When You… Week 2

2 Corinthians 8.1-15

Generosity is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. Throughout church history, the care for the poor was a sign of the church. It won converts, it was a witness in itself of the power and provision of God. Because our Father is generous, He wants His kids to be generous too. The liberating joy of our salvation should loosen our grip on our earthly fortunes…our stuff…and free us up to give with unbridled generosity. We, as believers, should be the most generous folks on the planet!

But if we are going to be generous, we have to have a plan. For most of us, it starts with looking at our own hearts. We have to be willing to let go of our greed…we have to value people over things and be more satisfied with Jesus than our stuff. Giving can be a tough subject for some, and giving generously? Forget about it. I don’t know of anything that can put me on the defensive faster than someone wanting to mess with my stuff. And right there I see…my own greed. My own kingdom. I’ve got to protect it. But if we want to be generous givers, we have to give it up. We have to recognize that it all belongs to God anyway. We are managers of His resources. And we will have to give an account…have we been generous with His resources? Have we been generous with the money, time, relationships, etc…with the life He’s entrusted to us? Generosity affects more than giving away our material possessions…its an attitude that should be reflected in all of our life.

So what about you? Whose kingdom are you building? Whose stuff are you protecting? Yours or Jesus’? We cannot enjoy the kingdom unless we are submitted to the King, and we cannot submit to the King if we are still hanging on to our stuff. Are you mastered by the desire to get or give (Acts 20.35)? Do you trust God’s generosity enough to be generous yourself?

What would Central look like if everyone was as generous as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, what impact would that have, not only on Central, but on this Valley and beyond?

Why not make generosity one of your spiritual disciplines this year?

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

Where Is Your Treasure?

Luke 12.13-34

Where is your treasure? What captures your heart? What consumes your time? What gets you up in the morning or keeps you up at night? Is it on earth or in heaven?

If greed says, “I can never get enough”, worry says, “I’m afraid I may not have enough.” Both reveal a wrong view of God. Greed is short-sighted and makes idols out of our stuff. Always wanting more, we think our stuff will give us life. When we do that, we forget or ignore the fact that life is so much more than the things that we have or the achievements we’ve accomplished. Life, true life, can only be found in our relationship with Jesus…the way, the truth and the Life.

Worry is similar but different. It’s constantly asking, “But what if…” It’s a failure to trust God to provide. Instead of seeing Him as a loving Father who gives good gifts to His kids, He is a distant God who is unconcerned about the day-to-day of life on the earth He created. The weeds that choke out the Word in the parable of the soils are worries and riches and pleasures of this life…worry and greed. Both keep the Word from being productive in a believer’s life.

But there is an alternative…if we want to live and love like Jesus, then we need to trust God rather than our stuff. We have to believe that God is a loving Father who loves us and cares about what’s happening in our lives. We have to trust that He can and will provide as we pursue Him and look out for the needs of others. Then we can be generous rather than greedy, helping rather than hoarding. If we want to worry less,  then give more.

BTW our stuff is neutral…it can be either good or bad. It depends on how we use/invest it. If we use our stuff to promote ourselves or our own kingdoms, then it becomes either an idol or an obstacle to fully trusting God. If we use it to promote His kingdom…if we are rich toward God and generous toward others, then our stuff becomes a vehicle for building up treasure in heaven.

Don’t be a fool. One day your life will be required of you. If your life reflects greediness and selfishness, if it’s the sum total of the stuff you’ve accumulated, if you’re trusting in your stuff, then you will be sadly disappointed. But if your life is rich toward God, if you’ve invested in His kingdom and loved people, if you’ve trusted in Jesus and allowed Him to transform you from the inside out, then yours is the kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we store up treasure in heaven this week.”

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

The Disciples Prayer

Luke 11.1-13

Jesus teaches His disciples to pray.

If we want to live and love like Jesus, then we have to cultivate a fervent love for Him through a lifestyle of worship. A key component of that is prayer.

So when we pray, we pray to…the Father who loves us perfectly.

We pray for…His honor, His fame.

We pray for…His kingdom to come, Jesus to return, the end of sin and righteousness to reign.

We pray for…our daily needs, both for ourselves and for other believers.

We pray for…forgiveness, both for ourselves and for the ability to forgive others.

We pray for…strength to persevere in trials and resist temptations that would take us away from our Father.

