The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8.26-40

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Beware of Fighting Against God

Acts 5.17-42

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come.” Tozer That Incredible Christian. Pray we will be dangerous Christians.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Coming of the Spirit

Acts 2.1-13

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Love

1 Peter 1.22-25

Love is the greatest gift we can unwrap this Christmas.

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Hazards of Having It All

Luke 18.15-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Prayer, the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18.1-14

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Thy Kingdom Come

Luke 17.22-37

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is coming back soon…are you ready?

Until next time…stay salty.

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