The Church and Politics

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” 1 Cor. 3:16-17 (NKJV)

In the context of the passage quoted above Paul is warning Christians against all divisive actions which might result in the disruption of the church’s effectiveness as the Body of Christ.  To do so invites serious condemnation.   What he states makes clear that no Christian should become a negative, divisive, abusive or hurtful force in championing issues which have no bearing on the mission, work, and purpose of the church.  It is an especially timely warning at this time for Christians.

As an aside, I quit Facebook not long after the last presidential election (2012).  What I read on it brought out the worst in me and others whom hitherto I admired.  I observed attitudes I wish I hadn’t.  I was shocked to see the enormous gulf between their mindset and mine; that those who claimed to be a Christian did not act like one.  (Judging is within our prerogative:  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment”  John  7:24, that is, as long as we take an objective look at the facts before reaching any conclusion).  By their own words they condemned themselves, and I knew I had done it to myself too.  The hatred, animosity, lies, slander, and all manner of vile, venom spewing became revolting.  I repented and determined to avoid any part of it in the future.  Exiting Facebook seemed the best way to handle it.  (That was not the only reason I dropped out of it, but it was a big one).

This election cycle makes the last one look tame by comparison.  It is one of the bitterest, most confrontational, rabidly antagonistic, uniformly biased and nationally divisive ever known and it is not the fault of any one party or candidate.  Both have always behaved in a manner inferior to the least of all God’s saints.  The last thing we need is to bring the rancor associated with either of them into our midst.  The devil would be thrilled once more to parade our imbecility before the Father.  We need to ask ourselves, “Whom do we love more, a brother or sister in Christ or a political party—the Body for which Christ died or some human organization that has fooled us into believing it exists to serve us and our needs?”  Is the choice really that hard?   Are we so blindly absorbed in politics that we treat our brethren like anything less than what they are – children of the Most High God?  If so, we are doomed.

No doubt many of us have strong feelings about politics.  It is a righteous thing to deplore and condemn policies that are immoral and unrighteous, and rebuke those who promote them (Mark 6:18).  It is our right to do so in this nation.  What is not righteous is for Christians to sacrifice principles in the process.  We have every right to display our support for someone without painting a caricature of the opposition, demonizing them.  (The news media excels in this – beware of them; they only show you what they want you to see).

The last thing the church needs is to “bite and devour one another” over someone as worldly-minded as politicians and something as grossly self-serving as political parties.  Let us always remain the united family of God, focused on what really matters: the saving of souls and the building up of the Body of Christ.  We can do that well enough without politics.

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Being Christians in a Mad, Mad, World

The headlines we read and the news reports we see clearly indicate that something is terribly wrong with our nation and the world in general.  The world has not been “right” since the Garden of Eden incident and at times things are worse than at other times.  Yet for a country which was, indeed, founded upon Christian ideals, America, only one thing comes to mind “…how have the mighty fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19, 25).

Whether the violence is done in the name of justice (police killings) or as a reaction to it (the killing of police), it remains violence and it is very easy for people to be caught up in it, into the emotion of the moment and the hurt that goes with it.  The temptation to lash out, to allow the bitterness and deep-seated animosities people feel, to “go to seed.”  It is at times like these that our heart and our Christianity is put to the test.  Will we, like many others, get caught up in the madness and fall prey to it, or will we keep cool, level  heads and warm, God-trusting, people-loving, hearts?

For one thing, we should not be surprised.  Jesus said this would happen:  “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars… for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6a, 7, 8).  He also told us how to react to it:  “See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6b).  In short, there is always going to be conflict in the world among people and nations.  Surprise is not warranted.

This is not to say we should just stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening.  Christians have a responsibility to love (John 13:34).  This is not limited to people of our own nation, our own race, our own religion, or anything else.   When we see pictures of violence done to people, one thing is common to them all:  the victims bleed red, not green, purple, or any other color.  Blood ties us to one another as human beings crafted in the image of God.  So it is the Christian’s duty to treat others that way—no matter what.  We need to do several important things:

1) Pray that love will prevail over hate.  Hate of any kind, racial, ethnic, religious, etc. is counterproductive to everything Christianity actually is and stands for.

2) Monitor our own thoughts and language.  Beware the temptation to lash out emotionally or “rail against the machine.”

3) Set a good example of sober-mindedness.  Do not permit other people, no matter who they think they are, tell us how to think and act, dictating what our thoughts and actions should be.  There are just too many people in high and low places who are educated above their intelligence.

