The Gift of Giving

1 Chronicles 29.1-20

Giving is easily overlooked as a spiritual discipline. You have heard me say often…pray every day, spend time in the Word every day, and fellowship with other believers as often as you can, but giving is another one of those disciplines that’s at the core of what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t know how we can express love…for God or for our neighbor…without giving. Giving of our time. Giving of our abilities. Giving of our resources. Giving of ourselves. Giving reflects the love that God so generously has shown toward us in Jesus.

When I was growing up, giving was not a practice my parents modeled. With eight kids…money was always tight. So giving wasn’t something I was used to…and putting myself through college, I never had two nickels to rub together as my dad would say. I didn’t think I could afford to give. So it wasn’t until I met my wife Wendy that I even considered giving as a spiritual discipline. And even then, I wasn’t sure how the giving thing would work out. But we did it anyway, and we haven’t looked back since.

If giving is new to you, I know what it feels like to look at your finances and wonder, “how?” Let me just challenge you to try it. Pick an amount and begin to give regularly. Set a goal…maybe ten percent, and build those giving muscles until you reach it. Taste and see that the LORD is good. When we’ve given, God’s always been faithful to meet our needs. But a word of caution…it’s not just something to do to check a box or somehow promote yourself. God cares about our hearts when we give…what’s our motivation? Is it to please Him? Is it to further His kingdom work? Make sure He has you first…all of you. Then the right motivation and the want-to for giving will be there.

Everything that we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of what He’s entrusted to us. Whether He’s entrusted us with little like the widow or much like King David, it’s all His. We have to keep that in mind. Sometime it’s harder to give when you have more…our stuff tends to capture our hearts and cause us to want more. Many times it’s those who have the least who give the most…who are the most generous. The amount may not be as much, but the sacrifice is greater and the joy of giving more abundant.

For some of us, giving is a discipline that we’ve practiced for awhile. Somewhere along your spiritual journey, someone challenged you to make giving a regular practice, and so you’ve done it for years. Thank you for your faithfulness. My question for you is…is giving a duty or a delight? Have you passed from giving to giving generously?

This is one area that I wanted to challenge myself in this year, so I came up with a simple plan that you are free to steal. Whenever I’m in line, I will offer to pay for the person behind me. Not every time, but every time the Spirit brings it to mind. It creates the opportunity for some great conversation, and it’s helping me stretch from giving to giving generously.

Giving isn’t just a resource thing…one of the most valuable commodities we have is time. It may also be the thing we are least likely to give up. So maybe exercising your giving muscles with your time looks like making “yes” your default answer instead of “no”. Seeing interruptions as opportunities to minister instead of distractions to be avoided.

So why not give giving a try, and you too can experience what a gift it really is.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

A Fierce Faith

1 Samuel 17

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. The story of David and Goliath is the story of a fierce faith that conquers not only fear, but also an enemy of such gigantic proportions that he seems impossible to defeat. So let me ask you again, what is the goliath in your life? Do you believe that God is bigger?

Two men have the same problem. A giant of a man, an overpowered killing machine, a fierce warrior named Goliath. Saul, seeing only the man, looking only at his circumstances, considering only the outward appearance of things is dismayed and greatly afraid. He relied on his armor and his abilities, his natural strength and charisma to face his problems. But when the problem was bigger and stronger and fiercer and scarier than him, he was paralyzed with fear. It’s easy to be like Saul. Just look at your circumstances, see life from a pedestrian vantage point, live life in your own strength and eventually your goliath will come and stop you in your tracks.

David reminds us what it means to be a “man after God’s own heart”…a man who is brave and bold…a man of faith and conviction…a man willing to step onto the battlefield and face down his enemies, who knows that the battle belongs to the LORD, and who is trusting in Him to fight for him and with him. A man who looks not at the outward appearance of things…whatever the circumstances…but who sees the world from God’s perspective. A man of fierce faith.

So Dad’s, what does it look like to have a fierce faith? Let me give you a few thoughts. First, it involves spending time in the Word, time in prayer, time with other men…remembering who God is. David was able to be such a man because he knew the LORD. Not just as a passing acquaintance. But he had been to battle with Him before. David had spent time with Him and tested Him. Unlike Saul, David hadn’t forgotten who God is. Second, it’s shepherding your family well, providing for them, protecting and serving them. Leading them and guiding them. Nurturing them. Fighting for them. You see a fierce faith isn’t just for you…but according to Deuteronomy 6, it’s for you to pass on to your sons. To do that, you have to teach it to them and model it for them. But you can you can only do that if you have a fierce faith yourself. Finally, it’s acknowledging that sometimes life is hard, and also acknowledging that God is greater. And Dad’s for those of you who are here today let me just tell you that I’m proud of you. For many men it’s not easy going to church. But by being here today you’re showing your family what it looks like to follow Jesus in the day to day. Sometimes in our walk with God we just need to show up. 

As we end today I want to ask you one last question. Do you know the LORD? Years later One of David’s descendants, Jesus, will face down an even greater enemy, Satan, and having secured victory through His own death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus gives the spoils of His triumph to those of us who believe…forgiveness of sins, life eternal, a kingdom. Do you know the LORD?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Father’s Day sermon. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Just Like Momma

Psalm 86

David’s prayer reflects his humility before God and expresses his confidence that God is not only willing to help, but is able to help as well.

And while prayer and time in the Word aka learning the LORD’s ways are foundational to our walk with Jesus, I wanted to spend a little time focusing on the importance of a parent’s faith…a momma’s faith…to the faith of her kids…

I think it’s awesome that in a moment of desperation, David not only cries to God, but also maybe, just maybe thinks of his momma. He thinks about her faith and how she has trusted in God. Who knows? Maybe he learned to turn to God first because he saw it in her. You see, kids tend to do what they see their parents doing. They tend to value the things that their parents value, and respond to things the way that they have seen their parents respond. I think David’s momma would have been proud of how he handled this situation.

Moms have the incredible responsibility of caring for their children, and, in this passage, I think we see a testament to that most significant of a mom’s responsibilities when it comes to raising children…to train them up in the fear and admonition of the LORD…to teach them to follow God and love Him with their whole heart. That’s where prayer and Bible stories and taking them to church and a lived-out faith come into play.

You won’t always do it perfectly, and your kids won’t always respond the way that you would have hoped, but moms, when you have done all that you know to do, continue to pray for your children and be in the Word. You won’t always see the fruit of your labor…it may not seem like it’s “taking”, but remember…when they are in distress, when they are alone, when their worlds are crumbling they will remember what their momma taught them. Just like David. So take courage. 

Remember that God is a God of relationship, and He has designed us for community. Don’t go at this alone mom. Find other Christian mothers to help you and guide you along the way.

If you can, thank your mom today for all she has done…give her a hug, send her a text, make a phone call… and let her know how much you love her and that you appreciate all that she has done for you.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Mother’s Day sermon. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Joy This Christmas

Isaiah 7.10-17

Immanuel…God with us. Comfort and joy for those who have trusted in Jesus or, as in the case of Ahaz, certain judgment for those who refuse to trust in God, but instead are trusting in themselves or in anyone or in anything else. Like Matthew 2, the gospel is good news of great joy for all people…but only those who trust in Jesus will experience that joy. For those who refuse…God’s promise is judgment. And God does what He says He will do.

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 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 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.” 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. But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is present in our crises. If we will trust Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But He would rather save us.

What alliances or compromises are you making to secure salvation for yourself? If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. Are you trusting God? The more we trust in Him, the more the fruits of the Spirit, of which joy is one, will abound. The more we trust ourselves…not so much. If you trusting in God, are you doing what He says? The secret to joy is resting in God, trusting in His love for us at the most fundamental level of our being, believing that He has not only saved us from condemnation, but that He is with us to save us in and through our current circumstances. 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 joy is not just believing that God really loves us, but also doing what He says so that we can experience life and fullness of joy as He intended for us to.

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 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 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.

There is no place like home. There is no home like heaven. There is no king like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience the joy of the Christmas season, knowing that God is with us and trusting Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.”

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

In the Image of God

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule … over all the earth’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1.26-27

Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? Great thinkers have wrestled with these questions for millennia. How I answer those questions will determine how I live my life, my worldview, how I interact with others.

If I accept what the culture says about the meaning of life, then I’m just 1 of 7 billion+ other human beings on planet earth evolved from goo over the span of billions of years. I am the product of time and chance. Life has no meaning beyond the here and now, so the best I can hope for is to eat, drink and enjoy, do what feels good, regardless of the consequences. After all, there’s no such thing as God or divine law or eternal consequences. Other human beings are tools to be used for my pleasure or to further my ends, or they are obstacles to be squashed.

But if I accept what the Bible says about the meaning of life, then I’m of infinite value because I bear God’s image. I have an incredible destiny and have tremendous potential because I have been made in His likeness to reflect Him to His creation (what it means to “rule”). As an image-bearer, I am loved with an unfathomable, incomprehensible love by Creator God. It means also that others have infinite value as fellow image-bearers, and that I’m to love them as such.

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their rebellion, their sin, as we see in Genesis 3, marred the image…it didn’t erase it. It separated us from Creator God, resulting in our death and put our destiny and potential in serious jeopardy. And if not for this amazing God, our story would end in despair. We would never reach our potential and could never fulfill our destiny. We would be forever separated from our Creator. But He wasn’t done yet. Even in the midst of our rebellion, He made a promise and provided a way that we could be rescued and our relationship with Him could be restored, our destiny and potential realized…through faith in the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Redeemer of Genesis 3.15, who we know as Jesus.

As a pastor, I see so many folks who have believed the lie that their lives have no purpose. That’s why drugs and pornography and prostitution and abuse and all manner of other awful things that we do to ourselves and others are so rampant. Those caught up in these things fail to see their own worth and refuse to acknowledge another’s. It’s the predictable consequence of accepting the philosophy that says, “You’re an accident.”

What you believe matters. You were made in the image of God.

Until next time…stay salty.

OT Reading – January 11

Psalms 6-9

Prayer for Mercy in Time of Trouble.

For the choir director; with stringed instruments, upon an eight-string lyre. A Psalm of David.

6 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O Lord—how long?

Return, O Lord, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?

I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief;
It has become old because of all my adversaries.

Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication,
The Lord receives my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.

The Lord Implored to Defend the Psalmist against the Wicked.

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjamite.

7 O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge;
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me,
Or he will tear my soul like a lion,
Dragging me away, while there is none to deliver.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
If there is injustice in my hands,
If I have rewarded evil to my friend,
Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary,
Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it;
And let him trample my life down to the ground
And lay my glory in the dust. Selah.

Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
Lift up Yourself against the rage of my adversaries,
And arouse Yourself for me; You have appointed judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples encompass You,
And over them return on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
Vindicate me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous;
For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds.
10 My shield is with God,
Who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
And a God who has indignation every day.

12 If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword;
He has bent His bow and made it ready.
13 He has also prepared for Himself deadly weapons;
He makes His arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, he travails with wickedness,
And he conceives mischief and brings forth falsehood.
15 He has dug a pit and hollowed it out,
And has fallen into the hole which he made.
16 His mischief will return upon his own head,
And his violence will descend upon his own pate.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

The Lord’s Glory and Man’s Dignity.

For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.

8 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

A Psalm of Thanksgiving for God’s Justice.

For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
They stumble and perish before You.
For You have maintained my just cause;
You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
And You have uprooted the cities;
The very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble;
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
Declare among the peoples His deeds.
12 For He who requires blood remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13 Be gracious to me, O Lord;
See my affliction from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 That I may tell of all Your praises,
That in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in Your salvation.
15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made Himself known;
He has executed judgment.
In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah.

17 The wicked will return to Sheol,
Even all the nations who forget God.
18 For the needy will not always be forgotten,
Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
19 Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged before You.
20 Put them in fear, O Lord;
Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah

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

OT Reading – January 8

Proverbs 1-2

The Usefulness of Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The Enticement of Sinners

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;
Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
13 We will find all kinds of precious wealth,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
14 Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse,”
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
16 For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
17 Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.

Wisdom Warns

20 Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:
22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
23 “Turn to my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 “Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
25 And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
26 I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
27 When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
30 “They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
32 “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”

The Pursuit of Wisdom Brings Security

My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
15 Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways;
16 To deliver you from the strange woman,
From the adulteress who flatters with her words;
17 That leaves the companion of her youth
And forgets the covenant of her God;
18 For her house sinks down to death
And her tracks lead to the dead;
19 None who go to her return again,
Nor do they reach the paths of life.
20 So you will walk in the way of good men
And keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will live in the land
And the blameless will remain in it;
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the land
And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

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