As we begin this 40 - Day journey we are going in a different direction than you may think for Lent. Lent typically is a somber and remorseful time represented by penitence through fasting. I am not saying this aspect of Lent will not be involved but our focus will be on God’s plan for victory and the power that is available to us to see that victory. Acts 26:17 “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. 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.” We will be looking at how God saves his people throughout the scriptures. Where we do need to repent is in the area of trust and faith in God’s word and I pray we will be willing to submit to God’s word. Do we really believe there is more power available than what we are seeing now or have you succumbed to the erroneous teaching that God no longer empowers his people? 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” This means we do not ignore God’s word just because we do not see it. This time period builds towards Easter but we must always be a church of Pentecost also. As we are not actually waiting for Easter to happen, our focus will be on our salvation and the power that is available from the first Easter and Pentecost. We will build toward all that Jesus has done for us but all the while remembering Ephesians 1:19 “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” If you have been following our church, you know by now that we are calling out to God to once again shine His face upon us, thus empowering us with His Spirit just like at Pentecost.
                It is obvious that the power of the Holy Spirit is not flowing in the church as indicated in the New Testament, so the only answer to the lack of power is that we have disobeyed and not kept the word of the Lord. Therefore just as in the Promised Land they had no power to stand against their enemies, we also have no power for the same reason. Joshua 7:11 “They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.” This is where we in the church are at today but this is not a present day problem but one enduring over 2000 years. Many have gone their own way and have done their own thing yet still say God is leading but what they do looks nothing like God’s plan. As we have been praying, we believe that God will once again pour out His Spirit in power just like He did at Pentecost.
                In order for this to happen we were told to wait. Luke 24:5 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” So we wait. People may ask what are you waiting for. No the answer is not Jesus returning to this earth and reigning a thousand years but God turning his face to shine upon us once again because we sought Him. We are waiting to be clothed with power. Then ministry looks like this once again. 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.” This is not happening because we are in captivity just like the Israelites were when they disobeyed. There is massive deception in the church and it sits in desolation because of it. We need to be freed. Jesus said, Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” We are supposed to be empowered to do this also. Luke 9:19 “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.” It is complete ignorance of God’s word to say this is not available to us disciples today.
                For this to happen though, we must be freed from captivity. This is one of the great promises to us. Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Deuteronomy 4:29 “But if from there (captivity and banishment from the land) you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Leviticus tells about being taken captive. Leviticus 26:43 “They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’” Deuteronomy 30:1 “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” We desperately need this today.
                As we take this journey we are going to look at God turning the tables on our enemies who have taken us captive.  All through scripture we saw the defeat of Israel because of their disobedience but God has a plan and will always keep His promise to David and there will always be a remnant. During this time it may seem as though the enemy is victorious but scripture shows us another story. This is where great faith is required. There will be times where all seems to be lost but God has told us. 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.”
                 So over these next 46 days (Sundays included) we will see how God turns the tables on our enemies. Esther 9:1 “On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.” If you have turned back to God with all your heart soul and mind you can be sure the enemy will rise against you but do not fear. Be strong and courageous, death has no sting. So no matter what happens, Jesus said I will be with you but we must obey his word. Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Joshua was told Joshua 1:2 “get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” This is the great promise to us concerning taking the land. No one will stand against us and everywhere you set your foot will be yours. The only way this happens is in the power of the Holy Spirit.
                This all comes down to faith. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” This changes everything. Our faith means we will live and die knowing that God is sovereign. We will go fearlessly, knowing no matter what God is with us. Hebrews 10:32 “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
                How great is that. The enemy is trying to get you turn against God and sadly many do so during times of trouble and satan wins. The first thing they do is blame God. As Hebrews told us some were persecuted while others stood side by side with them. Other times people were freed from demons, healed from sickness or released from prison, while some were persecuted, imprisoned and killed. Luke 7:8 “John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: 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. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” This is what the church is supposed to look like.     We need to know that no matter what the calling / plan God has for us, we must believe and uphold it with great faith and perseverance because we are not alone; God has a plan. If you seek Him will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will be victorious. Even though satan is always trying to deceive you, never turn your back on God. We join with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and say, Daniel 3:17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” They did not say this because they were uncertain of God’s power but they believed as Paul said 2 Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” David said Psalm 27:2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” This is our life in Christ.
                So we begin this journey with great joy knowing that we serve a risen savior, the reigning King of Kings. Revelation 17:14 “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Isaiah 12:2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Start singing and shouting “for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”