In the 80’s there was a Dunkin Donut commercial showing you their donuts were made fresh everyday. The character kept saying over and over, time to make the donuts – then he said I made the donuts as he went back and forth. The idea was to emphasize that the donuts were fresh all the time because they were made all the time and back and forth he went to make the donuts. As I think about what church has become it seems that this could also be the theme of the church. Time to go to church – I went to church and back and forth people go only to go away unchanged and the enemy still raging against them. They look like the guy making the donuts. Then we had a global pandemic arise and everything changed as people have not been able to gather except for those few who are rebelling against God’s authority and acting as if they are under persecution and pretending there is no pandemic. I will leave that topic for now but be clear Romans 13:2 “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
                The church by now should be a powerhouse. Actually by now the coming of Jesus to take us home should have already sped up. 2 Peter 3:11 “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” But instead, Jeremiah 7:24 “they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” The body of Christ would be a powerhouse if we did as Jesus did, as Jesus is the head of the church. Colossians 1:15 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Therefore the church should look like Jesus.
                Unfortunately due to our rebellion, we ended up with a dysfunctional church with everyone acting as if they are the head, going their own way and doing their own thing and not looking like Jesus. Judges 21:25 “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Then in Ruth you see the results. Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.” This rebellion has left the church desolate and we also see famine. 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 already here. I grew up going to church, literally. You had your Sunday school, Sunday morning and evening service, prayer meeting, kids clubs of some sort, youth groups, adult groups, small groups, fellowships and everyone’s favorite - food events. On top of that you would have committees, boards, volunteer positions and paid positions, conferences, camps and retreats. The motto was look busy - Jesus is coming! Not really but it could have been. Week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, the church would meet. But church is boring so changes were made so that it wasn’t boring. Worship changed and entertainment drew the crowds and the ones who did it best drew the biggest crowds and people would move from one church to another. The gospel was set aside for man’s ways as we talked about yesterday. Many thought if they could be relevant enough they would reach the masses but instead became irrelevant to God. Many churches fell into this trap while others held on to their traditions and many have been successful. People would change churches looking for one that would appease their appetites. You may get this answer when you asked how was church today. It felt great; the worship team was really on today. Nowadays you see a huge range in what the church looks like yet there is no power and people are even more illiterate when it comes to scripture. Isaiah 5:13 “Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding.” Some people have their bibles memorized but still do not understand. How could the church be so biblically illiterate and without understanding after all that going back and forth to church? Many still do not know that they have been deceived by a false gospel that they think to be the truth.
                Paul said 1 Corinthians 3:1 “I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” Picture with me a sanctuary or wherever you meet filled with people sucking on their soothers and bottles. That’s not an image you want to see. Hebrews 5:11 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Instead of being teachers, there is a revolving door of making donuts instead and back and forth they go. Yes people really want to get back to the back and forth that this pandemic has halted but we should be way past that. Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.” We should be looking for the church to look like Jesus.
                Music has always been a major part of the church. Psalm 150:1 “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Down through the ages there has been powerful music and some pretty weak attempts. There is music that is doctrinally (not denominational distinctives) sound and others that are not. Some jumped off the music train and only sing hymns while others only sing new songs and then you have everything in-between. Some services are like attending a concert every time the church gathers. Some churches worship and then sell their music and the worship continues wherever you are or I should say the listening of music continues. Music is an amazing part of worship but God is looking at your heart and really isn’t looking at your lips moving. Mark 7:6 “He 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.”
                I love music but it has to be more than just singing songs. There is music sung every week that talks about the power of God but at the same time the music is just another form of godliness that denies power. Yes great worship makes you think God must be loving it but when our hearts are far from Him He still says, 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. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 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!”
                At almost every gathering the church usually sings. Some songs lead to euphoria and emotions can be high. Some songs when sung just seem to lift the roof off the building while others can make you somber and still. You may come away with a feeling that worship was really good today or not so good based on how you feel. One thing I have noticed over the years is emotion sometimes can miss the meaning of songs. I have heard some songs that are very light in their biblical content and people have their hands raised worshipping God with all their being because the song feels good. Then you have a song that doesn’t strike the emotional chord but the words are powerful and straight from scripture; same crowd but no one puts their hands up.
                What I would like to do now is to share some of these songs that are sung. You may not have sung them but my point is to show you that you can sing about power and totally miss the power at the same time.  Although we sing powerful songs and they make you feel like you have worshipped, the power simply is not there. (You can listen to them online)
    1. “Victory in Jesus” Lyrics - I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory, how He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me; I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning, then I repented of my sins and won the victory.” This is not just an old, old story. This is the verse I would like to focus on. “I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow'r revealing. How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see; and then I cried, "dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit," And somehow Jesus came and bro't to me the victory.” There just isn’t this victory in the church. John asked if Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus answered by saying Matthew 11:5 “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” That’s not happening but we are singing about it.
    2. “There’s Power in the blood” Here is the refrain. “There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r, in the blood of the Lamb; There is pow'r, pow'r, wonder-working pow'r in the precious blood of the Lamb.” Yes there is and scripture makes it clear but we are not seeing it. 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.”
    3. “Same Power” This song is actually quite powerful. Lyrics – “The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, The same power that commands the dead to wake lives in us, lives in us. The same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us, lives in us. He lives in us, lives in us. Greater is He that is living in me, He's conquered our enemy, no power of darkness, no weapon prevails, we stand here in victory.” That is how it is supposed to be but that is not happening yet we sing away as if it is. Again the bible is not just a story about what Jesus did but the continuation of what He did.
    4. “Send the Fire” O God of burning cleansing flame, send the fire. Your blood-bought gift today we claim, Send the fire today, Look down and see this waiting host and send the promised Holy Ghost, we need another Pentecost, send the fire today” This song is asking God to pour out His Spirit on us just as happened at Pentecost. Actually we are not looking for one event but for the church to go out in power as the disciples did after Pentecost. Is the church desperate for the fire?
    5: “All Things Possible” “Even when it feels like the light is fading and I've lost my way, Still I'm holding on to the One who's making all things possible. I know mountains can move, I've seen what You can do in my weakness, So my heart will believe if I wait I will see My God doing, what only He can do” Yes all things are possible Mark 9:23 “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
                These are just a few examples of songs that talk about the power of God. I shared this before but there is a song by Michael W. Smith, which was sung as the last song at a concert. It is called The River is Rising. Lyrics - I feel it, I feel it, I feel it in my bones and I just don't think I can hold it anymore. The river is rising, flowing out of me and I'm coming alive, I'm coming alive I'm gonna dance, sing and move my feet, The river is rising, flowing out of me, Got to let the world know, take it to the streets, Got to dance and sing and add a shout of praise Hallelujah, the river is rising Hallelujah, got to dance and sing and add a shout of praise Hallelujah, the river is rising Hallelujah, got to dance and sing and add a shout of praise Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.” He closes to cheering and says, “Good night everybody God bless you, Give the Lord a shout,” people are cheering and its over, time to go home. The emotions are high; it was a great concert that was so good you can buy the live concert but where is the power? Basically the people just enjoyed a concert. If you are singing about the river, where is the healing of the nations? Ezekiel 47:9 “so where the river flows everything will live.” Revelation 22:1 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
                To sing about power and not be part of that power is very much like reading the bible and not being part of the power that Jesus said would be available to all who believe. As Paul said Ephesians 1:19 “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” Over all these years of back and forth, the power is still missing. We have proven that church attendance in itself doesn’t release power, but repentance does. Churchgoers have become accustomed to the lack of power and don’t question why the power is missing so they continue to sing and talk about it. For years they have been told this is how church is and for years leaders have tried to give people the experience that will keep them connected so back and forth they go.
                This constant back and forth to church is a waste of time especially if it is not the true gospel. Don’t you ever get tired of church? Don’t you ever wonder where the wonders are or have you become so deluded you have become content with not seeing the wonders God has offered us? This delusion comes from God because of the disobedience / rebellion of the church; the refusal to repent and turn from our wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” Not only does this verse talk about the delusion brought on by God but also the deception of satan. The delusion and deception is a false sense of security even though we were warned 2 Peter 3:17 “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” These false teachers and prophets have coddled the body into thinking that sucking on a pacifier is where the church should be. Then you end up with the body desperately seeking attention; crying feed me feed me, make me feel special, I don’t like that, I’m hungry, don’t tell me I need to repent and so it goes. If those needs are not met, they look for another to itch their itchy ears. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” There will always be someone to scratch ears.
                Attending church became the new christianity, instead of going to the ends of the earth clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. If the church did as Jesus did then, Matthew 4:24 “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” Unfortunately the church decided going back and forth to gather was all they needed. Yes people still attempt to go but there is no power and now around the world as the pandemic has exposed, the church is powerless to defeat our enemies. This distortion of Christianity when all is said and done is just a church desolate and defeated just as we were warned it would be. The church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be powerful. After Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and died and oh by the way that is in the New Testament so we really should fear God more than we do. Anyways after that happens there is a sense of fear due to the power that flowed among them. Acts 5:12 “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” There was a sense of trepidation towards this group who met. Think about what Paul later said in I Corinthians 14:24 “But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, God is really among you!” Even in the church most do not want their secrets laid bare. Most people are content to go to church, check the box and then do it again the next time but there should be a fear of the power present. There is no fear because there is no power. Now having said that there are many churches that operate in fear like a cult. Their leaders lord over them with their god complex and people are afraid to ask anything or question them. That is not the power and fear I am talking about. By the way they won’t get away with that. Zephaniah 3:1 “Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! 2 She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. 3 Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. 4 Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.”
               In the same place that the disciples gathered, Jesus also was there. John 10:22 “Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The church like the Jews is missing the power of the Holy Spirit because of their unbelief. The works showed that Jesus and the Father were one just as the works will show we are one with the Father and Jesus. John 14:23 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” We also see in John that Jesus prayed for His disciples. John 17:6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” We are supposed to one with Jesus, which means we accept His words. When we accept His words, God dwells with us and we do as He did. John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
                Because the church has not accepted His words as truth Amos 2:4 “This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not relent. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods (other gospels), the gods their ancestors followed, 5 I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” Hosea 11:5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? 6 A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. 7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.”
                If we had accepted the words of Jesus, we would see the power of those words among us. Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” God created the universe with His words. Jesus healed the sick with His words. The church was to continue in the power of those words yet the church replaced those words with their own. Like the church that met in Solomon’s colonnade, there should be fear and there should also be the same response Jesus received at the same place when they tried to kill Him for His words. Matthew 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Don’t be surprised if people hate you for your commitment to God’s word. The church isn’t always about how you feel.
                As we saw with the disciples and Jesus, the church will still grow with this Godly fear. Acts 5:14 “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Week after week people gather in a desolate environment yet unaware of their pathetic situation. They come to worship the creator of the universe but are content just to sing about power and listen to old, old stories about the wonders of Jesus. Our only hope of salvation is to turn from our wickedness. God doesn’t want our lip service. Ezekiel 33:30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” Mark 7:6 “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.” Because of this hypocrisy, Amos 5:3 “this is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel: “Your city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left; your town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left.” 4 This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live; 6 Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. 18 Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” These passages describe the church today.
                Instead God wants our hearts to be pure and steadfast. If we do Psalm 112:6 “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. 7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” Psalm 57:7 “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. 9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
               Gathering as the church to worship is part of it but not all of it. We gather to learn and grow but we should not be dependent on one or two people. The whole body as Paul describes in Corinthians is to work together in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:11 “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” 1 Corinthians 12:6 “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” So instead of going back and forth to church, each member does their part clothed with power from on high and the world is changed.
                In Acts the early church was scattered because of persecution. Before that happened men were chosen full of the Spirit to carry out the task at hand but then Stephen was murdered and Acts 8:1 “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” Paul said Acts 22:4 “I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” Today there are some in the church here in North America that are telling the world they are standing for God because they are being persecuted for preaching the word of God. One pastor here in Canada is in jail not for preaching as he could preach all do long and every day but due to his own ignorance and defiance of the law. The government here and in the States is not telling the church they cannot preach but to adhere to health guidelines that are in place. This pandemic doesn’t care if you go to church. It sickens me to hear these pastors say they are persecuted like elsewhere in the world; that is appalling. Yes we are not able to gather as we used to, because there is a pandemic. The church could be going out into the world in power but it is not. Now we just have people not gathering but still sucking on their soothers like infants, tossed back and forth by the waves because there is no power. When the early church was actually being persecuted, they went out in power. Acts 8:4 “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” Acts 11:19 “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world.” The gifts of the Spirit were at work.
                The church today is a long way away from where we should be. Yes for an hour some really get into worship, the songs are uplifting and the preaching sublime but there is no power. What church has become is just a form of godliness that denies power. It has the appearance of the church but upon close inspection it is not the church Jesus is the head of. It never will be unless the body of Christ repents and turns from their own wicked ways. Wicked ways are any way that follows human hands as we talked about yesterday. The only option is to repent. Ezekiel 33:10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites (church), ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?” 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ Hosea 14:1 “Return, Israel (church), to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! 2 Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. 3 Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” 4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. 5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. 7 People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” 9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” There is hope for us. Hosea 1:10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.” Hosea 2:23 “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore, you (church) Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
                When God approached Gideon to lead His people, they had been overrun by their enemies. Judges 6:1 “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. 7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.” 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” In his own strength Gideon could not save anyone but the wonders returned and the power of God was on display and with 300 men Gideon destroyed the enemy to vast to count. Judges 7:12 “The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” The church desperately needs these wonders to return so that our enemies will be defeated.
                I want to share with you one last song that I‘ve just recently heard. It is nice these days to be able to just buy the song you like without buying the whole album. This song is called “Let There Be Wonder”
    Lyrics - Let this place be an upper room, where Your people learn to wait. Let this house become holy ground, where Your children watch and pray.
    - Oh, remind us today, we are people of Your presence, Let there be wonder, let there be wonder in this place. Let there be worship, let there be worship for Your name. Come Holy Spirit, how we need Your fire again. Let there be wonder, let there be wonder.
    - We're in awe, and we fear Your name but we will not be afraid for the King in His holiness is our Father and our friend oh, remind us today, we are people of Your presence
    - Let there be wonder, let there be wonder in this place. Let there be worship, let there be worship for Your name Come Holy Spirit, how we need Your fire again. Let there be wonder, let there be wonder.
    - Is He not the God who parted the sea? Is He not the One who heals our disease? Is He not the source of all that we need? You're all that we need.”
                So in this song we have a desire to return to the power of Pentecost. We also see that we have been called to wait, which is what we have been doing. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When God dwells among us there will be power but the church needs to learn how to fear God, as presently there is no fear of God in the land. We need the fire and the wonder again. The questions of the last verse should be at the forefront of our minds. Gideon asked where all the wonders. This verse asks, “Is He not the God who parted the sea? Is He not the One who heals our disease? Is He not the source of all that we need?” The answer is yes He is. Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” And yes He is all we need and these wonders should be present today because nowhere in the bible does it say they were to stop.
                The question to ponder is are you going keep going back and forth? Are you going listen to this song, sing this song, maybe even buy it and then like others songs that have been listened to many times, you move on to the next one. Or will you listen to the words and repent and call for the church as a whole to repent, knowing the words of this song are not happening but that the wonders can return, our enemies defeated and the church will be exactly what it started off to be. Matthew 24:10 “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
                The God of creation wants more than lip service. Malachi 1:14 “I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” Daniel 6:26 “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders     in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 1 Chronicles 29:10 “David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,  “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” Acts 26:20 “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” The ritual of going to church has been elevated too high. So much expense and energy has been put into the event called church for that hour or two on Sunday and no where near the focus on repentance and turning away from man’s ways and back to God’s ways. As you know Christmas and Easter have top billing but Pentecost has been tucked away on the back shelf. We have sung and worshipped for years, back and forth and back and forth but the church has gone nowhere. There is no power yet most think the church is exactly where it should be, that is until the pandemic hit and the church was exposed. False prophets predicted its immediate end, others predicted during this pandemic that a certain somebody would be elected again while others who have proclaimed power of the Holy Spirit (falsely I might add) all these years, were suddenly powerless against this virus. If you are looking to return to the back and forth, basically you might as well be making donuts but if you are desperate to see God’s glory among us once again, then repent and wait for God to clothe us with power from on High once again and like His disciples He will once again empower us His disciples. Luke 9:1 “He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Luke 10:1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”
                So what will it be, donuts or the kingdom of God coming near?