Category Archives: inspirational

I will be back next week. Here’s a guest post for you. Enjoy!

Today’s guest column is from David Allan of CNN. Weekly commentary will return next week.
Which side of ourselves will prevail?

By © David G. Allan, CNN; November 16, 2016

Story highlights

  • Every day, we have the opportunity to embrace a darker path or to act in a helpful and hopeful way
  • Anger is often triggered by other emotions such as fear, rejection or desperation

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one’s life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.

 

(CNN) “A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his grandson. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves, one good and one bad”. So goes a version of a traditional Cherokee legend (or a modern Billy Graham story).

The first wolf embodies emotions and vices such as hate, greed, arrogance, dishonesty, anger, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf represents values and virtues such as peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion.

The grandson considers the metaphoric battle and asks, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

 

This struggle is ours. Every day, we have the opportunity to embrace a darker path or to act in a more helpful and hopeful way.

The same struggle is sometimes evident in entire nations, which can be deeply divided along a number of overlapping fault lines: political, socioeconomic, racial, gender.

This story holds a mirror up to ourselves, individually and collectively. And we should take a long look in it. If we’re honest about the struggle and understand it more, we can begin feeding one wolf over the other.

 

Starve one wolf

The feeling of anger or the impulse of greed is often triggered by other emotions such as fear, rejection or desperation. Often, we’re not even aware that secondary emotions like anger have a deeper root cause. “Fear is the path to the dark side,” Yoda explains in one of the “Star Wars” films. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

The first step in managing your emotions is simply being more aware of them. Ask yourself what triggers them. Look at your life experience for clues to how you react.

And of course, in some circumstances, anger and even hate are justified, perhaps useful. We should be angry at disparity. We should hate injustice.

 

But whether an emotion is justified or not, negative emotions often lead to negative actions. If you take a primary feeling like fear or uncertainty and avoid turning that into hate, you are less likely to act in a hateful way. Embrace the feelings, but guide them toward the good.

“I can’t choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it,” explained the late Andy Rooney, the Yoda of television news magazines.

You are also in control of your social and media influences. If you are barraged with messages of hate and bitterness, they will more easily impinge on your self-control. It’s important to stay informed, but be wary of listening to those who are in the business of feeding angry wolves.

 

Feed the other wolf

 

Staying in a positive and empathetic head-space is challenging, especially in times of stress, but again, being mindful of your emotions is vital.

And just as hatred and closed-mindedness can eventually lead to acts of violence, love often leads to acts of peace and kindness.

Committing ourselves to sustaining such action is the way to personal and institutional progress. Seek out and employ strategies to staying committed to something over time, whether it’s the repetition-and-reward of a new habit or the tracking of a New Year’s resolution.

 

What feeding the good wolf looks like, practically, can include these actions:

Send a positive message. Whether it’s on your Facebook feed or in conversations, communicate the good, the hope, the love.

Get involved. Give money or time, as you can, to a cause or effort that will use it to amplify positive change. It doesn’t need to be political, either; it could be supporting public media or improving the environment or literacy, or an organization supporting folks who need financial help or are sick.

Share love. Make a list of 12 people in your life and check them off as you express in a conversation, email or letter how important they are to you.

Listen. We all need to be heard. Take a little more time and really give your attention to others. Listening is love, and it naturally creates bonds of empathy and support.

Help someone you know. Identify one person among your friends and family who is particularly struggling, and understand more about what they need and how you can help.

Be kind to strangers. Kindness is contagious, a fact backed by real science. Be a patient zero to everyone you come across.

Add to this list, and share. Come up with more things you can do to increase the total amount of goodness and positivism in the world, do some of those things and share those ideas with others.

 

We can fix everything that’s wrong with us by what’s right with us. And to crib another presidential campaign line, we are the change we’ve been waiting for.

 

Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column by subscribing here.

This call to action is echoed by a lyric in the song “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson, who arguably struggled with his own inner wolves. “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

 

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Free book excerpt #22 from Web pastor, author and blogger Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Five years in the making, this first of a series is a lot more than just a compilation of Bible studies. This collection of Paul’s writings presents them from a broader perspective that are much more applicable to modern life than one might expect. Each study is limited to a few pages for the sake of brevity. This study of Paul’s writings is done from a whole new 21st century perspective that is sure to educate while making the process enjoyable. Over 550 pages of enlightenment! A must-read for believers, whether they attend church or not! An inspirational guide for secular folks too! Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

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Building On The Foundation Of Christ

[1st Corinth. chapter 3]

This week’s Bible study of the writings of the apostle Paul will be on the third chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In this passage of Scripture, Paul is teaching about building on the foundation of Christ as a way to avoid divisions within the church, and he is doing so in the context of the state of the early Church at that time. Paul is addressing specific issues that had been brought up previously by this congregation, presumably regarding certain disagreements and arguments that had sprung up among them. In the early part of this chapter Paul finds himself having to rebuke this congregation for their lack of unity due to disputes among them concerning their views on what it meant to be Christian. We will begin at the first verse as usual.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’, and another, ‘I follow Apollos’, are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 1-9)

As you can see, Paul is telling the early Corinthian church to grow up, stop fighting among themselves and to quit acting like children in the faith. Paul is admonishing them to become more mature in their faith as God first intended. But he is also saying that it doesn’t matter how they first heard the Gospel being preached or from who they heard it. What is important is that the Gospel originates from God, not from mere men. Jesus is the message, and we are the messengers. Paul then refers to a well-known Old Testament verse, “One man plants, another man waters, but it is God who gives the increase”, stating, “…for we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”, with another translation of ‘building’ in this context being ‘storehouse’ or ‘barn’. Paul is saying that all blessings come from God, and He can send even enough to fill up any storehouse. Paul then continues in verse 10.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3: 10-17)

When Paul says “I laid a foundation as an expert builder”, he is speaking in the context of himself being the founder of the church at Corinth. He then states definitively that anyone building on his foundation had better not use any combustible materials, referring to the Old Testament, which calls God a “consuming fire”. This was written as a warning to the church against the pursuit of material gain and the hoarding of money and goods. This same warning is just as valid to the church today as it was when those words were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. Paul then adds that putting too much faith in our earthly works and treasures won’t necessarily prevent us from getting to heaven when we die, but it will be the same as escaping from a fire with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It was also a warning that Christ is the only true foundation upon which the Church is built, and that anything less is impure at best, and heresy at worst. Finally, Paul compares the early church to a new temple of the Lord in which He can dwell, and he reminds us that, “…God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” Paul then concludes the chapter beginning at verse 18 by completing his warning to keep the church on the foundation of Christ.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile’. So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 18-23)

To put this into 21st century English, Paul is warning the church, “Don’t kid yourselves. People who think they are smart aren’t as smart as they would like to think. In the end, everything belongs to God. Anything that is not consumed in His consuming fire, will stand the test of time and be permanent. Everything else is just temporary anyway.” And I believe Paul is telling us these things to make sure we keep our values in perspective, so we can be more spiritual and less superficial. This is a good thing for all of us to put into practice, so let’s all start to do this today. That way we’ll be able to advance the state of all our lives as we transition into tomorrow.

Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

To buy direct from the author ($19.95) go to http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Get it in audio format on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

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Free book excerpt #20 from blogger and author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Sole Survivor: One Man’s Testimony for Christ, by Rev. Paul J. Bern, rated 4.3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com!

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0

Sole_Survivor

Sole Survivor

The next time I had an encounter with God – which interestingly enough never occurred when I was in church – was about a year later. By this time the abuse that had been going on had gradually gotten worse. The animosity between my parents and myself had grown a lot right along with it, and the beatings had become more frequent. I remember hating not just my parents, but my entire family situation as well as detesting school. Quite frankly, I was bored nearly to the point of insanity with school. Second grade was a rehashing of first grade, third grade a rehashing of the second, and so on, as if we needed to learn everything twice in order to grasp its meaning. I have heard some talk and read on the Internet about the “dumbing down” of America primary and secondary schools. Well, this has been going on ever since the 1960’s at least, and probably even before that. It’s just that no one noticed it at first because it began so gradually. To this day, education reform has been one of the causes I have undertaken in my adult life.

By the time I was age nine I had decided to take matters into my own hands. So I prayed to God and I told him, “Lord, I can’t stand my home life any more. But I can’t leave because I have no where to go (at this time it was during the winter, and Ohio winters can get very cold). If you won’t do something to make my dad go away or to get him off my back, then I will be forced to defend myself when the time comes”. At the time I got no reply at all, and I remember being concerned that God hadn’t heard my prayer. I had been saving the small weekly allowances my parents would give me, 25 cents here and 50 cents there, that sort of thing. And so I resolved in my mind that I was going to settle things between my parents and myself once and for all by spending what I had saved on a cheap handgun and shooting my parents. Fortunately, at the time I prayed this misguided prayer I barely had a third of the money I would have needed to buy a cheap 22 caliber handgun, and I had also forgotten to include the cost of ammunition, not to mention the fact that I was only nine years old. But I will tell you without a doubt that I was serious about wanting to kill my adoptive/foster father because I was very afraid of him. I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with him. I recall that the consequences didn’t matter much to me at that time. As before, fortunately, I never got to carry out my dad’s assassination. But it is what occurred a couple of years later that made me understand why such a heinous act would be unnecessary. It was not just because it would have been a grievous sin and a capital crime. It was because God wanted to show me that I wasn’t alone, and that He was standing beside me.

After this prayer with no response, about two and a half years went by. Things were continuing to get gradually worse, and I continued to hate school all the more. I kept waiting for God to do something about my parents, especially my dad, but I saw no sign of change. So I would do things that would get me away from home more often so that my parents and I couldn’t argue about anything. I played in the band at school and took music lessons, and I discovered that I was good at music. I joined the Boy Scouts so I could finally have a chance at having a few friends, and because it was one of the few things my ‘adoptive’ parents would let me do. The rest of the time I was kept cooped up in that little house, and the tension at times was unbearable. One Saturday morning a year or so later some of the boys from the scout troop and a number of their dads went on a 10 mile hike in the Kentucky countryside. My foster/adoptive dad went along too, much to my surprise, since he only occasionally took me anywhere. So we left Cincinnati in a small caravan of cars and drove south down I-75 into Kentucky to our starting point, with our destination being a monastery near the central Kentucky town of Bardstown. I recall that there were about 20 or maybe 25 people altogether. So we started out on our hike together on a mild November day, and we’d been hiking about 3 hours or so when my dad suddenly stopped walking and crouched down on one knee. When one of the men asked him if he was OK, I remember him saying, “I’ve got this pain in my chest”. So we stopped for five or ten minutes and rested before starting out again after my dad said he felt well enough to finish the hike (at this point the monastery was in sight in the distance).

Unfortunately for him, we had only walked a few more steps when my dad abruptly collapsed to the pavement. I remember turning around in complete surprise, only to hear that little soft voice within me that I had heard three years before saying to me, “Now watch what I do for those who wait on me.” It was the same low, soft voice that had told me how I couldn’t possibly imagine what God has in store for me. It was only then that I made the connection to my misguided prayer nearly three years earlier about shooting my parents, a prayer that by this time I had almost given up on. Even though God saw fit to wait until just after my 12th birthday, I saw my dad collapse into a heap on the ground and I stood there and watched him die. God took my dad’s life to prevent me from attempting to do any such thing myself. He knew I would have been making a horrific mistake in my young life long before I ever could have. What I still failed to understand at the time was that God was interceding in my life on a regular basis, and that this happens with all people whether they realize or believe in it or not. God had something really good in store for me. I didn’t realize it at the time because I was still too young to comprehend the insurmountable power of God.

I was in the sixth grade when my dad died, and I remember feeling an enormous sense of relief at his passing. As I began to get older I gradually started doing better from a mental health standpoint, but I still hated school and I stayed bored most of the time. This was also a period in my life where I began drifting away from God. I had never cared for all the ritual, pomp and circumstance of the Catholic masses I was required to attend as a child (in Catholic schools the kids go to mass every day). So I was never really drawn toward the God of the church. It was not until much later that I learned that the true God does not live in buildings, he lives inside human hearts. But long before this occurred, my disconnecting from God as I understood him at the time had already begun to take me down the wrong road. This is usually what happens to people who turn from God like I did.

Get yours on-line directly from the author at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations (tax deductible) for $9.95.

Or, get the e-book ($4.95) on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=n%3A154606011%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

Also available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

For I-books and other Apple users, as well as Kobo, Nook, Fire and more, get yours from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587492

See the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0 Thanks so much! Shalom….

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Free book excerpt #13 from Progressive Christian author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

“Sole Survivor” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in print, digital and audio formats. Offered on Amazon or from our website

 

Sole_Survivor

Sole Survivor

Chapter 5

Restoration by God, Driven Away by Man

I finally got out of jail on the night of December 17th, 1999 after an agonizing 4 month wait to get my court case done and over with. The main thing I remember about that night was how incredibly cold it was. I had been arrested in early fall near the end of September, and all I had on were casual slacks and a polo shirt. After treating myself to a full sit-down dinner at an all-night restaurant across the street from the jail, I was forced to make my way on foot to the nearest place that I was sure would be open all night, which was the community hospital on the suburban east side of Atlanta about 2 or 3 miles away. So off into the freezing cold I went as I hiked over to the hospital. The two main things that motivated me to get there were the lack of outer clothing and the fact that I was already a nervous wreck from having spent those 4 months in jail without the benefit of my bipolar medication. The clinic there – and it barely qualified as such – were giving me 2 different medications that I had never heard of. They did just barely work, but they were a poor substitute for my regularly prescribed ‘meds’. I recall getting to the ER about 3:30 AM that morning. To make a long story short, I spent the next 13 days at an inpatient clinic right down the street from the hospital. While I was there I got stabilized on my regular medications, and I managed to get back in touch with the district manager where I had been working when all this mess first started. I had contacted him when I was first brought to jail, trying to raise some bail money. They could not help me with that, I was told, but my job would be kept open for me until I was released. They stayed true to their word and rehired me upon my release. That Wang Global district manager’s name was James Dean. God bless you, James, wherever you are.

I checked out of the hospital on a blustery Friday afternoon, and I started back to work the following Monday morning. This gives me pause with regards to God’s eternal mercy, the loving way He chastises us but then restores us – but not always immediately, because His timing is always perfect. Did you ever notice that about God? His timing is always letter-perfect and never too late. Had that gone any other way, when I got out of jail I could have immediately become homeless, wandering the streets without a coat when the outside temperature was around 35 degrees, and having lost the new job I had just acquired 5 months before. Instead, and by the grace of God alone, I had landed on my feet and I was able to miraculously pick up where I had left off before all the trouble started. I give Jesus all the credit for my success, and I give him all my praise, thankfulness, and honor!

I worked that entire year, right up until Christmas time. That’s when they laid us off. But it was the way it was done that bothered me the most. One day a month or two beforehand, a 15-passenger van pulled up and parked in front of the office, and these 15 technicians from the Philippines get out and enter the office conference room. The door gets shut behind them, and it isn’t until the next day that the rest of us found out they were there as our replacements. The senior techs, and by this point I was one of them, were instructed to train one of them apiece. One of them said it was unfair, and he refused to train any of them, saying he could make his job last at least a week longer by not having a replacement trained and ready to go. To no one’s surprise, he was fired on the spot, right where he stood, and it didn’t seem to matter to him. To this day I regard this as a good example of what can and should happen to racists in the workplace.

I spent the next six months searching like crazy for a replacement job. Unfortunately, the dot-com financial crash was happening right around this time, and the computer/IT industry had pretty much came to a standstill. So I did what lots of other technical professionals like myself were doing at the time: I went back to school to get my Microsoft certification. I already had my degree, plus an A+ certification and two Dell certifications, so for me the Microsoft certification made sense (remember, this was back in 2001). But instead of making me more marketable like I thought, what few job offers I did have seemed to evaporate. All together I went for over 14 months without drawing a paycheck. My saving grace during this time was that I had substantial savings, otherwise I would surely have been homeless by that time. But homelessness escaped me when I used the small pickup truck that I owned at the time to go to work as a private contractor for a courier company. I had to take a substantial pay cut from the $35.00 per hour I had been making as a Dell service contractor, but by now my savings balance was nearly depleted. By dodging homelessness the way I had, I thought I had dodged a bullet, but I had only delayed the inevitable for a few more years. I will have more to say on that in the next chapter.

This book is available on-line from Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations (free shipping, tax deductible) for $12.95.

Or, get it on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=n%3A154606011%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

Get it in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0 Thanks so much!

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Free book excerpt #12 from pastor and Progressive Christian author Rev. Paul J. Bern

“The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Find out more by clicking here

Which Is Better, Being Lawful Or Being Faithful?

[Galatians chapter 3, verses 1-14]

As we begin this week’s study we’ll be looking at the first half of Galatians chapter three. In it the apostle Paul continues to take the church at Galatia to task because of certain heretical teachings that were going on at the time. Newly converted Gentile Christians were intermingling with newly converted Jews who embraced Christ as the Jewish messiah. Evidently the non-Jews were being instructed by unnamed Jewish converts to practice and live their new faith while also adopting the Jewish customs of their new brethren in Christ Jesus. Paul continues with his blistering criticism of this practice as we begin at verse one.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’. [Genesis 15:6] Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance of Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’. [Genesis 12:3] So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal. 3, verses 1-9)

Here we see Paul summing up his point in one sentence when he wrote, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Since the observation of the Law of Moses – the first five books of the Old Testament – was fulfilled by the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Paul is simply stating that to continue observing the Old Law and its customs is both pointless and unnecessary. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the embodiment of the new law, replacing the old. After spending all the time converting them and teaching them and founding a church, Paul is clearly exasperated with the church at Galatia because they had strayed from what he taught them was the Spiritual foundation of that church, none other than Jesus himself. It is not possible to obtain salvation through Christ by our good works alone, although it is good that we all do so whenever and wherever we can. We can do so only two ways according to Scripture; the first is by maintaining a totally committed faith in Christ and his Salvation, and the second is by grace that God bestows upon us through his Son. Grace is defined as unmerited favor, the spiritual equivalent of a free pass. Even though none of us deserves it due to our sins, grace is given to us freely as a token of God’s love for us when we accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. So if you ever need evidence that God really does love you, just think about His grace as you bask in its warm light. If you are already a believer, just focus on that in your mind. And if you aren’t yet a believer, now would be a good time to become one. Simply ask Jesus to come and live inside your heart, and to stay there forever.

The other thing the apostle Paul explains (or more likely reiterated) to the church at Galatia is the concept of unity between Jew and Gentile when he wrote, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith”… Paul is clearly citing this as another reason to put away the traditions of old and replacing them with the then-new concept of Jesus Christ as the Jewish and Gentile messiah and as the Son of God. If any of you read my studies on the book of Romans, Paul touched on that same topic when he wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of Son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ …” (Romans 8: 15-17) So you see, Paul was literally telling the Galatian congregation that they were already adopted into the family of God, and that there was nothing extra or special that they needed to do to join the family. Moreover, since our adoption into God’s eternal family is through Jesus Christ, whose lineage can be traced all the way back to God, that makes us all Jewish by adoption just as it says in Romans. I don’t know about you, but I find the prospect of being an adopted Jew quite appealing. If that is the genealogy of my Lord and Savior, then that is good enough for me. Let’s continue now and conclude today’s study beginning at verse ten.

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ [Deut. 27:26] Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’. [Habakkuk 2:4] The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them’. [Lev. 18:5] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.‘ [Deut. 21:23] He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3, verses 10-14)

The apostle Paul repeatedly quotes the Old Testament – or more accurately the Law of Moses, which was still very much the religious tradition of that time in that part of the world – in order to finish making his point. Paul’s literacy was the exception rather than the rule in those days, and he uses his educational level to his advantage right here. Clearly, Paul writes, “ … no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’…”. This is the crux of the matter, which is that no one can enter into God’s kingdom – or the third heaven, as Paul called it – based on their good deeds and legalistic achievements. The only way to salvation is through our uncompromising and undiluted faith in the saving power of the blood of Christ. There is no other way by which any of us may enter heaven, and there are no exceptions allowed based on the teachings of Christ. If anyone tries to tell you any different, get away from those people and those churches because they are teaching a false doctrine, and they will be held accountable. But it is the truth, Jesus said, that will make you free, and anyone who is free in Him is truly and irrevocably free. And that’s the best news of all.

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Is End Time Prophecy Real or Not?

Setting the Record Straight Regarding

the ‘Pre-tribulation Rapture’

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Jesus in the clouds

This week I have undertaken the task of setting the record straight about the so-called “pre-tribulation Rapture”, and how this belief is being disseminated on alternative and social media in a way that I suspect to be erroneous. Although my opening sentence may seem judgmental to some, that’s not my intention at all. Any fool can mask their foolish and rash nature behind a judgmental spirit, but this week’s commentary is more of an appeal and an outreach to all those who are seeking the truth about all this speculation about “the Rapture”. It turns out this is critically important information to possess.

The origin of the ‘pre-tribulation Rapture’ can be found in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13-18, and continuing into 1st Thessalonians 5, verses 1-3. It reads as follows: “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 the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are left alive, who are left by the coming of the Lord, will certainly not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with 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 the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now, brothers, about times and dates we need not write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

Like the apostle Paul who wrote the quote above, I too am unwilling that anyone should lack knowledge of the truth, knowing that the Bible is in fact the ultimate definition of truth. By the way, the apostle Paul’s term “those who fall asleep”, is an ancient expression of the dying process. Paul’s next sentence is telling – “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.” This, my dear readers, is the very essence of the Christian faith, and it defines the payoff for unwavering faith in Jesus. Anyone who does not believe Jesus died on the cross and then rose again on the morning of the third day does not have eternal life in and through him. Period, end of story!! Those of you reading this who do not yet believe, well, you have yourselves a decision to make – an affirmative decision for Christ Jesus our Lord!! Don’t take too long thinking it over, either, because – as you all will soon see by reading this – we are rapidly running out of time.

While people are saying, “peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Interestingly enough, the United Nations has decreed the year 2017-2018 as the “Year of Peace”. Now let me share another quote about the Great Tribulation period from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and I quote: “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolation’s have been decreed. 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.” As you can see by the text I used, the Book of Daniel is a deeply prophetic book, one of the most prophetic in the entire Bible IMHO. Although it is a complex book on several levels, let me cut to the chase right here for the sake of brevity and simplicity. “One ‘seven’” is a reference to a command given by the Lord to the ancient Israelites who had taken possession of the Land of Canaan, to let the land lie fallow every seventh year in order to give it a chance to replenish itself of minerals and other nutrients (see Leviticus 25, verses 1-7). This was, after all, an entirely agrarian economy.

The “ruler who will come” is none other than the Antichrist himself. His confirmation of a “covenant for one ‘seven’” is the stipulation of his ‘authority’ for the seven years that he will rule the earth. Although there is insufficient space here to explain this, the 7-year rule of the Antichrist will commence at the end of World War Three (see Ezekiel chapters 7, 38 and 39, as well as Revelation 18 for the full story on that). The Antichrist, not surprisingly, will rule from Jerusalem, since America will have been attacked but not entirely destroyed (see again Ezekiel 7 and Revelation 18). But at this point the USA will have ceased from being a world power, and the US dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency. He will rule for the first half of his seven-year reign because he will build the Third Temple and allow Old Testament-style animal sacrifices to be performed there. But due to many loud objections to the sacrifices of helpless animals, at the mid-point of his reign the Antichrist will order the sacrifices to be stopped so that he should be worshiped as God in the Third Temple. This is the “abomination that causes desolation” Daniel wrote about, and Jesus quotes from that very verse in Matthew 24, which we’ll get to in just a minute.

In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” The Bible specified this because it is at this mid-point in the Great Tribulation period that the Rapture of the true Church, which is also called ‘the Bride of Christ’, actually takes place. To prove that we’re all still going to be here for the first part of the Great Tribulation, allow me to show you several verses from Revelation, the last book in the Bible, and I quote: “Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for 42 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 are not 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.” (Revelation 13, verses 4-9)

“Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” If military operations are going on in the Last Days we live in, and they certainly are today, this most likely is a reference to a global military force that has no boundaries in a world where the sovereignty of nations is no longer observed. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this sounds and reads like global government to me. ‘The Beast’, then, is obviously the enforcement arm of the military forces of the Antichrist. “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for 42 months.” Forty two months is exactly 3 and a half years, representing the final period of rule by the Antichrist, the infamous world dictator who will declare himself to be God incarnate. What he will be instead is the devil incarnate, someone to be despised and vigorously opposed by all the true Christian believers of the world! Conversely, the length of Jesus’ ministry here on earth was also 3 ½ years.

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.” OK people, right here is the first example of the proof I mentioned above regarding the timing of the Rapture of the Bride of Christ. If the Church has already been ‘raptured’ away before the Tribulation starts, or at its beginning, then how come the Antichrist can make “war against the saints”? He can’t make war against the true believers if they’re no longer here, so obviously during the earlier part of the 7-year Tribulation period the Christian believers will still be on earth. This also means that, as a result of the refusal of the True Believers to accept the mark of the beast, the number of his name or to worship his image, Christians will have to set up large underground networks to obtain food, shelter, and in many cases for their own safety. Christianity as a Church and as a belief system will have to go underground in order to survive during this extraordinarily dangerous time, and all the children will have to be home-schooled. But if the parents explain these things to their children, the children will understand they are part of something much bigger than themselves, and they will embrace it wholeheartedly if encouraged. The Spirit of the Lord will make it so!

And now for the third and last part of this week’s commentary, to find out if Christian believers will have to endure part of the Great Tribulation – and the persecution that will surely accompany it – let’s go straight to the source and read what Jesus had to say about this very topic, and I quote: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and be 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 many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24, verses 9-14)

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and be put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” OK, if the Rapture of the Church is supposed to happen before the Great Tribulation starts, then why did Jesus tell the apostles we (including themselves) will be persecuted and put to death? Obviously both can’t be happening at once, that makes no sense. The answer is exactly what the prophet Daniel foretold. At the midpoint of the 7-year reign of the Antichrist, when the sacrifices to God are forcibly stopped and he sets himself up in the yet-to-be-built Third Temple as the personification of God, that’s when God puts his foot down and says, “That’s it!! I am finished with you!!”. But before he initiates the punishment of humankind for worshiping the beast, his image or the number of his name, and for following the False Prophet, he will first take his Bride out of harm’s way. That’s when the True Church will be taken up, and so to be with the Lord forever. Therefore, as the apostle Paul wrote, “encourage one another with these words”.

Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Is there an increase in wickedness today? You better believe there is! Has the love of many grown cold as a result? Without a doubt – people today often stay single because they have a hard time trusting others due to negative experiences in their past relationships. By the same token, people’s love for God, for Jesus and all he represents, and their compassion and empathy for others has also run cold. Besides the reasons I already stated, this is because everyone today is so financially strapped that they don’t even have the ability to help the less fortunate even if they really want to – as they should. So everyone is scared of giving, scared of loving, and scared of trusting. This truly is a sorry state of affairs for us to be in. But as verse 14 says, once the Gospel is preached throughout the earth, then – and only then – the end of the age will come. Not the end of the world, mind you. The earth isn’t going to collide with another planet, so you can put those fears to rest! But the end of the world as we have known it will end. This will be a world without wars, a world where companies operate as either nonprofits, co-ops or employee-owned businesses, a world where higher education and medical care are all free of charge, and where economic parity or equality will be the law of the land! And Jesus will be in charge of it all from the world’s new capital city, Jerusalem! But we have to go through a storm first, the likes of which none of us has ever seen before. But if we hold on together and ride this storm out, eternal peace and tranquility awaits us on the other side!

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Multiple Hurricanes and God’s Fury

Hurricanes Are In the Bible, and So Is America’s Judgment

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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walking on water

Hurricanes are arriving as twins! Soon they may arrive in three’s, I don’t know. Hopefully we should be reminded to stop and see what the Bible says about things like this. After all, to have so many storms happening at once is most unusual. Here are a few scriptures to seek God about, starting with two of the major prophets from the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Isaiah. In this first example from Jeremiah 23, verses 17-20 it says, “They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘ The Lord says, ‘You will have peace’ , and to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord, to see or hear his word? Who has listened and heard his Word? See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purpose of his heart. In the days to come you will understand it clearly.”

 

Here in the 2nd example from Isaiah 40, verses 21-24 the Word of the Lord reads, “Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God – the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent before them. He judges the people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They barely get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and their work withers. The wind carries them off like straw.” Every few years, or maybe another decade or so, another hurricane comes along and really clobbers the southeastern and Gulf coasts of the US. Soon after, the rebuilding process starts, often taking many years, and everything is fine until the next one comes along, which restarts the whole cycle yet again. Isn’t this exactly what the Bible was talking about? Of course it is!

Jeremiah 25: 32 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Look! A disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.” Storms have come and gone before, America is only the latest target selected by God. But why America, and why now? Just think about it for a minute – even if some disagree with what I’m about to write. This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but the ugly truth is that America as a country stands judged by God. Our country is the world’s largest exporter of armaments and weapons of every kind, we produce by far the most pornography, and we have the largest rates of murder and incarceration in the world. We are the world’s largest polluter of the air, water and soil. In fact, the United States is systematically poisoning the entire planet! We have by far the world’s largest and most formidable military, and when we send our sons and daughters overseas to fight America’s illicit wars, fully 20% of them return as psychiatric basket cases. The reason for this is that they have witnessed killing on a scale so massive that it is beyond their comprehension. Forced outside the scope of their experiences, some of these well-meaning individuals simply never make it back home again. Their brains are still off somewhere else, fighting a battle that only exists in between their ears. This, my dear readers, is what war does to people! It shatters the human psyche beyond repair, which is why we must be vigorously opposed to warfare! Ban war forever!

So it is for these reasons that God has brought, and will continue to bring, judgment upon this country for its crimes, and judgment on those people who stand with her as she does so! Is this insufficient for anyone? Does anybody need still more reasons why God would punish America? We have more abortions than any other country. One fourth of our children are currently homeless. For most of them, their free school lunch is the only food they have access to. Institutionalized racism still abounds in the US and nothing is being done about it. Our banking system is completely fraudulent and flies in the face of Scriptures (see Exodus 22: 25-27, etc.). 99% of America’s wealth is in the hands of the top 1% of its citizens, and inequality is out of control as a result. Our country is populated by materialistic people who are addicted to their phones, to drugs or alcohol, or to pornography, gambling, or binge watching their big screen TV’s while they sit on their couches mesmerized by trite events outside the scope of reality. And if that’s not enough for them, there’s always Virtual Reality that they can play instead. We have become like demanding little spoiled brats who insist on being entertained 24-7!

Unfortunately for all these people, and what the majority of them haven’t even stopped to consider, is that when we are engaged in all these activities our attention is turned away from the One who made us, who watches over us daily while being like a dad for those who have none, and who loves us intensely – believe it or not! Our attention to all the things I mentioned above diverts us away from paying attention to God. Moreover, those who are doing any or all the other things I mentioned are ignoring God and his guidance, and have no relationship with Jesus Christ who saved their very souls! These intense and powerful hurricanes – and there will be plenty more, mark my words – are a warning and a judgment from God! We are to stop living only for ourselves and start living for others! Otherwise, America will be struck by still more disasters in the weeks, months and years to come. What we should be doing instead is devoting all our spare time to serving Christ by service to others. Jesus did just that in Matthew’s gospel chapter 8, verses 23-27, and I quote: “Then he got into the boat, and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’

The disciples knew they were in a situation with no clear exit, that they were caught in a storm from which they could not escape. Like those currently stuck in Florida without the means to escape hurricane Irma, or those in Texas with Harvey, all they can do is seek help from the Lord, and to ask for his mercy upon us. Notice that Jesus was asleep during all but the last few moments of the fierce storm before saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”, before he calmed the storm. I think that’s what Jesus wants to tell everyone in Florida and Georgia. Only He can rebuke the wind and the waves. Even the wind and the waves have sense enough to obey Him. Shouldn’t we?

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There Will Be a Guest Blogger This Week

While I’m away at the Piedmont Park Summer Arts Festival, I’ll be trying something new by having a guest blogger submit a post for just this weekend. So sit back and enjoy this 2014 article from Flickr contributor Ashley Campell (cross-posted by Rob Winters) on the nature of prophetic ministry and its notable importance. The first thing I need to do here is to define the word ‘prophetic’ in terms that are appropriate for Christianity. It does not mean, ‘to tell the future’. That is how the Occult defines that word, and you can be sure the Occult and Christianity have nothing at all in common! ‘Prophetic’ in Christian terms simply means to declare the Word of God in such a way that applies to the here and now. We carry out this task by relying on the Bible as our main reference from which to derive that prophetic Word. The guest posting below explains how we all can do this for our mutual benefit, as well as the benefits thereof.

7 Characteristics of Authentic Prophetic Ministry

11/19/2014 by Rob Winters, Power of God Ministries

cross posted from (Flickr/Ashley Campbell)

Nothing less than a Third Great Awakening will rescue the Bride from the quagmire of apostasy in which we have found ourselves sinking. It is therefore imperative that authentic church leaders emerge to awaken the body and spearhead rescue efforts. Much has been written regarding the restoration of modern day prophets and apostles and their leadership role in the church, yet some crucial responsibilities of these offices have either been overlooked or ignored.

 

For example, many prophets have succumbed to the body’s insatiable lust for personal prophecy and prosperity—speaking only what our itching ears long to hear instead of what our depraved hearts need to hear. Consequently, the household of God at large is on shaky ground, having huge cracks and cavities in its foundation. Devoid of righteousness and justice, many have been bewitched into adopting a gospel of boundless grace and have unwittingly plunged into the depths of hedonism and narcissism—all in the name of a loving and merciful God (Psalms 11:3; 89:14).

 

It is therefore crucial in this hour that the church embrace authentic prophetic and apostolic ministers whose respective roles encompass restoring righteousness and justice to our foundation. While many today are focusing on the restoration of apostles, it is important that we take a step back and reexamine the comprehensive role of the prophet. Although there are differences regarding some aspects of Old and New Testament prophetic ministry, there are elemental truths that can be resurrected from the Biblical account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple under Zerubbabel (Eph. 2:19-22).

 

During Israel’s captivity, Zerubbabel and a remnant of Israelites were commissioned by Persian King Cyrus to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. After two years of rebuilding efforts, the Israelites ceased working on the temple for a period of 14 years due to Samaritan opposition. At this juncture the Lord sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to confront the Israelites. The result was their wholehearted re-engagement in rebuilding the temple, which they completed in only four years. What did these two prophets say or do to turn about this complacent remnant? Will the Lord commission His prophets today to awaken a sleeping church, and catalyze the body to rebuild our crumbling foundations? Let’s pray so (Ezra 5:1-2).

The following seven characteristics of authentic prophetic ministry can be gleaned from this account.

 

  • A Call to Repentance – In his address to the Israelite remnant, Haggai challenged them to consider their ways, specifically their complacency regarding the Lord’s house and their zeal regarding their own houses and possessions. Sound familiar? Similarly, Zechariah confronted their apostasy, encouraging them to repent and return to the Lord. Without a doubt, this type of bold confrontation of sin must first be heralded from our pulpits before we will ever witness the depth of profound repentance necessary to turn the church around and the world upside down (Hag. 1:2-9, Zech. 1:3-4).

  • The Voice of the Lord – Haggai’s account indicates that the entire remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet. In an age when so many claimed to speak in behalf of God, Haggai made a distinction between the Lord’s words and his own words. Today, the church is facing the same dilemma. Not all who say, “Thus saith the Lord,” speak for the Master. Some prophesy as a means to gain popularity and prosperity or to promote their pet doctrine. Therefore, it is crucial that the eyes, ears and heart of the body are conditioned to distinguish between the voice of the Master and that of a charlatan (Hag. 1:12).

  • The Fear of the Lord – Authentic prophetic ministry is also accompanied by the spirit of the fear of the Lord, producing genuine repentance and radical obedience. Haggai’s and Zechariah’s ministries yielded this kind of fruit, and so must prophetic ministries today. Like Jesus, prophets who delight themselves in the fear of the Lord partake of that same spirit by dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. Without the spirit of the fear of the Lord, preaching repentance has about the same effect as brow beating.

  • Stirs Up the Remnant – Haggai’s preaching “stirred up the spirit” of the entire remnant, inspiring them to resume rebuilding the house of the Lord. Authentic prophetic ministry should “cut to the heart,” provoking a passionate response to the Word of the Lord. Unfortunately, over the past 40 years the majority of American Christians have turned a deaf ear to the Lord’s command to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. Consequently, we have found ourselves in a spiritual wilderness and our land is in need of much healing (Hag. 1:14; 2 Chron. 7:14).

  • Prospers the Remnant – The book of Ezra records, “the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel.” Although much of modern Christendom associates prosperity with wealth, the Old Testament word for prosperity means “to break out mightily” or “push forward.” Authentic prophetic ministry enables us to boldly break out of the bondages and eliminate the excuses that keep us from pushing forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Ezra 6:14; 2 Chron. 20:20).

  • Ever-Increasing Glory – Those among the remnant who were old enough to remember Jerusalem’s former temple wept over the new temple because it was most inferior. Nevertheless, Haggai prophesied that the glory of the latter temple would be greater than the former. Similarly, in these last days, while cathedrals remain dormant, our chapels and tents will be filled with hungry people seeking and finding the glory of God (Hag. 2:6-9).

  • The Burden of the Lord – Two of the three biblical references of the phrase “the burden of the Word of the Lord” are found in Zechariah. Much of prophetic ministry today is associated with man’s private agenda instead of God’s purposes—a product of what is on men’s hearts instead of what is on God’s heart. Conversely, authentic prophetic ministry begins with a burden from the Lord that finds expression through soul travail and a burning word from heaven that cannot be contained. That burden only comes by dwelling in the secret place with the Most High (Zech. 9:1, 12:1; Jer. 20:9).

Father, restore authentic prophetic ministry to Your church, that we might be awakened from our slumber, shaken out of our complacency and inspired to radically carry out Your purposes in the earth. Commission Your prophets, that they might carry Your burden, preach repentance and restore righteousness to Your church’s foundation, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Rob Winters is president of Prepare the Way International, an itinerant prophetic ministry based in Glendale, Arizona. He is author of numerous books, including Turning America Back to God and Prophets and Prophetic Ministry. For more information, visit his website at preparethewayint.com.

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Free book excerpt #8 from Author and Pastor Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To watch a short video about the book, click here

 

 Preparing Ourselves For the Day of the Lord

[1st Thessalonians chapter 5]

When I closed out 1st Thessalonians chapter four last week, you no doubt recall my interpretation that we are to be living each day of our lives as if it will be our last. I cannot overemphasize this important truth, nor is it possible to diminish its importance. God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say, and for a man like myself being in a position of Christian leadership, I am held to a higher standard by the Lord, because what applies to church members applies to me twice as much. Plus, as our Lord’s return for his Church continues to get ever closer, I fervently hope that others will follow my example and be continually readying themselves for His coming. And this, my dear readers, is a goal worth attaining at any time. It is at this point that the apostle Paul takes up where he left off, starting at the beginning of chapter five.

Now, brothers, about times and dates we need not write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1st Thessalonians 5, verses 1-11)

Paul paints a vivid picture of the coming of the Lord. Of course, one might ask if this is pertaining to the rapture of the church, or to the Lord’s triumphant return three and a half years later (see the Book of Daniel chapter 12, etc). If you are one of those who has studied the rapture, the tribulation and the signs that we are living in the end times (never mind what you may have seen on TV or at the movies), then it is essential that we understand what Paul meant here. When he wrote, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, I believe this warning was meant primarily for the Church. Be ready, watch and pray that we receive purification from the Holy Spirit, so that as members of the Bride of Christ we may be found “without spot or blemish”.

While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…”. According to prophecy, before the Antichrist can come to power, World War 3 will have to occur first (also known as the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 39 and 39). There will also have been a series of natural disasters that will have occurred by this point in time (I don’t have time to explain that part in detail, so please bear with me). People will be clamoring globally to be free to live in peace, and to be safe from natural disasters; “… and they will not escape” can be translated into modern English as saying, “Total destruction will overpower them without warning, and they won’t stand a chance”. Nobody knows exactly what this means since all those other events have not yet occurred, and speculation would be counterproductive. All I can tell you is that the Antichrist will be in power for a total of seven years, and that one of his first acts will be to negotiate the peace treaty that ends World War 3. All the countries involved will adhere to this peace agreement for three and a half years. At that point the Antichrist will do something that breaks that same peace deal while elevating himself to something supposedly equivalent to God, as if there were such a thing. It is at this point that the persecution of Christians will greatly increase, and this will be happening in the US as well. This will be the “acid test” for all of those who identify themselves as being Christians. Either we take the mark of the beast and worship the Antichrist as god here on earth, or we refuse and continue to worship Jesus as the Son of God in heaven. Those who do worship Jesus will find themselves being martyred by the forces of the Antichrist. A time is coming when our Christianity will cost us our life. What will you choose? To quote the prophet Jeremiah, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. Since the Lord died on the cross for my sins, I would not have any problem returning the favor, knowing that like himself, he will raise me from the dead to eternal life. We should all be willing to do the same.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Remember who we are in Christ! We are the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We were bought at a very steep price, one that no man would be willing to pay. We were adopted as sons and daughters of Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer, making all of us Jewish by adoption (see Romans 8: 15-17 or Galatians 4: 4-7, among others). We don’t belong to the night and we never did, we were born for the day and for the light from our very conception. “Let’s be alert and self-controlled”, Paul wrote. You won’t be ready to meet the Lord at the rapture if you’re in bed sleeping off a hangover, or after playing video games all night long. As I have said before, it’s time for us all to get our priorities straight. Jesus first, worship him first and always give him top priority in your daily living and you’ll find yourself living with an internal peace that was neither present nor possible before. I’m speaking from experience, and if God can do this for me then he can do so for you too. But we must ask Him first. Sitting around waiting for God to give any of us a hand-out will accomplish nothing, unless one considers wasting time an accomplishment. I most definitely don’t!

God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”. I will sum this up in one sentence – we’re not here to be on the receiving end of the tribulation that Jesus spoke about, but rather we will be protected from it if only we remain faithful to his Word. “If you love me”, Jesus said, “keep my commandments”. Jesus died so that we may have eternal life with him in heaven, a new dwelling place that we have not yet seen. Obeying His commandments is the second prerequisite, believing that he is the Son of God is the first. Having written that, let’s conclude our study starting at verse twelve.

Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1st Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 12-28)

Respect the value of hard work, Paul is saying, and especially those who do so. Dirty hands and sweat can turn an otherwise boring day into a really fun one. This is especially true of the younger men and women who are still able-bodied enough to do so (unfortunately, that is no longer the case with me). Hard physical work is dignified provided that it is done constructively. “Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Build each other up, don’t tear each other down! Make the idle people either get off their butts and get to work or move on and stop standing in the way. It is written in the law of Moses, “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Yet by the same token we are commanded to “be patient with everyone”. Give the slower people a chance to catch up. Better yet, why not donate your time and tutor a few to help them along? Now that would be in keeping with the Holy Spirit of Christ!

“ …always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” Sometimes I think the secular world understands this better than modern churches do today. Immediately after recent natural disasters here in America, there were armies on volunteers that descended on these devastated areas and helped clean up, doing whatever needed to be done. What surprised me was when I found out that up to half of these volunteers don’t bother going to church. Yet they understood the command and answered the calling that God obviously put on them. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Let the Holy Spirit always be in control of everyone, every life, in every situation and in all circumstances. Check out everything you see, hear or read to determine its value, or the lack thereof. Put problem people completely out of your life if that’s what it takes to get free from negative influences and all forms of evil. Hold on to the good and simply let everything else go. Such timeless wisdom!

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Paul closes out by replaying that theme of being found holy and blameless before the Lord, with the understanding that this is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one can do this by themselves, but only through complete reliance on the Holy Spirit can such a noble goal as this be achieved. The key is in the last sentence, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Total reliance on Christ will enable him to cause us to be holy, pure and blameless in the sight of God. Instead of being self-reliant as we are in most situations, we are to step aside and let Christ do the work, not for us but through us as we become willing conduits for his unequaled Spiritual power. That is the ultimate meaning of unity through Christ. Shalom!

 Available in print at

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Many thanks to all!

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Another free book excerpt from Rev. Paul J. Bern

“Sole Survivor” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

A free sample from the book’s author!

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0

Available in print, digital or audio formats on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Apple and Goodreads. To learn more, go to www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations 

 

 

From that day forward, the relationship between my adoptive father and myself was continually adversarial.

My parents both became nearly impossible to please, and I absolutely hated school anyway, so there we were at an impasse. They were always insisting that I get better grades, and I would respond by doing just enough work to get a passing grade. So every so often I would get another whipping with a belt, particularly around report card time. Sometimes it was because I had a lot of behavioral problems at school, other times it was for an unsatisfactory report card, and once for going over to the house of someone I knew from church to listen to their Beatles records (the Beatles were a very big deal during this time). I remember one day I just sat in my room after enduring yet another beating – I don’t remember what it was for but that no longer matters – and cried to the point of sobbing uncontrollably about my whole situation. I was saying, “Why me, Lord? Why does it always have to be me that gets beat with a belt? Is my whole life going to be like this? Is there no way it can get any better?” It was at just that point that I heard what seemed like a soft, low voice. Although not audible in the human sense, it was just barely audible deep down from within me, and it said, “You can’t possibly imagine the things I have in store for you”. I did not realize it at the time, but I had just had my first encounter with the true God. Although I understood the words well enough, I failed to grasp their meaning because I was only about eight years old. But I have always remembered what happened when I was alone in my room that day.

The next time I had an encounter with God – which interestingly enough never occurred when I was in church – was about a year later. By this time the abuse that had been going on had gradually gotten worse. The animosity between my parents and myself had grown a lot right along with it, and the beatings had become more frequent. I remember hating not just my parents, but my entire family situation as well as detesting school. Quite frankly, I was bored nearly to the point of insanity with school. Second grade was a rehashing of first grade, third grade a rehashing of the second, and so on, as if we needed to learn everything twice in order to grasp its meaning. I have heard some talk and read on the Internet about the “dumbing down” of America primary and secondary schools. Well, this has been going on ever since the 1960’s at least, and probably even before that. It’s just that no one noticed it at first because it began so gradually. To this day, education reform has been one of the causes I have undertaken in my adult life.

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