Hey there, I’m Minister Paul Bern, and I just want all my readers to know about my new weekly newsletter. Besides the weekly commentaries and the Biblical study series you’ve been accustomed to, I’m adding a collection of weekly video’s, book of the month specials, tee shirts, and other products coming soon like computers, coffee mugs, classic car calendars, and more! Here’s the link. Click now! https://www.authorrevpauljbern.com/so/6dNV_mUyg?languageTag=en #Newsletter #greatreads #video #op-ed #social-Gospel #faithbased
Biblical study series for this week on the Social Gospel Blog with Minister & Author Paul J. Bern will be part 3 of Acts chapter 2, on the continuing relevance of the Day of Pentecost https://www.social-gospel.net/so/58NN32iTV
Our Ridiculous Governmental Infighting,
Particularly the ‘Impeach Trump’ Circus,
and What Psalm 94 Has to Say About It
by Minister Paul J. Bern
It is a feeling of deja-vu throughout the US as we continue to look on in disbelief at all the jockeying for position and politicking that is now occurring in Washington, DC. The Democrats want to impeach Trump, which is all they’ve tried to accomplish since 2016 when they were elected or reelected to public office. Prior to this, for the entire 8 years that Barack Obama was president, the Republicans were trying to have him impeached. So Congress has spent the last ten+ years trying to get the opposing party’s president thrown out of office while the country’s business has been left unattended.
Let me point our before I go any further that this posting is apolitical. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, and I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either. So this posting isn’t about the Trump presidency or American politics, it’s about applying a sense of morality, decency and humility to the political scene, not just in the US, but globally. But this sense of morality, decency and humility needs to start with the US since we are (allegedly) the leading country in the world. How can we as Americans make such a claim when we are the world’s #1 source for wars, weapons, and pornography, in no particular order? Based on that alone, I would say America has fallen from grace as far as God is concerned.
The prophets of old, whose word is still just as good as it was thousands of years ago, had quite a bit to say about this. Governments that oppress the people at home while waging military campaigns abroad that have killed millions since the end of World War 2, are in danger of final judgment, and this does not bode well for America. Let me share what the prophet David said and wrote about these issues about 3,000 years ago from the 94th Psalm. “1) The Lord is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth. 2) Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. 3) How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? 4) They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. 5) They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance. 6) They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. 7) They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’ 8) Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?” (Psalm 94, verses1-9)
OK, let’s break this down one verse at a time. Verse 1 says, “The Lord is a God who avenges.” This means he is a God who upholds the weak and vulnerable, the widow and the orphan, the alien and the homeless, and the sick and disabled. It is the rich who are taking all of the above groups of people to court, or causing some of them to become homeless, knowing full well the poor people (and there’s a lot of us these days) don’t have the means to put up a meaningful and robust defense. So we can deduce that prison and jail overcrowding are due to rich people locking up the poor. “3) How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? 4) They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. 5) They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance.” These mega-rich ‘elites’ are proud at how well they have ‘everything under control’ as they micro-manage our lives down to the tiniest detail while they tax us into poverty. Wages are at record lows, with take-home pay running at 1980-like levels, and the tension between those who govern or enforce the rules and the overwhelming majority of the population hasn’t been this bad since the 1960’s. The entire planet is rife for revolt against the rich. It’s called ‘economic inequality’.
“6) They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless….” They slaughter the most vulnerable people because they are the easiest to kill. Our police officers shoot down black teens in the streets who are already growing up without fathers to properly guide them. That’s because their fathers fell victim to poverty and homelessness, and they eventually died before their time or were imprisoned during their prime of life. So where are their mothers? Working three jobs so she and her kids don’t have to be homeless. And what about foreigners? We take their kids away at the borders, and in so doing we traumatize both parent and child alike. Such trauma can often last a lifetime. These minions of the government are arrogant and abusive beyond description, as it is written: “7) They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’ 8) Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?” God is so fed up with these Hitler-like wannabe’s, who are plundering the earth and its people like we are here only for target practice for themselves.
But if we embrace the Lord Almighty instead of being preoccupied with the world and all its troubles, he will rise to our defense, as it says further down, starting at verse 14: “14) For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. 15) Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it. 16) Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? 17) Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.” (Psalms 94, verses 14-17) In verse 14, we are God’s inheritance since he has made heaven and earth already. He made us last, according to Genesis chapter 1 in the Old Testament 15) Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.” This verse means that the systemic corruption in the governmental and business sectors will be wiped out, and the perpetrators of this scheme will be brought to justice. This means us. This means right now.
“16) Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” The Lord Jesus wants all his true believers and followers to go out there in the world and make a strong statement and a cunning strategic attack against the wicked rich money worshipers, who value their assets more than the human beings who manage them for a pittance of a salary. And now let’s conclude this week’s message from Psalm 94. “20) Can a corrupt throne be allied with you – a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? 21) The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22) But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. 23) He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them.” (Psalms 94, verses 20-23)
What was King David writing about in verse 20? A “corrupt throne” is exactly how it sounds – governments, businesses and institutions of higher learning as well as religious organizations, whose sole reason for existing is to milk their customers or members for every penny they can collect. You know, just like organized crime, just as it says in verse 21? “The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” You know, like our courts systems and our military? “22) But the Lord has become my fortress…. (23) He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness….” I would encourage you all to make yourselves like David did. Make God your own private fortress. If the mega-rich can build deep underground shelters, then you can build a shelter that will withstand any attack from any enemy, seen or unseen. Whether you enemies are physical in nature with flesh and blood like yourselves, or whether they are spiritual and invisible, your faith in God can and will save you.
But God doesn’t stop there: God will destroy your enemies for their utterly wicked nature, such as those who impose student loans that can never be repaid so their “clients” (victims) remain buried under a mountain of debt for their entire lives. He punishes the dealerships who sell cars and trucks that wear out before the loans can be repaid. Some of them go out of business, and deservedly so. Criminals, particularly the violent ones, as well as the suit-and-tie crooks at the so-called “Federal Reserve” and on Wall St., usually get their punishment later (such as the current impeachment hearings in Washington) rather than sooner (like drug offenders and car thieves, who face justice relatively quickly). I’m not taking any sides here, I’m just making some observations. God, however, is always on the right side of things. As creator of the universe, it’s God’s prerogative to make sure that justice, mercy and righteousness always prevail. Then he sent us his only Son, Jesus Christ, to seal the deal. And seal it he did, settling these matters for all eternity, and saving our souls eternally in the process.
The Apostle Paul Sets Sail For Rome
Acts chapter 27, verses 1-12,
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week as we put the finishing touches on our knowledge of Acts chapter 26 and what it all actually means, we saw the apostle Paul had concluded his testimony to King Agrippa in the presence of governor Festus and various officials and dignitaries of their time. About his testimony Festus had said to Agrippa, “This man could have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar” (see verse 32 of Acts chapter 26). But Paul, who was on a mission from Almighty God, undertook that journey knowing it could be a life-ending decision. But first, he must sail to Rome on a perilous journey by ship, and sailing ships were far more rudimentary than they are today. And so on that point, let’s all go to verse 1 of Acts 27.
“1) When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2) We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. 3) The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4) From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5) When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6) There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7) We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8) We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.” (Acts 27, verses 1-8)
In verse 2, Adramyttium was originally located at the head of the Gulf of Adramyttium, on the River Caicus in the Plain of Thebe, approximately 4 kilometers west of the modern town of Burhaniye, but later moved 13 kilometers northeast to its current location and became known as Edremit. Also in verse 2, (Acts 20:4) “They are designated “men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel.” We learn later that Aristarchus was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 27: 2). They were probably seized to extract from them information about their leader Paul, but when they could tell nothing, and since they were Greeks, nothing further was done to them. But both men would be executed by the Romans in their not-too-distant futures.
“3) The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.” Right here in this verse is ample proof that Paul posed no threat whatsoever to his Roman captors. In fact, he readily gained their trust once they realized that Paul’s faith was genuine and authentic. Paul reinforced the trust he had earned when he came back to the ship on schedule. In verse 5, “ 5) When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6) There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.” All these seaports were located along the southern coast of modern-day Turkey.
Verses 7 and 8 further trace the directions of Paul’s Roman captors as they ultimately ended up in the seaport of Fair Havens. By now everyone realizes that traveling long distances in the 1st century AD was difficult even on a good day. On a bad day, trying to sail a boat was a pointless excersize in futility. “When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.” Fair Havens is on the south side (“leeward”) of the island nation of Crete in the central part of the Mediterranean sea. And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s study series.
“9) Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, 10) ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ 11) But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12) Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.” [Acts 27, verses 9-12]
For any persons who weren’t aware, Paul the apostle and the others with him were all Jews who had been converted to Christianity, so the Day of Atonement had deep meaning and was of major significance for each of them. All except for the Roman guards, who evidently cared nothing about the convictions of Paul, Luke and company. So much so that the ship’s captain and her owner convinced Julius the centurion to set sail ASAP. And, that meant setting sail on the morning of the first day of the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur, just so Julius and his fellow soldiers could show off their sailing skills and their disdain for Christianity, not to mention their total disrespect for our risen Lord and Savior. But this is what happened in verses 9, 10 and 11.
