Biblical study series for this week on the Social Gospel Blog with Minister Paul J Bern will be the conclusion of the Christmas story as taken from the gospel of Luke: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph at Jerusalem” (part 4 of 4) https://business.google.com/posts/l/01832834538876848585
Lessons From the Ongoing Fukushima, Japan Disaster On How Not To Take Care of the Earth
by Minister Paul J. Bern
For this week’s commentary I have decided to post a follow-up to last week’s message about the 75th anniversary of the dual atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. I don’t usually do this, but since this an anti-war ministry, and since the response to last week’s anti-war message was nearly 100% positive, I have composed this supplemental message as a follow-up. I would suggest that the reader go back and read the first posting (it’s about a 5-minute read) in the link above before continuing. Thanks to all of you, I love my readers so much! But now, let me move on to this week’s topic – what happens to the earth’s environment when nuclear power is used as an energy source?
The worst nuclear disaster to strike Japan since the 2nd atomic bomb fell over Nagasaki in 1945 occurred in the spring of 2011 at the Fukushima, Japan nuclear power plant, following the epic earthquake and tsunami centered in northeast Japan. Earlier this week the New York Times reported the disturbing news that a wide area around the Fukushima plant “could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels. The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months.” Just two weeks ago, it was reported that radiation readings at the site had reached their highest points to date. The wide release of radiation, and fear of same, has forced the Japanese and others all over the world to reflect on what happened to the country in 1945, and the continuing threat of nuclear weapons and energy today.
In its main story marking the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombings back in August 2011, the Times highlighted the new activism of survivors of the bombing (the “hibakusha”) this year; campaigning against nuclear power, which has provided most of their country’s energy needs. No one in the world can relate to the fears of a wide populace terrified that they (and perhaps the unborn) may be tainted forever by exposure to airborne radiation. One may ask how it is possible that Japan, after its experience with the atomic bombings, could allow itself to draw so heavily on the same nuclear technology for the manufacture of about a third of its energy. There was resistance, much of it from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. But there was also a pattern of denial, cover-up and cozy bureaucratic collusion between industry and government, the last especially notorious in Japan but by no means limited to that country.
Sumiteru Taniguchi, now 82 and currently director of the Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors Council, recently commented, “when the conversation turns to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it is as if the floodgates open,” Taniguchi said. “Nuclear power and mankind cannot coexist. We survivors of the atomic bomb have said this all along. And yet, the use of nuclear power was camouflaged as ‘peaceful’ and continued to progress. You never know when there’s going to be a natural disaster. You can never say that there will never be a nuclear accident.” Taniguchi is perhaps the main iconic symbol of the “hibakusha” today, thanks to footage of him taken after the bombing, showing him, months after the attack, still on a floor, spread-eagled, his entire back an open wound, flaming red. It was part of footage shot by a US film crew, and suppressed for decades.
In April, 2011, five survivors’ organizations, including Taniguchi’s Nagasaki group, submitted a statement to the Japanese government declaring the collapse of the “safety myth” around nuclear power. This included a demand for change in the government’s energy policy to prevent creating any more “hibakusha”. Their statement further demanded that it distribute health record booklets — similar to the ones that are distributed to atomic bomb victims and can be used as proof of radiation exposure — to nuclear power plant workers and residents living close to them, and also provide periodic health examinations to those populations. It is a well-hidden fact (thanks to the lame stream media) that numerous A-bomb survivors over the decades sought help from the government after falling ill or suffering cancer and other diseases, allegedly from radiation exposure, but by many accounts had been abandoned. Will the people who are suffering from invisible dangers in Fukushima be subjected to the same treatment? If that’s the way things turn out in Japan, the Japanese people will surely rise up and demand government intervention – or do the job themselves.
As I write this, Japan and TEPCO, the Japanese utility company that has been in charge of this ever-widening disaster, are making futile attempts to stop the gushing leakage of some 400 tons of radioactive seawater that is coming from the three melted-down reactors each day. That’s right, everyone, 400 tons a day of radioactive sea water is flowing unabated into the northwest portion of the Pacific ocean. The entire northern Pacific ocean is now contaminated by this radioactive seawater. It will remain this way for a very long time afterward – decades at the very least.
Contrast this to God’s original instructions that he gave to us at the creation of the earth: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’.” (Genesis chapter 1, verses 26-28)
The book of Revelation states quite clearly what will ultimately happen to those who pollute the earth, such as what happened at Chernobyl, Russia in the 1980’s and in 2011 at Fukushima, Japan. “And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Revelation chapter 11, verses 16-18)
When it comes to nuclear issues — from atomic weapons to nuclear power — no two nations could be more irrevocably intertwined than Japan and the US. After the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite dissenting voices of some of its own citizens, America drew mostly wrong conclusions as it plunged into nuclear expansion. There was a relentless public relations campaign — unleashed by the Truman administration almost within hours of the Hiroshima bombing — that led to the erroneous conclusion that blinded the Americans (and later the Japanese) to the insidious, long-term damage of radiation. Prominent journalists and media outlets of the time embraced, with enthusiasm, the so-called “Dawn of the Atomic Age” and America fell into a kind of nuclear entrapment that is with us to this day.
America needs to repent, but the government would never do this voluntarily. And so, if we the American people – those of us who are sick and tired of all the wars overseas and the profligate spending by the Pentagon – will have to make this a bottom-up repentance of war and killing. Most importantly, we must also get out in the streets and protest, demanding an end of the US military-industrial complex, so all American citizens can begin turning our planes and aircraft carriers, and especially all the nuclear armaments, into scrap.
This Is What An Authentic 21st Century Church Is Supposed to Look Like
(1st Corinthians chapter 12, verses 14-31)
Today I will conclude chapter 12 of 1st Corinthians in my ongoing blog about the writings of the apostles (to get a copy, visit this link, guaranteed virus-free). Last week in part 1, you will recall how the apostle Paul was explaining to the 1st century church at Corinth about the many different functions of various church members, and how they are interrelated to one another. He described the gifts of the Spirit as they are applied to the various church members, with no one gift being more important than any other. In the conclusion of chapter 12, the apostle Paul compares the church to the human body as he analogizes the two. So let’s start up where we left off last week, beginning in verse 14.
“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body’, it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts but one body.” (1st Corinthians 12, verses 14-20)
Now let’s go back to last week’s study for just a minute. You will recall Paul the apostle naming the “gifts of the Spirit” as being wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues (other languages), and the interpretation of tongues. When taking them in context like I am doing in the above Scripture, it is clear that Paul meant multiple things are happening all at the same time within the true Church – the one that’s not a corporation or a social club. Not everybody can be a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon; not everybody can have gifts of healing and of miraculous powers, nor do all speak in tongues, or interpret, and not all prophesy either. But each part within the church is absolutely indispensable to each other, and each part is an essential part of the whole body of Christ’s church. And, as Paul the apostle wrote, the various parts of the body of Christ are arranged exactly as God wants them to be. That is all part of His good, pleasing and perfect plan for each of us, according to his most excellent will. Let us now continue at verse 21.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’. And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’. On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1st Corinthians 12, verses 21-26)
Each part of the true Church of Jesus Christ is interdependent on one another, and all work in unison for the edification of that Church. There is no such thing as a one-man band in authentic Christianity, but instead the church possesses a “team spirit” that is Spiritual in nature. And there is total equality among the membership so that “its parts should have equal concern for each other”. And so we see that, in the spirit of true Christianity, everyone has an equal standing within Christ’s church, and no one is higher or better than anyone else. This is why equal protection under the law is part of the US legal code passed by Congress back in 1965. It is based on the Bible, as Rev. Dr. King correctly pointed out repeatedly during the civil rights era, prior to and in the days leading up to the day of his assassination.
I have one more comment about this passage before I move on. Paul wrote in verse 22 above, “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor”. The work of those within the Church who are weaker, presumably meaning those persons of lesser stature either because they are new or because they have spiritual or personal issues they are working out, counts for just as much as a long-time member who has grown strong in his or her relationship with Christ. There is no such thing as a pecking order or a hierarchy in a church filled with true followers of Christ. Authority is distributed laterally among the membership, and Christ is the sole head of the church.
And then there is the part about those who “we think are less honorable, we (should) treat with special honor”. Remember what Jesus said in the four Gospels about, “Those who put themselves first will be last, but the last will be first”, and again when Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted”? Jesus was clearly referring to the rich and the poor, and to those in positions of power and influence, and to those who crave it. And so the parts of the church, the very poorest and most insignificant members of the church, who seem to be the least ‘honorable’, should be treated with special honor.
Social and economic position count for nothing in the true Church, but passion for Christ is everything. If any of us should die tomorrow, we can’t take anything with us. Our cars, clothes, furniture, houses (if you are lucky enough to still own one of those), our jobs and all our friends and loved ones are going to be left behind when we go home to be with the Lord forever. In the end, our relationship with Jesus Christ is the only thing that will remain of what we once were. It is that very relationship that sets apart God’s people from the rest of humanity. And now allow me to wrap up the remainder of today’s study.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” (1st Corinthians 12, verses 27-31)
Each member of the Body of Christ has their function, and it will invariably be the one thing that they do best within the overall structure of the Church. The best way to find out what your ministry is, or what function you serve for the glory of Jesus, is to first pray about it. Assume nothing, and do nothing on your own that you have not prayed about previously. In other words, don’t do anything without talking to God about it first unless you are absolutely sure that your will and God’s will are synchronous. God will open the right door for you, he will do so at precisely the right time, and He will do it in the right church.
So if you find yourself in a church where there does not seem to be any place where you can be a helping member, or even where you fit in for that matter, this is a sign that you need to look elsewhere for a church you can call home. Keep seeking and let God show you the way. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to where you belong, because if it worked just fine for me, then it will for you too. In the meantime, follow the apostle Paul’s advice and “eagerly desire the greater gifts” of the Spirit. God has the perfect place for you in his Church, and the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected is what allows us to have this special relationship with Him. No one place within the church is more important or valuable than any other, nor is any one single person, not even the pastor. No matter what Spiritual gift you may have, it all counts equally as much in the true church of Christ. And if it counts equally within Christ’s church, then all is equal in the sight of God. In next week’s study, we’ll be moving on to chapter 13, ‘the love chapter’.
On the Origins of Church Services and Its Meaning, and Why It Still Matters Today
(1st Corinthians chapter 11, verses 17-34)
Last week when we left off at verse 16, I made some concluding remarks about the timelessness of Jesus Christ and his 3.5-year ministry on this earth. Much has changed since the time He walked the earth, but Christ never changes, he has always remained constant. This week as we take up where we left off, I will now continue with this week’s study series by returning to the verse-by-verse teaching that you all have become used to, beginning at verse 17.
“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! For I received of the Lord what I already passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me’. In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying,’ This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1st Corinthians chapter 11, verses 17-26)
Let me stop at this point and give a little cultural and historical perspective on what Paul is writing about. First of all, we must understand that Jesus Christ walked the earth as a Jewish man, and consequently the vast majority of new converts in the early church were mostly Jewish as well. It was actually Paul the apostle that first brought the message of salvation through Christ to non-Jews, first in ancient Israel and soon after to Greece and what is now modern-day Turkey, and ultimately to Rome, capital of the infamous empire of its day that could arguably be called the world’s first superpower like the USA is today. The Jews of that time had a time-honored tradition that dated all the way back to the time of Moses. They would gather together on the Sabbath and have a celebratory banquet similar to pot-luck dinners today. The Jewish term for this celebration is “Shabbot”, and this tradition is still celebrated today in synagogues the world over, as well as no small number of Christian churches such as this who embrace the Spiritual connection between Christianity and Judaism.
