Listen and Respond aka Hear and Do

James 1.12-27

Prove yourselves to be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves. Listen and respond. Hear and do.

If we are honest with ourselves, too many of us are in the category of hearing and not doing. We’ve heard a lot of sermons. Listened to countless podcasts. Maybe even read our Bible on a fairly consistent basis. But something’s missing. We know a lot of stuff about the Bible, or so we think, but we’ve never actually done it. We still think and act in the same old ways. We are hearers of the Word, but not doers.

And when trials come…when there’s a storm a-brewing…we tend to ask the “why me” question. Maybe we don’t go so far as to blame God outright…maybe we do. But we certainly don’t see our trials as a source of joy or blessing. No, we tend to push them into the temptation category and let our own desires lead us into sin which in turn leads to death. We are no longer experiencing the kind of life that Jesus saved us for, maybe never have.

So how do we turn it around? Simple. Ask God for wisdom. Ask Him for wisdom to see our circumstances…the trial…from His perspective. Ask Him for strength to endure. Ask Him for wisdom to do what we’re hearing. If we ask, we will receive, and then we just have to do it.

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This post is based on a sermon from our James 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.

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

This Is Living Like Jesus

1 Peter 1

Jesus changes everything! Because of His death and resurrection we have a living hope…a hope that’s alive because Jesus is alive and a hope that continues to grow and mature as we follow Him. We need not live a life of fear, though the world around us is shaking, we can have confidence knowing that the temporary things may fade, but the kingdom remains.

If you have trusted in Jesus, He has rescued you from sin and death and has given you new life. This world is no longer your home. You have a new address…the kingdom where you have an inheritance awaiting you. You are protected by God’s power in this life…doesn’t mean that you won’t have physical pain or sorrow or even death…but it does mean the eternal life you have cannot be taken away. And even the trials that come are meant to strengthen your faith and remove everything that keeps you from fully trusting God.

And because we have this living hope and unshakable salvation, we are freed up to love. To love the way God loves. To love full on. Nothing held back. A love that shares the same message of hope…the gospel…with others.

So let us live as sojourners in this world. Let us live courageous and generous lives, preoccupied with the kingdom. Let us make an impact in the lives of those around us for Jesus.

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This post is based on a sermon from our This Is Living series in 1 Peter. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Before the Romans

Luke 23.1-25

Three times Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent. Herod, by mocking Jesus and sending Him back to Pilate, shows His agreement with Pilate’s assessment. And yet the rulers will stop at nothing short of death, and death of the worst kind…crucifixion.

Pilate and Herod both find Jesus innocent of the charges leveled against Him. Yet neither is willing to take a stand. Pilate is afraid of the crowd; Herod is indifferent. How often do you fail to do the right thing because of fear or indifference? How often do you allow others to talk you into things you know are wrong? How often do you give in to peer pressure? At school, at home or at work…Maybe it’s cheating on a test or your taxes. But maybe it’s something much worse…

The people also fail to take a stand. Days earlier they hang on Jesus’ every word as He taught in the Temple then “Crucify, crucify Him!” Talk about jumping on the bandwagon and mob mentality. We will often do things in a group that we would never dream of doing on our own. We allow ourselves to be carried along with the current of public opinion and are afraid to break from the status quo…to stand for what’s right. But we can’t follow the crowd and follow Jesus. We have to choose, it’s one or the other. Is He the King or an imposter? Are we going to pursue His kingdom or our own?

I wonder what impact the events of that morning had on Barabbas… He fully expected to go to a cross that day. Crucifixion was the punishment that his particular brand of transgression called for. No doubt he heard from his cell the cries of the people, “Crucify, crucify Him!” How relieved he must of felt when he found out their shouts weren’t for him and that Someone else was taking his place. Did he feel guilty or even care about who the Someone was? Did he feel gratitude? Was he joyful? How about you? You see, we are all Barabbas, each and every one of us. We are all guilty of rebellion against God…we are all worthy of death. We all rightfully stand condemned. And yet the good news is…Jesus took our place. He died in our stead. He willingly accepted the punishment which our sin demands so that we could have life. That is the gospel. The innocent dying for the guilty so that we could have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with the Father. Do you believe that today?

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 Waiting Game

Genesis 40

Once again we see Joseph doing the right thing and experiencing the “wrong” outcome. Why must he keep waiting? We know the LORD’s presence is with him, so why doesn’t He intervene? That brings up two very important questions…is God good? And can He be trusted?

The story of Genesis answers these two questions with a resounding “YES!” Is God good? He is Creator God who created a perfect world, and who is Sovereign over His creation. And even when we wrecked it, He is Redeemer God providing hope and the way of redemption through the Genesis 3.15 Rescuer, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. Can God be trusted? Over and over He has proved His faithfulness…executing judgment and providing the means of escape, blessing and cursing. Even when His people are faithless, He remains faithful.

But again the questions reveal more about us…our expectation of what life should be, our definition of what is good. Goes back to the garden. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We’ve been deciding what’s best from our own limited, warped perspective ever since. Generally our definition of good revolves around what gives us the most pleasure or helps us avoid the most pain. Our circumstances do not determine God’s presence, they are not an indication of His involvement. They don’t define His goodness. If we have trusted in Him, His presence is with us in both good and bad times, whether the news is favorable or disappointing, whether we make the team or not.

Like we said last week, suffering is the crucible, the furnace of God’s love. He uses it to shape and mold us into the people He saved us to be. A people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Suffering can come from a number of different fronts…consequences of our own sin, results of another’s sin, or by-products of a broken world. One thing we know about suffering…it impacts us all. We are all going into a pit, in a pit or just coming out of a pit. And while suffering has the potential for great good…Paul says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, (our suffering,) knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” James says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Notice the role of waiting in both.)…suffering can also produce bitterness. And we know folks like this, don’t we? Suffering has made them very un-fun to be around. What is suffering producing in you? Resentment or hope, fog and numbness or a redemptive edge.

One other thing I don’t want us to miss from this story…we are all the baker in this story. We are all guilty of treason against our Master, our Creator. We all deserve to die. But God…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Jesus, the One God promised way back in Genesis 3.15, the Rescuer and Redeemer and Restorer of His creation, hung on a tree in our place. He took our curse, so that we might be blessed. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, so that we could be reconciled to God and become sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, so that we might become like the cupbearer restored to a right relationship with our Master. An incredible exchange available to each and every one of us by believing in Him.

So whatever pit you find yourself in today, I pray that you may know God’s presence with you and that your present suffering is making you more like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

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