Fall on Your Knees

Revelation 12

What does a celestial woman with child and a great red dragon have to do with Christmas and the theme of Fall on Your Knees? Glad you asked. This time of year the Church has traditionally celebrated Advent…which means “Coming”. While Christmas no doubt reminds us of the First Advent when Jesus came as a Baby to a young couple in Bethlehem, our hope as believers is that He will come again…this time as King.

In the cosmic conflict…the heavenly war that is raging…there are only two sides. You are either for the King or against Him. There is no middle ground. And there’s only One/one to whom you can fall on your knees. Either the true King or the pretender. The tricky thing is…the pretender is good at what he does. Pretending. He’s a deceiver, so often while it might look like he’s winning…our world in chaos…he’s already lost.

As believers, it often feels like we are on the losing side. The pressure to conform to this world…already so pervasive in the church…is everywhere present. Hollywood. Social media. Politics. Materialism… The fear of persecution, whatever form that might take…being passed over for promotion or losing a job, ridiculed at school, belittled by your family or friends…is real. So what do we do? Don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins. Don’t give up because of persecution, don’t give in to compromise, because Jesus has already won.

May you remember that this Christmas season…the battle is already won…and may you fall on your knees before the true King, Jesus.

Join us as we continue our Advent story with…The Night When Christ Was Born.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A New and Glorious Morn

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. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We put our trust in 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 forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

Inevitably God brings us into 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, 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 “the LORD God” (Yahweh Elohim), the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation (Genesis 2-3) who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He “God” (Elohim), the God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me, who only is looking out for His own interests according to the serpent in Genesis 3? And just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, 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, the LORD God, is present in our crises. If we will trust 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 trusting God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more you trust in God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. The more you trust yourself…not so much.

Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The secret to experiencing the life that God has saved us for starts with believing that He loves us…really loves us…and resting in His love. And to do that, we have to do what He says, knowing that what He commands is for our good as His children, then we can experience both the life and the fullness of joy He intended for us…we might call it a new and glorious morn.

There is a haunting Christmas carol that says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” The music to this carol is written in a minor key…or so they tell me. Can joy be found in a minor key? Can there be joy in difficult circumstances? The answer is a resounding “yes” if we remember Immanuel…that God is with us and is for us, and if we remember that He has an eternal home waiting for us.

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 a new and glorious morn…the joy 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 a new and glorious morn this Christmas season, Immanuel…God with us, and may you trust Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…Fall on Your Knees.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Weary World Rejoices

2 Samuel 7.8-16

David was a great king in many ways. He was fearless and passionate, strong and brave. He loved the Lord and his family. But David wasn’t the King God had promised. Solomon, his son, was also an outstanding king. Maybe even greater than his father. His wisdom was renowned. He was a brilliant strategist. He was wealthy beyond imagination. But he too fell far short of the King God had promised. There have been many kings and great leaders throughout history, but as amazing as anyone of them may have been, none comes even close to our coming King. He’s the King of righteousness and the King of peace. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone will rule over the nations of this earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice.

The good news is…the King has come. Jesus has come…and for a time the weary world rejoiced. The long-awaited Messiah, the Davidic King, the Hero…had come, but not as a Mighty Warrior or a Roaring Lion. He came as a helpless Babe, a Sacrificial Lamb. He came to bring peace…a peace that was only possible through His own shed blood. A peace that could only be had when sin was atoned for and death was defeated. A peace that was only available through the cross. And having secured that peace, three days later Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered both sin and death so that our hope…our long awaited hope…could be realized. And so the weary world rejoices.

In Romans 8.18-25, Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

We live in the midst of a weary world. A world that longs for peace. A world that longs for wrongs to be righted. A world that longs for a Savior. But it is a world seeking salvation in all the wrong things…wealth, politics, fame, advantage, relationships, you-name-it. And we too sometimes get caught up in the world’s solutions, don’t we? But what this weary world needs is only available in Jesus…only He can bring peace. Only He can set things right. Only He can save. It’s the hope that we have that a weary world needs. And it’s a hope that we need to share with a weary world.

One day our King will return. As believers, that is our hope. That Jesus will return and establish His eternal kingdom…an enduring kingdom…the true kingdom. Not an earthly dynasty destined to end, but an everlasting rule over heaven and earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice…the creation’s groaning will be over. Jesus will reign supreme.

