Signs of the Times Part 2

Luke 21.20-38

Using a discussion about the temple as a starting point, Jesus foretells future events leading up to His Second Coming. While we wait, we are not to be deceived, afraid, ignorant or careless, but we are to be ready…faithfully, courageously, obediently, prayerfully and intentionally investing in the kingdom and anxiously awaiting the return of our King.

In the waiting, it’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to allow the things of this world to take priority. Like the days of Noah…eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage (Luke 17.27). Life goes on and gradually we stop thinking about the kingdom. We no longer anticipate the return of our King. Bills to pay. Errands to run. Things to do. Our own lives to live…our own kingdom to build. Instead of being faithful stewards, we treat the resources He’s entrusted to us as our own private pile of loot to do with as we please. In the parable of the soils, the third soil…thorns represent worries and riches and pleasures of this life…brings no fruit to maturity (Luke 8.14). I’m afraid most of us live in the third soil….and so miss out on the abundance of life, the fullness of joy that comes from living a kingdom-life. We live as if we have all the time in the world…then suddenly like a trap…it’s over. Don’t be careless.

There are lots of things in this life we prepare for…we study for tests; we practice for the game; as parents, we save up for our kids’ education or first car or retirement or any number of things. Why do we prepare? So that we will be ready when the moment of truth comes…the test, the game, the event, the milestone… So why wouldn’t we prepare for the most significant, the greatest event ever…the return of our King?

Reminds me of a fireman. Although a chunk of his time on the job, he might be able to shoot pool, watch TV, play basketball, sleep, etc. At any moment the alarm could sound, and he would have to be ready to go. That means his fire suit has to be prepared, his boots have to be where he can find them, and his helmet needs to be in its place. If he misses anything, the results could be disastrous, or he’s left out of the action. Jesus has given us all a job to do…we each have a mina that we are to invest. The alarm is sounding, are you ready?

As believers we are to keep looking up…“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2.11-14).

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

Questioning the Resurrection

Luke 20.27-21.4

The Sadducees’ question about the resurrection backfires. Jesus says there’s no doubt there will be a resurrection. God is faithful and will fulfill all that He has promised. Jesus will sit at the right hand of the Father, He will rule over the kingdom and His enemies will be crushed beneath His feet.

What the Sadducees considered a trick question because of their own doubt and misunderstanding is the central question of Christianity…is the resurrection real? The resurrection is central to our faith, and is our hope as Christians. If there is no resurrection, then eat and drink for tomorrow we die. If there is no resurrection, this life is all we have. If there is no resurrection there is no future kingdom, and our hope is only a fleeting and fading one. If there is no resurrection all the promises that God has made…are false, and frankly, we are all wasting our time here today.

Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection…first for Jesus, then for us. For Jesus to conquer sin and death, a resurrection is required. In the parable of the nobleman, Jesus says He goes away to receive His kingdom and then return, picturing His death, resurrection, ascension, and return. The promises made to the patriarchs can only be fulfilled for them if there is a resurrection. For us to live in the kingdom that both the OT and Jesus describe, there must be a resurrection. We know that God is faithful to His promises. Our hope is not in vain. We know that since Jesus was raised, we too will be raised with Him. And we will reign with Him in His kingdom. We know that there is a resurrection.

Knowing that the resurrection is real, it should affect the way live. We have a real hope in Jesus. Hope that this life is not the end. A hope that one day wrongs will be made right. No more tears or pain or sorrow. No death. Endless joy and unheard of satisfaction living life in the kingdom, serving and worshiping Jesus our King.

Knowing that the resurrection is real, we should live, not for the here and now, building our own kingdoms, selfishly grabbing all that we can get…but for the kingdom to come, willingly giving of ourselves and our resources, investing our mina in the lives of those who are around us.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life…our hope is in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Him, make today the day. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. The kingdom awaits.

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

The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

The women have a front row seat to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. Though all hope seemed lost…the Hero was dead…God was not finished yet. God’s the Author of this Story, and I love when God tells the story…because when God tells the story, there’s always hope. An astounding twist to the plot…the Hero is alive. Death is conquered. Sin is atoned for. The way is made available for us to return back to God. Death is swallowed up in life, despair in hope, mourning in astounding joy. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Do you know this Jesus? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. You simply have to recognize your need to be rescued…that you are a sinner in need of repentance…that your life is a mess and beyond hope of repair. You have to believe that Jesus can rescue you…that He can save you from your sin, that He died in your place. And then you have to trust Him to save you. When you do that, the Bible says that you are adopted into God’s family…you become a son or daughter of the King of the Universe, spending an eternity with Him in the kingdom.

Maybe you are a believer, but, like the women or the disciples, the circumstances of life have caused you to lose hope. You’re living as if Jesus is still in the tomb. Maybe you need to be reminded today that Jesus is alive, and He wants you to experience resurrection life…the abundant life that He saved you for. Now’s a good time to rededicate your life to following Him.

The resurrection changes everything! The disciples went from despair to radically changing the world. Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

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

A Resurrected Jesus

John 20

The resurrection proves not only that everything Jesus said and did was absolutely true, but that He “crushed sin and death for all eternity.” Jesus’ death pays the penalty for sin. However, if we stopped there, we might be forgiven; but where’s the empowerment for life? It is the life of Jesus that allows us to experience life today…real, abundant life.

John says that he wrote “these things that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life in His name.” While Mary and the disciples had believed in Jesus…their experience of a crucified Jesus hadn’t brought life (fear, doubt, distress, confusion). Although Jesus was alive and although He had crushed sin and death, they were not experiencing the victory.

And while I would say “yes” to those truths today, many times I practically live like Jesus remained in the tomb…I know I’m forgiven, but I still tend to be totally consumed by my circumstances – distraught, confused, fearful, and even doubting that Jesus can/will bring me out of the current situation. My guess is, I’m not alone.

Some of us today are believers…we’ve believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, but we are not experiencing the life of Jesus that is ours through His resurrection. Maybe we are like Mary…distraught and grieving, focused on our circumstances and having a hard time seeing Jesus. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Mary, Jesus patiently waits for us to recognize Him, wanting to turn our mourning into joy. Maybe we are like the disciples…fearful, betting on Jesus but feeling like we are on the losing side. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like the disciples, Jesus speaks peace over us, wanting to transform us from being fearful to being fearless. Maybe we are like Thomas…doubting, needing evidence that Jesus can help us in our present predicament. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Like Thomas, Jesus meets us in that place of unbelief and wants to turn our doubting to believing. Whatever character you most resonate with, we all need to be reminded of the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. He died and rose again to give us life.

Some of us today would not put ourselves in the believing category at all. We may be somewhere on the road of our spiritual journey, but we are definitely not there. That’s ok. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus changes everything. He wants to meet us right where we are. He knows us…He knows our name, our doubts and fears, our circumstances. He’s not afraid of our questions, but is patient with us.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we experience the uncontainable joy and unquenchable hope in knowing that Jesus is alive today!”

This post is based on our Easter sermon, A Resurrected Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Reclaimed Hope

Daniel 12

What a ride! Fourteen weeks in the book of Daniel. Terrifying visions, steadfast faith, incredible courage, uncompromising commitment, a new chapter. The rules have changed during the Time of the Gentiles. Where doing the right thing once brought blessing, it now brings a curse (ex. fiery furnace and lions’  den). Conforming to the surrounding culture brings comfort. Good is called evil, and evil good. Right and wrong are a matter of public opinion. Following God will not be easy, but for those with insight and the courage to persevere, their inheritance is secure. As the divine messenger says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” In the midst of a world seemingly out of control, Daniel is reminded (and reminds us) that God is still in control… “For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the ages; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” So don’t give up, don’t give in…God wins.

The first six chapters of Daniel are story…the adventures of Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. Daniel receives his first two visions while Belshazzar is king…still under the dominion of the first beast, Babylon. He receives these visions before the “handwriting on the wall” of Daniel 5. Daniel’s prayer and the last two visions are during the time of Darius/Cyrus. Why is that important? Because Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den (Daniel 6) could very well have come after this final vision. His response to persecution/suffering should inform our response…God can, God will, but even if He doesn’t, He is still sovereign and actively involved in the events of my life and is working for my good and His glory. And just as prayer was an indispensable part of Daniel’s life, it should be of ours as well.

God’s faithfulness to deliver the fantastic four…His faithfulness to deliver His people throughout history … should cause God’s people to want to be faithful in the face of tribulation and oppression. The Daniel’s visions are given within a context of persecution…there was tremendous pressure for him to compromise and even abandon his faith. Daniel writes to persuade folks who are suffering persecution to hold fast their faith and endure because God will rescue them even through death by resurrection (many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…to everlasting life). Like the fantastic four, we too are tempted to compromise and abandon our faith, but don’t do it. We are called to live out our faith in a hostile world no matter the cost, being available to be used by God to boldly, yet compassionately point those on our impact list to Jesus, knowing that good triumphs in the end. Don’t give up, don’t give in…Jesus wins.

Is your name written in the book? Only those whose name is written in the book will be rescued and resurrected to everlasting life. And the only way to have your name written in the book…trusting in Jesus to rescue you. Then you too, like Daniel, will receive your allotted inheritance in the eternal kingdom. If your name is not in the book, or if you’re not sure…if you don’t know the God that Daniel speaks of today, the God of heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, the Revealer of Mysteries, the Rescuer of our souls, please don’t wait. Only those who have insight, whose names are in the book…who have trusted in Jesus for everlasting life will be a part of His eternal kingdom. The rest will spend an eternity apart from Him. Lack of understanding will be no excuse.

May God give us the courage and steadfastness of Daniel to face life in the fourth kingdom, and may we do it with an undying hope.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Reclaiming the Kingdom Part 2

Daniel 7.19-28

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? Although he lives through the first beast (Babylon) and into the time of the second beast (Medo-Persia), he would not be around to see the fulfillment of the majority of the prophecy. How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

But how would this be an encouragement to folks who had no hope of life returning to “normal”? Daniel gives us two perspectives of reality in this chapter: one earthly and one heavenly. From the earthly perspective, there is apparent chaos as the sea (picture of the nations) is stirred up and one kingdom after another arises only to be conquered by the next successive kingdom. And each kingdom will be opposed to God, so if you are one of the saints, it will look like you are on the losing side, especially during the time of the fourth beast. In Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…”

From the heavenly perspective, God is in complete control. The Ancient of Days is seated on His fiery throne. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The beasts may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. Their dominion is a delegated dominion. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited, the kingdoms of this world will be judged and an eternal kingdom will be set up. In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. History is moving toward a climax in which good triumphs over evil. And the book ends with the hope of the resurrection (12.13).

The hope of the ancient Israelite was resurrection (12.2-3). It wasn’t a comfortable family-life. It wasn’t a good job. It wasn’t even a return to Jerusalem. It was the resurrection where they would receive their share in the eternal kingdom, where they would walk its streets and serve its King. Daniel’s encouragement was to live life today as citizens of the eternal kingdom. If they focused on their present circumstances, it sure wouldn’t have looked like they were on the winning side. But if they looked beyond their circumstances, Daniel gave them glimpses of God winning – seeing Him praised and His sovereignty acknowledged by the most powerful men in the world (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius); and the boys’ willingness to face death in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den rather then compromise their faith.

Today we find ourselves under the dominion of the fourth beast. We are living in a world that devours and tramples, that overpowers and wears down the saints. We are living in a world that is venomously hostile not only toward God, but also toward His followers. A world in which violence is king…just look at the top rated video games, the top grossing movies, the sporting events we pay extra to see. Not unlike Ancient Rome. In Genesis 6, it was because of the violence of man that had greatly increased on the earth that God finally said, “Enough is enough” and sent the flood. Each successive kingdom has been more violent than the one before, and so we should expect to experience the trampling down and the devouring. We should expect to be attacked and persecuted.

Daniel’s encouragement to us is not to place our hope in the things of this world, the present earthly kingdom in which we find ourselves. Our hope is not in a better job with better benefits, or reconciled relationships, or the right education for my kids. It’s not the American Dream. Our hope is in the resurrection…where we will walk the streets of the eternal kingdom, where we will serve our King. Daniel’s encouragement to us is the same as was his encouragement to the ancient Israelites: live your life as a citizen of the eternal kingdom. Influence others by our uncompromising faith in God. To often we want to claim dual citizenship…living in both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms, hoping to enjoy the benefits of both. But we can only live in one of them…only one can claim our allegiance. Jesus said something about that… “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” James writes, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” Be prepared to suffer. Persevere until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

I love the scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where our heroes, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to the aid of King Theoden to defend Helm’s Deep. They’ve received word that a large army of Urai-hai, a beastly army created by the wicked wizard Saruman, is on the march. With a small band of defenders, the only hope of winning, maybe better, surviving, is the mighty fortifications of the fortress itself. Then the elves show up, and it seems that our heroes might have a fighting chance. But then the enemy pours into the valley and covers it like blanket. The battle begins and our heroes seem to be holding their own until the wall is breached by an unnatural explosion. The bad guys pour in. The good guys are overwhelmed. The hope they had placed in the wall and the elves was misplaced.

Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in the last fortified chamber with the Urai-hai crashing the door. Theoden, tempted to give up, remarks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I love Aragorn’s answer, “Ride out with me. Ride out with me and meet them.” Theoden, “For death and glory…” Then Gimli says, “The sun is rising…” “Foul deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. Now for the red dawn.” The band rides out through the sea of Urai-hai just in time to see Gandolph and the riders of Rohan coming up over the ridge. They overwhelm the bad guys below and the day is saved.

Living life in the fourth kingdom many times feels like we are on the losing side, especially as Jesus followers. It feels like the enemy is crashing the door down looking to devour us. We are often tempted to give up or give in. But remember the earthly kingdoms are temporary. They are given dominion for a short period of time. The Son of man is coming to set up an eternal kingdom that will never fail or fade. The enemy has already been defeated, though we don’t see it fully yet. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

If you are not a part of His eternal kingdom today, please don’t wait. Each kingdom fell in a moment of time. This one will too. And when that moment comes, it will be too late. You can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom by trusting in its King. By believing that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and was raised again to life conquering both sin and death, the Bible says that you can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom. A son or daughter of the King. That you too would not have to give up or give in because Jesus wins!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

NT Reading – June 10

Luke 20

 

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

20 On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Parable of the Vine-growers

And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10 At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13 The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17 But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

Tribute to Caesar

19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. 20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 21 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 23 But He detected their trickery and said to them, 24 “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Is There a Resurrection?

27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” 39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

41 Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,

The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
43 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”

45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

 

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