Tomorrow we turn our focus to the last week of our Lenten journey. Today we will be talking about choosing. Choosing wrong leads to death but choosing right leads to life. The church as a whole has a choice to make; repent and return to God or you can just say all is well in the church today but that will lead to disaster. Jeremiah 8:5 “Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return.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. My people do not know the requirements of the Lord.”
                At the end of Joshua we see this admonition to the people. Joshua 24:14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God. 19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
                In the end disaster came on Israel and Judea because they disobeyed. The enemy came upon them and they were destroyed and only the remnant prevailed as promised to David. God used Babylon as his instrument of destruction just as satan has been allowed to destroy the church but like Babylon, satan’s reign of destruction is coming to an end. Isaiah 10:5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! 6 I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. 12 I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says: By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. 15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood! 16 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors; under his pomp a fire will be kindled like a blazing flame. 17 The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame.” 21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. 22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return.” Isaiah 14:1 “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. 3 On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labor forced on you, 4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!”
                Israel was warned ahead of time in Leviticus 20:22 “‘Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. 24 But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” Then we see what happened due to their disobedience. Jeremiah 51:34 “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us, he has thrown us into confusion, he has made us an empty jar. Like a serpent he has swallowed us and filled his stomach with our delicacies, and then has spewed us out.” Israel disobeyed and they were vomited form the land. Babylon was used by God to destroy Israel and only a remnant was left. God then used King Cyrus and returned them to the Promised Land after their captivity. Sadly the church is in exactly the same position but with hope of our coming freedom!
                Somewhere along the line, the church believed they could behave differently, go their own way and get away with their sin. They believed they could rewrite the word of God according to their own empty ways but then became powerless. Jesus said basically the same as Leviticus in Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Are you listening? This fallacy the church believes in has caused this desolation. The church thinks they can follow other gospels and get away with it yet Jesus said Matthew 24:4 “Watch out that no one deceives you.15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. Paul 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.” 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— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The abomination has caused desolation in the church.
                This week I have been pointing out false prophets and teachers and talking about how this COVID-19 virus has exposed the lack of God’s power in the church. Yes many will say they have power but until God turns His face back to us, we, the church remain in desolation so you have to ask whose power is it? This week I had written about Rodney Howard Brown who can do no wrong in his own eyes it seems. He is also the master of misdirection. Magicians use this all the time. “Misdirection is a principle element in the art of deception” Since he has been proven wrong, he now focuses your attention to something else and keeps on deceiving. This can all be seen over the last three Sundays at his church on YouTube, not that I recommend watching it. So this week something amazing happened. Evidently the rapture took place on Monday and Browne missed it. I am amazed at how many people fall for this kind of thing and as I have said before it is just not the ultra charismatics, it is across the whole church where truth is not being preached. We have to test the spirits even in the non-charismatic. Just because the sign says “church,” does not mean it is. So here is what I meant about the rapture. (Doesn’t exist by the way) Mr. Browne said while “Speaking to his congregation on March 17, 2020, "We are not stopping anything. I've got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.” So the rapture must have taken place this past Monday because they closed the church. He said on YouTube that he “closed the doors to his church Monday to protect his congregation from "a tyrannical government." "I have to do this to protect the congregation — not from the virus but from a tyrannical government," Browne also said “That his own concerns where that someone might purposefully go into his church and try to infect the congregation with COVID-19 if his doors remained open.” Before this happened he said, “We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It'll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America.” One time he says, “he didn’t know anyone who’s contracted the virus, nor does he know anybody who knows anybody who’s been infected. And for him, that’s proof enough that this is nothing more than a globalist plot to shutter churches.” Then he says it has been weaponized??? He said, "I'm not making any decisions based on the threats from the Sheriff's office or not — I make decisions based on what the Lord tells me to do," the pastor said. "The Lord told me on Monday, if I don't do this, there's going to be a showdown at the O.K. Corral." He was arrested if you didn’t know. The Lord seems to tell him many different and opposing things; not God by the way. He said.” Don't go to the church, please, I'm begging anyone watching now." This was basically a book selling / promotional event for his conspiracy theories which are all laid out in his books. He also had stated previously as one article pointed out “ that he claims to have cleansed Florida of Zika and says he now plans to do the same with the coronavirus. Howard-Browne says that he “cursed” Zika in the name of Jesus, and this is something he has the power to do in regards to the coronavirus, but just for Florida and nowhere else on Earth.” Except he said it doesn’t exist! “We are doing the same thing with the coronavirus,” says Howard-Browne.” We do not need it on these shores, and somebody said ‘Well, what about the rest of the world?’ I mean, I can’t be responsible for every city, or whatever.” In the state of Florida over 8000 cases and 128 and deaths and rising as sated on the Florida Department of Health website.
                Another interesting point here is that Browne is trying to make himself out to be a martyr, without all the nasty stuff of martyrdom. He wants to be a martyr without jail time and death. One article said, “Sheriff Chronister added that the sheriff's office would never purposefully impede religious expression, advising Howard-Browne to carry on services through online methods such as livestream videos.” Browne can continue spouting his conspiracy theories all he wants and he can hold as many online services as he wants, he can even continue talking about the tyranny of the government even though he prayed over Trump in 2017. He said then “God has given us a last minute reprieve. We have to lift our president in prayer. God has raised president Trump, thank God he is there.” I am sure that Brown realizes that President Trump is the head of the government he calls tyrannical.
                I share this because this shows the condition of the churches desolation. Yes I know it can make your head spin. But spin or not, the church has been taken captive just like Israel because we have refused to obey the word of God. Jesus warned us not to be deceived and said he would spew us out of his mouth for being lukewarm. Yes there are those in the church who are on fire for God, or so they think. They don’t realize they are zealous for false gospels. Yes Browne quotes scripture, calls on the name of the Lord and preaches repentance but at the same time is leading all who follow down a path that leads only to death. As I said before that John MacArthur is doing the same thing just from the other side. It doesn’t matter if you are Baptist or Catholic, Pentecostal or Brethren etc.; the church must turn away from their wicked ways and now is the time to do it. This is not about one against the other; all the church must repent and turn from their wicked ways. But unfortunately what I am hearing is we will be stronger after, not repentance and by repentance I mean turning away from your denominational distinctives. Isaiah 9:10 “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. 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.”
                The church has continued for generations to go their own way, producing more and more followers who have been led astray. There is no power yet the church just comes up with reasons why, instead of repenting. Isaiah 58:1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.” Isaiah 65:1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— 3 a people who continually provoke me     to my very face.” Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” Now we have groups of people who call themselves the church saying God honours homosexuality but the bible says differently. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The United Methodist denomination is also in the process of splitting because of this very thing.
                That is just one more example and there are many how the church has turned away from God’s word to follow their own way. Just like Israel, they follow their own gods but expect God to honour them with His blessings. Jeremiah 11:1 “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. 3 Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— 4 the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. 5 Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.” 6 The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. 7 From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” 8 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’” Read Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26
                Rodney Howard Browne says there is a conspiracy a foot but the only conspiracy the church needs to worry about is this one. Jeremiah 11:9 “Then the Lord said to me, “There is a conspiracy among the people of Judah and those who live in Jerusalem. 10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to listen to my words. They have followed other gods to serve them. Both Israel and Judah have broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. 13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.” The church has followed other gospels just as Israel followed other gods to our demise. God has brought in us disaster. Jeremiah 10:21 “The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered. 22 Listen! The report is coming— a great commotion from the land of the north! It will make the towns of Judah desolate, a haunt of jackals.” So like Israel we too became desolate, so much so there is only a remnant of the church left. Yes there are those who call themselves christians but follow other gospels and do not obey the word of the Lord, so that really isn’t Christianity. Jeremiah 13:8 “Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! 11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.”
                I believe God has the world’s attention now. Just like Babylon, satan’s reign is coming to an end. He reigns in the church because the church refuses to obey the commands of God. We must turn from our wicked ways and seek God. Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. 34 Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. 35 For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. 36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.” John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.” If we do not obey, God turns his face from us and removes the power of His Spirit which is also the Spirit of truth. satan then steps in as Paul said 2 Corinthians 11:13 “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” This has been happening for generations. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” These men like Brown and MacArthur and I could add to that list, are leading people astray under the guise of God but it really is satan at work. Yes I can say that because both promote doctrines of demons! Where do you think these doctrines come from?
                So yes the church lies desolate but just as God saved the remnant of Israel, he will save the remnant of His church. We have a choice to make; continue to live in desolation or turn from our wicked ways and have God turn His face back to us so that we will be clothed with power once again. God is about to take us back to the Promised Land. That land now is the whole world. Yes satan was allowed to lead the whole world astray for a time but not for long. The church was supposed to continue on the work of Jesus, so we too are to destroy the work of the devil. Revelation 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Since the church has turned away and we have paid a severe price; we must choose. Deuteronomy 30:15 “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
                The church chose to go their own way but it is time to return to the Lord with everything we have. We read earlier what Joshua said and you and I have to make that decision. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Those who went before us did not adhere to God’s word. Hezekiah said 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.”
                We must choose to once again follow the words of the Lord. By making that decision we are asking God to save us from this desolation. Lamentations 3:40 “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. 41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: 42 “We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.” We continue to pray Psalm 108:9 “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. 10 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 11 Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? 12 Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. 13 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” Psalm 74:1 “O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? 2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. 3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD, how foolish people have reviled your name. 19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever. 20 Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land. 21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name. 22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long. 23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.”
                If you have chosen to follow God wholeheartedly, stand firm and let nothing move you. Don’t take this lightly 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Ecclesiastes 5:1 “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.” Ecclesiastes 12:3 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Luke 24:47 “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 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.”