As most know, I closed down our regular Sunday service last year. Many people didn't understand what was behind the move as it appeared we had a growing church and were being successful. As I shared the following message, many people I trust told me these things may be true for Cascade and so I should only speak to what I know. So, I shaped this message for our church specifically. But, I believe, even more strongly now, that this is a message for the entire church.
Do not despise prophecy, hold fast to what is good. Test everything. If the voice of truth tells you the following message is important for you to heed, ask yourself how you are preparing and if you'll notice the changes when they come?
The following is from Isaiah 5 from the ESV version. I've added my commentary below each section. There is great hope for His Bride found in verses 16-17!
8. Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.
As we've moved to bigger, centralized churches, we've added all our "fields" together believing we'd be able to do more together. But, has there ever been a time in history where you could come and go from a building packed every Sunday morning and feel so alone?
9 The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
Will these churches be emptied? Will they work so hard to get anything out of the fields they've added together and yet find themselves again and again coming up empty? Left to celebrate a handful of salvations every month?
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!
We get up early checking Facebook, our popularity with our friends on social media, and maybe get our byte-sized feel good message from our favorite ear-scratcher for the day. We stay up late binging on endless forms of entertainment.
12 They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands.
We have everything we need to put on a great worship service, hear a good message, have great coffee and conversation in the lobbies, but we no longer know the Shepherd's voice and don't see the power of God in anything. It is all a fruit of our labor.
13 Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst. 14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her.
This lifestyle of the American church has consequences: We become strangers in a foreign land. We leave the most honored laborers for the Kingdom to join the government doles of food banks and medicaid/medicare. We scoff at their foolishness for not preparing a better retirement plan. We can't seem to get enough information to quench a deep-seated thirst inside of us for something real.
15 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
The natural result of our pride is being humbled. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. 17 Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.
Praise God for his faithfulness! God is a God of justice. God will show himself and his holiness. In this time, the sheep will learn to graze in their own pastures. Meanwhile, the empty buildings will be filled back in by the wanderers. The church will appear to have its same metrics, its same fruit, but holiness will be driven out by the demands of these wanderers.
18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19 who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!”
Those wanderers will fill the churches. They will recruit pastors and board members and elders who agree to look the other way at sin. These leaders will be saying all the same thing while making a way for these sins to be brought along through distortions of truth. All the while, they will be calling for people to pray and for God to move in "his church."
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
There is a severe warning for those who will then pretend to be the church. They will flip everything on its head while pretending like everything is the same. But God is not mocked and He sees it all!
If this is truth, how would you prepare?