.8-15

Stephen returns to his old neighborhood to share the good news of hope that he has found in Jesus. He wants the folks closest to him to experience the same life-transformation he has. Jesus changes everything. And although the Spirit is powerfully at work through him performing great wonders and signs to confirm his testimony, what should be received as good news indeed is met with hostility.

Welcome to the dangerous world of living for Jesus. The more brightly your light shines, the more energetically the enemy will attempt to put it out. So how then should we live? In fear, shrinking back? No. Courageously storming the gates of hell. Stephen didn’t back down. Neither did the Apostles. They knew they were serving a King and a kingdom worth dying for. So do we. But not only is our King worth dying for, He’s also worth living for.

Are you living for your King? Yeah, you are. But are you living for the true King…are you living for Jesus? Or are you living for a pretender? Where do your allegiances lie? Who/what are you serving? Who do you adore? You see, unless you love God more…more than anyone else or anything else…you won’t live for Him. And if you won’t live for Him, you certainly won’t die for Him.

So if you want to live for your King…if you want to love Him more…you have to be intentional about your pursuit of Him. You have to cultivate your love…time spent with Him will do that. Time in His Word…time in prayer…time with His people. Time in His Word…every day. Time in prayer…every day. Time with His people…as often as you can. And remember it’s not something that you can do on your own…but He has given you His Spirit to strengthen and encourage you, to lead and to guide you, to transform you to live and love like Jesus.

If today were your last day, would you be ready? Jesus will either be your King or your Judge? When your time comes, there are no do-overs, no second chances…the question is not whether or not we will die, or when or how we will die, but if we are ready to die. Are you ready?

A little over a hundred years before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, John Huss was preaching key reformation ideals. He would be martyred for his devotion to the Bible over the traditions of the church. Just moments before his death, he was asked by the imperial marshal one final time to recant and save his life. John responded “God is my witness that…the principal intention of my preaching…and all my other acts or writings are solely that I might turn people from sin. And in that truth of the gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willingly glad to die today.”

It’s better to burn out than fade away…

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Seven Chosen to Serve

Acts 6.1-7

The Apostles turn a potentially divisive problem into a ministry solution and increase their reach by raising up leaders within the church.

Jesus prayed for the unity of the church on that last evening in the upper room with His disciples (John 17.20-21). He said that all the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13.35). Too often, I’m afraid, it’s not our unity and love we’re known for. Too often the prejudices and divisiveness, the selfishness and self-serving attitude of the outside world infects the church. We are too easily offended and too quick to assume the worst in others. Grumbling and complaining is our default. It shouldn’t be that way.

How should we respond when crisis happens or we feel like our needs (not our wants) are being overlooked? First of all, don’t assume it’s intentional. The Apostles didn’t intentionally overlook the Hellenistic Jewish widows, and don’t assume that leadership in your church is intentionally overlooking or ignoring the needs of folks within the body. Doesn’t mean that they can respond to every want, but I’m sure they do their best to cover the needs that they are aware of.

Second, be part of the solution. Select from among yourselves seven…not just any seven, but seven who were spiritually mature and had the skill set to help. Maybe you are the person to step in and help. Maybe you know the person who should. But instead of being a grumbler…instead of throwing rocks…do something to help out. How can you be a part of the solution?

Third, keep the main thing the main thing. We have a real enemy who doesn’t want to see us succeed…as individuals or as a body of believers. As Mike Harris often says, “He’s not going to give us a free pass.” He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Unfortunately in our successes we often sow the seeds of defeat. We let our guard down. The busyness of life that success often brings crowds out our devotional time with the Lord. Instead of focusing on time in the Word and time in prayer, we have too much to do. And that’s when the lion pounces.

Finally, celebrate the win. Often times we can move from task to task and not celebrate and thank God for the victories and wins He has given us. And what is the win?  Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. When we come together to solve problems and meet needs we reflect the unity that Jesus calls us to. And we show love in the process. There is plenty of hatred in the world…plenty of prejudice and divisiveness…plenty of me-ism. Let’s not let it affect our church.

Until next time…let’s pray.

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

Just Like Momma

Psalm 86

David’s prayer reflects his humility before God and expresses his confidence that God is not only willing to help, but is able to help as well.

And while prayer and time in the Word aka learning the LORD’s ways are foundational to our walk with Jesus, I wanted to spend a little time focusing on the importance of a parent’s faith…a momma’s faith…to the faith of her kids…

I think it’s awesome that in a moment of desperation, David not only cries to God, but also maybe, just maybe thinks of his momma. He thinks about her faith and how she has trusted in God. Who knows? Maybe he learned to turn to God first because he saw it in her. You see, kids tend to do what they see their parents doing. They tend to value the things that their parents value, and respond to things the way that they have seen their parents respond. I think David’s momma would have been proud of how he handled this situation.

Moms have the incredible responsibility of caring for their children, and, in this passage, I think we see a testament to that most significant of a mom’s responsibilities when it comes to raising children…to train them up in the fear and admonition of the LORD…to teach them to follow God and love Him with their whole heart. That’s where prayer and Bible stories and taking them to church and a lived-out faith come into play.

You won’t always do it perfectly, and your kids won’t always respond the way that you would have hoped, but moms, when you have done all that you know to do, continue to pray for your children and be in the Word. You won’t always see the fruit of your labor…it may not seem like it’s “taking”, but remember…when they are in distress, when they are alone, when their worlds are crumbling they will remember what their momma taught them. Just like David. So take courage. 

Remember that God is a God of relationship, and He has designed us for community. Don’t go at this alone mom. Find other Christian mothers to help you and guide you along the way.

If you can, thank your mom today for all she has done…give her a hug, send her a text, make a phone call… and let her know how much you love her and that you appreciate all that she has done for you.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Beware of Fighting Against God

Acts 5.17-42

Persecution heats up as the Apostles continue to carry out their mission of being witnesses to Jesus and His resurrection. What about you? How are you being a witness? What’s your story?

I think sometimes Christianity is caricatured as something for those who are soft or weak…those not strong enough to stand on their own. But our passage today shows that the Apostles are anything but weak. Not only do they stand up to the most powerful men in their society…not promoting their own agenda but proclaiming Jesus…but they are also willing to suffer the humiliation of both jail and a public whippin’ for Jesus. And so much more. “If church traditions are correct, Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome, Matthew suffered martyrdom by the sword. John was scarred in a cauldron of boiling oil and lived his last days banished on an island. James was beheaded in Jerusalem, Paul in Rome…and the list goes on and on.

I wonder if we are willing to suffer for our faith…or do we let fear (or our comfort and/or our convenience) overcome our courage when it comes to following Jesus? When we trusted in Jesus, when we committed to following Him, we were not choosing the safest or easiest or most convenient or comfortable way through life, but the most dangerous, inconvenient, challenging yet rewarding path. We are traitors to the god of this world…our allegiance is to the true King. We live in enemy territory…potential for danger at every turn. Sometimes we forget that and want to take the safe route. But Jesus didn’t come to just rearrange the furniture in our lives…He came to change everything. And when Jesus begins to change everything, we will be at odds with the world around us. Jesus calls us, not to live a safe life, but a dangerous life…a life that gives testimony to the great God and true King we serve. But you know, it’s really not that dangerous…Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us. And if He requires us to pay the ultimate price, isn’t life in the kingdom so much better than life in this fallen world? Remember Jesus’ parable of the minas from Luke 19? The servant who gained the ten minas didn’t do it by being afraid, but by being bold. By risking everything for the gospel he gained everything, while the servant who played it safe lost it all.

We are called to live out our faith and share our testimony with others at every God-given opportunity. Dare to ask God to provide you with the opportunity and He will, but will you be ready?

Persecution is a-coming. You don’t have to look for it…the more you look like Jesus, the more folks will treat you like Him. Some will be attracted to you, but most will reject you.

This is some hard stuff…suffering before glory always is. But we have to remember that this world is not our home, and it’s values are not our values. So we will be at odds most times. That’s ok, because when we choose God’s side, we never lose.

“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.” Tozer That Incredible Christian. Pray we will be dangerous Christians.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Fate of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5.1-16

Ananias and Sapphira learn quickly the deadly consequences of lying to the Holy Spirit. Sin is dealt with swiftly and decisively. 

God takes sin seriously and so should we. And while we may not see the consequences of our choices quite so quickly, they do not go unnoticed. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 5.15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

We are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…doesn’t mean that we are perfect or will do it perfectly. But it means that we are learning more and more what it is to walk by the Spirit, to put off the old self and put on the new…to live and love like Jesus.

Character…integrity…matters. There is no such thing as a small fib…a little white lie…a half truth. Who we are on the outside should match who we are on the inside. Our walk should match our talk. If we claim to follow Jesus, then our lives should reflect that. When they don’t, it’s obvious to those around us. It’s called hypocrisy. And the only person we are fooling is ourselves…the truth always comes out. Who we are matters.

That’s why it is so important for us to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus. Left to ourselves, we will never live and love like Him. But when we intentionally pursue our relationship with Him…when we spend time in His Word, time in prayer and time with other believers…then the Spirit slowly but surely begins to transform us into the image of the Son. Little by little, moment by moment, day by day. As we spend more time with Him, we learn to recognize His voice. We begin to notice Him directing our steps. And as we say “yes” to His direction, we become more like Him. But we have to be intentional. It won’t just happen.

