Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Sunday, July 29, 2018
Why the 7 Year Tribulation Didn't Begin
When Many Said It Would, and
What This Most Likely Means for Us
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
To view this on phones, tablets or my website, click here :-)
It's been all over the propaganda-spewing TV, dish and cable networks on a continuous basis ever since Donald Trump took office. Allegations of Russian collusion to allegedly hack the 2016 presidential election, accusations of incompetence on Trump's part, not to mention allegedly crooked or unethical business dealings and even being “nothing short of treasonous”, as CIA senior official John Brennan said recently. The thing I'm seeing about president Trump is what numerous others are overlooking, or probably ignoring in some of those cases. When he met Kim Jung Un at Singapore, some predicted it would lead to world war 3. No such thing has happened, at least not so far. When Trump met Russian president Putin at Helsinki, Finland, the peaceful and pragmatic outcome of their meeting enraged the military and intelligence communities and deeply offended the US military-industrial complex. So now everybody knows that there are some at the Pentagon and the CIA who consider making peace with Russia, and by extension North Korea and China, “treasonous”! It presents an existential threat to their livelihoods – waging war and mass killing!
So now let's juxtapose president Trump's peaceful overtures to communist countries with Biblical prophecy. Haven't you noticed, over the past few years, things getting a little hotter, a little heavier? Now, add to that the rate at which events are increasing, just like the pains of a woman in labor. Haven’t we all heard or read that somewhere before? 1st Thessalonians 5 verse 3 says, “While people are saying, 'Peace and safety', sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”. Are you among those who believe we have years left before the return of Christ? Or, are you watching the events escalate with anticipation, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hour for His return is getting closer than ever?
But wait! Before anyone starts quoting scripture to me regarding “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven…” (Matt. 24: 36), let me say that I don't believe there is day or hour recorded here or even mentioned. The keys are the number ‘seven’, the Shemitah, and the Four Blood Moons, the last two of which have already occurred without incident. So all of those “predictions” were wrong. Remember what Jesus said about false prophets like that. “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matt. 7: 17) All we have to do is examine Biblical End Times Prophecy (sometimes called 'eschatology') and you will understand why all of the prophets are wrong, just like president Trump's haters are wrong for calling him “treasonous”.
Here are some examples of God's numerology. As you can see from these first examples, the number seven figures very prominently in God's kingdom all throughout the Bible. Leviticus 25: 8-13 says, “Count off seven groups of seven years, or forty-nine years. During that time there will be seven years of rest for the land. On the Day of Cleansing, you must blow the horn of a male sheep; this will be on the tenth day of the seventh month. You must blow the horn through the whole country. Make the fiftieth year a special year, and announce freedom for all the people living in your country. This time will be called Jubilee. You will each go back to your own property, each to your own family and family group. The fiftieth year will be a special time for you to celebrate. Don’t plant seeds, or harvest the crops that grow by themselves, or gather grapes from the vines that are not trimmed. That year is Jubilee; it will be a holy time for you. You may eat only the crops that come from the field. In the year of Jubilee you each must go back to your own property.” (Leviticus 25:3-4) says, “Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard”.
As you will now see from the verses below, God always makes allowance and provision for those who obey all His commandments. I offer two quotes as examples: Leviticus 25: 20-22; “And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store”. And, Deuteronomy 15: 1-2 says, “At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release”.
God held his entire nation of Israel accountable to follow these and all other laws and precepts which God has made, all of which is for our benefit. Deuteronomy 31 verses 10-12 says regarding this, “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law”. Today in America we have exactly the opposite – our children can't even pray in school, not even to themselves, because it's illegal. Now you know why our schools are being turned into shooting galleries.
God has warned us in the past of what could happen to us all if we fail to obey, or if we ignore, his commandments. There are numerous examples throughout the Bible of this, and many more that predict this evil to continue ever more as we get close to the end of all things as we have known them. But more basic than that, does the Bible give humankind any advance warning about what could actually occur if we ignore God and do only as we please? I can cite several examples that coincide with Biblical prophecy. It is likely, for example, that these verses predict WW3:
Revelation 6 verse 8: “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider was named death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill people by war, by starvation, by disease, and by the wild animals of the earth”. Rev. 9, verses 13-16. “The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates'. And the four angels who had been kept for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill one third of mankind. The number of their mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.”
There is only one country in the world that can muster an army that huge, and that would be Red China. At some point in the future, the Chinese military will march, transport or fly over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern-day Iraq, presumably in a march to the Mediterranean Sea and conquering large swaths of Asia and the Middle East. But these events do not look likely for at least the near future. The quote above from the Book of Revelation refers to the battle of Armageddon, the last battle before Christ's return. But for now, it appears that Donald Trump has done what no other US president has, which is to make peace with Russia and on the Korean peninsula. In effect, president Trump has bought the world some time to straighten out its problems with militarism and economic inequality. Whether it will be sufficient time or not remains to be seen.
The Bible tells us quite plainly what the aftermath of WW3 is going to be, and it will be devastating to say the least! For example, Acts 2: 20-21 says; “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord comes: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. But God commanded the prophet Daniel to explain absolutely nothing about the details of these prophecies until the End Times arrive. Daniel 12:4 says, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Well, people, it looks to me like the End Times have arrived, and with a vengeance.
