The First Missionary Journey: First Encounter

Acts 13.1-12

Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the Spirit from Antioch on their first missionary journey. Their excitement is tempered when they have their first encounter of spiritual opposition from a guy named Bar-Jesus.

The sad irony in this story…a Jew attempts to block a Gentile from coming to faith. You see, through Abraham all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The Jews were to be a blessing to the nations, leading them to God and not barring the way. Bar-Jesus openly opposed Paul and Barnabas. I would hope that none of us openly oppose the gospel…that none of us would willingly stand in the way of someone trusting in Jesus. But even if it’s not openly, can’t we subtly become stumbling blocks? Maybe by the way we fail to follow Jesus…the way we fail to point others to Him?

God’s fingerprints are all over this story, just as they have been throughout the book of Acts. The Spirit is actively leading, guiding, empowering, acting, choosing, sending, moving…it’s His church. The danger is when we attempt to hijack the Spirit’s job and make it our own. And then we wonder why nothing spiritually significant happens. It’s a reminder for us…the battle belongs to the Lord. Transforming families to live and love like Jesus is not about a program…it’s the work of the Spirit. It happens as we submit to Him…as we worship and serve, engaging in the work He’s given each one of us to do.

Each of us has been gifted and called and equipped for a purpose…something that, when lived out, amazing things happen. A few weeks ago, Ricky talked about living with a heavenly perspective. It’s living a life of consequence, a life of deep kingdom impact. Each of us has a part to play…a role, if you will, in the kingdom drama. What would it look like if we were all pursuing that together? How would it impact our church? How might it impact this valley and beyond? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said to seek the kingdom and live according to God’s righteousness. How’s that going for you? Are you being led by the Spirit to say yes to kingdom things? BTW when we follow the Spirit’s leading that doesn’t mean its an easy journey…that the Enemy’s going to give us a free pass…on the contrary we need to expect opposition. But, like Paul and Barnabas, we need to do it anyway.

Where are you saying yes to serving God and his Church? Are you sharing your story with others, are you involved in a ministry, are you giving financially to the mission? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

pro rege

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

Saul’s Story

Acts 9.1-19a

Saul has an encounter with Jesus, and his life is forever changed. And not just his life. God will use him to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth…planting churches and writing letters which will make up a majority of the NT. Saul’s encounter with Jesus is so significant not only to the book of Acts, but also in the history of the church that this is the first of three times that his conversion is talked about in the story.

Saul was chosen for a purpose…God would use him to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Ananias was chosen for a purpose…he will be the one to commission Saul. God has also chosen you for a purpose…He wants to use you to have a unique impact on the kingdom. Do you realize that? Maybe you’ve never heard that before, but God chose you for a purpose…and the purpose isn’t so that you could go to heaven. If that were the case, you would already be there. No, He chose you so that you would have a kingdom impact on the folks around you. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2.8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Jesus calls it “bearing fruit”. You have been chosen for a purpose.

Ananias was surprised that the Lord would have him go and find Saul…probably even more surprised that the church’s greatest enemy would become its greatest ally. Who is it in your life that God may be calling you to share your story with? Who is it that you think is beyond reach? Saul’s story is a reminder and an encouragement that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel. No one is so lost that they cannot be found, so blind that they cannot see, so dead that they cannot be made alive. Do you believe that today? Do you believe that there is nothing you could have ever done that could keep you from Jesus?

We see God’s fingerprints all over this story. It’s no accident that Saul comes to faith. Not only does Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus, He also appears to Saul a second time and to Ananias to arrange a meet and greet. God is in control. He’s in control of the events of this story, and He’s in control of the events in your story.

Maybe you haven’t yet had an encounter with Jesus. Maybe you think you are too far gone to be saved. You’re not. Saul wasn’t. Neither are you. God wants to work a miracle in your life…to bring you from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son…to give your life new purpose and meaning and to use you to impact the lives of those around you for His kingdom. It’s as simple as believing that you are a sinner who needs to be saved and Jesus came to do just that…He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, so that those who believe in Him could have forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in His kingdom.

If you have had an encounter with Jesus, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What kind of impact are you going to have on the kingdom?

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

Transforming Marriages Part 1

Ephesians 5.15-21

Following Jesus is not just a one-time decision…not just the choice I make to trust in Him for eternal life. Following Jesus is a choice I have to make on a daily, even moment-by-moment, basis. It takes intentionality and a willingness to say “yes” to the Spirit as He guides and directs my steps.

When you trusted in Jesus, you were adopted into His family. Your allegiance has changed. You are now a son or daughter of the King. How has that impacted the way you live your life? Because it has to impact your life. I’ve said it before, but Jesus didn’t save you to go to heaven. If He did, you would already be there. Jesus saved you to radically transform you. To completely change you. To make you brand new. To make you like Him.

Are you still looking at the world from an earthly perspective, or are you beginning to see your life through God’s eyes? Beginning because it’s a process…it takes time to cultivate a perspective on life. Are you looking for opportunities to make kingdom investments in the lives of those around you? Are you living for the moment or for eternity?

The goal of the Christian life is conformity to the image of Jesus. So day by day, moment by moment the Spirit is at work…He’s working to transform us to live and love like Jesus. The more we say “yes” to Him, the greater the transformation. The more we tell Him “no”, the more stunted we become spiritually. With every “yes” our perspective changes…we see the world through His eyes and understand His will for us a little bit more. With every “no” we continue to focus on our circumstances and are more confused about what God wants from us and for us. “Yes” leads to an others or outward focus. “No”…it’s all about me.

So how do I start saying “yes” to the Spirit? It starts with prayer and asking for His direction. To stop in any and every circumstance and ask for wisdom. But know that it must include time spent in the Word…otherwise, how will I know if I’m the Spirit or my own selfish desires. The Spirit’s direction will never contradict God’s Word. So knowing God’s Word is imperative. We have to learn to think differently. We are influenced by what we allow in…the things we read, watch, listen to. The more we engage whatever that is, the more it influences us. How much time are you spending allowing God’s Word to influence you? Reading, meditating, memorizing, listening to, etc.? It doesn’t just happen…we have to be intentional. We have to have a plan both to pray and to spend time in the Word.

And following Jesus is not a solo gig…it’s a group project. It’s something we do together. It’s not enough for one of us to follow Jesus well. Paul says the job’s not done “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” So part of saying “yes” to the Spirit includes time spend with other believers. Being filled by the Spirit results in a lot of singing and thanksgiving and serving one another.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He invites you to be a part of His family…just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, that Jesus can save you and then trust Him to do so. Then you too can be a son or daughter of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Realizing Spiritual Freedom

Romans 12.1-2

We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups…those things in our lives that are stumbling blocks to us following Jesus…those sticky points that can cause us to be spiritually stuck. And though we have learned to come to church and pretend everything is ok…we’ve gotten good at wearing masks…for fear that if we are found out, folks will not like us, church is the one place it should be ok not to be ok. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” I think somehow we’ve forgotten that. We often think we can take care of our habits on our own…“It’s no big deal” “I can quit anytime I want” “I don’t need help with this hurt, I can deal with it in my own way.” But we all need help…only the Spirit can transform us to live and love like Jesus. He does that as we submit our lives to Him and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer. We also need other believers…Paul says the job’s not done until we all attain unto the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God…

As I thought about Paul’s challenge to offer myself to God as a living, holy sacrifice, something that Dallas Willard said in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, that really struck me was the idea of training vs. trying as it relates to the spiritual life.

Trying is an experiment and implies an attempt, which, if unsuccessful, constitutes the end and sum total of the experiment. Training, on the other hand, is a lifestyle, which has built into it the expectation of failure…each time you fail, you learn something different that will help you succeed in the future.

One of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time was Brett Favre. I’ve seen Brett play a lot of football games. Let’s suppose I watched every game that he ever played…just suppose. Let’s suppose I had studied every aspect of his game…from the way he grips the ball, to the way he scrambles in the backfield, even to the way he celebrates an outstanding play. (All from the comfort of my couch, of course.) If I were to go out this afternoon and play a pick-up game of football, bringing all of my Brett Favre-ishness to bear, do you think that I could play like Brett Favre? Now that hurts. Why don’t you think I could play like him? Right. If I haven’t trained like him…if I haven’t spent the hours in the gym and on the practice field that he has (talent aside), I have no shot at playing the game with the same level of excellence as he did.

The same could be said of the Christian life. Believing that I can live and love like Jesus in a moment of crisis without the necessary spiritual training is no more ridiculous than me believing that I could walk out of this auditorium and play football like Brett Favre. When Paul asks us to present ourselves as living, holy sacrifices, he’s not saying, “Give the Christian life a try and see if it works for you”, implying an experiment that may or may not be successful. But “Train for the Christian life and it will work for you”, implying a lifestyle choice. (imagery he has used elsewhere in his letters…farmer, athlete, soldier) As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.”

BTW do you know the difference between professional athletes and amateurs? Amateur athletes train until they get it right; professional athletes train until they can’t get it wrong. Paul knew this! He says in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Please understand as we talk about training vs. trying that this does not in anyway imply that a person can make progress toward spiritual maturity apart from God’s work in his or her life. Nor does it imply that this is a solo gig. We need each other in the process. Becoming more like Jesus…sanctification…is a process…a lifelong process that will not be complete until we see Jesus face-to-face.

God used this passage in Romans to pry me loose from the spiritual quicksand that I found myself in a few years ago. Every now and again I have a tendency to wander towards the sand-trap…part of being a new creation in a fallen world I suppose, but as I’ve made the effort with God’s help to passionately pursue Jesus as a lifestyle rather than an experiment, and as I’ve surrounded myself with other believers who are pursuing Jesus too, I don’t find myself getting stuck quite as often.

Every moment of every day is a choice between being conformed to this world or being transformed…start the process today. Commit to offering yourself and renewing your mind.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that you may walk in a manner worthy of Him, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

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

Generosity

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Two characters in the Gospel of Luke highlight for me two approaches to generosity…the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). The Rich Young Ruler was well respected and generally a good guy. Zacchaeus was not…not either of them. While the Rich Young Ruler was likely a much loved leader in religious circles, Zacchaeus was a despised tax collector…and not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Both had an encounter with Jesus…one became a generous giver and the other left very sad. Jesus changed everything. For Zacchaeus, Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation was Good News indeed, and he went from being a taker to a giver, from greedy to generous… But the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t stand to part with his stuff. His selfishness and greed just became more pronounced.

Generosity isn’t something we should shy away from…it’s actually one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

So whose kingdom are you building? Whose stuff are you protecting? Yours or Jesus’? We cannot enjoy the kingdom unless we are submitted to the King, and we cannot submit to the King if we are still hanging on to our stuff. Are you mastered by the desire to get or give (Acts 20.35)? Do you trust God’s generosity enough to be generous?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we reflect the generous character of Jesus this week in any and every circumstance.”

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

NT Reading – September 2

Titus 1-3

Salutation

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Qualifications of Elders

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

Duties of the Older and Younger

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Godly Living

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

Personal Concerns

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. 14 Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

 

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

NT Reading – September 1

2 Timothy 3-4

“Difficult Times Will Come”

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

“Preach the Word”

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Personal Concerns

Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. 12 But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.

16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. 21 Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

 

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