Tag Archives: the apostle Paul

Free book excerpt #24 from Author & Web Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

An in-depth analysis of the writings of the apostle Paul in their order of appearance in the Bible. Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

 

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Contributing To One Another

[Romans chapter 12]

Today in our continuing series of studies of the book of Romans, we move on to chapter 12. In this chapter, the apostle Paul talks about how we can initiate fundamental change for the better from within ourselves. He then explains how this renewal of self can affect our place within the community of believers as well as for the good of everyone else. He then goes on to outline how this personal renewal in Christ for the sake of our relationship with Christ applies to our everyday lives and what we as responsible Christians can do to cause this personal renewal manifest itself. I will begin with verse one.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1-2)

We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God in the same way that Christ offered Himself up on the cross of Calvary. Furthermore, we are to be living in the world while remaining separate from it. We can live here as usual but not be caught up in the materialistic and vain trappings of the world as it currently exists. We can accomplish this by what Paul calls “mind renewal”. This means being a modern Christian requires a new and different way of thinking that sets us apart from the rest of humanity. It is only when we do this that we can find out for ourselves what God’s will is for our lives. And His will is always perfect for us whether we realize it or not. And if we don’t yet do so, we can still accomplish this by the renewal of our minds in Christ Jesus.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it to the proportion of his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 3-8)

The first point Paul makes is that there is no room for big egos in God’s family. Everyone has a place in God’s family “in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you”. Everyone has a function within God’s family, and Paul names these functions without any particular order of importance. Notice that he mentions money only briefly (“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously”). This is in stark contrast to the erroneous teachings of the modern church, which emphasizes tithing 10% of one’s income. This is a teaching that goes all the way back to the Old Testament, well before the time of Christ. As I said in one of my recent Sunday commentaries, we should definitely contribute to churches and other charities as we see fit. However, the harsh economic realities of the modern world in which we live make giving 10% a prohibitively expensive proposition, especially for the poor and middle class. Let the rich give 15% to their churches in our place. Besides, when Jesus died on the cross, the old law was sacrificed with Him and He became the new law. Paul then goes on from there.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those that mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 9-16)

The timely advice that is in these few verses is just as relevant now as it was nearly 2,000 years ago when it was first written. Love must be genuine, and never abusive. Stand up to evil and oppose it at every turn. Be a truly selfless person who thinks of themselves last, who puts others first, rarely complaining. Now comes the hardest part, because it’s a quote from Christ himself. “Bless those who curse you…”, be kind to those who oppose you or who have personal vendettas. You will be surprised (based on my own experience) at how quickly this tactic can disarm those who oppose you. Be willing to associate with people of low position, such as the homeless. I was once homeless myself for about four months, and I didn’t think such a thing could happen to me back then until it did. I’m retired from IT after over 20 years in the computer business. But when you’re self-employed and the demand for your product dries up, your income dries up too. Never be conceited, and be wary of all the class warfare that’s going on in America. And how do we accomplish this and other similar things, such as our relationship with Christ? By being “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. Paul then continues on with these closing verses.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written. ‘it is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord’. (Deuteronomy 32:35) On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)

As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone. If any of your enemies refuses to act peaceably toward you, avoid them and don’t associate with them. Take it to the Lord in prayer and let God deal with them, and you can be sure that He will. God will deal with your enemies in His good and perfect will according to His perfect timing. That is the way of the Lord, and we are to emulate Him every chance we get. And the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding will be with you all. Let’s start putting these teachings into practice on a daily basis. You will be surprised at how much your quality of life will improve, as well as how many doors of opportunity this will open for you. Living God’s way through Jesus Christ really is the best way to live our lives. Try it and see for yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome. Enjoy your day!

Get the print edition on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Athe+apostles+in+plain+english+vol+1%3A+the+apostle+paul

Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Get it in audio format on Amazon Audible at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI 

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

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

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

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Building On The Foundation Of Christ

[1st Corinth. chapter 3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

To buy direct from the author ($19.95) go to http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Get it in audio format on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

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Free book excerpt #17 from author, blogger and Web pastor Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern (c) 2017 by Rev. Paul J. Bern and CreateSpace.com

 

Five years in the making, this first of a series is a lot more than just a compilation of Bible studies. This collection of Paul’s writings presents them from a broader perspective that are much more applicable to modern life than one might expect. 

 

This study of Paul’s writings is done from a whole new 21st century perspective that is sure to educate while making the process enjoyable. Over 500 pages of enlightenment! A must-read for believers, whether they attend church or not! An inspirational guide for secular folks too!

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

 The Love Chapter

[1st Corinthians chapter 13]

Today in our continuing study of 1st Corinthians we will cover chapter 13, which is sometimes called “the love chapter” by ministers, Bible scholars, and independent pastors like myself. This 13th chapter is not only a deeply meaningful and eloquent piece of scripture, it has literary beauty as well. The words flow like a gently running stream through a magnificent landscape of cascading spirituality, defining what true love is and how it is shared between ourselves and others in compassionate and tender fashion. Let me begin this lesson at verse one right away. This chapter of 1st Corinthians is so good it won’t wait!

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 1-3)

When the apostle Paul wrote these words he was not writing about love in a physical sense and he was not commenting on being married vs. remaining single. He was writing about the kind of love that Jesus said we should all have in abundance as He taught us about the two greatest commandments. When asked about this during His ministry, Jesus replied, “These two commandments are that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and that you must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands rest all the law and the prophets.” And so it doesn’t matter what we do for God if we have no love for serving others and do not practice putting them before ourselves as I try to do with this ministry. All the effort in the world will come to nothing if we have no love in our hearts. Paul then goes on to point out the meaning of that statement.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 4-6)

I could say that this passage is pretty much self-explanatory and move on, but before I do let me comment on what the inverse of this scripture looks like. When Paul wrote that love is patient and kind, he was warning us against being impatient, demanding, unkind and mean. Paul was also telling us that there will be no bullies in heaven. Bullying is completely un-Christian, and this kind of behavior must be opposed in the name of Jesus at every turn. Moreover, when Paul wrote that love is not envious, boastful or proud he was warning us – and the entire Church – against being jealous, arrogant, obnoxious and conceited. When Paul wrote that love is not rude or self-seeking, he was reminding us to be considerate of others while warning us not to be belligerent, controlling or manipulative because such behavior never comes from God. 

 

When Paul wrote that love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs, he was reminding us to control our tempers, to never hold grudges (especially for very long), and to never be abusive towards others for any reason. When Paul wrote that love rejoices with the truth and never delights in evil, he was reminding us that standing against social and economic injustice and the abuse of power is the responsibility of Christians everywhere, as Rev. Dr. King Jr. (who was himself a minister of the Gospel) so memorably reminded us of a generation ago. If love always protects, then it is never negligent nor does it lack diligence. If love always trusts then it is never dishonest. If love always perseveres, then love is relentless, never giving up. Let me now continue our study of this truly beautiful passage of Scripture.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away;For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 8-10)

“Love never fails”. Even though the world around us is coming apart at the seams, love will still be standing when it implodes because God, who is eternal, is the personification of love. Even though marriages fail, love will drive men or women to seek another relationship to replace it. Even though our country’s unsustainable debt-based economic policies threaten to crash the capitalist financial system straight into the ground (and make no mistake, that is exactly what will ultimately occur), love will still be standing even when your money is no good anymore (and that day is also coming, so take heed). Even though nations go to war, love always rebuilds the population when the war finally ends. And it is love from which we derive compassion and empathy, two more human virtues that similarly never fail.

Before I move on, let me comment briefly on verse 10, “For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” Knowing and prophesying in part is an acknowledgment of our one-on-one relationship with Christ Jesus. We know Him through our daily walk with Him, through being in an ongoing state of prayer, and we proclaim his Word because we have read it, understood it and are actively obeying it. We only know Jesus in part because we have never actually seen Him, but our faith in Him makes up the difference. Still, until He returns, we only know Him “in part”. “But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears”. The word perfection in this verse symbolizes and is used as a synonym for Christ. So when He returns, our imperfect relationship with Him will be made perfect because we will have seen Him and in so doing we will be achieving Spiritual fulfillment. Now that I have analyzed this I will move on and finish this up.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 11-13)

Paul is comparing maturing from a child to an adult to our growth in faith in Christ as we are first transformed from lost nonbelievers to born-again Christians and then subsequently becoming ever stronger in our walk with our Savior. As of now, we can only hope to emulate Jesus as best as we can, and we freely choose to believe in Him and to uphold the sacredness of His name even though we have never seen Him. But one fine day we shall all see Him face to face, and we will all instantly recognize Him. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…; our journey as Christians does not end until we are with Jesus in heaven in New Jerusalem, to dwell with Him forever.

Love is the greatest virtue, it has no equal and thus reigns supreme because its source is from God, a supreme being. True Christian love is unconditional, with nothing held back. It is not selfish or egocentric, it is not used cynically to manipulate or control people, nor is it given in exchange for anything, but instead it is distributed freely and always without expecting anything in return. The three greatest virtues as Paul names them are faith, hope and love – but “the greatest of these is love”. Jesus said in the gospel of John, “A new command I give you, that you are to love one another”. If we just focused all our energy on this one thing, the world would quickly become a far more enjoyable and much safer place to live. And that’s a worthwhile goal anytime.

Buy direct from the author ($19.95) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et 

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI

Happy holidays from Rev. Paul J. Bern 

 

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What the News Media Haven’t Told You About Those Western Wildfires

Various Wildfires in the Bible

by Web Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

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Everything in the world is in agitation. The signs of the times are ominous. Coming events cast their shadows long before their arrival. The Spirit of God is withdrawing from the earth, and calamity follows calamity by sea and by land. There are hurricanes, tornado’s, earthquakes, deadly wildfires, floods, mass shootings and murders of every description. Who can read the future? Where is security? There is assurance in nothing that is human or earthly. The only true security can be found in Jesus Christ. When our lives are over and our bodies inevitably wear out and die, we can’t take any of our stuff with us. Too many people live their lives to see how much they can accumulate while they’re still here. What we should be doing instead is to live our lives to see how much of a legacy we leave behind when we’re dead and gone.

 

Isaiah 30 verse 27 says, “See, the name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.” One of the things that impressed me most about the west coast wildfires is they can spread faster than a human can run. That is, they can overtake and consume someone who is trying to flee without a vehicle. God’s Word, the Bible in whatever format or version you choose, is a “consuming fire” that spares nothing and no one, even to the very soul! The fires of hell are just as real as those wildfires you’ve been watching on the news, or preferably on Alternative Media. Jesus said as much in Matthew 5 verse 22: “….I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘you fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” “Raca” is an Arabic gesture of contempt, like calling someone an expletive or talking down to them as if they are worthless. That person may well seem worthless to their accuser, but the accuser forgets that God made them both.

 

In Mark’s gospel chapter 9, verse 43 mentions the fires of hell too. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, where the fire never goes out.” Wildfires, no matter how out of control they may become, are all eventually put out. Not so with the fires of hell. And if Jesus tells us that hell is a real place, you had best believe it is because Jesus cannot lie – it’s just not possible for the Son of God to do that. In the same way that none of us could swim in a swimming pool filled with hydrochloric acid, Jesus cannot lie any more than a house cat can transform itself into a leopard. So hell is real, and any person who says otherwise is in a state of denial. No apologies. The apostle Paul wrote about what occurs in instances like the California wildfires, or the huge hurricanes we had earlier this year, when people put their faith in the wrong things. “….his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to the light. It will be revealed with fire, and fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

 

“The Day” is a reference to the Biblical return of Jesus to reign forever here on earth. The “Day of the Lord”, as the Bible calls it, will be marked by the wholesale destruction of everything man-made. Just as God destroyed the earth once before by the Great Flood, as he destroyed earth before with water he will soon destroy again with fire. Our legacies cannot be consumed by fire, only our material goods, together with ourselves in a worst case scenario. “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Just as those who made it through the ferocious fires out in California escaped with only the clothes on their backs, so those who hoard possessions and wealth in this life will have the least in the next, if they make it to be with the Lord at all! You materialistic people – you know who you are – are living your lives all wrong! Some don’t realize it and others just don’t care. As a famous preacher once said, “People who don’t care leave holes in time.” One final thought just below about the California wildfires, and that will be all for this week. Be blessed in Jesus’ mighty name!

The Jerusalem Fire, a Sign or Coincidence?

Commentary By: Gordon King at https://endtimebibleprophecy.wordpress.com

Signs of the times, or mere coincidence? I don’t know, you be the judge.

This year has been a year of devastation and disaster as we see not only economic, social, and political disaster, but also man-made and natural disaster.

We see wildfires all across the Western United States, huge massive fires endangering lives, causing mass evacuations, and threatening property.

One of these fires located in Northern California is named “The Jerusalem Fire”.

I am not saying that this is a sign, yet isn’t it odd, the Jerusalem fire? Jerusalem, the middle of controversy for the entire world. Jerusalem, “it shall be a burdensome stone”. It’s something to think about.

If it’s not a sign, then it should at the least be a wake up call! Things in the world are just not right, the world is on fire! And the center of the world, Jerusalem, is in the middle of a fire storm.

Don’t take my word for it, read the holy scriptures, the Bible, see for yourself what the Lord says regarding the end times.

God bless! Maranatha! To view the original article on the Web, click here!

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Free book excerpt #8 from Author and Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

To watch a short video about the book, click here

 

 Preparing Ourselves For the Day of the Lord

[1st Thessalonians chapter 5]

When I closed out 1st Thessalonians chapter four last week, you no doubt recall my interpretation that we are to be living each day of our lives as if it will be our last. I cannot overemphasize this important truth, nor is it possible to diminish its importance. God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say, and for a man like myself being in a position of Christian leadership, I am held to a higher standard by the Lord, because what applies to church members applies to me twice as much. Plus, as our Lord’s return for his Church continues to get ever closer, I fervently hope that others will follow my example and be continually readying themselves for His coming. And this, my dear readers, is a goal worth attaining at any time. It is at this point that the apostle Paul takes up where he left off, starting at the beginning of chapter five.

Now, brothers, about times and dates we need not write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1st Thessalonians 5, verses 1-11)

Paul paints a vivid picture of the coming of the Lord. Of course, one might ask if this is pertaining to the rapture of the church, or to the Lord’s triumphant return three and a half years later (see the Book of Daniel chapter 12, etc). If you are one of those who has studied the rapture, the tribulation and the signs that we are living in the end times (never mind what you may have seen on TV or at the movies), then it is essential that we understand what Paul meant here. When he wrote, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, I believe this warning was meant primarily for the Church. Be ready, watch and pray that we receive purification from the Holy Spirit, so that as members of the Bride of Christ we may be found “without spot or blemish”.

While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…”. According to prophecy, before the Antichrist can come to power, World War 3 will have to occur first (also known as the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 39 and 39). There will also have been a series of natural disasters that will have occurred by this point in time (I don’t have time to explain that part in detail, so please bear with me). People will be clamoring globally to be free to live in peace, and to be safe from natural disasters; “… and they will not escape” can be translated into modern English as saying, “Total destruction will overpower them without warning, and they won’t stand a chance”. Nobody knows exactly what this means since all those other events have not yet occurred, and speculation would be counterproductive. All I can tell you is that the Antichrist will be in power for a total of seven years, and that one of his first acts will be to negotiate the peace treaty that ends World War 3. All the countries involved will adhere to this peace agreement for three and a half years. At that point the Antichrist will do something that breaks that same peace deal while elevating himself to something supposedly equivalent to God, as if there were such a thing. It is at this point that the persecution of Christians will greatly increase, and this will be happening in the US as well. This will be the “acid test” for all of those who identify themselves as being Christians. Either we take the mark of the beast and worship the Antichrist as god here on earth, or we refuse and continue to worship Jesus as the Son of God in heaven. Those who do worship Jesus will find themselves being martyred by the forces of the Antichrist. A time is coming when our Christianity will cost us our life. What will you choose? To quote the prophet Jeremiah, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. Since the Lord died on the cross for my sins, I would not have any problem returning the favor, knowing that like himself, he will raise me from the dead to eternal life. We should all be willing to do the same.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Remember who we are in Christ! We are the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We were bought at a very steep price, one that no man would be willing to pay. We were adopted as sons and daughters of Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer, making all of us Jewish by adoption (see Romans 8: 15-17 or Galatians 4: 4-7, among others). We don’t belong to the night and we never did, we were born for the day and for the light from our very conception. “Let’s be alert and self-controlled”, Paul wrote. You won’t be ready to meet the Lord at the rapture if you’re in bed sleeping off a hangover, or after playing video games all night long. As I have said before, it’s time for us all to get our priorities straight. Jesus first, worship him first and always give him top priority in your daily living and you’ll find yourself living with an internal peace that was neither present nor possible before. I’m speaking from experience, and if God can do this for me then he can do so for you too. But we must ask Him first. Sitting around waiting for God to give any of us a hand-out will accomplish nothing, unless one considers wasting time an accomplishment. I most definitely don’t!

God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”. I will sum this up in one sentence – we’re not here to be on the receiving end of the tribulation that Jesus spoke about, but rather we will be protected from it if only we remain faithful to his Word. “If you love me”, Jesus said, “keep my commandments”. Jesus died so that we may have eternal life with him in heaven, a new dwelling place that we have not yet seen. Obeying His commandments is the second prerequisite, believing that he is the Son of God is the first. Having written that, let’s conclude our study starting at verse twelve.

Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1st Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 12-28)

Respect the value of hard work, Paul is saying, and especially those who do so. Dirty hands and sweat can turn an otherwise boring day into a really fun one. This is especially true of the younger men and women who are still able-bodied enough to do so (unfortunately, that is no longer the case with me). Hard physical work is dignified provided that it is done constructively. “Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Build each other up, don’t tear each other down! Make the idle people either get off their butts and get to work or move on and stop standing in the way. It is written in the law of Moses, “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Yet by the same token we are commanded to “be patient with everyone”. Give the slower people a chance to catch up. Better yet, why not donate your time and tutor a few to help them along? Now that would be in keeping with the Holy Spirit of Christ!

“ …always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” Sometimes I think the secular world understands this better than modern churches do today. Immediately after recent natural disasters here in America, there were armies on volunteers that descended on these devastated areas and helped clean up, doing whatever needed to be done. What surprised me was when I found out that up to half of these volunteers don’t bother going to church. Yet they understood the command and answered the calling that God obviously put on them. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Let the Holy Spirit always be in control of everyone, every life, in every situation and in all circumstances. Check out everything you see, hear or read to determine its value, or the lack thereof. Put problem people completely out of your life if that’s what it takes to get free from negative influences and all forms of evil. Hold on to the good and simply let everything else go. Such timeless wisdom!

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Paul closes out by replaying that theme of being found holy and blameless before the Lord, with the understanding that this is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one can do this by themselves, but only through complete reliance on the Holy Spirit can such a noble goal as this be achieved. The key is in the last sentence, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Total reliance on Christ will enable him to cause us to be holy, pure and blameless in the sight of God. Instead of being self-reliant as we are in most situations, we are to step aside and let Christ do the work, not for us but through us as we become willing conduits for his unequaled Spiritual power. That is the ultimate meaning of unity through Christ. Shalom!

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Many thanks to all!

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Being glad for what you have considering the impending financial collapse that is to come

Better to Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

People everywhere are crying the blues about their financial situation, and with just cause to say the least. There are some people lucky enough to still be in the work force who are being forced into low-end service jobs, many of which pay below the poverty line. It’s not the people’s fault that they can’t find good paying jobs. Most of those jobs have been sent overseas, never to return. The job market is rigged anyway, and so are the political and economic systems we are currently stuck living under. But all this will be coming to an end soon unless the globalists are stopped in their tracks! You know, the ones who just lost last month’s presidential race here in the US? Never mind HRC, she was just the face that masked the real persona of globalist interests. If we do not actively oppose the global elites we will be crushed by them, of that you can be quite sure!

So how can we stop these people without tearing everything down and starting over on a clean sheet of paper? We must redefine democracy and the capitalist economic system (in that order) in 21st century terms. Representative democracy such as what been centralized in Washington, DC will ultimately be replaced by a virtual-reality-like online government. Instead of the current hierarchical setup, future government will evolve into a beehive configuration, having a kind of lateral management structure. I don’t think that’s too far into the future, either. One thing I am sure about – the governmental and economic systems as they currently exist are unsustainable. A huge economic crisis is headed our way. It’s not a question of if, but of when.

The only other possibility would be for Jesus to return and take his people home (see Matthew 24, Luke 27, Daniel 9). To put it mildly, that would stop everything and everybody in their tracks! Everything I just wrote about in the opening paragraphs would no longer make any difference! To spare you all any long, drawn out explanations, anywhere from 10% to as high as 25% of humanity will leave earth all at once during the ‘rapture’ of the greater Church as the apostle Paul prophesied in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13-18, and I quote: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and with the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep”. Notice the emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection as the starting point. On the other hand, “fallen asleep” was a pseudonym in the 1608 King James version for being deceased that was carried over to several other versions, such as the NIV. The following verse is just a fancy way of saying that upon the ‘rapture’ of the greater Church, those who died while practicing their faith in Christ would be the first to be taken up, followed by all those believers who were still alive at the halfway point of the seven years of tribulation when the ‘rapture’ will actually occur (see Daniel 9, verse 27). “….the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is the ultimate fate of every true Christian. We will meet the Lord in the air, or in heaven, and either choice is fine with me.

But until then and while we’re waiting for the ‘rapture’, people are still really upset about the huge pay cuts they have had to take to remain in the work force, their lowered standards of living, unfair burdens of student loan debt, increasing environmental pollution, and burnout from longer work hours adds insult to injury. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, I don’t know how much longer American workers, managers and their families are going to be able to put up with this situation. But at the end of the day, we had all better be satisfied and thankful for what we do have, because it can all be taken away in an instant by fire or natural disaster. While standing up for what is right and just are always good things, we should adopt the attitude of the apostle Paul, who, when he wrote his beautiful letter to the Philippian church, said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content no matter what the circumstances. I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4, verses 10-13)

We can all learn a good lesson from the apostle Paul in those verses above. Paul evidently didn’t worry about having all his needs met. Paul is telling us all to stop worrying about material possessions like money and investments, the most stylish clothes, ever more over-sized houses and faster cars, and countless status symbols in American society that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the sight of God! In my humble opinion, people had better start learning to live with less, not more. America is addicted to materialism, but the coming financial disaster will break that addiction for good! People will have to relearn the time-honored lesson that there is more to life than just ‘stuff’.

Tough times are coming. Nobody knows the exact timetable for this, but I view this as my duty as a licensed minister to warn people about the coming financial calamity and its probable consequences so they can prepare. I also view this as being part of my overall job description, since I am a humble servant in His Majesty’s service. What is also a part of my job description is to be a watchman in the fortified guard tower, scanning the horizon for any sign of a possible attack or potential intruder from Satan and the forces of darkness. Thanks to my own relationship with Jesus, I can evade these forces of evil I have written about. By reading your Bible daily, you can achieve the same and dedicate it all to Jesus. In fact, we would all do well to do the same.

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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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