The River and Tree of Life aka Back to the Garden

Revelation 22.1-5

John finishes his description of the new heaven and the new earth with a trip back to the garden. Or maybe better a trip forward to the garden. The river and tree of life. The removal of the curse. God’s presence. Seeing Him face to face. Serving Him. Ruling and reigning with Him forever.

But now we live in this in-between time…in between the time of Jesus’ ascension and His return…where life seems to be crashing down around us because of sin and death and the effects of the curse. In this in-between space where the consequences of our own sin…we might call it compromise…and the sin of others, especially persecution, impact us in often tragic ways, we can’t forget that our hope is not in this broken world. Let me say that one more time…our hope is not in this broken world. I think we forget that. We are just sojourners passing through, on our way home.

As I was thinking about that, it struck me…this world is like a burning house. Hang with me for a minute. When you see a house on fire, you don’t go in to rearrange the furniture. You don’t settle in and make yourself comfortable. Nope. You grab the first person you see and pull them out. Then you go back and grab one more. And then you go back and grab one more… Our job is to keep pulling folks out of the fire until God calls us home. To storm the gates of hell until we see our Savior fact to face. To share our story with those around us, investing our mina until the King returns. No…our hope is not in this broken world, but in a new one, a re-created one where Jesus is reigning. So Don’t give up on your faith. Don’t give in to the pressure of this world. Don’t forget…Jesus wins.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21.9-27

The New Jerusalem. A city beyond our wildest dreams. More beautiful and breathtaking than anything we’ve ever seen or even imagined. The home of a redeemed Israel, and the destination of believers from the nations who bring their glory into it. Diamond walls, pearly gates, radiant jewels and streets of gold…

A strong contrast to Babylon and the fate of those who aligned themselves with that city. Those who chose rebellion over submission, subjecting over serving, the dragon over the Lamb.

Again John reminds us of what we are hoping for…why we don’t give up or give in. Jesus wins, and this is what winning looks like. More than we could have ever truly hoped for or expected. A good reminder in the world we live in today that is nothing like that. A world where pain and suffering, the ugliness of sin in all of its manifestations is so obvious. Where maybe most days we feel beat down and trampled under foot. We need to be reminded…we need to be encouraged…not to give up or give in. The kingdom will be worth it.

But only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be there. And your name will only be in the book if you have trusted in Jesus, so if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, please don’t wait. It’s as simple as admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Believing that Jesus came to save you from your sin. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on your behalf, and was raised the third day, so that you might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life and might walk in the light of His glory in the kingdom forever.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

Lament for Babylon

Revelation 18.9-24

Babylon has fallen, and the kings of the earth, the merchants and the seafaring peoples will all mourn over her…not for what it means for her, but for what it means for them. And while those who participate in her wickedness mourn, the righteous will rejoice.

One day every wrong will be righted. Truth will prevail. Good will crush evil. Sin will be atoned for. But until that day we live in a time of waiting. Patient endurance. We don’t like it. And like the martyrs under the altar, we too cry out, “How long?” But God’s patience is mercy. It allows time for repentance. For those far from Him to come to Him…through Jesus. And during this time of waiting, He calls us to be investing…investing our mina. Sharing our story. The hope that we have found in Jesus. Telling them about Him. That’s why we’re still here…waiting. Longing for Him to come back. So don’t give up. And don’t give in. He’ll be here soon enough. 

If you are one of those who have not yet trusted in Jesus, please don’t wait. The world as we know it is quickly coming to an end. Soon all the vain things that you have been pursuing will be no more. But the things that remain…the eternal things, the unshakable things…they can be yours. It’s as simple as admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Believing that Jesus came to save you from your sin. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on your behalf, and was raised the third day, so that you might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life and that you might reign with Him forever.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

Babylon is Fallen

Revelation 18.1-8

The unthinkable has happened…Babylon is fallen. Though her kingdom seemed to be impregnable and her self-proclaimed reign absolute, her judgment is swift and her doom sure. So come out of her lest you share in her downfall.

It’s disturbing to think that believers would have to be warned to flee Babylon…a city described as the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth”, and yet it’s not altogether surprising. Let’s be honest with ourselves…too many of us compromise far too often in far too many areas of our lives. And while we’re being honest…some of those who are the closest to us might be the most surprised to find out that we are Christians based on the way we conduct ourselves at work or school or in social settings, etc.

