A Scripture Prayer based on Psalm 120

As the pilgrims ascended for worship in Your city,
the city of peace,
where you and your glory dwells,
they longed to encounter You there.
We too long to have a fresh encounter with You.
We long for the day when the final door will open
and we will ascend and pass into your glory forever.
For then we shall know you perfectly
and experience a deep, abiding peace
– no more hostilities, no more misunderstanding,
no more deceit and no more falsehood.

Thank you that from You alone
comes deliverance from all these things,
especially lying lips and a deceitful tongue.
How many times have we wanted people to think well of us
and lied and stretched the truth.
It is a curse-like existence
to live among those who hate peace and love war.

Thank you that Jesus did battle with the devil at the cross of Calvary
and that now we can not only experience peace,
but promote peace among our friends and families.

Enable all who claim allegiance to the Prince of Peace
to proclaim: “I am for peace.”
Lord, I claim with the Psalmist “I am for peace.”
I know true peace comes only to a heart, a marriage,
a family, a nation
only through Jesus Christ who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Would you be pleased to bring peace to the war-ravaged parts of your world…
namely the Middle East and the southern border of our own country.
In Your church, cure Your children’s warring madness
and bend our pride to your control.
Bring peace, reconciliation,
forgiveness and restored relationships
for Your glory and the building up of Your church.  AMEN.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Worship

Here is a simple prayer to pray through and reflect upon as you prepare to worship God personally and with others. It is based upon the beautiful hymn: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.”

Almighty God, may my worship of you cause the
mind of Christ to be more fully present in me
this week so that I may think your thoughts
and do your deeds.
May Your Word dwell in me
so that I delight to do what You command.
May Your peace so umpire my life that I am
progressively set free from anxieties and fears.
May Your love so fill me that I am empowered
to love others that may prove difficult to love.
Lastly, may Your beauty rest on me in such a life
transforming way that others might truly see
Christ in me and be drawn to Him. AMEN.

Another way to do this is to turn this into a prayer of confession of sin.
Here is an example:

Almighty and Gracious Father,
Your Word says that You have given us the mind of Christ
so that we can think Your thoughts and do Your deeds.
Forgive us for allowing worldly-mindedness to creep in –
causing sin to seem normal and holiness to seem strange.
Pardon us for filling our lives with so many other things
rather than Your Word.
We confess that anxiety and fear rule us rather than Your peace.
We acknowledge that envy and greed fill us rather than Your love
We lament that a spirit of despair rests upon us instead of Your beauty.
So transform us that others see Jesus in us and are drawn to Him.
For we make our prayer in His matchless name, AMEN.

When Life Overwhelms – A Simple Prayer for Pentecost Sunday

Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean Restout, 1732

This coming Sunday we celebrate an important event in redemptive history… the time when Jesus sent the “other helper” who would live within us and empower us for service.

  • Almighty Father we come to you in the blessed name of our Savior Jesus Christ. You have been sending your Spirit for a long time. You sent your Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River. You sent your Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room. We ask you now to fill us with your Spirit,
  • We thank you for the power of your Holy Spirit and ask that we may be strengthened to serve you in a manner worthy of you. We acknowledge to you our weakness and weariness.
  • We thank you for the wisdom of your Holy Spirit. May He fill us with a greater knowledge of Your will with insight and wisdom.
  • We thank you for the peace of your Holy Spirit and ask that He might cause us to flourish in every dimension of our lives. Especially keep us confident of your love wherever you call us.
  • We thank you for the healing of your Holy Spirit and ask you to bring reconciliation and wholeness where there is division, discord, sickness, and sorrow.
  • We thank you for the gifts of your Holy Spirit and we ask you to equip us for the tasks that you have assigned us.
  • We thank you for the fruit of your Holy Spirit and ask you to ensure that the love of Jesus governs all of our relationships.
  • We thank you for the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost. We ask you to breathe upon your church the joy of eternal life. Blow out the dust of sin in our lives and, in your mercy, fill us anew with Yourself. Make us one in heart and mind to serve you for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

– A prayer adapted from The Worship Sourcebook, p. 706.

Praying for Our Church Family from Acts 15

Every Wednesday evening a band of brothers and sisters meet together to pray for our church. We take one chapter of the book of Acts and share a few thoughts about it. Then, we pray Scripture for our church family. If you need some specific prayer requests to pray for yourself, your family and friends, and your own community of believers. Here are a few ideas from Acts 15:

Pray that God would set a guard over our mouths. In Acts 15, words have the power to divide or to unite… To hurt or to heal.

Pray that the truths of the gospel of grace would not be betrayed by any of our teachers (for our adults, youth, and children).

Pray that the gospel would make progress and that it would be a matter of great joy among us. Pray for increased effectiveness in helping fulfill Acts 15:14 – “Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.

Pray that we would use our liberty and freedom in the gospel to serve one another and not as license to serve ourselves (Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”)

Pray that God would instill in us new resolve to preserve and promote the purity and peace of His church.

Serving the Lord requires taking risks (v.26 – “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) Pray that we would be willing to take risks in serving our Lord. C.T. Studd: A gambler for God!  He joined the ranks of the great gamblers of faith, Abraham, Moses, etc., in Hebrews 11, and the true apostolic succession, “Men that have hazarded (gambled with, to jeopardize life to magnify and make known the name of Jesus Christ) their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).  Studd wrote:  “No craze so great as that of a gambler, and no gambler for Jesus was ever cured, thank God!”  His answer to the missions committee that rejected him was:  “Gentleman, God has called me to go, and I will go.  I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.” (C.T. Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer, p.112)

Pray that the Lord would grant us charity and courtesy in dealing with the different opinions, views, and sentiments of others in our body of believers.
Repentance teaches us to be severe in our reflections upon ourselves; but charity teaches us to be courteous in our reflections upon others. O what mischief that pride and passion do in the world and in the church, even when they are found in good men!

– Adapted from Matthew Henry

Acts 15 – On Resolving Conflict

Acts 15 Devotional Guide – Resolving Conflict

What was the nature of the conflicts in this chapter?
A.    1st Conflict: Was circumcision required for Gentile converts to Christianity? This conflict centered on theology. It was a public conflict.
We ought to ensure that we indeed have biblical warrant before we say, “Except you do so and so, you cannot be saved.”
What are some other comparable issues in today’s church?
Matthew Henry: “There is a strange proneness in us to make our opinion and practice a rule and a law to everybody else, to judge all about us by our standard, and to conclude that because we do well all do wrong that do not just as we do.”
“We ought not to make any conditions of our brother’s acceptance with us
but such as God has made the conditions of their acceptance with Him.”
B.    2nd Conflict: A sharp disagreement arose between Paul and Barnabas on whether or not to take John Mark on their next missionary journey. This conflict centered on methodology. A private conflict.
What does Barnabas’ dealings with John Mark teach us? See 2 Timothy 4:11; Colossians 4:10.

What did they do to resolve it?
Discuss – Leaders came together to discuss the matter.
Debate the issue.
Listen.
1.    Hear testimonies. How God has given the Gentiles theHoly Spirit and saved them by grace so that any additional requirement would be a yoke.
2.    Hear what the Scriptures say. Don’t avoid it, but deal with it gracefully by being quick to listen.
Conclude – make a decision.

Why was it crucial to resolve conflict well?

The unity of the church is at stake. Preserve the church from fragmentation. This was a victory of love in preserving the fellowship by sensitive  concessions to conscientious Jewish scruples.
The preservation of the gospel of grace is at stake. Preserve the gospel from corruption. The unanimous decision of the first ecumenical counsel held in Jerusalem liberated the gospel from its Jewish swaddling clothes into being God’s message for all mankind and gave the Jewish-Gentile church a self-conscious identity as the reconciled people of God, the one body of Christ. The victory of truth in confirming the gospel of grace.
The furtherance of the gospel is at stake.

Why do you think the Gentile believers were given a list of four behaviors from which to abstain, even though they did not have to be circumcised or obey the law of Moses to be saved (vv.28-29)?
Would set them apart from the idol worship and the pervasive immorality of the day.
To respect the consciences of their Jewish believers by abstaining from practices that might offend them.
Not heeding these dietary matters would inhibit Jewish-Gentile common meals.

What are some ways that we could care more for the growth and well-being of others in our body of believers who are different than we are?

Can you think back to a time that you refrained from exercising your freedom in Christ to do something in order to respect the conscience of another and not offend them?

 

God’s’ Final Answer to All Conflict

Attached is a personal worship guide that helps to parse out the personal implications of the upcoming sermon on “God’s Final Answer to All Conflict” from Isaiah 9:5-7.

God’s Final Answer to All Conflict – a Personal Worship Guide

Life and Health and Peace

In the public domain by age

Charles Wesley

The first to link these precious words together was Charles Wesley, in a classic celebration of the impact of Jesus Christ. This coming Lord’s Day we begin our worship service with his great hymn:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
 
Jesus — the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears;
‘Tis life and health and peace.
 

J.I. Packer writes in his book Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life:

These are three of the weightiest and richest words that Scripture uses for the renewed existence of those who know God’s sovereign grace. Each of these words has an everyday meaning — life and health referring to one’s physical condition and peace signifying inner and outer calm — but here what they express is the spiritual well-being of the born again.

Life — eternal life, as the New Testament regularly calls it — is the state in which one recognizes, receives and responsively relates to God in Jesus Christ: in other words, Jesus Christ the Lord in his identity as God the Redeemer, who now calls us into fellowship with himself and with God the Father through God the Holy Spirit.

Health is a concept focused by the New Testament adjective healthy, which has traditionally been translated “sound” (as when we describe horses as sound in wind and limb); it is the state of well-being in which our spiritual system functions steadily and strongly the way it should, in faith, hope and love Godward.

Peace is a word of wide meaning that covers the state of being divinely pardoned and accepted; of knowing that this acceptance, based on Christ’s cross, is solid and lasting fact; of accepting and loving oneself as the person God made in his image and loves and has redeemed and is restoring; of accepting one’s circumstances, whatever they are, as divinely ordered for one’s good; of facing the unknown future in calm reliance on God’s promises; and of refusing to respond in kind to any violence and hostility shown to one by others. Life, health and peace are three words that together sum up the essence of Christian life.

The point becomes more vivid by contrast. The reality of life is opposed to the state of unresponsiveness to God, which is called death in Ephesians 2:1, 5, and Colossians 2:13 on the analogy of a corpse, which is totally unresponsive to any stimulus of any kind.

The reality of health is opposed to the inner sickness of unloving, self-serving, God-defying lifestyles, which exhibit human nature out of sorts and indeed wasting away, for these are the degenerative diseases of the soul.

The reality of peace is opposed to the stress and strain, the anxious, fearful, troubled, resentful, bitter, vengeful, addictive, adversarial way of living that so many moderns and postmoderns are anchored in nowadays. By contrast with these wretched alternatives life, health and peace appear as words of deliverance and delight.