Daily Devotion

Hebrews 5.11-14

Paul says it this way in Romans 12.2, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” By spending daily time in God’s Word, the Spirit takes the truth that we have read and begins to transform us, so that whatever the situation, we can discern what it is that God would have us do.

There is no such thing as pause or neutral in life. We are either growing or not, progressing or regressing. We can train our bodies…we can go to the gym, we can eat right, etc., and we will see progress. We will get stronger, faster, more agile (generally)…of course I know that as you get older there is that law of diminishing returns thing, but humor me. If you skipped going to the gym for a time, or didn’t run or ride your bike, you find out pretty quickly how much you’ve lost. The same is true intellectually. If we stop learning, our brains begin to shrink. Emotionally, if we withdraw from people, we lose the ability to relate. It’s true in every area of life…if we don’t use it, we lose it. So how do we miss it spiritually? It should be obvious that if we are not growing spiritually then we are shrinking. We are moving backward. We are losing whatever ground we may at one time have gained.

Spiritual infants might struggle with these questions/statements…

  • I need to go to church regularly? I’ve never heard that before. 
  • I need to pray regularly and read the Bible regularly? I’ve never heard that before. How would I do that? 
  • I didn’t know the Bible said that. 
  • Giving? What’s that? 
  • I’ve always connected with God through nature. Being outdoors is my church. 
  • I don’t need anyone else. It’s just me and Jesus.
  • I know Jesus is God, but isn’t karma real too? 
  • Trinity? Huh? Now you’ve got me confused. 
  • My wife and I just got baptized, and on the way home from church we got into a big fight. What’s up with all that? I thought Jesus was supposed to take care of all our problems.

So, if you suspect that you might be an “infant”, how do you begin your path to maturity? Get ready to have your mind blown…start training today with a simple Bible reading plan. For those of you who have trained physically for anything…sport, music, hobby, school…you know that you have to build up to your goal. Big gains are possible, but it’s gradual…slow and steady. Think tortoise and not hare. Training, not trying. If you are trying, then you may be tempted to give up when you fail. But the beauty of training is that failure is built into the process. Sometimes hard to do in our microwave, google, instant access society…we want everything now…but it takes patience and an ability to take the long view.

Where to start reading? What do you like to read? Do you like poetry? Start with Psalms. Do you like wisdom literature, pithy sayings? Then, Proverbs. Action? Genesis or 1 Samuel or Mark. But read the Bible and not just about the Bible. What I mean by that is…many folks read devotional books and count that as their Bible time. Devotional books are great, but don’t let them replace your Bible. Pick a book and start. Work your way up to the heavier books like Isaiah or Ezekiel or Romans or Revelation. Pray before you start that God will help you put into practice what you’re learning. And if you miss a day? Don’t beat yourself up, just start again.

Let us press on to maturity then, spending daily time in God’s Word, training our senses to discern good and evil so that we might live and love like Jesus.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our January series, Fresh Start. 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

God’s Story

Genesis 15 – Resurrection Sunday

Easter. What’s in it for you? What is your hope today? A good job. A loving marriage. Well-behaved kids. Cool parents. Bright future. New romance. All good things. Maybe you have begin to think about your own mortality and your hope is in a legacy, leaving a mark on planet earth so that 100 years from now, folks know that you were here? But it’s clear…if your hope is based on earthy things, they are all destined to fail. Everything ends up in either the graveyard or the junkyard. The things of this world will pass away.

Abram’s hope is clear…the promises that God had made to him. Land. Seed, aka Jesus. Blessing. Blesser of the nations. Abram believes God, and He reckons it to him as righteousness. Abram’s faith made him righteous before God…not his obedience or lack thereof. His faith. Period. Hebrews tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. What was Abram believing…Genesis 3.15. That God would provide the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, aka Jesus, to rescue and provide the way back to paradise, to restore the relationship with Creator God and life in His kingdom, that through Him all the families of the earth would be blessed. And ultimately Abram’s hope is resurrection. The promises that God had made…descendants, land, blessing to the nations were not realized in Abram’s life. He would only fully realize them in resurrection. Hebrews tells us he was looking for a better country, a heavenly city. Abram looked forward to Jesus.

