Tag Archives: materialism

People chase after lots of different ‘gods’, but there’s only One that’s real

The Only God That’s Real

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Like nearly everyone else, with the exception of the ‘war hawks’ in the Pentagon who obey without questioning, I too am appalled by the fighting in the Middle East and northeastern Africa over natural resources, politics and religion. The missile strike ordered by president Trump this past Friday night, although probably justified, does nothing at all to improve the situation there. Moreover, I find all the bickering between the peaceful 90%, which is us, and the war hawks (the top 10%) to be little more than a sideshow considering what’s at stake. I am equally put off by all the sniping and infighting here in North America between religious denominations over man-made dogma and traditions steeped in pomp and circumstance while they remind everyone constantly to “support our troops”. They are all in favor of combating and killing Muslims while calling themselves “pro-life”.

 

I will use the Scriptures to prove that the one true God is above and beyond all wars, churches and organized religions, in keeping with the theme of this website. The first thing that I want to remind you of is that there are many false gods in the modern world. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the worship of money and material goods and all the evils that come with them. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. That means money in and of itself is not always evil, but greed and the insatiable lust for money most definitely are. Jesus said in the four Gospels, “No one can serve two masters. He/she will either love one and reject the other, or cling to the latter while despising the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism.” (Luke 16: 13) I think this would apply to, among other things, the sales of military armaments.

 

 

The “love of money” appears in many forms. Let’s ask ourselves these questions – do we sometimes find ourselves in automotive dealerships every time a new model comes out? Do we shop for new clothes, electronics, mobile or “smart” phones, the latest computers, and new decor for our homes whether we need them or not, just because they’re “on sale”? Do we sometimes find ourselves shopping for a new house whether we need one or not? Are any of us in debt up to our eyeballs (not counting student loans) because we owe too much on our credit cards and everything else? If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, and particularly if you prioritize these things at the expense of your Spiritual lives, then you are worshiping a false god(s). It is Jesus Christ and he alone that must be at the top of our priorities. Anything else takes a back seat to Jesus in the order of our lives. Most of the things I just mentioned (excluding greed) are not evil in and of themselves. But false and futile worship of anything other than God, while bypassing or not including Jesus Christ as our Savior, amounts to idol worship. A similar line of questioning was presented to the apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is well documented in the book of Acts in the New Testament. I will begin with a quote from chapter 17, beginning at verse 16.

 

 

While Paul was in Athens…. he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of….. philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign Gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus (which was basically a temple for idol worship and a town meeting place), where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean’…. Then Paul stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth…. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps to reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us…. as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent….when they heard about [Jesus] resurrection from the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “we want to hear from you again on this subject”. (Acts 17, verses 16-32)

 

 

This passage is just one of numerous examples of the apostle Paul’s teaching about the one true God. I especially appreciate that Paul made two distinct points about God. The first is that God is above and beyond all nationalities, races and religions because he preached the same message equally to Jews, Greeks and other Gentiles. The one true God is also above and beyond all the material possessions money can buy. These things were considered to be radical teachings at the time because all these groups believed that their version of God was the correct one to the exclusion of everything and everybody else. This very mistake continues to be made today by certain church denominations who I will decline to name. Nobody has the exclusive path to God. No one has the right to claim that they are any closer to God than anyone else. It’s just not true and it never was. Moreover, nobody has the right to condemn another person’s religion, so long as their beliefs don’t hurt or restrict the freedom of anyone else. And we can’t buy our way into heaven either.

 

 

The second point that catches the human eye and captures my imagination is what Paul said about where God lives. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else.” What an awesome statement! Think about how many religions there are in the world. There are over 4000 Protestant denominations alone, and that’s just in the USA. All are called churches or houses of worship regardless of which religion they represent. And yet God doesn’t live in any of them. Instead, for the true believer God lives in the minds and hearts of all individual believers. Never mind all the spiritual sophistry that’s being “taught” in some modern churches, because it’s largely based on money.

 

 

God doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you have done (or not), what country you are from or what church you are connected with (or not). He doesn’t care where you have been, and He doesn’t care about what is in your past. Unlike many men and women who attend church regularly, God doesn’t care what you look like, or how much money you give to your church or to charities, or what your social or economic status is. God couldn’t care less what church you go to, or even if you go at all. The one true God doesn’t even live in church, although a lot of phony religious leaders and related clergy will no doubt insist that He does. Instead, God wants to live and breathe in our hearts and minds. He wants you to become a church in and of yourself, a church that walks and talks. Not only does God want to live inside you, He wants us all to pay that forward by unconditionally sharing our faith with others. That means that He wants us all to have a sound conscience and to learn how to use it most effectively. Also, to quote the apostle Paul, God wants us to “continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians 2: 12).

 

 

In closing, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church no matter what religion you identify with. If you currently attend, I’m certain that God wants you to continue to go so long as you keep hearing messages from the pulpit that are encouraging, uplifting and positive, and most importantly based on Scripture. I don’t want this message to be a reason for those who are attending church to stop going. God forbid! On the other hand, please keep in mind that the church is just a building and nothing more. I acknowledge that churches are built as meeting places for like-minded believers and that they should remain so. But now that you have read today’s message I hope I have given everyone a better perspective, whether in church or out. You can look at organized religion with skepticism as I do, but do not let that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. The one true God is greater that all the religions in the world combined. He is truly above and beyond it all.

 

 

Let me bring up one more thing before I go, and I really wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point this out. If we are going to have God living inside of each of us then we should be living and acting as if He did. Watch what you say and how you say it. Clean up your life and the language that you use. Be mindful of anything that you are doing to excess because this is the root of all addictive behavior. Live your life as if God is watching what you do and listening to everything you say because He really is. Until next time, then, be a believer that walks and talks the good example of Christ for others to follow, especially those who look up to you. And the almost incomprehensible peace that is the very embodiment of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world – will remain with you all permanently. Amen.

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Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?

Does Anybody Really Know What Time This Is?

Does Anybody Really Care?

By Web pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

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This week’s commentary is titled the same as that 1970 song by “Chicago”. The holiday season is what time it is. Question is, does anybody really care about the original reason we celebrate Christmas? Thanksgiving is long gone, Christmas is this coming week, and it will be 2018 before you know it. Some will say to themselves, “I’m so glad it’s the holidays, I love this time of year”, and really mean it. Others will say the same thing but inwardly they are always relieved when it’s all over and done with. And then there are still others who struggle to get through the holidays, those for whom this is a stressful time. Is it any wonder people get stressed about this time of year? All the frenzied shopping and materialistic acquisition of the latest gadgets, the most up-to-date technologies, the loveliest jewelry, the finest watches and accessories for men and women, and all the new clothes, are soon followed by all the returns, swaps and refunds, and let’s not forget the miserable traffic jams while we’re at it. Let’s remind ourselves one more time – why are we doing this? Because it’s the holidays, and everybody loves the holidays because everybody loves to shop! Right? I mean, we all do think and act like everyone else as we’re supposed to, right? Or is that anywhere near being a correct statement?

The ugly truth is that we have been programmed to behave this way. For generations we have been bombarded with advertisements via the media. First it was newspaper, then radio, then TV became the biggest player in advertising and marketing until the Internet came along, and the Web will soon eclipse them all in terms of sheer volume. Back in the days before the Internet some sales were made in stores, but many other products were sold door-to-door, and a lot of people wouldn’t buy anything that way because they were afraid to trust door-to-door salespeople, and sometimes for good reason. Well, the large volume of advertisements of all variations that we see today on TV or the Internet, or that we hear on the radio, are a lot like those door-to-door salespeople of a generation or two ago. People don’t listen to or watch the ads for the most part. They are regarded as a nuisance that one can’t do much about. Suppose, just for a moment, that the Internet didn’t exist. What if all those TV, radio and Internet ads were door-to-door salespeople? It would be like going back to 1960! It would also mean your doorbell would ring once every minute 24/7! That works out to 1,440 doorbell rings per day, 365 days a year. Well, if nobody would put up with that, why do they put up with all the ads? The answer is because we have been brainwashed, conditioned to accept advertisements not as just a part of everyday living – there will always be ads, even in space someday – but as a necessary part of life.

OK, let’s step back and look at this from a broader perspective. It is indisputable that we are programmed to spend, and this is true throughout the Western hemisphere. Who benefits from this bastardization of the birth of our Lord and Savior? Where does all the money we spend at Christmas time wind up? Walmart? Target? Sears? Amazon? Their stockholders get a portion, granted, and the company gets better capitalized, that’s true. The rest of it goes to the top 1% of the richest people in America and Western Europe, and let’s not forget Canada and Japan while we’re at it. There are about 400 families globally who control roughly 40% of the liquid assets of the entire world. They are the ones who are ultimately pocketing our money after all the counting is done after Christmas. They are the ones running the ads with all the subliminal messages while directing them at your children and grandchildren. They are the ones who want to get in between your ears and mess around with your brain. Why knock on your door to sell you something when they can come at you right through your television or computer screen? The only solution to this is to unplug your TV’s and unsubscribe from your cable or satellite company.

The 400 richest families mentioned above are also the ones who fund the international banking system with portions of their proceeds. This means these 400 families help fund Monsanto so they can poison the ground we grow our food in, they fund ‘Big Pharma’ so we can be pumped full of drugs of often questionable value, and they help fund the “black projects” like HAARP and the blanketing of our earth with “chemtrails” that poison the air. They also fund the Wall Street bankers who are stealing us blind. And all this is being marketed and advertised by way of those ads we all get thrown in our faces on a continuous basis. I won’t presume to speak for anyone else here, but is anybody else besides me fed up with the current state of affairs to the point that we are ready to join a revolt – or perhaps even lead one? Moreover, don’t you think this is the complete opposite of what Jesus would want us to do to celebrate his birthday? By poisoning the world his Father created and the people and animal life that inhabit it? “Jesus”, the worn out cliché goes, “is the reason for the season”. Well if that is the case, then why do we celebrate Christmas every year by enriching 400 families who already have more money than they could ever physically spend in their lifetimes? What is it going to take to get you all to rise up against our oppressors?

As I wrote in a Christmas message from a couple years ago, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th anyway. He was born on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which is in late September or early October by our Western calendar, depending on the year (the Jewish calendar has 360 days). So I won’t be redundant by restating that. But the holidays are not just about the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time for a celebration of his life. Normally we have celebrations of people’s lives at their funerals. But, since Jesus rose from the dead and still lives, Christmas is a time of celebration for what Jesus accomplished with his life. Jesus is far more than a little baby boy born in a manger (A ‘manger’, by the way, is a feeding trough for livestock. “This is my body, broken in remembrance of me….”). He was an apostle for 12, and later for 72, a healer of multitudes, a performer of miracles, a bouncer of demons, a teacher of humanity, a Savior of the world, and a King of the universe. He sits at the right hand of God, his only begotten Son, and his Holy Spirit inhabits the hearts of all who will humble themselves enough to ask him in. At Christmas time we celebrate the life of the man who died on a wooden cross by being nailed to it. Once this was done, that cross was stood straight up and dropped into a hole in the ground so that Jesus was about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. He was likely tied to the cross with ropes to keep him from slipping off the nails. I cannot conceive of having to endure such agony. Jesus’ only consolation as he hung on that cross was his occasional relief from the pain as he slipped in and out of consciousness due to the great loss of blood.

That is what we are actually celebrating – not just Jesus’ birth, but his life and how he lived it! “I have come so that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.” (John 10: 10) Jesus’ life, and the eternal life he has offered to everyone in exchange for our undying faith in him, is what Christmas is really all about! It’s about the birth of Jesus, granted, but there is so much more to it than that. It’s all about what Jesus did with his life once he was born. Christmas isn’t a solitary calendar date, it’s a starting point for a process that is still ongoing as each of us blossoms into the creation we were meant to be. Just as the Father enabled Jesus and his 3 ½ year ministry to blossom into all that it was meant to be. So this Christmas, let’s do more than just celebrate Jesus’ birth. Let’s celebrate Christmas as the starting point to His magnificent life.

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Why Materialism and Real Spirituality Will Never Be Compatible

Institutionalized Consumerism,

Black Friday Weekend, and the Bible

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

The psychopathology of consumerism and the subtle brain washing of mind control – these are the insidious institutions that Americans find themselves subjected to on a daily basis, and all in the holy name of ‘profit’. We have, like it or not, become programmed like robots to spend more than we can afford on things we don’t really need. Like sheep headed to the trimmers – or to the slaughterhouse, depending on your point of view – we dutifully spend our meager little incomes at the bidding of the top 1% of business owners, the corporate elite and their stockholders while our highly vaunted capitalist economic system fleeces us all while rubbing our noses in it. Those who control America’s shadow government – the real movers and shakers from behind the scenes, not their puppets in Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court – have sold out our country to the competition and therefore have committed treason!

The reason most people don’t care about or won’t even consider these glaring realities is because they can “live so much cheaper” buying the very inexpensively made garbage that China and other Pacific Rim and South Asian countries have been dumping on America’s shores since the 1980’s. Cheaper at first, yes, but due to shoddy manufacturing and poor quality, Chinese products are notoriously short-lived and invariably cheap imitations of much better quality merchandise that used to be made here in the US. But that, of course, was before corporate America and Wall Street outsourced all those middle class American jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar. And so we fight and claw for the thriftiest deal at the various suburban big box stores, purchasing with our meager earnings from our multiple part time jobs – because there are no full time jobs available – as well as other chain stores, all of whom offer pathetic and similarly low wages and zero benefits to their staff. Just like your own employer, most likely.

So, as the ‘pitch man’ says, how much can we save on all these wonderful items (LOL)? That depends. If one uses plastic instead of paper, that “consumer” always ends up paying far more in interest, fees and hidden charges than they would have if they bought a similar higher quality item at the finest store in town and paid cash. Hmm….. maybe we should ask ourselves some more pertinent questions and explore some far more evident realities about this issue. For example, what about the Chinese workers slaving in dangerous non union factories for 10-12 hours a day? How much does the company pay them? It works out to between 1 and 2 dollars per day. Try living on that for just one week!! Yet Jesus clearly stated, “The workman is worth his wages” (Luke 10: 7). So it is clearly a sin for business owners to cheat or underpay their workers. Who benefits most from these kinds of arrangements? Is it really the mesmerized consumer, all teary-eyed with joy while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Or could it be that the whole stinking thing is rigged from beginning to end? Of course it is!!

Just look at what is being sold and calculate how much it costs to make it. If I look at a 15 ounce can of generic or store brand pork and beans on the grocery shelf priced at 75 cents, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that 75 cents is an outrageous markup. The cans are made by the millions, so they cost just a penny or so to manufacture. The contents of the can usually cost even less. The label costs between 5 and 7 cents at the most. So we’re looking at no more than 2 cents for the can and the contents, and maybe an extra 5 or 6 cents for the label. Add another penny or two for shipping and we have 10 cents at the most. Ten darned cents, and the retail price is 75 cents? So the gross markup is more than seven times the cost, or in excess of 700%? Precisely. Or consider a far more expensive item such as the latest I-phone. They sell for about $700 dollars and up, plus taxes and “fees”, but there was a posting on the Internet just recently to the effect that it only costs Apple, Inc. about $120.00 to manufacture I-phones because they were being made in China, resulting in a profit margin exceeding 300%. So much for “God bless America”.

“Yeah, but,” the politicians and talking heads say to us on TV, “it’s the American workers. They don’t want to work menial jobs like canning pork and beans. And we can’t assemble I-phones in America because our workers aren’t qualified.” Never mind that there are many thousands of recent college graduates who are living with their parents because they are unable to support themselves. There simply are no jobs for these poor young adults, and yet they are expected to repay predatory and exorbitant student loans. The careers for which they have been training have already been out-sourced to the third world during the last 4+ years that these hapless individuals have spent earning their degrees. They have all been robbed of their educations, which have been rendered worthless by the multinational corporations and the US military-industrial complex who are running the whole show. The very companies these young graduates are looking forward to going to work for are the ones who have sold them out. As you can see, they don’t have much to be thankful for except for being alive. But thanks be to God, who makes being thankful for being alive just enough to be happy about!

Yet we are expected to perform our patriotic duty as well as appropriately celebrate the “feast of capitalism” as we shop till we drop looking for that most fantastic bargain. We are in the process of being programmed to slave at multiple part time jobs working for starvation wages and with no health benefits while being expected to buy $300,000.00 houses, $70,000.00 cars and trucks plus big screen TV’s and $1,000.00 I-phones. While all this is occurring, certain employees of multiple multinational corporations are being well paid to line the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C., while sitting on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet’s future, our own future, and our children’s future. Is it any wonder that the entire world seems to be coming unglued? Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into something that might soon become more lifeless than the moon or a Wall Street tycoon’s conscience. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of our hallowed shopping malls and venerated big box stores.

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song “Revolution”, “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we’d all love to change your head.” Yes, it is about more than changing Wall Street or who resides in the White House. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. If we all really want some serious change, then change must start from within. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism, greed and how they are ruining the planet. Help them to understand that it’s not about how much we have, but rather how much we contribute. Life is not about how much we own or the value of our possessions. A life well lived is all about making a stand for good things like faithfulness, showing mercy and kindness, and above all, expressing love. Instead of buying your wife a new car while going into debt, take her up on the highest place around where you live, or to some favorite romantic spot, and renew your vows to her. Instead of buying your husband a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Enjoy each other and be loving to each other. To enjoy is to enjoin is to unite. And since we’re going to unite in this regard, let’s unite against greed and materialism while we’re at it!

Consumerism, capitalism and the vain pursuit of worldly goods keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising with strikingly beautiful women, absolutely perfect children and gorgeous, flaming hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. To put it simply, the corporate mold and the Hollywood image are a load of BS. And who is being molded in all these advertising gimmicks? You are!! For what purpose? To make others rich at your expense!! The blue chip corporations have a very good reason for doing all this. As long as they can keep us isolated, we can never be united. Don’t go there. Keep your money. Find richness in your heart, your spirit and your character and share that with everyone this year instead.

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You can have spirituality or prosperity, but not both

Wealth or Jesus: We Must Pick One or the Other

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in a browser, click here! 🙂

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The definition of cognitive dissonance is a person’s brain trying to reconcile two contradicting realities. One common example of this is an abusive relationship, where the man/woman obviously understands there’s abuse from their significant other, yet they love them anyway. Often their brain will then develop excuses for such action. It’s their fault or the other person has just been under a lot of stress. The reality is their brain simply cannot accept two different realities that contradict, so it creates yet another. This is never more prevalent than when it comes to wealthy conservatives and Christianity. They are the proponents of policies that contradict much of what Jesus taught.

These top 1% folks, who are sitting on 99% of America’s wealth, allegedly do so in order for the rest of us to enjoy the windfall of their generosity through increases in top 1% revenue. Let that sink in for a second – an economic policy based upon this notion: ‘If we subsidize greed even more than it already is, the rest of society benefits as a result.’ When has greed ever benefited a society? While we’re at it, what does the Bible say about greed? “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) It becomes a driving obsession to acquire still more. Once the acquiring has happened, then comes the need to protect what has been acquired. This is selfishness and it is sin, as it is written: “There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling’, he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business!”(Ecclesiastes 4:8)

Once the greed-driven have acquired and secured everything in sight, they’re still not satisfied! They are never satisfied with all they have; their eyes always search for more, as it is written, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). This coveting begets more greed, which snowballs into more selfishness, and the selfishness begets more coveting and so on – to utter madness! “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) By this point, there is no room left for God. Money is now the master of the house, as it is written, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Seems pretty straight forward to me, how about you? Greed is a vicious circle that feeds on itself, generating ever increasing amounts or degrees of craving still more. The more they have the more they want. Isn’t that what we’ve seen for the last 40 years? Isn’t this what “Trickle Down Economics” has given us? In the last 40 years the top 1% has grown exponentially, never more so than in the last decade. Yet what has it brought us? Economic failure caused by a cadre of millionaires crying out that they need even more. Many of the same businesses that proved in the 90′s, even with higher taxes, that they could yield historic growth are now fighting a return to those very same tax levels. They now claim economic prosperity isn’t obtainable at those “job destroying” levels of taxation. The fact is, they’re right. Their economic prosperity cannot be sustained at a higher level of taxation. The more we fed into this myth of Trickle Down Economics, the more lower taxes benefited them, the more they expect to expand their greedy nature. To raise their taxes would mean their giant profits would probably be taken down to just, well, significant profits.

This isn’t about these businesses making profits, they can easily do that, but they want larger profits. What they had in the 90′s is no longer good enough, they want more. Of course it’s impossible to return to the very same tax rates that brought us the best economic growth in our history, because then their greed would have to return to a lower level, and as the Bible says, greed is perpetual and never ends. We gave them more and now their solution to fix our problems? You guessed it, they want even more! Isn’t that exactly what the Bible warns will happen? Did we not have wealthy Americans in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s? The answer is yes, they just weren’t as wealthy. Trickle Down Economics was the catalyst for the acceptance of greed. It gave those with the most more, and any mention of returning it to their rightful owners is met with a horrific depictions of economic Armageddon.

And there you have it, cognitive dissonance. The top 1%’s political ideology completely contradicts the realities we’ve seen and those the Bible supports. They preach Christian values at the same time they advocate a policy that says giving into greed will benefit our society. They vehemently denounce abortion while advocating war and conquest, resulting in 1.2 million civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan alone since 2001. So unborn babies get a great deal of attention in churches, but once you’re born, you’re screwed, especially if you live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, etc., etc.! The human brain simply can’t handle two conflicting realities, so it creates one of its own. The more we allowed the wealthy to have, the more they asked us to give. We did this to the detriment of our own economy and ourselves. If trickle down economics works, shouldn’t their success and our success mirror one another? As they gain, we gain. You know, like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’? However, that isn’t what happened because life no longer works that way thanks to the 1%. The more the 1% gains, the more they want, and they’ve made sure that everyone else chips in!

Think of a small fishing boat. If weight is equally dispersed it’ll stay buoyant and afloat. But what if the weight shifts more forward or backwards, what happens? The boat becomes unstable. Now imagine if suddenly all the weight is shifted forward, what would happen? Simple – the boat will suddenly suffer instability, capsize then sink. As our nations’ wealth rushed to the top 1% in the last decade, that’s exactly what happened – our boat capsized and then sank. Does this contradiction between faith and political ideology suggest that conservatives believe Jesus supported greed? It looks to me like they believe he condemned homosexuals and demeaned women, and considered the poor as lazy people seeking a handout. So why not perpetuate the belief that He would have supported greed? Don’t let the Bible scriptures sway your views, it’s much easier to simply allow yourself to give into and concoct a delusional reality.

What religious conservatives have done is a complete distortion of the Christian faith. The so-called “prosperity gospel” (LOL) doesn’t even fit into the very nature of what Jesus lived and died for! Every economic stance they support benefits the wealthy at the expense of the remaining 99% of us! How does it make any sense to have a portion of American society that pushes themselves as the Christian majority, the party of values and decency, and yet their entire economic stance contradicts what the Bible and Jesus says about greed? What religious conservatives claim to follow isn’t Christianity at all, and it sure doesn’t emulate Jesus. Remember what Jesus said about that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”, meaning those who have the means to make a difference should do so unreservedly and unselfishly. Yet, to a religious conservative this is essentially “socialism”. It’s allegedly unfair. But isn’t Christianity about giving, loving, and helping those who cannot help themselves? These are the principles I try my best to live by as a practicing Christian.

But I’m neither Republican or Democrat. I’m neither liberal nor conservative because I think there are good points to both sides. On one hand I could be considered conservative because I am in favor of small government and free enterprise. But I could also be considered liberal because I’m a firm believer in universal health care (no, not Obama-care because it seems woefully inadequate to the task), free higher education and a $14.00 per hour minimum wage. We all know that the two-party US political monopoly lacks faith and morals. They envy the rich, and all of that rhetoric the “good” Christian Republicans use against people, yet none of it is true. Yet there they sit, a walking contradiction. A party who supports faith in God above anything and policies that favor greed over everything.

The Jesus I worship is a man who we should all strive to become because he is the Son of the Living God. Jesus was a man who didn’t casually judge people, who stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, who never felt slighted or that life was unfair. Jesus was wary of people who spoke of God on their lips but lacked true faith in their hearts. He was a man who embraced everyone, even those who disagreed with him. A man who personified everything mankind should be. As for those conservatives, who knows what man they worship. If the policies they support are reflective of the faith they follow, it sure isn’t Christianity and that man sure wasn’t Jesus.

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As the Annual Orgy of Materialism Draws Mercifully to a Close….

The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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To read this on my website, click here! 🙂

It’s that time of year again, the closing days of the holiday shopping season when people by the millions will finish spending an average of $750.00 each between now and December 31st on a bunch of cheap imported Chinese crap that nobody really needs. The worst part for American consumers is that all these inexpensive imported products from the sweat shops of the 3rd world are designed and manufactured in such a way as to make sure the items wear out sooner rather than later in the hopes that the American consumer will go out and buy a replacement, hopefully sooner rather than later. The giant US multinational corporations have figured out that if you make a product just good enough to hold out for a little while, you can still get people to buy it even though it is made as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately for these same monstrosity corporations, the American consumer has begun to wake up and realize they have been had and that things have been this way for a long time, and they’re getting a little madder about it each day. Their fury and rage first manifested itself in the Arab Spring of 2011, followed by rioting in Spain and England that summer, followed by civil unrest in Greece that has yet to completely simmer down. The civil war in Syria similarly rages on as I write this. This has been followed here in the US and Europe in the form of the Occupy Wall Street and “we are the 99%”, protest movements of which I am proud to be a part, and both of which are still very much ongoing, and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement.

All I’m saying is that people everywhere have become more questioning, more critical or have even become opposed to capitalism as we know it due to what is increasingly being viewed as its predatory nature and its emphasis of profits over people. Many of us, including myself, are completely up in arms over the state of our country. The Christmas shopping season is just one symptom of capitalism gone overboard, with a mad dash to acquire more and more material things just for their own sake at a time when we are supposed to be quietly celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is indicative of a society that has lost its sense of direction and lost touch with its purpose for being. I was one of millions of people who boycotted Black Friday last month as a way to peacefully protest being forced to live in a world where the main thing that matters most seems to be how much money one can make.

I’ve been there and done all that. I owned a small computer store all through the 1990’s and made some real good money. I never got rich, but I’m okay with that. I know what it’s like to have all that, and do you know what I found out about wealth and riches? It’s just a big trap, a never-ending treadmill of the pursuit of profits until it consumes your whole life, until in the end you realize that it was all just an illusion. Like a game of Monopoly, when the profit machine comes to an end (and sooner or later they all do) and the game is over, everything goes back in the box only to start all over again. That’s all capitalism and the taking of profits is – one big Monopoly game where the person with the most money wins, and always at the expense of everybody else. Is it any wonder that capitalism and the taking of profits has ruined the spirit of Christmas, let alone the whole country? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong at all with turning a nice profit, but not if it means ripping off your customers and cheating your employees!

What have we become? Like cattle and sheep headed to slaughter, we roll out at this time of the year at the bidding of shop-till-you-drop gimmicks. Meanwhile, we fight and claw for the blue light special at the various suburban box stores offering low wages and no benefits to staff. So, how much can we save? Wally World is offering 25% off, while Sneers is offering 30%. Let’s run to Sneers! It’s only 30 more miles down the road and we’ve got the gas! What about the Chinese people slaving in non union factories at pennies a day? What do they make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumers teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Our politicians say it’s the American workers. Yes, it is our right to slave part time at minimum wages and no health benefits while we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We make this statement as employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while seated on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet’s future, our future, and our children’s future. Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or, God forbid, a Wall Street tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers, the strip malls and humongous big box stores. For example, consider the following December 2013 release from the Associated Press.

“A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an X-box and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted X-boxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers “in order to get an advantage,” police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an X-box. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once.” (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press)

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song “Revolution”, “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we’d all love to change your head.” Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. This Christmas, change how you celebrate. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Ladies, instead of buying your guy a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Be creative, be loving, be tender and compassionate. Enjoy each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite. Consumerism keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of unrealistically beautiful women, “perfect” children and gorgeous hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. And who is being molded by all these advertising gimmicks? You are! For what purpose? To make others rich. Don’t go there this year. Find richness in your heart and share that this Christmas. And keep more of your money.

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I Want My Christmas Back!!

The True Spirit Of Christmas

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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This week as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I want to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and on how Christmas has been twisted and perverted by the dying economic system known as capitalism that we’re all stuck living under. Here in the 21st century, people all over the world are in a holiday feeding frenzy of buying ridiculous amounts of unneeded consumer goods. The only sure outcome of this is for every shopper to wind up even more deeply in debt than they were before Thanksgiving, and to be increasingly insolvent as well. Too many people have collectively forgotten the true reason for the season, the birth of Christ, and they have traded His sacred birth for the blind pursuit of material gain. Instead of worshiping the Son of God, people everywhere are worshiping the almighty dollar and all the goods that it can bring home with them. This is idolatry in its purest form, and as a minister of the Gospel I stand against it!

This rampant money-worshiping has been carried to such extremes over the years that it has carried people from all walks of life past the point of insolvency. As I write this, the average level of indebtedness for any given American is well in excess of 120% of their net worth. In other words, the majority of working Americans are bankrupt, a condition that continues to get worse as time marches on. Clearly this trek into the economic wasteland of bankruptcy is unsustainable. A full two-thirds of the US economy is powered by consumer spending. The true unemployment rate in this country stands at around 15% or more here at the end of 2015, because the government doesn’t count those who have given up looking for work as well as those who are working part-time when full-time employment is required. While all this is happening, the US government continues to spend $12 billion per week (see the Defense department or GAO websites) on overseas military excursions, which is similarly unsustainable. The bottom line here is that such obscene levels of spending, which is exacerbated by the Christmas shopping season, will eventually cause the American economy to implode on itself due to corruption from within and crushing debt levels from without. And this may well happen sooner rather than later, so be warned!

We call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday”. This ominous sounding moniker, which reminds me of the 1970’s Steely Dan song by the same name, is actually a forecast of good tidings, especially if one is a retailer. No matter how poorly retail sales have been throughout the year, the giant retailers whose CEO’s and top managers rake in millions and millions of dollars per year for themselves can count on Americans to put themselves, their families and other loved ones at risk by spending money that they don’t have on gifts that people don’t need. Consequently, the wealthy captains of retail can be certain that their profits will be in “the black” starting on the day after Thanksgiving through December 25.

Many Americans who call themselves Christians claim that they place themselves more deeply in debt starting on the day after Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate the birth of a very special Man. As with all religions, not all Christians practice their faith in the same manner. Not all Christians see the full month before the day on which this man was supposed to have been born as a time to fret over the equity with which they part with the money they borrow. Not all Christians use this time to become agitated, depressed and even angry because of the internal and external conflicts they suffer over the distribution of gifts purchased with borrowed money. However, the man, obviously the man that people today refer to as Jesus Christ, was an extremely special Man. This Man is so special that we began counting time once again based upon the year in which he was born. Therefore, many of those who call themselves “followers” or “Christians”, feel the need to become more reckless, not only with their financial standing, but with the Earth’s natural resources like the water we drink or the air we breathe. I have had a belly full of this worldwide consumer insanity! Moreover, this consumerism is consuming the consciousness of my fellow Americans as we lose our fiscal minds more and more each year!

It’s really not that important, however, to debate the historical narrative of the life and times of Jesus Christ. What’s important is that the part of the Word that’s dedicated to that life and time emphasizes what many would today call “democratic socialism” (see 2nd Corinth. 8: 13-15; Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4: 32-37). Although it’s written that, at times, Jesus Christ warned anyone who would listen that they’d better believe in his words and follow his lead and direction lest they spend eternity experiencing unimaginable torture, torment and agony, the bulk of the writing about Jesus Christ describes giving to those less fortunate, plus social and economic inclusion, and world peace. What a different outlook we would have if, every day, from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas, the goal for those with an overabundance was to search for those who don’t have any and, when they find them, give them what they need! Why, it would be just like the unconditional love and peace that Jesus Christ taught us about! You know, being more Christ-like, not hoarding money and goods for oneself, and putting the needs of others ahead of ourselves. That Jesus. The real deal.

What is the available alternative to this? Last year, two people were trampled to death on “Black Friday” as they callously stormed into the money changers’ temples. Refusing to participate in this annual orgy of consumption is much more in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. But the ugly truth is that this behavior is in large part due to American culture, similar to gun ownership. America is the world’s top arms manufacturer. There are more guns in American homes than in all the other countries of the world combined. We as a people, as I’ve written in the past, have some serious soul-searching to do about what it is we really value. As you read just above, America has now become so violent that we can’t even go shopping on Black Friday anymore without risking accidental death! And, all this is happening within what is supposedly the greatest country in the world! Lately I’ve begun to wonder about that. Hey, I’m just one guy trying to turn the time of year that’s always fallaciously referred to as a time of “peace on earth and good will toward men” into entire years of “peace on earth and good will toward men.”

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Can the American dream turn out to be a nightmare?

Is The American Dream A Christian Nightmare?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

The American Dream has at its core an escape from the real world to build a personalized utopia, a custom-made fantasy island of sorts. When we were taught to pursue this dream when we were growing up, we were told that if we work hard and diligently enough, we’ll be able to make enough money to buy a house in the right neighborhood so our kids go to the right schools, and buy enough stuff so as to please ourselves and shut out the rest of the world. But the house and our neighborhood are not the only part of our island. Our cars give us the power to choose almost everything such as where our work, houses, churches, and friends can be. Our cars allow us to escape what we don’t like about the neighborhoods we must sometimes live in.

If that is not enough, our TVs and our Internet connections allow us to filter out whatever else could intrude on us. And it is not that we need help to filter out what is unpleasant. The media does that for us already – testified to by those who are from other countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Israel/Gaza. Our media protects us from the real life negative stories about what our country and corporations do to others. In lieu of the unpleasant truth, our media reports only that which does not interfere with our consumption of their sponsors’ products. And out of that small selection that is left from all of this filtering, we use the remote to choose shows based on how they make us feel. What a dumb life this is!

Greater Christianity sees this isolation by its secular fellow Americans as an affirmation of his own similarly withdrawn theology. For example, I rarely see any articles or postings that calls into question the extreme immorality of waging war. Rather, their articles, Christian books and TV shows are concerned with fine theological points, evangelical efforts, how to run church services, all about miracles real or imagined or engineered, and all the while oftentimes overemphasizing fund raising. But it is not just the articles that are printed in our literature that show how we distance ourselves, but we use our gospel of individual salvation to shut out what is disturbing. We so reduce our standing before God to the current state of our inner self and beliefs that we become hyper vigilant over ourselves while ignoring the needs of others. As a result, we become agitated and even panicked when the concerns of the world ask for our time. And it isn’t just the negativity of the news that disturbs us, it is its complexity. Since things are simple when we only have to care for ourselves, we prefer to pay as little attention as possible to others. The Bible says. “we have the mind of Christ”, but some Christians aren’t acting like it.

And when we do see and respond to the suffering of others, it is only to a chosen few fellow Christians or to those whom we cannot avoid. But such an approach to helping others goes against what the Bible teaches. Isaiah chapters 58 to 59 and Jeremiah 22:16 (“He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all went well. ‘Is that not what it means to know me’, says the Lord?”) closely tie helping those in need with having seen the light. Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats not only taught that those who helped others in need were the sheep who received eternal life, it also showed that those who neglected the needy were banished from heaven. He also demonstrated this latter principle in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In His parable of the rich man, who built extra barns to hold the excess of his harvest and told himself to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow he could die – well, sure enough, he did. He begged Lazarus from the fires of hell to give him just one drop of cool water, but Lazarus could not. Last in my list is the book of Proverbs, containing such tasty nuggets of wisdom such as, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (chapter 14, verse 31), and “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor, and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them” (chapter 22, verses 22-23).

But perhaps the most pathetic way that Christians remove themselves from the world is by blindly submitting to authority. It is not that Christians are not called to submit to those in authority – quite the contrary! But many of today’s Christians do so as a way of shielding themselves from the risks that come with confronting evil, such as intimidation due to possible bodily harm, rather than from punishment. Submission to authority, then, is sometimes practiced not in order to love God and others, but to secure for oneself the kind of world that is most comfortable, if not lovable. And so when evil prevails in either the private or public sector, this legitimate command to submit to the authorities is used to hide oneself, as Jonah tried to do, from the mandate to preach the Gospel. But not only are we negligent in our Christian duty when we fail to confront those who abuse their power, we also become complicit in their evil ways. And we do so in order to ride on the coattails of evil and power rather than risk any reprisal for challenging it.

Martin Luther King faced this very dilemma when he stood up to the legalized racism and racial hatred that was rampant in the American South. He wanted to honor and follow the commandment in Romans 13 that told him to submit to the authorities. At the same time, he knew that many authorities were enforcing unjust laws while allowing abuse and even terrorism. He could have submitted and just gone along with the status quo and he would have avoided making himself a target. But that would have been the coward’s way out! For if he was quiet, then others would continue to suffer horribly. So King concluded that he could meet both responsibilities by using respectful dissent and peaceful protest. When arrested, he made no effort to resist. He did not challenge the authority of the police, but he did challenge the validity of unjust laws and the society that profited from that authority.

Finally, there is still an even greater escape from our responsibilities to the world that many Christians use and I don’t mean belief in the Rapture, either. That theological withdrawal consists of relying solely on prayer to confront the sins of the status quo. It isn’t that prayer should be forsaken; I firmly believe that prayer is vitally important. But prayer without actions can be dead, especially when we pass over opportunities to speak out against evil or to render aid to someone in need. People like that behave that way to cover a whole host of emotions that are based on fear and apathy. While neglecting the suffering of others, we say to them that we care but our lack of actions show otherwise. There is no excuse in God’s sight to fail to defend those who are being oppressed when we are strong enough to do so. The apostle Paul wrote, “Faith without works is dead”, and it’s even more true today than when those words were written 2,000 years ago. Private acts of charity must be done in conjunction with preaching the Gospel. I aspire to the same by putting up this website.

There is a Biblical reason why the American Dream is so desirable to Christians. It is because we see the American Dream as the Garden of Eden restored and thus it’s our Christian duty to enjoy. In fact, some think that the purpose of God’s Word is to make Paradise accessible again, not understanding that we who call upon the name of the Lord are destined for a Paradise that will put the Garden of Eden to shame. Such Christians argue that basing one’s life on God’s Word is like following the right blueprints when constructing a building, and they have a point. The more we follow God’s Word, the more we can avoid the hazards of sin. But the big question becomes, did God give us His word to return us to the Garden or to help us through the wilderness? But before answering that question, we must understand why would Jesus commanded us to collect our treasures in heaven rather than on earth, and why the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us we are to look for a new home to come rather than a home here.

To believe that God’s Word tells us how to regain Paradise is inaccurate, to put it nicely. By the same token, the real attraction to the American Dream isn’t the opportunity to restore what was lost but to worship what can be found – the twin false gods of money and materialism. The American Dream is a monasticism with benefits. Its preachers assure us that we can be righteously selfish. The “prosperity gospel” is taught in churches like a canned sales pitch, and is gleefully and mistakenly received as truth by the gullible. It allows us to flee from what is unpleasant and distasteful in the world while enjoying its corruptible fruit. This makes America a trap for 21st century Christians. For when we try to take what we want instead of waiting on God, we become deaf and blind to both the world God wants us to share His love with, as well as our own depleted spiritual conditions.

My conclusion, then, is to reject materialism and the pursuit of economic gain! Jesus said, “One cannot serve two masters. He/she will either love one and despise the other, or cling to one while rejecting the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon (materialism)”. Choose today whom or what you will serve in life. You can either pursue wealth and material goods, or you can pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and all that goes with it. There is so much more to choosing Christ than there is to choosing riches, which can be here one day and gone the next without warning. One cannot serve them both, since from the vantage point of the believer they are in opposite directions from each other. Our wealth and possessions die with us or are willed to others after we are gone, but Jesus Christ lives today, tomorrow, and forever! It is He and he alone that is the correct choice for us to make. Right now would be a perfectly good time to do this (for those readers who haven’t already done so). Simply pray within yourself to Jesus and ask Him to take charge of your life. It doesn’t matter how you surrender to him, just do it. He always does a great job anyway, so there is no point in resisting him. Ask Jesus now, he is waiting eagerly for you. And he loves you unconditionally.

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There are a lot of idols in the modern world. How do we tell the real from the fake?

The Only God That’s Real

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

 

This week’s commentary will be taken primarily from the book of Acts in the New Testament, which is right after the gospel of John for all you new believers. Like nearly everyone else, I too am appalled by the fighting in the Middle East and Africa over religion. I am equally put off by the sniping and infighting between religious denominations over man-made dogma and traditions steeped in pomp and circumstance. I will use the Scriptures to prove that the one true God is above and beyond churches and organized religion, in keeping with the theme of this website. The first thing that I want to point out is that there are many false gods in the modern world. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the worship of money and all the evils that come with it. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. That means money in and of itself is not always evil, but greed and the insatiable lust for money most definitely are. Jesus said in the four Gospels, “No one can serve two masters. He/she will either love one and reject the other, or cling to the latter while despising the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism.” (Luke 16: 13, NIV)

 

 

Let’s ask ourselves these questions – do we sometimes find ourselves in automotive dealerships every time a new model comes out? Do we shop for new clothes, electronics, mobile or “smart” phones, the latest computers, and new decor for our homes whether we need them or not, just because they’re “on sale”? Do we sometimes find ourselves shopping for a new house whether we need one or not? Are any of us in debt up to their eyeballs (not counting student loans) because we owe too much on our credit cards? If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, and particularly if you prioritize these things at the expense of your Spiritual lives, you may be worshiping a false god. It is Jesus Christ and he alone that must be at the top of our priorities. Anything else takes a back seat to Jesus in the order of our lives. Most of the things I just mentioned (excluding greed) are not evil in and of themselves. But false and futile worship of anything other than God, while bypassing or not including Jesus Christ as our Savior, amounts to idol worship. A similar line of questioning was presented to the apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is well documented in the book of Acts in the New Testament. I will begin with a quote from chapter 17, beginning at verse 16.

 

 

While Paul was in Athens……. he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of….. philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign Gods’. They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus (which was basically a temple for idol worship and a town meeting place), where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean’……. Then Paul stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth……. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps to reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us…. as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent….when they heard about [Jesus] resurrection from the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “we want to hear from you again on this subject”…Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the [Jews and Greeks] that Jesus was the [Messiah]. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’.” (Acts 17, verses 16-32; 18: 5-6; NIV)

 

 

This passage is just one of numerous examples of Paul’s teaching about the one true God. I especially appreciate that Paul made two distinct points about God. The first is that God is above and beyond all nationalities, races and religions because he preached the same message equally to Jews, Greeks and Gentiles (a group of people that included everybody else). This was considered to be a radical teaching at the time because all these groups believed that their version of God was the correct one to the exclusion of everything and everybody else. This very point continues being emphasized today by certain church denominations who I will decline to name. Nobody has the exclusive path to God. No one has the right to claim that they are any closer to God than anyone else. It’s just not true and it never was.

 

 

The second point that catches the human eye and captures my imagination is what Paul said about where God lives. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else.” What an awesome statement! Think about how many religions there are in the world. There are over 400 Protestant denominations alone. All are called churches or houses of worship regardless of which religion they represent. And yet God doesn’t live in any of them. Instead, for the true believer God lives in the minds and hearts of all individual believers. Never mind all the spiritual sophistry that’s being “taught” in some modern churches, because it’s largely based on money. God doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you have done (or not), what country you are from or what church you are connected with (or not). He doesn’t care where you have been, and He doesn’t care about what is in your past. Unlike many men and women who attend church regularly, God doesn’t care what you look like, or how much money you give to your church or to charities, or what your social or economic status is. God couldn’t care less what church you go to, or even if you go at all. The one true God doesn’t even live in church, although a lot of phony religious leaders and related clergy will no doubt insist that He does. Instead, God wants to live and breathe in our hearts and minds. He wants you to become a church in and of yourself, a church that walks and talks. Not only does God want to live inside you, He wants us all to pay that forward by unconditionally sharing our faith with others. That means that He wants us all to have a sound conscience and to learn how to use it most effectively. Also, to quote the apostle Paul, God wants us to “continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians 2: 12, NIV).

 

 

In closing, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church no matter what religion you identify with. If you currently attend, I’m certain that God wants you to continue to go so long as you keep hearing messages from the pulpit that are encouraging, uplifting and positive, and most importantly based on Scripture. I don’t want this message to be a reason for those who are attending church to stop going. God forbid! On the other hand, please keep in mind that the church is just a building and nothing more. I acknowledge that churches are built as meeting places for like-minded believers and that they should remain so. But now that you have read today’s message you know a better way to keep everything in perspective, whether in church or out. You can look at organized religion with skepticism as I do, but do not let that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. The one true God is greater that all the religions in the world combined. He is truly above and beyond it all.

 

 

Let me bring up one more thing before I go, and I really wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point this out. If we are going to have God living inside of each of us then we should be living and acting as if He did. Watch what you say and how you say it. Clean up your life and the language that you use. Be mindful of anything that you are doing to excess because this is the root of all addictive behavior. Live your life as if God is watching what you do and listening to everything you say because He really is. Until next time, then, be a church that walks and talks so you can be a good example for others to follow, especially those who look up to you. And the almost incomprehensible peace that is the very embodiment of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world – will remain with you all. Amen.

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