The Pillar of Cloud and Fire

This is our last service in this venue. The pillar of cloud and fire is moving. The end of an era, but the start of something big. We are strong out into the unknown, and the Israelites had a similar situation when the embarked on the Exodus. They had seen the ten plagues, they witnessed the miracles, but there they were, backs against the wall, or at least the Red Sea, Egyptians baring down on them, and they were desperate for God’s presence and guidance.

 

Exodus 13:20-22 (ESV)

And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

 

Every believer who truly loves and serves God is searching for God’s will for their life.  We all sense that there is more to our lives, more to our destiny than floating along with the crowd, full of fear about COVID, vaccinations or, when that subsides, climate change.

 

We sense there is more than conforming to mold the world tries to shape you into, a product of fear and hopelessness. For Ignite, the pillar of cloud and fire is moving this week, and we must follow!

 

Let me prophesy to you right now… God has a plan for your life, a destiny that depends not on the circumstances you face but on the decisions you make.

 

The Israelites had escaped the oppression of Egypt, but they needed direction, they needed protection and they needed to know God was with them, as do we as we move into our new situation. I’m not moving to Nambour to get a nice, glossy church building, or to make money. I’m moving because I believe God has a destiny for us, and I hope you’re with me!

 

For them, God graciously appeared as a pillar of cloud by day, and fire by night. But what did this all mean for them, and what does it mean for us today?

 

GEOGRAPHICAL ANOINTING

 

Geographical Anointing is a term referring to an increase in God’s power and destiny in your life when you obey Him by physically moving location. None of us likes moving, especially when you are unsure as to where you are going, but God rewards your faithful obedience.

 

Many years ago, Fiona and I moved from the Central Coast of NSW to here, and this coincided with the start of my ministry with Bill Newman.

 

Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

 

Abraham had to move out of Ur to realise God’s plans for him. David was on the move constantly, Daniel had to be exiled to move into his destiny. When we obey the Lord and physically move, He often opens up incredible opportunities that would never be possible had we stayed where we were.

 

It’s true for us, as a church and as people. Ignite is moving this week into Nambour and into the incredible destiny God has for us. You may have moved to this area, to this church, but as you faithfully follow God, He will open up a destiny beyond your wildest dreams.

 

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

The people of Israel could not stay in Egypt, and fulfil what God had planned for them. They had to move and follow God into their promised land, and they were accompanied by a physical, tangible manifestation of God. Let’s look at what these pillars said to them, and to us today.

 

1.                   GOD’S PRESENCE

 

The pillars of cloud and fire were something the people could see and hear. They reminded them that God was right there with them. Not a single person here can move into their full destiny without the presence of God.

 

Today we still need God’s presence, but He doesn’t provide pillars of fire and cloud. We see Him in His Word, we sense God in our worship together, we feel Him when we pray. You and I need God’s presence in our lives today.

 

Psalms 16:11 (ESV)

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 

For the people of Israel, the cloud was God’s glory and presence… it is significant that, after going before the people, the cloud or shekinah glory of God, which comes from the Hebrew word TO DWELL, was manifest in the tabernacle, showing God was right there.

 

Exodus 40:34-35 (ESV)

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

 

All of us need God’s presence in our lives today!

 

Deuteronomy 31:15 (ESV)

And the LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud. And the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.

 

DON’T LOSE THE PRESENCE OF GOD

 

It is so easy, in the hustle and bustle of life with the media and social media assaulting our senses, to simply lose sight of God’s presence. You don’t love Him less, you don’t want to serve Him less, you just can’t sense Him like you once did.

 

Ezekiel saw a profound but disturbing vision… in Ezekiel 5 God threatened,

 

Ezekiel 5:11 (ESV)

Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw.

 

Then because of the hardness of the hearts of the people, God did it

 

Ezekiel 10:18-19 (ESV)

Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

 

Repeated, wilful sinning saw the people lose the presence of God. If we, as a church and as people, refuse to obey, we can lose the presence of God too! In Ezekiel’s vision, the cloud moved out of the Holy city. Our sin doesn’t see the Holy Spirit moving out of our life entirely, but it can easily find us making wrong or destructive decisions and headed for disaster.

 

You need God’s presence, I need God’s presence surrounding and enveloping our lives, giving us direction and purpose.

 

2.                   GOD’S PROVISION

 

The pillar of cloud and fire also was God’s provision for the people.

 

Exodus 40:36-38 (ESV)

Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

 

Every time they looked, there was the cloud or fire. And this reminded them of God’s provision for them. By day the cloud could protect them from the sun, by night the fire provided warmth and light. Describing this phenomenon later the Psalmist wrote this…

 

Psalms 105:39 (ESV)

He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.

 

The pillars of cloud or fire went before them all of the 40 year journey to the Promised Land. Even when the people sinned, when the spies brought a bad report about the land and discouraged the people, God remained with them. The pillars only disappeared when when the people entered the Promised Land.

 

Even when people rebelled and complained, and even when God judged them, they could never doubt whether God was with them or not…

 

Numbers 11:1 (ESV)

And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

 

Where did the fire come from? My guess is out of the pillar, right?

 

3.                   GOD’S PROTECTION

 

In 1984, Louise De-grafin-reid of Branden, Tennessee, astounded the nation when she persuaded an escaped convict from a Tennessee prison to surrender. The prisoner, brandishing a gun, surprised her husband, outside their modest home and forced him inside at gunpoint. Louise was not afraid of the gun, instead she spoke about Jesus to him, fed him breakfast, then he called authorities and miraculously gave himself up.

 

When questioned afterwards, Louise talked about how she trusted God as ultimate authority, and therefore could overcome her fears. She said she was secure in the “pillar of cloud by day” and the “pillar of fire by night” that guided her life.

 

For the Israelites, the pillar of cloud and fire, the presence of God, not only provided but also served to protect the people…

 

Exodus 14:19-20 (ESV)

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

 

The incredible moment when God moved in between the Israelites and their pursuers, while He got busy parting the Red Sea, which did not take place in seconds, Hollywood style, but took a fierce wind overnight…

 

Exodus 14:21 (ESV)

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

 

God was not only working for the people, He was protecting them. God is not only working in your life, but we will never know this side of heaven how much His presence actually protects us! We need to listen to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to obey, and He will provide and protect… Sometimes in ways we don’t direct.

 

Heard about a guy in a flood, crawled up onto the roof. A guy comes by in a 4 wheel drive, saying quick get in. No thanks, the Lord will save me! Then came another guy in a boat… No, the Lord will save me. The water gets higher, a fella in a helicopter appears. No, says the man, the Lord will save me. Eventually he drowned, and got to heaven and said, God, I trusted You, why did you let me drown. The Lord’s said, well I sent a 4 wheel drive, a boat and a helicopter…

 

God’s presence provides and protects us, but only if we are obedient. Part of being protected is obeying. Disobey, and you move out from under His protection by your own choice.

 

4.                   GOD’S PILOTING

 

Clearly the Bible teaches us that the pillars of cloud and fire directed the Israelites. God was piloting or guiding their journey.

 

Nehemiah 9:12 (ESV)

By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

 

Every single one of us here needs to know God’s direction in our lives. We don’t have a pillar of cloud or fire before us, but we have something better, someone better. We have the God of all creation living within every one of us who have accepted Jesus by the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus left this earth, but His Holy Spirit remains…

 

John 16:13 (ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

God is not into confusing you, or leading you into disaster, He wants the best for you. He wants you to move into your destiny. As He guided those Israelites both day and night, so He guides you, day and night, but only if you listen and obey.

 

Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

 

When the cloud moved, the people followed, because it was before them. What the cloud stopped, so did they. This is a great illustration of how we should follow the Holy Spirit in our lives too.

 

Psalms 37:23-24 (ESV)

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.

 

God’s piloting and protection work hand in hand with obedience. It’s a package deal. Lose His presence, and you lose is protection, His provision and piloting.

 

Warner Bros brought out a war movie in 1945 called, God is my copilot. But we don’t need God as our copilot, we need him as our actual pilot. We need to listen to, obey, rest and walk into our destiny with Him.

 

GOD’S DESTINY FOR YOU

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

Before you were even born, God had plans for you, not plans to ruin your life, plans to prosper you. Plans for His Spirit to use you in an incredible way. Isn’t that what we all want?

 

Proverbs 3:5-7 (ESV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

 

Your destiny doesn’t depend on your circumstances, it depends on your choices. Being here today is a choice. Getting involved with Ignite at this pivotal time is a choice. Right now as the destiny of this church opens up before us, you can sit in the sidelines  or you can choose to be part of it. God has a part for you to play in reaching this nation, and Ignite can be part of that.

 

I don’t exactly know the future holds for us in Nambour, but I know who holds our future. I know opportunities await us, and I want to invite you to join us. Come follow the pillar of cloud, come Ignite the pillar of fire with us into Nambour.

 

But to make this move a success, to move into the destiny God has for us, we must go with the presence of God. The pillar of cloud is rumbling right now, the pillar of fire is igniting, they are moving this week, and we must follow. We can’t assume God will just show up, we can’t assume that our ideas are ok, we can’t just ask God to bless all of our plans. All of us, especially our leaders, desperately need the presence of God. We must humbly go with the Holy Spirit leading, piloting, protecting, providing.

 

We need His presence, His Holy Spirit, working in our lives. My question to you today is not, do you know His presence, but do you want more of His presence. Can you see that pillar of cloud and fire and glory before you, or has it dimmed?

 

Today, as we leave this place and head to our new home, I want us all to cry out together to God for a greater manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I want more, I hope you are thirsting after more too. David wrote,

 

Psalms 63:1-3 (ESV)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,  as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary (dwelling place), beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

 

His love, His presence is better than life! Today, our last time in this building. What a legacy to leave this building with the manifest presence of the Lord.

 

I invite you to seek more of God’s presence manifest in your life with me right now. Come, seek the Lord with me, that we might go to our new home filled to overflow with the glory and presence of God.

 

It is everlastingly true. The cloud and the fire do not depart of we faithfully follow. The guiding and sustaining presence is ours always if we choose to put our trust in God. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night were a constant presence that guided Israel throughout their journey, and that same Spirit is ours if we choose to accept Him today. So come and join me in seeking God’s presence right now as we head off into our destiny together.

 

 

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO IN THIS LIFE?

 

 

HOW CAN IGNITE HELP YOU IN THIS ENDEAVOUR?

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP?

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