The prophet Amos says yet again in Amos 8:11, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord”. And what, you are probably asking right about now, is the greatest sin of humankind as the end of days approaches? I can sum it up in one word: Greed! 1st Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. But, there is a way out of all of this which is spelled out in 2nd Chronicles 7: 14; “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”.
There is still time to seek God's face, his mind and his will. But we are running short of time. As I said at the beginning of this week's message, the four blood moons forecast to occur in the Bible have already happened. “No man knows the day or the hour, not even the Son of Man, but only the Father who lives in heaven” (Mark 13: 32). Since this didn't happen back in September of 2015 as “predicted”, then that means we have at least seven more years to go before the beginning of the Tribulation. That works out to the summer or fall of 2022. Then again, all this could be over with in a week from now. So get ready, because “the hour of our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28). Moreover, “the Son of Man will arrive at a time when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12: 40) Never stop being thankful for the peace we currently enjoy with Russia and North Korea. It could end within days of this writing. Besides, I am put off by some things president Trump has done in the past just like some of you. But we still should be praying for him whether we agree with him or not. Let's not forget that the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. Until next week, then....
Monday, July 23, 2018
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Due to an unforeseen incident with my computer that resulted in the loss of this week's commentary, I've prepared a guest post for you all, along with a little comic relief. This week's Bible study will be posted at its usual time this coming Wednesday evening. Thank you all very much for your continued readership, I appreciate each and every one of you! :-)
The late, great comic Bill Hicks once observed that if Jesus Christ did return to the contemporary world, he’d probably be mortified to see crosses everywhere. He likened it to people wearing sniper rifle pins to remember JFK. Every day, I find myself thinking about that bit of his. And on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself thinking about something else, too: how conservatives would treat Jesus Christ if he returned today. If that did happen, I’d love to be a fly on the wall for the ensuing conversation. But unfortunately, I wouldn’t get to witness that if it really did happen. So instead, I’m going to imagine a conversation between a freshly-resurrected Jesus and a gaggle of famous conservatives. And naturally I’m going to take you along for the ride, of course.
A Conversation Between Jesus Christ And A Group Of Famous Conservative Figures
(Jesus Christ appears in a flash of light and a puff of smoke. For some reason, his Dad sent him to the United States. And just as mysteriously, Jesus arrives at a meeting involving several famous conservative figures)
Donald Trump: Huh? Who the Hell is this guy? SECURITY!
Paul Ryan: Oh my! It’s the King of Kings! The Lamb of God! The Son Of David! It’s…
Trump: We’ve already met, Paul. I’m talking about this other guy who just appeared out of nowhere. And hey, my Dad’s name was Fred, not…Jesus: I think he meant me. Jesus. Jesus Christ. Maybe you’ve heard of me?
Trump: Oh. Cool, I guess.
Ryan: Cool? Donald, we’re meeting Jesus Christ! He has returned!
Jesus: Yes, my son, I have returned! And I am here to spread… uh… Mr. Trump? What are you… can you put down your phone?
Trump: Sorry, just had to Tweet about this. ‘Just met Jesus. Very poor. Doesn’t have shoes. Low energy. Heaven isn’t sending their best people. SAD.’
Jesus: Uh… okay… so anyway, I’m here to spread my message unto the world! A message of peace on Earth! A message of loving thy neighbors, of loving the poor, of healing the sick and…Mike Pence: ELECTROCUTING THE GAYS!
Conservatives In Chorus: YES!
Jesus: NO! That’s not at all what I was about to say! Have you ever actually read the New Testament? I don’t have any problem with people being gay! People should love whoever they want to love! I was going to say… wait… Mr. Ryan, did you just… did you just squirt something on me?
Ryan: Yes, Jesus. It’s called hand sanitizer. You look… muddy? Is that the word? Your skin’s all brown.
Jesus: What? Mr. Ryan, I am clean. This is my skin’s natural tone. For I hail from Nazareth, in present-day Israel. Our skin is naturally…
Trump: Hang on, I have to tweet this. ‘Jesus looks Arab. Talks like Bernie Sanders. Probably a terrorist. ISIS must be stopped.’Jesus: Mr. Trump, please! I’m here with a message! My Father’s message!
Pence: Your father wants us to torture gays, doesn’t he? Corinthians makes that pretty clear.
Trump: Oh man, I love that book. Very classy! But I liked the sequel better though. Corinthians 2 was better. I haven’t read Corinthians 3 yet but I hear it’s fantastic.
Jesus: Listen… it has nothing to do with gay people, okay? We need to talk about loving the poor and treating them with respect. Of giving to the poor rather than hoarding wealth. Of healing the sick not because there’s profit to be made, but because they are sick, and we can help them.Ted Cruz: So… you’re a socialist?
Cruz: You sound like a socialist.
Pence: Yeah… definitely a socialist.
Trump: I was thinking the same thing.
Jesus: I’m not a socialist, guys.
Pence: The REAL Jesus wants the poor to take care of themselves! The REAL Jesus would believe doctors deserve a comfortable lifestyle for the services they provide. The REAL Jesus would let me strap a car battery to a gay guy’s testes and zap him until he’s straight!
