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

Paul before Agrippa

Acts 26

Paul makes his last defense before he heads to Rome…a defense not so much of the charges against him as it is a defense of the gospel.

Once again we are faced with the question, what will we do with Jesus? Accept or reject. Follow or turn away. He is either King, or He will be Judge. We don’t know how most of the folks responded that day. We know that Festus thought the idea of a resurrection was crazy. Agrippa wasn’t ready. What about you?

Paul asked Agrippa, “Do you believe the Prophets?” Let me ask you the same question…do you believe the Prophets? Do you believe God’s Word? Our culture would say it’s antiquated, outdated, no longer relevant, even absurd…but what about you? It is either true or it’s not. You cannot pick and choose. It’s all or nothing. And if you believe the Bible’s true, what impact is it having on your life…the decisions you make, the conversations you have, the way you see and interact with the world around you? Maybe you’ve trusted Jesus as Savior, but have you made Him Lord? Does He call the shots…set the agenda..chart the course in your life? Or do you?

Once again we are reminded that our circumstances provide opportunities that we might not otherwise have. Are you taking advantage of them? Are you intentionally looking for ways to share your story? If not, what’s holding you back?

Let me challenge you this week…share your story with one person.

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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 Festus

Acts 25

Paul makes his second defense before the Romans. Same charges. Still can’t be proven. And yet Paul’s circumstances give him access to some of the leading folks in the city.

Two years in prison. Falsely accused and unconvicted. Could easily make a person bitter. Could easily become a “why me” or “woe is me” scenario. But not so for Paul. It’s simply an opportunity to share his story with anyone and everyone he can. How is that possible? Paul knows that God is the Author of his story. And he knows that God still has work for him to do. He has a divine appointment in Rome.

Paul is in chains because of the hope of the resurrection…that’s what keeps him going. If he didn’t have that hope, why not live it up now. Eat, drink for tomorrow we die. But he did. And it’s the same hope we have. Jesus is not dead…He is alive! Our circumstances don’t define us…our hope does. Ricky mentioned last week that we are all in the furnace, and the flame can either destroy us or purify us. It can turn us to ash, or make us something beautiful. Focusing on our chains…on our circumstances…can often be the flame that destroys us. But looking beyond them to the opportunity and to what God is doing in and through them…is the flame that purifies us and makes us stronger.

Paul did his best…he strived…to live a blameless life. So Paul’s circumstances weren’t the result of bad choices he had made. They were trials that God allowed to test and purify Paul’s faith as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1.6-7. Some of us are in circumstances that, like Paul, are not the result of bad choices, and some of us are in circumstances where we are reaping the consequences of bad choices. Either way, our circumstances are providing some kind of platform…some opportunity that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even in our mistakes and failures we can find opportunities to point folks to Jesus. God doesn’t call us to be perfect, but He does call us to be faithful.

Agrippa, Drusilla and Bernice…a family that had a front row seat to hear the gospel as Paul shared his story. Felix and Festus. And many others. Each had a choice to make…what do you do with Jesus? Is He a dead Man that Paul claims is alive? Or is He who He claimed to be…both God and Man, Savior and Redeemer, King and Judge. You too must answer that question. Heaven and hell hang in the balance.

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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