Posts Tagged ‘bold prayers’

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 5)

The Levites Dedicated

The “pinkie swear” was serious business when we were kids. When you linked pinkie fingers with one of your buddies, it was a serious deal. Whatever you said during a pinkie swear, you were bound by the honor code of childhood friends to do what you said you were going to do. It was a verbal contract. You would lose honor in the kid world if you went back on your word. Usually, too, there were witnesses to a pinky swear. That made it official and public. We had to keep our word when we made a pinkie swear. It was a reputation thing. You would no longer be trusted as a true friend within your circle of friends in life of kids. It is funny how we, as parents, think we know our kids through and through, but there are certain parts of childhood that parents just have no clue. The world of school kids starting about 3rd grade and on through high school, there are social currents and social structures that kids navigate and understand that parents are clueless about. But, that is just the way of the world as children grow progressively more independent from their parents. Although the pinkie swear takes many forms over the years, it is part of the social justice system of kid kingdom. Sometimes, requirements of parents (unaware that a pinkie swear has been made) conflict with the kid social justice system of the pinkie swear. Kids understand that parental authority trumps the society of the kid kingdom so it can cause conflict with a pinkie swear made. If you promise to be there on a Saturday morning at the ball field to stand with a friend against your enemy but yet you haven’t finished your home chores, the pinkie swear gets trumped by parental authority. Thus, kids who make pinkie swears take it seriously because you are saying that this oath to do something is important. I am willing to risk the uncertainties of the future conflict of parental authority and the pinkie swear. I am that serious about this. A pinkie swear meant that you didn’t know what conflicts lie ahead with your promise but you were willing to put your honor on the line and keep your word. Ah, the pinkie swear! It was serious business. When you were a kid, you did not need a voluminous contract (like Sheldon’s roommate agreement in the show, The Big Bang Theory) to solidify your word. All that it took to mean that you were serious about keeping your word was the pinkie swear. It was your contract. It was your honor. It was your commitment. It was the contract of the kid kingdom. If you weren’t willing for a promise made to be a hill worth dying on to keep, then you didn’t pinkie swear. If you were not willing to put your honor on the line, the pinkie swear was not made. If you were lying about your ability to do something, you did not pinkie swear. It was reserved for brothers-in-arms. It was reserved for those friends that you would go to battle with. It was reserved for those most serious of commitments. It was serious business, this pinkie swear.

 

As adults who are evangelical Christ followers, we have our things that mark seriousness as well. It is the pinkie swear. It is classic evangelic Christian stuff. I’ve done it. If you are an evangelical Christian, you’ve probably done it, too. It is the laying on of hands to another person during a prayer. It means more than just your average prayer. It is more than your normal spectator public prayer. It shows that you are serious about this prayer. You want the person to know that you are not praying some platitude over them from afar. You are physically touching them. In some of the big laying on hands in prayer for a person or persons in a large group, you may end up laying a hand on a person who is laying a hand on a person who is laying a hand on a person who is laying hands on the person being prayed for, but the idea is the same. It takes getting out of your seat. You are demonstrating your seriousness. And if you lay on the hands during your small group meeting, whoa, that’s evangelically serious! The laying on of hands is the pinkie swear of evangelical Christians. That idea of serious commitment was what came to my mind through the Holy Spirit this morning. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 9-10 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

Here we see the Levites being brought before the Lord and the people of Israel were to lay hands on them as they were being dedicated to the Lord. This is serious business. But it got me to thinking, what does the laying on of hands mean in the world of God’s people. You hear about it. You see it all the time. But what does it really mean? According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, in its summation of what the laying on of hands had meant through the various instances it has been used in the Bible, it wraps it up by saying,

 

“There is a sense in which the idea of separation for a special purpose, so clearly visible in many instances, binds together all the occurrences of the phrase. Even in the context of formal blessings and astonishing miracles, the imposition of hands signifies the separation of a person, a people, or even a bodily part (Mark 8:25) as the recipient of an unusual manifestation of God’s grace.”

 

In this particular instance, the laying on of hands upon the Levites was to signify that Israel was calling upon the Lord to show the Levites special grace, an unusual manifestation of understanding of their work and their purpose. The Levites were being set apart for the full time service to the Lord. They were being set apart for a holy purpose. Often, when a person is being ordained into the ministry, we lay hands upon them as they are being committed to this holy purpose, we are committing them the Lord. We are committing and pledging our support of their endeavors. We are showing how serious we are in support of their sacrifice of their time, talents, and resources to the full-time service to the Lord. It is a public commitment. It is not some private ceremony. It is a public one where we and the person being ordained as a minister are saying, we are serious about this person being set apart for the service of the Lord. It is a high calling to serve the Lord. It is a high calling to lay hands on them and dedicate them to the Lord. It is not some half-hearted thing we do. It is not something we do for the notoriety of it. Being fully dedicated to full-time ministry is a tough job and is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is in it to have their ego massaged.

 

Likewise, when we are praying for someone and we feel compelled to lay hands on them during the prayer, it is reserved for the most serious and most somber of prayers. We are praying boldly for God’s healing power to be manifested upon the person being prayed for. We are praying boldly for God to specifically intervene in physical, emotional, marital, financial issues of a person’s life. When we lay hands on a person in prayer, it is serious business. It is more than a holding hands prayer which is serious but not quite the same. It is more serious than sitting in a circle praying. It is more serious still than a generalized public prayer. Laying on of hands on a person signifies the gravity of seriousness with which we pray. It is calling upon the Lord, begging the Lord boldly, to show special grace to this person being touched by our hands. They are usually kneeling and we are in a circle around them laying our hands on them. We all pray for them and it is usually with a great deal of fervor. If you are not serious about praying for a person, you sit the laying on of hands prayers out. This is serious business. It is not for the faint of heart or those who lack commitment to the fervent praying for God’s intervention of special grace. When we lay on hands, we are saying that we fully believe in the power of prayer. We are committed to the belief in the mightiness of God. It is serious business. It is the pinkie swear of evangelical prayer.

 

Are you willing to pray with a pinkie swear? Are you serious about what you are praying? Are you dedicated to the prayer? Are you believing in the prayer to the Lord? Do you believe that God will intervene in a holy and miraculous way? Do you believe He will be imbue those who serve the Lord? Do you believe He will protect those who serve the Lord? Do you believe that God will intervene and change a person’s life? If you don’t believe in the power of God really, don’t pray. If you don’t pray boldly for God’s grace to be manifested upon a person, don’t lay on hands. When we believe in a mighty God, a real mighty God who can do anything and for whom nothing is impossible, we are ready to pray with the laying on of hands. Otherwise, we must pass on this serious commitment of our beliefs. It is the pinkie swear of evangelical prayer. It is serious business.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:13-16
Salt & Light
Sometimes, we pray or listen to other pray, we find out about the boldness of their faith. Last night was an example of how sometimes my faith is not what it should be. At the small group at which I am the leader, we had one of the newest members of our group as for prayer for about a CT scan that she was going to have the next day (today, this morning). Two members of our life group, one of which was my wife, prayed for healing boldly. When it was my turn, I simply prayed for God’s will to be done in the situation no matter what that might look like. I prayed that even if the outcome the CT scan was to show a problem, then, let our small group member be an example of how a Christ follower deals with adversity. Although my prayer was theologically appropriate in that we should pray for God’s will when we pray and not our own selfish desires and it was theologically appropriate to pray that a person will demonstrate to the world their dependence on God, it was not a bold prayer. My wife and my friend showed greater faith in their prayers. As we laid hands on this member of our small group, they prayed bold prayers. They prayed prayers of faith in a God who can perform miracles. How big is the God we believe in? Do we believe boldly in our Lord to ask Him bold prayers? Or do we offer up ineffectual prayers that have no confidence in the Lord to be able to change the course of this fallen world that includes now disease and death? Do you believe in a God that can heal? Do we believe in a God that is still in the miracle business? Why do I bring this illustration up when we are talking about salt and light? I think this comes to mind because our prayer life is often an indication of the status of our walk with the Lord. I think it is an indication of how deep is our faith. When our faith is deep it is bold in prayer, but it is also bold in action. In reading through the previous passage called the Beatitudes, we learned that being a Christ follower is not a call to sit still. It is a call to be bold. It is a call to change the world. It is a call to us to examine how much we trust God. It is a call to us to demonstrate our faith. Prayer is a demonstration of the depth of our faith. Our daily lives, our daily walk is a demonstration of the depth our faith. Having said all that, let’s now look at what has become known as the “Salt & Light” passage.

In the Beatitudes in the previous passage, Jesus has stated how a true disciple should fashion his lifestyle and attitudes toward others. He indicates that a professed disciple who does not live according to those standards has a lifestyle that is of the same value as tasteless salt or of a hidden light when he says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The salt and light sequence is as easy to understand as any of the imagery used by Jesus in his teachings. There is no need some 21 centuries later to have assistance of scholars to understand this. We still use salt today for many of the same purposes as the counterparts of Jesus “back in the day”. We still, of course, understand the properties of light as well. As well as there being two images used here by Jesus, there are two points that he is trying to make.

The first point Jesus is trying to make here is through the imagery of salt. Just as tasteless salt lacks value to the person who uses it, so is a so-called disciple that lacks the genuine commitment to live out the Beatitudes in their daily lives. This, to me, smacks us directly in the face here in 21st Century America. You and I can see the searing indictment to us as Americans coming here. Jesus speaks to us through then centuries as we sit in our pew or seat on Sunday morning and profess to be Christian. However, if we allow not getting out of our comfort zone and allow our excuses for not stepping out and doing what God ask of us, then we are no better than the blind who sat beside the Bethesda pool waiting on his miracle but using every excuse in the world for not getting in the pool as noted in John 5: 1-8. If we do not live the life got wants us to lead, we become like tasteless salt – worthless to the kingdom of God. We must bold dependence on God to be our shield and portion. If we are bold in our belief in God, we will speak when it is easier to blend in and be quiet. We will stand out when it is easier to go along with the crowd. We will stand up for Jesus when it easier to deny Him. We will explain the source of our joy rather than keep it quiet. Just as salt causes reactions and changes the food that it seasons, so should we be bold in our faith. Just as a city on a hill cannot be hidden, so should we be bold lights that illumine the darkness around us. How big is your God? How much faith do you have in Him to step outside your comfort zone? How big is your God? Is He big enough for you to believe that He will provide for you when He calls for you to step out of a life of meaninglessness and boldly be His disciple? We are worthless to the kingdom if we believe in a wimpy God that we think cannot do anything for us. We cannot be light and salt if we do not boldly believe in the power of God.

Also, Jesus uses the image of light to show us what faith without demonstrating means. An unnamed source for a commentary from Bible Gateway.com says, “A disciple whose life reveals none of the Father’s works is like invisible light for vision: useless. Jesus reinforces his point with various images. A disciple should be as obvious as a city set on a hill, and a light in a home should be no easier to hide than a torchlit city at night. Jesus depicts his disciples’ mission in stark biblical terms for the mission of Israel. God called his people to be lights to the nations – that is, the whole world. Christians are light because-contrary to some psychoanalytic theories-their destiny, more than their past must define them.”

Thus, Jesus is telling his direct disciplines some 2,000 years ago and to us today in this age that professing belief in him is only part of the process. Was it not said in James 2: 14-16, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’”

Dr. Richard J. Krejcir says, in one of his daily devotionals at http://www.intothyword.com that “Real, impacting, effectual faith will have results. It will be lived out! Faith is received alone, but it does not just stand alone; it is to be shown. Faith will be backed up by the proof that it is present in a person. If there is no proof, there is a good chance that the vessel is empty of faith.” He continues later, “…real faith will result in an outcome that backs it up. Faith will be lived out in the believer’s life, thinking, words, and actions. Faith will create initiative from the realization of who we are in Christ, and then we will live out our lives in Him, through His power and because of our convictions.”

Thus, this section of Scripture (and others like such as James 2: 14-16) teaches us that if we have truly accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Beatitudes will be the code of conduct that we willingly live by. However, if the process stops there then we have done little more than accept a good moral code of conduct. But, being a true believer of Jesus Christ, should result in much more than that. We should shed ourselves of excuses, be willing to leave our comfort zone and follow where God leads us. We should be willing to get into the pool and immerse ourselves in where God is leading us rather than sit beside the pool and complain and make excuses for why we can’t do what God wants us to do. We should have no excuses for not “being a light to the nations”. Our thinking, our words, our actions should reflect the faith we profess. If we do not have the faith to step out and be the light like a city on a hill that others look to and want what we have, then do we really have faith…do we really believe in Jesus Christ? How big is your God? How deep is your faith? How bold are your prayers? Should we not believe the sky is the limit…no I mean the sky is no limit…when we are a true disciple of the Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead, who raised Himself from the dead? Be bold. Be different. Stand out. We believe in a God who created the entire universe with the words from His mouth! We believe in a mighty and powerful God. Be bold. Live out loud! Live a life of demonstrable faith! Pray big prayers! Depend wholly on the power of God to provide and guide and protect and heal and…there is no limit to what God can do when we are fully in the game. When we are all-in, full of faith in Him, we can be salt that changes the flavor of the world. We can be light that shines brightly in the darkness.