Sunday, June 26, 2016
Seven Hard Truths Pastors and Their Churches Need to Hear
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
There were once two parents with a little secret. They managed carefully to hold this secret down for several years. “Santa is coming!” their children sang. “It’s almost too good to believe!” With their mouths, the parents said, “How exciting!” But with their minds, they said, you’ve got the right idea: It is too good to believe. Then one day, the children came home with tear-streaks. They knew the truth. Lots of parents don’t tell their kids that Santa isn’t real. They don't tell their kids the hard truth because they're concerned: can their kid can handle the truth? You have undoubtedly noticed that our government teats us the same way about just about everything. Like kids that believe in Santa, people believe certain things about God because that’s what they’ve always been told – or because they want them to be true. You know, like, “God is good all the time”. But eventually, plodding through the mud of life, we discover the real truth: life is hard, and not everything is as it seems. Was God good when over 1,800 people drowned during Hurricane Katrina? Is He good when somebody's child dies? No, but God allows tragedy and sorrow to occur because it is in the most difficult times that God uses our misfortunes and our tragedies to strengthen us and to build our character. In the same way, at some point as a parent, you have to tell your kid the hard truth that Santa isn't real. And at some point, as pastors, we have to tell our congregations (or our readers in this case) the hard truths about God.
1) God isn't Santa
Dr. David Pendergrass articulated this hard truth well: God is not a cosmic Santa Claus. You don’t get put on a nice list for doing the “right” things and, in turn, get whatever your heart desires from God. Whenever we feel entitled to a reward, or to “what we deserve”, we cease to view God as the King of the universe and begin to view Him as our personal Santa.
2) You Won't Always Be Healed
There is so much good in praying for healing – healing for others and healing for ourselves. And while it's true that God is able to heal, he’s not obligated to. (Click to Tweet) Think about it: if God were obligated to heal and answer every prayer of healing, no one would ever die. The hard truth is that at some point, this life will end. But that’s not the end of the story. There is hope. Our great hope is not that we won't experience death, but that death is not the end of life – it's the beginning. (Click to Tweet)
3) You Won't Always Be "Blessed"
When someone says they’re “blessed,” they usually mean that they're doing well financially or their kids are on the honor roll. The implicit suggestion is that they're “blessed” because those things have happened. Conversely, if those things weren’t true, they would not be “blessed”, or at least not by human standards. Though there was a time that “blessing” and “wealth” and “good living” were tied together, I seem to recall this lesson from a Master Teacher about 2,000 years ago: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." (Matt. 5:11, NRSV) Or when this same teacher’s cousin asked for Him to save his life, and He didn’t. But instead Jesus sent word in Matthew 11: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” The hard truth is that “blessing” is not about what we have accomplished, but what God is accomplishing in & through Jesus, who resides in the hearts and minds of all who truly believe. (Click to Tweet) We're truly blessed when we are used by God for the betterment of all.
4) Church Isn't About You
It’s so easy for churches to become like country clubs. Not in the stuffy, elitist sense. But in the “church is for us” sense. It's about what we want – our preferences, our comforts. It's our little world that we control, and we determine who gets in and who stays out. But Pastor Jordan Easley says the hard truth is that church isn’t about us and our 'holy huddles'. It's about seeking and healing the lost. The church should be a refugee camp for the lost and those who are hurting. That in itself is a whole lot of people! Church is supposed to be a place where hurting people are brought in to be made well, and then sent out to bring others who are hurting back in. We weren’t brought in to simply socialize.
5) Silence is OK
Christians like the celebration of Sunday’s resurrection. After all, it's the reason Christianity exists. That said, there is great value in the silent awkwardness of Saturday – you know, the time when Jesus was in the grave, his disciples were scared out of their minds, and they all thought they had wasted the last three years of their lives backing the wrong messiah. Sometimes God is going to be silent. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t “Christian enough” or that you are somehow “broken.” It means God is being silent. And the hard truth is that silence from God is OK.
6) Christianity Isn't About a Feeling – It's About Choices
How many times have you been asked, “How can I get that fire back? I just want that awesome feeling of being connected to God!” That question usually follows some awesome spiritual experience. This question isn’t all bad – it just misses the point. When we pursue and desire the “feeling” of being on fire for God, we begin to worship that, and not God. (Click to Tweet) The hard truth is that being a Christian isn’t about getting warm fuzzies when the band is rocking, or the pastor preaches an exciting sermon. It’s about daily choosing to pick up our cross, even when we don’t feel like it.
7) There is No 3-Step Formula to Guarantee a Certain Outcome
I get it: it’s easy to help people remember and understand things by formulas and clever mnemonics. They have their place. But we must be clear: there’s no guarantee to happiness, success, a great prayer life, or anything else. The Bible doesn’t offer “a good/efficient/successful/rich life”, but “new life.” And the hard truth is that that "new life" might look different than what we might expect. We might do everything the Scriptures say and have a business fail, be poor (which is no sin), struggle with depression, and/or not become the “next big thing.” What Scripture does say is God will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18). That whatever we have to go through in life, we won’t have to go through it alone. That’s the kind of guarantee we can count on.
In closing, parents make excuses for not telling their kids about Santa – and they feel good about it. But the hard truth is this: they are lying to their kids. ? And pastors, no matter what reasons they have for not telling their people these hard truths – the end is the same: we’re lying to them. They’re going to find out eventually. The question is this: Do you want to tell them the hard truth? Or do you want them to be blindsided by it?
Monday, June 20, 2016
Should The American People Go On Strike?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
Osama bin Laden has been dead for about 4 years by now, maybe more. Meanwhile, ever greater numbers of our senior citizens are living into their 100's. America evidently is having an obesity epidemic, while 50,000 children ages 5 and under die from starvation globally each year. Imagine your child, grandchild, niece or nephew, and then multiply that by 50,000, and you get an idea of the scope of the problem. There's life and death, positive and negative, good and bad in all kinds of folks, circumstances and situations. One priest saves lepers, another abuses altar boys; one Nazi ran the ovens at Auschwitz while another hid the Jews, saving them from certain death (remember a movie called “Schindler's List”?). And when we marvel at those contradictions we have a ready explanation. There's good and bad everywhere, in all races, nations, and societies. We have yet to bridge our differences in race or culture or nationality or faith, but at least we can all agree on that simple truth while we continue to work on all the others.
We live in a 'George Jetson'-like time of instant communication, jumbo jets, digital TV and all that goes with it, social media and even (thank God!) this blog, where I can pass on to everyone what God has put on my mind and heart in the hopes of helping someone, somewhere, somehow. Nations are beginning to blur; races, ethnicities and various nationalities are mixing, our globe has shrunk to an overheated marble, yet the world seems more fractured than ever. So much divides us. What unites us? Religion? It could, but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ unites us all under his holy banner, meaning that Jesus, not religion, is the answer for me. The maximum number of plausible Gods is one (all you atheists may simply skip this sentence) as far as I'm concerned. Yet we've been waging wars for millennium over what to call Him and whether he wants his picture shown or not. But while religions can't agree on God, they're remarkably close when it comes to people. There is near universal agreement on what makes a good person.
Be kind to people, treat your neighbors well, be hospitable to strangers, love one another, live honestly, and a dozen other virtues seem to comprise some universal truth about humanity. And all societies agree on them. It's as plain as daytime in the Bible. Humankind has been speaking those words since the first philosopher carved cuneiform into clay. We must have an instinctive sense of goodness instilled into us, because we are not born that way. We also agree on what makes a bad person: The murderer, the rapist, the traitor, the manipulator, the cheat, the bully, the taker, the liar, the thief. “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matt. 6:12 NLT) We know who we are. We don't like to hurt people. We try not to cheat, lie and steal and we're ashamed of ourselves when life drives us to those ends because we have a conscience. We believe in peace on earth and goodwill towards men. And for ten thousand years we've let the bad people push us around and tell us what to do and to whom to do it. We've let them because they were bad enough to make us and we were too soft to stop them until they did terrible damage – until they simply had to be stopped, usually involuntarily.
Bad people are very hard to ignore. You can't avoid a bad person if he or she happens to be your boss at work, for example. And that happens a lot, because bad people seem disproportionately to occupy corner offices. They're the bosses, and they know how to play the cold-hearted, cynical game of office politics. That can be rough on you if you work with them (been there, done that). But bad people also know how to play the high-stakes game of national politics, and that's rough on the entire population. Bad people hate, and they convince ordinary good people to hate the same things. Oh sure, there are always a few saints who rise above the evil that bad people do, and they usually die for it. We know about them posthumously from the Bible, starting with Jesus himself, and then with 11 of the 12 apostles, followed by the stoning of Steven in Acts chapters 6-7, plus part of chapter 8.
But those weren't good people, they were great people, and we can't count on them all the time because they don't come along every day. But there are always plain old good people around, because there's good and bad in all kinds. And so this is a call to arms for good people everywhere! We have to stop following the bad people immediately. Without us, bad people have little power, they're merely annoying. Good people everywhere, I'm speaking to you even as you read this. We need to go on strike against the bad people! Let's tell the bullies and haters to leave us alone, because we don't want to have to kill any more of them. After all, that's what it takes to stop one of them. Let's laugh at their rigged economy and crooked government, reject their poisoning our environment and pumping up our kids with drugs they mostly don't need, and refuse to be provoked by their aggression. Let's tell them we won't play their deadly games anymore; let's tell them it's over! We're not sending our sons and daughters off to fight their wars anymore. We're not going to tolerate any more FBI and CIA-instigated false flag terror attacks in our cities, such as what happened in Orlando last week (it turns out at least 4 or 5 of the Orlando shooting victims, up to as many as 10 or 12, were actually shot outside the club while the shooter was still inside. Hmmm...). Don't forget, these are agent provocateurs for the same people that assassinated the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King. These are the same people who've been slowly poisoning us and our kids by fluoridating our nation's water supply for the last 75 years. If the Dark Side, Satan and his forces of evil, will do this to our nation's finest, what do you think they would do to you if you gave them the chance? Or if they took it upon themselves to come after you or your assets, such as a law enforcement or IRS operation? The average American stands a better than even chance of being killed by the police in such situations!
Maybe what we should do is give all these gun-toting, war-mongering (war mongrels?) maniacal psychopaths a large island or land mass somewhere so they can fight it out to their evil hearts' content. Eventually they will all kill each other off, and die enjoying doing so. Let's see, I'm thinking Siberia, Antarctica or maybe Greenland if it's not too small. But you know, it would apply even there, that pet theory of mine, in this hypothetical land of the damned. Some evil SOB would do something nice for some other evil SOB, probably without even realizing it. Because there's good and bad in all kinds of people. But when God made us he gave us all a free will – freedom to choose our own destinies. Why do I choose God when others don't? Why do I place my complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ? Because, although I could just go my own way and take my own chances, although I could call my own shots and make my own way, I choose Christ. I'd rather believe in Jesus and take a chance on being wrong about it, then I would not believe and take a chance on being wrong about that. Because if I or any of us is wrong about that, if we refuse to believe only to discover our mistake later, there is redemption and salvation in the former choice, but neither in the latter. Please devote your week to thinking carefully about this ultimate choice we must make. Where we spend eternity after our physical lives end will surely depend upon it.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Our presidential primaries are a farce, they've been that way for a long time, and it's up to us to change it
The Day Democracy Died
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
It has come to my attention lately that this summer's presidential conventions are likely to turn into an all-out brawl. On the Republican side you have Donald Trump's supporters vs the “anybody but Trump” brigade, while on the Democrat side we find Hillary Clinton's supporters lined up against those who are for Bernie Sanders. Caught in the middle are the American people, who really have no voice at all anymore unless we step up collectively and change this for ourselves. Take a look around you and you will find no one standing in line behind any of us eagerly waiting to do us a favor. Life isn't like that, so just forget about it. If we want change, and the American people most definitely do, we're going to have to put it in play ourselves. Let the American people take the field, then, and let us play this government for a bunch of suckers just like they did us! Give them a taste of their own medicine and see how they like that!
But the ugly truth of the matter is that the US electoral system has been exposed once again as being rigged to the point of being completely fraudulent. The discrepancies between the final vote tabulation and the exit polls are huge, with several being in excess of 10%. The New York primary was a classic example, where Bernie Sanders won 50 out of the 62 counties that are in New York state, while Hillary won the other 12. And yet Hillary Clinton was declared the winner by 6 percentage points? This is just one example, but you get the idea (what happened in California almost a week ago is another good example). Dr. Ron Paul says the American electoral system is rigged to keep “independent thinkers” from succeeding. “I see elections as so much of a charade,” the former Texas congressman said during an April 11 appearance on RT America’s “The Fishtank.” “So much deceit goes on. I’ve worked on the assumption for many, many decades, that whether there’s a Republican or a Democrat president, the people who want to keep the status quo seems to have their finger in the pot and can control things,” he said in the interview. “They just get so nervous, though, if they have an independent thinker out there — whether it’s Sanders, or Trump or Ron Paul, they’re going to be very desperate to try to change things.” He suggested that the 2016 election is “a lot more entertainment than anything else” because none of the candidates “have answers” to modern political problems. Even so, Paul interprets the success of these outsider candidates as a sign that “more people are discovering that the system is all rigged and voting is just pacification for the voters and it really doesn’t count. I don’t think there’s an easy way out for the establishment or the parties,” he noted, explaining that Democrats and Republicans would both rather risk “further alienation of the people” than allow a candidate to succeed who could shake up the system. “I was upset about it but didn’t want to waste too much energy being angry because this is the way the system works,” he said. “It’s a rotten system.”
People have to understand that the United States is NOT a democracy. It never has been, and it never will be unless we change it ourselves. The United States is also not the constitutional republic it was originally founded as either, and hasn’t been since America became a corporation that serves an oligarchy with the Act of 1871. An oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which power resides in the hands of a small number of elites within a society. The United States of America is a corporation and an oligarchy that serves a political system that lacks anything resembling true legitimacy. The political system it serves is a handful of elite families and institutions using crony politicians such as Hillary Clinton to do their bidding. In what is known as the “Act of 1871,” the Forty-First Congress of the United States officially sold out our nation to the Illuminati (or the “global bankers” if the term global banker suits you better), because the U.S. had reached unsustainable levels of debt and something had to be done (notice a pattern?). The following is from the post titled, Proof: US Congressional Record Says US is Actually a British Crown Colony Run By NWO: “The 'Act of 1871' essentially destroyed our republic, and replaced it with the Corporation of the United States. Something not taught in any history books, and certainly not taught by common core, is that the original Constitution drafted by the Founding Fathers, was written in this manner: “The Constitution for the united states of America.” The Act of 1871 altered that, and the newer version reads: “THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”” The 1871 version is the Constitution’s “corporate replacement,” and what might seem to layman like no more than mere semantics is actually a far, far bigger deal.
Save the “Conspiracy” nonsense for another time. The Act of 1871 can be downloaded and read for yourself. What Congress did by passing the Act of 1871 was create an entirely new document, a constitution for the government of the District of Columbia, an incorporated government. This newly altered Constitution was not intended to benefit the Republic. It benefits only the corporation of the United States of America and operates entirely outside the original Constitution. Instead of having absolute and unalienable rights guaranteed under the original Constitution, “we the people” now have “relative” rights or privileges. One example is the Sovereign’s right to travel, which has now been transformed (under corporate government policy) into a “privilege” that requires citizens to be licensed. By passing the Act of 1871, Congress committed TREASON against the American people who were Sovereign under the grants and decrees of the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution. Not only that, but the Bible has some scripture that fits this very closely, such as Proverbs chapter 14, verse 31: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Deuteronomy 15: 4 says “there should be no poor people among you.....”, and again in Isaiah 61: 1 it reads, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. Who among us is “the poor and the needy”? Just about everybody these days. Are we being oppressed? Certainly, because we no longer have any say in our government, and because our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are being taken away!
This is a dangerous trend, and it must be reversed if what is left of our country is going to be preserved. Of course, election irregularities are nothing new in America. There was the Bush/Gore debacle of 2,000, which exposed the US electoral system as being like something out of the 1950's. But these same people are the ones who brought us endless wars in the 21st century, Waco Texas in 1993, Iran Contra from the 1980's, the Watergate break-ins of the 1970's, and the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King from the 1960's. So, you see, we will never know who really won the presidential primaries, and it may not matter anyway. Today's American political candidates are selected, not elected. The whole electoral, economic and political systems are rigged against us in favor of the top 1%, or maybe the top .01%. At any rate, it's looking more and more like “we the people” will have to stop this by force. As I see it, we have run out of options. After all, was it not Jesus himself who said, “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” Got yours?
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Social and Economic Justice and Progressive Christianity
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
For this week's message, I'm going to be doing a bit of a departure from my usual Jesus-following, peace-loving old hippie stuff that I usually write. It's not that I'm losing my faith or deviating from it, it's just that there's something going on in my life that needs to be shared because this information is potentially beneficial to all who read this. First I wish to give credit where credit is due, and that is to my new friend Ms. Monica Ball, otherwise known as “Real Talk With Monica” on the radio, as well as You Tube and Facebook (@Monica_RealTalk). After meeting her at Atlanta's Piedmont Park while I was promoting my books, it was she who suggested that I write about some things I am currently going through during a phone conversation a few days later. What in the world am I talking about here? Debt!! No, I'm not going to try and sell you a book about how to invest in real estate or so-called “precious metals” (as far as I'm concerned, the only truly precious thing that exists is the person and the deity of Jesus Christ). What I am going to write about are two things: How to sue your creditors, and how to legally replace a revoked drivers license. I'd better start at the beginning. I'm not trying to elicit sympathy from anyone, but I was recently the victim of an elaborate on-line check scheme that caused my one lone bank account to get emptied out. Poof, all my money was gone, end of story. In a way, this is an embarrassing thing to have to write about, but write I must so that no other nonprofits or individuals get victimized by this scheme.
It all started with what looked like a donation, the first I'd had in a long time. I can't say how much it was, but the check was over $1,000.00. It was a cashier's check drawn on a bank in Oklahoma. Before I deposited it, I verified it was OK, so everything seemed fine. Ordinarily I would have jumped in my car and scooted on down to the bank to deposit the check. But in my case I took the bus instead because I'm temporarily prevented from holding a drivers license, but through no fault of my own. I got a speeding ticket in Murphy, North Carolina back around 1994-95. I don't remember exactly when but it was in the fall. I paid off the ticket a couple of weeks later and moved on. OK, now let's fast forward to November 2008 – my Georgia driver's license is expiring. So I dutifully go and wait in line to renew it only to find out my license is suspended. The reason I was given was – you guessed it – my old traffic ticket in North Carolina. Their computer showed the ticket was unpaid even though I had paid it off well over 20 years ago. Now I have law enforcement from both North Carolina and Georgia telling me it will cost me $550.00 altogether to get my license back. Unfortunately for me, I'm a disabled retiree, and my income is woefully insufficient to be able to pay these legalized extortionists. My drivers license is now revoked as a result, it's been that way for nearly 8 years, and for now there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it. So, I don't sweat about it, and this is my life as it currently is. But, as the apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament of the Bible, “When I am the weakest, then God becomes that much stronger” (paraphrased). Now, hold that thought for a minute while I finish my short story about the D-word, debt.
I was going through a dry spell financially, so I welcomed that check. I went to the ATM at the downtown branch of the credit union I belong to the following morning and deposited the check. That was on a Saturday. The following Monday afternoon I was sitting at my computer working. I get a frantic email from the lady who sent the donation the previous Friday. She has been in a real bad auto accident, and her car is totaled. She has been injured, she wrote, but she will probably be OK “eventually”. But in the meantime, her purse with all her money and credit cards are in her wrecked car, and so is her medical insurance card. She wants to know if I can send her some of the money she donated back to her so she can pay a down payment on her hospital bill. I thought about it for a minute or so, and it seemed to be a reasonable request at the time, so I agreed, and I wired her the amount she asked for. This turned out to be a major mistake on my part. As you have guessed by now, the check eventually bounced, a process that took an entire week.
So the next thing I know, I'm on my way to a Fulton County government building here in Atlanta to get a copy of the police report, which I then brought to one of the branch managers at my credit union at that time in the hopes of recovering the rest of the money that was in my account. Instead, they want me to repay the money, but I explained that I was retired and on disability and so I had no way to repay the money. Once I saw that the credit union was going to come after me for the money, I opened another account at a different credit union and changed my direct deposit info. When it came time for my disability check to arrive early the following month, my old credit union withheld it. This, of course, left me with no money to pay rent or to buy groceries and medicine, an impossible situation if ever there was one. I would like to publicly thank the church where I attend and where I have the privilege of playing keyboards every Sunday, none other than the Prayer of Faith Church of God in Christ in West Side Atlanta for their invaluable assistance during this trying period in my life.
What ultimately happened within days is I ended up being forced to take out a loan from this same credit union so I could have money to live on. Even then, they still withheld my disability check and I only got a portion of the remaining balance in question. So I ended up being forced – coerced, actually – to take out a loan while having over half of the amount withheld for what amounted to fees and penalties. So, I am suing them this coming week. The paperwork is almost ready, all I've got to do is grab a bus downtown (I live about 1.5 miles from the Atlanta Falcons new stadium, so it's a short ride) and go file the papers at the court house. You know, you can sue your creditors, it's perfectly legal. Moreover, contrary to what these lawyers who advertise on TV are telling people, filing bankruptcy is NOT the only way out of a financially impossible situation. Find something in the loan agreements that is disputable. In my case, since I'm a disabled person, I can and will sue for discrimination as well as for exploitation of the disabled. In this case I am suing my former credit union, who capitalized on the fact that I was a crime victim without the resources to defend myself, and who pilfered my disability check without any due process whatsoever. Not only that, but I'm acting as my own attorney because:
 I can't afford to hire an attorney, and
 I've done this before. I once sued Pay-pay in small claims court and won a settlement while acting as my own attorney. It's not that difficult to do if you do your homework first.
Got a student loan you can't repay? Sue the financial institution who made the loan and charge them with “predatory lending”. Ditto for any other loans you may have, including your mortgage, and that's just one example. You can keep your creditors tied up in court for months, even longer, so you can give yourself some financial breathing room. Don't worry about acting as your own attorney, your suit in Small Claims Court will most likely never go to trial anyway. It will be settled out of court, or through an arbitration process that is pretty simple and straightforward. Oh, and what about my drivers license? I'm having my name legally changed, and then I am going to get a new drivers license in that name (although I recommend getting a passport in that new name. I already looked it up, and it's perfectly legal in all 50 states so long as you stop using your old name permanently. (Disclaimer: I strongly advise all who read this to do this legally to avoid any unwanted contact with law enforcement. Check your local laws before proceeding).
Social and economic injustice arises when the governmental and economic systems become rigged against the people and in favor of the wealthiest Americans, which has become the case today. I have openly and passionately stood against social and economic injustice in all its forms for the entire five years that I have been a Web minister and preacher. One of the ways I can do so is to write about different ways one can legally circumvent injustice in order to obtain justice. By posting this, I hope I helped somebody somewhere.