Hope in God’s Promises

Romans 8.18-25

In this in-between time, this already/not yet time that we live in, we eagerly await the glory to come…we hope in the promises of God. And as we do, whether in good times or in bad, we have the Spirit who not only empowers us to put to death the deeds of the body, but who is also praying for us in the midst of our waiting…our groaning and suffering. He is battling on our behalf. And He will see us through to glory.

Suffering before glory…it’s the reality of the world that we live in today. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness seems to reign throughout the land. Pandemic. Social unrest. Racial tensions. Riots in the streets. Illness, death of a loved one, financial hardships, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams… And if we are honest with ourselves, we find all kinds of other things to hope in rather than Jesus. Overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we too quickly forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. That our hope is secure with Him.

Who or what are you hoping in today? Here’s what I’ve found to be a good indicator for me of where my hope is…what’s my level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest. You see, the more our hope rests with God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. But when our hope is anywhere else…not so much.

So while we wait, we pray. We share our stories. We share the hope that we have. You see, though we groan…in our suffering, we have a hope that this world cannot offer. A hope that the Hero has already won the day and that one day we will reign with Him. A hope that we must share…we must share…with a lost a dying world.

May you experience hope in God’s promises this Christmas season.

pro rege

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.

ThanksGIVING

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is easily overlooked as a spiritual discipline. You have heard me say often…pray every day, spend time in the Word every day, fellowship with other believers as often as you can, and share your story at every opportunity, but generosity 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 being generous. Being generous with our time. Being generous with our abilities. Being generous with our resources. Being generous with our lives. Generosity reflects the love that God so generously has shown toward us in Jesus.

Two characters in the Gospel of Luke highlight for me the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to generosity…the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19). They are alike in some ways. Both are wealthy. Both have the resources to be generous. But, their characters couldn’t have been more different. We expect the Rich Young Ruler to be generous…he is well respected, a much loved leader in religious circles and generally a good guy. Zacchaeus…not so much. We don’t expect him to be generous at all. He is a despised tax collector…and not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Both of them have an encounter with Jesus…one becomes a generous giver out of the overflow of his thankfulness for what Jesus has done for him, and the other leaves very sad. Jesus changes everything. And it’s not what we expected. For Zacchaeus, Jesus’ gracious offer of salvation is Good News indeed, and he goes from being a taker to a giver, from greedy to generous, from entitled to thankful… But the Rich Young Ruler can’t stand to part with his stuff. His selfishness and greed, which were already there, have just been revealed.

Let me ask you a question, and be honest with yourself…which one best describes you? 

Let me ask it another way. What would Central look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would we be more thankful and generous, or less?

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 Solomon, it’s all His. We have to keep that in mind. And know this…God is more concerned about the “why” of our giving than the “what”. He looks at the heart. Sometimes it’s harder to be generous when you have more…our stuff tends to get in the way…to capture our hearts and cause us to want more. But the more we pursue generosity, the easier it is to let go of our stuff.

If being generous…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. Taste and see that the LORD is good. And you’ll see for yourself, that when we’re generous, God’s always faithful to meet our needs.

And like our spiritual gifts, God has given us resources to build up the body. We won’t experience the fullness of joy and abundance of life that Jesus wants for us until He has all of us, including our resources.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, as I said earlier, this is a very generous church. I know there are a ton of stories of folks who give and give generously. We couldn’t do the ministry we do…we couldn’t reach the folks in this valley and around the world we’re reaching…we couldn’t have the kingdom impact we’re having…without you. So thank you.

But may we excel still more and more, and may we grow in the grace of giving.

pro rege

This post is based on this week’s sermon. 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.

Help Wanted: Service Shows Our Love for One Another

Romans 12.9-21

Renewed thinking allows us to see the world from a very different perspective than those around us. It causes us to think rightly about who we are and how we fit within the church. It frees us up to  think of others before our selves. It pushes us to look out for ways to use our gifts and serve each other. And it’s the catalyst for us to live and love like Jesus.

Renewed thinking comes from a renewed mind…a mind that has been transformed by God’s Word. As we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We begin to love like He loves. We begin to live out our role as ambassadors for His kingdom. And so come what may…good times or bad, blessing or cursing, feast or famine, tribulation or persecution or suffering of any kind…we can rejoice. We have hope. We trust God. And we see that His will for us is perfect…good, acceptable and perfect.

When my son was in third grade, he and I decided to try tae kwon do. The first day we entered the dojo, it was clear that the goal was for us to be black belts. Even though there were a number of them present, the sensei didn’t consider his job done until we all crossed the finished line. It’s not about one of us making it to maturity. It’s a group project. The job’s not done until we all attain to the unity of the faith…

I hope you’ve found this serve series to be helpful. I hope it’s caused you to begin to ask questions…to explore what your spiritual gifts are and where you might use them. I hope you’ve been encouraged. But most of all, I hope you discover the joy of serving for yourself. So if you’ve been waiting…just try it!

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Help Wanted: Inquire Within series. 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.

Help Wanted: Service Uses Our Gifts

Romans 12.3-8

A renewed mind brings about renewed thinking which allows us to see the world from a very different perspective than those around us. It causes us to think rightly about who we are and how we fit within the church. And it’s the catalyst for us to live and love like Jesus.

God’s gifted you for a reason…are you using your spiritual gift to build up the body? Of course that assumes that you know what your spiritual gifts are. One way to discover what your spiritual gift is…is to serve. If you hear about an opportunity that appeals to you, then just try it. If it’s an area of giftedness, you’ll know. It will “feel” right, and we won’t be able to talk you out of it. If not, you’ll know that too, and you can try something else. Remember the Christian life is not an experiment but a lifestyle, not just trying, but training.

If you want to experience the fullness of joy and abundance of life that Jesus talks about, you’ve got to get serving. So find ways to serve. As you exercise your spiritual gifts, don’t be surprised to see God use them in tandem with others, bringing you closer together and closer to Him.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Help Wanted: Inquire Within series. 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.

Help Wanted: Service is a Response

Romans 12.1-2

We all have ways that we are conforming to the world around us. Hard not to do when you walk this planet. But as we spend more time in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to spend more time in us, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds and transform us to live and love like Jesus. We begin to see the world more and more through His eyes. We begin to want what He wants. We see that His will for us is perfect. And then offering the whole of ourselves to Him…serving Him…just makes sense. It’s the only reasonable thing to do.

Because of what God’s done for us, we want to serve Him…and we do that by serving others.

pro rege

This post is based on a sermon from our Help Wanted: Inquire Within series. 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.

Preach the Word

2 Timothy 3.10-4.5

Paul admonishes Timothy to “preach the Word”…if we are going to make disciples, we have to stay true to the Word.

But why is that so important? Adam and Eve in the garden. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What knowledge did Adam and Eve gain when they ate of the fruit…the serpent promises that they would be like God, knowing good and evil. But didn’t they already know what was good? Wasn’t that God’s assessment of creation? Didn’t they know that God was good and the Definer of the good? So what did they gain? The ability to define the good for themselves. Now they could determine what was good and evil, what was right and wrong apart from what God had revealed. In becoming their own gods, they also became their own barometers of Truth. And so Truth would seemingly become relative. But the Truth has never been relative. When heaven and earth split apart in the fall, it was those who looked to the things above, to the heavenly realities who followed God and were willing/able to see the Truth as Truth. Those focused on earthy realities continued to define truth according to their own image, according to their own sliding scale.

When we first trust in Jesus, the Bible says that we are new creatures; but our perspective isn’t automatically realigned. Vestiges of the flesh and a culture hell-bent on dragging us away from God tend to keep us very earthy and self-centered. And we continue to look like the world around us. We see Truth as relative. And that’s why fidelity to the Scriptures and preaching the Word has to be foundational.

Discipleship is the process of learning to think and act differently. To reorient our perspective so that we begin to see the world through God’s eyes and to respond to others the way He would. It’s not an automatic process, but a change in lifestyle. And that only happens as we become immersed in the Story, as we remind ourselves who we are and what God is calling us to. It’s learning to see my resources – my time, my money, my relationships – through God’s eyes.

One of the scariest things in this passage is the fact that the challenges to the Truth come from within the church. If we do not have a strong commitment as a church to the Truth of the Scriptures and sound doctrine, then we as a church will be in danger of falling into error. We all have to be committed. Because false doctrine may seem to start innocently enough with an applicational thought, “This is what this means to me…” which becomes a deadly disease that spreads throughout the body. And the church disintegrates from the inside. It generally happens when we let our circumstances define Truth. We should apply the Truth of God’s Word to our circumstances, but we should never let our circumstances define Truth. Right and wrong isn’t my opinion, but what the Bible says.

pro rege

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

Final Words

Romans 16.17-27

“…to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever.” Only God could do it. Only God.

And so we come to the end of the book of Romans, Paul’s great treatise on the gospel. Packed full of doctrine and practical advice. It really is Paul’s magnum opus.

Paul starts by highlighting our deep and desperate need for a Savior…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (1-3). The problem is universal…both Jews and Gentiles. We are not all as bad as we could be, but we are all as bad off as we can be without Jesus.

Paul moves on to point out the great salvation that God offers through Jesus…a salvation that’s available to both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Jesus (3-5). The same faith that the OT saints had. By faith we are justified…declared not guilty. Because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins required. He satisfied the wrath of God that we deserved. He reconciled us to Him, so that now we have peace with God. Once we were united with Adam in sin and death, but now we are united with Jesus in resurrection and life.

Next Paul tackles the reality of our new life in Jesus (6-8). We are not who we used to be, so we shouldn’t live like we used to live. We are to present ourselves alive in Christ Jesus. And yet, a battle still rages in our mind and body. Though our sin has been forgiven, and we have been given new life, we have to choose to live that new life. The flesh will always war against our spirit in that choice. But the good news is that we have the Spirit of God living in us, empowering us to live the life God calls us to, interceding for us and making us more like Jesus. Reminding us that we are perfectly loved by God.

Then Paul circles back around to the question of the Jews and God’s promises to them (9-11). Our unfaithfulness does not invalidate God’s faithfulness. He will keep His promises. He chooses, and we have a choice. Both are true. We are fully responsible for our own actions, and yet everyone of them falls within the purview of God’s will. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Olive tree theology. As believing Gentiles, we have been grafted into the people of God…we have been made beneficiaries of the promises made to the fathers.

Finally, Paul challenges us to offer ourselves as living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God (12-16). That’s only possible when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and only then can we see that His will for us is good and acceptable and perfect. That His way is the best way. And then we will have a desire to pursue one another in love. We not me. Asking the question, what would love do? Celebrating unity in diversity. One…not the same, but one in Jesus.

And when that’s true of us, then our faith…our obedience…will be evident to all.

One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named A.W. Tozer and goes something like this, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come” (A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p. 71). Does the enemy have anything to fear from us? From you? When we live the kind of life that Paul talks about here, then he will. Then get ready because we will have a target on us. And that’s not a bad thing. It means we are doing something right.

pro rege

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

Personal Greetings aka Super Friends

Romans 16.1-16

Earlier Paul had said, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” And clearly Paul modeled that in his own life. Reading a book like Romans we can sometimes forget that Paul wasn’t just an academic sitting in his study cranking out doctrine. Paul was a people person. He loved people. He genuinely loved people. And that was the driving force behind his ministry. He wanted them to know his Savior. And so he did everything he could to introduce them to Jesus.

Thinking back to our time in the book of Acts and following Paul’s missionary journeys, we rarely see him on his own. Maybe Athens, but even then he was waiting for his buddies Silas and Timothy. He knew the value of “we”. He knew his need for other folks, and he trusted them. How many times does he call someone beloved? And in a time when you didn’t have social media or cell phones or texts or email or even good ole fashion land lines to keep in touch…not even a postal system like we have today…how did Paul keep up with all these folks? Because he loved them. He genuinely loved them. Because they made an impact in his life, just as he made an impact in theirs.

Paul never did ministry alone, and he continually invested in the lives of those he was bringing along. So who are your traveling buddies? Who are you following Jesus with? And who are you bringing along? Who are you building into? Who’s building into you? Who are you teaching about the faith? Who are you challenging to bring another along?

Let me challenge you with this this week…if you are not involved in a community group or small group of some kind, get involved. If you are not investing time bringing someone else along in the faith, pray about who that might be and then be intentional about building into his or her life.

pro rege

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

Just Like Paul

Romans 15.14-33

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named…” Like Paul, we too are called to share Jesus where He is not already known/named. It might not be in some far-flung locale like Illyricum. It might just be one desk over…one cubicle over…one house over.

We all have a story to share…I’m not talking about your biography. I’m talking about your testimony…the story of how Jesus changed your life. And these days it’s a story that folks desperately need to hear. They need to know about the hope that you’ve found in Jesus.

God has uniquely wired you for the ministry He’s given you. There is no one like you. The gifts and talents and experiences and passion and personality all flowing together to make you uniquely you. But He’s given you all of those things for a purpose…and that’s to minister, to serve as a priest in the place, in the context He’s given you to minister in….to offer up those who don’t know Him as an acceptable sacrifice, a pleasing aroma. To bring more folks into the kingdom. That’s the only thing worth boasting about…not what I’ve accomplished, but what Jesus has accomplished through me. And what Jesus has accomplished through you. And what Jesus is accomplishing through us as a church.

Finally, let me come back to prayer. I hope you see that prayer is your primary weapon against the enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Prayer is something that should not just be a daily habit, but a throughout the day habit. And it’s something we should be doing for/with one another.

pro rege

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

Just Like Jesus

Romans 15.1-13

“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Why does it seem so hard sometimes? I think we have a hard time with the first part when we forget the example of the second part. Just like Jesus.

It’s kind of like our struggle with forgiving others. When we forget how great a debt we’ve been forgiven, we have a much harder time forgiving others. But when we remember God’s mercy towards us, and we allow that to blow us away…then forgiving others is just not that hard. How could we not?

What does love look like? Sometimes it looks like giving up…my preferences or my freedoms or my rights…and sometimes it looks like putting up…with others convictions or opinions…but it always looks like building up…looking out for the good of the other person. Pointing them to Jesus. Living for the kingdom and not for the here-and-now.

Just like Jesus.

pro rege

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