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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Reminders

Acts 18:18 (NKJV) So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.

When it says that Paul had his hair cut because he had taken a vow, it is most definitely referring to a Nazirite vow. The vow of the Nazirite was a vow taken for a certain period of time, during which the hair was allowed to grow. At the completion of the vow, the hair was cut off and offered to the Lord in a special ceremony at the Temple in Jerusalem. The vow was made out of a desire to be set apart and draw nearer to God. The word, Nazirite is from the root word Nazir which means “to separate” or to “distinguish.” Considering the sentiment behind this vow, we may make a couple of inferences regarding three types of Christians that are seen in the church today.

First, there is the Christian in name only … This is the person who attends church and calls themselves a Christian because it’s what they’ve always done, but there is little evidence to suggest a real relationship with Christ. Many like this will hear Jesus say, “away from Me, I never knew you.”

Second, there is the Luke Warm Christian … The person who is only concerned about the minimum expectations of a Christian, who is not growing, nor do they desire to grow in their relationship with God. This is the kind of Christian that Jesus said in Revelation 3 He detests.

Third, there is the on fire Christian … one who is burnt up with zeal for the Lord, desires to press in and seeks to live righteously before the Lord, glorifying Him. This Christian works hard and serves the Lord enthusiastically.

These “on fire” Christians are not the “Special Forces” of Christianity. Instead, I think this is what the typical Christian should be. There are no “elites” among Christians, just as the Nazirites were not in any way “elite.” They were common people who, desiring to draw nearer to God, willingly took a path of separation to live only and constantly for the glory of God.

Why had Paul taken a Nazirite Vow? Well, I believe it had to do with where he was. Corinth was a place of great moral decay, with a proliferation of wicked acts like prostitution. In fact, Corinth was so bad that “Corinthian” became a derogatory term. So, it may have been that Paul, among the worldliness, wickedness and excess of Corinth, took this vow to express his dedication to God, and as a reminder to himself of his dedication to God.

In like manner, Christians are in this world, but are not to be conformed to this world. If we are to glorify and serve the Lord in the midst of the world and all it’s wickedness and excess, then we would do well to set up reminders for ourselves. That may be Bible verses taped to the mirror to see in the morning as we get ready for work. It may be worship music playing on our car stereos or iPods are perhaps teachings or podcasts. I think memorized scripture (scripture stored away in our hearts) will be used by the Holy Spirit as reminders to keep us from trouble. Other things might be devotional emails such as this one, personal Bible study, prayer time, as well as many other ways, some of them obvious, and others perhaps requiring a bit of creativity. What reminders have you established in your life to remind you to live only and constantly for the glory of God?

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Don’t Make Assumptions

 

Genesis 31:1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.”

Laban’s sons were making assumptions about the situation based on flawed perspective. Jacob was under God’s protection and Laban was being dishonest toward Jacob. Our own point of view is not always the correct point of view. We are all limited in what we might know about a particular situation. Sometimes we form opinions around a narrow or skewed hypothesis arrived at through inappropriate conversation or incomplete observation. Opinions should not drive us to conclusions.

When I visit a doctor, I want her to formulate a conclusion about my illness based on facts not opinions. A doctor who operates based only on opinion and not on facts is a danger to his patient and his own reputation.  If you believe that your opinion is the “end all, be all” of the discussion then you are being prideful, assuming that you know all. That’s rarely true. The problem is that when we assume we know all the details and we form opinions about someone else’s decisions, or someone else’s circumstances or actions, we are usually incorrect in what we determine. If it stopped there, maybe that would be fine. But our actions are usually based on the opinions we form. What if, instead of talking among themselves, these men had instead gone to Jacob and asked to discuss the matter with him? It may have avoided a lot of difficulty and spared some relationships.

If you have an issue with someone, take it up with them. Don’t talk behind their back and don’t just let it sit around collecting the dust of paranoia. Don’t search for others who will feed your opinion. Satan likes nothing better than when we operate within our assumptions and don’t go to one another to talk things through. That’s an environment that he thrives in because it gives him an opportunity to make suggestions.

“They don’t like you anymore.”

“They aren’t your friends.”

“They are out to get you.”

Sounds silly and extreme, yet assumptions are the wrecking ball of relationships. Don’t create a situation that Satan will thrive in by living in your assumptions. When you feel hurt or slighted by someone, talk to them about it.

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Hope for America

Numbers 21:5-6 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

 

Israel was beginning her march toward the Promised Land, 40 years after leaving Egypt, 38 of which were spent wandering in order to get Egypt out of Israel. The old generation had mostly died off, as God said they would, after their refusal to enter the Promised Land, believing the bad report of the scouts over the promises of God. Now, they were finally headed in, but Israel again murmured against God, even accusing Him directly and calling His provision of Manna worthless. God sent fiery serpents into the camp and told Moses to erect a serpent on a pole in the midst of Israel, and if a bit Israelite turned to look at the symbol, they would not die. The snake on the pole was a symbol of Jesus, turning to look, a symbol of repentance and being healed so that one may live, a picture of salvation. The serpent is associated with sin in the Bible, and bronze with judgment, just as Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

This plague of fiery serpents was a wake up call for this new generation that were to enter into the promised land. While all of Israel suffered because of their complaining against God, it was individuals within Israel who were being bit. Each snake and each bite was a divine experience sent into their lives, to cause them to turn and look to Christ. In this way, these snakes are symbolic of those things that God allows in our lives … wake up calls. God does allow, and at times even send things into our lives that are meant to get our attention and cause us to turn around and seek Him. Through divinely allowed difficulty, the Father may say to us, “Don’t keep going in that direction, it leads to destruction. My child, turn around and look to Christ.” What fiery snakes has God allowed in your life? Are you getting the message or are you assuming they are “just a part of life?”

On a larger scale, I believe we see the same thing going on in our nation in order to get our attention. As the people of this nation continue to turn their backs on God in favor of the desires of the heart, I think we we will continue to see God’s hand pulled back from this nation. I think we see it in the weather, in natural disasters, in increasingly horrific crimes, in the economy, in the politics, in the diseases, and in many other ways. Yet, instead of recognizing that we need to go to God in repentance, we turn to science and to man’s knowledge in order to find answers. I wonder how many diseases that we deal with now … diseases that past generations rarely saw … I wonder how many of these diseases would be rendered harmless if this nation would only repent and turn back to God. I wonder how many people perish these days because this nation not only turns her back on God but openly accuses Him. I wonder how many people are eaten alive by the poison of sin because they call God’s provision worthless? What would change in this nation, if the people would repent and turn to God? I have nor doubt that this nation can be great again, if we would all repent and turn to look upon Jesus. I think God is trying to get the attention of the United States of America. The snakes are here and they are biting. Will this nation turn and look to Jesus, or will it refuse and perish?

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