The believers unite together in prayer, and God breaks Peter out of prison.
a. Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
b. Happy 4th of July weekend to you.
c. Before we get started today, if it’s okay with you, I wanted to talk with you again for a few minutes about our first ever international missions trip to Haiti.
c.i. If you weren’t in church last Sunday, we premiered the trip and spent a while talking about it.
c.i.1. I wanted to go over just a few more details this morning and answer some of the more frequent questions we’ve been getting
d. As I mentioned last week, we are going to Haiti January 4th to the 11th.
d.i. We are going with an organization called World Wide Village, and we will be helping create sustainability by working with churches/schools and potentially clinics to help rebuild, bring hope, and also bring the good news of Jesus Christ.
d.i.1. World Wide Village is the organization that is hosting us in Haiti, but it will be just our church that will be down there.
d.i.1.a. And I will be personally leading the team this year.
e. Also, I wanted to say a quick word about where we will be staying.
e.i. Haiti is a place of very few stoplights, a scarcity of clean water, and even a widespread lack of electricity…which may cause you to wonder where we are staying
e.ii. We are staying in a guest house of World Wide village down there.
e.ii.1. Their main guest house is 4,000 square feet, and sleeps 20 people, while they have another that sleeps 14.
e.ii.1.a. There is clean water, there is a generator for electricity, and there is good food.
e.ii.1.a.i. Listen, if I ate the food there, it’s not going to be a problem for anyone.
e.ii.1.b. They don’t have hot water or AC, but the avg high is only 85 in January.
e.ii.2. Also, the house is in a gated community with a lot of other non-profits.
e.ii.2.a. When I was there, I felt perfectly safe. You could even walk around at night by yourself.
e.ii.2.a.i. I’ve been to Mexico 3 times, and felt a lot safer in Haiti than I did in Mexico.
f. And then, one more last thought about fundraising.
f.i. The trip costs $1,050 w/o airfare, but because it’s our first year and we really want people to go, we will automatically give you $200
f.i.1. So, it’s just $850 w/o airfare.
f.i.1.a. Airfare is anywhere from 500-800.
f.ii. If you’re thinking about going, I really want you to pray about it.
f.ii.1. God can provide. If he wants you to go…he will make a way.
f.iii. If you sign-up to go, we WILL help you w/ fundraising. We will teach you how to write support letters, give you tips and suggestions (as many people raise ALL their money for trips like this through just letters),
f.iii.1. And we will give you tips on other fundraising ideas you could try on your own as well.
g. There are general info packets in the hallway from World Wide Village about what they do, and even if you are a little interested, I want to encourage you to pick one up and start praying about it.
g.i. Then, next week, we will have applications out for people who want to go
g.i.1. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask me.
i. One other quick note before we get started, and I realize, I almost never ever preface my message with information, but apparently I couldn’t help myself today.
i.i. But, DO NOT miss church next week. Next week, we will be making the biggest announcement we’ve made yet as a church, so be here for that, so you can hear it first.
II. THE PASSAGE
a. Okay, let’s get started.
a.i. We are continuing in the Book of Acts today.
a.i.1. Acts is the 5th book of the New Testament, and the story of the early church after Jesus goes back to heaven.
b. We are going to be in Acts Chapter 12 today if you have a Bible.
b.i. Or, if you have a smartphone, and weren’t here last week, I gotta tell you about the new thing we’re doing one more time because I’m so excited about it…because I’m a nerd.
b.ii. If you have the main Bible App (the one that says Holy Bible on front…it’s actually called YouVersion), open that up.
b.ii.1. (Give you a moment)…then, click LIVE
b.iii. You should see our church show up w/ today’s title: Prison Break
b.iii.1. If you open that up, you’ll see that all of today’s verses are already there for you, prayer requests, announcements and you can even give online.
c. If you don’t have a smartphone, that’s okay, we’ll still get all of this info to you on the screen, but if you do, this is amazing.
d. (Acts 12:1-19) – NIV
e. 1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 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. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 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. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 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.” 12 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. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.
e.i. Ok. So amazing story. God delivers Peter from jail and saves his life.
e.i.1. One of my favorite stories from Acts.
e.ii. We are going through the ENTIRE book of Acts at Renovation, and even though, we are mostly going to focus on the story of Peter today, there are six more verses in this chapter, so I wanted to read them to you as well
f. (Acts 12:20-25) – NIV
g. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
g.i. So, take note, if people start calling you God, you would serve yourself well to deny it.
h. One other really interesting Biblical note I wanted to touch on was concerning what the believers said to Rhoda.
h.i. When she said Peter was at the door, they said, it’s just his angel.
h.i.1. Which is fascinating for multiple reasons.
h.i.2. ONE, let’s say there is an angel at the door. Was that somehow uninteresting to them?
h.i.2.a. “Hey, um, I think there’s an angel at the door that looks like Peter.”
h.i.2.b. “Don’t bother me right now…I’m watching that new reality show with the racin’ donkeys!”
h.i.2.b.i. Um, there’s an angel at the door.
i. But it’s fascinating on another level because the Jews believed that each person had a guardian angel…and also thought the angel looked like the person.
i.i. And we see in this passage, that these Christians still held that belief.
i.i.1. This is where we get the concept of guardian angel from.
i.i.1.a. That, and Jesus says in Mt 18 that the little children’s “angels in heaven” always see the face of God.
i.ii. But, all that being said, Biblical scholars still debate as to whether people really have PERSONAL guardian angels…
i.ii.1. No Christian is seriously debating if there are angels that minister to us…Hebrews 1, tell us that
i.ii.1.a. But, the guardian angel part is a little tricky, in terms of just Bible interpretation because it was a Jewish thought of the day and we don’t see it explained anywhere else in Scripture.
i.ii.2. Was that just their Jewish cultural thought of the day or is it really like that?
i.ii.2.a. I guess we’ll find out someday…in heaven. And it’s harder to say much more than that because the Bible is relatively silent on it.
III. JAMES DIED…
a. So we have this great passage about Peter being rescued from death row.
a.i. I mean Herod, which by the way is a title like Pharaoh, or Caesar…
a.i.1. This is actually a different Herod than the one that put Jesus to death.
a.i.1.a. This Herod, is Herod Agrippa the 1st
a.i.1.a.i. It was his uncle, Herod Antipas that put John the Baptist to death and helped put Jesus to death
a.i.1.b. And it was Herod Agrippa’s GrandFather, Herod the Great who first tried to kill Jesus in Bethlehem when Jesus was a toddler.
a.ii. But, back to the story, Herod Agrippa the 1st is going to Kill Peter in the morning.
a.ii.1. But the people fervently pray for God to move, and HE DOES!
a.iii. And the most common way to look at this passage would be to talk about how God delivered Peter in answer to fervent prayer, and yes, God will deliver us too if we pray!
a.iii.1. That’s almost always how it’s addressed.
b. However, to address it like that, would be to oddly disregard the first 3 verses of the chapter.
b.i. Let’s back up a few years in history first.
b.i.1. See, when Jesus first started his ministry, and he only ministered for 3 years of his life before he was killed.
b.i.1.a. But when he first started, he picked 12 disciples.
b.ii. However, there were 3 disciples that were especially close to him and were privy to some insider events (like when Jesus was transfigured or they were praying for him in the garden)
b.ii.1. These 3 disciples were Peter, and two brothers. One, was John, who wrote the gospel of John, and the other was John’s brother, James.
b.ii.1.a. And maybe you missed it, but this whole passage started out by talking about one of the most important Christians ever. One of Jesus’ inner three.
b.ii.1.a.i. Let me read it again.
c. (Acts 12:1-3) – NIV
d. 1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
d.i. James died. They killed him.
d.i.1. They caught him, probably threw him in prison, had some “mock trial,” and killed him.
d.i.1.a. And do you think the believers prayed for him?
d.i.2. You bet they probably did. He was one of Jesus’ inner 3! I’m sure they prayed like crazy.
d.i.2.a. And did God free him from prison???!?
e. But yet, was God still in control?
