Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Practical Intercession

Jethro and Moses, as in Exodus 18, watercolor ...

Image via Wikipedia

Jethro (Moses' father-in-law) saw something that Moses could not see himself. He was certain that Moses was going to burn out leading the people of Israel and they would grow tired of his leadership and how long it took to get answers (Exodus 18:18). Jethro offered wise counsel. He did not challenge the authority of God. In fact he called upon it. His was more counsel as to the practical more than the spiritual. I am glad that God puts people into our lives to offer practical advice. In this way God used Jethro to intercede for Moses. See if you can follow my line of thinking.

First Jethro acknowledged Yahweh as God (Exodus 18:10-11). Then he watched and paid attention to what Moses was doing (Exodus 18:14). He noticed that Moses had a need. Moses was not aware of this need, but Jethro noticed it none the less. He pointed out the need (Exodus 18:17-18). Then he offered a solution as to what Moses could do about it.

Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all times. Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you. If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.
Exodus 18:19-23 (HCSB)

Being used of God does not always correspond to what we would consider spiritual. Often God uses us in very practical ways to minister to other's needs. What is required is for us to be open to the possibility that God might use us to help another out in a practical way or that God might be using others to help us in some practical way. This could take the form of advise. It could also take the form of meeting some basic need. But what ever it might be you will be used of God to intercede for others not in prayer alone, but also in the very natural gifts, talents, and spiritual gifts that God has given you. Often the practical is more spiritual than we might imagine; Consider:

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you don't give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn�t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.
James 2:15-18 (HCSB)

You see Jethro had faith (Exodus 18:11-12), but his faith was shown from his practical advice that he gave to Moses. What is more the practical advice taken by Moses freed up Moses to do what God had planned next; the giving of the Law. Had Moses continued administering (lead) as he was before Jethro's visit he would not have been able to minister (serve) as he did after Jethro's visit. In this way Jethro's practical advice enabled Moses to fulfill his spiritual calling (Exodus 3:12).

We need to be open to what God may be doing in our lives either by way offering practical help to others as Jethro did or in receiving practical help from others in order for God to use us to minister more effectively as Moses did. In this way God can use the practical to bring forth the spiritual.

May God Richly Bless You

~BJ

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sermon: In the Midst of Darkness 3/13/11

Here is the MP3 for the sermon that I preached last week.  It loosely follows this post: In the midst of dark times.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Even Intercessors Need Intercessors

Image via Wikipedia: Moses holding up his arms during the battle, a...

Funny how at times we will not mind praying for others, but then we do not allow others to support us through ministry and/or prayer.  Lifting each other up holding each other up is the role of Christian Church life.  How often we miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others.  How often we miss the opportunity to be blessed.  All because we are stuck in do it myself mode. 

While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. When Moses' hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down.
Exodus 17:11-12 (HCSB)

In the ministry of intercession it can become lonely.  Sometimes it feels like you are the only one trying.  Others are too busy, too self absorbed, too weak, too unspiritual, too ...  Dear friends this is a lie.  Fact is there are many intercessors that God is raising up to be warriors for Him.  These warriors do not fight flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12).  Now this lie accomplishes one of two things (and sometimes both). 

First it makes you feel isolated. If you feel isolated then you feel weak.  I have close to 100 visits to my blog each week.  It does not seem like a large number compared to the vast internet, but I am encouraged because I know that I am not alone.  When I attend church and fellowship with other believers then I am encouraged because I am not alone.  When I go to work and praise God with other brothers and sisters in Christ I am encouraged because I a not alone.  When I celebrate my family I am encouraged because I am not alone.  You see the lie of isolation is to get you to feel weak and defeated.  But I say be encouraged you are not alone. 

Secondly this lie builds up a spiritual pride.  "I am chosen by God."  True statement, but it ignores the truth.  Huh?  How can a true statement ignore the truth?  Try this, "We are chosen by God!"  Did you see that, by changing "I" to "We" the tone of the statement completely changes.  Try it out for yourself.  Say it out loud.  There are times when a person in a leadership position is called to bring the ministry of intercession to the people of God, but no man is an island.  We all need others to be our come along side to support us. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 (HCSB)

There are four things that you can do to join in the ministry of intercession to support those engaged in the ministry: encourage, recognize, regard in love, and live peaceably.  To me to encourage is to intercede.  Life can be filled with discourage and disappointment.  Fact is that at times it feels like an overwhelming flood.  This flood is a weight that cannot be born alone.  It is a trouble that persistently weighs a person down.  When we intercede we are coming between to parties typically, but in this case we have to opportunity to come between the flood of pain and suffering and inspire words of hope to spring to life in a persons soul.  Words of encouragement can be water to a thirsty soul.  You can separate someone from the desire to give up, and give them a hope to press on.   These are powerful, inspiring words.  The great things is that they do not have to be fancy like some inspiring speech.  They just need to be given.  Recognizing someone who has had an impact on you life will be an encouragement to press on.  Regarding others in love is powerful.  Living peaceably brings sweet fellowship to the community.  Were there is unity there is powerful movement (intercession) of God's Holy Spirit. 

So in the case of Moses there was a threat to the community.  They were under attack. God had plans for the people of Israel to prevail.  As was the case when they Crossed the Red Sea God was working through Moses, but God is the intercessor (Moses the minister).  As Moses did before he raises his hands.  As he raises his hands God gives the people victory.  If his hands drop the threat prevails.  It would seem as if there was something magical about Moses' hands. But that would be superstition.  So what is to be gained from this?  Why would God not just intercede?  I believe that God was preparing the People of Israel to begin to enter into mutual support and community.  Notice!  Without the support of Aaron and Hur Moses could not sustain.  With the support his hands were steady until the sun went down.  God works in community.  Fact is without community there is no support.  Without community there is no ability to sustain.  In this way Aaron and Hur fulfilled their calling to be partners in this ministry of intercession.  "I" became "We."

And Moses built an altar and named it, "The Lord Is My Banner." He said, "Indeed, my hand is lifted up toward the Lord�s throne...
Exodus 17:15-16 (HCSB)

As fits the pattern I described in previous posts this episode ends in a celebration for how God has interceded.  "The Lord is My Banner."  "My hand is lifted up."  Beautiful words. 

May God keep you lifted up, and may He bring others from the community to keep you lifted up when you cannot sustain it yourself.  This is God's intercession!

~BJ

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