Monday, February 28, 2011

Complaint or Intercession?

Complaining, complaining, complaining. All that you do is complain.

Complaining is the act of refusing to accept your situation out loud. We often feel justified in our complaints. Complaining comforts us, energizes us, deflects personal responsibility, makes us feel important, appeals to our sense of justice, emboldens us, but for all these it leaves us empty. A complaint in and of itself is empty. It is like trying to cover up on a cold night with a blanket that does not exist except in your mind. You might say, complaining got me such and such, or complaining made that person change. Really? At what cost, and did the such and such, or change really satisfy you? Are you now less likely to complain in the future? Complaining is emptiness of emptiness. Don't get me wrong I like to complain with the best of them, however God seems to be trying to show me a different way!image

Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water, that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?" And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, "Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!" And the Lord said to Moses, "Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
Exodus 17:1-7 (NKJV)

Really complaining about water! Again!

Notice two things about complaining. First, it is contentious, and second, it presumes (tempts) the graciousness of the person receiving the complaint.

"The customer is always right."

Anyone that has worked in retail has heard this expression to be sure. Yet if you have had the opportunity to work with a customer with a complaint knows that the Bible is right on these two truths. Contention is the name of the game. No matter how disarming the customer service is the person is contentious. It is like a great uneasiness overcomes the soul. Even when you are trying to side with customer. The customer also is presuming (tempting) the store staff to give them something in return for their complaint. This also creates more uneasiness. The level of uneasiness grows as the good nature of the store increases and as the customer's complaint becomes more outrageous.

I recall a time when a customer brought a pair of pants to me when I was working at Sears. I am not sure if it is still true, but at the time we had a no questions asked return policy. I was the unfortunate sales staff to get her in my line. She said these pants do not fit. I looked at the pants and they were faded and worn. I also did not recognize them. Now that is something, because we had a pretty good idea of what merchandise was sold in the men's department. Boy I do not miss folding those clothes. I asked for her receipt. She did not have one. I looked inside and found that the item number was in the pants. I punched the number into the register and nothing. I took a deep breath and said, "I don't believe that you got these here." You would have thought I had just asked her to give up her right arm or something based on her reaction next. My manager over heard the complainer and came over. I explained the situation to her. She looked at the pants and said confidently, "You did not get these here. We have not sold this brand." I asked for her right and now the manager asked for her left. She was tempting our graciousness. She continued to complain rigorously. My manger sent her to customer service upstairs. Now I may be a little vague on the details. It was about 20 years ago now, but I will not forget the feeling in my stomach at having to deal with such an unreasonable person. Yet...

Am I not much the same way when it comes to going to God? I wonder if God has the same feelings when we contend with Him. "Here comes BJ with a complaint. I sure wish he would realize the plans to Bless and Not Harm him!"

Forgive me Lord for presumptuous complaints. Next to presumptuous sin it must grieve Your heart greatly.

What then can we learn from the Israelites who yet again are complaining about something they have first hand experienced God's grace in? I believe that we can admit that we are not too far off. Far be it from me to complain about the very area that I have experienced some blessing or graciousness. Yet I still do. We all do. Also we can see that God has a plan. In spite of our childish behavior He still cares for us and has a plan and purpose for our minor discomfort. I say minor, because I think it is possible to find a person in a more grievous situation than your own (often significantly worse). Notice though that the comparison can also lead to "who has the bigger complaint" syndrome. That is not helpful either.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)

It seems to me that this attitude is at the heart of intercessory ministry. It is difficult if not impossible to help another out when you can scarcely get your eyes off of yourself and your dire circumstances. There is no hope, no peace, no faith! Why did the Israelites not have water? Lack of faith.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.
Psalms 37:3-6 (HCSB)

This verse seems to capture the heart of minister of intercession. Trust in the Lord, Do what is good, Dwell in the land, Live secure, take delight in God, Let him transform your heart, commit yourselves to God, Trust Him. And what will be God's response? He will act, He will make your righteousness shine, He will exalt justice. This is the heart this is the way of intercession.

Moses responds by challenging their unbelief. And their response was more unbelief. Moses then turns to God and asks, "What am I going to do with these people?" There are moments of desperation when you are engaged in the ministry of intercession. People will not always see things as you see them. Sadly they may even take their frustrations out on you. Your job is to stay connected to God. Moses believed in the provision of God. He had a heart of abiding trust, and was connected to God in a way that he was immediately aware of how the people were grieving the Lord. He called out to Him and as before God gave him instructions. This pattern is become more and more fixed in my mind. Recognize the problem (primary unbelief and secondary thirst), seek the Lord (What am I to do?), Listen to what He says (Strike the rock in front of the people), Obey what God has shown you, and celebrate the intercession of the Lord. Notice that being obedient Moses addressed both unbelief and thirst of the Israelites. Trust God He knows what He is doing even when it seems that He has abandoned us. Do not let unbelief kill your faith.

What is your unbelief? What is your thirst? What is the unbelief in others? What is the thirst in others?

It's time to go to work!

God Bless You

~BJ

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Intercession of the Bread of God

The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

Once again the people of Israel were complaining. This time it was 45 days since leaving Egypt. They had received water, but were now running out of food. The greater need was a lack of faith. God was about to give them an object lesson that was going to last for then next 40 years that would be repeated every day as a reminder of God's faithfulness, that they might grow in their faith.

Moses returned to God. A person involved in the ministry of intercession is unceasingly connected to God through prayer and meditation on God's Word. It is the very breath of his/her spiritual life. When things go well she prays with thankfulness and praising. When things go poorly he humbly brings the need before the Lord. God tells Moses that He plans to feed the people supernaturally.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days."
Exodus 16:4-5 (HCSB)

Notice that the gathering of bread had very specific instructions. At times there is a specific thing that God calls us to. Often that thing goes against what our natural mind will understand. Yet if we have faith then we will obey. It is not works that makes our faith great. It is works that show our great faith. That is why James says faith without works is dead by itself (James 2:17). So in this case God very clear gathering instructions. What is even more interesting is the consequence if the instructions were not followed.

But they didn't listen to Moses; some people left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and smelled. Therefore Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:20 (HCSB)
For six days you may gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Yet on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they did not find any. Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep My commands and instructions?
Exodus 16:26-28 (HCSB)

In the ministry of intercession it will require you to pass along the specific instructions that God is requiring of others. Most of these instructions are found in the Bible. It is the Word of God that is useful for teaching and instruction. A minister of intercession must have a good working knowledge of the Word of God. Without this knowledge you cannot be sharing what God is saying. God is not a mute in matters of life. His word must be written upon your heart.  What is more a servant of God must point others to the Word of God.  That they also may have His Word written upon their hearts.

It is clear that you are Christ's letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.
2 Corinthians 3:3 (HCSB)
I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.
Psalms 119:11 (HCSB)

Seeking the direction from the Lord requires communication with the Lord. There are two primary ways that God communicates with His people: His Word, and Prayer! In seeking the Lord Moses learned a couple of things. First he learned about what God was doing and how the Israelites were to respond. He also learned something about the ministry of intercession.

...for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord."
Exodus 16:8 (HCSB)

Moses learned that the complaining was against God and not against himself or Aaron. When you are in the ministry of intercession you become a target of others complaints. There is a subtle shift of blame. I think people feel guilty to complain about God, so they more readily blame His spokesperson. Yet God made it clear to Moses that the people were in fact complaining against God. This in a negative way demonstrates that the minister of intercession is nothing by himself. It is God who intercedes and it is God's timing that the intercession occurs. When we take things personally when representing God we need to examine whether we are grieved because God is grieved or are we subtle buying into the idea that "I did this for God." There can be pride there which then will lead to ungodly action. More on this in a future post.

We see the pattern that I mentioned in a previous post: Recognize the need (Exodus 16:2-3), bring the need before the Lord (Exodus 16:4), listen for what God was doing (Exodus 16:4-5), obey what God asked (Exodus 16:6-11), wait upon the Lord (Exodus 16:13-15), and praise the Lord for His provision (Exodus 16:33-34).

Obedience for Moses was to call the people to obedience. Notice just because Moses called the people to obedience did not mean that they were obedient (most did, some did not). Those that did not obey experienced the consequences of their disobedience. Moses could not intercede for them. Notice also how disobedience grieves the Heart of God and the heart of His servant Moses.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep My commands and instructions?"
Exodus 16:28 (HCSB)
Therefore Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:20 (HCSB)

To the people the bread was Manna which literally means "whatness" (Exodus 16:31).

"What is for breakfast?"
"What!"
"I said what is for breakfast?"
"and I said what!"
"I want to know what it is?"
"Yes that is right!"
"What is right?"
"Exactly!"

So to the people it was a mysterious substance that came down in the morning dew. However Moses had a different take. To Moses it was "... the bread the Lord has given you to eat (Exodus 16:15)." As you mature in the ministry of intercession what was once a mystery will become the very bread of God spiritual food for the soul.

Jesus said to them, "I assure you: Moses didn't give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said, "Sir, give us this bread always!" "I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again."
John 6:32-35 (HCSB)

Notice Jesus' words. He points out that God is the one that interceded. He also draws the connection to his own ministry. Jesus is our bread of life. To others He is a mystery. To believers He has been revealed as the Bread of Life. As believers we have a duty to first feast on the Bread of Life daily, recognize the greatest need of others is to have this bread, go to God in prayer over this need, listen for what God is doing in their lives, obey God by speaking (or doing) what He is revealing, waiting on the Lord for the results, and Praising Him when others come to know Him as the Bread of Life! This is the ministry of intercession.

If you have the Bread of Life then I pray that you would continue to grow in your spiritual walk so as to become the servant of God and minister in Jesus' name.  If you do not have the Bread of Life, would you consider the offer of life that is before you right now.  God desires for you to have it.  Yours is to receive it with thankfulness. 

God Bless You

~BJ

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Friday, February 18, 2011

From Bitterness to Sweetness (Prayer and Intercession)

Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com

The work of intercession is rarely inactive. In fact on the heals of a great movement of God there can still be great challenges. Moses was not immune to this.

Then Moses led Israel on from the Red Sea, and they went out to the Wilderness of Shur. They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water. They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter-that is why it was named Marah. The people grumbled to Moses, "What are we going to drink?" So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable. He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah and He tested them there.
Exodus 15:22-25 (HCSB)

After crossing the Red Sea and journeying for three days the camp was running out of water. So they had been on foot for 10 days in the wilderness. Water for that many people was a very serious issue. Then when they find water it is bitter so they cannot drink, it is understandably discouraging to the natural man. One might suggest that three days after a great miracle of God would hardly be the time to start complaining. But in reality in the United States we live in one of the most affluent cultures in human history, yet we complain right along with the best of them. I believe it is in our nature to complain. Also being in the wilderness without water is a very serious issue. You can go a while without food, but you will not live long without water. So their need was very real. However, complaining was not going to solve their bitterness.  If anything it would only increase it!

To the spiritual man, a man of faith there is only one option.  Go to God!  Notice Moses' response to the people's grumbling. He prayed, listened, obeyed, waited on the Lord, praised and glorified God. Moses cried out to the Lord. God gave him instructions. Moses followed the instructions. Moses watched as God healed the waters. It is not specifically recorded that they worshiped and glorified God, but the name Jehovah Ropha (The Lord that Heals) can be a very worshipful name. I would also like to point out that the name makes it clear who gets the credit here. God healed the the water, not some magic at the hands of Moses, not some clever understanding of the properties of the branch. No, to be clear, God interceded, Moses' role was to bring the petition to God and follow obediently what God was showing him. Such is the way of the minister of intercession. We bring the need before the Lord, obey what God says to us, and glorify God for the outcome.

Notice that last phrase, "He (God) tested them there." It was a test of obedience (Exodus 15:26). What is more it was obedience leading to greater faith and greater blessing. They obeyed by faith what God called on them to do, God healed the water, they grew in faith, and God led them to a oasis in the midst of the desert (Exodus 15:27). God could have led them straight to the oasis, but they would have not noticed nor would it have strengthened their faith.

See in our own lives we have to accept the bitter moments along with the sweet moments. If we only long for the sweet moments and are discouraged by the bitter moments we will not grow in our faith. We become spoiled and take God for granted. But if we can learn to trust and obey God in the bitter moments then He will heal the bitterness and lead us into greater blessing. One thing to keep in mind in light of eternity our bitterness is only temporary. The blessing of God is eternal.

It has come to my awareness that some of the mightiest prayer warriors are some of the most humble people I have met. The are regularly glorifying God for what he has done in their lives and in the lives of others. To my shame I have doubted their praises when a natural explanation has been obvious to me. See at that time I was looking with natural eyes.

"Lord pull back the veil that I might see Your mighty works and appreciate Your healing hand. In Jesus Name AMEN"

~BJ

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Petitions and Intercessions (How to pray)

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

I need to make sure that I clarify something. It is possible to take away from my last several posts that petitions before God are of not of use. Nothing can be further from the truth. God acts based on our asking. We ought to go to God in prayer, but when we go we also ought to know what we are praying for (or else praying in the Spirit) and we ought to expect that we (the one offering the petition) will be changed in our hearts or our action. If these expectations are not a part of prayer then we are passive in our prayer and it is more likely that our relationship with God is about as intimate as with a waiter that takes our order at a restaurant. I want more! "Jesus give me more. Pour out Your Holy Spirit!"

Sometimes ministry of intercession requires you to not just take prayer requests at face value. How often I have heard a request, "Please pray for (fill in the name here) they are really struggling." Now I respect if someone asks for privacy in the matter so I am not against that. However, I have no idea what I am to pray for. "God please help them." That seems a silly prayer. If they are a believer He already is doing this. "God please relieve his struggling." Perhaps struggling is part of God's plan. In this case I am praying against God's will. I know that will not be productive. I can only pray in the Spirit at this point because I do not have enough information to offer a petition to God.

Let me give you an example that happened in a prayer meeting just the other day. I am going to leave the names out to respect privacy, but I think it really illustrates what I am trying to get at.

"Please pray for Jane Doe. Her family is very mean to her."
"What is going on?"
"They write mean letters to her, it hurts her, and she does not no what to do?"
"She should stop reading the letters."
"She keeps the letters as evidence for no contact orders."
"Why is she reading the letters?"
"She does not know what to do and she has no support from her family."
Praying in the Spirit, "What does this woman need?"
Spirit to my spirit very clear "What about Spiritual Family?"
"Does she fellowship with other believers?"
"No, She is a Christian."
"Does she go to church?"
"No, but she is a Christian and attends some Bible Studies."

Now the conversation ended shortly after this point and we moved on to other requests, but now I know exactly what to pray for (Conviction to find a fellowship and discernment to choose the right one) and hopefully the friend of Jane Doe has something to recommend to her the next time she talks with her friend. Notice how different the focus would be than if I just took the request at face value. The ministry of intercession is much more active than traditionally conceived. We have to be engaged spiritually.

"Lord help me move from a prayer list mentality to a prayer life mentality. In Jesus Name AMEN"

~BJ


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We are His Servants God is Our Intercessor

There are times in the ministry of intercession that you might have the fleeting thought (or maybe not so fleeting), "OK God now would be a good time to do something." It is rooted in doubt, but we are weak. Thank you Lord for when we are weak you are strong.

Imagine if you will you have just spent seven day crossing the Siani wilderness. It is both mountainous and desert. As you wonder around the 7th day you hear reports that the entire Egyptian Army is in pursuit. Chariots are closing fast on your position. You press through a valley out onto a beach facing the Red Sea. To the north of you is an Egyptian fort. To the south of you the cliffs terminate into the sea. To the west the Egyptian army is blocking. And so you stare at the sea and wonder, "What has Moses got us in to!"

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw the Egyptians coming after them. Then the Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. They said to Moses: "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Isn't this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."
Exodus 14:10-12 (HCSB)

This was a hopeless situation when it is looked at with natural eyes. At this moment in time if one were to say that the Lord Jehovah was leading the people of Israel, you would have concluded, "He is a foolish deity, because now His people are going to be annihilated. He has led them into a trap of doom."

But Moses said to the people, "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet."
Exodus 14:13-14 (HCSB)

Where does such boldness come from in the face of such a hopeless circumstance? Remember we have the benefit of knowing how the story turns out. Moses and the people of Israel did not. So where does Moses find such lofty words to use at a moment of desperation? I would submit to you that Moses had his marching orders from God's Holy Spirit. God had made it clear to Moses what the plan was. Even if God had left this detail out he knew and understood that God had plan. He had faith in God. Notice also what he told the Israelites to do, "BE Quiet."

When it comes to a ministry of intercession a lack of faith is like a black hole that sucks the light out of a situation. Moses was calling them to faith. The evidence of there faith would be to not fear, stand firm, watch, and be quiet. At times a ministry of intercession requires us to be bold and call people to faith. To see beyond the circumstances and remind them of God's faithfulness. We can call people to put away fears and doubts, to take a stance, and to embrace expectant waiting on the Lord. That is faith. It is this kind of faith that is called for in moments of desperation. It is this kind of faith that emboldens Moses to speak in such a lofty manner.

The Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to break camp. As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground."
Exodus 14:15-16 (HCSB)

I have to smile at God's response to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me?" This flies in the face of traditional understanding of the ministry of intercession. The traditional view is to press into God through prayer waiting for Him to act. So then why would God offer a rebuke for Moses doing this very thing? Are we supposed to carry everything to God in prayer? This would seem to be one of those moments. God is very confusing if that is our belief.

A ministry of intercession is not always prayer. There are time in which you are called to act. There are times when you are to call others to act. If you are listening to God this will be clear as the noon day. Let's take a look.

Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you must camp in front of Baal-zephon, facing it by the sea.
Exodus 14:2 (HCSB)

God gave Moses clear instructions. In front of Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephan (facing the sea) between Migdol and the sea. God had a specific place that he wanted them to be.

