ACTS – The Acts of God
Many years ago, our little church at the crossroads of Oklahoma City, Spencer and Midwest City had a dilemma. A large discount grocery store that was across the street went out of business. A large corporation decided to lease the property and turn it into a country music night club. The quiet community was not thrilled with the prospects of this new business. We sent representatives to the town council opposing this big business but that got their liquor license and a pass to bring in the business. There was a big grand opening over their first weekend. That meant our church parking lot was used by people dying to get into this place. We put up signs but drunk people cannot seem to read.
Now, you are probably thinking what a great opportunity to witness. But drunk people are not in the right frame of mind to hear what you have to say. In fact, when Randy reminded the sauced up patrons that we can not honor their parking on grounds dedicated to God, he almost got punch in the nose. One man had his fist pulled back, but suddenly stopped the punch and said, “You know, you’re right.”
Fortunately, Randy had back up. Uniformed police officers were there having fun watching people get into their cars after the business closed but knew they shouldn’t drive. As soon as they pulled out, the police were there to arrest them. The tow trucks were making good money, too. They were there just waiting to hook up a vehicle and take it to be impounded.
During this time period, our church went to prayer, serious corporate prayer. We prayed for God’s guidance in the matter. We prayed for how we should be proactive and reactive. This glorified bar was hurting the community and the families of all who partook of the business. All churches in the area joined us in prayer. In a few weeks the night club closed. It went out of business and closed it’s doors almost as quickly as it opened.
We are reminded of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In our next passage God acts in a powerful way when the people “strenuously” prayed for Peter when he was jailed for preaching.
This is a great story of God’s Actions in God’s people, His church!
Acts 12, The Message
Peter Under Heavy Guard
12 1-4 That’s when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John’s brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.
5 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.
6 Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!
7-9 Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did it. Then, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming.
10-11 Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. That’s when Peter realized it was no dream. “I can’t believe it—this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to.”
12-14 Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.
15-16 But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.
16-17 Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” He left them and went off to another place.
18-19 At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. “Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?” When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: “Off with their heads!” Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
The Death of Herod
20-22 But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long. On the day set for their meeting, Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled them with a lot of hot air. The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries: “The voice of God! The voice of God!”
23 That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died.
24 Meanwhile, the ministry of God’s Word grew by leaps and bounds.
25 Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.
What do we learn?
–God hears and honors the strenuous, honest, humble prayers of his people!
–God acts on those prayers in ways we cannot imagine. Let Him answer in the way HE knows is best.
–Don’t mess with God!
–He will rescue us before we know we need rescuing.
–God is always at work. Our prayers center our minds on Him who does the work.
–Trust and obey.
–When God answers our prayers, give Him ALL the glory! And believe it when the answer comes.
How long has it been since we prayed strenuously as a group of people (church)? What would we ask God to do? Do we believe He will act on our behalf?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the lessons of Your Word that remind us of Your promise to always be with us, to hear our heart cries for help in prayer, and to never sleep but to always be at work in and through us and all around us. You are God and we are not. We praise you, give you honor and all glory for all you have done, are doing and will do. Thank you for being with us. Every day.
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe.