According to Statista.com, advertising expenditures in the US totaled about $195.8 billion in 2016. When compared to data from Giving USA, advertising companies receive about 75 billion more dollars per year than do religious institutions. Evidently people believe advertising works. Some advertising happens on the large scale and is addressed to everyone. Micro advertising also happens when web pages use information from my searches to tailor make ads focused on me.
In my naiveté, I thought this was an interesting coincidence the first time I saw an ad for my favorite pair of shoes as I read through a news blog. When an ad for my wood carving chisels came up next, I realized my search engine, news blog, product vendors, and marketing firms contributed to this conspiracy. Privacy does not exist anymore. I wonder when Hollywood’s idea that facial recognition software will combine with marketing to create the digital billboards to match my own purchasing preferences. Stores already track my purchases through “customer loyalty” cards where they get me to voluntarily give them my information to help them tailor advertising just for me.
I do not generally give way to conspiracy theories. I think Elvis is dead. The astronauts did land on the moon. I tend to believe Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK. I do not think President Bush conspired to bring down the twin towers. But I do think advertising is a conspiracy to get what few dollars I have and to entice me to mortgage the ones I may get in the future.
As I walk through Acts 4 I cannot help but see the conspiracy of the fallen world against God’s purposes and care. I find the single-minded focus of God and His people to be even more amazing. Fortunately, faith tells us which side will win! This faith does not rest in some future promise in heaven, rather it rests in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This tells us why Peter preached the same crucifixion and resurrection message in his first three recorded sermons.
Peter drew from David’s words in Psalm 2 where all the heathen joined together against Christ before he enumerated the diverse groups that conspired to bring about Jesus’ death. Yet they only achieved what God had already determined to do! God even uses fallen powers to bring about His number one initiative – the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21).
The lame man. Two apostles on the way to prayer. The angry priestly clan. The 5,000 newly converted men and their families. The unified prayer meeting… All of these elements of Acts 4 participate in one snapshot of God’s eternal plan to restore all things to Himself.
I cannot help but compare the early church’s response to organized opposition to those I feel in my own spirit and in the lives of many people around me. Where I see isolated vignettes of suffering and slander, the early church saw God’s orchestrated work to restore. The 40 plus year old ex-lame man served as irrefutable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Neither the healed man, the angry priests, nor the scolded disciples played a central role in the story. The resurrected Christ set the agenda. The story points to Him alone.
Perhaps the disciple’s prayer provides a wonderful corrective for my own prayer life and perspective of crises in my life. Their simple prayer had three elements: 1) see what they are doing, 2) grant us boldness to speak the word, and 3) stretch forth Your hand to heal with signs and wonders by thy holy child Jesus.
They did not pray for freedom.
They did not pray for vengeance.
They did not pray for respect.
They did not pray for restoration of some golden age from the past.
Their prayer assumed the same Hand worked in the present circumstance as worked in aligning the fallen powers against Jesus. The Hand allowed Jesus to die. The Hand resurrected Jesus. The Hand sent them into the world. The Hand healed and would heal again.
They got their prayers answered … and more. The Holy Spirit filled them afresh. The place shook. They spoke with boldness. They shared all they had with each other. The apostles witnessed the resurrection with power. Greater grace came upon all. The conspiracy of fallen powers did not stand a chance against God and His unified people.
I think I want that more than my freedom, vengeance, respect, or a golden age that does not exist.
I think I need to pray.
I repent. As Peter said in Acts 3, times of refreshing come when I repent. The Acts 4 story shows me I have more opportunities to repent and to see greater grace. I turn from seeing my own story as the central theme and major concern. I turn toward seeing Your purposes in restoring all things to Yourself. Your eternal purpose must have top billing in my prayers, affections, and actions. I want to find my deepest joy in living out my small part in Your universe-sized restoration plan.
Lord, see what is ordered against Your people today? Rather than respect, I want boldness to love the lame and the broken. Boldness to see healing of the world’s hurts as evidence of your resurrection and reason to be hauled into public scrutiny. Boldness to pray for and care for others more than I pray for myself. Please, Lord, use your Hand to bring signs and wonders by Your apostles and prophets today, then give us the boldness to use those signs to point to Your resurrection – the hope for all humanity.
I pray this with my brothers and sisters. We want to properly understand angry words against us as the death rattle of the fallen powers. We anticipate fresh evidence of Your Spirit. We look forward to a shaking – a shaking that must happen in us before the world can be shaken. We look forward to sharing our resources with each other as You prepare to share us with the world.
Please, Lord, “Do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
In Jesus Name,
Thank you for walking with me through Acts 4 today. Perhaps you too stand in awe of both God’s determination to restore all things to Himself and His decision to use us in that process. I invite you to reorder your thoughts and prayers with me as we look for fresh signs and wonders to be done. Did you just feel the earth move under your feet?