Choosing a New Witness

Acts 1.12-26

Because of Judas’ treachery, the Apostles are in need of a new witness, another Apostle, to take his place and carry forward the mission. Not just anyone will do because it’s not just any mission…he must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ words and works which he and the team will take to the nation and from their to all the nations.

From the beginning we see the importance of prayer and the Word. Praying expectantly in unity, waiting patiently on the Lord. Recognizing the implications of the Word in their current situation. How are you doing on your spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time with the Lord, in the Word and in prayer? If you haven’t started, start today. If you’ve started and have already blown it, restart today. Don’t give up. It’s not about how much and how long…it’s about time spent with the Father.

Throughout Acts, we will see the importance of the Spirit’s work in establishing the church and empowering folks for ministry, the centrality of the resurrection in the gospel, and the need to carry the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are all called to be witnesses…witnesses of what Jesus has done in our lives. We are to be proclaimers of the gospel to those who are lost around us. We’ve been given the Spirit to empower us. Who are you praying for? Who’s on your list? We have to be intentional…

Each of us is here because of someone else’s witness. For me it was my second grade Sunday school teacher. I don’t remember her name, but she told me about Jesus.

“D.L. Moody, one of the greatest preachers in the history of the church, was brought to Christ by a man named Edward Kimball. Kimball was just an ordinary guy who loved the Lord. He was a Sunday school teacher in his church. He worked at a shoe store along with a young man named Dwight. God had put a burden on his heart to share the gospel with Dwight, but he put it off and fought it for a while. Finally Kimball mustered up the courage, went to Dwight, and told him about Jesus. Dwight became a Christian, and not long after that, he committed himself to preaching.

There is no church or institute named after Edward Kimball. But he reached D.L. Moody. You might not be a D.L. Moody, but you might be an Edward Kimball. We need people who are willing to labor in obscurity like Edward Kimball…bringing others to Jesus. God can use you to do that.” — Greg Laurie, Unlikely Champions of the Bible,  January 17, 2018

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 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

When You…Week 3

Matthew 6.16-21, 33; 7.24-27

Time spent in the Word. Time spent in prayer. Time spent in fellowship with other believers. All things we have talked about before. Have they been woven into the fabric of your daily routine yet? If not, make the answer to the question, “When you?” today.

Giving and fasting may be new concepts for you, but Jesus assumes that those who follow Him will practice both. When we give as an expression of love and out of a desire for God’s glory…to invest in His kingdom…we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing our resources in things that moth and rust cannot destroy and no thief can steal.

When we fast, we recognize our dependence on God in a very tangible way…a way that expresses our hunger and thirst for His righteousness that Jesus said would be satisfied.

But as we said a couple of weeks ago, you have to have a plan. Be intentional about gathering with a group of believers. Sign up for a community group or small group or class. Start a dinner club. Get into an accountability group. Don’t wait…just do it.

Same is true for the Word. As much as we may want to spend time in the Word, unless we are intentional about setting aside time to do so it just doesn’t happen. So plan it into your schedule…maybe you could listen to the Bible in the car on your commute to work. Maybe you could read a chapter or two before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after your head hits the pillow at night. Maybe it’s on your lunch break or over your first cup of coffee. But get in the habit of spending time in God’s Word.

Ditto for fasting. Probably even more so. Have a plan. Maybe it’s just a meal a week. Take a break from social media or technology. It’s not punishment, but an intentional removing of distractions to focus on your relationship with Jesus.

This is between you and the Lord. Take a few minutes to think, to pray and to commit. What area or areas do you need to shore up this year?

May you experience greater joy, confidence and contentment in your everyday life with God as you intentionally pursue Him this year.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 2

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

But if we are going to be generous, we have to have a plan. For most of us, it starts with looking at our own hearts. We have to be willing to let go of our greed…we have to value people over things and be more satisfied with Jesus than our stuff. Giving can be a tough subject for some, and giving generously? Forget about it. I don’t know of anything that can put me on the defensive faster than someone wanting to mess with my stuff. And right there I see…my own greed. My own kingdom. I’ve got to protect it. But if we want to be generous givers, we have to give it up. We have to recognize that it all belongs to God anyway. We are managers of His resources. And we will have to give an account…have we been generous with His resources? Have we been generous with the money, time, relationships, etc…with the life He’s entrusted to us? Generosity affects more than giving away our material possessions…its an attitude that should be reflected in all of our life.

So what about you? Whose kingdom are you building? Whose stuff are you protecting? Yours or Jesus’? We cannot enjoy the kingdom unless we are submitted to the King, and we cannot submit to the King if we are still hanging on to our stuff. Are you mastered by the desire to get or give (Acts 20.35)? Do you trust God’s generosity enough to be generous yourself?

What would Central look like if everyone was as generous as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, what impact would that have, not only on Central, but on this Valley and beyond?

Why not make generosity one of your spiritual disciplines this year?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

When You… Week 1

Matthew 6.1-15

Time spent in prayer…something we have talked about before. Has it been woven into the fabric of your daily routine yet? Time spent with just you and your Father? If not, make the answer to the question, “When?” today.

Giving may be a new concept for you, but Jesus assumes that those who follow Him will be generous givers. When we give as an expression of love and out of a desire for God’s glory…to invest in His kingdom…we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing our resources in things that moth and rust cannot destroy and no thief can steal.

But we have to have a plan.We have to be intentional…it starts with recognizing that all that we have belongs to God anyway. We are just stewards of His resources. Then make giving a regular practice…give as an act of worship on the weekends. Give to folks who are in need around you. Give generously of both yourself and of your resources. But give.

