Category Archives: young adults

Proven Innocent But Still Locked Up: Our Broken Criminal Justice System

God Wants Justice and Mercy, Not Religion,

and We’re Falling Short

by Pastor Paul J. Bern (Isaiah 58)

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For this week’s message I have been inspired to write about the true meaning of the twin brothers of the Spirit of the Lord known as justice and mercy. I saw an item of general human interest on the evening news on one of the local channels here in Atlanta about a man, one Sonny Bharadia, who has been locked up for 17 years for a crime he did not commit. It has only recently come to light that the DNA evidence in his case points to another man who is already serving a life sentence for murder in a separate case. And yet the state prison system here in Georgia is refusing to hear the evidence and release the man (to view the whole story, click here). This is injustice at its absolute worst! So I took this to the Lord in prayer, as I often do, and inquired as to what part of the Scriptures I should use to deliver a message condemning the State of Georgia’s refusal to hear the evidence that would exonerate this man. The result of my communication with the Lord will be a message on Isaiah chapter 58, and I will begin at verse 5.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58, verses 5-7)

Fasting, from a Biblical standpoint, is the voluntary abstention from all food and drink except for plain water. This usually means abstinence from sexual relations as well, and for a certain period of time, usually for anywhere from 24 hours up to an entire week or more. So, when God defined fasting through his prophet Isaiah, he meant different kinds of fasting besides simply doing without food. What can we compare this to today? In the first place, what we call ‘dieting’ today is what used to be called ‘fasting’. When we’re dieting we’re still eating, but a lot less of it. But when we’re fasting, we’re doing without everything all at once. By doing this, we rely on the Lord for our sustenance and him alone. That’s why fasting brings us closer to God. Although my fasts are of the 24 hour variety because I have medical issues, I find even little fasts like those can bring me into closer union and harmony with God.

False humility will not cut it before the Lord either. Go ahead and give your unwanted clothing and chattel furnishings to the charity of your choice, tithe your 10% to the church of your choice, and when you attend your charity gala’s, be sure to be there to see and be seen. Those are the people who gladly humble themselves when everyone is looking at them, but when they are out of sight they turn into ravenous beasts of prey. But we know who they are, don’t we? But then the Lord corrects us in verse 6: “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and …. to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke?” To me at least, ‘loosing the chains of injustice’ would include the injustice that has been committed against men and women like Sonny Bharadia. Although the Bill of Rights contained in our still-beloved Constitution says we are all innocent until proven guilty, oftentimes in today’s American criminal in-justice system the defendants in these cases are considered guilty right from the start, which is clearly unconstitutional. This is apparently what happened to Mr. Baradia.

To “set the oppressed free” in today’s world means, to me as an American, normalizing relations between Native Americans, other minorities and people of color with the remaining majority white Anglo/Caucasian population. To ‘set the oppressed free’, then, should be defined as normalizing race relations in America. As we have seen from the police shootings of unarmed Blacks, not to mention Rosanne Barr’s racist tweets and Neo-Nazi’s openly running for political office in states like Illinois and Virginia, my country has a long way to go towards ‘setting the oppressed free’. What about this, people? Please, we have to do something about America’s race problem immediately! Otherwise, our ‘Christian faith’ becomes little more than a Sunday morning social club.

What about “breaking every yoke”? This would presumably mean yokes of bondage. Nearly 2 ½ millennia ago when these words were written, ‘bondage’ meant being sold into slavery, or living one’s life as a slave. Although human slavery still flourishes here in the 21st century, the number one form of bondage in modern times is debt, the second is very low wages and the third is taxes. Never mind the latter two – I have already written expensively on the need for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, and I outlined a simple way to overhaul the tax system in chapter 9 of my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, which is still available in its third edition on Amazon from here. Debt is a topic for yet another day.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” What happens today when somebody sees a homeless person rummaging through their trash, or when a vagrant camps out on the porch of a vacant house on their street? Does anybody share food or offer any warm, dry shelter? No, they call 911 and watch triumphantly through their windows while the cops haul the homeless guy off to jail for trespassing. Provided, of course, the homeless guy survives being arrested. There are even people being put out of whole families – banished, actually – for reasons real and imaginary. The reason this condition exists to the extent that it does in American society today is because forgiveness is no longer being taught in the home. How can we expect our children to learn forgiveness and loving kindness when many of us are lacking in these qualities ourselves? One thing is for sure – this is a time of reckoning by a lot of people. It is a time of reckoning and taking stock of ourselves and the world in which we live. And when we have done these things, only then can the repair work begin. Now let’s finish up this week’s message starting at verse 9.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I’. If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58, verses 9-11)

Those who practice true justice and mercy, those who show compassion and empathy, those who put others before themselves, they are the ones who, when they cry out to God for help, their prayers get answered. So, if you’re crying out to God for help and it seems he’s not listening, try doing something really nice for some people. Bake them a cake, mow their grass, babysit their child, you get the idea. Whatever you do will come back to you. But as the prophet went on to say, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk….” It’s time for America to pack up her outdated and mean-spirited racial prejudices and carry them to the curb. It’s also time to clamp down hard on human trafficking – too many women and children have become sex slaves for the rich and powerful, and not enough people are talking about this. Well, I am one who is, and I want to know why there aren’t more joining with me in exposing this distasteful business! In the meantime, these same people maliciously point their fingers at others and judge them for perceived wrongs real or imagined. As you judge, so you will be judged. Never forget that.

“…. if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” Notice that Isaiah wrote “spend yourselves”, not ‘spend your money’. How is this accomplished? By devoting our bodies to a little work, maybe get a little sweaty, or giving our precious time to a cause greater than ourselves, such as helping the survivors of a natural disaster. You can even make a career out of this kind of work, people do it every day. “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs….” But, mind you all, only if you walk in His ways instead of your own. I know, I know, this seems counter-intuitive on the surface of things. God gave us a brain, it’s our own responsibility to use the darn thing. So making our own decisions based on our own best judgments is the responsible thing to do, and that’s right. Except, our minds can sometimes play tricks on us, causing us to see or hear things differently than they actually are, creating what we perceive as audio or visual distortions. Our emotions often give us even bigger problems than that. So consequently we take the wrong actions. Whether this is purposeful or not is besides the point when it still turns out to be wrong.

“…. he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden….” There are hidden benefits – more like bonuses, actually – to consulting with God prior to putting our plans into action. Are our plans congruent with God’s? Better yet, does that work both ways as well? Because if it does, God doesn’t just reward us. He reinforces us in ways that we cannot do ourselves. God can and will give us an overhaul – sometimes whether we ask for it or not! Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. But God doesn’t allow us to go through these things to be hard on us, or to be mean to us. He does it to build us up and to strengthen our character. So cheer up! Life isn’t so hard. You’re just like a well-watered garden when you consult God first. Who else would know any better except for your Maker?

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Free book excerpt #23 from Author Paul J. Bern: this time it’s a whole chapter!

Chapter One of “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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(C) 2016 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

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

Chapter One

The Drug War and the Bible

Of all the people throughout the world who are incarcerated, fully 25% of them are locked up right here in the US. The United States has more people locked up in state and federal prisons than all the rest of the countries of the world combined. Of all the US prisoners currently serving sentences in state and federal prisons, nearly 55% of them are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses such as simple pot or crack possession. When I looked at whether fewer people use drugs in countries like ours with stricter drug laws, I found that the World Health Organization looked at 17 countries in a 2008 study and found no such correlation. The US, despite its punitive – to the point of being draconian – drug policies, has the highest level of drug use, legal or otherwise, in the world. By any measure, making drugs illegal fails to achieve one of its primary objectives. But it is the unintended consequences of prohibition that make the most compelling case against it.

Prohibition fuels crime in many ways: without state aid, addicts may be forced to fund their habit through robbery, for instance, while youngsters can be drawn into the drug trade as a way to earn money and status. In countries such as Colombia and Mexico, the profits from illegal drugs have spawned armed criminal organizations whose resources rival those of the state. That process is ongoing here in America even as I write this. So what’s the alternative? There are several models for the legal provision of “recreational” drugs. They include prescriptions for medical marijuana by doctors, consumption at licensed premises such as bars and smoking lounges, and particularly sale on a similar basis to alcohol and tobacco, with its own taxation rates, health warnings, and age limitations to only those age 21 or older. If this prospect appalls you, consider the fact that in the US today, the majority of teenagers say they find it easier to buy cannabis than beer! According to sources in law enforcement as well as licensed therapists, close to of 40% of teens – and approximately half the US adult population – now say pot is safer than alcohol. Based on my own experiences I would agree completely even though my government is opposed to it. This opposition resulted in the so-called ‘War On Drugs’ that was declared by President Nixon back in 1971. What has this 45-year-long war on drugs gotten us? In all that time, taxpayers spent more than:

$20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.

$33 billion in marketing “Just Say No” messages to America’s youth and other “prevention” programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

$49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

$121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

$450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all U.S. federal prisoners were serving sentences for drug offenses.

The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for over 2 percent of all commerce on the planet. A full 12 percent of Mexico’s economy is built on drug proceeds. For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, a line forms to replace him/her because the money is just that good. Today it is clearer than ever that cannabis prohibition not only does not work when it comes to drug law enforcement, it actually exacerbates the drug “problem” overall. The February 12, 1996 issue of the National Review had the headline in bold letters, “THE WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST”. Of course that was 20 years ago. Never mind about all those illegal drugs for now. Let’s start with one drug that has repeatedly demonstrated healing properties, and I’m talking about cannabis. That’s right – medical marijuana. Consider a few facts about America’s ‘weed war’:

  • It diverts hundreds of thousands of police agents from serious crimes to the pursuit of harmless smokers, including agents from the local and state police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs, and Postal Service.

  • By even the most conservative estimate, the outlay from US taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers, not counting other illegal drugs and such indirect costs as militarizing our border with Mexico in a hopeless and pathetic effort to stop marijuana imports.

  • Police agents at all levels trample our Bill of Rights in their eagerness to nab pot consumers by conducting illegal car searches, phone and email taps, garbage scrounging, stop-and-frisks out in public without just cause just because they can, and door-busting night raids, many of which are not accompanied by Constitutionally required search warrants.

  • Even people who are merely suspected of marijuana violations and have had no charges filed against them can (and regularly do) have their cars, money, computers, and other property confiscated by police. In a reversal of America’s fundamental legal principles, it is up to these suspects to prove that their property is “innocent” of any crime.

  • People convicted of possessing even one ounce of marijuana can face mandatory minimum sentences of a year in jail, and having even one plant in your yard is a federal felony.

  • At least 490,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons as I write this. All are being held on marijuana charges, not counting people in city and county jails, in which there are even more than the prison systems.

  • 89% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession of the weed, not for producing or selling it. In short, marijuana prohibition is not, and will not, reduce demand. So then, it’s time to regulate the supply. It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminals and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only practical way to do that is through legalization, regulation and taxation.

Another thing about the drug war is that we are forced to draw connections between the war on drugs and the disintegration of low-income and minority communities in America. As Dr. King so poignantly reminded us in his critique of the Vietnam War, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” With many communities disparately impacted by the drug war, many of us working for justice have come to the realization that America’s war on drugs is really a war on families and communities. In the spirit of Rev. Dr. King, we must now ask: Has this drug war assault on the poor and the marginalized become the next big civil rights struggle? In view of the repeated police killings of unarmed black civilians across America, the answer appears to be an emphatic yes! Civil rights advocates are honoring Dr. King’s legacy by standing up against the “new Jim Crow” – mass incarceration through the racially disproportionate war on drugs. It is impossible to talk frankly and honestly about racism without talking about the drug war. Few U.S. policies have had such a devastating effect on Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities than the drug war. Every aspect of the war on drugs – from arrests to prosecutions to sentencing – is disproportionately carried out against minorities. Speaking as a minister who speaks up for the poor, minorities, the mentally ill and the outcast, this is inexcusable in an allegedly Christian country like the US. Why is this being allowed to continue? Join the folks in Ferguson, Mo., and from Atlanta to Chicago to Milwaukee and get out in the streets and protest! It’s your patriotic duty to do so!

OK, so now let me go deeper. Approximately 100,000 Americans die accidentally each year from legally obtained prescription drugs — that’s 270 per day or more than twice as many as there are killed in car accidents each day. This shows you how dangerous prescription medications truly are. To make matters worse, we are the only developed country that doesn’t control prescription drug prices, meaning that the drug companies can charge whatever they want to – even for drugs that don’t work very well. The pharmaceutical industry’s unlimited hikes in their prices have helped make health insurance unaffordable for most Americans. This is also why wages of American workers have stagnated. When health premiums rise, employers must get the extra money from somewhere, and employee raises are one of the first things to go. Get the price of prescription drugs under control, and this problem goes away on its own.

