A Progress Report For All My Readers

Progress Report to All My Readers on My Blog and Social Media: the New Social Gospel Blog and Website Have Gotten Off to a Very Strong Start, Thanks to You All

by Minister Paul J. Bern

 

golgotha_christ_crossHello, everyone, it’s your on-line pastor and virtual evangelist Rev. Paul Bern, and I’m happy to send this overwhelmingly positive report here in the fall of 2020. I am writing this on a newly rebuilt computer that I acquired on Ebay. I bought it without a hard drive; just the box and that’s all. Then, I performed a hard drive transplant from my old computer to my new(er) one, installed a badly needed Windows 10 upgrade, and now, here we are, back and better than ever.





This could not have been accomplished without some dedicated followers who contributed a few small donations to get the 2 websites (I have a second one for my books at authorrevpauljbern.com) up and running, plus the money for the computer. You all have probably noticed that I only rarely ask for money, if ever. Moreover, I draw no salary from this ministry. I have some books on the market, but my monthly income is often very small. So for contingencies, there’s a little ‘donate’ button on the header of the home page for this ministry, at the top center of the page, for anyone who feels led to give.





As far as the future goes, you all have undoubtedly seen my new email campaign’s new look and feel. I have switched from a social-media driven to an email driven marketing platform, and so far it seems to be working fairly well. There’s been no dramatic increase in book sales, but the books are secondary and the ministry is of primary importance as far as my priorities are concerned. And the online ministry is what is growing the fastest. Thank you all so very much for your participation.





Other things coming up in the near future are the release of my 3-book trilogy on the writings of the apostles Luke and Paul (consisting of the books of Luke, Acts of the Apostles, and all of Paul’s letters to the churches, from Romans to Philemon, and everything in between). They will be sold either individually, or as a 3-volume set, and they will be available either from my website, or exclusively from Amazon in either print, digital (Amazon Kindle and Kindle-compatible), or audio (Amazon Audible) formats. There will also be the release of yet another nonfiction book this winter having to do with American politics and the Bible. I’m still in prayer about the right title, but the interior of the book is essentially ready for market. I had wanted to release it this month, before the elections, but there just wasn’t enough time. But, after much prayer, I am at peace with the delayed release of this latest book.





Plus, now that I am finally ready to record video’s and music, thanks to this newly acquired equipment, you will also begin to see a steady flow of video’s from yours truly, so be sure and watch for that. There are already about 15-16 videos already up on You Tube, and there will soon be plenty more where that came from. My weekly commentaries and Bible lessons will continue as always, and I have plans for a monthly newsletter on my book website too. So stick around and watch all this unfold before you all, and I intend to enjoy myself while doing all this as I possibly can. Shalom….

How to Embrace Each Others Diversity As An Alternative Lifestyle

Embracing Each Other’s Faith Despite Our Differences

(Romans chapter 14, verses 13-23)

For this week’s Bible study we will finish Romans chapter 14, as we continue to learn the meaning of tolerance among ourselves as it applies to our faith. In today’s lesson we’ll be concluding the apostle Paul’s train of thought from the first 12 verses that we studied last week concerning judging one another. Paul was talking about passing judgment on “disputable matters” of faith, using eating certain types of foods as an example. Some folks eat only certain types of foods, such as different kinds of meat, whereas others do not. Still others are vegetarians. Paul is not preaching on what or what not to eat, he is only using this as an example of what he is trying to teach us. Paul states unequivocally that “each one should be convinced in his (or her) own mind”. He then continues in this train of thought as he finishes making his point, beginning in verse 13.

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14: verses 13-18)

“Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way”. Here Paul is exhorting us not to do anything that could compromise or call into question the faith of someone else, whether they are a believer or not. If you are a Protestant then don’t be putting down Catholics. If you’re a Catholic, then don’t express hate for a Muslim or a Jew just because they believe differently than you do (except, of course, for those who blow themselves up while in large crowds of other people). We can and do disagree, that is true. But that does not give us an excuse to look down on someone who we erroneously regard as being not as good as we are. If you are so far up in the clouds spiritually that your feet are no longer touching the ground, then you have lost touch with the very people to whom you are supposed to be witnessing to and setting a good example for. Muslims and Jews do not eat pork. I happen to like pork, I eat it about once a week. Under no circumstances does that allow me to look down upon someone who abstains from pork. And that works both ways.

This also brings up the issue of antisemitism, which is a sugar-coated term for hatred of the Jews. If you are a Christian and worship Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth, then it is impossible to hate Jewish people because Jesus walked the earth as a Jewish man. You cannot simultaneously hate the Jews and claim to love Christ, who died for all our sins. You either love Christ or you don’t. And if you don’t believe in Christ, then the Bible says you will be condemned to hell when your life on earth is over. On the other hand, you can change your mind right now and ask Jesus, “If you’re really real, then come and become the Lord of my life”. If you love Christ, a Jewish man, then you presumably love all Jews as well. Anything less is completely contradictory and doesn’t hold up under serious examination. Furthermore, while I certainly don’t wish to scold or otherwise cause offense with my readers, I think it’s better to tell the truth and be unpopular than to be well liked for merely telling people the things they like to hear. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is part of my job to point out these things.

Do not by your eating (or drinking) destroy your brother for whom Christ died”. Many Christians, especially Evangelicals, abstain from alcoholic beverages for reasons of faith. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I have been a Progressive Christian since 1992 when I first gave my life to the Lord. As such, I occasionally enjoy alcoholic beverages, but I always do so in moderation. By the same token, if I went out to dinner with Evangelicals I would order a soft drink instead of beer or a mixed drink. By the same token, if I went out to dinner with a Muslim or a Jew, I would not order pork and risk offending that person. That would be no better than showing up at an AA meeting with a six pack of beer. I have been fortunate to never have had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but by opening up a six pack of beer at that AA meeting I would be offending all others there who must by necessity abstain from all forms of alcohol. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil”. Instead, we are to strive to set a good Christian example for all to see, and our every word and action will be watched closely by others, especially non-believers. Since Christ died and was risen from the dead on the third day for us all, we are to treat everyone equally in these matters and not cause someone’s conscience to be bothered or compromised by our own actions. Anyone who does would be sinning against that person and against God. Paul then goes on starting at verse 19.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Romans 14: verses 19-21)

The main point of Christianity is belief in Christ Jesus as the risen Son of God. All other issues of faith, such as what to eat or drink, or for that matter how we worship as an individual, becomes a side issue and as such are besides the point. Abortion is another example. Although I personally think abortion is wrong, I refuse to pass judgment on those who do not, or who may have actually had an abortion sometime in the past. That is between them and God. Judging other people is God’s job, not mine, and therefore I never presume to do God’s job for Him – as if I were somehow capable of doing that in a righteous manner in the first place!

For the Bible says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. And again it is written by the apostle James, “Be careful how you judge one another, for with the same measure that you judge others, it will be measured back to you”. It is far better to follow what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. So if I bring a six pack of beer to an AA meeting, and my actions cause one of the people at that meeting to relapse and wind up back in rehab, that sin is not on that person’s soul; it would in that case actually be on mine. Let it be far from me to cause my brother or sister to stumble and fall because of my actions, because God is watching everything I do and He is listening to every word that I say. So it is for all of us. Paul then concludes in verse 22 as follows.

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14: verses 22-23)

We are to keep everything we believe, every bit of our faith, between ourselves and God. Paul wrote elsewhere in the Book of Philippians that we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling between ourselves and the Lord”. That is exactly what Paul was talking about here. I may not believe what others do, and I may have a different nature of faith than my brother or my sister. But under no circumstances does that give me any right to condemn what anyone else believes, or to look down on them, believing that my faith is somehow better than theirs. God made us all in His image and likeness, so says the Bible. Therefore if we have questions or doubts about what someone else believes, we are actually passing judgment on that which God has made, and no one has any right to question the judgment and intentions of God. That is the ultimate form of blasphemy, a damnable sin if ever there was one.

Let us all start doing this today, and going forward. By doing so we can all become better Christians and have a better walk with Christ. Remember that the closer we walk with Christ the closer we are to God. As we become closer to God, we grow stronger and better through Him by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And this is a noble and worthy goal for all of us to achieve and to live by. By doing so we become a better Christian and a better person, and that should be the goal of everyone who truly believes. Besides, by doing so, you never know when our actions can influence a non-believer and win them over to Christ. And that is something that is always worthwhile.

The Future of Humanity, Biblical Prophecy, and How They Will Soon Coincide

An Additional Message to Clarify My Previous Warnings About the Future of America and the Western World

by Minister Paul J. Bern

For the last 6 straight weeks, as my regular readers know – and a hearty ‘welcome’ to all you newcomers – I published a post about how there could be a massive economic reset in the world’s future, starting with the United States. I also used a lot of Bible scripture to back up my words. I have received a lot of strong positive feedback about my series of postings on my blogs, but there was a fair amount of the negative kind too, primarily from atheists and religious ‘conservatives’. I have found myself on the receiving end of open derision from a small but highly vocal minority because of my “radical” views, as one man called it. ‘How could there ever be an economic reset when capitalism works so well’, was just one of the replies I received (heavily edited, of course). Apparently many of those individuals did not bother to read the entire article or, worse yet, just glanced at the title and the picture, and jumped to whatever conclusion suited them for that moment.

The Bible has a lot to say about nonbelievers, but I’m going to quote this week from the Book of 2nd Peter, something I don’t often get a chance to do. Peter may have been an illiterate fisherman who dictated the two small books named after him, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts chapter 2), and as such he “wrote” some beautiful stuff, and I quote: “3) Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4) They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ 5) But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6) By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7) By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3, verses 3-7)

Where is Jesus? I thought he would have come back by now. What’s the holdup? These three questions are on the lips and minds of agnostics and scoffers alike. After all, Jesus said about the End Times of today, “32) Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33) Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34) Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24, verses 32-35) For those of you who may not know, ‘the fig tree’ is a Biblical symbol for the nation of Israel. So these words of Jesus, spoken when he was speaking to the Twelve about the End Times, refer to the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which happened in May of 1948.

“….when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” So from these words of our Lord and Savior we can safely conclude that the End Times that Christ spoke about in Matthew chapter 24 have arrived, most likely beginning with the first two world wars. Since the nation of Israel was ‘born’ on May 14, 1948, one could normally conclude that one generation – roughly 70 years – away from the nation of Israel’s birth could be assumed to be 2018. But it’s 2020, people, and nothing having to do with a Second Coming of Christ is on the horizon. It’s been over 70 years, a generation plus 2 more years, and still – nothing yet.

People are beginning to have doubts because Christ’s return is taking longer than anticipated by many true believers, not to mention the skeptics. But the apostle Peter knew through the indwelling of the Spirit within him that this would occur. That’s why he dictated the following words as he continued in 2nd Peter chapter 3: “8) But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12) as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13) But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2nd Peter 3, verses 8-13)

It is perfectly normal to have generally doubtful or even pessimistic thoughts enter our minds. It’s even perfectly normal to have doubts about the Bible, about God, and even about the purpose and meaning of life itself. But I think Peter was saying right here to stop wasting time worrying about these matters, because they are often beyond our control – but not necessarily all the time. In verse 8, Peter was saying as best as he could that God is timeless, and that He operates in a higher dimension of existence than ourselves. Since God does not experience the passage of time like we do, his schedule, his timing, and that of humanity often don’t coincide. Often this can appear to us as if a certain prayer to the Lord has not been answered. But oftentimes, it’s not that God isn’t going to answer our prayers. He’s just waiting for an opportunity to give you even more than you asked for.

In the very next verse, the Bible tells us plainly why Jesus will be late in returning. “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Jesus is waiting to return so that as many who want to enter into his Kingdom, and who want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, can be brought into it. The apostle Paul wrote, “God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all people come to repentance.” So there you have it from the apostles Peter and Paul. God is going to wait for as long as he can before shutting the door. But once that door is shut, it will be shut forever, and then massive destruction will come.

“….the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” Whatever nature this colossal event is going to be will be unknown right up until the moment it happens, there can be no doubt about that based on what I’m reading in verse 10. All indications are that – based on how this passage of Scripture is worded – Peter was speaking about some kind of massive cosmic event, either a large asteroid or comet striking the earth. I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, it isn’t going to be Nibiru which, if it does indeed exist, is somewhere beyond Neptune right now. That’s past Uranus, past Saturn and Jupiter too. It takes Neptune, the outermost planet of the four, 80 years to go around the sun. If Nibiru is beyond that, even if it were headed straight for us it would take 40 or 50 years to get here. Think about it, and do the darned math while you’re at it so all you people can stop worrying about ‘Nibiru’.

11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12) as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming….” God is watching each and every one of us. Not to whack us on the tops of our heads every time we’re ‘bad’, but because he cares for us like a parent would their little children. If you were raising kids, would you give them candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Out of the question! Would you take them to Six Flags or Disney World every weekend, whether they deserved to go or not? As before, completely out of the question. We are raising responsible adults, not spoiled brats and car thieves. Notice the part where Peter states that we “look forward” to Christ’s return and that we are to “speed its coming”? The reason Christ has yet to return is because we are not ready for him to do so. And that’s just for the believers. The nonbelievers would simply be swept away if Christ returned overnight. They would all be gone, and all their belongings with them, before morning light.

So Peter is clearly telling us that we need to clean up our act, and that we are rapidly running out of time to do so. Otherwise, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat…..” “The heavens” presumably means the skies above us, implying a natural disaster of such Biblical proportions that the earth’s atmosphere may be completely burned away, similar to what apparently happened on Mars sometime in the distant past. In that event, the earth’s surface would be unlivable, but it would be possible to have large pockets of breathable air underground in caves. Maybe the cave men of 100,000 years ago lived there for the same reasons, having themselves escaped a similar calamity. Could this have been what Peter was trying to warn us about? Nobody knows for sure, but we all had better live each day as if that one is our last.

“Love One Another”, Says This Week’s Biblical Teaching. If Only We Would Follow It.

We Must Relearn What It Means to Love One Another

(Romans chapter 13)

hungry littile girl

In today’s lesson we are going to move on to Romans chapter 13. When we closed out chapter 12 last week, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. As I wrote last week, this is very good advice at all times. But as the apostle Paul continued in chapter 13, he makes a statement as if to say, “And speaking of doing good, one more thing”. He then wrote as follows, beginning at verse one:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, then pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13, verses 1-7)

“….he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” As you can see, there will be no ruthless outlaws in heaven. Paul wrote in favor of obeying authority in this context not just because of who he was, but because he was a Roman citizen, and so it had little to do with his being one of the early apostles. The Roman Empire was Paul’s motherland, which further explains his fierce loyalty. I don’t know what he would say about America’s founding fathers and our Declaration of Independence. But Paul the apostle was in favor of paying taxes regardless of whether he thought they were fair or not. He did this because of his Roman heritage, but also because those taxes were collected with brutal efficiency under penalty of death.

In the modern world we have a completely different situation in that we have freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution that the early Christians did not have, whether they were Roman citizens or not. It has been my observation that since a large percentage of the taxes that Americans pay are going towards the American empire – which has its overwhelmingly huge military all over the globe for mostly dubious reasons – modern Christians should take a stand on moral grounds against war and what amounts to illegal and unconstitutional military dominance and global occupation in all its forms. Being the anti-war activist that I am, I find myself compelled to oppose war and the taxes that support it because that’s what Jesus would do if he were physically here on earth today! Having said my peace, let me move on to verse 8. This passage of Scripture deals with loving one another unconditionally, and that is sound advice in any context for the same reason as I wrote in the first paragraph of page one. It’s what Jesus would do and it is what He has commanded us all to do.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘do not commit adultery’, ‘do not murder’, ‘do not steal’, ‘do not covet’, and whatever other commandment that there may be, are summed up in this one rule; ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13: verses 8-10)

“Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another….”. If we are to owe anything at all to anyone or anything, it is that we are to love one another unconditionally. Should we love African-Americans if we are white? Yes, because racism has no place in the church and should have no place in our lives. Should we love liberals if we are conservative? Yes, because Jesus was a political activist and very liberal by today’s political standards and therefore so should we. Should we love Muslims if we are Christian? Yes, because we are worshiping a God who is above and beyond mere religious interpretation by other men. Should we love an atheist if we believe in God? Not only that, but we should be praying for them as well. Should we love the homeless if we have a roof over our head? Yes, because helping to take care of the poor and disadvantaged should be present in the life of every true Christian.

After all, at the rate that the US economy is going, it won’t be much longer before a whole lot more of us will wind up homeless when our jobs get down-sized or exported overseas, after which our cars will eventually get repossessed and our homes foreclosed on and the former owners wind up evicted. That homeless person that you buy a burger and some fries for today could be you in five or ten years (it once happened to me, and I didn’t think it could either). Should Americans love illegal immigrants? Yes, because in reality they are economic refugees from the third world, and we are and always have been a nation of immigrants, and because it is an American tradition to receive foreigners with open arms. It’s not just the American thing to do, it’s the Christian thing to do too. And just for the record, there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Every person has the right to be here, regardless of their nationality.

“Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor”. The entire Bible can be summed up with these two sentences. We are to love everyone we can as far as it is possible, and in so doing remain at peace with everyone. And we are to continue doing this regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation (yes, that too) or economic status of others (compared to ourselves) that we come into contact with. We are to follow the example that Jesus Christ set for us when he was crucified for all our sins. God loved us first and so he sent Jesus Christ to be the final Temple sacrifice for all of us. In the same manner, no matter what the cost, we are to love one another no matter who we are, where we have been, or what we have done. Let’s not judge one another in the process, for this does not please God. Paul then continues as he clarifies the point he is making when he wrote these words two thousand years ago.

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13: 11-14)

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”. When we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we start on a journey that lasts throughout our lifetime. We draw closer to Jesus as we continue along this journey through life. Christianity, then, is not a destination but rather it is a spiritual trek through the highs and lows of life. To put this quote into a modern context, Paul is literally telling us that it is time for us to wake up and smell the coffee. He is saying that if we are indeed going to be Christians, we need to start acting like it. That means we are to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. The love of God is light in its purest form, and so we are to become imitators of this. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5: 15). To put on this armor of light, we are to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”.

To clothe ourselves with Jesus means we are to put on the armor of light that is Christ. By clothing ourselves with Christ, we actually shield ourselves from the world with all its temptations and evils such as the pursuit of material gain and waging war against our global neighbors. It is impossible to shield ourselves from all the evils of this world by ourselves. We would be overwhelmed to the point of eventual destruction, dying a God-less death, never to inherit the eternal life that is ours in Christ. But the Bible says that “God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all receive the gift of everlasting life”. So, by clothing ourselves with Christ we are to wear Jesus on our shirtsleeves and across our chests. We do this not by being religious and engaging in a bunch of religious rituals and circumstances thereof, but by living our Christian faith as a lifestyle, or as a conscious choice about how we will treat other people. We can do this by treating everyone we come into contact with as we would treat ourselves (“love your neighbor as your self”). This is a simple saying that takes a lifetime to learn, and that is how we grow in Jesus.

Let’s all begin to do this, starting today. We can put on “the armor of light” that protects us from evil people, things and situations. We most definitely can wear Jesus on our shirtsleeve as a choice of lifestyle, not merely as a religion that is only practiced on Sunday morning. And we can do this simply by loving our neighbor as well as we love ourselves, knowing that God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say. One day when our lives are over, we are all going to have to stand before God and give an account of our lives and how we lived them. The time to begin preparing for that day, no matter how far off it may be, is right now. Join me in preparing yourself for eternity. You will feel so much better and more fulfilled when you do. Love your neighbor as yourself and watch your love grow. As you do, the love of God will fill you more and more each day, and that is a life well lived. And that’s the best part of all.

The following post is an excerpt from my new book release, “The Social Gospel Teaching Series Volume 3: Paul the Apostle (available on Amazon)

How to Keep and Maintain the Mind of Jesus Christ

(Romans chapter 12)

Social Gospel series Volume 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As far as it is possible, live at peace with everyone. If any of your enemies refuses to act peaceably toward you, avoid them and don’t associate with them. Take it to the Lord in prayer and let God deal with them, and you can be sure that He will. God will deal with your enemies in his good and perfect will according to His perfect timing. That is the way of the Lord, and we are to emulate Him every chance we get. And the peace of God which is beyond all human understanding will be with you all. Let’s start putting these teachings into practice on a daily basis. You will be surprised at how much your quality of life will improve, as well as how many doors of opportunity this will open for you. Living God’s way through Jesus Christ really is the best way to live our lives. Try it and see for yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome. Be sure and return next week for our Biblical teaching series as we move on to chapter 13. Enjoy your day.

He has always been our vine, and we who believe are surely His branches

The Olive Tree, The Branches, and their Significance

(Romans chapter 11, verses 1-16)

let he who is without sin

In today’s chronological study of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul continues his train of thought regarding the Hebrew people versus the remaining nations of the world. He continues to elaborate about the Jews as being God’s chosen people while he explains why that status was going to the Gentile nations instead of Israel. Paul quoted from the prophet Isaiah chapter 65 and verse one, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me”. God’s purpose for the Gentile nations (that’s us) was to extend the salvation of Christ to all humanity, provoking Israel to jealousy. So let’s pick up where we left off last week beginning at chapter 11, verse one.

“I ask then; did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says about the prophet Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? (I Kings 19, verses 10 and 14) And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed their knee to Baal’. (I Kings 19:18) So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What, then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.’ (Isaiah 29: 20) And David says, ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see and their backs be bent forever’. (Psalm 69: 22-23) Again I ask, did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!” (Romans 11, verses 1-12)

God has not rejected the Jewish nation, Paul wrote, and he states unequivocally that he is living proof that this is so. Keep in mind that when Paul wrote these words, the overwhelming majority of Christians in the early church were Jewish converts. It is a documented fact that all of the living apostles (James had already been executed at the time these words were written) were ministering to the Jews of their day. Only Paul, as we learned from last week’s study, was ministering to the Gentiles. If I as an Israelite, Paul was saying, can be saved, then so can the rest of us. “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” As we have learned previously, grace is defined as unmerited favor from God. It is a free gift with no strings attached, provided that we surrender control of our lives to Jesus Christ, making him the Lord over all right down to our daily lives. “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did.” “The elect” is a reference to all non-Jews who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb of God, none other than Christ himself. “The elect” are all born-again Christians.

“…Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Paul is saying here that since so many non-believing Jews had rejected the salvation of Christ, he would cause all the Gentile nations to get their fair share of grace ahead of the Jews, deliberately making them angry. Anyone who rejects Christ will be proven wrong, first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile. Those who are proven wrong but still will not change their ways are in danger of final judgment that leads to eternal death. But those who do believe, whether Jew or Gentile, will be granted eternal life in New Jerusalem, a life without end where time as we know it does not exist. Paul makes his point by comparing new Christians to branches of an olive tree. The olive tree is used throughout the Bible as a symbol for Israel. It goes back to the tradition of Jesus teaching us all that “I am the vine, and you are the branches”. It’s in all four gospels if you want to look it up.

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I might somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough that is offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy; if the root is holy, then so are the branches.” (Romans 11 verses 13-16)

In the first verse above, the apostle Paul makes reference to himself as a Jewish man when he talks about being an apostle to the Gentiles, or non-Jews. He then states by doing so he hoped to “somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them”. This is a direct reference to a passage in the book of Acts where Paul’s arguments for his new-found Christian faith are rejected by his Jewish peers at every turn. “Let your blood be on your own heads”, Paul exclaims to them. “From now on, I will take my message to the Gentiles”. Paul then uses a quote from Christ to make his point when he says,” If the part of the dough that is offered as first-fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy”. Jesus said during one of his parables, “A small amount of yeast works through the whole batch of dough”. This is what Paul is referring to when he says, “ If the part of the dough that is offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy.”

“First fruits” refers to the ancient Jewish tradition in the Old Testament of offering up a tenth of one’s livestock and their crops for sacrifice at the temple at Jerusalem. Unfortunately, this tradition is still being taught in some churches as being a requirement for ‘membership’ today even though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of Old Testament teachings. (yes, you should still give to your church and other non-profits, but the 10% requirement was abolished when Christ rose from the dead three days after he was crucified. Any church that teaches tithing 10% of one’s income today is bending and twisting the Gospel so as to turn houses of worship into profitable businesses. God will deal with them severely!).

So as we close out part 1 of Romans chapter 11, Paul the apostle is continuing his train of thought by emphasizing how essential the passion of Christ truly is to Jew and non-Jew alike. Next week when we conclude part 2, you will see the strong, sure hand of Paul’s guiding hand as he led the early Church towards its destiny. Until then, keep Christ in your heart close at hand.

The New Year’s Resolutions Nobody Made that I’m Going to Make Before January Slips Away

A Belated New Year’s Resolution for America, Written by a Concerned Citizen

by Minister Paul J. Bern

Jeff Bridges One of the primary purposes of this Web ministry is to stand against social injustice and economic inequality in all its forms, as well as the extreme immorality of waging warfare. I firmly believe that any minister who does not do these things is only doing half his or her job. In that case, all they would be doing is collecting a paycheck every Sunday morning for the sake of profit and materialism, forgetting that Jesus preached against this very thing over and over again. (But don’t take my word for it, it’s in all four gospels, go and read it for yourself). Anyone who doesn’t have a Bible should visit the “Contact Us” page on my website and ask for one. I will personally send you an Adobe/PDF version free of charge. Don’t forget to include your email address.)

Although Jesus did take His ministry to the religious establishment of his day, which centered around the temple at Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin (or Hebrew ruling elect) of that time, he was rejected and ultimately executed by them just as the Old Testament prophets foretold. Instead, He went to the poor and downtrodden, the outcast and the marginalized who otherwise had no voice at all. He ministered to the sick, the homeless, the addicted and the unemployed and all others who had nothing, with the knowledge that the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ is vastly superior to mere material possessions. I try my best to emulate this mind-set in my ministry and in the people I meet in order that my words and actions may most accurately imitate my Savior and the redeemer of my very soul, Christ Jesus the Lord.

 

 

In today’s world there is social injustice and what I call ‘enforced inequality’ everywhere we look. A veritable class war is ongoing here in the USA, throughout the Middle East, in Europe and in Asia that has the wealthy accumulating ridiculous amounts of wealth in a downright obscene orgy of greed, and all at the expense of the middle and working classes who are being economically decimated. The apostle Luke wrote, “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Again in Colossians 3:5 it reads, Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” So ‘greed’ becomes synonymous with adultery, and the apostle Peter wrote concerning this, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve” (1st Peter 5: 2).

This ongoing illegal and immoral accumulation of wealth is unparalleled in world history. The signs and indicators of these obscene amounts of wealth that has fallen into the hands of an elite minority are everywhere. Mass unemployment and underemployment are everywhere, and they stand at stubbornly high levels. Now, I’m well aware that the US Labor Department just released figures last month stating that unemployment is at all-time lows. But if we look at the true levels of unemployment, which by definition must include those who are underemployed (working part time at one or more jobs when full-time employment is both desired and required) or those who have left the job market for good (like men and women in their middle 50’s and older such as what I experienced first-hand), the true level of unemployment exceeds 24% in the US alone, not counting the rest of the developed world. Instead of creating more jobs that are the hallmark of any economic recovery, fewer and fewer people are doing more work for less pay. The rest of US and European workers are increasingly finding themselves out in the cold, often literally.

 

 

In the meantime, those lucky individuals who still have jobs run the increasing risk of having their jobs out-sourced overseas for pennies on the dollar, or being replaced by workers being imported through H1B work visas to work for wages that are a fraction of their American competitors. Those who are agile enough to avoid either fate will find themselves being replaced by robots and automation in 10 or 15 years. The government has been concealing this from its constituency for decades, but they can’t keep it a secret any longer. One thing is for certain – the centuries-old paradigm of working for money to buy overpriced food, clothing and merchandise is going to have to be replaced. This is simply inevitable. What is also inevitable is that this change will have to come from the bottom up rather than from the top down, since those at the top 2% have proven themselves untrustworthy when it comes to money and finance (because they keep it all for themselves). It will also mean the end of the capitalist economic system as we have known it, and the same goes for the current 2-party political system. Until then, the unending occupation of Afghanistan plus the clandestine wars being waged on every continent are costing the US government $6 billion dollars each day, money that could be much better spent here at home to create some badly needed new jobs.

Clearly this is unsustainable and will bankrupt the country if it isn’t stopped (if we are not there already). American capitalism and the American empire have run their course, and I maintain that capitalism and the American Empire as we have known them are on the deathbed of history where all empires go when they die. America is in decline while the former “third world” has become the developing world, and where even poor countries continue to develop rapidly. The combined economies of China, Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil will overtake the US economy by 2024 at the latest, with China in the lead. This could be ended by creating American jobs through large public works programs to give US infrastructure a badly needed overhaul, and by an accelerated and invigorated space program, mankind’s final frontier. On the other hand, there must be a program in place such as a civilian version of the GI Bill to retrain all the workers who are unable to find jobs, or who would like to change careers. What’s holding that back, you may ask? Let me illustrate why America can easily afford to do this. If the combined US military and intelligence communities set aside the financial expenditures equal to a single day’s cost of the occupation in Afghanistan and put the money into an interest-bearing account of your choice, there would be sufficient funds for a 4-year college education for every school kid in America, from pre-K to a high school senior inclusive. And that’s just from one day’s expenditures!

 

But what do we have instead? American workers are being thrown away by multinational corporations as being no longer useful or too expensive to keep around, resulting in a wave of homelessness not seen since the 1930’s. The majority of today’s homeless population is college educated, not stereotypical street bums – not by a long shot, and that is a great social injustice. This has been going on for so long now that the American public has become indifferent to it, of that you can be sure. The time to make alternative plans for a possibly rocky future is upon us now. As the Great Recession and its bogus “recovery” grinds on, politicians in most industrial countries have an incentive to make exaggerated claims about the supposed coming economic recovery. Some say the recession is over. President Trump is in the group that claims we’re “on the road to recovery,” while other nations can only spot recovery “on the horizon.” For now, let me sum up the problems of North American companies and their workers along these 7 possible outcomes.

 

1) Central Banks are Clueless. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted. Since cheap money hasn’t been working, the printing presses have been turned up to full throttle, into what the U.S. federal reserve calls quantitative easing – injecting trillions of dollars into the world economy, escalating an emerging trade war while the US dollar loses value in a vicious downward spiral.

 

2) Trade War. Speaking of which, for a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. But in a major recession all countries engage in a bitter struggle to dominate foreign markets so that their own corporations can export. These markets are won by devaluing currencies (accomplished in the U.S. by quantitative easing), installing protectionist measures (so that a nation’s corporations have monopoly dominance over that nation’s consumers), or by war (a risky but highly effective form of market domination).

 

3) Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. The domination of markets – every inch of them – becomes an issue of life and death importance. Wars have been unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen. “Containing” economies like China and “opening” economies like Iran and North Korea become more urgent during a major recession, requiring brute force and creating further global instability in all realms of social life.

 

4) U.S. Economy at a Virtual Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Here in early 2020 as I write this, well over thirty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, while further job losses are certain, due to nearly every state’s budget deficits. The New York Times explains: “Now states are bracing for more painful cuts, more layoffs, more tax increases, more battles with public employee unions, more requests to bail out cities. And in the long term, as cities and states try to keep up on their debts, the very nature of government could change as they have less money left over to pay for the services they have long provided.” (12-05-10) Nearly a decade later, it’s still the same old song and dance, it’s just a different tune.

 

5) Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations need much the same. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in. Greece and Ireland have been bailed out, with eyes shifting to Portugal, Spain, and Italy. The entire European Union is being called into question as the Euro takes a beating in the bailout spree. If the EU is dismantled, the shock waves will quickly reach other economies.

 

6) Bailout Repercussions. All western nations — including the U.S. and England — are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced on the backs of working families, instead of rich investors. This is tearing the social fabric apart, as working and poor people see their social programs under attack. In Europe mass movements are erupting in France, Spain, Portugal, England, Greece, Ireland, Italy, etc. Social stability is a prerequisite for a recovered economy, but corporate politicians everywhere are asking much more than working people are willing to give.

 

7) The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they’re given endless airtime on all major media outlets. I remember as a boy growing up on the west side of Cincinnati, all the racist jokes, racial slurs and other bad things my family said about people of color. I despised what they were saying, but I didn’t dare tell my dad or any of my uncles about my true feelings. The message of the far right promotes all the rottenness not yet eradicated by education: racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, violence, and a backward nationalism that fears all things “foreign.”

 

These core beliefs effectively divide working people so that a concerted campaign against the corporate elite is harder to wage. Meanwhile, labor unions, progressives, and other working class organizations are targeted instead. The above phenomena does not happen in a normal economic cycle of boom and bust. These symptoms point to a larger disease in the international economic system, a disease that cannot be cured by politicians who swear allegiance to this deteriorating system and to the wealthy elite who benefit from it. To ensure that the economic system is changed so that working people benefit, large-scale collective action is necessary, based on demands that unite the majority of working people: a massive job-creation program at the expense of Wall Street, no cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a moratorium on home foreclosures, passage of a $14.00 per hour minimum wage, and so on. With the unions in the lead promoting these demands, working people can and should put up a real fight.

 

The best solution that I can think of, then, that takes care of all this and more, is to come up with an innovative, effective and efficient nonprofit economy. Here are a few examples of what I mean: What’s the underlying cause of the skyrocketing prices of fuel, groceries, college tuition, and medical care including the cost of private health insurance? All of the above industries needed more operating capital to keep going due to rising prices for goods and services that they purchase. But even more basic than that – the least common denominator – is the current corporate business model, where the shareholders needs come first instead of the customers and employees of the firm. More profits must be generated for this cadre of people whose demands for ‘more’ are only exceeded by their self-importance, and this must stop, the sooner the better. But what if this weren’t true? What if the hundreds of billions in profits that each one of these enormous multinational corporations racks up each year were returned to the employees so they, and not the shareholders who don’t do a damn thing anyway, share in the profits? If you multiply 500, the number of Fortune Magazine’s biggest corporations, by all those hundreds of billions in profits they each made, that comes to a sum of money so huge that my calculator won’t display the answer – it doesn’t have enough memory. One thing is for certain; the time for employee-owned businesses has arrived.

 

 

If the US wants to clean up its act, a complete repudiation of capitalism and greed would be a very good place to start. Let’s spend this coming week thinking of all the things we could do for each other and the whole world with the money that, as I write this, is still being hoarded by the few. Let’s invent fair and equitable ways we can peacefully distribute it to the many. And next week I’ll be back with part 2 of this series on the End Times.

What if you just discovered you were adopted? What about if you were a foster child?

We Are All Abraham’s Children

Romans chapter 9

In today’s study we will be tackling part 1 of Romans chapter nine. This chapter is a little bit more lengthy than some, and so I will break it up into 2 halves for the sake of brevity. As we begin today, the apostle Paul is still elaborating on what we now know as the end of chapter eight. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”, wrote Paul at the close of last week’s study. This means all believers and Christ followers are totally ‘bad to the bone’ in their spirits, with unbreakable willpower and strength of mind and spirit. Today we will continue to examine these Scriptures verse by verse in order to better our understanding (mine included, since I learn something new every time I write another one of these). So let’s get started at verse one, shall we?

I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoptions as sons; theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the Law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because of his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary: ‘it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated:’at the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son’. Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’. Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’.” (Romans 9, verses 1-13)

We’ve all had those moments when we knew in our heart of hearts – still others have expressed it to me as “a feeling in their guts” – when we knew when something was either right or wrong, on target or a complete miss, or of simply finding oneself in a situation where they felt leery of the circumstances or the people in them for one reason or another. The feeling of something that is too good to be true is one such example. That is exactly what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit… ”. It is interesting to note here that Paul’s conscience had a direct connection to the Holy Spirit. They were interconnected in such a way that the presence of one element depended on the presence of the other. This is a goal that is worthy of attaining for the sake of our relationship with the Lord, that of unity of mind and Spirit. The more interdependent they are within ourselves, the closer our walk with Christ becomes.

Paul then goes on to lament his own people, the Hebrews of their day, for what they were missing out on as a result of their continued unbelief that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the Son of God. “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoptions as sons; theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the Law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” Paul was reciting a litany of his own faith as he wrote these words nearly 2,000 years ago. All he has written here is a summary of only a fraction of a part of the Law of Moses as it is documented from the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. The Jews of Paul’s day had Jesus crucified by the Romans. Instead of greeting him as their Savior and “Rabbi”, they had him executed.

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because of his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary:… ‘it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” When Paul wrote that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, he was referring to Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac. Although they were twin brothers, Jacob became one of the patriarchs of Israel while Esau became the patriarch of the Philistines. (For more details on this topic you may refer to the book of Genesis starting around chapter 25.) Paul then expounds on the fact that it is not those who are Jewish by birth who are God’s children, but that it is all people – the entire world or body of believers – who have become Jewish by adoption with Jesus Christ as the head of our households. Only those who worship Jesus in Spirit and in truth will be adopted into the family of God, and all others will be rejected by God because of impure hearts and their clandestine motives.

If we had all of Romans 9 in front of us, we would see that we are at roughly the halfway point for this chapter. Beginning at verse 14, Paul the apostle continues to elaborate on whether God should be considered as just, as opposed to unjust, with respect to his seemingly inconsistent treatment of Jews and Gentiles. For a detailed study of the remainder of Romans chapter 9, watch for this in your inboxes or on your social media of choice. Until then, take care….

This week’s ongoing Biblical studies will be part 3 of Romans chapter 8

We Are More Than Conquerors Through Christ

(Romans 8, verses 29-39)

Last week we discussed Romans chapter 8 up to verse 30. This week, to put things into their proper context, we will start at verses 28-30 from last week’s study to maintain the continuity of what the apostle Paul was trying to communicate with us. The words flow with the living water that embodies the risen Lord as follows:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified he also glorified.”

Paul starts out by stating the obvious. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him”. This is something we can count on in this life, the idea of God being perpetually on our side. However, let’s not forget that this is on the condition that we remain faithful to the commandments of Christ (“If you love me, obey my commandments”). Jesus has already committed himself to us 100% by allowing his own crucifixion and death which paid the penalty for all our sins. The penalty he paid on our behalf was the conquest of death, which our Lord also conquered by his resurrection, which gave us access to the same eternal life that our dear Lord Jesus has. After building on this idea in verses 29 and 30 Paul then takes it to its logical conclusion both intellectually and Spiritually starting in verse 31.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered’.” (Romans 8:31-36)

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Since God has already offered up Jesus as a living sacrifice for us all, will He not graciously give us whatever else we ask for? It is a waste of time for any Christian to be worried, threatened or intimidated by anything – anything at all! God is already on our side. Why be fearful when it’s pointless to be so? This is not what God intends for our lives to be like. He wants us to lead lives that are empowered, enriched and filled with Spiritual meaning and significance. Who can bring any charge against such a believer? Who can condemn us if it is God who justifies us? Jesus is interceding for us constantly at the right hand of God. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Can personal trouble or economic hardship separate us from the love of Christ? Can persecution due to social rejection because of our Christianity diminish the love of Christ?

You know, you can never truly be alone when you have Jesus on your side. Can we be separated from the love of God by a lack of food or clothing? Real Christians don’t worry about having enough of life’s essentials, as it is written with the very words of our Lord Jesus, “See the lilies of the field. They neither toil nor spin. And yet I tell you that even King Solomon in all his riches was clothed like one of these”.(Matthew 6, verses 28-29) Won’t God also graciously give us all things when we pray earnestly and sincerely for them as Paul the apostle has written? That’s why worrying is a waste of precious time. Can imminent danger from a weapon separate us from Jesus? No, because no threat can deprive us of God’s love no matter how dangerous it is. As it is written in the book of Psalms 44 and verse 22, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for each of us, so we all find ourselves chewed up and spit out by the world that surrounds us. When this happens, and it will, we are to count that as a blessing because circumstances that are beyond our control caused us to emulate Christ whether we were consciously doing so or not. How did we emulate him? By allowing ourselves to be targeted by the world and the things thereof, making ourselves vulnerable in the process even as Jesus made himself vulnerable before Pontius Pilate. Paul then finishes this train of thought in the next 3 verses of Scripture. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 37-39)

We are more than conquerors though Jesus Christ because God made us that way. He has predestined us to be more than conquerors because we are called, called us because we have been justified, and subsequently glorified us because we are justified in the eyes of God through Christ Jesus. And how are we justified? Because Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us continuously. Remember that old song by Diana Ross and the Supremes, “ain’t no mountain high enough, no valley low enough and no river wide enough to keep me away from you”. I regard this as a healthy way to look at God, and we can be sure that we are His forever, as it is written, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John chapter 10, verses 27-30)

There is nothing in the entire universe that can separate us from God. In fact, death actually unites us with Christ. That’s why the fear of death is eliminated by true belief in God through Jesus Christ. In real Christianity death is a time of transition, not an end of all things as we have known them. In the same way, present circumstances over which we have no control can’t come between us and God, nor can future occurrences that we cannot foresee, because God foresees all things. Neither angels nor demons can come between us and God unless God allows it (see the Book of Job). This is great news because it makes us realize that though we may be completely surrounded by evil, God’s love for us – and Divine protection – remains undiminished. Circumstances such as being in captivity can’t separate us from the love of God either. No matter how isolated we may seem to be, Jesus is right there beside us as He intercedes for us to his Father in heaven. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.

So now you have had a practical lesson in maintaining a positive mental attitude from a Spiritual vantage point. By keeping things in their proper perspective we become empowered to live a life that is predestined to be in harmony with God. We are predestined because we have been “called according to His purpose”. We are therefore justified because we are called, and we are already glorified for the life to come before our present lives are even over. This is really great news for all true believers because we can find favor with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Never again do we need to worry about the outcome of circumstances beyond our control because God is on our side, and He will always be there for us.

So now we are better equipped than ever before for a life that is justified and glorified before God through Jesus our Lord and Savior. Let’s all start living this empowered and victorious life today so we can enjoy the benefits of being called by God. We truly are more than conquerors because through Jesus we have overcome all the adversity that life has to offer. Jesus died and then rose from the dead just so we can have this kind of a victorious eternal life through Him. And this victorious life can be ours on a continuing basis. All we have to do is to humble ourselves and ask for it. That’s the best news of all. Ask God today for this kind of life. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done. He can’t wait to grant your request.

This week’s ongoing Biblical teaching series will be part 1 of Romans 6

Eternal Life Through God’s Grace

(part 1) (Romans 6, verses 1-14)


This week we will take up where we left off last week in our complete study of the Book of Romans. As you recall from the end of chapter five, the apostle Paul was in the process of giving a detailed explanation of grace through Christ, the renouncing of sin in our lives, and our aspirations of becoming more Christlike as we mature in the Lord. In today’s terms this means we work daily towards becoming kinder and gentler people. Paul wrote, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man were many made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will remain righteous.”

 

In the real world, when you have Jesus in your heart it doesn’t matter where you are from, where you have been or what you have done. What is in the past stays in the past. It doesn’t matter whether you have sinned a few times or many times, or to what degree you may have done something wrong in your past. Even if it’s the worst thing you can think of, Christ died for that sin so that we wouldn’t have to.

 

That’s why I point out that the Bible says we believers already have eternal life in our dear Lord Jesus. It doesn’t matter what we have done, because Jesus died and rose again for all our transgressions. But this statement goes further than that. We aren’t just cleansed from unrighteousness, but “the many will remain righteous”. This is not a one-time occurrence, this is ongoing and working full time. So long as we continue to believe in God through Jesus Christ and obey His commands, we can remain righteous in His sight. Paul then adds this clarification starting at verse one of chapter six:

 

“What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him in baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we may also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:1-14)

 

If God’s grace abounds to cover up sin, should we sin even more to get more grace? No way! “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” When we put aside our old ways and old habits, we put sin out of our lives permanently. As we mature as adults we put our childish ways behind us, understanding that this is for our own benefit. It is unhealthy to hold on to the mistakes of youth because it keeps us from functioning and growing in a mature way. The same thing goes for all our imperfections, shortcomings and inadequacies that make up the sin that exists in everyone’s life, and that includes my own. No one can measure up to God. So we bury those imperfections as a way of making ourselves worthy of being called God’s children in the same way that Jesus was buried after He was crucified.

 

We were therefore buried with him in baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Just as Christ was buried and resurrected so that we could all have eternal life in and through Him, so in the same way we bury our old ways, the ways of the past, in order to have a new life through Jesus Christ. “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” This is the best news of all! We can stay in our old ways and stagnate, or we can be united with Christ in His resurrection so that “we too may live a new life”. There is nothing difficult about this so long as we keep ourselves focused on Jesus Christ. Find a way to live a new life through Christ. Bury your old ways, the ways of the past, and get raised from the dead to live a new eternal life by embracing Jesus.

 

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we may also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” Jesus was only crucified once because that’s all that was necessary. That’s why I am sometimes puzzled over certain churches that have “revivals”, as they are called. We are already risen with Christ. So why do we need revival, excluding those who have strayed away from Jesus and realized their error? (that ‘revival’ could turn out to have a very small audience!) Even while our bodies are slowly dying, our spirits and souls are already raised to eternal life just as Jesus was – and who will be forever and ever. So let’s all acquire the resurrection of Christ by simply stepping forward and staking our claim. And, let’s take this faith of ours in Jesus’ resurrection for the free will offering of salvation from the risen Christ which truly is free to all. And next week we’ll all convene again for part 2 of Romans chapter 6.