Opening: Part 1      This service today is going to have two parts. This first part will be focusing on repentance and the second part will focus on the joy of the repentant heart. As Easter approaches we should find ourselves who are the church humbled before the Almighty God. We were warned all through scripture that this desolation we have been in would happen. Solomon prayed, 1 Kings 8:25 “Now Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me faithfully as you have done.” 19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’” The church has not been careful in walking faithfully and has followed other gospels and the enemy has ravaged the land and no I’m not just talking about the virus as this desolation has been going on for generations.
                 As I have talked about during our Lenten Journey, the church has now been exposed for its lack of power. This 2 Timothy 3:5 “form of godliness but denying its power” has been seen throughout the church. In one sweep of a deadly virus, the church stands helpless, across the globe. The truth is the church has been in this state of desolation / captivity for a long time now due to its disobedience and is defenseless against their enemies. The church is void of power but has lots of talk but Paul said 1 Corinthians 4:20 “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” Saying the church has been exposed for this lack of power maybe just the ramblings of a lunatic or it is the truth of God’s word. Just look around! The church today and for generations before us looks nothing like the church that Jesus is the head of. So today we should be somber and repentant. Ezra 9:15 “Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” This pandemic has showed the church for what it has become and only a remnant has been reserved. In a few short weeks the church would be celebrating the power of the resurrection yet the church does not have the power that was available to all who believe. The church like Samson does not seem to know God has turned His face from us but as we saw with Samson the power would return (second part of the service).
                In the United States, 700 pastors gathered on a conference call for prayer. “They asked the huge group of Christian leaders to "pray for the strength of the United States" and "for those who are sick". “Vice President Pence encouraged Americans to pray for the experts counseling the administration. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson added, “God is merciful… And we will get through this.” He said the crisis Americans face may be an opportunity for God to show His power that will “help us return to Him.” He concluded, “God still has His hand on this nation. And He has His hand on all of us.” To return to God, we must turn from our wicked ways by repenting. But here is the problem; the church doesn’t think there is a problem. Yes each denomination or group thinks the other has a problem but not the church as a whole. Isaiah describes the problem the church faces not just in the USA but around the world. Isaiah 1:4 “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” This should be a call for all of our countries to stop, turn and repent. There is no such thing as ecumenical, though people try. Ecumenical means, “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity.” This is impossible when God has turned from us and His Spirit no longer leads us in truth and everyone goes there own way. It is only possible when God turns back and the church becomes the church not group of churches who believe completely different from each other. For example I was reading about the United Methodist Denomination (not united by the way) that is splitting over their beliefs about homosexuality. When the bible is set-aside for the ways of man, God turns His face.
                I also noticed a church that had an eye opening experience concerning a lack of power. They had gathered for revival services March 15 before the ban of gathering over 250 and ended up having 43 of their 80 infected. Everyone who was tested had the virus. The problem is the leaders were at a conference and seemed to have unknowingly carried the virus back with them to the church. They said God had moved in the service with miracles and filling of the Holy Spirit yet they went away sick. I feel bad for them and I don’t say this to shame them. I only say that the church does not have the power of the Holy Spirit among us so we must continue to plead for God to shine his face among us. This church shows a clear picture of the deception that has taken place in the church. The only way is to repent. I also wanted to say this endemic of disobedience to God’s word (endemic means a disease or condition regularly found among particular people or in a certain area”) in the church has been going on long before this COVID19 virus came along. It has been happening since the time Paul said Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Most churches today are teaching a different gospel. Jeremiah 8:6 “I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.” Mark 7:6 “Jesus replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” So there should be a worldwide call to repentance. The church came together as one and showed their weakness and out of that weakness should come repentance, so we pray.
    Prayer:          Jeremiah 14:17 “Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for the Virgin Daughter, my people, has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow. 18 If I go into the country, I see those slain by the sword; if I go into the city, I see the ravages of famine. Both prophet and priest have gone to a land they know not.” 19 Have you rejected Judah completely? Do you despise Zion? Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror. 20 We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, and the guilt of our ancestors; we have indeed sinned against you. 21 For the sake of your name do not despise us; do not dishonor your glorious throne. Remember your covenant with us and do not break it. 22 Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” Daniel 9:4 “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. 17 Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
    Song: Hear Us From Heaven -Ross Parsley
    Part 2:           This second part concerns holding on to the promises of God so that we can be joyful and have hope in our risen Saviour. Though He has been rejected for the ways of man, the remnant will rise in power once again. God has given us this hope because of His promise to David. We have been talking about how God saved his people in Esther and how the tables were “turned on their enemies, the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.” God’s promise to David is the hope we have that the remnant will rise up in power once again. The remnant will rise just as promised and they will be one with Jesus Christ as the head. The church will then go out clothed with power to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 42:5 “This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
    Scripture:     Psalm 68:32 “Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, 33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice. 34 Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. 35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!”
    Songs:  Everlasting - Brian Doerksen       
    Awake My Soul  -  Hillsong
    Standing On the Promises (Medley) - Selah 
    Everlasting God  -  Brenton Brown       
    Scripture:   - Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”
    Song:     Here We Stand  -  Newsboys    
    Sermon:   “Restore Us Again”
    Closing Song:  Restore Us   -  JR Taylor & Jerry Wise
    Benediction:     Psalm 146:1 “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. 2 I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. 6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, 8 the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 10 The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.”


    Sermon: “Restore Us Again”
                Added (1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. 43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” 44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”)
                In the turmoil that is now the world we live in, where everyone anywhere can be infected by this COVID 19 virus and continues to spread rapidly, there has to be a hope that can only come from the church. Now when I say the church I mean the New Testament church, not the church down the street, as there is a difference. In order for the true church to go into the world once again in power, we must be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. This will only happen when we turn to God and God turns His face back to us. Yes many say they are filled already, safe and secure and have power but they were and are in for a rude awakening as this virus escalated to 662,737 cases and 30,847 deaths worldwide at last check yesterday. Those numbers don’t even take into account any unreported cases as many have not even been tested and continue to spread this highly contagious virus. At this point our hope cannot come from the church as the church has turned away from the word of the Lord and gone their own way. But in spite of that there is still hope because of God’s promise to David. Psalm 33:20 “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” The church has followed other gospels but by following these other gospels, it is the same as following other idols / gods. As we prayed earlier in Jeremiah 14:22 “Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” Psalm 135:13 “Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations. 14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” When we return to God, we will be restored.
                During this time of crisis is the time to no longer go the way of those who went before us but turn away from their sin and our sin. God said he would return to us if we would return to Him. Now I realize many in the church have been taught they are saved no matter what but that is the part of the deceptive teaching in the church that needs to be removed. Hezekiah makes it very clear in 2 Chronicles 29:5 “Remove all defilement from the sanctuary. 6 Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him. 7 They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. (We are the offering now) 8 Therefore, the anger of the Lord has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; he has made them an object of dread and horror and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity.” Just a reminder again as these verses apply to us because of Jesus. Galatians 3:26 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” He then said these words which gives us great hope in spite of the desolation we find ourselves in. 2 Chronicles 30:6 “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
                God has given us a choice to return to Him but not only does he give us a choice, he wants to give us the land also; He wants to send us to the ends of the earth in His name to proclaim His name. Psalm 2:8 “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”  Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 13:47 “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”(Read the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26.) 1 Samuel 2:10 “Those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” God wants to bless us with abundance. He even said Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” It we serve Him wholeheartedly God said, Ezekiel 39:7 “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel.” Unfortunately the nations are not seeing this.
                A clear picture of what the church looks like presently is found in 2 Kings 6:24 “Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. 25 There was a great famine in the city.” The church today is also under siege and there is a great famine of hearing the word of the Lord that has decimated the church. Amos 8:11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Those days are here! So the city of Samaria is under siege and Elisha says 2 Kings 7:1 “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” 2 The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!” So we too have a choice whether to believe that God will open the floodgates or not. Then God moved in power and all of a sudden the siege lifted and the attacking army ran away terrified. 2 Kings 7:6 “for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army.” 16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the Lord had said.” And no, the officer did not taste it.
                So yes in the midst of this siege and famine of hearing the word of the Lord and even this pandemic, God can do what he did for Samaria that day. As we seek God, pray that God would bless us with His Spirit. Isaiah 61 said that “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance,” so we ask for a double portion just as Elisha whom we just talked about asked for a double portion.  2 Kings 2:9 “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.” Be bold and ask God to pour open the floodgates of His Spirit. Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” When Ezekiel prophesied about the valley of dry bones God said Ezekiel 37:11 “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.” Ezekiel 39:29 “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.” We continue to pray that God will pour out His Spirit just as he did at Pentecost.
                 Malachi had talked about what the church should actually look like and the problem we are seeing today in the church. This is how the church was supposed to be. Malachi 2:5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.” This is not how the church is supposed to be but has become. “8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” God had said about the people Malachi 2:14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” Too many Christians have come before God with a blemished offering. That is not who we are to be so Malachi 3:16 “those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. 17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
                This virus that has ravaged the land is deadly but this could easily be a lot worse which is why we must repent and turn from our wicked ways and follow Him wholeheartedly. Moses also describes why the church is in desolation. Deuteronomy 29:25 “And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” This describes the church in captivity but this next passage gives us the hope of restoration when we return to God. Deuteronomy 30:1 “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” God is looking for us to do this. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” You have to be fully committed to God if you want to see the floodgates of His blessing poured out. Too many christians are fully committed to the church they attend not necessarily to God’s word and they don’t know the difference. Most christians are more committed to themselves than to God. But if we would return scripture clearly shows that God wants to and waits to bless us.
                Today I want to look at the blessings God wants to give us. I realize that in the midst of this pandemic many are asking where is God but men and women should really be asking; why don’t I follow and trust God’s word wholeheartedly? God doesn’t change and he expects us to follow wholeheartedly! We read earlier from Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” This is the hope we have, so turn back to God. You don’t look to the world for your hope. You don’t look to technology for your hope. You don’t look to the Internet for your hope. You don’t look to finances but you look to the Lord God Almighty. This means you are willing to offer yourself to God and put your life in God’s hands. Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” God said in Malachi that he would open the floodgates if we would do this. Luke 14:25 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This is total commitment; the only kind God is looking for. There is no other place to put our hope but God but it has do be done with everything we have. Mark 10:28 “Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Isaiah 40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
                In this pandemic, the solution is to keep your distance from other people, social distancing but if you keep your distance from God, that will bring disaster. Yes people who get close to someone who has the virus are in danger of getting the virus but we are called to get as close as we can with God by submitting ourselves to him. What better time than now to return to God but be careful because like other events where people turned back, they didn’t stay. Once it got better they worshipped other gods and themselves once again. Matthew 13:19 “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Isaiah 51:1 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; 2 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many. 3 The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”
                Our theme for this Lenten Journey has been “The Joy of the Redeemed” and yes it is possible to be joyful during this time as you put your hope in God and trust Him. Isaiah 35:10 “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Psalm 126:1 “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. 5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
                So we have great hope of restoration in spite of the chaos around us and the desolation the church finds itself in. We saw God save the Jews in Esther during a time where the enemy wanted to annihilate them. We saw God allow His people to return to the land and we saw those who called on the name of the Lord have the hope of salvation. So we wait in hope like Habakkuk said and no Habakkuk was not trembling because of the enemy but trembled before the power of God. Habakkuk 3:16 “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
                God has shown the world that the church is not doing as it should. Years ago one of the slogans in the church was “Doing Church”. One title I saw was “Doing church in a new Paradigm” These two slogans “doing church” and paradigms were highly irritating and still are. There have been so many paradigm shifts but they only made it worse. The shift to the church as a marketplace has left the church staggering in its desolation yet many churches are packed. Everywhere the church wanted to be like Willow Creek but that was obviously a mistake as God has now shown and they should shut down. What we have seen over this last month is that turning the church into a market doesn’t work. Yes people will come but that’s not what the church is about as the world is not the end of the race; eternity is. This doing church like a market place didn't work in Jesus day either. John 2:14 “In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Paul said we were to follow what he taught but so many have not. 2 Corinthians 2:17 “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” Many in today’s church missed this verse. 1 Corinthians 15:2 “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” The church is not a business or an organization; it is the body of Christ.
                The church growth movement did nothing to strengthen the church because they followed their own ways. Jeremiah has a lot to say about that. Jeremiah 5:30 “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.    But what will you do in the end?” What it did and what it continues to do is deceive those involved. Then mix it with dispensationalism and other isms and you have even more deception. Now mix it with the charismatic and the charismatic movement has done just as much damage if not more. In the charismatic movement there is an emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit but it is not the power of the Holy Spirit as we have seen these last few weeks. Again people have been deceived. The only movement that works is the movement away from the man-made and doctrines of demons and return to God as fast as you can. Take this time in your homes and spend in God’s word instead of watching videos of hope on the internet. Return to God and He will return to us, as God wants to bless us. This age old problem of looking at everything under the sun and including the sun for guidance instead of turning to the Son and submitting to Him continues to leave us in desolation but it doesn’t have to.
                I think President Trump described what has happened to the world and the church really well. He said, “that the outbreak came upon us so suddenly.” “We were doing better than we've ever done before as a country in terms of the economy — and then, all of the sudden, we got hit with this,” “So we had to close it down.” “We're actually paying a big price to close it down,” Trump continued. “Never happened before.” “We're going to come back stronger than ever before." The same happened to the church and like Trump said about His country, the church also believes they will come back stronger. But will they? Yes the church will continue on as it has in the past but if the church does not repent it will continue to lead people astray. If you think this virus makes your ears tingle think about what happened when Babylon attacked Israel. Jeremiah 19:3 “Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.” Ezekiel 26:13 “I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Isaiah said Isaiah 1:12 “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.” The church will continue in their empty ways and like this amazing passage in Isaiah, they will try to rebuild. In Isaiah chapter nine we see this prophecy about Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Immediately following this passage Isaiah says, Isaiah 9:8 “The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. 9 All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria— who say with pride and arrogance of heart, 10 “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” 11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them and has spurred their enemies on. 12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. 13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. 14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; 15 the elders and dignitaries are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. 16 Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. 17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.” Jeremiah 5:3 “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.”
                If the church and any country would just repent, God would do amazing things among us. Until then for those of you who have repented, commit your way to the lord and wait for Him. Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” Psalm 135:13 “Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations. 14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. 3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. 5 They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. 7 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty— he is the King of glory.”
                We continue to plead with God to restore us once again. Please don’t stop calling out to Him. We plead together and say Psalm 60:1 “You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us! Psalm 85:4 “Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.” Psalm 80:19 “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” Numbers 10:35 “Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” Psalm 44:26 “Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.” Psalm 74:22 “Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long.” Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!”