Paul at Ephesus

Acts 19.1-20

Paul returns to Ephesus where he will set up his base of operations for this his third and final missionary journey. Nothing like pitching your tent outside the Enemy’s stronghold as you make your assault on the forces of darkness.

Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is powerful both in word and in deed. Miracles abound…miracles of healing and casting out demons. Miracles that show the power of God over the demonic realm. The gates of hell cannot prevail against Jesus’ Church. In the battle between light and darkness, miracles and magic…it is the name of Jesus that is magnified. He has already won the victory.

As that truth dawned on these Ephesian believers, they were convicted of their sin…of the past they were still holding on to…and they did something about it. They made a clean break. So I want to challenge you with something this week…what is it that you need to confess and make a clean break from? What sin are you holding on to? For them the clean break meant destroying the objects that had caused them to stumble. What might that look like for you?

Take the next few minutes to confess whatever sin it is that you are holding on to and to turn it over to Jesus and ask Him what a clean break looks like for you. And then this week take the next step…whatever that might be…follow through and make a clean break.

pro rege

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

Acceptance and Opposition: Lystra

Acts 14.8-20a

Paul’s visit to the little town of Lystra didn’t go quite the way he had planned. The healing of a lame man which should have opened a door for the gospel and pointed folks to Jesus instead causes them to want to worship Paul and Barnabas. And just when that seems to be under control, a group of zealous, unbelieving Jews shows up to put an end to Paul once and for all.

I love the “success” stories that we’ve seen so far in the book of Acts…where thousands of folks come to faith in Jerusalem and in Samaria, the conversion of Cornelius and also of Saul/Paul, Peter’s rescue from the clutches of Herod and Paul’s triumph over the false prophet Bar-Jesus, the church in Antioch and the Gentiles who have come to faith along the way.

The successes are great…Jesus had lots of those too. But there was also opposition and persecution. Just as we said last week…while we may wish it were otherwise, that is the norm. Some accept, but most will reject.

There will always be opposition to the gospel. We have a real enemy who doesn’t like us storming his gates, and he will do anything and everything in his power to thwart our attempts to rescue folks held captive under his dominion. Sometimes folks will misinterpret and misunderstand us, and sometimes they will violently oppose us. Either way, let’s not give up.

Ours is a society that is quickly losing its biblical moorings…no longer can we assume that folks have even a rudimentary knowledge or understanding of the Bible. Unfortunately that’s not just out there…many folks within the church are far from having a biblical worldview. Most are more influenced by the anti-Christian, anti-God culture that surrounds us than they are by God’s Word. We may be too sophisticated to worship Zeus and Hermes, but we do worship our idols nonetheless…

It makes sharing our faith challenging. It makes living a Christian life challenging. There are lots of obstacles in the way, but it shouldn’t stop us. It shouldn’t cause us to give up and go home. Instead it should cause us to rely more fully on the Spirit, to cling more desperately to Jesus. To get up and press on…to get back in the game.

If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. Make today the day you turn from vain and worthless things to the living God who not only created the heavens and the earth, but who also made you as well. Who loves you and wants to adopt you into His family. The God who loved you so much that He sent His one and only Son Jesus to die a sacrificial death for you so that by believing in Him your sins could be forgiven, and who raised Him the third day so that you too might have eternal life.

pro rege

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 Healing of the Lame Beggar

Acts 3.1-10

Luke tells us that “…many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2.43) The healing of the lame beggar is an example of one of them. The man, who had been going through the motions and everyday rhythms of life, didn’t expect to have an encounter with Jesus. But when he is miraculously healed by Peter in Jesus’ name, everything changes.

All of us, like the lame beggar, need Jesus. Sometimes our other needs camouflage our deepest need…and that deepest need is always Jesus. If you have not yet trusted in Him, why not today? Then you too can experience the unexpected surprise that is no less than life from the dead. Uncontainable joy and unfettered worship.

Peter and John are on their way to the temple that day to worship…to participate in the evening sacrifices and pray along with many of their Jewish brethren. They have somewhere to be, and no one would think twice if they just politely ignored our friend or threw a few shekels his way. But not Peter. Not this time. Maybe he’s thinking back to all the times that Jesus stopped to heal folks throughout His ministry. Maybe, like Jesus, Peter is overcome by compassion and mercy for this man. Maybe he remembers Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor. Whatever it is that day, Peter looks a lot like Jesus.

Speaking of the parable of the Good Samaritan…I think there’s a pretty close link between loving our neighbor…loving others…and being interruptible. Jesus was often interrupted, but He never treated the interruptions or those who caused them as distractions…He leveraged them as opportunities to teach, to show mercy, to demonstrate His amazing love. Here we see Peter being interruptible. I believe that some of the best ministry happens in the interruptions…in the unplanned encounters…in the unexpected surprises.

So how interruptible are you? Do you see interruptions as opportunities or distractions? Do you see folks as in need or in the way? Do you show compassion toward others or indifference? Are you generous with your time and your resources? If not, why not?

Maybe it’s a lack of margin that keeps you from being interruptible…you’ve so packed your schedule that you simply don’t have time to help those in need, or you’ve so over-extended yourself financially that you don’t have the resources to help. Spend some time asking God to help you create some margin in your life. Ask for wisdom of what you need to say “no” to in order that you can say “yes” when needs arise.

Maybe it’s selfishness, laziness or pride that keeps you from being interruptible…you are too busy building your own kingdom, focusing on your own comfort, avoiding inconvenience. Your gaze is fixed inward instead of outward. Pray that God will open your eyes to the needs around you.

Maybe it’s hardness of heart that keeps you from being interruptible…you simply lack compassion and mercy for people. You get fed up with people and their perceived lack of judgment and perpetual bad decisions. Hardness of heart is dangerous…you can only show mercy if you’ve received mercy. If you don’t show mercy, it could be an indication that you’re in need of God’s mercy. At a minimum you have a heart problem. Ask God to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart. Ask Him to help you show compassion.

Easter’s just around the corner. Who, like the lame beggar, do you need to keep your eyes open for? Who can you introduce to Jesus? I hope that you’ve identified that one on your impact list that you are praying for and plan on inviting.

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 Blind Man Sees

Luke 18.31-43

The disciples are blinded to the need for Jesus to suffer even though He’s warned them on numerous occasions, predicting both His death and resurrection. The blind man sees that Jesus is much more than a prophet or miracle-worker from Nazareth…He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Son of David and promised King who brings the kingdom.

Suffering is a reality for every believer. Some suffering is the result of living in a broken world…the blind man’s physical blindness. It’s the kind of suffering that everyone who walks the planet will experience at some point and to some degree. It’s the consequences of the curse that affects all creation. But some suffering is the result of following Jesus…the crowd’s attempt to silence the blind man. That kind of suffering is unique to believers. It’s the price of our rebellion against the god of this world. What’s the blind man’s response in both cases? He cries out to the King…“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” When suffering comes, whether it’s suffering from persecution or suffering because we live in a fallen world, our response should be the same, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It’s a cry, not only for relief in the present circumstance, but it also represents our longing for one of the days of the Son of Man…our desire for the kingdom.

The blind man is a sharp contrast to the rich ruler we talked about a few weeks back. The rich ruler appeared to have everything…wealth, independence, status, power, possessions…yet he left Jesus lacking the one thing he truly desired…the kingdom. The blind man appears to have nothing…poor, dependent, powerless, having nothing…yet he receives from Jesus not only his sight, but also the kingdom. Stuff can be a trap both for the believer and the unbeliever…a snare that blinds us to our need for Jesus. As believers, it can be subtle. At one point, we recognized our need for Jesus to rescue us. But as time passes, it’s easy to become less needy…to replace our confidence in Him with our confidence in our job or our relationships or our status or our stuff or whatever. When crisis strikes…sickness, loss, relational fallout…we are quick to call out to Him, but when things are going well, we don’t need Him so much. But we never outgrow our need for Jesus. Only He can save. Only He can truly satisfy the longing of our souls. Only He can rescue us and bring us into the kingdom. If that’s you, ask the Father to rekindle that sense of daily dependence on Him. If you have not yet trusted in Him, make today the day. Don’t be like the rich man who “had it all” as far as this world goes, but had nothing of eternal value. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you, and trust Him to do so. Then you too can “see” like the blind man.

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

Sabbath Healing Take 2

Luke 13.10-21

Jesus had warned His listeners that the time is short…if the fig tree doesn’t start bearing fruit it will be cut down. And so we have a repeat performance by Jesus. Another Sabbath day, another synagogue, another opportunity to show compassion. Yet once again the religious leaders show their failure to love God by the way they despise people. Nothing’s changed.

While the effects of Jesus’ teaching and miracles may seem insignificant now, they are still evidences of the kingdom’s presence…the kingdom where one day God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Citizenship in the kingdom is open to all, but only those who respond to the invitation of the King will become kingdom citizens. And the only way to respond is to recognize our need to be rescued.

Rejoicing is a clear indication of those who have been rescued by Jesus. We can’t help but be excited when we pass from death to life. Unfortunately sometimes our rejoicing turns into indignation if we are not careful and allow our relationship to Jesus to become more about following rules than loving others. Pride and self-righteousness can slowly slink in, and we begin to question God’s work in other’s lives. Instead of rejoicing with them, we might even resent them because it’s not how we would have done it. But God’s will rarely comes wrapped in our preferences.

If the joy of your salvation has turned sour…if you no longer find yourself rejoicing over the work of God in your life and the lives of others, maybe you’ve become a rule-follower rather than a passionate pursuer of Jesus. Spend some focused time this week asking Jesus to rekindle that sense of wonder and excitement at what He has done for you, and then tear up that list of rules.

If you still have not trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. The time is short. Jesus is a compassionate and benevolent King who invites you to become a kingdom citizen. He wants to save you from your sin…He’s already died in your place, so that you might live. He was raised again to life conquering sin and death, so that you too might conquer sin and death through Him. He is coming back one day to set all things right.

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

A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

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

Ministry Interrupted

Luke 8.40-56

In this story we have 2 narratives intertwined…2 desperate but very different life situations: 1 well-off, the other poor; 1 highly respected, the other rejected; 1 a part of a family, the other alone. But both are seemingly beyond help. For 12 years the girl and the woman have lived such different lives, but now tragedy has put them on a collision course, and they both experience God’s life-giving power.

This is a story of fear and faith. Fear of the circumstances of life that Jairus and the woman find themselves in. Faith in Jesus’ ability to rescue them in those same circumstances of life. Calming the storm…casting out demons…healing disease…raising the dead…Jesus has power over creation, demons, uncleanness and death. No doubt Jesus can rescue them. His compassionate words and compassionate touch are proof of His willingness to rescue them.

The woman’s faith is pretty straight forward…she believes that if she can only touch Jesus’ cloak, she will be healed. And she is…immediately. No delay. Instant satisfaction.

But what about Jairus? He too believes that Jesus can heal his daughter. However, the interruption and subsequent delay seemingly result in all being lost. Yet Jesus still asks Jairus to trust Him. The timing is not what Jairus would have chosen…Jesus has His own timing (rarely early, but always on time)…but God is still in control. Do you believe that? In the circumstances of your life, do you believe that God is in control, and that His timing is always the right timing? Are you willing to patiently wait on Him? The seed planted in good soil holds fast to the Word and bears fruit with perseverance.

The guy from Jairus’ house thinks that all hope for Jairus’ daughter is lost…and by all appearances it is. But Jesus uses the delay to do something even bigger than healing a sick girl…He raises her from the dead.

We learn something important from this story about living and loving like Jesus…Jesus is busy, but not rushed. He sees interruptions as opportunities to minister grace to others. He’s very interruptible. I’m afraid I for one am both busy and rushed. That many, if not most, times I see people as distractions or as problems to be dealt with. I often overlook or miss opportunities to minister grace to others. I have to protect my routine. Interruptible? Are you kidding me? I have a schedule to keep. But if we want to live and love like Jesus, we have to be willing to slow down, trust God’s timing, and embrace interruptiblity.

So I don’t know where you are…maybe you are like the woman in desperate need of Jesus to rescue you…physically, emotionally, spiritually…maybe you’ve tried everything else. Just reach out to Him.

Maybe you are like Jairus…needing God to act right now! Maybe you need to be reminded that His timing is always perfect and to see the bigger thing that God may be doing in the delay. Maybe it’s a time to exercise a patient faith.

Maybe you need to be reminded that Ministry Interrupted is really a Ministry Opportunity.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we see interruptions as opportunities to be wholesalers of God’s grace.”

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