Hope Delivered

Isaiah 7.10-17

Our world is not so different from Ahaz’s world. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness reigns throughout the land. Pandemic. Social unrest. Racial tensions. Riots in the streets. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We hope in politicians or jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or you fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we too quickly forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. That He is Immanuel…God with us.

Inevitably we will face a crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we all have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, if my hope is in Him, will He save me? Does He really love me, and does He really care about me and my circumstances? Our answer is either a confident “yes” or a wavering “I’m not sure.” Is God a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He a God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me and my little problems, who is only looking out for His own interests? 

You see, just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, when their hope is in anything or anyone else, they pay a price for it. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is with us. He is present in our crises. If we will hope in Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But know this…He delights to save us.

Are you making alliances or compromises to save yourself, or are you hoping in God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more your hope rests with God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. But when your hope is anywhere else…not so much. One practical way to remember that God is with you is to write “hope” on a post-it and place it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

One last thing…even though Ahaz is a wicked king, God graciously invites him to trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then God offers the same gracious invitation to you. He wants you to trust Him, then you too can experience the hope that only Jesus can bring, knowing that He is with you always. But don’t wait. The time is short. Just as God is with those of us who have trusted in Him for salvation, so He is also with those who refuse Him for judgment. 

May you experience the hope of “God with us” in a very real and powerful way this Christmas season. May you experience Hope 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 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.

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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

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 2

Romans 9.19-33

Two great truths collide in this passage…God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. Both are true. God chooses and yet we have a choice. Nothing happens contrary to God’s purposes and yet we can’t say, “It’s not my fault.”

But we don’t want to miss Paul’s point…he’s not trying to create a Gordian knot for theologians to argue and debate over. He ultimately wants to bring us back to the gospel…to God’s love and His mercy, His patience even with those who reject Him, and His plan to redeem His creation.

The idea of God’s sovereignty often causes folks to immediately question His fairness. And yet if God acted on the basis of fairness, none of us would be saved. It’s not fair that any of us would receive His mercy. We all deserve to be vessels of wrath destined for destruction because of our sin. It’s only His mercy that allows even one of us to be a vessel of mercy…to make known the riches of His glory to a watching world.

Mercy and wrath. Heaven and hell. Definitely not topics that folks like to talk about these days, and yet it’s imperative that we understand that one day we will all have to give an accounting for the lives that we lived. The only determiner of our final destination will be whether or not we trusted in Jesus. If you have, you are a vessel of mercy prepared beforehand for glory. If you have not, you are still under God’s wrath. So will you choose to trust in Jesus today?

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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

Victory in Jesus

Romans 8.28-39

Confidence in the right thing makes all the difference. For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, our confidence is in exactly the right place. Not in ourselves or in anything that we’ve done, but in Jesus and all that He’s done on our behalf. From beginning to end, our salvation is secured.

Paul wants us to be encouraged…what God has started, even before the foundation of the world, He will bring to completion. If we have trusted in Jesus, we can be assured that one day we will reign with Him in His kingdom.

No doubt suffering will come…everyone who walks this planet has suffered, is suffering or will suffer. Guaranteed. But the difference is this…for those of us who have trusted in Jesus, our suffering is not wasted. God is using it to make us more like Jesus. And not only is our suffering not wasted, but in the midst of our suffering, we never have to doubt God’s love for us. The Spirit is constantly interceding for us (along with Jesus) and is pouring out God’s love within our hearts.

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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

The Glory to Come

Romans 8.18-27

In this in-between time, this already/not yet time that we live in, we eagerly await the glory to come. And as we do, whether in good times or in bad, we have the Spirit who not only empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body, but who is also praying for us in the midst of our waiting…our groaning and suffering. He is battling on our behalf. And He will see us through to glory.

Suffering before glory…it’s the reality of the world that we live in today. It’s true for us as believers, but it’s also true for all of creation. The world as it is is not what God originally intended. It’s under the curse, waiting eagerly as are we, the revelation of God’s glory and the redemption that is to come.

So while we wait, we pray. We share our stories. We share the hope that we have. You see, though we groan…in our suffering, we have a hope that this world cannot offer. A hope that the Hero has already won the day and that one day we will reign with Him. A hope that we must share…we must share… with a lost a dying world. And while sharing that hope, we minister to those around us who are in need. We point them to Jesus.

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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

Living Generously

Ephesians 4.1-16

We all have a part to play when it comes to preserving unity. Not just some of us…all of us. But within this unity there is diversity. We have all been given gifts for the mutual building up of the body, the Church. Gifted leaders equipping the saints for works of service… Each of us has to do our part.

This passage always reminds me of when Jack and I decided to try tae kwon do. The first day we entered the dojo aka YMCA, it was clear that the goal was for us to be black belts. Even though there were a number of them present, the sensei didn’t consider his job done until we all crossed the finished line and mastered the art. The idea in this passage is very similar…it’s not about one of us making it to maturity. It’s a group project. The job’s not done until we all attain to the unity of the faith… 

If you have trusted in Jesus, He has given you a spiritual gift. A gift that He expects that you will use to build up His body. Every gift is unique…even the same gift is given in differing measures. But each gift is needed for the body to function properly, and each gift is needed to be exercised to its full measure for the body to grow. Each of us is called to be a steward…not only of our resources, but also of the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Reminds me of the parable of the talents. Not everyone got the same number to start with, but each was expected to invest what they were given in the kingdom. So are we.

Being equipped for works of service is not just so that we can serve each other, although that is super important. But part of building up the body is bringing in folks who once were lost but now have been found. Let me suggest that maybe, just maybe, our primary ministry is outside the walls of the church building. It’s in the marketplace and in the schoolyard. It’s with our families and our friends. It’s when we walk outside these doors. And maybe our coming together as a church is like going to the gym. You come here to train…to prepare for the fight, to get ready for the big race. And after doing your bag work, the speed and agility drills, maybe a little foot work…once you walk out those doors, ministry starts. All of life is ministry. Opportunities abound to share our story and to introduce folks to Jesus.

So let me challenge you with two last words…first, if you are not using your spiritual gifts in some way to build up the church and serve others, we need you. We have provided a tool on our website (centralchristian.org) called SHAPE to help you discover not only your spiritual gifts, but also to help you identify areas that are a good fit you in serving.

Second, if you are not yet a part of a community group, let me encourage you to join one. CGs are one of the best ways to use your gifts and build one another up.

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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