But it shouldn’t be that way…and it doesn’t have to be. We can’t save ourselves, and we can’t change ourselves…only the Spirit can do that. But He will only do that as we allow Him to. There is a divine partnership involved. We talked about it when we were going through Romans. Saying “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to all the other junk. That looks like…time in God’s Word everyday, praying throughout the day, spending time with other believers as often as possible, sharing my story with those who haven’t yet trusted in Jesus and living a generous life. Beginning to live my life in light of the truth that I am no longer who I used to be. I really have passed from death to life. And now I have the opportunity to live like it. Motivated, not by fear of stepping out of line, but out of love for the One who first loved me.

So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins…and that means that you do to.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, please don’t wait. You too need to get out of Babylon before it’s too late. It’s as simple as admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Believing that Jesus came to save you from your sin. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on your behalf, and was raised the third day, so that you might have forgiveness of sins, eternal life and a place in His kingdom.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

Some Mother’s Day Wisdom

James 3.13-18

Much of what James says here about the wisdom from above echoes what Jesus said in the beatitudes, which in turn comes straight out of the OT. Shouldn’t surprise us…because it’s the wisdom that comes from God. From His Word.

So moms, if you want to be wise, spend time in God’s Word. Make it a daily habit. Ask God to use it to change you…to change the way you think, to change the way you see the world around you, to change your attitude and your responses to those around you, to transform you to live and love like Jesus.

That’s not just good for moms. It’s good for all of us.

Moms…you have the incredible responsibility of caring for your kids, and one of the most significant of  your responsibilities when it comes to raising them is not only the time you spend in God’s Word, but also passing it on to your kids by training them up in the fear and admonition of the LORD…teaching them by your words and example to follow God and love Him with their whole heart. That’s where prayer and Bible stories and taking them to church and a lived-out faith come into play.

The world is interested in performance, appearance and influence, and we as parents can fall into that same trap…putting too much pressure on our kids to be the best student or athlete or most popular kid on campus. Making them earn our favor. Moms…pray for God’s help in placing value on the things that God does. Show your kids that their value comes from pleasing God, not from their achievements. 

Moms…as much as you want to, you cannot protect your kids from everything forever. So, take advantage of every one of those teachable moments. Teach your kids to be in the world, but not of the world. You won’t always do it perfectly, and your kids won’t always respond the way that you would have hoped, but moms, when you have done all that you know to do, continue to pray for your kids and be in the Word. You won’t always see the fruit of your labor…it may not seem like it’s “taking”, but remember…when they are in distress, when they are alone, when their worlds are crumbling they will remember what their momma taught them. So take courage.

Finally, Moms…know that your church family wants to support you as you raise your kids. We want them to see this place as their second home. We want them to have lots of examples of folks who are following Jesus as best as they can. If you are a single mom, we want to give them godly men to look to as an example. We want to pray alongside you for their spiritual, emotional and physical protection. We know how difficult it is to navigate this crazy world as a mom and we want to be here for you as a sounding board and prayer warriors.

If you can, thank your mom today for all she has done…give her a hug, send her a text, make a phone call… and let her know how much you love her and that you appreciate all that she has done for you.

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This post is based on our Mother’s Day sermon. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

The Beast from the Sea

Revelation 13.1-10

A terrifying beast with all the power, dominion and authority of the dragon behind him wages war with the saints and overcomes them. And he causes all the earth-dwellers, all those who have not trusted in Jesus, to worship him. Who is like the beast and who can make war with him? The King of kings and Lord of lords aka a Guy named Jesus. That’s who.

As we are going through Revelation, there are two different lenses through which we see the world: one earthly and one heavenly. On earth…seemingly total chaos with the enemy apparently winning. Waging war and overcoming. And if you are a Jesus-follower…not looking too good for you. Sure looks like you picked the wrong side.

In heaven…God is in complete control. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The enemy and his minions may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited…the kingdom will come and God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Then all the kingdoms of this world will be judged… In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. Good triumphs over evil. Jesus wins.

