I am amazed at how fast these last 46 days went by. Tomorrow is Easter and today is the last day of this Lenten journey. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Revelation 21:6 “He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Today I would like to close this journey by looking at perseverance. I am a fair-weather bicycle rider as I don’t like riding in the rain so I look for sunny days. Last year for the first time I really took my riding seriously and put on over 5000 km. During the winter I brought my bike indoors and trained on a dumb trainer since I don’t have a smart one. My magnetic trainer worked well but my basement lacked wind and hills, so when I got outside, I really noticed the change. So far this year, I am over 400 km and have been able to ride on some nice sunny days, even if they were cold. The roads were dry and it has been so nice to have something to see other than looking out the basement window into my backyard. A couple of days ago I saw the weather was nice and sunny, though they were forecasting the wind would increase a lot later in the afternoon but I thought I would be fine. I decided to do a long ride and it was great. I got to the halfway point and started to head home. The first 40 km were smooth sailing. Actually, as I think about it, sailing is not really what I wanted because that means wind. I am a big guy and with a windbreaker coat, I act like a sail. During the first part the wind was not strong, but it was at my back and made the ride quite enjoyable. As I turned to come home, I started to hit the wind and it increased as I rode. As it turned out, I rode 40 km into an increasing wind: good for sailing not for biking. When I got to about 20 km left, I was riding full on into a really strong headwind, so strong that my front wheel was wabbling at times and I would come to a quick stop very quickly if I stopped pedaling. I was hurting at this point and I started to have a conversation with myself. It is too windy, call home and get someone to pick you up. No, I can do this, ok maybe not, Yes, I can, I only have 10 km left, 5 km and then I saw my town, then my road and then my house. Although my average spread drastically dropped, I finished the ride. Obviously, my indoor training was not as effective as outdoors because last year I did three century (160 km) rides, but the season is young, but that day my legs didn’t feel young. 

        So, what does biking in the wind have to do with perseverance. That’s easy, you have to persevere to finish the race; the race being you against the wind and the road. One of my century rides was smoking hot, yet I finished the ride. I have always been an all-in person. If I committed to something, I tried to give it everything I had. Now before I go on this analogy falls short because it is going to sound like you need to try harder so that God will bless you. That is not true so just humor me for a moment and go with the analogy. Actually, you have to trust in God’s ability more than your own. Paul talks about His journey as a race. Acts 20:24“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” This verse really sums up the race we are in. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” We don’t fix our eyes on ourselves.

        I and my family have been on a journey with God that has been difficult to say the least, but we have not given up. Now it is not by our own strength but a wholehearted belief in God’s promises. Our journey has included many different parts of the road. Easy flats, rolling hills, great downhill speed, hey that car almost hit me, ok that truck was way to close, that massive bull is way too close to the fence, that’s a huge rottweiler circling my bike, it wasn’t supposed to downpour today, wow it’s windy, ok it is really windy, why does it feel uphill both ways, what’s wrong with my legs, I should have brought more jujubes. Our journey has had a little bit of everything and a whole lot of perseverance. There has been pain and sorrow along the way, but I have stood on God’s word though it all and I refuse to give up because I believe what God has promised me. Job 23:10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. 11 My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. 12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” But it is not just me He has given this promise to, it is to all who would believe. Peter told us Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

        A long time ago God gave my family this promise. Jeremiah 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Now put together Peter’s proclamation “save yourself from this corrupt generation” and the remnant being freed from Babylon. When I started my journey, I had no idea the desolation that had come upon the church but now its destruction is clear. All you have to do is compare the bible to the church and you will see the desolation. You will also see the powerless and pathetic ways that men and women have chosen to follow instead of God’s word. 

        This all goes back to Daniel where we were warned this desolation would happen. Daniel 7:21 “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.” Jesus said Matthew 24:15 “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.” None of us deserve God’s grace because of our rebellion, but God said this time of desolation would be cut short so there will be some survivors.  

        This is a period of great deception. Jesus warned us when He said Matthew 24:4 “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Before Jesus said that we also see this warning. Matthew 24:1 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Oddly people are still calling attention to buildings and not paying attention to the deception part. Mark said it this way. Mark 13:1 “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Luke told us Luke 21:5 “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” Now each of them wanted to know the same thing. Luke said, “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” Matthew said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Mark said “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” 

        Now the easy answer is the temple would be destroyed just like the first temple was. 2 Chronicles 36:15 “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” Then the Romans would destroy the 2nd temple in 70 AD. But everything has changed with Jesus, as the temple would no longer be a structure. Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

        Both the first and second temples were destroyed due to rebellion. You would think that we would learn from these first two examples of rebellion followed by destruction. First of all, we are not waiting for a third temple to be built as it was already started with Jesus. Here is the part that should cause us great sorrow. The third temple, like the first has been destroyed because of rebellion. 2 Chronicles 36:15 “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Kings 17:7 “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.” The church has followed other gospels like Israel followed other gods. The enemy was then allowed to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Because the church has rebelled against God’s word, a rejection of Jesus Himself, God has allowed our enemy satan to rule over the church and bring great devastation against it even though God said, Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it.” That only applies if we do not rebel against His word. Since the church has rebelled, our enemies have brough desolation and destruction and there is only a remnant left. This desolation has already happened. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (asserting that the day of the Lord has already come) will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 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.” Daniel had said, Daniel 9:27 “And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” The temple is now the body of Christ. The abomination that causes desolation is already in place. Great destruction has come upon the church and millions upon millions have been deceived. Jesus said this, Luke 18:8 “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The answer would be very little faith. Many are waiting for Jesus to return, but you don’t want that to happen in the condition the church is in. It is not going to go how you think as most have been deceived.

        Jesus warned us do not be deceived. When Jesus said, “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down,” not only was he talking about the temple, He was talking about the church and the rebellion that would follow. While there is a lot of absurd talk about a rapture and tribulation that lasts seven years and a kingdom that is way off in the future, the church has been deceived by doctrines of demons like these. Right at the beginning 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— 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. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” When Babylon destroyed the temple and took the remnant captive, the same has happened to the church because of rebellious disobedience. The church looks the same as a city destroyed by war. Yes, the buildings called churches are still standing at least in my country, but the church is not buildings, it is people. satan has so devastated the church there is only a remnant of people left and even the remnant has been taken captive. All you have to do is look at the churches around you and compare them to scripture and you will see they are not even close. There is no power to heal, cast out demons or even power to save, yet people have been told they are safe from all alarm and sealed for heaven. They think they have been marked by the spirit, but many have been marked by the beast and do not even know it. They will only hear Matthew 25:41 “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

        Most people do not realize the tribulation is already occurring. Revelation 7:13 “Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from? 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Daniel said Daniel 8:23 “a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.” We are at war and the church is losing. False teachers and doctrines are everywhere in the church. Daniel 8:12 “Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.” The only way to survive this desolation is to persevere and seek God and live. 

        My bicycle analogy seems pretty small when compared to the devastation that has happened to the church and it is really not about your own ability to make it through this tribulation. There is a level of commitment to God’s word that you do need. You must serve God wholeheartedly and persevere in faith. God will give you the strength to make it to the end of the race, but you must believe. Caleb and Joshua entered the promised land because they followed God wholeheartedly. Numbers 14:24 “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” The opposite of that was Numbers 32:11 “Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” If you want to be strengthened, then follow God wholeheartedly. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

        Job was a man who persevered under incredible trial. He suffered not only at the loss of his family and possessions, but he suffered physically but what he did not do was give up. Most of Job is about His friends trying to get him to give up but he would not listen and in the end, God blessed him with twice as much as he had in the beginning. Job 42:10 “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” Job did not know that God had allowed satan to devastate his life but we do and we learn a lot form Job when it comes to perseverance but we also learn about the blessing that comes from God for those who do persevere. James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 5:11 “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We are told 1 Timothy 4:16 “Watch your life and doctrine (that doesn’t mean denominational doctrine) closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

        Everyone’s journey is different. Hebrews 10:32 “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” We are all in this desolation together. We are all waiting to be freed from this hold satan has on the church. That day is coming so do not give up or lose hope. Acts 15:16“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it.” 

        King Asa set out to restore and repair the temple. 2 Chronicles 15:1 “The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. 2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. 12 They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. 13 All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. 14 They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.” No, we don’t kill people but so often those who cause rebellion get way too much attention. The ones who explored the land with Caleb divided the people. Numbers 13:31 “But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Numbers 14:1 “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” These kind of people fill the church and seem to have a large voice. 2 Timothy 3:1 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” Jude 1:17 “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

        If you are struggling, trust God as He will keep His word to you. Hebrews 12:4 “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” When Paul came to the end of His ministry, he said 2 Timothy 4:6 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

        In this time of desolation, we must persevere by standing on God’s word and refusing to listen to those who do not believe we can take the land once again in the power of the holy Spirit. We saw what happened with Job and Joseph, so we can trust in God to do the same for those who persevere. Hebrews 10:19 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Our Lenten journey has been a call to turn from our wicked ways. We celebrate knowing that God will keep His word to the faithful who believe. This has been a call to return to God’s word. When we do, we will once again be clothed with power from on high. To turn from wicked ways meant we had to tear down teaching and the teachers. Each week we had a different calling. Our journey took us through these calls - Call to joy, call to demolish, call to faith, call to surrender, call to come to our senses, call to bare arms, call to turn. Have you come to your senses yet? There is no better day than today to do that. Hebrews 3:15 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Once again the church will do as Jesus did and go to the ends of the earth clothed with power, but we must return to God and stand on His word. Tomorrow is Easter and we will be talking about what it means that Jesus has risen indeed. People talk and sing about the resurrection, so there must be power available to all who believe as Jesus is alive. Mark 16:6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. 14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”