My Testimony

I was walking to the bathroom during a Vacation Bible school class when I passed the big wooden double doors of the Church’s sanctuary and stopped. Sanctuaries have always amazed me and like many my age I was a hyperactive, curious child. I walked in and was spotted by one of the class leaders, Mrs. Black who was talking to a group of older children. She called me over and I sat in the group and listened as she began to tell us about Jesus and his sacrifice. Right there, at the age of seven, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Like many who are saved at a young age, throughout middle and high school I began to notice my relationship with God was distant. I still knew he was there and I never really questioned his love, I just wasn’t living my life like I should have been. After graduating from high school, like many other graduates, I had a hard time making the transition from child to adult, from boy to man. I was bitter and standoffish, I wasn’t necessarily depressed, I was lost without a purpose. I had been involved with politics heavily, it was my calling. I was travelling to campaign on a national campaign, I was meeting people, making connections. I have the photos with political figures, I have the autographs, the books,  things that many people dream of, but I was not truly happy, I felt lost. This moment in my life was when I began to notice that I couldn’t go through life alone, that God was calling me to something else. I began to acknowledge God more and prayed more, asking him to show me my purpose. Throughout this season in my life, I kept going back to my seven year old self, remembering the timed I was saved.

I began to reignite my faith, I began to get closer to God, my attitude was changing, my life was changing. God was guiding me. I began to take a break from politics and began to focus on finding my true purpose. I was happier.

At this point in my life, I have found my purpose. I thought it was politics, I thought it was government, but it isn’t. That isn’t my gift. During this time in my life, God has put something on my heart. The salvation of my generation and the church’s ability to reach them. The church has to evolve its delivery if we want to survive. The time of beating people down with their sins and throwing them in their face is over, that use to work, but it doesn’t anymore. Now I am not saying that we need to forget sin all together, I am saying that we need to change our approach or we are going to continue to see falling church attendance numbers. We have to learn to evolve without changing our foundation, The Holy Bible. The church has a hard time reaching everyday Millennials, because of this issue. Millennials don’t want to hear about their problems (their sins), they know their problems, because they live with them every day, they want to hear about to solution to their problems and I am here to tell them that the solution is a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is part of my purpose, to make this vital change.

For the past year I have worried about this, thinking in the back of my mind “My generation is really going to need someone with the ability to reach them with the word of God in a way they can understand it and apply it to their life.” Then it hit me like a train. Me, that is my purpose. My purpose isn’t political rallies, yard signs, or bumper stickers. It isn’t in Washington or a Legislative building. It is in a pulpit. You see, God has been telling me this ALL of my life, there is a reason why I was always fascinated by sanctuaries and called to them, God was guiding me, showing me where my purpose was. You see, when God puts something on your heart, it is for a reason, He is guiding you to your purpose in life. Don’t ignore it.

I have since rededicated my life God and the purpose he has given me. I now have a genuine, purpose driven life. My goal, my life purpose, is to reach out to as many Millennials that I can with the word of God and help them accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and it all started when I was seven years old. The Millennial generation isn’t just the generation of iPhones and Twitter, we are the generation that will bring America back to God.  

Tristian Beard © October 30, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Racism: Such an Ugly & Hateful Characteristic of the Human Race

Racism is such an ugly and hateful characteristic of the human race. Anyone who possesses this trait is not a true follower of Jesus Christ. People like this are hearing the voice of the evil one, who is Satan himself. I recently heard a woman on television state that she could never forgive a person who burned a cross on her front yard. I can certainly understand her feelings. For one, my uncle was murdered. It was very hard forgiving that young man that murdered my uncle in cold blood. Whether it is a racial violent crime of just a trespass against us, God commands that we forgive one another. Yes, according to Christ Jesus, we are to forgive those who trespass against us.

Let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 (English Standard Version), “Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Our debts are not just debts to a creditor. According the Kings James Version, the word is “Trespasses.” This means wrongs such as offenses, actions that anger people, and sins against others. If we cannot forgive others, then how can we expect Christ Jesus to forgive us? Certainly, burning a cross on someone’s front lawn is a vile and cruel gesture of hatred. So is murdering an innocent man for a few dollars with a sawed-off shotgun. The fact remains; sin is sin, regardless of the severity!

