Who Is My Neighbor?

Luke 10.25-37

The 2 great commandments…love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Love God and love those made in His image. Impossible to do without God working in us to produce that kind of love…love of God produces love of others, so loving others shows our love of God. Only those who have received God’s mercy can show that same mercy to others. John says it this way, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

When the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” he is attempting to define his circle and then build fences to take care of his own. If he can identify who his neighbor is, then he can also identify who his neighbor is not. His question really is, “Who am I required to love? What’s the minimum I can do and still get by?” How often do we ask that same question? It reflects, not love for others, but love of ourselves. The kingdom of me.

Jesus transforms the lawyer’s question to a call to action…who can I be a neighbor to? The Samaritan went to great lengths to serve the man in need. Very costly…time, money, convenience, etc. How we respond to the needs of folks we come in contact with every day, our impact list, especially when those needs are unscheduled and unexpected…what we might call interruptions…is a pretty good indication of how we’re doing in loving our neighbor. Do we see those interruptions as opportunities or distractions? Do we see folks as in need or in the way? Do we show compassion toward others or indifference? Are we generous with our time and our resources? If not, why not?

Maybe it’s a lack of margin that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we’ve so packed our schedules that we simply don’t have time to help those in need, or we’ve so over-extended ourselves financially that we don’t the resources to help. Spend some time asking God to help you create some margin in your life. Ask for wisdom of what you need to say “no” to in order that you can say “yes” when needs arise.

Maybe it’s hardness of heart that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we simply lack compassion and mercy for people. We get fed up with people and their perceived lack of judgment and perpetual bad decisions. Why did the man knowingly go down a dangerous road? Hardness of heart is dangerous…we can only show mercy if we’ve received mercy. If we don’t show mercy, it could be an indication that we ourselves need God’s mercy. At a minimum we have a heart problem. Ask God to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart. Ask Him to help you show compassion.

Maybe it’s selfishness, laziness or pride that keeps us from loving our neighbor…we are too busy building our own kingdoms, focusing on our own comfort, avoiding inconvenience. Our gaze is fixed inward instead of outward. Pray that God will open your eyes to the needs around you.

The way we respond to those in need is a pretty good indication of where we are on the “loving God” scale. So how are you doing? If we want to live and love like Jesus, the question for us is not, “Who is my neighbor?” but “Am I neighbor to the person in need?”

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be neighbors to those we find in need this week.”

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

Ready or Not

Luke 3.1-14

John’s goal is to prepare a people ready for God’s salvation that comes through Jesus. His message is hope for the spiritually hungry, but a stern warning for the unrepentant. With the day of hope, comes the day of judgment as well…with the opportunity of promise comes the risk of rejecting the promise.

Just like John’s audience, we too need to be prepared. What needs to change? What then shall we do? For some of us, there are some barriers to faith that need to be removed…some things that we need to turn from or let go of so that we can lay hold of God. Judgment is coming…and it will be a day of wrath for those who are God’s enemies. The only One who can rescue is Jesus, but you have to have a personal encounter with Him. Your friends’ faith, your parents’ faith, your spouse’s faith…none of that can save you. There are no +1’s in the kingdom. But you may be saying, “You don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve done”…there ain’t no mountain high enough, there ain’t no valley low enough, there ain’t no road too crooked, no heart to wicked that Jesus can’t save… But you have to choose to believe that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life, the one we were supposed to have lived, He died a sacrificial death in our place, He was resurrected on the 3rd day conquering both sin and death, and that He is now at the right hand of God the Father. By believing that, the Bible says that you are saved.

For some of us, we may say we’ve believed, but there has been no real change in our lives. If so, there’s a problem…because Jesus changes everything. Paul says you’ve passed from death to life. You are a new creation. You’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. If nothing’s changed… Things won’t likely change all at once, but you should see some kind of growth in your desire for God and the things of God. You should see some change in character (fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, etc.). Either you haven’t truly believed, or like the weeds in the parable of the soils, the cares of this world are choking out the fruit. I would challenge you to take some time today to examine your life. Ask the Spirit to bring to light what needs to change…what’s keeping you from Jesus?

For some of us, we’ve believed and we’ve seen some changes…some fruit but we want to see more. Continue to pursue your relationship with Jesus. Last week we talked about Grow and discipleship. Join a community group or another group where you can study the Word together, pray together, encourage and challenge each other, where you can make much of Jesus. Find a place to serve. Prepare the way for others. Your impact list is a great place to start. What can you do to bring those around you one step closer to Jesus?

Ready or not, Jesus is coming.

Until next time…stay salty.

The psalmist challenges us…“Search me of God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way within me and lead me in the everlasting way.” Ask God to search you and reveal anything that might be keeping you from Him.

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

He Is Risen!

Matthew 28.1-17

Both the women and the guards are witnesses to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. But two wildly different conclusions…Jesus is alive…fear and joy, resurgence of faith and hope reborn, eternal life, reconciliation of heaven and earth… or Jesus is dead…fear and trembling, deception and despair, death…

Resurrection proves…Jesus was the Hero (Messiah) He claimed to be…Jesus resurrection set him apart from other religious leaders, viz. Muhammad, Gandhi, Buddha, Moses…, His death did in fact satisfy God’s just punishment/the penalty for sin, Jesus is able to raise us to spiritual life, Jesus will give us eternal life. And as He promised, He will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Do you know this Jesus? Who are you in the story? The women or the guards?

Friday I told the story of three trees that each had aspirations of greatness…one to be a box holding great treasure, one a mighty ship sailing the seas and one to be the tallest of trees pointing to the Creator. But when the woodsmen came, their hopes and dreams were dashed. The first tree had been made into a feeding trough, the second into a flimsy boat and the third into lumber.

Just like the trees, the disciples despaired. Hope was gone. Jesus hung lifeless on the cross. But just as the cross was not the end of Jesus’ story, so the story of the trees continues.

“Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world. – The Tale of Three Trees

The resurrection changes everything! The disciples went from despair to radically changing the world. Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

If you find yourself in the place of the women in the story…you believe that Jesus is alive then your job is to proclaim that good news (that the long-awaited Hero has come) to those in your circle of influence who don’t know the hope of the gospel. If you find yourself in the place of the guards in the story…I would invite you to reconsider. Today could be the day that you pass from death to life.

So with new meaning…Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

A Journey’s End

Genesis Wrap-up

Genesis begins with a man in a garden enjoying perfect fellowship with God…it ends with a man in a coffin…a haunting picture of the terrible consequences of sin introduced when we revolted against our Maker. Death has invaded our world and taken us all captive. Yet hope remains alive because of the faith of the man in the coffin. God would one day send a Hero to rescue us and provide a way back to the garden and perfect fellowship with Him. The amazing news today is…the Hero has come.

Jesus, God’s only Son, came and lived a perfect life…a life totally in tune and dependent on His Father. He died a bloody, horrible, sacrificial death. Was raised the third day proving that He had conquered both sin and death and ascended to the right hand of the Father. By faith in Him, the Bible says that we like Adam and Noah, Abraham and Joseph, can be declared righteous…not because of anything that we have done, but because of what Jesus did. He is the Genesis 3.15 Head-crushing Seed of the woman…the innocent dying for the guilty so that the guilty could be declared innocent.

The God of Genesis is a God who loves deeply, who creates and restores, who rescues and guides, who redeems evil. He is the Bringer of hope. He is the God who blesses…bless and blessing mentioned more in Genesis than anywhere else in the Bible. He is gracious and merciful…but He is also just and He will punish those who reject Him.

Like the ancient Hebrews, we need to be reminded that we are God’s image-bearers. Although that image was marred through the fall, we are still of infinite value. You are of infinite value to Him. You are no accident. Do you believe that? I think if we truly did, we would behave differently. The proof of your value is the price paid to redeem you…the eternal Son of God. Only by trusting in Jesus can the image truly be restored and your purpose truly be realized. Make today the day.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster