Category Archives: God

President Trump and former director Comey both need to change their ways

Regarding Judging or Accusing Other People:

Those Who Call Us Liars Should Examine Themselves

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The 99% - Too big to fail

Watching this past week’s spectacle in Washington surrounding Russia-gate, former FBI director James Comey’s firing, and his subsequent testimony under oath has reminded me once again about the folly of judging others. President Trump and Mr. Comey calling each other liars on national TV has only solidified my opinion that both are equally guilty of much dishonesty and at-times downright childish behavior. What does the Bible say about judging, accusing and name-calling other people? This goes way beyond mere physical appearances such as race, unaccustomed mannerisms or various idiosyncrasies. It surpasses all concepts of right and wrong. The Bible defines judging others as having contempt for, looking down on, or possessing an arrogance towards people who are different than ourselves. It means considering ourselves better than others for racial, moral, economic, age, ethnic, religious or gender related reasons, and ditto for sexual preferences and gender identity. It is morally wrong to do all these things because we are all made in the image and likeness of the very same God, and God bestows his gifts and attributes to us on an equal basis. Moreover, the Bible teaches us that equality is ordained by God, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2) Therefore, we are all equals in God’s sight, and I could write a whole sermon on that topic alone (in fact, I think I will). There are several good quotes from the Bible that I am going to use to make my point. The first is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 1-5.

 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

What this verse also says is the more harshly we judge other people, the more harshly we will be judged when it is our turn. Make no mistake, every one of us will get his or her turn at being judged by God when our lives are over. The only exceptions will be those who will be caught up in the rapture of the Church during the Great Tribulation that is prophesied by the book of Revelation, as well as by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonian church. And that, my dear readers, will only be a select few people. So what is the criteria for this? It will simply be how we treated other people, and by how good we made them feel. It’s going to be about how much unconditional love, kindness and patience we showed others. That’s why Jesus said during his sermon on the mountain, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7). We are to be practicing gentleness when making discernment about others, otherwise our harshness and being judgmental will come back around and bite us in the tail.

 

This next Old Testament quote from Scripture is the basis for my quotations from the new one. “I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7, verse 27). The more poorly we treat others, the meaner God will be towards us when our lives are over. If we treat people better and a lot more gently, being compassionate and considerate towards others even if they’re strangers, God will be gentle with us to the point where it shows up in the lives of those who habitually perform this good deed. Meaning, those who live their lives this way won’t have to wait until their physical lives are over to get rewarded for their good deeds and acts of random kindness. How then should we be living? We should be living as if God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say (because, you know, He actually is). This means we should be taking care of others, nurturing and encouraging each other instead of criticizing and rejecting just because they don’t meet our lofty standards. We are not at the center of the universe, not are we meant to be! Remember that for every person who seems to come up short as far as we are concerned, there is another that feels the same way about us whether they tell us or not. People who are in the habit of acting this way toward others are always people who dislike themselves. They see something about themselves that they don’t like in the personality or character of someone else, so they go after that person tooth and nail. As long as they are attacking someone else, they don’t have to look at themselves.

 

The next 2 quotes are from the book of James in the New Testament. They take judging of others a step further by getting at the roots of passing judgment. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 3: 11-12) Well said, James, my dear brother! Who do we think we are? Since everyone is a sinner in God’s sight, God can only save us if we are merciful towards one another. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Bible commands us to love one another, and Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We cannot simultaneously judge others and still be merciful towards them. We can’t claim to love others while sitting in judgment of them. Judgment and mercy are exact opposites, they are mutually exclusive of one another. The same goes for slander and love. There is no way to talk badly about your neighbor, friend, co-worker or relative and then profess your love for them. The apostle James then taught us what we should do instead when he wrote: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2: 12-13)

 

True judgment gives freedom according to James. Restrictive judgment says to those around us, ‘I think I’m better than you’. That kind of talk is never from God! It is man-made and it is derived from excessive pride, arrogance and conceit! Being merciful towards others no matter what they have said or done tends to motivate those people to want to do better, to seek ways of improving themselves and each other. Judging others, on the other hand, implies that they can’t do any better, so why not just write them off? It’s taking the easy way out, and that is never God’s way, either! Some Christians honestly believe that it is their duty to run around judging people, digging up dirt and spreading rumors. They think for them there will be some reward. But this is what Jesus says to these people: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Did you notice that those who were welcomed by Jesus were wondering why they were welcomed and those who were not welcomed thought that they should have been? Modern-day evangelists and preachers often teach that if you are saved then you know it, but what Jesus teaches here is the complete opposite. If you are a Christian as you claim, you should be following the advice of your Lord and Savior and not be running around judging people. According to Jesus, if you are saved, you are running around feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of those thirsty and clothing the naked. Many hunger for love and acceptance and thirst for justice and some feel shamed as if they were naked. We are supposed to be helping them, not judging them! But if you yourself are hungry for attention while loving and thirsting for justice, then you will in your own defense judge other people. Seek salvation for yourself rather than distributing judgment unto others. We know who you are, and so do you!

 

There is one more aspect of passing judgment that I think I should mention, and that is the often controversial subject of racism. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance directed towards others are the polar opposites of being merciful. The best way to achieve peace on earth is for everybody to start showing mercy and tolerance towards one another (provided that that mercy and tolerance is not abused by its recipient). The Bible says any time we display racism, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards one another, it is the same as hating God who made them all, as it is written: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4, verses 20-21) Who are we to question the handiwork of the Lord? Besides, when we devalue others we ultimately devalue ourselves since God created everyone equally. These are simple truths, yet they seem to elude us the majority of the time. Imagine a world without hate or harsh judgment that is filled compassion and mercy for everyone. What a wonderful place to live that would be! The Bible already tells us how. It’s just that too few people are putting it into practice.

 

God has given each of us the responsibility of not being so quick to pass judgment on each other. Instead, we are to be merciful towards each other because “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Ask yourself this question right now. Am I too judgmental? Am I a prejudiced individual? Do I find certain groups of people distasteful just because I don’t like them? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to repent, to turn away from this behavior pattern, and to turn to God. Only God can provide all the answers you need. If you feel that you may not be strong enough to change, pray to God and ask Him to help you change into a better person. You will be surprised at how willing He actually is. Let’s practice together to not be judgmental towards one another, and to be merciful instead. It’s a much better way of life.

 

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When Is Jesus Coming Back? Nobody Knows!

Clarifying the “Rapture” of the Church

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Jesus in the clouds

For as long as I have been alive, which is just over 6 decades, there has been endless talk and rampant speculation about the ‘rapture’, or literally snatching away, of all the real followers of Christ within 3-7 years of the return, or Second Coming, of our Lord and Savior. There are 3 versions or explanations of the “rapture” of the Church, also known in the Book of Revelation as the Bride of Christ. But before we get into that, let’s have a look at one of several passages in the New Testament about the ‘rapture’ so we can get a little background. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to God’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet our Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4, verses 13-18)

There is considerable symbolism being used here by the apostle Paul, the man who wrote the above passage of Scripture, but its nature is not complex. The phrase “those who fall asleep” is an ancient expression for what we now call ‘the deceased’ or ‘the dearly departed’ or ‘the late whoever’ and so on. But Paul then comes right back and sums up the essence of Christianity in one simple sentence: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” So right here Paul establishes that all who were sincere believers in Christ Jesus while they were living will rise again just as Jesus did, when he returns for us. Despite those who doubt or make fun of Biblical teachings such as these, they will all come to pass exactly as the Bible says, of that you can be sure!

The apostle Paul then closes out this train of thought with: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet our Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Notice that when the Lord returns, he will not descend to the earth. We’re going to meet Him in the air instead. I suspect that one main reason could be due to an excess of radiation due to nuclear fallout from a catastrophic war. Like, say, World War Three, for instance. Hold that thought, because I’m going to tell you why in just a minute. But first, I need to explain the difference between pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation “raptures”. Please stay with me, everyone, this will be easy to understand, but I have to be careful how I explain all this.

‘Pre-tribulation’ means the dead believers in Christ, along with all who are alive at the time of their resurrection, will be taken up at the beginning of the 7 year Tribulation period. ‘Mid-tribulation’ means at the halfway point, or roughly 3.5 years after it starts, and ‘post-tribulation means we’ll all be stuck here until it’s over and Jesus returns to rule the earth. First, allow me to reference 2 short passages of Scripture that completely disproves the first scenario, the ‘pre-tribulation rapture’. The first is from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24, beginning at verse 3: “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, some of the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us’, they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end shall be saved. And this gospel will be preached to the whole world, and then the end will come.’” (Matt. 24, verses 3-14)

When asked about this series of events by his apostles, the very first thing out of the mouth of our Lord and Savior was, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” That sums up everything we need to know about all those who claim to predict the future. Anyone who claims to know the date of Christ’s return, or who says they know exactly when the ‘rapture’ of the Church will occur, simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Moreover, they bring divine Judgment on themselves for claiming to speak on God’s behalf, when in fact they are only speaking for themselves. But right after that is when Jesus gets to the point when he said, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” These four little sentences straight from the mouth of our Savior and Redeemer eliminate any possibility that the “pre-tribulation rapture” is the correct interpretation regarding its timing. After all, we can’t be taken up to heaven prior to the start of the tribulation period if some of us will be put to death for our faith, and for refusing to take the “Mark of the Beast” from the Antichrist and his soldiers and minions! It is not possible to be at two different points in time simultaneously! I rest my case – but wait (sorry for the cliche here)! There’s more, and it can be found in Revelation chapter 13, and I quote:

The beast was given power to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13, verses 5-8)

“The beast” symbolizes the Antichrist, who was “given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.” How can the Antichrist conquer the saints, evidently by the use of the military, if they were “raptured” at the start of the 7 year tribulation? This is my second and final reason for my case against the “pre-tribulation rapture”. But for my final part of this week’s message and Biblical teaching, we need to go back to Daniel chapter 9 and verse 27: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’. In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the Temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

Rather than quote the entire 7-verse paragraph the above verse is taken from, let me define “seven” as a year, although this is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘weeks’, depending on which version of the Bible you prefer. So we can see here that the “covenant with many” will be most likely of 7 years duration. Based on my own intensive studies, as well as the commentaries and teachings of those more qualified than I, this most likely symbolizes a Mideast peace agreement that is about to be fulfilled. But then, in the middle of the ‘seven’ described by Daniel, the “beast” – or Antichrist – “will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” And so all religious worship involving anything other than the Mark of the Beast will be outlawed, as it is written: “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is going into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” (Revelation 13, verses 8-10) Does this read like there’s going to be a “pre-tribulation rapture”? On the contrary – some of us will be imprisoned for our faith, still more of us will be killed. This is because their names are all found in the “book of life belonging to the Lamb”, who is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who has removed the sins of the world, but only for those who believe in Him and call upon his name. But the rest of humanity who worships the beast, which will be the majority of people from that time soon to come, will seal their own doom by doing so. None of us has any way of knowing when the ‘rapture’ will occur. It’s time to stop wasting time speculating about it, and to live our lives as if Jesus were coming that very night to take us home. Because, you know, one of these nights he really will.

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Renewing America As Progressive Christians Should

The USA Is Becoming A Failed State:

Seven Simple Steps to Turn It Around

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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fearless-lion

As I look around me today, I see the United States of America as a failing country. There are just too many things going wrong with America today all at once! Failing to adequately tackle the inherent problems in our economic system: Failing to reflect on the deep flaws in our system of government: Failing to repair our image abroad: Failing in education, in health care, in human rights, and in religious tolerance. In fact, we look a lot like the USSR in 1990 – except with a lot more big-screen TV’s. And so I have composed this week’s commentary listing what I view as our worst problems, followed by some helpful suggestions for solutions to the mess that we Americans find ourselves in today.

 

First, a quick word about president Trump. I have already written at length about my feelings regarding Donald Trump’s handling – or mishandling, depending on your point of view, of his still-new presidency. But there is another side to all the hub-bub about president Trump, and that is the fact that he is a Washington outsider. Trump came into Washington, DC last January to shake things up, and he has run into a mountain of resistance from the existing political establishment. Instead of “draining the swamp”, the swamp has nearly swallowed up president Trump! But at the end of the day, much of the storm of controversy about the Trump presidency has been generated by the press, and at least as much as the Democrats, if not more.

 

Some people may well take issue with my contention that the political and governmental systems are broken, including the courts and penal systems, or even that we have a great health care system. I respect anyone’s right to those opinions – freedom of expression is one of the few things our country hasn’t managed to screw up in the last couple of hundred years. But in every case, the data backs me up. Allow me to try and substantiate my claims first, before suggesting a few possible solutions. First, let’s take a look at the economy: in 2009 alone, 131 banks failed. That number had dropped to 5 in 2016, and there have been 5 more so far in 2017 with more than 6 months to go. The 2008 bailout granted billions of dollars – with strings attached – to private companies who then used the money to short-sell the market, make countless billions more, hand the government back its money (removing the strings) and pay out lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs. Meanwhile, the median family income is less today than it was in 1970.

 

Our government, meanwhile, is no longer run by competing ideologies but by corporate interests (I include both parties in this category since both are moneymaking enterprises disguised as political parties). There are good Republicans who would prefer that your cancer-stricken child had health insurance. There are responsible Democrats who are horrified by our country’s ‘spend now and pay later’ approach to finance. But since they are beholden to their version of a higher power – corporate America, Wall St. and the almighty dollar – they have convinced themselves to vote with their wallets, not with their conscience. At the Federal level, AT&T and Goldman Sachs combined have contributed over $75M over the last 20 years to both political parties, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, aren’t far behind.

 

Across the world America’s reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, and yet we find our President – in the words of former vice-president Dick Cheney – following the ‘Bush Doctrine’ of a surge in forces occupying a foreign country with seemingly little chance of categorical success. We are seen as an economic and religious bully, and we don’t seem to care. We vilify our political enemies for their human rights records, and import cheap goods from countries we know to exploit child labor. We are, to much of the world, intolerable hypocrites. About this Jesus said, “….you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11: 46) Isn’t this exactly where we find ourselves in 21st century America?

 

Apologists for the American health care system, not to mention “Obama-care” or so-called “Trump-care”, will continue to defend those systems at all costs, claiming that so-called ‘socialist’ states such as England, France and Sweden (which, incidentally, is actually a constitutional monarchy governed by a center-right coalition) kill their citizens at will in order to save money, or make you wait thirty years for a kidney transplant. Deflecting (especially with such utter garbage) doesn’t make our system any better, and it’s always bad business practice to spend too much time putting down the competition. When our own kids can’t get health care because mom and dad have no money to pay, something is terribly wrong. Any anthropologist will tell you that we took better care of our young when we were Neanderthals – so what’s changed? For one in six of our citizens to remain uninsured is a national disgrace. We deny basic human rights to our own people! Whom you choose to marry is not a matter for the government to decide, it is a matter for the individual (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”). So it is for what religion to follow, if any (although I will continue to vigorously preach pure Christianity as the only true way to eternal salvation). Some may not like our choices, but they are inalienable rights and you should be free to exercise them as you will. Our US Constitution says you can (search: First Amendment).

 

As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year. Even so, the FBI reported that in 2016 hate crimes against homosexuals had increased 10% from 2015, and those motivated by religion had risen by 12%. This is outrageous in the extreme as far as I am concerned. The track we have taken over the last fifty years has been the wrong one, and America is way past due for a serious course correction. We have let corruption, greed, fame, intolerance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge our problems almost ruin our nation. We are failing to live the American Dream, and if we don’t start now our children will never even know what it was. I have several fairly radical ideas. I’m sure you have some of your own, and I welcome them in the comments below. I have chosen not to expound on what I personally think the consequences of these actions would be, as I would be diving headlong into speculation.

 

1. Immediately and totally stop all corporations from giving money to political parties. Reverse Citizens United and make our elections publicly funded!

 

2. Make a promise to our children: you will be well-educated, and you will be treated with dignity and respect when you are sick.

 

3. Change the game. Capitalism is broken and must be replaced, and the smoothest transition I have found is that of a resource-based instead of a debt-based economic system. Any time you have less than 1% of America’s population controlling the upper 99% of the cash flow, some legislated redistribution is clearly called for (or maybe an executive order to that effect). We can start with worker owned businesses instead of shareholder ownership. Public business ownership will still exist, but smaller – such as a cooperative – will be much better in many cases.

 

4. Take a page out of the Bible and just treat everyone else with some genuine respect and unconditional love. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you. About this the apostle John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, so we ought to love one another” (1st John 4, verses 10-11). True love for each other means unconditional love with no strings attached! Respect others and yourself as well. Leave the gays alone. Leave the blacks alone. Leave the immigrants alone whether you think they’re here legally or not. Leave the Muslims or the Christians alone, too. Even the atheists, despite the fact that they’re all totally lost! Pray for them instead! When respect departs, enmity is the next train along.

 

5. Pay for it. Child labor is inexcusable! If it costs an extra ten bucks, or extra hundred bucks to buy something that was made by willing workers, pay for the darned thing! And the same goes for government. You want health care? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Not a chance, they have way too many of those already.

 

6. Form coalitions based on issues, not parties. Not every NRA member is anti-abortion. Not every tree-hugging hippie thinks that owning a gun is wrong. When a party tells you how you should think, and what issues should be thrown together into what bucket, you’re a lot closer to communism than you think you are.

 

7. Buy American whenever possible. From what I can tell, the great empires of yore – from Egypt to Rome to England – were ‘first-to-market’ with some manufacturing innovation or other, that led to more innovations, and greater strides, that in turn led to them becoming the largest producers of goods in their region. This happened to the USA from the dawn of the twentieth century until the ‘fifties. Then we began to transform into a service economy, just as those others did. Producing goods is what is making China become a world powerhouse, and if we are to compete, we must produce our own. American goods are always equal to the best even though they are almost never the cheapest, but if we are to reinstate our status as the world’s greatest country, we need to start by supporting our own businesses and workers. We’re in a really big mess, but if enough people commit to working together to solve our problems, we can do anything we set our minds to!

 

 

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A Governing Lesson for the Trump Administration from God

Which Does the Bible Say Is Better? Helping the Rich Distribute to the Poor, or Helping the Poor Directly?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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we-the-corporations

The events of this past week inside the Beltway in Washington, DC have been a reminder to us all that the super-rich have taken over our country in a bloodless coup. The first step has been taken to repeal the national health insurance passed by the previous presidential administration known as “Obama-care”. In actuality, had both the presidential candidates in last year’s election endorsed Bernie Sanders’ idea of simply putting the whole country on Medicare, this entire discussion, not to mention this past week’s legislation of “Trump-care”, would be unnecessary. But sadly, that is not the case. So, what has occurred this week is that roughly 38 million people will lose their health care coverage while corporate America and the Wall Street billionaires get a $500,000,000.00 tax break.

President Trump, a man whose own qualifications to be president are becoming increasingly open to question, is the one who has spearheaded this entire series of events while conservative white Americans have been cheering at Trump’s every move. This, my dear readers, is what America has devolved into – an all-Caucasian oligarchy! Slavery may have been abolished in 1865, but starvation wages still prevail. If “Trump-care“ passes into law, the bottom 20% of wage earners in America will lose their health care coverage, but not so much for everyone else. This is the reason the “Occupy” Movement has remained so popular, except that it has evolved into Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, S.D. and the fight for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, among other things. And why is it that the rich have taken over the whole country while the remaining 99% of us languish in poverty? I can sum it up in one word – debt! The rich have buried the remainder of us under a mountain of debt. Today’s American consumers are faced with being forced to borrow just to pay their bills. We have upside-down mortgages, upside-down car loans, never-ending student loans, usurious title pawn loans, payday loans and a whole host of other predatory practices that are fundamentally unfair.

So I got to wondering what the Bible has to say about this topic. After considerable thought, prayer, study and meditation God has shown me which Scriptures to use for today. So let’s go back in the Old Testament to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5 (for you newer readers, Nehemiah is between Ezra and Esther). I will start at verse 1, but I’m going to break this passage up into a couple of parts so that I may do the best job I can at breaking this down for everyone. “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. So were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 1-5)

The people during Nehemiah’s time were experiencing a severe food shortage, and whatever food was available was priced so far out of the reach of the working people and the farmers that they were having to mortgage everything just to feed their families. As you can see, government assistance during hard times was nonexistent during this time, and people were really suffering as a result. “Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.” In today’s terms, credit cards, student loans and 30-year mortgages – combined with stagnant wages that are stuck at 1960’s levels – are the new famines and new insurmountable debts of the 21st century.

“….we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.” Show me a people who have had their economic power taken away by debt, and I will show you a people who have lost their political clout as well. Plus, the slavery back then for the daughters and at least a few of the young men was sex slavery, of that you can be sure. God will never be pleased with us as long as this we allow this kind of bad behavior among humankind! It’s up to us to take charge of this situation and turn it around! What are we waiting for? And now let’s move on to the next few verses, starting at verse 6.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said, ‘As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them – the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 6-11)

Just like in verse 6, when I see people having to file bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills, or becoming homeless because of that, or maybe a job loss, I too get angry. It is fundamentally unfair to be living on the streets, or in your cars if you are lucky enough to still own one at that point. But let’s put this into its historical context for a moment. The sentences, “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say….”, are referring to the then-recent release of the Israelites of old from the Babylonian Empire, where they had been held captive for the previous 70 years by King Artaxerxes before being released so they could rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. All this was done at Nehemiah’s request, which he formally made to the king, not unlike a modern-day petition to the government. The request was granted (see chapter 1 of Nehemiah), the Israelites – who had just spent the previous 70 years in Babylonian captivity – went back to what was left of Jerusalem to rebuild the temple there. So this entire conversation is actually taking place long after everyone has returned, but before the first crop has matured enough to be harvested. Nehemiah is giving those in charge of the rebuilding a stern lecture on fairness.

What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them.” I could modernize those first 2 verses by writing, “You’re charging too much interest, and it financially cripples the entire population! This is grossly immoral! And so now, in the interest of fairness and ethics, you must give back all the properties, cars and trucks you have forcibly taken even though the debtors were making serious efforts to make good on those debts. This is a ‘cease and desist’ order to stop this unethical practice immediately!” This also includes credit cards, which people often must use to pay for groceries, clothing, medical bills and utility bills. People should not have to pay interest just to be able to feed their children and pay their power and phone bills! And now let me conclude today’s message, beginning at verse 12.

‘We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ At this the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’, and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verses 12-13).

This is exactly what the Big Five banks and Wall St. investors need to do, and the same goes for the IRS. Let go of the strangle hold, Washington and Wall Street, that you currently have the American people locked into! Not just a head-lock, mind you, but a stranglehold! That’s felony assault and battery the last time I checked. If any of us were to do any such thing to an individual, we’d be in jail for assault. If any of us were to do that to a business or other financial institution, we’d be charged with extortion. But if the government does that to any of us, then it’s called “taxation”. The warning from God is clear here. The governmental and financial systems must start treating the population – and each other – fairly, or we will find ourselves judged and will be found wanting in the presence of God. Trust me, you don’t want to go there, that’s for sure! So the lesson for today is only this: Stop mistreating each other for profit! And governments, starting with America’s, enact better laws to protect working people so that the problem of economic inequality can be permanently solved. If none of these things are done, and if things are allowed to continue on for much longer, the whole country is going to turn into a powder keg. Then again, maybe that’s the only choice the American people have left if we’re going to be able to take back our country.

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The End of Capitalism As We Know It

Massive Change Is Coming. Begin to Prepare Now!

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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gone astray

If you’re one of my thousands of regular readers, then you know that I’ve posted what I called, “Another Warning From God” as parts 1 and 2 over the last two weeks. Quite frankly, the response was so overwhelming that I decided to re-publish and update yet another warning from God that I posted 2 years ago. You will recall the previous 2 warnings were based on Isaiah chapter 24. For this week’s commentary we will need to go to the book of Ezekiel chapter 7. I’ve prophesied like this before, but I never do this unless I’m sure it’s coming straight from the Lord. America is in very serious trouble to the point that its very existence is being threatened. This entire country is in danger of going out the same way the old Roman Empire did: one nasty little piece at a time. But instead of being militarily invaded like the Roman Empire was, America’s impending destruction will probably come from within rather than from without. This is very serious stuff, so you will want to take your time and read this closely. Also, you will see that this prediction is coming straight from the Bible, followed by my interpretation of the Word of the Lord. This message is not merely my opinion. For this message from God, I will begin at verse 5:

 

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Disaster! An unheard of disaster is coming! The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! Doom has come upon you – you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look upon you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. The seller will not recover the land that he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 5-14)

 

What does this look like to you? It reminds me of the book of Revelation chapter 18 that I posted a message on last year. Revelation 18 talks about the Great Babylon of the Last Days as foretold by the prophet and apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Babylon the Great of Revelation 18, as I have previously proven by way of the Scriptures, is the United States. So we can safely conclude based on verses 5 to 7 that a great natural disaster of some kind or another is coming, probably sooner rather than later. Then the Prophet wrote, “…there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.” What was Ezekiel writing about here? Remember, Ezekiel lived hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Was he writing about the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman Empire in 70AD? Although this is entirely possible, it is far more likely – based on the wording of the text – that Ezekiel was seeing into the distant future, probably the early 21st century. God will repay America for what she has done. Until recently, the United States was the world’s number one polluter. China now has that dubious distinction. Our country has trashed the planet over the decades, waged wars without Congressional approval as required by law, and has murdered millions. Yes, America’s armed forces have disposed of its enemies, such as terrorists of all kinds both abroad and here at home. But in the process US assets have killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the Middle East, in the Balkans before that, during the Vietnam war, and during WW2.

 

“I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth…” What detestable practices could the Prophet have been writing about? Religious and politically conservative Americans vigorously protest against abortion, but they have no problem sending your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren off to war, sometimes to be maimed and killed, or traumatized for life. The more affluent ones don’t send their own sons and daughters off to fight their wars – they send yours. My, aren’t they efficient! America may be a majority Christian nation (about 70% as of 2016), but the US is also the birthplace of the “prosperity gospel”, which says that in order to receive, you must first give. Of course, that’s not what the Bible says at all! “If you have a need”, Oral Roberts, the founder of ‘televangelism’ used to say, “you must plant a seed.” What the Bible actually says is that we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given unto you as well”. These are the very words of Christ. They are unquestionably pure truth to every genuine believer. It’s not about money, it’s about the voluntary giving of ourselves towards others while expecting nothing in return. The Greek word for this is “agape”, meaning unconditional love. Tell all that to a ‘prosperity gospel’ believer and they might even cuss you out or punch your face, I don’t know.

 

“… none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd.” This is clearly referring to some kind of economic disaster. If you have investments of one kind or another, better get your money out of Wall Street before the fall of 2018, if not sooner. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. But everything will lose a substantial amount of its value, such as stocks, bonds, futures, money market and/or mutual funds, commodities, gold, silver and real estate. It will be, as Ezekiel wrote in verse 5, a complete disaster. “Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” ‘Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life’ seems to be an apparent reference to a heavy loss of life, presumably American lives. I don’t know how this is going to happen, but if it’s in the Bible, it’s got to be true. “No one will go into battle” is a probable reference to some kind of military activity, or possibly the lack thereof. Since a military invasion of the US mainland is unlikely, mainly due to a powerful military, plus well-armed citizens, as well as superior technology, any military activity that Ezekiel was writing about would have to be something from within, such as mass civil unrest or even a civil war. No one knows for sure, but everybody had better start praying about this right away. And now, let’s move on to the last part of this revealing chapter, starting at verse 15.

 

Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. Every hand will go limp, and every hand will become as weak as water. They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will come in and desecrate it. Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their own conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 15-27)

 

“ …those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves….” Here we have another prediction of mass casualties like Ezekiel wrote about in verse 13. Obviously this is going to get very ugly. Plus, if the only survivors will be those in higher elevations, there is sure to be fights and shootings over food, gasoline, attempted robberies and other clashes for what may be minimal resources. “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin.” This isn’t just a stock market crash like in 1929, or a financial crisis like in September of 2008, this reads like something far worse. It predicts the collapse of everything, even real estate, gold and silver – a complete financial implosion. So, what we actually have here is a prediction of the collapse of the entire capitalist economic system and all the world’s debt-based economies. The “debt bubble” created by “the wonder of compound interest”, as it was called when I was just a school-boy, will most assuredly explode, and at the worst possible moment.

They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth…” So long, profits! Goodbye, capitalism! Everything that has been hoarded by the top 1% of America’s wealthy will be plundered by anyone who will be bold enough to grab and carry off all they can. Gated neighborhoods will be overrun by enraged mobs of desperately hungry people who haven’t eaten in days or even weeks. Pandemonium will rule and reign on earth while God sits on His throne and rules in heaven.

 

I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor.” America’s biggest debt balance by far is owed to Communist China. As you all must know by now, the interest on America’s debt is accruing faster than it is physically possible to pay down the principal. It’s only a matter of time before China decides to pull the plug. This will most likely occur by the end of 2018, and maybe even sooner, when the US dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency. It will most likely be replaced by the Chinese yuan, their equivalent of the dollar. What happens after that only God knows, but don’t be surprised to see Chinese troops on America’s western shores sometime in the not-too-distant future as they take their collateral for American debt in the form of US real estate. I’m also seeing a clear indication of some kind of terrorist attack (‘when terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none’). “….by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” When it’s all said and done, everybody will know who is in charge. In the meantime, stock up on non-perishable food and lots of fresh water. Canned good of all types, rice, pasta and dried beans are the least expensive. If you have kids at home, be sure and get plenty of powdered milk and eggs. When it comes to water, buy the 1-gallon jugs at the big-box and grocery stores, they’re the cheapest. You’re very likely going to need all of it, and quite possibly sooner than you think.

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Modern Capitalism and the Bible

The New Face of Capitalism Compared to

Authentic Christianity and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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the new face of capitalism

The capitalist, debt-based economic system that we find ourselves enslaved by for the last few decades – and even before that – has reared its ugly head yet again this past week. United Airlines had a paying passenger literally dragged off a plane, giving him a concussion, and broken nose and other cuts and bruises when he refused to give up his seat. The facts that he had prepaid his seat and that he was a doctor returning to work after a vacation who was expected to report at a preset time, made no difference to the ‘security thugs’ who treated that gentleman with callous disrespect and a total lack of regard for his personal safety. Our capitalist economic system, it turns out, has degenerated into a Mafiosi-style enforcement-at-all-costs roulette table that is tilted in favor of the house. Our economy is rigged against us, the government knows it and knows that we do too, and they don’t care because they’ve turned the country into a police state to dampen the spirit of revolution. But, as president Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolt inevitable”.

There is lots more to this than just politics and overzealous enforcement. The ‘lots more’ of which I write can only be found in the Bible. Whether one believes everything in the Bible or not, and even of one does not believe in it at all, the Scripture that I am about to quote fits the economic conditions of our time nearly perfectly. Allow me to quote from the first of three passages in Scripture that back up what I am writing or speaking about today. The first comes from the Book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the Old Testament, and I quote: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-27)

The above quote is an outline from God about how we are to treat disadvantaged people. We all have a moral, spiritual and social responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. That’s what this passage is all about, and it starts with foreigners. Do not, Moses wrote here, mistreat “aliens”. Today we call anyone who is known or suspected of being in our country illegally an ‘illegal alien’. Instead of following the Bible as they should, many people vilify foreign nationals whether they are here legally or not. These people coming across our borders aren’t an invading army, they’re economic and ‘drug war’ refugees from southern Mexico, at least some of Central America, plus a few from South America and Cuba. God has warned us not to mistreat these people even if we don’t like them being here. Those who do not do so are disobeying God whether they realize it or not.

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” All the banks that refinanced anyone who wanted it and that sold houses to people who couldn’t afford it 10 or 15 years ago before the 2008 mortgage crisis – this is just one of many modern examples of this that would apply here. So called “upside down” car loans are another example, where a car or truck owner owes more on the vehicle than it’s worth. These predatory loans are often sold to unsuspecting customers who don’t know any better because no one ever took the time to show them how to navigate our predatory economic system we call ‘capitalism’. Those who take advantage of these people will be punished most severely if they do not repent of their ways!

If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Contrast that verse with today’s world of “compound interest”, where greed is king of the hill and militarism is what enforces this institutionalized greed. Credit and debit cards are a fixture of life, and everything in our dying world of today is driven by the profit motive, flying in the face of Scripture and even the Lord himself! Ask yourself why the bottom 99% of Americans are buried under mountains of debt? Because the system is designed that way, that’s why. So should no interest be charged on anything at all? Not necessarily, since businesses often operate with lines of credit, as do governments. They borrow from “moneylenders” as the Bible calls them. But to charge people interest for the roof over their head, or for the clothes they wear or the food they eat, is just plain wrong, according to this verse of Scripture.

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” This can be translated into modern English as a short-term loan, such as pawning an item or two or taking out a “payday loan” as they are called, among other things. Another way to interpret this would be to declare it sinful and an offense to make anyone put up everything they own as collateral. This kind of thing happens all too frequently in a world where costs continue to race ahead of people’s take-home pay. Here in the United States, 25% of our children go to bed hungry each night, and this is happening in what is allegedly the richest nation in history. This, ladies and gentlemen, is inexcusable! And now let me move on to the final part of this message and another quote from Scripture, this time from the New Testament.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 44-47) How about that? Everyone who joined the early churches, which were held in people’s houses rather than in large, imposing buildings such as we have today, pooled their resources! Meaning, the entirety of humankind has had the solution to poverty and hunger right in front of them while failing to see it! And why has this escaped us all for so many centuries? Because people don’t read the Bible, nor do they regard the Word of God for the societal guidelines and the human owner’s manual that it truly is.

OK, now let me give you another similar quote from the Book of Acts. “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” (Acts 4, verses 32-37)

So here we see the same thing we saw above – people pooling their resources and sharing their wealth and possessions! In the 20th century and before that, these kinds of organizations were called ‘communes’, ‘cults’ and worse, and were the target of much scorn and derision, as were the hippies that inhabited them. If we look at this from a political standpoint rather than an economic one, we would call those who practiced these things “communists” or “socialists” by today’s standards. The least common denominator here is that no one cared about how much money they had or how much profit they made in their business transactions. Although it was evidently not a problem for a head of household to see to the needs of his or her family, anything over and above that went to the church to which they belonged. Why can’t most people do this today? Greed, pure and simple. Everyone is so busy looking out for themselves that others who are in much more dire straights are being ignored. It is this very injustice that the Bible addresses, and it rightfully admonishes those who cause such circumstances to occur.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Here’s an example of how to tell whether the preaching or teaching of the Word is authentic or not. Is the power of God clearly present? Is that power Spiritual in nature rather than emotional? Is that power presented with grace, beauty and a peaceful spirit? If the answer to all 3 questions is ‘yes’, what you’re hearing is not only authentic, it’s coming straight from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit! There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” How many people – Christian or otherwise – would do this today? Chances are you’re a homeowner or know someone who is. Would you, your parents or whomever seriously consider selling their house, farm, condo, etc. and giving all the money to a home-based church based on nothing more than what their friends and family had told them? It can be said with certainty that less than 1% of the population would actually do this based on the world in which we are all living. Now you have an idea of just how far off base capitalism is with respect to authentic, nonreligious Christianity!

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” “Levite” means a priest in the Temple who leads worship, animal sacrifices, music, or any other function one can think of in a house of worship. Levitical priests worked for only room and board, they did not receive any payment for their services or duties. So this man Joseph, also called Barnabas (he is mentioned again in Acts chapters 9, 11, 13 and 14, plus Galatians and a couple other places) sold a field he presumably inherited since he had no money to buy it, and donated all the proceeds to the apostles. As before, nobody would do this in today’s world to the best of my knowledge. Again, this goes to show us all how far off course capitalism and its byproduct – greed – has taken us. But it’s not too late to start building a better world, and we can start by abiding by the Biblical precepts of which I have written today. So until next time, all your stuff is just that – stuff! It can be replaced, but a closer walk with Jesus through those green pastures and besides still waters, just like Psalm 23 says, is irreplaceable.

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It’s Been 50 Years, and Things Are Worse Than Ever

After Vietnam” 50 Years Later

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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MLK1

The fiftieth anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s much-beloved (right wing extremists excluded) speech, “After Vietnam” occurred this past week. To commemorate this famous speech I will be posting this slightly condensed version today, particularly in view of the fact that it is at least as relevant today as it was back then.

MLK’s “After Vietnam” Speech at Riverside Church, Harlem, N.Y. (1967)

I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers…. And of course, it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I’m in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burning of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear….

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: ‘Vietnam’. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be – are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land…. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men – for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace…..

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the – for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

[1] End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.


[2] Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.


[3] Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.


[4] Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.


[5] Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible. As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection…. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisers in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing – embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response…. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate – ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message – of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history. And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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Part Two of Another Warning From God

Another Warning to America From God (part 2)

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Jesus in the clouds

Last week when I finished my message, I left off at verse 6 of Isaiah chapter 24, fully intending that my message as I perceived it from the Lord was over and done with. But, as I wrote in last week’s message, I felt the prompting of the Lord as I put forth His message, which I take no credit for. I give Jesus all the credit instead. But I am adding a second part to last week’s commentary because some additional warning is needed with respect to the United States. Frankly, not enough people are paying attention to what God is trying to say to us all, and those who do pay attention don’t always take these warnings as seriously as they should! I know, I know, there are a few out there who think I’m crazy, stupid, or both. Lord knows I’ve been called all kinds of things in the six years that this website and my blog have been on the Web. But I don’t care so long as I have the opportunity to preach and teach about the man in the Glory, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior! Plus, I discharge my duties as such with a distinctly leftist interpretation, which is more in line with the teachings of Christ as well as the acts of the early Church than the contemporary conservative slant on Christendom. As a colleague of mine likes to put it, it’s the same old gospel using new methods of evangelism and new ways of teaching, but it’s all still the same Jesus.

As we left off last week, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the earth would be burned up, and that very few will escape. So this week allow me to further expound on the prophet’s pronouncements over the fate of our civilization, as well as for that of the US. “The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.” (Isaiah 24, verses 7-13)

I can sum this up in 3 little words: The party’s over! Whole vats of new wine will evaporate because there is no one to drink it. The vines on which the grapes grow will wither because there is no one to tend to them. “The merrymakers groan” because the party is over and they nothing left but mean hangovers. “The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers.” This country, and particularly its highly vaunted capitalist economy, is about to be decimated! Please so not misinterpret my meaning here – I mean no offense, nor do I wish to appear unpatriotic, hateful or intolerant. Moreover, I am no communist either! But all we have to do is examine the meaning of these words and we realize their direct application to modern America. The partying has stopped because of a big, ugly buzz-kill that has hit the entire world, starting with the USA. This will occur one of three ways – a nuclear war, an economic collapse, or some kind of unprecedented natural disaster that will pretty much trash the entire United States, and you can probably include at least some of Canada as well. As we read on, we find out the destruction will be even worse than that.

The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth.” This makes me wonder what it was that put such an abrupt end to all the festivities. Well, since it takes money to throw such big and lavish parties, something must have made the money run out. The only thing that could do that would be some kind of economic calamity, and a thoroughly disastrous one at that! I don’t care to speculate on how that could occur, since many others already have. “The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten.” What city is this? Nobody knows for sure. Some say New York, still others Washington D.C., still others say it’s Jerusalem. The beating of olive trees is an ancient way of harvesting – (what else?) – olives. The olive tree is synonymous in Scripture with the greater Church. There are those who say it’s a symbol for the nation of Israel, and they are correct in their assessment. But this includes those non-Jews who are “grafted in” as the apostle Paul wrote. Meaning, both Jew and Gentile will be saved together, and that by a Jewish Messiah! And now let me add just 3 more verses to complete this week’s message.

The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” (Isaiah 24, verses 18-21)

The floodgates of the heavens have opened? Was Isaiah writing about a torrential rain? Actually, the Bible gives us the answer back at the end of the New Testament, in Revelation chapter 8, verse 7: “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” The “floodgates of the heavens” isn’t rain, it’s a meteor shower! It describes the “first trumpet” in Revelation 8 to a tee! Hail and fire literally rain down upon the earth, and it’s mixed with blood, meaning there will be a lot of casualties. A third of the trees will be burned up by the widely scattered meteorites, exacerbating climate change. Moreover, there won’t be any grass left, which will be a death sentence for half the insect life on the earth, and every kind of earthworm will go extinct. Not a pretty scene, to be sure. Humankind will soon suffer a disturbingly similar fate.

“…. the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.” Without a doubt, Isaiah was writing about a massive earthquake of Biblical proportions. This too can be found in Revelation, but further back in chapter 6, verses 12-14: “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sack cloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” These two prophecies were written down nearly 900 years apart, and yet they match up nearly perfectly! Here you can see a good example of how it pays off to study God’s Word. You can’t find these hidden nuggets of truth unless you dig for them!

Mountains and islands are thrown out of place, or leveled altogether, wrote Isaiah. This is bad news for countries like Japan, New Zealand, and Iceland, and even worse for small ones like Jamaica, the Bahamas, Diego Garcia, the Falklands, and numerous others. Small island nations, as well as entire coastal areas and the state of Florida, would be decimated. The same goes for most of Central America and Indonesia, and neither of America’s coasts would be spared. “The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” Much of our current civilization is going to be destroyed, although I believe there will be substantial sized pockets of survivors throughout the globe. However, I don’t believe any of the survivors will be in any coastal areas.

What did Isaiah mean when he wrote, “the guilt of its rebellion”? Did he mean ‘nonconformity’, that those who fail to conform to the Bible and to religion will be punished or even killed? If some Christian “fundamentalists” are to be believed, yes, but I don’t agree with those people about that plus a few other things that I’ll overlook for now. It’s talking about the United States, which brings me to my conclusion. “The rebellion” is a reference to Capitalism, which started in the US after WWII and has since spread globally. As you will recall from one of my weekly commentaries from a few weeks ago, capitalism is considered a sin against God and others (see Exodus 22: 21-27). To apply this directly to modern life, God considers the charging of interest on goods and services (excluding government) to be immoral because it amounts to exploitation of the needy and those who have suffered misfortune. This, by the way, includes mortgages, car loans, and the whole gamut of “financial services” – stocks, bonds, futures, commodities, etc. They all amount to legalized gambling!

Although the US will eventually recover from this series of natural disasters, as will the remainder of the world, the economic system will be shot to pieces and most infrastructure will be destroyed. Hundreds of millions will be dead, and there’s not much I can say about that to make it sound or read any better. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fate that awaits America if she does not change her ways. This is what will happen to the whole world if we don’t repent and turn away from sin, or if we don’t dedicate our lives to God and to the service of humanity, or both. But if we turn away from our errant behavior, and if America turns away from waging global war and its debt-based economic system and replaces them both with something sustainable, then God may yet relent and allow us to live in the absence of calamity and disaster. The ultimate decision is ours.

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Another Warning From God About American Leadership

Think This Week Was Bad For America’s and Trump’s Reputation? Wait Until You See What God Has Shown Me About Her Future.

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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wake_up

Like any other person of faith, I read my Bible as often as I can. The Word says we’re supposed to read it every day, but even I can’t always do that. It’s like we all get so caught up in all the stuff that’s going on during our busy days that we find ourselves laying down to sleep nearly before we know it! This past week a colleague of mine showed me a passage out of Isaiah chapter 24 that directly applies to modern-day America and other nuclear-powered countries like her. The clarity and brutally frank language that’s used here by Isaiah, as he was prompted himself by the Holy Spirit, is startling and an ominous vision of the fairly near future.

The debacle inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. this past week has made the USA and its president the laughingstock of the world! I see no way I can say this with too much emphasis. The Trump administration’s attempt to repeal Obama-care and replace it with what amounted to a forcible confiscation of the health care coverage of 24 million Americans – combined with yet another tax break for the rich – has revealed Donald Trump for what he is: an opportunist who is in the White House for his personal enrichment first, and America second. If the Trump administration’s failed efforts to repeal the ACA are any indication of how Washington is going to handle America’s domestic affairs, what will happen when it comes to America’s relations with the rest of the world? If America does not repent (turn away from) its ways, a great calamity will befall her, and that without remedy. Allow me to quote the first 6 verses of Isaiah 24:

See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants – it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken his word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

The earth as we know it, it says in the very first verse, is going to be destroyed. I don’t think this means we’re going to collide with another planet or wayward moon or anything like that. This includes all the talk about the so-called “planet X/Nibiru”, or whatever other names there are floating around out there. This planet is currently located somewhere between Neptune and Pluto. Assuming that “planet X/Nibiru” is closer to Neptune than to Pluto, juxtaposed with Neptune’s orbiting the sun every 160 years, that means if “Nibiru” is traveling at a similar speed to Neptune it will take it another 80 years (give or take) to reach earth. Moreover,it has been proven by NASA, backed up with corroborating data from the European and Japanese space agencies, that this 9th planet in our solar system is not – repeat is not – on a collision course with earth. So all you “Nibiru” fear mongers can put your fears to bed once and for all.

“….. he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants.” The words ‘scattered inhabitants’ suggest that population centers – cities – will be destroyed, and that casualties will be high in number. “…. it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken his word. The same fate will befall everybody, and there will be only a lucky few who escape. Moreover, the complete destruction of the cities of the earth is the only thing that will destroy economic inequality. To put that another way, the only way to destroy inequality will be to destroy the financial centers of the world, beginning with the US. Although I can’t say exactly how this will happen, it definitely will. “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish.” There will be a huge global drought, crops will fail, and people are going to starve to death, even in the Western world where this normally never occurs.

The earth is defiled by its people…..” What does this mean to our modern world? Do these words still have any meaning after all these centuries? The answer to this question is an emphatic ‘yes’! How have we managed to do this, you ask? When did I defile the earth? Every time we throw a piece of trash on the ground, or throw a wrapper or scrap of paper out of our car or truck window while driving, every time we throw anything (!) in a landfill, pour our old engine oil down a drain or elsewhere – need I go on? – we defile the earth. There is a gigantic flotilla of plastic bottles and other similar scrap items the size of the entire state of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean as I write this. Need still more proof we are in grievous sin?? The permanently damaged nuclear reactors at Fukishima, Japan (there are 4 of them) are leaking radioactive water into the north Pacific ocean at a rate of 400 million gallons per day! At this rate, the entire northern Pacific ocean from Japan to the west coast of North America will be devoid of life in no more than 10 years!

Suppose you (somehow) made a planet and inhabited it with 7 billion people, giving them life and the power and will to live it, and they turned around and destroyed it just because they could. How would you react? Now you know how God feels. “They have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth….” What laws? We could start with the 10 commandments. When you break one, you break them all, that’s what the Bible says. Or how about the two greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself’? As before; if we break one even once, we have broken them all as far as God is concerned. “Therefore a curse consumes the earth”. Does this mean God will curse the planet and everything on it? Of course not, don’t be so fearful! Is God going to personally intervene and cause all this to occur? No, it does not appear so, as we further examine this quote from Scripture. “Its people must bear their guilt.

Guilt for what, you’re probably thinking? For all the things I mentioned above, from ruining the Pacific ocean to the 10 commandments and so on, but that’s not all. Nope, sorry, there’s one more major thing – waging war. Although people will accuse me of being unpatriotic, and I do not wish to be offensive to anyone, the USA is addicted to war, and has been for at least the last 75 years. Our national economy depends on it and has been ever since I’ve been alive, and I’m 61. Moreover, we remain the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons in a time of war. America has let the nuclear genie out of the bottle, and it cannot be put back no matter how great and well intentioned the effort. Meaning, we are indirectly responsible for the Fukishima disaster, as well as for any future nuclear conflicts regardless of who starts it. Granted, no one could have predicted an earthquake and tsunami of that magnitude, but the reactors should never have been located that close to the ocean in the first place. Not in an earthquake-prone country like Japan, at the very least! So in the end, the nuclear threat that we face globally is America’s fault, and we’re going to end up paying the price.

How? “Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. Nuclear war. What else could this be describing, just read it and let it sink in. This is what the Bible says will happen to us if we don’ t change our ways. The heat generated by a thermonuclear explosion is 10 times that of the surface of the sun. Those who are caught up in what I suspect will be the coming nuclear conflagration – again, unless America changes its ways – will be instantly vaporized. Not a pleasant thought, to say the least. How do we stop this? By protesting in the streets and getting involved in our country’s political process. I see no other way. Besides, in the process of protesting, we’ll be siding with God. Suits me fine.

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You can have spirituality or prosperity, but not both

Wealth or Jesus: We Must Pick One or the Other

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The definition of cognitive dissonance is a person’s brain trying to reconcile two contradicting realities. One common example of this is an abusive relationship, where the man/woman obviously understands there’s abuse from their significant other, yet they love them anyway. Often their brain will then develop excuses for such action. It’s their fault or the other person has just been under a lot of stress. The reality is their brain simply cannot accept two different realities that contradict, so it creates yet another. This is never more prevalent than when it comes to wealthy conservatives and Christianity. They are the proponents of policies that contradict much of what Jesus taught.

These top 1% folks, who are sitting on 99% of America’s wealth, allegedly do so in order for the rest of us to enjoy the windfall of their generosity through increases in top 1% revenue. Let that sink in for a second – an economic policy based upon this notion: ‘If we subsidize greed even more than it already is, the rest of society benefits as a result.’ When has greed ever benefited a society? While we’re at it, what does the Bible say about greed? “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) It becomes a driving obsession to acquire still more. Once the acquiring has happened, then comes the need to protect what has been acquired. This is selfishness and it is sin, as it is written: “There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling’, he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business!”(Ecclesiastes 4:8)

Once the greed-driven have acquired and secured everything in sight, they’re still not satisfied! They are never satisfied with all they have; their eyes always search for more, as it is written, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). This coveting begets more greed, which snowballs into more selfishness, and the selfishness begets more coveting and so on – to utter madness! “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) By this point, there is no room left for God. Money is now the master of the house, as it is written, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Seems pretty straight forward to me, how about you? Greed is a vicious circle that feeds on itself, generating ever increasing amounts or degrees of craving still more. The more they have the more they want. Isn’t that what we’ve seen for the last 40 years? Isn’t this what “Trickle Down Economics” has given us? In the last 40 years the top 1% has grown exponentially, never more so than in the last decade. Yet what has it brought us? Economic failure caused by a cadre of millionaires crying out that they need even more. Many of the same businesses that proved in the 90′s, even with higher taxes, that they could yield historic growth are now fighting a return to those very same tax levels. They now claim economic prosperity isn’t obtainable at those “job destroying” levels of taxation. The fact is, they’re right. Their economic prosperity cannot be sustained at a higher level of taxation. The more we fed into this myth of Trickle Down Economics, the more lower taxes benefited them, the more they expect to expand their greedy nature. To raise their taxes would mean their giant profits would probably be taken down to just, well, significant profits.

This isn’t about these businesses making profits, they can easily do that, but they want larger profits. What they had in the 90′s is no longer good enough, they want more. Of course it’s impossible to return to the very same tax rates that brought us the best economic growth in our history, because then their greed would have to return to a lower level, and as the Bible says, greed is perpetual and never ends. We gave them more and now their solution to fix our problems? You guessed it, they want even more! Isn’t that exactly what the Bible warns will happen? Did we not have wealthy Americans in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s? The answer is yes, they just weren’t as wealthy. Trickle Down Economics was the catalyst for the acceptance of greed. It gave those with the most more, and any mention of returning it to their rightful owners is met with a horrific depictions of economic Armageddon.

And there you have it, cognitive dissonance. The top 1%’s political ideology completely contradicts the realities we’ve seen and those the Bible supports. They preach Christian values at the same time they advocate a policy that says giving into greed will benefit our society. They vehemently denounce abortion while advocating war and conquest, resulting in 1.2 million civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan alone since 2001. So unborn babies get a great deal of attention in churches, but once you’re born, you’re screwed, especially if you live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, etc., etc.! The human brain simply can’t handle two conflicting realities, so it creates one of its own. The more we allowed the wealthy to have, the more they asked us to give. We did this to the detriment of our own economy and ourselves. If trickle down economics works, shouldn’t their success and our success mirror one another? As they gain, we gain. You know, like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’? However, that isn’t what happened because life no longer works that way thanks to the 1%. The more the 1% gains, the more they want, and they’ve made sure that everyone else chips in!

Think of a small fishing boat. If weight is equally dispersed it’ll stay buoyant and afloat. But what if the weight shifts more forward or backwards, what happens? The boat becomes unstable. Now imagine if suddenly all the weight is shifted forward, what would happen? Simple – the boat will suddenly suffer instability, capsize then sink. As our nations’ wealth rushed to the top 1% in the last decade, that’s exactly what happened – our boat capsized and then sank. Does this contradiction between faith and political ideology suggest that conservatives believe Jesus supported greed? It looks to me like they believe he condemned homosexuals and demeaned women, and considered the poor as lazy people seeking a handout. So why not perpetuate the belief that He would have supported greed? Don’t let the Bible scriptures sway your views, it’s much easier to simply allow yourself to give into and concoct a delusional reality.

What religious conservatives have done is a complete distortion of the Christian faith. The so-called “prosperity gospel” (LOL) doesn’t even fit into the very nature of what Jesus lived and died for! Every economic stance they support benefits the wealthy at the expense of the remaining 99% of us! How does it make any sense to have a portion of American society that pushes themselves as the Christian majority, the party of values and decency, and yet their entire economic stance contradicts what the Bible and Jesus says about greed? What religious conservatives claim to follow isn’t Christianity at all, and it sure doesn’t emulate Jesus. Remember what Jesus said about that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”, meaning those who have the means to make a difference should do so unreservedly and unselfishly. Yet, to a religious conservative this is essentially “socialism”. It’s allegedly unfair. But isn’t Christianity about giving, loving, and helping those who cannot help themselves? These are the principles I try my best to live by as a practicing Christian.

But I’m neither Republican or Democrat. I’m neither liberal nor conservative because I think there are good points to both sides. On one hand I could be considered conservative because I am in favor of small government and free enterprise. But I could also be considered liberal because I’m a firm believer in universal health care (no, not Obama-care because it seems woefully inadequate to the task), free higher education and a $14.00 per hour minimum wage. We all know that the two-party US political monopoly lacks faith and morals. They envy the rich, and all of that rhetoric the “good” Christian Republicans use against people, yet none of it is true. Yet there they sit, a walking contradiction. A party who supports faith in God above anything and policies that favor greed over everything.

The Jesus I worship is a man who we should all strive to become because he is the Son of the Living God. Jesus was a man who didn’t casually judge people, who stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, who never felt slighted or that life was unfair. Jesus was wary of people who spoke of God on their lips but lacked true faith in their hearts. He was a man who embraced everyone, even those who disagreed with him. A man who personified everything mankind should be. As for those conservatives, who knows what man they worship. If the policies they support are reflective of the faith they follow, it sure isn’t Christianity and that man sure wasn’t Jesus.

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