The Son of Promise has come. The Genesis 3:15 Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, our Rescuer, Jesus rent the veil between heaven and earth, between time and eternity and stepped onto the world stage. Jesus, who came to do what we could not do….provide the way back to God. To conquer sin and death. To restore the image so that we might return to Paradise, to provide the promise of life. That by faith in Jesus, who lived the life that we were supposed to live, totally obedient and dependent on God, who died the death we deserved…the death that has been ours by birthright since the garden. The death that was surely required for our rebellion, that through faith in Him we could participate in the most absurd gift exchange in the universe…His righteousness for our sin…so that we can have life…a different kind of life, real life, eternal life with Father God in His kingdom. I don’t understand it, but am amazed by it. That is our promise, that just as Jesus conquered sin through His death and death through His resurrection, so sin and death for us are over and done with if we believe. Abram was promised a kingdom and a legacy for His faith. So are we. When God Himself, in smoke and fire walked between those bloody animals, He made that walk for you as much as He made it for Abram. He is preparing that kingdom even now, and has set another a day in the eternal calendar to return once more to this earth and set up a kingdom that will have no end. We have been called to set out on a journey, to a place He will show us, in an act of faith. Faith because we have no power at all to make that promise happen. We have no way in and of ourselves to go to that kingdom or to reign there. But that promise has been made to us.

Do you know the amazing love of God today? Do you want to?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Genesis 13-14

Have you ever made a ‘grass is always greener’ decision? You know, looked at what you had and thought you deserved better? Better job? Better house? Better friend? Better…?

At the crux of this story is a decision….a decision to trust God or trust self, to believe what God has revealed as good or define good for self. Two characters represent these two paths. Abram chooses to trust to God…and He comes through in amazing ways. Lot chooses to trust in self…and it ends in disaster. Abram sees the world through God’s eyes. He has a heavenly or spiritual perspective. Lot can only see what’s in front of him. He has a very earthy perspective. The kicker is…both are believers.

We also can’t miss that the decision is about stuff. The abundance of stuff forces them to part. The desire for more and better stuff drives Lot’s decision to go to Sodom. Lot’s captured as the Eastern Alliance collects stuff, the spoils of war. Abram rescues Lot and his stuff. And the king of Sodom offers Abram stuff. And one other thing…Melchizedek blesses both Abram and God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. In other words, the God who owns all the stuff. Abram knew that. Lot didn’t. And what happens when life becomes about stuff…it captures and enslaves us. It becomes a hard taskmaster because there is never enough. Much better to trust God…”Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Don’t make life about stuff…make it about pursuing God. BTW Abram’s cure for stuff? He gave a tithe, recognizing that God owns all the stuff.

So what about you? Where do you find yourself in this story? Are you like Abram, trusting that God will come through on His promises, that He sees you and knows you and has good in store for you…not good as defined by you, but His good? Do your actions show that you are trusting Him…that you know that it all belongs to Him? Do you know He’s faithful? Realize that even though Lot had to face the consequences of his decision, God was still faithful to deliver him through Abram.

Or are you like Lot, believing that you have to look out for number one, that maybe God knows and sees me, but I don’t know that He cares about my circumstances? I know what’s best for me. But sin has consequences. For Lot, it meant being taken captive, and Uncle Abe has to come bail him out. In 19, we will see that it will cost him everything…home, possessions, position, etc., Living for this present world falls far short of the reason that God saved you. In the same way, when we live in sin as a believer we reap the consequences of the sin we have sown. We are not immune to broken relationships and the fallout from bad choices.

The truth is, most all of us have our tents pitched too close to Sodom…it’s easier to build to towers than altars, to look out for ourselves than wait for God to provide, to image “me” rather than imaging God. But the amazing thing is…God still pursues. He still calls us back. He still invites us into the indescribable adventure of following Him.

My prayer for us is that we would pitch our tents a little closer to Hebron and further from Sodom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

A History-Making Decision

Genesis 11.27-13.1

“What is the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make? What made the decision so difficult?” Was it the cost…comfort, convenience? Was it fear of the unknown? Was it the stakes?

