Life Together

Acts 2.42-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to learning more about Jesus, praying, worshiping, and enjoying a vibrant community life. They were also committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah to others, and God was powerfully at work through their testimony. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Following Jesus is simple, not easy. The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, prayer and evangelism…practices that kept the early church on mission. Practices we’ve incorporated into our values as a church…renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally building Christ-centered relationships, inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, and strategically creating opportunities for families to impact their world for Jesus. Practices that keep us on mission as a church…believe it or not they’re on my wall so that whenever our staff or elders meet, we’re reminded of our values. Practices that I hope you have woven into your spiritual life as well.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So I wonder what folks would say about us? Would they see that our faith is making a difference in our lives? Would the quality of our life together and the positive impact that we are having on the valley cause us to have favor with all the people?

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make daily time in God’s Word and prayer a part of your spiritual disciplines.

Be generous in your giving. When you see a need, meet a need. You don’t need permission. Look for opportunities…excuses to give.

If you are not a part of a community group yet, remember that’s our primary vehicle for growing. Find a group of friends to gather with on a regular basis…pray, study the Word, dig into each others’ lives, challenge and encourage each other.

Don’t forget your impact list…who is that one person you are praying for?

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

Ten Lepers Cleansed

Luke 17.11-21

Ten lepers are miraculously healed by Jesus, but only one returns to give thanks. Ten are healed, but only one is saved. We can be beneficiaries of God’s goodness and yet still miss the bigger blessing of forgiveness of sins and entrance into the kingdom.

Where faith is present, there is also a thankful heart. One of our values is: Inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship. Those who have experienced God’s grace…the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God…can’t help but worship…glorifying God and giving thanks to Him. Is that true of you? If not, why not? If you have trusted in Jesus, He’s taken care of our big problem…sin. I think sometimes we can get so focused on our current circumstances that we make them the big problem and miss the awesome truth that God has saved us…that whatever our current circumstances are, they are only temporary. Paul calls them “momentary, light afflictions”. But we have an eternal weight of glory being produced in us…the kingdom awaits us. And we have forever to spend with our King.

But our King also cares about our circumstances. Jesus healed the lepers. What do you need to cry out to Him for today? How is He asking you to respond?

Where there is an ungrateful heart, can faith be present? Paul says in Romans 1.21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks.” And in 2 Timothy 3.1-2, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful.” We can often fall prey to a spirit of entitlement…that God owes us something. And that He does, but if He gave us what we are owed, what we deserved, none of us would be happy. Instead He offers us what we don’t deserve…His mercy.

Do you need His mercy today? If so, the King is here, and He offers the kingdom to you. The invitation is open to all. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. It’s that simple. Then you too will be a kingdom citizen, confident that the big problem of sin has been taken care of in your life.

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

Forgiven Much

Luke 7.36-50

Folks of Jesus’ day would have assumed that the religious elite…the pious Pharisees, the lawyers, the priests, etc. loved God most. Yet Jesus here praises not a religiously astute Pharisee but a notorious sinner for her great love. The story reminds us that loving God is not self-righteous acts done to earn His favor, but gratefully accepting the free gift of salvation available through Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinful women, but He also came to save sinful Pharisees…unfortunately the Pharisees were too blind to see their need for saving. We all have a spiritual debt that we cannot pay. It doesn’t matter how long or short our list of sins, or how great or small we perceive them…what matters is that we realize we have a debt we cannot pay. No amount of “doing good things” will satisfy it, but only God’s gracious offer to forgive our debt…our sin. The good news is…Jesus has already paid our debt in full. We simply have to receive His gracious gift by faith.

So what keeps us from coming to Jesus? Sometimes it’s our labels that keep us from Jesus. As “sinner” we might feel like we are too far gone for Jesus to rescue us. But no one is so bad that Jesus can’t forgive them. Just ask folks like Paul (worst of sinners), Augustine of Hippo, John Newton…me.

As “Pharisee” we might assume we don’t need Jesus. We’re good enough. I hate to break it to you…you’re not that good.

Simon wondered if Jesus knew who and what sort of woman this is…He does. She is a woman who loves, who serves, who surrenders, who humbles herself, who worships, whose forgiven…a child of King. Her faith expressed itself in love, gratitude and devotion…how is your faith expressed?

Repentance/faith leads to forgiveness from God, which leads to affection for Jesus. No repentance/faith leads to no forgiveness, which leads to no affection for Jesus. So if you have no affection for Jesus, something’s wrong…maybe you’ve forgotten the huge debt that you’ve been forgiven. Maybe you’ve yet accepted God’s gracious offer.

Are you one who loves much or little? Do you recognize the tremendous debt you’ve been forgiven in Jesus? Is it obvious to others?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we show how much we’ve been forgiven by our great love for God and others this week.”

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

Transforming Families – Strategy Part 2

Acts 2.41-47

What do you do with 3,000 new believers? These new believers were committing themselves to gathering, growing, and impacting…and God was powerfully at work. Every day more people were joining their new family.

Like this early group of new disciples, we too are called to be a vibrant community, a family, here at Central. And as a family, each of us has a part to play, and each of us must play his or her part. Paul puts it this way, “We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the l proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” In Dr. Seuss’  Horton Hears a Who, Horton attempts to rescue the who’s from the other animals who are dangerously close to destroying them because they don’t believe they exist (they are so small that they are difficult to see, and only Horton with his enormous ears is able to hear them). Horton encourages the mayor of Whoville to have all its citizens make as much noise as possible. So everyone bangs on pots and pans, blows horns and shouts…everyone that is except for JoJo, the smallest of the who’s, because he believes that his voice is not needed. The other animals still cannot hear them, until the mayor, finding JoJo playing with a yo-yo, takes him to the top of the Eiffelberg Tower, where Jojo lets out a loud “Yopp!” The other animals finally hear the who’s and vow to protect them. Seuss summarizes the moral of the story in his simple yet powerful way, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” Each and everyone of us is important to the mission that God has given us. There is no one who is insignificant in the kingdom. Each of us is vital to the success of the whole. We want you…we need you to be all in.

A couple of practical steps you can take. Make participating in our family gatherings aka our weekend services a priority. Look for opportunities to encourage and pray for others. Look for ways that you can bless others…offer a firm handshake, a familiar hug, a warm smile, a polite hello. Join a community group. Get involved in one of our ministries…women’s, men’s, college and young adults, youth. Look for opportunities to plug in and serve. The folks in the lobby can point you in the right direction.

Remember to fill out your impact list and begin making intentional investments in the lives of folks that God has placed around you to bring them one step closer to Jesus.

God is at work. I want to invite you to join us on this journey of Transforming families to live and love like Jesus as we seek to impact this valley for the kingdom in significant ways. As part of the family, we all have a part to play in the life of our church. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing to empower us to accomplish the mission. How about you? Are you in?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May God continue transforming families to live and love like Jesus here at Central and in the valley as we gather, grow and impact. Go in peace.”

This post is based on a sermon from our vision series, Transforming Families. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Born is the King of Hope

Matthew 2.1-12

A tale of two kings…a tale of two hopes. Herod, an earthly king, living in Jerusalem, seeks to build a name and a kingdom for himself. Jesus, a heavenly King…but not just a heavenly King, but also an earthly King who came to reconcile heaven and earth, born in Bethlehem, has already been given a Name and a kingdom.

Herod’s hope is a very earthy hope…a hope for his own kingdom, a hope for power, prestige, position, pleasure. A hope that was very selfish and self-serving. A hope that did not save him because it could not. The scribes and the chief priests seem to have a similar hope, but slightly different. While they were not in the position of king, they still were building their own little kingdoms and hoping in an earthy king who could not save.

But the magi’s hope was in Someone far greater…His arrival was announced by the heavens. A star pointed the way. The magi’s hope led them to go to crazy, incredible lengths to see Jesus, and seeing Him, they couldn’t help but worship Him, bringing Him their costly gifts…a picture of their submission to Him (service). In Him, they found an object worthy of great pursuit…chasing after Him with ardor, zeal and perseverance…their hope was in Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Warrior-King from the line of David, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Hero of the story and the only One who could rescue them.

What are you hoping in this Christmas? Who are you hoping in? Is it causing you to be selfish and self-serving? Is your confidence in people or things that are destined to disappoint? Or are you hoping in Jesus, the only One who can save and deliver and rescue…not just in an eternal sense, but also here and now? Is He your hope every day? Do you live that way…going to crazy incredible lengths to be in His presence, to worship Him, to serve Him with the same passion and diligence that the magi did? Are you living as one who has realized their hope in Jesus? Are we as God’s people making much of Jesus this Christmas, or are we caught up in the hustle and bustle of building our own little kingdoms?

“May Jesus the King be our one true hope this Christmas season.”

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our Advent series, Born is the King. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

A Worshipful Life

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 ESV

As we turn to the last four chapters of Romans – Paul describes what it means to live out our lives in spiritual worship.

It means presenting our whole selves and lives completely to God.  We do this with hearts fully devoted to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, through the help of the Holy Spirit.

The aim of the Gospel of Christ is not merely to teach us how to live morally but helps us connect with God, as we delight in His will and live a life transformed into worship – a lifestyle of worship that inspires a fervent love for Jesus.

It is a life of worship and service that mobilizes us to make a difference – to make an impact in the lives of those around us.

A life focused on intentionally building Christ-centered relationships.

Paul gives us advice on how to go about doing this in the remaining chapters of Romans.

The Gospel Transformation Bible (GTB) has this to say on this section of Romans:

“Christians love. That is what we do. In this is our entire ethic summed up. Yet we love not to earn God’s love for us, but in reflection of, and being assured of, his love.”

It is in this section of Romans that Paul describes ways to demonstrate that love, echoing many of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

As Christians, this is our call – to emulate Jesus in all we say, think and do, as a form of worship.

Paul teaches that as Christians, we have been blessed with gifts according to the grace given to us, gifts we are to use.

A question we might ask ourselves is how are we using our gifts? Are we using them for His glory?

Our call is to use God’s gift’s in love and service to our Lord and Savior – to serve His cause and further His kingdom.

After all, the whole purpose of our faith is to come to a saving knowledge of God, to grow in holiness and serve Him on this journey we call life.

Over time we learn that our actions, habits, character and, might I say, even destiny – flows from our thoughts and beliefs, built over time, one action, one habit at a time.

We must all face the question – Will you conform to the world or renew your mind?

Godly people renew their minds through biblical teaching, study of God’s Word and application of the precepts and truths taught as the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts.

Although the world and culture around us has its own definition of success and approach to the problems of life, Paul teaches a different approach – an approach focused on a higher calling, conceived and born in love, filled with mercy and grace.

An approach based upon the hope we have in Jesus, an approach we call – the worshipful life.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

OT Reading – January 14

Daniel 3-4

Daniel 3

The King’s Golden Image

3 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

Worship of the Image Refused

For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel’s Friends Protected

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him,violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

 

Daniel 4

The King Acknowledges God

4 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.

“How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation.

The Vision of a Great Tree

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. I saw adream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me. But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.

10 ‘Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold,there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great.

11 ‘The tree grew large and became strong And its height reached to the sky, And it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 ‘Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, And in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, And all living creatures fed themselves from it.

13 ‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.

14 ‘He shouted out and spoke as follows: Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; Let the beasts flee from under it And the birds from its branches. 15 “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, But with a band of iron and bronze around it In the new grass of the field; And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 “Let his mind be changed from that of a man And let a beast’s mind be given to him, And let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.”

18 This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’

Daniel Interprets the Vision

19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’

The Vision Fulfilled

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

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