What About Israel? Part 1

Romans 9.1-18

Probably nothing sadder than wasted potential, and the Israelites had the greatest of potential. All the advantages that being the OT people of God afforded them, and yet many individual Israelites still rejected Jesus as their Savior.

As believers, we have great potential too. God has entrusted us with the gospel…each of us has been given a mina (Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19). How will we invest it? Will we take big risks with it looking for great reward? Or will we bury it hoping nobody discovers our secret? Will we live boldly for Jesus or only for ourselves? Having every advantage doesn’t mean that we will necessarily realize our potential. We have to be intentional. We have to choose to say “yes” to Jesus, and “no” to sin. We have to live out who we are our in Jesus on purpose.

Don’t waste your potential. Invest your life in the kingdom. Share your story with those around you who don’t know Jesus. Be generous with your resources.

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

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.

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 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.

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

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.

pro rege

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

Sharing Your Story

Luke 8.26-39

Having just calmed a violent storm at sea, Jesus meets a man with an equally violent storm raging within him. In both cases Jesus is able to squash the chaos with a word. It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Luke is showcasing Jesus’ power and authority over both the natural and supernatural worlds. And he does that, but I think Luke is driving us to something even more powerful…you see, beyond the power of Jesus is the love of Jesus. Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! Did you get that? Jesus crosses a violent, storm-tossed sea and faces down the forces of hell for one man! O what a Savior! And having rescued him, He sends him on a mission to share his story – of “what great things God had done for him.”

I love this story. It’s a beautiful picture of the lengths that Jesus goes to to seek and save the lost…

Crossed the sea (calmed the storm, etc.)

Faced off with the hosts of hell

Braved the potential backlash of a frightened mob

For one man

Jesus is still on a rescue mission, pulling folks out of the fires of hell. Setting the captives free. And as those who have been set free, He calls us to join Him in that same mission. To share our story…of what great things Jesus has done for us.

Though we may not have been as bad off as the demoniac in this story, before Jesus we were all just as lost. We were all held captive in the kingdom of darkness. We were all without hope and in desperate need of rescue. And only Jesus could do that.

So what is your story, and who can you share it with? Jesus sent the man back to his home town to share with those closest to him what God had done for him. Sounds a lot like our impact list…those folks who are closest to us who don’t know Jesus. Could be friends or family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates or teammates. If you have trusted in Jesus, then you have a story to tell.

And as I think back over my own story, I’m reminded…Jesus changes everything. He wants to change everything in our lives if we will let Him. But we have to be intentional about pursuing Him. We have to make the choice…training, not trying. Quality time in His Word everyday aka Daily Devotion. Praying throughout the day aka Consistent Prayer. And time with other believers as often as possible aka Intentional Community. And when we do that we find that He’s been pursuing us all along…the Good Shepherd looking for the one lost sheep.

Let me challenge you with two last words…first, take time this week to write out your story. On our website you can find a template that will walk you through putting together Your Story. Take your time…don’t rush. Pray over it and ask God to direct you through the process.

Second, prayerfully consider who you need to share your story with. Who do you know that hasn’t yet trusted in Jesus? Pray for opportunities and ask God for courage in the moment to take advantage of those opportunities when they come.

pro rege,

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

Intentional Community

Hebrew 10.19-25

I came across this poem the other day…“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own. Sing, and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air. The echoes bound to a joyful sound, But shrink from voicing care. Rejoice, and men will seek you; Grieve, and they turn and go. They want full measure of all your pleasure, But they do not need your woe. Be glad, and your friends are many; Be sad, and you lose them all. There are none to decline your nectared wine, But alone you must drink life’s gall. Feast, and your halls are crowded; Fast, and the world goes by. Succeed and give, and it helps you live, But no man can help you die. There is room in the halls of pleasure For a long and lordly train, But one by one we must all file on Through the narrow aisles of pain.” The poem is called Solitude. Striking because it paints and all-to-real and painful picture of what motivates the fallen world we live in to gather together…we may think it’s because they care about us or that they support our “cause”, but it’s really all about “me” (when it benefits “me”, when it makes “me” feel good, when it’s fun…when it serves “me”).

Quite different from what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 4.9-12, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” There is a synergy that exists when we pursue Jesus together…when we gather together. Synergy simply means that the total is greater than the sum of the parts. 1+1=3. It’s the way God’s designed it. We run faster, jump higher, reach more folks…we do better together.

But one of the greatest dangers to that synergy is divisiveness. We live in a divided world. Race is just one aspect. But the world around us divides over money or jobs or schools or college football…it divides over any and all kinds of things. So we should not be surprised when the world is divisive…why would we expect unbelievers to act any differently than…well, unbelievers. But when believers act like unbelievers, when believers become divisive…it’s extremely troubling. How does Paul say it in Galatians 3.28? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you/(we) are all one in Christ Jesus.” It’s not that diversity disappears…God created a very diverse world. A beautiful world. No, it’s that diversity should lead to unity (think of a tapestry)…a very unique kind of unity because it is not based on any of the things the world bases sameness or “unity” on. It’s a unity that is only possible through Jesus. He unites us. Reminds me of a story I read…

EMPEROR VALERIAN ordered the death of Christian leaders in Rome (258AD). An old story tells that the deacon Lawrence was one Christian brought before the Roman prefect (magistrate) in charge of carrying out the order. The prefect knew that, as a deacon, Lawrence had charge of church money. He promised Lawrence his freedom if he would hand over the church’s wealth. 

Lawrence agreed to bring the church’s treasures to the prefect. “But it will take me a few days,” he said. “The church is very rich.” 

Actually, Lawrence had distributed the Church’s possessions to the poor. On the third day he appeared before the prefect. “Come out and see the wondrous riches of God,” he urged. 

When the prefect emerged he saw not wagons full of gold, but a gathering of Rome’s lame, its blind, and its beggars. He demanded to know the meaning of the assemblage.  Lawrence replied that these poor people would some day have glorious bodies and live forever in Heaven. They were jars of clay in which were hidden the treasure of the Holy Spirit…

The church has always been the place of the also-rans, the not-good-enoughs, the down trodden and oppressed, the less-thans…those the world has overlooked. Sinners like you and me. Folks from every walk of life united by their need for a Savior and their love for Jesus.

Reminds me of the scene in God’s throne room in Revelation 7 where folks from every tribe and people and tongue and nation are gathered around the throne worshiping God together forever. The church should be a foretaste of that today…and when it’s not, shame on us.

Let me challenge you with two last words…first, make the weekend services at your local church a priority. It’s the time that we gather as a body to worship God together, both digitally and physically, to be encouraged and to be challenged, to be recharged and equipped. But come expecting God to do something. Come expecting to worship…to give rather than just receive. Come looking for the opportunity to serve those around you whether it’s at home (digitally) or on campus…maybe a kind word, a warm fist bump (handshake/hug), a prayer…but come.

Second, if you are not yet a part of a community group, now’s a great time to join one. Community groups are one of the best ways to experience intentional community. Check with your local church for details.

pro rege

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

Daily Devotion

Hebrews 5.11-14

Paul says it this way in Romans 12.2, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” By spending quality time in God’s Word every day, the Spirit takes the truth that we have read and begins to transform us, so that whatever the situation, we can discern what it is that God would have us do.

There is no such thing as pause or neutral in life. We are either growing or not, progressing or regressing. We can train our bodies…we can go to the gym, we can eat right, etc., and we will see progress. We will get stronger, faster, more agile. But if you skip going to the gym for a time, or running or riding your bike, or whatever your exercise of choice, you will quickly find out how much you’ve lost. The same is true intellectually. If we stop learning, our brains begin to shrink. Emotionally, if we withdraw from people, we lose the ability to relate. I think we’ve all experienced those things over the last several months in lockdown. If we don’t use it, we lose it. The same is true spiritually…if we are not growing spiritually then we are shrinking. We are moving backward. We are losing whatever ground we may at one time have gained.

So, if you suspect that might be you…that you might be a spiritual “infant”…how do you begin your path to maturity? Start training today with a simple Bible reading plan. For those of you who have trained physically for anything…sport, music, hobby, school…you know that you have to build up to your goal. Big gains are possible, but it’s gradual…slow and steady. Think tortoise and not hare. Training, not trying. If you are trying, then you may be tempted to give up when you fail. But the beauty of training is that failure is built into the process. So take the long view. Try, fail, try again, fail better, and repeat…

Where to start reading? What do you like to read? Do you like poetry? Start with Psalms. Do you like wisdom literature, pithy sayings? Then, Proverbs. Action? Genesis or 1 Samuel or Mark. But read the Bible and not just about the Bible. What I mean by that is…many folks read devotional books and count that as their Bible time. Devotional books are great, but don’t let them replace your Bible. Pick a book and start. Work your way up to the heavier books like Isaiah or Ezekiel or Romans or Revelation. Pray before you start that God will help you put into practice what you’re learning. And if you miss a day? Don’t beat yourself up, just start again.

Two last words, both are applicable to every one of the five marks of a disciple…first, while personal time in the Word is super important, pro tip…time in the Word with other believers leads to even greater gains. The Bible was written to a community of believers and that’s how it’s best understood and applied. If you are not a part of a community group but would like to be, we have a number of groups starting this fall. You can connect right now through the online chat on our website. Just go to centralchristian.org and click on the chat box near the bottom of the page and you’ll be connected to a host right away.

Second, for you husbands and fathers, this is a great opportunity for you to begin to lead your families. Share with your wife and your kids what God is teaching you through His Word, and encourage them to do the same. Maybe read a Proverb a day together…

Let’s press on to maturity then, spending quality time daily in God’s Word, training our senses to discern good and evil so that we might live and love like Jesus.

pro rege

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

Living by the Spirit

Romans 8.1-17

In the war against sin, we have been given an Ally who is truly OP (over-powered), as my son would say. The Spirit who is life and peace, puts to death the deeds of our body when we rely on Him. The Spirit also testifies to our spirit that we belong to God. That we have been adopted into His family. That we are sons and daughters of the King.

If you have trusted in Jesus, choose to live your identity in Him. So much is true about you…Forgiven. Justified. Righteous. Alive (eternal life). Reconciled. At peace with God. Free from the rule of sin. New heart. Spirit living within. Adopted into God’s family. Co-heir with Jesus. What would it look like to live your life based on those truths? How would it change your outlook on things? Your day-to-day interactions (social media)? What if every morning you reminded yourself of who you are…before your first cup of coffee, or checking your social media accounts, or catching up on the latest news…before you interact with your spouse or your kids (or your parents) or with folks at work or school? What if you reminded yourself of you are before you post or comment or forward…how might that change things for you and those around you? How might your life and your relationships look different? How might it impact the choices you make?

But you have to make the conscious choice. You have to choose to live out the reality of being “in Jesus”. You have to train yourself…discipline yourself…to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to sin. The good news is…you are not alone. You have the best Partner ever…the Spirit. Why not try it today?

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 Battle Within

Romans 7.14-25

A battle rages within every believer…a battle between the law of God and the law of sin, a battle between the mind/heart and the body, a battle between who I am and who I used to be. And though we wish it were otherwise, while we live in the already/not yet…in the in-between time of who we are ontologically and who we are experientially, the battle continues.

Some might be tempted to simply give up or give in. I mean, what’s the point? If I’m already saved, and it’s going to be this ongoing struggle to follow Jesus, maybe I should give in to sin. Just live life the way I used to live it. It’ll be easier that way. Paul has already addressed that…you are a slave of the one you obey.

Grace doesn’t mean that we’ve been saved from obedience. No, we’ve been saved for obedience. We don’t do good works to be made right with God…we do good works because we are right with Him. Grace simply gives us the ability to do what we couldn’t do on our own…obey God.

It strikes me in Romans 6 that the believer who is a slave of sin has chosen that route. They volunteered to be enslaved. As ridiculous as it may sound they have picked sin as their master even though they know that all he can and will offer them is death. In Romans 7 the believer who is a prisoner is being held against his/her will. They are actively involved in the battle against sin in their own lives. They are pursuing Jesus, and though they may fail, they continue to get up and fight on.

And while the distinction between slave and prisoner may not seem to be a big one, I believe it has huge implications for our spiritual walk. When I present myself to sin and allow it to become my master, then like the seed among the weeds in Jesus’ parable of the soils, the Word becomes choked by worries and riches and pleasures of this life and brings no fruit to maturity. But when I continue the fight against sin…sometimes winning and sometimes losing, but always fighting on, then like the seed in the good soil, the Word falls on a generous and good heart that holds it fast and bears fruit with perseverance.

The good news that Paul will talk about more in Romans 8…we are not alone in the struggle. We have been given the Spirit who helps us in our weakness when we rely on Him. And not only that, but when we have fellow believers who we are pursuing Jesus together with, they can be a source of encouragement and strength for us in the fight. We weren’t made to walk this path alone.

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

Joined to Jesus

Romans 7.1-13

We who are “in Jesus” have been set free from the Law in two ways…first from any attempt on our own to be justified before God (those trying to do good), and second from a rebellious heart set off by any “thou shalt not” (those not specifically trying to do good). We have been set free from the Law because we have been joined to Jesus. We are justified before God, and we’ve been given the Spirit and a new heart with the Law written on it.

Once again Paul presents two paths…one in which we bear fruit for God and the other in which we bear fruit for death. Which one best describes you?

If you have trusted in Jesus you have been set free from your old way of life. So why continue in it? Why not choose differently?

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