Category Archives: the Bible

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

http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Get the Kindle version by clicking here 

Or, get it for Apple/Mac or Kobo.com from here

Get the audio version on Amazon Audible from here

Many thanks to all!

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“White Nationalism” Is a Rallying Cry From a Bygone Era

Racism and “White Nationalism” Have No Place

in 21st Century America

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

I once saw a one-hour documentary on cable TV (back in the days when I still watched TV) that was all about neo-Nazi skinheads, their swastika tattoos and flags, and how they are organized into gangs that operate outside the law. The extreme racial hatred of these people was chronicled by this cable channel in raw detail. It showed how these organizations recruit new members over the Internet, and how they support themselves by selling drugs and guns. I clearly remember how appalled I was as I watched this documentary with all the hate and violence perpetrated by these racist organizations. It made me think about the first book of John in the New Testament and what it says about those who harbor racist hate.

 

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him.” (1st John 2, verses 9-11) Fast forward to the present, and we had a very public example this past week of politicized, racist behavior in connection with the riots in Charlottesville, Va. this past Friday and Saturday. So-called “white nationalists” put on this big public demonstration and parade, and all the while there were equally numerous anti-bigotry counter-protesters, resulting in an inevitable clash between the two that would up on global TV news outlets. The death toll from these incidents has just risen to 3 as I write this. Was it really worth 3 human lives just so hatred and intolerance could be better expressed? I think not!!

 

Ask people if they love God or not and the vast majority will say yes, excluding the atheists. (Atheists have themselves as their own gods, so they engage in what amounts to self-worship.) Yet how many of us harbor hate, intolerance and mistrust towards groups of people who are different from us for various reasons? Religion, race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation and especially differences in economic status are some of the most common examples. We can’t love God and at the same time hate that which He has created. This can range from laughing at a racial joke all the way up to mass murder in schools, churches or movie theaters. The underlying message implied by these things is that there are some people who think that they are somehow better than everybody else. “I think I’m better than you”, is the basis for their opinions, and that’s wrong! God created us all and He sees us as equals, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common; the Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2)

 

It is high time for these condescending, racist “white nationalist” people to begin seeing themselves as peers as God has commanded us to! Otherwise, things can go terribly wrong in a hurry, as we have already seen on TV. In this next quote the apostle John, the younger half-brother of Jesus, takes this a step further. “If anyone says,’I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4, verses 20-21)

 

If there is one thing we can say about this passage of Scripture, it is that John tells it like it really is. He minces no words with this last quote, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”. That was not just an idea or a suggestion. This is how we are to be conducting ourselves in everyday living. If we love God, then we are to love that which he has created. “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”. It’s hard to get any more blunt and direct than that. So, people who are racially prejudiced and hate-filled but still go to church, do so in vain! They are committing a gross injustice against people of color by their racism, which is why racism is an injustice in God’s eyes! Does the Bible have anything else to say about injustice? In fact it has volumes of commentary and Godly commands that humankind is charged with the task of following. Isaiah 30, verse 18 says, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”. Zechariah chapter 7, verse 9 says, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Here is one Bible verse that I can truly say a certain Texas state trooper violated when he racially profiled Sandra Bland due to her broken tail-light and Black complexion back in 2015. That, combined with her out-of-state tag, made that officer indirectly responsible for her untimely demise. I wonder how he sleeps at night?

 

There are many varieties of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice. It can be racial. Do you hate black or white people? What about the Latino immigrants, who are in fact economic refugees from Mexico and Central America? It can be gender-based. Are you a guy who hates women or vice verse? There are people like that, more than one might think. Speaking of sex, do you hate gay people? We may not agree with their lifestyle, and many say they are in sin, but that doesn’t give us the right to despise them. Although we believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin as the majority of Christians do, that give us no license to hate the sinner. Just because they are different than you doesn’t make them any worse or yourself any better. Sexual sin is still sexual sin, and questions about same-sex as opposed to opposite sex attraction are, to me, besides the point. The same goes for age discrimination. Ask any older worker who has been turned down for a job in favor of a younger candidate to describe that experience. I’ve walked a mile in those shoes myself. What about homeless people? Do you tend to not tolerate or fear the homeless? What about the mentally ill? Moreover, economic discrimination is the worst kind of prejudice because it affects the largest group of people, since 99% of America’s wealth is squarely in the hands of the top 1% of the US population. What is the antidote for this social sickness? How do we overcome all the artificial barriers that constitute hate, intolerance and prejudice? How can we put forth fundamental change in these areas? For the answer to this pressing question, let’s refer one last time to the apostle John.

 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us….There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1st John 4; verses 7-12, 18-19)

 

Love is the perfect eraser for hate. Bigotry, intolerance and prejudice are based on fear – fear of what we don’t understand – and hate, which itself is pure evil because it is derived from contempt. To overcome this, try volunteering in an inner city ministry where you live, or maybe at a food bank or in a homeless shelter, or at the church you attend. It will open your eyes to a whole different world. Hunger in America is real, near-panic over America’s future is too, and they are ever-present. The middle class is disappearing because big multinational corporations have exported all the good middle class jobs for pennies on the dollar to emerging countries and economies worldwide. At this point, the only thing left that “we the people” can do about it is an outright revolt, but the violence in Charlottesville, Va. was not the way to go about it! Instead, our churches should be a very good places to start, whether it be for ministry, community outreach or even outright revolution (think “Black Robed Regiment” from the US Revolutionary war). But, if churches aren’t your first choice, there are lots of other nonprofits out there such as Goodwill, the Veterans Association and so on. Better yet, start a movement of your own. By volunteering or being a missionary in the poorest parts of your city or town, that is just one way we can combat racism and poverty as an entire nation. From this kind of a ministry we can gain understanding, from understanding tolerance, from tolerance compassion, and from compassion empathy. These are the antidotes for racism, bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. This is how we as a nation can stop hate in its tracks. This is how we as a united American people can ensure there are no more Sandra Bland’s (RIP kid sister, you are not forgotten) or Charlottesville, Virginia’s. Hate is no longer OK, it isn’t even tolerable for those with a strong sense of conscience and a deep desire for justice. You will be surprised at what a positive effect this can have on your outlook on life. It works for me! And the God of peace, a holy peace that is beyond normal human comprehension, will be with you all when you do so.

 

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Book excerpt #5 from Pastor Paul J. Bern regarding his recent release, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

“Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” written and published by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

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

legalization cover 1

The War On Drugs does more harm than good Here we are, well over four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. Well over half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of space and human life! In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the ‘war on drugs’, the world needs to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data. The facts are overwhelming. If the global drug trade were a country, it would have one of the top 20 economies in the world. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, and that was 11 years ago as of this writing. It also estimates there are 230 million illegal drug users in the world, yet 90% of them are not classified as problematic. In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $49.7 billion in tax revenue. Moreover, the Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. an additional $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws.

Have U.S. drug laws reduced drug use? No, it’s exactly the opposite. The U.S. is the No. 1 nation in the world in illegal drug use. As with Prohibition, banning alcohol didn’t stop people drinking, it just stopped people from obeying the law. About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 540,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population. It also represents racial discrimination and targeting disguised as drug policy. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people – yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates. Prohibition failed when the American people spoke up and demanded its repeal. Today, the American people are showing their visceral dissatisfaction with the ‘war on drugs’ by voting for change, often in the face of federal law. Colorado and Washington recently became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and 74% of Americans support alternatives to locking people up for marijuana possession.

What does the Bible say about making a creation of Almighty God’s illegal or immoral? This book uncovers the ugly truth about America’s ‘Drug War’, while disproving all the myths and government propaganda about medical marijuana. In this book you will discover the following:

  • America’s drug war is based on racism and illegality on the part of government, and particularly law enforcement.

  • The private prison industry is raking in billions of US taxpayer money because of the ‘drug war’.

  • Alcohol, tobacco, prescription pain killers and codeine are all at least 5 times more dangerous than marijuana.

  • The pharmaceutical industry, as well as law enforcement, benefit financially from the drug war.

  • The federal government has been lying for decades about the addictive properties of medical marijuana. Cannabis has been repeatedly proven in study after study to be non-addictive.

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

To learn more, visit https://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Also available on Kindle, Nook, Apple and Smashwords.com

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The Immigration Debate, president Trump and Jesus

The Progressive Christian Approach

to Immigration Reform

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

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My message for today revolves around what the media and our politicians are saying regarding the topic of immigration reform, as opposed to what the Bible says. We have all heard both sides of this issue from Republicans and Democrats, from conservative to progressive to liberal, as well as independent voters like myself. President Trump went on the record earlier this week to advocate for even tighter immigration requirements than those already in place. I myself was formerly on the conservative side of this issue due to the fact that had once lost a good job in the computer/IT profession due to my being replaced by foreign workers despite the fact that I was more qualified.

 

Then one day in the late spring of 2008, I took a contract job out in west Texas under very favorable terms for myself. So, I put most of my things in storage with the intention of coming back to Atlanta where I live after my contract job expired. I had never been to Texas before, and I found a completely different culture than what I was accustomed to back east. There were three things I noticed immediately soon after my arrival. The first was the oppressive heat and humidity, the second was that people ate burritos in place of burgers, and the third was that approximately one third of the population was Latino. The first thing I remember thinking when I saw that one third of the population spoke only Spanish was that this must be ground zero for ‘illegal immigration’, or so I thought at the time.

 

But I spent four months out there in Texas, and as my days turned into weeks I began to notice seemingly insignificant little things that began adding up to something much more. For example, I saw Latino men – and a few women as well – hanging around temp agencies, construction sites, and even at a U-haul truck rental company in the hopes of getting a job at least for that day. I remember being struck by the parallels between what those Latino folks were having to endure as they searched for work, and a piece of the so-called ‘American dream’, compared to my own previous job search experiences. Some of these workers lived at homeless shelters, others in campers or vans, and the more prosperous ones lived in rented mobile homes or apartments. I saw the same thing day after day, with hundreds of workers gathered around in groups of as few as eight or ten, and as many as several dozen. And so I found myself beginning to question my own intense dislike of these immigrant workers. I mean, all they really wanted was a chance at a new life in a safer and cleaner environment. What’s wrong with that?

 

Before I go any further with this message, I think I should point out that my basis for resenting many of these immigrant workers was economic rather than racial. Nevertheless, thanks to my “education”, my beliefs and opinions had been heavily slanted towards an American rather than a world view. So I found myself beginning to question my own motives for feeling the way I did. As I did some research on-line, what I found explained the cognitive dissonance between what I had been “taught” and what I saw. The average worker in Mexico earns the equivalent of about $50.00 per month USD. When these same workers come to the US they make minimum wage, more or less, which is currently still stuck at only $7.25 per hour here in Georgia. Since a sizable chunk of these workers make less than minimum wage while being paid in cash under the table, I’m going to use a rounded out number of $7.00 hourly for the whole country. A 40-hour work week at seven dollars an hour yields gross pretax earnings of $280.00 per week before taxes and Social Security. But since many of these workers don’t work full time their take home pay is even less. At any rate, this works out to gross earnings of $1,120.00 per month. If each worker pays a regular tax rate as we Americans do, and many don’t because their employers are cheating the tax man by paying in cash, they wind up with an average net take-home pay of approximately $740.00 per month. But when you compare that to making only $50.00 (USD) in Mexico, $740.00 must seem super-tantalizing to our Latino brothers and sisters.

