Friday, November 24, 2006

Acts 13:1~5 The Modern Missionary Era

The Modern Missionary era really started back in the 1700’s when a man would board a sailing ship at the docks of Liverpool, England, wave good-bye to his family and literally sail off into the sun set—never to be seen alive again. On the six to 12 month trip to the foreign shore, he might met a young woman going to the same shore, seeing that it would be better as a couple than as a single and seeing that he did not find anyone willing to go with him, here was a warm blooded female already going that way so he would ask the Captain of the ship married them; she would conceive, give birth and maybe even live long enough to see the first foreign national she was called to reach for the Gospel before dying along with her new born.

Usually, by following the example of this chapter, ‘teams’ of two or more would go together to the foreign field. Many had very little money and the prospects for raising more fund from the home front was slim to none. Some had a very rude medical education; some were well versed in the Holy Bible, but with no idea of how to present that Gospel to a pagan people group. There were strange stories told by seamen who had the first contact with the natives. They were a wild bunch, prone to killing, drinking and a general evil life style. And that was the seaman! ;-)

Some of the early missionaries were from the elite side of society. Wealthy men and women with a desire to serve their Lord to the end without any care as they turned away from the powerful, carefree life of their homeland. C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was an English missionary who faithfully served His Savior in China, India, and Africa. His motto was: "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873), Scottish doctor and missionary, considered one of the most important European explorers of Africa, also pioneering the abolition of the slave trade. He reached many 1,000s with the Gospel. David Brainard (1747), well-known missionary in the American Indians:
"I am going into eternity; and it is sweet to me to think of eternity; the endlessness of it makes it sweet. But oh! What shall I say of the future of the wicked! The thought is too dreadful!"
On January 8, 1956, five missionaries (Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian) were killed by the Waorani Indians (referred to at the time as the Auca Indians of Ecuador). Amy Carmichael 1867 – 1951 was known as the Rescuer of India’s children. Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said;
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unsprayed for.”
Certainly, you can’t talk about the Missionary movement without speaking of the Father of Missions, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, in the 1700’s. He was known as the Count Without Borders as he encouraged many hundreds to follow the Lord’s command to God and preach the Gospel.

Many others left a trail of pain and blood for others to follow. But there is also the trail of countless new beginnings. Men and women, boys and girls who were once living in darkness had come to the Glorious Light of the Gospel of Jesus. Now set free and forgiven, they in turn leave their homes of relative safety and enter areas that their Grandfathers would enter only to fight, kill and get even. Now, they are warriors of a different kind. Soldiers of the Cross--&--Followers of Jesus.
Acts 13 is the crucial point for the Church. Look at just what they did and how they went about doing it.

First, Luke shows us that the Church there in Antioch was well established. They knew their people and they knew what their people were capable of doing. Best part of all, they knew what their God was capable of doing. All that we have looked at so far in this study of Acts was well in their hearts and memory. Miracles of healing, freedom from jail, incredible growth, persecution that was unparalleled. And they saw a need outside their own community. They did not get tired of their fellowship, but needs were so much greater OUT THERE!

Secondly, they were working within their Spiritual Gifts. There were prophets and there were teachers. There were five men identified who had these special gifts. They were being readied for His service.

Thirdly, they had an international group. Know of any churches like that? Barnabas was from Crete. Simeon was most likely from Africa and was most likely the man the Roman soldiers forced to help carry Jesus’ cross back in Mark 15:21. This could be the SAME person! (Also see Romans 16:13 were Simon’s sons are also spoken about; Rufus and Alexander.) Then there was a Lucius of Cyrene who was both a Christian teacher at Antioch (Acts 13:1), and Paul's kinsman (Rom. 16:21). His name was Latin, but his birthplace seems to indicate that he was one of the Romans of Cymene, in North Africa. (Libya) Both men were most likely back. Manaen, who in his youth was chosen as a companion to a prince, Herod. Even Saul who was a Pharisee was from Tarsus.

