Thursday, September 28, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Sunday, September 24, 2017
A Word of Warning From the Lord For the USA
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
I'm going to do something that I've done before on this website; exercising one of the chief gifts of the Spirit as taught by the apostle Paul – the gift of prophecy, one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (see 1st Corinthians 12, verses 7-11). First, for my newer readers, let me point out that prophecy doesn't mean being able to foretell the future. That's called divination, which is based on sorcery, which is of the occult. Prophecy, on the other hand, simply means affirmatively declaring the Word of God, or of conveying the will of God and letting it be known with precision and insight. For example, if I say, “Jesus will return on Christmas Eve”, that's a prediction of the future, and in this case a pretty bad one. But if I say, “Everyone act, think and live as if Jesus will return this Christmas, because it is the Lord himself who reminds you to keep yourself ready for His return – for He will return at an hour when many do not expect him” – then I have prophesied the Word of God by allowing myself to be used as a vessel for God's Word to humankind, or as a conduit for God's awesome power (which is beyond all human imagination or comprehension). Although I'm sure there will be some who will strongly disagree with my interpretations of Biblical prophecy contained herein, I feel compelled to warn all who read this that judgment is coming to the USA. Indeed, I would be derelict in my duties as a Web pastor and ambassador for Christ if I neglected to warn all who will heed my warning. And so allow me a few paragraphs and several minutes of your time to relate what I believe is this important Word from the Lord God Almighty through his Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was slain and yet lives!
As it was in the times of the prophets of old, so it is today – many people are perishing due to a lack of knowledge, or misinformation, about God. One thing I'm certain about – America's days as a superpower, both militarily and economically, are just about over. Don't any of you see what is happening all around you? Your government is printing money at supersonic speed to keep its rigged capitalist economic system – a system based on debt and greed that is a laughingstock up in heaven and down in hell – from imploding! Interest on America's “national debt” has been accruing at a faster rate than the principal can be paid down. It is as plain and bright as the daytime sunshine that our rigged pyramid scheme economic system has run its course. It will soon be exactly as it was written by the apostle John, “In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen, I am not a widow, and I will never mourn'. Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning, and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry, 'Woe! Woe, oh great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'” (Revelation chapter 18, verses 7-10)
Is there anyone who still doubts that this passage of Scripture was written about our country, the United States? Go back and read that again, or better yet, read Revelation chapter eighteen in its entirety – it's all right there in black and white. What else could it be? The US remains the wealthiest nation on earth, and the materialism of her people is an offense to God. Moreover, Jesus condemned materialism (see Matthew 6, verses 19-21; Luke 6; 24-26)! So how else is the US government sinning against God? The US dollar, or more accurately the blistering rate the Federal Reserve is printing it, makes a major devaluation of America's currency likely, possibly even in the near future. Also, the US banking system is based on “fractional reserve lending”, which is “usury”, or money lending with interest. The Bible says unambiguously the charging of interest is a sin (see Exodus 22, verses 22-27). That means if the US does not repent of these egregious sins and get its house in order, God will punish our country with more economic hardship, natural disasters and even plagues. I know there are those who will not take my warning seriously, but I remind you that the future of our country, not to mention your very soul, is at stake. I do not speak for myself, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ speaks through me. I am merely a conduit for His awesome power.
We have taken the earth that God created and ruined it. We were originally put in charge of the earth, to “subdue it” (see Genesis 1: 28), but humankind has done an atrocious job, with the ongoing nuclear reactor leak at Fukushima, Japan being a prime example. Everything is polluted, even our own bodies. Oil residue still exists on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and western Florida, the seafood is contaminated with mercury, our livestock are catching deadly new strains of the flu, and our IQ's become ever more diminished due to ingesting fluoridated water for generations. Autism, once thought to have originated from childhood vaccines, is now being more correctly understood as having environmental rather than medical causes and origins. We're doing it to ourselves. And all the while, the world's bee population is being decimated. That in and of itself is a disaster in the making.