We pray…boldly, persistently, and expectantly, trusting that God is a good, good Father who delights to give us good gifts to His children.

“Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we believe that God is a good Father and that we are loved by 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

Happy Birthday John!

Luke 1.57-80

Zechariah has learned to trust God in a bigger way. While he was an OT saint who was eagerly awaiting the Messiah…he was a believer…he was not yet willing or able to trust God to do the impossible. But now that God has fulfilled His promise, Zechariah can’t help but praise Him and trust Him in a bigger way to fulfill His promises to Abraham and David, providing rescue to His people.

Sometimes we’re like Zechariah…we’ve crossed the line from death to life. We’re followers of God, we’ve trusted in Jesus for eternal life. But we still don’t believe that God can do the seemingly impossible in our own lives. Somehow we see our situation as different. Maybe we don’t doubt that God can…but why would He? Zechariah is a great reminder that God is still actively involved in the lives of His people…He works through ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. And He wants to work through us…you and me.

We were saved to serve God fearlessly…Paul says it this way, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” As we will see later in Luke, John is a great example of this. His ministry was to prepare the way…he served God (and others) by giving them the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. Guess what? That’s our job description too. We’re to share the good news of the gospel…to bring folks one step closer to Jesus. Are you doing that? The Impact List is a great way to get started.

Can you see the first rays of the Sun rising? Has “the Sunrise from on high” shined on your life? Do you have “the knowledge of salvation”? Is Jesus your mighty “horn of salvation”? Do you know that you have “the forgiveness of sins”? Have you been saved from “the shadow of death”? Are you fearlessly serving Him? Are your feet treading “the path of peace”? If not, you need the Sunrise—you need Jesus who came to rescue you.

“May we trust God to do the impossible, fearlessly serving Him, and sharing with those in darkness the good news of the gospel.”

Until next time…stay salty.

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

Wrestling with God

Genesis 32

Much like Mt. Moriah for Abraham where his faith was challenged in offering up Isaac, Jacob has his own crisis of faith at Peniel.

Jacob had lived his life looking out for number one and doing things his own way. And because of his gifts, talents, abilities, personality, whatever, (and God’s grace) he generally came out on top in most situations. There were definitely setbacks along the way, but he had won in the end. Birthright. Blessing. Rachel. Laban’s flocks. He seemed to be virtually invincible. And even though he had had an encounter with God at Bethel, on the surface little had changed for most of the twenty years he was in Laban’s house. But God was working below the surface through the circumstances to not only bring about what He’d promised Jacob…provision and protection, His presence with him, but also to chip away at his character. He was shaping and molding Jacob into the man He wanted him to be. God’s severe mercy. Jacob’s crippling victory. Blessed and broken.

But one final lesson remained before Jacob could enter the Promised Land…he had to learn to trust the LORD. Not just a little. Not just when there seemed to be no other option. But fully and completely and always. Jacob, the manipulating, scheming self-absorbed and self-sufficient opportunist, had to become Israel, the one for whom God fights, before he was ready to enter the land.

Many of us are like Jacob. We trust God to help when we’re out of options, and then only half-heartedly. He is our plan B. And why not? We’ve been successful to date, right? Never mind the carnage we’ve left behind…broken relationships, deception, manipulation, compromise. Examples are myriad. We’ve wrestled with men thinking all the time we were winning…not realizing that we were wrestling against God who never loses. He wants us to learn the lesson from Jacob…until we let go of our self-sufficiency we’re not ready to enter into all that He has for us. Ultimately the wrestling match is for who gets to be g/God in our life. Genesis 1 & 3. Not content to be image bearers, we want to be like God… Until we let go of doing things our way and grab hold of His way, stop building our own kingdoms and invest in His kingdom, stop wrestling and start clinging, we will not experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Strength through weakness that Paul talked about.

Some of us are in a wrestling match of a different kind with God. We don’t yet know Him, though He’s been near all along. He’s wrestling for our attention, our affections. He’s gone to incredible lengths in His pursuit of us. He’s sent His Son, the One He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 would crush the head of the serpent, giving His life in the process to pay the penalty for our rebellion and provide the way back to a relationship with our Creator God. Talk about a wrestling match. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.

May we be a people, blessed and broken, clinging to God, trusting Him to fight for us and expand His kingdom here in the valley.

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

A Bride for Isaac

Genesis 24

Big decisions…how do you go about making them? What role does your faith play in the process? How do you discern God’s direction?

Three major characters carry most of the action in this episode…Abraham, the servant and Rebekah. Each one demonstrates incredible faith in a tale that on the surface is just another love story. Could, except for the Main Character who is driving the action of the story. Abraham refers to Him as the LORD, the God of heaven and earth. Both God’s providence and man’s responsibility are clearly evident. Moses makes it clear that the LORD is orchestrating the events…the human characters respond.

So what can we learn about making decisions, about discerning God’s leading in the decision-making process? A couple of practical things that hit me right off the bat.  The servant really did want to know what God wanted…and he wanted the same thing. The psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” How’s that? Because when we delight ourselves in the LORD His desires become our desires, so that we begin to trust in the good that He reveals instead of our own version of good. And trust is key…we won’t follow Someone we don’t trust.

So how do we delight ourselves in the LORD? Time spent in His Word, in prayer and with His people. When walking with Jesus is a daily habit, it’s easy to delight in Him. As we do that, we begin to recognize His voice…My sheep hear My voice. When we hear His voice, then our job is to respond. Isaiah says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make all your paths straight.” If we are trusting that what He says is “Good” really is good, then it’s easy to walk down the path.

Notice also that the servant was practical and shrewd…as my wife says, “He used the brain God gave him.” He was in the right place at the right time. So we too to put ourselves in places and at times to cooperate with what the LORD is doing.

The servant was in constant prayer and responded to where the LORD led. He trusted God, but recognized the human players involved. He not only was cognizant of the LORD’s working, but was able to give evidence of it to others. He was active in his faith.

When I thought about my own life, I tend to get tripped up on step one…wanting what God wants. If I’m honest, I want what I want, and I want God to bless it. And in that moment I’m really not trusting the good He has for me. I want my own “good”. Even though I’ve found out time and again that my “good” is anything but.

What about you? Any big decisions coming up? How’s your walk with the LORD? Do you believe that He interacts with your world? If He was clear, would you really want what He wants?

May God give us the grace this week to discern His leading and the clarity and courage to follow Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Good News…Bad News

Genesis 18

Good news or bad news…which do you prefer to hear first? This episode in the life of Abraham highlights two essential aspects to God’s character represented by the two pronouncements…a message of hope and life to Abraham and Sarah and of judgment and death to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the first scene, Abraham dwelling in Mamre, the place of worship. The LORD announces a miraculous birth, is the Giver of life, shows grace to the chosen couple, is faithful to His promises…Seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, He’s the Doer of the impossible. Immanent. Mercy.

In the second scene, Sodom is described as exceedingly wicked. The LORD pronounces  judgment, is the Taker of life, judges the seriousness of sin… seed of the serpent, Abraham is faithful to intercede for, the LORD’s the Just Judge. Transcendent. Justice.

God is both merciful and just. Merciful to those who cry out to Him. A Just Judge to those who reject Him. But notice even in His judgment the mercy He extends toward the wicked for the sake of the righteous. His desire is not to destroy, but that all will come to know Him. And to that end, Abraham intercedes for Sodom. Praying for the good of the city because of the potential impact that the righteous can and should have.

We have a similar opportunity to intercede…to pray for those who are far from God. To stand in the gap for our 8-15. Like Abraham, we too, are called to be a source of blessing to the families of the earth, all of us who have believed are a part of the people of God who are to faithfully bear His image to the rest of His creation. So if you are a believer, pray…pray for your 8-15. Pray for the city.

If you have not yet come to the place in your spiritual journey where you would say that you have a relationship with God…you can have that today. It’s as easy as believing that Jesus came and lived the life you were supposed to live, died the death you were supposed to die and was raised again so that just as He conquered sin and death, you too might conquer sin and death and experience life…life today in His kingdom.

And if you’re like Sarah, maybe you’ve crossed the line from death to life but are still struggling with trusting God in the day to day. Maybe you are worn out with waiting for God to “show up” in your situation. Maybe you’re not sure that He is able to help. Or maybe He can, but will He (or why would He?)? Remember the LORD showed up for Sarah…to strengthen and affirm her faith so that in Hebrews we’re told, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” The LORD wants us to trust Him in the day-to-day, and not just for a secured future.

My prayer for us this week is that we would be a praying people…interceding for those who don’t know our Rescuer. And for those of us who are Sarah’s, that He would show Himself real in our day-to-day.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster