Monday, April 22, 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Friday, April 12, 2019
This crowd-funding project, which is dedicated to ridding the earth of scrap electronics, runs until May 30th! Photo of new location shown below (3988 Flowers Rd. Atlanta, Ga. 30360) Now with a significantly lowered amount needed thanks to a large anonymous donation. Many thanks to all the others who gave no matter what the amount. This nonprofit will launch this summer!! https://www.chuffed.org/project/nonprofit-electronic-waste-recycling-and-rebuilding-fundraiser
Thursday, April 11, 2019
This week's ongoing Biblical studies on the Progressive Christian Blog with Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern will be finishing up Acts chapter 21: The arrest of the apostle Paul" -- https://revpauljbern.wordpress.com/2019/04/11/this-weeks-ongoing-bible-lesson-will-be-part-3-of-acts-chapter-21/ #personalsacrifice #bravery #discipleship
Saturday, April 6, 2019
This week's ongoing Bible study on the Progressive Christian Blog with Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern will be part 2 of Acts chapter 21; "The apostle Paul arrives at Jerusalem" -- https://revpauljbern.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/this-weeks-ongoing-bible-study-will-be-part-2-of-acts-chapter-21/ #Biblicalteaching #discipleship
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
This week on the Social Gospel Vlog (formerly the Progressive Christian Blog) on Patreon; this past week's college admissions cheating scandal: I wonder what Jesus would say? https://zurl.co/ytct #integrity #dishonesty #getreal
Thursday, March 28, 2019
This week's ongoing Biblical study on the Progressive Christian Blog with Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern will be part 1 of Acts chapter 21; accompanied by the apostle Luke, the apostle Paul begins his journey to Jerusalem -- https://www.pcmatl.org/weekly-bible-study #destinycalls
Monday, March 25, 2019
Monday, March 11, 2019
I wish to extend my humble apology to all my readers for the lack of postings as of late. My notebook PC has died of old age, but I have a desktop PC on the way. Postings will resume by next Sunday at the very latest, and hopefully sooner. https://zurl.co/SeGM #I'llbeback
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Friday, February 22, 2019
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Monday, February 18, 2019
Monday, February 11, 2019
This week on the Progressive Christian Blog with Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern; to tithe or not to tithe: that is the question -- https://zurl.co/O6Xn #tithing #theRealBible #ProgressiveChristian
(Please note: This weekly blog will be redirected to my website starting today, going forward. At the end, for those who feel led by the Spirit to contribute, please click the 'donate' button in the lower right corner of the web-page. Thanks very much!)
(Please note: This weekly blog will be redirected to my website starting today, going forward. At the end, for those who feel led by the Spirit to contribute, please click the 'donate' button in the lower right corner of the web-page. Thanks very much!)
Friday, February 8, 2019
The Apostle Paul Evades the Angry Mob at Ephesus, or,
How Spiritual Warfare Can Break Out at Any Moment
[Acts chapter 19, verses 32-41]
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week when we left off at verse 31 of Acts chapter 19, we found the apostle Paul being restrained by his Christian brothers from going out and trying to reason with a crowd of tens of thousands, having been persuaded to attempt no such thing lest he be crushed or otherwise killed by this angry mob that had formed. At this point, Paul had been in Ephesus for some time, having founded and built a church there that was growing each week. But there were no pro audio systems available to Paul, or anyone else for 19 more centuries. Paul had absolutely no chance of telling the crowd what he wanted to say, which simply was, “Jesus is Lord over all.” Yet he wanted to try anyway, and that's where we will begin part four of Acts chapter 19.
“32) The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33) The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34) But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' 35) The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: 'Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36) Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash.'” (Acts 19, verses 32-36)
OK, now let's think back to how all this started. A silversmith named Demetrius made statues and other religious relics for their god Artemis. He, together with many other craftsmen, were evidently earning a very comfortable living from the crafting and sale of these idols. In other words, their religion was also a profitable enterprise, not unlike some churches today, especially the ones that demand 10% of the incomes of its members. So, these guys are doing just great, and along comes Paul preaching Jesus Christ crucified, died and resurrected, and he's converting people to Christianity left and right. Christianity has become a threat to their livelihoods. And, since they have the majority of the people there worshiping these idols, everyone has been offended by Christianity. Paul and the disciples with him were finding themselves in the middle of a virtual hornet's nest.
It was a mob scene that would rival any riot we could think of today. “Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” In some ways that scene was similar to that of the Arab-Jew clashes in modern Israel today. And, in the end, that's all this was – antisemitism, as it is written, “33) The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34) But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'” Alexander, you see, was from the synagogue there in Ephesus, the same people who were so abusive towards Paul when he presented the gospel to them that he left and went to the lecture hall at Tyrannus instead, and where he had been based ever since. To those in the crowd, the Jews worship of the Lord Almighty was just as much an offense to them.
Finally, after all the hubbub quieted down to a manageable level, and after Alexander had been shouted down from the podium, it was the city clerk who finally got the crowd to do some listening instead of all their shouting about nothing. “...Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash.'” I don't know what the city clerk meant by his reference to the image of Artemis, “who fell from heaven”. That would have to have been either a meteorite or something like that, such as a chunk of ice, which is rare but it does occur. I find it a strange notion that an entire city would worship some darned space boulder, so there's really no way to know for certain what the city clerk was referring to.
What the city clerk did say was that their faith in this idol they were worshiping was beyond questioning, and so they should never, he said, have gotten so worked up about it in the first place. The Christianity that Paul and those with him were preaching and teaching about was being viewed as a passing fad by the city clerk, whereas Artemis, or so they reasoned, would be there forever. As we all now know, it was and is very much the other way around. Artemis is a relic from ancient history that would be completely forgotten if it weren't for Acts chapter 19. The name of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, lives on for all eternity. Having said that, let's move on to part 2 of this week's study.
“37) 'You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38) If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39) If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40) As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.' 41) After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.”
OK, let's all go back to our studies of chapter 18 from several weeks ago. Remember how Paul had been previously seized by the Temple authorities in Corinth? Gallio, the proconsul who served as the local magistrate there, had dismissed the charges against Paul straight out of hand (see verses 14-17) because the proceedings had been called for a religious dispute instead of issues of legality. Here at the conclusion of chapter 19, we find a similar occurrence in the verses above. The city clerk, whose name is not mentioned in this case, was clearly unhappy with what was happening, especially with all the noise and confusion. He rebukes them all, being the sole legal authority present: “38) If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39) If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly.”
The city clerk's address to the crowd left no doubt as to who was in charge. I would call this an example of leadership in action. Take your demonstrations before the authorities, he ordered the crowd, and keep them out of the streets so people can go back to work. “As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” Right here is the underlying crux of the matter as far as the Ephesian populace was concerned, and especially for that city clerk. The place in which they were living was a part of the Roman Empire as it existed back then. So the city clerk was admonishing the crowd by telling them there would be hell to pay if the Romans ever found out what had occurred. And he was absolutely right.
Next week, as we move on to chapter 20 in this ongoing series of Biblical studies, Paul remained in Ephesus for only a short while longer, having realized that his days were numbered there. His very presence for the previous 2 years, together with the evangelizing activities of the church he had founded, were the spark that kindled the riot that had just occurred there. The time had come for Paul to move on, and he had by this time begun to quietly acknowledge that to himself, and soon after to the others with who he had worked for the last 2 years. So everyone be sure and return next week for another installment of this series on the writings of the apostle Luke, part 1 of chapter 20. I look forward to seeing you all then!
Sunday, February 3, 2019
What Does The Bible Tell Us About Abortion?
by Minister Paul J. Bern
For a website view, click here :-)
Without a doubt, this week's commentary is inspired by what transpired this past week in the state of New York, where the abortion law has been amended to legalize abortion right up until the point of birth. The law expands the state’s already liberal abortion laws to allow late-term abortions when “the patient is within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” I offer this quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer as further explanation: “The law passed this week makes it impossible for the government to prevent a woman from choosing an abortion during the first six months. The state cannot step in to stop her. This could be catastrophic. Imagine if women in America could wait up to six months to choose to abort their babies for issues.... less devastating than Down syndrome. What if a woman chose to abort because she wanted a boy instead of a girl? That’s feasible under Cuomo’s law.”
The article continues: “The law also legalizes abortion up to the moment of birth if the mother’s life is in danger. In short: The law values the life of the mother more than the life of the child.” As this was being signed into law by governor Andrew Cuomo, the governor stated he “was opposed to abortion personally, but would not deprive others of that 'right.'” By the way, Andrew Cuomo is a Catholic. The Catholic church is by and large opposed to abortion, but usually for the wrong reasons. A prevented abortion becomes a new Catholic convert. That means more members, more robust Sunday collections during mass, and more priests and nuns for the Vatican to recruit.
Many people presume that a human being is created at the time of conception, but this belief is not supported medically or by the Bible. The fact that a living sperm penetrates a living ovum resulting in the formation of a living fetus does not mean that the fetus is a living human being, or at least not immediately. According to the Bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath. Allow me to explain the results of my research on this very touchy subject as delicately as possible.
First of all, God formed man according to Genesis 2:7, which says, “... the Lord formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being”. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after God put breath into him. In Job 33:4, it states: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” We were all formed prior to our birth, but we weren't living beings until God breathed life unto us. Again, to quote Ezekiel 37 verses 5 and 6, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: 'I will make breath to enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you, and make flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin; and put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord'.”
The Bible also spells out the appropriate level of punishment for those who would dare to hurt the unborn. In Exodus 21:22 it is written: “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise”. It should be quite clear from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine; it is not classified by the Bible as a capital offense under these circumstances unless the baby, its mother, or both are intentionally harmed or killed.
It is further stated in 1st Corinthians chapter 3 verse 16, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and God's Spirit lives in you?” We are only alive in Christ when we die to ourselves. An unborn fetus lives within the womb, but is not yet a human being until it draws its first breath. Can God live within the unborn baby? Well, the Bible does say, “All things are possible with God”, that is true and I believe it wholeheartedly. But as I have already pointed out, the Bible is absolutely clear that a baby is not a human being until it draws its first breath, so that question is actually besides the point. The physical body of the unborn fetus is surely there, but as before, that body isn't breathing yet.
Destroying a living fetus does not equate to killing a grown, living human being even though the fetus definitely has the potential of becoming a human being. One can not kill something that has not been born or taken a breath. This means that a stillborn would not be considered a human being either. Of course, every living sperm has the potential of becoming a human being although not even one in a million will make it; the rest are aborted. It would appear that God does not have any more regard for the loss of a sperm than he does for the loss of a placenta, or of a foreskin during circumcision, despite the fact that these were living tissue as the result of conception.
Now let's take this to the next level, which has to do with being born again in the Spirit. When Jesus taught Nicodemus about being born again he said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit gives birth to Spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'you must be born again'. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John chapter 3, verses 5-8)
Flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit to Spirit. Being born of the water is a reference to childbirth first and to water baptism secondly. Being born of the Spirit of Christ refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Plus, when we read our Bible, it says quite clearly in Galatians chapter two and verse 20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”. If the apostle Paul has been crucified with Jesus and died with him, then we are charged with the duty of being followers of Jesus right up to the very end as well. This is what being born again actually means.
In a number of versions of the Bible, one of the commandments in Exodus 20 that was spoken by God to Moses states: “You shall not kill”. According to the Mosaic text, this should read “You must not murder”, since the Bible has commandments stating that people shall be put to death for a number of different offenses. Exodus 21:17 states: “Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.” There are also other capital offenses listed in Exodus 21. The popular ten commandments (in the original text there are over 600 of them) that are enumerated in Exodus 20 were given by God to Moses on tablets of stone. Verse 13 simply says, “You shall not murder”. That sums it up very nicely, I think. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that a fetus is considered to be anything other than living tissue and, according to Scripture, it does not become a living being until after it has taken its first breath. Meaning, abortion is not necessarily murder.
Those who say, "If you're a Christian, you have to be against abortion, support our troops no matter what their mission, and therefore you must also vote conservative Republican," are simply reciting talking points from false teachers. There are a disturbing number of these people who have infiltrated the Church who are doing this very thing. Many cite the scripture found in Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." God is omnipotent. He has known all of us since before creation. In Numbers 5 describes "the Lord" ordering an abortion. It's clearly stated in verse 22, "May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries." Many argue that this is a misinterpretation, but I'm not so sure about that. It is better to err on the side of caution with regard to the Lord than not. Before false teachers turned the issue of reproductive choice into a political football, views on this matter were far less extreme.
Does this mean I am pro-life or pro-choice? Sorry, but I will not allow anyone to label and compartmentalize me like that. In many cases, I think that if the mother does not want the baby then she should put the child up for adoption. On that topic, why do women get pregnant in the first place? Often it's due to lack of access to birth control. The cure is national health insurance, such as Medicare for all which would include access to prescription drugs at minimal cost. You know, like birth control pills or other contraceptives?
In cases where abortion is necessary, such as when the baby is already dead before birth, in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is in jeopardy, in those events an abortion should be performed by qualified medical personnel or under a doctor's direct supervision. But those are the only exceptions. In the end, if abortion was such a grievous sin Jesus would have mentioned it. He never did. While I am personally against abortion, I do not presume to tell women what they can or cannot do to or with their bodies. Enough said!
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
The Lucrative Business of Fake gods
Acts chapter 19, verses 23-31
For a website view, click here :-)
Last week when we finished part 2 of Acts chapter 19, the apostle Paul was performing many miraculous healings after his arrival in Ephesus, which we also discussed the previous week in part 1. After traveling all through the province of Asia, which took may months of arduous walking since Paul had no transportation, he arrived at Ephesus and made it his home for the next 2 years. This week as we begin part 3 of this 4-part series on Acts chapter 19, the effects of Paul's long stay in Ephesus are beginning to be felt far beyond their base at the lecture hall of Tyrannus (see verse 9). As a result, the leaders of other pagan religions there in Ephesus began to feel that Paul is encroaching on their 'territory'.
As time goes on, the growth of Christianity (called “The Way” back then, see verse 9) is spiking to the point that the other religious leaders feel threatened by the activities of Paul, and indirectly the other Twelve as well. But for now we will continue to focus on Paul's missionary journeys, with this being his second of three, not counting his journey to Rome, which was his last and which cost him his life. Concern is running so deep among those whose businesses were associated with all these various pagan religions that an emergency meeting has been called by a man who we would call the foreman, or maybe “lead craftsman”, for those who were associated with this pagan industry. So let's take up where we left off last week, beginning at verse 23.
“23) About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24) A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25) He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: 'You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26) And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27) There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.'”
Here again in verse 23, we have an example of the early Church being called “The Way”. I wish that it were still so, since the name makes a lot more sense than all the various denominational names, which are like grains of sand on a beach. But Jesus Christ is The Way, the Truth and The Life, as John's gospel relates it to us, and that's where that name came from. So we have this individual Demetrius who makes silver shrines for their pagan god Artemis, and you can be sure he was charging a premium price for each and every one of those idols. He says in verse 25 and 26, “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26) And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all.” To these people, Paul's activities had become intolerable in much the same way as the activities of Christ Jesus had infuriated the Jews in Jerusalem more than a decade earlier.
The apostle Paul, it seems, had “led astray large numbers of people” (according to Demetrius) by convincing them that “gods made by human hands are no gods at all”. How dare he do such a thing! After all, if their pagan gods were as fake as Paul said, then why were their businesses so successful? After all, they reasoned, we can judge things by the fruit that they bear. Since their idol-making enterprises were doing so well, that counts as 'bearing good fruit'. This, of course, was what I would now call defective reasoning, but never mind all that for the moment. Those who had been worshiping false gods, or none at all, found themselves being introduced to the real God, whose only Son died for us all. Some believed Paul and some did not, and those who didn't opposed Paul vigorously.
“27) There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” Today we have a goddess that is worshiped throughout the Western world, in all the capitalist countries, and that goddess is material prosperity and the things it can buy, including the world's largest military to protect it all. The driver of all this prosperity is the stock market, which is funded by banks. The banks, in turn, run on credit, which runs on confidence which keeps the whole thing going. But if everyone loses confidence (in their ability to repay each other), then the whole thing comes unraveled and falls apart. That's what happened during the 2008 crash on Wall Street that started the Great Recession.
So Demetrius and his cronies were afraid that Paul and The Way were going to destroy 'confidence' (the misplaced faith of their customers) in their businesses and cause them all to crash, sort of like what happened in 2008, except with religious overtones. And they were all livid with Paul and his helpers to such an extent that a mob scene and a riot unfolded, as we will see in part 2 of today's lesson. “28) When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' 29) Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30) Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31) Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.” (Acts 19, verses 28-31)
Understand that when the text says, “The whole city was in an uproar”, Ephesus at that time had a population of about 225,000 men, women and children. So it's easy to see that this crown easily numbered into the tens of thousands, possibly in excess of 100,000 people! Paul didn't stand a chance of being heard over all the noise and confusion, and yet evidently he wanted to try anyway. But as you can see, any attempt to do so would have cost him his life, and it wasn't Paul's time to depart this earth just yet. God had lots more work for Paul to do. That's why he was stopped by his associates and helpers from doing so. They were simply doing God's will. So how does the riot finally end? What will become of Paul and his helpers? To find out, you'll all have to come back next week for the conclusion of Acts chapter 19.
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Our Civics Lesson for This Week, or, Why Adults
Having Temper Tantrums Should Check Themselves
by Minister Paul J. Bern
The first thing I'd like to say this week is 'thank God the shut-down is over', or at least for the next three weeks. As I wrote a month ago, holding hostage the paychecks of some 1.2 million people is no way to run a country. Although I admire the way president Trump has refused to go along with the status quo inside the Beltway, especially his opposition to the Deep State, this time around Trump made a serious miscalculation by shutting down the government. Keeping it shut down for five weeks and traumatizing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and their families has compounded his miscalculation. Like the Rolling Stones used to sing, “You can't always get what you want”.
The Bible has some very relevant teachings regarding this very topic. For one thing, angry or selfish people are troublemakers by nature, as it is written: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29: 11) As you can see from these words of King Solomon, people who get angry when they don't get what they want are unwise at best, and toxic people at worst. Hear that, all you politicians, especially those inside the Beltway? By pitching a fit, throwing a temper tantrum or collectively holding their breath until they die (Go ahead! Be my guest!), or at least for as long as they could, our nation's leaders have proven themselves unworthy of the offices to which they have been elected. With the 2020 elections looming, every one of them, from Donald Trump on down across both sides of the aisle, has just under a year to get their acts together and learn to work with each other. Otherwise the American electorate will not put up with it.
What else does the Bible have to say about people who let their anger get the best of them? “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29: 22) Have you ever noticed how uncompromising people operate? 'It's my way or the highway', they will quickly tell anyone within earshot. Have you also noticed they are the ones who seem to get the least done? They are so busy trying to coerce others into doing their bidding that they wind up spinning their own wheels. In the case of the US government shutdown, president Trump ended up spinning his wheels too. Had president Trump tried a more conciliatory approach to get his border wall, he could have achieved different results, as it is written: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15: 1) If Donald Trump had not taken his usual 'my way or the highway' approach, like he is evidently prone to do when running his real estate empire, the government shutdown may have not ever occurred.
There seems to be quite a bit of this sort of problem throughout America's government. I have observed too much tit-for-tat politics, too much infighting and squabbling, and a heck of a lot of lying, for me to take the federal government seriously anymore. It's also been my observation that an ever-increasing number of Americans feel the same way. What America, and particularly her lawmakers, need to do is call a cease fire long enough to read the following portion of 1st Corinthians: “4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1st Cor. 13, verses 4-7)
Love, love in Washington? Yeah, because there's a complete absence of it as I write this. While the fight between all the 'my way or the highway' Democrats and Republicans raged on, 1.2 million federal workers came within days of eviction or the commencement of foreclosure proceedings. Seriously, all these people were on their way to being homeless, many with families to look after, and all the combined 462 members of Congress, together with the President, could do was invent more ways to disagree. Even now, the reopening lasts for only three weeks. These people had better get their acts together, or there will be pandemonium in the streets of America. But to get back to the above Scriptural quotation, Washington has far too little patience and far too little kindness, while having an excess of corruption, arrogance, boastfulness and pride.
Washington has dishonored those they are elected to serve with their childish behavior, unlike verse 5 above. Instead of looking out for the interests of the people, Washington is and has been self-seeking. Verse 5 also says that true Christian love should not be easily angered. Yet by shutting down part of the government so he could get his way, president Trump has violated this very Scriptural premise. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Hear that one, Congress? You people need to stop sparring with each other, grow up, and take care of America's business. Otherwise the whole country will wither away while our 'representatives' and the president are busy bickering like children. “Love....rejoices with the truth.”
You know, a heavy dose of some truth is what the American people would really like to hear right about now. We want to know the truth about the triple assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King, about the Gulf of Ton-kin incident, about 9/11, and about the start of the 2003 Gulf War. We want the truth about the true extent of the US military-industrial complex, about whether UFO's are actually a secret technology developed by the military or if they are truly alien, and about Antarctica. We want the truth about the currently-mandatory vaccines, the level of corruption in law enforcement and the courts, and the dangers of the pesticides that are being sprayed on all our crops. The American people are collectively so fed up with all the BS in Washington, and throughout the country including our most respected institutions, that there is open talk of civil war all over social media.
“Love always protects.” The whole country was left unprotected during the shutdown, so Trump and Co. missed the mark on that one. “Love always trusts”, yet Congress and the President mistrust each other to this day while the rest of the country goes to pot. “Love always hopes, always perseveres.” For about 35 days, up until this past Friday, there was a complete absence of both of these in Washington. Congress and the President are equally to blame for the shut-down as far as I'm concerned. Their combined lack of good character, patience, perseverance and even-temperament is the reason this shut-down occurred.
Congress and the President have been unkind, untruthful and arrogant, they have gone to great lengths to keep score against one another, and in so doing they have made themselves unworthy of their elected office. It's too early to tell whether this recently-ended shut-down will affect the 2020 elections. But if a second shut-down occurs 3 weeks from now, it could have repercussions that last well beyond 2020. In that event, the likelihood of a third-party candidate emerging to win the presidential election in November 2020 will increase by a factor of two or more. Stay tuned, people, this may get really interesting. Unless Trump furloughs the same 1.2 million people as before in 3 weeks time, and tries to compel a portion to return to their duties unpaid, in which case all hell could break loose.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
The Name of the Lord Becomes Well Known in Asia
[Acts chapter 19, verses 13-22]
Last week when we completed part one of Acts 19, the apostle Paul had amassed an enormous amount of healing power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He was actively accessing this implanted power – power that he did not possess himself, but which had been imparted by his baptism with the Holy Spirit of the risen Lord Christ Jesus. Untold scores had been healed of various diseases or medical conditions, possibly even thousands. All this was occurring in the city of Ephesus, in what is now western Turkey. It was to the church there that the Book of Ephesians in the New Testament was written. There were also some other disciples who were driving demons out of victims of demonic possession, and that is where we will begin this week's lesson. So let's all start off together at verse 13.
“13) Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' 14) Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15) One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?' 16) Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19, verses 13-16)
Demonic possession is very real, and it is not something that can be trifled around with. The 1970's movie, “The Exorcist” barely scratched the surface when it comes to something as serious as demonic possession. These 7 sons of Sceva, as the apostle Luke relates, evidently thought they could drive out demons by a human combination of determination, focus and faith. While all three are certainly worthy of consideration as it applies to our topic, there is one missing ingredient that is vitally important to ministry – the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Remember last week's study when Paul asked in verse 2 of chapter 19 if the brothers at Ephesus had received Holy Spirit baptism? They had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit, meaning they also had no understanding of Christ's resurrection. When asked whose baptism they had, they replied, “John's”, meaning John the Baptist. John the Baptist, you will recall from our study of Luke's gospel, had been executed decades previously by King Herod. No one knows the exact date of his execution, but it was probably in the years 28-29 AD (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-27; Luke 9:9) after Herod the Tetrarch imprisoned John the Baptist in 27 AD (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14) at the behest of Herodias his brother's wife whom he took as his mistress. (Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-20)
It is likely that, like the believers Paul found at Ephesus, the 7 sons of Sceva had John's water baptism but not that of the Holy Spirit. Why is this significant? Because no one can drive out demons except by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Things that are solid cannot drive out spiritual things any more than one can mix oil and water. In that instance, neither can drive out the other, nor can they be mixed together. In the same way, it is not possible for someone without the baptism of the Holy Spirit to drive out demons, let alone be effective at it (see John's gospel chapter 3 for the meaning of Holy Spirit baptism). So, when Sceva's sons tried to drive the demon out of their 'customer' in verse 16, “.... the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” That's what you get for playing around with real demons, like Sceva's sons were doing. You'll be lucky to survive such an encounter as that, and that's no joke either. And now let's move on to part 2 of this week's ongoing lesson.
“17) All the people in Ephesus – Jews and Greeks – learned about this and were filled with fear and gave great honor to the Lord Jesus. 18) Many of the believers began to confess openly and tell all the evil things they had done. 19) Some of them who had used magic brought their magic books and burned them before everyone. Those books were worth about fifty thousand silver coins. 20) So in a powerful way the word of the Lord kept spreading and growing. 21) After these things, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, planning to go through the countries of Macedonia and southern Greece and then on to Jerusalem. He said, 'After I have been to Jerusalem, I must also visit Rome.' 22) Paul sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, ahead to Macedonia, but he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” (Acts 19, verses 17-22)
So the incident with the 7 sons of Sceva caused a sensation throughout that part of the world. People everywhere, “.... were filled with fear and gave great honor to the Lord Jesus. Many of the believers began to confess openly and tell all the evil things they had done.” Confession, as you just read, is an integral part of practicing Christianity. In fact, Christianity in the absence of confession and repentance is really not Christian at all. The Bible tells us to confess our sins, errors, imperfections and faults, first to God and then to each other. Openness with one another is a requirement of Christianity, and keeping our relationships honest and open is vital to living Christianity as a lifestyle rather than merely as a set of beliefs. Moreover, nobody can fool God. They would only be kidding themselves.
“19) Some of them who had used magic brought their magic books and burned them before everyone. Those books were worth about fifty thousand silver coins. 20) So in a powerful way the word of the Lord kept spreading and growing.” This occurrence in verse 19, where fifty thousand silver coins would equal roughly $750,000 in today's money (assuming one ounce of silver per coin), is what I would call an example of true repentance. Any time you have a group of people willing to throw away what could have amounted to their life's savings for their newfound belief in a blessed Savior and Redeemer, I'd call that genuine faith and repentance any day of the year.
Following all these things, Paul stayed in various places in the province of Asia (not the continent), vowing to visit Jerusalem and his old enemies there before working his way towards Rome. “He said, 'After I have been to Jerusalem, I must also visit Rome.' Paul sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, ahead to Macedonia, but he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” Now Macedonia is fairly close to where the country is situated today, although their borders do not correspond exactly. The province of Asia, as it was known back then, comprises the western half of modern Turkey, and that is where Paul remained as he preached, taught and planted churches. He had no itinerary, no schedule, and no paycheck, and yet he was in his element because he was doing what God had called him to do, and he did so with fervor and purpose. He was living his life to the fullest, which is precisely what we all need to be doing, if we're not doing so already. Never worrying about money, where he would spend that night, what he would have to eat, or whether his sandals would wear out, Paul was called to be an apostle because Paul was a man who knew how to get his priorities straight.
Few people are like the apostle Paul. So few know how to get their priorities straight. They don't know what truly matters in life. Their lives are filled with social media skimming, TV show and movie streaming, video games, virtual reality, and pornography. All some people want to do is have fun all the time. Unfortunately, life simply doesn't work like that, nor was it ever designed to. So for this week, your assignment is to find out what really matters to you the most. If it's any of the above things, or if it's an addiction, you're on the wrong track. But please don't get mad at me for writing this. I'm just a guy who really cares and who really wants to help. But, if you are already doing these things, then keep up the good work. And next week we'll move on to part 3 of Acts 19.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
A Supplemental Message to Those
Who Disbelieved Last Week's Warning
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week, as my regular readers know, I published a post about how there could well be an economic reset in the world's future, starting with the United States. I also used a lot of Bible scripture to back up my words. I got a lot of strong positive feedback about last week's posting, but there was a fair amount of the negative kind too, primarily from atheists and religious conservatives. I have found myself on the receiving end of open derision from a small but highly vocal minority because of my “radical” views, as one man called it. 'How could there ever be an economic reset when capitalism works so well', was just one of the replies I received (heavily edited, of course). Apparently many of those individuals did not bother to read the entire article or, worse yet, just glanced at the title and the picture, and jumped to whatever conclusion suited them for that moment.
The Bible has a lot to say about nonbelievers, but I'm going to quote this week from the Book of 2nd Peter, something I don't often get a chance to do. Peter may have been an illiterate fisherman who dictated the two small books named after him, but he was filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts chapter 2), and as such he “wrote” some beautiful stuff, and I quote: “3) Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4) They will say, 'Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' 5) But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6) By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7) By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3, verses 3-7)
Where is Jesus? I thought he would have come back by now. What's the holdup? These three questions are on the lips and minds of believers and scoffers alike. After all, Jesus said about the End Times, 32) “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33) Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34) Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24, verses 32-35) For those of you who may not know, 'the fig tree' is a Biblical symbol for the nation of Israel. So these words of Jesus, spoken when he was speaking to the Twelve about the End Times, refer to the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which happened in May of 1948.
“....when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” So from these words of our Lord and Savior we can safely conclude that the End Times that Christ spoke about in Matthew chapter 24 have arrived, most likely beginning with the first two world wars. Since the nation of Israel was 'born' on May 14, 1948, one could normally conclude that one generation – roughly 70 years – away from the nation of Israel's birth could be assumed to be 2018. But it's 2019, people, and nothing having to do with a Second Coming of Christ is on the horizon. It's been over 70 years, a generation plus one more year, and still – nothing yet.
People are beginning to have doubts because Christ's return is taking longer than anticipated by many true believers, not to mention the skeptics. But the apostle Peter knew through the indwelling of the Spirit within him that this would occur. That's why he dictated the following words as he continued in 2nd Peter chapter 3: “8) But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12) as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13) But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2nd Peter 3, verses 8-13)
It is perfectly normal to have generally doubtful or even pessimistic thoughts enter our minds. It's even perfectly normal, believe it or not, to have doubts about the Bible, about God, and about the purpose and meaning of life itself. But I think Peter was saying right here to stop wasting time worrying about these matters, because they are often beyond our control – but not all the time. In verse 8, Peter is saying as best as he could that God is timeless, and that He operates in a higher dimension of existence than ourselves. Since God does not experience the passage of time like we do, his schedule, his timing, and that of humanity often don't coincide. Often this can appear to us as if a certain prayer to the Lord has not been answered. But oftentimes, it's not that God isn't going to answer our prayers. He's just waiting for an opportunity to give you even more than you asked for.
In the very next verse, the Bible tells us plainly why Jesus will be late in returning. “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Jesus is waiting to return so that as many who want to enter into his Kingdom, who want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, can be brought into it. The apostle Paul wrote, “God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all people come to repentance.” So there you have it from the apostles Peter and Paul. God is going to wait for as long as he can before shutting the door. But once that door is shut, it will be shut forever, and then massive destruction will come.
“....the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” Whatever nature this colossal event is going to be will be unknown right up until the moment it happens, there can be no doubt about that based on what I'm reading in verse 10. All indications are that – based on how this passage of Scripture is worded – Peter was speaking about some kind of massive cosmic event, either a large asteroid or comet striking the earth. I'm sorry to disappoint some of you, it isn't going to be Nibiru which, if it does indeed exist, is somewhere beyond Neptune right now. That's past Uranus, past Saturn and Jupiter too. It takes Neptune, the outermost planet of the four, 80 years to go around the sun. If Nibiru is beyond that, even if it were headed straight for us it would take 40 or 50 years to get here. Think about it, and do the darned math while you're at at so all you people can stop worrying about 'Nibiru'.
“11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12) as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming....” God is watching each and every one of us. Not to whack us on the tops of our heads every time we're 'bad', but because he cares for us like a parent would their little children. If you were raising kids, would you give them candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Out of the question! Would you take them to Six Flags or Disney World every weekend, whether they deserved to go or not? As before, completely out of the question. We are raising responsible adults, not spoiled brats and car thieves. Notice the part where Peter states that we “look forward” to Christ's return and that we are to “speed its coming”? The reason Christ has yet to return is because we are not ready for him to do so. And that's just for the believers. The nonbelievers would simply be swept away if Christ returned overnight. They would all be gone, and all their belongings with them, before morning light.
So Peter is clearly telling us that we need to clean up our act, and that we are rapidly running out of time to do so. Otherwise, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.....” “The heavens” presumably means the skies above us, implying a natural disaster of such Biblical proportions that the earth's atmosphere may be completely burned away, similar to what apparently happened on Mars sometime in the distant past. In that event, the earth's surface would be unlivable, but it would be possible to have large pockets of breathable air underground in caves. Maybe the cave men of 100,000 years ago lived there for the same reasons, having themselves escaped a similar calamity. Could this have been what Peter was trying to warn us about? Nobody knows for sure, but we all had better live each day as if that one is our last.