Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Prison Break

Acts 12

Have you ever been in a scrape? I don't mean almost slipping off the sidewalk on some ice - but I mean a real scrape, where you weren't sure if you were going to make it out alive?\r
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The closest I ever came, apart from a couple of car accidents - was February 2nd, 1996. I got a call in the middle night. A family was caught, the voice on the other end of the phone said, in flood waters along the North Santiam River east of Salem. My photographer, Rod, was already on his way. I clambered out of bed and, bleary-eyed, got dressed and drove down the road in my Plymouth Acclaim.\r
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As I drove up the canyon I realized things were not as they should be. The rain was falling - and had been falling. And the temperature, right after a freeze, was positively balmy. It was dark, very dark - so dark, in fact that I barely saw the tree in front of me, blocking the road. I should have seen that as a sign and turned around right then and there. But I didn't.\r
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I got out, and somehow moved the tree out of the way and continued my journey. Soon I realized that all the water frozen on the ground, all the water falling from the sky, was trying to make its way downhill all at once. Soon little trickles became rushing torrents. The road ahead was covered with such a spontaneous creek. The water had dragged rocks and branches and stuff over the road. I sped up a little and dodged rocks and didn't dodge others - but made it across. \r
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Then I came to another and another place where water blocked my path. I thought about what it would be like to be pushed into the North Santiam river far below - my car with me in it sinking into the brown muck. \r
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I finally came to snow and realized I had gone as far as I could. I still had not reached the rescue scene. I turned on my police scanner and heard someone say to get everyone out as quickly as possible - that this was a dangerous situation. I turned around and headed back - realizing that the roads were probably in even worse shape than when I came through the first time. No, my life didn't flash before my eyes - but I wasn't really sure - alone and in the dark, how I was going to get out.\r
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Well, today we find our friend Peter in a scrape - one from which there probably was no escape. Or was there?\r
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Vs 1 - 5\r
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Vs. 1\r
Herod Agrippa: son of Aristobulus, grandson of Herod the Great, the one who had John the Baptist beheaded. The Roman Emperor Caligula put Herod over many territories in the mideast, including Judea and Samaria. \r
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Vs. 2 \r
This James was the son of Zebedee, brother of the Apostle John - the disciples famous for the request to sit at Jesus' right and left hands that we find in Matthew 20:23. This was not James the brother of Jesus. It is interesting because Jesus asked the brothers if they could drink His cup. Here now, one of them does suffer death for Christ's sake.\r
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Do we become disillusioned when those around us fall or suffer attack? John kept going even though his brother was murdered.\r
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Vs 3-4\r
Herod thought that by killing James and Peter he could wipe out this rapidly growing sect. 4 squads of 4 soldiers. Each squad would have taken turns for each three hour watch of the night. \r
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Vs 5 - 10\r
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So imagine yourself in Peter's place. It is pitch black, you are locked up in a cold dungeon and know that Herod intends to kill you the next morning. Though guards are all around you - you feel utterly alone.\r
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But Peter was not alone. It says the church was praying - and not just praying a little. The Greek word signifies fervor, earnestness, and perseverance. This is the same word used by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.\r
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And you really aren't alone. There are people praying for you earnestly - that God will rescue you. \r
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Vs 6\r
Peter's right wrist was chained to the left wrist of one guard, his left wrist to the right wrist of the other guard. It's amazing that Peter slept. How much peace do you have in severe trials? Were the guards asleep too?\r
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Vs 7 \r
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It may have been pitch black in the prison cell. \r
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Peter, by the way, did not know he was about to get rescued. Yet he slept - so soundly that the angel had to knock him on the side to get him up. Wow, what a deep sleeper (unlike me). But what peace Peter had in the midst of this storm. Would we sleep deeply? Could we sleep at all? \r
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I remember being at the Oregon State Pen, waiting for the execution of Douglas Wright - a man who lured young men from the streets of Portland - killed then buried them in Central Oregon. I wondered what went through his mind in those waning hours towards his appointment with death. I wonder what Peter must have been thinking - he could have doubted his effectiveness for the kingdom, now that he was about to die. He could be wondering where God was with him in prison. Yet he slept.\r
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Or maybe he was thinking of:\r
Ps 4:8\r
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.\r
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You're in a jam - its dark, there's no way out, no one to comfort you - death waiting at the door. Remember - God can see in the dark. \r
Ps 139:12 "Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."\r
And God can see clearly in your darkest trial - your worst jam. He sees the way out.\r
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Sometimes we get out of prison like Peter - sometimes we get stoned like Stephne a few chapters back - but God is always with us.\r
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Vs 10 \r
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The door opened by itself. God allows us to see only what we need to see. Undoubtedly an angel opened the door, but Peter only saw one angel. In fact, there may have been angels all over that place - but Peter saw only one. We see the hand of God only when He wants us to.\r
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For us, when we feel caught in a prison God shows up when we don't expected it. \r
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He tells you to "get up" get moving - don't just lie there and let it happen, I'm doing something\r
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As you move in obedience to God's command the chains fall off - they could be chains of sin, or of indifference or lack of knowledge or lack of faith - but they are holding you back.\r
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Then you have to move out of the prison - the angel didn't just transport Peter - but he had to walk - so we have to walk in the freedom God has given us - out of our prisons.\r
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Vs 11 - 17\r
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Angelos means: messenger. The Jews thought that every person had a guardian angel and that angels often took the form of men. So it is not surprising that they told Rhoda: it is his angel. \r
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What is surprising is that they didn't realize God was answering their prayers.\r
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How often do we send up a prayer - even an earnest prayer, then just ignore it and don't expect God to do anything.\r
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Is anything too preposterous for God to answer? \r
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Expect an answer when you pray. \r
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When he does you need to give Him glory. And, make sure you answer the door.\r
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Vs 18 - 25\r
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According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod went before the people dressed in robes made entirely of silver. He experienced an extreme pain in his stomach and was carried to his palace where, after five days, he died. This took place in 44 AD\r
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In verse 24 we find the perfect end to the story of this chapter: "the Word of God continued to increase and spread."\r
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Herod had limited success in killing James - and thought he could do the same with Peter. In doing so he sought to destroy not only these men but the whole church. But in the end it was he himself that was destroyed - and God's plans not only continued but flourished.\r
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We must take hope that no matter what faces us - no matter how powerful or vile the enemy - God's plans cannot be foiled. \r
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Conclusion:\r
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3 Areas:\r
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Peace\r
Jesus said: John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."\r
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Here we see Peter sleeping in a terrible trial. During Jesus life we see Him sleep through a storm. God does want to give you peace in the midst of whatever storm you face today. \r
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But it's not as the world gives. The world says you are at peace when you have all your ducks in a row, plenty of money in the bank, protection from trouble on all sides and nothing's going wrong. Jesus' kind of peace exists in the middle of trouble and trial. \r
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How? \r
Isa 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you."\r
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Stay your mind on the Lord - not the trial. If you've been walking with the Lord for a while you ought to know this - but we need to be reminded. Peter walked on water as long as his eyes remained on Jesus. Once he saw the waves he began to sink.\r
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The Lord knows what you are going through - He allowed it, and since He allowed it you can be at peace about it. \r
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Prayer\r
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How often do we pray? I mean really. Oh we shoot up quick ones now and again. But when things are bad - do we have fervor, earnestness and perseverance? \r
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Fervor suggests the manner of our prayers - are they heated, intense, purposeful? Earnestness suggests our attitude. Do we really believe earnestly that God will answer or are we praying just to pray because it's the right thing to do? Perseverance suggests our commitment. Do we stick with prayers or just pray and abandon them?\r
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I want to read you something from The Message:\r
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down."\r
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James says: \r
James 5:16 "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."\r
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Prayer - direct communication to God does two things - it settles us down and it sends out angels. But we must do it!\r
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Provision\r
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I'm reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac. God told Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him. It was a terrible thing for Abraham to do, and he must have wondered what God was going to do since Isaac was the answer to one of God's promises. But he obeyed all the way to holding the knife at Isaac's throat - then God provided a sacrifice.\r
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Sometimes God takes us to the brink of disaster - to the place where we know we simply can't handle any more.\r
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Is it because He doesn't know our hearts? No. Its because he is assaying us - testing in the sense of purity. There is something powerful in the act of obedience even in the face of certain destruction that brings us closer to God, and more like Him.\r
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Then He always provides. Abraham didn't know there was a ram caught in the thicket, and Peter didn't know an angel was going to show up, and you don't know what provision God has in store for you in your next jam.\r
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The point is: TRUST IN HIM - no matter what. He will never let you down.\r
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Now, the provision might not be what you expect - and, as I said before, sometimes like Stephen, you get stoned instead of set free. But who got the better deal? Peter faced much more persecution and was crucified upside down on a cross. Stephen got to be with Jesus face to face.\r

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