The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8.26-40

Philip shares his story and the good news of the gospel with both the crowds and with an individual. He is a faithful servant who obeys the will of His Master. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and invites us to join Him in that mission.

This story is a reminder that God cares about each one of us individually. Here He orchestrates events and circumstances so that both the eunuch and Philip are in the right place at the right time. He even provides the water so that the eunuch could be baptized…on a desert road.

Just as God orchestrated events in the eunuch’s life to bring him to faith, He has also worked in each one of us who have trusted in Him, orchestrating events, bringing the right person or persons at the right time to share with us the life-giving message of salvation in Jesus. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, this is one of those orchestrating events. It’s no accident or coincidence that you are reading this blog post…

And if you have trusted in Jesus, God wants to use you to impact the lives of those around you for the kingdom. Are you ready? Do you believe that the gospel is good news? That’s foundational. We have to believe that the gospel really is good news. If that’s true for you, have you taken the time to write down your story? Start there. Then ask God for opportunities to share your faith. But be warned…if you ask, He will give them to you. You don’t have to force it…you just have to be sensitive to what God is doing in the moment, and then be courageous in sharing your story.

I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel in large settings and one-on-one. Both are awesome, but I can tell you that the one-on-one settings are more challenging, yet more rewarding in a lot of ways. One-on-one I still get scared and have to pray for boldness…even as a pastor…but I’ve found that when I’m obedient and just say “yes” in the moment, that God is faithful to give me courage, and it ends up being an easy conversation…I don’t even feel like I have to drive. I’m just along for the ride. Sometimes when I’m talking to folks it’s a “no” when it comes to Jesus, sometimes I’ve found out later my conversation was one along the way that led to their trusting in Jesus, and sometimes I’ve gotten the awesome privilege of seeing someone trust in Jesus. My job is simply to be obedient.

How about you? Are you ready? Are you available? Will you be obedient?

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Unwrapping Love

1 Peter 1.22-25

Love is the greatest gift we can unwrap this Christmas.

For some of you, unwrapping love has to start with realizing God’s love for you. Faith comes before obedience. God has gone to incredible links to prove His love. He sent His own Son to pay the penalty for your sin…death…the debt that you owe because of your rebellion against Him has been fully paid by Jesus. So that by recognizing that you are a sinner in need of repentance and by believing that Jesus can save you then trusting Him to do so, you can be completely forgiven for all your sins and can become a son or daughter of the King, and have perfect peace, a living hope and inexpressible joy. [Trust]

For others of you, unwrapping love has to start with loving God more. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14.15). Obedience is active love. It’s the way we show our love for God and for others. If we believe that not only is God all-powerful and all-knowing, but that He also loves us in a way that only He can and that He desires our good, then we are fools when we refuse to obey. Obedience means doing what God says, but we can only do what He says if we know what He says. In other words, it’s impossible to obey if I don’t know what to obey. So how do we know what God wants us to do? You guessed it. Time spent in His Word. Time spent in prayer. Time with other believers. Learning, listening, dialoguing. No other way around it. But knowing’s not enough. I also have to apply what I’m learning. I have to do it. Good news…you don’t have to forge ahead on your own. The Spirit is the One who sanctifies us…He’s the One who gives us the ability to do what God says to do. [Trust and obey]

For the rest, unwrapping love continues with fervently loving one another from the heart. Loving others in active and practical ways is a natural consequence of obedience…a predictable outcome. What is the greatest commandment? Love God with all that we are and love our neighbor as ourself.

If other folks loved God the way you love God, and if they loved others the way you do, how would the world be different? If you practiced actively loving others this week, how would that impact your marriage? Your family? Your other relationships? What would that look like?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: Unwrapping Christmas. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Parable of the Soils

Luke 8.1-21

Plants reflect the soil they are planted in. If there is something wrong with the soil, then it’s reflected in the crop. A tree is known by its fruit…

What soil best represents you? Hard…shallow…distracted…good. The goal of the Christian life is fruitfulness…the seed planted is intended to produce a bumper crop. If you are not seeing the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…if you’re not growing in your love for God and others…if you identified with any other than the good soil, that’s not good news. The word is not having its intended effect on your life. You are not experiencing the abundant life Jesus intended you to have.

The devil, persecution, wealth and the cares of this world all can and do get in the way of our experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus wants for us…the fruitfulness that the word is intended to produce. The good news is…the hard soil can be broken up, rocks can be removed, weeds can be pulled…the good soil, that receives the word and perseveres producing a great harvest, can be cultivated.

