Psalm 72:1-4, CEB
God, give your judgments to the king.
Give your righteousness to the king’s son.
2 Let him judge your people with righteousness
and your poor ones with justice.
3 Let the mountains bring peace to the people;
let the hills bring righteousness.
4 Let the king bring justice to people who are poor;
let him save the children of those who are needy,
but let him crush oppressors!
(While this prayer is for Solomon long ago, some of the sentiments are easily adapted to praying for the president or other heads of state in our own time.)
2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
(This is part of God's response to Solomon's prayer, when Solomon dedicated the Temple. It has sometimes been used for National Day of Prayer in the U.S.)
Isaiah 54:13-15, NLT
13 I will teach all your children,
and they will enjoy great peace.
14 You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.
Your enemies will stay far away.
You will live in peace,
and terror will not come near.
15 If any nation comes to fight you,
it is not because I sent them.
Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.
(This promise made to the exiles includes things we pray for today as well.)
Romans 8:26, NIV
26 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 through wordless groans.
(This is the promise when we are unsure how to pray.)
Philippians 4:6, NLT
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
(Good advice in all situations.)
James 5:16, NCV
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen.
(Admitting when we are wrong is important as individuals, as governments, as a nation. Praying for each other and for world concerns is also significant.)
The following scriptures are all from the Common English Bible and were found using biblegateway.com. These were put together as a handout to accompany a message on "Living in Peace" as something folks could refer to later at home. May these scripture verses be a blessing to you!
The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:26)
I will lie down and fall asleep in peace because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
I tell myself, You can be at peace again, because theLord has been good to you. (Psalm 116:7)
A peaceful mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
Those with sound thoughts you will keep in peace, inpeace because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
The fruit of righteousness will be peace, and the outcome of righteousness, calm and security forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of a messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God rules!” (Isaiah 52:7)
The mountains may shift, and the hills may be shaken, but my faithful love won’t shift from you, and my covenant of peace won’t be shaken, says the Lord, the one who pities you. (Isaiah 54:10)
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares theLord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
but now I will heal and mend them. I will make them whole and bless them with an abundance of peace and security. (Jeremiah 33:6)
I will make a covenant of peace for them. It will be their covenant forever. I will grant it to them and allow them to increase. I will set my sanctuary among them forever. (Ezekiel 37:26)
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. (Matthew 5:9)
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up. (Romans 14:19)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16)
God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33a)
Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. (Ephesians 2:14)
make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. (Ephesians 4:3)
make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. (Philippians 4:7)
he reconciled all things to himself through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:20)
The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. (Colossians 3:15)
Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts. (James 3:18)
May you have more and more grace and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
September 4, I preached a message from Acts 12 and Luke 4. The day I set aside to work on it, God woke me up with the message already flowing in my head. I got to the computer and started to type. Two hours later I knew this was an important message to share. At my daughter's suggestion, I am making it available here as well as the video of that worship service posted on our worship pages.
In Acts 12, we read early on that James the brother of John,
a disciple of Jesus' inner circle,
has been killed at Herod Agrippa's orders.
This Herod is a later relative of Herod the Great
who ordered the slaughter of all the baby boys when Jesus was born
and also related to Herod Antipas who arrested John the Baptist
and then consented to John the Baptist's death on a whim.
The Herods were often the antagonist in New Testament stories.
This particular Herod, though a Roman on his mother's side
was eager to curry favor with the Jews he governed,
so in addition to following Jewish law and celebrating Jewish festivals,
he started a new wave of persecution against those Christians
whom the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem did NOT approve.
This persecution led to James' death and Peter's arrest.
Herod's plan was to have Peter executed as soon as Passover was over.
But the night before that was to happen, God intervened.
Peter was guarded by four squads of soldiers in three hour shifts of four men each,
chained to one soldier on either side with two more standing guard at the door.
But they presented no problem to the angel who appeared and told Peter to get up.
The chains fell from his wrists, the doors and gates opened.
The squadron apparently slept through the whole thing.
Peter was set outside to quietly go through the streets to the home of Mary,
the mother of John Mark, where the early church made it's headquarters in Jerusalem.
Poor Rhoda, I always felt sorry for her in this story.
She's so taken by surprise when Peter knocks at the door,
she goes all scatterbrained and leaves Peter standing dangerously outside
while she runs to share the good news that Peter is free.
And patient Peter, after all he has been through in prison,
he listens to her run and tell the others, while he glances over his shoulder
hoping no one else has noticed his miraculous escape.
Some of you have heard my story from my seminary days
when God showed me an image of myself in a small room
like a prison cell in an ancient dungeon.
Jesus appeared with a ring of keys and asked me to follow him.
He unlocked my door and took me into a hallway with many more doors.
That's as far as my faith took me back then.
I've always been a one step at a time gal,
but that image comes back from time to time as God needs me to see it.
It's a image that fits well with this story from Acts 12
and the message God has asked me to share today.
prisons from which we need release
There are many situations from which we need release.
Imagine a building full of locked rooms.
Jesus is standing in the midst of that building holding a very large ring of keys.
You may identify some doors that you or your friends are stuck behind.
While I am naming doors that I recognize as holding my friends or family or church members, you may be seeing other doors and naming them in your own minds.
There's a long corridor full of health issues.
There's a door labeled cancer
and a double door of rheumatoid disease and fibromialgia.
There's a door for back issues and one for joint pain.
There are doors for dementia, alzheimers, parkinson's and louie body diseases.
There are doors for assorted digestive and intestinal problems
as well as kidney and liver and gall bladder concerns.
There's a door for thyroid problems and several for heart and lung concerns.
There are doors for depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia
and other mental health needs.
Health issues are an entire wing of this prison.
But it's not the only area.
In another corridor there are doors for unemployment and financial stress.
There is a large room hiding behind the door politely labeled dysfunctional families.
There is a door binding some behind racial profiling
and even more bound by ethnic stereotypes.
There are doors of abuse, sexual harrassment and bullying.
There is a door named human trafficking and a waiting room full of refugees.
There are rooms of poverty and war.
In another department there are victims of disasters waiting for their release
from floods and fires and earthquakes and tonados and hurricanes.
In a darker inner corridor secretly named denial
there are rooms of fear and of anger, of lust and of greed,
really the seven deadly sins are all labeled there in one form or another.
There is a room of hate and one full of grudges unforgiven.
There are doors of sin and of guilt and a separate door of shame.
There is a whole hallway full of addictions.
There is a room of judgementalism and one of extreme perfectionism.
the first is lined with windows only looking out at others.
The second is lined with mirrors only looking back at yourself.
There are doors called disgust and disapproval and dissatisfaction.
There are rooms of loneliness and of sadness and a room full of grief.
There are twin doors behind which are two tiny rooms with just a stool in each.
One is called unworthy, the other is not good enough.
I used to live behind the second of these.
I know there are more areas and more doors.
These are the ones I have been shown.
You may have seen others.
But here is the good news that I believe.
Jesus has a key to every door in every corridor and wing of that hell on earth.
Jesus is not bound by those doors as we are.
Jesus can freely enter any room at any time.
Sometimes releasing us from our prison cells takes time.
There is a different solution in each and every case, but Jesus is working to that end.
In some cases part of that solution is for us to admit what is binding us
and being willing to ask Jesus to release us,
having the courage to follow Jesus into the world walking free.
Sometimes we are waiting for others who will assist Jesus bringing aid or justice.
Sometimes we are the ones Jesus is asking to help someone else.
There are times when time is what is needed and we await the release that will come.
That may be a release back into this life in this world,
but sometimes it needs to be another door that opens into the life that is to come next.
May we cooperate where freedom depends in part on us.
May we be patient where our release is taking time.
May we trust Jesus to free us just as he sent his angel to release Peter long ago.
This is what Jesus came to do, to set us free from all forms of bondage.
When Jesus entered the synagogue of his hometown, early in his ministry,
they handed Jesus a scroll from Isaiah to read,
and in it Jesus found his mission statement.
It is how he announced to others the purpose of his time on earth.
It continues to be his mission even now:
to bring good news to the poor,
release to the captives,
sight to the blind,
freedom to the oppressed,
and proclaim the Lord's favor.
to that end let us pray: Lord, for all who need release from whatever shackles keep them bound and whatever door keeps them locked out of the abundant life you intended, please help them find the freedom you offer. Whether we need to see the truth, or trust you in patience, find courage to step out or seek someone else to help, you are the one holding the key. Thank you for all the ways you set us free!
Today as my Confirmation students (Middle School church class) read some of Abraham's story in the Bible (in Genesis), the subject of faith was part of the reading and devotional notes that went with it. I gave them this formula to express what faith is to me.
On the one hand my faith says certain things that I sincerely belief. In my case, my faith is in God and was formed by my upbringing in a family that attended a Methodist Church regularly (I am old enough that it did not become the United Methodist Church until I was confirmation age myself), by attending three years at a Lutheran School and by singing old hymns with my grandmother. Here are some of the things I believe and hold dear:
I think that sums up most of the significant things I belief as part of my faith. But believing these things is not enough to say I have faith. I have to live out what I believe. So, faith also requires trust.
I rely on God's presence, comfort and strength as I live my daily life. I spend time in prayer, but mostly that is a conversation with God that continues throughout my day. Sometimes that prayer is simply, "I trust you, God; I trust you, God; I trust you, God" While I am truly trying to surrender myself to God's care in that moment, I am also reminding myself to do just that, trust God completely in that situation. I don't have a lot of financial resources or physical strength to think I can do it all on my own strength. I have to trust God and depend on God for many things. I think God always intended it to be that way. God wants us to turn to God like a child to its parent for help along life's way, doing our part as best we are able and turning to God for the rest. It's a relationship with both parties contributing! Faith for me is living fully in that relationship.
The Bible talks about the faith of Abraham and others throughout, but there is a nice summary in Hebrews 11. This link will take you to the New Century Version on biblegateway.com. In another translation it says, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for." To be sure of something you can't see is indeed faith. When you lie in your bed in the middle of a dark summer night, it is faith that says, "the sun will come up in the morning and it will be light by 6 am." Yes, science can explain to you that the earth rotates as it revolves around the sun, giving the northern hemisphere a certain length of days during the summer months that is shorter during winter, etc. It is still a faith statement to say "the sun will be shining here in a few hours" when it is very dark except for the stars or moonlight.
What does faith mean to you? Where do you place your trust? In God by whatever name you call God? In science? (From my personal faith perspective God and science are NOT opposites. Science is humans discovering how God created the world to work. So I put some faith in science as well as in God, just not as much.) In certain people or in humanity as a whole? (I have faith in many people, but I know that because they are humans, sometimes they are going to disappoint me, so again, I put more faith in God than in people.) Where do you place your faith? How does your faith get you through your day to day? When do you rely on your faith the most?
Just some thoughts and questions to get your own faith juices flowing! Feel free to share your answers or your own questions here, but for the most part I pray you will take some time just to think about your own faith.