God gives Abram a simple (not easy) command…”Go.” Abram was to leave everything he knew – country, relatives and family – to go to an as yet undisclosed location. The blessings that follow are contingent on his going…on his obedience. But his obedience is predicated on faith. So what faith are we talking about? Genesis 3.15. But how does Abram know about Genesis 3.15. Don’t forget that Abram is a direct descendant of Adam through the line of Seth, and of Noah through the line of Shem. He comes from those with a spiritual heritage of calling on the name of the LORD, of walking with God, of believing the Seed promise of 3.15. Much like Noah who was described as righteous and blameless…not because he obeyed, but because he found favor in the eyes of the LORD…he believed the promise of 3.15…so he obeyed, now Abram will be called on to obey because he too has found favor, is righteous through faith. That’s important for us to keep in mind. There can be no obedience without faith.

The call of Abram in Genesis 12.1-3 is a key event in the biblical story. It ranks up there with Genesis 3.15 in the OT. It ties together both creation and redemption…it echoes the creation mandate and carries forward the plan of redemption, the search for the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. It showcases God’s grace and reveals His heart for His creation. And it’s fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus’ charge to His early followers to “make disciples of all the nations” is a reflection of “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” It would be hard to overstate the importance of this passage.

But God’s call required a response. To experience what God had in store for Abram, he had to step out in obedience. He had to go. He had to be a blessing. For the Israelites to experience the blessings of the covenant at Sinai, they too would have to walk in obedience. That would cost them their comfort and convenience…they too would have to leave what they knew. They would have to embrace the unknown. They would have to risk everything. They would have to give up their definition of good…of doing what was right in their own eyes and trust that what God was calling them to really was good…that it was life. They had to believe that God truly loved them and wanted their good. And they would have to love Him in return.

What would have happened to Abram if he would have refused God’s call? Would he have lost his salvation? Not at all…but he would have lost his destiny. He wouldn’t have experienced the good that God had for him. The trip to Egypt illustrates this truth…Abram was to be a source of blessing to the nations, but he ends up being a source of cursing to Pharaoh. Thankfully not the last word when it comes to Abram.

I appreciate the honesty of a friend of mine who said, “God calls us away from our life and to His life. Something twinges when you say ‘leave comfort and convenience’ I don’t know what it is in me yet, but I need to. I know that fear, jealousy, pride – will keep me living my life. I’m tired of the cliché ‘comfort zone’, but it’s accurate. I need comfort. I need predictability. The life I am drawn to meets my expectations and has very few surprises. Does this sound like the life God calls people to? Noah, Moses, the judges, the prophets, the disciples? God called people to be kings and slaves, warriors and shepherds. But He called them away from themselves. I am convicted that I am, for the most part, living my life, proceeding with my plans, doing what seems right in my own eyes. I don’t want to go blindly after whatever seems to be the opposite direction. I do want to obey. I do want to move in faith to the life God is calling me to. I have set out on journey of faith, but what do I keep dragging around with me. What tethers me to peace? Is is faith or is it my inability to let go completely? Am I creating my own peace and not trusting God’s?”

But what about you? As important as Abram’s call was to the working out of God’s plan in salvation history, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, calls us all to “Go” or better yet to “Follow”.  And that call is every bit as important on a micro-level as Abram’s call on a macro-level. Jesus calls us to leave our comfort and convenience, to leave what we know, our old life, and follow Him. A simple command, but not an easy one. It means that we have to embrace the unknown. We have to risk everything…but only in this sense: we have to die to defining good in our own eyes and trust in what He has revealed as good. Maybe that’s a new job…maybe building a relationship…maybe making a kingdom investment that financially doesn’t seem to make sense…maybe it’s a call into ministry… Whatever it is, experiencing the good that God wants for you requires obedience. It means taking the risk.

And like Abram…and the Israelites…you will fail. But God is still faithful, and He is patient. Proverbs 24.16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

My prayer for us is that we would the courage, like Abram to take the risk, and enter into the wild adventure of a life spent with Jesus in His kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Confused

Genesis 10-11

Why are we so fascinated with making a name for ourselves? As I thought about this passage, I wondered why Moses included this story about the tower. Is it simply to explain where the different languages and people groups come from? Surely there is a bigger purpose. He wants to teach the ancient Israelites something about God. So what is Moses trying to teach them and us from this account?

When we try and make a name for ourselves…it is rooted in pride…and what is pride but giving ourselves the worship that God deserves, it’s worshiping ourselves as god. It’s rooted in pride, is often expressed in rebellion and leads to confusion. It confirms our own sinfulness…the truth that every intent of the heart of man is only evil continually. The first recorded group project does not turn out so well…it is a monumental act of rebellion with far reaching consequences. It echoes the sin in the Garden, and the promise that you can be “like God”. The sin of Babel is both pride and rebellion, the making for ourselves a name so that we might be famous. It’s the throwing off of the yoke of obedience and even dependence to declare ourselves sinfully independent. And it’s a refusal to obey God…defining good for ourselves apart from what God has revealed…”Let’s build a tower and a city so that we are not dispersed over the face of the earth.” The effects of the fall from Genesis 3 continue. The root cause of sin was not dealt with in the judgment of the flood, only its effects on people and creation at that time. In addition to Noah and his family and the animals, sin hitched a ride on the boat and continued its reign over mankind and all of creation through Noah and his descendants.

No doubt God judges sin. But even in His judgment we still see His mercy, His amazing, undeserved love. In the shadow of the flood of Genesis 6–8, God could have chosen a much more severe punishment for their sin. Instead He puts a halt to it. Man’s rebellion does not thwart God’s purposes. God acts in sovereign ways to accomplish what He wills. God’s plan for man after the flood was that they multiply and fill the earth. Now they will fill the earth. 

Babel once again highlights the consequences of man’s attempts, through sinful independence, to be his own god.

The cycle continues. God’s faithfulness…our rebellion. The image-bearers failing to image Him, to reflect our perfect, benevolent, beautiful Creator God to His creation. Yet God continues to pursue…the Seed of the Woman. Genesis 3.15.

But what about you? Where do you find yourself building towers, looking for fame, rebelling against God, making a name for yourself? The desire for selfish independence and for god-status is still alive and well. We’re still building towers. But God hasn’t given up on us. Moses reminds us once again that the Seed of the Woman is coming…that He has come in the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, to do what we could not do…provide the way back to God. To conquer sin and death. To restore the image so that we might return to Paradise. That by faith in Jesus, who lived the life that we were supposed to live, totally obedient and dependent on God, who died the death we deserved to die, that through faith in Him we could participate in the most absurd gift exchange in the universe…His righteousness for our sin…so that we can have life…a different kind of life, real life, eternal life with Father God in His kingdom. I don’t understand it, but am amazed by it. I can’t explain it except for God’s incredible, amazing love.

My prayer for us this week is that we recognize our own tower-building tendencies and turn them over to Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Great Deluge

Genesis 7-8

“­­­How serious do I take sin?” As I reflected on this passage, I couldn’t escape the seriousness and the severity with which God deals with sin in this story. He created a good world…perfect harmony, perfect peace, naked and unashamed, heaven on earth, paradise. And then that world is devastated…it is crushed by man’s rebellion. And sin infects all of creation.

We might ask “Why must all creation suffer for our sin?” Because we were supposed to be the caretakers. We were responsible. And our sin tainted everything. And when we were cursed, so was our dominion. So why the flood? Violence filled the earth instead of the image. Loss of the sons of God. And sin has consequences…serious consequences. End of the world kind of consequences. So much so that God chooses to destroy the good world He had created and start over.

But God remembered Noah. What a powerful statement! In the midst of horrific judgment, mercy still prevails and the search for the Seed will continue. God is not done with His creation. Even when it seemed that all hope might have been lost.

Noah saw first hand not only the devastating effects of sin on his society, he also saw the severity of God’s judgment on that sin. And that glimpse of the consequences of sin against the backdrop of God’s mercy prompted worship.

But what about you? How seriously do you take your sin? Are you aware of its consequences? I believe that it’s only when we see the severity of our sin that we begin to understand God’s amazing grace, and only then can we fully worship. A low view of sin = a low view of grace and vice versa. But my sin and your sin is serious. Its deadly and it necessitated the death of God’s Son…Jesus…the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. Sin required a death…and not just any death. In order for the guilty to be rescued, to be redeemed, the innocent would have to die in their stead. And so the Perfect One, willingly did just that, He laid down His life so that we could be rescued. He fully took care of the sin problem so that we could have a different kind of life, and so that we could fully represent God’s image as He intended.

My prayer for us this week is that we would take our sin seriously…and that we would take God’s grace seriously…and that that would cause us to worship.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster