Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 6th October 2019
I’ve been reflecting a bit on Terri Hourigan’s Word to us last week about the fire of God purging and refining and making way for a regeneration of new life. It was a powerful word – and lined up perfectly with what God has been saying to us lately. And as she said, some seeds actually need fire to cause them to break open, germinate and come to life.
When we feel like there’s a fire burning around us, we naturally think of destruction and devastation.
But even then, it’s incredible how fresh new shoots of grass, plants and trees rise up out of the blackness. Regeneration is always on the other side of the fire.
As Terri’s word confirms, the fires we often face in our personal lives, can cause us to be confused – throw us off balance – maybe cause some offence to rise up – whether it’s offence with other people or even with God Himself – where we are placed in a position of reassessing what we are doing – who we really are… but these kinds of fires actually have the potential to reposition us in an even stronger, more effective place than we have ever been before.
Fire is really uncomfortable… it burns… And so do fires that come against us in our health, our finances, our relationships, our ministry…
But before we come in with a fleet of fire trucks and do everything we can to avoid the fire and flood it with water hoses, we need to discern – where is God in the fire?
I love that new song that we sing – “There’s another in the Fire.” And we know the story of the three friends of Daniel who were actually thrown into the fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow to the King’s false gods.
But when they looked into the fire, expecting to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego to be totally consumed – this is what they saw…
Daniel 3:25, “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
If the fire is burning in your life – and you know that you are doing you best to honour God, and walk in obedience to Him, then He will be there in the fire… In fact, even if you’ve made a huge mistake, and found yourself in a fire, He says I will never leave you nor forsake you…
As these guys said to the King:
Daniel 3:17-18, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Where is the Son of God in the fire?
Is there something He wants to purge from my life? Is there a purifying that’s part of this process? Is He making room for a whole new regeneration and refreshing to happen?
Or is this in fact a battle that simply needs to be overcome with spiritual authority and spiritual warfare?
In any case, we have to come to a place of standing steadfast in our faith, just like Daniel and his mates – courageously facing head on those situations in our life that that are contrary to God and His Word.
I’ve preached about the fire recently. Terri brought a great message about the fire. And this week, Lana Vawser brought an amazing word which was really about God leading us into a place of deeper, trusting faith. But as part of that message, she says this:
“The fire of His Spirit is falling upon the body of Christ and a deep repentance is and will continue to take place for unbelief, and in the purging a major impartation of faith will take place.”
(There’s the regeneration right there – an impartation of Faith.)
“The Lord is causing His people to fall in love with the Word of God again and to reintroduce the people of God to His power and the power of His Word. In this deep work that God is doing He is causing a people that yield and embrace the fire of His purging to arise with an unshakeable faith that will not be moved or swayed. These ones will arise with such great faith and conviction, living in the reality of Matthew 4:4 (which is about living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God) that they will move into these new assignments and fresh commissionings from the Lord to see the power of God move mountains and see giants slayed.”
It is IMPERATIVE to embrace the fire of God in this new era and allow Him to uproot unbelief and shine His light on the areas of the heart that are out of alignment. In the place of deep intimacy with the Lord and the awakening to first love there is an invitation of the Lord to be “all in” and to “count the cost” in this new era to carry the fire and what God is releasing.
This is not a time to “sit back” this is a time to RISE UP!”
Terri and Lana have both spoken prophetically. And along with the message of fire comes new assignments, fresh commissioning, a new era…
I hope we’ve come to a place where all of us – men and women – can fully receive and respond to the Word of God as He speaks through godly women because God is not only challenging us men to rise up with strength, courage and boldness, but He’s doing it in the lives of our women as well.
In fact, I have a great respect for strong and courageous women. I’m not talking about controlling women. I’m not fussed about controlling men either! I’m talking about strong, confident, brave, godly women. I’m not intimidated or threatened by them. I’m actually married to one. She knows who she is in God, and that’s her strength and courage.
For those men who think women should have no place in church leadership or preaching the Word, alongside the men… These men must be very challenged by the story of the woman from the bible that I want to share on this morning.
I’m bringing this story to you because it’s what I believe the Holy Spirit is saying. And I had actually included this part of my message before I’d even seen Lana Vawser’s Word saying it’s time the Rise Up!
This is the story of a woman who knew how to deal with fire! She faced more than her fair share of opposition. She carried such a level of authority that she had the weight of all Israel upon her shoulders. But she knew who she was as a leader under God.
Deborah is an amazing example of a woman who rose up to a place of prominence way before her time. She overcame incredible cultural, political, social and religious barriers to become a history maker for God and the people of God.
In Judges 4 and 5, we find this remarkable woman, not only as a prophet to Israel, but someone who was in the line of Judges over Israel… this is before they started appointing Kings. The people were led as a nation under various Judges. Not only was she a Prophet and a Judge, she was Israel’s ruler and head of its army. A true Warrior.
When I read about Deborah, I’m in total awe of her. She’s a legend!
We aren’t given any insight into how this woman found herself to be ruler of Israel. She just is!
But her role and position in itself speaks of a strong overcomer, a powerful leader, a courageous ambassador for God.
It says that she was married. And she used to sit under a palm tree in the hills of Ephraim and people would come to her to resolve conflicts and disputes. She had continual fires to deal with.
Her name means “bee”. And it is said of her that she was as sweet as honey to her friends and allies, but brought a fatal sting to her enemies.
At this time, Israel had gone into decline spiritually, and were doing evil in the sight of God. And they were living in the land of the Cannanites, and being dominated and influenced by them and their culture.
But it wasn’t going to continue that way under Deborah’s watch. Remember she was a Prophet as well as Judge and Ruler.
Judges 4:6-7, “Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”
Sisera and his soldiers were the ones keeping the Israelites oppressed. Deborah heard the Word of the Lord, and commanded her army, and its leader, Barak, to go out against them.
Now, as usual, the odds were stacked against the army of Israel. God seems to like it when the odds are stacked against us. It makes for a good fire!
But it makes the victory even more sweet. Plus God gets the glory, not man.
Sisera had 900 iron chariots, plus an estimated 100,00 soldiers.
Barak had only 10,000 men.
Listen to what Barak says to Deborah.
Judges 4:8, “And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
Now, at first glance, this might appear that Barak was a bit of a wuss, looking to a woman to give him courage.
But it is more likely that it wasn’t the woman that Barak was seeking, it was the presence of God. Because he as well as everyone else recognised that Deborah was a prophet – she was Anointed to rule and Anointed in battle. She carried the presence of God with her. And he wanted that presence in the battle.
And this I think is a message for us – for the church… that as we face whatever battles or fire together, it’s about the Anointing. It’s about the presence of God. It’s not whether we see the strength and courage of a man or a woman. It’s what God has placed in the heart and spirit of the person He chooses for the moment.
Having said all that, Deborah must have thought that Barak should have stepped up regardless. Judges 4:9, “So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.”
When they arrived at Mount Tabor, (Judges 4:14) “Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.”
We’ve got some mighty men of valour here, but even mighty men sometimes need to have someone say, “Up!”
Joel prophesied it… Joel 3:9-10, “Proclaim this among the nations: “Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, Let all the men of war draw near, Let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”
He later says, let the nations be awakened.
We can’t afford, as men, to be sleeping right now. We can’t afford to be having pity parties, blaming everyone and everything else for our problems, surrendering our roles as husbands and fathers and brothers and leaders. We have to stand up in the midst of the fire – and have faith to believe that God is our Deliverer.
We are called to have strength and courage more than ever before, and fight the good fight of faith for our lives, our families, our destiny, our new territory, our new era, our new commissionings….
The fight is more than anything, in the Spirit. It’s a spiritual battle that we face. It’s no good complaining about things if we aren’t praying and warfaring over them first.
Without reading the whole story, I can tell you that Barak and his10,000 men overcame the great army of Sisera. God caused the River Kishon to flood because of a downpour of rain and hail, and the chariots and the men got stuck in the mud. Deborah and Barak and their army then came along and totally annihilated them.