~Some of the above material comes from the study on Biblical People of Color © 1998 by David Humpall.~

Today, this same kind of function—that of being a cross-cultural pioneer church planting among un-reached people’s groups is still a high calling. Check out Romans 15:20; 1 Cor 12:28; 2 Tim 1:11
Romans 15:20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.
1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
2 Timothy 1:11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

Fourthly, the men were in worship. This is where God speaks to His people. When we are close to Him, we can hear His voice better. Think about it! Think back when you were cold to the things of God, you were feeling a divide—a separation in your relationship with your Heavenly Father. When you were not reading His Word, you were not able to draw from His Power. When you were prayerless, you were not even talking with Him. Here, not only were they worshiping, they were also engaging in one of the Spiritual Disciplines of fasting. They were seeking the Heart of God and God was moving them to do so.

And while they were worshiping and fasting—for a time, the Spirit of God spoke to them! When all other sounds were gone…they could hear God—just like with Isaiah.
Isa 6: 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted… … 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (NIV)

How does the Spirit of God direct the Missionary Operation?

Look at the timing here. Verse 2 starts with “While they were worshiping…” And verse 3 starts with “So after they had fasted and prayed…” What went on between two and three? God spoke. As He did in Genesis; He spoke and there was creation! Here, the Spirit of God moved those early men of God to send out as their first Church missionaries. They placed their hands on them and sent them out!

And where did they go? Remember when we first meet Barnabas? Where was he from? Acts 4:36 "And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas … a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race…”

They went to Barnabas’ home island. For these new missionaries, they did not have to go to language school. In some cultures, language school takes about three to six months. In other places, it takes a lifetime.

The goals were the same then as they are today. Verse 5 “when they arrived…they proclaimed the Word of God.” Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And they had a helper in the person of Mark, who was in Mary’s prayer meeting during the imprisonment of Peter. Just a point here: it is far better to go in a team than by one self.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work

Getting back to one of the basics of Spiritual Formation, or Discipleship, we will need to ask an important question: Is worship part of the Believer’s practice? The answer is “Yes.” What about the other element that was in this chapter, the element of fasting? What is the purpose of fasting? (See Handout)

One purpose of fasting could be to withdraw as far as possible from the pull and control of the world system and cause oneself to be open to the commands from the heart of God. Exodus 34:28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.

Luke 2: 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. In both verses, both Moses and Anna were seeking special particular guidance. In both situations, the Lord showed them His heart. Not to be used to force God’s Hand!

Well, was it only the leadership that needed to do this as in Moses or were the whole church participants in this endeavor? In this case, and that of Acts 6:1-7 when they were choosing seven men to aid the widows, the leadership seemed to be the ones doing it BUT the leaders were doing this in front of the entire Body.
How is one called to service? Who sends the missionary out to do the work of the Gospel? God sends the sent-out-ones via two crucial and matching means: The personal, inward calling to the person and the outward confirmation through the resident church.

The Church Releases the Workers:

There were no assessments of the two sent-out-ones. They had seen them work in their area for over one year. They had been sent to Antioch from the Mother Church in Jerusalem to strengthen the baby church. The Word of God states: 1 Tim. 3:10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve…

To give these men a great sendoff, they covered them with prayer, fasting and the laying on of hands. Both the local church and these men worked together in an act of solidarity both to commission them as an outreach of their own fellowship but also and commend them to God’s Grace and blessing.

The local church had cultural diversity and was spiritually gifted. They had sensitive and obedient leaders who were willing to let go some of their best men to do this hard work of evangelism. As a local church ourselves, what is our roll in World Evangelism? Can we just send money and pray for missionaries like Hiroko Yamashita? Or are we getting ready some people to go out from us as the early church did at Antioch?

Over the years at ICCS, we placed on our handouts each week, this phrase: “A Place To Worship God.” As long as we kept the fist things first and kept worship central, we grew.

Recently, after looking at how the Lord had moved us in ministry, I have seen that He touched us in three areas: Restoring Hurts, Reaffirming Faith and Reconfirming Commitment.
If we keep this going, we will both help in the healing of many who have been hurt and redirect their hearts to the Lord of All Mercy and Comfort. How does this happen, you ask? He wants to touch your heart in an Eternal Way, by having us:
Affirm His nearness in your heart.
Visualize God’s presence in your mind.
Renewal of your mind
Access God’s nearness through prayer, Talk with Him/by yourself and in community
Reflect His presence in our behavior. Walk/talk/act as His Child/ Just as you received Christ Jesus-so walk in Him.What would Jesus do? You do the same…Next week: Christmas talks start!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

When the Bad dies… Acts 12:19-25

We will start off where we ended last week. Peter had been put in jail and was scheduled to bebeheaded after the holidays. Herod felt it was a grand idea and one that would put him in good companywith the Jewish leaders. But God stepped in and freed Peter from certain death. God had used theprayers of the believers at Mary’s house. In fact, they were shocked that Peter was freed; they really didnot even believe their own eyes! Peter told them what had happened and then took off to hidesomewhere in Jerusalem. The church was pleased and encouraged and so should we. Many times, Godanswers our prayers well beyond our own understanding.

In fact, Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you,whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Ephesians 3:20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,

And, again: James 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubtsis like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.But when you do ask, we may not really believe. We need to work on that, don’t we?

Our prayers need to go well beyond what we pray and be open to what He wants to do and give. Intruth, the Fellowship there at Mary’s house needed to grow up in their understanding of the power ofprayer as much as we need to grow up. Seek Him while He is near and speak to Him. Be confident andtrust Him for the outcome.

In that time in Acts, the Church needed to give respect and honor to those who rule over them. Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.We are to pray for those who rule over us as well. For the government leaders, civic and social,religious and those who are over us in our families. We need to pray for them and not rebel. There is a‘safety net’ over us that the government provides. But the demand of total loyalty could turn to totalopposition when the State faces believers who are confessing, “Jesus is Lord of ALL!”Over all things. In

Ephesians 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him tobe head over everything for the church. All through human history, we can see certain governments who oppose Christian teaching and doctrine. This story in Acts SHOULD give us confidence today and would let the non-believers know that the State cannot stop the growth of the Church.

ILL: China, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia.They brought pain & Death to some of the faithful but they could NOT destroy ALL the remnant! TheBattle belongs to the Lord. His right Hand=Power & Righteousness.

How do we respond when the bad die?

When we watch movies, read novels and watch TV, when the bad are gaining power, we kind of know that the good would win in the end. When the movie/book or TV show ends with the bad winning, we feel –violated. The Good Should Always Win—we feel. But sometimes, it does not. Not at that time andspace. Psalm 73:11-18We tend to look for the good ending in things—in life and when it does not happen, we tend to feellet down. Let down by God, by reality, in life. We want the ability to re-write the end of the story. Here is Acts 12:19, we see that power—complete power can lead a man to murder. Herod had power of life anddeath. When the guards woke to find that their prisoner was GONE you can well imagine how they felt!They were responsible for the well-being of the one they were guarding. If that person had escaped, thentheir very life would be on the line. Herod interrogates the 16 guards (guarded with four squads of foursoldiers each, rotating in three-hour shifts at night) and finds no real explanation of the missing Peter, sohe has them killed. Who cares? Do you care if men die? Does God? Because God places value on Life all life!

In Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasurein the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evilways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'If He cares, should we also care? In the real world, there are so many who die each day. Shouldwe morn for all those people as well? I don’t think so, but we should care. We are to be praying for thelost so that they could hear and place their trust in the Savior. Even in this account, it does not say it, but the Fellowship does not seem to loose sleep over their death.Herod has the power of life and death yet he lacks something very crucial. Remember, Powerwithout authority is kin to mob rule. If one is to have authority, he should show that his power is gauged byhow he response to outside pressure. Here, Herod just drives away. He lacks the real power of leading:Mercy.Herod travels to the administrative capital of Judea—Caesarea, on the coast of the Med. Sea.Those who live there are in deep need of the grain of Judea.

From Ezek 27:17 " 'Judah and Israel tradedwith you; they exchanged wheat from Minnith and confections, honey, oil and balm for your wares.” Welearn that the trade between these to areas has been going on for a long time. There was some form ofconflict between him and the people of Trye and Sidon. It was very necessary for them to work somepositive arrangement out as they needed the King’s food supply. Ever hear the old saying “Don’t bite thehand that feeds you”?They had worked their way into Herod’s very household by befriending the trusted personal servant ofHerod, Blastus. He was his chamberlain. Close to the King, he could speak with him all the time. Thecity folk got to the king thru this man. We don’t know what the full problem was nor what measures Herodtook to displease the two cities but they were very concerned. Have you asked for peace? Has therebeen a division between you and another? Here are the steps to reconciliation and restoration.

Patterns of Confrontation- Matthew 18:15-17; Gal 6:1.
Requirements of Forgiving- Pray- Matt 5:44; Love-Matt 5:44;
Carry Each Others Burden- Gal 6:2;
Goal of Forgiving- Rom 12:21;
As the Lord forgave you…- Matt 18:33.

Herod was at the top of his power. Not only had Rome ‘given’ him all of Judea but also he had theright to bring pressure on the surrounding communities for taxes. On the day of this peace talk, which wasalso the day to honor Caesar with some sport games, he came to the theater wearing his best cloths.Josephus reports “clad in a garment woven completely of silver so that its texture was indeed wondrous,he entered the theatre at daybreak. There the silver, illumined by the touch of the first rays of the sun, waswondrously radiant and by its glitter inspired fear and awe in those who gazed intently upon it." Thetheater seats faced west. No wonder that as Herod addressed the assembly, which included the populaceof Caesarea as well as the delegation from Tyre and Sidon, they cried out, “This is the voice of a god, andnot of a man.”Herod does not refuse this claim. He rather likes it! Flattery kills the cat! He breaks the first two commandments. Herod does not give glory to God but keeps it to himself. He received the worship of thepeople. He made himself the object of false worship. God brings fast and painful punishment to him.Immediately an angel of the Lord strikes him down and worms eat him. He experiences pain in the heartand stomach—bleeding from a perforated appendix, combined with intestinal roundworms, ten to sixteeninches long. (Bunches of these can obstruct the intestines, causing severe pain, copious (abundant)vomiting and finally death.) This excruciating condition continues for five days until he dies.All people everywhere, must be duly warned by Herod’s arrogant attitude. The Lord of all is Lord of all. He will not share His Glory with another.

Isa. 42:8 "I am the LORD; that is My name! I will not give My Glory to another or My praise to idols.;Isa. 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will notyield My Glory to another.This is worth looking at. How does that fit in with my life? Do I allow certain things into my life thattake Glory away from the Lord. What sorts of idols do I hold onto that would prevent His blessing to flowinto my life. What sort of glory do we give to another?“Ding dong, the wicked king is dead.” And the next few verse tells us how the early Christianshandled that news.The worms ate King Herod but the Holy Spirit continued to increase and spread. The World Systemcannot keep the Power of God down. It may appear at times to be that way, but never fear, His Spirit ishere! And with that bit of news: When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.Herod was cut off after only four years of rule but the Spirit of God and the work of His Churchknows no such incompleteness in any aspect. The two men had finished their work and went home, bringyoung Mark with them.
Is our work over?
Is it done?
Are we taking off and going home?

I dare say, NO. Many need theGood News and we are the ones to bring it to them. We all need to work at extending forgiveness so theLord will forgive us of our sins.The Bad die but the Righteous keeps on working.

According to your prayers” Acts 12:1~19

“ 11/12/06
What goes on when we pray?It starts not at the point of saying “Dear Lord…” or in the space of where we are standing or sitting. It starts in the heavenlies! It really starts in the heart of God and there is very little we really know about it there EXCEPT that if His Spirit moves to touch you to pray about something, that is on His heart. We are to know Him and to enjoy Him forever. Must if not all of that knowing comes first from Him as He gives us the heart, the desire, the will, and the way to hear His Heart on any issues or topics.It really started in His Heart and His Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us on our behalf.

Romans 8:26-27 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the Mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

Here we have a situation where the Church Body is in one accord—praying for all they are worth, for the life of one of their own. James had already been taken by King Herod and put him to death with the sword. (See Mark 10:39)

Herod really was a lousy leader as he was prone to fits of anger, unjust punishment, murder, and all sorts of things we don't like in a political person. He was the puppet leader set up in Judea to rule and pressure the Jewish nation into some form of order. Interestingly, he was the grandson of the man who tried to kill Jesus after His birth in Bethlehem. He was the nephew of Herod the Tetrarck who killed John the Baptist. He had grown up in the royal surroundings of Rome. When he was sent to Judea, he maintained the Peace of Rome while observed the Jewish practices in a pious mode.The death of James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John was a deep blow to the Christian community.

It was only about ten years after the Resurrection of Jesus that this happened. The Body was pretty tight; mostly Jewish, related tone another, in some situations and had a common history. It seemed clear to the community that Herod has found this death to be pleasing to the Jewish leaders. Remember that some of them felt that mixing with non-Jews was worthy of death. Some felt that even sitting with a non-Jew was worthy of death. Here in Jerusalem, the followers of ‘the way’ were now doing that very thing ALL the time. Herod saw it as a political move to better his chances in lasting out in the death hole of a kingdom.Dr Luke had already showed us that the world of the Satan's control is directly related to political governance.

Luke 4:6-during the temptation of Jesus and later during His arrest in the Garden Luke 22:53. Darkness reigns at these times. We hear about it all over the news when people, who live in darkness, strike out against those who live in the light.Iran: A 19-year-old believer serving in the army was arrested for evangelizing and tortured for two days. They released him after he signed a written confession that he would no longer evangelize. He is emotionally distraught.ERITREA (eratreeya) Police Arrest 150 More Christians – Compass DirectIn a large-scale roundup in late October, Eritrean authorities have detained 150 Christians from at least five of the country's outlawed churches.

Starting October 25, security officers in the town of Mendefera began going from house to house, arresting local Christians from a list they compiled of known members of Pentecostal churches and the Orthodox renewal movement.TURKEY: Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, joined the ranks of 97 other Turkish citizens hauled into court in the last 16 months over alleged violations of the country's controversial Article 301, restricting freedom of speech. If convicted, the accused could be sentenced from six months to three years.IRAQ Assyrian Christian Boy Beheaded A news service has reported that Muslim militants in Baqouba, Iraq, beheaded a 14-year-old Assyrian boy, Ayad Tariq, on October 21.This is going on right now in our world. Spiritual darkness is in control of political leaders and law enforcement agencies. Jesus warned us that its power would be used against us. Luke 12:11-12 11 "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

"Luke 21:12-19 12 "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.When the time comes, will we stand for the Lord Jesus as our Lord, realizing that sooner of later we will pay the dear price so many have already paid for the sake of the Gospel. We have much to learn from those who are going through hard times under the oppression of totalitarian rulers. So, when you pray, do you think about these things? Maybe we should. Luke is a good writer. Look how he hangs two separate items out that really cover each other. “so Peter was kept in prison…but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” This prayer was really not just a short one liner but the text suggests that it indicates duration—fervent prayer!

Like the kind of prayer Jesus used in the garden in Luke 22:44 “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Or the kind of prayer that Peter (interestingly that HE would use that same kind of word in 1 Peter 1:22 “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”This kind of prayer for Peter was deep, it was united and it was long lasting—well into the night.Problem was: they did not really believe in the Power of Prayer!

Here is the story, as I see it: (retell the story)And here is the situation at Mary's house, as I see it: (Retell)There is a non-connect here! Even Peter didn't catch it during the prison escape! And he was walking thru it in real time! He thought he was seeing a vision. He was OK with that. Once he came to himself, he said “Oh, now I can see it all clearly!” So he went to his support team. He knew, didn't he that the Family would be in prayer for him. Maybe, he was at that very house when James was taken. Maybe that is why he didn't stay there after the explanation. (It wasn't like they could really hide!)So when this had dawned on him, he went to the one place he could find support; and the door was shut on him! Been there? It hurts when you think that this friend really understands me and will support me and they don't. That we may feel that by going back to a location that was significant to my growth might be the very thing to jump-start the heart again—and it doesn't. What can we learn from that?

The SS answer is the right answer here. It is only in Jesus that we can find the right kind of ear to hear our concerns and pain. Only Jesus is the one who can really hold you up during the hardships of life. You could say that you tried and the problems are still there. You may have to need to keep knocking. Peter did.Once he was in jail, Acts indicates that the Family started and kept up the prayer support. Peter seemed a little at rest in the jail cell. He was sleeping—and doing that 1) the night before his death and 2) between armed guards who had NO sympathy at all for him or his cause. He might have had some prayer time before light out but it does not say here. The ones who were knocking on Heaven’s doors were the men and women in Mary's house. They kept on knocking in prayer all night long. This kind of prayer is much needed today—even here at ICCS.

When was the last time we spent any deep time in prayer as a church family? If deep, extended, fervent, united prayer is not our Church's FIRST line of defense in times of crisis, the Body might be depending on something or someone other than God for the outcome. Giving, serving, leading, teaching, singing, witnessing —all these are good and have their place in this Chapel, but what about the prayer support. There are times, when I come up to the front, I feel beaten already. It might have been a word of discouragement I heard before the service started, or something I am personally dealing with. I know that my words are not that powerful to keep us all in the Faith. It is my intent to be open and honest with you—as much as possible.

But, I need to know of your prayers for me and for the Work of His Spirit here at ICCS.While outside, Peter was doing another kind of knocking: on the door of Mary's gate. Both were knocking yet both could not get thru. Why?On Peter's side: unbelief that God could release Peter from jail, they could not accept the fact of him being there. “No, it is really me! Let me in or they will find me and jail me again!” And on the family's side: unbelief that God could release Peter from jail, they could not accept the fact of him being there.Same reasons. They were praying but they did not really believe. Can you understand where they were coming from? Of all people, James was now dead! He had taken over as the head person of the Apostles and gave “The Way” some leadership with the question of non-Jewish believers. He was their head Pastor. And now he is dead. They have locked themselves in rooms much like they did back at the day of Pentecost. And like then, the Power of God's Spirit was much bigger and more powerful than they could even dream of. He broke the WOW factor big time back there and He is doing it again with Peter's release.Poor servant girl! Can't you just feel for her? “Wow, it's Peter! And he is just outside the gate! We have a wonderful Lord to deliver him from Jail….” But she forgot to open the door!Ever forget to open the door? Meaning: ever not allow the answer to come in? Meaning: ever not open your heart to the answer you have asked for because it did not look like the answer you were seeking? You were asking for white and you got green! You were asking Him to move the other person and He started to change you! Why?Warren’s quote.He is interested in YOU. Not that we need to get all ME-centered! As the servant girl Rhoda recognized Peter's voice, but did not act on the voice, are we able to recognize God's Voice and respond by opening the door of our heart and will?I find that the last thing Peter said to his Family before he went into hiding again was very significant. Just like when Jesus said to him in Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."I believe Peter remembered those words and he wanted to encourage James, the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18) and the brothers with this news. God is still on the throne.In truth, no matter what happens in your life, whatever hardships fall your way; He is still on the throne.

From those in northern Hokkaido who are suffering from the strange wind that destroyed their homes to you in your family pains, He is still on the Throne and IS ABLE to handle ANY situation BECAUSE He is the Lord, Almighty. That is His Name!Next week: When the Bad Die.