Acts 12:6-11 Video Devotional

“Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:6-11)

By now, Herod was getting tired of these newly formed Christians making such a noise. It was an annoyance to him, and he was no friend of God. Thus, Herod decided to turn up the heat on those agitators. After killing James, the brother of John, Herod got approval from the Jews and began his pursuit of Peter, arresting him.

This side of heaven, we will never know why people like James was allowed to be martyred and others like Peter were rescued, so all we can do is trust in God’s plan. But, regardless, it is clear here (again) that the Holy Spirit is working full force for the glory of Christ and the building of His church. Peter was in prison and completely helpless. And throughout the course of his rescue, he thought he was dreaming! God was running the show and putting people exactly where He wanted them. Again, we aren’t able to understand why some live and some don’t, but we do know that God is good all the time and that all the time, God is good. Therefore, he choice to rescue Peter (but not James) is the right choice for the best of everyone.

Peter is rescued, purely by the power of the Holy Spirit and winds up on the street, safe and sound. He then went to Mary’s house where they thought they were seeing Peter as an angel. There was significant cause for concern in regards to Herod’s persecution, and while they trusted in God, the early disciples were right to be wary of Herod’s efforts to eradicate the faith. Yet God still has His plan, and Herod, shortly thereafter, was struck down by an angel of the Lord.

God is moving the pieces around an opening up an opportunity for Paul to meet Agrippa (Herod’s successor) and share Jesus with him. Though we don’t tend to understand all of what God is doing and allowing, His plan is complete and perfect and good. And we can trust in that.

Acts 7:54-60 Video Devotional

“Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60)

Things got serious. The Jewish Council had been wringing their hands with Peter and John and the other apostles, but with Stephen they took their chance to ratchet up their response. His boldness and courage to be blatant and direct to the council was powerful and life-changing for many. Unfortunately, some of those lives were changed for the worse as they turned into murderers. This situation not only killed a hero of the faith (and our first recorded martyr of the New Testament), it also instituted a wave of persecution that led to an event called the Great Dispersion. It’s also worth noting here that one of the leaders of this persecution (at least, initially) was Saul; one who would become a hero of our faith.

The Great Dispersion is the third of three major “scatterings” recorded in the Bible. First was the Tower of Babel, then the exile from the promised land, and now this. Flowing from Jesus’ last command, however, it got the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome and out to the ends of the earth. It was a horrific event, but beneficial in a few ways: 1) it led to internal spiritual change in many people once they lost the comforts of home and were forced to fully rely on God, and 2) it pushed the gospel out of Jerusalem.

Major crisis such as this are things that no one wishes to experience, but often are remembered as important points to their individual story. This is because it pushes people deeper. You can’t experience a tragedy like this or a horrifying encounter of persecution and not be changed. Our hope is that when those happen (which unfortunately they do) you are drawn closer to the God of justice and goodness that is working this out for the good of those who love Him.

Acts 5:27-32 Video Devotional

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:27-32)

The Holy Spirit was on the move. In every way – enacting justice, breathing life into death, convicting people of their sin, and performing miracles upon miracles. The apostles have figured out the best thing to do was let the Spirit run free and follow. Lives were changing and many were taking notice.

The problem is, when the Holy Spirit works, many do take notice, and there are plenty of those that don’t like what they see. They look at the Spirit’s work as a problem to be solved and a situation to be ended. Evil is no fan of the Spirit and fear becomes palpable when evil is confronted with the power of God. When evil is afraid, it gets vicious.

The Jewish council continued to see the Spirit’s work among the Jews and took offense. They saw their way being challenged and them being called to responsibility for the death of Jesus. Bringing in Peter and John only made it worse for them, as it gave Peter the perfect chance to make known who is in control – Jesus. They must obey God rather than men.

This reply only served to make the council more angry and develop a desire to kill these men. Peter and John were certainly not looking for a confrontation and to enrage the council. This statement was led by a humble boldness through the leading of the Holy Spirit to be truthful. But when people see themselves as threatened, it is easy to see why they reacted the way they did.

Why is this important now? Because there are a lot of things people are looking for us to respond to. Can we speak truth into situations with grace and light so that people know it is not us that is talking, but the Spirit? I think so. But we have to obey God first – if we aren’t listening to Him, we won’t have the opportunities to speak about Him.

As Gamaliel says later in the chapter, “if it is from God, it cannot be stopped”. Are you willing to obey and see where this journey takes you? It will be dangerous, but good, for He is dangerous and thankfully good. Don’t miss the boat.

Philippians 4:10-14 Video Devotional

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” (Philippians 4:10-14)

In the previous verses, Paul had just laid down his challenge, which was to focus on Christ and on the good. Turning things personal, Paul recaps the main point of the letter (participating with Christ means participating in His suffering for the sake of the gospel) by sharing how his hardships are teachers for him in his own personal growth. He knows he can be content and face any situation, because, in Christ, he can do all things.

The 13th verse here is famously misunderstood the world around. So many times this verse hangs in weight rooms, ball parks, motivational signage and anywhere else people want to “succeed”. There is a similar problem with Jeremiah 29:11 – so I know the plans I have for you; plans for a hope and a future… The problem is that God was telling the Israelites that while they were heading into exile in Babylon. Paul is not claiming Christ’s strength to win a prize; he is calling on Christ’s strength to thrive through the enormous challenges of his current situation.

He can face prison, persecution, pain. He can deal with fighting, fear, and fakers. Regardless of the situation he is in, Paul is prepared because the strength of Christ is in him – because Christ is in him through the Holy Spirit. We can face pandemic, panic, and even poverty, because we are citizens of Heaven!

Please share in the comments what you are enjoying most about this quarantine. What brings your heart contentment during this time?