Who’s the Boss?

Acts 12.1-25

The story begins and ends with a man named Herod. At the outset he kills one of the Apostles and arrests a second, but in the end he is killed by an angel of the Lord for his arrogance. Herod thought that he was the one who was in control…that he was the boss. He found out he was wrong. Dead wrong.

Once again we see the importance of prayer in the early church, and the importance of prayer in moving the mission forward. They prayed collectively, and they prayed fervently. They knew that prayer was their primary weapon in the war against the forces of darkness. I wonder if we know the same? Is prayer our primary go-to…our first response, or is it something we try when all else fails? When we pray, we recognize our dependence on God…He’s in control…He’s the Boss (Philippians 4.8). When we don’t pray, who are we depending on?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize who’s the boss…who’s in control, especially when we are focused on our circumstances. When we see the world from a circumstantial point of view, it sure looks like we’re losing. Just watch the news. Take a look at social media. Hatred, hostility and violence are up, kindness, patience, decency are down…forget about love. Christianity is reviled and mocked, and those who hold to biblical values are called “haters” or “bigots” or “backwards”. It’s all the more reason to pray. Because we need an eternal perspective. The folks who attack us are not our enemy…they are held captive by our Enemy. Just like we were. Our job is not to rage against them, but to love them. To serve them. To share our story with them. To tell them about Jesus. That’s not easy. Again we need to pray! So this week, I challenge you to get down on your knees and pray…whatever the chaos in your life, whatever chains are binding you…make prayer your first response and watch what God does.

There’s only One who’s the Boss. Only One qualified for that job description. Only One King of kings and Lord of lords. Our Creator. Our Savior. Our Redeemer. And though the world around us is shaking, He can never be shaken. He is never caught off guard…never says, “Whoops”. We can therefore have confidence because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

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

From Persecutor to Preacher

Acts 9.19.b-31

Saul goes from being a persecutor to a preacher. Jesus has changed everything. He has passed from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son…his sins have been forgiven and his destiny will never be the same. Good news, right? Right?

And yet for Saul the good news is met with disdain by his one-time-friends turned enemies and doubt by his one-time-enemies turned friends. Except for Barnabas. He recognizes Saul’s sincere belief and welcomes him into the fold.

Saul is excited about his new-found faith. He can’t wait to tell others about Jesus. That’s a good thing. His excitement is not quenched even when met with hostility and the threat of death. Still he will preach the gospel and face whatever trial may come. Saul’s time alone with the Lord…in His Word and in prayer…fuels his fire and prepares him for what inevitably will come.

Are you like Saul, maybe new to the faith, excited about the road ahead, anticipating the impact that you will have for the kingdom? Realize that challenges will come. Some of those challenges will come from unbelieving friends who feel like you’ve walked away from them. Some of those challenges will come from other believers who can’t believe you trusted in Jesus. Take courage. Either way, you have to be faithful to what God has called you to do…tell people about Jesus…share your story. Spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer and time fellowshipping with other believers, allowing your faith to grow and deepen and mature. And be patient. Saul’s greatest impact will come years later…

Are you like Barnabas, an encourager who comes alongside, a welcomer-in of those on the fringes? Some definitely have the gift of encouragement…you know who you are and so do the folks who know you well. Keep doing it. We need you. But I think all of us can be a Barnabas to an extent. All of us can come alongside another. You see, discipleship is not just me, my Bible and a cup of coffee. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. God never intended us to walk the path alone. We need each other. Paul uses both the analogy of a body and of a house to describe our interconnectedness…our interdependence on one another. The person you may be encouraging may be the one God wants to use to turn this world upside down. Like Saul.

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 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.

For the rest of us, who do you need to share your story with this week? Who is it that God wants to uniquely use you to reach? What impact will you 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

The Gospel Spreads to Samaria

Acts 8.1-25

Don’t do what Simon says…don’t be like Simon, seeing the gospel as a means of promoting your own agenda…of promoting yourself. Instead be like Philip, who believed in Jesus and promoted His kingdom, and who also, in a time of persecution, was faithful and obedient to proclaim the gospel and point others to Jesus. 

What Saul and his buddies meant for evil, God will use to grow His church. In Philip’s case it’s persecution, for you God may be using your current circumstances to lead you to your next kingdom assignment. Will you, like Philip, be obedient and faithful?

Do you recognize the opportunities that God is giving you to tell your story? Do you notice them in your workplace, with your friends and family, with your neighbors, or wherever God has you? Whether it’s in a time of relative calm or chaos, the gospel should be part of the luggage we take with us wherever we go.

Finally, are you pointing others to Jesus and pursuing His kingdom like Philip, or are you still living according to this world’s values like Simon, pursuing your own kingdom? Are you living for this world or the one to come? One path leads to abundant life in the kingdom, the other…a scathing rebuke.

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

Stephen Takes a Stand

Acts 7

Stephen takes the stand, answering the charges brought against him by his opponents. It’s not Stephen who stands in the wrong…far from speaking against Moses, God, the Temple or the Law…he speaks against those who rebel against God and make an idol out of the Temple or the Law.

Stephen had no way of knowing that the people would react so violently to what he had to say. But even if he did, he wouldn’t have changed a word. Stephen was a faithful witness to the end and had the awesome privilege of being the first martyr of the church…the first to die for Jesus. Many more will follow. The boldness that the Apostles prayed for is definitely present in the life of Stephen.

I wonder if we would be so bold. The likelihood of being called to martyrdom is still pretty low in this country although in other parts of the world it’s relatively high. But I wonder if we would be bold enough to share our testimony even when it’s unpopular…when it might be seen as politically incorrect or even labelled “hate speech” because we proclaim the truth that Jesus is the only way. I wonder if we would be so bold to face ridicule and maybe even physical harm for the sake of the Name. I wonder.

I pray that we would be that bold. I pray that we would be bold in the way that we live our lives for Jesus. I pray that we would be bold in the way that we love one another and those who oppose us. I pray that we would be bold in our words and in our actions. I pray that we would be a bold people, courageously following our King, storming the gates of hell and releasing the captives. I pray that we could never be accused of being a stiff-necked people, uncircumcised of heart and ear, but that we would be a people who do justice, live kindness and walk humbly with our God. May we be such a people.

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

Stephen’s Arrest

Acts 6.8-15

Stephen returns to his old neighborhood to share the good news of hope that he has found in Jesus. He wants the folks closest to him to experience the same life-transformation he has. Jesus changes everything. And although the Spirit is powerfully at work through him performing great wonders and signs to confirm his testimony, what should be received as good news indeed is met with hostility.

Welcome to the dangerous world of living for Jesus. The more brightly your light shines, the more energetically the enemy will attempt to put it out. So how then should we live? In fear, shrinking back? No. Courageously storming the gates of hell. Stephen didn’t back down. Neither did the Apostles. They knew they were serving a King and a kingdom worth dying for. So do we. But not only is our King worth dying for, He’s also worth living for.

Are you living for your King? Yeah, you are. But are you living for the true King…are you living for Jesus? Or are you living for a pretender? Where do your allegiances lie? Who/what are you serving? Who do you adore? You see, unless you love God more…more than anyone else or anything else…you won’t live for Him. And if you won’t live for Him, you certainly won’t die for Him.

So if you want to live for your King…if you want to love Him more…you have to be intentional about your pursuit of Him. You have to cultivate your love…time spent with Him will do that. Time in His Word…time in prayer…time with His people. Time in His Word…every day. Time in prayer…every day. Time with His people…as often as you can. And remember it’s not something that you can do on your own…but He has given you His Spirit to strengthen and encourage you, to lead and to guide you, to transform you to live and love like Jesus.

If today were your last day, would you be ready? Jesus will either be your King or your Judge? When your time comes, there are no do-overs, no second chances…the question is not whether or not we will die, or when or how we will die, but if we are ready to die. Are you ready?

A little over a hundred years before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, John Huss was preaching key reformation ideals. He would be martyred for his devotion to the Bible over the traditions of the church. Just moments before his death, he was asked by the imperial marshal one final time to recant and save his life. John responded “God is my witness that…the principal intention of my preaching…and all my other acts or writings are solely that I might turn people from sin. And in that truth of the gospel that I wrote, taught, and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willingly glad to die today.”

It’s better to burn out than fade away…

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

Beware of Fighting Against God

Acts 5.17-42

Persecution heats up as the Apostles continue to carry out their mission of being witnesses to Jesus and His resurrection. What about you? How are you being a witness? What’s your story?

I think sometimes Christianity is caricatured as something for those who are soft or weak…those not strong enough to stand on their own. But our passage today shows that the Apostles are anything but weak. Not only do they stand up to the most powerful men in their society…not promoting their own agenda but proclaiming Jesus…but they are also willing to suffer the humiliation of both jail and a public whippin’ for Jesus. And so much more. “If church traditions are correct, Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome, Matthew suffered martyrdom by the sword. John was scarred in a cauldron of boiling oil and lived his last days banished on an island. James was beheaded in Jerusalem, Paul in Rome…and the list goes on and on.

I wonder if we are willing to suffer for our faith…or do we let fear (or our comfort and/or our convenience) overcome our courage when it comes to following Jesus? When we trusted in Jesus, when we committed to following Him, we were not choosing the safest or easiest or most convenient or comfortable way through life, but the most dangerous, inconvenient, challenging yet rewarding path. We are traitors to the god of this world…our allegiance is to the true King. We live in enemy territory…potential for danger at every turn. Sometimes we forget that and want to take the safe route. But Jesus didn’t come to just rearrange the furniture in our lives…He came to change everything. And when Jesus begins to change everything, we will be at odds with the world around us. Jesus calls us, not to live a safe life, but a dangerous life…a life that gives testimony to the great God and true King we serve. But you know, it’s really not that dangerous…Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us. And if He requires us to pay the ultimate price, isn’t life in the kingdom so much better than life in this fallen world? Remember Jesus’ parable of the minas from Luke 19? The servant who gained the ten minas didn’t do it by being afraid, but by being bold. By risking everything for the gospel he gained everything, while the servant who played it safe lost it all.

We are called to live out our faith and share our testimony with others at every God-given opportunity. Dare to ask God to provide you with the opportunity and He will, but will you be ready?

Persecution is a-coming. You don’t have to look for it…the more you look like Jesus, the more folks will treat you like Him. Some will be attracted to you, but most will reject you.

This is some hard stuff…suffering before glory always is. But we have to remember that this world is not our home, and it’s values are not our values. So we will be at odds most times. That’s ok, because when we choose God’s side, we never lose.

“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.” Tozer That Incredible Christian. Pray we will be dangerous Christians.

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

You’re Not Alone

Acts 4.23-37

Peter and John return with news of their first confrontation with the religious leaders. And while they weathered this first storm, they recognize their need for the Spirit’s enablement to courageously carry forward the mission in the face of fierce opposition. And so they pray. They are not alone. They not only have each other, but they also stand together with the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe on their side.

Once again, prayer is front and center for the Apostles. Is prayer your go-to in crisis? Is it something you need, or just something that you get around to after you’ve tried everything else? Are you praying for strength and courage to weather the storm, knowing that it’s in times of suffering and tragedy that our faith is most clearly on display, or are you just praying to escape the storm? Do you recognize that you’re not alone…that you have a community of believers that is here to support you, not to mention the Spirit of the living God who indwells you? Or are you trying to go it alone?

Meanwhile the early church continues to be a model of unity and love. There is a singleness of purpose in their pursuit of building the kingdom…telling others about Jesus and growing in their faith. Their love is expressed practically in meeting the needs of those within the community who are lacking.

Like the early church, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So how are we doing? How are we doing with loving each other and pursuing the kingdom together?

We are all called to be witnesses…to tell others about Jesus and how He has changed our lives. We are called to proclaim the awesomeness of the God we serve. That seems hard to do at times for a myriad of reasons. Maybe we don’t think about it…too self-absorbed, maybe we’re too busy, maybe we’re too afraid. Whatever the reason, take a moment now to confess it to God and then ask Him to give you the confidence to do what He has called you to do. 

Are you living a generous life…when you see a need, do you work to meet the need? Are you generous, not just with your resources but with your time and with you life? Are people more important than things…is Jesus really more satisfying than your stuff?

How are you doing with spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time daily with the Lord in prayer and the Word? Are you meeting with believing friends to encourage and pray for each other?

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