Vital Intercession

. . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit . . . —Ephesians 6:18

As we continue on in our intercession for others, we may find that our obedience to God in interceding is going to cost those for whom we intercede more than we ever thought. The danger in this is that we begin to intercede in sympathy with those whom God was gradually lifting up to a totally different level in direct answer to our prayers. Whenever we step back from our close identification with God’s interest and concern for others and step into having emotional sympathy with them, the vital connection with God is gone. We have then put our sympathy and concern for them in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.

It is impossible for us to have living and vital intercession unless we are perfectly and completely sure of God. And the greatest destroyer of that confident relationship to God, so necessary for intercession, is our own personal sympathy and preconceived bias. Identification with God is the key to intercession, and whenever we stop being identified with Him it is because of our sympathy with others, not because of sin. It is not likely that sin will interfere with our intercessory relationship with God, but sympathy will. It is sympathy with ourselves or with others that makes us say, “I will not allow that thing to happen.” And instantly we are out of that vital connection with God.

Vital intercession leaves you with neither the time nor the inclination to pray for your own “sad and pitiful self.” You do not have to struggle to keep thoughts of yourself out, because they are not even there to be kept out of your thinking. You are completely and entirely identified with God’s interests and concerns in other lives. God gives us discernment in the lives of others to call us to intercession for them, never so that we may find fault with them.


Friendship with God

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing . . . ? —Genesis 18:17

The Delights of His Friendship. Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.

The Difficulties of His Friendship. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Think of the last thing you prayed about-were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God? “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

Abraham’s Life of Faith

He went out, not knowing where he was going —Hebrews 11:8

In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26.

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason—a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.

The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagles’ wings, but is a life of day—in and day—out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (seeIsaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test. Abraham is not a type or an example of the holiness of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith—a faith, tested and true, built on the true God. “Abraham believed God. . .” (Romans 4:3).

What the Poor Man Has

Aaron and his sons shall eat the rest of it, but it is to be eaten without yeast in the sanctuary area; they are to eat it in the courtyard of the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 6:16

The Torah portion for this week is Tzav, which means “command,”from Leviticus 6:1–8:36, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 7:21–8:3; 9:22–23.

The Ba’al Shem Tov, a renowned Hasidic teacher in the eighteenth century, used to say that he was envious of the poor. Now, many people are envious of movie stars or sports figures; many people express a desire to become the president of the United States or the doctor who cures cancer. But have you ever heard of someone saying that they wished to be poor? What did the Rabbi find so enviable about poor people?

This week’s Torah portion includes many laws regarding sacrifices. One category of sacrifices was called the grain offering. This was the offering of the poor who could not afford to present an animal or bird to God. The grain offering was unleavened bread, also known as the “poor man’s bread.” It was flat and simple – a most humble offering.

Interestingly, the laws regarding these offerings indicate that they are especially holy. While most sacrifices could be consumed by anyone, only the holy priests were permitted to eat the grain offerings. Moreover, the offerings had to be eaten in the holy sanctuary area of the Tabernacle, and then later, the Temple. So it stands to reason that if these grain offerings of the poor were given such special treatment, the poor who offered them must be special as well.

The Hasidic Rabbi explained his admiration for the poor by pointing out their special quality. He said that the rest of us are distracted and fooled by the illusions of our material possessions and wealth. We lack clarity about life, God, and our relationship to Him. But the poor experience a connection with God that the Rabbi envied. The poor have no one and nothing to rely upon except for the Lord. They are clear about what and who matters in life. As a result, they forge a deep relationship with God and enjoy an extra close connection.

In Psalm 40, King David proclaims, “But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the LORD think of me” (v. 17). Since when is the king considered poor?

In truth, David didn’t want for anything, but he revealed something about us all. The reality is that we all are poor and needy. No matter what we may think we have, the truth is that we don’t have anything at all. Everything belongs to God, and the fact that He has blessed us with certain things today is no guarantee that we will be given them again tomorrow.

The good news is that this realization can deeply enhance our relationship with God. When we recognize that we, too, are poor and needy, we rely only on Him. We can develop the kind of closeness with God that the Rabbi envied and that God desires.

What the Poor Man Has

The Small Aleph

The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 1:1

The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21–44:23.

This week, we begin Leviticus, the third of the Five Books of Moses. It begins: “The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him.”There is something extremely unusual about this verse, but it is only noticeable when looking at the original Hebrew. The word for “called out” is vayikra, the title of this week’s portion. However, in this instance, the word is written in a strange way. Aleph, the very last letter of vayikra and also the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is written smaller than the rest of the word.

What is the message of the small aleph?

The Sages give a few suggestions. One idea is that Moses purposefully wrote it that way. Moses, being an extremely humble man, felt it was necessary to downplay his unique relationship with God. He made thealeph small as if to say, “even though God calls out to me, I’m really not that great.” It was a sign of humility.

However, there is another interpretation that relays a powerful message to us all. When we think of God calling out to someone, we might think of a huge, monumental experience that shakes heaven and earth. However, by making the aleph small, the message conveyed is that God often communicates with us in a much less impressive manner. Remember the story of the prophet Elijah? As he stood on the mountain and experienced fierce winds, a powerful earthquake, and a roaring fire, Elijah did not hear God’s voice in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Rather God’s voice was in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).

Some people wait their whole lives to experience God, looking for some cataclysmic event. They see Him in wars, weather, and other world-changing events. But, while God undoubtedly can be found in events like those, we can also find Him in the everyday, less noticeable events.

He is in a child’s laughter and a baby’s cry. He is in the poor person who needs our help, and He is with us as we wait in to the grocery check-out line. God presents Himself in the countless opportunities we have every day to choose goodness, kindness, and godliness. He is that small still voice we hear, urging us to choose good.

God is in the little things, so small that it’s easy to miss sometimes. We must be constantly vigilant and aware so that we can hear God’s voice and find Him in even the most mundane aspects of our lives. Because some day we will realize that all those small things add up to something very large – a life lived with holiness and a deep connection with God.

The Small Aleph

The Ultimate Lifeline by Mark D. Roberts

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

In 1999, American television audiences became transfixed by a new game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Tens of millions of viewers watched as contestants tried to answer the right combination of questions to win a million dollars. Though, for the most part, contestants had to rely on their own knowledge, wits, and good luck, they did have three “lifelines”: 50/50, phone a friend, and ask the audience. With the help of these lifelines, several contestants managed to answer all fifteen questions correctly, thus becoming millionaires.

God created human beings with access to vital “lifelines.” We were not made to live life on our own. Rather, we were made for community with God’s people and, in fact, with God himself, the source of life.

But everything took a major turn for the worse when human beings rejected God and his ways. Genesis 3 shows us that the vital relationships created for us were broken. Our lifelines were cut off. Thus, in Ephesians 2:12, Gentiles are said to be “excluded [apellotriomenoi] from citizenship in Israel,” and therefore severed from the people of God. It gets even worse in Ephesians 4:18, where the Gentiles are revealed to be “separated [apellotriomenoi] from the life of God.” Talk about a missing lifeline!

Of course, as created beings, we have physical life whether we are in relationship with God or not. Yet, even though our bodies are alive, when we are cut off from God, we are, in a sense, already dead (2:1). The good news is that God does not leave us in our solitary, fatal condition. Jesus Christ becomes the “ultimate lifeline,” if you will, the source of God’s own life, graciously offered through Christ. Thus, when, through faith, we receive God’s grace, God makes us alive with Christ (2:4).

If you’re a Christian, then you have used the ultimate lifeline. You have eternal life through Jesus Christ. This life is not just something to be enjoyed after you die. It is to be experienced each day as you live in conscious, consistent, covenantal relationship with God, the giver of life.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you used the “lifeline” offered by God through Christ? What got you to the point that you were ready to call out to God to save you? Are you living each day in relationship with God, the source of life? How do you experience God’s life on a daily basis?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the “lifelines” you have given me. Thank you, most of all, for the gift of life in Jesus Christ.

Even as I have entered into your life through Christ, may I continue to live in your life each day. May I remain connected to you in my thoughts and feelings, in my words and actions. May my life be a reflection of your life in me.

To you be all the glory. Amen.

Are You Fresh for Everything?

Jesus answered and said to him, ’Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ —John 3:3

Sometimes we are fresh and eager to attend a prayer meeting, but do we feel that same freshness for such mundane tasks as polishing shoes?

Being born again by the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God, as mysterious as the wind, and as surprising as God Himself. We don’t know where it begins— it is hidden away in the depths of our soul. Being born again from above is an enduring, perpetual, and eternal beginning. It provides a freshness all the time in thinking, talking, and living— a continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication that something in our lives is out of step with God. We say to ourselves, “I have to do this thing or it will never get done.” That is the first sign of staleness. Do we feel fresh this very moment or are we stale, frantically searching our minds for something to do? Freshness is not the result of obedience; it comes from the Holy Spirit. Obedience keeps us “in the light as He is in the light . . .” (1 John 1:7).

Jealously guard your relationship with God. Jesus prayed “that they may be one just as We are one”-with nothing in between (John 17:22). Keep your whole life continually open to Jesus Christ. Don’t pretend to be open with Him. Are you drawing your life from any source other than God Himself? If you are depending on something else as your source of freshness and strength, you will not realize when His power is gone.

Being born of the Spirit means much more than we usually think. It gives us new vision and keeps us absolutely fresh for everything through the never-ending supply of the life of God.