One more thing… The mark of a maturing Christian is the realization that our greatest regret when we blow it is disappointing our Father in heaven. Not the regret of being embarrassed or even the harm to others, as bad as that may be, but the deep regret of disappointing the One we love the most…the One who loves us more than any other. After David’s epic failure in the Bathsheba-Uriah affair (2 Samuel 11), he cries out to God in Psalm 51.4 saying, “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.”

As parents we need to teach our kids that they should choose to do the right thing, not because doing the wrong thing leads to physical consequences and not even because the Bible identifies it as the wrong choice, but because when we love someone, we want to serve them and do what pleases them…living right out of love for the Father as opposed to just living right because the Bible says it is the right thing to do.

God takes sin seriously…that’s why Jesus had to die on a cross…to pay the penalty for our sin. That’s what we celebrate in communion. Jesus died so that we might live. So choose life. I want to give you a few minutes to talk to the Lord. What do you need to confess? What do you need to celebrate? What do you need to commit to?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

You’re Not Alone

Acts 4.23-37

Peter and John return with news of their first confrontation with the religious leaders. And while they weathered this first storm, they recognize their need for the Spirit’s enablement to courageously carry forward the mission in the face of fierce opposition. And so they pray. They are not alone. They not only have each other, but they also stand together with the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe on their side.

Once again, prayer is front and center for the Apostles. Is prayer your go-to in crisis? Is it something you need, or just something that you get around to after you’ve tried everything else? Are you praying for strength and courage to weather the storm, knowing that it’s in times of suffering and tragedy that our faith is most clearly on display, or are you just praying to escape the storm? Do you recognize that you’re not alone…that you have a community of believers that is here to support you, not to mention the Spirit of the living God who indwells you? Or are you trying to go it alone?

Meanwhile the early church continues to be a model of unity and love. There is a singleness of purpose in their pursuit of building the kingdom…telling others about Jesus and growing in their faith. Their love is expressed practically in meeting the needs of those within the community who are lacking.

Like the early church, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So how are we doing? How are we doing with loving each other and pursuing the kingdom together?

We are all called to be witnesses…to tell others about Jesus and how He has changed our lives. We are called to proclaim the awesomeness of the God we serve. That seems hard to do at times for a myriad of reasons. Maybe we don’t think about it…too self-absorbed, maybe we’re too busy, maybe we’re too afraid. Whatever the reason, take a moment now to confess it to God and then ask Him to give you the confidence to do what He has called you to do. 

Are you living a generous life…when you see a need, do you work to meet the need? Are you generous, not just with your resources but with your time and with you life? Are people more important than things…is Jesus really more satisfying than your stuff?

How are you doing with spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time daily with the Lord in prayer and the Word? Are you meeting with believing friends to encourage and pray for each other?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Initial Opposition

Acts 4.1-22

Peter and John encounter their first challenge to the gospel. Sadly it comes from the religious leaders, the very ones who should have been the most excited about the good news. But their response is not too surprising because they are the same folks who asked Pilate to spare Barabas and crucify Jesus.

Why were the folks in charge of the Temple that day greatly disturbed? Why were they so unwilling to embrace Jesus as their Messiah…the One that God had exalted…the One that God had raised up from the dead…the Stone that they had rejected? Because Jesus threatened their way of life. They didn’t want to forfeit the kingdom they had built for themselves. They would rather be slaves of Rome than servants of the Most High God. They would rather be slaves of sin, than servants of righteousness. Sound familiar?

Jesus changes everything. Peter and John were no longer lost and afraid…they were bold and confident. The lame man was no longer sitting on the outside begging…he was walking and leaping and praising God. Jesus came to bring life to the dead, hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless…He came to save us. And only He can. “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

I love the boldness of Peter and John. Standing before the very men who condemned Jesus, the most powerful Jewish men in Jerusalem, they bolding proclaim the good news that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The man who was formerly lame, but now completely healed…both physically and spiritually…is proof positive. I wonder if we are that bold…are we willing to share the gospel, to tell our story of how Jesus has rescued us, with our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, etc.?

Has Jesus changed your life? Have you trusted in Him? If not, what’s holding you back?

If you have trusted in Jesus, how has He changed your life? What’s your story? Who are you sharing it with?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Good News…Jesus is Risen!

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

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

Do you know Jesus as Savior today? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. Recognize your need to be saved…we are all sinners. Believe that Jesus came to save you by dying a sacrificial death for your sins. Then trust Him to save you. Then you too can truly celebrate Easter, and the good news that Jesus is risen.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

It’s Not Too Late

Acts 3.11-26

In this Peter’s second sermon, he once again implicates the Jews for killing their Messiah. But if they will repent and return, forgiveness is available. Only then will they realize the promises that God made to their fathers. If not, they stand condemned.

Jesus is the answer the Jews had been waiting for, but they missed it. Even though they were wrong about Him, they were convinced they were right. Unfortunately I think we often believe the lie that the answer we’re looking for…whatever it is we think will give our life meaning…can be found in the pursuit of self and the things of this world…relationships, careers/jobs, etc. Even though we may think we’re right, we’re dead wrong. That’s not life, but death. So if you are looking for the right answer in the wrong place, it’s not too late. Jesus is the answer for you too.

Jesus came to bless us…I think it’s such a beautiful picture. Though we were His enemies and our only thought was to put to death the Author of life, yet He willingly gave His life so that we could experience life. Real life. Life with Him in His kingdom. He came to bless us by turning us from our wicked ways. By believing in Him you can be saved.

So how is repentance taking root in your life? We have been called to repent time and time again throughout this series…there’s that first act of repentance when we trusted in Him initially, but then there’s the ongoing repentance…the turning back again. Are we actually doing it? Are we learning to live and love like Jesus?

I love the boldness of Peter to stand up and proclaim Jesus, even when it wasn’t easy. I wonder if we are willing to do the same. Why not start with your impact list? Who is the one you are praying for…that you are inviting to come with you for Easter? Maybe you can share your story with them this week…

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Healing of the Lame Beggar

Acts 3.1-10

Luke tells us that “…many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2.43) The healing of the lame beggar is an example of one of them. The man, who had been going through the motions and everyday rhythms of life, didn’t expect to have an encounter with Jesus. But when he is miraculously healed by Peter in Jesus’ name, everything changes.

All of us, like the lame beggar, need Jesus. Sometimes our other needs camouflage our deepest need…and that deepest need is always Jesus. If you have not yet trusted in Him, why not today? Then you too can experience the unexpected surprise that is no less than life from the dead. Uncontainable joy and unfettered worship.

Peter and John are on their way to the temple that day to worship…to participate in the evening sacrifices and pray along with many of their Jewish brethren. They have somewhere to be, and no one would think twice if they just politely ignored our friend or threw a few shekels his way. But not Peter. Not this time. Maybe he’s thinking back to all the times that Jesus stopped to heal folks throughout His ministry. Maybe, like Jesus, Peter is overcome by compassion and mercy for this man. Maybe he remembers Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor. Whatever it is that day, Peter looks a lot like Jesus.

Speaking of the parable of the Good Samaritan…I think there’s a pretty close link between loving our neighbor…loving others…and being interruptible. Jesus was often interrupted, but He never treated the interruptions or those who caused them as distractions…He leveraged them as opportunities to teach, to show mercy, to demonstrate His amazing love. Here we see Peter being interruptible. I believe that some of the best ministry happens in the interruptions…in the unplanned encounters…in the unexpected surprises.

So how interruptible are you? Do you see interruptions as opportunities or distractions? Do you see folks as in need or in the way? Do you show compassion toward others or indifference? Are you generous with your time and your resources? If not, why not?

Maybe it’s a lack of margin that keeps you from being interruptible…you’ve so packed your schedule that you simply don’t have time to help those in need, or you’ve so over-extended yourself financially that you don’t have 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 selfishness, laziness or pride that keeps you from being interruptible…you are too busy building your own kingdom, focusing on your own comfort, avoiding inconvenience. Your gaze is fixed inward instead of outward. Pray that God will open your eyes to the needs around you.

Maybe it’s hardness of heart that keeps you from being interruptible…you simply lack compassion and mercy for people. You get fed up with people and their perceived lack of judgment and perpetual bad decisions. Hardness of heart is dangerous…you can only show mercy if you’ve received mercy. If you don’t show mercy, it could be an indication that you’re in need of God’s mercy. At a minimum you have a heart problem. Ask God to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart. Ask Him to help you show compassion.

Easter’s just around the corner. Who, like the lame beggar, do you need to keep your eyes open for? Who can you introduce to Jesus? I hope that you’ve identified that one on your impact list that you are praying for and plan on inviting.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Life Together

Acts 2.42-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to learning more about Jesus, praying, worshiping, and enjoying a vibrant community life. They were also committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to others, and God was powerfully at work through their testimony. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Following Jesus is simple, not easy. The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, prayer and evangelism…practices that kept the early church on mission. Practices we’ve incorporated into our values as a church…renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Practices that keep us on mission as a church…believe it or not they’re on my wall so that whenever our staff or elders meet, we’re reminded of our values. Practices that I hope you have woven into your spiritual life as well.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So I wonder what folks would say about us? Would they see that our faith is making a difference in our lives? Would the quality of our life together and the positive impact that we are having on the valley cause us to have favor with all the people?