Jesus: For my Father's sake!!! Will you people let me… Dad damn it, now I’m using my own name in vain! Listen, I’m the real Jesus, okay? There’s only one version of me! And I’m here to spread a message of loving the poor, caring for the sick, and peace on Earth!
Trump: Peace on Earth, huh? You sound like Obama. Obamacare is a failure, okay? It’s terrible. And we can’t beat our enemies if all we’re ever doing is giving them handouts and negotiating with them, okay? The Iran nuclear deal is terrible. Sad.
Cruz: The real Jesus wouldn’t be a defeatist libtard snowflake! The real Jesus would use his magic powers to destroy ISIS in one shot!Ryan: Yeah! Why haven’t you done anything about ISIS yet, Jesus? If that is your real name?
Jesus: Look… I’m starting to lose my cool with you guys. Just listen to what I’m saying, okay? You need to care about the sick. Profiting from the sick is wrong. You need to care for the poor, and if you’re rich, you need to help the poor with those riches…Cruz: So like, redistribute our wealth?
Jesus: Yes! Exactly!
Conservatives in Unison: COMMUNIST!
Cruz: Take your hippy left-wing bullshit over to Bernie Sanders!
Ryan: Jesus would never say such a thing!
Trump: I worked hard for my wealth, okay? I started out with nothing, and now I’m a billionaire. Well, I had that tiny, insignificant loan of $6 million my Dad gave me, but still… there’s no reason a poor person can’t do what I did, okay? They can just ask their parents to give them loans of $6 million too!Jesus: You know what? Screw it! Screw all of you people! I’m done! I can’t take this anymore!
Trump: Oh man, tweeting this! ‘Jesus is having a total meltdown. Thinks America should go socialist. SAD. We should investigate him. I don’t think he’s here legally.’Jesus: Yeah… done… beam me back up, Dad!
(Jesus disappears the same way he appeared, his scowl fading away as he vanishes)
Trump: Man, what a jerk!
Ryan: Seriously. Loving the poor? Caring for the sick? Peace on Earth? What kind of nonsense is that?
Cruz: Well, I’m definitely in the market for a new religion after that.
Trump: Shut up, Ted.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Those Who Sugarcoat the Bible's Truths
Dilute Its Message and Cheat Their Congregations
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
For better viewing on phones, tablets or my website, click here :-)
The Bible is a gritty book. It's very raw and very real. It deals with people just like us, just as needy and screwed up as we are, encountering a God who would rather die (which He already has, only to rise again) than spend eternity without us. Yet despite that, it seems like some Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really can be. Although the Spirituality of the Bible through the belief in the Holy Spirit is the foundation of all the Scriptures (with Jesus Christ being the cornerstone), the Bible has a way of being just as earthy as a day of doing yard work around the house (if you're lucky enough to still own one of those). But there are others who feel the need to sanitize God by making his Word 'politically correct'. God has already instilled true correctness within each of us because He alone is our source and our strength.
For example, look in any modern translation of Isaiah 64:6, and you’ll find that, to a holy God, even our most righteous acts are like “filthy rags”, as the sanitized King James says. But the original Greek and Hebrew didn’t say “filthy rags”, it said “menstrual rags.” That sounded a little too crass to the Bible's 17th century English translators, so they just relabeled it 'filthy' instead to sugar-coat it. Jesus was naked when He was hanging on that cross, he wasn't wearing an adult diaper like some denominations portray him. The apostle Paul said that he considered his good deeds “a pile of garbage” in Philippians 3:8 rather than human waste, as the original Hebrew and Greek were more accurately translated. Oh yeah, and let’s definitely not mention the ten commandments in the Old Testament. That might be unpopular. Never mind that between the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy there are a total of 630 of them. That could expose people as being the sinners that we all truly are. God forbid!
The point? God’s message was not meant to be run through some arbitrary, holier-than-thou politeness filter. God couldn't care less about political correctness, and I feel the same way. When I open my mouth, I don't care if anybody 'likes' me or not. While I care a great deal about keeping my readers supplied with the very best posts I can produce, it's more important to earn respect than to be simply admired. And so it is with God. He intended the Bible to speak to people where they’re at, caught up in the stark reality of life on a fractured and slowly dying planet.
There are dozens of Psalms that are complaints and heart-wrenching cries of despair to God, not holy-sounding, reverently worded soliloquies. Take Psalm 77:1-3: “I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help”. Psalm 4 verse 1 says, “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
Rather than shy away from difficult and painful topics, the Old Testament includes vivid descriptions of murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, dismemberment, torture, rape, idolatry, deviant sex practices, plus human and animal sacrifices. According to the apostle Paul, those stories were written as examples and warnings for us, as he wrote: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.” (1st Corinthians 10, verses 11-13).
