Greetings Part 2

Romans 1.8-17

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Can you say that? Our world today is not so different than Paul’s. Believers are still ridiculed, mocked, made fun of, despised, persecuted…not always overtly, but often covertly. In movies or TV shows, on social media, in politics…throughout our culture. Often it is friends or family, coworkers or classmates. And yet we are still called to share our story.

What are you not ashamed of? In other words, what are you proud of? You see, it’s the things that we are proud of that we tend to promote, right? Kids on the honor roll, some new product that’s going to change your life, your team wins March madness, etc. Does the gospel make your list? Is the gospel good news to you…have you experienced its power to save? I hope so.

You see, the gospel is for everyone. There is no one who is so dead that they can’t be made alive. There is no one so lost that they can’t be found. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. If you haven’t taken the time to write out your story, this week would be a good time to do that. Remember this is not your biography…it’s your testimony of what Jesus has done for you.

This series in the book of Romans is a great opportunity to invite folks to church. In it we see the seriousness of sin and the greatness of God’s love. It reminds us that both the sinner and the seemingly self-righteous are in need of a Savior…and that there is hope in Jesus.

Remember that I said that Romans 1.16-17 is at the center of this letter? Let me challenge you to memorize it over the next week over so. Not only will it be a great reminder of Romans, but I’m sure the team will also have some kind of something they do with it in the coming weeks leading up to Easter.

pro rege

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

Going to Jerusalem

Acts 21.1-16

Paul finishes up his third and final missionary journey and reaches Jerusalem. Along the way he’s had the opportunity to meet with fellow believers…brothers and sisters…whom he’s been able to encourage, but who have also warned him of the impending danger to come.

Twice the Spirit has revealed to folks along Paul’s path that trouble awaits him in Jerusalem. For Paul it’s nothing new…he’s met with trouble at almost every turn. Suffering has been an expected part of his journey. And yet his well-meaning friends want to spare him from it.

Kind of reminds me of this interchange between Jesus and Peter in Matthew. Right after Peter makes his historic proclamation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.16), we are told…“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ 23But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s’” (Matthew 16.21-23).

That must have been shocking for Peter to hear! Especially after getting it so right. I think too often we are like Peter…suffering doesn’t feel like winning. If Jesus already conquered sin and death at the cross, then why should we suffer? If we are on the winning side, what gives? We want the glory…but the suffering? No thank you. And yet because we live in a world which has declared open war against its Creator…a world enthralled by the great serpent of old who is the devil and Satan, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the sons of disobedience…we will suffer. There will always be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman…between those who reject God and those who follow Him.

Too often I think we are under the mistaken impression that God’s will for us is happiness as we define it. You might have heard it said, “God wants me to be happy. Therefore if I’m not happy then I’m not in God’s will.” Or “Suffering causes me pain, and surely God doesn’t want me to be in pain. Therefore suffering can’t be God’s will for me.” And so we make it about us and not about Him. We are the main character in the Story. That’s a dangerous place to be. Especially given that suffering is a prominent theme throughout the NT. Of course I’m talking about suffering for following Jesus and not suffering that comes as the predictable outcome…the consequence…of questionable choices (1 Peter 4).

Jesus’ definition of happiness…Matthew 5.3-12, “Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed (happy) are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5Blessed (happy) are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7Blessed (happy) are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9Blessed (happy) are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10Blessed (happy) are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed (happy) are you when people insult you and persecute you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

So the question is, knowing that suffering is a part of the deal, will we resolve to follow Jesus no matter what? Let me be clear…we don’t choose suffering, we choose to follow Jesus. Suffering is just a predictable outcome of making that choice.

Let me challenge you this week to make that choice…maybe write it in a journal or on a Post-It note. Put it somewhere where you are going to see it. Set a reminder on your phone. “Today I’m going to follow Jesus…no matter what!”

pro rege

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

You’re Not Alone

Acts 4.23-37

Peter and John return with news of their first confrontation with the religious leaders. And while they weathered this first storm, they recognize their need for the Spirit’s enablement to courageously carry forward the mission in the face of fierce opposition. And so they pray. They are not alone. They not only have each other, but they also stand together with the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe on their side.

Once again, prayer is front and center for the Apostles. Is prayer your go-to in crisis? Is it something you need, or just something that you get around to after you’ve tried everything else? Are you praying for strength and courage to weather the storm, knowing that it’s in times of suffering and tragedy that our faith is most clearly on display, or are you just praying to escape the storm? Do you recognize that you’re not alone…that you have a community of believers that is here to support you, not to mention the Spirit of the living God who indwells you? Or are you trying to go it alone?

Meanwhile the early church continues to be a model of unity and love. There is a singleness of purpose in their pursuit of building the kingdom…telling others about Jesus and growing in their faith. Their love is expressed practically in meeting the needs of those within the community who are lacking.

Like the early church, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So how are we doing? How are we doing with loving each other and pursuing the kingdom together?

We are all called to be witnesses…to tell others about Jesus and how He has changed our lives. We are called to proclaim the awesomeness of the God we serve. That seems hard to do at times for a myriad of reasons. Maybe we don’t think about it…too self-absorbed, maybe we’re too busy, maybe we’re too afraid. Whatever the reason, take a moment now to confess it to God and then ask Him to give you the confidence to do what He has called you to do. 

Are you living a generous life…when you see a need, do you work to meet the need? Are you generous, not just with your resources but with your time and with you life? Are people more important than things…is Jesus really more satisfying than your stuff?

How are you doing with spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time daily with the Lord in prayer and the Word? Are you meeting with believing friends to encourage and pray for each other?

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

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

Transforming Families Part 2

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to learning more about Jesus, praying, worshiping, and enjoying a vibrant community life. They were also committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to others and God was powerfully at work through their testimony. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Values that inform both our mission, Transforming families to live and love like Jesus, and our strategy, Gather. Grow. Impact.

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. I hope you are as excited as we, the elders and staff, are about our vision. We want you to be all in.

I want to end with this…our new logo.

Stained glass windows have been around for centuries, and while their history is rooted in church tradition, they remain a timeless staple of beauty for future generations. As we move into the future we want to continue to be faithful to God, and to also remember how he has been faithful to our church for almost 60 years.

Regarding our Mission statement: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus…A defining attribute of stained glass is its ability to transform light into any color of its choice, much like how the Holy Spirit transforms our life as we are obedient to his will.

The church is one body made of many members with Jesus as the head. In a stained glass story, hundreds even thousands of unique pieces join together to create one image that conveys a story far greater than any individual piece can do alone. Even seemingly obtuse shapes have a place in the story, and if that piece is missing, the story is incomplete.

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 our Vision series entitled Transforming Families. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster