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The Ruler asked, “What should I do to inherit eternal life.”

After some back-and-forth, Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

I’ve been studying the life of Lot. You know the story — Lot’s an oppressed, non-influential believer, living in sin-filled Sodom, a city that God is about to reduce to ashes. Two angels stand beside Lot pleading that he leave the city, but Lot hesitates.

Why?
He believes in God and he believes these messengers are angels. I submit to you he was experiencing the same despair as the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ in the Gospel of Luke story. Lot was a ruler of sorts, holding some type of government position in Sodom, and likely had a measurable degree of wealth. Lot was respected in Sodom, that is, as long as he turned a blind eye to sin and corruption, and kept his religion to himself. While Jesus told the Ruler to sell all that he had, in similar fashion two angels told Lot to abandon all that he had. We know what happen to Lot; the angels took him by the hand and plopped him outside the city walls, directing him to walk the rest of the way. We don’t know what the Ruler decided. I’d like to think that he made the proper choice. 
 
We’re a lot like Lot and the Ruler.
 
What if you were told right now to leave it all behind? Don’t consider what you would eventually do, consider what your very first reaction would be. Would there be any hesitation? Would you pause to ask why? Or would you simply turn and start walking, leaving even vehicles behind, carrying only what was on your back? If you’re honest (if I’m honest), we’d probably react just like Lot and the Ruler did: we’d hesitate, seek explanations, and proffer justifications. 
 

Where does that leave all of us?

It’s okay to ask the question; the disciples were wondering the same exact thing. They too were struggling with the notion of being able to walk away from all they had. Could they leave their homes? Their cars? Their cable TV? Well that’s certainly what their question implies. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they ask.

Jesus responds with the most gracious, merciful, and loving answer, and frankly, it’s the bedrock of the entire Gospel message: “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:22-27)

Absolute repentance and complete submission is a little frightening at first. It speaks to perfection, so we naturally shy away from that which we cannot achieve. Jesus knows this too. It’s why He bluntly said, “It’s impossible!” And that’s the whole point. Are we not made strong in our weaknesses? We cannot save ourselves. We are helpless by design! It is when we recognize our imperfect condition that the Perfect One can do the impossible.
 
The angels brought a vacillating Lot out of bondage and he ultimately walked by faith. Jesus brings us out in the same condition and simply asks we do the same.

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I became a police officer in 1981. I came to faith in 1984. Young, stupid, and un-discipled, I eventually fell back into my old, sinful ways. I did not yet understand the spiritual principle regarding holiness — the notion of being set apart for God and endeavoring to make it known, perpetually.
 
I attempted to share my faith, but rapidly succumb to the ridicule of both criminal and coworker. I blame neither for my downward spiral – – the fault was my own. I was like the seed that sprang up quickly and the one that fell among the thorns: shallow roots growing amongst weeds. In other words: I was not growing in my faith and I was not practicing holiness (set-apartness).
 
It reminds me of Lot.
 
Consider one of the most disturbing portions of Scripture:
 
“Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing.” (Genesis 19:8)
 
For centuries scholars have debated why a man would make such a despicable offer. Some have even attempted to defend Lot’s action. The truth be told, the deed is indefensible. We can however surmise that Lot got to this horrendous condition through a lack of spiritual growth and a lack of holiness.
 
Sodom was a vile place, replete with depravity, perversion, and sexual sin. Why Lot chose to live in such a place we may never know, but we can speculate that on day one, week one, or even year one of living in Sodom, Lot would not have offered his daughters up to be raped. However, after 25 years of living there, he was worn down by the continual vice, brutality, and materialism. Two and a half decades of compromise, turning a blind-eye, cowering in fear, and concealing his faith brought Lot to this place. It did not happen overnight. Shallow roots among thorns have little chance.
 
On the other hand, consider Abraham. While not a perfect man, he was a faith-filled man, a man who grew in his knowledge of the Lord and exercised holiness, opting to remain untethered to the world as a nomadic tent dweller. Sodom essentially lay at his doorstep, but he was not of Sodom. He was free to engage with the world on his terms and not on theirs. As a result, he was used mightily by God.
 
As with Lot, God did not abandon me, He rescued me. Like Lot, my salvation was secure because by faith I believed. But in those days, I was not of much use to God. Thankfully our Lord is both gracious and merciful, and remains faithful when we are not. He restores what the locust devours, that is if we allow Him to.
 
Study the word, be in prayer, and be ye holy.

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“(Jesus) personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24)
This promise of healing is like our promise of salvation, in that we receive both this side of Heaven by faith, knowing that the transaction will be actuated in Heaven upon our arrival. All the while we grasp that we are not healed or saved yet, but the promise of both is so sure, we can claim both with certainty. We’ve been dragged and secured into God’s lifeboat, but we’ve yet to come ashore. Our inheritance has been written into His will, we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and it was probated, i.e., it has been tested and found to be true, by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. This healing is promised and it is permanent.
Another Healing
God also heals our bodies this side of heaven, but these healings are not promised, nor are they permanent. They are not promised and for reasons not fully understood by the church, they aren’t for everybody. God chooses to heal or not heal this side of Heaven to bring Himself honor, glory, and praise, and as a sign that may draw non-believers to Christ for the purpose salvation, keeping in mind that God will also use the strong, faithful testimony of the unhealed saint to get His glory! Regardless, all of these miraculous healings are not permanent. Those who receive them will eventually lose them to declining health and/or death.
So while we’re encouraged to pray for healing for our earth-bound bodies, and often receive them, we must emphasize the importance of the permanent and promised healing that’s to come in Heaven, especially to the unchurched and unsaved souls we encounter. Let us be compelled to share this critical information lest we sow seeds of discouragement to a lost soul who was not healed as he or she had expected. These same folks need the Gospel more than they need short-term wellness.
“But (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

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God’s primary method of communication to His children is through His word, the Bible. Nevertheless, God does speak to us personally. For me God’s voice is not audible, nor does He speak to my heart; God (by means of His Holy Spirit) invades my thoughts, and mostly when I am in prayer or in His Word.

How do I know they’re God-thoughts?

Well for the most part, these thoughts are not something that I would have come up with on my own. My thoughts are typically egocentric, self-serving, and oft-times sinful, while God-thoughts are polar opposites. They are good, perfect, loving, and true.

More importantly, these Divine impressions do not contradict the Word of God, nor do they add or subtract from Scripture.

Thirdly, they must pass the smell test from my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I share a thought (which I often do), the saints will be quick to point out a Biblical error or proffer an appropriate ‘tweak’ so that the message is properly conveyed. If we’re not willing to submit to peer-review, our thoughts may not be of God.

Finally, it has to pass the T.H.I.N.K. test:

T: is it biblically TRUE

H: is it HELPFUL
I: is it INSPIRING
N: is it NECESSARY
K: is it KIND

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The one true religion; the components that make up the Christian faith, are not for the atheist, the agnostic, or for followers of other false religions. The Christian religion is only for those who have repented, believe and follow Jesus Christ, and desire to know Him better. The Christian religion does not save a person; our religion is comprised of God-given commandments, doctrines, and directives for the born-again Christian; that is, the person who recognizes Jesus accomplished all the work on the cross and has received by faith Christ’s merciful and gracious salvation. Our religion is the means by which we learn about Jesus, His will for us and the Church, and the method by which we mature in our faith through submission and obedience.
So if the Christian religion is not for the non-believer, what should we be doing?
We should be sharing the Gospel Message and nothing else. If we’re caught up in other biblical topics, we should always aim to bring the discussion back to the Good News. Once they understand (and accept) their sinful condition, grasp how they are separated them from God, recognize their need for a Savior (Jesus Christ) in order to restore that relationship, and once they repent from their sinful ways and receive and believe by faith in Jesus Christ, then they are born-again Christian believers and are ready to partake in the God-given (not man-made) doctrines, rituals, commandments, and assorted teachings of the church.
So should we invite them to church?

I submit to you that unless the Gospel message is going to be preached, the bad news with the Good News, they are not going to comprehend or appreciate the elements of our religion, in fact they might be turned away by them. I believe those who [errantly] teach that Christianity is a “relationship and not a religion,” have suffered to one degree or another of having religion crammed down their throats before hearing and receiving the Gospel, very often for long and sustained periods of time.

Consider 1 Corinthians 2:13b-14

“[W]e speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

In other words, non-Christians do not have the Holy Spirit residing inside of them. The King James version refer to these folks as ‘natural men.’  Therefore, the spiritual truths of our religion are foolishness to them. However, the Holy Spirit comes alongside the non-believer for the sole purpose of understanding the Gospel Message! So, while they may scoff at our Bibles stories, our rituals, and our doctrines, they have, by the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit, the capacity to understand their need for a Lord and Savior in their life. Once they take that step of faith, they’ll receive the Holy Spirit within, and can begin to understand, bit-by-bit like the rest of us, God’s Holy Bible and the religion He has provided us.

What is the Gospel?

Go here to learn more.

Question: Does this mean we should not send our children to church?

Of course not, but I also believe that our Sunday School lessons should emphasize the Gospel Message more so than Bible stories. There will come a time that these children will have to make their own decisions and we want those decisions to be based on the full understanding of the Gospel message and nothing else.

We need to remember that the religious happenings inside our churches are primarily for equipping the saints. Sure, non-believers are welcome, but at the same time it could be likened to inviting a mathematical-illiterate to your calculus class. Unless your professor is going to pause and teach this visitor basic arithmetic, what they hear in that classroom will be mostly foolishness to them, much in the way the 1 Corinthians passage demonstrates.

 

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In order to define ‘perfect love‘ we need to ask the right questions, but If we’re starting off with, What is perfect love?” rather than, Who is perfect love?” we are on the wrong track and may come to an errant conclusion.
 
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but PERFECT LOVE casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:15-18, emphasis mine)
 
Perfect Love
 
Perfect love is Jesus. When we grasp this, the burden is no longer upon the Christian to reject fear, but rather to yield to the only One who can cast fear out, Jesus Christ. Our passage also says ‘fear has torment,’ in other words, those living in fear are tortured by it. Think about that: there are Christians in our midst being tortured not by men, but by emotion.
 
In contrast we see the images of Christians actually being tortured; heads being violently tortremoved, bodies drowned in cages, tossed off building tops, or burned alive. These videos often show us characteristics that one would not typically associate with fear, but reveal a calm and peace that surpasses all natural understanding that can only be attributed to God’s indwelling presence. There is no doubt a burden involved with these horrific events, but I submit to you it is a light burden because of Jesus, the Perfect Love that casts out tormenting fear.
 
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
 
Christianity is Hard
 
There are of course Christians who struggle with the notion of yielding to Jesus in order that He can cast out fear. Perhaps many of us wrestle with it to one degree or the other, myself included. However, those who struggle with the doctrine, but then pronounce, “Being a Christian is hard!” have crossed a triple line: they’re distrusting God, adding to the Bible, and calling God a liar. In a word, it is blasphemy.  This sort of blasphemy won’t keep you out of Heaven, but it will make your Christian walk miserable.
 
“All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.” (1 John 5:10)
 
Choose to Trust
 
Rather than making the erroneous and discouraging remark [that] being a Christian is hard, choose to take God at his word.
 
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
If you are tempted to fear, or are facing any temptation, trust God that He will show up at the precise moment of your need and reveal to you the way to escape, remembering that your ability lies not in your flesh, but in the Perfect Love, Jesus Christ, who dwells within you.

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Everyone must submit to governing authorities. (Romans 13:1a)

God calls us to submit to our leaders and the laws of the land, assuming that they do not violate God’s ordinances. We are blessed in that our forefathers established laws whereby the citizenry can arm and protect themselves, and if need be, overthrow their leadership if they should become corrupt beyond repair. In other words, and as it would pertain to Romans 13:1-7, Christians need not feel guilty about owning a gun and/or having to use it.
 
So while it is true that [O]ur battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,’ (Ephesians 6:12) and that we’re called to love and pray for our enemies,’ (Matthew 5:44), it is also true that every once in a while, and thankfully not that often, deadly force is both required and permissible; we are not required by law to wait for a well-trained militia or policing agency to defend ourselves. We can [wait] if that is our desire, but we do not have to. 
 
Every violent situation is unique, but you get the picture.
 
All that is to say, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’ve exercised your right under our laws and leadership to own a weapon for the purpose of defense of life or nation, do not for one moment believe God is displeased with that choice. It is possible to love an enemy, pray for an enemy, and yes, kill an enemy if the situation warrants such action.
 
In such a situation would there be sadness? I would say that undoubtedly there would be, but being sorrowful is not akin to being sinful under these circumstances.

There is plenty more to say on gun ownership, gun laws and safety, prayerful preparation, and the like, but we’ll leave it there for now.

 
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:1-7)

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Job 14:1-6 and Psalm 139:16 teach us that God has determined and numbered our days before we were born. In other words, God knows exactly when we’re going to die, which begs the question, “Is there anything we can do to change or prolong that date?”
 
I believe there is and I’m slightly dogmatic about it because God has said that if we walk in obedience and keep His decrees and commands, He will give us a long life (1 Kings 3:14) and if we honor our parents, we may live long in the land (Ex 20:12). When we consider that God is omniscient, knowing the beginning from the end, we can trust that He has factored in our obedience, or lack thereof, before He chiseled our obit day in stone.
 
Taking it a step further I believe we can prolong our lives if we stop smoking, doing drugs, and abusing alcohol, and start exercising, eating right, and taking care of our bodies, because God, again knowing all future events, has factored in both our harmful and beneficial behaviors, before we were born. That is to say, our favorable activities and obedience to God are not merely things that may improve the quality of life in the time we have been allotted, but rather things that God has considered in determining the length of our lives.

Of course we must also remember that God considers things we know nothing about that may result in a long or short life, and Godly obedience and healthy living are not the sole factors that decide how long we live.

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“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
When you are in the midst of a trial, have you ever heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” You want to smack them, don’t you. The truth of the matter is that quaint expression is not in the Bible. People think it is, and they will quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 as their proof text, but they’re only presenting half of the passage, “God…will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,” and they omit the second part.
 
But There’s a But
 
And an important but it is. The rest of the verse reads,

“But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
 
Who makes a way to escape? God makes the way to escape and if God didn’t make the way to escape, we would not be able to handle the temptation. Therefore, a more accurate rewording of the passage would be,

“God won’t give you more than HE can handle!”
 
What Would Paul Say
 
The Apostle Paul would never have uttered, “God won’t give me more than I can handle!” How can we be so sure? Because he said this instead:
 
“And (God) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
 
And again Paul comforts us,
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
 
If we were able to handle trials and temptations in our flesh, Jesus would not have told us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses. (Luke 9:23). And did our Savior ever say, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; YOU have overcome the world.”

No! He declared that He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

 
Fact: God wants humility and desires that we present ourselves as empty vessels. King David understood the principle, for he wrote:

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” (Psalm 70:5)
 
So let us abandon this foolishness that God won’t give us stuff we can’t handle. That notion is ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. When we find ourselves in a trial or a temptation, look to God for He alone has provided the escape!

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“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
If you move in Judeo/Christian circles you have heard this verse quoted by pastors, politicians, and proselytes more than a few times, especially in times of regional tragedy or national sorrow. Although an encouraging portion of Scripture that strikes a harmonious chord with all true believers, let us be mindful that it is primarily a directive and an admonition from God.
 
A Promise to Israel
 
Cite the verse or post it on social media, and it won’t be very long before some imperious theologian, qualified or amateur, chimes in that the verse is contextually a promise for Israel and not for the United States or any other nation. Well, we can’t argue the point; it is a conditional promise that God made to Israel.

Here’s the entire account in the New Living Translation:

 
“So Solomon finished the Temple of the LORD, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.”
 
God continues:
 
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father.”
 
God’s final warning:
 
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)
 
For the Church or Not?

Clearly, both contextually and historically, these words of God were for Israel. So the question then becomes, is God’s wise counsel and warning applicable to us today, and more specifically, are they applicable to the Church? The answer is, of course they are.

 
First Things First
 
When God said to King David, “One of your descendants will always rule over Israel,” it was a ‘now-fulfilled,’ prophetic reference to our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the integral part of this equation, and because Christians are grafted into the vine that is Israel, the verse applies to the church. There is no question about it: if Christians, as in the warning to Israel, abandon their namesake Christ Jesus, and disobey His decrees and commands, we will be uprooted and rejected. 
 
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
(Romans 11:17, NLT)
 
Healing for Israel Only?
 
No one in the body argues that if believers anywhere or at anytime, humble themselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, that God will hear those prayers, and forgive their sin. The issue with some folks is the implication found in the final portion, ‘that God will heal their land.’ 
 
Let’s back up. What does God mean when He says that He will heal their land, and what’s wrong with the land that it needs healing to begin with?
 
For starters, God cursed the land back in Genesis because of Adam’s dirty deed, but arguably that is not what’s being referred to here. However, and as it pertains to our scriptural reference, God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,” (2 Chronicles 7:13).

In other words, on occasion and for varied reasons known and unknown, God allows turmoil, and God-allowed turmoil is not unique to Israel. Therefore, when God says He will heal the land, and when Christians apply His promise to the land they happen to be most closely associated with, it is a proper application. No one is saying anything more than that and certainly no Christian I associate with is suggesting that the United States is somehow replacing Israel as the apple of God’s eye. That notion, along with replacement theology in general, is a sick interpretation of the Bible (a discussion for another time, perhaps).  

 
Simply put, and as it pertains to the Vine of American, if folks who are called by His name, get off their high horses and humble themselves, if they would pray and seek God’s face, His guidance, His equipping, and His power, and if they repent from their wicked ways, then God will hear us; He will forgive us, and the turmoil of the land will be healed. Take note: the agnostics, the atheists, and the followers of false gods and idols don’t have to do anything! The admonition is to the church alone. If we would just start acting like the church, that is to say, in a God-prescribed manner, the promise will come to pass.
 
And the Naysayers Say…
 
“It’ll never happen!”
 
And of course they cite Biblical prophecy that God’s wrath is ultimately going to be poured out on America and the rest of the world. I get that and cannot dispute the prophetic and specific inevitability of those words. However there is another element that cannot be disputed: we do not know God’s timetable; we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we should abandon every good work and wait for His return. The mere thought of that is absurd and dare I say, blasphemous. God would never have us reject our Christian duty! Never!
 
So with that, let us humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, and see what God will do! To ignore God’s warning is to reject God Himself.

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