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make daily time in God’s Word and prayer a part of your spiritual disciplines.

Be generous in your giving. When you see a need, meet a need. You don’t need permission. Look for opportunities…excuses to give.

If you are not a part of a community group yet, remember that’s our primary vehicle for growing. Find a group of friends to gather with on a regular basis…pray, study the Word, dig into each others’ lives, challenge and encourage each other.

Don’t forget your impact list…who is that one person you are praying for?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Beginning of the Church

Acts 2.14-41

The crowds ask Peter that day, “What must we do to be saved?” Maybe that’s you today. If it is, the answer is the same…repent. Recognize that you stand condemned, guilty before a holy God. Believe that Jesus can save you, and then trust Him to do so. When you do that, you too will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit. You will be adopted into God’s family, a son or daughter of the King with an eternity to spend with Him. The first step of obedience then is baptism.

If you have trusted in Jesus, but have not yet been baptized, what are you waiting for? We will see throughout the book of Acts that those who believe are baptized. And in Matthew 28 as Jesus is giving His final instructions to the disciples, part of the disciple-making process is “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded…” So what are you waiting for?

For the rest of us, who are you praying for? Who’s on your impact list? Last week I asked you to start building your testimony by considering the question, “Who was I before Jesus?” This week I encourage you to interact with the question, “How did you recognize your need for Jesus?”

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Coming of the Spirit

Acts 2.1-13

In a mighty rush of wind and fire, the Spirit descends on the Apostles and empowers them for their mission…to be witnesses.

Being a capital A Apostle is a big deal. We are here today because of their witness. We believe what we believe today because of their witness. It’s their witness that gives Jesus’ death and resurrection context…that helps us understand the cosmic implications of the ancient story. It’s their witness on which the church is founded and built by the Spirit. Their witness. The Word.

And while it’s a big deal to be a capital A Apostle, it’s also a big deal to carry on the mission to be witnesses to the ends of the earth…to be little a apostles. It’s the mission we are called to carry out today, and each of us has been equipped and empowered to do it. Each of us has a story to tell of how Jesus rescued us and brought us from death to life. Being a witness means telling your story…apologetics and evangelism techniques can be helpful tools…but they are not as powerful and will not have as great an impact as your story.

So what is your story? How has Jesus impacted your life? Let me challenge you this week to spend some time thinking about your story, and then to share it with a friend or family member, a co-worker or classmate, with someone who needs to hear about the hope that you have found in Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Choosing a New Witness

Acts 1.12-26

Because of Judas’ treachery, the Apostles are in need of a new witness, another Apostle, to take his place and carry forward the mission. Not just anyone will do because it’s not just any mission…he must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ words and works which he and the team will take to the nation and from their to all the nations.

From the beginning we see the importance of prayer and the Word. Praying expectantly in unity, waiting patiently on the Lord. Recognizing the implications of the Word in their current situation. How are you doing on your spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time with the Lord, in the Word and in prayer? If you haven’t started, start today. If you’ve started and have already blown it, restart today. Don’t give up. It’s not about how much and how long…it’s about time spent with the Father.

Throughout Acts, we will see the importance of the Spirit’s work in establishing the church and empowering folks for ministry, the centrality of the resurrection in the gospel, and the need to carry the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are all called to be witnesses…witnesses of what Jesus has done in our lives. We are to be proclaimers of the gospel to those who are lost around us. We’ve been given the Spirit to empower us. Who are you praying for? Who’s on your list? We have to be intentional…

Each of us is here because of someone else’s witness. For me it was my second grade Sunday school teacher. I don’t remember her name, but she told me about Jesus.

“D.L. Moody, one of the greatest preachers in the history of the church, was brought to Christ by a man named Edward Kimball. Kimball was just an ordinary guy who loved the Lord. He was a Sunday school teacher in his church. He worked at a shoe store along with a young man named Dwight. God had put a burden on his heart to share the gospel with Dwight, but he put it off and fought it for a while. Finally Kimball mustered up the courage, went to Dwight, and told him about Jesus. Dwight became a Christian, and not long after that, he committed himself to preaching.

There is no church or institute named after Edward Kimball. But he reached D.L. Moody. You might not be a D.L. Moody, but you might be an Edward Kimball. We need people who are willing to labor in obscurity like Edward Kimball…bringing others to Jesus. God can use you to do that.” — Greg Laurie, Unlikely Champions of the Bible,  January 17, 2018

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Ascension Revisited

Acts 1.1-11

Jesus’ last words to His Apostles are His final instructions for the church. Until He returns we have a job to do. We are to be His witnesses…to share the good news of the salvation we have in Jesus. And our job is not done until we go to be with Him or He comes for us.

