The Disciples Prayer

Luke 11.1-13

Jesus teaches His disciples to pray.

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

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

We pray for…His honor, His fame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Choosing the Good Part

Luke 10.38-42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Who Is My Neighbor?

Luke 10.25-37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

A Plentiful Harvest

Luke 10.1-24

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven this week.”

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

Who Is the Greatest?

Luke 9.46-62

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live lives of greatness in the eyes of Jesus this week.”

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

Suffering Before Glory

Luke 9.28-45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be willing to follow Jesus in both the good and the hard times this week.”

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

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Luke 9.12-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we choose the path that leads to life with Jesus this week.”

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

Next Generation Ministry

Luke 9.1-11

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Ministry Interrupted

Luke 8.40-56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Setting the Captive Free

Luke 8.22-39

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

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

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

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

Jesus wants to rescue us…

Crossed the sea (calmed the storm, etc.)

Faced off with the hosts of hell

Braved the potential backlash of a frightened mob

For one man

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

Until next time…stay salty.

“Like the former demoniac, may we gladly brag on what great things God has done for us this week.”

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

The Parable of the Soils

Luke 8.1-21

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Forgiven Much

Luke 7.36-50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Failed Expectations

Luke 7.11-35

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Unshaken Faith

Luke 7.1-10

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Judge Not

Luke 6.37-49

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

True Blessedness

Luke 6.20-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Luke 6.12-19

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

 

Attack of the Pharisees

Luke 6.1-11

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Get In the Game

Luke 5.27-39

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Be Clean!

Luke 5.12-26

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

The Divine Invitation

Luke 5.1-11

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, stay salty…

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

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

A Resurrected Jesus

John 20

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Generosity

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Setting the Captives Free

Luke 4.31-44

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

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

Hometown Reception

Luke 4.14-30

In this episode we get a glimpse of what Jesus’ ministry will look like…fulfilling OT prophecies, being filled with/empowered by the Spirit, preaching good news to the marginalized whether Jew or Gentile…some will accept and some will reject.

Jesus is good news!

Jesus’ words are good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed…to the outcasts and those on the fringe of society. They are good news for those who recognize their helplessness and hopelessness, their overwhelming need of rescue. For them, for us, they are the good news of salvation. But there is no good news without Jesus. God’s rescue plan depends on Him. His teaching exposes the reaction of human hearts to that plan…wonder along with rejection.

Is Jesus good news to you? Do you recognize your desperate need to be rescued? For some of us, we don’t need to be convinced that we need to be rescued…the poor man doesn’t need to be convinced that he’s in desperate straits, the captive doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be set free, the blind woman doesn’t need to be convinced she needs to receive sight, and the kid being bullied in the school yard doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be rescued from his oppressor…we just need to know that there is Someone who can rescue us. The good news is…the Hero has come, the Savior is here. Today can be the day of Salvation for you.

But some of us aren’t convinced of our need for a Savior…we see ourselves, like the folks at the synagogue that morning, as good people. We don’t need to be rescued…I pray that God would reveal that you, like all of us, are poor, captive, blind, oppressed…that sin and death are the destiny of everyone who doesn’t realize their need and humbly turn to Jesus, so that you too may be rescued.

Maybe you’re here today and have put your faith in Jesus, but have been going through the motions. You have lost sight that just like everyone else you are poor in spirit and need to humble yourself before Jesus. Ask God this week to begin humbling you, to begin bringing you back to him.

And maybe you’re like Jesus…your hometown crowd has rejected you. Often times we offend our family members or peer groups when we become a Christian or are bold about our faith, because they feel condemned…they feel like they are ‘good people who live good lives’. They can’t see you for who you are, a new creation in Christ, but only for who you were. Whether they are rejecting your words or you, it still stings. But know that Jesus had the same experience…His boldness caused some to accept and some to reject. The writer of Hebrews tells, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame…” Knowing who we are and whose we are…knowing the bigger story should give us the courage to face rejection and persecution and the ability to love those who may not love in return.

I’ll close with a story: “A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters side by side at the Communion rail.

On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England—the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?” “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “ I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I don’t understand.”

“You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received God’s grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his Savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me—I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, obtained my degrees, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was God’s grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle.”

The folks that morning had a decision to make…and so do you. Who is Jesus? How will you respond to Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

 “May we rejoice in both the message and the Messenger of good news, the King and His kingdom.”

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

To Err Is Human?

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus knew the Word and was in-dwelt by the Spirit (Ephesians 6). He never doubted the Father’s love for Him, and He fully trusted God. Jesus knew that His Father would provide for Him and that the short-term, fleeting pleasures of this world, even good things like daily bread, could not compare with His relationship to the Father. That allowed Him to forego grabbing power and to wait on the Father’s timing and endure intense suffering even for the things that had been promised Him by the Father. That allowed Him to trust in the Father’s protection without having to test it.

This all flowed out of a deep understanding of the Father’s words spoken through the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Word…He was the Word! But while Luke builds the case for Jesus’ deity, he also presents a very human Jesus. And Jesus who goes toe-to-toe with the enemy does not rely on His deity to defeat him. He leans into His humanity and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who dwells in all of us who have believed. But how did He do it? Well, I believe that Jesus immersed Himself in the Scriptures so that He might know His Father’s Words and might recognize the truth of the Father’s love for Him. So when He responds, the words of the Father naturally come out.

So what about you?

We can let Adam and Eve be our example and believe the lie that God really doesn’t love us, is holding out on us, and take things into our own hands…I think we all know how that turned out…or we can let Jesus be our example, and we can walk away from current temptation and instead trust in God’s provision, power and protection. We can remember that God is who He says He is – a loving Father who wants the best for us.

How do we build this trust in our Father the way that Jesus did?

We submerge ourselves in the truth. Only then can we recognize the lies and false promises of the devil, so that when temptation comes, we can remember the words of our Father. Remember the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to face temptation lives in us as well. That same Spirit can also empower us to face temptation.

The Scriptures tell us that all of us who have believed are children of God the Father. It’s not just a distant, theological relationship. It’s the intimate relationship of a Father to His child. He wants that for us, He wants that for you. He wants you to spend time with Him, to hear His words so that you might know and be settled in the truth that He really loves you and has amazing plans for your good. You are His beloved son/daughter…not because you are the prettiest or the funniest, the fastest on the playground, or because you got the best grades, or for any other reason other than that He loves you. If those were the words that we heard and had settled deep in our souls, then the lies of the enemy…God doesn’t love, you’re not good enough, don’t you deserve more, etc…truly would fall on deaf ears. We would not be so easily crushed by temptation.

One practical way to settle the Father’s words deep in our soul is through time spent reading His Word. Our daily reading blog is a great vehicle for that. Regular time in the Bible will begin to combat the false messages you hear everyday and the lies of the enemy. Spend time in the Word with a group of friends in community. Encourage one another with the Word. Memorize Bible verses like Psalm 119.11 “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Or 1 Corinthians 10.13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We call it renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching.

And it’s key to victory over temptation.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be like Jesus, led by the Spirit, relying on the Word, never doubting for a moment the Father’s love for us, fully trusting in Him so that we too may be able to resist temptation.”

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

The Long Awaited Hero

Luke 3.15-38

John’s job was straightforward…prepare the way for Jesus, so that when Jesus came folks would be ready to receive Him. His coming would be good news for those who were ready…but His coming would be bad news indeed for those who were not.

Jesus is the long awaited Hero of our story. It was confirmed by both the Father and the Spirit at His baptism. It was confirmed by His ancestry tying Him to the promises God made to David, Abraham and the serpent (Genesis 3.15). He is the Hero of our story…the One and only One.

John knew his place before God. He knew he wasn’t the Hero…that even he needed to repent of his sin. True repentance and a life of faith come from a deep understanding of who God is, and who we are before Him. He is our Creator and our Redeemer. He is the boss, we are not. John understood who God was and had the right perspective here on earth. He knew that the most important thing he could do with his earthly life was to spread Jesus’ message, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

John’s audience only had two options…accept his message and repent (aka believe in Jesus) or reject his message and face judgment. There was no middle ground. There was no riding the fence. There was no “one foot in, one foot out”. The choice was simple…

The same is true for us today. We can either choose to believe in Jesus, or we choose to reject Him. There is no middle ground. There is no “both” option. Those who believe in Jesus should be evident by their actions…actions that flow from a life that has been transformed by Jesus. John calls it “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance”. As believers, living the way John the Baptist did, our lives should be marked with gratitude, confidence and freedom…gratitude knowing how good God is…to create us and then provide a path of repentance after our rebellion. How can we not live a life of gratitude, knowing that we are loved that much? Everything has been taken care of by Him. Confidence that our salvation is wrapped up in what Jesus did.. not what we do. That should make us breathe a sigh of relief. Freedom to love others despite how they love us.

Those who have not believed in Jesus, whether they’ve rejected Him outright or have not heard the gospel are mostly revealed by their actions…actions that flow from a life that is still dead in trespasses and sins. For them, Jesus’ coming is the unquenchable fire of judgment. One thing I want to be clear…we were all on the path of destruction. Every one of us. But Jesus came to offer a way of escape. He came to rescue us. So those who reject Jesus will face judgment, not simply because they rejected Jesus…we were all on under judgment, condemned to hell because of our rebellion against our Creator long ago…but because they rejected His offer of rescue. If that’s you, or you suspect it might be you, please know that it doesn’t have to be. The Bible says that if you believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father, you are saved.

Then Jesus will be your long awaited Hero.

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live like those who have been rescued and transformed by Jesus.”

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

Ready or Not

Luke 3.1-14

John’s goal is to prepare a people ready for God’s salvation that comes through Jesus. His message is hope for the spiritually hungry, but a stern warning for the unrepentant. With the day of hope, comes the day of judgment as well…with the opportunity of promise comes the risk of rejecting the promise.

Just like John’s audience, we too need to be prepared. What needs to change? What then shall we do? For some of us, there are some barriers to faith that need to be removed…some things that we need to turn from or let go of so that we can lay hold of God. Judgment is coming…and it will be a day of wrath for those who are God’s enemies. The only One who can rescue is Jesus, but you have to have a personal encounter with Him. Your friends’ faith, your parents’ faith, your spouse’s faith…none of that can save you. There are no +1’s in the kingdom. But you may be saying, “You don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve done”…there ain’t no mountain high enough, there ain’t no valley low enough, there ain’t no road too crooked, no heart to wicked that Jesus can’t save… But you have to choose to believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father. By believing that, the Bible says that you are saved.

For some of us, we may say we’ve believed, but there has been no real change in our lives. If so, there’s a problem…because Jesus changes everything. Paul says you’ve passed from death to life. You are a new creation. You’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. If nothing’s changed… Things won’t likely change all at once, but you should see some kind of growth in your desire for God and the things of God. You should see some change in character (fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, etc.). Either you haven’t truly believed, or like the weeds in the parable of the soils, the cares of this world are choking out the fruit. I would challenge you to take some time today to examine your life. Ask the Spirit to bring to light what needs to change…what’s keeping you from Jesus?

For some of us, we’ve believed and we’ve seen some changes…some fruit but we want to see more. Continue to pursue your relationship with Jesus. Last week we talked about Grow and discipleship. Join a community group or another group where you can study the Word together, pray together, encourage and challenge each other, where you can make much of Jesus. Find a place to serve. Prepare the way for others. Your impact list is a great place to start. What can you do to bring those around you one step closer to Jesus?

Ready or not, Jesus is coming.

Until next time…stay salty.

The psalmist challenges us…“Search me of God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way within me and lead me in the everlasting way.” Ask God to search you and reveal anything that might be keeping you from Him.

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

Transforming Families – Strategy Part 2

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to gathering, growing, and impacting…and God was powerfully at work. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. And as a family, each of us has a part to play, and each of us must play his or her part. Paul puts it this way, “We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the l proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” In Dr. Seuss’  Horton Hears a Who, Horton attempts to rescue the who’s from the other animals who are dangerously close to destroying them because they don’t believe they exist (they are so small that they are difficult to see, and only Horton with his enormous ears is able to hear them). Horton encourages the mayor of Whoville to have all its citizens make as much noise as possible. So everyone bangs on pots and pans, blows horns and shouts…everyone that is except for JoJo, the smallest of the who’s, because he believes that his voice is not needed. The other animals still cannot hear them, until the mayor, finding JoJo playing with a yo-yo, takes him to the top of the Eiffelberg Tower, where Jojo lets out a loud “Yopp!” The other animals finally hear the who’s and vow to protect them. Seuss summarizes the moral of the story in his simple yet powerful way, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” Each and everyone of us is important to the mission that God has given us. There is no one who is insignificant in the kingdom. Each of us is vital to the success of the whole. We want you…we need you to be all in.

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make participating in our family gatherings aka our weekend services a priority. Look for opportunities to encourage and pray for others. Look for ways that you can bless others…offer a firm handshake, a familiar hug, a warm smile, a polite hello. Join a community group. Get involved in one of our ministries…women’s, men’s, college and young adults, youth. Look for opportunities to plug in and serve. The folks in the lobby can point you in the right direction.

Remember to fill out your impact list and begin making intentional investments in the lives of folks that God has placed around you to bring them one step closer to Jesus.

God is at work. I want to invite you to join us on this journey of Transforming families to live and love like Jesus as we seek to impact this valley for the kingdom in significant ways. As part of the family, we all have a part to play in the life of our church. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing to empower us to accomplish the mission. How about you? Are you in?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May God continue transforming families to live and love like Jesus here at Central and in the valley as we gather, grow and impact. Go in peace.”

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

Transforming Families – Strategy Part 1

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to gathering, growing, and impacting…and God was powerfully at work. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. And as a family, each of us has a part to play, and each of us must play his or her part. A football team is only effective if each player on the field of play executes their responsibility. If one player decides that their job is unimportant, the team cannot succeed. Paul uses the example of a body. If the foot decided it wasn’t needed, it sure would be hard to walk. The same is true with the rest of the body. Each member is important to the success of the whole. We want you…we need you to be all in.

A very practical step to take…make participating our weekend gatherings a priority in 2016.

One story I want to share with you is of a family that is being transformed to live and love like Jesus. I got a call from a guy who started attending Central about 4 years ago. He and his wife were divorced, so on the weekends he had the kids he drug them to church with him. His kids fell in love with Central and began to get involved on their own…even on weekends when they were with their mom, they wanted to come to church. So she started to come with them. She’s now attending Central. And his brother who was estranged from the church, has now been coming for 4 months. Definitely not a “Leave it to Beaver” situation…it’s kind of messy. But one of the coolest things for me…the reason he called me was because his daughter, who is turning 15 soon (Quinceañera), wants to be baptized as one of her birthday presents! No better picture of God transforming a family…

God is at work. I want to invite you to join us on this journey of Transforming families to live and love like Jesus as we seek to impact this valley for the kingdom in significant ways. As part of the family, we all have a part to play in the life of our church. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing to empower us to accomplish the mission. How about you? Are you in?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

A New Reading Plan

Happy New Year!

This year, we are going to change things up a bit and try a new approach to our reading plan and weekly blogs.

On Mondays and Fridays, we will work our way through Psalms and Proverbs.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we will read through the books our Senior Pastor, Matt Dumas, has identified as particularly close to his heart: Genesis, Daniel, Luke, Acts, Romans, and Revelation.

We will continue to use Saturday as a day to read through the passage for the weekend sermon.

We will take a break from the reading plan the 40 days leading up to Easter and we will conclude our reading plan at this year’s Advent season, yes – only 352 more shopping days before Christmas!

I hope you enjoy the plan we have laid out for you – we wanted to incorporate Psalms and Proverbs in a way we could enjoy them and mediate on them.

Billy Graham once said, “I read five psalms every day – that teaches me how to get along with God. Then I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.”

As we look at yet another year in the Lord’s kingdom I encourage you to spend time this year reflecting and meditating on the Bible.

When reading scripture, don’t just read through the plan treating it as a checklist, read with the understanding that God wants to talk to you, teach you, and transform you.

When we pray, we talk to God – when we study the Bible, He talks to us.

One of the methods I use and one we have taught frequently here at Central is the technique known as S.O.A.P.

Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer.

The idea is to get a journal/notebook, pen and highlighter and use them while you are reading.

When reading though the scriptures for the day, highlight all the particular verses or passages that strike you as you are reading.

When you finish, take one of the verses or passages you highlighted and copy it into your journal or notebook.

I like to draw an S and make a dash after it and then just copy the verse.

The next step is Observation – this helps us keep the passage in context – what was the writer or author speaking to in this passage or teaching us? What is the big picture?

Make an O – then write a couple of sentences that captures an observation about the verse or passage.

Next we have Application. The idea here is to think through and write how we can apply what we have learned today into our lives.

So, make an A – then write out a few sentences or a paragraph, whatever you need to articulate how you can apply God’s teaching to your life.

Finally – we write out a prayer or just pray over the passage and its application to your life.  So P is where we write out a prayer.

That’s it, that’s SOAP.

This practice has had a profound impact on my own life over the last 10 years or so and I hope you find it as rewarding as I do.

Whatever method you use – take the time to reflect upon what you have read, pray over it, look for ways to apply it and then think about it throughout the day.

Be ever mindful that God’s Word, a prayerful heart, and The Holy Spirit will indeed transform you to live and love like Jesus!

Another thing we are going to do this year is blog as a team – giving the other members on staff a chance to blog on the subjects close to their heart.

I trust you will encourage them as much as you have encouraged me the past couple of years.

Well, that’s it… Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

Enjoy Your Bible

One thing that I like to do at the end of every year is evaluate how things are going in my walk with Christ. I believe that faithfulness to Christ will always result in personal growth. With that in mind, I like to look back and ask, “How have I grown this year?”

The Bible teaches that we are all a work in progress. The moment we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior was the moment that God began, through His Holy Spirit, to progressively transform us into the image of His Son.

One of the primary tools that He uses to mold and shape us is His Word. So, how is your time in the Bible going? Are you experiencing the soul satisfying pleasure of communing with Jesus through His inerrant Word? I want to help you enjoy your Bible this year by answering two important questions.

What is the Bible?

My favorite description of what the Bible is comes from the Jesus Storybook Bible.

“Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

The Bible is first and foremost a Story about Jesus! That’s why C.H. Spurgeon says, “From every passage of Scripture there is a road to Christ.”

But what sets the Bible apart from other good books? There are three important characteristics about the Bible that makes it completely unique.

  1. The Bible is the Word of God (2 Time 3:16-17) – In Theology we call this inspiration. The doctrine of inspiration teaches that the various human authors were supernaturally inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to record the sacred words of Scripture. That’s why the Bible can say, “Thus says the Lord.” It is a God breathed book!
  2. The Bible is Authoritative (John 17:17) – The Bible isn’t just true, it is THE truth, and therefore the highest authority in life. Wayne Grudem says that “The words in the Bible are God’s words, and therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”
  3. The Bible is Inerrant (Psalm 19:1-7) – Inerrant means that the Bible does not err. It tells the truth concerning everything that it talks about.

What difference will the Bible make in my life?

  1. The Bible lights the path before you (Psalm 119:105) – This means that you don’t have to walk through life blindly. God’s will for you is clearly revealed in His Word. But will you follow the path, or choose to ignore it? Every time we ignore God’s Word and instructions for our lives it’s like putting a bucket on our head.blake
  2. The Bible helps you grow (Isaiah 55:10-11) – God compares His Word to rain. When rain falls upon thirsty plants they GROW. If you feel like a dried up plant in need of rain, then run to God’s Word and let His rain fall upon your life.
  3. The Bible nourishes your soul (Matthew 4:4) – Do you know what God sees when He sees you? Your soul! What is the condition of your soul? Is it vibrant and glowing, or sickly and gaunt? Jesus invites you to feed your soul by feeding on His Word.

 

So let me ask again… Are you experiencing the soul satisfying pleasure of communing with Jesus through His inerrant Word? This is your invitation to experience the abundant life by enjoying your Bible.

Watch the sermon on-line: Enjoy Your Bible!

Born is the King of Hope

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two hopes. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, a heavenly King…but not just a heavenly King, but also an earthly King who came to reconcile heaven and earth, born in Bethlehem, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s hope is a very earthy hope…a hope for his own kingdom, a hope for power, prestige, position, pleasure. A hope that was very selfish and self-serving. A hope that did not save him because it could not. The scribes and the chief priests seem to have a similar hope, but slightly different. While they were not in the position of king, they still were building their own little kingdoms and hoping in an earthy king who could not save.

But the magi’s hope was in Someone far greater…His arrival was announced by the heavens. A star pointed the way. The magi’s hope led them to go to crazy, incredible lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they couldn’t help but worship Him, bringing Him their costly gifts…a picture of their submission to Him (service). In Him, they found an object worthy of great pursuit…chasing after Him with ardor, zeal and perseverance…their hope was in Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Warrior-King from the line of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hero of the story and the only One who could rescue them.

What are you hoping in this Christmas? Who are you hoping in? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is your confidence in people or things that are destined to disappoint? Or are you hoping in Jesus, the only One who can save and deliver and rescue…not just in an eternal sense, but also here and now? Is He your hope every day? Do you live that way…going to crazy incredible lengths to be in His presence, to worship Him, to serve Him with the same passion and diligence that the magi did? Are you living as one who has realized their hope in Jesus? Are we as God’s people making much of Jesus this Christmas, or are we caught up in the hustle and bustle of building our own little kingdoms?

“May Jesus the King be our one true hope this Christmas season.”

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Born is the King. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Born is the King of Joy

What is the greatest news you’ve ever received? I’ve had plenty of good experiences. I’ll never forget the day my wife said “Yes!” Or the day I found out I was getting my dream job. I remember hearing that a sick loved one was healed. I remember getting accepted to college. I cherish game 7 of the 2001 World Series and every Lakers’ championship.

Happiness is the natural response to good news. And not only that, but happiness is something we all want. According to a recent study, 84% of adults in the US, and 66% of practicing Christians, agree that “the highest goal for life is to enjoy it as much as possible.”

The good news for us is that happiness is a gift from God. The gospel of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people.

Sometimes life’s circumstances try to rob us of our joy, and the temptation can be to try and find happiness in a new circumstance: a relationship, or a shiny new purhase, but those are only temporary fixes.

Jesus is the only gift that can make our hearts sing. The Ellen Show may give amazing gifts for 12 days of Christmas, but Jesus has new mercies for us every day, all year long. Jesus is the one worth talking about. He is the ultimate treasure.

Joy is possible. In fact, anyone who has actually understood and embraced the gospel of Jesus is guaranteed to have joy that surpasses circumstances.

Jesus brings joy because His advent is the best news in human history. In Jesus, God bends down from heaven to bless lowly shepherds. Jesus alone brings rescue and forgiveness. He is perfectly loving and good. He is our God and King; He has all power and perfect justice. Jesus is the answer to every human struggle – He forgives our sins, comforts us in our suffering, changes us from the inside out, sets all things right, and grants us eternal life.

Make Jesus your most valued treasure this holiday season, and be amazed at all the reasons He gives you to rejoice!

Born is the King of Love

Advent theme of Love through the eyes of Mary…

So today we’re going to talk about love…true love, God’s kind of love, a love that is foreign to the world we know today. Love that is action and not just emotion…notice I said “not just emotion” because love is not emotionless, but it is not primarily emotion. The love that the Bible talks about is a choice. God chooses to love us, not because we are so lovable…we’re not. We’re rebellious…we broke the good world He created and rejected Him in the process. But God chose to love us and He acted… “For God so loved the world, He gave…” Love asks the question, “How can I best serve you?”, not “what’s in it for me?” That kind of love is very different then than what our culture defines as love. You see, culture has what I like to call, a Walt Disney view of love. It’s actually a view of love that goes way back to the ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, who believed that at one time, we humans were two people in one body…4 arms, 4 legs, 2 heads, etc.…and because we became arrogant, thinking we could replace the gods, Zeus split us in half, rendering us less powerful and condemning us to spend the rest of our lives yearning for our other half to complete us. It’s where the idea of soulmate comes from. Somewhere out there there is a perfect match for me, my soulmate, the one who completes me. For you gals, it’s your prince charming. For the guys out there, it’s our Cinderella. When I find my soulmate, then we will live happily ever after. So when the happily ever after isn’t so happy, when the frog you kissed turns out to be just a frog and not a prince, then you have every right to throw him back and kiss another frog. When the glass slipper doesn’t fit, try it on someone else. Love lasts as long as I am happy, as long as my needs are met. Love is really about me. Now granted, that describes a particular kind of love between a guy and a gal, but the selfish aspect of that kind of love infects all of our relationships. I’m friends with those who somehow make me fill good… 

Mary didn’t know what she was getting into when she said, “Yes” to the Lord (Luke 1.26-33) and began the indescribable adventure of both parenting and following Jesus. She couldn’t have predicted the great joy and the great pain that it would bring. But she believed in God’s great love for her. She trusted that He was concerned about her good and was working things out to that end. Surely not what she had expected…but she didn’t regret saying, “Yes.”

What’s the great adventure He’s calling you to? What do you need to say “yes” to Him about?

