Prayer

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is often the first bit of Bible that folks commit to memory. And rightly so. It’s brought comfort to countless numbers of folks throughout the ages.

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 on the step mill at the gym, 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. “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?” 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 neighbors…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 and 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 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 that He is leading us and never leaves us alone in the midst of our darkest times. He will see us through, whatever the storm.

Another interesting question that I was asked, “Does it matter what I ask God? Isn’t He going to do what He wants anyway?” What I appreciate about all of these questions is that they reflected my own thinking at some point in time. I do think what we ask God is important, but primarily for this reason…it reveals 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 make us 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 time spent in prayer just talking to your Father.

Psalm 23 reminds me of who God is. So when I come to Him in prayer, I can thank Him for taking care of me…guiding me, directing me, providing for my needs, protecting me, His presence with me.

I want us to practice praying. We’re going to use Psalm 23 as a guide. You can pray right where you are. Start with… “The LORD is my shepherd…” Take each part of that statement and emphasize a different word. Thank Him for being your Shepherd. 

Ask God to provide for your needs.

Ask God to direct your paths.

Thank God for being with you in both green pastures and dark valleys, in both good and bad times. If you are in a bad time right now, ask Him to remind you often of His presence with you and for His help to weather the storm.

Thank God for His goodness and His lovingkindness that pursues you…for His abundant grace in your life.

Thank God for the promise of the kingdom and eternal life that is yours.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Just Like Momma

Psalm 86

David’s prayer reflects his humility before God and expresses his confidence that God is not only willing to help, but is able to help as well.

And while prayer and time in the Word aka learning the LORD’s ways are foundational to our walk with Jesus, I wanted to spend a little time focusing on the importance of a parent’s faith…a momma’s faith…to the faith of her kids…

I think it’s awesome that in a moment of desperation, David not only cries to God, but also maybe, just maybe thinks of his momma. He thinks about her faith and how she has trusted in God. Who knows? Maybe he learned to turn to God first because he saw it in her. You see, kids tend to do what they see their parents doing. They tend to value the things that their parents value, and respond to things the way that they have seen their parents respond. I think David’s momma would have been proud of how he handled this situation.

Moms have the incredible responsibility of caring for their children, and, in this passage, I think we see a testament to that most significant of a mom’s responsibilities when it comes to raising children…to train them up in the fear and admonition of the LORD…to teach them to follow God and love Him with their whole heart. That’s where prayer and Bible stories and taking them to church and a lived-out faith come into play.

You won’t always do it perfectly, and your kids won’t always respond the way that you would have hoped, but moms, when you have done all that you know to do, continue to pray for your children and be in the Word. You won’t always see the fruit of your labor…it may not seem like it’s “taking”, but remember…when they are in distress, when they are alone, when their worlds are crumbling they will remember what their momma taught them. Just like David. So take courage. 

Remember that God is a God of relationship, and He has designed us for community. Don’t go at this alone mom. Find other Christian mothers to help you and guide you along the way.

If you can, thank your mom today for all she has done…give her a hug, send her a text, make a phone call… and let her know how much you love her and that you appreciate all that she has done for you.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Mother’s Day sermon. 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

Life Together

Acts 2.42-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to learning more about Jesus, praying, worshiping, and enjoying a vibrant community life. They were also committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to others, and God was powerfully at work through their testimony. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Following Jesus is simple, not easy. The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, prayer and evangelism…practices that kept the early church on mission. Practices we’ve incorporated into our values as a church…renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Practices that keep us on mission as a church…believe it or not they’re on my wall so that whenever our staff or elders meet, we’re reminded of our values. Practices that I hope you have woven into your spiritual life as well.

Like this early group of new disciples, 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 I wonder what folks would say about us? Would they see that our faith is making a difference in our lives? Would the quality of our life together and the positive impact that we are having on the valley cause us to have favor with all the people?

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make daily time in God’s Word and prayer a part of your spiritual disciplines.

Be generous in your giving. When you see a need, meet a need. You don’t need permission. Look for opportunities…excuses to give.

If you are not a part of a community group yet, remember that’s our primary vehicle for growing. Find a group of friends to gather with on a regular basis…pray, study the Word, dig into each others’ lives, challenge and encourage each other.

Don’t forget your impact list…who is that one person you are praying for?

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

When You… Week 1

Matthew 6.1-15

Time spent in prayer…something we have talked about before. Has it been woven into the fabric of your daily routine yet? Time spent with just you and your Father? If not, make the answer to the question, “When?” today.

Giving may be a new concept for you, but Jesus assumes that those who follow Him will be generous givers. When we give as an expression of love and out of a desire for God’s glory…to invest in His kingdom…we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing our resources in things that moth and rust cannot destroy and no thief can steal.

But we have to have a plan.We have to be intentional…it starts with recognizing that all that we have belongs to God anyway. We are just stewards of His resources. Then make giving a regular practice…give as an act of worship on the weekends. Give to folks who are in need around you. Give generously of both yourself and of your resources. But give.

Same is true for prayer. 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 your 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 when you spend time with Him in 2018.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

In the Garden

Luke 22.39-53

It’s interesting that Adam was first tempted in the garden, and Jesus, the last Adam, faces His greatest temptation in another garden. Two very different outcomes. As Paul writes in Romans 5.12-21, the one introduced sin, death and condemnation into the world. The Other, justification, righteousness and eternal life.

Jesus modeled dependency upon the Father throughout His greatest trial. No matter what the outcome, He trusted that His Father was for Him and never doubted His Father’s love. And in that moment, the Father strengthened Him. Sometimes the Father saves us from the storms of life, but more often than not He saves us through them, if we will let Him. He wants to take us by the hand and walk with us through the heart of the raging tempest. I say “if we will let Him” because I think often when the storm comes we dig in our heels and refuse to follow. We fail to recognize the spiritual battle being waged around us, and so instead of reaching for prayer as our greatest weapon…trusting in the Father…we attack the enemy we see with the sword at our disposal. And we wonder why we fail… have you considered that the current trial that you are facing is part of the sifting process for your good…meant to conform you to the image of Jesus.

How vital would you say prayer is to your walk with Jesus? Is prayer a daily habit with you? Is it an exercise born of necessity or convenience? Battlefield or vending machine? Could it be that we lack the strength to endure trials and to stand up to temptation or persecution because prayer isn’t that important to us?

I want challenge you to spend some time with the Father…first consider how important prayer is to you. On a scale from 1 to 10, where does prayer rate in your life (1 being not important, 10 being absolutely necessary)? Ask the Father to increase your desire/sense of need by at least 1. Next, consider…what trial or temptation are you facing that you need to bring to the Father? What struggle do you need deliverance from? What do you need to trust Him for today?

Until next time…stay salty.

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