Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
So that you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, renew your mind through Christ by abiding in His Presence. Sometimes we all have pain and sorrow, fear and negativity, anxious moments, and hopeless thoughts– Jesus rescues you from these. In His living Presence He resets your mind to a faith view.
Jesus is the best thing to ever happen to you. Rely on His compassion with your faith. Your assurance that Christ is powerfully moving to align your mind in God’s best gives you spiritual maturity. Trust Christ. Expect Him to transform your mind– it is His anointing, again and again, of the Holy Spirit. Discern Jesus’ holiness.
People who gathered around Jesus were ready to get on with right living. Roman government was violently overbearing and Yahweh had seemed far off and silent. Yet with Jesus, the living presence of God personalized, near Him those yearning people found their hearts cleansed and their minds cleared. In Jesus’ Presence, while listening to His teachings and seeing the miracles, life was right and good again. Let us enjoy His living Presence in our midst, together, too.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barbara’s and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3
Holy Spirit is speaking to the believers as a united group in Christ. Within the group Sprit speaks to is Manaen, a member of the court of Herod the ruler who is now free from Herods reign of terror– he is Herod’s foster brother now a believer. Christ is separating Saul and Barnabas for anointing induction and this is these two men’s supporting believers.
The believers pray, fast, then lay their hands on the men one at a time. This is a rite of the Church which is used at times other than ordination– blessing, healing, special direction from Christ, and other occasions. From the laying on of hands experience of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring, they use every opportunity to speak Christ’s message whether in the synagogues or home meetings.
Similarly while in Albuquerque my group of pastors would meet at sunrise one day a week to fast, pray, and fall on our faces before the church altar as we humbled ourselves in His Holy Presence. Pray, fasting, talk, Scriptures were given to me by the Spirit to read aloud, conversations would flow, praises would lift. Always another pastor, different each time, would come to me saying Spirit directed them to same Scripture right before I read. We’d lay on hands; Spirit outpouring.
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them. The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!” And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. Acts 12:21-23
Every year there is a day dedicated to Claudius Cesar. On this day Herod is arrayed in a robe so covered with silver that at sunrise the rays make it glitter dazzlingly into the eyes of hordes of admiring onlookers. The people shout, “It is the voice of a god!” as if they are in the presence of a prince. It is profane flattery. This glory Herod takes only for himself.
And immediately, for God acts without delay, God vindicates His honor and sends an angel to strike Herod down. Older historians say nothing and yet an angel brought Peter out of prison and here an angel strikes down Herod. Those who saw these angels were the people of God. Believers; Spirit led. Herod is struck down because he does not give glory to God.
Upon being struck, Herod is eaten by worms or vermin, and after five days of awful torture he dies. And thus ends the persecutor’s life. Now, believers in our One true Savior and Lord grow and multiply exponentially. The living Gospel of good news in Jesus Christ flourishes. My friend, truly we live each day to glorify God.
Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. Acts 12:16
The power of the Holy Spirit is moving this night! Believers in the house have not listened to Rhoda telling them that Peter is at the door yet even in the midst of questioning her they hear Peter continue the knocking. When the gate or the outer door to Mary’s home is opened Peter motions to them for quiet and softly tells them how our Lord freed him from persecution and imprisonment.
Then as he finishes his last word of explanation he is off into the night to make his travels to Caesarea. This is a night of affirmation– our Lord’s compassionate care guides us. His Spirit directs each heart individually. Also we are taught by Holy Spirit how to listen with deep concentration, for Spirit leads us.
Holy Spirit leads us both around trouble or if in trouble, Spirit gives us great strength and clear mindedness in Christ. Enjoin our Lord in your holy prayers for release of fear, to receive secure hope in Him, and find beautiful communion in conversation with your heart encased in His love.
Rev. Patricia E. Walker, AlphaChurch.org
As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. Acts 12:12-14
Peter realizes that our Lord has orchestrated his freedom from prison so he goes to the believer’s revival. At midnight they are in fervent prayer for Peter. They are praising God for Christ’s actions and miracles. And as Peter knocks on the door. Rhoda is so flustered with joy that she forgets to open the door, runs to tell the believers, and they believe she is mistaken that Peter is at the door.
Very few times have I have witnessed knocking at the door and before opening the door for an ambassador for Christ they’ve run to their friends to exclaim with the announcement, only to have the friends declare them off-balanced. Whether a person or an event change, our prayers are answered by our Lord and we may plainly see His actions in our lives. So then it is time to embrace the visitor at the door to our hearts.
Open the door. Believe that He is powerfully acting in your life all the time and in all circumstances. Yes, at times you will need to have patience and yet if you look very closely with the Holy Spirit’s help you will see Him doing almost unbelievable things for you. Recently a man said to me, “I could write a book, and my friends have encouraged me to do just that, about how our Lord is speaking to me though my life’s events where I could literally see Him changing hearts of others in order to make a way where there was no way for me to go forward for Him.” Alleluia.
Rev. Patricia E. Walker, AlphaChurch.org
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent His angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:11
Peter is sure in our Lord though questioning. When the angel says, “Follow me,” Peter may be thinking that he may still be dreaming or perhaps not. The angel awakened him as he slept between the two guards, chained by the wrists to them, then led him through two wards and the gate opens by itself. As the angel’s light is dimming and the angel is leaving Peter now knows where he is at, left in the city darkness.
Like Peter, our Lord will give you an extra amount of assurance that He is with you until you get to the place where you can go ahead because either experience or training allows you to take it from where He’s led you to. He does not desert you. He is completely faithful. And when you are unsure He is the One to completely count on for guidance in your One-to-one Spirit filled reliance.
Peter then goes to the home where Christians are, knocking on the door with Rhoda answering it. As he goes he is praising the Lord, thanking the Spirit, glorifying God with every step, and quiet joy consumes him. He is free. Free is quite an experience for all of us. Truly I tell you, if Jesus has done nothing else for you and me other than die on the Cross for our freedom then that is more than enough. Yet, He does not stop there. Our Savior is unstoppable in His love for us. He has persistent Passion for us to be sure in our Lord.
While Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. Acts 12: 5-7
Believers pray fervently as sixteen strong soldiers guard Peter. He sleeps soundly between two. Why such extreme guarding? Peter is known a right-hand man of Jesus who thousands know with surety is raised from the dead by mighty God– His tomb was sealed, posted guards saw the angel at the entrance, earthquake shook Holy City and tore the un-tearable curtain of separation shielding the Holy Of Holies, and the dead came out of graves and walked the city.
Herod Agrippa may believe he is holding Peter but our mighty God has Peter in His grip just as He has you gripped. Peter’s faith unbreakable as he has met with our Risen Christ and is still with Him. Each of Peter’s wrists are chained to a guard. Quietly the angel’s light shines in the cell and angel taps Peter on the side awakening him. Peter’s slept soundly. Not afraid.
Peter’s not had an angel sent to guide him before this, that we know of, and questions himself whether he is dreaming or this is true reality. Like Peter, your caution is warranted too. The chains fall off his wrists, the guards do not awaken. Believers are praying for him and prayers are being answered as Holy Spirit’s activity is delightful for us to watch through Peter’s eyes. When there’s no way expect Spirit’s Way.
About this time king Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also, (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.). Acts 12:1-3
The Spirit’s view now is to show us the mixture of a time of rest and a time of persecution. “Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove,” Jesus says. True today as it was back then. Rest and persecution may be intermingled. We notice the believers do not hear of James arrest until murdered and so fervent prayers were not lifted.
Now this king Herod Agrippa, whose grandfather king tried to put Jesus to death at birth and whose Uncle king had beheaded John The Baptist, arrests the disciple James and immediately kills James. James is the first to die of the men disciples. James’ brother disciple John, is the last male disciple to die. The brothers, chosen as one of the twelve men disciples of Jesus, are the sons of Zebedee whom Jesus nicknamed the sons of thunder. (Mark 3:17)
Next, hearing of Peter’s arrest, believers go into fervent prayer for him. This occurrence is during our Easter-time, when Jesus instituted Holy Communion with unleavened bread. James dies but Peter does not reflecting God’s sovereignty, His absolute power and rule in our lives. God’s love for us in life and in death is immovably secure. Place all your trust in His Son Jesus Christ and fear not.
At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. Acts 11:27-28
The Holy Spirit will lay prophecies on a believer’s hearts and we are to pay attention and ready ourselves. Agabus comes to the Gentile Church at Antioch, where Barnabas and Paul are Pastoring, to give the prophecy of the famine.
In other words, Antioch is not the one to choose the mission focus at Antioch Church, it is given to them by the Lord. The Lord says that believers in the Judah area will need to rely on Antioch Church for their very lives. Believers arise to meet the challenge.
The Church pools together their resources, they sacrifice at mealtimes and with their spending, they work hard to send monies to believers in the area of Judea. There are believers who need your help today. Alpha Church needs your financial help. Churches in your community need your help. Together, we are to live so that the ‘over and above’ from what we absolutely need goes out to those whom the Lord directs us to.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the Word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenistic also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The Hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Acts 11:19-24
Barnabas’ hometown is Cyprus and there are believers (who were accustomed to speaking with Gentiles) from Cyprus in Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. And because of Stephen’s stoning and death the persecution of the believers was heightened, Spirit led leaders strategically spread out, and Christ’s Church takes hold by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is in Antioch that believers were first called Christians and this was known as the Antioch Gentile Church. The Gentiles here were idol worshippers until they receive repentance unto life in Christ our Lord. The Holy Spirit falls into their hearts. The power of God’s Spirit, the Hand of the Lord, is with believers in this Church in Antioch. Barnabas is Pastor, preaching and teaching Christ Alive.
He arrives at the Church and sees the Grace of God. Grace — Christ alive, transforming hearts to be more like Him and Barnabas enthusiastically encourages them, prays constantly for them, and he loves this flock. So do I for we are one in Christ Jesus.
When they had heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:18
Previously introduced to Peter in a vision of a sheet being let down with formerly unclean animals, God has moved Peter into the sure understanding that Jesus opens the Way to the Heavenly Father for anyone who believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Peter, who has seen Jesus heal folks without discrimination, who met the woman at Jacob’s well and she evangelized her hometown for Jesus’ sake, and who has seen many instances of outsiders give their hearts to Jesus is convinced of His open Way.
Now the Jewish believers are silenced, deep in thought as they wrap their hearts and minds around this monumental action of God.
And they respond in the most earthshaking way. They don’t say, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles salvation.” Don’t say He has given, “… saving Grace.” Nor do they say, “… New Birth.” And they do not say God has given, “… Holy Spirit’s transformation.” They say God has given, “… the repentance that leads to life.” An awesome expression rarely used today. Eloquent. True repentance moves one out of spiritual death into the believer’s life which leads to ever lasting life. True repentance that leads to life!
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as It had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the Word of the Lord, how He had said, ‘John Baptized with water, but you will be Baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” Acts 11:15-17
The apostles and the believers in Judea heard that the Gentiles accepted Christ, so when Simon Peter goes to Jerusalem they ask him, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” They do not ask this question angrily. They simply want to know how a good Jewish Christian can eat Gentile food and be in community with Gentiles.
Peter answers mildly as to how this came about, with six believers (men or women) accompanying him to Cornelius’ home after an Angel told Cornelius to send for Simon called Peter who ‘will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be Saved.’ v. 14 Saved with full Christian salvation in this world and in the world to come.
Peter’s emphasis is on ‘when we believed’ in v. 17, for it is not whether they are circumcised but it is that they believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit falls into believer’s hearts. Just as this our Communion Table is open, as are our hearts, to any age person who believes. Who are we to hinder God? For only God gives the repentance that leads to Life in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the Word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for Baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:44-47
When the Peace of the Holy Spirit falls on these Gentiles they begin to speak in tongues just like it happened in Acts 2:4-11. The Peace of the Holy Spirit falls as Peter is preaching the Word of Christ Risen. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for us on the Cross.
Scriptural reference to the believers of the circumcision refer to the believing Jews. And Peter indicates that combined with the falling and filling of the Peace of the Holy Spirit there is cleansing Baptism, so he orders the Gentiles to Water Baptism. Note with me that either the Holy Spirit falls before Baptism or falls during Baptism — as Christ deems.
Just as in a wedding where Pastor asks if anyone has any reason why these two shall not be married, so Peter asks if anyone opposes the Gentiles being Baptized. The are Baptized. It is another glorious day for Christ’s Church. This is how Jesus orchestrates Jesus’ Way as He is open to each when your heart has faith in Him. Spirit falls readily. Alleluia.