Comfort in the Preparation

Isaiah 40.1-5

At a time in Israel’s history when things look pretty bleak…the people are returning from exile to a devastated Jerusalem with no king on the throne and under the reign of the nations, God says, “Comfort, O comfort My people…”. God has not abandoned His people nor has He forgotten His promise of a King. Not for them…not for us. This is what God will do. He has promised, and God keeps His promises. We can take comfort in that.

In Ezekiel 10, the glory of the LORD departed from the temple. A dreadful and horrible day that was. But God wasn’t finished yet. The glory would return. The King would come. The King has come. He comes to us where we are, in the wilderness of our lives…in the circumstances we find ourselves in. He wants us to be ready…to recognize our need for Him. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He has come to save us.

This is what God will do. Bring down mountains and raise up valleys, make the rough roads smooth and prepare the way…the radical spiritual transformation that only God can do through His Spirit when we believe in Jesus. Jesus changes everything! He doesn’t just want to rearrange the furniture in your life…He wants to totally remake you, shape you and mold you, and transform you to live and love like Him.

Whatever the storm in your life, God’s comfort is available. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Where do you need His comfort today? What do you need to trust Him with right now?

One day the whole world will see and acknowledge Jesus as the promised King. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord…what a glorious day that will be for those who have trusted in Him. Worshiping the King and celebrating His return. But for those who have not trusted in Him, He is no less the King…but He will also be Judge. It will be a day of terror and great dread. Don’t wait. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, make today the day.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story talking about The Glorious Proclamation.

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

The Promise of a King

2 Samuel 7.8-16

What kind of King are you looking for this Christmas? David was a great king in many ways. He was fearless and passionate, strong and brave. He loved the Lord and his family. But David wasn’t the King God had promised. Solomon, his son, was also an outstanding king. Maybe even greater than his father. His wisdom was renowned. He was a brilliant strategist. He was wealthy beyond imagination. But he too fell far short of the King God had promised. There have been many kings and great leaders throughout history, but as amazing as anyone of them may have been, none comes even close to our coming King. He’s the King of righteousness and the King of peace. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone will rule over the nations of this earth.

We as believers are not looking forward to Jesus’ first coming…as a Baby in a manger. No we are looking for Jesus to return as the promised King. So I have to ask you, this Christmas are you anticipating Christmas festivities and the giving and receiving of gifts, or are you anticipating the return of your King…Jesus?

Jesus is our conquering King. He is the long-awaited, much anticipated Davidic King through whom God will establish an enduring kingdom…the true kingdom. Not an earthly kingdom that is destined to crumble and fade away, but an everlasting heavenly kingdom that encompasses both heaven and earth. Jesus is the One who will rule over all of creation. He is the One who provides life…true life that is eternal and reflects perfectly the Creator. He is the One who brings reconciliation so that we can be adopted into God’s family…sons and daughters of the King.

Is Jesus your King today?

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Once Upon a Christmas. 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

Our Love for Christmas

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two loves. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, the true King, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s love is a very worldly love…love for his own kingdom, love of power, prestige, position, pleasure. A love that was very selfish and self-serving. A love that did not save him because it could not. Jesus was a real threat to Herod because he knew what was at stake. If Herod didn’t think Jesus might indeed be a king…the King…if he didn’t think Jesus, though now just a child, could in fact dethrone him, rule over him, take allegiance from him, he would not have felt threatened. But Jesus is a real threat to anyone who thinks seriously about Him. If Jesus is King…you’re not. It means your dethronement. It means your submission. It means you can’t lead your life any longer, as Herod did according to your worldly loves. If Jesus is who He says He is, you either love Him or you hate Him! Herod represents King Me…his response to the true King, to King Jesus is hatred and rejection.

The Magi’s love is other-worldly…it’s clear where their loyalties lie. The Magi give their allegiance to Someone far greater than any earthly king…their King’s arrival was announced by the heavens. A star pointed the way. The Magi’s love led them to go to crazy, incredible lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they couldn’t help but worship Him, expressing their love for Him for what He would do and God’s love already demonstrated in sending Him. They brought costly gifts…another natural expression of their love. In Him, they found an object worthy of great pursuit…chasing after Him with all they had…their love for Jesus is clear…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, the Savior of the nations. The Magi’s recognize Jesus as King, and their response to Him is worship and adoration.

There is a third group in this story…the religious leaders. These guys are indifferent towards Jesus. They know where Jesus is to be born, but do nothing with the information even when the Magi show up. The trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was between 5-6 miles…nothing in comparison to the 900 miles the Magi had travelled… The religious leader’s indifference will turn to anger, hatred and rejection as the story unfolds because Jesus will threaten their kingdoms as well.

Where are your affections this Christmas? Who or what do you love? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is it causing you to want to protect your stuff? If so, you may be giving your affections to people or things that are destined to disappoint. Or are you loving Jesus, the only One who can save and deliver and rescue…not just in an eternal sense, but also here and now? Is He the object of your affections…your devotion 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, whose experienced God’s amazing love? 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?

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior today…if He is not the King you adore, make today the day. Salvation is a free gift. Like a Christmas package under the tree with your name on it that just needs to be opened. Jesus has already secured salvation for you by dying in your place…paying the penalty that your sin deserves…so that by believing in Him you can be forgiven and can become a son or daughter of the King. But you have to make the choice to believe in Him…you have to open the package…you have to change your allegiance. I would love to talk to you about it if you have questions.

O Come All Ye Faithful…Christmas is a busy season, and we have a thousand things on our minds and a thousand things to do.  But through it all, let us remember to come and adore Jesus who loves us and proved that love by coming into the world to bring us light for our darkness …and joy…and life eternal.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May our worship this week reflect the amazing love that God has shown us in Jesus.”

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

Our Joy This Christmas

Isaiah 7.10-17

Immanuel…God with us. Comfort and joy for those who have trusted in Jesus or, as in the case of Ahaz, certain judgment for those who refuse to trust in God, but instead are trusting in themselves or in anyone or in anything else. Like Matthew 2, the gospel is good news of great joy for all people…but only those who trust in Jesus will experience that joy. For those who refuse…God’s promise is judgment. And God does what He says He will do.

Our world is not so different from Ahaz’s world. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness reigns throughout the land. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We put our trust in jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

Inevitably God brings us into crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, will He save me? Does He really love me, and does He really care about me and my circumstances? Our answer is either a confident “yes” or a wavering “I’m not sure.” And just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, they pay a price for it. But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is present in our crises. If we will trust Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But He would rather save us.

What alliances or compromises are you making to secure salvation for yourself? If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. Are you trusting God? The more we trust in Him, the more the fruits of the Spirit, of which joy is one, will abound. The more we trust ourselves…not so much. If you trusting in God, are you doing what He says? The secret to joy is resting in God, trusting in His love for us at the most fundamental level of our being, believing that He has not only saved us from condemnation, but that He is with us to save us in and through our current circumstances. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The secret to experiencing joy is not just believing that God really loves us, but also doing what He says so that we can experience life and fullness of joy as He intended for us to.

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. The music to this carol is written in a minor key…or so they tell me. Can joy be found in a minor key? Can there be joy in difficult circumstances? The answer is a resounding “yes” if we remember that God is with us and is for us, and if we remember that He has an eternal home waiting for us.

Even though Ahaz is a wicked king, God graciously invites him to trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then God offers the same gracious invitation to you. He wants you to trust Him, then you too can experience the joy that only Jesus can bring, knowing that He is with you always. But don’t wait. The time is short. Just as God is with those of us who have trusted in Him for salvation, so He is also with those who refuse Him for judgment.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience the joy of the Christmas season, knowing that God is with us and trusting Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.”

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

Our Hope for Christmas

Luke 2.8-20

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…our Savior who rescues us from sin and death. Jesus is not only the long-hoped-for 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 Jesus’ coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. “Angels we have heard on high, Sweetly singing o’er the plains: And the mountains in reply, Echoing their joyous strains. Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heav’nly song? Come to Bethlehem, and see Him whose birth the angels sing; Come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King. See Him in a manger laid, Whom the choirs of angels praise; Mary, Joseph, lend your aid, While our hearts in love we raise. Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory to God in the highest)!”

So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the hope that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? Like the shepherds, 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 have robbed you of your joy and excitement and left you hopeless? Is it possible that your hope is misplaced…that you’re “hoping” in the things of this world which really amounts to wishful thinking and is destined to disappoint?  Hope from a biblical perspective is so much more than wishful thinking. It’s a confident anticipation based on the truth of God’s Word. And God does what He says He will do. Our hope is in the unseen…it’s in a kingdom where we will spend eternity with Jesus…it’s home. Spend some time this week asking yourself, “where is my hope?” If it’s anywhere but in Jesus, then it’s misplaced. Be honest with yourself and ask God to help you, then make whatever course corrections you need to to get back on track.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord today, I want to invite you to take the 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. Jesus came to bring us home. 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. So will you trust in Him today?

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience afresh and anew the hope that can only be realized in Jesus, and may we share that hope with others this week as we tell them about Him.”

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