Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

I am back today. Because of church and concentrating on spending time with my kids and grandkids, I didn't carve out the time to blog. It seems Barbara and I have to enjoy our family time in occasional doses. We had a great time!
I hope you grabbed plenty of family time, too.
In my Bible reading schedule I am in Acts in the New Testament and Job in the Old. Good stuff!
Here's what grabbed attention as I read:
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating." When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel."

This story is intriguing on several levels.

First, Herod had James killed, but had Peter arrested. Could that have been because of his high profile and popularity? Could they have feared his spiritual power and authority? Was it because the Church was praying for him? Maybe all of the above.

Second, I can't help but notice the difference between a man motivated by political popularity (Herod) and one who operated by principle (Peter). As a result, Herod lived in fear as a people-pleaser while Peter lived by faith, pleasing God. Herod might have been in control but Peter was in charge!

Third, Herod surrounded Peter with guards. God surrounded Peter with angels. That was true because of two reasons: Peter was in God's will and the Church mobilized in prayer.

Fourth, angels are better than guards. When they woke Peter in the middle of the night, they slipped him out of the chains and out of the prison. The guards never knew the difference. When God wants to deliver His people - no chains or prison can hold them. People of faith are free even when they are captives!

Five, prayer is powerful! More powerful than they expected, apparently, because when Peter showed up at the site of their prayer meeting they were in disbelief. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever prayed intensely for something and then found yourself surprised when God gave you what you asked for in a timely fashion? They went from belief to disbelief - then to greater belief!

There is tons of good preaching material here, but the bottom line is this, God will use anyone to overcome anything to accomplish the thing He wants accomplished. It doesn't take perfect faith, it just requires a perfect heart!

Pray persistently. Perservere consistently. Perfect your heart continually!