 Saying “yes” assumes that you know God loves you…so, do you know that God loves you? Not just intellectually, but do you really know, do you believe that God loves you? He has gone to the greatest lengths to prove it. Sending His own Son to die so that we, you and I, might live. 

How are you experiencing God’s love? What does it look like in your life? Can you see His fingerprints in your circumstances? Are you learning to listen to His voice? You can only experience God’s love when you believe He loves you. 

 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? What would that look like? More or less selfish. Remember love is a choice.

 “May we experience and share the love of the King this Christmas season.”

Born Is the King of Peace

A few weeks ago I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday. Time flies! Only a year ago she was a little newborn curled up in my arms. Now she’s a 25lb, walking, talking, climbing, teeth brushing, little princess (yes, she likes to brush her own teeth). Looking back over her first year of life reminded of what a gift it is to be a daddy.

What I love most about being a daddy is knowing that my daughter trusts me. My daughter, like most children, has a habit of getting herself into unusual predicaments. The good news is that all she has to do is yell out “Daaad,” and I come running to the rescue.

Did you know that God delights in being a Father? Just like any good Father, He finds great joy in being there for His children. When we find ourselves in unusual predicaments, or when life throws us a curveball our response should be similar to that of my daughter’s.

In this weekend’s passage, Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, lost all peace the moment he was thrown a major life curveball. One day out of the blue his betrothed, Mary, announced that she was miraculously pregnant with a child from the Holy Spirit. As you can imagine, this announcement sounded more like a cover-up than the truth. But the moment Joseph lost peace regarding his future with Mary was the moment that God responded just like any good Father would.

Here are three things to remember when life throws you a curveball…

  1. God is Immanent – The God of the Bible is a personal God who is actively involved in the in-workings and out-workings of His creation. He is so involved that a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without Him knowing. He even knows the very hairs on our head. His immanence is a reminder that He sees, cares, and intervenes. It is a reminder that God is never absent in our time of need.
  1. God Intervenes – While Joseph was writhing over the news of Mary, God intervened by bringing a supernatural peace. Matthew records that “as Joseph considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”

God sent an angel to deliver a simple message, “Do not fear! God is in control!” Maybe today you have lost sight of the fact that even when life throws you a curveball, or hits you with a tragedy, or takes an unexpected turn; God is still in control. He is actively involved in the details of your life and has the supernatural ability to bring peace where you have none. All you have to do is call out to Him. The peace of God is a heavenly peace granted through prayer (Phil 4:6-7). The moment we fall to our knees is the moment that the peace of heaven collides with earth.

  1. God Saves – According to Matthew 1, God is so involved with the world he made that he actually becomes like His creation through the incarnation. The incarnation teaches that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, took on flesh as Jesus. The identity of this miraculous Son is captured in the two names that the angel gives him. The name Jesus describes what he will do (“for he will save his people from their sins”) and the name Immanuel describes who he is (“God with us”).

This announcement from the angel reveals an even greater need for peace than the temporary peace that Joseph lost. We all have a need for eternal peace. Yes God cares about the things that rob us of peace, but we must never forget that our greatest need of all is peace with God through the forgiveness of sins. Without this need met, we can never know true peace.

Do you have peace today? If not, get on your knees and ask for it. God cares about the curve balls in your life. He is immanent. He intervenes. He saves

Do you have the assurance of eternal peace? Don’t let your need for temporary peace distract you from your greatest need of all, which is peace with God. Eternal peace comes only through faith in the King of peace, Jesus Christ.

–Ricky Hemme

You can listen to the sermon here: Born Is the King of Peace

 

Reading through the Bible

Well, we did it!

We began the Bible reading plan with the Old Testament on January 4th, 2014.

It took us almost two years but we have read and blogged through the entire Bible, having read through all 66 books, 1189 chapters and 31,173 verses.

As we make our way through the Advent season we will pause in our blog to embrace the Advent Devotional prepared by the staff here at Central.

But I thought it might be fun to add some of my favorite chapters in the Bible to read through in the coming weeks… extra credit anyone?

So here goes:

Genesis 1-3 Creation, Fall and Promise of a Savior

Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments

1 Samuel 17 – David and Goliath

Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 119 – God’s Word

Daniel 3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Daniel 6 – Daniel in the Lions Den

Isaiah 6 – The Lord on His Throne

Isaiah 53 – Pierced for our Transgressions

Luke 2 – Nativity

John 1 – The Word

John 3 – For God so Loved the World

Matthew 28 – The Resurrection

Acts 2 – The Holy Spirit

Acts 9 – Conversion of Paul

Romans 8 – Nothing Can Separate Us

1 Corinthians 13 – Love

Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

Ephesians 6 – Armor of God

Hebrews 11 – Hall of Faith

Revelation 20-21 Defeat of Satan, New Heaven and New Earth

Have a great Holiday Season – Born is the King!

See you next year, until then… keep reading!

Jim

How would knowing your future change the way you live today?

This is a question that I often ask myself… It’s not meant to be a morbid question. Instead, it is a realization that my days are numbered. According to the Bible, God knows our beginning from our end. Psalm 139:16 says, “In your book were written, every one of the them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” One of the great mysteries of life is that although God knows our future, we do not.

The exciting thing about the book of Revelation is that God allows us to peek through the curtain of time. Not every question regarding our future is answered, but a number of future realties are expounded upon. One of those future realities is the immanent return of Christ. One day Jesus will return in glory and power, and all of us will give an account to him

This is what our passage of interest is all about. Here are three things from Revelation 11 that you can be absolutely certain of regarding the future.

  1. Jesus Will Rule Unchallenged

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 ESV)

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17 ESV)

  1. The World Will Stand In Judgment

“The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged… and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18 ESV)

  1. All Believers Will Be Rewarded

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great…” (Revelation 11:17-18 ESV)

So let me ask you… How should knowing these realities about the future change the way that you live today? Are you prepared to meet Jesus?

The good news about the Kingdom of God is that all are invited by Jesus to call it their home. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Jesus

The Red Zone

2 Peter 1.1-11

Pursuing godliness is the ultimate goal of the Christian life. The good news is, we’ve been equipped with everything we need to pursue this life…the Word and the Spirit. Peter even gives us some hand and footholds, a list of virtues from faith to love.