With that in mind, what are we to do? Simple. We are to live our lives as a citizens of the eternal kingdom right now, today. To influence others by our uncompromising faith. And come what may…to faithfully persevere. Remember that suffering comes before glory. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

War in Heaven, Persecution on Earth

Revelation 12.7-17

We said this last week, but in the cosmic conflict…the heavenly war that is raging…there are only two sides. You are either for the King or against Him. There is no middle ground. And there’s only One/one to whom you can fall on your knees. Either the true King or the pretender. The tricky thing is…the pretender is good at what he does. Pretending. He’s a deceiver, so often while it might look like he’s winning…our world in chaos…the truth is, he’s a defeated foe. He’s already lost.

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. We, as believers, overcome because Jesus overcame. He has already done the heavy lifting. He defeated Satan at the cross…the basis for accusation was taken away. And now our job is to share our story…the word of our testimony…about how Jesus rescued us and brought us from death to life.

The final piece of that overcoming is not loving our lives even when faced with death. Sounds a lot like Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 16.24-26, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” It means that we love God more. We love Him more than anyone or anything. He has our greatest devotion, and He is our highest good.

It means that we live a life worthy of the calling with which we have been called. That’s not always easy to do. And when we do, get ready…opposition won’t be far behind.

And when the world persecutes us, it sure doesn’t look or feel like we are on the winning side. The pressure to conform to this world is everywhere present, and the fear of persecution is real. But that’s when we have to remember that we are no more like Jesus than when we are being persecuted for His sake. That’s when we truly overcome.

So we don’t give up, and we don’t give in…why? Because we know that Jesus wins.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store.

All In: Grow

Nehemiah 4

The work on the wall had been started, and like everything in life, the Israelites face challenges. Their enemies want them to fail, and the people themselves are overwhelmed by the size and scale of the project.

It’s not easy when the Lord stretches us, but He wants to use us to fulfill His purposes for His Glory. Many times we face opposition, resistance, or overwhelming circumstances, just like Nehemiah and the folks in Jerusalem. Had they continued to look at their surroundings instead of trusting in God, they would not have completed their task. Neither will we.

God is the same today, and He still wants to grow us. 

Sometimes the hardest thing is starting. So let me encourage you to resolve to do something that takes you one step closer to Jesus in 2022. Maybe that’s following our reading plan through the OT on the Central app. Maybe it’s joining a community group. Or serving. Or sharing your story with a friend or co-worker or classmate. Or committing to being more generous. 

Growth and change aren’t easy but if we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will lead us through.

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

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

All In: Transforming Families

Nehemiah 3

Let’s consecrate our work to the Lord. More than that, let’s consecrate ourselves to Him (Ro. 12.1-2). God is in the transforming business…transforming lives…transforming families to live and love like Jesus. So whether you are at work or serving here at the church, look for opportunities to share, encourage, equip…Don’t forget Who it is you serve and why you’re serving Him. Then, like Nehemiah, you will be able to give Him the glory He is due for the success that He brings.

The point of God’s work in the church is not just to get from point A to point B, but to get everybody from point A to point B. Like a family.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

Love in God’s Presence

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 is very selfish and self-serving. A love that does not save him because it can not. Jesus is a real threat to Herod because he knows what’s at stake. If Herod doesn’t believe that Jesus could indeed be a king…the King…he has nothing to worry about. But if Jesus is the King, then Herod’s not…and his kingdom falls. His response? Hatred and rejection.

The Magi’s love is other-worldly…they give their allegiance to Someone far greater than any earthly king…their King’s arrival is announced by the heavens. A star points the way. The Magi’s love leads them to extraordinary lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they can’t help but worship Him. They bring costly gifts…another expression of their love. In Him, they have found an object worthy of great pursuit…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. Their response? Worship and adoration…love.

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 is between 5-6 miles…nothing in comparison to the 900 miles the Magi have 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, it sounds like you are giving your affections to people or things that are destined to disappoint you.

Or is Jesus the object of your affections? Is love for Him causing you to be selfless and others-oriented? Is it causing you to want to pursue Him? Would folks who know you well agree? How about those who don’t know you so well? In other words, is it obvious? If so, it will be clearly seen in the way you love others…

1 John 3.16-18 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

May you experience Love in God’s Presence this Christmas season.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: Christmas at Central. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.