4) Keep faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God, working to restore the face of our nation toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  I know, we have our work cut out for us, but start at home, in our own communities, counties, and states.  Great avalanches sometimes begin with a few dislodged, rolling stones.

5) Make sure we set the proper example.  If we are caught up in the madness, others may imagine that the Christian response is no different and think it is just fine to spew hate, malicious words, slander and condone violence.  The Lord Jesus expects us to love, period.  Therefore, Christians cannot be “haters.”

Our nation and the world will no doubt continue on its course of evil and violence.  Jesus said it would.  Evil things will continue to happen and they will take many forms.  The question is, how will real Christians respond?  Will we do what we should be doing or will we allow the madness take hold of us too?  Of all people, we must never allow that to happen.

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The Illusion of “Radical Islam”

Radical – “2 a) favoring fundamental or extreme change; specifically, favoring basic change in the social or economic structure.”[1]

According to Webster’s for something to be “radical” it must favor either fundamental or extreme change.  Therefore, whatever the root or source is, it must be something less than that, at least moderate, or less emphatic, less extreme in nature.  It should be clear also that, for anything to be called radical, the subject matter must be abused, taken out of context, disputed, erroneously reported, egregiously handled, or in some way made out to be more than intended.

Ever heard of “Radical Christianity”?  “Radical Buddhism”?  “Radical Hinduism”? “Radical Judaism?”  If so, then which of these current major religions have among their followers, on an enormous scale, those who have taken the sacred texts of their religion to such an extreme that would earn them that title?   Why then do we hear constantly of “Radical Islam”?   Is it because a certain small minority of its followers have taken their religion, based upon the Quran, too seriously, extreme, out of context?  That is what we are led to believe when we hear “Radical Islam.”

Listen well.  There is no such thing as “radical Islam”; there is only “Islam.”  Oddly enough, Muslims who truly believe the words of their “Bible” the Quran are inspired, will completely agree with me on this.  They know there are at least 109 references in the Quran which not only incite, but demand, that Muslims be belligerent, hostile, militant, tyrannical and even murderous, toward non-Muslims.  Allow me to list a few examples:

Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”

Quran (4:89)“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”

Quran (8:12)“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

Quran (9:5)“So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

Quran (9:14)“Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people.”

Quran (9:29)“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”[2]

“Radical Islamists” are not those who, through ignorance, willful or otherwise, take their scriptures, religious commands and precepts out of context or too far.  No, they are the ones who ARE keeping them as they were meant to be.  They consider heretics all those who will not take their religion as seriously as they do.  That’s why they do not really care if they kill some Muslims along with the infidels;  those who are not giving heart and soul to the cause as they do are simply apostates, cowards, or both.  In believing and acting this way, they are NOT the radical ones – they are the true believers who follow the Quran, obeying all the things it bids them do to the “infidels” who will not convert.

The reason I am writing this is to help people wake up!  Islam is not the “religion of peace” as we are told it is.  That is not what they mean by it.  There is a qualifier to that statement that we almost blindly miss:  the peace they speak of is ONLY found when one converts to it.  For those who will not, there is no peace at all, only war, militancy, bigotry, all working toward ultimate world hegemony, ruled by Sharia Law.

To attempt to justify it by countering that Judaism and Christianity has its radical element is a sad diversion that will not stand up to scrutiny.  Christians (so-called) who use violence to enslave, torture, steal from, harm and murder others are not the faithful ones.  They are not following Christ nor their New Testament.   Jesus the Christ said this to His followers:

“But I say to you who listen; Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also.  And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back you shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them… But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.  For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.  Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:27-32, 35-36 Holman Christian Standard Bible).

That does not sound like He is advocating violence, does it?  Therefore, He would never have authorized nor condoned the mindless violence and rampages of the Crusades, Middle-Ages, (and beyond – the Inquisition, etc.) done in His Holy Name and any current violence committed by so-called disciples.  His words are clear on all matters of human interpersonal relationships:  “Love one another” (John 13:34).

Islam has only one goal:  to force all nations to acknowledge Allah as the only god and Mohammed as his prophet.  Those who seek to do the will of him and his prophet according to their scriptures are not the “radical” element.  They are the true faithful and their numbers are legion and swelling, even if it is largely out of fear and retaliation.

In concluding this, I would, as any Christian should, extend an invitation to anyone, Muslims included, to learn of the Christ and find a new Way, the only Way, to live both now and forever.  If you want to know how to do this, please read things I have posted here.  Contact me.  I will be honored to show you that Way, the One Way, the True Religion of Peace found only in the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us all and died to save us all.

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary, page 1107, Third College Edition.

[2] http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

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Some Not-So-New New Year’s Resolutions

Last week saw the old year 2015 slip away from us. Actually we never had it to begin with, did we? Such is the way of things. As we get older it seems the days, weeks, and years, fly on by. Plans and dreams we intended to realize or put into effect in the previous year may or may not have been fulfilled. Yet each new year gives us a good reason and opportunity to start over with a clean slate.

Here are some resolutions I think are worth at least striving for. The list is by no means comprehensive. Just consider it a good starting point:

Pay more attention to things that matter: Bible reading, prayer, participation in church services and programs, being a good neighbor no matter what. We are children of the Day (1 Thess. 5:5-11). Let’s walk in the light of it as God’s elect.

Keep a tight rein on the tongue. Hold it when necessary, loose it when useful. It can render help or hurt, praise or poison, grace or slander, love or hate. Be mindful that all of us will give account to God concerning its use, and abuse, on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36). Let’s ask ourselves if what we mean to say to someone about others builds them up in their eyes or tears them down. Then we can make a righteous decision on whether to say it or not.

Look for the good, the best, in others and yourself. It is so easy to find fault, even within ourselves. God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). That alone is testimony to our worth and value to Him as it should be to one another. People who consistently keep a negative view of others can never truly be happy in this world. They, above all people, should be pitied. Don’t be like them.

Stop making excuses. No matter what it is: ill behavior, apathy, foul language, bad habits, unwise associations, absenteeism, etc. Excuses are for losers and faithful Christians are anything but that. Correct what needs correcting and move out with renewed zeal in the Lord’s service (1 Corinthians 11:31).

Be the best you can be at whatever you can do. God has given us all different skills, talents, and abilities (Romans 12:4-8). He expects us to use them for His glory and the good of others. If you cannot decide what it is you can do, ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). He will show you the way.

Try doing something you have never done before, or have been afraid to do. Sometimes we make a monster out of something that turns out to be a teddy bear after we do it. The old saying, “You never know until you try” is both true and wise. How can we say we cannot do something before we even try? Who knows, we might surprise ourselves and others when we do! Ask God to give you strength, courage, and ability and trust that He will. We can do more than we think we can if we rely upon Him.

Nothing about these is new. You may be doing them already. If so, keep up the good work! The Lord will not forget it (1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 6:10); the world will be better for it, and so will the church. May God bless us in the doing of His will each and every day of every year.

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Are You a Sabanrab?

The world is filled with unhappy, discontented, people who cannot stop themselves from finding something to criticize in others. Far from obeying the Lord’s command in Matthew 7:3-5 to remove the glaring defects (beams or logs) of their own lives before pointing out the minor inconsistencies (motes or specks) of others, they unfailingly finger-point, harp, carp, and find ways to turn others’ joy into pain. Psychologists might elaborate on that, telling us since such people have very low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy they seek to tear down others to make themselves feel better at others’ expense. Regardless, it is something that needs correcting because it is a sinful, ungodly, habit (2 Corinthians 12:20; Colossians 3:8).

In the New Testament, Barnabas stood out as one who was known for his efforts to build up others. His nickname, “son of consolation (encouragement or exhortation)” (Acts 4:36) proves it. He was a generous giver (Acts 4:36-37), a missionary (Acts 13:1-3), and one who stood up for someone who was rejected by someone else (Acts 15:36-39). He symbolizes the spirit of the type of person who, in the vernacular of today, “has your back.” (Dear Lord, what ever became of that spirit? Did it die with him?)

I am sure in the process of exhorting he had to do some rebuking and correcting, but it was done out of love and no doubt face to face, not behind the back. Those who persist in being critical, gossipy, and even slanderous, are him in reverse.

Scripture tells us not to find fault (tear down) but to edify (build up) (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29). The difference is important. Fault-finding is merely the ability to detect inconsistencies in others and do nothing except talk about them. It is at the root of all gossip and slander. Encouraging others means that while we may observe those inconsistencies, we 1) keep quiet about them unless they are serious, and 2) when they are, we offer advice and counsel directly and only to those affected. Encouraging can and should be done from the pulpit through preaching in a general way (1 Corinthians 14:3) but also face to face and one on one. Furthermore, while fault-finding is motivated by selfishness and evil desire, encouragement originates from love, the seeking of another’s welfare.

The following are some examples of both. Can you see the difference?

“They are always late to church.”
“Brother, it might set a better example to try to be in worship on time if it can be helped.”

“He is stuck up and snooty to me. He won’t speak unless spoken to first!”
“Brother, are we all right? I’ve noticed you readily extend a handshake to others but never to me.  Have I wronged you in some way?”

“They’ve got another new car. How many does that make them – one a year?” (The insinuation is that they make too much money or waste it or both).
“That’s a nice car! New isn’t it? You’ll have to take me for a ride in it sometime!” (smiles and means it).

The difference is clear.  The italicized statement is a spoken critique, a gossip-generating topic of conversation directed at no one in particular and having no value to anyone. The other is a voiced concern aimed only at the one affected or a compliment at another’s good fortune, a blessing if you will.

The church, not to mention the world, would be a far better place if people would say things only that build up others, keeping the harmful negativity to themselves. That’s not just for others’ sake, but for the sabanrabs as well since sins of the tongue left unchecked will land one, no matter how holy they think they are, squarely in the fires of hell (James 3:5-12).

No one is immune. Preachers are some of the worst gossips around, using it as a means to show just how much they know of others merely to impress somebody. They are not alone. Otherwise doctrinally sound members, who could debate the Bible all day with their religious neighbors and friends, cannot help themselves from passing on a juicy tidbit of gossip or toss around slander as if they are entitled to it.

It does matter. The Bible says so. It is a nasty, vile, habit, and if we are doing it we had better repent right now.  And yes, this physician will seek to heal himself too.

Are you or I a Barnabas or a sabanrab?

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Support Your Local Church!

“Church” is a greatly misunderstood or at least misused word. It is commonly used in reference to a building, a place where people meet to do certain religious things or a denominational organization. Yet according to scripture it is spoken of as an organism primarily, not as an organization. Called the “body” of Christ by the inspired Apostle Paul proves this (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 12:12-19). Too often Christians do not seem to understand the full import of this distinction. If they did they would not act as they do sometimes.

Organizations such as the Lion’s Club and Rotary Club exist for the benefit of a community at large, presenting programs, benefits, events, etc. to achieve a humanitarian end. They do not require as much hands-on personal participation as they do financial. Much of the planning and preparation is left to the elected officers, the “pros.” The worst thing that might happen if they fail at some project is wasted time, effort, and money.

On the other hand, the “church” as an organism exists to present, reflect, and carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ, reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) and the offer of redemption and salvation, to a world rampaging toward the damnation of eternal darkness and hell’s flames (Mark 16:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-10). Its business is, therefore, supremely serious, even critical. If it fails its mission the worst is catastrophic – beyond tragic – a disaster of monumental proportions and monstrous scope.

Since an organization’s goals cannot compare and are certainly not destiny-altering, they do not require one hundred percent participation of their membership.

The “church” does. If its members become lax, indifferent, apathetic, or worse, someone dies lost who might not have; someone’s faith diminishes when it might not have; negative decisions may be made and conclusions reached that may determine adversely the eternal destiny of some impressionable soul. Lack of any sort may leave a soul and community with the wrong idea – that the “church” IS merely an organization established to serve its own ends and goals.

Furthermore, since the “church” is an organism, a body, why would its members treat it as if it were anything but? Millions of dollars and hours are spent by people to nurture, beautify, groom, or otherwise keep their bodies healthy, happy and presentable. Why should members of the Body of Christ not exert all their power, skills, and resources to ensure it remains viable, beautiful (to Christ) and pristine (read ‘holy’) in the face of an ugly, degenerate, soul-destroying world? Why would they treat it as if it didn’t matter what it looked like to the public, the Lord, or anyone else – neglecting it, disrespecting it, leaving it unfit, unpresentable, and unworthy as the Bride of Christ?

The next time you or I are tempted to skip “church”; donate scraps and leftovers into the offering plate; be “no-shows” at programs, services, and church-sponsored events; harp and criticize others for what efforts, however feeble, they DO for the work, worship, and general welfare of the church; whine about what isn’t being done enough of – let’s ask ourselves: “How much, or to what degree, am I contributing toward the “church,” its mission, goals and aspirations MYSELF? Am I treating it like it is an organization or an organism? Is its work vitally important to me, the welfare of ALL its members and the community, or am I laboring under the delusion that it is just a country club where I pay my dues and let that suffice?

Support your local congregation of the Lord’s Body. Be there. Be ready and willing to serve and participate. Be prayerful. Be active. Volunteer. Find your place – we all have one as members of the Body of Christ. We are ALL greatly needed to fulfill our mission. The Lord expects it of us and the salvation of lost souls depends upon it.

 

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Seven Days

Likely you know about the movie where people who saw a video tape died seven days later.  Though I did not see it myself, I am sure it revealed all the horror of their scrambling for salvation such a prospect might generate. Imagining the terror of imminent death is not hard to do.

Yet I want you to imagine a greater concern. Imagine for a moment that the entire world, not just your life, will end within seven days. You are not sure of the exact time, the hour, day or night – you just know that is the span of time in which it will happen. Further, you are absolutely certain of your information. You know for a fact that Jesus Christ is returning in glory and the world will be destroyed by fire. At that time He will deliver His saints from this present evil age, resurrect the dead, transform them and the living into immortal spiritual beings and restore the kingdom to His Father. Everyone who has ever lived will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to be judged for their life’s actions whether good or evil. The righteous will shine like the firmament of heaven and all others will have their place in the lake of fire along with the devil and his angels for all eternity (Luke 21:25-28; 2 Peter 3:10-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 3:11-12; John 5:25-29; Daniel 12:1-4; Revelation 19:20; 20:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 14:10-12). You know this will happen within seven days; you are as certain of it as you are your own name.

No doubt most people would try to spend as much time with their loved ones as possible. Some, even many, might do crazy, insane, things to fulfill some repressed desire, not at all concerned about the consequences of their actions. Others might ignore it, and go on their way, convincing themselves that it just won’t happen, being willing to take the risk. But you know they would die just as they are – sinners in need of a Savior.

Behavior could also depend greatly on whether one is already saved or not. A non-Christian might feel compelled to obey Christ and be saved. Their first thought would be to do whatever is necessary to ensure against total ruin, finally realizing that their worldliness has meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. They might scramble to shore up what needs shoring up, spiritually. They would be as the “eleventh hour” laborers, but they would be wise and saved nonetheless (Matthew 20:1-16).

What might Christians do? I think we would likely do what we should be doing now, because a version of this scenario will become reality (please review the scriptures listed above if you doubt it). True, we are not given the precise time of Christ’s return (Mark 13:32) but we should know enough of scripture to believe it will happen one day. We should be warning everyone that this is what is coming. It should make us frantic to get the word out – not merely a message promoting fear-mongering but one to fill in the rest of the story – that it does not have to be this way, that peace with God through the obedience of faith to the gospel of Christ provides absolute protection, full assurance that we will have a place among the redeemed in heaven when this old world is consumed by fire on that Last Day (John 6:39-40, 44; 11:24; 12:48). I believe we would hurry to warn our relatives, friends, neighbors, and even strangers to save themselves from the coming destruction not caring what their attitude might be. Even if they threatened us or hurt us we would speak out, as love for them would forbid silence. Nothing would contain us, hinder us, or keep us quiet. We would tell them to rely solely upon Jesus Christ for salvation, that positing faith, trusting obedience, in Him alone, not in our own good works, is the only way to be saved (John 8:24; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We would speak out against sin to identify and expose it, proclaiming the need of repentance (renunciation) of it (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38). We would urge them to confess the Name of Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32, 33; Acts 8: ; Romans 10:9-10) and to crown it all by being baptized, immersed in water, as directed by Christ and His Apostles so that our sins might be forgiven by His blood-bought sacrifice at Calvary (Matthew 28:18-20; John 15:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3ff) and to live faithfully in Christ for whatever time is left (Revelation 2:10). We would do this as much as we could, as often as we could, whenever and wherever we could.

Whatever resistance we met would be brushed aside because we know this to be right: that salvation in Christ is based upon His promise to the obedient, not as a prayer to Him as many claim. We would not care who condemned or derided our words for we know in whom and in what we have believed, and there is none other who can save.

Though we do not know when the Lord will return we know that He can at any moment. We have lived many weeks holding onto a very real knowledge and firm belief that He could have returned any day of them. What have we to show for it?  Have we been wasting the time?

Praying is not enough; it will not get the job done. We must get the word out to all people everywhere. We must tell them: “Jesus Christ is coming back! Are you ready for His return in flaming fire? Do you know what to do to be counted among the saved? Would you care to know? Friend, please give me a moment to tell you how. We haven’t much time! For the love of God and Christ, and the destiny of your immortal soul, won’t you listen?”

We may not have seven seconds, much less seven days, until the end of all things. Are we as Christians making a plea to the lost? Are we sounding a warning to them?  Don’t wait on someone else to do this.  If we believe Jesus is coming back, and the world as we know it will end, then for love’s sake, let’s act like it.

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