They departed from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which faces Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol.
Numbers 33:7 (HCSB)

This may seem a minor detail, but there are no minor details when it comes to serving God. What we consider minor can turn out to be a major catastrophe if we are not obedient. Notice where they camped. Not "in front of Pi-hahiroth" though it appears that it was near by, but instead they camped in before Migdol." God told them to Camp "in front of Pi-hahiroth" and "between Migdol and the sea." I believe that God was saying to Moses why are you crying out to me when you have not positioned yourself where I told you to be. This obedience was both spiritual but also practical in this case. God a specific plan for the people to cross the Red Sea. He also had a specific place that they were to cross. If they were not facing the sea and they were not at the specific point He wanted them to be they could not follow God's plan. The rebuke is, "Brake Camp and face the sea just as I have told you!"

This applies to us as well. There are times in life when we look at our circumstances and we start to complain to God. Many times God has already told us what we are to do or where we are supposed to be going. If we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing, or going where we are supposed to be going, it is hard to imagine that God is now going to be at our beck and call just because we are frightened by our circumstance. "Be Quiet" and do what God has called you to. "Be Quiet" and position yourself where God has called you to be. Already there? Already done? "Be Quiet" and wait upon the Lord (Ps 46:10-11).

Once they were positioned where God wanted them to be then He interceded for them. He came between them and the Egyptian army.

Then the Angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. It came between the Egyptian and Israelite forces. The cloud was there in the darkness, yet it lit up the night. So neither group came near the other all night long.
Exodus 14:19-20 (HCSB)

There is a danger in engaging in the ministry of intercession that some how you are doing something to gain God's favor on behalf of another. Let me make this very clear. You do not intercede, God does. You do not intercede, God does. In fact if you want to be in the ministry of intercession you ought to desire the prayers of others for you. So often we say, "Let's all pray for this person's need." If you are desiring to be an intercessor imageyou ought to ask for others the pray for you that the Holy Spirit reveal what you are to say to or do for this person in need. Praying for the need of someone not following Christ is like asking God to change Pharaoh's mind about letting the Israelite people to go. Better to inquire what the Lord would have you or other intercessors do. That God might intercede! We join God not God join us!

Notice it was not Moses that stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites. It was the very glory of God! God took up the between position and interceded on their behalf.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided,
Exodus 14:21 (HCSB)

Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments film trailer

Moses stretched out his hand, but God drove back the sea! How often I have said, "Moses parted the sea."   We often think of Moses being used by God to part the sea.  No actually Moses led the people to where they needed to be held up his hand.  God parted the sea.  The Bible is clear on this point.  We rob God of glory, we miss opportunity for witness, when we take credit for the thing that God has done. 

Lord forgive me for giving Moses glory that You alone deserve. We are just Your humble servants. You alone are worthy of Glory and Honor. Guard us from taking Glory that belongs to You alone. Help us to align with Your purpose. Help us to know and then obey with where you want us to be. Give us the faith to stamp out fear, stand firm, and wait upon you! Help me to realize that I am not in a position to be a part of the ministry of intercession until I am right with You and I have discerned by revelation of Your Holy Spirit where it is that You plan to intercede. Not my will Lord, but Your will be done in my life and the lives of others Lord. In Jesus Name AMEN.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God is a Meanie III (Judgment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians)

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

Image via Wikipedia

But Pharaoh responded, "Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him by letting Israel go? I do not know anything about Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go."
Exodus 5:2 (HCSB)

This is not an insignificant verse. There people that will reject God as a matter of course in this life. I must admit that I can understand the deception of sin the blinds a person to the love of God. It is often pointed out "Why would God punish Egypt for the sin that was Pharaoh?" and why would God punish Pharaoh when He "Hardened his heart." When we consider these comments we have to understand that they are observed and spoken through a filter of disowning God. There are many rationalizations that people can give to hate God. And they will just to assuage their consciences. Yet in there passion to find a reason to hate God they reveal within themselves the work of the Holy Spirit. The intensity of the reaction is out of sync with what they say that they believe. Namely that the Bible is a book of myths.

Let's take a look the two complaints and see if they are legitimate. As I have said before most people are not interested in what the Bible says. They form an opinion and will tell you what the Bible says often after reading or hearing about it somewhere else. In case there are those that are interested this verse quoted above is very important.

This was the very first recorded interaction with Pharaoh. Now as near as I can tell Pharaoh is rejecting God of his own accord. The hardening of his heart has not yet occurred. Not only did he reject God, but he also made things worse for the Hebrews.

But he said, "You are slackers. Slackers! That is why you are saying, 'Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.' Now get to work. No straw will be given to you, but you must produce the same quantity of bricks."
Exodus 5:17-18 (HCSB)

Hardness of Heart was a condition that preceded the plagues.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is hard: he refuses to let the people go. "
Exodus 7:14 (HCSB)

Which continued after the first sign.

Also the sacred scribes of Egypt did so with their occultisms; hence the heart of Pharaoh was steadfast, and he did not hearken to them, just as Yahweh had spoken.
Exodus 7:22 (CLT)

(Side Note: I am using Concordant Literal Version for this part because the translation intends to bring a literal word for word understanding to the text)

Notice the statement the heart of the Pharaoh was steadfast. Still at this point we do not see God hardening Pharaoh's heart.

When Pharaoh saw that there came to be an interval, he caused his heart to glory, and he hearkened not to them, just as Yahweh had spoken.
Exodus 8:15

Pharaoh "Caused his heart to glory." That is he became proud!

The sacred scribes said to Pharaoh: This is the finger of Elohim! Yet the heart of Pharaoh was steadfast, and he did not hearken to them just as Yahweh had spoken
Exodus 8:19

Here it starts to get more interesting. The religious leaders in Pharaoh's court have a change of heart. They recognized they were not dealing with a magic trick, but in fact where going toe to toe with God Himself. Yet when they pointed it out to Pharaoh his response was to remain steadfast. Notice God has yet to harden Pharaoh's heart.

Yet Pharaoh gloried in his heart, even at this time, and he did not dismiss the people.
Exodus 8:31

Again Pharaoh became prideful. No hardening by God Yet!

Then Pharaoh sent, and behold, not even one had died from the cattle of Israel. Yet the heart of Pharaoh gloried, and he did not dismiss the people.
Exodus 9:7

After five of the plagues Pharaoh was still holding pride within his heart. Yet no hardening as of yet by God. But that was about to change.

Yet Yahweh made the heart of Pharaoh steadfast, so that he did not hearken to them just as Yahweh had spoken to Moses.
Exodus 9:12

Here after many attempts to change the heart of Pharaoh do we see that God is now hardening his heart. You see if a person does not want God, God eventually gives them over to the hardness of his heart. There comes a point at which the person's rebellion serves only to deepen the judgment they have against themselves. There is only one cure, humbling themselves before God and turning their heart toward Him. Otherwise you continue on in the hardness of heart and God hardens your heart. My point is this you harden your heart to God long before He hardens your heart to long for sinful rebellion. It is when the conscience becomes seared that this type of hardness sets in. As long as there is a vestige of moral sense left there is a hope for repentance. In this case Pharaoh had crossed over. From this point forward his doom was certain.

Then Yahweh said to Moses: Rise early in the morning, station yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, Thus says Yahweh, Elohim of the Hebrews: Dismiss My people that they may serve Me. For at this time I am sending all My strokes onto your heart and your servants and your people in order that you shall know that there is no one such as Me in the entire earth.
Exodus 9:13-14

Notice in this warning God specifically identifies that He is going to strike the Pharaoh�s heart. In one way I believe that God is giving Pharaoh one last chance to repent. Sadly he did not turn. However, some of the Egyptians began to repent.

The one fearful of the word of Yahweh among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee to the houses.
Exodus 9:20

Yet those that did not take the warning to heart did not repent.

Yet he who was not setting his heart on the word of Yahweh, forsook his servants and his cattle in the field.
Exodus 9:21

Here we see God showing grace to the Egyptians that heeded His word. Now that some how gets left out when those making a case against God. God is gracious to the humble and upholds the repentant.

Now Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail and the thundering sounds had halted, yet he continued to sin and made his heart glory, he and his servants.
Exodus 9:34
Yahweh said to Moses: Enter to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart glory and the hearts of his servants that I may set these My signs among them,
Exodus 10:1

Who continued to sin? Pharaoh did. Who continued with a prideful heart? Pharaoh did. See God's hardening was something that Pharaoh already had in his heart. At this point it was clear that the Pharaoh's intent was hardness against God. It is at this point that God begins to harden the heart of Pharaoh to show the his signs against them. From this point on God hardened Pharaoh's heart (See Exodus 10:20, 27, 11:10).

This applies to us. God makes it clear to us either in our consciences, basic decency toward other human beings, His word (the Bible) what His expectations are for our lives. We also experience the consequences of choosing to go against God's ways. We may not have the same dramatic experience that Pharaoh had, but we have our own conviction that things are not right. Then we have a choice. Will we turn from missing the mark in our lives or will we with great pride in our hearts and stubbornness in our soul continue on our sinful way. The story is not over yet though.

I had mentioned that some of the Egyptians had repented and heeded the word of God (Exodus 9:20). What is even more interesting is that there was an ethnically diverse people that left Egypt.

An ethnically diverse crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds. The people baked the dough they had brought out of Egypt into unleavened loaves, since it had no yeast; for when they had been driven out of Egypt they could not delay and had not prepared any provisions for themselves.
Exodus 12:38-39 (HCSB)

Wait just a minute! Why did I not learn this in Sunday School? I am not sure why, but there it is. It would not have been possible for the family of Jacob (Israel) to be ethnically diverse. So what are we to make of the peculiar statement. I believe that being a Jew was an act of faith. You see the Passover required that people spread blood of a lamb over the door posts (Exodus 12:22-23). It was this act of faith that resulted in deliverance. Being covered by the Lamb's Blood (an act of faith) demonstrated that you were part of "Spiritual Israel." If you were a Jew, but did not put blood on your door post death visited your home. By reasoning then it is possible that if you were Egyptian (or other race) and you put blood on your doorpost then you were saved from death visiting your home. That seems radical, but it was the very thing that God said he would do. He did not say death would Passover decedents of Jacob. He said that death would Passover those that faithfully put the lamb's blood on the door post. That is why I believe there was an "ethnically diverse" people who left Egypt. It was the faithful followers of God that left. It was "Spiritual Israel." No doubt that the majority was ethnic Israel, but it would seem to me at least some were not ethnically Israel as well (Galatians 3:7 and others).

It seems then in response to those that say God is being unjust by punishing Pharaoh or the people of Egypt we have a very different picture than they would assume. What is really going on when we look at the passages dealing with Pharaoh's heart, is that Pharaoh started out hard. It was his pride and stubbornness that got him into trouble. Only after it was clear that Pharaoh was not going to repent did God harden his heart. God did this to judge the hardness that was already there. Interestingly those that have taken this position that God is unjust are in the same boat as Pharaoh. Without humility and brokenness they stand judged. Without a change they risk become hardened (calcified) against the things of God. Also it seems that Egyptians were judged not for Pharaoh's sin, but rather for following after Pharaoh (Who is divine according to Egyptian religion) and Egypt's gods. Those that repented and heeded the word of God were saved.

The same choice that existed then is before us today. Will we follow other gods and religions, or will we make God, Yahweh, the Savior and Lord of our lives. It is accomplished through the sacrifice. Since we live after the advent of the Cross it is Jesus who is our Passover Lamb. And it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves.

God Bless You

~BJ

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Did Not Expect That

Miniature ofrom Folio 8r of the Syriac Bible o...

At times our expectation is that if God is in a thing that it will automatically be successful. This is a lie meant to discourage us from pressing on. When we hear from God to act in some way and then it does not work in the way that we expect it can lead to a diminishing of our faith. Especially when we believe that God's hand guarantees immediate success. At all times God is working in a bigger picture. As much as we would like to think "it is about me" I can assure you that it is not.

