Submission to Authority, Even If It’s Abusive: When Is It OK to Push Back?

What the Bible says About Submission to Authority:

When Is It OK to Resist?

(Romans chapter 13, verses 1-5)

It’s time for us all to step up to the plate and score a base hit for our planet

I have been watching with growing dismay at the insanity that is ongoing in the oval office. Although I voted for Donald Trump in 2016, I now regret doing so when I consider Trump’s openly racist sentiments and the off-hand way he has handled his presidency. With that in mind, combined with my continuing and chronological study of the writings of the apostles, I have found a place where the two intersect within the first 5 verses of Romans 13. These verses have to do with submission to authority in the context of being a law-abiding citizen, but mainly as Paul saw it when he wrote these words roughly 2,000 years ago. At the time that this was written, all of what is now modern-day Israel was under the military occupation of the Roman empire. Paul the apostle wrote this book in that context, so I will begin at verse 1.

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.” (Romans 13, verses 1-5)

At the time that Paul wrote this, the death penalty was commonplace. Capital punishment existed as a means of intimidation and absolute control, and that punishment was carried out with utter ruthlessness and without mercy. Moreover, unlike the Jewish religious establishment of Paul’s time, Paul was a Roman citizen and as such he was given rights and privileges that were not shared equally with other non-citizens. So we can all clearly see from this example that inequality is something that has been with us for thousands of years. But how does this compare with life in the early 21st century? Although the death penalty is still administered for capital crimes such as murder and treason, it is carried out with relative infrequency compared to the days of the Roman empire.

There were also debtors prisons in Paul’s day. People who ran into financial trouble back in those days were routinely imprisoned until their debts were paid. Contrast that with today, when and if one gets into financial difficulty, bankruptcy laws exist that are much more fair and equitable than prison. Compared to the times in which the apostle Paul lived, we get a complete picture of a much more fair, equitable and even lenient world. Let me now make some comparisons between Paul’s world and ours using this passage of scripture as a backdrop to the picture that I will now paint for you with my words.

The authorities that exist have been established by God”. Although Paul sincerely believed at the time that he wrote these words that he was absolutely correct, he was speaking more as a Roman citizen than he was as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a modern American, our rule of law is the Constitution of the United States, and so I am writing today in that context as an American citizen. We have the right to free speech in modern times, not to mention bankruptcy laws, that did not exist in Paul’s time. That right which is established under the US Constitution allows me to write these words without fear of punishment. As such I am within the law and I will remain so for as long as the law is fair. It’s when it’s unfair that things can get a bit dicey.

Paul continues with this same theme as he writes further: “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.” The same applies today. Organizing an armed revolt in modern-day America is an idea that I am very much against, preaching and teaching as a man of peace who tries his best to emulate Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Besides, the police have well-armed SWAT teams, and there is always the National Guard that exists within any given state, and so I think one would be foolhardy at best to try and take on authority in this manner. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal, and I would also say that it is truly necessary, to engage in peaceful protest against laws and policies that we disagree with. The First Amendment gives us that right, and the Second one gives us the right to defend the first – two more things that did not exist during Paul’s time all those centuries ago. In this regard, we can interpret this passage of scripture somewhat differently than Paul the apostle.

Paul then continues making his point, and so will I. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” It is sad to say that this is no longer true in the modern world. Trying as I do to do what is right, I often find myself looked down on by the many godless people who live in the world of today. I put up with the occasional ridicule, but I do so knowing that God is watching everything I do and He is listening to everything I say. But to get back to the topic at hand, it is wise to be “free from fear of the one in authority”. The best way to follow this principle is to obey the ten commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Just by doing these 2 things, we can keep ourselves out of much trouble. Besides, the Bible says in the Old Testament to “obey the laws of the land, that it may go well with you in the place you are abiding”. Those words were written at least three thousand years ago, and they are still just as true today as they were back then.

By the same token, there are things happening and situations unfolding within the US government that are completely contrary to God’s laws. Take the ten commandments as an example. The eighth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, which can be expanded to include this simple command: ‘You shall not lie’. Yet America found itself embroiled in a war in Iraq that was based on a lie. Specifically, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Of course, those WMD’s turned out to be non-existent, and it took 4,400 US fatalities – and over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths – to find that out.

The same applies to Afghanistan. Our troops have been there for 19 years, first to find Osama Bin Laden even though everybody knew he was in Pakistan, and now for a withdrawal of US troops that will take the rest of this century at the rate it’s going. The US government is spending $6 billion dollars a week on this war, a thoroughly obscene sum of money by any standard. Yet all the while, there is unemployment here in the USA that is around 9%, and that doesn’t count all the millions of long-term unemployed who have stopped looking for work, as well as those who are working part-time when full-time work is what is needed. There is no money to create over a million badly needed jobs in our country, but there is an unlimited supply of cash for multiple illegal military occupations and drone strikes all around the globe. This is a moral outrage, and anybody with even a little bit of a conscience should be out in the streets protesting against the US military-industrial complex. That’s not in the letter of the Bible, but it most certainly is in the Spirit thereof.

Paul then writes in verse 5, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” This is just as true today as it was when it was first written. Being an outlaw will only get us into trouble, and jail is no place for anybody to be except for the worst criminals. It is a bad idea to drive your car at 90 miles an hour because it is against the law, and because it is dangerous. Likewise, the ten commandments must be obeyed. We should not steal, lie or commit adultery, nor should we have any false gods in our lives. We can and should worship the one true God and him alone, who sent his only Son to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead on the third day after he was crucified. In the same way that we submit ourselves to God, we should, as far as it is possible, submit to authority here on earth. And we should do so not only “because of possible punishment but also because of conscience”. But here in the 21st century, we can and should oppose and protest against the government similarly because of matters of conscience. It is a part of the laws of our land, and we should exercise this right because our rule of law says we can. This is also in keeping with God’s commands, and I hope and pray that it always remains so.

Part 2 of How Not to Take Care of the Earth, and the Ultimate Fate of Those Who Pillage the Planet (75th Anniversary Commemorative of the Atomic Attack on Japan)

Lessons From the Ongoing Fukushima, Japan Disaster On How Not To Take Care of the Earth

by Minister Paul J. Bern

God_is_enough 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.

Revisiting the Past Sins of the Military-Industrial Complex, and What the Bible Has to Say About It

On the 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, It Is Fitting That We Revisit This Horrendous Anniversary

by Minister Paul J. Bern

On this poignant anniversary of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan at the end of World War 2, it’s very important that all Americans have a day of mourning for being the nation that launched the atomic age. The worldwide proliferation of nuclear weaponry started with the US. So, in keeping with this anniversary, I think it’s time to revisit this 5-year-old Web posting from my own archives. I also wish to do something I forgot to do when this was first posted back in 2015 – I want to apologize to all my Japanese readers, all of whom lost relatives in the war.

The Nuclear Genie Is Out of the Bottle, and It’s America’s Fault

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

stopping_war On July 16th, 1945, the ‘Trinity’ nuclear test here in the United States plunged humanity into the Atomic Age. The first-ever nuclear bomb was detonated in New Mexico, at the Alamogordo Test Range. Within just days, the first nuclear bomb ever used in wartime was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and a second one was dropped on Nagasaki less than two weeks after that. In the first blast at Hiroshima, well over 100,000 people were instantly vaporized in the initial explosion, and the death toll at Nagasaki was tens of thousands higher. Over the next month or so, over a million more individuals died from the aftereffects of radiation poisoning.

But, what is generally not known – especially here in America with its propaganda machine otherwise known as our “free press” – is that the US use of nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War 2 was unnecessary. Let’s not forget that the winners of wars are the ones who write the history books, and the US is no exception. The fact of the matter is that by the summer of 1945, Japan had already been bombed back to the stone age. In point of fact, Japan was already attempting to start negotiating for peace. But the Japanese wanted to do it secretly, so as to not alarm the Japanese people (sound familiar?), and US military leaders wanted the announcement to be public. And so the die was cast, and the rest is history.

In the late 1940’s Josef Stalin, Russia’s leader and dictator at the time, acquired an atomic weapon through quite a lot of espionage, much to the discredit of America’s “intelligence” community. As a response, the US supplied England and France with the technology and experience needed to build a few bombs of their own. By this time it was the 1950’s, and within just a few years Communist China developed their first atomic weapons. By the 1960’s, other countries such as Israel, India and Pakistan had nukes as well. The genie was out of the bottle, and there was no putting it back. It was too late. And it all started with one nuclear test in the New Mexico desert in 1945. I have been studying up on this as of late, knowing that we are living in the End Times, and that the world as we have known it is drawing rapidly to a close.

Speaking as a minister who openly stands against war and killing, the one verse I have found that corresponds to these times and the accompanying nuclear proliferation can be found in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, chapter 7 and verse 7, which reads as follows: “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

To put this into context, Daniel had a vision in chapter seven where he saw four “beasts” come up out of the sea. The sea in Bible prophecy usually always symbolizes all the nations of the world. The first was like a lion, but it had eagle’s wings. What country uses a lion as its symbol? Great Britain. The eagle’s wings, then, represent America, whose symbol is an eagle, and who is an offshoot of the former British Empire. OK, so what’s the second one, you ask? The second beast Daniel saw in his vision looked like a bear. What country uses a bear as its national symbol? Russia. And Daniel’s third beast looked like a leopard, which symbolizes Germany.

The fourth beast which is unlike all the rest could only be the United States, since it has the most powerful military force in human history. But what do the ten horns represent? Could they be nuclear powers? According to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), nine nations — the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons in total. This is an obscenity because it’s enough atomic power to blow up every city on the planet several dozen times over. But it’s even more than an obscenity, it is utter madness and insanity. The whole world has been hijacked by madmen!

But still, that’s only nine countries that have nukes, so who’s the tenth one, the one that completes the symbolism of Daniel’s ten horns that he saw on the fourth beast? It has got to be Iran, there is no other explanation that I can think of, at least for now. No other country is as close to developing a bomb as Iran, everybody knows that. But this is a prophecy that has yet to come to pass. But you can all be sure that this will be happening in the near future, no doubt about it. And once it does, Daniel’s prophecy about the beast with the ten horns will be fulfilled.

Since the British Empire and two world wars that were initiated in part by Germany have come and gone, this is the only part of this prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. Once that happens, once Iran gets its hands on its first nuclear weapons – which is only a matter of time – the prophecy will be fulfilled and the stage will be set for world war three, which will be a brief but exceptionally deadly nuclear exchange (more on that in a separate message later). If it involves Iran and Israel as I suspect, then surely America and Russian will become involved sooner or later. And that’s when world war three will really start in earnest. It’s all getting very close now. Prepare yourselves accordingly if you have not yet done so. We are just about out of time.

The Mass Protests On America’s Streets May Be Historic, But the Random Killing of Unarmed Black Men Has a Long History. It’s Up To Everybody to Change That….

The Revolution Will Be Televised, But There Will Be More People Out In the Streets Than At Home Watching On Their Couches

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

99% too big 2 fail Thanks to the ongoing injustices against too many unarmed Black men and women, the rage against the institution of racism has risen to a volume and intensity not seen since the civil rights movement of half a century ago. Black men have died because of the color of their skin in recent years and in the past. The most well-publicized cases include George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Rodney King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & other victims of the civil rights Movement. I know, I know, advances have occurred, but being black is still dangerous in this country, especially for men. These killings are part of 400 years of organized oppression against Black people going back to the days of slavery. Shame on all you racists….

It has become abundantly clear to “we the people” that war has been declared on us by our own government, with some of the police looking like poorly paid ‘wannabe’ mercenaries in the process. I write today about these repeated clashes that have grown into a kind of cultural resistance not seen since the civil rights protests and anti-war demonstrations of the 1950’s, ’60’s and the early ’70’s. This culture of resistance is beginning to have a noticeable effect as it continues to grow slowly but steadily. There are cracks in the pillars of power, and they’re starting to get a little bigger. It’s up to us to shine the light on the lies, the spins, the ‘black ops’ and shadow government that has been operating smoothly behind the scenes ever since they killed President John Kennedy to seize power back in November of 1963. It is up to us – ‘we the people’ – to confront the systemic open corruption that has been stealing America’s future. I look back over the events of the past fifty years and feel cautiously optimistic, because I have seen this movement that is continuously building momentum and intensity.

Here in Atlanta’s inner city where I live and work, I have perceived what I would describe as a strong sense of anger and suspense in the air. Some people say that they weren’t feeling enough pain to warrant being angry about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and all the others, and that we haven’t reached the tipping point as of yet. They’re only interested in taking the safe way out. I have had still others tell me that, as a Christian minister, it’s my duty to follow the laws without question and pay my taxes unfailingly. They have told me that it is not right for a Web pastor to take sides in favor of the protesters, much less write and blog about it.

But to them I quote the Book of James, where it is written about those who abuse their authority: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay your workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” (James chapter 5, verses 1-6)

Could ‘we the people’ really take on Wall Street and the lobbyists on Capitol Hill? Obviously Wall Street and the offices inside the Beltway in Washington, DC thought so because they ordered excessive and constant police protection. They must have seen something brewing because Wall Street firms had donated unprecedented millions to the NYPD over the previous year. It was police aggression towards peaceful protesters that grabbed public attention and sympathy. For example, a few weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street in September of 2011, an amazing 43 percent of Americans supported Occupy, a figure that remains largely undiminished to this day.

Years later, the physical encampments are gone, but the Occupy Movement remains, along with its cousins, ‘Black Lives Matter’, the ‘99%’ and ‘Anonymous’ Movements, worldwide. Occupying public space was a tactic, not an end in itself. It was a way to make the issues visible, a place for people to gather, a model for a new way of doing things based on respect, mutual aid and democracy and a demand to reclaim what has been ruthlessly taken. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, there was an expectation that the government would respond appropriately to stabilize the economy and that we simply had to weather the storm. What we saw instead were massive bailouts of the industry that caused the crash and greatly inadequate steps to secure jobs, housing and health care. This turned some already catastrophic financial crises caused by runaway private speculation into an immense source of private gain for the same very financiers responsible for the catastrophe to begin with. And all this happened prior to the current twin epidemics of Corona-virus and visceral rage in America’s streets because of the apparently casual shootings by police officers of unarmed Black men.

As a result of all this mess, we’re headed toward ever-greater income inequality. We’re not eradicating poverty and hunger, they are getting worse. We’re not expanding educational opportunities, fewer and fewer people can afford it. We’re not rebuilding infrastructure, and it’s falling apart. We most certainly aren’t doing anywhere nearly enough to improve race relations. Nothing we’re doing looks anything like the society we built from the New Deal through the 1970s. We’re not doing any of the things that would lead to a more stable and just economy. In fact, we’re doing just the opposite, which means the billionaire bailout society will become even more firmly entrenched. This means that if left unchecked, the trends towards greater inequality and suffering will not only continue, it will accelerate.

But the billionaire bailout society may have went too far in their exuberance for still more wealth. According to a Stanford study, “animosity toward the financial sector has reached its highest level in 40 years….”, which undoubtedly fueled the Occupy, 99%, Anonymous and Black Lives Matter Movements. When it seems like we’re drowning in a sea of crises as we are currently, it is sometimes hard to see above the surface of the water. But, the anti-globalization movement and its offspring, the Occupy, the ‘99%’ and “Black Lives Matter” Movements, are having a noticeable effect. Since 2000, the World Trade Organization has been unable to advance its agenda and 14 free trade agreements have been stopped by public pressure. Like low-wage workers in the fast food and retail industries, workers must join together to let Congress know that police violence and racial discord are not the right path for America.

It is also important to remember that we know how close we are to achieving significant change. We know that it is the plutocratic system, not individual inadequacy, that is causing poverty in America. We know that the $1 trillion given by the Federal Reserve to private banks during the 2008 financial crisis could have created 20 million desperately-needed jobs. We know that the 400 richest people in the US have more wealth than the GDP of entire countries – like Canada and Mexico, for instance! And we know the names of those who control the wealth and exploit people and the planet for it. We no longer expect “leaders” to create the change we need. We are all leaders and change depends on our actions and ours alone. Since the system is too dysfunctional to attempt to repair it, the most logical and practical thing to do is replace it. Humankind already has a tool available off the shelf as a basis for launching such a project, and it’s called ‘the Internet’. The government of the future will be small, efficient and nearly paperless.

Resistance is not all protesting, it also includes building alternative systems to meet our basic needs. Many who were active in OWS, ‘the 99%’ and Anonymous have been hard at work at this very thing since the physical occupation was shut down. Earlier this week the Occupy Money Cooperative announced its launch with a fund raising campaign. They will provide low-cost financial services to the millions of Americans who are under-banked and who are preyed upon by banks, check cashing services and payday lenders. It will be an opportunity for all to opt-out of big finance.

Hard work is being done every day to take on entrenched corporate power and create a new world based on principles such as mutual aid, community, equity, solidarity and democracy. Although we face an uncertain future, we embrace the chaos that defines our times. There is no alternative but to challenge the status quo of ever-increasing debt, shrinking job opportunities and disappearing civil rights.

Lawsuits and Litigation Within or Between Churches Sets a Terrible Example For the World At Large

Lawsuits And Judgments Between Believers Sets a Bad Example For the Rest of Us

(1st Corinthians 6, verses 1-11)

golgotha_christ_cross

In today’s chronological study of the writings of the apostle Paul, we will examine the first half of First Corinthians chapter 6. We’ll tackle the second half next week because there is so much in this chapter that to breeze through it in one lesson really can’t do justice to this passage of Scripture. Paul had just finished telling the Corinthian congregation to expel a certain member who was apparently acting in a sexually immoral and particularly revolting way. Paul then continues this train of thought, but he is now changing his focus from internal to external, apparently regarding certain lawsuits from within the congregation that were being litigated outside the church in the court system of its day. Although the original reason for these lawsuits have long since been lost to history, what matters here is what Paul has to say about it, beginning at verse one.

“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another – and this in front of unbelievers!” (1st Corinthians 6: verses 1-6)

Paul wants to know in verse 1 why the church is having an internal matter brought before the legal system right in front of ungodly pagans. Is it not wiser to settle a dispute within the church between the parties involved, out of sight of nonbelievers? And is it not wiser, Paul was asking, to have Christian believers considering such matters rather than godless, corrupt and unprincipled people, many of whom had no conception of true spirituality? In the next sentence, when Paul asks the Corinthian church if they know that saints will judge the world, he is referring to the second coming of Christ at the end of the book of Revelation. That will be a future topic in another study.

Paul the apostle then continued by asking why there was no one competent or discerning enough to judge such matters from within the Corinthian church. In modern English, Paul is asking the Corinthian congregation, “Aren’t you people smart enough to judge internal disputes? I thought you were. Are you now telling me that I was wrong and that I overestimated you?” In the next sentence Paul asks if they know that the saints – who are all God’s children through the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus – will judge angels. What is he talking about here? Paul was referring again to the second coming of Christ that he had just mentioned. At that second coming, which will be the end of the age we are currently living in and the beginning of a new age of peace, after the Saints have begun the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ, the angels of heaven will be judged.

The reason for this is that long ago before the creation of humankind, there was a war in heaven (see Revelation chapter 12, verses 7,8, and 9) in the form of a revolt led by Lucifer – who is now called Satan, chief of the demonic realm. This resulted in one-third of the angels of heaven who followed Lucifer’s revolt being forcibly removed, becoming banished from heaven forever. Eternal punishment awaits them all, along with all those who refuse to believe in Jesus. To finish this thought, not only will God’s children judge and rule over all the survivors of the tribulation – including World War Three which will precede it – but we saints and believers will judge the angels as well. God will bring Lucifer and all those demons who followed him in revolt against God before his judgment throne, and they will be convicted and condemned to hell forever by a jury of all the saints.

So the apostle Paul is saying that if we are wise enough to judge angels and tribulation survivors in the sight of God, since He implanted us all with sufficient spiritual wisdom to accomplish this, then there should be no problem with settling disputes between church members that are of lesser importance. In closing this passage of Scripture, Paul does not try to hide his exasperation with this church for what they are doing, telling them that they are setting a bad example for new believers and pagans alike. When Paul writes, “But instead, one brother goes to law against another – and this in front of unbelievers…”, he was jumping into their business for making a spectacle of themselves in front of unbelievers who might otherwise have been won over to Christ. Telling people that any church is worshiping Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth while at the same time being unable to get along with each other – not to mention suing each other – is a glaring contradiction if ever there was one. Paul concludes this train of thought starting at verse seven.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1st Corinthians 6: verses 7-11)

The apostle Paul was clearly telling the 1st century Corinthian church they were already defeated and their faith is meaningless so long as they continue litigating against each other over trivial matters. He was reminding them that the foremost commands of Christ himself were to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Paul was warning them to return to the basis for their faith practiced in love, which is no less than the salvation of Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven – only to return in our present time for His church.

He was reminding them of Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Jesus said we are to bless those who curse us, to love our enemies, and that when one is struck on one side of their face, they are to turn the other cheek as well rather than fight back. I can tell you from personal experience that this last commandment is not an easy one to follow, particularly for someone like myself who formerly had issues with anger and with my temper before getting saved and acquiring the peace of Christ, a peace which surpasses all human understanding and comprehension. Anyone reading this who has similar issues should take heart, because Jesus is real and He wants to heal you too. Let Jesus take that anger away, especially if it’s hard to let go of it.

Paul’s diatribe against immoral people – and there’s lots of them today just like back then – still rings true today for the most part. I’m not sure why Paul singled out male prostitutes instead of either gender, it’s hard to tell in this particular passage. Given the tough economic times in which we are living, I can see why a few people might be attracted to this lifestyle. I don’t condone it, but I can see why people would resort to such desperate measures as that. But the other things he mentioned, such as idolatry – which can take on many different forms such as a spouse or significant other, cars, houses, watching too much TV or constantly playing video games while the rest of people’s lives go straight down the toilet – exist today in even greater proliferation than it did back in Paul’s time. Homosexuality is also mentioned, but since I have already posted at length about gay people and why straight people have no business condemning them, I will save that discussion for later.

Paul’s main point remains as a command to live at peace with each other. If we fail to do so, our Christian faith can easily deteriorate to the realm of sniping, gossiping and backbiting. We all have the built-in ability to acquire this peace of Christ if we ask Him with a glad and thankful heart, claiming by faith the peace of Jesus Christ. Simply pray to Jesus to send you his peace today. Let’s pray together,” Dear Lord Jesus, I want to learn how to live in peace with everyone, starting with myself. Teach me your inner peace so I can be a more effective Christian that will lead to my becoming a better person. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.” And next week we’ll move on to part 2 of our in-depth study of 1st Corinthians chapter 6.

Real Love vs. Superficial Affection

Loving One Another Without Being Judgmental

Romans chapter 14, verses 1-12

salt of the earth

Today in our ongoing study of the book of Romans, I will move on to chapter 14. Since there is a lot of subject matter to discuss, I am going to divide this portion of the study into 2 halves for all the new believers who are reading this posting. After all, I would not want to give you too much information all at once and risk losing anyone from ‘information overload’. Instead, I will lead this study with the first half of chapter 14, beginning at verse 1.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14, verses 1-4)

We are not supposed to be passing judgment on those whose beliefs and values are different from our own. Those who behave this way do so because they are motivated by pride or jealousy, and sometimes due to their own deep-seated contempt. Some folks such as myself can eat and thoroughly enjoy all kinds of food without feeling any particular sense of guilt or conviction. Others, on the other hand, are vegetarians, and they behave this way because of their convictions, which may well be entirely different than ours. Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. Neither do some Christians, although I personally am not one of those, but neither do I judge those who abstain. But what the apostle Paul was saying when he wrote these words is that we have no right to pass judgment on one another because of our differences, be they real or perceived, and particularly when they are baseless and without foundation (such as racial hatred). Judgment is God’s job – it’s not ours and it never was.

When God made each of us, when He formed us in our mother’s womb, He made every one of us to be a completely unique individual. God did this because He knew that there is much richness in diversity. But God also did this to teach us tolerance and mutual respect for each other. There are no two people exactly alike, and this was God’s good and perfect intention for us all. So we can conclude from this simple truth that God intends for each of us to be tolerant of people from different religions, cultures, races, national origins, genders, sexual orientations and generations. He also commands us to show more understanding and empathy towards others who may be different from ourselves in a variety of ways. And we are to be continually doing this no matter where we are from, or what we have said or done in the past. God isn’t interested in where we have been in the past, He is far more interested of where we may be going in the future. That’s because where we are headed is far more important than where we have been, and what we are presently doing is also far more important than what we have done in the past. The past needs to be left where it is. Paul continues this train of thought in the next verses of this chapter of Scripture.

“One man considers one day to be more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14, verses 5-8)

Jews celebrate Hanukkah and the Day of Atonement (among other holy days) while others do not. Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan while others rarely do. Gentiles, which are basically everybody else, do not celebrate any of those. Christians have days of fasting (hopefully, and if not, why not?). Non-Christians do not fast as a general rule, but some fast for personal reasons. No matter what each of us is doing with the intention of pleasing God and glorifying His holy name, we do so with our minds and hearts directed towards God because we worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Each person does so in their own special way, and none of us may pass judgment or be critical towards one another because of it. As Paul the apostle said in verse 5, “each one should be convinced in their own mind”. Paul then continues in verse 9.

“For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me, every tongue will confess to God’. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14, verses 9-12)

Here Paul is reiterating the single most central point of the Christian faith, which is that Jesus died by crucifixion and was then raised from the dead on the morning of the third day. Jesus rose to everlasting life so that we too, who worship Him in Spirit and in truth, might have everlasting life with Him. Therefore we are not to be wasting time and energy judging our brother and our sister because all who believe have already been judged, and they who do not believe have similarly been judged, except with a different outcome. Those who believe in Christ have the Father’s promise of everlasting life, and we pray for those who do not, so that they too may come to a realization of the Truth. After all, the Bible is very clear about this particular point, and the teachings of Jesus also state this with absolute clarity. And that teaching, which is found in all four Gospels and in numerous other places in the Bible as well, is that those who believe sincerely in the shed blood of Christ will be saved, but those who refuse to believe will face eternal condemnation in the fires of hell, and there for all eternity without end in just the same way as those who go to heaven when they die will also be there without end.

In conclusion, we are not to be judging and second-guessing other people no matter who they are. Judging others is God’s job, it is not ours. We are to leave God’s work to him alone. We are not to go dabbling in it because it is none of our business. But instead, as the Bible says in the book of Philippians, we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians chapter 2, verses 12-13). Yes, we are to do so armed with the knowledge that it is God Almighty and God alone who judges, and in so doing, “each of us will give an account of himself (or herself) to God”. Therefore we are to fear God’s holy judgment because it is He alone who gives us everlasting life according to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for each and every one of us. As such we are to conduct ourselves accordingly, knowing full well that we will adhere to this teaching according to the measure of faith that the risen Lord Jesus has implanted in every one of us. And we are to do so because as Christians we are to obey the commandments of God. In this case the commandment is that we are to be loving, charitable, tolerant and empathetic towards one another, knowing that we are going to be judged accordingly. Let us all resolve to do this to the best of our ability each day, and in so doing to make a better world in which to live. After all, a better world is what we all want, for that is what God intended. Ans next week we’ll go over part 2 of Romans 14.

The USA is a conquered country, and all without a single shot being fired. How did we get to this point?

This is part 2 of a 7 part series about the United States’ presence in Biblical prophecy, particularly with respect to present-day America, and the ramifications that will ensue.

 

America Is Being Conquered One Person At a Time

by Minister Paul J. Bern (Revelation 18, verses 8-10)

wake_up Based on a good bit of observation conducted for a long period of time, it has come to my attention that the US is in large part an utterly clueless nation. The Bible says, “The people perish for a lack of knowledge”, and it’s interesting that many seem to be doing just that during what is purported to be the information age. An alarming number of people appear to be dying of terminal ignorance, and the root cause can be traced to the American shadow government that operates from behind Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. When a country’s “leaders” spend 50+ years “dumbing down” America’s schools, this is the result we get. Everybody has their eyes glued to video screens both small and large, or they’re walking around with earphones in their ears listening to music that tunes out everything and everybody else.

 

As a result, a fairly large majority of people are consciously disconnected from the world around them. It’s as if everyone is saying – but not verbally – “I don’t want to know how bad it’s getting. Just let me go to work and collect my check every week while leaving all else alone, and I’ll be fine.” Or, to put it another way, “I’ve got mine. How are you doing? Oh, gee, that’s too bad.” Jesus said, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”. Although those words were uttered 2,000 years ago, they are very descriptive of the US today.

 

America has two separate but directly related problems that are ongoing. They both have to do with an unofficial invasion, one from without and one from within. On one hand, there is a relatively small but rapidly growing minority of Americans, mainly young people, who are being recruited over the Internet to join Islamic fighters in the Middle East. After being radicalized and trained, they are brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers, some for the army of ISIS, others for militant groups like Hamas or Hezbollah, and some who come back to the US while awaiting their marching orders.

The same thing has been happening in Europe and Great Britain, but for a longer period of time. After European recruits return home following their training, they become sleeper cells waiting for their moment to strike. At least two such attacks have already been carried out as I write this. So goes Europe, so goes America. The American teens sneaking out of the country now will be returning, many within weeks or months, to serve as Islamic sleeper cells right here in the USA. Terrorist attacks that could make 9-11 look like child’s play will soon follow, and undoubtedly at a time when we least expect it.

 

The second and most significant problem America has with organized infiltration has to do with China. As you probably know, if a foreign national such as a Mexican woman travels to the US and gives birth, the baby born in the US is automatically an American citizen by law. A ‘baby tourist’ industry has sprung up because of this law, but up until about 10 years ago most babies born here to foreign mothers were from Mexico or Central America. But for the last 5-10 years or more, the first-place crown for countries with the most foreign-born babies isn’t Mexico any more, it’s China. Why would Chinese women want to have a baby in a country so far away from their homeland? It’s not so much because of the women as it is their government, and its root cause is money – or more accurately, debt. The US has a national debt of over $23 trillion dollars, which is 23 with 23 zero’s after it, and that’s plus interest that continues to add up even as I write this. The one country who holds the majority of this debt is China. Needless to say, the US government, or more accurately the Federal Reserve, can not physically print the money fast enough to pay the debt off no matter how hard they run their printing presses. So, America is insolvent, the government in Washington knows it, and China knows it too.

 

 

But, trying to foreclose on part or all of America’s debt could be tricky, with serious military as well as economic implications. So, China appears to be taking a pragmatic kind of approach – they’re going to invade America one person at a time. All they have to do is keep right on doing what they have done for the last ten years or more – sponsor the births of whole armies of American-born Chinese children and bring them back home to raise them. Once they’re of age, they can simply emigrate to America legally and flood the country with Chinese expatriates. Why invade America when China can simply emigrate its invasion force and have them legally buy up everything in sight for pennies on the dollar? And yet the majority of Americans either refuse to see this because they can’t or won’t deal with it, or they are so wrapped up in their digital cocoons that they don’t care. By the time they realize what’s been happening, it will already be too late for them.

To me, the worst thing of all is that the churches aren’t addressing the issue from the pulpit. Why aren’t more US churches warning their congregations? I think it’s because the church leaders are resting on their laurels instead of sounding the alarm! All pastors who did not practice their due diligence while leading their flocks will be left behind at the rapture of the church. That’s not my opinion, that’s a prophecy!

 

 

America, the giant of the 20th century, will go out with barely a whimper in the 21st century unless drastic change happens fast. It’s all foretold in Revelation chapter 18, where it is written, “Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning, famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn for her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry ‘Woe! Woe! Woe, oh great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’” (Rev. 18, verses 8-10) The “great city” is most likely New York, or possibly Washington, DC, there’s no way to tell with certainty.

But the reason the US political and monetary systems are broken is because of all the dirty corporate money in politics, and you can be sure that God is incensed with all the corruption in our nation’s capital. Do our nation’s leaders think they can hide their activities from God? So, change cannot come from within because the same groups of people are being re-elected. This proves the election system itself is broken, and in some cases they are rigged, or both. To borrow a phrase, change will have to come from the bottom up instead of from the top down. Change from the top down can’t work when the system is rigged in favor of the top 1% of America’s economic pecking order. So it will have to take place as a large-scale grassroots movement of the American people from all over this land. The only question remaining is whether the coming revolt will be peaceful or otherwise.

 

On the Ongoing Tensions Between the US and Iran, and What the Scriptures Have to Say About It

Is the Ongoing USA – Iran Conflict

Anywhere In Biblical End Times Prophecy?

By Minister Paul J. Bern (part 1 of 2)

stopping_war By now you all know or have heard and read the various arguments about America’s role in Biblical prophecy, both pro and con. There are those who say the US isn’t in the Bible and many others who insist that it is. These folks have included everyone from master theologians to televangelists on the Christian TV channels to some pretty wild conspiracy theories posted on You-tube and other social media sites. I see no point in debating this or in blogging about it based on what has already been disseminated. Instead, as I always do, I’m going straight to the Word of God as my reference point. This is not about dogma, denominational exclusivity, nor any particular version of the Bible being more “correct” than any or all others. This is based on a lot of research, study, prayer and meditation based on the Word of God, which surpasses the religious dogma of humankind. Continue reading On the Ongoing Tensions Between the US and Iran, and What the Scriptures Have to Say About It

Why Our Holiday Shopping Frenzies Can Never Measure Up to this Social Gospel Blog

Celebrate Thanksgiving Again This Year By Buying Nothing One More Time

by Minister Paul J. Bern

thank you
I’ve written about this topic before, and this year I’m doing it again after refraining for the last several years. The topic is greed and the holidays for 2019. Is there a tradition any more primitive or disgusting practiced across America today than that of Black Friday? Unless you’re a fairly materialistic individual, in which case holiday shopping would be considered “normal” behavior. Hordes of “consumers” mob stores for great deals on useless “goods” like flat screen TVs that one must have a cable TV subscription to watch, smart phones and tablet computers that break every time they’re dropped, video gaming “stations” that are addictive, or the latest clothes manufactured by Southern Asian or Latino children in some God-forsaken sweatshop somewhere. Every single year I am further struck by the apparent lack of focus by Christmas shoppers on the original reason for the season. Thanksgiving is the holiday when we give thanks for what we have and count our blessings. It is a time to put things into perspective and realize that we are not so poor after all, economic hardship notwithstanding. The apostle Paul wrote, “I know what it means to have little and I know what it means to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what my circumstances.” We would all do well to learn to do the same.

 

The Christmas shopping season is the time when we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. Instead, all I see each year are large crowds of people caught up in an orgy of consumerism and materialism. Hordes of people buying this and that, spending like there is no tomorrow in a feeding frenzy of capitalist greed. Think about how much good it would do if the birth of our Lord was celebrated with that much enthusiasm. What if we were to organize a National Buy Nothing Day to protest economic inequality? Or how about a $15.00 per hour minimum wage? Or maybe to protest the cost of higher education, we should boycott our student loans! What if everybody stopped sending in their payments until the loans were forgiven? Two thirds of the US economy is consumer spending. Think of what a shock wave it would send if any such national protest or boycott were to be implemented!

 

We’re in a pretty messed up place politically and environmentally. Multinational corporations and financial firms pretty much own the government. Global warming is not only a real and present danger, but rapidly accelerating. There is a plastic “raft” in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of Texas. And as people we’re constantly being taken advantage of to make this situation last longer so that corporate profits and bonuses can climb even higher than they are now. The strong link between these two things – our society’s consumerism and the terrible political, social, environmental, and economic situations we’re in – demands immediate and urgent action. By buying things from these corporations and feeding into this model of a predatory economy, we only encourage and empower it all the more. So I’m asking you:all to please join me in buying nothing again this coming week, as I have a time or two in the past.

 

So this coming Black Friday, I’m calling for a Wildcat General 3-day Strike. I’m asking tens of millions of people right here in the US to bring the American capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt. I want you all to not only stop buying for 72 hours, but to shut off all but your most essential lights, all your televisions and other nonessential appliances. I’m asking you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day. I’m calling for a three-day interlude of fasting and prayer. From sunrise to sunset we’ll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our greed-based and debt-funded lifestyles. Ideally, everyone will power down their electricity for the day and just enjoy some time with their family and friends. If you can’t do that, at least refrain from the Black Friday madness. Don’t go to a store for some kind of deal. Avoid the stress by not going out in the traffic, but if you must then go out for a long ride in the countryside. Don’t shop at the big box stores – in fact, don’t shop anywhere. Just take a break for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and do nothing at all.

 

You know the old truism: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Things are falling apart – the world’s temperature is rising, the oceans are dying, the global economy is heaving – so why not do something about it? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. It may be harder than you think – that is, the impulse to buy is more ingrained in many of us than you may have ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world. A 3-day epiphany that is lacking in unnecessary wants and needs.

 

Some might criticize me for publicizing these ideas during such tough economic times. “We need people to consume in order to drive the economy!” It’s as if the consumption of chattel goods is our national call to be more patriotic, and that sll this is the byproduct of “American exceptionalism”. To that I say this: it’s not good if we need people to buy useless crap in order to maintain our economy. That needs to shift fundamentally. And the only way to shift it is to stop buying useless crap. So will you join me? Will you take the plunge and break the chord from your normal consumerist ways? Let’s all stay at home this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (excluding church), and have a time of prayer and fasting, and some quality time with each other. In this case, fasting doesn’t mean we must totally abstain from food. But you can go on a liquid diet (soup only, etc.) for 3 days without doing yourself any harm. I have done this before successfully, so if I can then so can you! If we’re going to give thanks, then let’s begin by giving thanks to God.

 

This week’s ongoing Biblical teaching series will be Romans chapter 2

Obtaining the Approval of God

(Romans chapter 2)

Today we will be continuing our in-depth study of the book of Romans by moving on to chapter 2. Here the apostle Paul continues his train of thought about God’s righteousness, which is infinite compared to that of humankind. He puts forth a word of warning to anyone who would deliberately disobey God and refuse to keep his commandments. So let’s take up where we left off last week starting at verse one.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgments on them and still do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what they have done’. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2: 7-11)

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself…”. This is a clear reference to the Gospel of Christ, which was known back then simply as “the way”. I quote from Matthew’s gospel, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7, verses 1-2) “You who pass judgment”, according to Jesus and Paul, not to mention the other apostles and their co-workers, “do so because you do the same things yourselves”. Otherwise, how would they know? Paul continues with, “…we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgments on them and still do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” This question was and still is aimed at all the hypocrites in the world. Unfortunately for Christianity, the majority of hypocrites today, as it was during Paul’s time, are found in churches (excluding American politics). Anyone who calls somebody out for alleged wrongdoing while secretly doing similar acts themselves are the ones who will receive the most severe punishment when they stand before the judgment throne of Almighty God.

God ‘will give to each person according to what they have done’. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” The Bible quote Paul was using above comes from Psalms 62:12, and it is repeated in Proverbs 24:12. God is God all by himself whether we believe it or not. So the wise course to take is fervent and uncompromising faith. Eternal death is the only alternative. So it’s up to each person to make the correct choice by choosing eternal life over eternal death.

If we persist in doing good, especially when it doesn’t profit us to do so, God sees that and He will richly reward you. If one does not, I implore you that there is still a little time left before Christ’s return. Soon the last opportunities for eternal salvation will be closed to many who refuse to believe. I cannot overemphasize the urgency of this matter. If you haven’t yet come to recognize Jesus as your Savior and kinsman redeemer, or if you have been skeptical in the past, why not ask him right now? Just say, “Dear Jesus, I’m a sinner, and I’m tired of being this way. I want to invite you into my heart so that you may reside there. I can’t fix my messed up life by myself. I urgently need your help. If you will help me with all these things I will serve you for the rest of my life. Amen.” And now let’s continue where we left off.

“There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, …but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good,…”. The phrase “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” refers to the Hebrew viewpoint that they are the descendants of Abraham and Moses, and so by definition they are God’s chosen people. And the Bible does say that numerous times, especially in the Old Testament. But Paul immediately follows that with verse 11, “For God does not show favoritism”. The fact that God does not play favorites is the real point that Paul was trying to make. Bad people will be on the receiving end of “trouble and distress” and “wrath and anger”. There will be no exceptions. It doesn’t matter what you have done that is bad, there are no degrees of evil in God’s sight. You’re either doing wrong or you’re not. On the other hand, there will be “glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good”. In either case it won’t matter who you are, where you are from, or what religion or church you are a member of (or not). The other things that won’t matter include your race, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation or your economic status. God sees right through all of it.

Now let’s bring all this into focus by using a little reasoning. We are all under the salvation of Christ. We are all apostles just as St. Paul was. We are all equals along with the twelve apostles and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. When our lives are over we will inherit immortality just as Jesus did when he rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. I cannot overemphasize the fact that we are all equals. Equality is therefore scriptural. It’s in the Bible and I just proved it. So, the next time you are feeling down because things aren’t going right (or because things are going badly, and it happens to the best of us), just remember this week’s lesson. It is truly comforting to know that we are equals with Christ (but never with God, to whom Christ intercedes for all of us) and with the 12 apostles (Judas Iscariot was replaced by Matthias) who walked the earth two thousand years ago. Keeping this in mind as we go from day to day helps us all to keep things in perspective. After all, we’re all equals. The Bible says so. Since much of what is written pertains directly to the Jewish nation (do I have any Jewish followers and friends out there? If so, let me hear from you!), I will pick through the most relevant scriptures for this particular lesson starting at verse 12.

“All who sin apart from the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be called righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things that are required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2, verses 12-16)

Paul’s statement that Jews and Gentiles alike can be considered righteous in God’s sight was considered heresy by the Hebrew religious establishment of that time period. This teaching, which I have previously found to be factual, was very radical even by secular standards. But then Paul goes straight to the heart of the matter when he wrote, “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be called righteous.” So if a Christian honors the Lord by upholding – if not celebrating – the Jewish roots of Christianity by obedience and humility, he or she has done an excellent service to Jesus Christ.

Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things that are required by the law, they are a law for themselves…”. Since this statement was written in the Spirit, and since human equality is Scriptural, we know with the utmost certainty these words are true, pure, admirable and loving. It can also mean that God’s laws always supersede the laws of humankind, and especially if the laws of mankind run contrary to the original law, the Law of Moses, which was dictated and cast in stone by Almighty God himself. Paul continues his dissertation with, “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts…”.

During Paul’s day, over 90% of the population was illiterate, and I believe this was likely what Paul was referring to. But the meaning is inescapable. It’s as if God is saying to his people, “Don’t tell me how goody-2-shoes you are, or how nice your personality is, or that you think you are a good person. You won’t get to heaven when you die just by doing those things. Also, I don’t want to hear about how religious you are, or what denomination you belong to, and especially how much money you give to your church or to charities. These things won’t get you past the pearly gates either. What it is time for you to do is to ask me for purity of heart. Jesus said at the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7), “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. That’s how we should be every chance we get. And now let’s conclude today’s study starting at verse 17.

“Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the Law and brag about your relationship with God.… you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? ….You who brag about the law, do you dishonor the law by breaking the law? …. Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as those who have not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a law breaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2, verses 17, 21, and 25-29)

Whether anyone is Jewish or Christian, if they brag about their relationship with God while continuing in sin, then they are hypocrites. Does the church teach others while lacking knowledge of the Bible? Do pastors give their Sunday sermons without acknowledging their source? Or, as Paul put it, “You who brag about the law, do you dishonor the law by breaking the law?” Male circumcision is a very old tradition, dating back at least 1,500 years before the time of Christ. It’s in the Law of Moses, otherwise known as the first five books of the Bible. But Paul was right when he wrote that, “ A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

Whether the believer wears a “what would Jesus do” bracelet, or has Christian bumper stickers on their cars, or wears a cross around their neck, outward appearances are meaningless to God. God is not nearly as interested in how much of the Bible one has memorized as he is with the condition of our hearts – our Spiritual condition, so to speak. Such a mans or woman’s praise comes straight from the Lord on an express delivery destined for our very souls. It’s nice to be well liked by others, but this pales in comparison of being blessed and approved by God, which should be the true ultimate goal for our salvation. Let’s keep this in mind this week by doing something for God instead of ourselves. It’s the biggest blessing of all.