In Luke 19.11-27, Jesus tells the parable of the minas. A nobleman going off to receive a kingdom gives each of his slaves a mina which they are to invest until he comes back. When he returns, he calls three of his slaves forward to report what kind of return they had on their investments. The first slave exclaims, “Master, your mina made ten minas more…isn’t that awesome!?!. The King’s response, “That it is. Well done good slave…you will be ruler over ten cities.” The second slave made five minas. The King puts him in charge of five cities. But the third slave said, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” The King’s reaction, “You worthless slave…at least you could have put my money in the bank, so that I might have it back with interest.”And his one mina is taken away. The mina in the parable is the gospel. Our King has entrusted each of us with the message of the gospel, and each of us will have to give an accounting to Him of how we invested the gospel in the lives of others when He returns.

Jesus is coming back. Until He does, our work is not done. So let’s invest our minas well. The Spirit is the One who empowers us to tell our stories…to bear witness…of the impact that the gospel has made in our lives and to share the hope that we have in Jesus with a lost and dying world in desperate need of saving…

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You…Week 3

Matthew 6.16-21, 33; 7.24-27

Time spent in the Word. Time spent in prayer. Time spent in fellowship with other believers. All things we have talked about before. Have they been woven into the fabric of your daily routine yet? If not, make the answer to the question, “When you?” today.

Giving and fasting may be new concepts for you, but Jesus assumes that those who follow Him will practice both. When we give as an expression of love and out of a desire for God’s glory…to invest in His kingdom…we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing our resources in things that moth and rust cannot destroy and no thief can steal.

When we fast, we recognize our dependence on God in a very tangible way…a way that expresses our hunger and thirst for His righteousness that Jesus said would be satisfied.

But as we said a couple of weeks ago, you have to have a plan. Be intentional about gathering with a group of believers. Sign up for a community group or small group or class. Start a dinner club. Get into an accountability group. Don’t wait…just do it.

Same is true for the Word. As much as we may want to spend time in the Word, unless we are intentional about setting aside time to do so it just doesn’t happen. So plan it into your schedule…maybe you could listen to the Bible in the car on your commute to work. Maybe you could read a chapter or two before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after your head hits the pillow at night. Maybe it’s on your lunch break or over your first cup of coffee. But get in the habit of spending time in God’s Word.

Ditto for fasting. Probably even more so. Have a plan. Maybe it’s just a meal a week. Take a break from social media or technology. It’s not punishment, but an intentional removing of distractions to focus on your relationship with Jesus.

This is between you and the Lord. Take a few minutes to think, to pray and to commit. What area or areas do you need to shore up this year?

May you experience greater joy, confidence and contentment in your everyday life with God as you intentionally pursue Him this year.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 2

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is 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!

But if we are going to be generous, we have to have a plan. For most of us, it starts with looking at our own hearts. We have to be willing to let go of our greed…we have to value people over things and be more satisfied with Jesus than our stuff. Giving can be a tough subject for some, and giving generously? Forget about it. I don’t know of anything that can put me on the defensive faster than someone wanting to mess with my stuff. And right there I see…my own greed. My own kingdom. I’ve got to protect it. But if we want to be generous givers, we have to give it up. We have to recognize that it all belongs to God anyway. We are managers of His resources. And we will have to give an account…have we been generous with His resources? Have we been generous with the money, time, relationships, etc…with the life He’s entrusted to us? Generosity affects more than giving away our material possessions…its an attitude that should be reflected in all of our life.

So what about you? 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 yourself?

What would Central look like if everyone was as generous as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, what impact would that have, not only on Central, but on this Valley and beyond?

Why not make generosity one of your spiritual disciplines this year?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 1

Matthew 6.1-15

Time spent in prayer…something we have talked about before. Has it been woven into the fabric of your daily routine yet? Time spent with just you and your Father? If not, make the answer to the question, “When?” today.

Giving may be a new concept for you, but Jesus assumes that those who follow Him will be generous givers. When we give as an expression of love and out of a desire for God’s glory…to invest in His kingdom…we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing our resources in things that moth and rust cannot destroy and no thief can steal.

But we have to have a plan.We have to be intentional…it starts with recognizing that all that we have belongs to God anyway. We are just stewards of His resources. Then make giving a regular practice…give as an act of worship on the weekends. Give to folks who are in need around you. Give generously of both yourself and of your resources. But give.