Later, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, "This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: Let My people go, so that they may hold a festival for Me in the wilderness." But Pharaoh responded, "Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him by letting Israel go? I do not know anything about Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go."
Exodus 5:1-2 (HCSB)

Who will be glorified if Pharaoh let the people go at this point? I think it would be Moses. He would become a national hero and not servant of the Most High God. God did not choose Moses because he needed him. No God chose Moses that He might be glorified through Moses' obedient life.

You see we are here as servants to God. There is no room for self-glorification in the ministry of intersession. It is a ministry of resignation. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). The moment people begin to see you as their savior is the moment that you take the place of Christ in their lives. Trust me you do not want that job, nor are you able to bear it. Ours is a ministry that responds by bringing forth what God desires by outpouring of His love, grace, mercy, kindness into others lives. We are a conduit through which God provides this outpouring. Substantively we are nothing in ourselves.

So when things are not going as you might have expected them be resigned to continue in the last command that God has given you. If you do be prepared to see a mighty movement of God in your life. God often makes us aware of our frailty as He manifests His glory (Isaiah 6:3-5)! We may approach life with great boldness, not because of anything in ourselves, but because of the Mighty God whom we serve.

In short a ministry of intercession is one of persistence often in spite of the appearance of ineffectiveness. It is openness to the fact that God may be choosing to do something that you do not see or expect. Finally the ministry of intercession is an expectant waiting to see what God is going to do next.

God Bless You

~BJ

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Aligning with God

Moses and the Burning Bush, illustration from ...

It seems that the among the most difficult tasks is to align yourself with God.  His will for your will.  Sometimes there is a specific direction that God is calling you to go.  At other times there is some general principles that He is attempting to bring to bear in your walk with him.  In either case being outside of His will keeps you from being able to engage effectively in a ministry of intercession. 

"I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The Israelites' cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." But Moses asked God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
Exodus 3:8-11 (HCSB)

Moses still did not quite get it.  Not to point fingers at him, because honestly there are many times I don't quite get it.  Notice that first part of the quite "I (God) have come down to rescue..."  Then notice Moses' response, "Who am I that I should go..."  Moses' doubt was getting in the way.  He has covered it in false humility, but in fact it is a statement of doubt.  I say false humility because God was not asking Moses to do something.  God was asking Moses to join in something that He was already doing.  Moses' doubt then was not self-doubt, no it was doubt of God thinly veiled in self-doubt (false humility). 

I have been there!  God is making it clear to me there is some action that He wants me to be involved in and I say "I am not good enough."  At those times I believe I am doing God a favor by disqualifying myself, but in reality I am saying, "God I do not trust your judgment in choosing me."  Stated that way this doubt must be offensive to God.  Praise God He is longsuffering with our weaknesses.

He answered, "I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain."
Exodus 3:12 (HCSB)

After Moses' "Who am I" question I imagine God thinking, "No Moses not you alone."  He tells Moses that He will be with Moses.  He also says that proof will be in the success of the task that He was inviting Moses to be a part of.  Here is where faith begins to replace doubt.  Moses was looking for something that he could reasonably expect a positive outcome.  Ironically talking to a burning bush was not a convincing sign.  But are we not that way also.  God has shown up in our lives in some amazing way and yet when He appoints something for us we are like we never knew His mighty hand working in our lives?  No proof would be given.  Moses was to take the assignment on faith.  The proof was a complete task.  Faith was believing God's Word!

Then Moses asked God, "If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what should I tell them?" God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."
Exodus 3:13-14 (HCSB)

I used to think that this was Moses just looking for a way out.  As I have matured in my faith I now believe that this is a very legitimate question.  You see Moses realized that this task was greater than himself.  He realized that it was not by his own authority he was taking on this task.  It was God's authority that he was acting on.  That is why he asks His Name. 

Let me offer an analogy.  If I were to travel to Egypt right now and ask for an opportunity to meet with the president I can confidently say they would not give me access.  In fact there is a high likelihood I would get myself arrested given the current state of affairs.  However, if I were part of a envoy from President Obama to talk with the President of Egypt and asked for an opportunity to meet him then my odds just when up substantially.  Why?  Because if I go of my own authority ("Who are you, I do not know a BJ") it does not mean much.  But if I go in president Obama's authority (his name) then it has significant meaning. 

So Moses was asking not to get out of going, but to identify the authority by which was being sent.  This relates to the ministry of intercession very significantly. 

You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.
John 15:16 (HCSB)
I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
John 16:23-24 (HCSB)

Key point here.  Alignment with God's will precedes "Asking in His Name."  It was only by aligning himself with God's purposes, and walking in God's Authority that Moses was able to ask in His name and have it happen.  Don't miss this point.  This is not a cosmic get a free meal ticket.  It is a call to join God and experience His power in your life flowing into the lives of others as you engage in the ministry of intercession.

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
John 16:33 (HCSB)

One last point.  In the same context of "Asking in Jesus' name" we have this verse.  "You will have suffering in this world."  It may not seem like a blessing to live this way. For most Christians they would choose a life of spiritual mediocrity over having to deal with suffering.  But notice the blessing.  You will have peace and courage in the midst of suffering.  Why?  Because Jesus has "conquered the world!"  Note the fulfillment of this is accepted by faith.  By the way sideline Christianity does not keep you from experiencing suffering in this life.  It just makes you powerless to do anything about it.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  We have a higher calling.  We are like Moses to the world.  Ours is a calling to lead others out of spiritual bondage and slavery.  We must align with God, have faith in His Word, receive his calling and authority, and then move to intervene in the lives of others.  It is a high calling, but one that is certain to bring a flood of blessing to your soul. 

For those that do not have a relationship with Christ I am sure this post is most confusing.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would convict and convince you of your greatest need, "A relationship with Christ."  You may not feel that now, but in time His Spirit will show you and I pray that God give you the faith to believe. 