Same is true for prayer. As much as we may want prayer to happen, unless we are intentional about setting aside time to pray it just doesn’t. So plan it into your schedule…maybe in the car on your commute to work. Maybe before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after your head hits the pillow at night. Maybe on your lunch break or over your first cup of coffee. You could even do it while your in line at the store or working out at the gym. Maybe all those times. But get in the habit of praying.

May you have an ever deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God when you spend time with Him in 2018.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Christ

1 Peter 1.13

This Christmas, as we think about time with family and Christmas presents and lights and all the ways we celebrate Jesus’ First Advent, His coming as the Baby in a manger, let’s not forget to also look forward, in anticipation of the day when He will return a second time to make all things right. The time when, just as the wise men did so long ago, we will be in such awe of Him that we lay our gifts not under the tree, but at His feet and lie prostrate before our Conquering King. And as we find ourselves living between the times of His First and Second Advent…where life seems to be crashing down around us because of broken relationships, lost loved ones, bills piling up…in this in-between space where the consequences of our own sin and the sin of others impact us…don’t forget that our hope is not in this broken world, but in a new one, a re-created one where Jesus is reigning. Let’s set our minds right and live according to the truth…we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God…no matter what comes.

For some of us, the Christmas story is a familiar story because we have been rescued. For us, Christmas is a time to celebrate the salvation that Jesus brings. It’s also a time for us to look forward to the time when He will return and make all things right.

But for others, it’s a new story. If you are feeling lost and alone, beat down by the world, helpless and hopeless…Jesus wants to rescue you. And the good news is…He came to do just that. The gospel is good news of great joy for all people, but not everyone will experience that joy. Only those who respond to the good news…only those who trust in Jesus, who receive the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers. If that’s you, today could be the day of salvation for you, a day of celebration, the day you experience Christmas for the first time.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Joy

1 Peter 1.6-9

We can experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of trials when we see our lives from a kingdom perspective…because we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God.

Everyone who walks this planet will suffer…guaranteed. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Death. Loss. Broken relationships. Disappointment. You name it. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices. Some of it’s due to the bad choices of others. Some of it’s a result of the fall. But everybody will suffer in some way at some time. But not all will suffer for their faith.

The picture that Jesus frequently uses for discipleship…for following Him…is taking up our cross. It’s a clear picture of suffering. Now why does suffering have to be a part of the deal? I mean if we’ve chosen to follow God, if we’ve been adopted into His family, if we’re kingdom citizens, then why doesn’t He keep us from suffering? If we are on the winning side, then why does it feel like we’re losing? It goes back to the fall…

When we rebelled against our Creator, it had a devastating effect not only on us but also on the good world that God had made. The dominion that man was supposed to exercise over creation was forfeited to the enemy (Luke 4.6), who subsequently became “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4) , “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2.2). Before we trusted in Jesus, we were “sons (and daughters) of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2) and were citizens of this world and thoroughly committed to life in the kingdom of darkness.

When we trusted in Jesus another rebellion occurred, but this one was really a return. And while it is true that we are citizens of a new kingdom and children of God, we are still living in enemy territory. Because our allegiance has changed, we are at odds with the world around us. The more we look like Jesus…the more we live as kingdom citizens…the more at odds we will be. The more at odds, the more suffering. The more suffering, the more rejoicing. Why can we rejoice? Because our faith has been purified and strengthened. Because we know that our salvation is sure. Because we are becoming more like Jesus.

The counterfeit joy that this world offers is based on avoiding unpleasantness of any kind…forget about suffering. It’s a joy that is hollow, self-seeking and fleeting. It disappears when the storms of life come. Unfortunately that’s the only joy that many of us pursue. But true joy…inexpressible joy…comes only from following Jesus, taking up our cross and being willing to suffer with Him. Seems like an odd way to find joy…especially an inexpressible joy…but there it is. That kind of joy is independent of circumstance…good or bad, suffering or rejoicing…it remains unshaken.

It’s not that suffering in and of itself brings joy, but it’s our identification with Jesus…it’s the family resemblance. Suffering for my faith is the only suffering that I have some control over…I can avoid it by not living out my faith or I can embrace it when it comes while pursuing Jesus. I’ll only suffer for what I know to be true in my life. That’s where inexpressible joy comes in…knowing that I have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance protected by God…that truth has to marinate my life. The only way I know to do that is by time spent in God’s Word and hiding it in my heart. Find a passage like 1 Peter 1.3-5 that encourages you and commit it to memory so that when storms come you can face them with truth.

So what if I’m not distressed by various trials? What if I’m not suffering persecution of any kind for my faith? First question would be, have you trusted in Jesus? If not, today could be the day of salvation for you…the day that you are adopted into God’s family…living hope, imperishable inheritance, inexpressible joy and true peace can all be yours. You just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Welcome to the rebellion.

If you have trusted in Jesus, then is it obvious to those around you? Does your life look any different than theirs? Actions…attitudes…language? Is there anything that would distinguish you from them? If the answer is “yes.” Then keep living out your faith. Trials will come…they may look different for you than for me…but they will come because we live in enemy territory. But if the answer is “no,” there’s a good chance that the folks around you are not mistaking you for being a Christian. You see, if you are living according to this world’s standards and behaving like everyone else…why would you be persecuted? You will not experience the inexpressible joy that Peter is describing…only the counterfeit joy that disappears when hard times come.

Do you have joy, real joy in Jesus? Do other people want the joy that you have?

This Christmas season I pray that you will experience the inexpressible joy that only Jesus can bring…the joy of knowing that He, your King is coming, the joy of knowing your salvation is secure, the joy of knowing Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

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