“….But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12) Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on….” Can’t stay where they were, but couldn’t leave either? It looks like some additional planning in this case would have been beneficial for everyone concerned. But that was not to be. And so the apostles Paul and Luke, together with Aristarchus of Thessalonica who had been a member of the church at Thessalonica that the apostle Paul had founded, set sail for Rome. Will they make it despite setting sail at an inopportune time from a weather standpoint? At this juncture, there’s no way to tell. But if you will only return next week at this time for the next lesson in this series, everything will become clear to you. So, God willing, I will see you then.
The Apostle Paul Appeals to King Agrippa
[Acts chapter 25, verses 16-27]
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week as we left off at part one of Acts chapter 25, we found Paul defending himself once again in the presence of his former compatriots in the Sanhedrin, as well as the Temple priests at Jerusalem. First, it was Lysias at the barracks at Jerusalem, then Felix and Festus in that order. Paul could have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar as he did, but the Lord had already told him in a dream that he would testify before kings and governors. That would include Caesar himself, but before that he would testify before King Agrippa. His full name was Herod Agrippa II, (born 27 Ce—died c. 93), king of Chalcis in southern Lebanon from 50 Ce and tetrarch of Batanaea and Trachonitis in south Syria from 53 Ce, who unsuccessfully mediated with the rebels in the First Jewish Revolt (66–70 Ce). He was a great-grandson of Herod I the Great. For additional info simply click this link.
This week as we kick off the second half of Acts 25, Paul continues to defend himself – and the Christian faith – with fervor and the greatest of vigor. In this first portion of the text, there is a conversation between Festus and king Agrippa that takes place 1 day prior to Paul’s chance to testify. So lets take up where we left off starting at verse 16. “16) ‘I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17) When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18) When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19) Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20) I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21) But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.’ 22) Then Agrippa said to Festus, I would like to hear this man myself.’ He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’”. (Acts 25, verses 16-22)
In verse 16, it is Festus, who has already heard Paul’s testimony, speaking to King Agrippa about the matter. Evidently Festus, who was Felix’s successor, had some misgivings about continuing to hold Paul prisoner. But he had still more misgivings about releasing Paul to the Jews who wanted to kill him, since Paul the apostle was a Roman citizen. If such a thing ever occurred, there could be political repercussions as well. So Festus accelerated the proceedings, since he had no legitimate reason to hold Paul from the standpoint of Roman law. And, since the entire Middle East was Roman territory at that time, Roman law was the last word, no matter how much the Jews in Jerusalem said otherwise. That’s why those first 3 verses read the way they do. In verses 18 and 19, it is clear that Festus had no knowledge of, and probably lacked belief in the risen Lord and Savior. And so, said Festus to the king, that was how Paul had ended up in his care.
Festus continues to relate to King Agrippa how things ended up as a result of the hearing that had recently occurred, as we see in verse 20 and 21. That is when he decided to allow Paul to appeal to Caesar. But, as we see in the following verse, when king Agrippa says he wants to hear Paul’s testimony, he gets his wish granted to him right away (see verse 22). One good thing about Festus, he was all about business and keeping things moving. So now let’s finish up this week’s lesson starting at verse 23. “23) The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24) Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25) I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26) But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27) For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him‘.”
Festus, having hastily convened that morning’s hearing, opened the proceedings by addressing king Agrippa to ask for a ruling in this matter of Paul the apostle versus the Hebrew religious establishment. This was the rough equivalent of asking the court for a “summary judgment” in today’s legalese. To explain himself to those who didn’t know the whole story of Paul’s conversion, Festus opened with this statement: “24) ….’King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25) I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26) But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him….”
The apostle Paul’s accusers, who were the Jewish religious establishment of that day, had managed to put Festus in a pickle, to borrow a baseball term. If he ruled in favor of the Jews and gave Paul over to them, the Roman authorities might begin to question his loyalties. If Festus ruled in favor of Paul, the Jews would be furious and may well foment revolt against him for setting Paul free. That could potentially make him look bad to his Roman paymasters, as it could well portray Festus as a weak and ineffective leader who was not always able to control the population. “Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him‘.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So, what will Paul say, and how will he say it? To find the answer to this question, plus hopefully at least one or two more from my audience, be sure and come on back next week for part one of Acts chapter 26. See you then!