Category Archives: progressive Christian

President Trump’s Belligerence and the Bible: a Study In Contrasts

President Trump’s Christian Supporters Would Get

Offended If I Told Them What Was Really In the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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why dont U just obey
I met a man not too long ago who insisted that the King James Bible is the only legitimate version of the Bible available. As far as he was concerned, all other versions currently in print, including my NIV, NLT and Amplified Bibles were “not from God”. I don’t care to elaborate on this much except to say that I don’t agree with such an egocentric viewpoints as that. All I can do is pray for that man, because there will be no egocentric people in heaven! But I’m using this example to make the point that there are a lot of conservative right-wingers like that individual who have some views about the Bible and Christianity that are totally inconsistent with Scripture. Since these people’s beliefs are in fact totally inconsistent with Scripture, then the question becomes why do religious extremists on the right (and Christianity has lots of them just like the Muslims do) get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support (such as endless wars and inequality)? The answer is simple: Most conservatives have not read the Bible. Not even once! Of the ones who do, an overwhelming number of Christians are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible’s teachings.

On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, Biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of their context or true meaning. What America needs is Christianity without the dogma, and faith without the spiritual pollution of conservative politics. Nondenominational Christianity, with the 2 greatest commandments of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 24, verses 34-39) being first and foremost – and viewed from a nonpolitical perspective – would be far closer to what Jesus originally taught than the ultra-conservative slant being espoused all over the right-wing media today (and a heck of a lot of ‘churches’!). That’s why it’s vital as we live in these Last Days to help the helpless whenever possible. In so doing, we become ambassadors for Christ while living our lives in complete accordance with God’s will instead of our own. It surprises me how little many ‘Christians’ know about what is still the world’s most popular book!

 

So how much do secular Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true (like I do)? Various surveys that I pulled up on the Internet show that 60 percent of Christians can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A 2013 Gallup poll showed 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse. So, if Americans get an F in the basic fundamentals of the Bible, what hope do they have in knowing what Jesus would say about endless wars, the decimation of labor unions, unfair and illegal taxation, universal health care, and Snap benefits? It becomes easy to spread lies when no one knows what the truth is.

 

I think that’s probably why the ‘Christian Right’ is constantly re-branding Progressives and those on the Left – who want free public higher education, Medicare for all and wealth redistribution – into traitors to their country or party just because they disagree. The truth, whether conservatives like it or not, is not only that Jesus was a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors – except when He threw the money changers out of the Temple in Matthew 21, verses 12-13. But, when one reads down a couple more chapters in any of the 4 Gospels, it was the religious conservatives (the Pharisees and Sadduccees) who had Jesus killed! The fact that He rose again on the morning of the third day tells me everything I need to know about Jesus’ view of political conservatives. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus Christ into a muscular macho warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did with Hitler, as a means of combating “terrorism”, which has become a synonym for American world domination.

 

Knowing the Bible requires a contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation. For instance, when Republicans were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program back in 2013, they quoted the 2nd book of Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not! This was taken from a letter written by Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that there were too many people in the congregation that were freeloading off that church. Only a few were doing all the work and making the majority of the financial contributions, and everybody else was just hanging around for the free food (see 2nd Thess. chapter 3, verses 6-15). What Paul did say is that anyone too lazy to work shouldn’t expect anything at dinner time, and that’s just common sense, not politics.

 

What often comes as a surprise to your average Sunday wine-and-cracker Christian is the New Testament did not fall from the sky the day Jesus ascended to Heaven. The New Testament is a collection of writings, 27 in total, of which 12 are credited to the authorship of the apostle Paul, four to the Gospels (Luke also wrote the Book of Acts), and the balance with the remaining apostles. What we do know about Jesus, at least according to the respective gospels, is that Jesus’ sentiments closely echoed the social and economic policies of the political left in the 21st century. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 read like a Progressive Christian mission statement: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called ‘Sons of the living God’.” Jesus also said, “Judge not, or else you shall be judged, for you who pass judgment do the same things yourselves”, and “Sell what you have and give it to the poor, so you can have treasure in heaven” (I’m paraphrasing here). Sounds an awful lot like wealth redistribution to me, a societal woe that urgently needs to be addressed if ever there was one. So when Republicans, our current president included, accuse president Obama and Progressives like myself of being brown-skinned socialists who wants to redistribute the wealth, they meant Jesus, who they would surely crucify if he were to return today!

 

Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed conservative wing-nuts like president Trump to get away with shaping their image to resemble that of Jesus, like Washington is doing us a great big favor by being in charge. That’s why politicians on the right can get away with saying ‘the Lord commands’ that our health care, criminal justice, public schools, retirement pensions and transportation systems, together with all the rest, should be run by corporations for profit. When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for health care, education and the poor, they’re actually channeling atheism. When the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and “the real Alex Jones” insist the poor are worthless, immoral and lazy, that’s not Jesus, it’s atheism! It’s impossible to love God while simultaneously despising his creations! The price this country has paid for biblical illiteracy is measured by how far we’ve moved toward atheism’s “utopia”. In the past three decades, we’ve slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, destroyed labor unions, deregulated financial markets, eroded public safety nets, and committed to one globalist corporate free-trade agreement after another. With the far-right, Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Koch brothers’ Citizens United, the flow of billions of dollars from anonymous donors to the most reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party – the Christian Right – will continue to perpetuate the Biblically incompatible, anti-government, pro-deregulation-of-business, health-care-for-none-but-the-rich, Tea Party American version of Christianity, and I for one have had more than enough!!

 

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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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Las Vegas and the Bible: an Indictment of American Culture

Why We Have Guys Like Stephen Paddock and

Incidents Like the Las Vegas Shooting:

a Spiritual Diagnosis

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

wake_up
All week long, everyone has the same question, especially the police at the local, state and federal levels – why? Why did this man kill 58 people and wound or maim 500 more? What motivated this seemingly mindless mass slaughter? A shooter’s reasons, however sick and twisted, usually become clear within a day or two. A suicide note, a manifesto, a series of social media rants, a phone call – even police reports and court dockets can provide insight into what drives a warped mind to commit such a violent act. Usually, someone close knows something or realizes, in retrospect, that they missed the warning signs. But 64-year-old Stephen C. Paddock flew low under the radar. He avoided interaction with many of the people around him, and his manner was direct and brusque by all accounts. He was known to stay up all night gambling, but it was as if he was the only reveler at his own party.

Clark County Nevada Under-sheriff Kevin C. McMahill seemed almost apologetic Friday afternoon when he told reporters that despite running down some 1,000 leads, investigators still haven’t come up with “credible information” concerning Paddock’s motive. Chasing down all those leads “helped create a better profile into the madness of this suspect,” McMahill said, but “we still do not have a clear motive or reason why.” The previous evening, Sheriff Joe Lombardo summed up the mystery man this way: Paddock “spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood.” But I maintain that much of the mystery surrounding Mr. Paddock’s can be cleared up. What Sheriff Lombardo was lacking, along with most, if not all, of the other investigators, was a Bible. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

You shall not murder….” (Exodus 20: 13). That’s the most obvious example, but there’s more than just this alone. “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery’, ‘Do not murder’, ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not covet’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev. 19:18) Love does no harm to his neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13, verses 9-10) Based on these verses we can conclude that Mr. Paddock was either a person completely devoid of love, or he had completely suppressed all his capacity to love. Yet he had the presence of mind to get his lady friend out of the country with a cool 100 grand before carrying out this diabolical plot of his. I’m no psychiatrist, but it appears Mr. Paddock made a conscious effort to turn off that part of his brain. This is the same as selling one’s soul to the devil, as it is written: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your father you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own, but he has sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.‘” (John 8, verses 42-44)

The law enforcement folks, as I wrote at the beginning of this week’s message, are still asking ‘why?’ everybody was so clueless about this mad assassin. The FBI reportedly has interviewed Mr. Paddock’s girlfriend, who evidently flew back to the US from the Philippines at her own expense, or I should say Mr. Paddock’s, since she undoubtedly had a credit or debit card from Mr. Paddock to defray her expenses, and she apparently knew nothing of her late boyfriend’s intentions. But the words of our Lord and Savior are very clear: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” Remember when the press and the police interviewed Mr. Paddock’s brother? He said at least twice during the interview, “He had no affiliations of any kind, especially not churches, so I can’t imagine what made Steven do this!” So we now get a clearer picture of this man. Though no one is born a murderer, this guy Mr. Paddock evidently turned himself into one gradually, over the years, until he became a cold-blooded killer. He did this to himself, and it appears he did it on purpose. It was a conscious effort on his part. Steven Paddock consciously turn himself into an atrocity so he could commit atrocities, and evidently for sport. In short, Mr. Paddock rented that Las Vegas hotel room because he was going on safari, and his game was human beings. I realize writing this the way I’m doing is not politically correct. I’m not trying to be politically correct. What I am doing is explaining the mass shooting in Las Vegas in Biblical terms.

This all started back in 1962 when the USA took prayer out of her public schools. Stephen Paddock would have been in the fifth grade at that time. Seven years later in 1966, America had its first mass shooting. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former U.S. Marine sharpshooter, took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck atop the Main Building tower at the University of Texas at Austin, then opened fire on persons indiscriminately on the surrounding campus and streets. Over the next 96 minutes he shot and killed fifteen people (including one unborn child) and injured thirty-one others; another victim died in the hospital, and a final victim died in 2001 from the lingering effects of his wounds. The incident ended when police reached Whitman and shot him dead. Mr. Paddock would have in the 11th grade at that time, and he was surely affected by this incident. It may have even planted the seeds in his mind for the Las Vegas mass shooting decades later. But the US Supreme Court banned public prayer in all government buildings – not just schools – due to the Constitutional separation of church and state. Unfortunately for America, this ban has been taken too far.

It was 27 years later, in 1999, when America suffered her first mass shooting in a school, Columbine High School in Colorado. That’s what happens in just one generation when God and his Son, Jesus, together with the Holy Spirit, are forcibly removed from our nation’s schools. You wind up with a bunch of godless, atheistic kids without a conscience – or who can willfully turn theirs off and back on again without remorse, since the end always justifies the means to such people. That’s exactly what Stephen Paddock turned into, and in his case it was clearly voluntary. And why did this occur? There we are, back to the original question yet again. Yet the answer has been staring us right in the face the whole time. We kicked God out of our lives. The ban on prayer in schools back in 1962 was passed with the lobbying of Congress from just a few individuals from the O’Hare family of Pittsburgh, Pa., and later Austin, Texas, a mother (Madelyn) and her two sons. The rest of America sat back and let this happen. America’s churches sat on their hands. Their pastors, bishops and elders railed against the prayer ban from their pulpits, but when the sermon was over, everyone went home to their black & white TV’s. There was some public protesting of the 1962 prayer ban, but not nearly enough! Even back then, people would rather sit and watch television, voluntarily surrendering their brains to an electronic box. They then proceeded to shut off their consciences so that they wouldn’t be bothered no matter how much violence they were looking at. These plastic religious people would rather be entertained than get out in the streets and protest against evil!

So, when you spend the last two generations removing all semblance of prayer or the mention of God, and especially of Jesus, from a society, that society immediately begins to drift away from God. When this was done in America’s schools, we programmed an entire generation against the knowledge of God. We have been drifting morally as a nation for well over half a century at this point, and this is what you get, America! We have done this to ourselves, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. America has forgotten about God! Gun control is not the answer, although mandatory gun registration should be the law of the land. We have similar laws on the books today, but they have too many loopholes. But more than that, we have to put God back in America’s schools if we want to remove the potential for violence. We must allow the love of Christ Jesus to return to our governing bodies and educational system. Otherwise, our ‘society’ will ultimately break down. Last but not least, we need to clean up the violence on America’s TV and movie screens and from the video games you and your children are playing. Turn off your cable TV and stream Christian content on the Internet instead. Get a lot pickier about what you – and especially if there are kids in the house – watch on TV or what video games you’re all playing. There’s an encyclopedia of subliminal messaging contained in those TV shows, commercials and video games – even in movies – that’s designed to program people’s minds. That could be what happened to Mr. Paddock, but it’s likely no one will ever know for sure.

Stephen Paddock, and his predecessors Dylan Klebold at Columbine High and Charles Whitman at UT Austin, were godless human beings, and godlessness leads people to commit atrocities (sorry, but the word ‘tragedy’ just isn’t strong enough). Here in America, it happens most often with guns. In Europe and the Middle East, where gun control is very strict, bombings are the weapon of choice for those who have surrendered willingly to Satan to willfully commit mass murder. In all these cases, as best as I can tell, these individuals had willfully turned off their consciences in order to commit these crimes and atrocities. There is no other explanation. The solution is to address the source of the problem, which is our nation’s schools and the way children are being educated right from Day One. Insert the Prince of Peace into our homes and schools and we will know peace. No Prince of Peace equals no peace.

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Jesus keeps up with the times, but some churches are barely hanging on

Why Technology Is Reinventing

Church As We Have Known It

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Don't Look Back
The celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible was back in 2011, and Bible publishers are still ostentatiously commemorating that landmark by producing an abundance of gorgeous hand-bound versions complete with illustrations – for a premium price, of course. The hoopla is entirely justified, since the King James Bible revolutionized Bible reading, bringing Scripture into a common vernacular for the first time for the English-speaking world. Although I personally use other versions (NIV, NLT, & Amplified), it is not too much to say that the King James Bible – mass produced as it was – democratized religion by taking it out of the hands of the clerical few and giving it to the many, thanks to a cutting edge technology from back then called the printing press.

 

Today, another much bigger revolution in the Church is underway. Today’s technology goes a giant step further, making Scripture – in any language and any translation – accessible to anyone on earth with a decent mobile phone. It need not be a “Smart-phone” anymore, just a basic one with a decent sized screen is all you need. Just like the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation, which was aided by the advent of the printing press and which helped give birth to the King James Bible, changes wrought by new Web-based technology have the ability to expand the reach and scope of the gospel of Jesus Christ like we previously never have. In the face of church leaders who claimed that only they could interpret the Bible for the common people, Reformation leaders like Martin Luther taught that nothing supersedes the authority of the Word itself. “A simple layman armed with Scripture,” Luther wrote, “is greater than the mightiest pope without it.”

 

In that vein, digital technology gives users the text, plain and simple, without the interpretive lens of established authorities. And it lets users share interpretations with other non-authorities, like family members, friends and coworkers. With the Bible on iPhone’s, iPad’s and ‘tablets’ of various kinds, believers can bypass constraining religious structures – otherwise known as denominations and brick-and-mortar churches – in favor of a more individualized connection with God. We can’t see God, and we can’t see the internet visually, yet people who have a hunger and a thirst for God – or at the very least some power greater than themselves – connect with God this way. This website is based on that fact, that there is an emerging new power outlet that we can plug in to that is like a direct link to God. Churches are getting on the Web in droves because they are discovering the same thing. There is an intensity now, a burning desire to bring ourselves as close as we can get to God, because millions of Christians all over the world are beginning to recognize that we are living in the Last Days. There is now a growing sense of urgency to get as many souls into God’s kingdom as can be because we are all running out of time! The more ways we can find to do this, the better.

 

This helps solve a problem that Christian leaders are increasingly articulating; that even among people who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior, too many folks don’t read their Bibles. Here in the 21st century, more than a third of those who self-identify as born-again Christians rarely or never read the Bible. They don’t even own one! Among ‘unaffiliated’ people – that is, Americans who don’t belong to a religious congregation – more than two thirds say they don’t read the Bible. Especially among 18-to-29 year old’s, Bible reading has come to feel like homework, associated with “right” interpretations and “wrong ones,” and accompanied by stern lectures from the pulpit. Today’s young Christians, or “millenials” if you like, have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, which allows them to be open and honest with their questions. To put it simply, they are hungry and thirsty for an authenticity that can only be found by reading the Bible. If anyone reading this does not own a Bible because they can’t afford it, please send me your email addresses in the responses below, or contact me directly from this link.

 

This yearning for a more directly connected faith – including Bible readings and verses to inspire or console wherever and whenever they’re needed – is being met with an enthusiastic embrace. For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning. Young people want to absorb their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to browse on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, link up on Linked In, and Google whatever is left. They are also streaming Christian content on their various digital devices directly off the Web, bypassing cable TV and printed media completely. Thus we now have products such as “Youversion”, a digital Bible available for free on iTunes and developed by a 34-year-old technology buff and Christian pastor from Oklahoma named Bobby Grunewald. In an interview on a Christian TV channel recently, he said he conceived of it while on a layover at Chicago O’Hara International Airport, wishing he had a Bible to read. “What we’re really trying to address is, how do we increase engagement in the Bible?” he said. Now available in 113 versions and 41 languages, including Arabic, “Youversion” has a community component that allows users to share thoughts and insights on Bible verses with friends. It has been installed on more than 20 million Smart-phones since 2008.

 

Traditionalists (and I’m definitely not one of those) worry that technology allows young believers to practice religion without committing to what many churches call “a church home” – and they’re right. What they are really afraid of is that donations will falter as a result of this development. The very idea of not having the church participants right there with them so these hireling pastors can pass around a collection basket (or two) completely unnerves these types of ‘leaders’. That’s how you can tell if a pastor is in the ministry for the right reasons. Let me give you an example. I once watched a Michigan pastor named Rob Bell on a Christian video that I streamed off the Web. It was the eve of the publication of his new bestseller “Love Wins” (I don’t recall the date on the video, but it was a couple of years ago). It was said on the show that after the book-signing, many of Pastor Bell’s acolytes said they felt they knew Rob through his sermons, which they regularly downloaded off the internet, even though they had never met him. They hailed from places like Australia, South Africa and New Jersey. They listen to Bell while they’re working out, or commuting to work. They get their religion – like their meals – on the run. Pastor Bell is going about this in the right way, and traditional churches with their comparatively high overhead are being left behind in the dust of history.

 

The family Bible has long been given as a gift on graduation day or other big occasions and inscribed with special dates such as births, marriages, or deaths. Some of these Bibles would go on to become collector’s items that are treasured, protected and preserved. I can see a world in the not-too-distant future when the Bible may exist primarily online, or on a ‘thumb-drive’, especially due to the number of trees we must otherwise cut down to make the paper on which to print them. For right now, worship services and Bible studies are still done almost exclusively as public gatherings in a house of worship, or sometimes in a “home church”. But more and more people are beginning to trend towards Web-based Churches that offers a more personalized experience. As a result for some, the necessity of physically gathering each week in the same place with the same people becomes a traditional form of worship that has begun to fade into the past. Moreover, more and more people are getting by without the expense of owning and insuring (and fixing!) a motor vehicle. Without a doubt, these two trends represent a new crisis for organized religion if it has difficulty adapting to these new technologies that can reach audiences that number in the millions. This question already has organized religion seeking to redefine what it means to be a body of believers. Besides, with all this new technology, the faithful can now have church as little or as often as they want (but often is definitely better, even if it’s for only 5 minutes each time). Just remember to make sure your worship is as authentic as the Lord and Savior you worship! Search your hearts for the answer to this question. God sees all and He knows all. Above all, never stop praying and praising Jesus, because he’s coming back real soon.

 

 

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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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More warnings to America. Perhaps you will listen more closely this time.

A Word of Warning From the Lord For the USA

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Don't Look Back

I’m going to do something that I’ve done before on this website; exercising one of the chief gifts of the Spirit as taught by the apostle Paul – the gift of prophecy, one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (see 1st Corinthians 12, verses 7-11). First, for my newer readers, let me point out that prophecy doesn’t mean being able to foretell the future. That’s called divination, which is based on sorcery, which is of the occult. Prophecy, on the other hand, simply means affirmatively declaring the Word of God, or of conveying the will of God and letting it be known with precision and insight. For example, if I say, “Jesus will return on Christmas Eve”, that’s a prediction of the future, and in this case a pretty bad one. But if I say, “Everyone act, think and live as if Jesus will return this Christmas, because it is the Lord himself who reminds you to keep yourself ready for His return – for He will return at an hour when many do not expect him” – then I have prophesied the Word of God by allowing myself to be used as a vessel for God’s Word to humankind, or as a conduit for God’s awesome power (which is beyond all human imagination or comprehension). Although I’m sure there will be some who will strongly disagree with my interpretations of Biblical prophecy contained herein, I feel compelled to warn all who read this that judgment is coming to the USA. Indeed, I would be derelict in my duties as a Web pastor and ambassador for Christ if I neglected to warn all who will heed my warning. And so allow me a few paragraphs and several minutes of your time to relate what I believe is this important Word from the Lord God Almighty through his Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain and yet lives!

 

As it was in the times of the prophets of old, so it is today – many people are perishing due to a lack of knowledge, or misinformation, about God. One thing I’m certain about – America’s days as a superpower, both militarily and economically, are just about over. Don’t any of you see what is happening all around you? Your government is printing money at supersonic speed to keep its rigged capitalist economic system – a system based on debt and greed that is a laughingstock up in heaven and down in hell – from imploding! Interest on America’s “national debt” has been accruing at a faster rate than the principal can be paid down. It is as plain and bright as the daytime sunshine that our rigged pyramid scheme economic system has run its course. It will soon be exactly as it was written by the apostle John, “In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen, I am not a widow, and I will never mourn’. Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning, and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry, ‘Woe! Woe, oh great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’” (Revelation chapter 18, verses 7-10)

 

Is there anyone who still doubts that this passage of Scripture was written about our country, the United States? Go back and read that again, or better yet, read Revelation chapter eighteen in its entirety – it’s all right there in black and white. What else could it be? The US remains the wealthiest nation on earth, and the materialism of her people is an offense to God. Moreover, Jesus condemned materialism (see Matthew 6, verses 19-21; Luke 6; 24-26)! So how else is the US government sinning against God? The US dollar, or more accurately the blistering rate the Federal Reserve is printing it, makes a major devaluation of America’s currency likely, possibly even in the near future. Also, the US banking system is based on “fractional reserve lending”, which is “usury”, or money lending with interest. The Bible says unambiguously the charging of interest is a sin (see Exodus 22, verses 22-27). That means if the US does not repent of these egregious sins and get its house in order, God will punish our country with more economic hardship, natural disasters and even plagues. I know there are those who will not take my warning seriously, but I remind you that the future of our country, not to mention your very soul, is at stake. I do not speak for myself, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ speaks through me. I am merely a conduit for His awesome power.

 

We have taken the earth that God created and ruined it. We were originally put in charge of the earth, to “subdue it” (see Genesis 1: 28), but humankind has done an atrocious job, with the ongoing nuclear reactor leak at Fukushima, Japan being a prime example. Everything is polluted, even our own bodies. Oil residue still exists on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and western Florida, the seafood is contaminated with mercury, our livestock are catching deadly new strains of the flu, and our IQ’s become ever more diminished due to ingesting fluoridated water for generations. Autism, once thought to have originated from childhood vaccines, is now being more correctly understood as having environmental rather than medical causes and origins. We’re doing it to ourselves. And all the while, the world’s bee population is being decimated. That in and of itself is a disaster in the making.

 

Hard times are coming, of that we can all be sure. God has shown me (yes He has!) that gas rationing and food rationing are both on America’s horizon. Poverty will increase by leaps and bounds, creating a permanent underclass of Americans who will become the spearhead of a nonviolent Second American Revolution. Civil unrest is coming, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1960’s. Rioting may occur in (hopefully) isolated areas, and people will stay barricaded in their homes and apartments for days and weeks at a time. With 70% of America’s economy dependent on consumer spending, this is an ominous possibility to say the least. If and when the dollar collapses – a frightening possibility – all these things will be much worse (God forbid). The Bible warns us that “a day is coming when no one will be able to work”.We have been taking our privileged lives for granted for too long. God is a patient and loving God who is slow to anger but swift and sure regarding his punishment for those who willfully disobey. When we take a look around us, we see our neighborhoods, subdivisions, schools, churches, businesses, and industries, and all the crumbling infrastructure associated with them. Yet I am warning you all that even the tallest tower – which here in Atlanta is just over 52 stories – will not be left standing upon the arrival of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord. It is only then, when the arrival of Christ Jesus splits the Mount of Olives in two, that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Those who have been disregarding my warnings are just about out of time.

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Book excerpt #11 from Progressive Christian blogger and published author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Free sample from “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!!

legalization cover 1

Imagine if America’s incarcerated population were its own country. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than three million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world. A population of 3 million is a lot – enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?

[1] Population size: As a country – as opposed to a prison system – Incarceration Nation is on the small side. Nonetheless, a population of 2.4 million is perfectly respectable: Incarceration Nation has a larger population than about 50 other countries, including Namibia, Qatar, Gambia, Bahrain and Iceland.

[2] Geographic area: There are more than 4,500 prisons in the United States. Let’s assume that each of those prisons takes up about half a square mile of land – a reasonable (and probably quite low) estimate given that most prisons are, for security reasons, surrounded by some empty space. That gives Incarceration Nation an estimated land area of about 2,250 square miles: small, but still larger than Brunei, Bahrain and Singapore.

[3] Population density: No matter how you look at it, Incarceration Nation is a crowded place. If we assume a land area of 2,250 square miles, it has a population density of roughly 1,067 people per square mile, a little higher than that of India. In 2011, federal prisons were operating 39 percent above capacity; in many state systems, overcrowding was much worse. This figure remains largely unchanged.

[4] A nation of immigrants: Like many of the smaller Gulf States, Incarceration Nation relies almost entirely on immigration to maintain its population. You might even say that Incarceration Nation is a nation of displaced persons: most of its residents were born far away from Incarceration Nation, which has a nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.

[5] Birthright citizenship: An estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in Incarceration Nation. Most are “deported” within months, generally landing with foster families. But Incarceration Nation does have its own form of birthright citizenship, if you can call it that: as many as 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent end up incarcerated themselves at some point.

[6] Gender balance: International attention to gender imbalances has tended to focus on China, India and other states, but Incarceration Nation has the most skewed gender ratio of any country on Earth: men outnumber women by a ratio of about 12 to 1.

[7] Racial and ethnic makeup: If Incarceration Nation were located in a geographical region matching its racial and ethnic makeup, it would probably be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps near Brazil. Roughly 40 percent of the incarcerated population is of African descent, another 20 percent is of Hispanic descent, and the remaining 40 percent are Caucasian or mixed. For the average American, this means that one’s odds of spending time in Incarceration Nation depend greatly on gender and race: a white woman has only a one in 111 lifetime chance of ending up incarcerated, while a black man has a whopping one in three chance.

[8] Health: One study found that the incarcerated are “more likely to be afflicted with infectious disease and other illnesses associated with stress.” More than half of Incarceration Nation’s citizens are mentally ill, with depression rates roughly on a par with those experienced by citizens of Afghanistan.

[9] Per Capita Spending: Judged by per capita government spending, Incarceration Nation is a rich country: its government spends an average of about $31,000 per year on each incarcerated citizen. Internationally, only little Luxembourg spends as much on its citizens as Incarceration. Some people make a lot of money from Incarceration Nation. Incarceration Nation employs about 800,000 people as prison guards, administrators and the like – almost as many people as are employed in the entire U.S. automobile industry. But the real money goes to the operators of private prisons and the companies that make use of prison labor. Large private prison companies (such as CCA, the Geo Group, and Cornell Companies) boast impressive annual revenues. In 2015, for instance, CCA had annual revenues of about $1.79 billion.

[10] Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, employs 8 percent of “work eligible” federal prisoners. Hourly wages range from 23 cents an hour – about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh – to a princely $1.35 for “premium” prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers. Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR’s largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR’s annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD. No one likes to talk about this, of course: “We sell products made by prison labor” isn’t the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know – as an online video promoting UNICOR’s call-center services boasts – prison labor is “the best-kept secret in outsourcing.”

The U.S. Civil War, which was fought to abolish slavery, was not really that long ago. Having grown up in Cincinnati, I clearly recall the Ohio River was a dividing line between North and South, and so when the war was finally over, many families had veterans – and casualties – on both sides. It is a vivid reminder of the close links that bind this country to its history of slavery, which still haunts our national conscience. We maintain what can be only be called legalized slavery today – the utilization of prison labor for public and private profit. Many, if not most, of these inmates are themselves the descendants of slaves. And they are making fewer license plates and more defense electronics and oil spill cleanups. Today prison labor is a multibillion dollar business in the U.S. We also have the highest prison population in the world. Are economic incentives at the heart of our sky-high incarceration rates? Today, the U.S. prison system delivers profits to both government corporations and private enterprises in several ways:

  1. Through the use of inmate labor to produce goods and services in federal and state prisons.

  2. Through the contracting of this labor to private companies at below-market wages.

  3. By privatization of the prisons and detainment centers themselves. Given these perverse incentives to maintain a high inmate population, is it any wonder that the number of prisoners and the length of their sentences – Americans comprise 5 percent of the world’s total population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population – have skyrocketed since privatization began in 1984?

  4. Number of inmates. From 1920 to 2006, the general U.S. population grew only 2.8 times in the same period, but the number of inmates increased more than 20 times.

One might ask if this population surge could be due to a sudden increase in violent crime in America. A much smaller percentage of prisoners than one would imagine have histories of violence. Just three percent of those in Federal prisons, and a third of those in state prisons, have been convicted of violent crimes. A majority of those in city and county prisons are merely awaiting trial and cannot make bail. As any policeman will tell you, much criminality would be eliminated if drug laws were changed. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of the US today – perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more African-American men in the grip of the criminal-justice system – in prison, on probation, or on parole – than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than six million – than were in the Gulags of Siberia under Stalin at its height. America has now created its own series of Gulags and it makes much more than just license plates. Of the 2.3 million prisoners now being held, more than 100,000 work in federal and state prison industry programs. This doesn’t mean the usual cooking, cleaning or peeling of potatoes, but work that produces products for sale – about $2.4 billion dollars annually. This industry even has its own trade shows! The government, particularly the Department of Defense, is the biggest customer for the federal prison labor. Most military clothing, furniture, and helmets are made by Federal inmates. It is very likely that they made the furniture at your local post office. Calling directory assistance? You might well be talking to a felon. Federal prison workers, however, are the envy of state inmates, some of whom earn nothing for 60-plus-hour weeks. Texas and Georgia offer no compensation at all. (It is no surprise that these states have highly privatized prison industries as well.)

Buy direct in print format ($14.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et Available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible Get it on Kindle ($4.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

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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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Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey

How Natural Disasters Can Strengthen Our Faith

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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God calms the child

By now everyone knows about the disastrous mega-storm named Harvey and its aftermath. This has been without a doubt the worst natural disaster America has ever experienced, certainly in my lifetime. Not since Hurricane Sandy has the US seen flooding this disastrous. Only the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan several years ago was a still greater disaster, and to this day radioactive water continues to leak into the Pacific ocean from northeastern Japan, poisoning the planet! We were luckier this time than the victims of hurricane Sandy since the death toll from Harvey is about half of that of Sandy. Moreover, there were tens of thousands who died in the Japanese disaster before that. With a tidal wave of insurance claims by Japanese home owners and business owners that exceeded $100 billion USD, the triple disasters of an earthquake, a tsunami and the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan is her worst disaster since World War Two. However, hurricane Harvey’s damage will easily cost 3-5 times as much to rebuild as the Japanese disaster.

 

Back in 2013, America had a series of tornadoes sweep across the mid-western and southern US from Alabama and Georgia all the way up to Ohio and Indiana, claiming 31 lives and causing many millions of dollars in damages. During times like these many wonder why God allows such disasters to occur. It seems to those lacking in faith that if God were the all-loving and all-powerful God that He allegedly is, then such disasters would never happen in the first place. I completely disagree with this idea, which from my vantage point is based on insufficient or incorrect teaching combined with misguided and/or dumbed-down secular education! God takes us through hard times and allows us to go through all kinds of trials and hardship – even persecution within supposedly “Christian” churches such as I have previously experienced – to build and strengthen our character and our minds, and to teach us to have resolve and great fortitude. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the early Roman church that “persecution builds character, and strong character builds hope, and hope builds patience.” And the apostle James wrote long ago, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1, verses 2-3) So, to go through hardship is to be in growth while engaging in personal enrichment. That is why, in times like these, so many people find comfort in their faith.

 

Whenever disasters like this occur, I go back to the Bible to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert and back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses. “And lo, the Lord God passed by. There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake.” To me, that is the key: the Lord was not in the earthquake in Japan. He wasn’t in Hurricane Sandy’s mighty winds, and wasn’t in the drenching of Harvey either, although it is easy to see why many would disagree. Natural disasters are usually acts of nature, but they can be acts of God, too. In fact, the Bible lists a fair number of examples, with the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah being among the most prominent. But God cares about the eternal well-being of all people. Mother nature, on the other hand, is blind and an equal-opportunity destroyer. Where and when is God present in the hardest hit areas of the US mid-Atlantic and New England region today? Where is God in the leftover environmental and collateral damage of Fukushima? Where was He when those tornadoes leveled parts of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia? ‘I want to know where God is in all this’, many have said this past week.

 

The answer to that question is, He is present in the courage and resolve of people to carry on their lives after these tragedies, and in the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed who vow to rebuild, whose loved ones have been swept away and whose homes were destroyed. God is still present in the goodness, kindness and generosity from people all over the world who reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid and to pray for them (hopefully a lot!). How can people do such things if God were not at work in them to lend a counterweight to the devastating burden of a natural disaster? He is present in the human empathy and compassion of the thousands of volunteers who are helping with the cleanup in the greater Houston area, not counting all the other places from western Louisiana west to Corpus Christi, where selfless people working without any expectation of compensation are currently laboring to help these most unfortunate people, the majority of whom are in dire straits.

 

For believers and non-believers alike, there is no satisfactory answer for why we suffer. Each person has to come to grips with that fact of life in their own way. It’s not as if some magic answer can be found within humanity. But the idea of God suffering along with us while possessing unfathomable sympathy and endless love for us all can be very helpful to say the least. Jesus followers like myself believe that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, who suffered unimaginably extreme pain and then died on the cross, only to rise from the dead on the morning of the third day. At the moment of death, Jesus on the cross cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27: 46) Christians do not worship an aloof and impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer. People can relate more easily to a God who understands them, and whose suffering 2,000 years ago on the cross makes the trauma of any natural disaster seem like child’s play.

 

Where is God right now? God is right there in the midst of people who are grieving and sorrowful. In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me in this and that I’m not facing my struggles alone. Oftentimes people become much closer to Jesus in times of sorrow or tragedy. They find that they are able to meet Him in new ways. Why? Because when our defenses are down and we’re more vulnerable, God can open up our hearts more easily. It’s not that God gets closer to us, it’s that we become more open so that we are drawn closer to him.

 

These natural disasters have become the collective responsibility of all humankind to mobilize our compassion and resources to ease the pain of the people who have suffered. There are those who say such disasters are the result of the sins of those who were victims, while there are others who disagree. I don’t care to address that issue here except to say that America, from the leadership on down, is in so much sin that it collectively needs some serious repentance. There can be no doubt that the American Empire is in need of some restraint. By the same token, I want to be clear that none of the hurricane victims “deserved” these disasters because of anything they said or did. Rather, I see these kinds of tragedies as being part test and part rebuke from God.

 

I firmly believe that God tests those He loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and be cognizant of the fact that we have a moral obligation to support those in need. These kinds of calamities should (hopefully) motivate more of us to act in positive ways. They should strengthen our faith in God and in his goodness, particularly when we see evidence of Him in the rebuilding efforts that are already underway, not to mention all the volunteers and donations that are pouring in. We attribute the things we don’t understand to God’s limitless wisdom and comfort ourselves that he is with us and he loves us, so there must be some meaning in what has happened, even if it is beyond our comprehension here at this time.

 

We are trained by life and by our faith in Christ that every suffering, whether big or small, brings us closer to God’s love, his mercy and forgiveness, even to the extent that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5: 3). So you can clearly see that those who are the most dispirited by these natural disasters and related misfortune will always wind up being the most blessed because of it. That’s how God works. These times of suffering give us an opportunity to demonstrate our generosity, patience and faith In doing so we become closer to God by our service to humanity. Every natural disaster we experience challenges us as God’s trustees on this Earth, showing us that we should continue to study and explore ways of safeguarding humankind from being subjected to this kind of devastation. It is the collective duty of all humankind to put resources into this and advance our understanding of how to respond to these disasters in a scientific way while constantly maintaining our Spiritual connections with Christ – while never letting go of either.

 

As we contemplate the great number of people who have suffered and died in these tragedies, we may feel very strongly that a part of ourselves has also died due to our family ties and interconnections. The word for this is ’empathy’. The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humanity, for all who worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of the universe. The human species and the planet Earth are one body comprising one living environment. What happens to one part of humanity happens to the whole of humanity. Events such as these remind us of the temporary nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love God first by believing in Jesus and then to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died. We can live in such a way that they are continuing to live in us but more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, savoring every minute of life available to us on their behalf as well as our own. Anyone claiming to be a Christian, but who is unaffected by or laughs at the misfortune of others, is as phony as a 3 dollar bill, and deep down inside they know it too. We don’t have much time left. The second coming of Christ is likely imminent! When He returns, the first thing we will be asked has nothing to do with our religious beliefs. Jesus will first ask us, ‘What did you do for others, and how did you go about it?’. We will all be commanded to give an account of ourselves, how we lived our lives, and particularly how we treated others. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, and that is perfectly applicable to natural disasters and how well we serve those victims.

 

I don’t believe God wanted any of these disasters to happen. I don’t think this was ever God’s intention at all. We know that there are going to be storms in life, and anyone believing otherwise is only fooling themselves. No matter what happens we need to keep our faith and trust in almighty God. And I want the people of Japan, the Texas coastal areas, and all the rest of the world to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that God does care for them and that He most definitely loves them. We care and God cares, and we’re standing by you all. And we will use these experiences to practice that which strengthens us most, which is human compassion and empathy. As the human population continues to grow throughout most of the world, it is our responsibility as believers in Jesus to begin making sure that there is enough to go around for everybody by sharing our natural and human resources wisely. Taking care of disaster victims, or donating whatever one can spare if they are unable to be there in person, is a very good place to start.

 

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