May you rejoice and worship Jesus as your King this Christmas season.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…A New and Glorious Morn.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Thrill of Hope

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives. If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

The thrill of hope is…God’s not done yet. The thrill of hope is…God’s pursuit of His wayward children. The thrill of hope is…forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The thrill of hope is…the LORD God… a restored relationship with our Creator, sons and daughters of the high King.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do, when He sends His Son, Jesus, as the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman, whose dying words, will be, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” The Thrill of Hope is…Genesis 3.15.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus…aka the seed of the woman…are at war with the seed of the serpent, not by choice but because of the hatred and hostility they have toward us. Guess what side the culture is on? Adam gave up not only his innocence in the fall, but also his right to rule. He gave that to the serpent…“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  So those who follow God suffer not only the consequences of theirs and others bad choices and the effects of a fallen world, but also the attacks of the enemy. And yet hope is possible because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has come…Jesus has come…and He has defeated the Adversary. And now we wait with all of creation for the time when Jesus will come back, not as the Suffering Lamb, but as the Roaring Lion…not as a Baby in a manger, but as the Conquering King. He will come back to set all things right…

May you experience the thrill of hope this Christmas season and the amazing love of God who didn’t give up on us even in our rebellion, but who has pursued us and did what we could not do, provide the way back to Himself through Jesus, the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…The Weary World Rejoices.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Paul before Felix

Acts 24

Paul makes his first defense after the Jerusalem incident before the Roman authorities…before Governor Felix. The charges leveled against Paul are serious, but none can be proven. And yet, he remains in custody awaiting his divine appointment in Rome.

Despite his circumstances, Paul still has one job to do…share the gospel, to share his story. Despite your circumstances, you too have one job to do…to share your story. The story of how God has brought you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Beloved Son. The question is, do you see your circumstances as an opportunity to share your story, or are you so busy trying to escape them that you can think of nothing else? Maybe the difficult things you are going through are providing an opportunity you would have no other way…

Paul believed his faith in Jesus mattered. It mattered in the future because the promised kingdom awaits. But it also matters right now. Because how we live out our faith today, has an impact on our experience of the promised kingdom tomorrow. 

Does your faith cause a stir? I have heard it said this way, if you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? You see, one day each of us will give an account of how we lived our lives (1 Corinthians 3.10-15). As believers, our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, but we are stilled evaluated on how we lived out our faith…how we invested our mina…what we did with the gospel. We will still give an account of our life to the King. Where are you investing your resources? Who are you sharing your story with? Are you storing up treasures in heaven? Or are you pursuing after the things of this world? Only you can answer that.

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, you too will give an account. But it’s a very different account. Since you didn’t trust in Jesus to forgive you of your sins, you will have to pick up the tab yourself. An eternity apart from God in a place called hell. A terribly frightening thought. Don’t go that route. The price has already been paid. Trust in Jesus today.

One last thing…If Paul lived in fear of what folks thought of him, where would we be today? What if we had the same courage that he had? How might our schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, etc. be different?

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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

Plot to Kill Paul

Acts 23.12-35

A plot to kill Paul is foiled, and under heavy Roman guard, he is brought safely to Caesarea to await trial before Governor Felix.

Jesus appeared to Paul after his confrontation with his opponents in the Jewish Council, encouraging him and reminding him that He still had work for him to do. Paul has an appointment to keep in Rome. His one job is to solemnly bear witness to Jesus, which Paul will do at every opportunity.

We too are called to bear witness to Jesus. To share our story…the story of how He has brought us from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. To share the story of His grace and His mercy in our lives. Every opportunity that we get. Jerusalem and Rome. Workplace. School. Home. Neighborhood. Wherever He gives us a platform.

I love Paul’s confidence even in a pretty dark situation. It’s the same confidence we can have even in our own pretty dark situations. God is the Author our story. And He knows the end from the beginning. He is our Father who knows what we need before we even ask it. And He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. A love that He not only demonstrated so magnificently in sending His Son, but who also demonstrates it over and over and over again throughout our lives.

So let me challenge you this week…no matter how dark your circumstances, how great the storm, how desperate you may feel in the moment…fix your eyes on the Author of your story, and you too can have confidence that He will see you through.

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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

Paul before the Council

Acts 23.1-11

In an attempt to clarify the reason Paul is wreaking such havoc among the Jews, the commander has him appear before the Council. There Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the real reason for the violent uproar.

Jesus came to bring peace. He came to rescue us from sin and death. He came to give us new life. Good news, right? And yet because of our sin…because of our selfishness or self-righteousness…because we want to be in charge…we want to decide good and evil, right and wrong…we want to define truth…because of all those things we don’t want Jesus to save us. Why do we need to be rescued? What’s wrong with the life we have? The divide over Jesus wasn’t just a first century phenomenon. It’s very real in our culture today just as it’s been between those who follow God and those reject Him, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent since the garden.

So where do you fall on that divide? Are you for Him or against Him? Is Jesus your King? If not, He will be your Judge. There is no middle ground…no neutral zone…no sidelines to watch from. You are in the game whether you want to be or not…whose side are you playing for? If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not make today the day that you make Him your King…that you give up the throne that He rightly deserves in your life.

If you do know Jesus, are you following Him? Would it be obvious to those who know you best? God doesn’t call us to be perfect, but He does call us to be obedient…to be faithful.

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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