The 144,000

Revelation 7.1-8

The 144,000 are sealed for the coming days of judgment. It’s not clear as of yet what God has in store for them, but we will find out in the coming weeks.

God is in control, and He has a plan. His ways are not our ways, and while we won’t understand everything, we can trust in a God who does. He has a plan for Israel, He has a plan for the 144,000, and He has a plan for you and me.

If you have trusted in Jesus, you too have been sealed. Sealed with the Holy Spirit that Paul says is a downpayment on our future inheritance. So we need not be afraid. We belong to God. We are His, and no one can snatch us out of His hand.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, please don’t wait. No one can stand on their own in the day of God’s wrath. I know that’s not easy to hear. I know it’s not popular to talk about. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. But He is also just. And there will come a day when it’s too late. So don’t wait.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the app store or google play.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Revelation 1.1-8

We live in uncertain times. But no less uncertain than the times John lived in. And honestly no less uncertain than folks have lived in for thousands of years. The world is an uncertain place…or so it seems. But God is at work now just as He’s always been.

Revelation is the story of the reconciliation of heaven and earth. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It’s the capstone to God’s Story of redemption. And Jesus is the Hero of the Story.

By now, most of you know that I am a football fan. Revelation is the fourth quarter. Not sure how much time is left on the clock, but the countdown has begun. It started the day Jesus ascended into heaven. Our job is to finish strong. We’ll talk more about what this means in coming weeks, but our mantra throughout the book will be, “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.”

Let me challenge you with something throughout this series…read through the passage we will be covering (devotional in the app for Saturday), show up and listen as we walk through the book, and then respond…do it. Whatever it is that God impresses you with…do it.

pro rege

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

The Restoration of Israel

Romans 11.25-36

God is not done with His people Israel. Though things haven’t turned out quite the way we might have expected, God is using Israel’s disobedience to bring the gospel (mercy) to the Gentiles which in turn will result in Israel’s turning to God (mercy) because of the blessings of salvation being shown to the Gentiles…blessings that are part of the OT promises.

Only God could do it. He makes a way when there seems to be no way. He is in a category all His own. He’s God.

And when we think about our own salvation, like Paul it should cause us to break out in praise to God. Is that true for you? Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve really thought about it. Might be worth a walk around the block or an hour or so sitting on the back porch thinking, pondering, meditating on the goodness of God in your life…then thanking and praising Him. Sounds like a great plan for the week of Thanksgiving.

I said this last week, but I want us to keep it in mind. 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? It’s as they see the difference that Jesus has made in our lives that they will become jealous in a good way…a life changing, eternity transforming way…a passing from death to life way.

Next week we start our Advent series, Joy Delivered.

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

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?

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

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.

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

Last Words

Genesis 49

These blessings show the ongoing reality and consequences of sin in the lives of God’s people…but where sin abounds, grace superabounds (Levi) – God is able to redeem evil and bring good from it. All the brothers are incorporated into the line of promise. The twelve tribes of Israel are not necessarily made up of the best and brightest…only one Joseph. And we are reminded that God doesn’t often call the best and the brightest…no offense. He calls the broken, the discarded, the mess-ups, the failures… Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” It’s all of God from start to finish…the faithfulness of God in redeeming evil circumstances.

Last week I mentioned the power of a father’s words…words that can bless or curse, words that can uplift or squash down. And while that is especially true for father’s, it is also true for all of us who are influencers in another’s life. What kind of words are you speaking? It’s ok to speak words of warning…we are all on a trajectory…but what is the motivation behind your words? Is it to bless? Is it the other’s good? Or is it reactionary and mean-spirited?

For some of us, we long for words of blessing from our earthly fathers…but those words don’t come. But we have a heavenly Father who has and who longs to speak blessing over us (that’s why we have an event like Father’s Eyes). A God who wants to sing and dance over us, to rescue us and restore us, to take us in His arms. God speaks words of blessing over His creation in Genesis 1, blessing over the people He created, a blessing lost through the fall. The story of Genesis and Jacob’s blessing on his sons pictures the promise of God’s blessing being restored and partially received, the picture of a Conquering King who would crush His enemies, destroying sin and death, trampling the serpent under His feet, leading us back to the garden and restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father, Creator God. Blessing is about hope. And we as believers in Jesus are beneficiaries of that blessing.

But maybe you don’t know this God who blesses today…the God who wants to redeem your evil, the Shepherd, the ever-present God…Today could be the day.

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

Weekend Passage – March 7

Genesis 49

Israel’s Prophecy concerning His Sons

49 Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.

“Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;
And listen to Israel your father.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn;
My might and the beginning of my strength,
Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
“Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
“Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men,
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 “His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk.

13 “Zebulun will dwell at the seashore;
And he shall be a haven for ships,
And his flank shall be toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between the sheepfolds.
15 “When he saw that a resting place was good
And that the land was pleasant,
He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens,
And became a slave at forced labor.

16 “Dan shall judge his people,
As one of the tribes of Israel.
17 “Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
A horned snake in the path,
That bites the horse’s heels,
So that his rider falls backward.
18 “For Your salvation I wait, O Lord.

19 “As for Gad, raiders shall raid him,
But he will raid at their heels.

20 “As for Asher, his food shall be rich,
And he will yield royal dainties.

21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose,
He gives beautiful words.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a spring;
Its branches run over a wall.
23 “The archers bitterly attacked him,
And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his bow remained firm,
And his arms were agile,
From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 From the God of your father who helps you,
And by the Almighty who blesses you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 “The blessings of your father
Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him. 29 Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31 There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” 33 When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

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

Weekend Passage – February 28

Genesis 48

Israel’s Last Days

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him.When it was told to Jacob, “Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,”  his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.’ Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring thathave been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan,Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” So he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were sodim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 Israel said to Joseph, “I neverexpected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.” 12 Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13 Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 He blessed Joseph, and said,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day, saying,

“By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’”

Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

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

February 7 – Weekend Passage

Genesis 46

Jacob Moves to Egypt

46 So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3 He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.”

Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.

Those Who Came to Egypt

8 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. The sons of Reuben: Hanoch and Pallu and Hezron and Carmi.10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel and Jamin and Ohad and Jachin and Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. 11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 12 The sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. 13 The sons of Issachar: Tola and Puvvah and Iob and Shimron. 14 The sons of Zebulun: Sered and Elon and Jahleel.15 These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three. 16 The sons of Gad: Ziphion and Haggi, Shuni and Ezbon, Eri and Arodi and Areli. 17 The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. 18 These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons. 19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 20 Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. 21 The sons of Benjamin: Bela and Becher and Ashbel, Gera and Naaman, Ehi and Rosh, Muppim and Huppim and Ard.22 These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob; there were fourteen persons in all.23 The sons of Dan: Hushim. 24 The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel and Guni and Jezer and Shillem. 25 These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and she bore these to Jacob; there were seven persons in all. 26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27 and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two;all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.

28 Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. 30 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.” 31 Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; 32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”

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

Blessed Are the Faithful

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This week, we turn our attention to the book of Ezra

As we start to come to the close of our Old Testament reading, it is important to note the last few books cover a relatively short time span in the history of Israel. 

As we read through Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, it is better to read them with the understanding of how they work together. We know from these books there were at least three returns from Babylon to the land of Israel.

In the book of Ezra, the first six chapters tell the story of the first return of the Jews from captivity led by Zerubbabel – with the primary focus on the rebuilding of the temple.

Ezra chapters 7-10, record events 60 years later when Ezra leads a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem. 

The book of Esther takes place in the period between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra.

The third return from Babylon is recorded in the book of Nehemiah.

I will write something on the books of Esther and Nehemiah in the weeks to come. 

The events described in Ezra are set in Jerusalem and the nearby surrounding area. This reminds us that the returning exiles were only able to populate a tiny portion of their former homeland. 

The mighty, independent nation of Israel was no more.

In Ezra, we witness the rebuilding of the temple, and see how the returning tribes worked together, sharing common struggles. 

Sixty years go by, spiritual apathy sets in, and it seems we have a stop work order (my words) on the surrounding walls of Jerusalem. Ezra returns a second time with two thousand folks to infuse some energy and we have a spiritual revival!

By the end of the book, we find that Israel has renewed its covenant with God and is acting accordingly.

The Gospel Transformation Bible has this to say about the Book Of Ezra: 

“God’s redemptive plan looms large here, as we see him preserving the people to whom he has given his covenant promises—through Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) and David (2 Sam. 7:12–17). Those promises were carried through generations of Abraham’s seed and channeled through the tribe of Judah (see Ezra 1:5) until they ultimately culminated in Christ. Ezra shows the merciful continuity of God’s covenant, even for a sinful people punished by exile for their ugly rebellion against God. God’s promises will not fail; they are even more solid and beautiful than all the gold and silver vessels produced here as glorious evidence.”

Once more we are reminded that God keeps His promises and continues to bless those who are faithful to Him. 

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim