New Year’s Eve for many around the world is an event that ushers in the new year, that is if you are following the Gregorian calendar. If you are following the Jewish calendar, then your new year already started back in September. On this last day of the year, even though this pandemic has wreaked havoc on those large New Year’s Eve parties, people will still count down the last few moments of the year, all the while hoping for a better 2022. People desperately want this year to be better than these last few years, but this Omicron variant seems to be having a say in how this year will start. Have you pondered the thought of a faster moving virus more deadly than we have ever seen? This Omicron variant has shown us how fast something could actually spread but combine speed and severity and we would be in serious trouble, more than ever before. God could unleash something so horrific people would plead for mercy or would they? Revelation 16:8 “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. 10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” Now that I have your attention, don’t hope for another year like we have had in the past but pray for a year like we have never seen, no not a pandemic but a year where God moves in a powerful way and this dark world sees the light as it was supposed to be when Jesus came. John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This comes through repentance.

        The strange part about New Year’s Eve and the excitement of a new year is that it is immediately followed with the blues. January has been labelled the most depressing month of the year. There is even a day in January called “Blue Monday” as well as a seasonal depression called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). One writer described it this way. “It’s that time of year where darkness seems to be sucking away our daylight and cold, rainy weather eats up the rest. January alone is known as the most depressing month of the year and it’s no wonder since around this time the skies are gray, the air is chilled and more importantly, the sun is rarely seen.” Wow that is depressing but even so, many on New Year’s Eve will get out their trusty box of resolutions. Year after year resolutions are made and year after year resolutions for the most part fail. On January 1 I will…. and by the time March comes around I can’t or won’t…! Some have made a resolution not to make a resolution which is wise as most resolutions fail. It is a strange concept as suddenly something you couldn’t do December 31st or the days leading up to New Year’s, you now have this newfound power January 1st which fades very quickly. This is a set up for failure. Why? Simply because you are trying to do something on your own.

            There is only one way to start off the year and that is a return to God’s word. I know there will be some who will say, I tried to make that resolution already and it didn’t work. I tried to read and pray but nothing changed. I made a resolution to read and pray every day before I start my day but after the first week, I had already missed a day. My goal this year was to read the bible through from cover to cover by following a reading plan, but I missed days and it was just so hard to catch up, so I quit. I had hoped everything would change but God didn’t answer, my life didn’t change, a loved one died, or a disease was still debilitating. This is not that resolution but a surrender to God. So, what’s the difference? God is not interested in us crying out for Him to bless us without us turning from our own ways. Most people want God to hear them but at the same time refuse or don’t know that they must turn from empty and powerless ways. This is a return to God’s words and away from other gospels. This is far more than just trying to do better in your own strength. If you don’t turn away from yourself, the one you saw in the mirror, God continues to turn away but if you do turn away and look for the reflection of Jesus, God will hear our cries. Ephesians 5:1 “Follow God’s example (be imitators of God), therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This can be done at any time and the sooner the better. Hosea 14:1 “Return, Israel, 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.” Yet many will refuse to turn away, even when filled with hopelessness. Most would rather sulk in their sorrows than turn to the One who can turn their lives into a life of joy. Esther 9:22 “their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.” Isaiah 51:11 “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

        Around the world New Year’s will be celebrated whether you are a Christian or not as we all look to the calendar to see what day / month / year it is, as these days seem hard to keep track of. While the world parties the night away, many churches will have a service instead. Churches will come together and ask God to bless this coming year. Some will even do a covenant service or follow a liturgy of some sort to usher in the new year. The question I have for today is what exactly are you expecting when you turn the page of your calendar? (yes, I have a real calendar beside my desk and we have one in the kitchen) Sadly the depression many face in January also comes to those who call themselves Christians. Truthfully many Christians come across as hopeless with really nothing to look forward to. Yes, they believe they will go to heaven or so they have been told but between now and then there doesn’t seem to be any hope. Oddly many Christians fear death even though 1 Corinthians 15:54 “Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I say or so they have been told because most people who call themselves Christians really don’t know what that means, nor do they understand the power that is available to all who believe. I can say this because most Christians really don’t know their bibles. Yes, people will disagree with me because they will say they read and memorize, they go to church and even meet at other times other than Sunday morning. They even read lots of books about the bible. The problem is that most only know their bibles through a particular lens. If they go to a Catholic church, they read as they have been taught. If Baptist, they read according to their particular distinctive and so on. For example, you can tell almost immediately what someone believes when you say to them what do you believe about any of these words - rapture, salvation, healing, sanctification or being filled with the Spirit? Each church has their own doctrines and theology and that is how the bible is then read, but there is only one way, truth and life so all these different belief systems is not actually how it was supposed to be.

        We have to turn from those ways, Pentecostal, Methodist, Reformed, Baptist, Brethren Catholic etc. and return to God’s word. God said in 2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” The heavens have been shut but most in the church don’t know that, nor will they turn from their wicked ways, which are the empty and powerless ways they follow and ways they have built with their hands. 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, the gods their ancestors followed, 5 I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” We still serve the same God and the church has done what Judah did. Isn’t it strange that the church will do as Judah did but not Jesus? 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. We were told 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.” Paul said to Timothy 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.” Those days have been here for a long time and the church is in desolation.

           We live in a time where this world is crumbling. Disasters are everywhere. The pandemic just keeps on going and the world seems to be coming unhinged all around us. With all the technology the United States has and all the books that have been written from the experts, they have the most reported Covid cases and the most deaths. They are filled with ignorance, racism, hatred and division is everywhere, so where are all the churches? Where is the power the church is supposed to have? What a strange question as there are churches everywhere all saying they follow Jesus. One article said “According to the National Congregational Study Survey, there are an estimated 380,000 (no I did not count them) churches in the U.S. Even before the outbreak, many churches were struggling. In a country where nearly 70% of Americans identify as Christian, just one in three attends worship services on a consistent basis.” By the way attending a church doesn’t make you a Christian. Not only are there churches everywhere, but there are also mega-churches all over the place. Another article said, “We're living in the era of the megachurch. The United States has more than 1,500 megachurches, according to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, which defines them as very active congregations with an average of 2,000 or more weekend attendees and a multitude of outreach programs and ministries.” You don’t even have to attend as you can watch on-line or TV. One Sunday “Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen Ministries reached “close to” 4.63 million people online.” These people don’t seem to mind that this ministry is another gospel Paul was talking about. Again, where are all the churches or I should say where is the power the church is supposed to have? Where is the Jesus who heals all our infirmities?  Where is the church Jesus is the head of? Where is the church that was supposed to do as He did? Where is the true church, the one that heals and drives out demons? 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.”

        With all the books available, there is one that seems to be left out, the living words of God. John 21:25 “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 20:30 “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” There is enough written down to believe, as everything we need to know is in the bible. These verses just show how much power actually was available. With more gurus to follow than you can keep track of, why do people refuse to actually follow God, the one who controls everything? This pandemic doesn’t care if you go to church nor does cancer, addictions, heart attacks, financial woes, depression, strokes just to name a few, but when Jesus walked the earth, Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 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.” Jesus told His disciples, Matthew 10:7 “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Matthew 8:1 “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” Leprosy was a horrible disease but there are still many horrible diseases, as this pandemic has shown us that people need to be healed from. 

             Jesus came to show us the way and to empower us to follow in His steps. 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.” The church willingly followed in the footsteps of Israel and Judah, but not Jesus. If the church had, it would look like this. Mark 6:12 “They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Instead the church decided to go their own way and lost the power available to us. Instead of healing coming to the land, God has turned His face from us and the church is in desolation. Isaiah 1:2 “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire. 9 Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. 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!” People in a hopeless state refuse to turn back to God. There is lots of talk about climate change and vaccines to beat this pandemic but little talk of returning to God. The church and the world constantly focus on what their hands have made, yet do not return to God’s hands. 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.”

        All we have to do is reach out and take His hand. Psalm 81 describes this. Psalm 81:6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. 7 In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. 8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel! 9 You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me. 10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. 11 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. 13 “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, 14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. 16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” So instead of God turning His face to shine on us, subduing our enemies and healing our diseases, we continue in empty and powerless ways. 2 Kings 22:17 “Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.” 

        Yet we think all is well and New Year’s Eve prayers go up for God to bless us one and all. One person prayed “May your year be filled with peace, prosperity and love. May God's blessings shower upon you and bestow upon each of you a bright, healthy and peaceful new year.” That sounds great but are you going to turn from your wicked ways? There are all kinds of prayers going up, but as Isaiah said; God is not listening. Why? Because the church is not listening. Zechariah 7:8 “And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ 11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’”

        Don’t just go through the motions of this yearly event found on the calendar. Treat this year as your last. Turn from your wicked ways and if you do, God will return to you. When you return to His word, you give Him your life and you wait for God to direct your paths and you live according to His timing. You have hope because you trust His word with your life. Paul said Philippians 1:20 “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Mark 8:34 “Then Jesus called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” There is good news that follows this verse. Mark 9:1 “And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Many will see the kingdom of God come in power once again just as they did. Will it be you? Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? If you do, Mark 10:29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

        When Jesus began His ministry he said, Mark 1:5 “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” So where is that kingdom? No, it is not coming in the future as so many preach and teach; it was already made available. Paul prayed Ephesians 1:18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and 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 and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Jesus said the kingdom would come near and showed us it came near but now it is nowhere to be seen as the church looks nothing like it. Paul described what the church was supposed to do. Ephesians 3:7 “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” The church was to show the manifold wisdom of God. Paul even explains how. 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.” So, you notice immediately that most disagree with Jesus and only accept evangelists, pastors, and teachers. I wonder why the church is still an infant sucking on the bottle, blown here and there by every wind of teaching and deceitful scheming. Really nothing has changed. 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. 3 You are still worldly.” 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.”

        The church has not followed what we have been told to follow. Instead, going our own ways have left the church powerless and in desolation with the enemy decimating those who call themselves the church. Don’t go into this new year hopeless or wanting it be pre-pandemic; go into this year full of hope and expectation of all that God will do if we return to Him. Are you watching for God to move or are you still looking at yourself in the mirror? Are you watching to see what the gurus are up to, the very ones who led us here and to whom blackest darkness is reserved for? Are you preparing yourself to meet Jesus face to face? For many this will be their last year and it is too late to make changes after you die. Peter said 2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 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.” This is talking about the very end but if you die that is the very end for you. Are you ready? Don’t be naive thinking I prayed a prayer; I have gone to church my whole life, so I am safe and secure. Who did you pray to? What gospel did you accept as truth? What were you saved into? Did you test the spirits, or did you just ignore all the verses that didn’t line up with your church’s doctrines? If so, you are not ready to meet Jesus. You do not want to hear Matthew 7:23 “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” There are two choices for your eternity. One is with God, the other is without God. You may think, look at all the people who don’t follow God who are on this earth, how bad could hell be? But they are still seeing God as this earth and everything in it is God’s and are without excuse. Hell is void of God. Our minds cannot fully understand the severity of hell and the everlasting destruction you will face if you go there. Yes you may know what the agony of being burned feels like, but for eternity? Matthew 13:40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” It will be worse than this just as heaven will be better than your mind can comprehend. Paul said 2 Corinthians 12:2 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” 

        You can’t avoid hell by ignoring God’s word or believing in a God not described in scripture. If you follow other gospels, you will not see eternal life, but you will see eternal damnation. Paul goes on to warn us Galatians 1:8 “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!” This is happening everywhere. Just look up other gods in the Old Testament to see what happens. For example, Deuteronomy 6 :13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.” Deuteronomy 8:19 “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” God told Solomon 1 Kings 9:6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”  This has happened to the church and the abomination that causes desolation stands in its midst.

        Are you ready for the end of the world? Yes, a lot are waiting for heaven but will never see it because they have been deceived by other gospels. Are you prepared for your end or have you said where is this coming? Do you think you will live forever? In this form everyone dies but if you follow the truth, you will never die and you will have nothing to fear. John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Do you believe this?” A lot of Christians say they believe this but follow other gods by following other gospels. God has given us a promise that this time of destruction in the church will end and the remnant will be restored. Daniel was shown these things. 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.” Be thankful that there is hope because we do not deserve it. Many will enter this new year and will keep walking down the path that only leads to death, but you don’t have to. Daniel was shown. 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. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. 26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ 28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” Daniel 9:26 “The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven. In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Paul said 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day 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. 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 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.”

        There is hope because God promised David there would always be a remnant. The church will be restored and then the end will come. Paul goes on to say 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” Notice we are to hold fast the teachings of God’s word, not the teachings about God’s word. The bible has a lot to say about false teachers and prophets. 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.” 

            Yes, we are to keep watch and prepare for the final coming. Mark 13:32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” If you are waiting, do not give up. Mark 14:38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Luke 12:35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.” Until that final day we must also be watching for that day when God restores the church and the remnant once again rises up in power. Habakkuk 2:2 “Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Habakkuk 3:16 I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Not only does this describe what happened to Israel and Judah, it describes the desolate church. As you enter this new year, it is imperative that you understand the church you see is not the church Jesus intended it to be. Don’t pray that the church is restored to what it was before the pandemic but pray that the church will be restored to what Jesus intended it to be. That means we look to the scriptures for the answers, not to the gurus. That means we look to be clothed with power once again. This year turn away from what has been built with the hands of men and women. Turn away from the empty and powerless and quite frankly pathetic ways handed down to us by those who have gone before us. The only way to defeat our enemies is to return to God’s word. 

        Stand firm and let nothing move you. Yes satan will come at you full force but don’t give up as he knows his time is short. 1 Corinthians 15:51 “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” David said, 1 Kings 2:2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go 4 and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.” Joel 12:12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:13 “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Malachi 3:1 “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.”

        Do not give up but stand firm on God’s word. God will keep His promises, and all will be revealed in due time. Look for truth as your eternal life depends on it. Join with Daniel and pray this prayer. Daniel saw the end but also prophesied about the church. Daniel 9:2 “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Lamentations 5:19 “You, Lord, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. 20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.” Habakkuk 3:2 “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” As Habakkuk said Habakkuk 3:16 I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”