Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: Exodus 3; Date: 9 June 2013

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Nothing Burning

 

The day came when Moses’ life would change. I read from the Bible:

 

Exodus 3:1-3: Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. [Moses saw flames of fire from within a bush.] Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.”

 

What would have happened if Moses had not checked out this strange sight – a burning bush that does not burn up? Would he have missed his encounter with God? Would he have missed his destiny – just because he could not be bothered to investigate something strange?

Was this a test? Is God testing some of us the same way? God was about to call Moses into leadership but leaders must remain open to new things – new possibilities. Unless a person has the initiative – the drive – the curiosity and courage to expand his mind – he will not change course and walk over to a strange burning bush. He will not break new ground.

Have you ever seen a burning bush – a strange sight? For you – in this church – it may come in the form of gold dust” – the strange miracle of God providing body glitter on our skin. [I continue to be surprised at how few people actually check their skin when they are invited to see the gold dust. Some are a little overawed but so many are just not interested enough – so it seems.]

At the Prayer Watch (a week ago), we saw a video where the evangelist (Angus Buchan) spoke on the Bible passage of Acts 2 – the story of the Holy Spirit’s first coming upon the disciples with the sound of a mighty wind. While he was preaching, it began to rain and a breeze began to blow which – as the preaching continued – became a gale force wind – tearing apart the screens for data projection and threatening to bring down the stage. This happened at a spot (at the Dead Sea – below sea level) which is not known for this kind of weather phenomena. Nature confirmed the preaching of God’s word. It was strange and wonderful and the preacher fully recognized what was happening – publicly thanking God and acknowledging the Holy Spirit. [The Christian organizers had told him previously that they wanted “fresh wind” to come into their ministry.] Yet – to my surprise – not everyone (even though they were all Christians) seemed to appreciate the moment.

The crowd still had plenty of people that were looking around and expecting to beentertained”. They seemed toignorethe wind – not really checking out its relevance – failing to be touched by God and really hearing the message. In a sense, they did not – like Moses – walk over and investigate the strange burning bush; therefore they were in danger of missing the encounter – their destiny.

There is no need to be like them. Open your eyes. God is always doing something. Investigate. Hear God. He is making the bush burn for you. [There are not always bodily sensations – like the tingling of your skin or falling down to the ground. You have to learn and read the signs. Moses – before the burning bush – was also not aware of the full extent of God’s presence. God had to explain to him that he was standing on holy ground and needed to take off his shoes.]

Why did God appear to Moses in a burning bush? The Bible does not spell out an answer but I have the suspicion that the burning bush – as a prophetic sign – represented Moses. Moses himself was like this strange burning bush that was not consumed by the fire.

Various commentators already recognize that the burning bush could represent people and they list the options. The bush could be a picture for a) persecuted Israel, b) the persecuted church or c) the distressed Christian.

 

Adam’s Clarke Commentary on the Bible: “and the bush was not consumed” – 1. An emblem of the state of Israel in its various distresses and persecutions: it was in the fire of adversity, but was not consumed. 2. An emblem also of the state of the Church of God in the wilderness, in persecutions often, in the midst of its enemies, in the region of the shadow of death - yet not consumed. 3. An emblem also of the state of every follower of Christ: cast down, but not forsaken; grievously tempted, but not destroyed; walking through the fire, but still unconsumed! Why are all these preserved in the midst of those things which have a natural tendency to destroy them! Because God Is In The Midst Of Them; it was this that preserved the bush from destruction; and it was this that preserved the Israelites; and it is this, and this alone, that preserves the Church, and holds the soul of every genuine believer in the spiritual life. He in whose heart Christ dwells not by faith, will soon be consumed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 

Jamieson, Fausset and Robinson Commentary: “out of the midst of a bush” — the wild acacia or thorn, with which that desert abounds, and which is generally dry and brittle, so much so, that at certain seasons, a spark might kindle a district far and wide into a blaze. A fire, therefore, being in the midst of such a desert bush was a “great sight.” It is generally supposed to have been emblematic of the Israelites’ condition in Egypt - oppressed by a grinding servitude and a bloody persecution, and yet, in spite of the cruel policy that was bent on annihilating them, they continued as numerous and thriving as ever. The reason was “God was in the midst of them.” The symbol may also represent the present state of the Jews, as well as of the Church generally in the world.

 

Keil & Delitsch Commentary on the Old Testament: The symbolical meaning of this miraculous vision, - that is to say, the fact that it was a figurative representation of the nature and contents of the ensuing message from God, - has long been admitted. The thorn-bush in contrast with the more noble and lofty trees (Jdg 9:15) represented the people of Israel in their humiliation, as a people despised by the world. Fire and the flame of fire were not “symbols of the holiness of God;” for, as the Holy One, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1Jo 1:5), He “dwells in the light which no man can approach unto” (1Ti 6:16); and that not merely according to the New Testament, but according to the Old Testament view as well, as is evident from Isa 10:17, where “the Light of Israel” and “the Holy One of Israel” are synonymous. But “the Light of Israel became fire, and the Holy One a flame, and burned and consumed its thorns and thistles.” Nor is “fire, from its very nature, the source of light,” according to the scriptural view. On the contrary, light, the condition of all life, is also the source of fire. The sun enlightens, warms, and burns (Job 30:28; Sol. Son 1:6); the rays of the sun produce warmth, heat, and fire; and light was created before the sun. Fire, therefore, regarded as burning and consuming, is a figurative representation of refining affliction and destroying punishment (1Co 3:11.), or a symbol of the chastening and punitive justice of the indignation and wrath of God. It is in fire that the Lord comes to judgment (Dan 7:9-10; Eze 1:13-14, Eze 1:27-28; Rev 1:14-15). Fire sets forth the fiery indignation which devours the adversaries (Heb 10:27). He who “judges and makes war in righteousness” has eyes as a flame of fire (Rev 19:11-12).

Accordingly, the burning thorn-bush represented the people of Israel as they were burning in the fire of affliction, the iron furnace of Egypt (Deu 4:20). Yet, though the thorn-bush was burning in the fire, it was not consumed; for in the flame was Jehovah, who chastens His people, but does not give them over unto death (Psa 118:18). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come down to deliver His people out of the hand of the Egyptians (Exo 3:8). Although the affliction of Israel in Egypt proceeded from Pharaoh, yet was it also a fire which the Lord had kindled to purify His people and prepare it for its calling. In the flame of the burning bush the Lord manifested Himself as the “jealous God, who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Him, and showeth mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments” (Exo 20:5; Deu 5:9-10), who cannot tolerate the worship of another god (Exo 34:14), and whose anger burns against idolaters, to destroy them (Deu 6:15). The “jealous God” was a “consuming fire” in the midst of Israel (Deu 4:24).

These passages show that the great sight which Moses saw not only had reference to the circumstances of Israel in Egypt, but was a prelude to the manifestation of God on Sinai for the establishment of the covenant (Exo 19 and 20), and also a representation of the relation in which Jehovah would stand to Israel through the establishment of the covenant made with the fathers. For this reason it occurred upon the spot where Jehovah intended to set up His covenant with Israel. But, as a jealous God, He also “takes vengeance upon His adversaries” (Nah 1:2.). Pharaoh, who would not let Israel go, He was about to smite with all His wonders (Exo 3:20), whilst He redeemed Israel with outstretched arm and great judgments (Exo 6:6).

The transition from the Angel of Jehovah (Exo 3:2) to Jehovah (Exo 3:4) proves the identity of the two; and the interchange of Jehovah and Elohim, in Exo 3:4, precludes the idea of Jehovah being merely a national God. The command of God to Moses to put off his shoes, may be accounted for from the custom in the East of wearing shoes or sandals merely as a protection from dirt. No Brahmin enters a pagoda, no Moslem a mosque, without first taking off at least his overshoes (Rosenm. Morgenl. i. 261; Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 373); and even in the Grecian temples the priests and priestesses performed the service barefooted (Justin, Apol. i. c. 62; Bähr, Symbol. ii. 96). when entering other holy places also, the Arabs and Samaritans, and even the Yezidis of Mesopotamia, take off their shoes, that the places may not be defiled by the dirt or dust upon them (vid., Robinson, Pal. iii. 100, and Layard's Nineveh and its Remains). The place of the burning bush was holy because of the presence of the holy God, and putting off the shoes was intended to express not merely respect for the place itself, but that reverence which the inward man (Eph 3:16) owes to the holy God.

 

One may also consider that the King of Babylon also encountered a plant (tree) in a vision/dream and the plant represented his own person – Daniel 4:13-18: “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

My hunch is that the burning bush is a far more personal sign for Moses. [The fire does not just seem to be source of affliction for the “thorn bush” (see Heidi Baker’s testimony below) but also seems to signify the supernatural presence and power of God who would give light to his people through a “pillar of fire” (Exodus 13:21-22) and meet them by descending in fire on Mt Sinai (Exodus 19:18).] In this encounter, God was calling Moses into his destiny and – at the same time – was teaching him a lesson about living his life for God in his power – and not his own. The bush was a thorn bush – maybe an acacia shrub – a dry desert plant – brittle and weather-beaten – and in this way the bush represented Moses who had grown up in the palace of the Egyptian pharaoh – among riches and privileges – but now – after forty years of tending sheep in the wilderness (Acts 7:30) – was no longer the proud offshoot of royalty but a dried up version of his former self – humbled and bowed. Yet, (precisely) in this state – a dry thorn bush rather than a lush cedar – he was ready to carry the fire of God which would now burn in him and keep burning (without burning him up) – with God himself speaking from the midst of the flames. [Compare this with Acts where the fire of God spread upon the disciples and made them speak and proclaim the wonderful deeds of God.] Moses himself would be the miracle – a person with nothing left – nothing to offer – but God would feed on hisnothingnessand burn with the fire of holiness and power.