Jesus came into our world not to condemn it, but to offer salvation to it. It was through His Love that He crawled up on that cross and allowed mankind to murder Him for our trespasses against God, the Father. Christ Jesus died for you and me. If we call ourselves a “Christian,” then we are commanded to forgive one another for past transgressions. Hatred is an evil characteristic to teach children so that they will grow up to hate a person of a different skin color. Look at Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” Hating others causes you to sin and remain in sin until you ask forgiveness. Matthew 5:43-48 states, “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Now that we know that unforgiveness is against God’s law, how can we get from racist anger to being able to love our neighbor as ourselves? The first thing is to acknowledge your anger to God. Pray that Christ Jesus will forgive you of your wickedness. Then, ask Jesus to come into your life and live through you. The power of the Holy Spirit is stronger than the evil of Satan. You cannot be a true Christian if you have hatred in your heart for anyone. Hatred is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit and is not a fruit of being a Christian.  Once you have confessed with your mouth to God that you are a sinner, lost without Christ, and then you ask Christ Jesus to forgive you, He will. If you open your heart up to Christ Jesus, He will transform you, even if you are the vilest person that has walked the face of the earth. Christ Jesus took all your evil stuff already to the cross so that if you accept Him and believe that he is the Son of God, you will be saved from death, which is hell. But here is the thing that is most important that you must understand. If you still have hatred in your heart for Black people or White people or anyone that is not the color that you are, you are separated from God. You are allowing Satan to rule your life with evilness. Coming to Christ means that you have surrendered it all to God, that you are allowing God to change your heart so that you will be capable of loving others.

Once a person has come to Christ, then God’s love is able to fill his or her heart. There is no room for evil. There is only room for growth in Christ Jesus to become a more mature Believer in Jesus Christ. Therefore, if one thinks that they are a Christian and then cannot forgive a racist who has burned a cross on her front lawn, and she will never forgive him, even if he has asked for forgiveness, then that person who does not forgive will be separated from God based on Scripture. Please see Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” See Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 17:3-4, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Matthew 18:21-22; 35, “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

As followers of Christ Jesus, we are required to forgive, even racists. If we do not, then we cannot expect God to forgive us. If people claim to be a Christian, but state they struggle with hatred, then I would question whether they have ever have come to Christ with a repentant heart and have received salvation through Jesus Christ. Therefore, in order to be righteous in God and righteous in Christ Jesus, we MUST FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. That is the way of the Father and the way of His SON, JESUS CHRIST.

Joseph T. Lee © October 30, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Tropical Storm Philippe: Downgraded to a Remnant

Good News! According to the National Hurricane Center, Philippe has been downgraded and has dissipated over the Western Atlantic. The remnant has been absorbed by a frontal system and is moving NNE at 46 MPH as of 5:00 PM EDT. The location is about 290 miles South of Cape Hatteras, NC. Maximum central pressure is 991 mb with maximum sustained wins of 60 MPH with gusts up to 69 MPH. The storm is expected to stay off the coast and no landfall will be expected. Tropical force winds will extend out up to 230 miles from its center. This storm will produce rough seas. Small craft warnings are in effect.

Identity Theft: A Growing Epidemic in the United States

I am a victim of identity theft. You can say that I have become an expert in how to salvage the fallout once the theft has been discovered. My name and Social Security Number was stolen in 2016 and it has literally taken months to lock down everything. Most likely, my information was compromised through a data breach. As a victim, my story comes to you first hand. I have even assisted the police in the investigation of my own theft. The picture posted above is an actual surveillance picture of the suspect that attempted to obtain a credit card in my name at Target in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Identity theft is a growing epidemic in the United States. Identity theft involves anyone who steals your personal information from your name and Social Security Number to your credit card numbers. This is a faceless crime but has serious ramifications against the victim. An identity thief can attempt to steal your credit, money, Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, IRS Tax Refunds, obtain a drivers license in your name, and the list goes on. These thieves can literally destroy your life and they have no conscience in what they are doing.

Legislation needs to be placed in force to make it a felony to steal another’s identity regardless of the amount of money involved. Thieves should receive stiff jail sentences when they commit these crimes.

Not only are these thieves local, but also international identity thieves have set up call centers overseas to scam people out of their money. Many times, these overseas call centers call on a spoofed telephone number. Calling on a spoofed number means that they call a legitimate telephone number and then they capture that number. When they make outbound calls, they disguise their own number with the legitimate number, making the person called believe that it was from a local cell phone or business. Many of these calls are coming from Russia, China, Nigeria, Costa Rico, and other Caribbean countries.

Last year, a Hispanic male attempted to obtain a credit card in my name at Target in Wake Forest, NC. I am fortunate because I had credit monitoring with my bank. The fraud was detected and then I was notified. Then came the daunting task of filing all the reports as well as contacting the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, The Federal Trade Commission, The Internal Revenue Service, The Social Security Administration, all of the credit bureaus, my local police department, and the Wake Forest Police Department.

My recommendation is that when you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, call the police department first and file a report. Often times, these departments are inundated with these types of crimes and many times they may take an informational report. I have even heard where some officers will not even take a report. If this occurs, you must politely insist and ask for a supervisor. A police report must be taken if the crime occurred in Virginia or if you are a resident of Virginia. In my particular case, since I live in Virginia and the initial crime occurred in North Carolina, I had to report the crime to an officer in Wake Forest, NC. I then filed a report with my local police department for informational purposes. This, in turn, established the fact that a crime had occurred against me. Once I filed these reports, I contacted the Virginia Attorney General’s Office with the appropriate paperwork and obtained an Identity Theft Passport, which means that I now have an extra layer of protection indicating that I am a victim of identity theft and fraud.

The next step was to file an Identity Theft report to the Federal Trade Commission, which in turns notifies the IRS, Social Security Administration, and Medicare. The next step is to notify the Credit Bureaus. Once one letter is sent to any bureau along with copies of your police reports and credit reports, the receiving bureau will notify the remaining two bureaus of your identity theft. You may request a lock be placed on your credit. If anyone attempts to obtain credit in your name, the creditor is required to call you to verify. If they do not and the creditor is defrauded, the creditor has no recourse against you according to the credit bureaus.

While all of these procedures are good at resolving the destruction the thieves have caused against you, please understand that you will need to be your own advocate. The crime is so frequent; you will need to insist on police reports. You will be the one making the contacts to get your identity put back into place. You may have identity theft protection in your homeowners’ insurance policy; make sure that you read the policy. Your coverage may only reimburse, but you are the one who must do all the work.

There is another type of identity theft known as credit card theft or fraud. Most recently, someone got a hold of my VISA Card number, expiration date, and three-digit code on the back. They went into a Food Lion and attempted to purchase items with my card number. The sale did not go through because the suspect did not have any identification. Once this transaction occurred, my card company contacted me and wanted to know if I was in Food Lion in another city. I was not. They immediately closed the card and reissued it. We have a picture of the suspect. I rarely use this card, so we can narrow it down to a few places that I used it in the last month. The police believe that the thief was someone who works at a store in which I used my card. They apparently skimmed my card and then made a card with my name, card number, expiration date, and three digit-code. These thieves are good at stealing so trust no one with your information.

Here is my advice as to how you can protect yourself from identity theft. The first is to never carry your Social Security Card with you. If you lost your wallet or purse, someone has your Social Security Number. Second, if visiting a doctor’s office, at check-in, they may ask for your Social Security Number. The Attorney General’s Office in Virginia tells every victim to NEVER disclose his or her Social Security Number to a doctor’s office or any other office. If they insist, ask to speak to a manager and advise them that they have your insurance and drivers license. They do not need your Social Security Number. Third, when paying for a meal at a restaurant, follow the server to the register. Don’t be so trusting of strangers with your financial information. Fourth, NEVER use your debit cards in any stores, restaurants, gas pumps, or merchant; especially if they are walking away with your card. You do not know if they are taking a picture of your card or skimming it to steal your money. Once your money is stolen right out of your bank account, it may take days or even weeks to have it placed back in from your fraud claim. This will tie up your hard earned money. The fifth and final thought is to not use a debit card EVER online. Use a credit card. You will have the protection of VISA or Mastercard if you do. It’s easier to replace a credit card than to replace stolen money from your checking account.

If the police are fortunate enough to catch the identity thief, be prepared to prosecute them. Be willing to press charges. These people need to be brought to justice and be punished for stealing. Their theft can destroy the lives of hard-working Americans who are just trying to make it from payday to payday.