God Bless You

~BJ


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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Missing the Mark with Intercession

Moses Face

Image via Wikipedia

But Moses interceded with the Lord his God: "Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand?"
Exodus 32:11 (HCSB)

I quoted this verse because it zeros in on Moses' Ministry of intercession.  Moses had a relationship with God and through that relationship he was able to bring the message of God to others.  The nature of that relationship with God put him in the unique position of intervening on the people's behalf.  He also intervened by leading the people to enter a right relationship with God.  It will take more that one or two posts to develop my ideas here.  Some introductory thoughts would be:  The ministry of intercession is at first a relationship with God through prayer empowered by His Holy Spirit.  It is listening to God and bringing His message to others.  It is prayerfully aligning yourself with God's purposes and praying for others (what it traditionally thought of being intercession) according to His will not your own.  Finally it is acting on the spiritual wisdom or insight personally and/or leading others to see what God would have them do in their own lives.  I will go into greater detail in future posts, but first I want to show what happens when we try to intercede on our own. 

Years later, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his own people and observed their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. Looking all around and seeing no one, he struck the Egyptian dead and hid him in the sand.
Exodus 2:11-12 (HCSB)

Moses being raised by his own mother as a nurse maid on behalf of Pharaoh's daughter (See Exodus 2:8-10) clearly had time to learn about "his own people."  Moses was stuck in between to worlds.  He as adopted as a prince of Egypt and he was a Hebrew, who were slaves the Egyptians.  No doubt his sense of justice was offended when he saw how the Hebrew people were being treated.  In this scripture he sees an Egyptian assaulting a Hebrew.  He no doubt became very  angry (anger being the root of murder; See Matthew 5:21-22).  He executed his own justice.  He interceded on behalf of the Hebrew against the Egyptian.  This was his intercession in the flesh.

The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you attacking your neighbor?" "Who made you a leader and judge over us?" the man replied. "Are you planning to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses became afraid and thought: What I did is certainly known. When Pharaoh heard about this, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well.
Exodus 2:13-15 (HCSB)

Moses then sees to Hebrews fighting.  He decides to intervene again.  This time as a peacemaker rather than judge and executioner.  However, He still is working in the flesh.  That is Moses is acting according to his own will and not the will of God.  When he is confronted with the murder he has just committed he gives up on being a peace maker and becomes fearful of his own well-being.  He runs away before Pharaoh can bring him to justice for the murder. 

Now we may not go to the extreme case of murder in our attempts to intercede on behalf of others, but we can fall into the same traps.  First Moses had a strong sense of right and wrong.  He found that injustice was intolerable.  Most of the time when we act it is to gain some benefit or to correct some wrong.  He was moved to anger at the sight of injustice.  We can also be moved to anger.  Sometimes we believe that we are even doing the right thing.  In some ways we become minor deities in which we play the role of God in others lives.  "I know what is best for you, so listen to me."  This is intercession according to the flesh.  Intercession according to the flesh can have disastrous results. 

At times we insert ourselves into a conflict between people with the intent of being a peace maker.  Blessed are the peace makers after all (Matthew 5:9), right?  Notice without seeking God he determined in his heart who was wrong and confronted him.  How often do we quickly make up our mind when two people are in dispute about who is in the wrong.  Another not so obvious thing to note is that these two Hebrews did not ask for him to intervene nor did Moses get their consent to do so.  How often in our own sense of wisdom (really just puffed up know  nothingness) we tell others what we think.  This is offensive and rarely received.   In this case the intercession fails miserably.  This is intercession based on self-wisdom.  Intercession based on what you know (without God's wisdom) is ineffective.

Moses had much to learn before God could use him to intercede for a nation.  God has longsuffering when it comes to our shortcomings and weaknesses.  He allows for us to make our mistakes that we might come to the end of ourselves and then turn to Him.  I plan to show over the next several posts to show through the life of Moses what a ministry of intercession looks like.   I pray that God give me the words to write and that His Spirit would illuminate your soul in this very important ministry. 

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ministry of Intercession?

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Intercessory Prayer as it has been traditionally conceived is somewhat silly. It is as if we can get the right person, or enough people to pray to God that some how He will be moved to show mercy and grace. "Why does that seem silly?" you ask. Well God knows all things. He knows before you ask what you are going to ask. What is more He already knows how it is going to turn out.

So as I reflect on the ministry of being an intercessor I believe that there is something much greater than simply giving God your wish list for yourself or others. There must be some other purpose that is fulfilled by this action that changes ourselves and/or others. As I reflect on this I begin to see that Intercessory Prayer is much greater than simply saying some words on behalf of another person before God. In fact it begins to seem quite arrogant on my part to think that my praying to God will be instrumental to God having a favorable disposition toward a family member or friend.

We need to take a serious look at what exactly we are praying for. Does it fit with God's will? How do we discern what God's will is? What is getting in the way for this person that is keeping God from answering his/her own heart prayer? It is not just that we might get some favor from God, but what is it that God is trying to do in this person's life that will lead to greater Glory for God and/or lead this person into greater intimacy with the creator of the universe. In some ways the things we pray for usually become somewhat trivial when compared to the greater experience of our relationship with God.

For Example: What if God was working through a painful life experience to bring about a greater good in your friend�s life? By praying for that painful experience to be removed we are praying outside of God's will. It would be presumptuous for me to think that God's working through this experience was some how less important than my desire to see it removed. Some people are shocked when they hear people say things like "Maybe God has a plan for good through this." We tend to think of God being instrumental in the lovely and beautiful things in life, but we tend to think of evil and ugly things in life as being accidental or random. Why? I think it is to settle our dissonance that God allows evil things to happen. When evil is random I can hold onto the image of a loving and compassionate god with my faculties of reason. When evil has purpose, then it is a bit harder to consider questions like, "Why did God allow this?" Holding on to a loving and compassionate God defies reason and becomes an act of faith. Not that God is unreasonable, but that in our limited finite ability to understand it seems unreasonable. We don't see the end of things, but in time this will be revealed to us. Ours is to trust and have faith in the mean time.

So then at the extreme limits of intercessory prayer we have to consider that God may have a purpose for pain and suffering that is redemptive and not just some random event as a result of living in a fallen world. If we can identify ourselves with the purpose of God, that is to align ourselves with his will and purpose then we are in a position to enter the ministry of intercessor. Up until that point we are merely offering up a wish list to a Divine Grandfather, but not the true image of God. Those are hard words. Many will shriek away from this statement, but then it is possible that not all people are called to be intercessors in this way.

So what can we say then? Intercessory is not wishing people out of their painful circumstances. It is not a heavenly to do list for God. It is not the arrogant belief that my will can somehow prevail over God's will. So what can we say that it is? I will be doing more posts on this but I have a few points I would like to make before the close of this post. First to be an intercessor you have to align you will with God's not the other way around. Second, you have to realize that in fact there is only one intercessor who is Jesus Christ. Thirdly, it may seem contradictory to say "to be an intercessor" and then say "there is only one intercessor." What I am trying to convey is that there is a ministry under the divine authority of the one true intercessor Jesus Christ. Apart from this it our intercession will be fruitless and frankly pointless.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
Romans 8:34 (HCSB)

I would urge all of you to read all of Romans 8! I chose to highlight a few verses in that chapter because it speaks to our role in intercession. First I want to point out that Jesus at the right hand of God intercedes for us. He intercedes for the believer and has audience with God the Father. I cannot think of any position that can replace or compare to this office. If I have a intercessor that is at the right hand of God (and is God) then I do not need anyone else to be my intercessor. I would just go to Him. I should just go to Him.

But then what is the ministry of intercession then?

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)

I want to draw your attention to a couple of things in this verse.

First that the Spirit of God intercedes according to the will of God. That may seem a minor point, but it is not. The Holy Spirit acts in accord with God the Father, and the Son Jesus Christ. This unity (both in person, but also in purpose) is the essence of the ministry of intercession that the Holy Spirit holds. He acts according to the will of God.

Secondly, we are weak and in that weakness we need the help of the Holy Spirit, because we don't know what to pray for. I would say that the greatest reason is that we do not know the will of God.

The relationship looks like this then: God the Father is the King of the universe, Christ is our advocate interceding between God and ourselves, and the Holy Spirit carries out the ministry of intercession by divine decree.

We join in the ministry of intercession as we align our will with God's will. When we do not know what God is doing then we allow the Holy Spirit to be our voice and intercede according to the will of God. In this process then one can expect that we can align with God's will. Our job then is not to be the intercessor, but rather to carry out the ministry of the one true intercessor. It is a "What would Jesus do?" except on a far deeper spiritual level. That is not just in action, but obedience at a heart and spiritual level. That obedience has to first affect the one would carry out this ministry long before that person can possibly hope to be a positive influence on others.

This is a very wordy post. I hope that I have not confused you more. I will spend some time in my next posts fully developing my understanding of this ministry as well as providing some examples of what it looks like. Maybe through this I can be able to share with you what God is putting on my heart.

God Bless You

~BJ

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Difficulty of Intercession (It can be rejected)

sculpture: a dead man's hand

Funny how God's second recorded intersession was a failure.

That may seem like a heretical statement, but it is true. It makes me feel much more comfortable with the ministry of intersession. It means that I have a responsibility to act in love, toward the best interests of others, to point others toward a relationship with God, but without regard for the success of the outcome. Success or failure of intercession ultimately lies in the faith and action of the person you are interceding for.

In the first intersession Adam was lonely. He realized that in all of God's creation there was none like him. So God broke into his world in a supernatural way. He Created Eve. I would have to say that God has done a good work in this. Life in total isolation would be akin to a living hell. Always longing, but never able to see, share, serve. It would be a sad life. The first intersession was good. Adam received it. He acted favorably toward his wife that God had provided. There is a lesson there for spouses, but that will have to wait for another post someday maybe.

Then came sin...

We don't like to think of God as failing. One of the problems is that we hold on to a theology that God is perfect. Now let me make it clear God is perfect in essence and in and of Himself. However, he created a universe that has imperfection. That is He by the very act of creating something beyond Himself created the possibility of imperfection. Something that was not of Himself or that would not always reflect His own perfection, but rather in His image he created beings with will (just as He is) that could act according to their own will (just as He does) independently (just as He does). In creating this reality He built in to reality the possibility of this being acting contrary to His will, that was willed or self-willed by another (not God). When I say God failed it was not because of He had some imperfection, but that in a way His creation had rejected Him and rendered His intersession ineffectual.

So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
Genesis 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Cain was angry. What is more sin was cleaving to his soul. God attempted to intervene.

Intercede: Inter meaning "in between" and cede meaning "to go"

Intersession is the act of going between to things. Most traditionally it is a prayer. When we pray on behalf of another person we "go between" the person we are praying for and God the giver of all good things (James 1:17). We are asking on behalf of another that God demonstrate His grace and His mercy toward that person.

In the case of Cain, I believe that God desired to demonstrate his grace and mercy toward him. However sin had prevented God from accepting his sacrifice. This made Cain angry. You see Cain is a lot like most of us. We don't mind receiving God's grace and mercy, but we do not like to part with the pleasures that sin provides us. We are worldly. We enjoy the world. The ruler of this world holds our hearts with the desires of this world. God wanted to intervene. So he explained to Cain what he was to do.

Now I take a non-traditional approach to this passage (See Cain was Furious). In this I believe that God was giving Cain a second chance. The word "sin" in this passage can also be interpreted "sin-offering.:

Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.'
Genesis 4:7 (YLT)

So God was providing a path for restored fellowship with Himself on behalf a Cain. God himself provided the sin-offering that would restore Cain in his relationship to God. God acted to provide the go between (i.e. intersession).

However, Cain rejected the go between. He did not want to repent, but rather he allowed the desires of the flesh to rule the day. He in turn murdered his brother. God attempted to intercede, but Cain had rejected it leading to continued sin, even the sin of murder. God's intercession failed. Not for lack of desire or sufficiency on His part, but because Cain refused it. I think this is an important lesson for us. We can intercede for others, but they will not always receive it. It also makes me all the more appreciative of the ways that God intervenes in my own life. Some times I reject His "between going" to my own sorrow. But as I become more aware of God's interceding for me I am happy to submit my will to His will that He might be glorified and I might experience the fullness of His Grace and Mercy.

This is the first post on a series on the subject of the ministry of intersession.

God Bless You

~BJ

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