The Thrill of Hope

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.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the Image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with representing Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen over planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives. If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus.

The thrill of hope is…God’s not done yet. The thrill of hope is…God’s pursuit of His wayward children. The thrill of hope is…forgiveness of sin and eternal life. The thrill of hope is…the LORD God… a restored relationship with our Creator, sons and daughters of the high King.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do, when He sends His Son, Jesus, as the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman, whose dying words, will be, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” The Thrill of Hope is…Genesis 3.15.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus…aka the seed of the woman…are at war with the seed of the serpent, not by choice but because of the hatred and hostility they have toward us. Guess what side the culture is on? Adam gave up not only his innocence in the fall, but also his right to rule. He gave that to the serpent…“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  So those who follow God suffer not only the consequences of theirs and others bad choices and the effects of a fallen world, but also the attacks of the enemy. And yet hope is possible because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has come…Jesus has come…and He has defeated the Adversary. And now we wait with all of creation for the time when Jesus will come back, not as the Suffering Lamb, but as the Roaring Lion…not as a Baby in a manger, but as the Conquering King. He will come back to set all things right…

May you experience the thrill of hope this Christmas season and the amazing love of God who didn’t give up on us even in our rebellion, but who has pursued us and did what we could not do, provide the way back to Himself through Jesus, the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…The Weary World Rejoices.

pro rege

This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Fate of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5.1-16

Ananias and Sapphira learn quickly the deadly consequences of lying to the Holy Spirit. Sin is dealt with swiftly and decisively. 

God takes sin seriously and so should we. And while we may not see the consequences of our choices quite so quickly, they do not go unnoticed. That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 5.15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

We are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…doesn’t mean that we are perfect or will do it perfectly. But it means that we are learning more and more what it is to walk by the Spirit, to put off the old self and put on the new…to live and love like Jesus.

Character…integrity…matters. There is no such thing as a small fib…a little white lie…a half truth. Who we are on the outside should match who we are on the inside. Our walk should match our talk. If we claim to follow Jesus, then our lives should reflect that. When they don’t, it’s obvious to those around us. It’s called hypocrisy. And the only person we are fooling is ourselves…the truth always comes out. Who we are matters.

That’s why it is so important for us to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus. Left to ourselves, we will never live and love like Him. But when we intentionally pursue our relationship with Him…when we spend time in His Word, time in prayer and time with other believers…then the Spirit slowly but surely begins to transform us into the image of the Son. Little by little, moment by moment, day by day. As we spend more time with Him, we learn to recognize His voice. We begin to notice Him directing our steps. And as we say “yes” to His direction, we become more like Him. But we have to be intentional. It won’t just happen.

One more thing… The mark of a maturing Christian is the realization that our greatest regret when we blow it is disappointing our Father in heaven. Not the regret of being embarrassed or even the harm to others, as bad as that may be, but the deep regret of disappointing the One we love the most…the One who loves us more than any other. After David’s epic failure in the Bathsheba-Uriah affair (2 Samuel 11), he cries out to God in Psalm 51.4 saying, “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.”

As parents we need to teach our kids that they should choose to do the right thing, not because doing the wrong thing leads to physical consequences and not even because the Bible identifies it as the wrong choice, but because when we love someone, we want to serve them and do what pleases them…living right out of love for the Father as opposed to just living right because the Bible says it is the right thing to do.

God takes sin seriously…that’s why Jesus had to die on a cross…to pay the penalty for our sin. That’s what we celebrate in communion. Jesus died so that we might live. So choose life. I want to give you a few minutes to talk to the Lord. What do you need to confess? What do you need to celebrate? What do you need to commit to?

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

The Fig Tree

Luke 13.1-9

The message for us is pretty simple…life is fragile and unpredictable, and so we need to repent so that we are not caught off guard and perish. God is patient, but judgment is coming…it will not wait forever. Now we are in a time of pure grace and divine forbearance. Paul in Romans 2.4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…” (2 Peter 3.9-10)

We live in a broken world plagued by sin and death. Because of sin, death is the common denominator of us all. No one escapes. Death is one for one. All will die, but not all truly live…only those who have trusted in Jesus to rescue them, to forgive them of their sins, and have chosen to follow Him will experience life.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus should be obvious…the fruit of repentance should be evident in our lives. I want to ask you to reflect for a few moments…I want you to take a spiritual inventory and ask yourself the question…what evidence do I see in my life that I’ve trusted in Jesus? Do you see the fruits of the Spirit increasing in your life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Do you have a greater desire for God and the things of God? Do you enjoy being around His people?

If the answer is “yes”, spend the next several moments thanking Jesus for rescuing you. If the answer is “no”, don’t wait. Your parents or your spouse may be believers…but there are no +1’s in the kingdom and God doesn’t have grandchildren. You may have said a prayer at some point, but when you trust in Jesus, you are not who you used to be…a fundamental change has happened at the core of who you are. If nothing has changed for you, then something’s wrong…maybe you haven’t trusted in Jesus. Maybe there is something else that’s keeping you from growing. Either way, ask God to rescue you.

Until next time…stay salty.

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

The Divine Invitation

Luke 5.1-11

Simon is initially willing to obey Jesus out of a sense of obligation…he had seen what Jesus had done for others, he knew that God was at work in Him, but until now, he really hadn’t had an encounter with Jesus. But when he does, he responds in awe, humility, and then total surrender…he’s all in. He went from being a fan to a being a part of Jesus’ team, a part of Jesus’ rescue mission…saving folks from death to life. Jesus changed everything for him. Jesus ruined Simon, so that He could remake him.

Jesus is still in the business of turning sinners into servants. Have you been wrecked by Jesus? Have you recognized your sinfulness in the presence of His righteousness? Has is undone you and cause you to fall down before Him? Have you been rescued by Him? If so, what impact has that had on your life? Have you left all to follow Him? Are you following Jesus because you’ve experienced His grace at such a profound level that there really is no other option for you, or are you following Him begrudgingly, more out of a sense of obligation or duty, than joy? It starts with that personal encounter with Jesus…realizing His grace that invades and impacts your world…that ruins you and remakes you.

If you have been rescued, have you joined Jesus’ rescue mission? Have you become a fisher of men? Are you spending time daily with Him, so that you can recognize His voice? Take a look at your impact list…who can you help bring one step closer to Jesus. Ask God for a divine appointment this week. Be intentional. Have a conversation. Invite folks to come to church with you and whatever group you are a part of (Community group, young adults, students, MOPs, women’s Bible study, a men’s group, Saints Alive, STOP, etc). While God gives us various jobs…student, teacher, business person, etc, our main task whatever our job is catching folks for the kingdom. We are all called to the same mission…we are all a part of the same team.

But maybe you haven’t had a personal encounter with Jesus yet. Maybe you are still a part of the crowd considering who Jesus is. He wants to rescue you today. He wants you to be on His team. The great news about Jesus…the invitation is open to all, but we do have to accept it. And when we do, we are off on the greatest adventure of our lives.

Are you going to be a fisherman or a fisher of men?

Until next time, stay salty…

“May we be fishers of people who have given up all to follow Jesus.”

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

To Err Is Human?

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus knew the Word and was in-dwelt by the Spirit (Ephesians 6). He never doubted the Father’s love for Him, and He fully trusted God. Jesus knew that His Father would provide for Him and that the short-term, fleeting pleasures of this world, even good things like daily bread, could not compare with His relationship to the Father. That allowed Him to forego grabbing power and to wait on the Father’s timing and endure intense suffering even for the things that had been promised Him by the Father. That allowed Him to trust in the Father’s protection without having to test it.

This all flowed out of a deep understanding of the Father’s words spoken through the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Word…He was the Word! But while Luke builds the case for Jesus’ deity, he also presents a very human Jesus. And Jesus who goes toe-to-toe with the enemy does not rely on His deity to defeat him. He leans into His humanity and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who dwells in all of us who have believed. But how did He do it? Well, I believe that Jesus immersed Himself in the Scriptures so that He might know His Father’s Words and might recognize the truth of the Father’s love for Him. So when He responds, the words of the Father naturally come out.

So what about you?

We can let Adam and Eve be our example and believe the lie that God really doesn’t love us, is holding out on us, and take things into our own hands…I think we all know how that turned out…or we can let Jesus be our example, and we can walk away from current temptation and instead trust in God’s provision, power and protection. We can remember that God is who He says He is – a loving Father who wants the best for us.

How do we build this trust in our Father the way that Jesus did?

We submerge ourselves in the truth. Only then can we recognize the lies and false promises of the devil, so that when temptation comes, we can remember the words of our Father. Remember the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to face temptation lives in us as well. That same Spirit can also empower us to face temptation.

The Scriptures tell us that all of us who have believed are children of God the Father. It’s not just a distant, theological relationship. It’s the intimate relationship of a Father to His child. He wants that for us, He wants that for you. He wants you to spend time with Him, to hear His words so that you might know and be settled in the truth that He really loves you and has amazing plans for your good. You are His beloved son/daughter…not because you are the prettiest or the funniest, the fastest on the playground, or because you got the best grades, or for any other reason other than that He loves you. If those were the words that we heard and had settled deep in our souls, then the lies of the enemy…God doesn’t love, you’re not good enough, don’t you deserve more, etc…truly would fall on deaf ears. We would not be so easily crushed by temptation.

One practical way to settle the Father’s words deep in our soul is through time spent reading His Word. Our daily reading blog is a great vehicle for that. Regular time in the Bible will begin to combat the false messages you hear everyday and the lies of the enemy. Spend time in the Word with a group of friends in community. Encourage one another with the Word. Memorize Bible verses like Psalm 119.11 “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Or 1 Corinthians 10.13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We call it renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching.

And it’s key to victory over temptation.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be like Jesus, led by the Spirit, relying on the Word, never doubting for a moment the Father’s love for us, fully trusting in Him so that we too may be able to resist temptation.”

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

If the Rooster Crows…

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he (Peter) said emphatically, ‘if I must die with you, I will not deny you.’” Mark 14:30 ESV

As we discovered last week, Mark is believed to have been written by John Mark, a protege of Peter. In a way, you can say this is actually Peter’s Gospel, for it would’ve been Peter who informed Mark of the events that are contained in this narrative.

Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant. The first ten chapters portray Jesus living His life in service, the final six chapters portray Jesus giving His life in sacrifice.

We arrive now at Chapter 11, the triumphal entry! Hosanna!

Chapters 11 to 16 cover the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

As I considered which portions of these last six chapters I should write on this week, staying with the theme that Peter has influenced this gospel, I thought I would blog a little on Peter’s denial.

In chapter 14, versus 26 – 31 Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial. We all know the story, Jesus warns his disciples that after his death, they will all scatter. In response, Peter tells Jesus that even though all the others may fall away he will not!

Jesus looks at Peter and tells him that this very night before the rooster crows he will deny Jesus three times.

Peter in turn tells Jesus that he will never deny Him. Yet, deny Jesus he did.

All four Gospels record this conversation and Peter’s subsequent denial (See Matthew 26, Luke 22, Mark 14, and John 13,18).

After his denial, Peter heard the rooster crow and we are told that he broke down and wept.

Now, our story does not end there, Jesus would appear to Peter and others following the resurrection. Peter would go on to be a major player in the early church, we are told of his exploits in Acts. He would write a couple of letters we hold dear in the New Testament.

I have often wondered if Peter felt a twinge of sorrow whenever he heard a rooster crow the remainder of his life.

Do you ever find yourself reminded of past sin when you are in certain situations? Are there “rooster crows” in your own life? Reminders that make you cringe, cause you to weep with sorrow?

Jesus paid the price for your past sin, my past sin, and even covered our current and future sin. We have been forgiven, Jesus died that we would be forgiven of all past wrongs.

Yet we struggle to forgive ourselves. Know this child of Christ, we have been forgiven! We can live in that knowledge and freedom. Be it Mary Magdalene, the thief on the cross, or Nicodemus – a religious leader, Jesus paid the price for our sins and has forgiven us – isn’t it time we forgive ourselves?

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Easter Devotional – March 11

Matthew 12:27-32

27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

The Unpardonable Sin

30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

We’ve seen Jesus as the humble, gentle Messiah. Here we see Jesus as the warrior – but not a warrior against flesh and blood and soldiers. He’s fighting powers of darkness and death, sometimes referred to as Satan. Jesus could have fought the obvious battles, He has the ability and access to legions of angels. Fighting fire with fire is futile as fire would still win. Jesus has victory over the fire. God is at work in and around us, even if it’s not fighting the battles that are obvious to us. He’s at a whole other level.

Prayer: Lord, give me the humility to see You at work, and to work alongside You in the power of Your Spirit.

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