Essentials: Generosity

Luke 20.45-21.4

God’s economy is different than ours. The widow’s offering is a reminder that God is not looking at the size of the gift, but the motivation behind giving it. God’s not after our money, but us. And yet we cannot give ourselves to Him without giving everything to Him, including our stuff.

Throughout church history, generosity has been one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. The care of the poor, the first hospitals and schools, leper colonies, providing for widows and orphans, for the downtrodden and left behind…all witnesses to the power and provision of God. Just as our Father is generous, He wants us to be generous too. Because of our so great salvation, our thankful and happy hearts should loosen our grip on our stuff and free us up to give…and to give generously. In fact, we as believers should be the most generous folks on the planet!

But so often we’re not. Maybe it’s because we have too low a view of God. Maybe we’re afraid to trust Him because deep down inside we believe Him to be stingy…that somehow He might hold out on us. And if we give away what we have, there won’t be enough for us. Yeah…but that’s not the picture that the Bible paints of who God is…think about the number of stars in the heavens, the number of galaxies, the greatness and vastness of space. In the Genesis account, when God creates the sun, moon and stars, what is their purpose? To give light to the earth, and for signs and for seasons. Seems to be a bit extravagant, doesn’t it?

What about God’s grace and His mercy and His love? His boundless, immeasurable love? The cross where the sins of all mankind were placed on His beloved Son. Every sin atoned for. Every one. So that all might be saved…if they will believe in Jesus.

So if God is so incredibly generous in these things…both in creation and in redemption, then why would He be stingy in providing for our needs? Our generosity problem has nothing to do with our wealth or lack thereof. The widow was certainly not rich by anyone’s standards. It has everything to do with our faith and obedience. So the question is, do you trust God enough to give generously?

If so, where might you start? Well, if you’ve never given before or have only given sporadically, then start by being intentional. Sit down with your family and pick an amount and give that amount regularly. Maybe sign up for online giving. Revisit your giving throughout the year to see how you’re doing. If you’ve been a consistent giver, make it a goal to increase that amount…shoot for generous. Watch how God provides. Strive to become a generous giver, not a bigger barn builder. Remember God gives generously to us so that we can then give generously to others. When we invest in the kingdom, it pays eternal dividends.

Here at Central we are striving to be generous with our finances, too. We give away 20% of our budget…both locally and globally through missions and, soon, through church planting. Definitely something to celebrate. I know some folks in Japan who are thanking God for your generosity!

Make 2020 the year that generous giving becomes a priority for you…just like the poor widow.

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This post is based on our January Series, Essentials. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Essentials: Salvation

Ephesians 2.1-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. A dead man can’t do anything to save himself…he’s dead! He must be made alive again.

The bad news…if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, you are dead. Your sin has killed you. And if something doesn’t change, nothing will change. You will remain dead. Separated from God forever. Not a very pretty picture. In fact it’s a very grim picture. An unsettling picture. But an accurate picture. The bad news is you’re as bad off as you can possibly be.

The good news…Jesus came to change all of that. He came to give you life. He has already taken care of the sin problem so that through faith in Him, you can be saved by His magnificent grace. Salvation that not only impacts your eternal destiny, but also transforms your present reality. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are saved to bring glory to the One who saved us…to highlight His goodness and His grace and His mercy and His love. So why not trust Jesus today?

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This post is based on our January Series, Essentials. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Essentials: Scripture

2 Peter 1.3-9

Being transformed to live and love like Jesus is the ultimate goal of the Christian life. The good news is, we’ve been equipped with everything we need to pursue this life…the Scriptures and the Spirit. Peter even gives us some hand and footholds, a list of virtues from faith to love.

I know we all want to finish well…we want our lives to have an impact for the kingdom. And some of you are having a huge impact right now. I think of those who are volunteering in our children’s and youth ministries, those who are leading community groups or small groups, those who are serving the homeless, or are leading in any number of other ministries that take place on our campus. Keep after it. The race is not done…we haven’t crossed the goal line. It’s hard work to finish well, but it’s worth it.

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 skipped going to the gym for a time, or didn’t run or ride your bike , you find out pretty quickly how easy it is to lose ground. 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. It’s true in every area of life…if we don’t use it, we lose it. So how do we miss it spiritually? It should be obvious that 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.

What if that’s you? Maybe you started out well, or maybe not so well, and now you’re wondering what to do. Peter would say, “I know you’ve messed up. I know you’ve failed Jesus. So did I…” but the good news is, you can still finish well. How? Get back to the basics. Begin today to pursue godliness…to spend time in the Bible getting to know God, not just getting to know about Him, but really knowing Him and doing what He says. Start 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…

Let’s resolve to make consistent time in the Word a priority in 2020.

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This post is based on our January Series, Essentials. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

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

Acts 29

Acts 28.17-31

The book of Acts ends somewhat abruptly. Luke doesn’t tell us what happened to Paul or how his trial turned out. We know from church history that Paul was eventually martyred in Rome, but whether that happened shortly after the two years were up or some time later we don’t know for sure.

But Acts is not the story of Paul…or Peter…it’s the story of the Church and of what God accomplished through it in the early days and what He still is accomplishing through it today. And so it’s fitting that Luke leaves the story open-ended because the question is, what chapter will we write? What does Acts 29 look like for us? For Central? For you and me?

The book of Acts can be summed up in one word…Go! And as I think back through our time in Acts, here are ten key takeaways that fit the theme of Go!

1) The gospel is for everyone in every place at all times…Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Our job isn’t done until everyone has had a chance to respond. So you are to Go…

2) Jesus is either your King or He will be your Judge. There is no neutral ground. Everyone must decide for themselves whether or not they will choose to believe. No one can choose for you. There are no +1’s in the kingdom. So it’s imperative that you Go…

3) Suffering and persecution are a part of what it means to follow Jesus. We live in a world that is in open rebellion against its Creator, serving a counterfeit king. As followers of the true King, we will always be hated by those enslaved to the pretender. Nevertheless Go…

4) Expect opposition. See 3) above. The enemy is not going to give us a free pass to raid his kingdom. So boldly Go…

5) The good news is…the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. We need not fear or draw back in the face of opposition or persecution because our King has already won the day. Satan is a defeated foe. So you can confidently Go…

6) God does not often save us from the storm, but He does save us through the storm. He has not forgotten you or abandoned you. He is right there with you. So faithfully Go…

7) God is the Author of your story. He is telling the gospel through your life. He can be trusted. He is not done with you yet. He does what He says He will do. So obediently Go…

8) Our circumstances provide us with a platform to share our story…to share the gospel…that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Take advantage of it. Look beyond the circumstances to the opportunities God is giving you. So be aware as you Go…

9) God has given you a family to belong to…fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. Another reason you are not alone. So you can joyfully Go…

10) God didn’t save you to go to heaven…He saved you on purpose with a purpose. To share your story. So Go…

Where do we go from here…what does your chapter of the story look like? What is your Acts 29? Go…

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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

Rome at Last

Acts 28.1-16

It’s been a long and grueling trip, but Paul has finally made it to Rome. And as he nears the end of his journey, he’s welcomed by the church in Rome.

All along the way, God has guided Paul’s journey. Though many times it seemed his life was in peril…from the Jews more than once, from the sea, from the soldiers, from the serpent…he was never in danger. God still had work for him to do. He had a divine appointment to keep in Rome. God said it, and Paul rightly believed that He would also bring it to pass. God can be trusted. He didn’t save Paul from the storm, but He saved him through the storm.

God was the Author of Paul’s story. He is also the Author of your story. I don’t know what your storm looks like today, but He does. And more than that, He’s right there with you in the hurricane-force winds and the crashing waves. And He wants to accomplish something in and through you in the midst of the storm. Believe it or not, the storm is an important part of the story He’s telling through you. That assumes of course that in the storm you are looking to Him. Running towards Him instead of away. Crying out to Him instead of crying out against Him.

We said it before, the furnace, i.e., the storm, can either destroy you or purify you. It can either turn you to ash, or turn you into something beautiful. What is it doing to you?

The storm is also a platform that God is providing for you to share your story…to share the gospel…to share the hope that you have. A hope that is no more prominently displayed than when you are in the storm. Because it shows a watching world that your faith is real.

We’ve talked a lot about circumstances and furnaces and storms and chains in the last several weeks…take some time right now to pray…to cry out to God…to ask Him to help you in the storm and through the storm and to use you through it to display the gospel in a unique way.

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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’s Adventure at Sea

Acts 27

What a ride! Paul’s trip to Rome is proving to be anything but boring. And although things were touch and go there for a while, what God says He does and so Paul and his companions are brought safely through the storm.

The epic journey from Caesarea to Rome is a reminder of Jesus’ charge to the Apostles before He ascended…that they were to be His witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. All the families of the earth being blessed. The gospel is for everyone, everywhere, at all times. You have been entrusted with that same gospel…what are you doing with it? Who are you sharing it with? Who might you share it with this week?

I wonder what impact Paul’s faith had on Julius and the rest of the folks on board this Alexandrian ship. He demonstrated that his faith in God was well-founded when God rescued the entire crew from storm and sea. Not only can His Word be trusted for physical salvation, but no doubt Paul took the opportunity to share his story and his confidence that God could be trusted to rescue them also from sin and death. God keeps His Word. 

I’m struck by the fact that Paul was granted the folks traveling with him…almost as if he asked God to rescue them as well. Believe it or not you can have an impact on others even when you are in the storm. The question is, are you looking out for those around you or are you so focused on the storm that you miss the opportunity?

I want to end with a challenge…many of you are in the midst of the storm. Maybe you’ve lost your bearings and have all but given up hope of any kind of rescue. Maybe it seems like an eternity since you’ve seen calm waters and the light of day. Maybe in desperation you’ve tried all kinds of things to save yourself. Take courage. Don’t be afraid. God has not forgotten you, and He will never abandon you. He has promised to always be with you and to see you through. He doesn’t often save us from the storm, but He does save us through the storm.

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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