f. Was God still glorified?
g. Did he still grow his church through the witness of the martyrs?
h. See, I have this weird thing that I’m trying to get over.
h.i. It’s a growing area for me.
h.ii. I’ve got this thing, whenever people are really happy about something working out for them…
h.ii.1. Say they pass a key test in school, or get a new job…it’s really common to say (and I struggle w/ this even when I see it on facebook)
h.ii.1.a. It’s really common to say, “Passed the test!” Or “Got the job!” And then add, “God is so good!”
h.ii.2. And in my critical head, I can’t help but say, “Would you have said the same thing if you didn’t get the job?
h.ii.2.a. Would God somehow be “bad” if you didn’t pass the test??
h.iii. Now, on the one hand, I need to mature, and rejoice with people, and say, “Yes! Amen! He is good!” I do.
h.iv. “But on the other hand, God’s goodness should not be based on our perceived interpretation of “how things went.”
h.iv.1. Listen, God is good because God is good.
h.v. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they replied to evil king Nebuchadnezzar something people of our current culture would do well to memorize
i. (Daniel 3:16-18) – NIV
i.i. 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
j. See…this life is about following Jesus…and following Jesus does not guarantee “happily ever after.” Not yet anyway.
j.i. Not on earth anyway.
j.ii. See, Peter was rescued, which was great, Praise God!
j.ii.1. And God used Peter to go on and do MORE great things for the church! He went out and told many more people they could be forgiven by Jesus.
j.ii.2. “But 20 years after Peter was miraculously delivered from death row, guess what happened? He was martyred. He was killed. He WASN’T delivered.”
j.iii. And you know what? God used that too. He can use martyrs. Their faith is crazy inspiring.
k. Can I tell you about a time God was really good to me?
k.i. 7 years ago, after I finished college, all I knew was that I was getting married and going to Bethel Seminary.
k.i.1. And beyond that, I was just looking for work, so I applied at a bunch of different places.
k.i.1.a. And God was so good to me because I continually just didn’t hear back from a number of them.
k.i.2. I got hired by Huntington Learning Center to be a tutor for struggling elementary students, but God was so good to me because when I asked if they could take me on full time, they said “No, we can only do like 10-15 hours a week.”
k.ii. And then, I applied for a full time librarian job.
k.ii.1. And after I had made it through multiple interviews, God was SO Good to me, and they told me no, we’re giving the job to someone else.
k.ii.1.a. And after all that, I saw a random posting about a position for a youth pastor at Constance Free Church in Andover.
k.iii. I eventually got hired, got raised up and trained at in incredible church, which in turn led me to many of the connections I have today, which in turn helped me plant this church in Blaine.
k.iii.1. And God’s been good. He was good through the whole thing.
k.iii.1.a. And I’m so thankful He brought me down THIS path rather than a different one.
k.iii.1.b. I might not have thought so at the time. But, I was wrong.
k.iv. Because God’s goodness isn’t determined by my current satisfaction with how my life is going.
k.iv.1. What’s important is that we remain faithful and obedient to God regardless of the outcome.
l. And if you feel like you’re in prison right now…
l.i. Start praying for deliverance. That God would move and get you out.
l.i.1. Free you from the things you are struggling with, the situation that you are in.
l.i.1.a. Get people praying around you…
l.i.2. But if freedom doesn’t’ come right away, don’t lose hope.
l.i.2.a. Do NOT lose hope.
l.i.2.a.i. And more importantly, don’t lose trust in Him.
IV. EXPECT GOD TO MOVE
a. But when we pray…we need to expect God to move.
a.i. Like the parable Jesus tells in Luke 18 about the widow who keeps badgering a judge to grant her justice…just constantly bothering him.
a.i.1. You should feel like you’re almost bothering God with your persistent pleas for help
a.i.1.a. Except that…you can’t bother him. He’s your loving Father.
a.ii. We need faith that prayer does something.
a.ii.1. Because prayer does do something, right? RIGHT???
b. “Sometimes I feel like the only miracle American Christians believe prayer can accomplish is somehow magically allowing unhealthy fast food to be a “blessing to their bodies.”
b.i. But if we pray, God can act. And will act.
b.ii. (James 5:16) – NLT
b.iii. 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
b.iii.1. When Moses interceded for Israel for 40 days and nights, God relented.
b.iii.2. Just the other week in Acts, when we saw Peter pray for Dorcas? What happened?
b.iii.2.a. When the believers prayed for Peter to get released? What happened?
c. Listen, God includes that part of the story about the believers praying.. for a reason! Think about that.
c.i. He could have just had the passage be about Him sending an angel to free Peter.
c.i.1. But God shows us Himself responding to the believers’ prayers.
d. And I wish I could go more into depth on this, but I don’t mean to sound contradictory.
d.i. Does the Bible say that God is completely in control? Yes.
d.ii. Does the Bible say that our prayers matter? Yes.
d.ii.1. That’s a message for another time, but PRAYER DOES SOMETHING!!!
e. Let me ask you a question: When you pray, do you really expect God to move?
e.i. Seriously. When you pray for God to reach your friend, for God to free you from addiction, or get you help from addiction, when you pray for a relationship, you name it, when you pray, do you honestly expect Him to move?
e.i.1. To do something? Whether it’s what you want or not?
e.ii. I’m not sure we’re so great at that honestly.
f. We need PASSION in prayer!
g. “Part of the problem of our new postmodern age is people are so accepting of everything that they are passionate about nothing.”
g.i. And if you combine that with our obsession with consumerism and “entertain me” syndrome…all the things we fight so hard as a church at Renovation to not be…
h. But yet, they are in our culture…and when you combine lack of passion with a “I’ll take 5 of those and give them to be now” lifestyle…you get a group of people who don’t understand passionate prayer.
h.i. Because A) we don’t believe enough in the first place.
h.ii. and B), we don’t have the patience to ENDURE in prayer.
i. It makes me think of the people who prayed for me before I became a Christian at 18.
i.i. I think of my best friend Jake Pearson’s mom…and how she kept praying for me despite knowing that I was most likely corrupting her teenage son.
i.i.1. But what if she would have went, “Well, looks like God’s not being very “Good” today. Looks like God’s not moving in David’s life. Oh well, I guess I’ll pray for someone else.”
i.i.1.a. NO. Prayer is not a one-touch, quick-stop, easy fix solution.
i.i.2. Prayer is a battle that we fight. And it’s a fight worth battling for. Worth enduring for. Is it not??
j. I look at my friends, my family, who are in need, or worse yet, don’t know Christ.
j.i. They are in “prison” right now.
j.i.1. So, when should I give up? When should I declare, “God’s not good right now.” Tell me, when should I stop praying?!?
j.i.1.a. Do we believe God can do it?
k. Peter wasn’t released from prison right away.
k.i. God didn’t move until the very night before he was supposed to die.
k.i.1. But he moved.
k.ii. Do you believe God can move if you pray?
l. Sometimes when we pray, even though we DO actually pray, we don’t really believe it.
l.i. And our passage today is a great example of that.
l.i.1. Even though the believers were fervently praying for Peter’s release, when Peter actually showed up, many of them refused to believe he was there.
l.ii. And we want to say to them…, “WAIT! Let me get this straight…you were just praying…for days…with crazy fervent passion…that God would release your leader and friend…but when God brought him to your house, you were like, “Nah…couldn’t be Him.”
l.ii.1. WHAT?!? Why not? Why not?
l.ii.1.a. If it couldn’t be him, than what the heck were you praying for?!?
m. And sometimes I think we pray like that. We pray for healing or for salvation for someone only because we “should.”
m.i. And once in a while we are, like the believers in this passage, pleasantly surprised.
m.i.1. But, remember, you worship the God of the UNIVERSE.
m.i.1.a. Let’s start praying like He’s the God of the Universe and not some nice guy down the street who occasionally does favors for his neighbors.
n. So trust in God. Trust in Him like crazy. With all your heart. And believe that He can move.
n.i. And most of all believe that he is Good. Because He is.
n.i.1. Let’s pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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