But what if some of that money that we are spending on apparently dangerous but legal prescription drugs was redirected towards medical marijuana? Has modern medicine been able to document the positive effects of cannabis medication? Research into possible medical uses of cannabis is enjoying a renaissance. In recent years, studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, collagen-induced arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle-cell anemia, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma and anorexia nervosa. It is also documented to be very effective for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I sometimes use medical marijuana because it helps me manage bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a permanent back injury. I can personally testify that, when used responsibly, medical cannabis can be surprisingly effective, and with zero side effects.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law passed in 2000. Just last year, Uruguay in South America did the same. Now, the United States, which has waged a 40+ year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in both countries, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar at the time Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September 2010 to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries — including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru — have taken interest, too. The disasters that were predicted by critics didn’t happen. The answer can be summed up in two little words – provide treatment! Here’s what happened in Portugal between 2000 and 2010 as a result of decriminalization of formerly illegal drugs:

There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

Drug-related court cases dropped 66 percent.

Drug-related HIV cases dropped 75 percent. In 2002, 49 percent of people with AIDS were addicts; by 2010 that number fell to 27 percent.

The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine — figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

The number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2008.

Officials have not yet worked out the cost of the program, but they expect no increase in spending, since most of the money was diverted from the justice system to the public health service. The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment. The result of the prohibition of alcohol sales and consumption during the 1920’s was the gangster era of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and scores of other lesser-known hoodlums and gangs that profited from the violent underground economy that Prohibition created. Today we have an identical situation since the drug trade is mostly in the hands of gangsters and thugs, with the criminals killing innocent bystanders and each other in fights over turf and cash flow. The fact that more people are being locked up while crime has decreased and our prisons are already bursting at the seams, particularly in minority communities, constitutes a 21st century civil rights issue of the highest order. It is time for the US government and law enforcement to ‘stand down red alert’ in the war on drugs. It’s time to end this madness and this stupidity.

The fact of the matter is that if cannabis was legalized and regulated, the medical profession would have a new and completely natural weapon to use against chronic pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, glaucoma and a veritable laundry list of other ailments already mentioned. All the claims about cannabis being harmful and addictive have long since been disproved by reputable scientific researchers. Moreover, if cannabis was legalized and taxed at the state and federal levels, American taxpayers and lawmakers alike would be looking at a new revenue stream well in excess of $400 billion dollars annually at the federal level alone. This is not counting fresh revenues in the amount of tens of billions annually that each state would collect as a result of legalization, times all 50 states and US territories. And let’s not forget that cannabis legalization across the country has already been estimated to create anywhere from several hundred thousand to well in excess of one million new jobs (just look at Colorado, Washington state, and Alaska, and they’re just getting started). That’s the part the elite 1% can’t stand; the idea that multitudes of long-time unemployed US workers could get back on their feet financially – even if pot were the only currently illegal drug to be decriminalized – along with its sister plant hemp (more on that in this book’s final chapter), and the additional hundreds of thousands of jobs hemp legalization would create. That should be the first step for the American people to take back their country from the Globalist Elite. The more jobs we create, the more money gets taken away from Wall Street, Washington and ultimately the Federal Reserve.

Finally, if cannabis were to be decriminalized, all the combined resources of law enforcement at all levels could redirect their time and effort to the main things that they do best, which is to stop violent crime in its tracks, and to detect and expose those who are involved with terrorism and human smuggling or trafficking across or within our borders. It is much easier for law enforcement at all levels to protect the public when they do not have to waste time prosecuting certain persons for smoking a harmless plant. Cigarettes are legal; when someone lights one up they are also smoking a plant, so (speaking as a minister who has no problem with taking a stand against bad laws that are civil rights violations at best and Constitutional breaches at worst) morally there is no difference. It is a documented fact that cigarette smoking kills between 40 and 50 thousand people per year in the US alone. By the same token, nobody ever died from smoking cannabis. Absolutely nobody. Ever.

If “we the people”, America’s 99%, want an effective way to take away what I regard as excess authority that is being abused by the uniformed minions and henchmen of the top 1%, then ending the war on drugs would be one very good place to start. The war on drugs, like the ticking time bomb of economic inequality and the resulting class warfare that is ongoing in America, is the new civil rights battle cry of the 21st century. As a watchman on the wall for the Lord protecting a boundary that shields the human rights of mankind, it is my job to sound this warning, and I am not alone in doing so. All one has to do is listen and you will hear their voices, that it’s time to take back our country from the unscrupulous minions of Wall St., starting with the big banks, and their armies of Washington lobbyists who have seized control of our country in a (nearly) bloodless coup de etat on November 22nd, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Let’s not forget the Federal Reserve while we’re at it, who financed the whole debacle of the 2008 financial crash. Worst of all, stories are beginning to circulate about a probable collapse of the debt-based capitalist economic system we are all stuck living under. In that event, having enough food and water to last for at least a month up to a year or more would be prudent indeed.

As the struggle to regain control of America gets started in earnest by its citizens, a resounding crescendo of voices of the multitudes who are completely fed up with an existence of bare bones survival will rise up and speak the truth to the power of big corporate money. We who are rising up will say with one voice, “Enough is enough!”, and by the force of sheer numbers we will overwhelm those who hoard wealth, assets and possessions at the expense of everyone else. The years 2016 and beyond will be a time of reckoning. If “we the people” are denied a hearing for our “redress of grievances” as guaranteed by the US Constitution, then we will take to the streets in protest. “We the people” can shut down the entire country if we want, even if only for a day. Then the top 1%-‘ers will see that resisting us will only turn America into another Tunisia, another Egypt, another Yemen, another Spain, or (God forbid) another Syria, or maybe another Greece. It is time for everyone to make a choice. If we do not make ourselves part of the solution, then we default to being part of the problem. Become part of the solution! Occupy America for legalized cannabis in 2016 and beyond, and praise Almighty God, who made the marijuana plant in the first place!

Where does it say that in the Bible, you ask? In Genesis chapter one, the very first book in the Bible, and I quote from verses eleven and twelve: “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.” So now you can plainly see the plant life was made on the third day of creation. Even if you’re reading this and you’re not religious, the Bible still says that God created marijuana along with all the other “seed-bearing” plant life. If you’ve ever seen the cannabis plant (the scientific name for weed), you know they have a kind of flower colloquially called ‘buds’, and these buds do contain seeds, although some varieties have more than others. So marijuana is undoubtedly a creation of God’s. Of course the skeptics, conservatives including most conservative Christians, and law enforcement would undoubtedly take great exception to that, be it Biblical or not. In response, allow me to show some additional Scripture, this time in the New Testament instead of the old one. “At about noon the following day….Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’, Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean’. The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’. This happened three times, and the sheet was immediately taken back up to heaven.” [Acts chapter 10, verses 9-16]

Explaining this passage of Scripture is easier than it may look. Peter, along with 11 of the original 12 apostles, were what we would call traditional Jews today. After all, Jesus himself walked the earth as a Jewish man, so this comes as no surprise. As such, Peter was forbidden by the Hebrew traditions of old from eating certain foods, such as pork and some kinds of shellfish. (See Leviticus chapter 11 in the Old Testament for a detailed explanation of what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ for devout Jews to consume.) Yet the voice of Jesus, the source of the voice the apostle Peter was hearing, told him “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”. Obviously this applies to the plant life as well as animals, since God made them all, just as it is written in the Book of Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”. Moreover, since we are not legally bound to obey a law that disobeys one of the Laws of God, or more accurately of Jesus, the laws that criminalize marijuana, a documented creation of Almighty God, are by their very nature invalid and immoral. This book, then, is based on these three passages of Scripture, and I will now devote the remainder of this book to expose the immorality of marijuana and hemp prohibition, as well as the extreme immorality and racism of America’s prisons-for-profit.

Buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802

Available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

Get it on Kindle ($7.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

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

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

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

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

Story highlights

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

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

 

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

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

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

The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

 

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

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

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

 

Starve one wolf

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Feed the other wolf

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Putin’s re-election, Bible prophecy, and the impending war in the Middle East

Putin’s Re-election and Bible Prophecy:

Closing In on Armageddon

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 3]

For better small screen viewing click here 🙂

Featured Image -- 1179

Last week as we finished part 2 of this 3 part series on the Biblical significance of Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president of Russia, we left off at Ezekiel chapter 39 and verse 6 (for anyone who missed part one, click here). In the first 6 verses of chapter 39, God declared through his servant Ezekiel that all the military forces that would swoop down from the far north, as well as most of the Islamic nations of the horn of Africa and Libya, will be stopped in their tracks by a series of natural disasters, starting with the troops being pelted by huge hail stones as well as by fire sent from God. The Bible doesn’t specify the origin or nature of this fire. It only says in verse 6, “I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coast lands….” This could be anything from being trapped in a wildfire, or series of wildfires, to a huge fire-fight of some kind or another, all the way up to nuclear warfare. There’s simply no way to tell for sure, but I would not be surprised at all if this war were to go nuclear.

This week as we move on to the third and final part of this series on current events juxtaposed with Biblical prophecy, we’ll be starting at verse 8 of chapter 39. “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of. Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use their weapons for fuel and burn them up – the large and small shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 39, verses 8-10)

This massive war is most assuredly coming, definitely and without question! Although a first-time reader may not believe this, if God says it’s going to occur, then it’s going to occur; it’s only a question of timing. Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, together with mercenaries from the Russian Islamic republics, will attack Israel from the north and the east in a gigantic pincer attack. But they will be driven back, and Russia will have to come and bail them out since Iran and Syria are Russian allies. It is that precise day that the prophet Ezekiel was writing about! When Russia comes to the aid of Syria and Iran, they will fall back to a mutually agreed upon rendezvous point before mounting a huge counterattack on Israel and her people. Again, as before, they will be defeated, but this time by the forces of nature as described in detail in these passages of Scripture.

Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use their weapons for fuel and burn them up – the large and small shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel.” Now let’s understand right here that this is written from the viewpoint of a man who lived at least 2,600 years ago. So he is writing to his contemporaries as well as for posterity and, most of all, out of obedience to God. Ezekiel is describing weapons as he understood them from his own time frame. Shields, bows and arrows and spears were the weapons of his day. Today, everything is motorized and digitized, so it appears the fuel from all the tanks, amphibious assault vehicles and all kinds of trucks of various sizes and purposes will be used instead. Tires will be burned in big piles to enforce road blocks and in small ones for cooking and burning trash. This is a likely scenario that fits with what Ezekiel wrote, as dictated to him by the “Sovereign Lord”, or Almighty God.

They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” In this verse, I’m fairly sure that Ezekiel is referring to the wooden gun stocks on all the rifles the troops from the Russian confederation carried with them into battle. Since the homes of many will have been destroyed by the war, the wooden gun stocks of the Russian, Syrian, Turkish and Iranian troops will be used for campfires, along with the tires and fuel from their vehicles. In this way, the comfort of the Israeli people will be seen to even during this traumatic time to come, because that is what God will do for his people Israel. Their every need will be met, even in the rubble of an earthquake and a military invasion. And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s message, starting at verse 11.

On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel toward the sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I am glorified will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 39, verses 11-13)

This will be the fate of all the troops from Russia, her allies, and the other countries I mentioned who would presume to attack Israel. “The valley of those who travel towards the sea” is an ancient expression for the Jordan valley that runs between the Sea of Galilee southward towards the Dead Sea. And so according to the Scriptures, this is where the armies of the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be buried. It will take 7 months to bury all the dead because there will be so many of them, and the entire populace will be pressed into service for this arduous task, presumably to expedite things for health reasons. But what is so understated is that the tiny little nation of Israel, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of 8.4 million people, just defeated the combined armies and air forces of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and you may as well include Iraq and Jordan in the fray. Their combined military forces will be decimated by Israel and her ally, the Sovereign Lord!

There is one more thing that needs to be said about this, and that is regarding the country of Israel itself, together with her people. There are many individuals who, frankly, despise the nation of Israel and her people. Some say that this is because of the conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli people, but there is more to it than that, and it has a long history. It was the newly created universal church of King Constantine 1st, from which the modern name ‘Catholic’ originates, that began teaching around the year 300AD that it was the Jews and not the Romans who crucified Christ, when in fact it was the other way around. Nevertheless, this wrong teaching has persisted to this day. While the first reason for hatred of the Jews was religious in origin, the second reason was and still is racial. Antisemitism – the extreme hatred of Jewish people and all things Jewish, including her homeland Israel – is raw racism, pure and simple. But more than that, since Jesus Christ walked the earth as a Jewish man, to express antisemitism is tantamount to having contempt for Jesus Christ. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany is one of the most glaring examples in human history of what happens when antisemitism is carried to its utmost extreme.

This inevitably brings up the debate about what the fate of the Palestinian people should be. Should they get their own homeland? Of course they should, but so should the Kurdish people just a few hundred miles to the north, but they’re not having any luck either. Arbitration is the only fair way to settle both these disputes, that much is certain, and both conflicts must be peacefully resolved. One other thing is certain – the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (of which I only used select portions for the sake of brevity and focus) will occur. But more than that, the stage is being set even as I write this for this massive and incredibly deadly war. Russia has forward bases in Syria and Iran, plus a critically important naval port in Syria, and has still more troops – many more – just to the north in Georgia and the Ukraine. I think we’ll have to see what happens once the American embassy moves from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation of Israel on May 14th, 1948. I would be quite surprised if this anniversary comes and goes without incident. You know, like a 7-year peace treaty that divides Jerusalem?

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Free book sample #22 from author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

Excerpt from chapter 6 (“Passing the Tipping Point”) of “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”

 

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Copyright (C) 2011 by Paul J. Bern; all rights reserved

Heeding Eisenhower’s Warning

 

Though it fields the most expensive and technologically sophisticated military force on the world stage, the U.S. government has not decisively won any major military conflict since 1945. Understanding these developments is necessary if Americans are to effectively address their nation’s economic decline and cultural deterioration. Eisenhower’s credibility can hardly be challenged. As FDR’s choice for the position of Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, he was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany from the west. FDR had such confidence in him that Eisenhower sometimes worked directly with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the chagrin of bypassed British leaders. He served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s first supreme commander in 1951. As president (1953-1961), Eisenhower concluded negotiations with China to end the Korean War, maintained pressure on the Soviet Union, and avoided hostilities during two terms in the nation’s highest office, a time of peace. Eisenhower’s election as a Republican ended two decades of New Deal Coalition in the White House, but as president he continued New Deal policies, expanding Social Security and signing into law in 1956 the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, then the largest public works project in American history. Though he chose not to publicly criticize Sen. Joseph McCarthy, he helped remove the pathologically partisan Republican demagogue from power. Historians typically rank “Ike” among America’s 10 greatest presidents.

 

“In his farewell address to the American people, broadcast live from the White House on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower focused specifically on and warned against the dangers attendant upon the unprecedented development of a permanent armaments industry and war machine. In part, he said: “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations….”

 

“Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society….In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together….”

 

“Noting that technological developments were, “largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture,” Eisenhower warned against the “prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by “the power of money” and the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,” saying that, “it is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society….” It was imperative, Eisenhower declared, that “we – you and I, and our government, avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose….”

 

Judging by President Eisenhower’s words, although he aspired elegantly to a better world just as we do, that dream has not yet been realized. We still live in a world of too much “fear and hate” when the mutual goal should be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect”. This excerpt from the following Internet posting makes my point for me as it warns against the sinister power of the US military-industrial complex. Fifty years after Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 speech on the “military-industrial complex”, that threat has morphed into a far more powerful and sinister force than Eisenhower could have imagined. It has become a “Permanent War State”, with the power to keep the United States at war continuously for the indefinite future. But despite their seeming invulnerability, the vested interests behind U.S. militarism have been seriously shaken twice in the past four decades by some combination of public revulsion against a major war, opposition to high military spending, serious concern about the budget deficit and a change in perception of the external threat. Today, the Permanent War State faces the first three of those dangers to its power simultaneously — and in a larger context of the worst economic crisis since the great depression.

 

“The 9/11 attacks were the biggest single boon to the militarist alliance. The Bush administration exploited the climate of fear to railroad the country into a war of aggression against Iraq. The underlying strategy, approved by the military leadership after 9/11, was to use Iraq as a base from which to wage a campaign of regime change in a long list of countries. That fateful decision only spurred recruitment and greater activism by al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, which expanded into Iraq and other countries. Instead of reversing the ill-considered use of military force, however, the same coalition of officials pushed for an even more militarized approach to jihadism. Over the next few years, it too gained unprecedented power over resources and policy at home and further extended its reach abroad. The Special Operations Forces, which operate in almost complete secrecy, obtained extraordinary authority to track down and kill or capture al Qaeda suspects not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in many more countries.

 

The CIA sought and obtained virtually unlimited freedom to carry out drone strikes in secrecy and without any meaningful oversight by Congress. The Pentagon embraced the idea of the “long war”, a twenty-year strategy envisioning deployment of U.S. troops in dozens of countries, and the Army adopted the idea of “the era of persistent warfare” as its rationale for more budgetary resources. The military budget doubled from 1998 to 2008 in the biggest explosion of military spending since the early 1950s and now accounts for 56 percent of discretionary federal spending. The military leadership used its political clout to ensure that U.S. forces would continue to fight in Afghanistan indefinitely, even after the premises of its strategy were shown to have been false. The percentage of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting has now reached 65 percent for the first time. And as the crisis over the federal debt reaches its climax, the swollen defense budget should bear the brunt of deep budget cuts.

 

As early as 2005, a Pew Research Center survey found that, when respondents were given the opportunity to express a preference for budget cuts by major accounts, they opted to reduce military spending by 31 percent. In another survey by the Pew Center a year ago, 76 percent of respondents, frustrated by the continued failure of the U.S. economy, wanted the United States to put top priority in its domestic problems. The only thing missing from this picture is a grassroots political movement organized specifically to demand an end to the Permanent War State. Such a movement could establish firm legal restraints on the institutions that threaten American Democratic institutions through a massive educational and lobbying effort. This is the right historical moment to harness the latent anti-militarist sentiment in the country to a conscious strategy for political change.

 

Tragically, the strategy for “political change” has not made itself known. What we have is more of the same – the same wars, the same unemployment, the same hunger, the same crime problems, the same homelessness, the same crushing load of debt, and we are all getting really tired of it all. We want out of the rat race, off of the treadmill, and away from the maze that has us all locked in and enslaved to the richest top 1% US money earners. We want our independence back with freedom to choose whatever profession one desires to undertake, and to make that education free and equal for everyone. To prevent hunger, homelessness and crime simply give every citizen the freedom to go back to school at any time, and it should all be free. We can have the best educated society in one generation if we choose this path. What we have instead is continuous war. Allow me to share with you a few facts regarding our troops activities overseas.

 

SOME QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING

  • The National Security Advisor says there are less than 1000 ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq and we have over 30,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them.
  • Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year (yep, we’re still there too) costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each. Like, say, police officers and teachers,
  • There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from these two wars have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That’s one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day—about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight.
  • The Iraqis still don’t have a government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed.
  • The combined cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars. (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel winning economist)
  • 190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants.
  • Afghanistan soldiers were shooting our troops at the peak of the US occupation. This was rarely if ever reported by the Lame Stream Media.
  • The total DOD budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies. America’s defense budget is about three times the combined budgets of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
  • The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year. For this post-World War II high in spending, we get the smallest Army, Navy, and Air Force we have had since 1946. And, our tanks, ships, and aircraft are, on average, older than they have ever been before.$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute for the American Empire’s military activities in the Middle East and North Africa alone. Keep that in mind — just for a minute or so. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into ‘wherever’ for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge. By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum. But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007…..

 

Get yours direct from the author ($18.95) at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations and scroll to bottom of page. Many thanks to all!

Get the digital version for iBooks, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Sony and still more versions from Smashwords.com (only $4.95) at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587473

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

 

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Putin’s Russian re-election and Bible prophecy: what the future holds

Putin’s Re-election and Bible Prophecy:

Closing In on Armageddon

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 2]

For better small screen viewing click here 🙂

img_6039 For this week’s message, we’ll be moving on to part 2 of the recent re-election of Russian president Vladimir Putin and what this means for us in term of our understanding of Biblical prophecy about the End Times in which we are living. Previously in part 1, I went over the first 16 verses of Ezekiel chapter 38 as they apply to the modern era. As I wrote last week (you can view that message from here) concerning the “Gog-Magog War” of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, based on what is contained in the text, Gog is Vladimir Putin and Magog is Russia. And Russia, at some point in the fairly near future, together with the armies of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia, will attack Israel. This is exactly the portrait that the prophet Ezekiel paints of this End Times scenario known as the “Gog-Magog War”. And so today we’ll continue near where we left off last week, starting at verse 18.

This is what will happen in that day; When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the sovereign Lord. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble, and every wall will fall to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. I will execute upon him plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur upon him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.” (Ezekiel 38, verses 18-23)

Notice in the first sentences (verses 18-19), two things: First, God never lets anger get the best of him, but anyone who attacks His land and its people (see Joshua 1: 2-4 and chapters 13-20) enrages the Lord! Second, when the Holy Land and its people are attacked by a foreign invader, God exercises his vigilance on behalf of his people. Israel does not have to call out its army to defeat the Russian and Arab armies. This is one that God will handle personally. I suspect the reason will be to come to Israel’s defense, possibly because her chief ally, the US, may be unable to at this point for reasons that I have written about fairly extensively in the past (see my blogs on either Blogger, Goodreads or WordPress.) So instead of the IDF marching off to war, look what God does instead! “In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble, and every wall will fall to the ground.

Evidently there is going to be a big enough earthquake to stop the invading armies in their tracks. That would have to entail an extremely violent earthquake, a magnitude 9.0 or above on the Richter scale, and maybe as much as a 10 plus. The extreme violence of the temblor will scare the daylights out of the entire population, and even the animal kingdom will be affected. Apparently a lot of camels will be thrown off their feet, that’s for sure. Mountains will collapse, towering cliffs will be turned into hills, and the walls of every structure will be leveled. The casualties will number in the hundreds of thousands dead and millions injured. “I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother.” To restate those last two sentences in modern English, “It’s on!!” Nobody is going to get left out of this fight, sometimes whether they like it or not!

I will execute upon him plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur upon him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.” This battle is not going to stop just because of an earthquake. Moreover, this doesn’t appear to be an ordinary earthquake, but rather one of a supernatural nature. That’s God’s signature right there, an authentic supernatural occurrence of very mysterious origin. Besides the bloodshed of battle, Gog of Magog’s troops will be struck with a plague, with torrential rain and giant hailstones and with burning sulfur that will presumably be the by-product of the prophesied earthquake of Biblical proportions, although I’m not entirely sure how that will come about. We’ll just have to wait and see when the time comes, and I doubt that we’re going to have a very long time to wait. And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s message, starting at Ezekiel 39 and verse 1.

Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshach and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all the carrion birds and to the wild animals. You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coast lands, and they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 39, verses 1-6)

As I wrote in part 1 from last week, ‘Meshech’ in the original Hebrew roughly translates as the area around Moscow, Russia today. Not just the city, but the entire surrounding countryside, probably an area comprising hundreds of square miles. “Tubal” is generally considered to be the geographical area around modern Tobolsk, Russia. There are some who say that Meshech and Tubal are in modern Turkey. They could be right, but then why does Ezekiel include both Turkey and Russia in his prophecy? “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshach and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel.

Russia is nearly twice as far from Israel than Turkey is, and yet both are prophesied to be part of the multi-pronged military assault on Israel. Moreover, Russia has 2 allies in the Middle East – Iran and Syria. And so it appears that the Gog-Magog War will go down something like this – the confederation of nations and peoples, all of whom are mentioned by Ezekiel in this prophecy as it was dictated to him by God, will launch a full scale military assault on Israel. Iran and Syria, the two Russian allies, together with Turkey, Iraq, the Muslim countries of southwestern Russia (Kazakhstan, etc.), plus Somalia and Libya (and possibly Ethiopia), will all be included in this vast army. Curiously, Egypt is not mentioned at all by Ezekiel, nor does it say how Libya and Somalia will get their troops to the battlefield. In my opinion – this part isn’t in the Bible – neither of those last two countries will be able to get their troops to the battlefield without some professional assistance. Undoubtedly they will be able to get the help they need – it could come from Russia, or more likely Iran, there’s no way to tell for sure at this point.

Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you.” Those who purport to attack Israel and its people will be disarmed – not by Israel, but by God! The attack for which Israel’s enemies have meticulously prepared will never finish being carried out. It will start off strongly enough, that’s for sure, but the well-planned and hyper-coordinated military assault of the combined nations will evaporate like a puddle of water on an August afternoon. At this point, Russia will come to the aid of its allies Iran and Syria, probably aided by Turkey and possibly other countries as well. I’m pretty sure that’s what Ezekiel meant when he wrote, “I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north…. against the mountains of Israel…..” “The far north”, I conclude, could only be Russia.

You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coast lands, and they will know that I am the Lord.” In the open fields on their way to “the mountains of Israel” and coming back again in retreat, the armies of Russia, Iran, Syria, Turkey and all the remaining armies with them, they will all perish. God will send “fire on Magog”, which appears to be a nuclear attack, presumably coming from Israeli military forces as part of the counterattack that drives back all the nations I have mentioned here. But it won’t just be Israel all by herself. She will have divine intervention from the Lord, as we have already seen. I’m sure you all would like to know how in the world can itsy-bitsy little Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey, defeat all those armies when it will be pitifully outnumbered, right? OK, then you will have to come back for the conclusion to this 3-part series next Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy your Easter weekend….

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

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

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

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Building On The Foundation Of Christ

[1st Corinth. chapter 3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Putin’s re-election ensures war in the Middle East will come soon

Putin’s Re-election and Bible Prophecy:

Closing In on Armageddon

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 1]

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stopping_war

The re-election of Russian president Vladimir Putin last Sunday was confirmation for the Trump administration that we must either work together for our mutual good, or we will wind up killing each other off in a nuclear war. His re-election was also confirmation for on-their-knees Bible-believing Christians, whether they attend church regularly or not, that the “Gog-Magog War” from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 is getting close. To explore the significance of this, today I am initiating a 3-part series on this topic to try and better explain this prophecy, since there is so much material to go over. So let me get started by pointing out some related prophecies elsewhere in the Bible that relate to what we’ll be examining today.

First, we have the Psalm 83 war, which describes an unsuccessful invasion of Israel by its neighbors. This appears to have already occurred in the form of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in the recaptured of Jerusalem by the Israeli Defense Force. Those old enough to remember the Yom Kippur War of 1973 have undoubtedly heard the argument that the Psalm 83 war was actually that war, but that’s just Christians and Jews arguing with other Christians and Jews. Since that prophecy has, either way, already been fulfilled, there is no further point in debating this issue. If those people spent the time they devote to disagreements and spent that on the needs of the people – especially their Spiritual needs – the world would be a much better place. There are at least one and probably two world wars that will occur very closely together (see Ezekiel chapter 7 and Revelation 18, both of which describe America’s coming destruction, and Revelation chapter 9, which describes World War Three in alarming detail), but none of those can be called the ‘Gog-Magog’ war for reasons that I am about to make clear. For my text for today, I will start in Ezekiel chapter 38, commencing at verse 1.

The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of Man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophecy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army – your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords….Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety. You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” (Ezekiel 38, verses 1-4, 7-9)

One thing you will notice right from the start is that there can be no question about who is in charge of things. Sorry to disappoint or offend any atheists who happen to stumble onto this posting, but that’s just the way of the universe that God spoke into being. I can’t force you to believe it, so I’m not going to try. Beyond that, the first new thing we see are the words ‘Gog and Magog’, where Magog is the kingdom and Gog is the king, president, or other head of state. As such, Gog is also a military leader. The text is worded, interestingly enough, “Son of man, set your sights against Gog, of the land of Magog….”. In the four Gospels, Jesus sometimes referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Ezekiel 38: 2 is the only place in the Bible I can remember right now where the words “the Son of Man” are used to refer to anyone else but Christ. This should give you all a good idea of how esteemed Ezekiel was in God’s sight, something we all should be aspiring to.

I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army.” ‘Meshech’ is an old Hebrew word for the geographical area around Moscow today, and Hebrew is the original language of the Bible. The second part of that quote, I believe, is currently being put into play, so to speak. What would bring out Moscow’s entire army? Probably not an attack on the US, or at least not at this juncture. As I wrote above, that occurs later in Bible prophecy’s timeline. So what else could Russia be entangled in to the point of having “hooks in (their) jaws”? The one-word answer is, Syria, which is Russia’s only ally that has a Mediterranean seaport. Syria borders Israel, and those two countries have been at each other’s throats for centuries. If Israel were to invade Syria, Russia and Iran would be obligated by treaty to come to Syria’s aid. So we can all clearly see now that the stage has been set for the Gog-Magog War as I write this.

After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety.” The words, ‘people gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel’ refers to the United Nations resolution that made Israel a nation back in 1948, followed by the resettlement of the Holy Land in the ensuing years. This part of the world that we now call the Middle East was largely uninhabited back then, particularly the area where Israel is today. But today, with the Israeli Defense Force being one of the most powerful army and air force in the world, and with a rapidly-expanding navy as well, the words, ‘now all of them live in safety’ are the fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s just that the remainder of Ezekiel 38 is still rapidly unfolding. “You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” Gog of Magog, the prince of Meshech (Moscow) is none other than Vladimir Putin. And, Putin’s Russia, together with her allies and the armies of other nations around Israel (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Libya, and possibly Somalia), is going to attack Israel! I don’t know when, but we won’t have a long time to wait, I’m certain about that. Now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s message, beginning at verse 14 of chapter 38.

Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 38, verses 14-16)

Haven’t you taken notice, Vladimir Putin, of Israel living in relative safety? Israel has beaten back all attempts to attack it militarily and economically to the point that nobody in the Middle East; not Egypt, nor Iran, nor Turkey, and those are the three biggest military powers in the region, with Saudi Arabia also in the running, dare touch Israel. All have attacked Israel in the past except Turkey, and all that their combined military’s could muster was no match for lowly Israel, the smallest country in the whole region. But lately the stakes have gone up considerably. The largest discovery of natural gas ever uncovered has, only in the last year, been found about 60 miles off Israel’s Mediterranean coast – more than Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined! Putin’s main interest in Syria is two-fold – first, because Russia can add a vitally-important southern seaport, and second for what everybody is fighting over – the oil pipelines that run from Syria north through Turkey and into Europe. That is exactly why Vladimir Putin’s Russia is taking such a long, hard look at Israel.

That’s also why Putin is Gog, Russia is Magog, and why Putin will ultimately strike at Israel. When he does so, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and eventually several African countries will all join together in confederation to attack Israel. “You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land.” Russia and her allies will attack very quickly and with the utmost decisiveness, like a mob of millions. The next verses tell what the outcome will be. “In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” They will advance and conquer much territory, and at least for a short while, they will be successful.

But God clearly wants to make an example out of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military might, as he stated in verse 2, “I am against you, O Gog of Magog….”. Again God says in verse 16, “I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me….”, meaning that there will be no one left on the face of the whole earth who will not know exactly who God is and what he can do. Not when he finishes doing what he does to any nation that dares to attack Israel. Israel, you see, is God’s Holy land. For a detailed description of Israel’s true territory – as set forth by Almighty God himself – read Joshua chapters 13-20. For a short version, read Joshua chapter 1, verses 2-4, and you’ll know why God gets so angry whenever any nation attacks Israel. And next week we’ll move on to part 2 of our study of the Gog-Magog War.

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My Reasons for Declining Church Attendance, and Why They Differ from Main Stream Christianity

Why Are the World’s

Young Adults Leaving Churches?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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life's hardest battlesSomeone asked my opinion earlier this week about why so many millennial’s are leaving church, and what can be done about it. After doing some reflection, prayer and meditating, and based on some personal observations, there are quite a few reasons why this is so. To begin with, the fact of the matter is that young Christians often feel forced to choose between their logic and their faith, between evolution and Creation, and between compassion and piety, as if they are mutually exclusive of each other. Meaning, churches who are losing members do so due to politics and religion undergoing a merger while missing any semblance of the awesome power of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This attitude dates all the way back to the time of Christ, when the temple high priests and the Hebrew religious establishment of that time were expecting the Jewish Messiah to arrive as a conqueror who would set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem – in opposition to the Roman Empire, echoing the “patriot movement” of today – and rule the entire world. That day is coming, but not on those terms, until all the Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus said about such people, “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give a tenth of your mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11: 42) God is running out of patience with those who “tithe” weekly while doing nothing for the less fortunate!

 

A second and equally noteworthy reason that churches are losing America’s young professionals is that young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be either too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned to the point of being and thinking backwards, too unconcerned with social justice and hostile to liberal, progressive, environmentalist and LGBTQ people, among others. Most of all, I have met modern Christians who refuse to congregate and worship with anyone other than their own race. Rev. Dr. King said it best back in the 1960’s when he stated, “The most segregated place in America is at church on Sunday morning”. To a large extent, this has not changed much over the last 50 years or so. Does organized religion think that young adults don’t see this for the hypocrisy that it is? Who, after all these decades, still does not understand that there will be no bigots in heaven??

 

A third reason that some well-established churches are driving millennial’s and young adults away is the time-honored yet non-scriptural tradition of abstinence from alcoholic beverages. There are at least a few well-known Christian denominations – which I will decline to name – who “teach” that abstinence from alcohol is essential to salvation in Christ. But they have forgotten all about the twin facts concerning this subject; the first is that Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine, and the second is that there were at least two glasses of wine – and probably more – that were served at the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified. Even the apostle Paul advised Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1st Timothy 5: 23) Earlier in this same book, Paul advised, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” (Timothy 4: 4) Since this includes the grapes that make the wine, Paul’s teaching also extends to other natural substances, like medical marijuana and ‘polysyllabic’ mushrooms, both of which are proven to treat or cure bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic alcoholism, seizures and even certain forms of cancer. That’s why America’s young adults look at the entire ‘abstinence-is-godliness’ issue and see it for the spiritual BS that it truly is.

 

Then there is another one of my pet peeves, that Old Testament-based “teaching” about giving a tenth of your income each and every week, otherwise known as tithing. It is based on two verses of Scripture, the first from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 22, which says, “Be sure and set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year”. According to Scripture, tithing only occurred on certain feast days; Passover, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23, verses 4-44). But modern churches take this much further than that. Their pastors, deacons and other elders will use a well-known verse from the book of Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. It reads as follows: “’Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me’. But you ask, ‘But how do we rob you?’. ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me’” (Malachi chapter three, verses 8-9).

Yet the Bible tells us that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Law, as it is written, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5: 17). So when certain pastors quote from the Book of Malachi, they are taking it out of context. Still, modern-day preachers and evangelists use these verses to convince their congregations to keep giving more money and other donations as if the above verses were directed at the faithful. In reality, these passages were severe admonishments from God, not towards members of the Church, but rather directed at the leadership. Evidently there was some embezzlement going on because the priests kept too much of the offerings for themselves. This had nothing to do with the offerings of the faithful, and it still doesn’t!

 

The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules. The world’s young adults long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt. We are taught to abstain from sex before marriage and not to commit adultery, yet all the while those who teach this commit the same sins in secret, as if God doesn’t know what they are doing. These are the same people who condemn same-sex marriage while committing their own immoral sexual behavior, such as being addicted to pornography. According to statistics provided by the National Council on Churches, combined with statistics from the CDC right here in Atlanta, roughly one half of Christian men, and about 40% of Christian women, are addicted to porn. That’s why I’m saying those who teach ‘abstinence’ are a bunch of hypocrites!

 

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders is that the key to drawing people in their twenties and thirties back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving via texting. But here’s the thing: Christians of all ages have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re turned off by anything that smacks of consumerism. What millennial’s really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance, and much more of it. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

 

People today want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. We want to be challenged to live simply, care for the poor and oppressed, pursue reconciliation, and become peacemakers. What people today don’t want are anti-abortion, “pro-life activists” who happen to be war hawks who are anti-national-health-care. In other words, they want authenticity, and millennial’s aren’t finding it in the churches. Millennial’s aren’t leaving churches because they don’t find the ‘cool factor’ there; they’re leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and so every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus Christ the Son of God and everything he brings, which is life everlasting through his Holy Spirit! But I would encourage church leaders eager to win back young adults to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. The immorality of fighting wars, of extreme inequality, of the race-based drug wars while opiates are legal, and caring for the fatherless, widows and orphans would be good places to start. The point is, we must all start somewhere, or we will all end up nowhere. Better get going….

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