Rome at Last

Acts 28.1-16

It’s been a long and grueling trip, but Paul has finally made it to Rome. And as he nears the end of his journey, he’s welcomed by the church in Rome.

All along the way, God has guided Paul’s journey. Though many times it seemed his life was in peril…from the Jews more than once, from the sea, from the soldiers, from the serpent…he was never in danger. God still had work for him to do. He had a divine appointment to keep in Rome. God said it, and Paul rightly believed that He would also bring it to pass. God can be trusted. He didn’t save Paul from the storm, but He saved him through the storm.

God was the Author of Paul’s story. He is also the Author of your story. I don’t know what your storm looks like today, but He does. And more than that, He’s right there with you in the hurricane-force winds and the crashing waves. And He wants to accomplish something in and through you in the midst of the storm. Believe it or not, the storm is an important part of the story He’s telling through you. That assumes of course that in the storm you are looking to Him. Running towards Him instead of away. Crying out to Him instead of crying out against Him.

We said it before, the furnace, i.e., the storm, can either destroy you or purify you. It can either turn you to ash, or turn you into something beautiful. What is it doing to you?

The storm is also a platform that God is providing for you to share your story…to share the gospel…to share the hope that you have. A hope that is no more prominently displayed than when you are in the storm. Because it shows a watching world that your faith is real.

We’ve talked a lot about circumstances and furnaces and storms and chains in the last several weeks…take some time right now to pray…to cry out to God…to ask Him to help you in the storm and through the storm and to use you through it to display the gospel in a unique way.

pro rege

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

Paul before Agrippa

Acts 26

Paul makes his last defense before he heads to Rome…a defense not so much of the charges against him as it is a defense of the gospel.

Once again we are faced with the question, what will we do with Jesus? Accept or reject. Follow or turn away. He is either King, or He will be Judge. We don’t know how most of the folks responded that day. We know that Festus thought the idea of a resurrection was crazy. Agrippa wasn’t ready. What about you?

Paul asked Agrippa, “Do you believe the Prophets?” Let me ask you the same question…do you believe the Prophets? Do you believe God’s Word? Our culture would say it’s antiquated, outdated, no longer relevant, even absurd…but what about you? It is either true or it’s not. You cannot pick and choose. It’s all or nothing. And if you believe the Bible’s true, what impact is it having on your life…the decisions you make, the conversations you have, the way you see and interact with the world around you? Maybe you’ve trusted Jesus as Savior, but have you made Him Lord? Does He call the shots…set the agenda..chart the course in your life? Or do you?

Once again we are reminded that our circumstances provide opportunities that we might not otherwise have. Are you taking advantage of them? Are you intentionally looking for ways to share your story? If not, what’s holding you back?

Let me challenge you this week…share your story with one person.

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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

Paul before Festus

Acts 25

Paul makes his second defense before the Romans. Same charges. Still can’t be proven. And yet Paul’s circumstances give him access to some of the leading folks in the city.

Two years in prison. Falsely accused and unconvicted. Could easily make a person bitter. Could easily become a “why me” or “woe is me” scenario. But not so for Paul. It’s simply an opportunity to share his story with anyone and everyone he can. How is that possible? Paul knows that God is the Author of his story. And he knows that God still has work for him to do. He has a divine appointment in Rome.

Paul is in chains because of the hope of the resurrection…that’s what keeps him going. If he didn’t have that hope, why not live it up now. Eat, drink for tomorrow we die. But he did. And it’s the same hope we have. Jesus is not dead…He is alive! Our circumstances don’t define us…our hope does. Ricky mentioned last week that we are all in the furnace, and the flame can either destroy us or purify us. It can turn us to ash, or make us something beautiful. Focusing on our chains…on our circumstances…can often be the flame that destroys us. But looking beyond them to the opportunity and to what God is doing in and through them…is the flame that purifies us and makes us stronger.

Paul did his best…he strived…to live a blameless life. So Paul’s circumstances weren’t the result of bad choices he had made. They were trials that God allowed to test and purify Paul’s faith as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1.6-7. Some of us are in circumstances that, like Paul, are not the result of bad choices, and some of us are in circumstances where we are reaping the consequences of bad choices. Either way, our circumstances are providing some kind of platform…some opportunity that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even in our mistakes and failures we can find opportunities to point folks to Jesus. God doesn’t call us to be perfect, but He does call us to be faithful.

Agrippa, Drusilla and Bernice…a family that had a front row seat to hear the gospel as Paul shared his story. Felix and Festus. And many others. Each had a choice to make…what do you do with Jesus? Is He a dead Man that Paul claims is alive? Or is He who He claimed to be…both God and Man, Savior and Redeemer, King and Judge. You too must answer that question. Heaven and hell hang in the balance.

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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

Paul Turns to the Gentiles

Acts 13.44-52

The reaction to Paul’s preaching of the gospel in Pisidian Antioch is wildly mixed…for those who believe, primarily Gentiles, there is great joy at the good news that they too can be saved. For those who reject, primarily Jews, there is jealousy, anger and great hostility toward Paul and Barnabas.

In 2 Corinthians 2.15-16, Paul writes, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” When you share the gospel…when you tell others your story…not all will be excited. Some may actually be angry and behave very badly. Not all will believe. That shouldn’t keep us from telling others about Jesus. Because He is good news. And telling those around us about Him is the most loving thing we can do.

Plan A vs Plan B…some of us are stuck in our Plan B experience. Life hasn’t turned out like we expected. Welcome to life on planet earth. We’ve all experienced the crashing down of our hopes and dreams. Our own bad choices and/or the bad choices of others and/or life in a fallen world are all contributing factors, but for those of us who have trusted in Jesus, we have to believe that our Plan B is God’s Plan A. That He is using it all…the good and the bad…to conform us to the image of Jesus, to transform us to live and love like Him. You are where you are…you have the relationships and are in the circumstances that you are in on purpose. God wants to use you in those relationships and wants to use your circumstances to make you more like Him. If God can use the greatest evil the world has known, the most notorious murder in history, the death of the only truly innocent Man to bring about the greatest good…salvation for all who will believe in Him…can He not bring good out of your current circumstance?

So where are you with the gospel? Is it good news of great joy? If it is, who are you sharing it with? Who is that person in your life that would surprise you if they came to faith? How is “the word of the Lord spreading in your region”? If you are not sharing your story with folks around you, what’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from telling them about Jesus? Make this Advent season a time to reflect on the joy of your salvation…a time to reconnect with Jesus. Be on the lookout for opportunities to share your story and then do it with boldness.

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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

The First Missionary Journey: First Encounter

Acts 13.1-12

Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the Spirit from Antioch on their first missionary journey. Their excitement is tempered when they have their first encounter of spiritual opposition from a guy named Bar-Jesus.

The sad irony in this story…a Jew attempts to block a Gentile from coming to faith. You see, through Abraham all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The Jews were to be a blessing to the nations, leading them to God and not barring the way. Bar-Jesus openly opposed Paul and Barnabas. I would hope that none of us openly oppose the gospel…that none of us would willingly stand in the way of someone trusting in Jesus. But even if it’s not openly, can’t we subtly become stumbling blocks? Maybe by the way we fail to follow Jesus…the way we fail to point others to Him?

God’s fingerprints are all over this story, just as they have been throughout the book of Acts. The Spirit is actively leading, guiding, empowering, acting, choosing, sending, moving…it’s His church. The danger is when we attempt to hijack the Spirit’s job and make it our own. And then we wonder why nothing spiritually significant happens. It’s a reminder for us…the battle belongs to the Lord. Transforming families to live and love like Jesus is not about a program…it’s the work of the Spirit. It happens as we submit to Him…as we worship and serve, engaging in the work He’s given each one of us to do.

Each of us has been gifted and called and equipped for a purpose…something that, when lived out, amazing things happen. A few weeks ago, Ricky talked about living with a heavenly perspective. It’s living a life of consequence, a life of deep kingdom impact. Each of us has a part to play…a role, if you will, in the kingdom drama. What would it look like if we were all pursuing that together? How would it impact our church? How might it impact this valley and beyond? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said to seek the kingdom and live according to God’s righteousness. How’s that going for you? Are you being led by the Spirit to say yes to kingdom things? BTW when we follow the Spirit’s leading that doesn’t mean its an easy journey…that the Enemy’s going to give us a free pass…on the contrary we need to expect opposition. But, like Paul and Barnabas, we need to do it anyway.

Where are you saying yes to serving God and his Church? Are you sharing your story with others, are you involved in a ministry, are you giving financially to the mission? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

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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

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8.26-40

Philip shares his story and the good news of the gospel with both the crowds and with an individual. He is a faithful servant who obeys the will of His Master. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and invites us to join Him in that mission.

This story is a reminder that God cares about each one of us individually. Here He orchestrates events and circumstances so that both the eunuch and Philip are in the right place at the right time. He even provides the water so that the eunuch could be baptized…on a desert road.

Just as God orchestrated events in the eunuch’s life to bring him to faith, He has also worked in each one of us who have trusted in Him, orchestrating events, bringing the right person or persons at the right time to share with us the life-giving message of salvation in Jesus. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus, this is one of those orchestrating events. It’s no accident or coincidence that you are reading this blog post…

And if you have trusted in Jesus, God wants to use you to impact the lives of those around you for the kingdom. Are you ready? Do you believe that the gospel is good news? That’s foundational. We have to believe that the gospel really is good news. If that’s true for you, have you taken the time to write down your story? Start there. Then ask God for opportunities to share your faith. But be warned…if you ask, He will give them to you. You don’t have to force it…you just have to be sensitive to what God is doing in the moment, and then be courageous in sharing your story.

I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel in large settings and one-on-one. Both are awesome, but I can tell you that the one-on-one settings are more challenging, yet more rewarding in a lot of ways. One-on-one I still get scared and have to pray for boldness…even as a pastor…but I’ve found that when I’m obedient and just say “yes” in the moment, that God is faithful to give me courage, and it ends up being an easy conversation…I don’t even feel like I have to drive. I’m just along for the ride. Sometimes when I’m talking to folks it’s a “no” when it comes to Jesus, sometimes I’ve found out later my conversation was one along the way that led to their trusting in Jesus, and sometimes I’ve gotten the awesome privilege of seeing someone trust in Jesus. My job is simply to be obedient.

How about you? Are you ready? Are you available? Will you be obedient?

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

Next Generation Ministry

Luke 9.1-11

First solo mission for the 12. The first opportunity to flex their ministry muscles. The first time to cast out the net for a catch. Jesus gives them the ability and right to do what He does, then He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, giving them works to back up their words. Travelling light, they depend on God for their needs and bring the good news to all who will hear.

When was your first solo mission? Have you begun to flex your ministry muscles yet? Who have you told about Jesus? Just as Jesus empowered the disciples before sending them out on mission, He has also empowered us by giving us His Spirit and fellow believers to equip us and prepare us to accomplish His mission…making disciples. We call it transforming families to live and love like Jesus.

If you haven’t taken your first spin, don’t wait. There are lots of opportunities to serve. By now, hopefully you have put together an impact list…folks that God’s placed in your sphere of influence whom you can help take one step closer to Jesus. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom to them. Take a risk. You may not do it perfectly…that’s ok. God uses regular folks like us to accomplish His mission.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you’ve been serving and sharing the gospel for a while now, maybe it’s time for you to take someone else under your wing and bring them along. Show them the ropes and then turn them loose.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s join Jesus on His mission this week of transforming families to live and love like Him.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster