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.

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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

Cornelius’ Story Part 1

Acts 10.1-23a

Cornelius has a vision, Peter goes into a trance…little did these men know that God is in the midst of fulfilling His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The first Gentile is about to be symbolically welcomed into the kingdom in the book of Acts, opening the floodgates for the rapid expansion of the church to all nations and to the ends of the earth.

Once again we see God’s hand at work through the story. An angel appears to Cornelius saying send for Peter. After a perplexing vision, the Spirit tells Peter to go without misgivings. Just like with Ananias and Saul, another divine meet-and-great that will have monumental implications for the history of the church.

Jesus had proclaimed to the Apostles that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. And now approximately ten years later, the gospel has yet to break beyond the second level…Judea and Samaria. Up to now an almost entirely Jewish thing. But God’s putting the pieces in place. He’s working on a guy named Peter to turn his “By no means Lord” into welcoming the men from Cornelius in and giving them lodging…and eventually having fellowship with them in Cornelius’ house. He’s preparing a guy named Saul. The gates of hell stand no chance.

Peter doesn’t know yet what God is up to when He calls him to action, but just like Abraham, he has been chosen for a unique purpose. Just like Saul. Just like you and me.

But even then, Peter has to be pried away from looking at his circumstances from a how-does this-impact-me mindset…a mindset that leads him and us invariably to respond selfishly, even if, like Peter, we really want to please the Lord. We often fail to grasp the bigger picture and instead of trusting and obeying…simply saying “yes”, we say, “what about me?” or worse, “by no means Lord.”

We need to learn to resist resistance to respond to God with an open and willing heart. When we choose to follow Jesus we become part of the rebellion…an other worldly kingdom…whose mission it is to storm the gates of hell and crush the power of Satan, setting the captives free into the abundant life that God intends for them. It is not always about us. When we trust God, our agenda, purpose and motivation changes. And when we realize it is not about us, it frees us up to do His work. And when we know God because we have spent time with Him, we have the confidence to turn a prompting of the Lord into action for Him and His people. And when we do it again and again and again a warrior of faith emerges. His Spirit transforms us a little bit more to live and love like Jesus. One step at a time…from Lydda to Joppa, from Joppa to a tanner’s house, from a tanner’s house to Cornelius’ house. Each time Peter said yes, he looked more like Jesus. You will too. But we have to turn our “by no means Lord” into “yes Lord.”

You are here today because Peter unlocked the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles. It all started because Peter welcomed a couple of “unclean” guys into his home. He trusted the Lord. He dropped his agenda. He opened his mind to the possibility that God could use him in that moment to transform lives. He extended his hand to simply turn the knob and open the door. You are also here today because someone else said “yes” to the Lord and shared the gospel with you. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

If you are here seeking, like Cornelius, start knocking. Talk to a friend about Jesus. And if you have already walked through that door and are following Jesus, say “yes” to Him…open your ears, open your heart and be ready and willing to be the one God uses to open the door for the next guy. Who is that for you? Is there someone in your life about whom you are saying, “by no means Lord”? God has chosen you for such a time as this. Pray, think, then act…try saying “yes” to the Lord instead.

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

Back to Peter

Acts 9.32-43

Peter performs two miracles reminiscent of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels…the healing of a paralytic and the raising of the dead. Both demonstrate the Spirit’s work through Peter and are confirmation to a watching world that his witness is true. Jesus is alive! Both miracles result in lots of folks coming to faith.

What started in Jerusalem has reached the boundaries of Judea and Samaria and will soon break through to the uttermost parts of the world. What started as a Jewish thing is soon to become an all-people’s thing…fulfilling what God had promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. The gospel is spreading and crashing through barriers of all kinds.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? Jesus will not only forgive your sins and give you eternal life, but He will also give your life purpose and meaning. 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 those of us who have trusted in Jesus, we are beneficiaries of the gospel’s spread…ours is a faith that has been passed down through the ages. Faithful men and women…beginning with the Apostles…who bore witness to a resurrected Jesus, proclaiming the good news of the gospel…forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for everyone who will believe…a message they shared with friends and family, with co-workers and neighbors, with crowds and individuals, with anyone who would listen.

Now it’s our turn to pass the baton of faith to a new generation of believers. It’s our turn to share the gospel with those in our lives who so desperately need it. It’s our turn to bear witness to the resurrected Jesus. And it’s nothing less than an all-out assault on the kingdom of darkness…a bum rush, if you will, on the gates of hell. It’s not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and boldness…a willingness to face opposition and even persecution…knowing that it’s worth it. Life in the kingdom is worth it. Following Jesus is worth it. So are you ready? Have you written out your story? Are you on the hunt for opportunities to share it?