So obviously these graphic stories were meant to be retold without editing out all the things we don’t consider nice or agreeable. I have gradually arrived at the conclusion over time that the Scriptures include such graphic material to show how far we as the sum of humanity have fallen and how far God was willing to come to rescue us from ourselves. God is much more interested in honesty than piety, and in our Spirituality rather than religiosity. And that’s what He gives us throughout Scripture by telling the stories of people who struggled with the same issues, questions and temptations we face today. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3, verses 10-12)
Peter struggled with doubt and with a bad temper, and we read all about it when Jesus is arrested at Gethsemane (see John 18: 10-11). Elijah dealt with depression; Naomi raged with bitterness against God; Hannah struggled for years under the burden of her unanswered prayers. David had an affair and then arranged to have his lover’s husband killed in battle. Noah was a drunk, and Moses was on the run from a murder charge when God called him. Even Job came to a place where he found it necessary to make a covenant with his eyes not to lust after young girls (Job 31:1).
Was it not Jesus who said, “I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”? It's all a matter of priorities. “I desire mercy”, Jesus said, “not sacrifice” (Matt. 9: 12-13). Don't boast to God about how often you attend church, or how much you “tithe” each week. Never mind your rituals, Jesus was saying. Tell me about how much you did for others whether they deserved it or not. I want to know how well you treated others, and I want to know what you did to make a positive difference in their lives. That's all that matters in the end.
It’s easy to make “Bible heroes” (as Protestants might say) or “saints” (as Catholics might refer to them) out to be bigger than life, immune from the temptations that everyone else faces. I find it encouraging that Jesus never came across as being pious or condescending. In fact, he was never accused of being too religious; instead he partied so much that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton because he was perceived as associating with “sinners” (Matthew 11:19). His first miracle was changing water into wine, and it is documented in all four gospels that wine was served and consumed at the Last Supper. So, people who insist that one must be a teetotaler to go to heaven when they die are not only incorrect, they are judging people they don't even know.
Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” Our church services can't hold a candle to what heaven will be like. Jesus promised us that heaven would be like a homecoming celebration, an enormous block party, and a wedding feast to which all are invited, all at the same time! This idea was too radical for the religious leaders during the time of Christ, and in some cases it still is. There are too many churches today who are more concerned about vain traditions and pompous religious rituals that aren't even in the Bible than they are about partying with Jesus. And that’s why they missed out. That’s why many of us still miss out today.
Pardon me, pastor, but did you say 'party with Jesus'? Yeah, I sure did. By the same token, I am well aware that there are some individuals who simply cannot touch alcoholic beverages at all, and I understand that completely. There are others who abstain by choice, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. I'm only saying that I don't think it's a sin to drink unless it is done to excess. Following Jesus is far more than just being dutiful or subservient, it is richly rewarding and exhilarating. Plus, the feeling we will get once we arrive in heaven is far superior to any man-made beverage!
According to Jesus, the truly spiritual life is one marked by freedom rather than compulsion (“So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”. John 8: 36), and by love rather than ritual (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. 'Well said, teacher' the man replied. 'You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices'.” (Mark 12: 30-33).
Another hallmark of a Christ follower is a truly Spiritual life focused on peace rather than guilt (“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27). Jesus saves us from the dry, dusty duties of religion and frees us to cut loose and celebrate. I don’t believe we’ll ever recognize our need for the light until we’ve seen the depth of the darkness. God himself wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with us about life and temptation and forgiveness and grace. Only when the Bible seems relevant to us (which is essential), only when the characters seem real to us (and they certainly were); only then will the message of redemption become personal for us as it was always meant to be.
We don’t need to edit God. It's our brains and our hearts that need a good editing. We need to let Him be the author and the editor of our new lives and the construction superintendent for our (hopefully rapidly) growing and expanding faith. The time is getting short, people, very short indeed. It's time for all of us to lead more Spiritual lives, because Jesus will be returning soon, and at a time when you least expect him. The stakes are where we will spend eternity, and there is no more serious subject than that.
Monday, July 9, 2018
Fall of the American Empire: Part One
(Excerpt from chapter 6 of “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” by Rev. Paul J. Bern)
The fourth updated edition of this book will be available this fall
In my previous postings I have outlined the problems of the US middle class, and how it is slowly being obliterated by the top 1% of the financial pecking order. The end result of this is that the country is being ruined, literally from the inside out. Our only hope remaining is to protest, boycott, strike against and Occupy America every way we can. Not with an armed revolt, but a rather massive amount of organized passive resistance.
The plight of the American people is that we are experiencing the systematic confiscation of our wealth and prosperity, and with it our way of life. Many of our jobs, our savings and pensions, our housing and transportation, and our access to higher education and preventative health care, are evaporating before our eyes, and this social injustice will continue unabated until we as a united people rise up as one in a chorus of peaceful revolution. I am convinced that if we do not, the next battle front being entrenched by the top 1% will be against our very freedom. In fact, this latest round of class warfare being thrust against us has already begun, and it has become known as the 'prison-industrial complex'. Record numbers of people, many of whom are either wrongfully convicted or are harmless substance abusers in need of professional help, are being locked up systematically, and the process is slowly getting worse.
The United States, according to the New York Times, has 5% of the World's population and 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet! Currently in the United States, one in every hundred people are in some kind of incarceration. Incarceration is very big business in the United States. Private corrections companies such as Wackenhut, CCA and others charge either the States or the federal government from $65 to $160 a bed per night to warehouse all these people. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By the end of 2018, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $65 billion.