Same is true for prayer. As much as we may want prayer to happen, unless we are intentional about setting aside time to pray it just doesn’t. So plan it into your schedule…maybe in the car on your commute to work. Maybe before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after your head hits the pillow at night. Maybe on your lunch break or over your first cup of coffee. You could even do it while your in line at the store or working out at the gym. Maybe all those times. But get in the habit of praying.

May you have an ever deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God when you spend time with Him in 2018.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Christ

1 Peter 1.13

This Christmas, as we think about time with family and Christmas presents and lights and all the ways we celebrate Jesus’ First Advent, His coming as the Baby in a manger, let’s not forget to also look forward, in anticipation of the day when He will return a second time to make all things right. The time when, just as the wise men did so long ago, we will be in such awe of Him that we lay our gifts not under the tree, but at His feet and lie prostrate before our Conquering King. And as we find ourselves living between the times of His First and Second Advent…where life seems to be crashing down around us because of broken relationships, lost loved ones, bills piling up…in this in-between space where the consequences of our own sin and the sin of others impact us…don’t forget that our hope is not in this broken world, but in a new one, a re-created one where Jesus is reigning. Let’s set our minds right and live according to the truth…we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God…no matter what comes.

For some of us, the Christmas story is a familiar story because we have been rescued. For us, Christmas is a time to celebrate the salvation that Jesus brings. It’s also a time for us to look forward to the time when He will return and make all things right.

But for others, it’s a new story. If you are feeling lost and alone, beat down by the world, helpless and hopeless…Jesus wants to rescue you. And the good news is…He came to do just that. The gospel is good news of great joy for all people, but not everyone will experience that joy. Only those who respond to the good news…only those who trust in Jesus, who receive the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers. If that’s you, today could be the day of salvation for you, a day of celebration, the day you experience Christmas for the first time.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Love

1 Peter 1.22-25

Love is the greatest gift we can unwrap this Christmas.

For some of you, unwrapping love has to start with realizing God’s love for you. Faith comes before obedience. God has gone to incredible links to prove His love. He sent His own Son to pay the penalty for your sin…death…the debt that you owe because of your rebellion against Him has been fully paid by Jesus. So that by recognizing that you are a sinner in need of repentance and by believing that Jesus can save you then trusting Him to do so, you can be completely forgiven for all your sins and can become a son or daughter of the King, and have perfect peace, a living hope and inexpressible joy. [Trust]

For others of you, unwrapping love has to start with loving God more. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14.15). Obedience is active love. It’s the way we show our love for God and for others. If we believe that not only is God all-powerful and all-knowing, but that He also loves us in a way that only He can and that He desires our good, then we are fools when we refuse to obey. Obedience means doing what God says, but we can only do what He says if we know what He says. In other words, it’s impossible to obey if I don’t know what to obey. So how do we know what God wants us to do? You guessed it. Time spent in His Word. Time spent in prayer. Time with other believers. Learning, listening, dialoguing. No other way around it. But knowing’s not enough. I also have to apply what I’m learning. I have to do it. Good news…you don’t have to forge ahead on your own. The Spirit is the One who sanctifies us…He’s the One who gives us the ability to do what God says to do. [Trust and obey]

For the rest, unwrapping love continues with fervently loving one another from the heart. Loving others in active and practical ways is a natural consequence of obedience…a predictable outcome. What is the greatest commandment? Love God with all that we are and love our neighbor as ourself.

If other folks loved God the way you love God, and if they loved others the way you do, how would the world be different? If you practiced actively loving others this week, how would that impact your marriage? Your family? Your other relationships? What would that look like?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Joy

1 Peter 1.6-9

We can experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of trials when we see our lives from a kingdom perspective…because we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God.

Everyone who walks this planet will suffer…guaranteed. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Death. Loss. Broken relationships. Disappointment. You name it. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices. Some of it’s due to the bad choices of others. Some of it’s a result of the fall. But everybody will suffer in some way at some time. But not all will suffer for their faith.

The picture that Jesus frequently uses for discipleship…for following Him…is taking up our cross. It’s a clear picture of suffering. Now why does suffering have to be a part of the deal? I mean if we’ve chosen to follow God, if we’ve been adopted into His family, if we’re kingdom citizens, then why doesn’t He keep us from suffering? If we are on the winning side, then why does it feel like we’re losing? It goes back to the fall…

When we rebelled against our Creator, it had a devastating effect not only on us but also on the good world that God had made. The dominion that man was supposed to exercise over creation was forfeited to the enemy (Luke 4.6), who subsequently became “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4) , “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2.2). Before we trusted in Jesus, we were “sons (and daughters) of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2) and were citizens of this world and thoroughly committed to life in the kingdom of darkness.

When we trusted in Jesus another rebellion occurred, but this one was really a return. And while it is true that we are citizens of a new kingdom and children of God, we are still living in enemy territory. Because our allegiance has changed, we are at odds with the world around us. The more we look like Jesus…the more we live as kingdom citizens…the more at odds we will be. The more at odds, the more suffering. The more suffering, the more rejoicing. Why can we rejoice? Because our faith has been purified and strengthened. Because we know that our salvation is sure. Because we are becoming more like Jesus.

The counterfeit joy that this world offers is based on avoiding unpleasantness of any kind…forget about suffering. It’s a joy that is hollow, self-seeking and fleeting. It disappears when the storms of life come. Unfortunately that’s the only joy that many of us pursue. But true joy…inexpressible joy…comes only from following Jesus, taking up our cross and being willing to suffer with Him. Seems like an odd way to find joy…especially an inexpressible joy…but there it is. That kind of joy is independent of circumstance…good or bad, suffering or rejoicing…it remains unshaken.

It’s not that suffering in and of itself brings joy, but it’s our identification with Jesus…it’s the family resemblance. Suffering for my faith is the only suffering that I have some control over…I can avoid it by not living out my faith or I can embrace it when it comes while pursuing Jesus. I’ll only suffer for what I know to be true in my life. That’s where inexpressible joy comes in…knowing that I have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance protected by God…that truth has to marinate my life. The only way I know to do that is by time spent in God’s Word and hiding it in my heart. Find a passage like 1 Peter 1.3-5 that encourages you and commit it to memory so that when storms come you can face them with truth.

So what if I’m not distressed by various trials? What if I’m not suffering persecution of any kind for my faith? First question would be, have you trusted in Jesus? If not, today could be the day of salvation for you…the day that you are adopted into God’s family…living hope, imperishable inheritance, inexpressible joy and true peace can all be yours. You just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Welcome to the rebellion.

If you have trusted in Jesus, then is it obvious to those around you? Does your life look any different than theirs? Actions…attitudes…language? Is there anything that would distinguish you from them? If the answer is “yes.” Then keep living out your faith. Trials will come…they may look different for you than for me…but they will come because we live in enemy territory. But if the answer is “no,” there’s a good chance that the folks around you are not mistaking you for being a Christian. You see, if you are living according to this world’s standards and behaving like everyone else…why would you be persecuted? You will not experience the inexpressible joy that Peter is describing…only the counterfeit joy that disappears when hard times come.

Do you have joy, real joy in Jesus? Do other people want the joy that you have?

This Christmas season I pray that you will experience the inexpressible joy that only Jesus can bring…the joy of knowing that He, your King is coming, the joy of knowing your salvation is secure, the joy of knowing Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Hope

1 Peter 1.3-5

If you have trusted in Jesus, you have new life and a living hope because of His resurrection from the dead, and you have an inheritance reserved in heaven for you that is permanent, protected by God and beyond this present world’s reach.

There are lots of things we hope for in this life…some good and some not so good. As I thought about my own life, I realized how often I set my hope on people or events that only disappoint…they can’t carry the weight of my hope. They weren’t designed for that. I’m too busy trying to create the perfect life here, refusing to admit that the world in its current state is destined for destruction. This world and the things of it are doomed to disappear…yet I sometimes find myself clinging to it as if my life depended on it. I forget that my hope is resurrection…it’s the kingdom life that is available now and lasts into eternity. It’s true peace, joy and love. Not the counterfeit version that this world offers. I am a sojourner here.

So where is your hope this Christmas? Who are you hoping in? Is your hope big enough to carry you through the storms of life, the disappointments and frustrations, the trials and the suffering? Is your confidence in people or things that are destined to disappoint? Hope placed in anyone or anything other than Jesus will disappoint…it will fail. Why? Because hope based anywhere but in Him is based on things that are fleeting and subject to decay…where thieves break in and steal or moth or rust destroys… Only a hope in Jesus is a living hope…living because He is alive and gives life to those who trust in Him.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. You just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then you too can be reborn to a living hope with an imperishable inheritance.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Transforming Marriages Part 2

Ephesians 5.22-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Transforming Marriages Part 1

Ephesians 5.15-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Ascension

Luke 24.36-53

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

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

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

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

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

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

• They saw the empty tomb.

• They met their risen Lord.

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Emmaus Road

Luke 24.13-35

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

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

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

Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Death of the King

Luke 23.44-56

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Crucified

Luke 23.26-43

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Before the Romans

Luke 23.1-25

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

In the Courtyard

Luke 22.54-71

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

In the Garden

Luke 22.39-53

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Upper Room Discussions

Luke 22.24-38

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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