Despite the Pandemic We Are All Living Through, We Will All Come Out the Other Side Much Better Than When We Went In

Instead of Complaining About the Pandemic Crisis, Become the Change You Desire and Live It

By Minister Paul J. Bern (Jeremiah 29)

We all need to look for ways to improve our lives and change our world for the better. We’re all here for a purpose, as it is written: “11) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12) Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. (Jeremiah chapter 29, verses 11-13) Today I will show you, by the publication of this article, how this applies in modern times. It’s why God put us all here. It’s nice to make and keep new year’s resolutions, put a troublesome person out of your life and break other old habits, but many more people are waking up to the fact that it’s smarter to improve our surroundings and make the kind of contributions that leave legacies than it is to merely break a bad habit or two. Breaking bad habits is good, but helping to build a better world is far better.

To begin with, we can’t create a better world if we haven’t yet imagined it. How much better then, if we are able to touch such a world and experience it directly, can we enact in the here and now the world we actually want to live in? The days of electing politicians to public office to do these things on the behalf of the US constituency must undergo fundamental change if the American populace ever desires to overhaul our electoral process. These kinds of organized grassroots efforts come in all shapes and sizes. At the bottom end of the scale we see Utopian flavored mass movements like “We are the 99%”, Black Lives Matter, the fight for a higher minimum wage, and Occupy Wall Street movements with their stands against inequality, ethic of social and economic justice, and experiments in direct democracy. At the other extreme we see the ongoing civil war in Syria (and its predecessor, the Arab Spring of 2011) which continues to this day.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” Buckminster Fuller once advised“. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” A brilliant insight, but he was only half right, because the best direct actions – and social movements – actually do both. Consider the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1950’s and 1960’s. They were not only brave acts of resistance against the racism of the Jim Crow South, but they also beautifully and dramatically prefigured the kind of world the civil rights movement was trying to bring into being: blacks and whites sitting together as equals in public spaces. The young students didn’t ask anyone’s permission; they didn’t wait for society to evolve or for bad laws to change. In the best spirit of direct action, they walked in there and simply changed the world. At least for a few moments, in one place, they were living in an integrated South. They painted a picture of how the world could be, and the vicious response from white bystanders and police only proved how important it was to make it so.

Many people at the forefront of the nonviolent civil rights movement were moved to action by their Spiritual commitments. Be it the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” of the Four Gospels, or Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the ethical traditions of many religions have powerful roots in dogma that is largely the teachings of men. It is only when people of faith, such as followers of Jesus Christ like myself, try to live out their deep principles and actually walk their talk in the Spirit that they they tend to come up against the power of tradition. Jesus himself (who promised that anyone who followed his teaching would always be in trouble) was one of history’s more brilliant invaders of the human conscience. He didn’t merely argue that true greatness comes from humbly serving others, he illustrated it by washing his disciples’ dirty feet just before the Last Supper. By socializing with outcasts and the poor, visiting lepers, and always raising up “the least of these,” Jesus didn’t simply prophesy a future filled with a beloved community of believers, He made it manifest. And if Jesus did it, so should we.

With the dominance of paranoia surrounding the Covid-19 crises, provocations that stretch our political imaginations are more vital than ever. I would go a step further, arguing that we need to bring back Utopian thinking. Utopian thinking is necessary, because it provides a compass point to determine what direction to move toward and a measuring stick to determine how far one has come. However, in an era of media saturation and distrust, this is increasingly hard to do via criticism alone. Using dystopian visions to sound the alarm – a more and more popular strategy – is just another form of criticism that leaves the status quo standing. What is needed instead are direct interventions that both embody and point toward Utopian possibilities. Contemporary social movements, it turns out, are chock full of them.

Of course, we all know that this has about as much chance of occurring as the WTO has of abolishing itself, that GE is actually going to give back the taxes it dodged, or that DuPont is finally going to do the right thing and compensate the 100,000 victims of the Bhopal chemical spill for decades of suffering. Could we possibly ever live in such a world? “Yeah”, people are saying, “why don’t we live in such a world?” And we’re more motivated than ever to go out there to make it happen!

In 2006 members from a coalition of environmental groups posed as a government agency – the Oil Enforcement Agency – that should have existed, but didn’t. Complete with SWAT-team-like caps and badges, agents ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto shows, and generally modeled a future in which government takes climate change seriously. Clever protest campaigns can bring little shards of utopia not just into the streets but also into our elections and even legislatures. When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979, one of the planks in his platform called for beat cops to be voted on by the neighborhoods they patrolled. Once out in the open, this and other seemingly radical ideas were revealed as the reasonable proposals they were, and thousands of San Franciscans voted for Jello.

Even legislation can be Utopian. A legislative bill called, “What Would Finland Do?” aims to introduce a bill in the New York legislature to prorate traffic fines according to the net wealth of the driver. It wouldn’t pass, but a lot of New Yorker’s might think: “Why not?” and the long fight for greater economic equality might inch a tiny bit forward. (Finland, by the way, has such a law, and in 2004 the 27-year-old heir to a sausage fortune was fined $204,000 for driving 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone.) Whether religious or artistic, a playful thought experiment, or a serious attempt to be true to one’s values in the face of state violence, Utopian engagement allows us to experience for ourselves (and demonstrate to others), that another world is necessary, possible, and maybe even beautiful. Oh yeah, and it will be healthy as well.

A Major Dose of Encouragement From the Apostle Paul to All Who Read This, Whether You Call Yourself Christian or Not

The Apostle Paul’s Final Instructions to the Corinthian Church

(1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 50-58; 1st Corinth. 16)

This week we will finish our chronological study of First Corinthians, having begun at chapter one 6 months ago, and ending today with chapters 15 and 16. Last week you will recall the apostle Paul comparing the first Adam with the last, who was and who is Jesus Christ. He moves on to another topic, almost as an afterthought, but it turns out to be one of the more prophetic writings of either the entire Bible. I will begin at verse 50 where we left off last week.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’. ‘Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1st Corinthians 15, verses 50 – 58)

Paul reminds the Corinthian church one more time that humankind, in its physical existence, can never enter heaven where God dwells. But then he does something interesting; He gives this early Christian church something to look forward to as far as the end of one’s physical life is concerned. He begins to prophesy about life after death, describing how the process will seem to most of us as we experience it. There are a number of ways this is being interpreted in the modern church, particularly if we go outside of the mainstream denominations. Many say and teach that these verses are a prophecy for the “rapture” of the church, which is explained as the literal taking up of the modern church during the reign of the Antichrist in the books of Matthew, Luke, Mark, Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, and others.

There is much disagreement about the timing of the “rapture” that I will not write about today, since I regard that as a separate topic. On the other hand, when Paul wrote, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed…..”, there can be no doubt that he was prophesying about the dead being raised at Christ’s return. This, in case there is anyone that hasn’t been paying attention, could happen just about any time now. All you have to do is just keep following the news regarding the Middle East like I do.

My main concern about the way the “rapture” of the Church is currently being taught is how many churches are convinced that the “rapture” will come just as soon as the Antichrist comes to power. Moreover, what about those preaching a ‘pre-tribulation rapture’? You know, those are the ones who say the church will be taken up at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and that the Bride of Christ will escape it entirely. What if the Antichrist comes to power and we’re all still here? What if the “rapture” doesn’t happen until weeks, months, or maybe up to a year or two after the Antichrist comes to power?

The Bible prophesies about that in the Book of Revelation, not once but twice. The first is in chapter 6, verses 9-11, which reads: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed”.

Then again in chapter 13 and verse 7, it reads, “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them” (“he” being the Antichrist). What will all those who have believed in a ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ do then? I hope that some, if not all, of them will realize they may have to undergo one final time of testing by the Lord before being called home to glory. I am deeply concerned that the many who think God will just come along and scoop them up will become discouraged and fall away after the Antichrist comes to power, which could be only months away from now. Or, they might change their minds and take the “mark of the beast” to preserve their lives and the lives of their children, mistakenly believing they are ‘doing the right thing’. That would be an extreme tragedy if it were to occur, and I hope these words that I write will be sufficient warning to my brothers and sisters to be vigilant, to be prayerful with much thanks, and to remain filled with the Spirit during these tumultuous last days.

With another eloquent description of what some call the “rapture” of the church, Paul wrote, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality”. Paul the apostle was exhorting us to draw ourselves continually closer to God by preparing ourselves as pure vessels in which an immortal being can dwell. And it is we, the transformed Believers, who will become immortal beings and live with the Lord in New Jerusalem forever and ever. By working hard at preparing ourselves to become imperishable vessels and immortal beings, we engage in a dress rehearsal of how we will spend eternity. Paul praised God for this when he wrote, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Paul ended this paragraph by encouraging the entire congregation to continue to press onward toward the goal of being one with Christ, and to let nothing stand in the way of their relationship with God through the saving power of Jesus Christ. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” These words apply to us more than ever as we navigate our way through the stormy waters of living in the last days, while we navigate our way around Covid-19. Never get tired of doing the right thing and living for Christ, because our work is never in vain. Paul then closes out the remainder of this letter with a few words about the collection of the offering at these churches that bear close scrutiny.

Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.” (1st Corinthians 16: verses 1-4)

When Paul writes them to “do as I told the Galatian churches”, he is referring to a passage in the book of Galatians, but I will save that for when we get there, since we’ll be studying the 2nd book of Corinthians first (Galatians comes right afterwards, OK?). There are two things that are noteworthy here: The first being Paul’s mentioning setting aside church collections “on the first day of every week”. Keep in mind here that the calendar that we use today has only been around since the third century AD. Since Paul, a Jew and a former member of the Sanhedrin, went by the Jewish calendar, which has been in existence for 4,500 years. He used the Jewish Sabbath as his guide, which is from dusk Friday to dusk Saturday. My point is that the day on which we celebrate the Sabbath today, Sunday, is actually the wrong day of the week from a purely historical perspective when compared to the way in which the original Apostles and Jewish believers were celebrating the Sabbath 2,000 years ago. Keep this in mind each week as you attend services on Sunday morning.

The second noteworthy thing Paul mentions in these closing verses of 1st Corinthians is the amount that is to be given at each offering. Paul wrote, “ On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income…….” Notice that Paul did not specify an amount to be given, nor any certain percentage of one’s income, but he only said that their gifts should be “in keeping with his income”. In other words, if you can’t afford to ‘tithe’ a full 10% of your income, like what is specified in quite a few modern churches, then that’s okay – just give whatever you can and ask the Lord to bless your offering and receive it, knowing that it will still be enough. You need not worry – there are no cash registers or pocket calculators in heaven.

God isn’t counting your change to see how much you can give. He doesn’t want our money, he doesn’t need it anyway, but God does want each and every one of us. He wants our love and devotion, our worship and our praise, and our dedication and our service to His cause. And the cause of the Lord is the salvation of souls, and a cause of eternal justice, which is a worthy cause any day of the week.

Announcing the New Website for the Social Gospel Worship and Learning Center with Minister Paul J. Bern

Welcome to my new website! Join my mailing list and get weekly commentaries, a Biblical study series, plus merchandise and videos (almost ready) https://shoutout.wix.com/so/46MqclWtE #socialgospel #realBible #Christianblogs #blogsabouttruth #wisdom

The Resurrection of Christ: Did It Happen or Not? (part 1 of 2)

The Apostle Paul’s Teachings About the Resurrection of Christ (part 1)

(1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 20-33)

book cover volume 3
This posting is taken from this book, of which I am the author. To get a copy, visit authorrevpauljbern.com Enjoy!

During last week’s study of the first 19 verses of First Corinthians chapter 15, we left off where the apostle Paul was reminding the early Church of the truthfulness and authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the morning of the third day after he was crucified. You will recall that Paul asked pointedly how anyone could not believe in Christ’s resurrection, followed by his emphatic statement that those Christians who don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection believe in vain, and they will thus die in their sins, with their souls unable to be saved. I’d say that’s pretty blunt and direct, wouldn’t you? Frankly, I couldn’t agree more on this point. Any ‘Christian’ who doesn’t believe in a personal, 1-on-1 relationship with Jesus Christ, and that Jesus was crucified, died on a cross, only to be raised from the dead 3 days later, is wasting their time attending church on Sunday mornings. They should stay home and wax their vehicles instead. And now I will take up Paul’s train of thought where he left off as he wrote it, beginning in verse 20.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn; Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he has ‘put everything under His feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When He has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 20 thru 28)

When Paul called Christ “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”, he was referring to an ancient tradition of Judaism that is based on the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The ‘festival of first fruits’ involved the farmers and livestock herders bringing one tenth of their initial harvest or their mature livestock to the temple as a living sacrifice to be given unto God for atonement for their sins. And so Jesus was, in effect, the first-fruits offering for all of humankind. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ was a pure atonement offering made unto God consisting of Christ himself as a living sacrifice for sin. In the course of making this offering, Jesus became the new covenant between God and humankind and the new sacrificial sin offering, taking the place of the old, which was the law of Moses.

Unfortunately, there pervades a teaching of sorts within the modern churches that says – quite presumptuously – that both laws are in effect, and that although Christ died and was resurrected on the third day and so saved us from our sins, we are still obligated to give a tenth of what we earn, or own, or a combination of the two, at every service. This is NOT what the Bible says at all, and if those within the church who are demanding 10% of everyone’s wages would bother to read it, they would see that they are seriously in error. Unfortunately for the greater Church, the ones who are disseminating this wrong teaching are the same “ministers” who have turned their houses of worship into profitable enterprises. Such pastors and evangelists, if they do not repent of this, are not saved by the blood of Christ like they think they are. At the end of their lives, their expectation of eternal reward because their churches were “successful” will turn to terror when they learn their fate. And then it will be too late. How tragic for them. If only they would have read their Bibles once in a while instead of preaching about ‘tithing’, or abortion, or homosexuality to the exclusion of nearly everything else, their error would then become apparent to them. And yes, that’s still another prophecy.

The tithe, as the Word calls it, was offered as the sacrifices that were made on the feast days that God directed the ancient Israelite’s to celebrate, such as Passover, first fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles, among others. They were also offered on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week according to the book of Genesis. Interestingly enough, that would mean we are supposed to be going to church on Saturdays instead of Sunday as we do now, if our calendar were to be strictly followed by the modern church. Sacrifices on the feast days instituted in the Law of Moses were mandatory. However, it is doubtful that sacrifices had to be made by every single person at every Sabbath since there were approximately one million Israelite’s encamped in the Sinai desert at its high point before they were given the land of Canaan. In that case, there would still be sacrifices waiting to be offered from the previous Sabbath by the time of the following one, making the offering of so many sacrifices impractical. But the festivals and holy days celebrated from the time of Moses up until now were many days in length, enabling ample time to be made for so many sacrifices.

But the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ changed all that when He made himself the new atonement, the everlasting sacrifice and the propitiation for the numerous sins of all humankind. Jesus is the embodiment of the new covenant, the New Testament and the new offering for us all. So there is no more need to bring a sacrifice to the altar – Jesus has already offered up Himself. To teach and preach that the 10% sacrificial offering must continue to be made brings into question the very reason for Christ’s death and resurrection. How many times must He shed his blood for us all? Without a doubt, once was enough.

So the claim being made by some modern churches that all who congregate must tithe 10% of what they make every single week is not only untrue and unnecessary, it also comes across as a thinly disguised grab for funds by the pastor and senior leadership. This would presumably be for the enrichment of those “in charge”, making God and the monthly electric bill to be little more than afterthoughts. Since only a fraction of the Sunday offerings at churches throughout North America are actually allocated for charitable purposes – with most of the remainder spent on “administrative” expenses like salaries – what we have are an entire host of houses of worship posing as non-profits or as charities that are actually being run like businesses. You know, just like the money-changers in the Temple who were physically removed by Christ himself?

Of course, the flip side of this coin is that this does not excuse us from giving to the church of our choice. Giving at least a little something each week is required for the church to stay in operation. Only those who are unemployed, disabled, or retired for any reason would be exempt from this tradition. The churches have rent or a mortgage to pay, the power bill, and garbage pickup, etc, plus sufficient salaries so the pastor and his/her family may be reasonably provided for, and it all costs money. But as it was in the days when Jesus walked the earth, so it is today with organized religion, as Jesus said when He threw the money-changers out of the temple, “You have taken my Father’s house and turned it into a den of robbers.” That rebuke from Jesus himself still holds true today.

So take my advice, which is based on my own previous experiences with these so-called “churches”. If when visiting a church, or after having joined a church, you hear preaching and teaching about how everyone must give 10% of their earnings each and every week, get out of there at the first opportunity and go find a better church, preferably one whose teachings are grounded in the Word as it is written, rather than those which are taught by men for men. I will now continue at verse 29.

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die’. Do not be mislead: Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.” (1st Corinthians 15, verses 29-34)

To clarify this passage of scripture, there was within the early church a practice of being baptized in the place of dead relatives and other loved ones who had died having not had an opportunity to be baptized and to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior. The idea behind this was to make sure that all those with whom we had gone through life’s journey would not be condemned to hell, and that we would someday see our loved ones again when we all get to heaven together. To the best of my knowledge, only the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches still practice this ancient tradition, and then only in the forms of having a service, or a “mass” for the dead, such as on the celebration of All Saint’s Day every fall by those denominations.

Paul the apostle continued by making the point that true believers should be adhering to the Word of God as they have read and learned it, and he is telling them in blunt terms that they needed to stop listening to false doctrines being taught by phony “teachers” of the Bible. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ, as I pointed out earlier, are completely sufficient for the salvation and redemption of humankind. To not believe in the resurrection of Christ, therefore, is heretical and blasphemous. Ditto for getting baptized in place of someone else, which Christ also made unnecessary. None of these man-made ideas are anywhere in the 4 gospels. But instead, if we stick to God’s word, who lived among us in the form of Jesus Christ, we can’t go wrong. So study the Bible, read what’s in it and put it into practice. It’s the one sure way to know that you are on the right track in life. And when we return next week we’ll go over the second part of Paul’s writings on the resurrection as we move on to part 3 of chapter 15.

Jesus and the Apostles Preached Against Wealth and Materialism, and I’m Repeating the Message

My Prophecy Against the Rich

(Matt. 22, 37-40; James 1, verses 26-27; James 5, verses 1-6)

by Minister Paul J. Bern

I have been struck lately by the fact that several key issues are being completely ignored in the 2020 US presidential race. One is the urgent need for development of clean energy and a green economy. Another big one that is being brushed aside is climate change and what we can do about it, not to mention what I view as the urgency of that situation. But the biggest issue by far that is being ignored is economic inequality, the fact that 98% of America’s wealth is in the hands of 2% of the population. This situation is much the same throughout the world. It is not something that is peculiar to America at all – far from it.

Both of the candidates running for the top office in the land are in the top 2% who own nearly everything, and who lord it over everybody else. Although I’m not naming names, it seems that these same people who are part of the problem are putting themselves forth as being the engineers of the solution. President Donald Trump is, without question, the best example of this so far. The fact that he’s another billionaire from New York underscores the rampant and often extreme economic inequality that exists in America today. The primary reason that working Americans are being ignored is because there is someone from the top 1/10 of 1% who is occupying the oval office.

According to statistics published by the Economic Policy Institute, and backed up by data from the US Office of Management and Budget, one in every seven persons currently living in the USA lives at or below the poverty line. One in seven sometimes goes hungry, especially children. For over one forth of America’s school children, lunch at school is their only meal of the day. One in seven pregnant women don’t get enough food for themselves and their unborn child. One person in every seven lives in a household with a gross income of under $14,000.00 per year for a single person, allowing only slightly more for children. Poverty devalues the individual in such a way that it can damage the mind or crush the spirit of anyone in its path. The hunger pangs are only what’s on the surface. Poverty is everyone’s problem because when one person is marginalized, then society as a whole becomes marginalized, and this is compounded the more that person becomes devalued. I submit to you all that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness of the same Almighty God who made us all (see Genesis chapter 1, verses 26-27).

It is our capitalist economic system that is broken, and we are all feeling the effects of it. More and more people are being thrown out of work, often losing their homes, their transportation and their dignity as corporate America continues to re-size downward. The more that American business downsizes, the more people will be affected. Life can sometimes be like a game of musical chairs, and people are starting to notice that the music has stopped playing and there are no chairs left. Many US jobs were out-sourced overseas, and many more American workers that still remain will be replaced with robots and artificial intelligence within 10 or 15 years. The US economy, plus the job market or what’s left of it, is in much worse shape than we’re being told (surprise, surprise). People are banding together by family or by neighborhood to ensure each other’s well-being. In Detroit, in particular, people are beginning to say the only way to survive is by taking care of one another, by recreating our relationships to one another, that we have created a society, over the last period, in particular, where each of us is pursuing self-interest. We have devolved as human beings.

We have been focused on taking care of ourselves for so long that we have forgotten how to take care of each other. Now that hard economic times have hit us right between the eyes, we need to do more to take care of each other. Get plugged into a volunteer program in your community. That would be one good place to start. Do this knowing that by helping to pick others up, you ultimately pick yourself up with it. And do it all knowing that God is watching over you as you go about your business. So, do not put God out of your life but rather keep Him within your heart and allow Him to dwell there. That is when you will know for sure that you are on the right track.

Jesus summed this up perfectly when He defined the two greatest commandments, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22, verses 37-40) The apostle James similarly wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James chapter 1, verses 26-27)

That’s not all the apostle James had to say about the loving the world as opposed to loving God. He connected it with the same mass inequality that we see today when he wrote, “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 the workmen 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)

Your wealth has lost its value! Your investments have divested themselves of their own worth! Not just their net worth either. Not only have you lost all your interest, you have lost your principal as well! Your entire portfolio is forfeit! Total disaster will overtake all of you who put yourselves into your careers and climbed the corporate ladder to the exclusion of everything and everyone else! In so doing, you have fallen into idolatry. ‘Idolatry, you ask? But how?’ By prioritizing your careers over your worship, and by valuing your material goods over the supreme sacrifice Christ made for you on the cross. Make no mistake about it, the shed blood of Jesus Christ is more valuable than anything else on the planet – period! The biggest mansion, the most expensive yacht, the fastest car or truck and the trendiest clothes and night clubs are rubbish when compared to the purity of Christ. Besides Him stands no other! Jesus stands alone, heads above the rest!

Speaking of Jesus, he had lots to say about rich people. But, one of His most famous comments comes from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21) The more attached we become to our material stuff, the farther away we get from God. But it’s about more than just stuff. We can become more attached to our spouse or significant other, to our children, to our careers, and even to recreational activities like water skiing, snow boarding, our boats and motorcycles, or fitness training. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above. But we must always put our personal relationship with Christ first and foremost, because it’s invariably the most important. I cannot overemphasize this one main point!

Both of the candidates running for the top office in the land are in the top 2% who own nearly everything, and who lord it over everybody else. Although I’m not naming names, it seems that these same people who are part of the problem are putting themselves forth as being the engineers of the solution. President Donald Trump is, without question, the best example of this so far. The fact that he’s another billionaire from New York underscores the rampant and often extreme economic inequality that exists in America today. The primary reason that working Americans are being ignored is because there is someone from the top 1/10 of 1% who is occupying the oval office.

According to statistics published by the Economic Policy Institute, and backed up by data from the US Office of Management and Budget, one in every seven persons currently living in the USA lives at or below the poverty line. One in seven sometimes goes hungry, especially children. For over one forth of America’s school children, lunch at school is their only meal of the day. One in seven pregnant women don’t get enough food for themselves and their unborn child. One person in every seven lives in a household with a gross income of under $14,000.00 per year for a single person, allowing only slightly more for children. Poverty devalues the individual in such a way that it can damage the mind or crush the spirit of anyone in its path. The hunger pangs are only what’s on the surface. Poverty is everyone’s problem because when one person is marginalized, then society as a whole becomes marginalized, and this is compounded the more that person becomes devalued. I submit to you all that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image and likeness of the same Almighty God who made us all (see Genesis chapter 1, verses 26-27).

It is our capitalist economic system that is broken, and we are all feeling the effects of it. More and more people are being thrown out of work, often losing their homes, their transportation and their dignity as corporate America continues to re-size downward. The more that American business downsizes, the more people will be affected. Life can sometimes be like a game of musical chairs, and people are starting to notice that the music has stopped playing and there are no chairs left. Many US jobs were out-sourced overseas, and many more American workers that still remain will be replaced with robots and artificial intelligence within 10 or 15 years. The US economy, plus the job market or what’s left of it, is in much worse shape than we’re being told (surprise, surprise). People are banding together by family or by neighborhood to ensure each other’s well-being. In Detroit, in particular, people are beginning to say the only way to survive is by taking care of one another, by recreating our relationships to one another, that we have created a society, over the last period, in particular, where each of us is pursuing self-interest. We have devolved as human beings.

We have been focused on taking care of ourselves for so long that we have forgotten how to take care of each other. Now that hard economic times have hit us right between the eyes, we need to do more to take care of each other. Get plugged into a volunteer program in your community. That would be one good place to start. Do this knowing that by helping to pick others up, you ultimately pick yourself up with it. And do it all knowing that God is watching over you as you go about your business. So, do not put God out of your life but rather keep Him within your heart and allow Him to dwell there. That is when you will know for sure that you are on the right track.

Jesus summed this up perfectly when He defined the two greatest commandments, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22, verses 37-40) The apostle James similarly wrote, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James chapter 1, verses 26-27)

That’s not all the apostle James had to say about the loving the world as opposed to loving God. He connected it with the same mass inequality that we see today when he wrote, “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 the workmen 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)

Your wealth has lost its value! Your investments have divested themselves of their own worth! Not just their net worth either. Not only have you lost all your interest, you have lost your principal as well! Your entire portfolio is forfeit! Total disaster will overtake all of you who put yourselves into your careers and climbed the corporate ladder to the exclusion of everything and everyone else! In so doing, you have fallen into idolatry. ‘Idolatry, you ask? But how?’ By prioritizing your careers over your worship, and by valuing your material goods over the supreme sacrifice Christ made for you on the cross. Make no mistake about it, the shed blood of Jesus Christ is more valuable than anything else on the planet – period! The biggest mansion, the most expensive yacht, the fastest car or truck and the trendiest clothes and night clubs are rubbish when compared to the purity of Christ. Besides Him stands no other! Jesus stands alone, heads above the rest!

Speaking of Jesus, he had lots to say about rich people. But, one of His most famous comments comes from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21) The more attached we become to our material stuff, the farther away we get from God. But it’s about more than just stuff. We can become more attached to our spouse or significant other, to our children, to our careers, and even to recreational activities like water skiing, snow boarding, our boats and motorcycles, or fitness training. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above. But we must always put our personal relationship with Christ first and foremost, because it’s invariably the most important. I cannot overemphasize this one main point!

In closing, the fact that Donald Trump may still be considered the front-runner in the early part of the 2020 presidential race to the White House says a lot about the state of our country. The most eligible candidate, if the Republicans get their way, would be President Trump, the one with the most money. But Joe Biden has also raised very large amounts of cash, even to the point where he and Trump are currently in a dead heat. So, the bottom line here is that the two presidential candidates in the 2020 election are both top 2%’rs who profess to have the solutions to the plight of the remaining 98% of us, when it’s already an established fact that no matter who wins, the winner is beholden to the mega rich who bought the election in the first place. Capitalism – and the materialistic, consumer lifestyle that goes along with it – has conquered the world without firing a single shot. In so doing, the top 2% are in charge of, and in many cases own, just about everything, right down to the land every building is built upon. But when Jesus returns, all power and authority will be given to Him on earth as it is in heaven, and the rich will find themselves destitute.

A Reinforcement in the Faith of Believers In Christ, and An Appeal To Those Who Do Not

Why Be a Christian in the First Place?

Is There Really a Point to It All?

(1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 1-19)

Since the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians is noticeably longer than the one we just completed, I will be dividing chapter 15 into 4 lessons to allow me to get into some serious depth regarding the apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches. As we begin to read at verse 1, we find Paul reminding the early Corinthian church of the reasons for the faith of the whole congregation, which is unconditional belief and unshakable confidence in the saving power of the shed Blood of Christ. I would liken this portion of Scripture to a coach going over some of the basic fundamentals of the game during a team meeting, reminding the players that if they stick to the basics consistently, they will ultimately win. Being a follower of Jesus is a lot like that, and so you may think of Christ as your Spiritual coach. Here is an example of that from Scripture.

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to even be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” (1st Corinthians 15, verses 1-11)

The basis of Christianity and of belief in Christ as the Son of God is summed up in Paul’s words “ …Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…….” So we have basic fundamental teaching and instruction here from Paul the apostle to the brethren in the early Church, which is the ultimate sacrificial offering of Jesus himself for the sins of all humankind who freely accept His eternal salvation.

Without this faith, all the good deeds and personal sacrifice in the world will do us no good at all, and we will have “believed in vain”. Based on this portion of scripture I would say that one of our primary tasks as practicing Christians is to make sure our belief is genuine – that is, that we exercise our faith in such a way that our passion for Christ strives to approach and imitate His passion for all humankind when He died upon the cross. As He gave his all for us, so we must be willing to give our very best for Him. In fact, a time is coming soon to North America when Christians will begin to be slain for their faith. The apostles saw the risen Lord in person, but we believe having not seen Him (yet).

At this point I would ask that all those reading this who are knowledgeable about the Bible, or who have been Christians for a very long time like I have, to bear with me for a few moments while I explain something to the newer believers regarding what Paul wrote about himself towards the end of the above passage. Paul wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to even be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me”. Paul is referring to his initial meeting with the Spirit of Christ on the road to Damascus, which is documented in chapter 9 of the book of Acts in the New Testament. He was blinded for 3 days and instructed to go to a certain house where he met the apostle Peter, who laid his hands on Paul and healed his blindness.

Before all this happened, Paul was one of the leaders of Judaism at that time who actively persecuted Christians prior to his own conversion. The Book of Acts also documents Paul’s being present at the execution of St. Stephen in chapter 6. And yet ever since meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul had been converted and was actively preaching and teaching throughout the known world of that time. This is why Paul calls himself “the least of the apostles”, but Paul does one thing here that we all should learn to emulate. He gives all the credit for his conversion to his faith in God through His grace, taking none for himself. He even mentions working harder in his new ministry than anyone else in an attempt to make up for his previous life as a persecutor of the followers of Christ.

God gets all the credit for our own conversions because He loved us first, not the other way around. Remember what Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted”. Therefore, if we humble ourselves in our faith by giving all the credit for our salvation and well-being to Jesus, and to God’s grace (which means unmerited favor), we will be rewarded with higher places in heaven when our physical lives are over and our eternal Spiritual lives begin. I will teach more on this topic at some point in the future. But for now, I will continue today’s study at verse 12.

But if it has been preached that Christ was raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1st Corinthians 15, verses 12-19)

Based on what the apostle Paul wrote just above, perhaps there was some disagreement among the members of the early Churches regarding whether the resurrection of Christ was real or a myth. What we are seeing here is one of the first indicators of denominational teaching. Paul clearly wanted this practice stopped immediately, but history teaches us that not only did this not occur, but the fragmentation of the original church into divisions that were set against one another is an unfortunate reality that continues into modern times. But Paul responded back then by pointing out an obvious truth, which is that being a Christian while not believing in the resurrection of Christ, along with all who have believed on and trusted in His name, defeats the very purpose of our beliefs.

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the morning of the third day is the very basis for all Christian faith. Even the two greatest commandments as they were taught by Jesus in the four gospels – love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself – are impossible to follow without a belief in the deity of God through Christ. And a belief in God through Jesus Christ is unworkable without the strongly held belief that Jesus rose from the dead, and that in so doing, He gave all of humankind a chance to have the same opportunity to have eternal life without end, which He already has. None of us can ever achieve immortality on our own, but we can all have it through Christ, the Son of God. And that’s a goal worth shooting for every single day of the year.

Our Trigger-Happy Police, Unarmed Civilians, and What God Has Said About All This

I Wonder What Would God Say About

All These Police Killings In the US?

(Jeremiah 7: 1-11)

By Minister Paul J. Bern

 

The United States of America is evidently coming apart at the seams. That’s an observation of current events in America, not just my opinion. Police shootings of unarmed Black men and youths – and some white folks too – are epidemic and increasingly notorious. Lately I have been seeing and learning, much to my own horror, that civilians are taking matters into their own hands by assassinating police officers while they are on duty. We’ve had at least two such incidents this year so far – one where a cop was shot execution style while fueling up his patrol car, and the other where an officer was dragged for several miles and was later pronounced ‘DOA’ at the hospital. So does this mean we have descended into a deadly game of tit-for-tat on American streets? Does a state of civil war now exist between African-Americans and law enforcement?

 

Of course, there are always two sides to every story. In several of the shootings of unarmed Black men, police officers have just recently been charged with murder, as you know. Yet by the same token, there was a nationally reported incident earlier this year where a white man who had carjacked someone started shooting at the police when they cornered him, for which the perpetrator paid with his life. In cases like that, I believe police shootings are without question fully justifiable regardless of race. God gave me a passage of Scripture earlier today that fits this very well. It is a prophetic bit of Scripture taken from the first 11 verses of Jeremiah chapter 7 in the Old Testament. For those who don’t know where this is in the Bible, it’s between Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I am going to take this just a verse or two at a time, because there is so much of the Holy Spirit in here that one cannot simply breeze through this and quickly move on.

 

This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.‘” (Jeremiah 7, verses 1-2) How would we say this in 21st century English? Allow me to paraphrase: ‘Stand at the entrance to the church, right in the middle of the doorway, and tell all the people who come here to wait outside and hear this message before entering the sanctuary.’ Church services, it seems, will be starting a little late today. God is telling the modern north American churches to stop what they are doing and hear these words. Otherwise, He is saying, you have no business coming in here, into my Father’s house. You would then become invaders in my house, encroaching on My holy territory, says the Lord. This, says the Bible and the prophet Jeremiah, is extremely serious and at the top of God’s priorities.

 

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 7, verses 3-4) “Reform…and I will let you live in this place”. What place is this? When it was first written by the prophet Jeremiah, it was a reference to the Temple in Jerusalem in the years leading up to ancient Israel being taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire. But in a modern context, it is a prophecy from the past that is equally applicable to the near future. Applicable to Israel just like in days of old, you ask? Partly, but also equally applicable to Israel’s chief protector and ally in modern times, the USA. Prophecy, you see, is multidimensional – just like the God who we prophesy about.

 

If you really want to change your ways and your actions and to treat each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless, and the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers forever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7, verses 5-7) Do we treat each other justly when we’re shooting at each other like it’s the end of the world? Who is worse, the cops who are killing the unarmed Blacks, the Blacks who are killing each other, or everybody else who is shooting and ripping off everything and everybody else? Is there anybody reading this who seriously believes that God is pleased with America in its current state of affairs? I should think not! If nobody is right, then everybody’s wrong.

 

Does America oppress the alien? As long as racial profiling is allowed to continue within the ranks of law enforcement, this will continue to be the case. Moreover, all those people crossing our southern border into our country are not an invading hostile army such as the likes of Donald Trump have implied. The ugly truth is that they are economic and war refugees from Mexico and Central America. The war refugees are escaping the civil wars being waged by the drug cartels of Central America and Southern Mexico – wars that are being fomented by America’s very own CIA. The economic refugees come here looking for work – work that is simply unavailable in their former countries.

 

Also, there is a huge wage disparity between those countries and the US. According to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, a factory worker in Mexico has an average take-home pay of about $55.00 per month USD (as of 2018). A person in the US working full time at a minimum wage job takes home approximately $640.00 monthly after taxes (which is why the current US minimum wage must be increased). So these “illegal” immigrants, as they’re called by all the right-wingers (many of whom identify as being Christian) see immigrant take-home pay increase ten or 11 times just by relocating to America. Is it any wonder they are coming to America in droves? If the US used its foreign aid that it so freely distributes to create enough new jobs down there in Mexico or Guatemala, etc., those people wouldn’t have to come to the US looking for work. Instead, US taxpayers spent $35 billion last year alone on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane America does not need.

 

Can I go on? Does America oppress the “fatherless”? All one has to do is visit America’s jails and prisons. Eight out of every ten people who are incarcerated either grew up without a dad, or are estranged from their fathers – often because of prior abuse. It’s a cycle that can often get passed down from one generation to another, a cycle that runs in families. Does America “oppress the widow”? Is there evidence of this ever occurring? All over America we see boarded up old houses in blighted neighborhoods, houses that people used to live in. But some smooth-talking mortgage broker came along one day and talked the homeowner, who was usually elderly and minimally educated, into taking out a new mortgage on a home that was decades old and sometimes in need of repair, only to have the homeowners fall behind on the payments, and they ultimately found themselves homeless.

 

For another example, visit any nursing home in America, and you will find multitudes of elderly people who have been long forgotten by their families. In many cases, they have outlived everyone they ever knew and loved. America’s elderly have become a disposable people just like America’s workers, its former middle class. Is God pleased with this? On the contrary, He is deeply offended! God is filled with rage against humans who oppress other humans for profit. Can I get an AMEN, y’all?

 

What about “shedding innocent blood?” Does America currently, or has America ever, shed innocent blood? For me, a guy who genuinely loves his country but despises and fears his government, the answer is hard to look at and still more difficult to receive, but look I must. America has shed innocent blood in the form of millions of civilian casualties in the two Iraq wars, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Vietnam, Korea and both world wars. But there is more – America has shed innocent blood right here at home. We have killed innocent men on death row, men who were not guilty of their crimes, but who were executed because they were presumed guilty because they were African-American. So many more Blacks have been executed in lynchings since the end of the US Civil War that the country has lost count. So yes, most definitely, America has shed much innocent blood.

 

Does anyone seriously believe that God has not noticed, or that He was looking the other way at the time? What about that last one? Have we “followed other gods to our own harm”? This is evidently talking about addictions, although this can have to do with substance abuse just as easily as it could addiction to a spouse, sports hero, career, or getting a bigger house whether you needed one or not, the latest computer and electronic gear, yet another new car that you really didn’t need, always wearing the latest fashions, and so on. Try unplugging from the world. Disconnect from your cable TV and save money, watch Christian stuff on the Internet instead (no, not “Christian TV”), and become a minimalist. Despise materialism, shun worldly wealth and those who crave it. ‘Go green’ or live ‘off the grid’. Do something! Please don’t just sit there playing your pointless video games. Sorry if that offended anyone, but that still needed to be said. And now I’ll conclude this message, beginning at verse 8.

 

But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come before me and stand in this house, which bears my name, and say ‘we are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7, verses 8-11) How are we trusting in deceptive words that are worthless, you ask? What is God talking about here to each of us through the prophet Jeremiah? I strongly believe this has a double meaning. In one sense, God is telling us our country’s leaders can no longer be trusted because they have their own interests at heart instead of, or ahead of, “we the people”.

 

Undoubtedly this is one point I need not explain to anyone. But why aren’t we more outraged about all the waste and corruption in Washington? To me, if we are not opposing it then we are condoning this criminal behavior of our nations leadership. That makes us accomplices, and under no circumstances do I ever want to be seen that way by God. If this were to ever occur, that would be the day I would begin to pray in vain. Since I “work out my own salvation with fear and trembling”, I could never in my right mind go there or do that anyway.

 

But what is the second part of the meaning? This time, instead of talking about political and corporate leadership, God is speaking to us through the Prophet about the leadership within our churches. The Bible says, “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord”. That’s us, people. It’s talking about us. Those who teach falsely and know it, and there are a dismaying number of “preachers” who do, will pay the ultimate penalty in eternity. Will we continue to commit sin after sin, hop from one affair to another, mating like rabbits as we lie, cheat and steal and think we got away with it because nobody saw us?

 

Those who do any of those things are only kidding themselves. Have our churches become a den of robbers? As long as certain preachers continue to demand 10% of everyone’s income, whether they can afford it or not, then the answer is yes. The money-changers have once again occupied the temple, and Jesus will soon return to throw them out again. Apparently these corrupt religious people didn’t learn their lesson the last time our Lord administered it 2,000 years ago. “But I have been watching, says the Lord”!

 

This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.‘” (Jeremiah 7, verses 1-2) How would we say this in 21st century English? Allow me to paraphrase: ‘Stand at the entrance to the church, right in the middle of the doorway, and tell all the people who come here to wait outside and hear this message before entering the sanctuary.’ Church services, it seems, will be starting a little late today. God is telling the modern north American churches to stop what they are doing and hear these words. Otherwise, He is saying, you have no business coming in here, into my Father’s house. You would then become invaders in my house, encroaching on My holy territory, says the Lord. This, says the Bible and the prophet Jeremiah, is extremely serious and at the top of God’s priorities.

 

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 7, verses 3-4) “Reform…and I will let you live in this place”. What place is this? When it was first written by the prophet Jeremiah, it was a reference to the Temple in Jerusalem in the years leading up to ancient Israel being taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire. But in a modern context, it is a prophecy from the past that is equally applicable to the near future. Applicable to Israel just like in days of old, you ask? Partly, but also equally applicable to Israel’s chief protector and ally in modern times, the USA. Prophecy, you see, is multidimensional – just like the God who we prophesy about.

 

If you really want to change your ways and your actions and to treat each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless, and the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers forever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7, verses 5-7) Do we treat each other justly when we’re shooting at each other like it’s the end of the world? Who is worse, the cops who are killing the unarmed Blacks, the Blacks who are killing each other, or everybody else who is shooting and ripping off everything and everybody else? Is there anybody reading this who seriously believes that God is pleased with America in its current state of affairs? I should think not! If nobody is right, then everybody’s wrong.

 

Does America oppress the alien? As long as racial profiling is allowed to continue within the ranks of law enforcement, this will continue to be the case. Moreover, all those people crossing our southern border into our country are not an invading hostile army such as the likes of Donald Trump have implied. The ugly truth is that they are economic and war refugees from Mexico and Central America. The war refugees are escaping the civil wars being waged by the drug cartels of Central America and Southern Mexico – wars that are being fomented by America’s very own CIA. The economic refugees come here looking for work – work that is simply unavailable in their former countries.

 

Also, there is a huge wage disparity between those countries and the US. According to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, a factory worker in Mexico has an average take-home pay of about $55.00 per month USD (as of 2018). A person in the US working full time at a minimum wage job takes home approximately $640.00 monthly after taxes (which is why the current US minimum wage must be increased). So these “illegal” immigrants, as they’re called by all the right-wingers (many of whom identify as being Christian) see immigrant take-home pay increase ten or 11 times just by relocating to America. Is it any wonder they are coming to America in droves? If the US used its foreign aid that it so freely distributes to create enough new jobs down there in Mexico or Guatemala, etc., those people wouldn’t have to come to the US looking for work. Instead, US taxpayers spent $35 billion last year alone on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane America does not need.

 

Can I go on? Does America oppress the “fatherless”? All one has to do is visit America’s jails and prisons. Eight out of every ten people who are incarcerated either grew up without a dad, or are estranged from their fathers – often because of prior abuse. It’s a cycle that can often get passed down from one generation to another, a cycle that runs in families. Does America “oppress the widow”? Is there evidence of this ever occurring? All over America we see boarded up old houses in blighted neighborhoods, houses that people used to live in. But some smooth-talking mortgage broker came along one day and talked the homeowner, who was usually elderly and minimally educated, into taking out a new mortgage on a home that was decades old and sometimes in need of repair, only to have the homeowners fall behind on the payments, and they ultimately found themselves homeless.

 

For another example, visit any nursing home in America, and you will find multitudes of elderly people who have been long forgotten by their families. In many cases, they have outlived everyone they ever knew and loved. America’s elderly have become a disposable people just like America’s workers, its former middle class. Is God pleased with this? On the contrary, He is deeply offended! God is filled with rage against humans who oppress other humans for profit. Can I get an AMEN, y’all?

 

What about “shedding innocent blood?” Does America currently, or has America ever, shed innocent blood? For me, a guy who genuinely loves his country but despises and fears his government, the answer is hard to look at and still more difficult to receive, but look I must. America has shed innocent blood in the form of millions of civilian casualties in the two Iraq wars, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Vietnam, Korea and both world wars. But there is more – America has shed innocent blood right here at home. We have killed innocent men on death row, men who were not guilty of their crimes, but who were executed because they were presumed guilty because they were African-American. So many more Blacks have been executed in lynchings since the end of the US Civil War that the country has lost count. So yes, most definitely, America has shed much innocent blood.

 

Does anyone seriously believe that God has not noticed, or that He was looking the other way at the time? What about that last one? Have we “followed other gods to our own harm”? This is evidently talking about addictions, although this can have to do with substance abuse just as easily as it could addiction to a spouse, sports hero, career, or getting a bigger house whether you needed one or not, the latest computer and electronic gear, yet another new car that you really didn’t need, always wearing the latest fashions, and so on. Try unplugging from the world. Disconnect from your cable TV and save money, watch Christian stuff on the Internet instead (no, not “Christian TV”), and become a minimalist. Despise materialism, shun worldly wealth and those who crave it. ‘Go green’ or live ‘off the grid’. Do something! Please don’t just sit there playing your pointless video games. Sorry if that offended anyone, but that still needed to be said. And now I’ll conclude this message, beginning at verse 8.

 

But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come before me and stand in this house, which bears my name, and say ‘we are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7, verses 8-11) How are we trusting in deceptive words that are worthless, you ask? What is God talking about here to each of us through the prophet Jeremiah? I strongly believe this has a double meaning. In one sense, God is telling us our country’s leaders can no longer be trusted because they have their own interests at heart instead of, or ahead of, “we the people”.

 

Undoubtedly this is one point I need not explain to anyone. But why aren’t we more outraged about all the waste and corruption in Washington? To me, if we are not opposing it then we are condoning this criminal behavior of our nations leadership. That makes us accomplices, and under no circumstances do I ever want to be seen that way by God. If this were to ever occur, that would be the day I would begin to pray in vain. Since I “work out my own salvation with fear and trembling”, I could never in my right mind go there or do that anyway.

 

But what is the second part of the meaning? This time, instead of talking about political and corporate leadership, God is speaking to us through the Prophet about the leadership within our churches. The Bible says, “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord”. That’s us, people. It’s talking about us. Those who teach falsely and know it, and there are a dismaying number of “preachers” who do, will pay the ultimate penalty in eternity. Will we continue to commit sin after sin, hop from one affair to another, mating like rabbits as we lie, cheat and steal and think we got away with it because nobody saw us?

 

Those who do any of those things are only kidding themselves. Have our churches become a den of robbers? As long as certain preachers continue to demand 10% of everyone’s income, whether they can afford it or not, then the answer is yes. The money-changers have once again occupied the temple, and Jesus will soon return to throw them out again. Apparently these corrupt religious people didn’t learn their lesson the last time our Lord administered it 2,000 years ago. “But I have been watching, says the Lord”!

 

I prophesy right here and now to each and every one of you – God sees all of what I have just written about. He is totally fed up with everything, as am I, and judgment is coming to America and the rest of the world as a result. As I write this in the late summer of 2020, the Judgment will be forthcoming, mark my words. I can’t say when because I have not been given that much information. But I can say with certainty that hard times are coming to America. They will arrive in the forms of natural disasters, economic crashes, disease and pestilence, and numerous wars that will kill about three fifths of the global population (see Revelation 9, verses 13-16). The global wars that America has been waging for decades will come home to roost. Let’s just hope that those inside the Beltway in Washington will be the most affected by all these things, instead of the majority of the country’s population.