Amazing Love…Advent: Love

Revelation 21.1-8

John wanted his readers to lay hold of the hope for which they had been saved, that even in the midst of suffering the afflictions and persecutions of this present darkness, this present evil age, they could be encouraged that they would one day be rescued and vindicated by the sudden appearance of Jesus, whose coming would destroy the powers of evil. Throughout the New Testament the message is clear: this future hope should impact our lives today…our behavior and devotion to Jesus. So John writes Revelation to encourage us as believers to persevere in the present because of the coming victory of God through Jesus Christ in His Second Advent…don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins!

Looking at this glorious picture of God’s victorious reign reminds us of His amazing love for us. The lengths that He has gone to so that we might be reconciled to Him, that we might become His sons and daughters are nothing short of incredible. From the first few chapters of Genesis, He’s been relentlessly pursuing us. It started with a promise…Genesis 3.15. One day He would send the Head-crushing Seed of the woman to rescue us from the sin and death caused by our rebellion against Him and provide a way back to the garden. That promise was fulfilled in the Person of His Son Jesus in His First Advent, who lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, was raised the third day, and ascended to the throne of God. By believing in Him the Bible tells us that we have eternal life. To those who thirst…the water of life without cost. The retirement package is chill…paradise with Him forever.

Now we wait with anticipation His return…not as the sacrificial Lamb, but as the conquering Lion, not as the Baby in a manger, but the fierce Warrior-King on a white horse.

But today is the day. John’s encouragement to believers is also a warning to those who are not following Him. Judgment is certain. Jesus is coming back. The consequences are final. There will be no escape. No watching from the sidelines. You are either for Him or against Him. My prayer is that you are thirsty today…I love that His relentless pursuit continues till the end. The offer stands open, to drink from the springs of the water of life without cost.

So don’t give up because following Jesus is sometimes hard. Don’t give in to the culture around you. Why? Because Jesus wins! Amen, come Lord Jesus!

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

The Waiting Game

Genesis 40

Once again we see Joseph doing the right thing and experiencing the “wrong” outcome. Why must he keep waiting? We know the LORD’s presence is with him, so why doesn’t He intervene? That brings up two very important questions…is God good? And can He be trusted?

The story of Genesis answers these two questions with a resounding “YES!” Is God good? He is Creator God who created a perfect world, and who is Sovereign over His creation. And even when we wrecked it, He is Redeemer God providing hope and the way of redemption through the Genesis 3.15 Rescuer, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. Can God be trusted? Over and over He has proved His faithfulness…executing judgment and providing the means of escape, blessing and cursing. Even when His people are faithless, He remains faithful.

But again the questions reveal more about us…our expectation of what life should be, our definition of what is good. Goes back to the garden. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We’ve been deciding what’s best from our own limited, warped perspective ever since. Generally our definition of good revolves around what gives us the most pleasure or helps us avoid the most pain. Our circumstances do not determine God’s presence, they are not an indication of His involvement. They don’t define His goodness. If we have trusted in Him, His presence is with us in both good and bad times, whether the news is favorable or disappointing, whether we make the team or not.

Like we said last week, suffering is the crucible, the furnace of God’s love. He uses it to shape and mold us into the people He saved us to be. A people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Suffering can come from a number of different fronts…consequences of our own sin, results of another’s sin, or by-products of a broken world. One thing we know about suffering…it impacts us all. We are all going into a pit, in a pit or just coming out of a pit. And while suffering has the potential for great good…Paul says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, (our suffering,) knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” James says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Notice the role of waiting in both.)…suffering can also produce bitterness. And we know folks like this, don’t we? Suffering has made them very un-fun to be around. What is suffering producing in you? Resentment or hope, fog and numbness or a redemptive edge.

One other thing I don’t want us to miss from this story…we are all the baker in this story. We are all guilty of treason against our Master, our Creator. We all deserve to die. But God…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Jesus, the One God promised way back in Genesis 3.15, the Rescuer and Redeemer and Restorer of His creation, hung on a tree in our place. He took our curse, so that we might be blessed. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, so that we could be reconciled to God and become sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, so that we might become like the cupbearer restored to a right relationship with our Master. An incredible exchange available to each and every one of us by believing in Him.

So whatever pit you find yourself in today, I pray that you may know God’s presence with you and that your present suffering is making you more like Jesus.

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

Out of the Frying Pan…

Genesis 39

The tale ends as it begins…the LORD’s presence with Joseph. The two primary things we see in this story…the LORD’s presence with Joseph and Joseph’s character. I would argue that knowing that the LORD’s presence is with him allows Joseph to demonstrate exceptional character. He is a faithful steward in his master’s house, and he resists the advances of his master’s wife. Don’t forget. This would not have been an easy time in Joseph’s life…far from home in a strange land, not to mention the whole slavery thing. Every reason not to make a good decision. But the LORD’s presence was with Joseph.

Why was the LORD’s presence with Joseph? It’s not because Joseph just happens to be a good guy. Although Joseph will foreshadow Jesus in many ways, we have to be careful of painting Joseph as a sinless character. The LORD’s presence was with Joseph because Joseph was a believer…like Adam and Seth and Noah and Shem and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob before him. Joseph believed Genesis 3.15…God’s promise to send a Redeemer, a Head-crushing Seed of the woman to rescue those who would believe in Him from death, giving them life instead and a hope…life in His kingdom today and a way back to the garden in the future. And believing that he had life with God, that they LORD’s presence was with him, Joseph could face suffering and trials with hope. God had an incredible destiny for him…and though his short-term circumstances didn’t show it, God was at work. More on that to come.

If you have trusted in Jesus, His presence is with you. Do you know that? Knowing that should motivate you to a different way of living. Potiphar saw the LORD at work in Joseph’s life and so did the jailer…do others (8-15) see the LORD at work in your life during the midst of the trials/suffering you are facing? Is it obvious to others that He’s with you? Are you a good steward in the work place? Is your employer blessed because you are there? Or have trials and your circumstances become an excuse to defend and justify making bad choices?

“But the LORD was with Joseph…” What a beautiful reminder…if you are a believer, He’s with you too, whether things are going well or not so well, whether you’re chilling at your father’s crib as the boy wonder or a slave in prison falsely accused and awaiting judgment. If your attempts at making lemonade have left a painful sting in your eye, remember His presence and remain faithful.

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

Esau’s Clan

Genesis 36

Why do we care about a genealogy…especially Esau’s? He’s not even the main character. Why does Moses feel the need to include all of this detail?

A friend of mine had a conversation with some missionary friends about genealogies in the Bible. These missionaries said that genealogies are gold…they’re one of the primary ways that they reach some of the more primitive cultures who still have oral traditions, where stories are passed down by word of mouth from father to son, mother to daughter, generation to generation. “The fact that God cares about the details of the biblical characters’ lives means He must care about my life, too.” What a great observation. Another way to say it is, “People matter to God.” Each name listed is an image-bearer of the eternal God. And while the names may be unfamiliar to us and difficult to pronounce, they are nonetheless important.

God created us to bear His image to His creation, and although that image was marred through the fall, it remains nonetheless. And since the time of the fall, God has been on a rescue mission. He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 that He would send a Redeemer who would save us, who would provide a way back to the garden by crushing the serpent’s head. As the story has continued to unfold, we’ve found out that this Redeemer would be a descendant of not only Adam through Seth, and Noah through Shem, but more specifically through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. The same promise is passed on to Isaac and Jacob. The Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Savior of the world , the Hero of our story would come from a family, a people, but would come for all families, for all peoples. God’s desire has always been for the nations. And so the picture of heaven throughout the book of Revelation includes folks from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

People matter to God. The descendants of Esau mattered to God. You matter to God. He knows your name and desires to have a relationship with you. He loves you…He’s demonstrated it over and over. Not only do you bear His image, but He also went to unbelievable lengths to reach you…the greatest of which was to send His own Son, as the Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent by laying down His own life. He died so that you could live, by believing in Him He would take your sin, your shame, your rebellion and give you His righteousness. A remarkably absurd exchange…the amazing love of God for you. So that you could be a part of His family’s story.

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

 

New Beginning

Genesis 35

Jacob’s spiritual journey reminds us of our own spiritual journeys…an incredible destiny full of promise and potential, a new identity, God’s presence with us. But somewhere along the way we generally find ourselves, like Jacob, slipping from the white-hot passion of following God to the lukewarm comfort of convenience and compromise. Sometimes the rebellion of wanting to do things our own way…to do what’s right in our own eyes, fooling ourselves into thinking we know what’s best. But more likely than not the daily grind and the routine of life quenches our fire.

Jacob puts away the foreign gods, purifies himself and puts on some new clothes…a new beginning. But there is a challenge to this new beginning…Jacob still knew where he buried the idols, and so do we. Many times we’re tempted to return to them. We’re tempted to return to the old life and many times, if not most, God uses the consequences of our choices to wake us up, to bring us back to our spiritual roots…to return us to Bethel.

Jacob was in a place of convenience for 20 years before he left Laban’s hacienda to return to the land. He was in a place of compromise in Shechem another 10-15 years. But both times, God showed up to call Jacob out of his complacency, to remind him of his incredible destiny. God was not giving up on Jacob. He was a lynch pin in His plan of redemption. God could have chosen another way…maybe someone less stubborn and self-reliant, less proud and deceitful, but He chose Jacob; and He was committed to Jacob realizing his new identity as Israel…His savage mercy, His fierce grace.

Some of us have just come out of a place of compromise and are experiencing a renewed sense of destiny…that God has called us to make a big impact on His kingdom right where we are. Some of us are still in a place of compromise and are experiencing the consequences of our choices…be encouraged. God is not done with you yet. But you have to put away those things that are keeping you from Him, your idols whatever they may be, and return to Bethel. Some of us are on the threshold of entering a place of compromise…don’t do it. Remember who you are…a child of the King. You don’t have to go down that path.

Some of us aren’t compromising simply because we aren’t in relationship with this amazing God yet. I hope you’re curious. I hope you’ve gotten a glimpse of His incredible love and relentless pursuit of you. He wants to give you an unimaginable destiny as one of His children, spending an eternity with Him in His kingdom through faith in His Son Jesus, who lived a perfect life, died a horrible death, was raised the third day conquering sin and death and crushing the head of the serpent, so that you too could have a new beginning.

 

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

Wrestling with God

Genesis 32

Much like Mt. Moriah for Abraham where his faith was challenged in offering up Isaac, Jacob has his own crisis of faith at Peniel.

Jacob had lived his life looking out for number one and doing things his own way. And because of his gifts, talents, abilities, personality, whatever, (and God’s grace) he generally came out on top in most situations. There were definitely setbacks along the way, but he had won in the end. Birthright. Blessing. Rachel. Laban’s flocks. He seemed to be virtually invincible. And even though he had had an encounter with God at Bethel, on the surface little had changed for most of the twenty years he was in Laban’s house. But God was working below the surface through the circumstances to not only bring about what He’d promised Jacob…provision and protection, His presence with him, but also to chip away at his character. He was shaping and molding Jacob into the man He wanted him to be. God’s severe mercy. Jacob’s crippling victory. Blessed and broken.

But one final lesson remained before Jacob could enter the Promised Land…he had to learn to trust the LORD. Not just a little. Not just when there seemed to be no other option. But fully and completely and always. Jacob, the manipulating, scheming self-absorbed and self-sufficient opportunist, had to become Israel, the one for whom God fights, before he was ready to enter the land.

Many of us are like Jacob. We trust God to help when we’re out of options, and then only half-heartedly. He is our plan B. And why not? We’ve been successful to date, right? Never mind the carnage we’ve left behind…broken relationships, deception, manipulation, compromise. Examples are myriad. We’ve wrestled with men thinking all the time we were winning…not realizing that we were wrestling against God who never loses. He wants us to learn the lesson from Jacob…until we let go of our self-sufficiency we’re not ready to enter into all that He has for us. Ultimately the wrestling match is for who gets to be g/God in our life. Genesis 1 & 3. Not content to be image bearers, we want to be like God… Until we let go of doing things our way and grab hold of His way, stop building our own kingdoms and invest in His kingdom, stop wrestling and start clinging, we will not experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Strength through weakness that Paul talked about.

Some of us are in a wrestling match of a different kind with God. We don’t yet know Him, though He’s been near all along. He’s wrestling for our attention, our affections. He’s gone to incredible lengths in His pursuit of us. He’s sent His Son, the One He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 would crush the head of the serpent, giving His life in the process to pay the penalty for our rebellion and provide the way back to a relationship with our Creator God. Talk about a wrestling match. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.

May we be a people, blessed and broken, clinging to God, trusting Him to fight for us and expand His kingdom here in the valley.

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

Blurred Vision

Genesis 31

Drama seems to follow Jacob everywhere. Maybe some of you guys can relate. Esau. Isaac. Rachel. Leah. Laban. When is he going to get a break?

For the first time Jacob acknowledges God’s hand in the events of his life. God sightings are everywhere as he recounts his ongoing struggle with Laban. Jacob sees himself as an innocent victim, a pawn in the hands of his diabolical father-in-law. He sees his actions as totally legit, and if not for God’s intervention, he would be without wives or children, homeless and penniless. Yet we’ve followed Jacob’s journey. While it’s true that God has been working behind the scenes providing for and protecting Jacob, most if not all of his troubles are of his own doing…deceit, manipulation, cheating, lying, partiality.

Laban paints himself out to be a nice guy. According to him, he loves his daughters and is generous to a fault. He’s really the victim as his flocks and herds have been “stolen” and his daughters and grandchildren kidnapped. Not at all the Laban that we know.

Like Jacob and Laban, many of us also have a very different view of ourselves than what others perceive. Sometimes we see ourselves as the hero in the story, while others see us as the villain. We are totally justified in our responses. Conflict isn’t our fault…we are just addressing the wrongs done to us in totally appropriate ways, right? Whatever anger we display is righteous anger, and whatever consequence we receive is undeserved. Yeah, right.

Sometimes it’s the other way around. Others see the good in us, but all we can see is our failures. Both views are from a very earthy perspective. And both views impact both our own sense of self-worth and the way we interact with others.

But God sees us from a very different perspective. He sees us as His image-bearers. That means we have infinite value. Each and every one of us. God sees and God hears…and God cares. If you don’t know Him, today is the day. He’s gone to incredible lengths in His pursuit of you. He’s sent His Son, the One He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 would crush the head of the serpent, giving His life in the process to pay the penalty for our rebellion and provide the way back to a relationship with our Creator God.

If you do know Him, then you are His child, a son or daughter of the King. That is what defines you. It means that you don’t have to look for self-worth in relationships or titles or jobs or school or accomplishments or things…all will let you down eventually. Your worth is far more precious than that. It means you can say no to things…people, temptations, situations…that attempt to redefine you. God is faithful. We see Him working in Jacob’s life behind the scenes. He’s working in your life too.

I pray that we might get a small glimpse of the way God sees us this week…unlimited value and unlimited potential…because if we did, it would change everything.

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