In the time of the early church, there were a lot of poor and destitute persons, many of whom did not always have enough to eat. Besides coming to worship the Prince of Peace, there can be no doubt that they looked forward to attending Shabbot on the sabbath because this was one day out of the week when they knew they could get a pretty good meal. Based on what Paul wrote in this passage, the services in that day and time must have been pretty rowdy by today’s standards, and some believers were apparently far more devout than others. People would show up before the service began, eat up all the food and drink up all the wine and then leave, when in fact the feast did not begin until after the service was over, as well it should.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” It’s pretty clear that Paul was upset with these people who showed callous disregard for the sacredness of the celebration. Paul then reminds them in no uncertain terms of why they gather together to commemorate the Last Supper, and he scolds them for having no appreciation for this solemn occasion, and for total contempt towards those in attendance who were less fortunate. He then finishes making his point beginning in verse 27 while giving the Corinthian church a very stern warning (as well he should have).
“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it does not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.” (1st Corinthians 11, verses 27-34)
Going to church, whether it is to have a service, revival, or a pot-luck dinner, is a solemn and momentous occasion. Going to church is not so much a religious obligation as it is a celebration of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Let us therefore examine ourselves to keep from coming under God’s judgment so we will not be “condemned with the world”. When our physical lives on earth are over – and everybody has their time, including me – we look forward to spending an eternity with our Lord and Savior in heaven, remembering that we would not be there if it weren’t for Him. The time to begin preparing for this is now. Worshiping God is serious business.
Church is not a social club, or just a nice place to network or to sneak a peek at the opposite sex, and it most definitely is not a fashion show like I mentioned in part 1 of this study. Worshiping Jesus Christ is a sacred and highly spiritual co-mingling with Him, and it isn’t always done in church. I pray every day, sometimes at home, sometimes on the bus or the subway, or when I am walking down the street. I can take my church with me everywhere I go if I want to. After all, since Jesus – and the guardian angels that He surrounds me with – is always with me, it seems fitting and proper that I should want to reciprocate. And so should the rest of us.
What God Would Say About Inequality Compared to Black Lives Matter and the ‘Occupy’, ‘We Are The 99%’, and the Arab Spring Movements
by Minister Paul J. Bern
I have been watching the evening news on wireless TV and on the Internet from the alternative media (I don’t waste my time or money with cable TV) with much admiration lately as the political turmoil unfolds in street demonstrations all over the US over the deaths of unarmed Black men and teenagers. At worst, they had committed misdemeanor offenses, but many of them have been hapless but innocent victims of law enforcement. Just like the Arab Spring in 2011 in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, with a civil war still winding down in Syria while more threatens to break out in Iraq, all the people are taking to the streets for justice, and for their inalienable human rights and freedoms. It stirs my heart without end to see all those throngs of people united in one purpose, coming up against an overwhelming established authority, and all without any weapons.
It also bears a strong resemblance to Black Lives Matter, “Occupy Wall St.”, and “We Are the 99%” movements here in America and abroad, of which I have personally been a part. I have personally self-published two books about these movements, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto (4th edition)”, and “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, which you can buy at a huge discount from my website listed in the link above (or, just click here). All of these ongoing revolutions were accomplished without any more than minimal bloodshed (excluding Syria and Gaza), and were at least partly peaceful. Of course, this is excluding all the looters and vandals elsewhere, as well as those who start fires, whose activities I will never endorse. It is nonetheless very good that so many people were set free by rising up against established abusive authoritarians and taking charge of our own destinies. This is how real change is brought about and this is how (mostly) peaceful revolution is brought forth by those persons bold enough to step up and retake the freedom that is rightfully theirs.
Watching those events unfolding on live TV caused me to compare what was happening in the US and all those other places in North Africa and the Middle East beginning 9 years ago to what had happened during the American Revolution during the formation of the original colonies. The main difference between then and now is that modern-day Arab and American protesters didn’t have guns – and didn’t need them, as it turned out. This evokes the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the ultimate peaceful campaigner for civil rights. His advocacy of non-violent social change and the civil rights legacy that he left behind are irreplaceable. And I also believe that same legacy is based on that of Moses, who so famously told the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go”. Soon, a time will be coming for the entire world, from the most developed countries on down to the poorest, when the shackles of debt will be forever broken, and when all the people of the world will be freed from the scourge of usurious interest that is charged on loans. Soon all of us will be free from a debt-based economy as capitalism dies of old age, as we begin to move toward a resource-based economy. But that is a separate topic for another time.
The same thing has since happened in America, as you all know, with the blossoming of the Black Lives Matter movement. This loosely organized political federation is gradually congealing into something more, growing into something far more substantial. The economic state of the populations of Egypt and America are similar, with high unemployment, rampant homelessness and crime. The inordinate concentration of wealth towards the top 1-2 percent, combined with its use as a weapon to pollute and corrupt government and politics, runs rampant in both countries. America is most certainly ripe for revolution, given the state of the middle and working classes in this country, the lack of decent jobs, the lack of affordable housing, and the rising cost of food.
The Black Lives Matter movement may well be the vehicle for a 2nd American Revolution. I also think this vehicle will be accelerated by the fact that America is rapidly headed for third world status as a country when it comes to the standard of living of the blue and white collar classes, otherwise known as “we the people” in the Preamble to the Constitution. When this is combined with the unfair, unethical concentration of wealth throughout the world then it becomes tantamount to an undeclared economic civil war. There can be no doubt that we are going to have to unite together as a people to stop this great robbery that is happening right up in our faces each and every day, so we can take back our country. The longer we wait to do so, the more difficult it will become.
Actually, the far-left and the far-right have more in common then they would want to admit. Both sides are absolute in their ideology and uncompromising in their politics. This is like a poison flowing through the body politic of America and it will cripple our democracy unless each of us acts as an antidote. Otherwise this kind of childish selfishness and narrow-minded stereotyping threatens to tear the fabric of America apart.
What is particularly troubling in today’s political environment – with Black Lives Matter being just the tip of the iceberg – is the level of anger and even outright hatred that is being displayed by all sides. I have been trying to figure out the source of this anger and hatred for some time now. Some of today’s rabid emotionalism can be traced to old-fashioned racism, but I think for many people it goes much deeper than that. It would appear that this anger and hatefulness is really a response to fear. Fear is an emotion we don’t like in ourselves and anger is a way of covering up our fears with an emotion that makes us feel more powerful.
We now live in a world where society, technology, the economy and demographics are rapidly changing and this change is deeply threatening to many people. Such people have not yet discovered the simple key to letting go of their fear, which is to believe and have faith that God is in charge of everything, combined with understanding that if we will just let go and let God, He will cause all things to work out well, as it is written, “All things work to the glory of God for those who love Him”. God is always there for you, as it is written and was uttered by Jesus himself, “Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you.” So He isn’t going to let anything happen to you, and it would be to the benefit of anyone reading these words to rest assured about this and stop worrying. (For additional perspective on what Jesus said about worrying, read Matthew chapter six. Here is a nice little portion of it:
“25) Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27) Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28) And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31) So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6, verses 25-34)
If we want American democracy to survive, we need to grow up and wise up. We need to stop projecting our fears onto our fellow citizens, and we need to let go of our own childhood fears and insecurities. We need to stop yelling at each other and learn to start listening to each other. We need to replace competition with cooperation, and we need to first learn self-respect as an important step toward acquiring mutual respect. Only when these things have been done can a new economic system truly be born, one based on resourcefulness and cooperation instead of outmoded concepts like competition and financial gain. We need to accept the reality of change and begin working together to find productive ways of dealing with a world that is constantly changing. Besides, the fact is that America was built upon compromise. Our great experiment in democracy is founded upon the belief that each issue has many sides and that the most workable solution comes from a compromise that blends together many disparate views. Compromise is the glue that holds America together.
Change is inevitable. It’s the way the universe is constructed. The fact that time exists means that change must occur. Rather than fear change, we need to make it work for our benefit. Rather than trying to go back to the past, we need to work together to create a better future. In so doing we emulate God, because He too only cares about our future, not our past. If the American experiment that has been ongoing since the 18th century is going to grow and mature for the rest of the 21st, ‘we the people’ will also have to grow and mature. We have to put our irrational fears behind us and start working together as mature adults in order to deal successfully with the challenges that change presents to us. Besides, change is what keeps us on our toes.
God allows change to happen to us to help grow us into something more than we were before. It’s time to stop the name-calling and to start having rational discussions about the issues before us. Most important of all, it’s time for the police to put all their military hardware in storage and go back to being officers of the peace and detectives of various kinds. It’s time to turn away from those in the media on cable TV, and on talk radio, and on the Internet who feed our fears and fuel our hatreds like pouring gasoline on a lighted backyard grill. It’s time to start respecting each other as fellow Americans. Each of us must stand up for a fundamental American truth – united we stand, divided we fall.
Paul The Apostle’s Strict Personal Standards While Preaching The Gospel That We Should Emulate
(1st Corinthians 9, verses 15-27)
In today’s study I will take up where I left off last week and finish the ninth chapter of First Corinthians. Paul was writing this particular letter to the early church regarding whether he should be allowed to take any part of the church offering to cover his own expenses. This was in response to at least a few who had a problem with Paul using any portion of the offering for his personal needs. Paul was traveling from church to church at that time, working without a salary as we are accustomed, and he was incurring certain costs as he went, not the least of which was food. Obviously this money had to come from somewhere. The apostle Paul then goes on to describe why he saw nothing wrong with this practice so long as it was not done to gain personal profit. And, he points out that he never did so, beginning in verse 15.
“But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this; that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.” (1st Corinthians 9, verses 15-18)
The first time I read through this first paragraph of scripture, I was struck by the contrast between what the apostle Paul was writing about and the materialistic version of watered-down Christianity that I have heard preached from many pulpits in the contemporary Church. There is a stark contrast between what Paul wrote about here and the way many “preachers” today enjoy generous salaries, real estate holdings and other investments, high-end luxury vehicles, even their own airplanes. That is why Paul wrote, “… in preaching the gospel I… offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it”. Paul didn’t care whether he got paid or not, so long as he could eat and have shelter, along with plenty of Christian fellowship since there was no radio, TV or internet.
It is for this reason that I think there are too many churches today (and many of the TV evangelists are undoubtedly the worst) that emphasize getting blessed by God over the act of blessing other people. This is an incorrect teaching that has undertones of blasphemy, and I am not comfortable with it at all. There is a scripture in the Bible that promises to reward those who work to spread the gospel up to “30, 60, or 100 times what he has sown”. But that verse refers to our heavenly reward when our physical lives are over, when only our soul will remain. It is written as such because it invokes Spiritual gain. In no way is it intended to glorify material gain over that of the Spirit of Christ. That most certainly qualifies as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which the Bible says “cannot be forgiven in this life, nor in the next.” If you are in a church and you hear that being preached as the ‘true gospel’, get out of there immediately. Never mind if leaving causes a stir, it’s far better to please God than it is to be concerned about offending men and women.
Does God want us to be happy? Sure He does! Does He want us to have a life of wellness and prosperity, lacking for nothing? Absolutely! But does God want us to be filthy rich? No way; in fact Jesus said, “You cannot worship both God and money. You must either love one or despise the other” (that’s paraphrasing what Jesus said, but it’s in all 4 gospels). This is a glaring contradiction to what the so-called “prosperity gospel” represents, and that’s why I stand against it. So, what is the correct way to preach the gospel of salvation in Christ? Paul describes this eloquently beginning in verse 19.
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like those under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I become weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1st Corinthians 9, verses 19-27)
In the above passage of Scripture, Paul makes it abundantly clear his motivation for preaching the gospel. It’s not about religion and it’s not about money and prosperity. It’s about souls, the souls of people that God cares about deeply, the souls for whom Jesus Christ was crucified and buried, only to be resurrected on the morning of the third day to live and rule forever! It’s about you and me worshiping that same Jesus in Spirit and in truth, regardless of our nationality, race, religion, gender, marital status, economic status, age, background or sexual orientation. Let me remind you all that God doesn’t care about any of the above because He isn’t concerned about what’s on the outside or what’s on the surface regarding any person. God is focused on what’s on the inside, the soul of every man, woman and child. This is because the degree to which Christ abides within the individual is directly proportional to the way he or she interacts with and treats others. After all, it is on the inside of us – within our souls and hearts and minds – where Jesus wants to dwell. But it’s up to us to invite Him in. That’s the secret of salvation through Christ. He never enters the heart unless He is asked. But if He is asked, He will come and abide there 100% of the time. Nobody gets turned down by Jesus. Nobody.
I try to emulate Paul the apostle in my ministry where I live and work near downtown Atlanta. I am a Caucasian man living in a neighborhood that is mostly Black. But this is where my missionary work takes place when I’m not working in my office at home. In the inner city of Atlanta, as many as 20% of the local population is homeless as I write this. I was once homeless myself after having a stroke, but eventually I got back on my feet again. But that experience taught me some difficult but very valuable lessons about life and how to bounce back from disastrous setbacks. In so doing I have succeeded in doing what Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago. I have run my “race” in such a way as to win the prize – eternal life with Jesus in heaven.
But I also recognize that living my life for Jesus was not possible until I first invited Him in. In so doing, I don’t try to act more African-American in order to get along with people in my neighborhood. Instead I treat them respectfully as equals, and I make sure they understand that it is my faith in Christ and my desire to serve Him that motivates me to perform this service in His holy name. By emulating Paul, I emulate Christ as well. Remember that it was Jesus who said, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my children, that you do for me”. I challenge each and every one of you to begin doing this in the course of your everyday living. To win as many souls as possible, simply reach out to as many as possible in as many different ways as you can. No drama is required, no special skills either, so don’t be concerned about that. I guarantee you will feel really good about the result.
What Does the Biblical Word ‘Pestilence’ Mean? Could Corona Virus Be Considered to Be a ‘Pestilence’?
By Minister Paul J. Bern
The more that the talking heads on cable news chatter about the Corona virus pandemic, the more it reminds me of the great plagues as described in the Old Testament. You all have heard this story at some point in the past; the one about Moses having a meeting – so to speak – with Pharaoh, to tell him to “let my people go”. The ‘people’ Moses referred to were the ancient Israeli (a.k.a. Israelite) nation (a separate ethnic group living in the midst of Egyptian society), who had been there as slaves for the previous 400 years (see Exodus chapters 1 & 12 for details).
So I went back and re-read those passages this morning prior to writing this week’s commentary, and those two words are being used interchangeably for the most part. What does pestilence mean in the Bible? Pestilence means a deadly and overwhelming disease that affects an entire community. The Black Plague, a disease that killed over thirty percent of Europe’s population, was certainly a pestilence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘pestilence’ as, “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating especially: bubonic plague.”
So is the Corona virus and/or Covid-19 virus a “pestilence” by Biblical standards? By all the measurements used above, the answer is ‘absolutely yes’! By sheer numbers alone, Covid-19 rivals the Black Plague of centuries ago as being a killer of Biblical proportions. And so, speaking as a minister and a man who seeks after God with every breath I take, if an overall feeling of foreboding has been hanging there with you every day as of late, that’s because we are slowly, to varying degrees, becoming ever more traumatized by the complete insanity that surrounds us all. Unarmed Black men continue to be hunted down as if the police have all decided to go out on safari, while there were 41 mass shootings in 2019 that resulted in 210 fatalities. Domestic violence is at an all-time high, according to the CDC. The list goes on and on, and I’m sure you can think of a few of your own.
But there is historic precedence to what is currently happening with the Covid-19 pandemic in the form of the Black Plague of centuries ago, as well as the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919. Due to the earth being far more populated now than in days of old, the Corona virus could kill multitudes more, and yet so many people are still not paying attention to what is going on around them. For some of them, when this pestilence catches up with them, it will be too late. That is when this pestilence of Biblical proportions will begin taking lives with an ever-greater vengeance than ever before.
That is when Biblical precedence will activate itself. King David wrote about this very thing in the Book of Psalms, and I quote: “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways….” (Psalm 91, verses 5-11)
‘Not fearing the night’ in verse 5 was a reference to the rough times in which people lived back in those days. Due to the presence of an illiterate populace, not everyone could always find work, and sometimes food was scarce. So crime was a problem back then, and it often occurred in the dead of night. This must have instilled a certain level of fear throughout the population, and so that’s how that verse of scripture originated. Moving along, the “arrow that flies by day” was a reflection of the times in which they lived like I wrote just above. Roving bands of heavily armed marauders were out in the countryside just off the main roads, and people routinely got robbed as they traveled from place to place. The “plague that destroys at midday” in the next verse sounds strikingly similar to modern-day Covid-19.
But if you will put God first before all others and yourselves, the Bible tells us right in the very next verse, you will overcome all obstacles and defeat all foes who would dare to come against you. “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” When we submit to God’s will in place of our own, we will see amazing things happen, stuff we hadn’t even dreamed about. I will use tornadoes as an example. You know how tornadoes can skip all over the place, touching down just here and there? Yet others stay on the ground for miles, wreaking untold destruction and snuffing out lives in its wake. Yet when the survivors get interviewed, they are all people of faith. Dozens or hundreds of casualties may be left to be treated for their injuries, or to be buried. A thousand here, ten thousand there during wartime, death can be so arbitrary at times.
No matter how much really bad stuff is going on around you, “but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will emerge unscathed from the coming economic calamity, but much of the rest of the world (but not all) will perish in the flames. What flames? Things like wildfires, volcanic eruptions, wars and terrorism, and meteor or comet strikes in any place on the planet – all come to mind.
“If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near (you)…. See that, everybody? The Lord Almighty is my refuge, and he can be yours too. All you have to do is to ask him in, to let the Holy Spirit of the Most High God dwell within you. So why not do that right now? Ask the risen Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ to come and dwell within your heart. Unless you’re in the middle of a public place like a movie theater, it’s perfectly suitable to do this out loud. Jesus, be my Lord and Savior. Come into my heart and dwell there forever, so that I can be with you forever too. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.
Building Trust and Financial Responsibility Within Ourselves for the Betterment of All
(1st Corinthians chapter 9, verses 1-14)
In today’s installment of this continuing study of the writings of the apostle Paul, we are going to advance to chapter nine of 1st Corinthians, where we will have a look at verses 1 through 14. In last week’s lesson, we found the apostle Paul discussing the topic of exercising our freedom as Christians, provided we never do so in a way that could compromise the faith of other believers. This week Paul shifts his emphasis away from exercising our freedom as individual Christians, as he did in the last half of chapter eight, and instead expounds on applying it to Christians who are in positions of leadership. He then continues on in that vein beginning at verse one:
“Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are my seal of apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?” (1st Corinthians 9, verses 1-6)
Here Paul has written about his freedoms as an apostle, presumably because of some long-forgotten split within the body of the Corinthian church from nearly two thousand years ago, possibly over financial matters or internal politics, or maybe even Paul’s authority. I find it interesting that it seems to closely parallel and correspond with a certain lack of unity that I perceive within the contemporary body of Christian believers, regardless of denomination.
Allow me to explain my frame of reference here. Because I am disabled I use public transportation to get around, and I get most my church from the Internet. After all, even those who tend the flocks must stop for lunch sometime! As a result, I see parallels between modern Christian programming on TV, including the way they are being managed financially – and the apparent controversy about the pay and perks of televangelists and their immediate families.
This is reminiscent of the first century controversy within the early Church about who was the greatest apostle, which was reiterated by the apostle Paul back in chapter one of 1st Corinthians. In Paul’s case, the fact that he was not one of the original twelve disciples was the subject of what Paul was writing in the above passage. Was it not good enough for them, Paul wrote, that he had seen the Lord on the road to Damascus? In modern terms, Paul is asking, ‘What more do you want from me? Stop judging me and focus on your own salvation instead’.
There are TV evangelists today that have generated much controversy with stories of fabulous wealth that was “earned” from offerings and donations to their ministries. There are several famous “televangelists” who actually have their own airplanes. They’re not Piper Cubs either. In fact, one even boasts about owning a twin-engined jet that this TV preacher – who I will not name – allegedly paid about $12,000,000.00 cash for. The Secret Service and the Department of the Treasury both could have asserted their authority against such a huge and clearly illegal cash transaction. But those entrusted to guard our land’s money just looked the other way while a cool 12 million changed hands. Well, praise the Lord! What would Jesus say to these TV evangelists who are presiding over enterprises that seem to be charities on the surface, but in reality it’s a church that’s being run like a profitable business? I have seen this firsthand at certain churches from my own past, and they were all churches that I left immediately after. Jesus said, “You cannot worship both God and money” (Matthew 6, verse 24).
It is clear to us from Paul’s writing that he was trying to nip this sort of thing in the bud within the early church before it got out of hand. As we can see from all too many modern churches and the way they are being operated, Paul was not entirely successful. Still, we can take a lesson from this and be wary when visiting a church for the first time. The Bible commands us to “test the spirit” of that church. This is not some fancy terminology, it is something we can do quietly from within ourselves because it is real. If you find anything about that church that makes you uncomfortable, and especially if you do not feel welcome, then keep looking for a church until you find the right one. When you find it, Jesus will make it known to you, of that you can be sure! And, if you can do neither, then plant a church instead. Paul then continues in verse 7 to make his point about how much, and at what level, should church leadership be compensated. Since there are a lot of people who get hung up about money, everyone should read Paul’s writing in these next verses with an open mind:
“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the law say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Do not muzzle an oxen while it is treading out the grain’. Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right? On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.” (1st Corinthians 9, verses 7-14)
Paul is clearly giving an unmistakable message here regarding how ministers of the Gospel were to compensate themselves in the early Church. This explanation is as valid today as it was when it was first written nearly 2,000 years ago. There is nothing wrong with the compensation of church leadership so long as good judgment and common sense are used to calculate the form and amount of compensation. This means no jet planes, million-dollar houses or cars with 6 figure price tags. This is emphasized by Paul when he wrote, “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?”….
There are too many “churches” today, particularly in the US, that are very large and therefore they generate eye-popping amounts of cash and checks on Sunday morning during the offering. They are run like businesses, and Jesus will deal with them and their “pastors” as severely as he did when he threw the money-changers out of the temple in Jerusalem the first time around. After all, the money changers of Jesus’ time are the equivalent of the prosperity ‘preachers’ of today. When the time comes for them to collect their reward, Jesus will turn them away instead. “They will be thrown out into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. “For the last shall be first, and the first, last.” — Jesus Christ
Still More Reasons Why God Hates Inequality
by Minister Paul J. Bern
For the last several weeks, I have been commenting at length about the wholesale police killings of unarmed Black men. If you’re Black in the US, you can forget about receiving any justice or equal treatment under the law as they are currently written and enforced. Of this there can be no question whatsoever. Formerly middle class people, and a whole lot of poor folks including people of color, are having their most basic rights taken away by runaway government and their out-of-control police departments. The Bible says in the Book of Proverbs chapter 29, verse 7, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”. That’s God’s take on poverty in a nutshell. “The poor you will always have”, Jesus said not long before His crucifixion, “but you will not always have me”. The poor are humankind’s responsibility, starting with the churches. It’s our fault collectively as an allegedly civilized society that there are so many homeless people – and even entire families – living on American streets. Let me repeat that with a flourish – the multitudes of homeless are out in the streets and sleeping in their cars because somebody somewhere didn’t give a damn because they were all too stingy to care.
Here in the city of Atlanta where I live, there are lots of boarded up and abandoned houses (there’s plenty in the suburbs, too, but most of those aren’t on the bus line). There are also a lot of homeless people, mainly because Georgia is one of those states whose minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 an hour. Any way you slice and dice it, a single person who makes minimum wage can’t afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in Georgia. So there are a slowly growing number of squatters who are living in these abandoned houses, nearly all without the benefit of water or electric hook-up. When the police catch them, and they do routinely, they are taken to jail. OK, now let’s review this. The cops catch some luckless squatter, who is living in a house that nobody wants. Since that person is considered to be a trespasser under Georgia law, and since the majority of the squatters are also usually black, they are taken immediately to a county jail where it will cost the taxpayers upwards of $60.00 per day to detain them.
So, there are some who think it’s better to spend $60.00 a day to house otherwise harmless petty criminals than it is to let them sleep in abandoned structures at night where they are bothering no one. No one seems to care about the fact that incarcerating these people is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers. I understand that they’re trespassing on someone’s property, but if that is something that must be enforced then why is the structure abandoned and in disrepair? The answer, brothers and sisters, is greed. The property owners, many of whom live out of state and who want nothing to do with these properties because they owe back property taxes on them, will not hesitate to press charges against some poor homeless man, or a homeless single parent with small children, for sleeping on a front porch on a rainy night.
Indeed, the circumstances and situations that the middle and working classes in the US find themselves in today are a series of gross social injustices that demands a sharply focused and well-coordinated response from the entire populace. What is needed is a rebuttal and decisive counterattack designed and intended to right, correct and re-balance US political power back into the hands of the overwhelming majority of American citizens to whom it rightfully belongs. There can be no doubt that class warfare has been declared in the US, perpetrated by the wealthy top 1% against the middle and working classes for the sole express purpose of eliminating from society the Constitutional majority of working Americans, with the end result being the complete and merciless liquidation of middle and working class wealth, general prosperity, and even our health.
This has been accomplished by the largest transfer of wealth in all of human history, and it has been manifested in three different ways. First, the employment of working Americans, particularly of the US working class, has been decimated by closing down manufacturing facilities and shipping jobs overseas to the third world for pennies on the dollar. Second, the retirement savings of the middle and working classes have been severely compromised or even liquidated altogether by the crooked and devious manipulations of Wall Street bankers, market speculators, hedge fund managers and corporate boards of directors who engineered the largest swindle in human history back in 2008. This criminal act resulted in the US government bailout know as TARP, an $850 billion bank robbery of the US Treasury conceived and carried out by the same ‘Ponzi schemers’ who ran the US economy into the ground in the first place. Third, the largest transfer of wealth in human history is being enforced by runaway prices for motor vehicles and college and university tuition that are being deliberately engineered by wealthy elitists for the sole express purpose of putting higher education financially out of reach for an increasing majority of the ever-vanishing American middle class.
There are tens of millions of formerly middle class people – of whom I am one, I was in IT for 20 years – from all across the country who find themselves in similar circumstances to varying degrees of severity. Many have not been as fortunate as me. They have lost jobs or entire careers like I did, been forced out into the street due to the epidemic of foreclosures throughout the land, had their cars repossessed, leaving them with no way to get to work assuming that they are lucky enough to still have jobs, and are hounded by collection agencies for debts great and small. They have no access to health care except to show up at the local emergency room with no way to pay the bill, putting them even deeper into debt than they already are. They have watched their pensions and their retirement savings evaporate due to market manipulations by unscrupulous “financial managers” who earn obscene bonuses whether they succeed or fail, and all at the expense of the small investors who have the most to lose.
Either that, or they have spent their savings during interminably lengthy periods of unemployment after their jobs were downsized or out-sourced overseas to the third world, never to return again. And their children, the ones lucky enough to be able to go to college, are graduating with crushing student loan debts that will take decades to repay if they can be repaid at all, depending on whether they can find suitable work or not. What good is a four-year degree if you wind up flipping hamburgers, selling shoes or digging ditches? Meanwhile, the best jobs, the best educations, and the best incomes are reserved for the wealthiest people and their families.
No more will we stand and stare or sit and grumble about having our houses, jobs, cars, savings, health, higher education and our retirements forcibly taken away while an ever greater portion of American wealth is concentrated into the hands of a small minority of multimillionaires. It is time for the middle and working classes to put our collective foot down and say ”no more”. The twin pandemics of police violence and racial inequality should be the places to start. The time has arrived for us to take back our country by any and all means possible.
It is time for political power to be taken out of the hands of corporate America and their invading hordes of lobbyists who would presume to take over our country by means of economic warfare, and to place it back into the hands of “we the people”, the true owners of this great country of ours. And we will do so knowing that God, history and our founding fathers will be on our side, because they left us with a sacred document known as the Constitution of the United States. It is that very document that guarantees us that right. Our free speech and freedom of expression that are guaranteed under the First Amendment, as well as our right to keep and bear arms and to form militias that are guaranteed under the Second Amendment, will not be compromised or trampled upon. We will demonstrate in the streets, we will besiege government buildings, we will bombard our congressmen and women with phone calls and emails, we will form new political parties, we will organize and build labor unions, we will blockade wealthy neighborhoods, we will organize peaceful public events and non-violent sit-ins, we will call general strikes and consumer boycotts, and we will not stop until the balance of power in this country undergoes a paradigm shift back into the hands of hard-working Americans, as well as the millions of people who want jobs and can’t find them. Moreover, we the people will accomplish this without the use of firearms, but we also claim the right to defend ourselves if we are attacked.
Let there be no mistake, America is ripe for mass civil disobedience, even for outright revolution. The conditions and circumstances in which the middle and working classes find themselves has become intolerable. Personally, I am a very patient and thoughtful man. I work hard each day to be slow to speak and quick to listen because I know from experience that there is much wisdom to be derived from living my life this way. But by the same token, I am a Christian man and Web evangelist who stands against social injustice and economic inequality, and whose patience is at its end. Just as surely as Jesus preached against the political and religious establishment of His day, in like manner I will do the same in the present day in order to emulate the man I regard as my personal Savior.
So, if you truly care about the deteriorating state of our nation, if you are really concerned about the issues that we are faced with collectively as a people, and if you want to make a stand against police violence, social injustice and economic inequality – and since it’s in all our best interests to do so – you owe it to yourselves to stand up in the face of power and say, “That’s it! You’re done!!” You know why? Because if Jesus Christ were to return this very day, that’s what He’d say. And the ones who are having the homeless thrown in jail for trespassing on their dilapidated properties would be the first ones Christ would send straight to hell.
The Apostle Paul’s Concluding Thoughts On Being Married as Opposed to Being Single
(1st Corinthians chapter 7, verses 25-40)
This week, regarding my chronological study of the writings of the apostle Paul, we’ll be finishing up 1st Corinthians chapter 7. I will be concluding this rather lengthy portion of Scripture, beginning at verse 25. Although some of Paul’s writing in this section may seem a little outdated or even antiquated on the surface, upon closer examination we will find that, when translated into modern English like I am about to do, this passage of Scripture is actually very applicable to modern life. I quote:
“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1st Corinthians 7, verses 25-31)
When Paul wrote, “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy”, he is saying two things in the same sentence. First, let me clarify what Paul meant by the word “virgin”. Translated from the original Hebrew, this simply means a young woman who has never been married. It has been argued by some Christian denominations that this is literally true, and therefore it is wrong to have any sex at all before marriage. Although I will be quick to agree that sexual sin and immorality is something to be carefully avoided, back in Paul’s day when this epistle was first written, people by and large assumed that all unmarried young men and women were virgins, mostly because sex was considered to be a taboo subject. In modern times, there are two main reasons that sex is no longer a taboo subject. The first is education (which was sorely lacking in Paul’s day) and the second is the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, which were likely almost unheard of 2,000 years ago when these words were first written. In short, although sin can literally kill you, ignorance can do the same, and the results are equally lethal.
Paul wrote in this same sentence that he had no command from Christ about this topic, but “I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy”. In other words, he is sharing an educated opinion regarding this matter. Prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul had been a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling class of the day in what is now modern Israel. So Paul was an educated and intelligent man. Paul continues his train of thought, “Because of the present crisis, I think it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife”. The “present crisis” he is referring to is almost surely the occupation of the Holy Land by the Roman Empire during those times. He was writing that since times were already tough, why make things any harder by looking for a wife or a husband?
I can tell you from personal experience that seeking marriage just because you’re lonesome, or because one is burning with passion, is the wrong reason to get married. I survived two absolutely miserable marriages earlier in my life, but God has taught me over the years that I am better off remaining single as I have been. But even more important is that, since we are most definitely living in the End Times as prophesied in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments, we should be focused on getting ready for the second coming of Christ Jesus. Paul summarized this timely bit of advice in the next sentence when he wrote, “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short”. He then continues beginning at verse 32:
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned with the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1st Corinthians 7, verses 32-40)
Paul makes it abundantly clear as he closes this chapter that the cares and worries of life can compromise one’s belief in, and devotion to, Christ. Seeking a mate, no matter how well – intentioned, diverts us from what is most important in life. Our salvation in Christ through His crucifixion and resurrection should be the first and foremost thing in our lives, and it should remain above and beyond all other things. Without the saving power of Jesus, all the accomplishments one can achieve in life wind up being meaningless and hollow in the end.
As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” So in the end this becomes all about priorities and about realizing what is most important. Whether one is married or single is actually a side issue, and it is very applicable to early 21st century living. It’s difficult and time consuming to be cruising for a mate and trying to be devoted to the Lord all at the same time. Besides, we are anticipating the second coming of Christ in our lifetimes, and at the rate things are deteriorating due to raging wars abroad and economic depression at home, His return could happen at any time. How then should we be living? As for me, I no longer worry about getting remarried. It would be a good thing for me to find another wife, I am certain of that. But that does not really matter to me because I am already a member of Christ’s church which the Bible calls “the bride of Christ” in the book of Revelation. So since I am technically married to Jesus, I no longer have a need for a mate. My membership within the Bride makes me so.
If Jesus can do this for me, He can do it for you too. So I would advise those who are reading this to stop surfing the dating websites and cruising the chat-rooms because they are by and large a waste of your time. Devote yourself to Jesus first and foremost, and all these other things will fall into place on their own according to God’s will for your life. Just keep remembering that His will is always in your best interest. If you find a mate within the greater church, regardless of denomination, that is a good thing. But to remain as you are and devote yourself to Him is even better.