Hard times are coming, of that we can all be sure. God has shown me (yes He has!) that gas rationing and food rationing are both on America's horizon. Poverty will increase by leaps and bounds, creating a permanent underclass of Americans who will become the spearhead of a nonviolent Second American Revolution. Civil unrest is coming, the likes of which haven't been seen since the 1960's. Rioting may occur in (hopefully) isolated areas, and people will stay barricaded in their homes and apartments for days and weeks at a time. With 70% of America's economy dependent on consumer spending, this is an ominous possibility to say the least. If and when the dollar collapses – a frightening possibility – all these things will be much worse (God forbid). The Bible warns us that “a day is coming when no one will be able to work”.We have been taking our privileged lives for granted for too long. God is a patient and loving God who is slow to anger but swift and sure regarding his punishment for those who willfully disobey. When we take a look around us, we see our neighborhoods, subdivisions, schools, churches, businesses, and industries, and all the crumbling infrastructure associated with them. Yet I am warning you all that even the tallest tower – which here in Atlanta is just over 52 stories – will not be left standing upon the arrival of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord. It is only then, when the arrival of Christ Jesus splits the Mount of Olives in two, that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Those who have been disregarding my warnings are just about out of time.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Free sample from "Cannabis Legalization and the Bible" by Rev. Paul J. Bern
This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the 'drug war' is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!!
Imagine if America's incarcerated population were its own country. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than three million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world. A population of 3 million is a lot – enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?
 Population size: As a country – as opposed to a prison system – Incarceration Nation is on the small side. Nonetheless, a population of 2.4 million is perfectly respectable: Incarceration Nation has a larger population than about 50 other countries, including Namibia, Qatar, Gambia, Bahrain and Iceland.
 Geographic area: There are more than 4,500 prisons in the United States. Let’s assume that each of those prisons takes up about half a square mile of land – a reasonable (and probably quite low) estimate given that most prisons are, for security reasons, surrounded by some empty space. That gives Incarceration Nation an estimated land area of about 2,250 square miles: small, but still larger than Brunei, Bahrain and Singapore.
 Population density: No matter how you look at it, Incarceration Nation is a crowded place. If we assume a land area of 2,250 square miles, it has a population density of roughly 1,067 people per square mile, a little higher than that of India. In 2011, federal prisons were operating 39 percent above capacity; in many state systems, overcrowding was much worse. This figure remains largely unchanged.
 A nation of immigrants: Like many of the smaller Gulf States, Incarceration Nation relies almost entirely on immigration to maintain its population. You might even say that Incarceration Nation is a nation of displaced persons: most of its residents were born far away from Incarceration Nation, which has a nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.
 Birthright citizenship: An estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in Incarceration Nation. Most are “deported” within months, generally landing with foster families. But Incarceration Nation does have its own form of birthright citizenship, if you can call it that: as many as 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent end up incarcerated themselves at some point.
 Gender balance: International attention to gender imbalances has tended to focus on China, India and other states, but Incarceration Nation has the most skewed gender ratio of any country on Earth: men outnumber women by a ratio of about 12 to 1.
 Racial and ethnic makeup: If Incarceration Nation were located in a geographical region matching its racial and ethnic makeup, it would probably be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps near Brazil. Roughly 40 percent of the incarcerated population is of African descent, another 20 percent is of Hispanic descent, and the remaining 40 percent are Caucasian or mixed. For the average American, this means that one’s odds of spending time in Incarceration Nation depend greatly on gender and race: a white woman has only a one in 111 lifetime chance of ending up incarcerated, while a black man has a whopping one in three chance.
 Health: One study found that the incarcerated are “more likely to be afflicted with infectious disease and other illnesses associated with stress.” More than half of Incarceration Nation’s citizens are mentally ill, with depression rates roughly on a par with those experienced by citizens of Afghanistan.
 Per Capita Spending: Judged by per capita government spending, Incarceration Nation is a rich country: its government spends an average of about $31,000 per year on each incarcerated citizen. Internationally, only little Luxembourg spends as much on its citizens as Incarceration. Some people make a lot of money from Incarceration Nation. Incarceration Nation employs about 800,000 people as prison guards, administrators and the like – almost as many people as are employed in the entire U.S. automobile industry. But the real money goes to the operators of private prisons and the companies that make use of prison labor. Large private prison companies (such as CCA, the Geo Group, and Cornell Companies) boast impressive annual revenues. In 2015, for instance, CCA had annual revenues of about $1.79 billion.
 Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, employs 8 percent of “work eligible” federal prisoners. Hourly wages range from 23 cents an hour – about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh – to a princely $1.35 for “premium” prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers. Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR’s largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR’s annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD. No one likes to talk about this, of course: “We sell products made by prison labor” isn’t the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know – as an online video promoting UNICOR’s call-center services boasts – prison labor is “the best-kept secret in outsourcing.”
The U.S. Civil War, which was fought to abolish slavery, was not really that long ago. Having grown up in Cincinnati, I clearly recall the Ohio River was a dividing line between North and South, and so when the war was finally over, many families had veterans – and casualties – on both sides. It is a vivid reminder of the close links that bind this country to its history of slavery, which still haunts our national conscience. We maintain what can be only be called legalized slavery today – the utilization of prison labor for public and private profit. Many, if not most, of these inmates are themselves the descendants of slaves. And they are making fewer license plates and more defense electronics and oil spill cleanups. Today prison labor is a multibillion dollar business in the U.S. We also have the highest prison population in the world. Are economic incentives at the heart of our sky-high incarceration rates? Today, the U.S. prison system delivers profits to both government corporations and private enterprises in several ways:
- Through the use of inmate labor to produce goods and services in federal and state prisons.
- Through the contracting of this labor to private companies at below-market wages.
- By privatization of the prisons and detainment centers themselves. Given these perverse incentives to maintain a high inmate population, is it any wonder that the number of prisoners and the length of their sentences – Americans comprise 5 percent of the world's total population but 25 percent of the world's prison population – have skyrocketed since privatization began in 1984?
- Number of inmates. From 1920 to 2006, the general U.S. population grew only 2.8 times in the same period, but the number of inmates increased more than 20 times.
One might ask if this population surge could be due to a sudden increase in violent crime in America. A much smaller percentage of prisoners than one would imagine have histories of violence. Just three percent of those in Federal prisons, and a third of those in state prisons, have been convicted of violent crimes. A majority of those in city and county prisons are merely awaiting trial and cannot make bail. As any policeman will tell you, much criminality would be eliminated if drug laws were changed. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of the US today – perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more African-American men in the grip of the criminal-justice system – in prison, on probation, or on parole – than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America – more than six million – than were in the Gulags of Siberia under Stalin at its height. America has now created its own series of Gulags and it makes much more than just license plates. Of the 2.3 million prisoners now being held, more than 100,000 work in federal and state prison industry programs. This doesn't mean the usual cooking, cleaning or peeling of potatoes, but work that produces products for sale – about $2.4 billion dollars annually. This industry even has its own trade shows! The government, particularly the Department of Defense, is the biggest customer for the federal prison labor. Most military clothing, furniture, and helmets are made by Federal inmates. It is very likely that they made the furniture at your local post office. Calling directory assistance? You might well be talking to a felon. Federal prison workers, however, are the envy of state inmates, some of whom earn nothing for 60-plus-hour weeks. Texas and Georgia offer no compensation at all. (It is no surprise that these states have highly privatized prison industries as well.)
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Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Setting the Record Straight Regarding
the 'Pre-tribulation Rapture'
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
This week I have undertaken the task of setting the record straight about the so-called “pre-tribulation Rapture”, and how this belief is being disseminated on alternative and social media in a way that I suspect to be erroneous. Although my opening sentence may seem judgmental to some, that's not my intention at all. Any fool can mask their foolish and rash nature behind a judgmental spirit, but this week's commentary is more of an appeal and an outreach to all those who are seeking the truth about all this speculation about “the Rapture”. It turns out this is critically important information to possess.
The origin of the 'pre-tribulation Rapture' can be found in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13-18, and continuing into 1st Thessalonians 5, verses 1-3. It reads as follows: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are left alive, who are left by the coming of the Lord, will certainly not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now, brothers, about times and dates we need not write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Like the apostle Paul who wrote the quote above, I too am unwilling that anyone should lack knowledge of the truth, knowing that the Bible is in fact the ultimate definition of truth. By the way, the apostle Paul's term “those who fall asleep”, is an ancient expression of the dying process. Paul's next sentence is telling – “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” This, my dear readers, is the very essence of the Christian faith, and it defines the payoff for unwavering faith in Jesus. Anyone who does not believe Jesus died on the cross and then rose again on the morning of the third day does not have eternal life in and through him. Period, end of story!! Those of you reading this who do not yet believe, well, you have yourselves a decision to make – an affirmative decision for Christ Jesus our Lord!! Don't take too long thinking it over, either, because – as you all will soon see by reading this – we are rapidly running out of time.
“While people are saying, “peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Interestingly enough, the United Nations has decreed the year 2017-2018 as the “Year of Peace”. Now let me share another quote about the Great Tribulation period from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and I quote: “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolation's have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven'. In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the Temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” As you can see by the text I used, the Book of Daniel is a deeply prophetic book, one of the most prophetic in the entire Bible IMHO. Although it is a complex book on several levels, let me cut to the chase right here for the sake of brevity and simplicity. “One 'seven'” is a reference to a command given by the Lord to the ancient Israelites who had taken possession of the Land of Canaan, to let the land lie fallow every seventh year in order to give it a chance to replenish itself of minerals and other nutrients (see Leviticus 25, verses 1-7). This was, after all, an entirely agrarian economy.
The “ruler who will come” is none other than the Antichrist himself. His confirmation of a “covenant for one 'seven'” is the stipulation of his 'authority' for the seven years that he will rule the earth. Although there is insufficient space here to explain this, the 7-year rule of the Antichrist will commence at the end of World War Three (see Ezekiel chapters 7, 38 and 39, as well as Revelation 18 for the full story on that). The Antichrist, not surprisingly, will rule from Jerusalem, since America will have been attacked but not entirely destroyed (see again Ezekiel 7 and Revelation 18). But at this point the USA will have ceased from being a world power, and the US dollar will no longer be the world's reserve currency. He will rule for the first half of his seven-year reign because he will build the Third Temple and allow Old Testament-style animal sacrifices to be performed there. But due to many loud objections to the sacrifices of helpless animals, at the mid-point of his reign the Antichrist will order the sacrifices to be stopped so that he should be worshiped as God in the Third Temple. This is the “abomination that causes desolation” Daniel wrote about, and Jesus quotes from that very verse in Matthew 24, which we'll get to in just a minute.
“In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” The Bible specified this because it is at this mid-point in the Great Tribulation period that the Rapture of the true Church, which is also called 'the Bride of Christ', actually takes place. To prove that we're all still going to be here for the first part of the Great Tribulation, allow me to show you several verses from Revelation, the last book in the Bible, and I quote: “Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?' The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for 42 months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints, and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names are not written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear.” (Revelation 13, verses 4-9)
“Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” If military operations are going on in the Last Days we live in, and they certainly are today, this most likely is a reference to a global military force that has no boundaries in a world where the sovereignty of nations is no longer observed. I can't speak for anyone else, but this sounds and reads like global government to me. 'The Beast', then, is obviously the enforcement arm of the military forces of the Antichrist. “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for 42 months.” Forty two months is exactly 3 and a half years, representing the final period of rule by the Antichrist, the infamous world dictator who will declare himself to be God incarnate. What he will be instead is the devil incarnate, someone to be despised and vigorously opposed by all the true Christian believers of the world! Conversely, the length of Jesus' ministry here on earth was also 3 ½ years.
“He was given power to make war against the saints, and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” OK people, right here is the first example of the proof I mentioned above regarding the timing of the Rapture of the Bride of Christ. If the Church has already been 'raptured' away before the Tribulation starts, or at its beginning, then how come the Antichrist can make “war against the saints”? He can't make war against the true believers if they're no longer here, so obviously during the earlier part of the 7-year Tribulation period the Christian believers will still be on earth. This also means that, as a result of the refusal of the True Believers to accept the mark of the beast, the number of his name or to worship his image, Christians will have to set up large underground networks to obtain food, shelter, and in many cases for their own safety. Christianity as a Church and as a belief system will have to go underground in order to survive during this extraordinarily dangerous time, and all the children will have to be home-schooled. But if the parents explain these things to their children, the children will understand they are part of something much bigger than themselves, and they will embrace it wholeheartedly if encouraged. The Spirit of the Lord will make it so!
And now for the third and last part of this week's commentary, to find out if Christian believers will have to endure part of the Great Tribulation – and the persecution that will surely accompany it – let's go straight to the source and read what Jesus had to say about this very topic, and I quote: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and be put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24, verses 9-14)
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and be put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” OK, if the Rapture of the Church is supposed to happen before the Great Tribulation starts, then why did Jesus tell the apostles we (including themselves) will be persecuted and put to death? Obviously both can't be happening at once, that makes no sense. The answer is exactly what the prophet Daniel foretold. At the midpoint of the 7-year reign of the Antichrist, when the sacrifices to God are forcibly stopped and he sets himself up in the yet-to-be-built Third Temple as the personification of God, that's when God puts his foot down and says, “That's it!! I am finished with you!!”. But before he initiates the punishment of humankind for worshiping the beast, his image or the number of his name, and for following the False Prophet, he will first take his Bride out of harm's way. That's when the True Church will be taken up, and so to be with the Lord forever. Therefore, as the apostle Paul wrote, “encourage one another with these words”.
“Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Is there an increase in wickedness today? You better believe there is! Has the love of many grown cold as a result? Without a doubt – people today often stay single because they have a hard time trusting others due to negative experiences in their past relationships. By the same token, people's love for God, for Jesus and all he represents, and their compassion and empathy for others has also run cold. Besides the reasons I already stated, this is because everyone today is so financially strapped that they don't even have the ability to help the less fortunate even if they really want to – as they should. So everyone is scared of giving, scared of loving, and scared of trusting. This truly is a sorry state of affairs for us to be in. But as verse 14 says, once the Gospel is preached throughout the earth, then – and only then – the end of the age will come. Not the end of the world, mind you. The earth isn't going to collide with another planet, so you can put those fears to rest! But the end of the world as we have known it will end. This will be a world without wars, a world where companies operate as either nonprofits, co-ops or employee-owned businesses, a world where higher education and medical care are all free of charge, and where economic parity or equality will be the law of the land! And Jesus will be in charge of it all from the world's new capital city, Jerusalem! But we have to go through a storm first, the likes of which none of us has ever seen before. But if we hold on together and ride this storm out, eternal peace and tranquility awaits us on the other side!
Monday, September 11, 2017
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Hurricanes Are In the Bible, and So Is America's Judgment
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
Hurricanes are arriving as twins! Soon they may arrive in three's, I don't know. Hopefully we should be reminded to stop and see what the Bible says about things like this. After all, to have so many storms happening at once is most unusual. Here are a few scriptures to seek God about, starting with two of the major prophets from the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Isaiah. In this first example from Jeremiah 23, verses 17-20 it says, “They keep saying to those who despise me, ' The Lord says, 'You will have peace' , and to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord, to see or hear his word? Who has listened and heard his Word? See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purpose of his heart. In the days to come you will understand it clearly.”
Here in the 2nd example from Isaiah 40, verses 21-24 the Word of the Lord reads, “Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God – the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent before them. He judges the people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They barely get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and their work withers. The wind carries them off like straw.” Every few years, or maybe another decade or so, another hurricane comes along and really clobbers the southeastern and Gulf coasts of the US. Soon after, the rebuilding process starts, often taking many years, and everything is fine until the next one comes along, which restarts the whole cycle yet again. Isn't this exactly what the Bible was talking about? Of course it is!
Jeremiah 25: 32 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Look! A disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.” Storms have come and gone before, America is only the latest target selected by God. But why America, and why now? Just think about it for a minute – even if some disagree with what I'm about to write. This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but the ugly truth is that America as a country stands judged by God. Our country is the world's largest exporter of armaments and weapons of every kind, we produce by far the most pornography, and we have the largest rates of murder and incarceration in the world. We are the world's largest polluter of the air, water and soil. In fact, the United States is systematically poisoning the entire planet! We have by far the world's largest and most formidable military, and when we send our sons and daughters overseas to fight America's illicit wars, fully 20% of them return as psychiatric basket cases. The reason for this is that they have witnessed killing on a scale so massive that it is beyond their comprehension. Forced outside the scope of their experiences, some of these well-meaning individuals simply never make it back home again. Their brains are still off somewhere else, fighting a battle that only exists in between their ears. This, my dear readers, is what war does to people! It shatters the human psyche beyond repair, which is why we must be vigorously opposed to warfare! Ban war forever!
So it is for these reasons that God has brought, and will continue to bring, judgment upon this country for its crimes, and judgment on those people who stand with her as she does so! Is this insufficient for anyone? Does anybody need still more reasons why God would punish America? We have more abortions than any other country. One fourth of our children are currently homeless. For most of them, their free school lunch is the only food they have access to. Institutionalized racism still abounds in the US and nothing is being done about it. Our banking system is completely fraudulent and flies in the face of Scriptures (see Exodus 22: 25-27, etc.). 99% of America's wealth is in the hands of the top 1% of its citizens, and inequality is out of control as a result. Our country is populated by materialistic people who are addicted to their phones, to drugs or alcohol, or to pornography, gambling, or binge watching their big screen TV's while they sit on their couches mesmerized by trite events outside the scope of reality. And if that's not enough for them, there's always Virtual Reality that they can play instead. We have become like demanding little spoiled brats who insist on being entertained 24-7!
Unfortunately for all these people, and what the majority of them haven't even stopped to consider, is that when we are engaged in all these activities our attention is turned away from the One who made us, who watches over us daily while being like a dad for those who have none, and who loves us intensely – believe it or not! Our attention to all the things I mentioned above diverts us away from paying attention to God. Moreover, those who are doing any or all the other things I mentioned are ignoring God and his guidance, and have no relationship with Jesus Christ who saved their very souls! These intense and powerful hurricanes – and there will be plenty more, mark my words – are a warning and a judgment from God! We are to stop living only for ourselves and start living for others! Otherwise, America will be struck by still more disasters in the weeks, months and years to come. What we should be doing instead is devoting all our spare time to serving Christ by service to others. Jesus did just that in Matthew's gospel chapter 8, verses 23-27, and I quote: “Then he got into the boat, and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'”
The disciples knew they were in a situation with no clear exit, that they were caught in a storm from which they could not escape. Like those currently stuck in Florida without the means to escape hurricane Irma, or those in Texas with Harvey, all they can do is seek help from the Lord, and to ask for his mercy upon us. Notice that Jesus was asleep during all but the last few moments of the fierce storm before saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”, before he calmed the storm. I think that's what Jesus wants to tell everyone in Florida and Georgia. Only He can rebuke the wind and the waves. Even the wind and the waves have sense enough to obey Him. Shouldn't we?
Sunday, September 3, 2017
How Natural Disasters Can Strengthen Our Faith
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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By now everyone knows about the disastrous mega-storm named Harvey and its aftermath. This has been without a doubt the worst natural disaster America has ever experienced, certainly in my lifetime. Not since Hurricane Sandy has the US seen flooding this disastrous. Only the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan several years ago was a still greater disaster, and to this day radioactive water continues to leak into the Pacific ocean from northeastern Japan, poisoning the planet! We were luckier this time than the victims of hurricane Sandy since the death toll from Harvey is about half of that of Sandy. Moreover, there were tens of thousands who died in the Japanese disaster before that. With a tidal wave of insurance claims by Japanese home owners and business owners that exceeded $100 billion USD, the triple disasters of an earthquake, a tsunami and the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan is her worst disaster since World War Two. However, hurricane Harvey's damage will easily cost 3-5 times as much to rebuild as the Japanese disaster.
Back in 2013, America had a series of tornadoes sweep across the mid-western and southern US from Alabama and Georgia all the way up to Ohio and Indiana, claiming 31 lives and causing many millions of dollars in damages. During times like these many wonder why God allows such disasters to occur. It seems to those lacking in faith that if God were the all-loving and all-powerful God that He allegedly is, then such disasters would never happen in the first place. I completely disagree with this idea, which from my vantage point is based on insufficient or incorrect teaching combined with misguided and/or dumbed-down secular education! God takes us through hard times and allows us to go through all kinds of trials and hardship – even persecution within supposedly “Christian” churches such as I have previously experienced – to build and strengthen our character and our minds, and to teach us to have resolve and great fortitude. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the early Roman church that “persecution builds character, and strong character builds hope, and hope builds patience.” And the apostle James wrote long ago, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1, verses 2-3) So, to go through hardship is to be in growth while engaging in personal enrichment. That is why, in times like these, so many people find comfort in their faith.
Whenever disasters like this occur, I go back to the Bible to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert and back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses. "And lo, the Lord God passed by. There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake." To me, that is the key: the Lord was not in the earthquake in Japan. He wasn't in Hurricane Sandy's mighty winds, and wasn't in the drenching of Harvey either, although it is easy to see why many would disagree. Natural disasters are usually acts of nature, but they can be acts of God, too. In fact, the Bible lists a fair number of examples, with the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah being among the most prominent. But God cares about the eternal well-being of all people. Mother nature, on the other hand, is blind and an equal-opportunity destroyer. Where and when is God present in the hardest hit areas of the US mid-Atlantic and New England region today? Where is God in the leftover environmental and collateral damage of Fukushima? Where was He when those tornadoes leveled parts of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia? 'I want to know where God is in all this', many have said this past week.
The answer to that question is, He is present in the courage and resolve of people to carry on their lives after these tragedies, and in the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed who vow to rebuild, whose loved ones have been swept away and whose homes were destroyed. God is still present in the goodness, kindness and generosity from people all over the world who reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid and to pray for them (hopefully a lot!). How can people do such things if God were not at work in them to lend a counterweight to the devastating burden of a natural disaster? He is present in the human empathy and compassion of the thousands of volunteers who are helping with the cleanup in the greater Houston area, not counting all the other places from western Louisiana west to Corpus Christi, where selfless people working without any expectation of compensation are currently laboring to help these most unfortunate people, the majority of whom are in dire straits.
For believers and non-believers alike, there is no satisfactory answer for why we suffer. Each person has to come to grips with that fact of life in their own way. It’s not as if some magic answer can be found within humanity. But the idea of God suffering along with us while possessing unfathomable sympathy and endless love for us all can be very helpful to say the least. Jesus followers like myself believe that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, who suffered unimaginably extreme pain and then died on the cross, only to rise from the dead on the morning of the third day. At the moment of death, Jesus on the cross cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27: 46) Christians do not worship an aloof and impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer. People can relate more easily to a God who understands them, and whose suffering 2,000 years ago on the cross makes the trauma of any natural disaster seem like child's play.
Where is God right now? God is right there in the midst of people who are grieving and sorrowful. In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me in this and that I’m not facing my struggles alone. Oftentimes people become much closer to Jesus in times of sorrow or tragedy. They find that they are able to meet Him in new ways. Why? Because when our defenses are down and we’re more vulnerable, God can open up our hearts more easily. It’s not that God gets closer to us, it’s that we become more open so that we are drawn closer to him.
These natural disasters have become the collective responsibility of all humankind to mobilize our compassion and resources to ease the pain of the people who have suffered. There are those who say such disasters are the result of the sins of those who were victims, while there are others who disagree. I don't care to address that issue here except to say that America, from the leadership on down, is in so much sin that it collectively needs some serious repentance. There can be no doubt that the American Empire is in need of some restraint. By the same token, I want to be clear that none of the hurricane victims “deserved” these disasters because of anything they said or did. Rather, I see these kinds of tragedies as being part test and part rebuke from God.
I firmly believe that God tests those He loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and be cognizant of the fact that we have a moral obligation to support those in need. These kinds of calamities should (hopefully) motivate more of us to act in positive ways. They should strengthen our faith in God and in his goodness, particularly when we see evidence of Him in the rebuilding efforts that are already underway, not to mention all the volunteers and donations that are pouring in. We attribute the things we don’t understand to God's limitless wisdom and comfort ourselves that he is with us and he loves us, so there must be some meaning in what has happened, even if it is beyond our comprehension here at this time.
We are trained by life and by our faith in Christ that every suffering, whether big or small, brings us closer to God’s love, his mercy and forgiveness, even to the extent that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5: 3). So you can clearly see that those who are the most dispirited by these natural disasters and related misfortune will always wind up being the most blessed because of it. That's how God works. These times of suffering give us an opportunity to demonstrate our generosity, patience and faith In doing so we become closer to God by our service to humanity. Every natural disaster we experience challenges us as God’s trustees on this Earth, showing us that we should continue to study and explore ways of safeguarding humankind from being subjected to this kind of devastation. It is the collective duty of all humankind to put resources into this and advance our understanding of how to respond to these disasters in a scientific way while constantly maintaining our Spiritual connections with Christ – while never letting go of either.
As we contemplate the great number of people who have suffered and died in these tragedies, we may feel very strongly that a part of ourselves has also died due to our family ties and interconnections. The word for this is 'empathy'. The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humanity, for all who worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of the universe. The human species and the planet Earth are one body comprising one living environment. What happens to one part of humanity happens to the whole of humanity. Events such as these remind us of the temporary nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love God first by believing in Jesus and then to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died. We can live in such a way that they are continuing to live in us but more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, savoring every minute of life available to us on their behalf as well as our own. Anyone claiming to be a Christian, but who is unaffected by or laughs at the misfortune of others, is as phony as a 3 dollar bill, and deep down inside they know it too. We don't have much time left. The second coming of Christ is likely imminent! When He returns, the first thing we will be asked has nothing to do with our religious beliefs. Jesus will first ask us, 'What did you do for others, and how did you go about it?'. We will all be commanded to give an account of ourselves, how we lived our lives, and particularly how we treated others. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, and that is perfectly applicable to natural disasters and how well we serve those victims.
I don’t believe God wanted any of these disasters to happen. I don’t think this was ever God’s intention at all. We know that there are going to be storms in life, and anyone believing otherwise is only fooling themselves. No matter what happens we need to keep our faith and trust in almighty God. And I want the people of Japan, the Texas coastal areas, and all the rest of the world to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that God does care for them and that He most definitely loves them. We care and God cares, and we’re standing by you all. And we will use these experiences to practice that which strengthens us most, which is human compassion and empathy. As the human population continues to grow throughout most of the world, it is our responsibility as believers in Jesus to begin making sure that there is enough to go around for everybody by sharing our natural and human resources wisely. Taking care of disaster victims, or donating whatever one can spare if they are unable to be there in person, is a very good place to start.