I know we all want to finish well…we want our lives to have an impact for the kingdom. And some of you are having a huge impact right now. I think of those who are volunteering in our children’s and youth ministries, those who are leading community groups or small groups, those who are serving the homeless, or are leading in any number of other ministries that take place on our campus. You’re pursuing godliness, relying on God, so that you can finish well. Keep after it. The race is not done…we haven’t crossed the goal line. We are in the red zone, and it will continue to be hard work to finish well, but it is all worth it.

But for others of us, maybe we’ve fallen already. We started out well, or maybe not so well, and now we’re wondering what to do. Peter would say, “I know you’ve fallen. I know you’ve failed Jesus. So did I…” but the good news is, you can still finish well. How? Begin today to pursue godliness, relying on God.

Jeremiah 9.23-24 says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” Is knowing God your greatest priority in life?

May we pursue godliness, rely on God, and finish well.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from 2 Peter 1.1-11 entitled The Red Zone. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

4 Lessons on Love

With Jim on vacation we have the opportunity to hear some thoughts on the reading plan from a few of our Central Christian staff. Today Andrew Alesso shares on 1 John 5, 2 John, and 3 John.

I think the apostle John would love our mission statement, transforming families to live and love like Jesus, because that’s what he’s all about. Here are a few ways you can love like Jesus.

Love God

Sometimes following God can seem like a chore – something to be endured, rather than something which is enjoyed. In 1 John 5 he writes, “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” If we really loved God then we would obey him. I listen to my wife and respect her opinion because she loves me and I trust her, not because I have to. If I gave her an anniversary card inscribed with, “Here are your yearly flowers, as per your request…” I’d be sleeping on the couch to celebrate! She wants to be served because I passionately adore and respect her, not out of obligation.

It’s the same in our relationship with God. He doesn’t want you to consider his laws a burden, instead he wants you to trust him. He loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to pay for your sins. Trust that God wants good for you, and extend love to him by joyfully obeying his commandments.

Love sinners

Later on in 1 John 5 he adds, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give [that person] life.” John says that when a Christian friend starts to sin that the loving thing to do is to pray for that person to repent. Care deeply for the good of your friend. James adds that “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death.” According to John, a person who lives in unrepentant sin, refusing to obey the clear commands of scripture, is not actually a Christian. As Christians, we ought to love people enough to care about their eternal well-being. The most important step is to pray, believing that God is still at work in their lives. Don’t give up on them – love them until the end.

Love the truth

2 John repeats the call to love God and love sinners, but warns to reject false teachers. If someone is leading people away from the true gospel, then that is harmful, and the most loving thing to do is to refuse to participate with them. This doesn’t mean we reject Christians or churches with whom we have minor differences of doctrine or practice, but we stand firm on the truth that Jesus is the only way. Are you standing firm in your faith when others talk against it and attempt to discredit Jesus Christ?

Love faithful Christian workers

            Finally, 3 John encourages us to support Christian workers in their journey. If someone who is faithful to the gospel is doing ministry, than we should make every effort to support them in prayer, through relationships, and even by supporting them financially. How can you help someone in your life who is working to spread God’s kingdom?

Examining a Lifestyle of Worship

Luke 2.41-52

Jesus lived a lifestyle of worship…a lifestyle that was modeled by His parents and reflected His absolute devotion to God. There is no doubt He was totally sold out.

We see Joseph and Mary’s lifestyle of worship in their pursuit of God…their obedience by doing everything according to the Law including the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Following God wasn’t just a part of their life…an event reserved for the Sabbath or special holidays…it was their life. A lifestyle of worship…it invaded every corner of who they were. We see it in their investment in Jesus’ life…passing on a spiritual legacy to their Son.

Jesus’ lifestyle of worship is evident in His relationship with His Father God. Not only did He participate in the celebration of Passover, He wanted to learn everything He could…energizing His heart and mind through biblical teaching. He had a personal relationship with God. And He obeyed those God had placed in authority over Him…even though He was and is eternal God.

What does it look like for us to live a lifestyle of worship? For both parents and students, it looks like all out pursuit of God, walking in obedience and learning all that we can about Him, and passing on a spiritual legacy to the next generation. It’s more than the songs we sing or a weekend event…it should infect every aspect of our lives. Make the commitment to pursue a lifestyle of worship today.

There are no +1’s in the kingdom of God. Each of us can only enter by being a son or daughter of the King. That means that each one of us must have his or her own relationship with Father God. You can only have that through Jesus. Joseph and Mary went looking for Jesus because they thought they had lost Him, but He was where they had left Him all along. Are you searching for Jesus? Then look no further. He’s here today and wants to welcome you into the family.

May we pursue a lifestyle of worship this week, growing in our understanding of who God is and who we are as His children and pointing others to Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Finding Jesus

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.”  John 18:1-2 (NASB)

It has been ten years now since my wife and I visited Israel.

I can still remember the view at the top of Mount Olives and walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane.

There is a paved pathway there now, but it would have probably been the same path Jesus and his disciples would have followed.

There is much history to be viewed in Israel, but one of my primary purposes during the trip was to be where Jesus was.

I wanted to walk in His footsteps, I wanted to stand where He stood, pray where he prayed.

It is certain Jesus was at the Mount of Olives and the Garden at Gethsemane.

Both locations still exist in Israel.

The gospels all mention the events that took place at these locations during the week leading up to His crucifixion.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus visited the Mount of Olives frequently, at least three times in His last week.

It is from atop of the Mount of Olives that Jesus laments over Jerusalem and God’s people.

When on the Mount of Olives, I found myself looking at Jerusalem, “the city of the great King”, feeling the turmoil, praying for people and the nation as a whole, praying for the  “peace of Jerusalem.”

In the Garden we can find some of the world’s oldest trees.

It is doubtful these are the same trees during the time of Jesus, the Jewish historian Josephus reports that all the trees around Jerusalem were cut down by the Romans for their siege equipment before they captured the city in 70 AD.

Some estimates put the trees in the Garden at about 900 years old.

Yet there is still something special about the Garden.  It is the place that Jesus prayed.

Jesus walked through that garden, He wept and prayed there.

His disciples went there with Jesus at times.

Even Judas, when he was about to betray Jesus, knew where to look, where to find Jesus.

He found Jesus in the place of prayer, the Garden.

The trip to Israel has a special place in my heart, especially the Mount of Olives and the Garden. I met with Jesus there, prayed where Jesus prayed.

I am reminded though, that there may be times when we feel distant or out of touch with Jesus.

When we do, we need go back to where Jesus can be found.

In His word, with His people, and in our place of prayer.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

According to the Law of the Lord

Luke 2.22-40

Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, the faithful remnant within Israel who were anxiously awaiting the coming of Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people are blown away when Jesus shows up. They experience the joy that salvation brings…the joy that can only truly be known when what is most hoped for has been realized.

Salvation is here! It’s a day of joy or a day of dread…for those believe in Jesus, for those whose hope has been realized, it’s a day of joy. That’s why I love the picture of Simeon and Anna who were daily looking for Jesus. There’s no doubt what they most hoped for. Their actions demonstrated it. I wonder what our actions demonstrate… You see, we as the church, are a part of the family of God like Simeon and Anna were. Are our lives marked by the same love and devotion to God, the same sense of expectancy and anticipation? Could it be said that we are daily looking for Jesus? Not just for this life, but also anxiously awaiting His Return? Is our faith clear by our actions? Is Jesus our Savior and Lord? Do we count it a privilege to be the Lord’s slave or have we forgotten that we were saved to serve fearlessly?

If you are one of those faithful saints who, like Simeon and Anna, are daily looking for Jesus, let me encourage you to keep at it. To serve the Lord with gladness and proclaim the good news that salvation is here. If you are not living a lifestyle of worship, serving and proclaiming the good news, what are you willing to do about it? You are having an impact on those around you…what kind of impact are you having? Is it for good or ill? Are you leading them one step closer to Jesus, or turning them away? Make the commitment to be all in. Pray and ask God for help. Make it a regular practice to spend time reading God’s Word and meditating on it. Pray daily. Give generously. Look for opportunities to help/serve others. Join a community group. Talk to one of the pastors or your community group leader. Get involved in serving on the weekends. Just like my boys, I want you to know the joy, peace and love, and all the other good stuff that only can be experienced when you are running after Jesus, and the sense of adventure when you trust Him in big ways in your life. The Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

But for those who reject Jesus it’s a day of dread because He is the only hope of rescue. He is the only One who can save us from our sins and give us new life. You are either for or against Him. You can’t remain neutral. There is no fence. What are you waiting for? What will you do with Jesus today?

Salvation is here! May we daily look for Jesus, experiencing the joy of His salvation and sharing that joy with others.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Shepherding 101 – John 10

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

My wife’s family all hail from a little town in West Virginia.  If you were to use a parable or analogy using coal or mining, everyone there would understand you.

Growing up in Southern California, surfing terms or analogies would be understood by a large audience.

In Texas, you can talk about cattle or oil and be understood.

Although sheep and shepherds might sound a bit foreign to us, the role sheep played in Jewish history rendered this analogy in John 10 tailor-made for Jesus’ audience.

In the story of Job, we are told Job had 14,000 sheep.

When dedicating the Temple, Solomon sacrificed 120,000 sheep.

David and Moses, were both shepherds.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah all drew analogies from sheep and shepherds.

In 1 Samuel 17 when David offered to fight Goliath, Saul said to David:

“You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. 

And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. 

And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”  1 Samuel 17:33-37 (ESV)

David was uniquely equipped to battle the enemy of the Lord because he understood what it meant to be a shepherd.

But more importantly David believed in the Lord – The Lord was his shepherd (Psalm 23).

Jesus in John 10, describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.

He gives us a few lessons of what it means to be part of the Flock of Jesus.

We should know His voice – we should have an intimate spirit filled relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is the gatekeeper to the flock, we enter His grace and mercy as fellow travelers with other believers.

Jesus protects us from the dangers we face – false doctrines, the enemy and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jesus laid down his life for us, making the ultimate sacrifice that we might have life everlasting.

Sheep follow the shepherd.

As Americans, we tend to drive ourselves and others.

But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, doesn’t stand behind us and drive us.

He leads.  Jesus paid it all – He paved the way.

We travel the Way, the narrow path He paved.

He is the Good Shepherd.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Sources and excerpts used for this blog: Jon Courson’s New Testament Application Commentary, ESV Bible

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Luke 2.1-21

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

The heavens erupt in praise at His coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the joy that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? Do you have the desire to tell others the good news? If so, good. Keep proclaiming the good news. If not, why not? Have the cares of this world and your present circumstances robbed you of your joy and excitement? Spend some time this week, like Mary, pondering the truth of God’s Word and the amazing realization of your rescue. It really is good news. Ask God to reignite that fire in your belly, that excitement about following Him.

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

 

 May we experience afresh and anew the uncontainable joy and excitement that salvation brings, and may we share that joy with others as we tell them about Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Together, We Can Accomplish His Work – John Chapters 3 & 4

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:34

Over two thousand years ago, a man named Nicodemus was told by Jesus, that, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus would ask Jesus how this could be – how could a man enter his mother’s womb a second time?

Jesus was speaking about a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one.

This is the essence of the gospel – to be born again spiritually.

Our spiritual rebirth happens when we look to the work of the cross – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, receiving His mercy, that we might have life everlasting.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

The essence of the gospel is this – God has sent Jesus to save us.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 (ESV)

Becoming a Christian, a follower of Christ, believer in the Gospel, is a supernatural miracle of God’s generosity.

We, like Nicodemus, are just as dependent upon God for our second birth as we are for our first birth.

Once we have experienced that rebirth – we are to share the story with others – the story of Jesus and the Gospel.

We are to spread the message with such passion and joy that we embrace it as food!

Our food is to do the work of Him who sent us and to accomplish His work.

After sharing with Nicodemus in chapter 3, Jesus turns to the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4.

The woman demonstrates what we are to do with the message of the gospel.

Having believed on Jesus, the Samaritan woman went back to her community to share the good news with her family and friends.

In doing so, she gives us the model for a good testimony.

Jesus is the hero of her story.

She drew attention to the One who exposed her sin and gave her life; and in doing so, she invited her friends to do the same.

The gospel comes to us in order that it might run through us.

The gospel is personal, but it is not private.

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35 (ESV)

The harvest is ready – God has called us to reap!

Share the gospel.

Together, through the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish His work.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Excerpts for this blog were taken from The Gospel Transformation Bible.

 

When the Heart Hears (Hebrews 11-13)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

As we conclude our reading in the Book of Hebrews we are reminded of some of the greatest themes in scripture.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

I love reading the stories in the Old Testament, stories of the faithful, mentioned in Chapter 11.

We can look back to these witnesses and learn about their journey and apply the wisdom of their choices, both good and bad to own lives.

We can learn about the consequence of sin without experiencing it ourselves.

