Sermon: Back to Normal

                Once again we have entered into a new year. It seems that time has sped up so that hours are going by like days, days like weeks, months like years and years like decades. It seemed that the year 2000, which was thought to be the end just happened, yet suddenly we now have to start writing 2021. Even though time has been racing by, I am pretty sure everyone is glad to see 2020 in the rear view mirror and there seems to be a collective hope that 2021 will be better than 2020. Many feel it has to be yet this quote from an article paints a different picture. “December (2020) is the deadliest month in the US since the coronavirus pandemic began -- and projections for January (2021) are 'nightmarish,' expert says.” If you thought the January blahs were bad before, this January is going to be worse. Even though this pandemic still rages, people desperately want life to get back to normal but what does normal now look like? One definition of normal stated, ‘If something conforms to a general pattern, standard, or average, we describe it as normal, but of course that standard can change over time. What's normal today may be "abnormal" in the future. The word normal comes from a Latin word normalis, which described something made with a carpenter's square. Something built this way would be normed to have angles that were perfectly aligned and fit a general pattern. This meaning eventually gave us the broader sense of fitting a pattern, standard, or average.” Most people do not want how we now live today to become the standard.
                Today I want to ask the question what does normal look like? Yes sports are still happening but are far from the normal as we new. For the most part stadiums, arenas do not have very many spectators, if any. The travel industry has been changed drastically as has shopping and concerts or any other large group events. Many businesses have closed and many have lost their jobs. After nearly a year of this people just want to get back to normal and do what they have always done, at least what they have done in their lifetime. Most people just expected that life would carry on just exactly as they have known. Getting back to normal also depends on where you live. For most in North America the pandemic has altered their life of prosperity and security. Yes North America is prosperous compared to most other countries in the world. Take a war torn or a very poor country and add the pandemic to it. For many in North America they believe that they can just continue their normal way of life, which is not true by the way as the pandemic has changed everything.
                Yes it would be very easy to continue talking about the world and the pandemic but we need to talk about the church and what normalcy should look like in the church. During this pandemic I have been keeping an eye on churches in California but sadly many churches here in Canada have followed their lead. These churches have made the news, so it is quite easy to keep track of them. California has the highest number of mega churches in North America which also means there will be a large number of churches of all sizes. I took a look at the number and it was … a lot. I did not want to spend much time on that but take a look in your own town and see how many churches there are. In California and elsewhere you will see many of these churches making the news because they are protesting / rebelling against the lockdowns as if they are being singled out. Remember no one here is telling you not to speak about Jesus; it is just about gathering in large groups. Don’t forget all those sports teams and theaters are without an audience also. Churches say it is their constitutional right to gather which is true but if you step back for just a moment you would say yes it is my constitutional right but there is a pandemic so at this time it is foolish to gather. This pandemic has shown that it does not care if you attend church or not. Churches meeting and protesters protesting, though constitutional, should not be happening but it seems the courts in some cases are upholding the rights to gather which really is quite absurd. The problem is that many of these churches that are fighting the government are also ignoring science and have decided conspiracy theories make more sense so they don't social distance or wear masks. They don’t even think the pandemic is real or it’s just the flu. Why would someone with any intelligence think this way?
                If you watch the news you will see there is an alternate reality taking place. You see it in the pandemic / politics with the so-called stolen election, hidden agendas, conspiracy theories that are rampant and truth is nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t seem to matter if there is absolutely no evidence about a stolen election or facts about this pandemic; people believe what they think is to be truth even when it is not. It doesn’t seem to matter that hospitals are filling up; they don’t believe the pandemic is real. If you look at the political world / pandemic and the wild conspiracy theories taking place this verse applies. Isaiah 59:14 “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” Look at how the lives of those just doing theirs jobs have been threatened. Jeremiah 7:28 “Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.” These verses do actually apply to the church. What is more concerning than what is taking place in the world is that this applies to the church where truth should be our standard. The word truth and church should be synonymous with one another. John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Malachi 2:5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”
                The church should be where truth is to be found but today this pandemic has exposed the truth that truth in the church is nowhere to be found. The church has been exposed as powerless. The power from on High is closely related to the Spirit of Truth. Since God has turned from us, not only are we missing power but also truth has been thrown to the ground. For many this pandemic doesn’t fit with their faulty teaching about truth, which are false gospels. This pandemic also does not fit with their belief systems. What is happening with Trumpism doesn’t fit with their teaching either. He was supposed to be the savior, not get voted out of office. As far as the pandemic goes one of the most well known ministers, John MacArthur stated there is no pandemic. As I shared a few weeks ago, he stands at the front of his church and spews disinformation. These lies go out to millions of people listening. They naively think he is a minister of the gospel so whatever he says must be truth. It is interesting that one article stated, “Los Angeles County is quickly becoming the country's epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic, with over 600,000 cases -- including more than 100,000 new cases in the county in less than two weeks.” It is also interesting that a few weeks ago MacArthur shared misinformation from UCLA. Another article stated, “We’ve moved from having waves to now having a viral tsunami occurring here in Los Angeles,” Robert Kim-Farley, a medical epidemiologist at UCLA, told The Guardian.” Just in case you have not made the connection, John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church has been in a fight with LA County about remaining open. They have about 7000 people gather on a Sunday. So Los Angels Country is now the epicenter of a pandemic that doesn’t exist. John MacArthur wants everything to be normal and will even go as far as lying to make it so. He is supposed to be a minister of truth. It is not only MacArthur doing this, there are other so-called christians like Kirk Cameron holding carol sings as a protest with virtually no masks or social distancing. Cameron said, "Let your voice be heard at this peaceful protest praising the Prince of Peace," while ignoring the very words of the Prince of Peace in Romans 13:1 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Franklin Graham recently tweeted disinformation when he said “Many people believe the presidential election was stolen from @realDonaldTrump , and if conservatives lose control of the Senate, there is nothing to stop the radical agenda of the left.” He also said, “@JoeBiden has warned of a “dark winter” for our nation. But the dark winter we’re facing is not due just to #COVID19, it’s due to the moral decline & the political corruption we see throughout the US. My prayer is that truth will prevail in the political crisis we’re facing.” He says this while praising Trump, one of the most corrupt Presidents ever, where truth does not come out of his mouth but lies.
                Here is the problem. Macarthur like others desperately wants everything to be normal again so that people can gather and worship his god (false gospels) in vain. Remember our definition from earlier said, “If something conforms to a general pattern, standard, or average, we describe it as normal, but of course that standard can change over time. What's normal today may be "abnormal" in the future.” MacArthur’s definition of what normal looks like in the church is a far cry from the scriptural definition of what the normal church looks like. If a person is willing to lie from the pulpit about a pandemic he thinks is not real. If he teaches conspiracy theories about the “they and them” are trying to rule the world and if he has no discernment (like Graham) as to who Donald Trump really is; (Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community) then what truth are they actually teaching. They are not and you should run from them. After Jesus set the church in motion, the church went from normal to abnormal and now the abnormal is normal. What is now normal should be labeled abnormal but any teaching that we should return to normal instead of the abnormal is met with great opposition. This has been going on since Jesus established the church. Paul said in 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! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
                John MacArthur like many others embraces abnormality with their demonic doctrines and false teaching. The truth is that what is considered normal, the abnormality of the church of today is not the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore most are worshipping in vain as Paul also made clear. 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. 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.” Unfortunately the church did not hold firmly to the truth by standing firm and moved away from what was normal by embracing the abnormality of false gospels in vain. I much prefer this definition of normal to MacArthur’s abnormal view as to what is normal. “We cannot expect an abnormal inrush of Divine light and power, so profoundly affecting the emotions and changing the lives of men, without remarkable results. As well expect a hurricane, an earthquake, or a flood, to leave nothing abnormal in its course, as to expect a true Revival that is not accompanied by events quite out of our ordinary experience. But though we speak of the manifestations at Pentecost as being abnormal, yet we maintain that Pentecost was normal Christianity. My conviction is that the Divine power, so manifest in the Church at Pentecost, was nothing more nor less than what should be in evidence in the Church today.” This is the normalcy the church once again must be seeking. The abnormality that man wants to maintain or return to is void of the power of the Holy Spirit and can do little but gather and part in a building. Without this power, the world cannot change and satan will not be defeated.
                Today the world wants to eradicate this virus and get back to the world’s definition of normal, yet the virus rages. Yes vaccines are being administered yet there are many opposed to getting them. The whole world will have to have the vaccine or else it will continue to spread. As we see there is much opposition and fear of the vaccine. The virus is also mutating and then who knows what the next outbreak will be? When it comes to the church many don’t like this word eradicate when talking about sin. In fact many in the church today do not believe it is even possible not to continue in sin. For most in the church they only believe that Jesus came to free us from sin but not empower us to remain free from sin. Eradicate means “to destroy completely.” Since the church today is running off man-made power, this is something most do not see as even possible. Most have never experienced true Pentecost so they do not believe the power is available. They refuse to believe what is right there in scripture. The truth is this eradication of sin can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot destroy the enemy with man-made power. Yes Jesus came to set us free and but He also empowered us to keep free. 1 John 2:1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 John 5:18 “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” Now by using the word eradicate that may give you the impression that no matter what you can no longer sin. That is not the case as we saw in 1 John 2 above “But if anybody does sin.” We must obey the word of God and remain in Him. John makes it clear John 15:4 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
                Remaining gives us the power to defeat satan. Where most in the church make their mistake is they spend all their time arguing about whether man can avoid sinning instead of seeking the power from on High to stop sinning. Since this power is missing, being born again for most means they keep on sinning and never see the power available to them. It is disheartening to hear people quote Romans 7 as their motto for the Christian life. Romans 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Yes the church is here because of our rebellion but that is not where we are supposed to be. You can’t stop reading there. You don’t continue to sin when you remain. If you stop with that verse you will miss the freedom Paul describes in Romans 7:24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He goes on to say, Romans 8:14 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”
                This abnormal teaching that the powerless church has become the norm is a lie; we must return to the truth. Today the church is not normal, in fact it is far from normal but the good news is there is hope for the remnant, for those who turn from their wicked ways. The abnormal church can return to normal but we must turn from our wicked ways. The New Year is upon us so instead of making resolutions, let’s start a revolution and no I am not talking about politics but a return to the truth of God’s word in the church. Then we can join with Paul when he was told in Acts 26:17 “I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ This New Year can look bleak but we have two choices; persist in rebellion and let satan continue to deceive or persevere in repentance and see the word of God destroy the work of satan. Sadly we see the results all around us of a church in rebellion and satan’s handy-work of deception. 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. 4 Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. 8 Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. 9 Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.” The church can be described as Nehemiah described Jerusalem. Nehemiah 2:17 “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” So we have the same hope Nehemiah talked about because as Jesus said Matthew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” Luke 13:35 “Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” It is obvious to see that the church had persisted in rebellion and now we have the abomination of desolation upon us. Daniel warned us this would happen. Daniel 9:27 “And at the temple (we are the temple) he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. Daniel 8:11 “It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 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. “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people? 23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, 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. 26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”
                God has allowed the church to be decimated by satan because we have rebelled against the authority of God’s word and have replaced God’s word with our own.  As John tells us this is the last hour. 1 John 4:3 “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 2:18 “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” As I shared earlier about MacArthur spreading disinformation, he is also spreading doctrines of demons so the church must turn from its wicked ways. Our only hope as Daniel declared is that the enemy will be destroyed not by human power. Daniel 7:25 “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.” So we have hope. Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
                With the pandemic raging, New Years Eve may not have been all that special this year but it still can be. While I do realize January 1, 2021 has already come and gone, the act of repentance can take place at any time but we must turn back to God now. When people quote this verse they often leave out verse thirteen, which is where the church is with no rain and locusts have destroyed because God has turned His face from us. 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. 17 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.” Obviously you can see that if the church turns away, the church will be uprooted just as God said it would be but if you turn from your wicked ways, God will return to you. Malachi 3:7 “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.” Jeremiah 29:11 “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.” Joel 2:23 “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”
                God wants to bless us. Isaiah 54:7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. 8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.” Isaiah 57:15 “For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” God wants to open the floodgates of heaven but the church is stubborn and refuses to repent. This pandemic has exposed the church as powerless but most just want to carry on and get though this pandemic and return to some sense of normalcy while others want their idea of what is normal to prevail even if it kills them or others around them. This is the perfect storm for repentance unless the biblical picture of what is normal has been completely rejected by the church completely. Jeremiah said this in 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.” The good news is there will always be a remnant. Paul said in Romans 11:1 “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” God will not break His promise to David.
                If you want to return to normal, then you must know what normal actually looks like. I would say that most of us have been raised not seeing what normal Christianity looks like. It hasn’t even been taught. Having said that we are without excuse because God’s word is right before us as is His creation. Hosea gives us this picture of the devastation caused by a lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. 7 The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. 8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. 9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” Hosea 5:4 “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord. 5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them.” Today’s church refuses to repent so continues in their rebellion. Jeremiah 5:3 “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.”
                 If you want to know what the church is supposed to look like, you return to His words. During a recent sermon I asked you to read Matthew 8,9 and take in the many miracles of Jesus. Spend the time in the gospels and read about all that Jesus did so that you will know what the normal church is supposed to look like. 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 later said to John’s disciples Matthew 11:4 “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” This is normal church but that seems highly abnormal when you look at he church around you. Yes many will respond to these verses by saying that was Jesus or will believe false teachers like John MacArthur who tells you he has the way to truth yet lies to you and promotes doctrines of demons called cessationism, which states that what we read in the scriptures does not now apply to us. By the way you may not even know what cessationism is but you believe in it because you refuse to turn from your wicked ways and seek the truth about the available power to all who believe. The church was supposed to carry on Jesus work. 1 John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” If we had remained in Him 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.” It wasn’t just Jesus who preformed miracles. Jesus said to the disciples Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” They then went out. Acts 5:12 “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” It wasn’t just the apostles who preformed signs either. Acts 6:2 “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.” Then it continued as it was supposed to. Acts 9:4 “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” This was truth and what was considered normal in the church. The lies taught today in the powerless church is not normal but abnormal and they come from the father of lies. John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. We were told in Daniel that truth would be thrown down. 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.” So don’t believe those who say that was then, God doesn’t do that anymore, as the bible does not say that. Believe what the bible says and turn and repent. Notice we are close to the end because deception is all around us. When Jesus was asked “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:4 “Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you!” As John told us this is the last hour but we are at the end of that hour and millions are dying without knowing the truth, as false prophets and teachers continue to spread false gospels. We were supposed to continue in Spirit and in truth, not worshipping powerlessly in vain.
                Our only hope for a return to normal is by perseverance in our repentance. If you have repented; persevere in your waiting. 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.” Read Job 42 to see the outcome of his perseverance. If you have not repented, don’t wait. Ezekiel tells us to repent and live! Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” Ezekiel 33:10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?” We are told in Hosea, Hosea 6:6 “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.” Jeremiah 3:11 “Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord. 14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. 15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” Today favors to foreign gods are following other gospels.
                We see a clear picture in Isaiah of our need to return to God. Isaiah 1:12 “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” The same has happened to the church and our hands are full of blood. Isaiah goes to say, Isaiah 1:16 “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
                Even though there is chaos around us, false teachers prevailing and the church lies in desolation; there is hope of a future because God said there would be. 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.” Like we saw with Job, God wants to bless us. Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 62:4 “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. 11 The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’” 12 They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isaiah 58:12 “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Acts 15:16 “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it.”
                We are told that God wants to pour out His blessing upon us but we must serve Him 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.” Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Since we know that God wants to be gracious to us and is looking for those who will serve Him with everything they have as Jesus directed us Luke 14:25 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus also gave us this promise so do not be afraid to surrender everything to God. Mark 10:28 “Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
                So we pray Isaiah 33:2 “Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. 3 At the uproar of your army, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. 4 Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts people pounce on it. 5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. 6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
                Today the church is comfortable in the sin of their abnormal normalcy and refuses to repent. They think that what their hands have made will give them eternal life but that is a lie from the father of lies. Jeremiah tells us Jeremiah 7:2 “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. 3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. 9 “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.” Jesus said, Matthew 21:12 “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.”
                Normal for the church today has become a den of robbers instead of a house of prayer. To return to the true normal, the church must turn from their wicked ways and stop trusting in deceptive words. The only way for truth to return is to do as Jesus commanded. He said, Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” If we want normal Christianity to return then repent so that the kingdom will come near. When the kingdom comes near that means God has turned His face back to us and truth and power returns to the church. We then go to the ends of the earth clothed with power from on High. The church will then return to normal and God will once again shine His face upon us. Acts 2:37 “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “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.” We too must turn away and save ourselves from this corrupt, truthless and powerless generation now called the church. When power returns, disciples will once again go out in the power and authority of Jesus Christ and make His name known to the ends of the earth. So we wait to go in the authority and power of Jesus name. Luke 24:9 “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.” This is what we are waiting for. Luke 9:1 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Matthew 10:1 “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 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. Freely you have received; freely give.” This is normal for the church. Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Hebrews 2:3 “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Mark 16:15 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.”
    Repent and live!