I read to you a few Bible verses which illustrate the general truth of theburning bushfor all people whom God wants to use in service and leadership:

 

1 Corinthians 1:27-29: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-9: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

 

I come back to Moses (see Exodus 2). He was born to a family that belonged to the enslaved people of God in Egypt. At the time, the rulers of the country felt threatened by the high birth rate of their slaves which made them kill the newborn slave boys. His mother – in desperation – put baby Moses in a basket and set him adrift on the banks of the River Nile. There he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, adopted into the household of Pharaoh and raised as her own son.

Moses grew up with the confidence and swagger of the ruling class and – even though his home was now the palace – he still identified with his own people – the slaves – and – the proud young man he was – he thought that he could make a difference for them:

 

Exodus 2:11-15: One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.

 

Moses took the leadership by force – killed a man, then challenged the behaviour of a slave – but his proud initiatives came to nothing. The slave people questioned who had made him ruler and judge over them and Pharaoh sought to execute him for his crime of murder. Moses’ world fell apart. He had to flee – on his own – and settle in exile – far away from his people and dreams – exchange the palace for the tent of a shepherd. After forty years, there was nothing left of the former Moses – his swagger and ambitions. After forty years, his pride was broken. He was going nowhere. Then – finally – he was ready and God called him and used him – (as the burning thorn bush which carried his fire – the fire of God.)

What about you? Sitting here this morning, are you the proud young Moses? You may not kill a man but do you make a rash decision and assume leadership before your time? Maybe you are the Moses in the wilderness and the years are slowly ticking by and nothing seems to be happening. Is God humbling you right now – for leadership? Are you willing to be humbled? This is not easy but we need you to be available for God and us.

People may accomplish much for God but – look beyond the glossy flyers and promotion – they are all burning bushes – humbled in the wilderness. For instance, Smith Wigglesworth was an amazing man but also a weather-beaten thorn bush when his wife died before her time. He became a widower at the age of fifty-four and, for the next thirty-four years, had to keep going without her:

 

George Stormont: Wigglesworth, Tulsa: Harrison House 1989, p69-70: At one time Wigglesworth was ministering at Zion City, Illinois, founded by John Alexander Dowie. There, he called the ministers to a special prayer meeting and was already praying when they arrived. As he continued in prayer, sometimes in English and sometimes in tongues, the awesome presence of God filled the room.

One by one, the ministers were smitten by the power of God and fell prostrate on their faces. The reality of God’s presence so gripped them that they were unable to move for at least an hour. Wigglesworth was the only one who remained standing as he continued in praise and prayer. A cloud, like a radiant mist, filled the room where the ministers were.

In 1922, Wigglesworth was in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. One afternoon at a special meeting, eleven prominent Christians gathered for prayer at Wigglesworth’s request. One after the other they prayed, until all had taken part except the visiting evangelist. He then began to pray for their city and country, and as he continued, the sense of God’s presence and power so filled the room that one by one the others left, unable to continue in the blazing light of God’s holiness.

One minister, hearing of this from one who had been there, greatly desired to be in a similar meeting – but with the determination that whoever else left, he would not. An opportunity soon came for him to attend such a meeting. Several people prayed, then Wigglesworth began to pray.

As he lifted up his voice, it seemed that God himself invaded the place. Those present became deeply conscious that they were on holy ground. The power of God in its purity was like a heavy weight pressing on them. One by one, the people left until only the man remained who had set himself to stay.

He hung on and hung on until at last the pressure became a compulsion, and he could not stay longer. His own testimony was that with the floodgates of his soul pouring out a stream of tears and with uncontrollable sobbing, he had to get out of the Presence or die. He added that Wigglesworth, a man who knew God as few men do, was left alone in an atmosphere in which few men could breathe.

 

Roberts Liardon: God’s Generals; Smith Wigglesworth – Apostle of Faith: One of the greatest attributes in the life of Smith Wigglesworth was his wife, Mary Jane “Polly” Featherstone. In the lives of many great ministry couples, it seems that when one partner is strong, the other must take a lesser role in order to keep conflict at a minimum. But this wasn’t the case with the Wigglesworths! Polly remained equally as strong, if not stronger at certain times, than her husband. She never refused to take a backseat, and Wigglesworth was in agreement with this. He said of her, “All that I am today I owe, under God, to my precious wife. Oh, she was lovely!” [Polly prodded and prompted Wigglesworth into preaching and much more.] ...

 

The winter of 1884 was a severe one for Bradford, and as a result, the plumbers were in high demand. Not only did Smith spend the entire winter working, but remained busy repairing the damage as a result of the elements for two more years.

During those days of heavy work and great prosperity, Smith’s attendance in church declined rapidly and his heart grew cold toward the Lord. But as his fire grew dimmer, Polly’s grew brighter, and her zeal for God and her prayer life never wavered. Her consistency and diligence in the things of God made Smith’s laxity all the more apparent, and he became irritated by her very presence.

One night, she came home from church a little later than usual. When she entered the house, Smith remarked, “I am the master of this house, and I am not going to have you coming home at so late an hour as this!” Polly quietly replied, “I know that you are my husband, but Christ is my Master.”

Greatly annoyed, Smith opened the back door and forced her out of the house, locking the door behind her. But in his great annoyance he had forgotten to lock the front door. So Polly walked around to the front of the house and came in through the front door—laughing! In fact, she laughed so much that Smith finally surrendered and laughed with her. In his laughter, a revelation came into his heart and mind, so he decided to spend ten days in prayer and fasting to seek the Lord. In desperate and sincere repentance, he found his way to the road of restoration ...

God never failed to supply all his needs, and he never returned to plumbing. One of the greatest sorrows of Wigglesworth’s life was soon to follow. While waiting in the train station to leave for Scotland, Smith received devastating news: Polly had collapsed with a heart attack while returning from the Bowland Street Mission.

Rushing to her bedside, he found that her spirit had already departed to be with the Lord. Not settling for this, Smith immediately rebuked the death and her spirit came back, but only for just a short while. Then the Lord spoke: “This is the time that I want to take her home to myself.” So with a breaking heart, Smith released his partner, the one he had loved for so many years, to be with the Lord. Polly Wigglesworth served the Lord until the very last moment of her life, January 1, 1913. It is said by some that after her death, Smith asked for a double portion of the Spirit. From that moment on, his ministry carried an even greater power ...

 

[Polly unexpectedly died in 1913, and this was a real blow to Smith. He prayed for her and commanded that death release her. She did arise but said “Smith – the Lord wants me.” His heartbroken response was “If the Lord wants you, I will not hold you”. She had been his light and joy for all the years of their marriage, and he grieved deeply over the loss. After his wife was buried he went to her grave, feeling like he wanted to die. When God told him to get up and go Smith told him only if you “give to me a double portion of the Spirit – my wife’s and my own – I would go and preach the Gospel. God was gracious to me and answered my request.” His daughter Alice and son-in-law James Salter began to travel with him to handle his affairs.]

 

Smith’s international ministry, begun in 1914, was in full swing by 1920. Though the persecution against him was strong, it never seemed to be a major issue in his ministry. Unlike some ministries, there is more written about his great strength and miracles than of his troubles and persecution. Perhaps this is due to his extraordinary faith. He brushed off the criticism like dust off his coat, never allowing it a moment of pleasure ...

[He died on the 12th of March 1947 (born 1859).]

 

It is not easy to serve our Lord but he humbled himself first. You can even see the thorns upon him when he provided the most powerful leadership for us. Jesus was the (most foundational) burning thorn bush which carried the fire of God. He literally became the bush – hanging on a tree – a wooden cross – with a crown of thorns on his head (which was mocking his leadership). There he expired – in pain – with blood running down his body. Jesus knows about becoming nothing but – at the same time – the fire of God continued to burn through him. Three days after his death, he rose from the grave to new life which represented eternal victory over sin, death and the devil. The flame of God’s glory could not be extinguished but was burning brightly through the bruised body of Jesus.

 

Philippians 2:8-9: ... he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name ...

 

Colossians 1:19-20: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

 

This is at the heart of our Christian faith – Jesus, the burning bush – on a cross with thorns but carrying the fire of God for the salvation of humankind. Heidi Baker – an American missionary in Mozambique – understood this very same truth when Jesus appeared to her in a vision. (This occurred in the Toronto Airport church.)

 

ALWAYS ENOUGH - THE VISION by Heidi Baker 4/11 on: Today at 04:59:27am
April 11, 2007

Heidi Baker: “A CUP OF SUFFERING AND JOY--JESUS DIED SO THAT THERE WOULD ALWAYS BE ENOUGH”

Always Enough – The Vision

Years ago, I had a vision of Jesus surrounded by a multitude of children. Jesus looked at me with His intense, burning eyes of love, and I was completely undone. He told me to feed the children, and I began to cry out loud, “No! There are too many!” He asked me to look into His eyes, and He said, “I died that there would always be enough.”

Then He reached down and broke a piece of flesh out of His right side. His eyes were so magnificently beautiful, yet His body so bruised and broken. He handed me a piece of His flesh, and as I took it and stretched my hand out to the first child, it became fresh bread! I gave the bread to the children and they all ate.

Then He put a simple poor man’s cup next to His side and filled it with blood and water. He told me it was a cup of “suffering and joy,” and asked me if I would drink it. I drank it and then started to give it to the children. It became drink for them. Again He said, “I died that there would always be enough.” Since that day, I have taken in every orphan child He has put in front of me, and have asked my co-workers to do the same.

For the next ten years, I learned a lot about provision for the poor. With delight, I have watched God place bread in our hands for the children to eat. By His grace, everyday – there is somehow always enough food. Since the vision, Iris has gone from caring for 320 children to over 6,000. My heart is so full of praise and gratitude to God for how He has blessed us with all these beautiful children. I have stood in awe as God has grown us from a few churches to over six thousand in ten years’ time.

Jesus has given us fresh bread from Heaven. We live to be in His glorious presence. He has poured out His love to us without measure. He has called us to bring the lost children home. I love him more than life! Every breath is for Him.

The Recent Cup of Suffering and Joy

In the last few days, I have learned more than I ever imagined about the cup of suffering and joy. Our nation Mozambique has been hammered with floods, cyclones, and monster waves. Pemba, Cabo Delgado, was hit with cholera. Finally, a few kilometres from our Zimpeto children’s centre in Maputo, a large ammunitions dump blew up, spraying mines, missiles, and shrapnel for thirty kilometres around. Hundreds of people were killed. Houses were levelled leaving the victims crushed beneath the rubble. I have never seen such suffering as I have seen in the last thirty days.

As I stood in the ruins of a house levelled by a missile and held a weeping woman in my arms, I drank of His cup of suffering. As I embraced Marcelina, 14, Edwardo, 15, and Carvalho, 12, orphaned by the blasts, I drank His cup of suffering. After driving all day through the mud and potholes of Zambezia to minister and deliver food to a distant village devastated by floods, I rocked a tiny, starving baby in my arms and tried to find milk to no avail, and I drank the cup of His suffering.

After arriving in Caia, a town with a refugee camp on the flooded Zambezia River, I spoke to the director of a large non-governmental organization as he was evacuating his workers and helicopters because he could not get past all the corruption and red tape. I drank of the cup of suffering knowing those very helicopters could have fed many precious people stranded in the flood zones starving for weeks. I opened my eyes wider still to see and drink the cup of suffering.

I also drank the cup of joy. God opened the door for us to provide food for fourteen refuge camps in Zambezia Province. I drank the cup of joy watching my Mozambican son, Norberto, lead the relief effort for the province. I drank the cup of joy seeing the faces of hopeless, desperate people run to meet King Jesus and thank Him for saving their lives.

Worship of our beautiful Savior reached Heaven in Zimpeto when the children, co-workers, and missionaries gave glory to God for sparing their lives as missiles and bombs flew in every direction above them and around them. I listened to the testimonies of children who were rescued from the streets thanking Jesus for holding them in His arms as the terror of the blasts continued all around them.

Pastor José spoke of the amazing opportunity God had given all of them to worship in the middle of the frightening chaos. Missionaries shared how they would gladly give up their lives to protect the children, and I drank the cup of joy. We offered a home in our centre to Marcelina, Edwardo, and Carvalho, and watched their tears turn into laughter. God made a way to bring the children into families.

Truly, we are filled with inexpressible joy knowing we dwell in the shelter of the most High God. We rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He is our refuge and our fortress. We put out trust in Him. He covers us in His wings of love and we find safety in Him. We have opened our hearts to Him and He is our dwelling place. He loves us, He rescues us, and commands His angels to surround us. We have called on Jesus. We have acknowledged Him. Trouble has come to our nation, and we have opened our eyes and have seen the pain.

We have opened our ears to hear the cry of the desperate, and so we drink His cup of suffering. We drink His cup of joy knowing we can be His hands extended in the midst of it all, and knowing--He died that there would always be enough.

Love in Jesus,

Heidi and Rolland Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
http://www.irismin.org/
Email: info@irismin.org

 

Heidi Baker: We need to be in that place. We’re prisoners of love. Some people say, “Oh, how noble. You’re a missionary.” I’m just a prisoner of love. I don’t have any choice. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. The whole thing. Every part of it. Even as babies die in my arms, there is this incredible joy in my spirit, because they died being loved. They went straight from our love and the love of our precious workers from all over the world, and all the Mozambicans, hundreds of them, and they go right into the hands of Jesus. And He just keeps on loving them, even more than we could. That’s joy. That’s victory.

One week eight of our precious ones died. I was really tired. I don’t understand. I love them so much. Why? It was just one after another. What do I do? Jesus said, “Either way, you win, because you loved them to life.” I got just a glimpse of the eternal. I got a picture of His arms opening wide to receive those babies, and those teenagers and those pastors, and I said, “Wow, just take me! I am so ready!” I so want to be there, because I’ve seen His face. One glance of His eyes and you’re wrecked forever.

 

C. Hope Flinchbaugh: Floods of Love in Mozambique, Charisma Magazine: “My life is very simple,” Heidi Baker says. “I just pick up abandoned, dying children. I love the garbage dump. I hang out there and go to the alleys and back roads; and I see who’s dying, abused and alone, and I say: ‘Come, live with me.’”

Baker determinedly goes about her work amid the horrors of extreme poverty and the apathies of civil corruption that create an infrastructure of misery for undesired children in the southeast African country. But it’s the perfect place of ministry for the petite blonde woman who is both a power-filled Pentecostal and a London-educated student of theology. She’s been helping outcasts in society since her teens, when God called her to the mission field.

That doesn’t mean life in Mozambique has been easy for the 40-year-old missionary. It has tested her natural tenacity to defend the poor like never before. It has more than once brought her close to death from disease and violence. And since 1995, when she and Rolland, 52, first arrived in Mozambique to take over a horribly dilapidated government orphanage, it has tested their calling.

Yet the result has been that their once-struggling ministry has become a virtual haven for children trapped in squalor or fleeing from death. This has occurred in part because of a pair of powerful encounters with God at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) in the late 1990s.

In the midst of it all, Heidi’s primary reason for doing what she does remains simple--and crystal clear with purpose.

“All I know is I’ve been in God’s presence, and I’ve seen His face,” she says. “And if you’ve seen His face--oh, oh, you’re changed.”

The Bakers’ ministry--Iris Ministries--today operates 200 churches across Mozambique. Most astounding is the fact that 197 of those churches were born in just 1-1/2 years. The Bakers know that God has given them the growth--since their hardest efforts at ministry had produced only three churches in the previous 17 years. For Heidi, the exponential growth represents the fulfillment of a promise God made to her at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in 1997.

“[In Toronto] I was completely cooked, slammed and smushed--all of the things that look weird,” Heidi told Charisma. “I felt powerful electricity all over my body. I could hardly stand the heat. I’m hearing God say, ‘Hundreds of churches,’ and I’m laughing hysterically. It’s the funniest thing I ever heard. It took us 17 years to plant three churches, and two of them weren’t doing that well.”

Today the Bakers’ children’s center near the capital city of Maputo is responsible for the daily care of more than 600 children--and they take in more children almost every day. Iris Ministries also has started a Bible school for national pastors and older teen-agers now preparing for the ministry.

Says Heidi: “Pastor Rego, who recently finished our school of ministry, just raised a lady from the dead in Jesus’ name. He prayed three days over her corpse without eating or drinking water. That’s tenacity! The whole village got saved.”

“The dead have been raised.” Rolland told Charisma. “Blind eyes have seen, a paralyzed pastor healed, a dumb boy is speaking, epileptics and demoniacs have been restored.”

One 7-year-old boy Heidi found had lived in a cardboard box for three years and had no mother or father. According to Heidi, the apprehensive child was taken up in a vision onto the shoulders of two angels and bounced from one to the other as they danced and sang an African Christian song.

Heidi says the child later reported that the angels took him to Jesus who told him: “Son, I want you to live a pure and holy life. Don’t fill it up with drugs and alcohol. I want you to go back and tell everyone I’m coming soon.”

Heidi has been motivated to minister to the poor and forgotten since age 16 when she was saved and called to the mission field while working on an American Indian reservation. Shortly after, she heard the Lord in a vision telling her to minister in Africa, Asia and England.

She returned to her home in California where she met Rolland Baker in a small charismatic church. Rolland is a third-generation missionary and grandson of the late H.A. Baker who authored Visions Beyond the Veil, an account of an orphanage revival in China.

After realizing they were united in their calling to see revival among the poor, Rolland and Heidi were married six months later, in 1980. By the mid-1990s Heidi had received a doctorate in systematic theology from King’s College, University of London, and the couple had ministered in poverty-stricken situations in Asia and pio neered a church for street-sleepers in London.

The ministry the Bakers now enjoy in Mozambique hardly seems like the same one they started with when they first arrived in the country in 1995. At that time, their new leadership at the orphanage put an end to the corruption and thievery of the center’s former directors, an action that quickly brought accusations against them from corrupt officials and spawned governmental rules against prayer and worship. Within a year, Heidi and Rolland were ready to call it quits in Mozambique, despite the fact that they were 17-year veterans of the mission field.

But the couple’s two visits to Toronto quickly changed all of that.

“We were ready to give up before we went to Toronto,” Heidi says. “Then God blasted us, and He showed us His heart and His face and His burning eyes of love.”

It was in 1996, during her first meeting at TACF, that Heidi says she saw the face of Jesus in a vision. The encounter immediately started to transform her life.

Heidi was drawn to the Toronto Blessing revival at TACF that year because of the change she saw in Rolland when he returned from several weeks of meetings there.

“We worked on the mission field for 18 years together, and we had our ups and downs,” Heidi says, “but I never felt so loved by him as when he came home from Toronto.”

Heidi had been undergoing treatment for pneumonia, and in August 1996 she checked herself out of the hospital and left with Rolland for Toronto. Her first experience at TACF began with the immediate healing of her pneumonia and quickly became what Heidi describes as a time of total self-death and surrender to Christ.

As she lay under the power of God, Heidi says that she saw Jesus’ face and broken body and looked into His eyes, which she described as “fiery eyes of love.” It was an experience that created an awareness in her of her own need for brokenness.

“For God to pick you up and run with you, you’ve got to totally lay down,” she says. “When you’re nothing, nothing’s impossible.”

Suddenly in her vision, Heidi was surrounded by thousands of children. Jesus handed her a piece of His own broken body, and it turned into bread in her hands.

“Give it to the children to eat,” He told her, and every child ate.

Then He gave her a cup filled with the blood and water from His side. She drank first, then gave it to all the children.

Then Jesus spoke to her the words that have defined her ministry since that time: “Because I died, there will always be enough.”

After the encounter in Toronto, Heidi and Rolland returned to Mozambique--which statistically sits at the bottom of the United Nations’ list of highly indebted nations. Heidi began seeking more and more children from the garbage dumps and streets of Maputo. Heidi was convinced that with Jesus there would always be enough to feed and care for them.

The Bakers met an immediate test of faith when the largest donor to their ministry suddenly stopped supporting them because of the couple’s involvement in the Toronto revival. It meant that they lost most of the money needed for food and housing for the children. The day the support ended, Heidi went out to the garbage dumps and found seven more children.

Circumstances quickly worsened for the Bakers.

Expecting signs and wonders when they returned to Mozambique, Heidi and Rolland were shocked when a faction in the city government suddenly evicted them and their 320 children from the orphanage. The former building directors had successfully conspired to regain control of the dilapidated center that Rolland and Heidi had worked to rebuild. Government workers beat the children for worshiping God, and the Bakers soon found out that members of the faction had purchased--for $20--an assassination contract on Heidi’s life.

The orphaned children pleaded with the Bakers, telling them they would camp with them anywhere--in the woods, on the beach or any other place--rather than be denied the opportunity to worship Jesus. The troop of orphans followed Rolland and Heidi, walking barefoot for miles into town, where the Bakers rented a small office.

“I just clung to the vision of Jesus’ loving eyes and remembered that He said there would always be enough,” Heidi says.

After being displaced from the orphanage, the Bakers experienced a year of nomadic-style wanderings in 1997 during which they continually were trying to feed and shelter hundreds of orphans. That year, the mayor of the nearby town of Matola gave the Bakers land, and they housed the children in army tents.

In January 1998 the Bakers made a second visit to Toronto for a conference at the TACF that featured Randy Clark, the catalyst of revival in the early days of the Toronto Blessing. Clark preached on dying to self and the holy fire of God. After the preaching, Heidi experienced the fire of God.

“I felt I was literally going to burn up and die,” Heidi says. “Then I heard the Lord say: ‘Good, I want you dead!’“

Clark prophesied that there would be an apostolic anointing over Heidi, declaring she would see the dead raised, the blind healed, miracles performed and many churches started in Mozambique. Clark then prophesied that God was going to give her the nation of Mozambique.

Heidi says she was on the floor under the power of God all day for seven days during the conference, unable to move. The presence of God was so strong, she says, she had to be carried to her hotel room each night and even needed help getting drinks of water.

During her seven days at TACF, she says, the Lord showed her the importance of the body of Christ and told her, “You can do nothing without Me, and nothing without My body.”

She then had a vision of Jesus walking with the children over the smoldering, stinking garbage heaps in Mozambique, where they scavenge for food. He handed out royal robes to each one and invited them to His marriage feast. Jesus even brought the children forward to sit with Him at the head table.

After all the holy fire, the visions and the prophecies in Toronto, the Bakers packed up and returned again to Mozambique, expecting that they would begin a new, perhaps even less difficult, work for God. Instead, they returned only to face even deeper trials and testings.

“After Toronto, it all fell apart,” Heidi says. “We lost so much support. We lost all our buildings, beds, trucks and equipment. We lost our health! The trials kept getting hotter, but we didn’t leave.”

Upon their return to Mozambique, Heidi was hospitalized three times for near-fatal blood poisoning and almost was killed during a hijacking attempt. Rolland contracted severe malaria.

Then Heidi started collapsing without warning--falling unexpectedly, for no apparent reason. In August 1998 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and told it was progressing rapidly. Doctors forewarned her that she may end up in a wheelchair.

Heidi cried out to God.

“God, You promised signs and wonders and hundreds of churches,” she said. “Now what? I don’t understand what’s going on, God, but I love You. I trust You.”

After some deep soul-searching, Heidi decided that she would return to Mozambique and preach from a wheelchair if necessary, and that she would not let the devil thwart her. Back in Africa, she preached--and even baptized children who were being healed and set free in the baptismal tank while she was struggling to stay on her feet.

“Every time she fell, the children would gather around and pray ceaselessly,” Rolland told Charisma. “They simply would not give up.”

The children’s prayers, combined with Heidi’s determination to worship God in spite of her illness, brought healing.

“God told me to rejoice in tribulation, rejoice in suffering and worship Him,” Heidi says. “He told me not to back down in any area but keep walking. Day by day I obeyed until today every symptom is gone--and I dance before my God!”

The Bakers faced a new set of challenges in February after massive flooding occurred in Mozambique. High winds and rain storms ripped their large church tent and destroyed their school building. Their trucks now are falling apart from extreme use, and new construction for churches and children’s centers are needed.

Due to the flooding, parasites now afflict many of the children’s feet, and the danger of cholera and malaria has increased. “Medical help is simply not available at all for most people,” Rolland says--a fact that the Bakers hope to remedy somewhat by building their own clinic and attracting medical personnel to staff it.

Despite these adversities, Jesus is revealing Himself to the young treasures Heidi and her staff have been gathering. The children are fed, clothed and trained.

Besides attending evening meetings, the youngest children rise early in the morning to gather in makeshift shelters where the dirt flies as they dance and sing their African songs of praise to Jesus. Heidi adds with a laugh that in Mozambique people overcome by the Holy Spirit don’t do “carpet time” but “dirt time” as the Holy Spirit evaporates for many of the kids the fear and trauma they have experienced ...

 

This time the image is not of a burning bush but it means the same thing. Jesus’ broken body is like a dried-up thorn bush but it is burning brightly with the glory of God and becomes food in the hands of those that are sharing the message of his sacrifice. Notice how broken he is (how bruised he was on the cross), yet how much love he has:

 

Jesus looked at me with His intense, burning eyes of love, and I was completely undone. He told me to feed the children, and I began to cry out loud, “No! There are too many!” He asked me to look into His eyes, and He said, “I died that there would always be enough.”

Then He reached down and broke a piece of flesh out of His right side. His eyes were so magnificently beautiful, yet His body so bruised and broken. He handed me a piece of His flesh, and as I took it and stretched my hand out to the first child, it became fresh bread! I gave the bread to the children and they all ate.

 

Jesus has enough bread for you – enough love for you. We minister his brokenness that keeps giving life to others and – while we minister – Jesus is asking us to share the same call with him – (the same call as Moses) – be broken yourself – accept suffering which is the vessel that carries the glory of God to others:

 

Then He put a simple poor man’s cup next to His side and filled it with blood and water. He told me it was a cup of “suffering and joy,” and asked me if I would drink it. I drank it and then started to give it to the children. It became drink for them. Again He said, “I died that there would always be enough.” Since that day, I have taken in every orphan child He has put in front of me, and have asked my co-workers to do the same.

 

We accept the suffering – being confronted with our “nothingness” – the pain of feeling helpless – but there is also the joy as the fire of God keeps burning on us and through us and he is using us to his glory.

I come back to Moses. The burning bush represented him. After forty years tending sheep, he was ready to go back to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery. God called him and made him many promises:

 

Exodus 3:8: So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

 

Exodus 3:12:  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

 

Exodus 3:13-14: Moses said to God, “Suppose 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?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said 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 4:1-9: Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.

Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”

 

Exodus 4:12: ??Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

 

Moses, the young man, was ambitious and killed a man in his attempt to give leadership to his people. Yet – after forty years in the wilderness – he had died to all of his ambitions. He was at peace among his sheep. God gave him promise after promise – assurance after assurance – but Moses had become a reluctantburning bush”. He said to God:

 

Exodus 4:13: But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

 

Are you at this stage? Do you feel that it is too late to be called by God? Are you comfortable now – too old to be bothered? God reacted to Moses – (Exodus 4:14: “The Lord’s anger burned against Moses”) – which is also a warning to us.

This morning – have a look at the burning bush and consider whether this thorn bush represents you. Have you become a dry desert plant – humbled and bowed? Can the fire of God burn through your humility? Are you willing for God to complete his work of reducing to nothingness – letting you tend sheep for forty years in the wilderness? Can you embrace becoming like this weather-beaten bush?

Then – when you are dead to your ambitions – can you sayyesto God when he calls you? The fire of God will burn through you. His voice will speak forth from within the burning bush. There is no better call. He can do anything with nothing. Watch him set free an entire people – slaves in the most powerful nation on earth.

Become nothing and sayyes”. Amen.