So how do you cultivate good soil? Jesus says it’s the right kind of heart that holds fast to the word and perseveres…steadfast endurance over time. We have to hear what Jesus says and then do it. Fundamentally, we have to believe that God really does love us and desires our good. Until we believe that, we will never really trust Him enough to do what He says. Obedience should follow trust which follows love. Obedience that comes from fear is feigned obedience…I obey because I don’t want to face the consequences of not obeying. But when I obey because I trust the One I’m obeying, there’s a freedom to risks and to live life boldly that cannot be experienced any other way. To get to that point, we have to spend time with the Father…in His Word and in prayer, asking and allowing the Holy Spirit to instruct us and guide us, to reveal to us more of Jesus…then we will be able to overcome trials, worries about wealth, and the pursuit of pleasures because we have found the greatest of all pleasures…God Himself. [I read a great quote this week…”Live your life in such a way that it only make sense if God exists”]

The different soils reflect differing responses to Jesus. How will you respond to Him?

 

Until next time…stay salty.

“May Jesus’ word fall on the good soil of our hearts, producing much fruit in our lives.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Examining a Lifestyle of Worship

Luke 2.41-52

Jesus lived a lifestyle of worship…a lifestyle that was modeled by His parents and reflected His absolute devotion to God. There is no doubt He was totally sold out.

We see Joseph and Mary’s lifestyle of worship in their pursuit of God…their obedience by doing everything according to the Law including the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Following God wasn’t just a part of their life…an event reserved for the Sabbath or special holidays…it was their life. A lifestyle of worship…it invaded every corner of who they were. We see it in their investment in Jesus’ life…passing on a spiritual legacy to their Son.

Jesus’ lifestyle of worship is evident in His relationship with His Father God. Not only did He participate in the celebration of Passover, He wanted to learn everything He could…energizing His heart and mind through biblical teaching. He had a personal relationship with God. And He obeyed those God had placed in authority over Him…even though He was and is eternal God.

What does it look like for us to live a lifestyle of worship? For both parents and students, it looks like all out pursuit of God, walking in obedience and learning all that we can about Him, and passing on a spiritual legacy to the next generation. It’s more than the songs we sing or a weekend event…it should infect every aspect of our lives. Make the commitment to pursue a lifestyle of worship today.

There are no +1’s in the kingdom of God. Each of us can only enter by being a son or daughter of the King. That means that each one of us must have his or her own relationship with Father God. You can only have that through Jesus. Joseph and Mary went looking for Jesus because they thought they had lost Him, but He was where they had left Him all along. Are you searching for Jesus? Then look no further. He’s here today and wants to welcome you into the family.

May we pursue a lifestyle of worship this week, growing in our understanding of who God is and who we are as His children and pointing others to Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Luke series entitled Redefining the Family. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

October 10 – OT Reading

Isaiah 54-58

Isaiah 54

The Fertility of Zion

54 “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords And strengthen your pegs. “For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations And will resettle the desolate cities.

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. “For the Lord has called you, Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. “In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer.

“For this is like the days of Noah to Me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you Nor will I rebuke you. 10 “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.

11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. 12 “Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones. 13 “All your sons will be taught of the Lord; And the well-being of your sons will be great. 14 “In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you. 15 “If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. 16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals And brings out a weapon for its work; And I have created the destroyer to ruin. 17 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.

 

Isaiah 55

The Free Offer of Mercy

55 “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 12 “For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”

 

Isaiah 56

Rewards for Obedience to God

56 Thus says the Lord, “Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed. “How blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who takes hold of it; Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”

For thus says the Lord,

“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

All you beasts of the field, All you beasts in the forest, Come to eat. 10 His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber; 11 And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; They have all turned to their own way, Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one. 12 “Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink; And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.”

 

Isaiah 57

Evil Leaders Rebuked

57 The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. “But come here, you sons of a sorceress, Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. “Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth And stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, Offspring of deceit, Who inflame yourselves among the oaks, Under every luxuriant tree, Who slaughter the children in the ravines, Under the clefts of the crags? “Among the smooth stones of the ravine Is your portion, they are your lot; Even to them you have poured out a drink offering, You have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things? “Upon a high and lofty mountain You have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. “Behind the door and the doorpost You have set up your sign; Indeed, far removed from Me, you have uncovered yourself, And have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, You have loved their bed, You have looked on their manhood. “You have journeyed to the king with oil And increased your perfumes; You have sent your envoys a great distance And made them go down to Sheol. 10 “You were tired out by the length of your road, Yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, Therefore you did not faint.

11 “Of whom were you worried and fearful When you lied, and did not remember Me Nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time So you do not fear Me? 12 “I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, But they will not profit you. 13 “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, And a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me will inherit the land And will possess My holy mountain.”

14 And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.” 15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 “For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would grow faint before Me, And the breath of those whom I have made. 17 “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, And he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. 18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, 19 Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

 

Isaiah 58

Observances of Fasts

58 “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins. “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

Keeping the Sabbath

13 “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, 14 Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Like Father, Like Son

Genesis 26

The hero in our story today follows in the epic footsteps of his famous father. The covenant promises that the LORD made to Abraham are firmly in the grip of his son Isaac who shares the faith and character of his father.

When your entire life is wrapped up in one promise, when you’re life is spent looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise to you, how do you live? Abraham never stopped thinking about it. He left a legacy of faith for his son…faith and obedience. The promised passes to Isaac because of Abraham’s faithfulness and fidelity. It reminds us of the awesome responsibility that we have to pass on a spiritual heritage to our children. It wasn’t because of Isaac’s Sunday school teacher or youth group leader that he was receiving the promises, but because of his father. It should sober us as parents. That doesn’t mean that youth leaders or mentors or others don’t have a role to play…in fact, they can have a huge impact on the spiritual journey of the next generation, but the primary responsibility still rests with parents.

Abraham has taught Isaac how to worship, how to make decisions, how to listen to God. And he does. He actually does better than his father. But Isaac has also picked up from Abraham how to deceive and to fear. Isaac chooses wisely when his wife is barren, but not when he has to protect himself. He has the faith of Abraham – the exact same faith. He trusts God – most of the time. He has some maturing to do.

Isaac picked up some of Abraham’s bad habits…stretching the truth being highlighted here. Our kids are always watching… we’re hoping that they won’t make the same mistakes that we did, but unfortunately they often do…we do. Same with each generation. Especially with the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. How many of us get onto our kids for speeding when we model that behavior so well for them? Or how about their condescending tone with their siblings when they hear the same thing when we interact with our spouse? Our kids unwittingly pick up many of our habits…both bad and good.

What about you? As a parent, are you leaving a spiritual legacy for your kids? Are you intentional about building into them a life of faith? Could you say, like Paul, follow my example as I follow the example of Christ? Abraham had an incredible promise to pass on to his son…great nation, great land, blessing to all nations, and ultimately the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. And though we may not be passing on the Abrahamic Covenant to our children, we have a promise. The hope of redemption. The resurrection of our bodies. The return of our King, Jesus. The new heavens and the new earth, a return to paradise. Life forever with our Creator God. Are we living like it? Are we preparing the next generation? Are we making choices that we want them to make? As a teenager, are you making wise choices in what habits you’re emulating from your parents? Are you walking in faith?

May God give us the grace to do so this week.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

All In

Genesis 17

What separates the average, even the good from the great? Throughout history, those who have changed the world have not only been fully convinced but also “all in” with that thing, whatever it was that was their passion. From outstanding athletes like Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning to famous thinkers like Albert Einstein or Aristotle to founders of great movements like Martin Luther King, Jr. or his namesake Martin Luther.

Abraham made some incredible strides in his faith journey with God. He left the known for the unknown. He faced down incredible odds to rescue lot. He passed on the tainted riches of Sodom. He built altars along the way. But he also trusted in his own ingenuity…Egypt, Hagar. And while the promises of land and blessing don’t seem to trip him up, he struggles with the promise of a son. Lot. Eliezer. Ishmael. All want-to-be contenders for the title. But none the one God had in mind. Abram’s a believer…he has a relationship with God, but he struggles with fully trusting Him when it comes to a son…maybe not so much that God can (is able), but how could He (how is He going to do it). He has a seeing problem, his eyes keep getting in the way. He’s divided in his affections. In other words, his focus tends to drift to the earthy, the physical. He’s missing the incredible spiritual reality…nothing is beyond Creator God!

I can relate to Abraham. I have a “seeing” problem as well. Circumstances often inhibit my ability to live like I’m trusting God in the day-to-day and dictate my attitude toward others. Instead of viewing the world from God’s perspective, knowing that He is working, I lament the fact that finances are tight, relationships are sometimes hard, and situations don’t always work out the way I think they should.

God calls Abraham to be all in. He didn’t want just a casual relationship, a when-it’s-convenient- or a when-the world-is falling-apart-I’ll-call-upon-You companion. He wanted all of Abraham. He wanted Abraham to experience the life that He had created and saved him for. He didn’t want Abraham to settle. He wanted him to have it all. He wants the same for us. God wants us to experience life to the full in His kingdom…right now. But we can’t experience that life if we aren’t all in. And that takes a singleness of purpose, a driving passion, a desire and a determination to be all in that is only possible through the work of the Spirit in our lives. Without that we will only experience the frustration of what could have been. The “if only” reality that most of us invariably settle for.

My prayer for us this week is that we, like Abraham would be all in and that we would leave behind those things that keep us from pursuing Jesus with reckless abandon, so that we might experience the unbelievable adventure of walking with God with singleness of purpose (blameless) and incredible joy.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster