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

A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

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

Easter Devotional – February 27

Matthew 5:1-12

The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here’s a glimpse of possibly a whole new way to live. A way that’s not necessarily popular and definitely not natural. And to top it off we’ve been assured that we’ll be persecuted for it. Any takers?

It seems like this new kingdom of God is full of people who have been through the ringer. People like you and I.

Deep down in our souls is this yearning for our world to be flipped upside down, this yearning for a King to make everything right — to restore order and righteousness. While it’s easy to follow the pattern of the world and be concerned with building our personal kingdoms, Jesus is concerned with our hearts and how we are living for His kingdom. He assures us that although we will face trials and persecution in this life, all will be righted in His kingdom, the Kingdom of heaven.

Which of the beatitudes resonates the loudest with you? In what areas of your life are you experiencing persecution? How are you living for the Kingdom of heaven?

Prayer: Jesus, help me to grasp this new way of living. Help me to follow You and Your ways as I look forward to Your new Kingdom

 

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

Who Shall Be King?

Thoughts About What We’re Reading…

The people of Israel, aware of Samuel’s advanced age and of the wickedness of his sons, demanded of the prophet that he select a king to rule over them.

Samuel was old and his sons were dishonest judges, accepting bribes and perverting justice.

But when the people asked Samuel to provide a “king to judge us”, Samuel the Judge and Prophet was hurt.  But God tells Samuel that the people have not rejected him they have rejected God as their King.

The request for a human king was not in itself improper, for God had promised a king back in Genesis and Deuteronomy.

But the refusal to wait for God’s timing was clearly displeasing to the Lord and to His prophet.

In the face of impending conflict with the Ammonites the people wanted a king “such as all the other nations have”.

Even after witnessing the leadership of the Lord in stunning victory over the Philistines at Ebenezer, Israel demanded a fallible, human leader.

God would permit them to have a king, but they would live to regret their hasty impulse.

And so we read the heart-breaking story of Saul, Israel’s first king.  His jealousy of David tore apart his family, his country and his relationship with both Samuel and God.

Two of Saul’s own children – Jonathan and Michal protected David against their father, to Saul’s dismay and bitterness.

We feel for Jonathan, torn between his love for David as God’s anointed King and his loyalty to his father.  Jonathan would die in battle with his father at Mount Gilboa.

There is one touching story at the end of 1 Samuel 31.

Back in 1 Samuel 11, the Ammonite army had surrounded and laid siege to the city of Jabesh-gilead.  The people cried out to Saul for help.  Saul defeated the Ammonites and rescued the citizens of Jabesh-gilead.  It was a joyous time for Israel in the new monarchy.

Many years later, in Chapter 31, Saul and his three sons are defeated and killed in battle against the Philistines.  The Philistines cut off Saul’s head and hang his body along with his three sons on the wall of Beth-shan.

When the citizens of Jabesh-gilead, the people Saul rescued many years before, learn about the desecration of the bodies, they send warriors out at night to rescue the bodies of Saul and his sons and bring them back to Jabesh for burial under a tamerisk tree and mourn his death, fasting for seven days.

And so ends the story of Saul, Israel’s first king.

Saul was more worried about himself and what the people thought then what God thought.  Jesus warned us about the same things in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

When we read the story of Saul, we are reminded that when we seek safety and security in anything other than God – be it governments, bank accounts, relationships, or anything else, they will never deliver.

True security can only be found in Jesus – our reigning King.

We are called to resist conforming with worldly thinking. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are called to be transformed in our thinking and in how we live.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:6-7, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Amen.

Until next time – Keep reading.

Jim