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

Counting the Cost

Luke 14.25-35

Salvation is completely free, but discipleship is costly. Our allegiance to Jesus must be far greater than our allegiance to our family or to our own self-interests. We have to love God more! Therefore, each of us must count the cost carefully before choosing to follow Him. Just as unsalty salt is useless, so a disciple who isn’t all in with Jesus is useless to the kingdom of God.

Very sobering words, but Jesus doesn’t save us just so we can go to heaven. He saves us so that we can join Him in His mission to rescue a lost dying world. It reminds me of a scene from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, where Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector serving as an army medic in Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, after spending all day and most of the night single-handedly evacuating the wounded from the battlefield, prays and asks God, “Just give me one more.” And after that one, “Just give me one more.” And again, “Just give me one more…” Doss saved 75 men. That’s what we’re called to do as believers…to storm the gates of hell and ask God to help us rescue just one more. In the strongest possible terms Jesus invites us to make our lives count for eternity. He wants us to make a kingdom impact on those around us who don’t know Him.

Earlier we talked about the questions that we would ask before making an investment…What’s the cost? Do I have the resources to pull it off? Will it be worth it in the end? When it comes to discipleship…What’s the cost? Everything. Do you have the resources? Yes…the Father has given us the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who transforms us to live and love like Jesus. He empowers us to do what Jesus asks us to do. He gives us the ability and the want-to to love God more. Will it be worth it? Absolutely…the Father also gives us the kingdom. And the kingdom is everything. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” It’s about loving God more. I like that.

When we put Jesus first…when we love God more, it benefits all of our relationships…we love better, we serve better, we reflect Him better.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, let me urge you to do so today. He invites you to enjoy life with Him in His kingdom. You need only to respond…acknowledge your need to be rescued, your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust in Him to do so. Then begins the adventure of your lifetime. Don’t wait.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s love God more this week.”

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

The Narrow Door

Luke 13.22-35

Are just a few being saved? That’s really the wrong question. The real question is, Are you going to be among those who are saved? Jesus says the door to the kingdom is a narrow door…there’s only one way in. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s narrow door theology. Narrow because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life…the kingdom is only available through Him. But also very broad in that it’s open to anyone…anyone who recognizes their need for repentance…their need to be rescued from their sin…and who believes that Jesus can rescue them and trusts in Him to do so. Jesus says that folks from all over the place will be there. John in the book of Revelation writes that there will be folks there from every tribe and tongue and people and nation gathered around the throne worshiping God in the kingdom.

Three sobering truths…Jesus is the only way, the time to respond is short, and many who think they’re in won’t be. It’s imperative that you know that there are no back doors into the kingdom. There are not many ways to God…only one. And the time to respond to Him is now. Once the door is closed, it’s too late. Whether that door is closed because of death or Jesus’ return, there are no do-overs. You are either in or out. Jesus will either be your King who welcomes you into His kingdom with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.” or Jesus will be your Judge who casts you out with the words, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you evildoer.” The time to act is now. You may think that because you are a good person, or because your parents or spouse or best friend are believers that somehow you are covered. But there are no +1’s in the kingdom, and God doesn’t have grandchildren. There are no group discounts. Each must enter through the narrow door…one at a time.

The same invitation Jesus offered to the folks in Jerusalem…to gather them like a hen gathers her brood under her wings…to rescue them and protect them, to care for them…He offers to you today. He wants to rescue you. He wants you to be at the party in the kingdom. He wants you to experience life with Him today. So strive to enter through the narrow door…recognizing your need to be rescued, believing that Jesus can rescue you, and trusting in Him to do so.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Whose Side Are You On?

Luke 12.49-59

Whose side are you on? Jesus says we are either for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. There is no halfway. There is no both/and. For those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom…who have recognized that they are in need of a Physician, that they are sinners in need of repentance…and who have acted on it…they’ve trusted in Him to rescue them, the kingdom of God is theirs. Their names are recorded in heaven for eternity.

But for those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom and rejected it…they’ve chosen to trust in themselves or in their stuff or in anything else but Jesus…who chose to fear men rather than fearing God…they have an eternity apart from God in a place called hell.

Whose side are you on? If I were to ask your friends or co-workers, your classmates or teammates, your family or neighbors, would they know whose side you’re on? Is it clear from the way you live your life, or would they be confused about your answer? Jesus didn’t save us just to go to heaven…if that was His sole purpose then the moment we believe we would be there. No He saved us so that we would follow Him, so that we would be faithful and wise servants, investing in the kingdom…so that we would live lives worthy of the calling with which we have been called, so that we would walk in the good works He has given us to do. We were saved so that we would live and love like Jesus and join Him on His rescue mission, crashing the gates of hell and pulling folks out of the flames.

The Bible says that we are all guilty before God. We all have a sin-debt that must be paid. In the garden, God said that disobedience/rebellion was punishable by death, and so a death is required to pay the penalty for sin. The good news is that Jesus came to pay the penalty for us…He died so that we may live. That’s the baptism He had to undergo. His death covered all our sins, so that by trusting in Him we can be sons or daughters of the King. We must all appear one day before God…it’s an appointment we will not miss. And when we appear before Him, we will either have our sins forgiven already and know Him as Father…or we pay for them ourselves and know Him as Judge.

Whose side are you on?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be clearly for Jesus 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

Hometown Reception

Luke 4.14-30

In this episode we get a glimpse of what Jesus’ ministry will look like…fulfilling OT prophecies, being filled with/empowered by the Spirit, preaching good news to the marginalized whether Jew or Gentile…some will accept and some will reject.

Jesus is good news!

Jesus’ words are good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed…to the outcasts and those on the fringe of society. They are good news for those who recognize their helplessness and hopelessness, their overwhelming need of rescue. For them, for us, they are the good news of salvation. But there is no good news without Jesus. God’s rescue plan depends on Him. His teaching exposes the reaction of human hearts to that plan…wonder along with rejection.

Is Jesus good news to you? Do you recognize your desperate need to be rescued? For some of us, we don’t need to be convinced that we need to be rescued…the poor man doesn’t need to be convinced that he’s in desperate straits, the captive doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be set free, the blind woman doesn’t need to be convinced she needs to receive sight, and the kid being bullied in the school yard doesn’t need to be convinced that he needs to be rescued from his oppressor…we just need to know that there is Someone who can rescue us. The good news is…the Hero has come, the Savior is here. Today can be the day of Salvation for you.

But some of us aren’t convinced of our need for a Savior…we see ourselves, like the folks at the synagogue that morning, as good people. We don’t need to be rescued…I pray that God would reveal that you, like all of us, are poor, captive, blind, oppressed…that sin and death are the destiny of everyone who doesn’t realize their need and humbly turn to Jesus, so that you too may be rescued.

Maybe you’re here today and have put your faith in Jesus, but have been going through the motions. You have lost sight that just like everyone else you are poor in spirit and need to humble yourself before Jesus. Ask God this week to begin humbling you, to begin bringing you back to him.

And maybe you’re like Jesus…your hometown crowd has rejected you. Often times we offend our family members or peer groups when we become a Christian or are bold about our faith, because they feel condemned…they feel like they are ‘good people who live good lives’. They can’t see you for who you are, a new creation in Christ, but only for who you were. Whether they are rejecting your words or you, it still stings. But know that Jesus had the same experience…His boldness caused some to accept and some to reject. The writer of Hebrews tells, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame…” Knowing who we are and whose we are…knowing the bigger story should give us the courage to face rejection and persecution and the ability to love those who may not love in return.

I’ll close with a story: “A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters side by side at the Communion rail.

On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England—the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?” “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “ I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I don’t understand.”

“You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received God’s grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his Savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me—I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, obtained my degrees, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was God’s grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle.”

The folks that morning had a decision to make…and so do you. Who is Jesus? How will you respond to Him?

Until next time…stay salty.

 “May we rejoice in both the message and the Messenger of good news, the King and His kingdom.”

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

Transforming Families – Strategy Part 1

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to gathering, growing, and impacting…and God was powerfully at work. Every day more people were joining their new family.

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. A football team is only effective if each player on the field of play executes their responsibility. If one player decides that their job is unimportant, the team cannot succeed. Paul uses the example of a body. If the foot decided it wasn’t needed, it sure would be hard to walk. The same is true with the rest of the body. Each member is important to the success of the whole. We want you…we need you to be all in.

A very practical step to take…make participating our weekend gatherings a priority in 2016.

One story I want to share with you is of a family that is being transformed to live and love like Jesus. I got a call from a guy who started attending Central about 4 years ago. He and his wife were divorced, so on the weekends he had the kids he drug them to church with him. His kids fell in love with Central and began to get involved on their own…even on weekends when they were with their mom, they wanted to come to church. So she started to come with them. She’s now attending Central. And his brother who was estranged from the church, has now been coming for 4 months. Definitely not a “Leave it to Beaver” situation…it’s kind of messy. But one of the coolest things for me…the reason he called me was because his daughter, who is turning 15 soon (Quinceañera), wants to be baptized as one of her birthday presents! No better picture of God transforming a family…

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 a sermon from our vision series, Transforming Families. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster