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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Everyday Sunday

On Sunday, August 24th, best selling Christian music artist Everyday Sunday will lead us in worship. For more about Everyday Sunday check out and like their Facebook Page.

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Ladies Bible Study

The Ladies Bible Study  is Friday Night at 6:30 PM and it will be at the Powell’s house, located at 2525 Chandabrook Circle, Pelham, AL 35124. So, hand the kids off to hubby and come on out for an awesome time of fellowship!

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Hope

Acts 20:8-10 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.”

Perhaps it was all the lamps that were burning or the people crowded together in the room or maybe he hoped that sitting in the window would keep him awake. Whatever the case, the window was three stories up and it was the second time Paul had said, “In closing” and being late at night, he fell asleep and then out the window. The boy’s name, Eutychus, means “well-fated” … yet it would not seem so, because upon finding him below, Eutychus is pronounced dead.

I’ve told a few jokes that have died in the room, but as of yet no person has died during service. Does that mean that I’m a more interesting a teacher than Paul? Of course not. I just don’t let anyone sit in open windows while I teach. As one might imagine, this young man’s death put a damper on the meeting. Paul rushed down to the young man, and he stretched himself out across him, embraced him and then by faith pronounced that God was going to raise the boy from the dead. Now, this is where things really get wild. Paul says, “Don’t worry.” Why? Because He knew what God could do.

There are five important elements of Christian Growth that we find in Acts 20. Those are Accountability, Encouragement, Companionship, Hope, and Comfort. Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to take a look at these five things. We’ve already looked at Accountability, Encouragement, and Companionship. The fourth element of Christian Growth is Hope.

Paul had been in prison and he saw the doors opened. He had been in chains and had seen them fall away. He had been enslaved and he was made free. Sometimes we need to be reminded that through Christ we have gained access by faith into this grace, in which we now stand. We can thus rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. God is your Protector and your Provider. He is your comforter. He is Hope.

All people have hope … it’s a psychological necessity for man to keep going. In fact, even when there is no rational grounds for it, man still continues to hope. But the hope of the unsaved has no object, only wind and vapor, that which comes and goes and has no true basis, but survives on platitudes and temporary outcomes. The hope of the saved is founded on the bedrock of faith that is evidence of those things hoped for. In other words, it is hope founded on truth and we remind one another of that Hope.

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On Timing

Numbers 9:1-5 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying:  “Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.

You will remember that Israel celebrated Passover as they were leaving Egypt, so this Passover marks one year into their journey out of the bondage of Egypt. I’m pretty sure many if not most of the people of Israel felt they would have been in the promised land by now. After all, the journey from Egypt to Canaan should take only a few weeks … even walking … even with kids … at the most a few months. But it’s been a whole year!

I’m probably like the people of Israel on that journey because every day I’m surprised that we are still here. I keep thinking that the rapture must surely be overdue. But God’s timing is spot on and though we may feel that something is overdue, it’s not. It might be overdue according to my timetable or my desires, but God operates on His own timetable and it is to our advantage that we press into His timing instead of wandering off into what we want. Our goals and desires might even match God’s plans for us, but if we are unwilling to abide in His timing but press forward in our own willfulness we settle for something less. Whatever is less than what God desires is sin, just as James said, “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins.”

Putting God and His will first is something that we all begin learning from the moment we are saved to the day we are with Him in heaven. We cannot then say, “I didn’t know that I should wait on God” because if we do, then we have caught ourselves in a lie, for the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us and seals us to God directs us to abide in God’s timing. Yet, there is a learning process in that, and so we can thank God for His long-suffering toward us that we are chastised as His children and not condemned as law breakers, for where the debt of sin has been cancelled and where the body of sin has been put to death there no longer remains condemnation for sin. Instead, as children of God we are chastised rather than condemned so that we learn to abide in the good things of God. And that is a process, and a struggle for many Christians today, just as it has been for Israel, for Christians of the past and, should the Lord tarry, will be for Christians of the future.

In verse 2 where it says appointed time, the Hebrew word is Moedim which is the plural form of Moed, the word for meeting place. The implication, for Israel then is that by keeping God’s appointed times, they stay near to God. The feasts were all prophetic of future events, but they were also reminders of God’s charity toward His people. By keeping the feasts, they were reminding themselves to stay close to God and not wander from Him. But then, maybe we say, “That must have been easy for Israel, after all they had the pillar of cloud and fire and the manna and even a rock that went with them and gave them water, but we don’t have a pillar of cloud or fire and we don’t have manna and we don’t have a rock that is always with us giving us water!” Oh, but we do!

  • Who brings you relief from the heat of this sinful world if not God?
  • Who ignites the fire within you every day to continue the journey if not God?
  • Who provides your food and your needs if not God?
  • And from what Rock do we receive refreshing if not Jesus?

“But, Israel had these things visually! They saw these things and touched these things!” Yes, they did, and what happened? Many of them fell into idolatry, and craved evil things and their sin caused them to perish in the journey; they may have seen those wonderful works, but many were blind to God.

1 Corinthians 10:1–5 (NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

We may feel that it would be easier to abide in God’s timing if we just had the visible and the touchable, yet we have the tangible Spirit of God indwelling us, empowering us and enabling us to live in constant confirmation of Who we are in Christ, walking by faith, which is not our own but which is given to us by God. The author of Hebrews tells us in chapter 11 that faith is the substance of reality that we do not see. So, if faith is substance and it is given to us by God when we hear the Word of God, and it is not something we create in ourselves (faith is not the same thing as belief), then faith must itself be the proof that what God says is true. The logical conclusion, then, is that if God has given us faith as confirmation of promises, then we can live and walk comfortably in His timing.

Looking in the book of Habakkuk, in the same passage where he says, “The just shall live by faith,” Habakkuk writes:

Habakkuk 2:3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. 

God’s plans will always be fulfilled, and so if He has said He will do something, waiting on Him to move is the best policy. Habakkuk comes from a word meaning “to embrace.” Perhaps we may relate that meaning to this by recognizing that we are better off embracing God’s plans according to His timing rather than choosing our own, and while we wait, we may use that time enjoying His goodness in our lives, the confidence of faith that He has given us, the knowledge of His promises for good, and we can take delight in the Lord. Psalm 37 says, when you delight in the Lord, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” Perhaps sometimes when God makes us wait it’s because He wants us to take the time to delight in Him, and learn to trust Him. Why did God tell them to keep the Passover? So they would remember that He saved them out of Egypt, but also so they would trust Him to save them again. When we consider that Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover, we remember that God has a great track record of saving people.

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Vacation Bible School

It’s VBS Time! This year, the theme for VBS is Famous Friendships. VBS is free and it’s for kids 3 yrs through 5th grade. Vacation Bible School is Friday, July 18th from 2-5pm and Saturday, July 19th from 9am to noon.Register your children HERE – SIGN UP FORM

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Wanting More

Numbers 17:8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.

The next day, when Moses went into the Tabernacle to retrieve the rods, he found that the rod of the tribe of Levi with Aaron’s name on it had not only blossomed, but it had yielded fruit. God was leaving no doubt as to His approval of Aaron’s leadership … since no other rod had sprouted. But Aaron’s rod hadn’t only sprouted, it had put forth new buds.  And not only had it put forth new buds, but it had made blossoms. And not only had it made blossoms, but it had produced almonds. And not only had it produced almonds, but it had yielded almonds that were ripe. God could have only caused a little green sprout to come out of the rod and that should have been evidence enough. But God had caused the rod to sprout, bud, blossom, produce and ripen! Whereas a little evidence should have been enough, God gave ample evidence so that there should be no doubt. But God knows us and He knows that despite all the evidence we may have before us, we doubt much more readily than we have faith. So He shows Himself to us abundantly.

We may say to God, “How do I know that You love me and will care for me?” And God may say only, “Well, look at how I care for the earth.” We may say to God, “I know You care for the earth, You keep it spinning and keep it watered … but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look at how I care for the animals.” We may say to God, “I know You care for the animals, You cloth them in fur and feathers and give them food, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I sent My only Son to live among you.” And we may say to God, “I know Jesus lived among us, and without sin, teaching and healing and doing many miracles, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I sacrificed My only Son so that we can be together.” And we may say to God, “I know Jesus died on the cross for my sins, suffering everything that I should have suffered, but how do I know that You love and care for me?” And God may say, “Look how I raised My Son from the dead so that we can be together not just today, but forever.”

And then how many times will we go to God and say, “What else can You do for me? How else can You show me You love me?”

Is it not enough? Then what is? How insulting it must be to God for us to tell Him that in addition to His giving His only Son for us, we require a cadillac, a flat screen television and a fat bank account! Psalm 37 is often quoted by those who claim that God desires to give us good things, and He does! Only, we need to understand that His good far exceeds our idea of good and has more to do with eternal things than temporal things.

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

How long will Christians act like God has not done enough for us but must do more and more and more! I want this car or that dress or that television … God wouldn’t give me the desire for it if it wasn’t good! Man, don’t blame God for your worldly desires. Israel kept wanting things from Egypt, but God didn’t give them those things. He gave them His presence, protection and provision. Consider what you are asking God to give you before you ask. God may give you some of the earthly things you want, but I doubt He will when you take an attitude of discontentment towards Him. Abiding in Christ is about being satisfied in Christ alone, not needing anything more, yet desiring even more … not more of the world, but more of Him.

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Gayle Erwin

On Sunday, July 6th at our 10am service, Calvary Chapel Birmingham will be blessed with a special teaching from Gayle Erwin! Gayle Erwin travels around the globe playing, as he puts it, “the one string on my guitar.” That “one string” is the Nature of Jesus, a message developed over a lifetime of study and experience — a simple message of servant lifestyle for this complex age. Gayle’s varied background fuels a wealth of parables and anecdotes and gives handles to the experiences of the Bible. He states that the richness of his life is like living one lifetime every ten years. His humorous style delights audiences of all ages wherever he goes.

Gayle’s first book, The Jesus Style, is a top seller worldwide and has been translated into 35 languages. Many churches and missions groups require their leaders to study this book. His second book, The Father Style, examines the nature of God the Father through the eyes of Jesus. The third book, The Spirit Style, proposes a unique and healing view of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the teaching of Jesus. The Body Style completes the “Style” series and views The Church as described by Jesus. He wrote Handbook for Servants to assist the servant-hearted with the struggles they face. That Reminds Me of a Story is a wildly popular compilation of 40 true stories from his life. He followed that story book with another entitled That Reminds Me of Another Storywith 50 more true stories from his life and observation. His newest book, Not Many Mighty, proves that God rarely uses the elite, preferring those Gayle identifies with and calls “Jerks.” The book is highly encouraging.

Watch a sample video of Gayle teaching: http://www.servant.org/Video/FeedMySheep.php

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Contrast

Genesis 1:3b “… and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Who can divide light from dark but God? We can go into a dark room and turn a light on, but there is still darkness, it’s just obscured by the light. The moment we turn the light out, the darkness is revealed. Is darkness inherently evil? Is light inherently good? No, all things are from God, so darkness and light must both be good creations.

So, where does dark get it’s bad rap? Well, bad things tend to happen in the dark. It’s not the dark … it’s the people in the dark. People do bad things in the dark. We take an aspect of God’s creation and leverage it for our own purposes of sin. Guns don’t kill people but people who point guns at people and pull the trigger kill people. It’s an act of the free will that God allows us to exercise.

Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. NKJV

From the beginning, God has been present and at work in dark places. He is not content with formless and void, but desires to bring creative expression where the destructive forces of sin have wreaked havoc. When we feel like we are drowning in the deep, God calls us out of the dirge.

Genesis 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. NASB

One of the most difficult lessons for us to learn is that in darkness, God invites us to draw near to Him. Sometimes, what we perceive as a dark place is actually God’s refuge. Daniel, while in the den of lions, was in the safest place he could have been. In the pit, God had shut the mouths of lions. Outside the pit, men were out to kill him. Notice, though, that when Daniel was pulled out of the den and his enemies thrown in, what was safety for Daniel became death.

Such is the contrast of life for those who love God. It’s a paradox that is beyond our comprehension. How can God be in the darkness? How can danger be safety? How can death bring life? It’s the mystery of contrast in the life of God’s kids.

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Confession

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

It seems like everything in my life is a giant circle. Everything comes around two, three even four or five times … Especially my mistakes.

1 John 1:9 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Sometimes I know it the minute I make a mistake. Other times I don’t realize my mistake until its ghost returns to haunt me.

Mark 4:38 He himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up, and told him, “Rabbi, don’t you care that we are dying?”

Well, when we sin we should remember that Jesus did care that we are dying. He cared so much that He (Yeshua HaMashiach) allowed Himself to die a torturous and horrible death at the hands of the unrighteous.

James 5:16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

What do we do when we realize that something we did or spoke to someone was rash or hurtful? We admit our failure and apologize to them. What should we do when we sin? We should apologize to Jesus when we sin.  He gave all for us. Let’s remember that and so highly esteem our Savior that we can’t tolerate unconfessed sin in our lives.

1 John 1:9-10 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we haven’t sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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