Happy Birthday Jesus!

Luke 2.1-21

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. Jesus is not only the long-awaited 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 His coming, and the shepherds catch the excitement. The people are amazed, and Mary ponders. So what will you do? Do you know Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If so, are you experiencing the joy that salvation brings? Do you have a sense of excitement about the Word you’ve heard? 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 robbed you of your joy and excitement? Spend some time this week, like Mary, pondering the truth of God’s Word and the amazing realization of your rescue. It really is good news. Ask God to reignite that fire in your belly, that excitement about following Him.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord today, I want to invite you to take that 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. 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.

 

 May we experience afresh and anew the uncontainable joy and excitement that salvation brings, and may we share that joy with others as we tell them about Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Divine Pronouncement

Luke 1.26-38

Mary’s obedience…her submission to the Lord’s will reminds me of a contrast that Soren Kierkegaard made when he was wrestling with Genesis 22 in his essay, Fear and Trembling, between the knight of faith and the knight of infinite resignation. The knight of infinite resignation obeys God purely out of a sense of duty and obligation. He does what’s required, but only because it’s required. The knight of faith also obeys and does what’s required, but he or she does so with joy and expectancy. We will see next week…Mary is definitely the knight of faith.

This is the greatest news ever…since the time of the fall, the people of God have been looking for the promised Head-crushing Seed of the woman. The Hero who would come to rescue them and lead them back to the garden and restore their relationship with Creator God. And now He’s here!

Mary is an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Messiah from an earthly perspective…in this age of celebrity we might have expected someone more prestigious, someone more connected, a little more flash or a bigger deal, not a young, poor small town girl. I’m glad God’s not caught up in the things that we are. I’m glad that He always redefines our view of family and grace. He sees her humble heart, that she’s poor in spirit…she’s desperately craving His grace. She was reflective…pondering the angel’s words, believing and submissive. She’s a great example for us.

God is fulfilling His promise to David, and not just to David, but to all His people from the time of the fall…we can trust God to fulfill promises today. Promises of everlasting life and an eternal kingdom, of His presence with us. Only God can accomplish these things…He can do great things and use whomever He chooses to accomplish His purpose however He wishes. You are not insignificant in God’s design…in His plan to reach the valley. From an earthly perspective, Mary was a nobody from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere, but not so from the heavenly perspective. She had a significant role to play in God’s plan of redemption, so do you. He wants to use you to impact the folks around you for His kingdom.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost … He comes to a needy people…those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and need for a Rescuer, not the proud and self-sufficient. Do you recognize your desperate need for Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Setting the Stage

Luke 1.1-4

Who is Jesus, and why is He a big deal…why is He important? He’s the long awaited Jewish Messiah…He didn’t just show up one day on a dusty Jewish road and say, “I think I’ll die for the world today.” He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah…the Head-crushing Seed of the woman from Genesis 3.15. He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah…the Descendant of Abraham, the One through whom ultimately all the families of the earth will be blessed from Genesis 12. He’s the anticipated Lion of the tribe of Judah from Genesis 49, the One from whom the scepter will not depart. He’s the Greater Prophet than Moses from Deuteronomy 18. He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Son of David and the expected King from 2 Samuel 7. He’s Isaiah’s Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53. He’s Daniel’s Son of Man who rides the clouds and receives an everlasting kingdom from the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7. He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah…the Perfect Son of Man and the Son of God. He IS God. He’s our Hero, our Savior, our only hope of rescue and reconciliation with our Creator God. Through His life, death and resurrection He has not only defeated sin and death, but He’s also given us life…eternal life. Luke, writing to a guy named Theophilus, endeavors to answer these questions. Luke challenges Theophilus to examine the evidence and draw his own conclusions. But it doesn’t stop there. Having examined the evidence, Luke wants Theophilus to be changed…to be transformed to live and love like Jesus. As we go through this series, I’m going to challenge us to do the same thing…examine the evidence. Who is Jesus, and why is He important to me? What impact is He having on my life? How is He transforming me to live and love like Him?

I hope that we spend time personally reflecting on the passage each week, praying through and examining the evidence for ourselves. Ask and answer the question: What difference is Jesus making in my life? How do I live my life as I follow Jesus?

I’m excited about our time together examining the evidence to learn more about who Jesus is and the revolution He came to bring. I’m excited to be a part of His revolution…a rescue mission to seek and save the lost, to reconcile heaven and earth, to bring life from the dead, to storm the gates of hell and rescue the captives held there. To share a gospel not only with spiritual ramifications, but one that works itself out on the physical plane in love for our neighbor in unexpected, radical and generous ways.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

NT Reading – May 11

Acts 10

Cornelius’s Vision

Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.

17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” 21 Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” 23 So he invited them in and gave them lodging.

Peter at Caesarea

And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. 29 That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.”

30 Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Gentiles Hear Good News

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

A Message of Joy

As I thought about this idea of “The Ultimate Christmas Story,” I couldn’t help but think about my own love for good stories. Good stories have a way of pulling the listener into its world. In a good story you feel what the characters feel and experience the raw emotions that the plot dictates. Every story, both good and bad, sends the listener away with some kind of emotional feeling. I personally like stories that send me away feeling good and joyful inside. I’m not a fan of sad endings or unresolved conflicts; instead I like happy endings and clear conflict resolution.

What I love about the Bible is that it is a big, epic story, with a happy ending! Not only that, but it’s a story that all people throughout all of time participate in. The interesting thing about this story is that we know in advance how it ends. If you fast-forward to the book of Revelation you will see that the Bible ends with two major events. (1) God resolves the great conflict that sin brought upon the world. He rights all the wrongs of creation. (2) He throws a great party in celebration of heavens victory.

These two future events will be marked by one overwhelming emotion, and that emotion is JOY. In Revelation 19 we get a glimpse of the great joy associated with the Bible’s happy ending. We read that multitudes upon multitudes are so overwhelmed with joy that four times they shout out “Hallelujah!” Their resounding Hallelujah is so powerful that the heavens shake at the sound of their voices. Revelations 19:6 says it this way: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.’”

The great joy of this future day will be so overwhelming that all the sorrow we have ever experienced in this present world will simply vanish. Jesus compares the joy of this future day to the joy of childbirth. He says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:19-24 ESV)

The sorrow that we experience now will be completely overpowered by the joy of this future day. Every doubt, every hurt, every regret, every fear, and every sorrow will disappear at the sight of Jesus. This day will be unlike any other day in our entire existence.

The question is, are you ready for this day? Are you ready to see Jesus? Will you be welcomed into His joy? These are questions only you can answer.

Ricky

The Lion & The Lamb – A Message of Peace

What comes to your mind when you think of the word Peace?

Do you picture a young sleeping baby? A dancing hippy and a Volkswagen van? Maybe you see a Miss America pageant contestant promising to pursue world peace?

Peace is when we experience calm and harmony instead of conflict. We all want peace – inner peace, peace in our relationships, world peace – and the Bible promises a time of perfect peace.

But we are a world in conflict with the Creator. Because of this, we don’t experience peace in our relationships and we suffer inner conflict and anxiety as we respond to the conflict we live in.

True peace is only possible when King Jesus institutes perfect justice, and there will never be perfect lasting peace in this world until there is an end to the rebellion against the King. To experience true peace, you must allow him to be the strong, protective Lion with total authority in your life, and you must depend on Him as the sacrificial lamb that takes away your sin and comforts you in your affliction.

If you depend on Jesus to be your Lion and your Lamb you will experience peace in three ways.

On the day of Judgment you can have confidence that you will be at peace with God. The apostle Paul writes, ”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

Youll be able to cling to the hope of eternal peace to calm your inner conflict. The promise of eternal peace has the power to quiet your inner anxieties, fears, and struggles. You won’t give up or give in if you remember that Jesus wins. You can have confidence that this temporal conflict is part of God’s greater purpose for ultimate peace. We know that He only allows it in order to draw more people to Him, and to help us be more like Him. One day we will live in harmony with God.

Youll experience more peace in your earthly relationships. We can trust God to do what is right, and to treat us better than we deserve, so we don’t need to avenge ourselves or live with bitterness towards others. Instead, as we do all that is in our control to be at peace with all people we find out the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

This Christmas season, remember that peace is possible when you follow Jesus as King and depend on him as Savior.

Andrew

The Return of the King – A Message of Hope

As we enter the advent season, let’s remember to be mindful of both Advents. Yes, we celebrate the birth, life, ministry, atoning work on the cross and the Resurrection of Jesus our risen Lord, but we must also be mindful of His return.

As Christians, we live between the times of the First Advent and the Second Advent.

We affirm that Christ has come, He is present in the world today, and He will return as King in glory and power.

In Genesis 1 & 2, we’re told that God created a perfect world, a good world were there was no sin and no death. No crime. No hatred or animosity. No need for escape. It was paradise.

But that good world was fractured when we chose to rebel against our Creator and now sin and death are a part of our experience on this planet.

But even in the midst of our rebellion, God provided HOPE.

He said that He would one day send a Hero to rescue us from sin and death and not only us, but also all of creation, so that by believing in Him we could have a relationship with God.

We would be adopted into His family, sons and daughters of the King of the Universe.

The good news is: the Hero has come.

Jesus, God’s Son, came and lived a perfect life, the one we could never live. He died a bloody, horrible death and was raised again to life the third day, conquering both sin and death so that we could have life – life today and life eternal.

So as we go through the Christmas season let’s spread the good cheer, we have a message of HOPE – the good news of Jesus!

Jim