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Equipped | Revolt

#storychanging

Equipped | Revolt

Monday  All the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them…”  (v. 24)

“MOM!” The child’s terrified cry echoed through the grocery store aisles. Four women turned their heads. Four carts froze in place and four minds filtered through the sound until three of them relaxed and moved on. A tiny child rounded a corner and ran straight toward the only woman who was headed toward him. Lots of moms in the store; only one was the right mom.

Lots of gods in ancient Israel; only One was the right God. No one minded if Christians prayed; they all prayed to gods. So these Christians were specific about where they directed their prayers. Our culture doesn’t mind us praying either, as long as we’re not specific about who our God is. It’s socially acceptable to pray to Oprah’s god, the Muslim god, or a god of our own making as long as he/she/it doesn’t ask anything of us we’re not tickled about. The god of 2020 America is a passive, near-sighted grandpa who pats everyone on the head and overlooks our wickedness. But none of those gods exists. The real God has told us who He is. He is love and justice, patience and wrath, power and gentleness, Father, Son, and Spirit. And He offers to equip us to live this life successfully if we will do so His way. Prayer is only effective when we’re praying to the right God.

Final Thought: The only way to know whether we’re praying to the right God is to learn who He is from His word.

Prayer: Lord of creation, there is no God but you. You created the world and everything in it. You define right and wrong. You define yourself and I can’t change you. I will celebrate all that you are and pray to you alone.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday “…you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying…”  (v. 25)

“I believe the New Testament, but I can’t buy into all that stuff in the Old. I mean, seriously, a fish swallowing a man? A Noah flood? God sending the Israelites to slaughter other cultures?” Adrian slurped the last of her Pepsi and sat the cup down with a bang. “C’mon, no way. I like Jesus and all, but it’s like the Old Testament is talking about a different God.” Rhianna nodded. “I know what you mean,” she said. “But you’re forgetting something. If you believe the New Testament is true, then how do you explain the fact that all those New Testament guys, including Jesus, also believed and quoted from the Old?”

Adrian’s views are gaining in popularity with people who want what Christianity offers but don’t want God as He really is. They want a God they can wrap their minds around. Miracles are unscientific. Wrath and judgment are intolerant. And all those sacrifices were gory. Who wants a God like that? But the Bible records the fact that New Testament believers studied the Old Testament scrolls to validate the claims of Jesus. During His ministry, Jesus quoted from every section of the Hebrew scriptures, calling them God’s word (John 17:17). The book of Matthew, in particular, was written for a Jewish audience, so he often noted the O.T. prophecies that were being fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The first Christians quoted Old Testament verses in their prayers to remind themselves that the God of their Old Testament scriptures was the same God Jesus talked about.

Final Thought:  Do you struggle with accepting the Old Testament as God’s infallible word? The first Christians didn’t.

Prayer: Lord, I’m more comfortable with the New Testament because the Old is confusing and a little scary sometimes. But you never change. Your mercies never change. If Jesus validated the Old, then I believe it too. In His name, amen.

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Wednesday The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and his anointed one. (v. 26)

There were no kings or rulers rising up against Jesus; He’d already gone back to heaven. So why would these Christians pray such a thing? While persecution from pagan neighbors and Jewish leaders were real threats, that wasn’t the battle they prayed about. Another, fiercer battle threatened them. Their new-found faith required them to live in stark contrast to the ungodly world around them and they could not do it alone. They needed to be supernaturally equipped to fight this battle, because it was not physical. It was spiritual. The real battle was never us-versus them; it was God-versus-Satan. It still is.

We face an election season where the stakes have never been higher. The battle is not between Republicans and Democrats because the real battle is not political; it’s spiritual. As god of this world, Satan is not content with controlling Muslim nations, communist nations, and pagan nations. He wants to control “one nation under God.” The political platforms each candidate has sworn to uphold will be the standard for our nation after November 3. While neither is perfect, one platform reads like Satan’s playlist, celebrating the sins listed in Romans 1 and Colossians 3:5. And it is to a platform each candidate pledges allegiance. Read the verse this way: “The demon princes of the earth rise up and the rulers of darkness band together against the Lord…” Whose cultural ideology does this describe? Our battle is not us-versus-them. It is God versus Satan. Whose side are you on?

Final Thought: Choosing a candidate means choosing the platform they represent. Which one might Satan have authored? 

Prayer: Lord, help me set aside prejudices, opinions, and personal vendettas and vote the way you would vote if you were here. I want your kingdom to come and your will to be done in America as it is in heaven. Help me vote accordingly. Amen.

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Thursday  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. (v. 29)

When you’re facing threats, mistreatment, or crisis, how do you pray? It probably sounds something like this: “Now, Lord, consider this problem and help me! Deliver me! Stop them! Destroy them! Etc.” That’s okay. We can ask the Lord for anything and He hears us. But take a closer look at the way these Christians prayed. They were facing imminent danger, prison, even death. But they did not ask God to destroy their enemies and deliver them. They asked for boldness to continue being faithful.

Wow! Think about that. How might it look in your world? The rent is overdue. The divorce papers have been filed. Your boss hates that Bible on your desk. You’re scared and confused about what to do. When you go to the Lord about it, what’s your number one concern? For these Christians, it was that God’s plan would be accomplished in the midst of their suffering. Think of how we’re praying about COVID-19? (Make it go away!) How about the race riots? (Make them go away!) How about the political scene? (Make them all go away!) Are we praying that our desires, opinions, and plans would prevail or that God’s plan would triumph? This prayer reminds us that no matter what we’re facing, our number one concern must be God’s goals, not our own. They won’t always match. The best prayers ask for boldness to proclaim truth in a world that loves deception.

Final Thought:  Consider your prayer priorities. Is your primary concern your own agenda or is it God’s?

Prayer: Father, I’m realizing how selfish my prayers must sound to you. You want me to pour out my heart and ask you for what I need, but I can’t stop there. Help me learn to pray in harmony with you and for boldness to stand for truth. Amen.

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Fridaytheir meeting place was shaken, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly. (v. 31)

What happens when YOU pray? First-century Christians had some unique experiences that God initiated as He established His church on earth. We can’t expect to replicate all of them, and we don’t expect the building to shake as proof that God is listening. But we should expect results. We should pray with the expectation that the Creator of the universe has tilted His ear toward us in order to catch every whisper, every sob, and every request. We should also understand that God has a higher goal for our prayers. He wants us to pray until we are filled with the Holy Spirit. 

So what does that mean, exactly? The Holy Spirit has gotten a bad rap due to a lot of nonsense attributed to Him. But notice what happened in scripture when people were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were empowered to speak truth boldly. God’s Spirit is what empowers God’s people to do God’s work. He gives spiritual gifts, spiritual wisdom, and spiritual strength to fight spiritual battles. When we pray, we are aligning our will with His and the result is that we are enabled to obey God supernaturally. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can crucify our flesh, help us die to ourselves, and equip us to embrace suffering for the sake of Christ. None of that is possible in our own strength. But in prayer, God shakes us so He can fill us. 

Final Thought: Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? We need Him to fill us over and over again. It starts with prayer.

Prayer: Father, thank you for saving me because of my faith in Jesus. But I need more of you. I want all you are and all you have for me. I lay down my own rights and ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit so I can serve you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.