Cornelius’ Story Part 1

Acts 10.1-23a

Cornelius has a vision, Peter goes into a trance…little did these men know that God is in the midst of fulfilling His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The first Gentile is about to be symbolically welcomed into the kingdom in the book of Acts, opening the floodgates for the rapid expansion of the church to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

Once again we see God’s hand at work through the story. An angel appears to Cornelius saying send for Peter. After a perplexing vision, the Spirit tells Peter to go without misgivings. Just like with Ananias and Saul, another divine meet-and-great that will have monumental implications for the history of the church.

Jesus had proclaimed to the Apostles that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. And now approximately ten years later, the gospel has yet to break beyond the second level…Judea and Samaria. Up to now an almost entirely Jewish thing. But God’s putting the pieces in place. He’s working on a guy named Peter to turn his “By no means Lord” into welcoming the men from Cornelius in and giving them lodging…and eventually having fellowship with them in Cornelius’ house. He’s preparing a guy named Saul. The gates of hell stand no chance.

Peter doesn’t know yet what God is up to when He calls him to action, but just like Abraham, he has been chosen for a unique purpose. Just like Saul. Just like you and me.

But even then, Peter has to be pried away from looking at his circumstances from a how-does this-impact-me mindset…a mindset that leads him and us invariably to respond selfishly, even if, like Peter, we really want to please the Lord. We often fail to grasp the bigger picture and instead of trusting and obeying…simply saying “yes”, we say, “what about me?” or worse, “by no means Lord.”

We need to learn to resist resistance to respond to God with an open and willing heart. When we choose to follow Jesus we become part of the rebellion…an other worldly kingdom…whose mission it is to storm the gates of hell and crush the power of Satan, setting the captives free into the abundant life that God intends for them. It is not always about us. When we trust God, our agenda, purpose and motivation changes. And when we realize it is not about us, it frees us up to do His work. And when we know God because we have spent time with Him, we have the confidence to turn a prompting of the Lord into action for Him and His people. And when we do it again and again and again a warrior of faith emerges. His Spirit transforms us a little bit more to live and love like Jesus. One step at a time…from Lydda to Joppa, from Joppa to a tanner’s house, from a tanner’s house to Cornelius’ house. Each time Peter said yes, he looked more like Jesus. You will too. But we have to turn our “by no means Lord” into “yes Lord.”

You are here today because Peter unlocked the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. It all started because Peter welcomed a couple of “unclean” guys into his home. He trusted the Lord. He dropped his agenda. He opened his mind to the possibility that God could use him in that moment to transform lives. He extended his hand to simply turn the knob and open the door. You are also here today because someone else said “yes” to the Lord and shared the gospel with you. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you are here seeking, like Cornelius, start knocking. Talk to a friend about Jesus. And if you have already walked through that door and are following Jesus, say “yes” to Him…open your ears, open your heart and be ready and willing to be the one God uses to open the door for the next guy. Who is that for you? Is there someone in your life about whom you are saying, “by no means Lord”? God has chosen you for such a time as this. Pray, think, then act…try saying “yes” to the Lord instead.

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

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8.26-40

Philip shares his story and the good news of the gospel with both the crowds and with an individual. He is a faithful servant who obeys the will of His Master. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and invites us to join Him in that mission.

This story is a reminder that God cares about each one of us individually. Here He orchestrates events and circumstances so that both the eunuch and Philip are in the right place at the right time. He even provides the water so that the eunuch could be baptized…on a desert road.

Just as God orchestrated events in the eunuch’s life to bring him to faith, He has also worked in each one of us who have trusted in Him, orchestrating events, bringing the right person or persons at the right time to share with us the life-giving message of salvation in Jesus. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, this is one of those orchestrating events. It’s no accident or coincidence that you are reading this blog post…

And if you have trusted in Jesus, God wants to use you to impact the lives of those around you for the kingdom. Are you ready? Do you believe that the gospel is good news? That’s foundational. We have to believe that the gospel really is good news. If that’s true for you, have you taken the time to write down your story? Start there. Then ask God for opportunities to share your faith. But be warned…if you ask, He will give them to you. You don’t have to force it…you just have to be sensitive to what God is doing in the moment, and then be courageous in sharing your story.

I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel in large settings and one-on-one. Both are awesome, but I can tell you that the one-on-one settings are more challenging, yet more rewarding in a lot of ways. One-on-one I still get scared and have to pray for boldness…even as a pastor…but I’ve found that when I’m obedient and just say “yes” in the moment, that God is faithful to give me courage, and it ends up being an easy conversation…I don’t even feel like I have to drive. I’m just along for the ride. Sometimes when I’m talking to folks it’s a “no” when it comes to Jesus, sometimes I’ve found out later my conversation was one along the way that led to their trusting in Jesus, and sometimes I’ve gotten the awesome privilege of seeing someone trust in Jesus. My job is simply to be obedient.

How about you? Are you ready? Are you available? Will you be obedient?

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

Life Together

Acts 2.42-47

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.

Following Jesus is simple, not easy. The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, prayer and evangelism…practices that kept the early church on mission. Practices we’ve incorporated into our values as a church…renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Practices that keep us on mission as a church…believe it or not they’re on my wall so that whenever our staff or elders meet, we’re reminded of our values. Practices that I hope you have woven into your spiritual life as well.

Like this early group of new disciples, 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 I wonder what folks would say about us? Would they see that our faith is making a difference in our lives? Would the quality of our life together and the positive impact that we are having on the valley cause us to have favor with all the people?

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make daily time in God’s Word and prayer a part of your spiritual disciplines.

Be generous in your giving. When you see a need, meet a need. You don’t need permission. Look for opportunities…excuses to give.

If you are not a part of a community group yet, remember that’s our primary vehicle for growing. Find a group of friends to gather with on a regular basis…pray, study the Word, dig into each others’ lives, challenge and encourage each other.

Don’t forget your impact list…who is that one person you are praying for?

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

The Ascension Revisited

Acts 1.1-11

Jesus’ last words to His Apostles are His final instructions for the church. Until He returns we have a job to do. We are to be His witnesses…to share the good news of the salvation we have in Jesus. And our job is not done until we go to be with Him or He comes for us.

In Luke 19.11-27, Jesus tells the parable of the minas. A nobleman going off to receive a kingdom gives each of his slaves a mina which they are to invest until he comes back. When he returns, he calls three of his slaves forward to report what kind of return they had on their investments. The first slave exclaims, “Master, your mina made ten minas more…isn’t that awesome!?!. The King’s response, “That it is. Well done good slave…you will be ruler over ten cities.” The second slave made five minas. The King puts him in charge of five cities. But the third slave said, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” The King’s reaction, “You worthless slave…at least you could have put my money in the bank, so that I might have it back with interest.”And his one mina is taken away. The mina in the parable is the gospel. Our King has entrusted each of us with the message of the gospel, and each of us will have to give an accounting to Him of how we invested the gospel in the lives of others when He returns.

Jesus is coming back. Until He does, our work is not done. So let’s invest our minas well. The Spirit is the One who empowers us to tell our stories…to bear witness…of the impact that the gospel has made in our lives and to share the hope that we have in Jesus with a lost and dying world in desperate need of saving…

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

Drawing Near to God

Hebrews 10.19-25

The author of Hebrews writes to encourage Christians not to abandon the faith, but rather to endure persecution and draw near to God. He wants to spur them on to love and good deeds. Jesus is the Son of God. The only way to Salvation. As Hebrews shows us, Jesus is greater than anything and everything in all of creation. Jesus is the One to whom every prophecy and every symbol in the OT points. He is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Jesus reigns supreme. Problems and persecutions may come, but since we have Jesus let’s keep the faith, and draw near to God. He’s got some amazing things planned.

Twice in this passage we read “…since we have…” That’s an awesome statement…It’s what’s ours…what has already been secured for us…what is true about us…

The first “since we have” is “…since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…” Now that’s a big deal. You see the “holy place” was the room in the temple where the ark of the covenant was kept, where the mercy seat was, and the place where God’s presence was said to have dwelt above the cherubim (Exodus 25.10-22, Numbers 7.89, Hebrews 9.3-5). Only the high priest could enter the holy place and that once a year to offer sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9.7). It was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge veil (Exodus 26.31-37, Hebrews 9.3). So while folks could still come to God in faith and cry out to Him in prayer like David or Daniel or Jeremiah, full access to God was limited and forgiveness was only symbolic (Hebrews 10.1-10).

But now we have full access to God and true forgiveness of sins…why? Because of Jesus. Because He died so that we might live. The Innocent for the guilty. We can gather together and celebrate our life as a church because of His work on the cross two-thousand years ago. The Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the people.

In the upper room as He was celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” The new covenant of Jeremiah 31.31-34 (Ezekiel 36.25-27)…new heart and the Spirit dwelling in everyone who believes. But first sin had to be atoned for, the blood of the Perfect Passover Lamb had to be shed. Jesus’ death brings the new covenant in to play, allowing us to confidently approach the Father…when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two signifying that He had cleared the way (Luke 23.45), a new and living way. A way based not on bringing sacrifices for sin year after year, but a way that rests in the one perfect sacrifice that Jesus, the One who died and is now alive, has secured for us.

The second “since we have” is “…since we have a great priest over the house of God…” The high priest was kind of a go-between…representing God to the people, and the people to God. So now not only is Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice, the Ultimate Passover Lamb, but He’s also the Great High Priest who intercedes for His people (Hebrews 5). I don’t know about you, but that’s good news for me. That Jesus intercedes with the Father on my behalf… And because Jesus is both Perfect Sacrifice and Perfect High Priest, we can have confidence when we approach God, not in ourselves or in our own abilities or the things we’ve done, but in Jesus…who He is and what He’s done. In Him and in Him alone.

Because of the confidence we have in Jesus, the author of Hebrews says three times, “…let us…” The “let us” is important because following Jesus is not just an individual pursuit. We are to run after Him together. And we have a plan for doing just that. A strategy if you will. We call it Gather, Grow, Impact.  And it just so happens that each one lines up with these “let us” statements.

“…let us consider how to provoke/stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” In other words let us GATHER. The author of Hebrews says we gather to provoke each other…now not in a bad way, but in a good way. We provoke each other to love and good deeds by encouraging one another. Following Jesus is not a solo gig. It’s what we do as a tribe. We run after Him together. Our weekend services are our main opportunity to Gather. It’s a time that we sing praises to our God, we celebrate communion, we hear the Word taught, we fellowship together. Now there are all kinds of reasons and excuses to forsake the “assembling together”, but it’s hazardous to do so. It’s dangerous to your spiritual walk…you are more vulnerable alone. Paul describes the church as a body and Peter uses the imagery of a spiritual house. We need each other. Not only are you more vulnerable alone, but we are also less effective when you’re not here. There has to be an “all in-ness” to our life together. That’s not just in our worship together, but also in how we serve one another and how we invest in the kingdom together.

“…let us draw near with a true/sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Let us GROW. We are to intentionally pursue our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. We don’t just stumble into it. There has to be a turning away from sin and a turning toward Jesus . Our hearts have been cleansed…we have been set free. So we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Our mission statement is: Transforming families to live and love like Jesus. We know that that is something we cannot do on our own…only the Spirit can transform us as individuals and as a church. But God invites us into that process of transformation…He invites us to draw near to Him in prayer and time spent in His Word and fellowship with each other, and as we do that, the Spirit transforms us to live and love like Jesus a little more each day.

“…let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” So what is the “confession of our hope”? Our hope, as believers, is the resurrection. It’s the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the kingdom. It’s an eternity spent worshiping, celebrating and enjoying our Triune God in bodies that no longer break down or wear out, in a place where there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. Perfect peace, joy, bliss, seeing our Savior face to face and delighting in the Father. The confession is our testimony…our belief that what God has promised He will fulfill. Our belief that the Hero has come and saved the day, and that we will reign with Him forever. So let persecution come, let suffering come, let the world crumble around us…our God will not fail us. He is faithful. So let us not fail Him by doubting or allowing our confidence in Him to be shaken. No matter what happens. And because we have this hope, we should share it with others. So lets make an IMPACT.

My prayer for us as a church is that we would always provoke each other to love and good deeds, that we would continually draw near to God, intentionally pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, and that we would hold fast our confession, being a light and a beacon of hope in our community, being generous with our time and with our resources, anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

A Plentiful Harvest

Luke 10.1-24

News of the kingdom spreads through the missionary efforts of the 70. While the threat of rejection is very real, still the harvest is plentiful. We need more workers for the harvest.

Not only were these disciples to be workers in the harvest, they were to pray that God would raise up more workers…folks who, having responded to the message of the kingdom, would themselves become workers reaching out to others. That process continues today. If you are a believer, then you are one of the workers that someone else prayed for. Who are you praying for? Who do you have on your impact list? Who can you bring one step closer to Jesus?

You see workers in the harvest are not a special class of believer…discipleship is what we are all called to. Jesus doesn’t make a distinction between different categories of believers…we do. So everyone who trusts in Jesus is to be about the harvest…sharing the message of the gospel and helping others grow in their faith. Christianity is not a spectator sport…it’s full contact. It’s down in the trenches. It’s reflecting Jesus to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teammates, or anyone else that God brings across your path. Some will accept and some will reject. The kingdom is coming…those who accept will be citizens of the kingdom. Those who reject will be with those who oppose the kingdom and will not escape judgment.

The time is short. If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, today is the day. Now is the opportunity. Don’t wait. Come to Jesus as a child…simply trusting in Him to rescue you. Then you too can rejoice that your name is recorded in heaven.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven 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

Next Generation Ministry

Luke 9.1-11

First solo mission for the 12. The first opportunity to flex their ministry muscles. The first time to cast out the net for a catch. Jesus gives them the ability and right to do what He does, then He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, giving them works to back up their words. Travelling light, they depend on God for their needs and bring the good news to all who will hear.

When was your first solo mission? Have you begun to flex your ministry muscles yet? Who have you told about Jesus? Just as Jesus empowered the disciples before sending them out on mission, He has also empowered us by giving us His Spirit and fellow believers to equip us and prepare us to accomplish His mission…making disciples. We call it transforming families to live and love like Jesus.

If you haven’t taken your first spin, don’t wait. There are lots of opportunities to serve. By now, hopefully you have put together an impact list…folks that God’s placed in your sphere of influence whom you can help take one step closer to Jesus. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom to them. Take a risk. You may not do it perfectly…that’s ok. God uses regular folks like us to accomplish His mission.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve been serving and sharing the gospel for a while now, maybe it’s time for you to take someone else under your wing and bring them along. Show them the ropes and then turn them loose.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s join Jesus on His mission this week of transforming families to live and love like Him.”

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