The 99% Blog is now the Social Gospel Blog here on WordPress

Commentary this week on the Social Gospel Blog with Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern; same guy, same message, but no more politics unless it has to do with truth, justice or fairness — https://zurl.co/6C9M socialgospel realfaith realtruth

Be sure and follow me on the Social Gospel Blog at the link just above! Thanks so very much…..

Advertisements

America’s Problems at Her Southern Border are not Political; They’re Spiritual

Economic Inequality and

the Teachings of Jesus Christ

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

U_R_socialist I have always vigorously maintained that the gap between the rich and poor is a moral problem as well as a socioeconomic problem that is in desperate need of solutions. Yes, it’s a religious problem too, and many of the religious people are causing it. They come to church faithfully every Sunday, dressed like fashion models, and go through all the motions of worship and praise, being sure to put in their 10% for that pay period. Sometimes there will even be some tears or some healing that takes place. But, as the Bible says, if we do all that and even more without compassion for all humanity, none of those church services I just mentioned will mean one stinking thing. Neither will the people in attendance, particularly the rich and comfortably well off, who do nothing to help those less fortunate than themselves. All their praising, worshiping, preaching and their exclamations of, “Thank you, Jesus!!” will be meaningless. Regarding this the apostle Paul wrote, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1st Corinthians 13, verses 3-7)

 

So we can see that at least part of the reason for economic inequality is those people who keep all they own and all they earn completely to themselves. They won’t share anything – nothing! Despite near-record levels of economic inequality, many politicians and pundits still don’t think this widening chasm is much of a problem in a country supposedly dedicated to egalitarian ideals. Inequality, the logic goes, is a natural result of different degrees of work and creativity. Some people strive harder and have better ideas, as well as take more risks, and giving them out-sized rewards is a good thing, since it encourages others to emulate this behavior and makes us all wealthier in the end. The only problem with this kind of logic, of course, is that it’s persistently contradicted by the actual facts about inequality today. In truth, inequality in America tracks more closely with a classic Marxist analysis whereby the owners of capital exploit a surplus of labor to keep wages low and generate high profits for themselves – depriving workers of a fair share of the value they are creating for companies. Yes, there are smart entrepreneurs taking big risks in America, but the more dominant face of the economy is well-established corporations run by professional managers who keep finding new ways to drive labor costs down and profits up. No wonder we’re all so broke!

 

The big losers are the people who are actually creating most of the value of these companies – the workers who make the sales, prepare the food, stock the shelves, handle the phones, expedite deliveries and so on. Many of these employees are paid under $12 an hour, which is not enough to live on – and certainly not enough to save for retirement or buy health insurance, which is not offered to most low-wage workers. All of us are hurt, too, by the way that the low-wage model drags down economic growth. If you give a low-wage worker higher wages, they immediately pump that money back into the economy through more spending. But if you give a CEO another few million dollars in compensation, he’ll most likely just plow that money into his stock portfolio or other savings vehicles, which doesn’t do much for the economy since capital is cheap right now and customers are scarce. If we want an economy with robust consumer demand, workers need to get a noticeably bigger slice of the pie. Business leaders once understood that elementary fact, but not any longer.

 

Jesus, brain scientists and even Pope Francis have asked what happens to a person who is repeatedly given a larger and larger portion of the economic pie at the expense of the workers, and the answers are clear and most unnerving. Wealth and power are dangerous for your mental health, your spiritual condition, and for society in general – especially when they contribute to the neglect of the poor and vulnerable (like the elderly, the disabled, widows and orphans). Ridding the world as it exists today of poverty is currently a fantasy. Jesus spoke of this: “The poor you will always with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11). He also said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Only a few verses before this moment in Luke, he cries (quoting Deuteronomy 6:13): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18). Jesus also noted, famously and controversially, that it is easier “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23-24). We’ll revisit that verse in another minute, so hold that thought.

 

Jesus discouraged the accumulation of wealth, worried about its effects on those who had it, and took special pleasure in helping the poor, dedicating His efforts to them. He must have shaken his head at the large gaps between rich and poor throughout the Middle East in the first century. His teachings have much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.

 

Everyone knows that the wealth gap in the U.S. has increased dramatically. “The top 10 percent took more than half of the country’s overall income in 2012, the highest proportion recorded in a century of government record keeping,” the New York Times reported in April 2014. By the end of 2018, that number had increased to the top 5% having over half the wealth (source: Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC). It’s a problem that makes you dizzy, and one that will never be easily solved. Indeed, the concentration of wealth at the very top of American society recalls the early 20th century, before the income-leveling measures of the New Deal kicked in.

 

The growing income gap is perhaps the most pressing issue before the world, not just the United States, as the level of misery rises among the world’s poor. Even those formerly known as the middle class, who have struggled mightily to make ends meet for decades now, face an array of problems that create mental and physical anguish on a vast scale. So let’s go back to Jesus and his concerns. Do people on the other end of this inequality equation really fare better? Does wealth really make you happy? Jesus certainly didn’t think so, and neither do I. Although I’ve never been really rich, there was a time in my life during the 1990’s when I owned and operated a small computer repair shop. For the last 4 out of 8 years that I owned that business, I earned a 6-figure income. But in the process, my life had sped up to a frenzied pace. By the time I closed that business in June 1999, I was so exhausted that I took four months off to recuperate. So I know first hand that money does not necessarily solve all problems. Indeed, it can sometimes create more problems than it solves.

 

Three Canadian neuroscientists have suggested that being rich and powerful actually makes you less happy and, even worse, incapable of sympathizing with the poor. They find that the rich and powerful among us show less brain activity in that region of the brain where human sympathy is excited. Power diminishes all varieties of sympathy, and it drowns empathy in a sea of greed. Conversely, those who feel poor and marginalized in society show a great deal of sympathetic activity. The ability to sympathize with those around us seems crucial to our survival, and it’s connected to the mirroring functions of the brain. As the research now suggests, the richer and more powerful we feel, the more attenuated will be that area of our brain where this crucial activity, which generates empathy, occurs. In fact, power fundamentally changes the way we respond to those around us.

 

Is it any wonder that when a rich young man came to Jesus asking for spiritual guidance, Jesus said what he was not expecting to hear? 16) Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ 17) ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ 18) “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19) honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ 20) ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ 21) Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ 22) When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23)Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 25) When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ 26) Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.‘” (Matthew chapter 19, verses 16-26).

 

The young man “went away sad,” since he had so much materialistic stuff and didn’t want to let go of any of it. You know, a lot like the majority of ourselves? But letting go is essential to our own happiness as well as the world’s economic equilibrium. Jesus, and all those brain scientists would agree on this. It’s a hard teaching, but it’s important. We as a united humankind must – absolutely must – outgrow our childish need for accumulating material things. The notion that economic prosperity equals happiness borderlines on insanity because of the deliberate refusal of those who practice it to plug into reality. And so on and on it goes. The saying used to be, “On and on it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows”, remember that one? The difference between then and now is that the stopping point is finally in sight due to a series of wars and natural disasters culminating in the eventual return of Jesus Christ. Oh, what a day that will be! Question is, will you be ready? Will you make yourselves ready? I sure hope so…..

Our ongoing crowd funding campaign has hit a major milestone. Please join us!

safe_image.php

This crowd-funding project, which is dedicated to ridding the earth of scrap electronics, runs until May 30th! Photo of new location shown below (3988 Flowers Rd. Atlanta, Ga. 30360), now with a significantly lowered amount needed thanks to a large anonymous donation. Many thanks to all the others who gave no matter what the amount. This nonprofit will launch this summer!! https://www.chuffed.org/project/nonprofit-electronic-waste-recycling-and-rebuilding-fundraiser
Flowers Rd. location
Tagged , , , , ,

Political Conservatism, Christianity, and Why They Don’t Mix

The Infiltration of Christianity

by American Political Conservatism

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

 

threat_from_washington
It all started out with a paid Facebook posting of mine for a crowd-funding campaign I’m currently running on social media. The campaign is for a start-up for an electronics recycling center to help clean up the mess we’ve made of God’s planet (you can view the campaign, and donate if you can, from this link). It’s sponsored by my on-line ministry, plus two other ministers working with me, and we have 6 volunteers so far. But the ministry’s name, as my readers know, is Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta Inc., and the howls of derision by political right-wing religious nuts has been similar to that of wolves on a full moon night. It seems that God is a religious conservative to these misguided individuals. God forbid that Christianity should ever be associated with anything Progressive!

 

To myself on the other hand, the meme “conservative Christian” is a contradiction in terms, since from a political vantage point Jesus was a progressive at least, or even a (gasp!) democratic socialist. So why is the term ‘conservative Christian’ an oxymoron? Because political conservatives are called such because they conserve on everything – especially money. Much of what they have they inherited from their now-deceased rich relatives, or they made it gambling on the financial markets (isn’t that all that Wall St. really is?). No wonder they are so afraid of anything that threats their ‘Giga’ nest eggs! And that includes working people like us. Show me a political conservative, and I’ll show you a stingy individual, because stingy people are always conserving. Hence the name, OK? And there is no such thing as a stingy Christian. Not really.

 

It’s been said that when poor people get together to make a political statement it’s called ‘rioting’, but when the wealthy get together to make a statement it’s called ‘lobbying’. Conservatives despise the poor while catering to the wealthy, and this is especially true for Christian evangelicals and so-called “fundamentalists”. That got me to thinking about the state of modern Christianity. There are those who call themselves ‘Christians’, fundamentalists or Evangelicals, and there are those who call themselves ‘followers of Jesus Christ’. I would definitely put myself in the latter category. The two are definitely not the same thing, although some insist otherwise. Problem is, they are the same people who think God is a conservative Republican. Moreover, it has come to my attention that those who do so are in the minority as far as 21st century Christianity is concerned. What, if anything, did Jesus have to say about this? Quite a bit, actually. Was Jesus a conservative? Nowhere near, but don’t take my word for it. Let’s find out what Christ had to say.

 

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verses 21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Further along in this same Gospel, Jesus said to the Pharisees, the ruling religious establishment of Judaism at that time, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt. 23, verse 15) It’s pretty likely that the Pharisees had a propensity to hoard money and goods that was strikingly similar to political conservatives today.

Again in verses 23-26 Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean out the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”.

 

Let me interpret the above verses to the best of my ability, as they apply to modern life, starting with the first one. Every person who calls on Jesus’ name will not necessarily make it to heaven when they die. Some of them will include those who presume to prophesy in the name of God. Why those people? Because they are saying things that God never told them to say. They are busy telling people to be more prosperous by giving more to their churches, or to have a more “purpose driven life”. They are busy telling people how to be more fulfilled and enriched personally, financially and professionally, and all at the same time. They are busy peddling their own NYT best-selling books instead of teaching from the Bible, the #1 selling Book of all time! Why don’t they use their vast book revenues to win more people to Christ, buying airtime on cable TV and radio to warn people that time is running out? That the series of wars that leads up to the Antichrist seizing power could be only months away, and that we should warn them anyway – even if we all get laughed at or made fun of for saying so?

 

The next verse says, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” There’s no mistaking who this remark was directed towards; the phony faith healers and the preachers and all their followers who live double lives. I have watched a few of these faith healers on “Christian TV”, and maybe one in 20 appears to be authentic. I will decline to name names, but the remaining 95% are obviously all theater. Instead of preaching the Gospel, they’re on stage, in a pulpit or TV studio putting on a performance for the audience instead of for the Lord. These kinds of people will be punished severely unless they repent, and soon. They too are nearly out of time. For all those reading this who already count themselves as Christian, if any of this reads a lot like the church you’re currently attending, go and find another church.

 

But it wasn’t just Jesus who prophesied against organized religion, which is exactly what He was doing in Matthew chapter 23. The apostle James had something to say about that as well. In James chapter 1 verses 22-27, it reads as follows: “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. But religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but you call 911 whenever you see homeless people in your neighborhood, you aren’t really Christian at all. If anyone identifies as Christian but uses a lot of profanity, their religion needs some fine-tuning, to put it mildly. Let God turn your rage, from which much profanity spews forth, into passion and zeal instead. The part about widows and orphans should need no explanation at all. This brings us full circle back to our original topic – those who claim to be religious but really aren’t. James, in the following chapter of his letter to the early Church, wrote this; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James chapter 2, verses 14-17) By the same token, if one’s faith in Jesus consists exclusively in giving one’s 10% each week, all I can say is you can’t buy your way into heaven.

 

People who attend church faithfully every Sunday while being mean and stingy the other six days of the week are not going to make it to heaven when their lives are over. They will be expecting to, of course. They are, after all, the direct descendants of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time and they don’t even realize it. They are without a clue, and they will remain so as they roast in hell, still insisting on their righteousness. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James’ words, “the perfect law that gives freedom” is undoubtedly a reference to Jesus’ ministry when He said, “He who is free in me is free indeed”.

Moreover, if one considers him/herself as being a religious person, but are unwilling to share much of anything except maybe with family members, they’re not Christian, they only live to accumulate possessions and portfolios for themselves. Life is all about their narcissistic selves. They are at the center of their own universes, and just because they did so well in life, they think they are a shoe-in for heaven because they are such a “good person”. To that I would ask, good person by whose standards, yours or God’s?

 

In the next passage, James is equally blunt. Pure religiosity is looking after the needs of widows and orphans, “…and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Defend the defenseless! Help the homeless with money or food if you can! Mentor the prisoner, and teach him or her a trade to minimize their chances of ever coming back to prison again! Have some empathy and some compassion, and become more merciful towards others less fortunate than yourselves! Despise materialism and those who blindly pursue wealth for its own sake! Do not even eat with such people, they are a vexation to the human spirit. If you ever wanted a secular definition of what it means to follow Christ, then these last few sentences are it. Plus, as James put it, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Those whose words are different than their deeds are only putting on a show, of that you can be sure.

 

There are a couple more verses on this topic I wish to point out, and they are contained in the book of Revelation chapter three, verses 15-16, which reads as follows: “I know your deeds, that your are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Once again, God is laying down the challenge. Do we want to be Christian – or follower of Christ as I prefer – or just pretenders? Is there anybody out there who seriously believes that God doesn’t see and know all? You had best believe He does!! So it basically comes down to this as far as those who attend church regularly – are you just flirting with Jesus, or are you ready to get serious with Him? Are we just showing up on Sunday mornings, saying to God, “Hello again, it’s me Lord, I’m so happy to make it to church one more time”? Are we putting our faith into action the other six days of the week, or are we simply acting religious? And what about those who consider themselves devout believers and followers of Christ, who aren’t flirting with Jesus? In that case, let’s ask ourselves the same question a little differently: Are we going steady with Jesus, or are we ready to fall in love with Him and marry Him (applies equally to both genders since there is neither male nor female in heaven)? Are we a part of the Bride of Christ or aren’t we?

 

It’s time to make a decision everybody! Where do you stand? Let’s not be lukewarm Christians. We already know how God feels about those people, He will “spit you out of (his) mouth”. Or to put it a little more bluntly, lukewarm Christians – and the phony ones – literally make God nauseous, if such a thing is possible for Him in His Spiritual state. The time is very short! The series of devastating wars that will ultimately kill one third of humanity could be only months away, maybe another year or two at the most, so we are running out of time! It’s time for us all to get on fire for Jesus, lest any of us gets condemned to eternal fire instead. Let’s not go there, brothers and sisters. Hell, after all, is a real place. It’s time to fall in love with Jesus and to become a part of His Bride. It’s time for us all to fulfill our true destinies as the sons and daughters of God. Anything less just won’t do as far as I’m concerned, because I’m on board with Jesus forever. How about you? It’s time to make an affirmative decision for Jesus Christ. Ask Him to come and live within your heart, repent – or turn away from – your sins, and start living for Jesus today. Because in the end, He’s all there is.

Tagged , , , , , ,

There’s a new crowd-funding campaign getting underway; have a look!

Going on right now: Progressive Christian Ministries’ new mission: Environmental cleanup! The apostles worked at day jobs while they ministered, and so will we. Electronic waste recycling/reclamation project crowdfunding campaign; go to https://zurl.co/KK7K #savetheplanet

safe_image.php

Tagged , , , , , ,

College Cheating Scandal is a Symptom of Economic Inequality

When Will They Ever Learn?

Still More Proof That Cheating Is for Losers

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

food_stamps_vs_exxonIt’s been all over the news all week long. The financial elite, including some of Hollywood’s most visible celebrities, have been caught up in the most massive college cheating scandal ever uncovered in American history. Interestingly enough, this matter only came to light as a byproduct of an unrelated securities fraud case that extended overseas, and not to Hollywood at all. The Boston Globe posted a fairly detailed article about this a week or so ago, which you can view from here. But this week’s commentary is not about that investigation. This week’s posting is concerning the evil forces behind this flagrant cheating. I am also writing this to take a stand against those who feel entitled just because they can afford to buy their way through life.

The handbook for humanity, the Bible, has a few things to say about that. I’m sure you can relate, but even if you can’t, please don’t bail out on me just yet. The thing is, if the Bible is really being taught properly, you don’t need to push it on people. Those who use the Bible as moral justification for driving people away have completely missed the point. The Holy Spirit of the risen Lord is never aggressive and never pushy. It is never accusatory, and it keeps no record of wrongs (see 1st Corinthians 13: 5). The true Holy Spirit is peaceful and gentle. The only exception would be if someone were in a state of sin, in which case the Holy Spirit would be convicting that person in their heart. If such conviction does not change that individual, it is at that point that their personal salvation begins to be endangered. Whatever that individual decides to do, it is imperative that we pray for such people, and to do everything possible to help them whenever we find ourselves in a position to do so.

It is written in First Corinthians chapter 6, “ 6) But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 7) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8) Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.” Isn’t this really close to how things are today? People sue one another at the drop of a hat. They take great offense against stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. In so doing, they make themselves difficult people at best, or impossible to get along with at worst. Why not rather be cheated? Instead, those who accuse certain individuals of cheating or even of engaging in criminal activity, are often the ones who engage in such activities themselves. You know, like our politicians?

It is also written in the Gospel of Luke that cheating must be repaid 4 times the amount, as we see in the story of Zachaeus in Luke chapter 19: “ 5) When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6) So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7) All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ 8) But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 9) Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.‘”

Zacchaeus was a smart man. He knew he was a sinner, as are we all. He didn’t pause to consider questions about the degree to which he had sinned, or against which people. He confessed his sins to Christ on the spot, and he was not concerned about how people would view him as a result. Frankly, I find this refreshing. It took a lot of guts to do what Zacchaeus did, and I note that Jesus appreciated the candor of Zacchaeus. But the bottom line here is that Zacchaeus knew he had cheated people, and so offered to pay them back fourfold with Christ himself as an eyewitness, not including the rest of the crowd around them. So does anybody think those who have been indicted in the recent college bribery scandal will get the same kind of punishment? In light of how broken America’s educational and court systems are, I would be pleasantly surprised if any such thing were to occur.

The US judicial, educational, political and economic systems are broken, and it is looking increasingly like things are slowly going from bad to worse. Moreover, it appears that it is the rich who are engaged in the majority of the wrongdoing. The apostle James had something timeless to say regarding this matter: “ 1) My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3) If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4) have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5) Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6) But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7) Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 1-7)

I can’t help but love the apostle James. He’s so direct and to the point, but without being blunt or derisive. But you can already see where I’m going with this, so I’ll skip the long, drawn out explanation. Our educational and our court systems, like the others I mentioned further above, are guilty of showing favoritism to those who were willing to pay the price of admission. Our entire country, from the governmental system on down, reeks of the foul stench of corruption. Moreover, the majority of people don’t seem to care, which troubles me even more. If only more people would memorize, or at least familiarize themselves with, the above 7 verses from the beginning of James chapter 2, the currently unfolding college entrance cheating scandal would never have occurred. Where has America’s conscience gone?

The underlying issue here can be summed up in 2 words: economic inequality. I have written about this extensively in the past, and you can visit my ‘author’ website for more info. But for right now, suffice it to say that the most deserving students are being pushed to the side in favor of those whose wealthy parents bought their children’s way into a future in college, with their degrees in the subject of their choice already taken care of. Welcome to the United States of America, Inc., where everything can be bought for a price (subject to negotiation, of course!). Unfortunately, all of this buying and selling of influence is, for me at least, a bit unsettling and seemingly inappropriate. It is grossly unfair to those who got cheated out of an admission they deserved to get. And I will never stop standing up for truth and justice, and I will never stop standing against America’s atmosphere of corruption. It’s what Jesus would do.

Tagged , , , , ,

What I did for my involuntary vacation

What It’s Like for a Technology Guy to Have to Do Without a Computer for an Agonizing 19 Days, or: The Lessons On Patience That God Just Took the Time to Teach Me

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

needing Jesus By now most of my regular readers have seen the automated postings coming from myself, sent from public libraries, a Fed Ex Office downtown that’s conveniently located just a block from the subway station, and a suburban UPS Store, all with IP addresses you’ve never seen before. Hopefully those postings didn’t end up in someone’s ‘spam’ folder in their inbox. But I’m back now with a newly rebuilt desktop PC, having been forced to scrap my old HP Pavilion notebook. Not to pan HP’s products – my old portable was a 2012 model, a Pavilion 2340DX, so it lasted nearly 7 years; that’s pretty darn good.

It all started when my notebook computer started acting cranky. Actually, it had been that way for weeks. Once I realized it wasn’t a virus, I immediately backup up my hard drive. I later discovered that I got all but about the last 3-4 weeks worth of my postings, which partly defeated the purpose of my data backup. But that is when the real “fun” began. That’s when I rediscovered an old truism called “Murphy’s Law”. In case some of my younger readers haven’t seen this one before, it simply means: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”

So there I am with a broken computer. So? So I have 2 websites, 2 blogs, plus a social media campaign that I was about to launch when all this happened, all at once. So I ordered 2 replacement parts for my notebook from 2 different suppliers, paying both of them extra money to send the parts 2nd day air. Instead, the parts arrived 2 days late, sent USPS Priority. Their priority, I suppose, it sure as hell wasn’t mine! You’ve already guessed the 2nd part. The wrong parts were sent by both suppliers. So I sent a brief social media post to my subscribers telling them why there wouldn’t be any postings for that week. Back the parts went, at which point I was forced to the conclusion that my formerly trusty notebook PC was not going to be worth the effort to repair. Not while my blogs and websites sat idle. No way.

So back to the public computers I went, this time to order a replacement desktop PC and monitor (I had a used 750Gb hard disk I was going to use). I stuck with the UPS Store for this one, since it was the closest and had the most secure network. In the meantime, a new but fairly basic model ‘smartphone’ that I ordered had arrived, and I began the frustrating task of learning how to use it (it was my first touch screen device, since I had been hanging on to my old flip phone for eons). After 3 more days, the computer arrived on time, but the monitor didn’t arrive until (predictably) 2 days later, and it was broken when I opened the box. Back to Fed Ex Office, this time for a 2nd social media update to be broadcast with Zoho.com, my social media manager app, updating everyone on my current status.

By this time I had received the refunds from the first two suppliers, so I went out and put most of that money into a used 19 inch monitor. Eager to get cranked up again, I went home and hooked everything up, only to find the hard drive I was going to use was defective. It had worked at one time, having tested it myself, but it wouldn’t work with my replacement computer because it’s a Dell, and sometimes Dell’s can be picky about what hard drives and expansion cards you can use with them. I should know – I’m retired from IT with 21 years in the business. So back to the local parts store I went, where I had sourced the monitor, and I found a new 1Tb hard disk drive at a reasonable price. It’s now installed in this rebuilt Dell tower I own, and I’m back in business. Thank God my computer skills aren’t as obsolete as the majority of Atlanta employers seem to think they are. But this seems to be the lot for older tech workers like myself.

All this has been a nerve wracking adventure, to say the least. But I didn’t lose my cool, or go off and snap on somebody, although I do remember having a few choice words for my new phone as I was learning to use it. The waiting for the parts was nerve wracking, that much is for sure. That, and the feelings of helplessness while I waited for my parts to arrive. This whole ordeal has, at several points, nearly drove me crazy. But the Bible, which is like a human owner’s manual, has plenty of things to say about the ways in which God develops patience in his followers. In this context, that means acquiring the skills to be able to put up with seemingly impossible situations.

The apostle James had this to say about enduring impossible people and situations: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James chapter 1, verses 2-4) Again further down in verse 12 of that same chapter, James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This means that to follow Christ sometimes means putting up with a lot of people’s junk, especially when they drop it in your lap, as nefarious individuals and circumstances are so prone to do.

So as I close out this week’s message, I’d like to publicly thank God for putting me through what he has over the last 2 ½ weeks. I’m a stronger man because of it, and a little wiser too. I was already a fairly patient man, but now I’m even more so. Some would complain about going through what I just did, being faced with the possible loss in followers if I didn’t get my technical issues fixed. At one time way back when, I was a lot like those who want everything right now, or even yesterday if it were possible. But not anymore, because God has shown me the folly of such obstinate thinking. My point? Had God not taken the time to teach me these things, I would never have learned them. Not only that, but had I not made myself receptive and completely open to God’s teaching over these last 60 years, what I just went through would have sent my entire life down in flames. My whole purpose, which is sharing God’s teachings on the Web, would have been in jeopardy. But I am intact because He has made me so. And next week, I’d like to write about what would happen to us if the internet ceased to exist, owing to the fact that I just had a similar experience. Until then, shalom everyone!

Tagged , , , , ,

The Reasons For My Absence

By now at least a few of you out there have begun to wonder what’s become of me lately.

I posted no commentary last weekend, no midweek Bible study either, and to be honest, I won’t be able to post again Sunday either. The reason? My laptop’s main logic board bit the dust this past Saturday night, and now my only computer access is here at my favorite UPS store in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood.

So I’m sending this on this Friday afternoon to let you all know that a second-hand computer and monitor are on their way. Almost all my files are backed up, but they’re in Open Office format, which keeps me from seeing all the files. So I can’t post anything until after this coming Tuesday when the computer arrives, and even then I’ll have to manually restore everything because my thumb drive isn’t big enough to hold the entire contents of the drive. Oh well….

So, I want to thank everyone for their patience with my situation; all 11,000 of you, and I’ll be adding plenty more once I get up and running again.

This brings my to my closing remarks. I have had to empty out this little ministry’s bank account to buy all this stuff. Also, the thing that’s taking me so long to get all this done is the lack of personal transportation. I’ve been riding buses and lite rail since 2006, when my last vehicle died of old age. It wasn’t a big deal, with me being an ardent environmentalist and all. But I’m 63 now, and I’m getting old in a hurry, so my need for personal transportation has become acute as of late. My disability check (I’m a stroke survivor, have PTSD, pacemaker, etc.) isn’t big enough for me to do all this by myself.

If there are some folks who would please give what you can, even as little as a dollar, anything would help. I spent part of my grocery money sourcing this desktop PC and monitor, plus all the funds to pay the Internet and Web hosting bills
(I have 2 websites, pcmatl.org and authorrevpauljbern.com), plus the money for the light bill. Please go to https://www.pcmatl.org/contact-us to make whatever donation you can. This is the first time ever that the very existence of this on-line ministry has been threatened. Please give what you can. Thank you very much…..

Tagged , , , ,

My Reasons for Writing Are About Far More Than Just Money

Outreach to the Multitudes

by Minister Paul J. Bern

wake_up Before I begin my remarks, I wish to start by thanking everyone who reads this for visiting this site/blog. You are not here by accident. In some way, God has directed you here because you are looking for answers, sometimes whether one realizes it or not. So, why would I start an on-line church with its own blog/Vlog? I have no way to pass a collection basket around like regular churches do, so why spend money out of my own pocket to do this? The simple answer is to reach out to people who are hungry and thirsty for some real truth. Moreover, I have discovered that the Bible – minus all the religious interpretations – remains the best tool to use to accomplish such a goal.

 

The first group of people that I want to reach are those who are disenfranchised by traditional religion. I am one of these myself, having had some strongly negative experiences with churches in the past. Perhaps you are a former Catholic who was molested by a priest, or you know someone who was. There are countless cases of people actually getting ripped off by other church members, and I have witnessed this behavior once or twice in the past. I have also seen churches where there was a lot of internal politics going on, churches with memberships divided up into cliques, and sometimes with much financial impropriety at the top. I can only tell you that, based on my own experiences, if you run into one of these churches or any members thereof, turn and run like crazy for the nearest exit.

 

Due to situations such as these, organized religion in the early 21st century has a huge credibility problem. Is it any wonder that so many people have stopped going to church? I hope to address this problem, plus reach out to those who no longer attend church, by implementing this web site. There is a real God, and I’m writing this to confirm what you already suspect – which is that God is not usually found in brick-and-mortar churches. Churches today, by and large, have slid into apostasy.

 

If I had to think up one word to describe this new V-log, it would be non-denominational. I have a dual love/hate relationship with church denominations. I can’t live with them because I simply don’t believe in everything they believe, or I only believe parts of it but not the remainder of their faith. On the other hand, there are so many Godly people who do not go to church due to their own lack of confidence in organized religion. But those who do so practice their faith as best they can, and try to live by the golden rule, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” To discourage Christians from all faiths from coming to this website just because of where they go to church is not what I want to do at all. The simple solution for me is to emulate Christ as He would have me to do. I will embrace all people of all denominations as the Bible commands me to do, as it is written:

 

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but I am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I become weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men (and women) so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the Gospel, that I might share in its blessings.” (I Cor. 9: 19-23) This exquisite quote is from the New Testament, and it sums up what my goal is with this new blog/V-log. I want to reach out to everyone and say, “That contact you had with that brick-and-mortar church did not represent the true Church. Why not meet online instead? You can come any time, it’s always free, and I don’t demand 10% of what you earn”.

 

The problem with church denominations is they all have a separate core of beliefs that all members are expected to pledge allegiance to. No two churches are alike. One denomination preaches against the other, and all insist that they are the only ones who are right. Various churches openly compete against each other, and they do this because they have lost their focus, which is Christ Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. For me, these three things are the central focus of my faith, and it is a faith that I gladly share with others.

 

This brings me to the second and equally good reason for this blog/V-log, and that is to make God available to web surfers who have no church background at all. I want to tell you that God is real. He is the only sure thing in this temporal world we live in. Everything else is merely a distraction. That’s why He is the one thing we can all rely on in our times of need. Our lives are a free gift from God, and He wants us to be able to use this gift to the best of our abilities so we can have as good a life as possible while glorifying Him. That’s His will for our lives. The Bible tells us that God seeks people’s hearts whether they realize it or not, as it is written: “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me” (Isaiah 65: 1) This verse is addressed to all who read it, regardless of who you are, what you’ve done (or not), or where you’ve been. The publication of this website and this sermon have the same intent. It is my hope and my prayer that someone who reads this message will realize that God may be closer to them (and vice versa) than they thought.

My own experiences have opened my eyes to how broken and dysfunctional the current system truly is, particularly here in the US. Not only the religious system, but politically and economically too. I was forced into early retirement after getting sick and becoming disabled. My original plan was to get well so I could return to the workforce, but that’s not how it worked out. After being out of the computer/IT profession for nearly 2 years, all attempts at obtaining employment – either as a contractor or an employee – proved fruitless. So I looked into reeducating myself and training for a new career, only to be told that I didn’t qualify for financial aid because I had a poor credit rating (imagine that!). While all this was happening, the bottom fell out as far as wages are concerned within the IT industry. Technicians and support personnel like myself who used to make $20-35 dollars an hour are now being paid $11-14 dollars per hour for essentially the same work, and that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to have a job.

I said all that to simply say this: If America had a system in place to take better care of unemployed people, I could be an asset to society instead of a liability. For example, if we had a universal healthcare system in place, I would not have to be concerned about the cost of my prescriptions and my doctor visits because all that would have been taken care of. Instead, I find myself impoverished. For another example, if America had a system in place for retraining all American workers instead of only war veterans, I and the millions of others like me would have a way to train for new vocations and professions without cost. We can easily afford to do this because such a program is already in place.

After World War 2 Congress passed the GI Bill and sent hundreds of thousands of former soldiers back to school, paying big dividends to America in the form of tax revenues generated when these ex-GI’s eventually went back to work. If we could do it for veterans then, why can’t Congress do this for everyone else (at last check, this program is still in place)? Take all the long-term unemployed, beginning with veterans and older workers and branching out from there, and retrain them all. If I could have had a way to do this, I could have gone back to work or gotten retrained for a new profession and become a taxpayer again. Instead, I subsist on my tiny little disability check, living off the taxpayers when I would rather be contributing. So I write, I blog, I have 6 self-published books, with a 7th coming out this fall. For anyone interested, please visit my author page at https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com or at https://www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations

In closing, this V-log and the above websites are available 24×7 to anyone who wants to use them as a mentoring, life coaching, self-help or spiritual resource. The main point is that God is available 24×7 as well. He loves you whether you think so or not, and he cares about what happens to you. Trust God and He will prove himself trustworthy to you. Give your life to Him and He will give himself completely over to you. In the process, He will love you unconditionally and eternally. The key to life and successful living are summed up right here. Until next time then, keep Jesus in your heart and thank Him daily for the sacrifice He made for each of us. Each new day is a gift from God, so treat it as such. May the peace of Christ be with you all. Shalom….

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Lessons I Learned This Week on Helping the Helpless and Putting My Faith Into Practice

Bottles of Water and Eternal Rewards

by Minister Paul J. Bern

needing JesusThose of you who from here in Atlanta who know me personally are well aware that every time I’m out and about, I keep my eyes wide open for anyone in significant need. I’m not talking about the usual cadre of panhandlers posing as beggars. Atlanta is a town full of professional paupers, who hang around the MARTA light rail system that threads its way throughout Atlanta acting like little lost puppies. Since Georgia’s minimum wage is still stuck at a downright stingy $7.25 an hour, one can often make better than the minimum wage just by begging. Unlike some, however, I don’t necessarily see this as being the beggar’s ‘fault’ per Se. It’s more like capitalism has created these professional panhandlers by trapping them in the economic situations they are in.

Why do I think this way about those who are stuck in poverty? I am right in there with them, that’s why! I spent 16 years in IT, followed by 4 years as a contract delivery driver before my vehicle and my health abruptly gave out. In 2006, four months after my 50th birthday, I had a stroke which I was fortunate enough to survive relatively intact. It took about 3 years for me to get to the point where I felt like I was healthy enough to go back to work. But I was never able to return to the work force, and so I’ve been writing here at home ever since. One of these days, I’m going to make myself some real money for all my efforts, but for now let me get back on topic.

Earlier this week I had to make a trip to my neighborhood Off-the-wall Mart to pick up one of my prescriptions, plus a few other odds and ends. When I came out, I was tired from being on my feet for nearly an hour, and my little folding shopping cart that I currently use to get my groceries – plus those “odds and ends” – home, was full. So I sat down on one of the benches to take a break before walking my stuff and myself back to the bus stop about ¼ of a mile away. There was this younger Black guy, roughly about 30 or so I’d say, sitting there who looked like he was waiting on someone to come out of the store. After a couple of minutes, these 2 Latina ladies came out with a shopping cart full of stuff, and one of them was carrying a case of 20-ounce bottles of water. As they were walking by, the younger Black guy asked her if he could have one of those water bottles. He explained that he was in between jobs and was homeless, and hadn’t had anything to drink all day.

The Latina lady flatly refused him, and stormed off as if she were insulted by being asked for anything, let alone something she had just paid for ‘with her hard-earned money’. I remember being struck by her refusal to give a single bottle of water that, considering how big that case of water was, couldn’t have cost her more than about 40 cents or so. It was right about then that I noticed that the young Black man was dressed in worn-out clothes, and that he probably was being truthful about being unemployed and homeless. The guy sat back down, dejected, looking down at the pavement as he muttered, “Man, ain’t that enough to p**s off just about anybody? All I asked her for was a (bleeping) bottle of water.” At that point I took a dollar out of my wallet, plus most of my spare change, and I gave it all to him as I said, “Here, go inside a buy yourself a water and a small bag of chips. Never mind her.” After praying over that man and giving him my ‘elevator pitch’ about Jesus, I headed off to the bus stop.

I don’t know for sure if that homeless man gave his heart to Jesus, but even if he didn’t, something tells me he eventually will. But that got me to thinking about two related but distinct things. First, how cold that Latina lady and her friend pushing the cart, who was also Latina, had acted towards the homeless Black man. That man did not ask her for money, and he didn’t ask me either. That poor guy was in such bad shape that no one would help him, which is why I did. And second, I was struck by the realization that I had just seen inequality in action. People are talking about an impending civil war here in the US, but there is considerable argument as to the combatants will be. Many say it will be liberal against conservative, but I think it will be the wealthy elites and their mercenaries against everybody else. A few even try to claim this civil war will be racial in nature. Dylan Roof used that as his reason for killing 17 people engaged in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina several years back, and look what that got him. No, Dylan, there will be no race wars. Enjoy your life sentence. Repent, and you can yet be saved, Dylan and all you other racists. Repent and turn to Jesus.

Jesus prophesied about those days, and about the turbulent and chaotic days still to come, in chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel. “34) ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35) For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36) a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” This could be considered a prophecy of any number of civil wars that have happened throughout the course of human history. Wars happen for all kinds of reasons, and they have divided families. But so has religion. I was raised a Catholic, but my former family will have nothing to do with me because I have renounced all belief and confidence in the Vatican. I place my full confidence and belief in Jesus Christ instead, having come to the realization that I could have a personal relationship with Him without the need for the papacy as intermediary. So all my conclusions here are based on personal experience, not merely my opinion.

As we continue together, it reads beginning in verse 37, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38) Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39) Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The two Latina ladies with their case of water and shopping cart full of goods had everything they needed, and there was no way they were going to share it with anybody. So many fortunate people have good jobs, great families, decent incomes, and some own their own homes. Those who keep it all to themselves – their family, social and educational lives – and yet insist that they believe in Jesus, are deceiving themselves. They claim to serve Christ while serving only themselves, and sometimes their immediate families.

That’s the root cause of economic inequality. As wealth continues to be concentrated into a global cadre of about 400 families, while the remaining 7.6 billion individuals remain in grinding poverty, or are just barely keeping their collective heads above water, an ever-widening divide continues to form. That’s why all of us, both rich and poor, have a moral imperative to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Because, if we don’t do this while continuing to accumulate ‘stuff’ for ourselves, at some point that’s going to sneak up from behind and bite us really bad. So we can either take care of our own business exclusively, or we can take care of God’s business exclusively. The choice is truly ours to make. I made the choice to take up my cross for Christ’s name’s sake a long time ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

Which brings us around full circle to the homeless man, bottle of water and the words of Jesus, beginning at verse 40 to close out this week’s commentary. 40) “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41) Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42) And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matt. 10: verses 40-42) For some additional context, Jesus has been speaking to his apostles during their commissioning as such. So in verse 40, that’s what Jesus meant by, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me….”

Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a prophet gets the same reward as that prophet. Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a righteous (that is, faithful and/or proven trustworthy) man gets the same reward as that righteous man. Moreover, “…. if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…. that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Or, for that matter, a bottled water, whether it is cold or not. Which brings us full circle to my friend in front of the Off-the-wall Mart, and the ladies with the case of water and a shopping cart filled with goods. I could not give that homeless man a cup of cold water, but I did give him the means to get one. Those two ladies I wrote about won’t get their reward, or anything else but eternal condemnation, for that matter. I’m sure they were basically ‘good people’, but that won’t get anyone into a state of eternal life. Refusing to give somebody a bottle of water when they could easily have afforded it, however, can put you into a state of eternal death, even while you are still alive. That’s all for this week, but everyone please find a less fortunate person to help this week, even if you only give them your spare change. It could end up saving their life.

Tagged , , , , , ,
Advertisements