We can see how their faith carried them through in dire circumstances to include martyrdom.

We can learn from those who have gone before us – but…

We are ever mindful that we are running the race forward  – looking to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

It is in Jesus we find our hope.

A faith-based hope, centered around our love for Jesus.

The purpose of faith is to bring us to a saving knowledge of Jesus, to draw us closer to Him, and to serve Him along our journey.

We are told to run the race well and not to get weary – for we have hope, hope in Jesus and in a “kingdom that cannot be shaken”.

As Christians, “we seek the city that is to come.”

We do this all out of love, offering worship with reverence and awe, through sacrifices pleasing to God – brotherly love and hospitality to others.

A faith driven by love.

I am reminded of the following story – something I read years ago.

An American missionary in Africa wanted to translate the English word faith into the local dialect.

He could not find its equivalent. So he went to an old sage, who was himself a fine Christian, for help in rendering the needed word into understandable language.

The old man studied it, and finally said, “Does it not mean to hear with the heart?”

Hearing with our hearts.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

When the heart hears, we live a love-filled life, driven by faith, grounded in the hope we have with Jesus the Perfecter of our faith.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Sources used for this blog – 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, by G.C. Jones

Sacrificial Love and Hope – Hebrews Chapter 1

I love to read.

I have read many, many books in my time, too numerous to count.

Some books hook you right away – others take time to build the story.

I vividly remember the opening of one particular book:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

That is the opening sentence to “A Tale of Two Cities”, by Charles Dickens.

Great concept, great book – a classic.

A wonderful tale of sacrificial love and hope, found in a troubled time.

The Book of Hebrews is majestic in its opening verses – here we find some of the most powerful verses in all of scripture pertaining to Jesus.

In Hebrews, we also read about sacrificial love and hope in a troubled world – maybe, just maybe, Dickens got the idea from the Bible.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)

Right away we know this book is about someone special – the Christ, the Son of God.

As we work our way through Hebrews, we cannot help but feel that this book is written primarily to a Jewish audience.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary describes it this way:

“On the whole, the most plausible backdrop for the Epistle to the Hebrews might be a Christian church, largely Jewish in membership, in a city such as Cyrene. Under repeated pressures from their unbelieving fellow Jews they were tempted to give up their Christian profession and to return to their ancestral faith.”

By going back to the old religion and rituals, the Levitical system, the Jewish audience would nullify the work Christ did on the cross.

Chapter 1 teaches the deity of Christ as powerfully as any place in Scripture.

He is fully God and fully man.

The person of Christ, as God and man, constitutes the basis for His saving work.

Because he is God, He is able to save us, for only God can save.

Because He became a man of flesh and blood, He is able to save us, for one of our human race died in our place and overcame death in His resurrection.

Yes indeed, He is Jesus, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

In Jesus, we find sacrificial love and hope in a troubled time.

Amen!

Jim

Sources used for this blog – Gospel Transformation Bible

Happy Birthday John!

Luke 1.57-80

Zechariah has learned to trust God in a bigger way. While he was an OT saint who was eagerly awaiting the Messiah…he was a believer…he was not yet willing or able to trust God to do the impossible. But now that God has fulfilled His promise, Zechariah can’t help but praise Him and trust Him in a bigger way to fulfill His promises to Abraham and David, providing rescue to His people.

Sometimes we’re like Zechariah…we’ve crossed the line from death to life. We’re followers of God, we’ve trusted in Jesus for eternal life. But we still don’t believe that God can do the seemingly impossible in our own lives. Somehow we see our situation as different. Maybe we don’t doubt that God can…but why would He? Zechariah is a great reminder that God is still actively involved in the lives of His people…He works through ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. And He wants to work through us…you and me.

We were saved to serve God fearlessly…Paul says it this way, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” As we will see later in Luke, John is a great example of this. His ministry was to prepare the way…he served God (and others) by giving them the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. Guess what? That’s our job description too. We’re to share the good news of the gospel…to bring folks one step closer to Jesus. Are you doing that? The Impact List is a great way to get started.

Can you see the first rays of the Sun rising? Has “the Sunrise from on high” shined on your life? Do you have “the knowledge of salvation”? Is Jesus your mighty “horn of salvation”? Do you know that you have “the forgiveness of sins”? Have you been saved from “the shadow of death”? Are you fearlessly serving Him? Are your feet treading “the path of peace”? If not, you need the Sunrise—you need Jesus who came to rescue you.

“May we trust God to do the impossible, fearlessly serving Him, and sharing with those in darkness the good news of the gospel.”

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Hope for Sinners – Matthew 26-28

Jim is on hiatus this week… but he provided us with the following excerpt…

As we finish reading through the Book of Matthew Chapters 26-28, ponder the following, taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible:

“The story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion is also the story of the failure of his disciples to be faithful to him during this immensely difficult time.

When the religious and civic leaders came to arrest Jesus, not only Judas but all the disciples eventually abandoned him.

Despite Peter’s protests of willingness to die for Jesus—protests which all the disciples affirmed (26:33, 35)—he failed miserably along with them all.

They did not have enough compassion toward Jesus even to stay awake with him during the stressful night of his arrest (26:36–46), and when the crowd arrived to arrest him, Matthew tells us that all of Jesus’ disciples “left him and fled” (26:56).

Even Peter, who at least put up an ill-conceived effort to protect Jesus (26:51), and followed “at a distance” behind those who had arrested him (26:58), eventually denied that he even knew Jesus (26:72, 74).

Jesus knew that his disciples would be faithless (26:31–35), but he offered them the hope of forgiveness and restoration in his comment that, after his resurrection, he would go before them to Galilee (26:32).

The death to which their unfaithfulness had consigned him was a death for the forgiveness of this sin also (26:28).

Both Peter and Judas were sorry for their faithlessness to Jesus (26:75; 27:3–4), but whereas Judas’s sorrow led to despair, Peter and the other disciples sought refuge in Jesus’ offer of restored fellowship (28:7, 10) and his renewed call to service in the kingdom (28:16–20).

There is great hope for sinners in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, and that hope is not only for new disciples of Jesus but for his seasoned followers also.

The proper response to sin, however grave it may be, is not despair.

It is instead trust in Jesus’ willingness to forgive and restore the sinner to full fellowship with himself and to useful service in the kingdom.

What rich hope for those who want their lives to count for Christ, yet who are painfully aware of their inadequacy and failures.”

Until next time…  Keep reading!

See you next week!