The United States ranks first in prison population. Where did we get all of these criminals? Well the answer comes from the reckless and costly War on Drugs, the new prohibition that makes convicts and criminals of those who are classified in more enlightened countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands as having a medical problem. In 2000 there were 74,276 drug related prisoners. In 2008 it was 95,079. In 2010 it was 99,205. As of 2017 that number is estimated at 56% and it continues rising unabated). We house those with substance abuse problems with professional criminals. What will we get when these people are released after serving an average 55 months in prison?
This is what capitalism has done. People are now profiting by locking up other human beings. And the longer people are are locked up, the more profitable the industry is. Should we be proud that we imprison more people than any nation on Earth? Have we outsourced so many industries along with their factories that we need a giant prison system to keep people employed (or locked out of the job market – literally!)? If we continue to allow such a disproportionate number of poor and minority citizens to be locked up, released without rehabilitation, and locked up again, modern slavery will continue to thrive. We are supporting a modern form of slavery if we do not, at the very least, lessen the punishment for drug offenses, do away with the unconstitutional "three strikes" laws and offer education and rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. If we retrain prisoners by paying for their vocational education, we give them a trade. If we simply incarcerate them and release them, all we get are more prisoners.
Remember, this “prison-industrial complex” is bought and paid for, and brought to you by the same "government" that has brought you: The FBI, the DEA, the BATFE, the only Atomic Bombs ever used in War, Three mile Island, Area 51, the Bay of Pigs invasion, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, Ruby Ridge, ID., Waco, TX., Grenada, Nicaragua, Somalia, FEMA disasters and the Patriot Act. Oh, and let's not forget the wars in Iraq I and II, and now Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. All of this has been and will be done in the name of “National Security”. When the American war machine finishes its conquests overseas to “acquire” Middle Eastern oil, the final step will be to bring the troops home so the “new world order” can turn their weapons on its own people. The final step, you see, will be the conquest of the Untied States. Only then will the domination and control over everything and everybody by the top 1% be secured by the Shadow Government and the New World Order.
American citizens have a patriotic duty to dissent and to speak out when it is apparent their government is creating policies and taking actions that are in conflict with the best interests of the people and the laws of the land. The right of patriotic dissent has been a part of America since those days that brought us our independence. Yes, anyone can and should exercise the right to dissent when the situation requires it. We find ourselves living in a world where the next terrorist attack could kill everyone in your city or town, where the cost of fuel could skyrocket into the stratosphere with the next conflagration in the Middle East or the next natural disaster, and where you can become the next crime statistic on less than a moments notice.
And as all these things are taking place, the solution being offered by your government, your political and economic system, your media outlets and even your churches are for more security by way of less individual freedom and personal liberty. I think it is high time that “we the people” rose up to challenge this erroneous notion that security is preferable to freedom. And I think it's high damn time to correct the perception of the top 1%, making them understand that people are not expendable, nor are we a commodity to be exploited. We need to take matters into our own hands if we hope to get anything done, and we need to directly confront our terrible economic situation if we hope to get things moving back in our favor. The system is broken, and it's up to us to either fix it, bypass it, or replace it altogether. Anything less amounts to slavery.
The end result of the hijacking of our political and economic system by the top 1% is that the country has been run into the ground. In my opinion, and based on quite a bit of on-line research and a library of saved Internet postings and articles, it is severely damaged but it may be repairable. In the meantime, here is what America is faced with in the short term.
Seven Reasons Why Capitalism Can't Recover Anytime Soon
- Central Banks are Dumbfounded. The usual tricks that U.S. and European central banks use to avoid recessions are long-exhausted.
- Trade War. For a global economy to grow, global cooperation is needed. President Trump is doing exactly the opposite – imposing tariffs without negotiation.
- Military War. Foreign war is a good symptom of economic decay. $57,000 a minute – that's how much the United States spends on military adventures overseas, and that's just the ones we know about.
- U.S. Economy at a Standstill. The most important consumer market in the world, the U.S. is a nation of nearly bankrupt consumers. Over twenty million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.
- Bailout Capitalism. First it was the banks and other corporations that needed bailing out, and now whole nations. Western nations bailed out their banks by falling into the massive debt that they are now drowning in.
- Bailout Repercussions. All western nations -- including the U.S. and England -- are grappling with their national debts. Rich bond investors are demanding that these countries drastically reduce their deficits, while also demanding that the deficits be reduced through hidden taxes on working families, instead of rich investors.
- The Far Right Emerges. To deal with working people more ruthlessly, the radical right is being unleashed. In normal times these bigots yell furiously but no one listens. But in times of economic crisis they're given endless airtime on all major media outlets.
Six more startling facts about the decline of the USA.
 In 2000, USA was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2017, USA fell to seventeenth.
 USA has lost approximately 42,400 factories and 32 percent of manufacturing jobs since 2000. In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of economic output. In 2018, it represents 11 percent.
 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is lower in 2018 than it was in 1985.
 America's trade deficit with China increased 300 percent in last ten years,which could eventually cost half a million jobs this year alone. Half a trillion dollars yearly leave America due to trade deficit.
 US 15-year-olds do not rank in the top half of all advanced nations in math or science literacy. The United States has the third worst poverty rate among all the advanced nations.
So where are US resources being directed? Towards war, of course!
QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING
- The National
Security Adviser says there are less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in
Afghanistan and we have over 100,000 troops and probably as many
mercenaries chasing them.
- Maintaining one
American soldier in Afghanistan for one year costs one million
dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a
salary of $50,000 each.
- There are now
over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan
Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from the two wars have flooded
into VA hospitals and clinics. That's one new war casualty walking
into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day---about
9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight. Also, one third
of all returning veterans from these illegal wars wind up on
psychiatric disability. They will never work again. That's what war
does to people, so why do we continue?
- The Iraqis still
don't have a government and Christians are being ethnically
- The cost of the
Iraq war alone was more than three trillion dollars according to
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel winning economist.
- 190,000 AK-47s
handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished
and wound up in the hands of ISIS militants.
- The total DOD
budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an
amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for
defense and most of them are allies.
- The Defense
Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an
- According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one
out of every four children, are currently on food stamps. In the
richest country in the world, this is inexcusable.
Some people think the Federal Reserve banks are United States Government institutions. They are not Government institutions. They are private credit monopolies which prey upon the people of the United States for the benefit of themselves and their foreign customers; foreign and domestic speculators and swindlers; and rich and predatory money lenders..... But I don't believe for one instant that this will be the end of the line for the USA. The country itself, the land and its people, its infrastructure, the commercial structures and all the houses, most of the businesses and everything related to them, will all still be here. It will be up to us, the working people of this country (employed or not) who keep things going, to change the system from the bottom up.....
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Sunday, July 8, 2018
I Was Just Wondering Why More Christians Aren't Protesting in the Streets Against War and Injustice Instead of Abortion and Gay Marriage
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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Being involved with a brick and mortar church as a musician as well as this on-line ministry, it's been my experience that trying to get conservative American Christians to join the antiwar, American resistance or Progressive movements is like trying to persuade an orthodox Jew to convert to Islam. My considerable research on the Web and with local ministries here in Atlanta tells me that conservative Christians from other nations are far more politically liberal than their American counterparts.
Why, for example, was there such resistance by conservative American Christians to the Occupy movement? Or to the “we are the 99%” campaigns, for that matter? Why have they not joined the rest of America in protesting the forcible separation of children from their parents at America's southern border? What are conservative “Christians” so afraid of? After all, aren't those who are involved in the 'Occupy', '99%' and pro-immigration Movements trying to speak out for those in need while opposing an economic system based on greed and the abuse of authority? Why would any conservative American Christian not want to join a group that tells us that our future depends on how well we cooperate with each other?
I also can't imagine why any rational person would have a problem with people who are protesting against firmly entrenched economic inequality and endless wars. And why would any American Christian not want to join a group that promotes a more participatory and balanced democracy than what we have now? I chronicled all these things in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (a 4th updated edition will be published in the fall), Jesus preached against social and economic injustice (see Luke 6, verses 20-26, Matt. 5: 6), and so we Christians should be doing the same.
Lately, some leftist writers and social media movers and shakers have attributed the political convictions of American conservative Christians to their faith, as if faith in God and opposition to social or economic injustice are mutually exclusive of one another. I insist that quite the reverse is true, that in fact those who care for the poor and needy, or for the sick or the hospitalized, or for the incarcerated, the institutionalized, and the homeless – the very least of humanity – it is they who do God's will here on earth, not hoarding for themselves but ministering and empathizing for all of the above! It is they who maintain their only source of faith and grace as being none other than Jesus Christ himself.
But what we have instead is a cadre of people mixing their man-made religion with extremely conservative politics for personal gain instead of worshiping the one true Almighty God for Spiritual gain. The majority of such Christians, however, are not American, which should give us a hint as to why many conservative American Christians are not out in the streets protesting as they should.
The reason why right wing Christians are not out in the streets protesting is not because of their faith. It's because when one is raised as a conservative Christian in America there are certain associations made with that 'brand' of Christianity. Many of us were taught since birth that our nation was founded as a Christian nation by Christian Founding Fathers. Therefore, the American way, at least back when America was still an allegedly Christian nation, is the Christian way and vice versa. To criticize our Founding Fathers is to allegedly ridicule Christianity and Christ. Protesting against any part of this Christian nation of ours, by conservative standards, must be tantamount to attacking the Gospel and therefore constitutes betrayal of one's country as well as a great sin against God for which there will be divine retribution.
Any attempt at reconciling our nation's history with the notion that America was ever a Christian nation places enormous demands on one's logical skills. While it is true that many of our founding fathers were Christians, the genocide and ethnic cleansing of North America's indigenous people, combined with our nation's enslavement and abuse of African-Americans, doesn't jibe with authentic Christianity. From long before the start of the US Civil War up until the 1964 Civil Rights Act, along with our emerging American Empire and its use of dictators as proxy rulers over other countries, all these things make it problematic to attempt to reconcile American history with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And even when our history is partially acknowledged by these conservative American Christians, there seems to be an emotional disconnect that protects such individuals from the dissonance of racism that would otherwise be clanging like a fire alarm.
That is, we might acknowledge some of the abuses from back in the past, but can we still seriously call ourselves a Christian nation and a "city on a hill" without batting an eye? Knowing what I've seen and heard about America lately, I certainly can't. And yet I love my country. It's my government and it's unequal and unfair economic system that I'm having some genuine problems with. In the end, what patriotic American Christians are saying to the world is that, despite the evidence, they must feel good about themselves and what they have accomplished. Well-to-do right-wing Christians demand their Constitutional right to exalt so-called “American exceptionalism”, forgetting Jesus' warning about this very thing when He said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but they who humble themselves will be exalted”. Meaning, “American exceptionalism” is a sin against Christ.
And the same thing goes for capitalism. Since capitalism is our economic system and we are a Christian nation, right-wing logic seems to dictate that capitalism has become God's preferred economy, as if God needed an economic system in which to operate. Many conservatives, whether Christian or secular, are rationalizing that since the greatest prosperity in the history of the world has been enjoyed by Americans and we practice capitalism, capitalism must also be God's chosen economy. But the problem I see with this is that it compels us to ask a very damning question: When in the history of capitalism has it prospered without exploiting large numbers of people? Many times those who were exploited were hidden from the view of most Americans, but the invisibility of capitalism and militarism does not contradict the fact that they exploit untold multitudes.
And so what originally caused the Occupy and the “99%” Movements to emerge in 2011 continues to this day unabated. The fact is that far too large of a percentage of Americans have now become the victims of the same capitalist economy that they helped create. All of our hard work was for nothing. In fact, it has backfired on us all in the worst possible way by making homeless people out of formerly middle class workers. These throngs of disenchanted and disenfranchised Americans are transforming American patriotism and public dissent by opposing the military and prison industrial complexes while challenging capitalism by insisting that people and their needs have priority over profits.
Suggesting that being patriotic includes being capitalistic, which is conservative Christianity's true religion, has spread more evil than good. As before, that's because of the close association many conservative Christians have made between both patriotism and capitalism. They that do this are forgetting the historical reasons for Jesus' crucifixion. He preached against organized government, which infuriated the Romans, and against organized religion, which enraged the Jewish ruling council of that time. If Jesus came back today and walked into a mega-church unannounced, one of two things are guaranteed to occur. Either the conservative Christians, “hawks”, Evangelicals, and Charismatics would crucify him all over again, or the entire church would fall out of their pews face down on the floor, crying like children and begging for mercy. That's who the real Jesus Christ is!!
There is one final reason why conservative American Christians have still not joined the Resistance movement. That is because the Resistance movement is seen as a protest movement that does not respect authority. From an early age, conservative American Christians were injected with spiritual steroids when being taught to respect authority, mostly from Romans 13 while ignoring the Four Gospels. It is one thing to learn to respect authority, but it's an entirely different matter to be compelled to worship it.
On the other hand, that command cuts both ways, as it is written in James chapter 5, verses 1-6: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay your 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.”
And just as self-exaltation (American exceptionalism) is the reason why we equate American patriotism and capitalism with Christianity, so self-interest is the reason why we have a hyper-regard for those in authority. That self-interest tells us to be good little boys and girls so that those in charge will reward us rather than incarcerate us. And perhaps, it is a desire of some – you know who you are – to remain child-like while in authoritarianism's embrace, seeing surrender as preferable to a personal relationship with the Son of God.
Self-interest is the desire to spend more time playing around with what-or-whom-ever than making responsible decisions, from spend more time enjoying our trivial pursuits than being engaged with the serious issues of life – such as how we relate to each other and profit for the good of all concerned – that causes selfish people to prefer rule by elites over autonomy. The reason why most conservative American Christians won't resist the New World Order (and the Antichrist that is to follow) isn't because of their faith or a lack thereof. It is because of the extra ingredients added to their faith. Meaning, their faith is polluted with worldly things and concerns, another thing Jesus warned us about when he said, “A man cannot serve two masters. He will either cling to one and despise the other, or he will serve the other and reject the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism”. (Matt. 6: 24)
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Sunday, July 1, 2018
The Violence That Rocks American Society:
How We Did It to Ourselves
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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To start off this week's commentary, I will spare you the cliche's about the constant presence of things that money simply can't buy. Hopefully everybody knows that, or if not you sure do now. We find ourselves living, however, in an unbelievably corrupt society that is governed in large part by criminals, although there are plenty of good people mixed in with that. We also live in an unbelievably violent society where we have mass shootings that occur with alarming regularity. I even got a passport last winter, just in case of possible civil war, another thing being disseminated on social media with similarly alarming regularity. If a 2nd US civil war breaks out, or if martial law is ever declared, I'm leaving (for how long I can't say)! In between it all is the verbal machine gun fire of commercial after commercial. I got so sick of all that I terminated my cable TV subscription 6 years ago.
The Bible, our owner's manual provided by God, has plenty to say about violence, and how it will escalate here in these last days. Jesus himself prophesied: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10, verses 34-39) Now hold that thought for a minute.
Is it any surprise, then, that we find ourselves surrounded by so much violence? OK, now here's an important question – why are there so many violent people? Saying they are simply evil, or that they were abused themselves as children, are simplistic answers and therefore insufficient. There can be no question that we find ourselves in an epidemic of mental illness, but that is a topic I'd rather leave to trained mental health professionals. But I also think we are living in times of great deprivation that is being experienced by the vast majority of people. During these times of extreme inequality, a lot of people are feeling like they've been cheated, abused, disenfranchised and impoverished. That's because they have been subject to all of the above. So I am not at all surprised that some people snap under the pressure.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” When Jesus walked the earth he was called, among other things, “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6). But that was 2,600 years ago. That was then, but those words of our Lord and Savior concerning the future are about to become spoken in the present tense. When Jesus returns, he will not come as the Lamb of God as he did before. He will come as a conqueror on a white horse (see Revelation 19: 11)! “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Those who pursue wealth, success and fame can achieve them all, but the price tag may turn out to be unbearable. Hollywood has countless such examples, as does the pop music scene. It all amounts to organized crime.
Wall Street itself operates as a criminal syndicate devoted to the theft of that to which it has no rightful claim. It then bribes politicians to shield the looters from taxes on their ill-gotten gains and to eliminate social programs that cushion the blow to those they have deprived of a secure and meaningful means of livelihood. In the big picture, the Wall Street one percent has divided society into a looter class that controls access to money and a producer class forced into perpetual debt slavery – an ancient institution that has allowed the few to rule the many for thousands of years. The immense burden imposed on the 99 percent by public debt, consumer debt, mortgage debt, and student loan debt is the outcome of the Wall Street assault on justice and democracy, while maintaining a system of enforced inequality. The resulting desperation and loss of social trust account for the many current symptoms of social disintegration and gun violence.
I grew up in America during a time when we took pride in being a middle-class society without extremes of wealth and poverty. In part, we were living an illusion. Large concentrations of private wealth were intact and systemic discrimination excluded large segments of the population —particularly people of color – from participation in the general prosperity. The underlying concept that the good society is an equitable society, however, was and still is valid. And from the 1950s to the 1970s the middle class expanded. But not any more. Extreme inequality as perpetuated by Capitalism, is both a source and an indicator of serious institutional failure and social pathology. Economic and social inequality are detrimental to human physical and mental health and happiness – even for the very rich.
Relatively equal societies are healthier on virtually every indicator of individual and social health and well-being. In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation of their personal worth through extravagant displays of excess. They easily lose sight of the true sources of human happiness, sacrifice authentic relationships, and deny their responsibility to the larger society at the expense of their essential humanity. At the other extreme, the desperate are prone to manipulation by political demagogues who offer oversimplified explanations and self-serving solutions that in the end further deepen their misery. Governing institutions lose legitimacy. Democracy becomes a charade. Moral standards decline. Civic responsibility gives way to extreme individualism and disregard for the rights and well-being of others, up to and including gun violence.
Within a political debate defined by the logic of living systems, such measures are simple common sense. Within a political debate defined by conventional financial logic, however, they are easily dismissed as dangerous and illogical threats to progress and prosperity. So long as money frames the debate, money is the winner and life is the loser. Wall Street interests would have us believe that the best way to save Earth’s ecosystems is to put a price on them and sell them to wealthy global investors to manage for a private return. Rather than concede the underlying frame to Wall Street and debate the price and terms of the sale, North American indigenous leaders, the Occupy and 99% Movements, and environmental groups drew on the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples to challenge the underlying frame. They declared that as the source of life, Earth’s living systems are sacred and beyond price as a creation of Almighty God's. They issued a global call to recognize the rights of nature, which I view as a form of obedience to God.
In current practice we give corporate rights precedence over the property rights of individuals. We give property rights precedence over the human rights of those without property. And we give human rights precedence over the rights of nature when it should be the other way around. To put it bluntly, America's leadership and the financial “elite” who are running our country into the ground have their priorities backwards. Moreover, we – the 99% – will continue to pay a terrible price so long as we allow the deeply flawed logic of pure finance to define our values and frame the political debate. Therefore it is up to us, the 99%, to get these priorities put back in the correct order by any means necessary.
As of this writing, we Americans are still not doing enough about our plight to settle this peacefully. Hey, we haven't even learned to live peacefully with each other! After all, the only remaining alternatives are anarchy and revolution, and I have been convinced for many years that one of these will be the ultimate outcome. I'd much rather have the latter than the former. But, there is no magic bullet quick fix. We must re-frame the debate by bringing God back to the forefront and turning the prevailing wealth hierarchy on its head. The rights of nature must come first, because without nature, humans do not exist. As living beings, our rights are derivative of and ultimately subordinate to the rights of Earth’s living systems, all of which are God's creations. Human rights come before property rights, because property rights are a human creation. They have no existence without humans and no purpose other than to serve the human and natural interest. Corporations are a form of property and any rights we may choose to grant to them are derivative of individual property rights and therefore properly subordinate to them.
The step to a peaceful human future and a clean and balanced environment requires that we acknowledge life, not money, as our defining value, accept our responsibilities to God for one another and to nature, and bring to the forefront of its Creator. Replacing cultures and institutions that value money more than life with cultures and institutions that value life more than money is a daunting challenge. Fortunately, it is also an invigorating and hopeful challenge because it reconnects us with our true nature as living beings and offers a win-win alternative to the no-win status quo. The only two alternatives are revolution (when all other means are exhausted, and we are pretty much at that point now) or human extinction.