Confession, Giving, and Worship

Deuteronomy 26:4-11 “Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey”; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’ “Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.

Deuteronomy 26 presents a fascinating ceremony that was to be performed at the offering of first fruits. The ceremony acknowledged that all the produce of the land came from God. It was a confession of relationship and reliance. It also was an expression of thankfulness for God’s provision and goodness. Part of that ceremony involved a brief retelling of what God did for Israel. The Israelites intentionally committed these events to memory and when it came time for them to recognize God’s Lordship in this ceremony of presenting their first fruits, they would recite those things that prove His care and goodwill for them. Similarly, there is a review we can make and it follows the outline of these last few verses.

1. “Never forget where you came from.” (v5-7)

God told Abram that He would be the father of many nations and that through him, God would bless the world. Abraham believed God and it was counted for righteousness. But the man who’s name meant, “Father of Nations” had few children, one of which was sent out of the camp, leaving him with one son, Isaac. Isaac later married Rebekah, and two boys were born to them, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying his older daughter, Leah, but then also married Rachel. And the tribes of Israel were then born. But one son named Joseph was despised by his brothers and they sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. When a famine engulfed the world, Joseph had been blessed by God with knowledge, ability, position and authority and he was able to pre-plan and store food in Egypt. Egypt became the storehouse everyone went to for food during this famine. Joseph’s family moved there and he forgave his brothers and they settled in Goshen. There they grew, until a later Pharaoh put them under bondage as slaves. Prior to Christ we were all under bondage.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 NKJV). Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). In the Bible, Egypt is a picture of the world and just as Israel were slaves in Egypt, so we were slaves to the world unto sin and judgement. We were slaves to sin, and we were subject to the judgement that is upon the world because of sin. But through Christ we are set free, and we should …

2. “Never forget what the Lord has done.” (V8)

So the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. But then God used Moses and Aaron to bring Israel out of Egypt, freeing them of their bondage and in a single day a new nation was born. The same thing happened when Jesus was sacrificed as the true Passover Lamb. He was resurrected in three days and another nation was born. Only twice in history have two nations been birthed in one day: (1) Israel born out of Egypt and (2) When Christ died on the cross, another nation was born, made up of all who call on the name of Christ for salvation. Each of us individually experience this moment of being freed from the bondage of the world when we receive Jesus. And that’s not something we could do ourselves … but only by the power and grace of God. I am certain that you, like me, can easily look back at life and say, “Were it not but for the grace of God.” I’m not one for advising anyone to dwell on the past, because we could easily feel condemned over it. The Bible is clear that there is “Now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:8). However, we may look back to when we were with the world in it’s judgment to recognize that God has saved us out of that with His mighty Hand. Then we vividly realize we are firmly held in the hand of Christ … a place we can never be snatched away from. But that’s not all. God has wonderful plans for us, and so we should …

3. “Look forward to what the Lord is going to do.” (v9)

Following Jesus is a progressive, forward motion, not a backward sloped decent into the past.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross to strap your past around your neck like a great weight, but to lead you out of your past and into an amazing future. So, what does your future look like? If you have received Jesus, then put on those shades, because it’s bright, my friend. Galatians 4 tells us that Jesus Followers are adopted as sons and daughters of God. Not only that, but Ephesians, Galatians and 1 Peter tells us we are now heirs to the riches of Christ. And, we are referred to in the book of Revelation as kings and priests. That is all Christians. Yet so many Christians choose to live their life in the slums. They choose for themselves the baser things of this world in exchange for the magnificent things of the Father. They cling to that which God has freed them from, no longer under the judgement of the world, but living as those who are. Son of the King, are you making tradeoffs? You don’t have to …

4. “Remember Who you belong to.” (v10)

Israel was chosen by God. They did not choose God, though they were to choose obedience to God based on Who He is and who they were to Him. God is Lord, but more than that, He was their LORD, and they were His chosen people. When they brought their first fruits, they presented it to the priest and said to him, “the Lord your God.” And once the Israelite had made his confession, he placed their offering before the Lord his God and he worshipped the Lord his God. You have not saved yourself. God alone has saved you! At one time, it was a relationship that required a divider. But Jesus, died on the cross and your sins are now washed away by His blood. The divider that once existed between you and God has been torn, not from the bottom up, but from the top down. It is not your doing, but God’s. And now you can, “Come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV). We can now “Present ourselves to Him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:12-14). Paul, in Romans wrote that he knows how difficult it can be to not live in sin because he struggled with that even after he became a follower of Christ. He said that while we’re now set free from the penalty of sin, we still live in the presence of sin while we’re alive on this earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit Who is given to believers at the moment we come in faith to Christ (Ephesians 1:13–14), we are free from the power of sin and sealed unto Christ as a pledge of our inheritance as God’s children. We can come and place our offering before the Lord and worship because we are made right with God through His Son, Jesus. Who do you belong to? You’re God’s kid. You stand to inherit far more than you could ever imagine. Even today, He’s blessing you, though it’s not yet time for you to claim your inheritance. Live the life God has set before you and don’t choose the slums … or better put …

5. “Rejoice in those things.” (v11)

When Israel was safely across the sea and God sent those great walls of water crashing down on the Egyptian army the Bible says that Moses and all of Israel sang out praises to the Lord and all the women danced and sang. The instruction of verse 11 is to rejoice in every good thing which the Lord has given you, your family, your church and even those who enjoy blessings through your relationship with God. Notice that the rejoicing comes after the confession, the giving, and the worshipping.

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It’s the Message

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

People talk about the importance of first impressions. Public speakers, actors, actresses, politicians … Those who seek to convey a message to people know that an audience will “read” a speaker for clues to his message. People notice whether a speaker is unsure of himself, or confident in his standing with the audience. In Paul’s day, public speaking was an art form and there were many “expert” speakers to be heard. Speakers who appeared nervous or humble were disdained. It was assumed that they had no confidence in their message. Paul, however, paid little attention to style, and he spoke in noticeable weakness and fear.

This brings us to a question … what was it that Paul feared … even to the point of trembling? We know that Paul was not lacking confidence in the gospel message. He was, however, aware of the weakness of his presentation as judged by human standards. His humble attitude was not appealing to the Corinthians. There were plenty of other, better public speakers to be heard. They laughed at Paul’s meekness when he was with them. They said, “Paul makes bold statements in his letters, but he shakes when he speaks to us face to face.” They were rejecting Paul and his faithful preaching of God’s Word. They showed preference for more polished speakers … those who, Paul warned them, “enslave you, take everything you have, take advantage of you, take control of everything, and slap you in the face” (2 Corinthians 11:20). Just as David refused Saul’s armor, so Paul would not gird himself with persuasive words to prove the truth of the gospel.

I can’t help but wonder if the revival we all pray for is going to come not by the convincing words of a professional preacher but by the message of the cross born on the backs of meek men who tremble when they teach? I feel very strongly that is the case because so far the convincing spectacle of crusades and concerts, mega churches and mega pastors has resulted in very little, if any, revival. Revivals of the past, were born on simple truth and a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power that was entirely convincing. That demonstration of the Holy Spirit was what we would call conversion. That a person would be saved through a presentation marked by weakness … even visible trembling … can only be the Holy Spirit at work.

Paul ended Chapter 1 talking about how it’s not through the powerful but through the weak that the gospel came. Paul wrote, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). And here, in chapter 2, he’s making the same argument about man’s speaking ability and intellectual prowess. It’s not in the strength of the speaker, but in the strength of the message.

What does this mean for you and me? Oh, it’s great news … it really is. You see, we might assume that we are unable or unprepared to share the gospel. We might think that our simple, imperfect presentation would do more harm than good. We might think we are unable to give the message of the gospel unless we’ve taken a course, class or have a fancy certificate. But Paul says he came in “weakness and fear.” The key wasn’t in Paul’s ability to impress – but in the Spirit’s ability to bring life to the words. Remember Romans 1:16?

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Sharing the good news that Jesus paid the penalty for our rebellion against God so that through His death and resurrection we can have a sure relationship with God is a message of immense power. The power is in God … His ability to change a heart by the hearing of the gospel. If human wisdom is used to win someone to Christ, then his faith stands on man’s wisdom. But if a man is brought to faith by the power of God, then his faith rests upon that.

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Man Up Day at CC Bartlett, TN

Saturday, April 25th, at 8AM, Calvary Chapel Bartlett in Tennessee is having their annual “Man-Up Day” and CC Birmingham will be caravanning up there to join them. Registration is $35 per person and we will all share the cost of hotel and gas. Registration includes a great day of fellowship and Bible Study, a Steak and Eggs Breakfast, BBQ Lunch and they’re throwing in a ton of fellowship and fun as well. You can register online by clicking HERE. You may pay at the time you register online or later at church by placing your registration fee in the tithe box. Deadline for registration is April 15th. We will be leaving late afternoon on Friday, April 24th, spending the night and attending the conference the next morning before returning home late Saturday afternoon.

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Persistent Prayer

Luke 18:1-5 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”

In the parable, the woman was persistent in her request to the judge … Now if that judge, whom Jesus described as a wicked man, is moved to action by the persistence of the widow, will not God who is good, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, answer persistent prayers from the objects of His passion? The parable does not mean that God is reluctant to help … But … why does it sometimes seem like He is reluctant to answer our prayers? For one thing, yes is not the only answer God gives … He also says no and we should be content in that answer because God knows best for us. Sometimes the answer is yes, but God wants us to wait because there is a work to be completed in us prior to Him responding to our request. Sometimes the answer is just wait … because we need to learn to wait. It’s in the YES or NO answers that we learn God’s will. It’s in the WAIT answers that we learn to ABIDE in God’s will. Yes and no are clear cut answers and while nobody likes to get a no, it is an answer. But what about when a clear answer doesn’t come or when God tells us to wait?

Well, as we’ve just discussed, God is sovereign and because He is sovereign, His timing is spot on. Waiting is hard and that’s why God says that there is special blessing for those who are willing to wait on the Lord. In Hebrew there are two important words meaning “wait” which or yachal and qavah, both of which are frequently used in scripture. In the New Testament the primary Greek word for “wait” is prosdechomai. In all these instances, the meaning of the word is not a pointless waiting but an expectant waiting as one who has a promise would wait on it’s fulfillment. When God wants us to wait, we do so with the confident expectation that God will answer us … Whether that’s in vindication, or fulfillment of a promise. And so, like a child who knows they will be arriving at a desired destination might be inclined to ask, “Are we there yet?” over and over again, we can be persistent in our prayers to our Father … and He won’t pull out the duct tape! Prayer is an incredibly powerful weapon and it’s one that should not be wielded in reluctance or under any assumption that we are somehow pestering God. He desires our requests and so Jesus says, always pray and do not lose heart.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

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Deliverance

Luke 22:1-2 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.

From a historical perspective, the celebration of the Passover in Israel represented the exodus of Israel from Egypt during the time of Moses. By recreating and retelling the Exodus through both words and in the elements of the meal, it emphasized deliverance from bondage. The annual Passover looked back, but also forward, anticipating a future deliverance of which the patriarchs and prophets testified, a deliverance Israel craved, as over the years they had experienced more bondage at the hands of Babylon, Assyria, and of course they were now under the yoke of the Roman Empire. That deliverance would be by the Messiah that had been foretold from the beginning, only the Messiah they were anticipating would not die on a cross, but would lead the Jewish people in victory over their oppressors. In the narrative of Passover and the suffering of Christ, there is an obvious relationship between Passover and Jesus’ crucifixion, highlighting the role of sacrifice in bringing forth deliverance.

God has always rescued people from danger, suffering and sin and it’s important for us to understand that God is not ambivalent or uncertain in His love. Throughout scripture (and in our own lives), we have seen God’s care at work through His deliverance of people from danger, illness, slavery, trouble, enemies, Satan, fears, sin and the coming wrath against sin.

God does this through direct intervention of His own, through angels and through people (think Moses, Joshua, the Judges, David and, of course, Jesus … and today through ministers of the gospel). Deliverance is an important theme in scripture and we may observe three important aspects of deliverance, (1) Deliverance comes from God, (2) Deliverance does not come from idols, and (3) Deliverance may be declined.

There is no case of deliverance that is not by the grace and care of God. Even when non-Christians are involved such as in the case of pulling someone from a fire or a surgeon who saves someone’s life through his skills, that is God at work … He gave the skills and He made the means of deliverance. From large scale deliverance, to day to day acts of mercy, there is no good thing that does not have it’s origins in God.

Deliverance never comes from idols. Deliverance NEVER has it’s origins in abstraction, in lies, in neutrality, or indifference. Apart from God, nobody has ever been saved … not by science nor by evolution and nobody has ever been saved by government.

God has given people free will to make decisions as we please. God does not force salvation on anyone, though it may be freely received by all. In light of the judgment that awaits all who abide in sin, I don’t understand why someone would say no to the gift, but deliverance may be declined.

In order for people to be delivered from sin, there had to be a sacrifice for sin that did not only cover sins, as the sacrifices of animals did, but PAID the full penalty for sin … And that’s what Jesus’ sacrifice did.

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On Grace

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

It does seem to me that the grace of God is quite remarkable. It’s like a flood of water that seeks to saturate every nook and cranny, cutting off those who harden themselves against the flow; saving those who are pliable enough to be carried away with it; broad enough to reach all who will receive it. Grace saves those you don’t expect, and is rejected by those you thought would receive. Grace is not received by all. Yet grace is available to all.

Those who are cut off are hardened by self righteousness … I can get there my own way … after all, I’m a good person. Those who are taken with the flow are broken realizing they cannot depend on their own righteousness. And so, putting down their self-righteousness, undermined by conviction and carried on by grace they lay hold of the cross of Christ. The flow of grace takes us away from condemnation, immerses us in salvation and takes us into the presence of the Father. Amazing.

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Men’s Breakfast

Every Thursday morning at 6AM a group of men from CC Birmingham meet together at Bernetti’s Diner on US31 just down the hill from the church. Come on out and start your day with a great breakfast and a good word!

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What’s Important

Acts 25:23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus’ command Paul was brought in.

 

So, in comes Agrippa and Bernice (the most unexpected name to ever come after a name like Agrippa).  Anywhoo … they’re coming in and they don’t want to be mistaken for just anybody, so they are all decked out in royal robes and adorned in jewels and gold and the horns are trumpeting and their posse of commanders and prominent people are with them. Depending on the translation you are using, it was a full on two sentence, twenty-eight word entrance. And then there was Paul.  His entrance was a humble four word, half sentence entrance. It didn’t even merit an adjective.

What a great illustration of what God sees as important verses what the world sees as important. Paul, the man God used to write much of the New Testament and take the Gospel to nations, kings, and the sons of Israel. The chosen instrument of the King of the Universe entered the room in silence and stood in humility before those who declared themselves to be important … those whom the world called important.

Bernice was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, making her the sister of Agrippa II. The two were having an incestuous relationship. It is before this brother/sister/husband/wife couple that we find the apostle Paul making his defense once again at Caesarea. Paul, no doubt, knew of their unrighteous relationship, it was no great secret … and even as Agrippa and Bernice came in with great pageantry, and Paul was brought in chains, we find in chapter 26 that Paul tells Agrippa that he considers himself fortunate to be able to make his case before him.

If you desire to get to where God wants you to go, humble yourself. Paul could have been resentful of the situation, after all, Agrippa had no jurisdiction in this case, no business getting involved. Paul had already appeared before the governor, Felix, who found no offense worthy of prosecution, yet kept Paul incarcerated for two years. Now, the new governor, Festus, had heard the case and the accusations of the Jewish leadership and found no offense worthy of prosecution. Paul even appealed his case to Caesar which was his right as a Roman Citizen, and Festus had agreed, but now he was being asked to go through it all again for Agrippa. It must have been quite exasperating, yet Paul was willing to humble himself. Paul saw this as another opportunity to share his testimony, share the gospel and glorify Jesus, this time to Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus.

Don’t let opportunities slip by, but commit yourself to recognizing and taking every opportunity that God sets before you. Each day we are confronted with opportunities to either invest in this world or the one to come.  We make choices of where we will place our eyes or focus our efforts. What choices will you make? Commit yourself to a decision now, because it is a choice you will have to make over and over again. Paul was a master at recognizing and seizing on opportunities, often at the expense of his own comfort, and that’s the very essence of getting where God wants you to go … the path is paved with opportunities to Glorify the Lord. Seize one opportunity after the next and you’ll find you are headed where God wants you to go.

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Grand Opening Month!

Calvary Chapel Birmingham has relocated to a new facility in Pelham, Alabama. The congregation has been working together very hard over the past 6 months to get the building ready and while we are not 100% finished, now is the time to have our Grand Opening. October is our Grand Opening month.

We’ll kick off at 5pm on Sunday, September 28th with an evening of music and worship from The Surrendering, acoustic, worship, and original Christian music musicianaries hailing from Indiana, but always taking their music and the gospel on the road.

Then, on Wednesday, October 1st we are having an outdoor live music event with the bands of The Extreme Tour bringing us Christian Contemporary, Rock, Alt-Rock, Hip-Hop, spoken word, and Rap. The line up is Tal, Katie Ainge, Jordan Copas, The Uriah Effect, My Paper Tiger, and Driven. Weather permitting, music will be outdoors with a bounce house and games for the kids. The event will start at 4PM that afternoon.

As if that weren’t enough, on Sunday evening, October 12th at 6:00 PM, Creation Ministries International and Dr. Gary Bates will present, “UFO’s, Aliens and the Evolution Connection” based on his best selling book of the same name.

The next Sunday evening, October 19th at 6:00PM, it’s Chosen People Ministries and Dr. Ben Alpert presenting, “Israel in Prophecy” a very timely topic you do not want to miss.

All events are free of charge, but seating for October 12th and 19th is limited, so make plans now to be there.

As usual, CC Birmingham will continue to have our 7PM Wednesday evening services and 10AM Sunday morning services where we teach the Bible simply, verse by verse and chapter by chapter. On Sunday mornings we are verse by verse through the New Testament, currently beginning the book of Romans. On Wednesday evenings we are verse by verse through the Old Testament, currently in the book of Deuteronomy. Kids JAM, our children’s ministry is available during all services.

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Creation Ministries International

Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, Sunday, October 12th at 6PM at Calvary Chapel Birmingham.

On Sunday, October 12th at 6:00PM, Dr. Gary Bates with Creation Ministries International will be joining us to talk about his landmark book, Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (the only creation book ever to be an Amazon top 50 best-seller). In his presentation, Dr. Bates will unravel one of popular culture’s enduring and growing phenomena, UFOs, crop circles, Roswell, alien abductions—it’s all answered! His well researched data will leads us to one conclusion: there is an ‘intergalactic’ battle over the history of life in the universe, and for the souls of human beings. Expect to receive eye-opening insights that have already won souls for Christ. This is a great event to invite your friends and family that have questions about Christianity and Science. The event is free.

Dr. Gary Bates of CMI

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