 

I challenge anybody out there to try and live even for only a month on substandard pay such as this! The bottom line is that this is impossible while still meeting our monthly expenses in a timely manner. In order to better understand this, instead of Mexico and the US being the two countries involved, let’s use the US and Canada instead. If any given American working professional were offered a job in Canada, what would that be in relation to the US and Mexico? For any Mexican/Latino who emigrates to America, the jump from fifty bucks a month to 740 dollars equals a pay increase that is 11.4 times the going rate in Mexico or, for that matter, any Central or South American country. Now, let’s contrast that to an American jumping ship and leaving the US to go and work and live in Canada. With an average net earnings of $35,000.00 annually (before taxes) for American workers, if any of us were to be offered a job in Canada – or for that matter any other developed or emerging country worldwide – at 11.4 times the going rate here in the US, that would amount to an increase in take-home pay to $399,000.00 annually before taxes!

 

OK, so let’s ask ourselves a simple question: Would you or I be interested in a pay increase of 11.4 times the amount we have been earning previously? The obvious answer is, of course we would! So, now you know why the Latino folks are migrating – legally or not – to the US in search of work. It’s not because they are foreign invaders on an economic and social offensive to overrun America like certain people always say. It’s because they are economic refugees from the third world who are searching for a better life for themselves and their families! So, instead of resenting or even hating this influx of foreign workers, the Christian thing to do would be to reach out to the Latino communities in all fifty states and minister to them. I don’t mean giving them a handout, either. Like so many long-term unemployed here in America, they don’t want a handout, they simply want to go to work. But I felt convicted in the Holy Spirit for previously harboring such negative and bitter thoughts, and I have long since repented of this.

 

Showing compassion to foreigners and strangers is central to biblical teaching and morality. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 22: 21) Moreover, there are quite a few Christians who have started joining the fight to pass immigration reform, including myself. Congress needs to pass immigration reform into law because it is the morally right thing to do. Those whose position on reform is based on political fear, unacknowledged racial prejudice or worries about losing primaries to far-left ideologues are too often the same people who trumpet their religious convictions as guiding their decisions in public life – in violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state! Politicians who are professing Christians need to consider what their faith has to say about immigration. If they oppose reform and refuse to offer shelter or compassion to our immigrant brothers and sisters, they should (hopefully) begin asking themselves why. We must join with other faith communities in asking for a moral and religious conversation about immigration reform – not just a political one. God’s passionate, abiding concern for immigrants and foreigners, strangers and travelers – and for our neighbors – is obvious to anyone reading through Scripture.

 

It is the Biblical call to “welcome the stranger” and Jesus’ concern for “the least of these” that inspires and motivates us. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, the stranger, and all who are vulnerable, are at the very heart of the Gospel (Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan is just one example of many). In the book of Matthew, Jesus offers a vision in which caring for them is the defining mark of God’s kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).

 

That evangelical as well as mainstream Christians would finally act to reform the immigration system should surprise no one, and not just for theological reasons. Undocumented immigrants have joined our congregations; we understand the problem firsthand. They are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. And we know that by reforming our immigration laws, we can create a system that also reflects the best values of our nation and the highest ideals of our faith. We act because, as the book of James reminds us, “faith without works is dead.”

 

For me, I think the biggest change hasn’t been in the pulpit, it’s been in the pews and out in the streets. It’s one thing when 11 million people are a statistic. But it’s other thing altogether when one of those 11 million is your friend, a human being who you now know as a father, as a husband, as a mother, as a co-worker, or as a worshiper. Our faith has always been about love, empathy and compassion. It compels us to do something, putting others before ourselves. If we take the principle of compassion out of the Bible, it wouldn’t be the Bible any more. Compassion is indeed all over the Bible, it’s written in between every line! I pray it will also be found in the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s time for Christians in Congress to stand up in support of immigration reform, or to explain why they won’t — as Christians. If they follow their faith, we will see the miracle we need. And let’s remember that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Everybody has the right to be here.

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It’s another wonderful day in our nuclear neighborhood….

The Nuclear Genie Is Out of the Bottle,

and It’s America’s Fault

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

live together or perish
On July 16th, 1945, the ‘Trinity’ nuclear test – the first-ever nuclear bomb – was detonated in New Mexico, at the Alamogordo Test Range, plunging humanity into the Atomic Age. Less than a month later, the first nuclear bomb ever used in wartime was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and a second one was dropped on Nagasaki less than two weeks after that. In the first blast at Hiroshima, well over 100,000 people were instantly vaporized in the initial explosion, and the death toll at Nagasaki was tens of thousands higher. Over the following month or so, over a million more individuals died from the aftereffects of radiation poisoning. But, what is generally not known – especially here in America with its propaganda machine otherwise known as our “free press” – is that the US use of nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War 2 was unnecessary. Let’s not forget that the winners of wars are the ones who write the history books, and the US is no exception. The fact of the matter is that by the summer of 1945, Japan had already been bombed back to the stone age. In point of fact, Japan was already attempting to start negotiating for peace. But the Japanese wanted to do it secretly, so as to not alarm the Japanese people (sound familiar?), and US military leaders wanted the announcement to be public. And so the die was cast, and the rest is history.

 

In the late 1940’s Russia’s leader and dictator Josef Stalin acquired an atomic weapon through quite a lot of espionage and outright theft, much to the discredit of America’s “intelligence” community. As a response, the US supplied England and France with the technology and experience needed to build a few bombs of their own. By this time it was the 1950’s, and within just a few years Communist China similarly developed their first atomic weapons. By the 1960’s, other countries such as Israel, India and Pakistan had nukes as well. The genie was out of the bottle, and there was no putting it back. It was too late. Fast forward to the present day and we find America’s latest nuclear adversary to be North Korea, who just tested their first nuclear-capable ICBM. And it all started with one nuclear test in the New Mexico desert in 1945. I have been studying up on this as of late, knowing that we are living in the End Times, and that the world as we have known it is drawing rapidly to a close. The first verse I have found that corresponds to these times and the accompanying nuclear proliferation can be found in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, chapter 7 and verse 7, which reads as follows: “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.”

 

To put this into context, Daniel had a vision in chapter seven where he saw four “beasts” come up out of the sea. The sea in Bible prophecy usually always symbolizes all the peoples of the world – that is, humanity more so than nations. The first “beast” was like a lion, but it had eagle’s wings. What country uses a lion as its symbol? Great Britain. The eagle’s wings, then, represent America, whose symbol is an eagle, and who is an offshoot of the former British Empire. OK, so what’s the second one, you ask? The second beast Daniel saw in his vision looked like a bear. What country uses a bear as its national symbol? Russia. And Daniel’s third beast looked like a leopard, which symbolizes Germany. The fourth beast which is unlike all the rest could only be the United States, since it has the most powerful military force in human history. But what do the ten horns represent? Could they be nuclear powers? To find the answer to this question let’s go to the Book of Revelation chapter 18.

 

The first 3 verses read as follows: “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’” Who or what is “Babylon the Great”? Some say it was the Roman Empire, still others the Ottoman Empire since it was intertwined with Islam, still others say it’s the Vatican, and I even saw a video on You Tube a while back that suggested it represents the British Monarchy (I took that one with a grain of salt). But upon closer imagination we find the answer further down in the Scriptures, and I quote: “For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion of her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.

 

Now we’re narrowing it down by a good bit! Could this be Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Mao’s China? Or maybe the Kim family of North Korea? One thing is certain, whoever or whatever this represents is a really bad actor on the world stage. Also, since the Book of Revelation was written in (approximately) 90 A.D., these words were meant for a people or a country from far into the distant future. You know, like about 2,000 years give or take? Let’s move on to the next verses to find out for sure. “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 in 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 18, verses 5-10)

 

The use of the pronoun ‘her’ suggests that the apostle John was referring to a country, not a person. Moreover, death, mourning and famine symbolize waging war. Isn’t that what America has been doing for most of the last 75 years, since the end of world war two? This passage of scripture implies that everything the US has done overseas for the last 75 years is going to come back around and bite us in our backsides, and at the worst possible moment. To top it all off, all this will happen in a single day. Now let’s ask ourselves, couldn’t this be some other country besides the US? Don’t we call ourselves, ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’? America is, among other things, a bastion of democracy throughout the whole planet. So why does our text read, “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”? There are many who would argue that the USA is not guilty of any such charges.

 

But isn’t it/she? Since 1950 the US military has slaughtered a combined total of 2.5 million innocent civilians while it waged its wars overseas. This parade of victims came from a wide variety of countries and their inhabitants, such as (from the oldest to the most recent) North Korea during the Korean war, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, and Syria has yet to be stabilized. This does not count all the ‘black ops’ that have been happening for decades on a regular, consistent basis which have killed untold hundreds of thousand more. Naturally, the Lame Stream Media isn’t permitted to talk about this here in the US because their paymasters, the elite 1%, won’t allow it. America cannot continue to do these things with impunity indefinitely! What goes around comes around, and it’s about to be America’s turn. Not because it’s what I think – never mind that – it’s what’s in the Bible, which is the Divinely inspired Word of God! But look what Revelation tells us next: “

 

She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” What kind of fire will this be? We only need to look down one more verse: “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared in 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!” In one hour, wait a minute, is that right? That would be one monstrosity of a fire! The only thing we have today that resembles this scenario is a nuclear attack, and that in point of fact is America’s ultimate fate. The USA is going to get nuked!! Where is this “city of power” located? Nobody knows for sure – so beware of those who claim to know – but if the Great Babylon is the United States it fits perfectly with this part of Revelation 18. The “great city” is likely either New York or Washington, the ‘cities of power’ contained in this example of Biblical prophecy. It is also written in Psalms 46: 9, “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth, he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.” This is what the prophet King David said would happen to all forms of warfare in the End Times we live in. This is why America stands judged, because of her incessant warfare!

 

According to a 2016 report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), nine nations — the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons in total. This is an obscenity because it’s enough atomic power to blow up every city on the planet several hundred times over. But it’s even more than an obscenity, it is utter madness and insanity to even consider creating such destruction and loss of life! But still, that’s only nine countries that have nukes, so who’s the tenth one, the one that completes the symbolism of Daniel’s ten horns that he saw on the fourth beast? It has got to be Iran, there is no other explanation that I can think of, at least for now. No other country is as close to developing a bomb as Iran, everybody knows that. But this is a prophecy that has yet to come to pass.

 

But you can all be sure that this will be happening in the near future, no doubt about it! And once it does, Daniel’s prophecy about the beast with the ten horns will be fulfilled. Since the British Empire and two world wars that were initiated in part by Germany have come and gone, this is the only part of this prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. Once that happens, once Iran gets its hands on its first nuclear weapon – which is only a matter of time – the prophecy will be fulfilled and the stage will be set for world war three, which will be a brief but exceptionally deadly nuclear exchange (more on that in a separate message later). If it involves Iran and Israel as I suspect, then surely America and Russian will become involved sooner or later. And that’s when world war three will really get started. It’s all getting very close now. Prepare yourselves accordingly if you have not yet done so. We are just about out of time. Watch out and pray continuously!

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Yet another book excerpt from Pastor Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

legalization cover 1

Six Ways That Cannabis Criminalization

Defies All Reason and Logic

[1. Pot smokers punished more than sex offenders] Drugs are so reviled in the US and many other parts of the world that using them is considered worse than any other crime. If you commit violent crimes – arson or rape, for instance – a judge will determine all the facts of the case and consider your criminal record, if any, in sentencing you to prison or not. But if you are caught selling or growing marijuana, there are mandatory minimum sentences involved at the federal and most state levels that take the power of sentencing out of a judge’s hands and turns it into a Chinese take-out menu – a marijuana plant from Column A, within 1000 feet of a school from Column B, that will be 10 years with no parole. Next!

Still don’t believe drug use is considered worse than violent crime? Then why does our federal government pay a bounty for drug arrests, but no other arrests? These monies are called Byrne Grants and they are awarded to local police department for the express purpose of fighting drug crime. In actuality, they incentivize police to go after low-level drug offenders for the easy stat-padding drug arrest, rather than the tougher-to-catch-and-prosecute drug kingpins or the actual violent criminals out there. Still not convinced? Then explain how the Supreme Court could find the death penalty unconstitutional to punish the raping of a child, but there still exists on the books a federal death penalty for growing 60,000 marijuana plants? Or how a serial raping arsonist in Montana gets less time than a guy who merely rented space to a medical marijuana dispensary? Or how a guy who pleads no contest to sodomizing a four-year-old in Oklahoma gets a year behind bars but a college student with a dorm room stash could get life in prison? Or why there are more arrests for marijuana possession almost every year than for all violent crimes combined?

[2. The separation of church and weed.] Even an American educated in one of our fine public schools knows our Constitution recognizes freedom of religious expression. You can be Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, or have no religion at all, and that right is so important our Founding Fathers made it part of our First Amendment. You may practice your religion any way you choose, so long as you don’t violate other laws. But even then, our courts have given believers some latitude to violate laws in the name of religion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the use of drugs as a sacramental rite. A parent allowing their seven-year-old child a gulp of wine at the Olive Garden might earn a visit from Child Protective Services, but the same gulp at the cathedral is acceptable for children when it symbolizes the Blood of Christ. Our Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the use of an illegal Schedule I drug can be allowed for adherents of a South American religion using ayahuasca tea, a powerful hallucinogen that is considered a sacrament by their believers. Our Congress even went so far as to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to protect such use when the Supreme Court allowed the State of Oregon to deny unemployment benefits to two Native Americans who were fired over sacramental peyote use. So it seems in the case of drug laws, the compelling state interest is preventing you from using drugs. Very few people use ayahuasca tea or peyote, it doesn’t grow everywhere, the religions that find them sacred are well-established in historical tradition, and the sincere adherents are easily identifiable. So allowing a few native religious believers their powerful psychedelic sacraments isn’t going to seriously hinder any efforts to prevent you from using those drugs. But your herb stash? That’s different, because there are 26 million Americans who are toking at least once a year and pot grows like a weed. In that event, trying to stop anyone from using, buying, growing, or selling pot would become nearly impossible.

[3. A patient on one of side of the border and a criminal on the other.] It is easy enough to find examples where differing state laws make you a criminal on one side of an imaginary line but not on the other. That applies to the numerous states that have passed medical marijuana laws and their non-medical marijuana neighbors. But what people don’t realize about medical marijuana states is that most don’t recognize each other. Only Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island of the currently 17 states that recognize medical marijuana will accept the cards/recommendations from other medical marijuana states. So California and New Mexico patients who cross the border into Arizona would be safe, but Arizona patients who cross into California or New Mexico could be arrested for marijuana possession. Nowhere is it more absurd than the case of the Pacific Northwest medical marijuana states, Oregon and Washington. Both states have virtually the same list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Both states allow patients to cultivate more than a dozen cannabis plants. Both states allow patients to possess up to a pound and a half (680 grams) of usable medicine. But if a Portland patient crosses the Columbia River into Vancouver with 40 grams of pot, he’s a felon. If the Vancouver patient crosses into Portland with 28 grams of pot, she’s a felon. Lesser amounts get you a 24-hour mandatory minimum jail stay in Washington but only a ticket and loss of driver’s license (even if you weren’t driving) in Oregon. Can you imagine if getting your driver’s license was something you had to do for each state you wanted to drive through? Now imagine that instead of a driving license, we were talking about licensing whether or not you would be able to eat today and not suffer bone-wracking pain and spasms, and you had to renew this license at full cost every year.

[4. Fine line between legal gardening and a felony.] In those 17 medical marijuana states, trying to determine which pot smokers are healthy enough to deserve a cage and which ones are sick enough to protect from arrest is bound to lead to logical absurdities. Fourteen of the states allow patients or their caregivers to tend a garden to grow their own medicine. To deter large-scale growing operations, some states have implemented limits on the number of marijuana plants a patient may grow. In a state like Washington, this is simple enough, as the state has specified fifteen as the total number of plants allowed. But in Oregon and some other medical marijuana states, a distinction has been made between “mature” and “immature” marijuana plants. Oregon’s limit is the most generous, allowing six “mature” and eighteen “immature” plants, to accommodate the fact that patients have to keep a continuous cycle of plants coming into maturity in order to maintain a steady supply of medicine. However, the law completely abandons horticultural science in defining what a “mature” marijuana plant is. In nature, a mature plant is one that is producing flowers, or in the case of cannabis, the buds that patients are putting into bongs, vaporizers, and brownies. But in the Oregon Revised Statutes, a “mature” plant is one that is greater than 12 inches in any direction or is producing buds. So your thirteen-inch pot plant vegetating in the closet is “mature”, even though it is weeks from being mature. It would be like setting the limits of sexual consent based on how tall a child is. This has led to situations where growers are diligently following the law, tending six flowering mature plants and the next three sets of six plants in three stages, only to have one set shoot up from ten inches to fourteen inches over a weekend growth spurt. Now the grower has twelve “mature” plants, even though only the six mature plants can produce any marijuana, and he’s no longer a patient, he’s a felon.

[5. Feds denying that marijuana is medicine at all costs.] The government’s intransigence on the medical utility of cannabis is the most stubborn and hypocritical federal policy ever. The feds will tell you, with a straight face, that marijuana is a Schedule I substance and as such has no recognized medical value within the United States, even as seventeen states expressly recognize its medical value. Now if you complain about the 17,000 peer-reviewed research papers sitting in the federal ‘PubMed’ database that demonstrate medical use of cannabis, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a federal government that itself has patented the medical utility of cannabis and still tells you it is not medicine. As if that weren’t hypocritical enough, the US government maintains a pot farm at the University of Mississippi. This is the one legal weed grow in America, expressly allowed under the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs for the production of cannabis for research purposes. In 1975, a glaucoma sufferer named Robert Randall sued for the right to use marijuana, lest he go blind, and won. This decision led to the development of the compassionate, investigative new drug program that produced and delivered medical marijuana for Randall.

Shortly thereafter, more patients sued to get access to medical marijuana, expanding to a few more federal medical marijuana patients. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, AIDS activists began marshaling thousands of applications for HIV+ gay men who found marijuana to help combat the symptoms of their disease. So rather than expand the compassion to thousands who would have benefited, the Bush Administration in 1992 closed the program to new applicants and the Clinton Administration in 1999 declared it would not be reopened. However, the program was not closed to the patients who had already been approved. Today there are four remaining federal medical marijuana patients who receive a tin of eight or more ounces of pre-rolled federal medical marijuana from the federal medical marijuana farm every month. But, federally speaking, there is no such thing as medical marijuana.

[6. The Drug Enforcement Administration forbids cultivation of a non-drug.] Nothing is more absurd in the war on marijuana than the ban on industrial hemp. If you don’t know, hemp is also cannabis, but cultivated differently as to produce a seed and fiber crop that is exceptionally low in any drug value. It takes anywhere from 2% to 4% THC content (tetrahydrocannabinol, the “high” ingredient in pot) for someone to cop a buzz off weed. Some of the finer medical marijuana varieties may top 15% THC content. By law and international agreements, industrial hemp must be produced at less than 0.3% THC content. It’s safe to say that there is a greater alcohol concentration allowed in a “near-beer” than THC concentration in hemp. There’s more THC in my bloodstream as I write this than is found in a field of industrial hemp plants. But even though there is absolutely no way one can use hemp as a drug, its cultivation is banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, because it contains any amount of THC. If this standard were applied to other drugs, you’d never have another legal poppy seed bagel, because they contain trace amounts of opium. SWAT teams would be raiding your grandma’s house for the decorative poppies in her backyard garden, as they could actually be processed into heroin. This is even more maddening when you realize how keeping hemp illegal works against the DEA’s stated goal of reducing outdoor marijuana cultivation. Though some cops seem to think hemp would allow pot growers to hide their illegal crop, cross-pollination of hemp into marijuana makes both crops worse. The marijuana becomes less “druggy” and the hemp becomes less “industrial”. The last thing a marijuana grower wants next to his prized plants is a hemp farm.

What is the most dangerous activity you can engage in? If you guessed doing illegal drugs, you would be wrong. Extreme sports like big wave surfing, base or bunjey jumping, cave diving, white-water rafting and mountain climbing all have a higher rate of risk to life and limb. Yet the question of a ban on these behaviors beloved by “adrenaline addicts” is viewed as ludicrous, even when the risk of death, say, in climbing Mount Everest once (until recently, about 1 in 3) is greater than the annual risk of dying from heroin addiction (around 1% to 4%). Or consider mundane activities like driving: Car accidents are responsible for 1% of annual deaths nationwide. Cigarettes and alcohol do at least as much, if not more, harm to each user than heroin or cocaine. Alcohol, cocaine and heroin have a 3% to 15% rate of addiction, depending on how it is measured—and tobacco’s rate is much higher. Yet the risks don’t align well with their legal and social status, especially when you consider that marijuana is safer than any of the legal drugs. The reasons for this inconsistency around risk are complicated. Driving has huge personal and economic benefits. Risky sports are seen as noble challenges that foster the human will toward exploration, adventure and growth. When it comes to non-medical drug use, however, discussion of benefits tends to be either dismissed as delusional or simply stifled.

I don’t mention these facts to promote drug use – not at all! That I feel compelled to immediately include such a disclaimer underlines my point: Our values shape our perception of risk and the way we make drug policy. If we recognize only the risks and ignore the benefits, we fail to understand that the real problems are addiction and harm — not the substances themselves and the people who use them. For instance, when we talk about the “epidemics” of Oxycontin, methamphetamine or heroin, we rarely acknowledge that the majority of users never become addicted. Over the course of a lifetime, only about 10% to 15% of regular users ever get hooked for an entire lifetime. That risk is not insignificant: Few people would fly on a plane that crashed every tenth flight. But focusing on use as the main factor in addiction obscures what is actually at stake. There are, decade after decade, headlines about the fall of one drug and the rise of another. Yet the overall rate of people with addictions remains fairly constant. Although population differences and other variables make the numbers hard to compare exactly, a large national survey in 1990 found a 3.6% rate of illegal drug problems (such as abuse or dependence) in people ages 15 to 54 during the previous 12 months. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which includes people from age 12 to those in their 80s or older, found a 3.5% rate of abuse or dependence in 2014, the latest year such stats are available. While that rate may not seem much lower, the difference is probably due to the later survey’s inclusion of people over 55, who are numerous and had a 2011 addiction or drug misuse rate of a mere 0.8% or less. It is worth noting that 1990 was the peak of fears about a non-ending crack epidemic; by contrast, today, while there are concerns about growing prescription opioid addiction, the actual rates have been steady since 2006.

Print edition available online from my website

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Biblical history mirrors current events

History Repeats Itself, Even in the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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food_stamps_vs_exxon

One of the hot-button issues facing the entire world, and particularly in the US, is that of economic inequality. We find ourselves in an intractable and intolerable situation where 99% of the country’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of an elite few. As this situation is ongoing, the American people find themselves compelled to pay for the most expensive health care, higher education, and housing prices on the entire planet! Plus, we find ourselves taxed to death by a federal income tax whose legality is open to question, and hemmed in both politically and economically by an unconstitutional curtailment of our rights, all while having the world’s largest prison population! This would be ridiculous if it weren’t so serious. For this week’s message, then, I want to share a passage of scripture that closely resembles our current situation, so go to your Bible app or open your Bible to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5, verses 1-13, and I quote:

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others were saying, we are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others were saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 1-5)

To put all this in its proper context, the Old Testament Israelites had been conquered by the ancient Assyrians and had been in exile for many years. With Israel’s first period of exile ending, they had begun to return from Assyria where they had been enslaved, and a great rebuilding process had begun in and around Jerusalem. There was, unfortunately, also a great famine going on at that time because there had not yet been a harvest, and this was creating a lot of problems. The above passage of scripture has striking similarities to what is happening throughout much of the world today. People don’t have enough to eat. They have trouble meeting their financial obligations because prices are impossibly high. Back then they had to give away their sons and daughters as slaves – presumably sex slaves – because they had no other way to pay their debts. Today, some of our sons and daughters are still taken as sex slaves. It’s just that they are taken by force and not by barter. The rest of us are slaves, too. It’s just that the world is a lot more subtle about it than back then. We work our jobs – if we’re lucky enough to have one of those – for pay that is oftentimes pathetic. Many younger workers don’t realize how drastically wages have been cut in the last 15 years or so. So, there are striking parallels between the time of Nehemiah and today. Now, let me go on with the second half of today’s scripture, beginning at verse 6.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said, ‘As far as possible, we have brought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them – the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.’ ‘We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verse 6-13)

There are striking similarities between what was going on in Israel during the time of the first rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem and what is occurring in America today. Everything is financed. Nobody pays cash for their cars much anymore, and everybody uses credit cards to make purchases from a flat screen TV all the way down to a week’s worth of groceries. We are forced to pay interest on everything we need – even the food we eat. This situation has gotten completely out of hand, and unless the government steps in and stops it the American people will find themselves forced into conflict with the government, the outcome of which could lead to another American civil war. In the first civil war, it was fought over ending the slavery of Black people. The second one will be a fight to end the enslavement of us all, and there are going to be casualties, so you may as well start getting used to that idea. This is what was occurring during the time of the prophet Nehemiah.

Nehemiah then told the authorities, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!” Nehemiah and his brothers and enlisted men were helping those in need as best they could, but they were charging no interest for their services. They did it for free because they realized they were in a crisis situation that called for emergency measures to make sure everyone got their basic needs met. Their compatriots, on the other hand, were guilty of price gouging and criminal exploitation against their own countrymen, and in some cases even their own families. So Nehemiah told the nobles and officials to give it all back, very similar to an executive order issued by the President. Notice too, in verse 11, they were charging 1% interest, far less than what is being charged today (on the best of terms, 30 year mortgages are currently at just over 2.5%).

Imagine the uproar if such an executive order were issued today! I can almost see it now – president Trump giving a direct order to the banking and financial industries that all single family home loans were to be canceled immediately – would that be fun to watch or what? One thing is for sure – the American people are overburdened with excessive housing costs, combined with stagnant wages in the face of other rising living expenses like groceries. “We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do that today? Actually, we could, it’s just that there is still insufficient political willpower among the American people. A national strike could be called – a mortgage strike. Everybody stopping their mortgage payments all at once would be the same as slaughtering the beast by starvation! But first, we should do a dry run using student loans as the pariah that this debt crisis has become. Then we call a meeting via social media, and make the powers that be promise to give us all some badly needed financial relief! Either that or we take to the streets and shut down entire cities.

I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” The above example is what it looked like to issue a law that had some teeth to it back in those days. I can practically visualize president Trump calling his senior leaders into a conference room and telling everybody that everyone’s mortgage, their student loans plus all unpaid medical bills will be canceled immediately and without preconditions. All the Wall Street bankers would have heart attacks, and debt collectors would have to go and find a new profession – just like myself. I was once a well-paid senior IT professional, but my career evaporated after the dot-com crash and I wound up working as a courier contractor for a local delivery company. I survived the changes I went through, and so will they because actually we are not so different after all. In closing let me also say those noblemen and government officials repaid those people they had exploited out of fear of the consequences from God. That fear of the Lord is largely absent here in modern times, but soon it will return, and then everyone will know exactly who God is.

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My Deepening Concerns About the USA

One Step Closer to Armed Revolt: My Deepening Concerns

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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expect_resistance

The attempted assassinations of a handful of congressional representatives, senators and their staff members this past week confirms the suspicions of many, including myself, that the fabric of our country is coming undone. Senator Scalise remains in critical condition as I write this, and I understand senator Rand Paul narrowly missed getting shot in addition to quite a few others. Perhaps Rand Paul was the real target in yet another CIA/NSA engineered false flag operation – God only knows! If it was, their mission failed, the independent alternative media will share the news (since we already know the Main Stream Media would bury that story) with the whole world, and the blow-back from the American public will be nothing short of livid vehemence! The root cause of this will be the American public’s increasing exasperation with the fight between the Trump administration, the Washington establishment and the Deep State – which president Trump is in the process of trying to dismantle. That’s the real source of all the back-and-forth between Trump, the MSM, and the D.C. robber barons.

The American people – all but the top 1% – have found themselves caught in the crossfire with little to do except for ducking and dodging. But in the process we are finding more and better ways of fighting back, and up until this week that excluded arming ourselves against the government in general, and conservatism in particular since that ideology benefits fewer and fewer people at the expense of many, many more. Generally speaking, this is true for the way the whole country is being run. More and more people are being oppressed by the same government that was elected to serve them. Speaking as a Web pastor, I’d like to point out that the Bible has some things to say about those who are being oppressed and about oppressors as well. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and you will be killed with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-24) I like to quote verse 22 to all those who gripe and complain about “illegal immigrants”. The same thing goes for those who get played by the rigged economic and court systems, but this runs far deeper than even that. For example, under so-called “Trump-care” the mega-rich top 1% will get very large tax breaks, and 24 million lower income Americans will be dropped from the Obama-care rolls like so many hot potatoes in order to fund president Trump’s AHCA, his version of national health care. You can be sure there will be retribution from the Lord for any who die as a result of losing their health insurance if “Trump-care” gets passed into law. For each of ours who die, one of theirs will die. On further thought, they will most likely die as crime victims from robberies of one kind or another. Although the word ‘Karma’ isn’t in the Bible, I believe it would apply here.

And the Word of the Lord came again to Zechariah; this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts, do not think evil of each other’.” (Zechariah 7, verses 8-10) What do we have instead? A federal income tax that is unconstitutional, wars being fought without a formal declaration of war as the Constitution requires, and the world’s largest prison population!! Does this seem just, merciful or compassionate to any of you? It sure doesn’t to me, and you can literally bet your next paycheck that God is outraged and infuriated at America because of all of the above! Not to mention the institutionalized racism, global mass murders being committed by our military and intelligence communities, and all the rampant gambling and criminal profiteering on Wall St. and in Washington! Keep it up, all you people who are hell-bent on serving only yourselves, and see what it will get you!! Don’t you believe it will happen? ‘What’, you ask? ‘I have nearly unlimited resources, I can defend myself against anything! What can all those poor slobs do to me? I can crush them all like bugs!’

What these obscenely rich people fail to understand is that “we the people” have a singular resource that people with lots of money don’t understand and who refuse to see, as it is written: “He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9, verses 8-10) Not only will the Lord Jesus Christ uphold us during our times of trouble and turmoil, he will give us the means to throw off our oppressors and then deliver them into our hands (reference: the Book of Joshua, the American Revolution of the 1700’s, and the Israeli 6-day wars of 1967 and 1973). One more thing the Bible has to say about this topic (among many) comes from the Book of James, and I quote: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your clothes like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5, verses 1-5)

As you can clearly see from the above passage, the obscene amounts of wealth that has been hoarded “in the last days” – which is our current time frame – has been ‘acquired’ at the expense of everyone else. This closely resembles the “99% vs. 1%” paradigm that we find ourselves caught up in today. Moreover, there is much talk today about an impending economic collapse of one kind or another. As a result, there are many financial advisers today who are counseling people to cash in all their Wall St. investments and put it all in gold, silver, nonperishable food, weapons and ammunition. But the apostle James prophesied against that roughly 1,965 years or so ago when he prophesied against gold and silver in verse 3. The apostle James then prophesied yet again against the obsession of some people with wealth and financial gain when he wrote, “The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” What modern parallel with this do we have here in modern times? Just think about it for a minute – the wages the rich withheld from the poor and then pocketed themselves – doesn’t this closely resemble the current battle for a livable minimum wage? Today in America, with only a few exceptions, the prevailing minimum wage is so low that wage earners must sign up for government benefits programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, child care benefits and Obama-care in order to have enough money for even the most basic expenses like food, shelter, clothing, transportation and medical care. For this to be happening in what is allegedly the “richest country in the world” is simply inexcusable! Here in Atlanta, GA where I reside, the minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 an hour. In large parts of rural Georgia it is only $5.25 per hour. That works out to a net weekly paycheck of about $175.00 for a single individual. Try living on that, if you think you can! Does that not constitute theft, even if it’s “legal”? It’s tantamount to economic slavery and servitude, and the Bible condemns it!

You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” There is so much talk today about the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the entire developed world, along with much of the emerging one such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). There is no question in my mind that this single verse (and there are others throughout the Bible) predicted today’s obesity epidemic with perfect accuracy. There is one last thing predicted for the End Times that we are currently living in which is stated in verse 5. “You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” There is an ongoing effort to prove the innocence of men and women with life sentences or very lengthy ones, and particularly those who have the death penalty. In all these cases the convictions of these individuals were done with bias against the defendants, often because they are people of color. People have been freed from death row by way of DNA testing as a result of these efforts. But for every one who is found to be innocent after the trial was over and their sentences vacated by the courts, there are untold countless others on whom the death penalty was imposed who were convicted on what amounts to false testimony.

But is that the end of the story? By no means!! What about the lynchings, and the slavery that came before all that, right here in America? What about the two million civilian casualties the US military and the Pentagon are responsible for from the Vietnam war to Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, up until today? Although I’m no fan of president Donald Trump, at least he has the guts to come into Washington with a wrecking ball aimed directly at its corrupt core while attempting to replace what doesn’t work with what does. I don’t know whether he’s going to succeed or not, but at least he’s trying to buck the status quo. Whether Trump succeeds or not remains to be seen, but when things get heated to the point of US citizens attempting to execute an entire Republican baseball team, we are getting dangerously close to all-out revolt. Yet by the same token, it’s looking more and more like a revolution may not be such a bad idea after all. The overwhelming majority of Americans have little left to lose. The only remaining question is – will it be armed or peaceful? From my observation point, I’d say let’s pray that it will be peaceful but continue to prepare as if it will not.

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

Regarding Judging or Accusing Other People:

Those Who Call Us Liars Should Examine Themselves

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The 99% - Too big to fail

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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