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

It’s Not Too Late

Acts 3.11-26

In this Peter’s second sermon, he once again implicates the Jews for killing their Messiah. But if they will repent and return, forgiveness is available. Only then will they realize the promises that God made to their fathers. If not, they stand condemned.

Jesus is the answer the Jews had been waiting for, but they missed it. Even though they were wrong about Him, they were convinced they were right. Unfortunately I think we often believe the lie that the answer we’re looking for…whatever it is we think will give our life meaning…can be found in the pursuit of self and the things of this world…relationships, careers/jobs, etc. Even though we may think we’re right, we’re dead wrong. That’s not life, but death. So if you are looking for the right answer in the wrong place, it’s not too late. Jesus is the answer for you too.

Jesus came to bless us…I think it’s such a beautiful picture. Though we were His enemies and our only thought was to put to death the Author of life, yet He willingly gave His life so that we could experience life. Real life. Life with Him in His kingdom. He came to bless us by turning us from our wicked ways. By believing in Him you can be saved.

So how is repentance taking root in your life? We have been called to repent time and time again throughout this series…there’s that first act of repentance when we trusted in Him initially, but then there’s the ongoing repentance…the turning back again. Are we actually doing it? Are we learning to live and love like Jesus?

I love the boldness of Peter to stand up and proclaim Jesus, even when it wasn’t easy. I wonder if we are willing to do the same. Why not start with your impact list? Who is the one you are praying for…that you are inviting to come with you for Easter? Maybe you can share your story with them this week…

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

Choosing a New Witness

Acts 1.12-26

Because of Judas’ treachery, the Apostles are in need of a new witness, another Apostle, to take his place and carry forward the mission. Not just anyone will do because it’s not just any mission…he must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ words and works which he and the team will take to the nation and from their to all the nations.

From the beginning we see the importance of prayer and the Word. Praying expectantly in unity, waiting patiently on the Lord. Recognizing the implications of the Word in their current situation. How are you doing on your spiritual disciplines? Are you spending time with the Lord, in the Word and in prayer? If you haven’t started, start today. If you’ve started and have already blown it, restart today. Don’t give up. It’s not about how much and how long…it’s about time spent with the Father.

Throughout Acts, we will see the importance of the Spirit’s work in establishing the church and empowering folks for ministry, the centrality of the resurrection in the gospel, and the need to carry the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are all called to be witnesses…witnesses of what Jesus has done in our lives. We are to be proclaimers of the gospel to those who are lost around us. We’ve been given the Spirit to empower us. Who are you praying for? Who’s on your list? We have to be intentional…

Each of us is here because of someone else’s witness. For me it was my second grade Sunday school teacher. I don’t remember her name, but she told me about Jesus.

“D.L. Moody, one of the greatest preachers in the history of the church, was brought to Christ by a man named Edward Kimball. Kimball was just an ordinary guy who loved the Lord. He was a Sunday school teacher in his church. He worked at a shoe store along with a young man named Dwight. God had put a burden on his heart to share the gospel with Dwight, but he put it off and fought it for a while. Finally Kimball mustered up the courage, went to Dwight, and told him about Jesus. Dwight became a Christian, and not long after that, he committed himself to preaching.

There is no church or institute named after Edward Kimball. But he reached D.L. Moody. You might not be a D.L. Moody, but you might be an Edward Kimball. We need people who are willing to labor in obscurity like Edward Kimball…bringing others to Jesus. God can use you to do that.” — Greg Laurie, Unlikely Champions of the Bible,  January 17, 2018

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 Red Zone

2 Peter 1.1-11

Pursuing godliness is the ultimate goal of the Christian life. The good news is, we’ve been equipped with everything we need to pursue this life…the Word and the Spirit. Peter even gives us some hand and footholds, a list of virtues from faith to love.

I know we all want to finish well…we want our lives to have an impact for the kingdom. And some of you are having a huge impact right now. I think of those who are volunteering in our children’s and youth ministries, those who are leading community groups or small groups, those who are serving the homeless, or are leading in any number of other ministries that take place on our campus. You’re pursuing godliness, relying on God, so that you can finish well. Keep after it. The race is not done…we haven’t crossed the goal line. We are in the red zone, and it will continue to be hard work to finish well, but it is all worth it.

But for others of us, maybe we’ve fallen already. We started out well, or maybe not so well, and now we’re wondering what to do. Peter would say, “I know you’ve fallen. I know you’ve failed Jesus. So did I…” but the good news is, you can still finish well. How? Begin today to pursue godliness, relying on God.

Jeremiah 9.23-24 says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” Is knowing God your greatest priority in life?

May we pursue godliness, rely on God, and finish well.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from 2 Peter 1.1-11 entitled The Red Zone. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

November 14 – Weekend Passage

2 Peter 1:1-11

Growth in Christian Virtue

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

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