So what can we learn from this story of Deborah about courage and bravery?
- Firstly, there has to be a recognition that now is the time to rise up and fight. Deborah had prophetic insight. She heard the voice of God for the times and seasons. The sons of Issachar were the same. 1 Chronicles 12:32, “…the sons of Issachar… had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” This is a vital key for the brave and courageous. It’s not all about being willing to fight. You have to know when and how to fight. You have to understand the times you are living in. It’s about understanding what is happening in the fire. Is it meant to be put out? Is it meant to burn and do a purging, refining work? Or is there a spiritual battle to be fought?
- Secondly, this story shows us that the best warriors are often the most unlikely candidates. Who would have thought that this woman would be such example of courage and strength in releasing Israel from oppression. God actually likes to turn our mindsets upside down. He uses the most unlikely men and women to accomplish his plans and purposes. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 (Amp), “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies?” It doesn’t matter who you are or what you think of yourself, we all need to be ready to hear God say to us, “Up!” Because you are a mighty man, or a mighty woman. You are able. You are positioned to be used by God. You are a weapon and instrument in the hands of God.
- Thirdly, we all need to see things from a different perspective. Barak had 10,000 men. Sisera had 100,000 plus 900 iron chariots. It’s not what we see in the natural that matters the most. It’s whether or not we have the presence of God with us. Barak had only 10,000 men – but He had God – and so he had the victory. You might have financial pressures which seem overwhelming – but with God, you will overcome. You might have a dysfunctional or abusive past – but with God, your future is bright. You might be feeling tired and weak, with demands that seem impossible to meet – but with God, there is a way through to a place of peace. Whatever fire you find yourself in right now – God is able to do something mighty in the fire. There is a season of regeneration coming.
- Fourthly, even though Deborah is a strong, courageous woman, who can fight with the best… She is still known as a mother to Israel. She is actually described like that in scripture. She had a motherly, nurturing nature. She was a leader and warrior, but she was also a wife. I think this speaks clearly that a woman, or a man, does not have to forsake their caring, nurturing roles in family, to fulfil their God commissioned roles as leaders and even warriors for God. One role does not negate the other. It’s the challenge that many in ministry face. But it’s vital that we find that balance, and not sacrifice our marriage or our family on the alter of ministry.
So, we need to discern the times – discern what’s in the fire. Regardless of your past or your experience – position yourself to be used by God. Whatever your circumstances, when you add God – you have victory. Warriors and rulers still have their families to love and nurture. Balance in ministry is vital.
When I look back on our own journey, I can see now how the fires have made us stronger. The fires have caused our faith to increase and grow. I’ve learnt so much through the battles.
A couples of times, I’ve nearly crumbled… I’ve shared with you before about the string of terrible funerals that I had to take when we first came here… A good funeral is when godly, older Christians finish their life with a legacy behind them… and their life can be celebrated.
But a bad one is when we just don’t understand why… why a child, why a baby, why someone taking their own life… That’s been one of my fires – trying to navigate through those difficult moments…
When I came close to losing Venese when she couldn’t breath because of blood clots breaking up in her lungs… and she ended up on life support… that was another fire.
We’ve all had our fires…
Praise God, newness of life and a new era and commissioning came from those terrible experiences.
I want to encourage you this morning… there is always a way through the fire. By faith, we hear and respond to call to rise Up! To be strong and of good courage!
We’re all called to do different things… but all of us are called to walk by faith, and walk through to the other side of the blistering heat.
God is doing something in the fire – and He is walking with us in it.
Just one last thought:
In the Passion Translation, in Isa 4:4, it says:
“And the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem by a Spirit of justice and by a Spirit of burning.”
We’ve prayed for Jerusalem this morning. God continues to do an amazing restorative work in the nation of Israel.
But in the Notes under this verse, it says: “a fire of passionate love for Jesus Christ will cleanse the church.”
Let’s start lighting our own fires – godly fires of passionate love for Jesus Christ. Because there is always a cleansing and regeneration to happen within the church… let it happen within you and I.