Joseph T. Lee, © October 29, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

Tropical Storm Philippe Has Formed: Heavy Rains & Flooding Expected

A new tropical storm has formed and is moving through the Straights of Florida tonight and into Southern Florida. As of 8:00 PM EDT, Tropical Storm Philippe was moving N at about 28 MPH with a wind speed of 40 MPH. The pressure was at 1002 mb.  The location of this tropical storm was about 50 miles north of Havana Cuba. According to the National Hurricane Center, Philippe was a tropical depression and had recently strengthened to a tropical storm. Although the storm is moving North, it is expected to turn Northeast, crossing the Everglades and stay in the southernmost parts of Florida. It is expected to move towards the Bahamas and then be well off the coast of the Carolinas by Sunday evening. Once it hits the cold waters of the Atlantic, it is expected to dissipate or be absorbed by another system. Heavy rainfall can be expected regardless of the track. Tropical force winds are expected across southern Florida tonight and tomorrow. Expect heavy rains and flooding as well. The history of this storm has caused severe flooding in Cuba.

Joseph T. Lee © October 28, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

Deer In The Headlight

Most recently, I had an encounter with a young man who said he wants what his girlfriend has. As I was speaking with him, I asked him if he had any spiritual beliefs? He said that he did. He said that he was a Christian. Then I asked him a point-blank question to determine if he really was or was saying it because he wanted me to think that he was. I asked him “How did you become a Christian?” What did you have to do to become a Christian?” His response was almost priceless as he stared at me and could not even move his lips. He looked as if he were a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck! He could not respond because he had no clue of how he became a Christian. As I delved a bit further, he still did not comprehend the actions one must take before they become a Christ Follower.

His first response was that he met his girlfriend and he decided to go to church with her. Therefore, his first response was “salvation by association.” Unfortunately, no one can become a Christian by association. It does not work that way. Then after many analogies given by my wife, he stated that he was “interested” and wanted to believe. But he still could not tell me the three simple steps of becoming a Christian. Unfortunately, we are seeing this all over the United States because these young people do not know the simple steps of coming to Christ. With the great number of churches in America, why aren’t we doing a better job in sharing our faith? Is it because of the politically correct and not wanting to “offend” anyone? I would rather not be popular and tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus than to find out they were killed driving down the road and having the guilt of never saying anything to them!

As born again Christians, our faith is not private. Our Christ died a very public torture and crucifixion and suffered greatly for our sins. How can we remain silent and not share the most precious gift with another human being? Therefore, to share the three simple steps in becoming a Christian, one must know the steps themselves. The Bible is very clear on this. These are the three simple steps: Believe, Confess, and Ask Forgiveness of one’s sins. One is to believe and then confess their wrongs and their sins to God. Then they are to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you and to come into your life. And once one does these three simple steps of faith, He will send His Spirit to dwell in the person and guide them in their walk with Christ. Three simple steps: Believe, Confess, and Ask Forgiveness.

Let’s review some Scriptures that substantiate this requirement.

  1. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  2. Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death (hell), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. John 3:3 – “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  4. John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
  5. Romans 10:9-11 – “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
  6. 2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
  7. Revelation 3:20 – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

If you believe these scriptures and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God and has risen from the dead, you will be saved. You must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must ask forgiveness of your sins. Are you willing to surrender your life to Jesus Christ and invite Him into your heart? If you are, then pray this prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, I have sinned against you. I want forgiveness for all my sins. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and rose again. Father, I give you my life to do with as you wish. I want Jesus Christ to come into my life and into my heart. This I ask in Jesus name. Amen.”

I hope that those who do not really know Christ as their savior asks Him in. You cannot get to heaven on your Grandmothers, Parents, or your Girlfriends coat tails. If you have never prayed a prayer like this, and never have had a heart change, according to scriptures, you are not saved and not a true Christian. I pray that those who are not will make a commitment to come to know and accept the saving grace of Jesus!

(Subject matter and prayer taken from William Fay’s “Share Jesus Without Fear.”)

If we never take the time out and ask people what they had to do to become a Christian, then are we really showing the love of Christ to them? Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? Are we loving our neighbor as our self? If we never ask people about how they came to know Christ, then we are not doing what Jesus asked us to do. We are not loving our neighbor, our loved ones, and our friends. Then there will be millions that have the “Deer in the Headlight” look!

Bibliography

Fay, William, and Linda Evans Shepherd. Share Jesus Without Fear. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

Joseph T. Lee © 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC