Joy Delivered

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, don’t we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives? If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

That’s why the angel’s pronouncement in Luke 2.8-15 is such joyous news…“good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” God’s not done yet. The Hero has come to save the day. Joy has returned. Unimaginable, unspeakable, incomprehensible joy. The joy that only Jesus can bring.

So in the midst of a worldwide pandemic when it would be easy to forget…here’s a practical way to remember: finish this sentence on a post-it or piece of paper that you can put around your house…“I rejoice today because___.” (The Hero has come…Jesus has saved me.)

May you experience the all-surpassing joy of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Joy Delivered.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Joy Delivered. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Love Delivered

Luke 1.26-38

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3.16). “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.6-8).

God picked the name Jesus to remind us that He would save us from our sins. That’s how God has shown His unconditional, never-ending love for us…by saving us. By sending Jesus to die for us. The greatest sacrifice of all to demonstrate the greatest love of all. This is what God has done.

God is fulfilling His promise of a King…a King to rescue us. A King to save us. God keeps His word. We can trust Him to keep His promises still today. Promises of the forgiveness of sins and a new heart, His Spirit dwelling within us, His presence with us, everlasting life and an eternal kingdom. This is what God will do. And only He can. He can do great and wondrous things and use whomever He chooses to accomplish His purpose however He wishes.

From an earthly perspective, Mary was an unlikely candidate to be the mother of the Messiah…a nobody from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. 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…insignificant in the world’s eyes. I’m glad God’s not caught up in the things that we are. You see, from a heavenly perspective, she had a very 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. The question is, will you trust Him to do so? Will you, like Mary, humbly submit to the Lord’s will and His direction in your life? If so, buckle up…it’ll be quite a ride!

May you experience the love of God in a deep, rich and meaningful way this Christmas season. May you experience Love Delivered.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Joy Delivered. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Jewishness of Christianity

Romans 11.11-24

Being grafted in to the people of God is a huge privilege for us…for a “no people without understanding”, wild olive branches that had no hope of salvation outside the kindness and mercy of God. By faith we have been grafted in and by faith we stand.

God is not done with His people Israel. They still are His people. We benefit from the promises given to them. We are partakers of the rich root of the olive tree…not as natural branches, but as those who have been grafted in. So there is no room for boasting. We, the Church, have not replaced Israel. We have been grafted in to the people of God. Reminds me of the picture of New Jerusalem in Revelation…the twelve gates have the names of the twelve tribes written on them (OT), while the twelve foundation stones have the names of the apostles (NT) (Revelation 21.12-14)…a picture of the cultivated olive tree to which the nations coming streaming in.

Pray for Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for individual Jews that you know. Pray for the nation that they would accept Jesus as their Messiah. If their failure is riches for Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be…right?

God takes our faith seriously, and so should we. We are saved by faith and not by works. But we are saved to do the good works which God has prepared for us to do. We are to live out our faith. We are to provoke others to jealousy…living our lives in such a way that they want to come to know and follow Jesus. Can that be said of you? If not, what needs to change?

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

Israel’s Believing Remnant

Romans 11.1-10

God has not rejected His people. There is a believing remnant of Jews now just as there has always been…a remnant chosen by God. Not because they deserve it. But because of God’s mercy. A remnant who have trusted in Jesus.

Two things that I want you to think about. First, you are not alone. Often in the Christian life we find ourselves in situations where we feel all alone. Like we are the only ones who are following Jesus. And it’s tempting in those times to despair…to throw our hands up and want to give up. But don’t. My guess is you’re not alone. If you will lift your head up out of the dark cloud you’ve created, you’ll often find there are other believers around that you were not previously aware of. And in the workplace or at school, it’s good to know others who share your faith and can be a support when times are tough. Maybe it’s the push you need to share your story…tell others about the hope that you have in Jesus.

Second, there is an implicit warning for us not to disregard the truth. If we are constantly hearing the Word preached/taught and yet not responding to it, our hearts become hard. Eventually we are unable to respond to the truth. Now God can work miracles in hard hearts, but don’t let it go that far…don’t neglect to respond to the truth that you hear.

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

Israel’s Accountablity

Romans 10.14-21

How beautiful the feet of those who bring good news of good things! Israel had every ingredient necessary for salvation but one…faith. God had sent messengers to proclaim the good news. Those messengers had preached the gospel to the people. The people heard…but they did not believe. And because they did not believe, they did not call upon the name of the Lord. They didn’t trust in Jesus.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked about God’s sovereignty. A very weighty topic for sure…for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. And whom He predestined, these He also called. And whom He called, these He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified. God chooses…and yet we have a choice. In fact, Paul makes it clear that Israel had every opportunity…so they are without excuse. They chose to reject God’s mercy.

We have a part to play in this divine drama. Like Paul and his traveling buddies and the rest of the Apostles, we have a job to do…a mission to complete. To share our story. To tell folks the good news. The gospel. The reason for the hope that we have. God has put you in a unique position to reach the folks he’s placed in your life. Some will never come to church. They won’t hear unless you tell them.

I remember when I was working for Waste Management in Houston that it struck me…most of the folks I was working with didn’t go to church. They weren’t believers. As far as I know, I was the only Christian influence in their lives. So if they didn’t hear about Jesus from me, where would they hear about Him? And so I became intentional about looking for opportunities to share my story. And over the years, God opened up windows of opportunity to talk to most of them that I worked closely with.

We want to partner with you as you make an impact for the Kingdom. Two helpful tools I want to mention…both can be found on our website at centralchristian.org. The first is: “Your Story”. It’s a great tool for helping you think through and articulate your story…not your biography, your testimony. Once you’ve written out your story, pray about who to share it with and ask God for opportunities.

That leads us to the second resource which is: “Your Impact List”. These are the folks that God has placed in your sphere of influence who need to hear the good news. It could be people from work, school, neighbors, family, friends, etc. A good way to start is to pray and ask God to bring to mind folks you need to reach out to, and then write their names down on Your Impact List. A printable version is available on our website. You can stick it to your fridge, your mirror, put it in your Bible or journal. Wherever you’ll regularly see it and remember to pray for those people and to look for opportunities to share your story with them.

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

Whoever Will Call Upon the Name of the Lord

Romans 10.1-13

God’s righteousness…His right-standingness…has always been a matter of faith. It has to be. Because we could never achieve a right standing before God on our own. Sin gets in the way every time.

Salvation is and has always been by faith. Faith in God. Trusting His promises. Looking for Messiah…for the Savior. Believing in Him now that He’s come. By faith we enter into a relationship with God. By faith we also continue our relationship with God. The Christian life is one of faith.

But here’s the thing…faith is more than just acknowledging a set of facts. It’s hearing and acting on what you’ve heard. It’s believing and walking in belief. It’s trusting in Him…and then obeying. A heart rightly aligned to God wants to obey. One that isn’t doesn’t. You weren’t saved just to go to heaven. If so, you’d already be there. You were saved to do the good works He’s given you to do. To walk in obedience. To share your story. To live generously.

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

What About Israel? Part 1

Romans 9.1-18

Probably nothing sadder than wasted potential, and the Israelites had the greatest of potential. All the advantages that being the OT people of God afforded them, and yet many individual Israelites still rejected Jesus as their Savior.

As believers, we have great potential too. God has entrusted us with the gospel…each of us has been given a mina (Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19). How will we invest it? Will we take big risks with it looking for great reward? Or will we bury it hoping nobody discovers our secret? Will we live boldly for Jesus or only for ourselves? Having every advantage doesn’t mean that we will necessarily realize our potential. We have to be intentional. We have to choose to say “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to sin. We have to live out who we are our in Jesus on purpose.

Don’t waste your potential. Invest your life in the kingdom. Share your story with those around you who don’t know Jesus. Be generous with your resources.

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

Sharing Your Story

Luke 8.26-39

Having just calmed a violent storm at sea, Jesus meets a man with an equally violent storm raging within him. In both cases Jesus is able to squash the chaos with a word. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Luke is showcasing Jesus’ power and authority over both the natural and supernatural worlds. And he does that, but I think Luke is driving us to something even more powerful…you see, beyond the power of Jesus is the love of Jesus. Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! Did you get that? Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! O what a Savior! And having rescued him, He sends him on a mission to share his story – of “what great things God had done for him.”

I love this story. It’s a beautiful picture of the lengths that Jesus goes to to seek and save the lost…

Crossed the sea (calmed the storm, etc.)

Faced off with the hosts of hell

Braved the potential backlash of a frightened mob

For one man

Jesus is still on a rescue mission, pulling folks out of the fires of hell. Setting the captives free. And as those who have been set free, He calls us to join Him in that same mission. To share our story…of what great things Jesus has done for us.

