Category Archives: young adults

Our ongoing crowd funding campaign has hit a major milestone. Please join us!

safe_image.php

This crowd-funding project, which is dedicated to ridding the earth of scrap electronics, runs until May 30th! Photo of new location shown below (3988 Flowers Rd. Atlanta, Ga. 30360), now with a significantly lowered amount needed thanks to a large anonymous donation. Many thanks to all the others who gave no matter what the amount. This nonprofit will launch this summer!! https://www.chuffed.org/project/nonprofit-electronic-waste-recycling-and-rebuilding-fundraiser
Flowers Rd. location
Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

There’s a new crowd-funding campaign getting underway; have a look!

Going on right now: Progressive Christian Ministries’ new mission: Environmental cleanup! The apostles worked at day jobs while they ministered, and so will we. Electronic waste recycling/reclamation project crowdfunding campaign; go to https://zurl.co/KK7K #savetheplanet

safe_image.php

Tagged , , , , , ,

College Cheating Scandal is a Symptom of Economic Inequality

When Will They Ever Learn?

Still More Proof That Cheating Is for Losers

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

food_stamps_vs_exxonIt’s been all over the news all week long. The financial elite, including some of Hollywood’s most visible celebrities, have been caught up in the most massive college cheating scandal ever uncovered in American history. Interestingly enough, this matter only came to light as a byproduct of an unrelated securities fraud case that extended overseas, and not to Hollywood at all. The Boston Globe posted a fairly detailed article about this a week or so ago, which you can view from here. But this week’s commentary is not about that investigation. This week’s posting is concerning the evil forces behind this flagrant cheating. I am also writing this to take a stand against those who feel entitled just because they can afford to buy their way through life.

The handbook for humanity, the Bible, has a few things to say about that. I’m sure you can relate, but even if you can’t, please don’t bail out on me just yet. The thing is, if the Bible is really being taught properly, you don’t need to push it on people. Those who use the Bible as moral justification for driving people away have completely missed the point. The Holy Spirit of the risen Lord is never aggressive and never pushy. It is never accusatory, and it keeps no record of wrongs (see 1st Corinthians 13: 5). The true Holy Spirit is peaceful and gentle. The only exception would be if someone were in a state of sin, in which case the Holy Spirit would be convicting that person in their heart. If such conviction does not change that individual, it is at that point that their personal salvation begins to be endangered. Whatever that individual decides to do, it is imperative that we pray for such people, and to do everything possible to help them whenever we find ourselves in a position to do so.

It is written in First Corinthians chapter 6, “ 6) But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 7) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8) Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.” Isn’t this really close to how things are today? People sue one another at the drop of a hat. They take great offense against stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. In so doing, they make themselves difficult people at best, or impossible to get along with at worst. Why not rather be cheated? Instead, those who accuse certain individuals of cheating or even of engaging in criminal activity, are often the ones who engage in such activities themselves. You know, like our politicians?

It is also written in the Gospel of Luke that cheating must be repaid 4 times the amount, as we see in the story of Zachaeus in Luke chapter 19: “ 5) When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6) So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7) All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ 8) But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 9) Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.‘”

Zacchaeus was a smart man. He knew he was a sinner, as are we all. He didn’t pause to consider questions about the degree to which he had sinned, or against which people. He confessed his sins to Christ on the spot, and he was not concerned about how people would view him as a result. Frankly, I find this refreshing. It took a lot of guts to do what Zacchaeus did, and I note that Jesus appreciated the candor of Zacchaeus. But the bottom line here is that Zacchaeus knew he had cheated people, and so offered to pay them back fourfold with Christ himself as an eyewitness, not including the rest of the crowd around them. So does anybody think those who have been indicted in the recent college bribery scandal will get the same kind of punishment? In light of how broken America’s educational and court systems are, I would be pleasantly surprised if any such thing were to occur.

The US judicial, educational, political and economic systems are broken, and it is looking increasingly like things are slowly going from bad to worse. Moreover, it appears that it is the rich who are engaged in the majority of the wrongdoing. The apostle James had something timeless to say regarding this matter: “ 1) My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3) If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4) have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5) Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6) But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7) Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 1-7)

I can’t help but love the apostle James. He’s so direct and to the point, but without being blunt or derisive. But you can already see where I’m going with this, so I’ll skip the long, drawn out explanation. Our educational and our court systems, like the others I mentioned further above, are guilty of showing favoritism to those who were willing to pay the price of admission. Our entire country, from the governmental system on down, reeks of the foul stench of corruption. Moreover, the majority of people don’t seem to care, which troubles me even more. If only more people would memorize, or at least familiarize themselves with, the above 7 verses from the beginning of James chapter 2, the currently unfolding college entrance cheating scandal would never have occurred. Where has America’s conscience gone?

The underlying issue here can be summed up in 2 words: economic inequality. I have written about this extensively in the past, and you can visit my ‘author’ website for more info. But for right now, suffice it to say that the most deserving students are being pushed to the side in favor of those whose wealthy parents bought their children’s way into a future in college, with their degrees in the subject of their choice already taken care of. Welcome to the United States of America, Inc., where everything can be bought for a price (subject to negotiation, of course!). Unfortunately, all of this buying and selling of influence is, for me at least, a bit unsettling and seemingly inappropriate. It is grossly unfair to those who got cheated out of an admission they deserved to get. And I will never stop standing up for truth and justice, and I will never stop standing against America’s atmosphere of corruption. It’s what Jesus would do.

Tagged , , , , ,

What I did for my involuntary vacation

What It’s Like for a Technology Guy to Have to Do Without a Computer for an Agonizing 19 Days, or: The Lessons On Patience That God Just Took the Time to Teach Me

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

needing Jesus By now most of my regular readers have seen the automated postings coming from myself, sent from public libraries, a Fed Ex Office downtown that’s conveniently located just a block from the subway station, and a suburban UPS Store, all with IP addresses you’ve never seen before. Hopefully those postings didn’t end up in someone’s ‘spam’ folder in their inbox. But I’m back now with a newly rebuilt desktop PC, having been forced to scrap my old HP Pavilion notebook. Not to pan HP’s products – my old portable was a 2012 model, a Pavilion 2340DX, so it lasted nearly 7 years; that’s pretty darn good.

It all started when my notebook computer started acting cranky. Actually, it had been that way for weeks. Once I realized it wasn’t a virus, I immediately backup up my hard drive. I later discovered that I got all but about the last 3-4 weeks worth of my postings, which partly defeated the purpose of my data backup. But that is when the real “fun” began. That’s when I rediscovered an old truism called “Murphy’s Law”. In case some of my younger readers haven’t seen this one before, it simply means: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”

So there I am with a broken computer. So? So I have 2 websites, 2 blogs, plus a social media campaign that I was about to launch when all this happened, all at once. So I ordered 2 replacement parts for my notebook from 2 different suppliers, paying both of them extra money to send the parts 2nd day air. Instead, the parts arrived 2 days late, sent USPS Priority. Their priority, I suppose, it sure as hell wasn’t mine! You’ve already guessed the 2nd part. The wrong parts were sent by both suppliers. So I sent a brief social media post to my subscribers telling them why there wouldn’t be any postings for that week. Back the parts went, at which point I was forced to the conclusion that my formerly trusty notebook PC was not going to be worth the effort to repair. Not while my blogs and websites sat idle. No way.

So back to the public computers I went, this time to order a replacement desktop PC and monitor (I had a used 750Gb hard disk I was going to use). I stuck with the UPS Store for this one, since it was the closest and had the most secure network. In the meantime, a new but fairly basic model ‘smartphone’ that I ordered had arrived, and I began the frustrating task of learning how to use it (it was my first touch screen device, since I had been hanging on to my old flip phone for eons). After 3 more days, the computer arrived on time, but the monitor didn’t arrive until (predictably) 2 days later, and it was broken when I opened the box. Back to Fed Ex Office, this time for a 2nd social media update to be broadcast with Zoho.com, my social media manager app, updating everyone on my current status.

By this time I had received the refunds from the first two suppliers, so I went out and put most of that money into a used 19 inch monitor. Eager to get cranked up again, I went home and hooked everything up, only to find the hard drive I was going to use was defective. It had worked at one time, having tested it myself, but it wouldn’t work with my replacement computer because it’s a Dell, and sometimes Dell’s can be picky about what hard drives and expansion cards you can use with them. I should know – I’m retired from IT with 21 years in the business. So back to the local parts store I went, where I had sourced the monitor, and I found a new 1Tb hard disk drive at a reasonable price. It’s now installed in this rebuilt Dell tower I own, and I’m back in business. Thank God my computer skills aren’t as obsolete as the majority of Atlanta employers seem to think they are. But this seems to be the lot for older tech workers like myself.

All this has been a nerve wracking adventure, to say the least. But I didn’t lose my cool, or go off and snap on somebody, although I do remember having a few choice words for my new phone as I was learning to use it. The waiting for the parts was nerve wracking, that much is for sure. That, and the feelings of helplessness while I waited for my parts to arrive. This whole ordeal has, at several points, nearly drove me crazy. But the Bible, which is like a human owner’s manual, has plenty of things to say about the ways in which God develops patience in his followers. In this context, that means acquiring the skills to be able to put up with seemingly impossible situations.

The apostle James had this to say about enduring impossible people and situations: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James chapter 1, verses 2-4) Again further down in verse 12 of that same chapter, James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This means that to follow Christ sometimes means putting up with a lot of people’s junk, especially when they drop it in your lap, as nefarious individuals and circumstances are so prone to do.

So as I close out this week’s message, I’d like to publicly thank God for putting me through what he has over the last 2 ½ weeks. I’m a stronger man because of it, and a little wiser too. I was already a fairly patient man, but now I’m even more so. Some would complain about going through what I just did, being faced with the possible loss in followers if I didn’t get my technical issues fixed. At one time way back when, I was a lot like those who want everything right now, or even yesterday if it were possible. But not anymore, because God has shown me the folly of such obstinate thinking. My point? Had God not taken the time to teach me these things, I would never have learned them. Not only that, but had I not made myself receptive and completely open to God’s teaching over these last 60 years, what I just went through would have sent my entire life down in flames. My whole purpose, which is sharing God’s teachings on the Web, would have been in jeopardy. But I am intact because He has made me so. And next week, I’d like to write about what would happen to us if the internet ceased to exist, owing to the fact that I just had a similar experience. Until then, shalom everyone!

Tagged , , , , ,

Lessons I Learned This Week on Helping the Helpless and Putting My Faith Into Practice

Bottles of Water and Eternal Rewards

by Minister Paul J. Bern

needing JesusThose of you who from here in Atlanta who know me personally are well aware that every time I’m out and about, I keep my eyes wide open for anyone in significant need. I’m not talking about the usual cadre of panhandlers posing as beggars. Atlanta is a town full of professional paupers, who hang around the MARTA light rail system that threads its way throughout Atlanta acting like little lost puppies. Since Georgia’s minimum wage is still stuck at a downright stingy $7.25 an hour, one can often make better than the minimum wage just by begging. Unlike some, however, I don’t necessarily see this as being the beggar’s ‘fault’ per Se. It’s more like capitalism has created these professional panhandlers by trapping them in the economic situations they are in.

Why do I think this way about those who are stuck in poverty? I am right in there with them, that’s why! I spent 16 years in IT, followed by 4 years as a contract delivery driver before my vehicle and my health abruptly gave out. In 2006, four months after my 50th birthday, I had a stroke which I was fortunate enough to survive relatively intact. It took about 3 years for me to get to the point where I felt like I was healthy enough to go back to work. But I was never able to return to the work force, and so I’ve been writing here at home ever since. One of these days, I’m going to make myself some real money for all my efforts, but for now let me get back on topic.

Earlier this week I had to make a trip to my neighborhood Off-the-wall Mart to pick up one of my prescriptions, plus a few other odds and ends. When I came out, I was tired from being on my feet for nearly an hour, and my little folding shopping cart that I currently use to get my groceries – plus those “odds and ends” – home, was full. So I sat down on one of the benches to take a break before walking my stuff and myself back to the bus stop about ¼ of a mile away. There was this younger Black guy, roughly about 30 or so I’d say, sitting there who looked like he was waiting on someone to come out of the store. After a couple of minutes, these 2 Latina ladies came out with a shopping cart full of stuff, and one of them was carrying a case of 20-ounce bottles of water. As they were walking by, the younger Black guy asked her if he could have one of those water bottles. He explained that he was in between jobs and was homeless, and hadn’t had anything to drink all day.

The Latina lady flatly refused him, and stormed off as if she were insulted by being asked for anything, let alone something she had just paid for ‘with her hard-earned money’. I remember being struck by her refusal to give a single bottle of water that, considering how big that case of water was, couldn’t have cost her more than about 40 cents or so. It was right about then that I noticed that the young Black man was dressed in worn-out clothes, and that he probably was being truthful about being unemployed and homeless. The guy sat back down, dejected, looking down at the pavement as he muttered, “Man, ain’t that enough to p**s off just about anybody? All I asked her for was a (bleeping) bottle of water.” At that point I took a dollar out of my wallet, plus most of my spare change, and I gave it all to him as I said, “Here, go inside a buy yourself a water and a small bag of chips. Never mind her.” After praying over that man and giving him my ‘elevator pitch’ about Jesus, I headed off to the bus stop.

I don’t know for sure if that homeless man gave his heart to Jesus, but even if he didn’t, something tells me he eventually will. But that got me to thinking about two related but distinct things. First, how cold that Latina lady and her friend pushing the cart, who was also Latina, had acted towards the homeless Black man. That man did not ask her for money, and he didn’t ask me either. That poor guy was in such bad shape that no one would help him, which is why I did. And second, I was struck by the realization that I had just seen inequality in action. People are talking about an impending civil war here in the US, but there is considerable argument as to the combatants will be. Many say it will be liberal against conservative, but I think it will be the wealthy elites and their mercenaries against everybody else. A few even try to claim this civil war will be racial in nature. Dylan Roof used that as his reason for killing 17 people engaged in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina several years back, and look what that got him. No, Dylan, there will be no race wars. Enjoy your life sentence. Repent, and you can yet be saved, Dylan and all you other racists. Repent and turn to Jesus.

Jesus prophesied about those days, and about the turbulent and chaotic days still to come, in chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel. “34) ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35) For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36) a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” This could be considered a prophecy of any number of civil wars that have happened throughout the course of human history. Wars happen for all kinds of reasons, and they have divided families. But so has religion. I was raised a Catholic, but my former family will have nothing to do with me because I have renounced all belief and confidence in the Vatican. I place my full confidence and belief in Jesus Christ instead, having come to the realization that I could have a personal relationship with Him without the need for the papacy as intermediary. So all my conclusions here are based on personal experience, not merely my opinion.

As we continue together, it reads beginning in verse 37, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38) Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39) Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The two Latina ladies with their case of water and shopping cart full of goods had everything they needed, and there was no way they were going to share it with anybody. So many fortunate people have good jobs, great families, decent incomes, and some own their own homes. Those who keep it all to themselves – their family, social and educational lives – and yet insist that they believe in Jesus, are deceiving themselves. They claim to serve Christ while serving only themselves, and sometimes their immediate families.

That’s the root cause of economic inequality. As wealth continues to be concentrated into a global cadre of about 400 families, while the remaining 7.6 billion individuals remain in grinding poverty, or are just barely keeping their collective heads above water, an ever-widening divide continues to form. That’s why all of us, both rich and poor, have a moral imperative to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Because, if we don’t do this while continuing to accumulate ‘stuff’ for ourselves, at some point that’s going to sneak up from behind and bite us really bad. So we can either take care of our own business exclusively, or we can take care of God’s business exclusively. The choice is truly ours to make. I made the choice to take up my cross for Christ’s name’s sake a long time ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

Which brings us around full circle to the homeless man, bottle of water and the words of Jesus, beginning at verse 40 to close out this week’s commentary. 40) “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41) Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42) And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matt. 10: verses 40-42) For some additional context, Jesus has been speaking to his apostles during their commissioning as such. So in verse 40, that’s what Jesus meant by, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me….”

Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a prophet gets the same reward as that prophet. Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a righteous (that is, faithful and/or proven trustworthy) man gets the same reward as that righteous man. Moreover, “…. if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…. that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Or, for that matter, a bottled water, whether it is cold or not. Which brings us full circle to my friend in front of the Off-the-wall Mart, and the ladies with the case of water and a shopping cart filled with goods. I could not give that homeless man a cup of cold water, but I did give him the means to get one. Those two ladies I wrote about won’t get their reward, or anything else but eternal condemnation, for that matter. I’m sure they were basically ‘good people’, but that won’t get anyone into a state of eternal life. Refusing to give somebody a bottle of water when they could easily have afforded it, however, can put you into a state of eternal death, even while you are still alive. That’s all for this week, but everyone please find a less fortunate person to help this week, even if you only give them your spare change. It could end up saving their life.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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)

For better website or small screen viewing, click here 🙂

new-world-order

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?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

legalization cover 1

(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

Tagged , , , , ,

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.”

 

Tagged , , , ,

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?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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”

 

DCIM100MEDIA

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

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Advertisements