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Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed.  You will be hated all over the world because you are My followers.  And many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other.  And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved, (Matthew 24:10-13, emphasis mine).

In speaking about the End Times in the passage above, Jesus gave some very telling descriptors: hate and love grown cold—heartlessness.  The chilling thing is that He is not talking about unbelievers in this passage.  You can see that He is talking about believers that lose their faith because of persecution.

False prophets will—and do!—deceive many believers with the lie that there are many ways to God, that we are all God’s children, and that God wants to give us everything we desire—even a sinful lifestyle that God has called an abomination[1].  And indeed, we’re hearing these thing preached from some pulpits.  They preach these things because they know persecution is coming and they want to deflect it by opening Heaven to all and by giving a motivational speech instead of a sermon.  They fear man more than they fear God.

Sin is rampant in the world today—yes, even among Christians.  I saw a Hummer covered in Christian bumper stickers, including one that said: Don’t judge me because I drive a Hummer.  Of course I’m not saying that driving a Hummer is a sin[2].  That would be silly.  But idolatry is a sin, and many people idolize wealth.  Money is one of the most common idols in the world today.

And you don’t have to be rich to idolize money.  Most of the people you see lining up to buy lottery tickets idolize wealth, thinking that money will solve all of their problems[3].  Some Christians tithe more faithfully to the state lottery than they do to their church.  Jesus said:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, (Luke 12:34, NIV, emphasis mine).

Pornography is a serious problem, and Christian men unfortunately are not immune to it[4].  This garbage comes right into your home, and it breaks up marriages.  A man who continually looks at these images begins to lose his desire for his wife who is not airbrushed with perfect Barbie doll proportions.  The real woman in his life is often less than perfect.  She sometimes has stubbly, unshaven legs and bad breath.  Adultery is adultery, even if the women are only two-dimensional or imaginary.  Jesus said:

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart, (Matthew 5:28, emphasis mine).

Would you believe me if I told you that murder is also a serious problem among Christians?  The Bible says:

Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them, (1 John 3:15, emphasis mine).

Of course we all have people in our lives that we don’t particularly like.  Some have done real harm to us, while others just irritate us in some way.  But remember, God’s standard is much higher than ours.  God doesn’t tell us simply to tolerate one another.  Instead we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves[5].  Love them!  Love them like we love ourselves.  If you need to see God’s standard for love, read 1 Corinthians 13.  If you can honestly say that you love everyone in your life with a perfect 1 Corinthians 13 love, then you’re a better Christian than me.  I find it difficult to love even my family and dearest friends with God’s standard of perfect love, much less the people who have hurt and betrayed me.  Nevertheless, we are called to this standard of love for the people in our lives.

In these days leading up to Christmas, people are under more and more stress.  Much of this stress is put upon them by merchants hoping to make a big profit off a Christianized pagan holiday[6].  The problem with Christmas is that it has become a festival of greed and indulgence.  The Christmas season is kicked off by Black Friday’s brawling greedfest[7] and culminates in New Year’s Eve’s drunken debauchery.  I can’t imagine that ancient Rome shed more blood, drank more alcohol, or indulged in fewer orgies than what most people do in the US.  Of course, these are not ways that Christians celebrate the Christmas season.  But some do use Christmas as an excuse to overspend and overindulge.

We are called to be different.  And have you noticed that in each of these verses above, God is looking not so much at the actions, but at the heart motivations.  Many believers have become heartless, just as Jesus predicted in the opening passage, above.

Many people these days who go to church, giving God an hour or two out of their week, and call themselves Christians, but their lives fail to show it.  As long as everything is good, they don’t really need (or even really want) God in their daily lives.  But when trouble comes (as it does for all of us), they ask for prayers.  They treat God like He is their big Santa Claus in the sky.  And they fall away when He doesn’t answer their prayers.

For indeed the Gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the Word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it, (Hebrews 4:2, NKJV, emphasis mine).

The people who are playing at Christianity are not mixing faith with the Word they hear each Sunday.  Faith is more than simply believing.  Faith is going to show itself in your life by what you do.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?  Can that kind of faith save anyone?  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough.  Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.  Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.”  But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds?  I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you!  Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  How foolish!  Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (James 2:14-20, emphasis mine).

Playing at Christianity not only does them no good, but it’s actually a very dangerous game.  The defeated enemy has them, and through them he’s also going to get an opportunity to destroy the lives of the people around them: their spouses, their children, their co-workers, and the biggest target: their friends from church.  Do you see the ripple-effect this could create?  In fact, I believe that this is actually what has happened in American society.  Too many people playing at Christianity has resulted in this no longer being the Christian country that it once was.  And the end result is going to be judgment on America.

But judgment is not unavoidable, even at this point.

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, (2 Chronicles 7:14).

It’s not unavoidable, but it is conditional.  We’ve got to pray for our country.  And we’ve got to quit playing at Christianity.  If the current state of our country saddens you, pray!  If it distresses you, pray!  If it worries you, pray!  In our current condition the economy, the infrastructure, our comfy lifestyle is a house of cards in a wind tunnel.

So far we have only seen what happens when God begins to lift the hedge of protection: 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing; hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, and Harvey[8]; The BP oil spill (and others); school shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook; earthquakes in unlikely places like Oklahoma, Delaware, Arkansas, Illinois, Idaho, Montana, and Georgia[9].  In a recent article The Economist noted that there has been an increase in natural disasters[10].  Terrible as the death toll from these events is, and costly as they were, none of these even came close to what judgment would look like.  I don’t want to see judgment happen to our country.  You won’t want to see judgment.

So the thing to do is pray.  If we pray with a humble and repentant heart we can turn things around—even now.  Please join me in praying for our country.  Failing to pray would be heartless.  God is good!

[1] God used such strong language in order to remove all doubt in the face of our current tolerant attitude.

[2] It looked to me like she was trying to deflect the criticism that may have come from both sides of the political aisle.  Of course, only God knows if she’s guilty of idolatry.

[3] Indeed, there are many problems that money can solve.  But the most important things in life are things that money can’t buy: love, health, true friendship, and everlasting life.  Only Jesus can solve the most important problems of life.

[4] Indeed, it’s not only men.

[5] This is a command in the Old Testament as well as the New: Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31 & 33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; and James 2:8.

[6] Honestly, I’m on the fence about celebrating Christmas.  Jesus’ true birthday was probably during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we keep a proper focus, Christmas can be something that does properly celebrate Jesus.

[7] I have heard that the vast majority of Black Friday shoppers are not buying Christmas presents, but buying things for themselves.  And I personally know of an instance in which the local news did not report a stabbing at a Black Friday sale—their silence was probably bought by the merchant and this is probably not an isolated occurrence by any means.

[8] The most costly hurricanes in US history all happened within the last dozen years: Sandy $71.4 Billion, Katrina $108 Billion, and Harvey $100 Billion.  In fact, 2017 is on track to be a record-breaking year for natural disasters.

[9] This is only data from 2017 and does not include the usual earthquake zones like in California.

[10] Weather-Related Disasters are Increasing, August 29, 2017.

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