Though we may not have been as bad off as the demoniac in this story, before Jesus we were all just as lost. We were all held captive in the kingdom of darkness. We were all without hope and in desperate need of rescue. And only Jesus could do that.

So what is your story, and who can you share it with? Jesus sent the man back to his home town to share with those closest to him what God had done for him. Sounds a lot like our impact list…those folks who are closest to us who don’t know Jesus. Could be friends or family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates or teammates. If you have trusted in Jesus, then you have a story to tell.

And as I think back over my own story, I’m reminded…Jesus changes everything. He wants to change everything in our lives if we will let Him. But we have to be intentional about pursuing Him. We have to make the choice…training, not trying. Quality time in His Word everyday aka Daily Devotion. Praying throughout the day aka Consistent Prayer. And time with other believers as often as possible aka Intentional Community. And when we do that we find that He’s been pursuing us all along…the Good Shepherd looking for the one lost sheep.

Let me challenge you with two last words…first, take time this week to write out your story. On our website you can find a template that will walk you through putting together Your Story. Take your time…don’t rush. Pray over it and ask God to direct you through the process.

Second, prayerfully consider who you need to share your story with. Who do you know that hasn’t yet trusted in Jesus? Pray for opportunities and ask God for courage in the moment to take advantage of those opportunities when they come.

pro rege,

This post is based on a sermon from our UN/Stuck: A Season for Discipleship series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Hope of Glory

Romans 5.1-11

By believing in Jesus, we are justified…declared righteous…before God. Our debt has been paid in full. God’s wrath completely satisfied, so that we now have peace with God having been reconciled to Him. Our hope is secure. Our boasting then, is not in ourselves, but in God. We even boast in the things that bring us closer to Him like our tribulations.

Peter says this in 1 Peter 4, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4.12-13).

Suffering for the faith, part of the category Paul calls tribulations, is a predictable outcome when you choose to follow Jesus. I love that Peter says, “Don’t be surprised.” Why might he say that? Because I think that often we are surprised when tribulation comes. That somehow it catches us off guard. We forget that we are swimming against the current…living in hostile territory…behind enemy lines. That this world is not our home. And we find ourselves reacting…and often negatively…to our circumstances. Instead of seeing tribulation as a tool that God is using to strengthen and purify my faith…to make me more like Jesus and bring me closer to Him, I mostly see it, at best, as an annoyance and, at worst, some kind of proof that God is against me.

But what if we looked at our tribulations as reasons for exulting…for boasting? What if we saw them as opportunities to grow closer to God? To learn perseverance and deepen our character? What if we saw this time of quarantine as a reason to rejoice? What if we began to look at what God is doing in the midst of it? How He’s purifying and strengthening our faith? How He’s deepening our character? How He’s making us more like Jesus?

Tribulations can fortify the hope that we have if we will let them. If in the midst of them we run to God instead of away from Him. It’s then that we experience more and more His love overflowing in our hearts. If we will run to Him. If we will trust that He desires our good. Look at all He did to be reconciled to us when we were His enemies. How much more will He do now that we are His heirs…His sons and daughters?

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

Father Abraham

Romans 4.13-25

In hope against hope Abraham believed…being fully assured that what God had promised He was able also to perform. Abraham is a great example of OT faith. His story isn’t told just to fill in the historical record…it’s told to encourage us in our own faith journey.

Abraham contemplated his own body… Abraham’s faith is an informed faith. He considered his circumstances, and he weighed them against the promise of God. His conclusion? God is bigger than my circumstances. He’s the Giver of life to the dead and the Caller into being that which does not exist. Nothing is impossible for Him. If God promised, He is able also to do. Abraham had a big God.

How big is your God? We are living in unprecedented times. Worldwide pandemic. Stay-at-home orders. Fear and frustration abound. It’s easy (or easier) to say we trust God when things are going well. But what happens when the bottom drops out? What happens when things aren’t working out the way we had planned? What happens when unexpected suffering comes? What happens when we get locked down? Do you still trust God then, or do you take matters into your own hands? Do you still believe He loves you and that He cares about what’s going on in your life, no detail too small or problem too big for Him? Do you believe He is still with you and that He is working things out for your good and His glory? Do you believe He’s bigger than your circumstances? Do you believe in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist? I pray that you do.

pro rege,

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