When You…Week 3

Matthew 6.16-21, 33; 7.24-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 2

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 1

Matthew 6.1-15

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Christ

1 Peter 1.13

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Love

1 Peter 1.22-25

Love is the greatest gift we can unwrap this Christmas.

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Joy

1 Peter 1.6-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Transforming Marriages Part 2

Ephesians 5.22-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…stay salty.

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