All In: Grow

Nehemiah 4

The work on the wall had been started, and like everything in life, the Israelites face challenges. Their enemies want them to fail, and the people themselves are overwhelmed by the size and scale of the project.

It’s not easy when the Lord stretches us, but He wants to use us to fulfill His purposes for His Glory. Many times we face opposition, resistance, or overwhelming circumstances, just like Nehemiah and the folks in Jerusalem. Had they continued to look at their surroundings instead of trusting in God, they would not have completed their task. Neither will we.

God is the same today, and He still wants to grow us. 

Sometimes the hardest thing is starting. So let me encourage you to resolve to do something that takes you one step closer to Jesus in 2022. Maybe that’s following our reading plan through the OT on the Central app. Maybe it’s joining a community group. Or serving. Or sharing your story with a friend or co-worker or classmate. Or committing to being more generous. 

Growth and change aren’t easy but if we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will lead us through.

May you have an ever deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God as you spend time with Him this year.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

All In: Transforming Families

Nehemiah 3

Let’s consecrate our work to the Lord. More than that, let’s consecrate ourselves to Him (Ro. 12.1-2). God is in the transforming business…transforming lives…transforming families to live and love like Jesus. So whether you are at work or serving here at the church, look for opportunities to share, encourage, equip…Don’t forget Who it is you serve and why you’re serving Him. Then, like Nehemiah, you will be able to give Him the glory He is due for the success that He brings.

The point of God’s work in the church is not just to get from point A to point B, but to get everybody from point A to point B. Like a family.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

All In: Prayer

Nehemiah 1

The situation in Jerusalem is desperate. The circumstances are dire. Seems a bit helpless and hopeless. Enter Nehemiah, the cupbearer for the king. Feeling overwhelmed, he fasts and prays. He intercedes for his people. He confesses sin, asks for forgiveness and seeks restoration. His confidence is clearly in the great and awesome God of heaven…the faithful and loving God.

Do “dire circumstances” sound familiar to you? Maybe that’s been your life over the last year or so. Maybe that’s your life right now. So what should you do? Allow the circumstances to overwhelm you or trust in the God who is above the circumstances…the great and awesome God of heaven?

What’s causing you to “weep and mourn” today? What burden are you carrying? What sin do you need to confess? Where do you need the Lord’s help? How about others in your life? Take some time now right where you are and pray.

Amen.

I hope you know prayer is a discipline that is indispensable in the Christian life. It’s something that should be woven into the fabric of your day. Times like this shouldn’t be an anomaly. But here’s what I know…as much as we may want prayer to happen, unless we are intentional about setting aside time to pray it just doesn’t. So plan it into your schedule…maybe in the car on your commute to work. Maybe before your feet hit the floor in the morning or after your head hits the pillow at night. Maybe on your lunch break or over your first cup of coffee. You could even do it while you’re in line at the store or working out at the gym. Maybe all those times. But get in the habit of praying.

May you have an ever deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God as you spend time with Him this year.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

Peace in God’s Prophecies

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do. God Himself will rend the veil of time and space and come down to the earth He created in the Person of Jesus. He will rescue His people. He will save us from sin and death by sacrificing Himself in our place. He will die that we might live. He will reconcile us with our Creator God. He will establish a kingdom where we will live and reign with Him forever. Where we will know true and lasting peace. 

And so Jesus has come…the King has come. He has come to reestablish our relationship with our Creator. To reconcile us with God. To restore our broken situation. To bring peace. Not just the “absence-of-conflict” kind of peace, but the OT “shalom” kind of peace, the “taking-action-to-restore-a-broken-situation-so-that-all-is-well” kind of peace. It’s what God has been doing for us for a very long time…since the beginning when we wrecked the place. Not only has God taken action to restore our broken situation, but it’s also what He calls us to do with others.

That’s why Paul can say in Romans 5.1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

So if you find yourself getting anxious about your relationship with God or with others, be proactive and seek peace. God is only a prayer away, and He delights to fix broken situations. And others? Let me challenge you…make the first move. What person comes to mind who you need to seek peace with this week? I bet they are only a text or a phone call away…or even better, maybe you can make plans to grab coffee and make things right. But don’t wait.

May you experience peace in God’s prophecies this Christmas season.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent series with…Hope in God’s Promises.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series: Christmas at Central. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster. You can also download our Central Christian app in the iTunes App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

Peace Delivered

Isaiah 9.2-7

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5.1-11)

Isaiah pictures a time of good news for a group of people who desperately needed it. They were under oppression by the enemy. They were defeated. They were without hope. They knew no peace. But God hadn’t forgotten them. Light was coming. God Himself would rend the veil of time and space and come down to the earth He had created in the Person of Jesus. He would rescue them. He would save them from sin and death by sacrificing Himself in their place. He would die that they might live. He would provide the way back to Father God. He would establish a kingdom where they could live and reign with Him forever. Where they would know true and lasting peace.

And so Jesus has come…

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. Jesus came to rescue you. Unlike earthly kings who may be able to save us from our mortal enemies, King Jesus came to save us from our real enemies, both sin and death. Unlike earthly kings who promise peace through force of arms, King Jesus brings peace that invades every aspect of our lives…peace with God, peace with men and peace with ourselves.

May you experience the deep and settled peace of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Peace Delivered.

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

Joy Delivered

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, don’t we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives? If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

That’s why the angel’s pronouncement in Luke 2.8-15 is such joyous news…“good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” God’s not done yet. The Hero has come to save the day. Joy has returned. Unimaginable, unspeakable, incomprehensible joy. The joy that only Jesus can bring.

So in the midst of a worldwide pandemic when it would be easy to forget…here’s a practical way to remember: finish this sentence on a post-it or piece of paper that you can put around your house…“I rejoice today because___.” (The Hero has come…Jesus has saved me.)

May you experience the all-surpassing joy of Jesus this Christmas season. May you experience Joy Delivered.

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

Hope Delivered

Isaiah 7.10-17

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. Pandemic. Social unrest. Racial tensions. Riots in the streets. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We hope in politicians or jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or you fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we too quickly forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. That He is Immanuel…God with us.

Inevitably we will face a crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we all have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, if my hope is in Him, 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.” Is God a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He a God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me and my little problems, who is only looking out for His own interests? 

You see, just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, when their hope is in anything or anyone else, they pay a price for it. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God is with us. He is present in our crises. If we will hope in Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But know this…He delights to save us.

Are you making alliances or compromises to save yourself, or are you hoping in God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more your hope rests with God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. But when your hope is anywhere else…not so much. One practical way to remember that God is with you is to write “hope” on a post-it and place it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

One last thing…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 hope 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. 

May you experience the hope of “God with us” in a very real and powerful way this Christmas season. May you experience Hope Delivered.

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

Consistent Prayer

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 reminds us of who God is. So when we come to Him in prayer, we can thank Him for taking care of us…leading and guiding us, directing us, providing for our needs, protecting us, His presence with us.

We can have confidence in our everyday life with God when it sinks in that He really is for us. No matter what our circumstances may be…no matter what our enemies may say…God is greater. He is greater than anyone or anything. So if we really believe that…if we really believe that God is greater, if we believe that He is committed to our good, if we believe that He is pursuing us and that He is fierce in His love for us…like Paul says in Romans 8…that nothing can separate us from His love, we too can face the darkest valleys with unflinching courage knowing that our Shepherd is there with us. In fact He’s gone before us and is showing us the way if we will only follow… And if God is for us, who or what can stand against us? That is our confidence in prayer.

When I was a new believer, I didn’t really know how to pray or what to pray for. In fact, I struggled with prayer for years…because I didn’t know what to say and my prayers always seemed to be the same. I figured that until I had something new to tell God or something new to ask from Him, we were good. I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but my attitude toward God in prayer was I ask and You give. I should apologize when I mess up, but I mess up a lot…and let’s be honest, most of my mess ups are the same. That way of thinking crippled my prayer life for years.

It really wasn’t until I graduated from seminary and landed my first job in ministry that I felt like I learned to pray. I was preparing to teach a class on the spiritual life, and I realized that I had no idea what I would say about it. I was spending time in the Word. I was spending time with other believers. But I wasn’t really spending time in prayer, and I felt kind of far from God. And so I went on a quest to find out what the spiritual life, what the abundant life, was all about. Prayer was a huge part of that.

The more I read about prayer and intentionally began to practice praying, the more I enjoyed it. And the more easily it came. I started with praying Scripture. I would use the language that the Bible used when I talked to God. I asked Him for the things that the Bible said He wanted for me…to be more like Jesus. I began to pray the Bible for my family and friends. And I freed myself up from whatever preconceived expectations I might have had about what prayer was supposed to be.

One of the books that I read on prayer was by a monk named Brother Lawerence called Practicing the Presence of God. What a great book! His goal was to figure out how to pray without ceasing. If the Bible calls us to that, surely there must be a way. Anyway, that book helped me see that prayer can happen at anytime…when I’m walking in the mornings (because the gym’s closed), when I’m driving my car (eyes open please!), when sitting in my office or wherever I am. I am always in God’s presence. Prayer reminds me of that. It also redeems the mundane moments in my life. I like what a guy named William Law said about it…“He who has learned to pray, has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.” (William Law (1686-1761), Christian Perfection[1726], London: W. Baynes, 1807, p. 290)

Someone asked me, is prayer for us or for God? What an interesting question, isn’t it? When you have a conversation with your spouse or your kids, with your parents, or friends, or co-workers, or neighbor…face-to-face, on the phone, by text, or even by zoom…who is the conversation for? When we pray, we share our hopes and dreams, our fears and concerns, our failures…our lives with our Father who cares about all of those things, our Shepherd who walks with us, leading and guiding us through both the good and bad times, if we will let Him. It’s not that He needs us to tell Him those things…He already knows, but we need to tell Him.

But what if prayer doesn’t work? Still sick. Still in pain. Loved one still hasn’t accepted Jesus. Another interesting question. God is not a DVM…Divine Vending Machine. He’s a Person. Better yet He’s our Father. We won’t always know the why of the things that happen to us…we live in a fallen world where my sin and/or the sin of others and/or the cosmic effects of the fall can combine to create some pretty nasty circumstances…but if we believe that the LORD is our Shepherd…then we know that He is leading us through the darkest valleys, never leaving us alone, but seeing us through to green pastures and quiet waters. And as Paul says in Romans 8, somehow and in someway He’s working it together for our good.

Another interesting question that I was asked, “Does it matter what I ask God for? Isn’t He going to do what He wants anyway?” What I appreciate about all of these questions is that they’re the same questions I’ve asked at some point on my spiritual journey. I do think the things we ask God for are important, but primarily for this reason…they reveal where we are with Him, where we are on our spiritual journey. God wants to conform us to the image of His Son. He wants to transform us to live and love like Jesus. The more we grow spiritually, the more we will want the same things He does. The details of our circumstances begin to become less important…it’s how can I best represent Jesus in this particular circumstance. That takes time and consistent time spent in prayer just talking to your Father. Both that and time spent in His Word…

Two last words…first, while personal time in prayer is super important, pro tip…time in prayer with other believers leads to even greater gains. It’s in prayer that we can lift each other up, bear one another’s burdens, rejoice and weep together…share our hopes and dreams, doubts and fears with each other. A community group or small group is a great avenue for that.

Second, for you husbands and fathers, this is another great way to lead your families. Maybe share prayer requests/concerns/praises at the dinner table. Spend some time praying for each other. Doesn’t have to be long. Find time to pray with your wife. Fiercely pursue and protect the oneness that God calls you to as a couple.

(A couple of resources that you might find helpful…ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), prayer guides on YouVersion/bible.com, Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer (praying scripture), Psalms as prayers.)

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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

A New and Glorious Morn

Isaiah 7.10-17

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 you 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 all 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.” Is God “the LORD God” (Yahweh Elohim), the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation (Genesis 2-3) who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He “God” (Elohim), the God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me, who only is looking out for His own interests according to the serpent in Genesis 3? 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. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God, the LORD God, is present in our crises. If we will trust Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But know this…He delights to save us.

Are you making alliances or compromises to save yourself, or are you trusting God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more you trust in God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. The more you trust yourself…not so much.

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 the life that God has saved us for starts with believing that He loves us…really loves us…and resting in His love. And to do that, we have to do what He says, knowing that what He commands is for our good as His children, then we can experience both the life and the fullness of joy He intended for us…we might call it a new and glorious morn.

There is a haunting Christmas carol that says, “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 Immanuel…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 a new and glorious morn…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. 

May you experience a new and glorious morn this Christmas season, Immanuel…God with us, and may you trust Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…Fall on Your Knees.

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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

The Weary World Rejoices

2 Samuel 7.8-16

David was a great king in many ways. He was fearless and passionate, strong and brave. He loved the Lord and his family. But David wasn’t the King God had promised. Solomon, his son, was also an outstanding king. Maybe even greater than his father. His wisdom was renowned. He was a brilliant strategist. He was wealthy beyond imagination. But he too fell far short of the King God had promised. There have been many kings and great leaders throughout history, but as amazing as anyone of them may have been, none comes even close to our coming King. He’s the King of righteousness and the King of peace. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone will rule over the nations of this earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice.

The good news is…the King has come. Jesus has come…and for a time the weary world rejoiced. The long-awaited Messiah, the Davidic King, the Hero…had come, but not as a Mighty Warrior or a Roaring Lion. He came as a helpless Babe, a Sacrificial Lamb. He came to bring peace…a peace that was only possible through His own shed blood. A peace that could only be had when sin was atoned for and death was defeated. A peace that was only available through the cross. And having secured that peace, three days later Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered both sin and death so that our hope…our long awaited hope…could be realized. And so the weary world rejoices.

In Romans 8.18-25, Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

We live in the midst of a weary world. A world that longs for peace. A world that longs for wrongs to be righted. A world that longs for a Savior. But it is a world seeking salvation in all the wrong things…wealth, politics, fame, advantage, relationships, you-name-it. And we too sometimes get caught up in the world’s solutions, don’t we? But what this weary world needs is only available in Jesus…only He can bring peace. Only He can set things right. Only He can save. It’s the hope that we have that a weary world needs. And it’s a hope that we need to share with a weary world.

One day our King will return. As believers, that is our hope. That Jesus will return and establish His eternal kingdom…an enduring kingdom…the true kingdom. Not an earthly dynasty destined to end, but an everlasting rule over heaven and earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice…the creation’s groaning will be over. Jesus will reign supreme.

May you rejoice and worship Jesus as your King this Christmas season.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…A New and Glorious Morn.

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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