All In: Transforming Families

Nehemiah 3

Let’s consecrate our work to the Lord. More than that, let’s consecrate ourselves to Him (Ro. 12.1-2). God is in the transforming business…transforming lives…transforming families to live and love like Jesus. So whether you are at work or serving here at the church, look for opportunities to share, encourage, equip…Don’t forget Who it is you serve and why you’re serving Him. Then, like Nehemiah, you will be able to give Him the glory He is due for the success that He brings.

The point of God’s work in the church is not just to get from point A to point B, but to get everybody from point A to point B. Like a family.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. 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.

All In: Prayer

Nehemiah 1

The situation in Jerusalem is desperate. The circumstances are dire. Seems a bit helpless and hopeless. Enter Nehemiah, the cupbearer for the king. Feeling overwhelmed, he fasts and prays. He intercedes for his people. He confesses sin, asks for forgiveness and seeks restoration. His confidence is clearly in the great and awesome God of heaven…the faithful and loving God.

Do “dire circumstances” sound familiar to you? Maybe that’s been your life over the last year or so. Maybe that’s your life right now. So what should you do? Allow the circumstances to overwhelm you or trust in the God who is above the circumstances…the great and awesome God of heaven?

What’s causing you to “weep and mourn” today? What burden are you carrying? What sin do you need to confess? Where do you need the Lord’s help? How about others in your life? Take some time now right where you are and pray.

Amen.

I hope you know prayer is a discipline that is indispensable in the Christian life. It’s something that should be woven into the fabric of your day. Times like this shouldn’t be an anomaly. But here’s what I know…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 you’re 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 as you spend time with Him this year.

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This post is based on a sermon from our January series: All In. 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.

Jesus, the Light of the World

John 1.1-18

In these opening verses, John presents Jesus as more than a Man…He was with God and He was God. But not only does John present Jesus as more than a Man…He is also a Man. The Word became flesh. He didn’t give up His God-ness to become a Man, but somehow clothed His divinity in humanity.

John wants us to know Jesus…fully God because only God can forgive sins. Fully Man because only a Man could die for sin. The perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…if you have not yet trusted in Jesus, today would be a great time to do that.

It’s as simple as admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Believing that Jesus came to save you from your sin. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on your behalf, and was raised the third day, so that you might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him.

Merry Christmas!

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.

Love in God’s Presence

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two loves. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, the true King, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s love is a very worldly love…love for his own kingdom, love of power, prestige, position, pleasure. A love that is very selfish and self-serving. A love that does not save him because it can not. Jesus is a real threat to Herod because he knows what’s at stake. If Herod doesn’t believe that Jesus could indeed be a king…the King…he has nothing to worry about. But if Jesus is the King, then Herod’s not…and his kingdom falls. His response? Hatred and rejection.

The Magi’s love is other-worldly…they give their allegiance to Someone far greater than any earthly king…their King’s arrival is announced by the heavens. A star points the way. The Magi’s love leads them to extraordinary lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they can’t help but worship Him. They bring costly gifts…another expression of their love. In Him, they have found an object worthy of great pursuit…their love for Jesus is clear…Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Warrior-King from the line of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hero of the Story and the only One who could rescue them, the Savior of the nations. Their response? Worship and adoration…love.

There is a third group in this story…the religious leaders. These guys are indifferent towards Jesus. They know where Jesus is to be born, but do nothing with the information even when the Magi show up. The trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is between 5-6 miles…nothing in comparison to the 900 miles the Magi have travelled… The religious leader’s indifference will turn to anger, hatred and rejection as the Story unfolds because Jesus will threaten their kingdoms as well.

Where are your affections this Christmas? Who or what do you love? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is it causing you to want to protect your stuff? If so, it sounds like you are giving your affections to people or things that are destined to disappoint you.

Or is Jesus the object of your affections? Is love for Him causing you to be selfless and others-oriented? Is it causing you to want to pursue Him? Would folks who know you well agree? How about those who don’t know you so well? In other words, is it obvious? If so, it will be clearly seen in the way you love others…

1 John 3.16-18 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

May you experience Love in God’s Presence this Christmas season.

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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.

Joy in God’s Proclamations

1 Peter 1.6-9

We can experience inexpressible joy even in the midst of trials when we see our lives from a kingdom perspective…because we have a living hope and an imperishable inheritance that is protected by God.

Everyone who walks this planet will suffer…guaranteed. It’s part of living in a fallen world. Death. Loss. Broken relationships. Pandemic. Disappointment. You name it. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices. Some of it’s due to the bad choices of others. Some of it’s a result of the fall. But everybody will suffer in some way at some time. But not all will suffer for their faith.

The picture that Jesus frequently uses for discipleship…for following Him…is taking up our cross. It’s a clear picture of suffering. Now why does suffering have to be a part of the deal? I mean if we’ve chosen to follow God, if we’ve been adopted into His family, if we’re kingdom citizens, then why doesn’t He keep us from suffering? If we are on the winning side, then why does it feel like we’re losing? It goes back to the fall…

When we rebelled against our Creator, it had a devastating effect not only on us but also on the good world that God had made. The benevolent rule that man was supposed to exercise over creation was forfeited to the enemy (Luke 4.6), who subsequently became “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4.4) , “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2.2). Before we trusted in Jesus, we were “sons (and daughters) of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.2) and were citizens of this world and thoroughly committed to life in the kingdom of darkness.

When we trusted in Jesus another rebellion occurred, but this one was really a return. And while it is true that we are citizens of a new kingdom and children of God, we are still living in enemy territory. Because our allegiance has changed, we are at odds with the world around us and traitors to its malevolent king. The more we look like Jesus…the more we live as citizens of His kingdom…the more at odds with this world we will be. The more at odds, the more suffering. The more suffering, the more rejoicing. Why can we rejoice? Because our faith has been purified and strengthened. Because we know that our salvation is sure. Because we’ve chosen to respond to our circumstances with joy, knowing that God will use these experiences to accomplish His work in and through us. Because we are becoming more like Jesus.

The counterfeit joy that this world offers is based on avoiding unpleasantness of any kind…forget about suffering. It’s a joy that is hollow, self-seeking and fleeting. It disappears when the storms of life come. Unfortunately that’s the only joy that many of us pursue. But true joy…inexpressible joy…comes only from following Jesus, taking up our cross and being willing to suffer with Him. Seems like an odd way to find joy…especially an inexpressible joy…but there it is. That kind of joy is independent of circumstance…good or bad, suffering or rejoicing…it remains unshaken.

So what difficulty are you facing right now? What trial are you going through? How might God be using it to purify and strengthen your faith in Him? What, if anything, is preventing you from choosing joy despite your circumstance?

May you experience Joy in God’s Proclamations this Christmas season.

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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.

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.

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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.

Peace in God’s Prophecies

Genesis 3.1-19

God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s hard to describe the catastrophic results of one single disobedient decision. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do. God Himself will rend the veil of time and space and come down to the earth He created in the Person of Jesus. He will rescue His people. He will save us from sin and death by sacrificing Himself in our place. He will die that we might live. He will reconcile us with our Creator God. He will establish a kingdom where we will live and reign with Him forever. Where we will know true and lasting peace. 

And so Jesus has come…the King has come. He has come to reestablish our relationship with our Creator. To reconcile us with God. To restore our broken situation. To bring peace. Not just the “absence-of-conflict” kind of peace, but the OT “shalom” kind of peace, the “taking-action-to-restore-a-broken-situation-so-that-all-is-well” kind of peace. It’s what God has been doing for us for a very long time…since the beginning when we wrecked the place. Not only has God taken action to restore our broken situation, but it’s also what He calls us to do with others.

That’s why Paul can say in Romans 5.1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

So if you find yourself getting anxious about your relationship with God or with others, be proactive and seek peace. God is only a prayer away, and He delights to fix broken situations. And others? Let me challenge you…make the first move. What person comes to mind who you need to seek peace with this week? I bet they are only a text or a phone call away…or even better, maybe you can make plans to grab coffee and make things right. But don’t wait.

May you experience peace in God’s prophecies this Christmas season.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent series with…Hope in God’s Promises.

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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.

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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.

The Angel and the Little Scroll

Revelation 10.1-11

And so we run into another pause in the action while a big angel gives John a little scroll, and he is instructed to prophesy again the unfolding events of the tribulation.

The Bible is one Story. From Genesis to Revelation. The Story of God’s plan to save a people, and through that people to provide a way of salvation for all peoples. If you have trusted in Jesus, you are a part of that Story. You have been saved, reconciled, adopted, gifted and empowered to live a life worthy of your calling. To share your story with others. To point them to Jesus so that they too might be saved. To inherit a kingdom.

If you have not trusted in Jesus, you too are a part of the Story. But your future is not so bright. It’s the bitterness that John felt in his stomach. The judgment that awaits. I don’t want that for you. God doesn’t want that for you. That’s why He’s provided a way that you might saved through His Son, Jesus. All can be saved. You can be saved. It’s as simple as admitting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Believing that Jesus came to save you from your sin. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on your behalf, and was raised the third day, so that you might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him.

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This post is based on a sermon from our Revelation 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 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!

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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.